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October 31, 2006

Major General Nouri Al-Maliki

Maliki orders the military cordon around Sadr City to be lifted, thereby effectively ending the search for the missing U.S. soldier:

U.S. forces ended a five-day-old military blockade of Baghdad's impoverished Sadr City section Tuesday, meeting a deadline set by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki amid tensions between U.S. and Iraqi officials and pressure from the anti-American cleric whose militia controls the sprawling Shiite slum.

Maliki ordered that the security cordon be lifted hours after cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for a civil disobedience campaign in Sadr City to protest the blockade, which the U.S. military launched Wednesday in an effort to find an abducted U.S. soldier and capture a purported Iraqi death squad leader.

It was the Maliki government's greatest demonstration of independence from the occupying U.S. military forces, following two weeks of increasingly pointed exchanges between Iraqi and U.S. officials. But it was also a reminder of the degree to which Maliki must cooperate with Sadr, who leads the political party that comprises one of the biggest blocs in the governing alliance and who effectively runs the Shiite Muslim stronghold named for his deceased father.

Armed fighters of Sadr's Mahdi Army militia had enforced boycotts as part of the civil disobedience campaign, entering schools to force out children and forcing workers and customers to abandon shops and offices, including government electrical facilities, witnesses and residents said. The checkpoints and barricades had effectively isolated Sadr City from the rest of the capital, making it difficult if not impossible for the slum's 2.5 million residents to travel to schools and jobs elsewhere in Baghdad.

Precisely at 5 p.m. local time (9 a.m. EST), the deadline set by Maliki, U.S. armored personnel carriers pulled away from the roadblocks. Young men in pickup trucks drove through the streets waving banners of the Mahdi Army, and drivers of other vehicles honked their horns in celebration.

I'm sure the soldiers and the American back home will be thrilled that we are taking orders from an Al-Sadr appeaser who doesn't want to see one of our own released.

Or maybe we'll see what happens in the next episode of "Lost".

(via Atrios and Josh Marshall)

Update: Oops nevermind. John Kerry apparently said sumpthin' about U.S. troops. This is obviously WAAAY more important.

Al-Sadr's New Baghdad Police Force.

Yes, we are basically financing and equipping Shiite militias:

BAGHDAD -- The signs of the militias are everywhere at the Sholeh police station.

Posters celebrating Moqtada al-Sadr, head of the Mahdi Army militia, dot the building's walls. The police chief sometimes remarks that Shiite militias should wipe out all Sunnis. Visitors to this violent neighborhood in the Iraqi capital whisper that nearly all the police officers have split loyalties.

And then one rainy night this month, the Sholeh police set up an ambush and killed Army Cpl. Kenny F. Stanton Jr., a 20-year-old budding journalist, his unit said. At the time, Stanton and other members of the unit had been trailing a group of Sholeh police escorting known Mahdi Army members.

"How can we expect ordinary Iraqis to trust the police when we don't even trust them not to kill our own men?" asked Capt. Alexander Shaw, head of the police transition team of the 372nd Military Police Battalion, a Washington-based unit charged with overseeing training of all Iraqi police in western Baghdad. "To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure we're ever going to have police here that are free of the militia influence."

. . .Seventy percent of the Iraqi police force has been infiltrated by militias, primarily the Mahdi Army, according to Shaw and other military police trainers. Police officers are too terrified to patrol enormous swaths of the capital. And while there are some good cops, many have been assassinated or are considering quitting the force.

I've already said what needed to be said of how this Iraq situation is going to end. It's just up to the anuses to recognize how utterly unwinnable the situation is.

(via Steve Gilliard)

October 30, 2006

Fareed Zakaria Searches Desperately For Ponies

No matter how much he digs within the coprolite in the Aegean stable that is Eye-Rack, Newsweek's foreign policy Wise Man Zakaria cannot find a good solution to resolving the crisis, so all he can suggest is to draw down troops, redeploy them, and cross our fingers:

At that point the United States should begin taking measures that lead to a much smaller, less intrusive presence in Iraq, geared to a more limited set of goals. Starting in January 2007, we should stop trying to provide basic security in Iraq's cities and villages. U.S. units should instead become a rapid-reaction force to secure certain core interests.

We can explain to the Iraqi leadership that such a force structure will help Iraqis take responsibility for their own security. Currently we have 144,000 troops deployed in Iraq at a cost of more than $90 billion a year. That is simply not sustainable in an open-ended way. I would propose a force structure of 60,000 men at a cost of $30 billion to $35 billion annually—a commitment that could be maintained for several years, and that would give the Iraqis time to come together, in whatever loose form they can, as a nation.

True, as we draw down, violence will increase in many parts of the country. One can only hope that will concentrate the minds of leaders in Iraq. The Shia government will get its chance to try to fight the insurgency its way. The Sunni rebels can attempt to regain control of the country. And perhaps both sides will come more quickly to the conclusion that the only way forward is a political deal. But until there is such a change of heart, the United States should stick to more limited goals.

As Steve Gilliard highlights, that just leaves the door open to more problems. As I've said before, the solution is not going to look pretty, it will involve a lot of blood, and the U.S. cannot keep a lid on it forever. Plus Gilliard is right about how maddening it is for Zakaria to say that the toppling of Saddam and an autonomous Kurdistan are the silver linings to this ill advised invasion. If you really wanted Saddam gone, a 30-cent bullet and a scope is a hell of a lot cheaper than a full scale invasion, and we could have separated Kurdistan from the rest of Iraq a long time ago without toppling Baghdad if we loooove the Kurds so much. Only when these Wise Men admit what fools they are for embarking on this fiasco will I ever be happy.

So This Is Where My Offering Goes Every Week

Virginia Catholic leaders have spent $25,000 on what they consider a worthy cause. Was it poverty? Nope, it wasn't poverty. Was it homelessness? Nope, they were not trying to get the homeless off the streets. Were they aiding the sick? Nope, it wasn't to make sure people have medical care.

They spent that much money trying to convince Virginia Catholics that gays shouldn't have civil unions, despite the fact that 60 percent doesn't believe that civil unions will lead to hell on earth, as the Catholic heirarchy would like you to think:

Virginia's Catholic leaders can take comfort from recent polls showing that a majority of state voters are in sync with them in supporting a constitutional amendment to ban civil unions. What worries them is their own flock.

A Washington Post poll conducted this month showed that a majority of Catholic voters oppose the proposed amendment, which would ban same-sex marriages. As a result, Virginia bishops are flexing their growing political muscle in an attempt to sway more Catholics on the issue and get them to voting booths.

"When Catholics are presented with our church's perspective on the nature of marriage, its relationship to the common good of society and the importance of the proposed amendment for children and families . . . they will be much more likely to support the amendment," said Jeff Caruso, executive director of the Virginia Catholic Conference.

