Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category

Petraeus? Petraeus Who?

Remember that guy running the show in Iraq? You know who I mean, P… P… Put… Pat… um Robertson? NoNoNoNoNo!Petraeus! **snap** Yeah! That’s him!

Yesterday at the press gaggle (and I really don’t what to know where that phrase originated), Dana Perino, Deputy White House spokeshottie, pointed out that it was never going to be Petraeus’s report in the first place,

Q Dana, there’s a report out today that the September Iraq report will be written by the White House, and not by Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus. Is that accurate?

MS. PERINO: Well, let me remind you of a couple of things. The Congress asked for these reports from the President; they asked for the President to report to the Congress. And so the July 15th report will be no different to the September 15th report, in terms of how that works. And the President has said that he’s going to take the recommendations from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, and then he will consult further before deciding on any possible next course of action.

Funny. What was her boss, Tony Snow, saying just two weeks ago?

Q Tony, the administration has been continually saying to wait until September, and to wait until the testimony of General Petraeus and saying that his testimony will be the clearest sense of how well the surge militarily is working and what should happen going forward. General Petraeus has also made, in the past, assessments about the quality of the Iraqi security forces, in Mosul specifically, and in the country generally, that proved to be overly optimistic by a considerable margin. Given that come September he’s basically going to be asked to grade a plan that he, himself, crafted and has implemented, what confidence should the American people have that his assessment of his own work will be objective and honest?

MR. SNOW: You’re impugning General Petraeus’s ability to measure what’s going on?

Q I’m asking how he can give an objective assessment of his own work.

MR. SNOW: Well, I think the first thing you ought to do is take a look again at the report that was filed to Congress, the interim reported July 15th — no sugarcoating there. You take a look — and they try to use real metrics on it. General Petraeus is a serious guy who sees his mission not as a political mission, but, in fact, as somebody who reports facts.

Now, let us keep in mind that the full burden of this report does not fall on his shoulders. A lot of the key judgments, especially about politics, will fall on Ambassador Crocker. So this is — although I know a lot of people talk about “the Petraeus report,” in fact, you have a report that is a joint report by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. And so we trust him.

Oh. I see. The White House trusts Petraeus to tell the truth. I guess they just “can’t handle the truth.

But then again neither can the Congress nor the American public.

You see, after the LA Times was nice enough to let us know that the White House would be writing the Petraeus Iraq report, today we find out today that, for some reason, the White House would also prefer neither Petraeus nor Ambassador Crocker appear in public hearings.

From this morning’s Washington Post,

Senior congressional aides said yesterday that the White House has proposed limiting the much-anticipated appearance on Capitol Hill next month of Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to a private congressional briefing, suggesting instead that the Bush administration’s progress report on the Iraq war should be delivered to Congress by the secretaries of state and defense.

White House officials did not deny making the proposal in informal talks with Congress, but they said yesterday that they will not shield the commanding general in Iraq and the senior U.S. diplomat there from public congressional testimony required by the war-funding legislation President Bush signed in May. “The administration plans to follow the requirements of the legislation,” National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in response to questions yesterday.
[…]
White House officials suggested to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week that Petraeus and Crocker would brief lawmakers in a closed session before the release of the report, congressional aides said. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates would provide the only public testimony.

Um. OK.

So why not have the people who actually write the report testify? They can’t testify because they would be under Dick Cheney’s bizarre mind control powers Presidential privilege since the report is being written in the White House?

Oh. OK.

Note: This charming information comes out on the same day as the devastating, terrorist attack in Iraq which has claimed up to 250 lives and destroyed the villages of Qataniyah and Adnaniyah north of Mosul.

This horrible attack will likely fit the Administration’s claims that al Qaeda is responsible for everything bad that happens in the world. (Are Republican children chastised with – “Be good or Bin Laden will get you?”) The attack also points out the extremely strange cancers growing within the body politic in Iraq. From Al Jazeera,

Hoda Abdel Hamid, Al Jazeera’s Iraq correspondent, that the areas where the attacks happened are considered “soft targets” because there is no large presence of Iraqi or US security forces.

“Over the past few months we have seen bolder attacks which are going further north … so it is also a message from the attackers saying ‘you might some success in one area but we can easily move to another area and there are many soft targets around the country’.”

The Yazidis, primarily a Kurdish sect, believe in God the creator and respect the Biblical and Quranic prophets, but the main focus of their worship is Malak Taus, the chief of the archangels.

In April, a Yazidi teenager was stoned to death after she reportedly fell in love with a Muslim and ran off with him. The incident appears to have sparked an increase in attacks on members of the sect.

Terrible attack. What do we learn?

The “Surge” has put out the worst fires in Baghdad but sectarian fires are cropping up around the country and there is little or no likelihood of near term Sunni-Shiite cooperation, therefore Petraeus is likely to recommend cutting back U.S. military presence anyway.

Um. Wait! Petraeus? Petraeus who?

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Petraeus Report to be Written in WH

The Scream by Edward MunchYes, I’m still alive. I’m just not writing because everything is just so mind numbingly depressing.

Karl Rove leaves the White House to go pre-buff Bush’s post-presidential legacy and then move on to use whatever dirty tricks he can find to discredit the Democratic party during the 2008 elections. I suspect he is leaving government service not because he thinks it is time but because the kind of partisan activities he has in mind would be so immensely illegal from a White House position that even Rove got cold feet. (Maybe he just misses his RNC e-mail account.)

Then there is the whole FISA/Wiretapping thing with the Democratic congress happily feeding constitutional rights to Barney, rolling over and going woof every single time anyone in the White House says boo before skittering off into a summer news vaccuum.

The increased sound of war drums being pounded in the direction of Iraq is becoming deafening. It looks like the U.S. is planning once again to make a feign to the U.N. before invading. That is why they are planning to release the plans about declaring the Revolutionary Guard to be a terrorist organisation during the U.N General Assemby next month.

Then we find out that, as opposed to being under fire and in retreat, Alberto Gonzales is planning to “fast track” the death penalty in California and other states. Perhaps because we need to make room on death row for all those terrorists who have been arrested thanks to the TSP and other “undisclosed monitoring activities?” You know, those pesky terrorists we can’t try in criminal courts because we tortured them in violation of their constitutional rights and can’t try in military courts because we tortured them in violation of the Geneva convention? Those folks like Jose Padilla now being convicted of “having engaged in a criminal conspiracy to be nothing so much as an ‘unlawful enemy combatant.'”

There is the media offensive underway by the “journalists” and “experts” that went on their eight vacation daysight seeing tour inspection of Iraq Baghdad with day trips to see “the troops” or perhaps better “military commanders” out in the field. That trip being plastered across the media starting with the NYT Op-Ed by “war critics” Ken Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon (so absolutely debunked by Glen Greenwald) to yesterday’s William Kristol appearance on the Daily Show. (Neat how all those folks were on the same “fact finding junket”, huh?) The spin machine is cranking out positive stories about the Iraq situation well in advance of the September 15 deadline for the Petraeus report.

And then. this morning, I find out, buried in the LA Times article about the Iraq status report, that it will be written, not by Petraeus, or even in the DoD – but in the White House.

Administration and military officials acknowledge that the September report will not show any significant progress on the political benchmarks laid out by Congress. How to deal in the report with the lack of national reconciliation between Iraq’s warring sects has created some tension with in the White House.

Despite Bush’s repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it actually will be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.

And while Petraeus and Crocker will present their recommendations on Capitol Hill, legislation passed by Congress leaves it to the president to decide how to interpret the report’s data. The senior administration official said the process has created “uncomfortable positions” for the White House because of debates over what constitutes “satisfactory progress.”

The spin goes on. (Oh Karl, we miss you already. Thank God, he and George Bush exchanged telephone numbers.)

Mind-numbingly depressing. No?

Source: Agencies

While I read Al Jazeera every morning, I really don’t expect much in the way of new news. I get something far more important though: I find out how people in the Middle East might be interpreting US and international events.

I also see a lot of stories that would have passed under my radar.

Today, Al Jazeera posted a blurb about the two US marines cleared in the shooting deaths of 24 people in Haditha.

What actually struck me though, was neither the fact that this got a significant place on the premier Middle East news site nor the fact that neither McClatchy, the Chicago Tribune, the Christian Science Monitor nor even the International Herald Tribune chose to headline the piece.