The lobbying group spent about $25,000 this year on 100,000 glossy copies of a letter that Richmond Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo and Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde wrote to explain why Catholics should support the amendment.

The amendment campaign is one of DiLorenzo and Loverde's largest political efforts. They founded the conference just last year, although many states -- including Maryland -- have had Catholic lobbying groups for decades.

There has also been a renewed effort since 2005 to register voters at Catholic parishes in Virginia, said Terry Wear, state coordinator of the marriage amendment effort for the Knights of Columbus. Wear said the marriage amendment is "one of the principal issues" behind the new registration effort, as well as concern about abortion and other social issues.

. . .A solid majority of the state's Catholic voters -- 60 percent -- said gays should "be allowed to form legally recognized civil unions," compared with 38 percent who said they shouldn't, according to a Washington Post poll conducted this month. Slightly more than half of Catholic poll respondents -- 51 percent -- said they oppose the proposed constitutional amendment, compared with 46 percent who said they support it.

In contrast, the result for all poll respondents was 53 percent in support of the amendment and 43 percent against.

The split among voters who identify themselves as Catholic and church leaders mirrors a national rift on civil unions, as well as some other social issues. Asked whether gay couples should be allowed to form legally recognized unions that would give them the rights of married heterosexual couples, 53 percent of Catholics nationally said yes in a June 2006 ABC poll, compared with 40 percent who said no.

If there is any proof that the Catholic Church as an institution has been out of touch with modern trends, this is it. If they think celibate priests, all-male leaderships and their zealous opposition to gay marriage and abortion is so important, then all power to them. But they should stop complaining if their membership declines because of their obstinancy.

October 27, 2006

So This Is How Fascism Looks Like (Oprah Edition)

Just now on Oprah, where she is interviewing Falafel-boy Bill O'Reilly, Bill-O just defended the use of torture, specifically waterboarding, in that it should be used to save lives, citing the "fact" that waterboarding Khalid Shaikh Mohammed lead to the breakup of terror plots. First of all, the terror plots O'Leilly was referring to included the plan to blow up the Library Tower in Los Angeles. The Bushies claimed to have disrupted that plot in 2002. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was captured in 2003, so whatever information he gave on that plot was probably redundant. Second of all, waterboarding Al-Qaeda operatives gave us bogus information that directly led to the Eye-Rack shitmire.

But all that didn't matter. The soccer-mom hens that make up Oprah's studio audience clapped and cheered O'Loofah's courageous stance in favor of torture. That moment sent chills down my spine. If the supposedly moderate audience that watches Oprah supports that type of war crime, what hope is left for this country?

Dixie Chix Nixed

Anyone who says anything about a liberal media should be drug out to the street and shot:

The Weinstein Co. is claiming that NBC and the CW have refused to air national ads for the new Dixie Chicks docu "Shut Up & Sing."

But while the Peacock has specifically said it won't accept the spots because they are disparaging of President Bush, a rep for the CW strongly denies the Weinsteins version of events.

The Century Mark

One hundred and one US deaths in Eye-Rack this month.

I hope the warmongers sleep well tonight.

Worst. Congress. Ever.

Inspired by the post by Charles Pierce over at TAPPED, in which he explains how Jean Schmithead's totally misadvised outrage over her opponent's campaign ad, among her other famous political indiscretions, is just symptomatic of how the Gingrich Revolution of 12 years ago was successful in placing (in Pierce's words) "fools, lightweights, mountebanks, kinky libertines, and public omadhauns" in positions of power.

Come on, Pierce. Tell us how you REALLY feel, because being in Washington you know full well just how godawful the situation has become, even for Washington.

It's a continuing scandal that plagues this nation, and the media has barely even touched on it. Luckily, Matt Taibbi in the latest issue of the Rolling Stones shows us a Republican Congress that named Mark Foley as the protector of children. It deals with the mudane - billion dollar pork projects, one-party rule, infantile behavior, brass-balls criminality. But the most illuminating part was when he deals with the disgraced congressman Duke Cunningham:

Anyone who wants to get a feel for the kinds of beasts that have been roaming the grounds of the congressional zoo in the past six years need only look at the deranged, handwritten letter that convicted bribe-taker and GOP ex-congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham recently sent from prison to Marcus Stern, the reporter who helped bust him. In it, Cunningham -- who was convicted last year of taking $2.4 million in cash, rugs, furniture and jewelry from a defense contractor called MZM -- bitches out Stern in the broken, half-literate penmanship of a six-year-old put in time-out.

"Each time you print it hurts my family And now I have lost them Along with Everything I have worked for during my 64 years of life," Cunningham wrote. "I am human not an Animal to keep whiping [sic]. I made some decissions [sic] Ill be sorry for the rest of my life."

The amazing thing about Cunningham's letter is not his utter lack of remorse, or his insistence on blaming defense contractor Mitchell Wade for ratting him out ("90% of what has happed [sic] is Wade," he writes), but his frantic, almost epic battle with the English language. It is clear that the same Congress that put a drooling child-chaser like Mark Foley in charge of a House caucus on child exploitation also named Cunningham, a man who can barely write his own name in the ground with a stick, to a similarly appropriate position. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the former chairman of the House Subcommittee on Human Intelligence Analysis and Counterintelligence:

"As truth will come out and you will find out how liablest [sic] you have & will be. Not once did you list the positives. Education Man of the Year...hospital funding, jobs, Hiway [sic] funding, border security, Megans law my bill, Tuna Dolfin [sic] my bill...and every time you wanted an expert on the wars who did you call. No Marcus you write About how I died."

How liablest you have & will be? What the fuck does that even mean? This guy sat on the Appropriations Committee for years -- no wonder Congress couldn't pass any spending bills!

This is Congress in the Bush years, in a nutshell -- a guy who takes $2 million in bribes from a contractor, whooping it up in turtlenecks and pajama bottoms with young women on a contractor-provided yacht named after himself (the "Duke-Stir"), and not only is he shocked when he's caught, he's too dumb to even understand that he's been guilty of anything.

As Brad Delong has said several times on his blog, "oh why are we ruled by these idiots?"

October 26, 2006

Iraqi PM Blames Coalition For Continued Violence

This can't be good for troop morale:

Q. Are you concerned that the United States could try to push you aside if there is no progress in the coming months?

A. I don't think American policy would commit the mistake of replacing a prime minister or a government in Iraq. That would be burning their slogans. I don't think they think like that as it would mean the failure of the entire political process. As far as 'tough decisions' go, I say we want to take firm and difficult decisions. But anyone who wants to take a difficult decision has to do so from solid ground and so the far the ground is unstable -- due to current security policies ...