The NYT does have both the AP and the Reuters articles up. Only the Washington Post gave it a small link on the front page but the story was fairly detailed. From the Reuters piece,

A U.S. Marine general dropped all charges on Thursday against two Marines in the shooting deaths of 24 civilians in Haditha, scene of what Iraqi witnesses said was a massacre by American troops.

The dismissal of charges means neither Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt nor Capt. Randy Stone will face a court-martial in connection with the events at Haditha, which have brought international condemnation of U.S. troops.

Five Marines still face charges in the November 19, 2005, shooting of two dozen unarmed men, women and children in Haditha, which prosecutors say came in retaliation for the death of a beloved comrade, Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, who was cut in half by a roadside bomb.

Sharratt, 22, had been charged with three counts of premeditated murder and Stone, 35, with dereliction of duty for failing to properly report the civilian deaths.

Defense attorneys conceded civilians were killed at Haditha but said they died during chaotic fighting with insurgents after the roadside blast.

What only becomes clear from the WP piece is that Sharratt was involved in a shooting that happened several hours later,

The finding by Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, exonerates Justin L. Sharratt, 22, of Canonsburg, Pa. In a two-page document, Mattis not only cleared Sharratt of legal charges but also called him “innocent” in the general’s eyes. The dismissal came after an investigating officer found that Sharratt acted appropriately when he shot a group of armed men while searching a house in Haditha hours after other members of his unit killed numerous women and children in an alleged killing spree through two other houses. [my emphasis]

What I find far more interesting than the news of the soldiers, was the spin Al Jazeera put on story.

The fact that the attorney, who was new, inexperienced and probably more than a little gung ho, didn’t get court martialed for investigating is understandable if debatable. The fact that Sharratt didn’t get in trouble for a completely different shooting also makes sense. These two facts show why it was a non-story to western news agencies.

Ah. But Al Jazeera is different. They presented an edited version of the Reuters story missing the fourth paragraph talking about what the people were accused of and without any mention of a separate encounter (admittedly missing from the Reuters narrative). This gives the impression that both men took part in the civilian shootings.

Then again. Al Jazerra doesn’t even reference the source directly on the website. I have only seen them use the subscript “Source: Agencies” to identify where the information came from. Even if the story has been taken from a single article or “Agency”. It makes a nice trick to distance itself from the Western tainted news sources.

Again I think it is less important to understand the story and more important to understand how the story has been presented.

Spin is spin and every little bit creates more and more momentum towards building attitudes. If you don’t watch the spin, you don’t understand the motives.

Of course the same goes for the US sources. Which paragraphs got deleted in your newspaper?

He Said She Said

Chinese WhispersRebecca Watson, Skepchick and amazingly cool writer, has made to round three in NPR’s contest looking for a new radio talent. (hat tip: Phil Plait, congratulations and good luck Rebecca on the contest and a quick nudge to geeky web comic XKCD , the focus of Rebecca’s most recent interview.)

But a quote stuck in my mind after listening to her most recent entry. She is being interviewed by one of the local radio personalities. The first question is very appropriate.

David Bowery(?): Give me an example of something or someone you believe in.

Rebecca Watson: Wow. That’s an interesting question because I’m often accussed of not believing in anything. That’s just my thing. I’m always questioning.

I believe…I believe in science. I believe in logic and I believe in reality. I believe in – I believe in a certain point of view were you can look at the world for what it actually is as opposed to what you want it to be. And you can explore the world and see the beauty in it with that kind of perspective.

While I would love to agree with this, I am starting to doubt that people work that way. More and more books are being written about cognitive dissonance, two people seeing the same thing but interpreting the event or “reality” completely differently. As a matter of fact, that very idea is a central theme in Daniel Gilbert’s wonderful book Stumbling on Happiness.

I got yet another example of this while reading the right wing blog Capitan’s Quarters this morning.

Conservative blogs have been attacking a series of extremely negative reports in the New Republic, reportedly written by a soldier in Iraq. The issue got so far out of control that the previously anonymous blogger outted himself and his unit. The Army started investigating; conservative bloggers smelled blood.

This is how conservative blogger Ed Morrissey begins the entry describing the New York Times article.

Despite the oddly-worded non-denial denial from the New Republic yesterday, the Army did determine that allegations made in its magazine by Scott Beauchamp were false. The New York Times reports this morning that their investigation showed no substantiation for Beauchamp’s stories of petty mischief and ghoulish behavior on the part of his fellow soldiers.

An Army investigation into the Baghdad Diarist, a soldier in Iraq who wrote anonymous columns for The New Republic, has concluded that the sometimes shockingly cruel reports were false.

We are not going into the details of the investigation,” Maj. Steven F. Lamb, deputy public affairs officer in Baghdad, wrote in an e-mail message. “The allegations are false, his platoon and company were interviewed, and no one could substantiate the claims he made.” … [ellipsis in original post]

Yesterday, The New Republic posted another note on its Web site saying its editors had spoken to Major Lamb and asked whether Private Beauchamp had indeed signed a statement admitting to fabrications. “He told us, ‘I have no knowledge of that.’ He added, ‘If someone is speaking anonymously [to The Weekly Standard], they are on their own.’ When we pressed Lamb for details on the Army investigation, he told us, ‘We don’t go into the details of how we conduct our investigations.’

That the Army would deny the accusations doesn’t really surprise me much. The Army also gave a medal to Pat Tillman for bravery under enemy fire. They then denied any problem with the story, but piece by piece the truth emerged over the last months, morphing from enemy combatants, friendly fire to what might now be murder. (The last, a claim I doubt. But who can tell any more?)

Anyway. For Morrissey it is enough that the Army is denying everything and the NYT has backed him up. Right?

I don’t see that tone in the article. I give you the three paragraphs just after the ellipsis Morrissey so cleverly inserted for his readers.

The brief statement, however, left many questions unanswered. Just last week The New Republic published on its Web site the results of its own investigation, stating that five members of the same company as Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp, who had written the anonymous pieces, “all corroborated Beauchamp’s anecdotes, which they witnessed or, in the case of one soldier, heard about contemporaneously. (All of the soldiers we interviewed who had first-hand knowledge of the episodes requested anonymity.)”

Private Beauchamp had revealed his identity after The Weekly Standard online and conservative bloggers expressed doubts about their veracity. As the Baghdad Diarist, he wrote that one soldier had jokingly worn the remnant of a child’s skull on his head. In another issue, he said he and a soldier had mocked a terribly disfigured woman sitting near them in the mess tent. Franklin Foer, editor of The New Republic said that after Private Beauchamp revealed his identity, the Army severely curtailed his telephone and e-mail privileges.

Private Beauchamp is married to a reporter-researcher at the magazine, Elspeth Reeve. [my emphasis]

Thus it seems to be my understanding of the English language posed against Ed Morrissey’s description of what was said in the Grey Lady. It’s a case of he said she said.

My problem is I think he did read the story as confirmation of his (and Michelle Malkin’s) ideas.

The Washington Post also has a much longer article describing the whole teacup tempest. They end their coverage with the following quote,

Mark Feldstein, a journalism professor at George Washington University, called the Army’s refusal to release its report “suspect,” adding: “There is a cloud over the New Republic, but there’s one hanging over the Army, as well. Each investigated this and cleared themselves, but they both have vested interests.”

As far as I can tell, the Army solved the problem by ordering the soldier to sit down and shut up. Whether he was describing reality wasn’t important. The conservative bloggers and the Weekly Standard chose to continue the attacks and say – see he’s not saying anything any more – thus Private Beauchamp was lying. It’s not like the Army might have busted him for violating OPSec regulations when he named his unit and then put him under extreme presure. The Army wouldn’t do that; would they?

That’s all in the eye’s of the beholder. Or if you don’t follow the links, he said, she said, they said, he said, they did…

Want to know what I say? Rebecca – there is no reality. *sigh*

Why Do The Insurgents Need Iran?

OK. The Iran rhetoric as cooled off for a couple of days but like a case of herpes, I’m sure it will return.

The question is, why is the US government so sure that the Iraqi insurgents even need Iran to support them? The US is doing fine all by itself.

From a new GAO report,

Although the former MNSTC-I commander reported that about 185,000 AK-47 rifles, 170,000 pistols, 215,000 items of body armor, and 140,000 helmets were issued to Iraqi security forces as of September 2005,18 the MNSTC-I property books contain records for only about 75,000 AK-47 rifles, 90,000 pistols, 80,000 items of body armor, and 25,000 helmets.19 Thus, DOD [Department of Defense] and MNF-I [Multi-National Forces – Iraq] cannot fully account for about 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armor, and 115,000 helmets reported as issued to Iraqi forces as of September 22, 2005. [my emphasis]

And then there were all those billions in cash that went – um – missing.