If anyone is responsible for the poor security situation in Iraq it is the Coalition. I am now prime minister and overall commander of the armed forces yet I cannot move a single company without Coalition approval because of the U.N. mandate. So those who have the authority and could move the forces are also responsible. This should be clear ...

I have to be careful fighting some militias and terrorists ... because they are better armed than the army and police. The other point is that the army and police have been infiltrated because they were randomly formed. There are terrorists in the army and militias in the police and also members of the old regime.

Cheney: Waterboarding Is Not Torture

That recently enacted Military Commissions Act is really something. It says that it doesn't allow torture, but it lets the Bush administration define what torture is. Keep in mind that these are the same monsters who said what happened in Abu Ghraib isn't torture, that wrote a memo saying anything short of organ failure isn't torture, and now Darth Cheny has emphatically stated that waterboarding, or as the brownshirt radio host who he did the interview with has called "dunk in water," is not torture:

Cheney confirms that detainees were subjected to water-boarding

By Jonathan S. Landay
McClatchy Newspapers
Posted on Wed, Oct. 25, 2006

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al-Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called "water-boarding," which creates a sensation of drowning.

Cheney indicated that the Bush administration doesn't regard water-boarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. "It's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said at one point in an interview.

Cheney's comments, in a White House interview on Tuesday with a conservative radio talk show host, appeared to reflect the Bush administration's view that the president has the constitutional power to do whatever he deems necessary to fight terrorism.

The U.S. Army, senior Republican lawmakers, human rights experts and many experts on the laws of war, however, consider water-boarding cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that's banned by U.S. law and by international treaties that prohibit torture. Some intelligence professionals argue that it often provides false or misleading information because many subjects will tell their interrogators what they think they want to hear to make the water-boarding stop.

. . .In the interview on Tuesday, Scott Hennen of WDAY Radio in Fargo, N.D., told Cheney that listeners had asked him to "let the vice president know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives."

"Again, this debate seems a little silly given the threat we face, would you agree?" Hennen said.

"I do agree," Cheney replied, according to a transcript of the interview released Wednesday. "And I think the terrorist threat, for example, with respect to our ability to interrogate high-value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation."

Cheney added that Mohammed had provided "enormously valuable information about how many (al-Qaida members) there are, about how they plan, what their training processes are and so forth. We've learned a lot. We need to be able to continue that."

"Would you agree that a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?" asked Hennen.

"It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president `for torture.' We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in," Cheney replied. "We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth. But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture, and we need to be able to do that."

Whoever said it is right. When fascism emerges in this country, it will come festooned with crosses and American flags.

The Freedom Agenda

The insidious legacy of WorstPresidentEver's damnable invasion of Iraq is that other despots around the world can use that as an example of why they must maintain their rule:

DAMASCUS, Syria -- Horror at the bloodshed accompanying the U.S. effort to bring democracy to Iraq has accomplished what human rights activists, analysts and others say Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been unable to do by himself: silence public demands for democratic reforms here.

The idea of the government as a bulwark of stability and security has long been the watchword of Syrian bureaucrats and village elders. But since Iraq's descent into sectarian and ethnic war -- and after Israel's war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, on the other side of Syria -- even Syrian activists concede that the country's feeble rights movement is moribund.

Advocates of democracy are equated now with supporters of America, even "traitors," said Maan Abdul Salam, 36, a Damascus publisher who has coordinated conferences on women's rights and similar topics.

"Now, talking about democracy and freedom has become very difficult and sensitive," Salam said. "The people are not believing these thoughts anymore. When the U.S. came to Iraq, it came in the name of democracy and freedom. But all we see are bodies, bodies, bodies."

Ordinary people in Syria are hunkering down, and probably rightly so, said Omar Amiralay, a well-known Syrian filmmaker whose documentaries are quietly critical of Assad's one-family rule.

"If democracy brings such chaos in the region, and especially the destruction of society, as it did in Iraq and in Lebanon, it's absolutely normal, and I think it's absolutely a wise position from the people to be afraid to imagine how it would be in Syria," Amiralay said. "I think that people at the end said, 'Well, it is better to keep this government. We know them, and we don't want to go to this civil war, and to live this apocalyptic image of change, with civil war and sectarianism and blood.

. . .Meanwhile, Syria's people remain spectators of their government's maneuvering, free to watch it but not to speak.

They enjoy the small freedoms that their neighbors in dangerous Iraq no longer do -- such as the ability to go out after dark. This month, after breaking the daily Ramadan fast, families chugged in their cars up the steep roads of Mount Cassion to stroll, sip colas and fruit drinks and take in the view of Damascus spread out below.

Seated on a plastic chair on the road with a friend, real estate salesman Mohammed Yousif gestured toward the city. Green lights of mosques glowed among the white lights of a capital fully powered and at peace. Speaking to a foreign journalist, the 42-year-old salesman measured his words carefully, answering questions with the blandness often seen in Iraq before Hussein was toppled.

"We are talking and enjoying ourselves," Yousif said, waving the nozzle of the traditional water pipe he and his friend were using to smoke flavored tobacco. "This is our democracy. This is our freedom."

So that's it? Has Bush's awe inspiring incompetence destroyed the hope that real positive change could come about without severe consequences?

Well, not necessarily. American military interventions in foreign countries have rarely produced free democracies. The best way to spread freedom is for the people to buy it themselves.

No Longer Fighting Them "Over There"

In today's presser, WorstPresidentEver pretty much abandoned all this favorite catch phrases and rhetoric on Eye-Rack and based his entire argument on what radio personality/comedienne Stephanie Miller calls "the puppy dog excuse" - that if you don't do something over there, they (the terra-ists) will just follow you home.

Well, if you'll pardon the expression, that dog won't hunt anymore:

The conflict in Iraq is drawing fewer foreign fighters as Muslim extremists aspiring to battle the West turn their attention back to the symbolically important and increasingly violent turf of Afghanistan, European and U.S. anti-terrorism officials say.

The shift of militants to Afghanistan this year suggests that Al Qaeda and its allies, armed with new tactics honed in Iraq, are coming full circle five years after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban mullahs.

Until Sept. 11, 2001, Afghanistan was the land of jihad: hallowed ground where fighters from across the Muslim world helped vanquish the Soviet Union in 1980s, fought alongside the Taliban in the 1990s and filled training camps overseen by Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Loss of the Afghan sanctuary scattered the networks and sent Bin Laden fleeing toward the Pakistani border region, where many anti-terrorism officials believe he remains.

After the fall of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003, Muslim extremists from the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa and Europe flocked to confront the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. Although foreigners have been a minority in the Iraqi insurgency, militants such as Jordanian-born Abu Musab Zarqawi played a major role in suicide attacks and kidnap-killings.

But insurgent leaders in Iraq are now mainly interested in foreign recruits ready to die in suicide attacks, anti-terrorism officials say. Moreover, the conflict is dominated by violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. In contrast, an accelerating Afghan offensive by the resurgent Taliban offers a clearer battleground and a wealth of targets: U.S. and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops, and the Western-backed government.

Oh, and if you think all we have to do is fight them in the first shitmire, I mean Afghanistan, think again:

The movement of fighters to Iraq began to decline last year as insurgent leaders in Syria, who serve as a conduit to the combat zone, began screening volunteers aggressively, turning them back unless they had strong military skills or were eager to carry out suicide attacks, European anti-terrorism officials said.

Some newcomers were redirected to training camps in North Africa. Others were told to launch attacks in Europe, said a senior Italian anti-terrorism official. He described the confessions of Milan-based Tunisian and Moroccan suspects who got to Syria, but then were sent back: "They said the representative of Zarqawi's group really grilled them: 'Do you have military experience? Here's an AK-47; do you know how to use it? Have you ever fired a mortar? If not, we don't want you.' "

Instead, they were directed to bomb a basilica in Bologna because it displays a painting of the prophet Muhammad as depicted in Dante's Inferno, investigators say. Moroccan and Italian police broke up the alleged plot and arrested the group this spring.

October 24, 2006

Scratch That Exit Strategery

It's been speculated that one of the plans considered by the congressionally appointed and Bush-approved Baker Commission tasked to develop new strategies for Iraq is for the U.S. to talk to Iran and Syria into helping stabilize the country. Well today the Bushies are trying their damn best not to let that option get off the ground:

U.S. blames Iran, Syria for Iraq violence

BAGHDAD, Oct 24 (Reuters) - America's civilian and military leaders in Iraq linked Iran and Syria with al Qaeda on Tuesday as forces trying to tear the country apart and prevent the United States from establishing a stable democracy.

The comments from ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and General George Casey were among the strongest U.S. officials have levelled against Iraq's two neighbours over alleged support for armed groups behind much of the bloodshed.

Khalilzad depicted the struggle to build a united, democratic Iraq as "the defining challenge of our era" and said it would shape the future of the Middle East and global security.

"Those forces that constitute the extremist camp including not only al Qaeda but Iran and Syria are at work to keep us and the Iraqis from succeeding," Khalilzad told a rare joint news conference with Casey, two weeks before U.S. Congressional elections.

October 23, 2006

Still A Quagmire

Remember when the Mahdi Army effectively took over the southern Iraqi city of Amara only for them to make a deal with the Iraq Army to allow them to patrol the town again. How is that status quo holding up? Not so good:

Shiite militiamen loyal to a fiery anti-American Shiite cleric re-emerged in the troubled southern city of Amarah on Monday.

In Amarah, gunmen dragged police Lt. Sarmad Majid al-Shatti from his home before dawn, then dumped his bullet-riddled body at a farm on the city's outskirts, said Ali Chaloub of Sadr General Hospital. Another policeman, Lt. Alaa al-Kabi was shot to death outside his home, Chaloub said.

At about the same time, provincial policemen Hamid Majeed and Hassan Abdullah were kidnapped from their homes, and their bodies were later found dumped outside the city, Chaloub said.

Despite an increased police and army presence on the streets, many Baghdad Sunnis said they would rather stay home than risk falling victim to car bombs or Shiite death squads.

Bush's New Strategery On Eye-Rack

Hey kiddies! Never mind what we just said over and over and over again for the past two years or so, we were never about "staying the course", we are now about *adaptation* because, ya need to *adapt* to the enemy (cue Beavis-like chuckle).

But seriously, how badly is this gonna end?

BAGHDAD After three years of trying to thwart a potent insurgency and tamp down the deadly violence in Iraq, the American military is playing its last hand: The Baghdad Security Plan.

The plan will be tweaked, adjusted and modified in the weeks ahead, as American commanders attempt to reverse the dismaying increase in murders, drive-by shootings and bombings.

But military commanders here see no plausible alternative to their bedrock strategy of clearing violence-ridden neighborhoods of militias, insurgents and arms caches, holding them with Iraqi and American security forces and winning over the population and generating jobs with reconstruction projects, primarily programs underwritten by the Iraq government. There is no winning fall-back plan that the generals are holding in their hip pockets. This is it.

The Iraqi capital is, as the generals like to say, the center of gravity for the larger American mission in Iraq. The generals' assessment is that if Baghdad is overwhelmed by sectarian strife, the cause of fostering a more stable Iraq will be lost. Conversely, if Baghdad can be improved, the effects will eventually be felt elsewhere in Iraq - or so the American calculation holds. In invading Iraq, American forces started from outside the country and fought their way in. The current strategy is essentially to work from the inside out.

"As Baghdad goes, so goes Iraq," said Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, the corps commander who oversees American forces throughout Iraq. snip

As a commentator on The News Blog puts it succinctly, it would be more accurate if you replace the words "center of gravity" with "last stand" and the word "work" with the word "fight".

The bad news is that they can't depend on the New Iraq Army to back them up, because, well, they make the ARVN look like the IDF:

So far, the plan has been short on resources, as well as results. The Iraqi Defense Ministry has supplied only two of the six Iraqi Army battalions that Thurman has requested. It is not just a question of numbers. Some in the U.S. military believe that the Iraqi Army may be more effective than the police and more trusted by local citizens. Yet several Iraqi battalions have gone AWOL rather than follow the orders to go to Baghdad, according to American military officials. In the case of these divisions, summoning them to the Iraqi capital was tantamount to demobilizing the units.

Sorry, but we just don't pay them enough.

October 21, 2006

More Iraqis Voting For Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Because you know when Iraq descends into civil war, they do it to help Democrats.

Iraqi Shiite Militias Clash Near Babylon

Rival Shiite Militias Clash Near Ancient Iraqi City of Babylon Until U.S. Forces Separate Them


BAGHDAD, Iraq Oct 21, 2006 (AP)— Rival Shiite militiamen battled near the ancient city of Babylon on Saturday until American forces and helicopters rushed to separate the combatants.

Gunfights broke out in Hamza al-Gharbi, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, after a bomb exploded near the offices of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a leading Shiite political party that sponsors the Badr Brigades militia.

The party's supporters accused members of the Madhi Army headed by the radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr of being behind the blast, Police Capt. Muthana Khalid Ali said. He said Iraqi army and police called for reinforcements and backup from American forces, who imposed a curfew. There was no immediate confirmation of U.S. involvement from a military spokesmen.

Father south in the city of Amarah, where the Mahdi Army briefly took control on Friday, shops and government offices reopened and Iraqi army units manned checkpoints, keeping the militia fighters off the streets.