But hey! What’s 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, etc. among friends!? Really.

As David Oliver, the former Director of Management and Budget of the CPA put it. “Billions of dollars of their money disappeared, yes I understand, I’m saying what difference does it make?”

I mean, as the French say. C’est la vie guerre.

(Hat Tip: Noah Schachtmann/Danger Room)

No Sleeping Says Prince Charming

“The monster”

Ah. Thank goodness!

After a couple of weeks where the Bush administration had things come out on a Wednesday or a Thursday, I was starting to think they had lost their touch. Maybe they found out I cared.

In an executive order issued Friday, Bush again reiterated the US stance on torture,

Bush’s order requires that CIA detainees “receive the basic necessities of life, including adequate food and water, shelter from the elements, necessary clothing, protection from extremes of heat and cold, and essential medical care.”

A senior intelligence official would not comment directly when asked if waterboarding would be allowed under the new order and under related _ but classified _ legal documents drafted by the Justice Department.

However, the official said, “It would be wrong to assume the program of the past transfers to the future.”

A second senior administration official acknowledged sleep is not among the basic necessities outlined in the order.

Remember. This executive order comes out about three weeks after Mr. Bush assured high Presidential Scholars that “America doesn’t torture people.” From the Boston Globe,

Before the scholars posed for a photo with Bush on Monday, she handed him the letter. He put it in his pocket and took it out after the photo shoot. Reading silently to himself, the president looked up quizzically at Oye and said, according to her, “We agree. America doesn’t torture people.”

The scholor who handed the letter to Bush, signed by approximately a third of the students honored, was the daughter of a former detainee; her mother is of Japanese decent, her family interned during the Second World War. One can understand why she cares. (Bush’s grandfather, Prescott, helped fund Hitler which might show why he cares.)

But hey: Let’s give Bush credit. – America doesn’t torture. Um – Right? Let’s see how America used to defined torture. This from an article also in the Washington Post, this time from March 2005

The State Department’s annual human rights report released yesterday criticized countries for a range of interrogation practices it labeled as torture, including sleep deprivation for detainees, confining prisoners in contorted positions, stripping and blindfolding them and threatening them with dogs — methods similar to those approved at times by the Bush administration for use on detainees in U.S. custody.

Look again at the reported language in the new executive order. None of those things are excluded. They just stopped being torture. Because torture is everything the Bush administration decides it won’t do.

According to the definitions in the 2004 State department report – sleep deprivation was still considered “torture”. Under the entry for Saudi Arabia,

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Criminal Procedure section of the Basic law prohibits torture and Shari’a (Islamic law) prohibits any judge from accepting a confession obtained under duress; however, authorities reportedly at times abused detainees, both citizens and foreigners. Ministry of Interior officials were responsible for most incidents of abuse of prisoners, including beatings, whippings, and sleep deprivation. In addition, there were allegations of beatings with sticks and suspension from bars by handcuffs. There were allegations that these practices were used to force confessions from prisoners.

I guess in the last three years, that paragraph wouldn’t be allowed any more.

Once again Prince Charming has decided to spin a fairy tale where sleep is optional and reality is whatever he choses to release to the public. Just don’t let him near Sleeping Beauty – she’ll be looking like a hag in no time.

But at least I can go back to sleeping well. Bush & Co. stayed true to form by releasing the executive order on a Friday afternoon. They aren’t slowing down any; They just have too much democracy to destroy, so little time for destroying

Yeah, but It’s a Dry Heat

This needs no comment…

 Q Is the Iraqi government and the Iraqi parliament taking the month of August off?

MR. SNOW: Probably, yes. Just not —

Q They’re taking the entire month of August off, before the September deadline?

MR. SNOW: It looks like they may, yes. Just like the U.S. Congress is.

Q Have you tried to talk them out of that?

MR. SNOW: You know, it’s 130 degrees in Baghdad in August, I’ll pass on your recommendation.

Q Well, Tony, Tony, I’m sorry, that’s — you know — I mean, there are a lot of things that happen by September and it’s 130 degrees for the U.S. military also on the ground —

MR. SNOW: You know, that’s a good point. And it’s 130 degrees for the Iraqi military. The Iraqis, you know, I’ll let them — my understanding is that at this juncture they’re going to take August off, but, you know, they may change their minds.

Q But have you tried to convince them not to?. Does the U.S. government pressure them not to, because then the September deadline —

MR. SNOW: Again, I’m not going to — you know, I’m just not — I’m not getting into the — the Iraqis understand the importance. It’s not a September deadline, it’s a September report. I think it’s very important, in an age where everybody wants to create a sense of, sort of, finishing up on a deadline — it’s a report, it is not a deadline. It is a report that will, in fact, measure progress —

Q It’s a pretty important report —

MR. SNOW: It is a very — it’s a very important —

Q (Inaudible.) I mean, a month they’re not working.

MR. SNOW: Sheryl, will you let me answer Martha’s questions first? And then Helen is next, and then I’ll call on you.

Now, where were we, because —

Q We were a month off, we have —

MR. SNOW: Okay, so what you’re saying — yes —

Q — 130 degrees for the Iraqi parliament, so they need a month off, even though it’s 130 degrees for U.S. soldiers.

MR. SNOW: Well, you know, you’re assuming that nothing is going on. As I said, there are any number of things going on in Iraq. Let’s see what the parliament does during the course of this month. Let’s also see what happens, because quite often when parliaments do not meet, there are also continuing meetings on the side. And there will be progress, I’m sure, on a number of fronts.

I’m just — I’m not in a position at this point to try to gainsay what the Iraqis are doing. We are working with them and trying to help them succeed. They have a vested interest also in doing this and doing it right, and what they’ve done is they’ve set a higher bar for their legislative accomplishments than we do because they’re trying to operate on a basis not of simple majority, but consensus. It’s probably a wise thing to do at the outset of a country that has been driven by strife for so many years. It is a tough business.

But I would suggest not merely looking at the legislative accomplishments, but also, again, taking a look overall at what’s going on in terms of creating a sense of national unity, dealing with problems of sectarian strife — that certainly were rife last year, but are far less prevalent today, at least according to the trajectory mentioned in the report — and, therefore, take a comprehensive and factual look at all the aspects of what’s going on in Iraq.

From Friday’s White House press conference.

Using His Kristol Ball

He’s at it again.

William Kristol, Fox News überpundit and Weekly Standard editor managed to get an Op-Ed in Sunday’s Washington Post. His point, if you have not already guessed, is to point out just how wonderful a president Bush will considered – in retrospect of course.

With current poll numbers in a Nixonian nosedive, one wonders how Kristol manages to come to this rather reality estranged viewpoint. As mentioned, both in the first sentence of the piece and perhaps the only one in the Op-Ed with any relationship to the laws of reality as we know them, Kristol comments that he will “merely expose myself to harmless ridicule if I make the following assertion: George W. Bush’s presidency will probably be a successful one.”

Why yes, Mr. Kristol, you will; here’s mine.

Kristol starts by looking at the wonderful things that have happened in the years of the Bush presidency. Things like no more terrorist attacks on US soil, a strong economy and * cough * an obviously winning strategy in Iraq.

Let’s take these in order, shall we?

First, the no more terror attacks on US soil. True. The sky also didn’t turn green and the Germans haven’t elected a new Hitler and the 60% of Americans becoming increasingly frustrated with the federal government still haven’t left the country either. Funny that Kristol doesn’t assume these to be accolades of the current administration. Perhaps we only have to give him time.

But what about those pesky little terror attacks. Madrid, London, – London again (sort of), Glasgow (sort of). Kristol is right that the US has largely avoided al Quaeda terror attacks in recent years. Of course the same could have been said of Bill Clinton in 1999. But hey, why go there?

There was the largely forgotten and never explained Anthrax attacks that took place – um –after 9/11?

Then there was that pesky little hurricane thingy that destroyed New Orleans and reshaped the Gulf Coast. Not terror but the federal response, lead and coordinated by Bush, was terrifyingly bad.

We could look at last week’s report by the GAO that a fake firm, basically a mailbox and a telephone number, would have been able to purchase the materials for a dirty bomb. No not an attack, but terrifying.

Perhaps the only reason al Quaeda doesn’t attack is because there isn’t any reason. America is doing a just fine self destructing all by itself, thank you. Perhaps that is why Chertoff has a stomach problem. Maybe he was simply eating salmonella infested spinach picked by “undocumented workers” his department seems unable to keep out of the country.