Iraqi forces clash, Bush talks of changing tactic

By Ibon Villelabeitia
Saturday, October 21, 2006; 5:17 PM

BAGHDAD, Iraq (Reuters) - Shi'ite militias battled Iraqi police for a second day running and bombs killed more than a dozen people on Saturday, as President Bush talked of changing tactics.

. . .raqi Police Lieutenant Ali Naamah said violence erupted in Suwayra after some 150 Mehdi Army militiamen loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr attacked a police station in the Tigris town 45 km (30 miles) south of Baghdad. Eight gunmen died.

A Sadr spokesman said the attack on the police station was a response to a raid by U.S. troops backed by helicopters on a Sadr office that killed six people. U.S. military said it had no reports of helicopter attacks.

Gunmen stage parades in Iraqi towns

Published Saturday, October 21, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Al-Qaida-linked gunmen staged military-like parades yesterday in a string of towns west of Baghdad, underlining the growing confidence of Sunni insurgents in a part of Iraq where U.S. and Iraqi forces maintain a heavy counterinsurgency presence.

Like the audacious show of force by up to 60 insurgents in the city of Ramadi on Wednesday, the latest parades - including two less than a mile from U.S. military bases - were staged in support of an announcement this week by a militant Sunni Arab group that it had created an Islamic state in six of Iraq’s 18 provinces, including the capital, Baghdad.

The declaration was made Sunday by the Mujahedeen Shura Council - an umbrella organization of Sunni insurgent groups that includes al-Qaida in Iraq - in a video posted on the Internet.

Iraqi insurgents are not known to control any territory in Iraq, but the declaration appeared designed to counter the adoption this month of a law that paves the way for Iraq’s mainly Shiite south to establish an autonomous region similar to a Kurdish one in the north.

Significantly, two of yesterday’s four parades - involving dozens of gunmen in the towns of Haditha and Haqlaniyah - took place less than a mile from U.S. military bases, according to witnesses. There were no reports of clashes.

Besides Haditha and Haqlaniyah, parades were also held in the towns of Bani Daher and Rwah, all of which are in Anbar, a vast and mostly desert province where the Sunni insurgency has been fiercest since Saddam Hussein’s ouster in 2003. Ramadi is Anbar’s provincial capital.

October 20, 2006

Eye-Rack To Impement Memory Hole

You see, the recent body counts certified by the U.N. highlighting thousands of dead Iraqis have embarrassed both the quising Iraqi government and the American occupiers that control it. So the obvious solution is to stop giving the U.N. the data. Problem solved!

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 19 -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office has instructed the country's health ministry to stop providing mortality figures to the United Nations, jeopardizing a key source of information on the number of civilian war dead in Iraq, according to a U.N. document.

A confidential cable from the United Nations' top official in Baghdad, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi of Pakistan, said the Iraqi prime minister is seeking to exercise greater control over the release of the country's politically sensitive death toll. U.N. officials expressed concern that the move threatens to politicize the process of counting Iraq's dead and muddy international efforts to gain a clear snapshot of the scale of killing in Iraq.

Qazi warned in the cable that the development "may affect" the United Nations' ability to adequately record the number of civilians killed or wounded in the Iraq war as it endures a bloody new phase of sectarian violence. He said U.N. human rights workers would have "no guaranteed means to corroborate" figures provided by the government.

Wow, Couldn't Have Seen This Coming

When Chairman Bush starts rounding up American citizens after declaring them "enemy combatants" THEN will we wake up?

Court Told It Lacks Power in Detainee Cases

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 20, 2006; A18

Moving quickly to implement the bill signed by President Bush this week that authorizes military trials of enemy combatants, the administration has formally notified the U.S. District Court here that it no longer has jurisdiction to consider hundreds of habeas corpus petitions filed by inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

In a notice dated Wednesday, the Justice Department listed 196 pending habeas cases, some of which cover groups of detainees. The new Military Commissions Act (MCA), it said, provides that "no court, justice, or judge" can consider those petitions or other actions related to treatment or imprisonment filed by anyone designated as an enemy combatant, now or in the future.

Beyond those already imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, the law applies to all non-U.S. citizens, including permanent U.S. residents.

via the Echaton

Still The Worst President Ever.

Heard the good news today? We've totally failed in our mission in Baghdad:

Baghdad security plan 'failing'

The US military has said a security initiative aimed at reducing violence in Baghdad has failed to meet expectations and is being reviewed.

Military spokesman Maj Gen William Caldwell said there had been a "disheartening" 22% rise in attacks in Baghdad since the end of last month.

His comments came as a wave of bombings across Iraq killed at least 41 people.

. . . Deadly month

Launched in June, Operation Together Forward is a joint US and Iraqi security drive in which thousands of extra troops have been deployed in Baghdad.

The operation was seen as key to asserting the authority of the Iraqi government over all of the capital and eventually the rest of the country, paving the way for the withdrawal of US forces.
But Gen Caldwell said attacks on US troops and Iraqi forces in Baghdad has risen significantly in the first three weeks of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began in the last week of September.

"Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas but it has not met our overall expectations of sustaining a reduction in... violence," he said.

Gen Caldwell said 73 US soldiers had been killed so far in October, which was heading towards becoming the deadliest month for US forces in Iraq for two years.

The senior US commander in Iraq, Gen George Casey, has now ordered a review of the strategy.

Yeah, you'd think that such embarrassing setbacks would get the president to cancel all of his plans and set up impromptu high-level war cabinet meetings in order come up with strategies or policies that would reverse the situation.

Oh no-no-no my little naif. That is not how the Bushies operate:

The gloomy assessment by the US military will add to growing pressure on the Bush administration for some shift in strategy in Iraq, says the BBC's James Westhead in Washington.

But the White House dismissed reports that it was preparing for a change of course, with spokesman Tony Snow describing them as a "bunch of hooey".

More competent presidents will assess the wartime situation and act accordingly. If things weren't going well, they'd hold the commanders on the ground accountable and fire them if needed. They would provide more bodies in order to win battles and secure territories. They would present their case to the country and unite everyone of all ideology to their cause. Instead we get this from the petulant little worm who dare calls himself "president".

Bush: In Iraq, Dems would fulfill bin-Laden's "highest aspirations"

LA PLUME, Pa. President Bush says the Iraq withdrawal that many Democrats back would fulfill "Osama bin-Laden's highest aspirations."

At a G-O-P fund-raiser in Pennsylvania, the president said Democrats are "all over the place" on Iraq. But he says they seem to agree -- "victory is not an option."

The counter-attack was Bush's sharpest yet on Iraq, and came with less than three weeks till mid-term elections.

I sincerely wish we had time to deal with this nonsense, but sadly we don't:

U.S. may have weeks, not months, to avert civil war, adviser warns

James Sterngold, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 18, 2006

With the violence in Iraq flaring dangerously, a national consensus is growing, even among senior Republicans, that the United States must consider a major change in strategy in the coming months.