Which brings me to the economy.

What does Mr. Kristol have to say?

After the bursting of the dot-com bubble, followed by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we’ve had more than five years of steady growth, low unemployment and a stock market recovery. Did this just happen? No. Bush pushed through the tax cuts of 2001 and especially 2003 by arguing that they would produce growth. His opponents predicted dire consequences. But the president was overwhelmingly right. Even the budget deficit, the most universally criticized consequence of the tax cuts, is coming down and is lower than it was when the 2003 supply-side tax cuts were passed.

Bush has also (on the whole) resisted domestic protectionist pressures (remember the Democratic presidential candidates in 2004 complaining about outsourcing?), thereby helping sustain global economic growth.

What do those pesky facts show?

Well, I’ll just ask the U.S. Census Bureau. Since the yearly reports come out in August, (perhaps the reason for Mr. Kristol writing this Op-Ed now) I have to reach back to the Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2005 released in August 2006.

A quick graph of those incomes (adjusted to 2005 dollars) by quintile shows that current income still hasn’t reached the level of 2000. But the rich are still getting richer having increased from a meager 49.8% of the total share of income in the year 2000 to 50.4% by 2005, an all time high. (Click for full size version)

Mean Household Income by Quintiles 1986 - 2005

And a few more tidbits from the report:

  • ”The Gini index, one of the most widely used inequality measures, did not measure a statistically significant change in household income inequality between 2004 and 2005. Over the past 10 years, the Gini index has increased 4.2 percent (from 0.450 to 0.469), although the individual annual differences since then were not statistically significant.” (pg. 8 )
  • After 4 years of consecutive increases, the poverty rate stabilized at 12.6 percent in 2005— higher than the most recent low of 11.3 percent in 2000 and lower than the rate in 1959 (22.4 percent), the first year for which poverty estimates are available. (pg. 13)
  • “The percentage of people without health insurance coverage increased from 15.6 percent in 2004 to 15.9 percent in 2005. [up from 14,5% in 1999]” (pg. 20)
  • The percentage and the number of children (people under 18 years old) without health insurance increased between 2004 and 2005, from 10.8 percent to 11.2 percent and from 7.9 million to 8.3 million, respectively. (pg .21)

Then there is the minor fact that gasoline prices have now almost doubled since George W. Bush took office.

Kristol then comments that even progressives would have to admit that Roberts and Alito are impressive supreme court judges. I’d say no problem Mr. Kristol. I’m sure you would agree that Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chaves are impressive international statesmen. Impressive is such a malleable word, isn’t it? As to making the claim that Roberts and Alito are conservative constitutionalists, I guess I would say that you might think so. Of course, if you assume the constitution is based on enlightenment principles and not on the ten commandments, it could have been worse.

Kristol then moves from domestic fantasies into international ones.

He starts off pointing out that “the war in Afghanistan has gone reasonably well”. I won’t even go there except to reference the attack of the 10 foot tall marijuana plants. Something Mr. Kristol is certainly glad to see based on what he must have been smoking while writing this piece.

He then proceeds to wave his hand at any Pakistani problems and assumes that “Bush will deal with them.” Oh. Great.

Generally, in Mr Kristols world everything else is – well…

As for foreign policy in general, it has mostly been the usual mixed bag. We’ve deepened our friendships with Japan and India; we’ve had better outcomes than expected in the two largest Latin American countries, Mexico and Brazil; and we’ve gotten friendlier governments than expected in France and Germany. China is stable. There has been slippage in Russia. The situation with North Korea is bad but containable.

Hmm. The recent Pew report might present reality a bit differently. Let’s see.

In the current poll, majorities in 25 of the 47 countries surveyed express positive views of the U.S. Since 2002, however, the image of the United States has declined in most parts of the world. Favorable ratings of America are lower in 26 of 33 countries for which trends are available.

The U.S. image remains abysmal in most Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia, and continues to decline among the publics of many of America’s oldest allies. Favorable views of the U.S. are in single digits in Turkey (9%) and have declined to 15% in Pakistan. Currently, just 30% of Germans have a positive view of the U.S. – down from 42% as recently as two years ago – and favorable ratings inch ever lower in Great Britain and Canada.

I’m actually surprised Mr Kristol didn’t make more of Americas improving relationship with “Christian” Africa.

That Russian – slippage? I have to admit, that is a neat turn of a phrase. And it is amazing what happens when the Bush White House basically rolls back to pre-Bush positions in order to “contain” North Korea. You remember, North Korea gets heating oil; they shut down reactors. Rocket Science! (Well, hopefully not.)

And then Kristol get’s to the heart of the matter. That teeny-weeny, eensy-bitsy, tiny detail he’d been avoiding the whole Op-Ed: Iraq. Here Kristol starts harkens back to the days of Ulysses S. Grant and pushes Petraeus into the forefront. Bush is no longer Commander in Chief but the guy who picked the guy who’s going to win in Iraq. Or maybe not.

I’m starting to think that Patraeus will be named Patsy by September and it seems I am not alone.

After Kristol wins Iraq, the path is clear for him to move into the Bush library (has anyone agreed to let it be build near them yet?) and start creating legends. Of course, as opposed to most presidential libraries, the George W. Bush library probably won’t be all that interesting to scholars who go to look at the original documents. Those have all been cleverly moved to RNC e-mail accounts that were unfortunately “de-archived.”

Sorry Mr. Kristol, no happiness there. Oh. But then again maybe facts don’t bother Mr Kristol.

You might notice something about my post. I have links to where I got the information to refute Mr Kristol’s “facts.” His Op-Ed is largely – no – completely link free; just like his reality. There is no reason to back up statements with facts. Facts are just so yesterday.

One can only look forward to the days when the Washington Post finally decides to stop publishing this balderdash.

In the meantime. If Mr. Kristol’s last comments are any indication of his betting ability, I’d love to get in a game of poker with him. His crystal ball seems a bit smudged.

What it comes down to is this: If Petraeus succeeds in Iraq, and a Republican wins in 2008, Bush will be viewed as a successful president.

I like the odds.

Fighting Them There

In what can only be considered a mistimed release, an interim report on the progress of the surge will be coming out today. (I mean, couldn’t they wait until tomorrow afternoon? Rove seems to be losing his grip.)

The coverage in the various national papers is not encouraging. While the majority of the Benchmarks the administration set for the surge have stalled or failed, the While House will point to satisfactory progress in 8 of 18 points. Reference the handy, dandy chart provided by the New York Times.

This, and Bush’s collapsing popularity, will make it even more difficult for Republicans to continue to back any policy in Iraq except a precipitate withdrawal. I suspect the “fight them there, so we don’t fight them here” mantra will be droned across the right wing media and blogs this weekend.

As it has already been noted, in an effort to increase public support for the war, the President, the administration and the media have shifted from saying “insurgents” to using the term Al Quaeda to describe as the American opponents in Iraq. According a McClatchy article, Al Quaeda, the “insurgents”, the bad guys, the “them” also included a large number of civilians in 2006.

U.S. soldiers have killed or wounded 429 Iraqi civilians at checkpoints or near patrols and convoys during the past year, according to military statistics compiled in Iraq and obtained by McClatchy Newspapers.

he statistics are the first official accounting of civilian shootings since the war began, and while they seem small compared with the thousands who’ve died in Iraq’s violence, they show the difficulty that the U.S. has in fulfilling its vow to protect civilians.

The numbers cover what the military calls escalation-of-force incidents, in which American troops fire at civilians who’ve come too close or have approached checkpoints too quickly. In the months since U.S. commanders have dispatched more troops to the field — ostensibly to secure Iraqi communities — the number of Iraqis killed and injured in such incidents has spiked, the statistics show.

Pentagon officials have declined repeatedly to reveal the numbers of civilian deaths and injuries caused by American troops. The escalation-of-force statistics, however, were part of a recent briefing given to Army Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq. A person familiar with the briefing provided the statistics to McClatchy.

And Bush wonders why Americans are war weary? I somehow don’t think it has much to do with terminology. I wonder what the right wing would say if the American military killed 430 innocent American civilians?

Oh! Darn – I remember. That’s why we don’t fight them here.

A Democrat’s Lincoln Dilemma

Senator Carl Levin, D-Mi, has an OpEd up in the Washington Post describing the Democratic dilemma with the current war funding. He compares his problem with the similar situation that Abraham Lincoln, paragon of Republican presidents, had while in Congress and while America was at war with Mexico,

In his only term in Congress, Abraham Lincoln was an ardent opponent of the Mexican War. He introduced a series of resolutions that challenged President James Polk to show the “spot” of American soil on which Mexicans had spilled American blood, and he voted for an amendment stating that the war was “unnecessarily and unconstitutionally begun by the President.”

But when the question of funding for the troops fighting that war came, Lincoln voted their supplies without hesitation.

Levin goes on to again lay the ground work for another round of timetable discussions.

By setting a policy that begins with putting into law a timetable for starting a troop reduction, rather than trying to stop funding, we offer the best chance for stabilizing a country that we invaded while also sending the message to our troops that, even though we oppose the president’s policy, we are united behind them.

Support for our approach has grown steadily. In June 2006, our measure received 39 votes. In March, it received 48 votes. In April, it received 51 votes, including those of two Republican senators. By contrast, only 29 senators so far — none of them Republican — have voted for a funding cutoff. That’s a long way from the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster or the 67 needed to override a veto.

The OpEd is the first shot in the latest round of political skirmishes over the war and funding.

It should be noted, that the last Congressional loss, strong rhetoric followed by an equally weak withdrawal, caused a continuing drop in public support for Congress. It is now, according to Charles Franklin at Political Arithmetik, lower than Bush when aggregated across every major poll; 27.9% to 29.9%.

Political Arithmetik - Congressional Approval 11/6/2007

Political Arithmetik - Presidential Approval 19/6/2007

I think the Democrats are taking the wrong tact here. I would argue Congress must actively push the media to poll the American people on the soundbite “Does the American people want us to fund the war without a timetable?” That should be the talking point, nothing else.

If the answer comes up overwhelmingly no, the strategy becomes far simpler. Present Bush with a bill including a timetable with the clear caveat that that is the last legislation. There would be no proposal to deny funding, the house leadership simply will not schedule any further legislation for funding the war. The money will dry up without a vote and the Democrats can point to Bush as the person responsible.

If the answer to the polling comes up approving unconstrained funding, then a completely different tactic is necessary. The Democrats need to rethink their basic positioning. If the American public is willing to support funding for an unlimited, unending war, the Democrats can then push the president, not to withdraw but to win. Make success the marker and not the funding. Push the Republican party to show why their policies aren’t working and why the American public should keep funding a losing battle.

If the answer is a weak no, the Democrats are on course, sailing without a real course through uncharted waters, without a destination or timetable. Bush won’t sign it, the Democrats don’t need to support it. Just give Bush the funding after a token fight for another 3 months and wait until Christmas.

I am reminded of the book March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman. Published in 1984, it highlights how governments manage to blunder into making absolutely stupid mistakes despite overwhelmingly negative signs. Tuchman uses as examples Troy, the Renaissance Popes, the British government during the American Revolution and America’s own first true folly: Vietnam. It is a book all Democratic aides should be reading. In many ways, all four tales echo today’s Washington.

In Tuchman’s account, in every case, the majority of the public, the experts and even a large number of politicians knew the path lead to ruin. They followed it anyway; despite the Lincoln dilemmas. It is time to stop the folly.

Cheney Wants War With Iran – Might Get One With Turkey

In what seems to me to be a strangely underreported story, US – Turkish tensions on the northern Iraqi border are rapidly breaking down.

Speigel-Online is reporting that the situation seems to be escalating.

The signs have become increasingly ominous. For weeks, Turkey has been building up its military presence on its south-eastern border with Iraq in response to cross-border raids by Kurdish rebels. Potentially more concerning, Ankara has been openly considering an incursion into Kurdish-dominated northern Iraq in an attempt to root out members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) based there.

On Sunday, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates saw the situation as sufficiently heated to issue a warning to Ankara. “We hope there would not be a unilateral military action across the border into Iraq,” Gates told reporters on Sunday.

Speaking after meeting with Asian government officials in Singapore, Gates said he sympathized with the Turkish frustration over the raids launched by Kurdish rebels from across the border. “The Turks have a genuine concern with Kurdish terrorism that takes place on Turkish soil,” he said. “So one can understand their frustration and unhappiness over this.”

But Ankara is unlikely to be placated by US sympathy. Indeed, the Turkish military shelled Kurdish positions on the Iraqi side of the border on both Sunday and Monday, according to the Belgium-based Firat news agency. Furthermore, the Dogan news agency reported that a suicide bombing had killed three soldiers at a military outpost in south-eastern Turkey on Monday.

At the same time, all my normal news channels (and most of my morning reading) was taken up by the Rice attempt to disarm or at least de-tooth (de-pacemaker?) Cheney with respect to Iran.

I wonder why this story is getting so little play in American and English media? Perhaps because neither the Democrats nor the Republicans want an escalation on that front giving no reason for beltway journalists to cover it?

Look at the motivations of the various factions.

Rice is trying to lower all tensions in the Middle East; the last thing she needs is a new crisis. Dick Cheney is concentrating on implicating Iran not only with arm shipments into Iraq but into Afghanistan thus bringing about the next stage in whatever nefarious plan he acutally has. (I wonder if the evidence for Afghanistan is any better than the “Iranian” EFP shipments presented in February?)

The Democratic leadership would really prefer to keep this situation under wraps because an escalation on Iraq’s northern border would give the President a reason for a continued troop presence in Iraq; something approaching a dose of political polonium. Finally Rapture enraptured President Bush doesn’t need a Turkish-Kurdish war because that wouldn’t involve Israel thus bringing about “Americas Destiny.”

Perhaps that’s why there is so little reporting on the issue.

As far as I can tell, for US politicians, it’s a lose-lose situation best kept under wraps. I just wonder if anyone can convince the Turkish politicians of the same thing?

A Trip to Hell: Taxi to the Dark Side

A new documentary about prisoner abuse premiered at the New York Film Tribeca Film Festival. It’s narrative centers around the death of a Taxi driver who simply took a wrong turn. A wrong turn that cost him his freedom and eventually his life at the hands of American jailers.

Andrew Sullivian described his reaction with,

Longtime readers of this blog know all too well many of the details – but this film does what a parasitic blog cannot, and what even all the innovative reporting on the subject has not yet been able to do. It puts it all together. It represents a moment in this war when we can actually stop and look back from rising ground, and see how far we have come from the civilized norms of warfare that the United States represented in the last century.

Tom Tomorrow from Huffington Post reacted similarly,

I have to be honest, it’s not the easiest thing to sit through. The film, which primarily focuses on abuses at Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, contains footage of the Bagram base that’s never been seen anywhere else, as well as the shockingly familiar images from Abu Ghraib, uncensored and high res. The filmmaker, who attended last night’s screening at Yale, described it beforehand as a sort of murder mystery, using as its springboard the story of Dilawar, the young taxi driver who was apprehended by Afghan militia and turned over to the U.S. military at Bagram, where he was, in fact, eventually murdered. And that’s not hyperbole — the official coroner’s report lists the cause of death as “homicide.” (The film notes that out of more than 100 deaths in U.S. custody, 37 have been officially declared homicides by the U.S. military itself. Perhaps even more shocking is the fact that only seven percent of Guantanamo detainees were actually apprehend by the U.S. military — the rest have been turned over by Afghan warlords, Pakistanis, bounty hunters, etc., any of whom may have had agendas having nothing to do with the American war on terror. Dilawar’s captor, for instance, turns out have been the person actually responsible for the rocket attacks of which the taxi driver was wrongly accused).

Speigel Online (German) holds out the hope that Taxi to the Darkside, produced and directed by Oscar nominated Alex Gibney, might bring some light into the shadows thrown by the torture scandals created by the Bush presidency. That the documentary might bring new life into the discussion of American use of torture in a world after everything changed.

I hold no such hope.

To show what I am talking about I’d like to follow the story back; not to it’s start in the dusty villages and roads of Afghanistan but to where it should have started; to the pages of the New York Times. When the story should have entered the American consciousness, those halcyon days back in 2005,

The story of Mr. Dilawar’s brutal death at the Bagram Collection Point – and that of another detainee, Habibullah, who died there six days earlier in December 2002 – emerge from a nearly 2,000-page confidential file of the Army’s criminal investigation into the case, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

Like a narrative counterpart to the digital images from Abu Ghraib, the Bagram file depicts young, poorly trained soldiers in repeated incidents of abuse. The harsh treatment, which has resulted in criminal charges against seven soldiers, went well beyond the two deaths.