But in a sign of the growing sense of urgency, a member of a high-powered government advisory body that is developing options to prevent Iraq's chaotic collapse warns that the United States could have just weeks, not months, to avoid an all-out civil war.

"There's a sense among many people now that things in Iraq are slipping fast and there isn't a lot of time to reverse them," said Larry Diamond, one of a panel of experts advising the Iraq Study Group, which is preparing a range of policy alternatives for President Bush.

"The civil war is already well along. We have no way of knowing if it's too late until we try a radically different course," said Diamond, an expert on building democracies who is at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and is a former adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

Still we have a moral child as our leader, left with the keys to the gun locker.

October 19, 2006

Jonah Goldberg: The Iraq War Was A Mistake


Jonah Goldberg is the latest warmonger to regret his past support. Although he doesn't support cutting and running just yet:

The Iraq war was a mistake.

I know, I know. But I've never said it before. And I don't enjoy saying it now. I'm sure that to the antiwar crowd this is too little, too late, and that's fine because I'm not joining their ranks anyway.

. . . I must confess that one of the things that made me reluctant to conclude that the Iraq war was a mistake was my general distaste for the shabbiness of the arguments on the antiwar side.

But that's no excuse. Truth is truth. And the Iraq war was a mistake by the most obvious criteria: If we had known then what we know now, we would never have gone to war with Iraq in 2003. I do think that Congress (including Democrats Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Jay Rockefeller and John Murtha) was right to vote for the war given what was known — or what was believed to have been known — in 2003. And the claims from Democrats who voted for the war that they were lied to strikes me as nothing more than cowardly buck-passing.

. . . According to the goofy parameters of the current debate, I'm now supposed to call for withdrawing from Iraq. If it was a mistake to go in, we should get out, some argue. But this is unpersuasive. A doctor will warn that if you see a man stabbed in the chest, you shouldn't rush to pull the knife out. We are in Iraq for good reasons and for reasons that were well-intentioned but wrong. But we are there.

. . .According to the conventional script, if I'm not saying "bug out" of Iraq, I'm supposed to say "stay the course." But there's a third option, and, funnily enough, I found it in an old column of mine (journalistic taboos be damned!). I think we should ask the Iraqis to vote on whether U.S. troops should stay.

Polling suggests that they want us to go. But polling absent consequences is a form of protest. With accountability, minds may change and appreciation for the U.S. presence might grow.

If Iraqis voted "stay," we'd have a mandate to do what's necessary to win, and our ideals would be reaffirmed. If they voted "go," our values would also be reaffirmed, and we could leave with honor. And pretty much everyone would have to accept democracy as the only legitimate expression of national will.

Finishing the job is better than leaving a mess. And if we can finish the job, the war won't be remembered as a mistake.

Yes, I used to think that since we're there, we need to get the job done, but that would assume that the Iraqi people would cooperate with us. This is just not happening. Plus the Iraqis voted in the elections in the hopes that we would leave anyways. Still, admitting a mistake is a step in the right direction.

October 18, 2006

"But They Aren't Reporting The Good News!"

Atrios is right. They aren't even trying anymore:

Electricity Levels In Baghdad At Lowest Level Since U.S. Invasion

In Sept. 2003, President Bush promised that he would help Iraqis “restore basic services, such as electricity and water, and to build new schools, roads, and medical clinics. This effort is essential to the stability of those nations, and therefore, to our own security.?

But three years later, electricity levels in Baghdad are at an all-time low. Residents of Baghdad are receiving just 2.4 hours of electricity this month, compared to an average of 16-24 hours of electricity before the U.S. invasion. The lowest level prior to this month was 3.9 hours/day.

The Civil War

This is what "peace" will look like in Eye-Rack in the near future:

Police and black-clad Shiite militiamen toting machine guns sealed off the predominantly Shiite city of Balad on Tuesday, guarding against attacks by Sunni insurgents flooding into towns just north of Baghdad, vowing revenge for four days of violence in which dozens of Sunnis were killed.

Calm largely returned to Balad by Tuesday, with Iraqi army troops forcing Shiite militia fighters out of police cars that the militiamen had commandeered for the attacks, said residents reached by telephone in the cut-off town. American troops patrolled the city and guarded one end of a Tigris River bridge that links Balad with Duluiyah, a Sunni farm town also at the epicenter of the outburst of sectarian conflict.

Yes, why should Al-Maliki hurry up and disarm the militias? They're among the only ones providing the security for his people.

October 17, 2006

Iraq Media Freedom: Still Better Than China

In keeping with it's vaunted record for liberating the press the quisling government of Eye-Rack is thinking about closing down two media outlets of whose views they disagree with:

A statement by the Iraqi parliament urges Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki to close down Azzaman newspaper.

The statement also asks Maliki to ban Al-Sharqiya television, the nation-wide network operated in coordination with Azzaman newspaper.

The statement issued Monday cites what the parliament describes the outlets’ coverage of a recent draft law the legislators passed on turning the country into a federal state.

Both the newspaper and al-Sharqiya television were critical of the law, warning that it represents a prelude to the division of the country on sectarian and ethnic grounds.

Azzamman is Iraq’s most read newspaper. Al-Shariqiya is the most viewed television network in the country.

It is not clear whether Maliki will heed the parliament’s request which is not binding.

Juan Cole has more.

October 16, 2006

64 Percent Of Americans Objectively Pro-Saddam

CNN Poll (PDF)

Me And What Army?

Nouri al-Maliki gives an interview to USAToday in which he explains why the pie-in-the-sky plans for Eye-Rack involving roundatbles and conferences such as this one will never produce anything:

Q: . . . When will the militias be disbanded?

A: We should not think of the security challenge as being only militias. The militias may be one of the easier problems to deal with. The more serious challenge is terrorism, composed of the remnants of the Saddam (Hussein) regime and al-Qaeda. That's why we are working on two lines: facing militias and facing terrorists, who reject the entire state. The militias are members of the political process, while the Baathists and al-Qaeda reject the entire political system.

Regarding setting a time, I don't think we could determine it specifically. The problem of militias, in countries throughout the world, requires time. The most important thing is that we have started and started strong. We have given a clear message: Militias should reconsider their existence. ... The more success we have on the political side will help us deal with this issue. The initial date we've set for disbanding the militias is the end of this year or the beginning of next year.

Yep, while his own citizens are being slaughtered by the dozens every day, he prefers not to deal with the militias until hundreds more are dead and they grow much more stronger.

Well, at least he and his procrastination enjoys good company:

U.S. President George W. Bush assured Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Monday that the United States had not set any deadline for his government to control sectarian violence or risk losing American support for his leadership, the White House said.