In some instances, testimony shows, it was directed or carried out by interrogators to extract information. In others, it was punishment meted out by military police guards. Sometimes, the torment seems to have been driven by little more than boredom or cruelty, or both.
[…]
“What we have learned through the course of all these investigations is that there were people who clearly violated anyone’s standard for humane treatment,” said the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, Larry Di Rita. “We’re finding some cases that were not close calls.”

This story ran over two years ago. It made a brief blip on the radar of American consciousness only to disappear like Dilawar did. Largely forgotten. Unremembered like a bad dream.

This movie will do little to change how an America thinks; an America that (rightly) mourns 32 fallen University students but ignores the 120 Iraqis who die the same day. An America that doesn’t mourn the Iraqi deaths passing through the headlines and scrolling subtitles day after day after day; mourn the Afghan deaths that don’t even make it that far.

There is little chance that policies supported by people like Alberto Gonzales, someone who plays a role in the documentary, are will be condemned unless it effects Americans; Americans like US attorneys, who are, I might add, still among the living. Then it becomes scandal.

And Taxi to the Dark Side? Go ahead, watch the preview for yourself.

It will be a shame that this documentary will be seen as just one more attempt by a liberal media to ‘influence’ the public. It will attract those who already know there is a problem with America. Those interested in upholding American principles, American honor; American honesty. It will be ignored by the very people who need – no – must see it and must be shown the path down which America has been taken.

It looks to be a powerful film. I urge you to at least blog the title, at least link to a review. At least get the ‘Google Factor’ up. Even if the film isn’t widely spread, it’s message needs to get out.

Deep Sixty-Sixed?

Deep Sixty-Sixed?

Occasionally (about once a month) I read military blogs to get a better idea of the morale and status of the US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the blogs I especially enjoy is Sixty-Six.org written by a member of the Minnesota National Guard currently on active-duty in Iraq.

The only problem is that I don’t know how long I will be able to keep reading it. According to Noah Schachtmann at the Danger Room,

The U.S. Army has ordered soldiers to stop posting to blogs or sending personal e-mail messages, without first clearing the content with a superior officer, Wired News has learned. The directive, issued April 19, is the sharpest restriction on troops’ online activities since the start of the Iraq war. And it could mean the end of military blogs, observers say.

Military officials have been wrestling for years with how to handle troops who publish blogs. Officers have weighed the need for wartime discretion against the opportunities for the public to personally connect with some of the most effective advocates for the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq — the troops themselves. The secret-keepers have generally won the argument, and the once-permissive atmosphere has slowly grown more tightly regulated. Soldier-bloggers have dropped offline as a result.

Now the blogs I read are extremely careful not to put a time or a place on anything. Usually you simply get a feel for the emotional rollercoaster these service people are on. And perhaps that’s the problem.

Of course pizza is a bit of a threat as well. Pizza?! Yeah. Pizza.

“It’s true that from an OPSEC (operational security) perspective, almost anything — pizza orders, office lights lit at odd hours, full or empty parking lots — can potentially tip off an observer that something unusual is afoot,” he added. “But real OPSEC is highly discriminating. It does not mean cutting off the flow of information across the board. If on one day in 1991 an unusual number of pizza orders coincided with the start of Desert Storm, it doesn’t mean that information about pizza orders should now be restricted. That’s not OPSEC, that’s just stupidity.”

So sending an e-mail order to the local pizza parlor or telling your wife – “Honey I’ll be late for dinner” if you work at the Pentagon has now become a definite no,no. (Not that it was ever a yes, yes. But still.)

The issue here isn’t having a rule that can be enforced up front but something that can be used later, after the fact, for any ‘problem’ that might occur. It is a sword hanging over the head of anyone in the military. Even the Army doesn’t think these kinds of issues can be handled this way,

“The potential for an OPSEC violation has thus far outstripped the reality experienced by commanders in the field,” [Major Elizabeth Robbins] wrote [in a paper (pdf) for the Army’s Combined Arms Center].

And in some military circles, bloggers have gained forceful advocates. The Office of the Secretary of Defense, for example, now regularly arranges exclusive phone conferences between bloggers and senior commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq. Major Robbins, for one, has argued strongly for easing the restrictions on the soldier-journalists.

The theater goes even further, in a classic case of Catch 22, military contractors, family and friends are also effected by the new rules. The catch. They aren’t able to access them.

Active-duty troops aren’t the only ones affected by the new guidelines. Civilians working for the military, Army contractors — even soldiers’ families — are all subject to the directive as well.

But, while the regulations may apply to a broad swath of people, not everybody affected can actually read them. In a Kafka-esque turn, the guidelines are kept on the military’s restricted Army Knowledge Online intranet. Many Army contractors — and many family members — don’t have access to the site. Even those able to get in are finding their access is blocked to that particular file.

“Even though it is supposedly rewritten to include rules for contractors (i.e., me) I am not allowed to download it,” e-mails Perry Jeffries, an Iraq war veteran now working as a contractor to the Armed Services Blood Program.

For all those Minnesotans out there, you might keep your – um – ear on MPR tomorrow. Jon Gordon will be running a story on this at Future Tense.

I really hope my military blogs, including Sixty-Six.org don’t disappear. Deep sixed by the bureaucrats far from the families and the frontlines.

But maybe it’s just the American way. Opsec and Clusterf*ck.

Pace Yourself

According to Steve Chapman from the Chicago Tribute editorial board, Gen. Peter Pace’s reaction on homosexuality reported on Sunday was a ‘gut reaction.’ And he hadn’t thought through his comments.

In the original article Pace is quoted with the following,

“I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts,” Pace said in a wide-ranging discussion with Tribune editors and reporters in Chicago. “I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.

“As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behavior] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else’s wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior,” Pace said.

Now TV, blogs and newspapers are full of commentaries, snark, attacks, and Coulter-attacks.

First, I’d like to say, although I think his beliefs are deluded, I do think he is being utterly honest. He truly believes that it is immoral to be homosexual. It is in his bible and it is in his blood.

I would however point out the sad fact that the American military has notably never included infidelity as a reason for not serving. That policy would have gotten not only Ms. Nowak fired, but the other two officers as well. Indeed, even with an official ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ policy on infidelity in the American military, the pending shortage* in officers wouldn’t be – um – pending, it would be here.

Perhaps the military doesn’t “prosecute” that kind of immoral behaviour because it would decimate the current officer corps. General Pace is correct. The bible does think infidelity is bad. As a matter of fact homosexuality didn’t make even make the 10 commandments, bonking your neighbor’s wife did.

So General Pace, how about it – ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ on infidelity? Get caught with your pants down, skirt up or diapers on and you’re out. Immoral behavior right, sir?

But then again what kind of immoral behavior does the American military prosecute?

I was immediately reminded of the recent must read piece in Salon [Hat Tip: BlondSense] about the war women soldiers are fighting in Iraq. Not against the insurgents, against the ‘moral’ heterosexual men Peter Pace so supports.

As thousands of burned-out soldiers prepare to return to Iraq to fill President Bush’s unwelcome call for at least 20,000 more troops, I can’t help wondering what the women among those troops will have to face. And I don’t mean only the hardships of war, the killing of civilians, the bombs and mortars, the heat and sleeplessness and fear.
[…]
Spc. Mickiela Montoya, 21, who was in Iraq with the National Guard in 2005, took to carrying a knife with her at all times. “The knife wasn’t for the Iraqis,” she told me. “It was for the guys on my own side.”
[…]
Comprehensive statistics on the sexual assault of female soldiers in Iraq have not been collected, but early numbers revealed a problem so bad that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ordered a task force in 2004 to investigate. As a result, the Defense Department put up a Web site in 2005 designed to clarify that sexual assault is illegal and to help women report it. It also initiated required classes on sexual assault and harassment. The military’s definition of sexual assault includes “rape; nonconsensual sodomy; unwanted inappropriate sexual contact or fondling; or attempts to commit these acts.”
[…]
While commanders of some units are apparently less vigilant about policing rape, others engage in it themselves, a phenomenon known in the military as “command rape.” Because the military is hierarchical, and because soldiers are trained to obey and never question their superiors, men of rank can assault their juniors with impunity. In most cases, women soldiers are the juniors, 18 to 20 years old, and are new to the military and war, thus vulnerable to bullying and exploitation.

There is a “Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy here as well. Keep the dirty secrets quiet. Especially when “[a] 2003 survey of female veterans from Vietnam through the first Gulf War found that 30 percent said they were raped in the military.”

Don’t ask. Don’t tell.

So. Perhaps Gen. Peter will start thinking about immorality in his soldiers. Not the homosexual ones. The other ones. We’ll even leave the ‘covet your neighbors wife’ people in the military. But perhaps we might crack down on the officers raping soldiers under their command.

On the other hand, I wonder how Condi’s lesbian translator corps is doing?

But changing these ideas takes time.

After all, it’s all about morality. You just have to pace yourself. Even if you are a general.

* What? You didn’t know that there is an expected shortage of mid-level officers? From the Indianapolis Star,

The Army, forced by five years of war to expand its ranks, faces a critical shortage in midlevel officers, interviews and military records show.

Those officers — majors and lieutenant colonels — manage troops at war. The Army expects to have an annual shortage of 3,000 such officers through 2013 as it increases its ranks by 40,000 soldiers.

Beyond the shortage of midlevel officers looms an impending shortage of entry-level officers — lieutenants — from the U.S. Military Academy and university Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs, records show. Last year, 846 cadets graduated from West Point; the goal was 900. There were 25,100 enrolled in ROTC out of a goal of 31,000, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

Fight’n Words

Yesterday, in the hour long news conference at the White House, President George W. Bush fought the idea that his administration might spin information. Especially since that information seems to be pushing the casus belli, against Iran.

From the Washington Post,

The president spent much of the hour-long televised session in the East Room addressing skepticism about his government’s assertions regarding Iran and fears of a widening regional conflict. “The idea that somehow we’re manufacturing the idea that the Iranians are providing [explosives] is preposterous,” Bush said. Repeating a reporter’s question, he added: “Does this mean you’re trying to have a pretext for war? No. It means I’m trying to protect our troops.”

That seems to be the key talking point now. “Protect the troops.” But the questions now are first, is the current information is being invented, and second, whether the argument will protect the troops.

For me, the question of whether Iran is supplying arms to militias isn’t all that interesting.

First, from the images I have seen and the backgrounders I’ve read, the issue could flop either way. Iran has more than enough reasons to keep America busy in Iraq. And, arguably, most of the evidence does point to an Iranian connection to weapons and explosives being used.

On the other hand, the material I have seen, especially the improved explosives (EFPs) might not be that impressive. Building a computer operated mill really isn’t rocket science. (Oh, the Iraqies even have rocket scientists? Oh.) That means making parts to a fairly high tolerance might not be out of the reach of garage based militias. They only need the initial plans and the idea can spread like a (computer) virus.

Probably more worrying is the downing of several helicopters in recent weeks. That might point to much more sophisticated weaponry.

But the second question is whether American troops will be safer?

My unequivocal answer is no. Not unless Bush is willing to go to war with Iran.

How exactly can increasing diplomatic pressure on Iran, increasing troop presence, adding a new carrier to the contingent in the gulf possibly ease the situation?

Especially when the American military is already stretched to the breaking point. Iranian leaders aren’t blind. They know the only way the Bush administration can stop them aiding Iraqi militias is by attacking. That would require the reinstatement of the draft. (And even then I would argue it would take up to a year to get American forces ready for another ground war. Where would the necessary hardware come from?)

But I’m afraid the spin will start to rotate out of control. The increasingly shrill tone taken by the administration, even if the administration doesn’t want to go to war, may achieve exactly that. What does Iran have to lose right now?

How exactly can Iran tell the difference between the build up to war with Iraq and the current “Protect the Troops” rhetoric? How can American citizens tell the difference if something happens on the border? What happens if something really ‘unexpected’ happens, perhaps a carrier gets sunk by a mine?

It seems I am not alone in worrying about this kind of issue. From the NYT

Mr. Bush has said that he has no intention of invading Iran and that any suggestion that he was trying to provoke Iran “is just a wrong way to characterize the commander in chief’s decision to do what is necessary to protect our soldiers in harm’s way.” But experts say that the ratcheting up of accusations could provoke a confrontation. Gary Sick, an expert on Iran at Columbia University, said there was a “danger of accidental war.” He said, “If anything goes wrong, if something happens, there’s an unexplained explosion and we kidnap an Iranian, and the Iranians respond to that somehow, this could get out of control.”

But I found a refreshing and intelligent reason for the verbal escalation. From the far left, liberal rag Marine Corps Times,

Judith Yaphe, a Middle East expert at the National Defense University, said the Bush administration is raising these charges now to shore up political support for its decision to send an additional 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq.

“They need to shift the public debate from the issue of the surge and spread the blame” for the spreading chaos, she said.

The article continues with the predictable response from the military.

[Maj. Gen. William] Caldwell[, the U.S. command’s top spokesman,] defended the timing of the briefing. The armor-piercing roadside bombs, called explosively formed penetrators, first surfaced in Iraq in 2004, but he said the problem became acute recently.

Of course, the timing of these kinds of press releases is always political. Does anyone remember what happened when ill-timed information comes out of the DoD? Something that doesn’t fit the administrations current talking points? (General Eric Shinseki, anyone?)

But I think the current spin is perhaps pointed, not at Iran, but at the Republican party and the American public. This leads to the comforting thought that the Bush administration is not trying to start a war.

Perhaps there are realists in the administration who realise starting yet another war would be catastrophic. This would mean that the government is, however, so disengaged from foreign policy to think domestic issues can be solved by verbally attacking Iran. And that is really worrying.

And maybe that is the war America needs to start fighting. The war against rhetoric.

And that’s just fight’n words.

(Hat Tip: David Hambling/DefenseTech for many of the links and the background for this post)

Updated Addendum: Be sure to read Laura Rozen’s take on this.

Un-Fair Publicity

Remember my post about the Washington Post op-ed by Eric Fair?

I said it was powerful and moving.

Well it apparently the piece moved not just me but the right wing blogosphere as well; just in a slightly different direction. And a very weird one at that.

I also made a direct connection to the case of Khalid Al-Masri, the Lebanese born German citizen kidnapped and held by US/Afghan “authorities.” I first noticed this when looking at my referral logs and people looking for “Eric Fair warrant Germany.”

The backstory.

During the last week in January, Munich’s prosecuting attorney got arrest warrants for 13 people though to be associated with the, what in Germany is considered, kidnapping of Khalid al-Masari. One of the German television stations got the list and released (German) the names on the warrant,

According to research by the NDR, the arrest warrants were handed down for the following people.

Kirk James BIRD
James OHALE
James FAIRING
Michael GRADY
Jason FRANKLIN
Hector LORENZO
John DECKER
Lyle Edgard LUMDSEN
Walter Richard GREESBORE
Bryam CHARLES
Jane PAYNE
Patricia Riloy
Eric FAIR

Included in the warrants issued by the prosecuting attorney from Munich I are several spellings of each name. According to NDR research, these names are aliases. In addition according to research by “Panorama” [,a German television news magazine], several real names are also known to the investigators.

According to research from the ARD political magazine “Panorama,” the thirteen being sought under these warrants are CIA operatives. Most live in the US state of North Carolina. Three have already been confronted in September 2006 by “Panorama” about the charges; the accused refused any comment. [my translation, my emphasis]

In it’s coverage of the case, Speigel Online also underlines that the warrants are based on the al-Masari case and that the names are thought to be aliases.

Munich-based Bavarian senior state public prosecutor Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld said in a statement Wednesday that the warrants had been issued in the last few days. He said the agents are being sought on suspicion of abducting and wrongfully imprisoning el-Masri as well as causing him grievous bodily harm. Thirteen suspected CIA agents are listed in the warrants, although the names given are thought to be aliases. [my emphasis]

But Eric Fair wasn’t in Afghanistan and thus doesn’t have anything to do with the al- Masri case. Thus, it is unlikely that the Eric Fair from the WP article is one of the defendants being mentioned in the German warrant. Eric Fair probably isn’t that person’s real name and that isn’t the right country anyway. al-Masri wasn’t in Abu Ghraib.

So far so good.

Ah but the twisted turns of the Intertubes.