October 15, 2006

Stabbed In The Back

This is what you get for being loyal to the Bush regime:

Britain is so short of helicopters in Afghanistan that military chiefs are being forced to scour the world for civilian aircraft to support its troops after the US rejected a plea to help plug the shortfall.

An ageing fleet of just eight Chinooks is working around the clock to supply and reinforce soldiers in remote outposts facing waves of Taliban attacks. The only Chinook in the Falklands was taken away for use in the campaign.

The revelations come in the wake of the outburst by General Sir Richard Dannatt, the army chief, against the Government's military strategy last week.

The Independent on Sunday can also reveal that reconnaissance and intelligence missions in Afghanistan are being affected by the lack of smaller and more flexible helicopters. But senior military officials said that when UK commanders asked for temporary deployment of US helicopters in Afghanistan, they were told there were none to spare.

Instead, the MoD has been forced to seek out commercial operators for non-combat operations, to free more military craft for use at the front line. So urgent is the need that Britain is understood to be asking other nations that have ordered Merlin helicopters from Westland to allow the MoD to requisition them.

Face it, WorstPresidentEver is just not serious about winning an actual war, let alone a war against a noun.

Less Reporters In Bed With Military

You know the situation in Eye-Rack is bad when there are less reporters being protected by the military in exchange for favorable press:

Fewer reporters embedded in Iraq By LEE KEATH and ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writers Sun Oct 15, 2:41 PM ET

The number of embedded journalists reporting alongside U.S. troops in Iraq has dropped to its lowest level of the war even as the conflict heats up on the streets of Baghdad and in the U.S. political campaign.

In the past few weeks, the number of journalists reporting assigned to U.S. military units in Iraq has settled to below two dozen. Late last month, it fell to 11, its lowest, and has rebounded only slightly since.

During the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, more than 600 reporters, TV crews and photographers linked up with U.S. and British units. A year ago, when Iraqis went to the polls to ratify a new constitution, there were 114 embedded journalists.

"This is more than pathetic," said Sig Christenson, a reporter for the San Antonio Express-News and president of Military Reporters and Editors, a journalists' group. "It strikes me as dangerous" for the American public to get so little news of their military, said Christenson, who recently returned from an embedded assignment in Iraq.

There may be a silver lining to the media not being in bed with the military, though:

Embed dispatches are not censored. But journalists must follow rules to protect military secrets, such as plans for upcoming operations. They are subject to being kicked out if the commander finds a story inappropriate, and there is no appeal.

After a story last year that painted an unflattering but accurate picture of violence and conditions in Fallujah, one Marine public affairs officer said he was not approving any more embeds to that city.

In another case, Associated Press correspondent Todd Pitman, who reported this year from Ramadi, said he was ordered by a colonel to pack his bags after writing about tricks that insurgents use.

"One of the colonel's intelligence advisers advised him that I hadn't given away anything the insurgents didn't already know, so the colonel changed his mind and let me stay," Pitman said.

Antonio Castaneda, who reported from 30 Marine and Army battalions over an 18-month assignment for the AP, had a similar experience. He wrote in April about families fleeing violence in Dora, a Baghdad neighborhood where Sunni-Shiite tension runs high.

"The day after the Dora story was printed, I was visited by a soldier who delivered the message that my coverage was disproportionately negative," Castaneda said.

Castaneda's requests for more embeds in the Baghdad area were ignored until a senior U.S. officer interceded. On his next assignment, Castaneda quoted an Army captain as saying radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr appeared more popular than Iraqi authorities in one Shiite neighborhood.

He later learned that the captain had been reprimanded for the remark.

Dennis Ross Digs For Ponies

The man who enabled the derailment of the Camp David II talks by ensuring Israel's upper hand now thinks he has a solution to the Iraq problem. Unsurprisingly, it involves a lot of bluster (I mean "conferences") and little beef:

First, it's time for the Bush administration to insist that a national reconciliation conference be held and not be disbanded until agreement is reached on amendments to the constitution.

. . .Second, a long-discussed regional conference with all of Iraq's neighbors should be held. None of them -- Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey -- wants the Bush administration to succeed in Iraq (at least in the way the president defines success). And yet every one of them fears the consequences of an Iraq convulsed in the aftermath of a precipitous U.S. withdrawal. A full-scale civil war, with refugees streaming out of the country, with instability bound to leak across borders, and with other nations intervening to protect their own interests and their Iraqi allies is just as much a nightmare for Iran as it is for Saudi Arabia.

. . .Third, President Bush should inform Maliki that we will not impose a deadline for withdrawal but we are going to negotiate with his government a timetable for our departure. The difference between a deadline and an agreed timetable is the difference between leaving the Iraqis in the lurch and informing them they have to assume responsibilities. The former guarantees preservation of the militias as they anticipate a deepening civil war; the latter puts all sectarian groups on notice that they can shape the future but the clock is ticking and if they don't begin to get serious about reconciliation and about fulfilling their own responsibilities they face the abyss.

So basically we can leave all of a sudden, or we can wag our fingers at the naughty militias before leaving all of a sudden.

Face it, none of these ideas will bear fruit unless you have one thing overall - S-E-C-U-R-I-T-Y. The "unity government" was supposed to be a confluence of different sects and ethnic groups that will cooperate towards a solution, but they are isolated behind the Green Zone fortress with little influence over much of the country and the voting only led to sharpening of sectarian lines. They can think of a lot of ideas, but without the manpower or will to enforce those ideas, all they are are writings on a paper in the face of the writings on the wall.

The only way this crisis will be resolved is if a powerful amd unified security force comes in and restores order. Dennis Ross and the rest of the Tinkerbell crowd will just have to accept that we have little control over the form that security force is going take shape as.

For We Warned Them, So We Are Excused

Jonathan Scwarz at A Tiny Revolution makes a damning comparison between the recent Lebonon bombing campaign by Israel and the current sectarian ethnic cleansing going on in Iraq. We all know how the Israeli hardliners, even those who are intelligent and who I used to admire, (and Ed Schultz) excuse the bombing of civilians using the abominable fig leaf that the Israelis dropped a bunch of fliers warning the people that they should leave their homes and livelihoods behind.

A simple response to that contemptible argument is to ask the apologists how much better they would feel about the rocket attacks if Hezbollah delivered similar leaflets upon Israeli villages and cities beforehand, but now in a way we don't have to imagine anymore since other killers of Shiites have also been kind enough to post warnings before they embark on their slaughter:

In the name of Allah, the most merciful Subject: Deportation

As a result of the criminal and sectarian behaviour of what is called (the disgraceful) Jaish Al-Mahdi and (the treacherous) Badr forces by killing, kidnapping and deporting the Sunni community (at Mahmoudiya, Rashidiya, Sha’ab, Shu’la and Hurriya), as well as violating the honour of Sunnis and plundering their possessions, the organisation has decided, Inshallah, to return the strike twofold and treat them the same (an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth). It has been decided to deport you from Sunni areas, including Ghazaliya, within 24 hours, or otherwise your heads will be cut off, the same as your militias act with members of the Sunni community. He who has warned is henceforth excused.