There is an Eric Fair mentioned [Hat Tip: Kilabe for the PDF if not his sentiments] in the lawsuit Saleh, v. Titan filed in California in 2004 and moved recently to Virginia due a change in venue. From the Juli Schwartz’ article in the Rutgers Law Journal,

The plaintiffs in Saleh represent a class of Iraqi detainees who claim to be the victims of heinous human rights abuses at the hands of U.S. military personnel and civilian contractors under military command. The named plaintiff, Mr. Saleh (who since withdrew from the suit), is an Iraqi-born Swedish citizen who was imprisoned under Saddam Hussein’s regime for speaking out against the Baath Party. He escaped to Europe, but returned to Iraq in September 2003, where he was seized and detained at Abu Ghraib. According to Saleh, he and other prisoners were stripped, beaten, defiled, and raped throughout their detention. Their tormenters were identified as both uniform and plain-clothes personnel. Mr. Saleh was released in December 2003, and upon his release contacted a Michigan-based attorney who eventually joined forces with eight other plaintiffs. Together they filed suit in the Southern District of California against the two private contracting firms allegedly involved in the abuse, Titan Corporation and CACI International, and three employees in their individual capacities. The pleadings asserted federal question jurisdiction under the ATS and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) Act.

In the original filing there is an Eric Fair named as one of the CACI employees.

That’s an interesting case if you’re a lawyer or a civil rights person. Probably drops below the level of news for everyone not directly involved.

Still, Fair’s excellent description of what his time in Iraq was like speaks volumes about the emotional damage being done to civilians on both sides of the conflict. Unless of course, you’re not bothered by things like that,

I feel bad that this guy is having nightmares, and I hope he is getting the PTSD counseling he needs. A lot of people can’t forget what they saw and did in Iraq. I could describe for you in detail the faces of the middle-aged Iraqi soldiers on whom I directed 50. cal fire, and exactly what they looked like when they died 30 feet away, as I directed the gunner’s fire from one to another until they were all dead. For a long time, I saw them every day. I examined their faces for clues about who they were, and to divine the exact moment and exact manner in which life exits the body. I also wept once, and asked forgiveness, because no matter what else they were, they were also human. I was a reporter. Some people didn’t think I was supposed to be doing what I did, and called me a murderer. Screw them. They were people who weren’t remotely familiar with the truth they were lecturing me about. Guess what: War is hell.

This person seems to miss the point. (If not missing while directing 50 cal. machine gun fire.)

Unfortunately, the people Eric Fair took part in torturing were not on the battlefield. They were defenseless prisoners. Killing people in battle, while debateable in a war of aggression (and really debatable if you are supposed to be an embedded journalist) probably wouldn’t be challenged by moderates. Torturing people to get information for questionable tactical and strategic use is something else entirely.

Thus, while I might not curse Mr Crittenden for his feelings about what happened on the battlefield, I find his feelings about the WP article extremely distasteful.

And extremely Un-Fair.

Just the Fax Condi

While I’m on the subject of Rice, Michael Hirsh from Newsweek is pointing to a mistake made back when Rice was on the NSC that paved the way for more unilateral screeching at Iran.

The problem? A fax sent by the former pre-batshit-crazy-presidential Iranian government in 2003 requesting direct negotiations with Washington. The offer was ignored and of course America isn’t planning anything, there is no intent to attack Iran.

Still, “not planning or intending an attack” isn’t exactly the same thing as embracing diplomacy with Tehran. In fact, Bush has specifically rejected that idea unless Iran acts first to suspend its uranium-enrichment program. Mann, as well as former senior administration officials such as former secretary of State Colin Powell and his then-top deputy, Richard Armitage, say the president has ignored or played down a number of opportunities to negotiate—especially in the era before Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005. As Powell told NEWSWEEK in an interview this week: “You can’t negotiate when you tell the other side, ‘Give us what a negotiation would produce before the negotiations start.’”

Rice was asked again this week about a dramatic opening for such a negotiation that took place in late April and May of 2003, when Iranian officials, using their regular Swiss intermediary, faxed a two-page proposal for comprehensive talks to the State Department. According to the document, a copy of which was obtained by NEWSWEEK, Tehran plainly laid out the two countries’ “aims” and proposed “steps” to resolve them “in mutual respect.” The document, believed to reflect the views of Iran’s president at the time, the moderate Mohammad Khatami, proposes negotiations on most of the main outstanding issues of interest to Washington—including Iran’s nuclear program, its support for Hizbullah and Hamas and terrorism in general, and stabilizing Iraq. Some officials who saw the proposal at the time, including Hillary Mann and her husband, Flynt Leverett, the former National Security Council (NSC) senior director for Mideast under Rice, have angrily criticized Rice and the administration for not taking it seriously.

An examination of the document is very interesting.

Some of the points on the table for Iran would probably have been acceptable to a normal government.

Iran wanted off the Axis of Evil list. The Americans should finally smackdown the Iranian People’s Mujahideen (MKO), an anti-Iranian group already officially declared to be a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US . (The Human Rights Watch doesn’t like the MKO and not even the French think these guys are OK. Probably using the old “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” kind of logic, the neo-cons have tried to get the MKO un-designated. 150 Members of Congress and several top Administration officals, including former Attorney General John No-Naked-Statues-In-My-Justice-Department Ashcroft have lobbied to get the designation changed.)

Less acceptable would have been “Full access to peaceful nuclear technology, biotechnology and chemical technology” and “Abolishment of all sanctions: commercial sanctions, frozen assets, judgments(FSIA), impediments in international trade and financial institutions.”

This would have been like building nueclear reactors in North Korea to keep them from building a bomb. Where would that have led? (What? The Norks built the bomb from material that had been under seal until America found an excuse to renege on that deal? Oh. Whatever. They are still so Axis of Evil!)

And what was Iran offering? No WMD’s and full cooperation with the IAEA, decisive action against terrorists like al Quaeda, coordination on the stabilization in Iran. Nothing important.

Oh. And on those pesky Israel/Palestine/Lebanon problems?

  1. stop of any material support to Palestinian opposition groups (Hamas, Jihad etc.) from Iranian territory, pressure on these organizations to stop violent action against civilians within borders of 1967.
  2. action on Hizbollah to become a mere political organization within Lebanon
  3. acceptance of the Arab League Beirut declaration (Saudi initiative, two-states-approach)

No. Nothing there to talk about. Letting Israel “kick Hizbollah’s ass” was far more effective. And Palestine seems to have settled down nicely since 2003.

The article goes on to talk about both the unclear origins of the document and the fact that everyone is now saying they didn’t see it. No one had anything to do with it. They know nothing— absolutely nothing. But the article also points out that the President and his closest advisors also don’t believe the Iranian government is legitimate and that Iran is a “ripe apple.” That’s comforting.

Oddly, despite everything the Administration screws up, the pressure on Iran may be working. There are signs that Iranians aren’t too happy with Ahmadinejad. (Who would be?) Thus Iran may at least be coming back to the table on the nuclear thing.

But the Iranians are also holding a military exercise this month and are claiming to have tested missiles could sink “big warships.” While the exercise thing is true, experts are saying the missile thing is BS. Of course, the US also claimed Iran couldn’t take pictures of the American carriers using UAVs.

So Condi. Just give us the facts not the spin.

Not Just Rattling

Since I seem to be having an Iranian week, I thought I wander over to the stuff being presented yesterday by James Glanz and Mark Mazzetti in the New York Times

Investigators say they believe that attackers who used American-style uniforms and weapons to infiltrate a secure compound and kill five American soldiers in Karbala on Jan. 20 may have been trained and financed by Iranian agents, according to American and Iraqi officials knowledgeable about the inquiry.

The officials said the sophistication of the attack astonished investigators, who doubt that Iraqis could have carried it out on their own — one reason a connection to Iran is being closely examined. Officials cautioned that no firm conclusions had been drawn and did not reveal any direct evidence of a connection.

A senior Iraqi official said the attackers had carried forged American identity cards and American-style M-4 rifles and had thrown stun grenades of a kind used only by American forces here.

The next sentence in the article also honestly explains why it was published.

Tying Iran to the deadly attack could be helpful to the Bush administration, which has been engaged in an escalating war of words with Iran.

Oh. Gee, I hadn’t noticed.

In other news, we find that the US is halting the sale of spare parts for F-14 fighters, the mainstay of the Iranian airforce. David Axe has a nice summary over at DefenseTech.

Mideast Parties Involved in the Iraqi Conflict

And finally, because I am admittedly stoopid attention deficited I am starting a new page. I usually need to see things drawn out with pictures and arrows and diagrams. That’s why I made this handy dandy graphic and a new page where I will occasionally post graphics about the Afghanistan conflicts, the Iraqi WMD-hunt/Saddam toppling/freedom bringing and the coming Iranian war.

The first image is my representation of all the parties on the ground in Iraq as described in disreputed the Iraqi Study Group final report.