Compare to the warnings that the Israelis papered Southern Lebanon with a few months ago:

To the people of Lebanon Pay attention to these instructions!!

The IDF will intensify its activities and will heavily bomb the entire area from which rockets are being launched against the State of Israel.

Anyone present in these areas is endangering his life!

The State of Israel

Don't take my word for it, take Dershowitz's: Israel is justified in bombing civilians because they are not stopping the terrorists who attack Israel. Likewise, the sectarian militias are justified in killing civilians because they are protecting the rival militias. If that's the moral universe Israel chooses to occupy (all puns intended) then I only feel sorry for the Israeli citizens who have to suffer because of their government's choices.

October 13, 2006

Only One Half More Friedman For Bernard

Darren Bernard is getting impatient with the Eye-Rack experiment. He's afraid that the American public will stop supporting the shitmire for three more months if the violence keeps going.

Where the hell has he been for the past year? The American public has stopped supporting the war a long time ago.
Oh wait, he must mean support of Republican chickenhawks not actual Americans.

British Army Chief Calls It Quits

As Digby said, that would be like Joint Chiefs Of Staff Chairman saying we need to withdraw:

The head of the Army is calling for British troops to withdraw from Iraq "soon" or risk catastophic consequences for both Iraq and British society.

In a devastating broadside at Tony Blair's foreign policy, General Sir Richard Dannatt stated explicitly that the continuing presence of British troops "exacerbates the security problems" in Iraq.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, Sir Richard also warns that a "moral and spiritual vacuum" has opened up in British society, which is allowing Muslim extremists to undermine "our accepted way of life."

The Chief of the General Staff believes that Christian values are under threat in Britain and that continuing to fight in Iraq will only make the situation worse.

His views will send shockwaves through Government.

They are a total repudiation of the Prime Minister, who has repeatedly insisted that British presence in Iraq is morally right and has had no effect on our domestic security.

October 12, 2006

Turning Another Corner

If we are going to be in Eye-Rack forever, that would mean we need to screw over more troops:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military is delaying the departure of thousands of soldiers from Iraq while speeding the arrival of thousands more as a way to keep more troops on the ground to handle unrelenting violence, U.S. officials said on Monday.

The United States, in a bid to stem a rise in sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims that has heightened concern over civil war, has increased its troop count in the past two months to the current level of 142,000.

A brigade of roughly 3,800 soldiers from the Army's 1st Armored Division, based in Germany, that was due to have left Iraq in January is being held in place for a little under two months, said defense officials who asked not to be named because the decision has not been formally announced.

These soldiers, serving in the volatile Ramadi area, are now set to serve roughly 13 months in Iraq, longer than the U.S. policy of 12-month tours of duty for Army soldiers, an official said.

Meanwhile, a similarly sized Texas-based Army brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division is being sent to Iraq about a month earlier than previously scheduled, and should be leaving in October, an official said.

October 11, 2006

Operation Together Backwards

2,667 Baghdad civilians killed in September. Up four hundred from August and approaching the 2884 killed in July.

And, BTW, the Army says we're gonna be in Eye-Rack forever.

"The Only Free Country In The Mid-East"

Israel is proving how morally superior they are to the Arabs by banning Palestinians from their universities:

ANATA, West Bank, Oct. 9 — Sawsan Salameh, a Palestinian from the West Bank, was thrilled to get a full scholarship from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to begin a doctorate in theoretical chemistry.

But a recent move by the Israeli Army to ban new Palestinian students from Israeli universities for security reasons is keeping her from studying at the campus, just two miles from her home.

“The first time I applied for a permit I was rejected,? said Ms. Salameh, 29, a Muslim wearing a firmly fastened head scarf and a black denim skirt that skimmed the floor. “I was shocked, because I thought there must be some kind of mistake, so I kept trying. I kept hoping.?

Her situation is familiar to many Palestinians whose freedom of movement has been limited in recent years because of the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ms. Salameh said that after she appealed six times to the Israeli government agency that handles Palestinian affairs, she decided to turn to the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, Gisha, an Israeli group that is an advocate for Palestinian rights, submitted a petition on her behalf to the court, calling the ban illegal.

“Gisha calls upon Israel not to prevent Palestinian students from studying just because they are Palestinian,? said the group’s director, Sari Bashi. “No one should be denied access to education based on his or her national identity.?

The practice of reviewing student permits has been in effect since 2001, the last time any new Palestinian student was granted a permit, officials said. But before the outright ban began this summer, the army reviewed requests case by case, something it says it will not do now. Gisha is asking that individual reviews be restored.

The official ban comes before the beginning of the Israeli academic year at the end of October. But in effect it dates from the Palestinian uprising that began in the fall of 2000, when the security situation began to deteriorate, said Lt. Adam Avidan, a spokesman for civil administration in the West Bank.

Hebrew University was the scene of a suicide bombing in July 2002, when a Palestinian blew himself up in a student cafeteria, killing seven people.

One of these days, the Israelis are going to figure out that one of the rare times they had peace and no suicide bombings was when they cooperated with the PA and gave more freedoms to the Palestinians. But I guess the cult of retribution consuming the Israeli society is just too addictive.

Rwanda on the Tigris

Killing 600,000 "over there" so we can avenge the 3,000 here is NOT a foreign policy:

Iraqi Dead May Total 600,000, Study Says By SABRINA TAVERNISE and DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. BAGHDAD, Oct. 10 — A team of American and Iraqi public health researchers has estimated that 600,000 civilians have died in violence across Iraq since the 2003 American invasion, the highest estimate ever for the toll of the war here.

The figure breaks down to about 15,000 violent deaths a month, a number that is quadruple the one for July given by Iraqi government hospitals and the morgue in Baghdad and published last month in a United Nations report in Iraq. That month was the highest for Iraqi civilian deaths since the American invasion.

But it is an estimate and not a precise count, and researchers acknowledged a margin of error that ranged from 426,369 to 793,663 deaths.

It is the second study by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. It uses samples of casualties from Iraqi households to extrapolate an overall figure of 601,027 Iraqis dead from violence between March 2003 and July 2006.

The findings of the previous study, published in The Lancet, a British medical journal, in 2004, had been criticized as high, in part because of its relatively narrow sampling of about 1,000 families, and because it carried a large margin of error.

The new study is more representative, its researchers said, and the sampling is broader: it surveyed 1,849 Iraqi families in 47 different neighborhoods across Iraq. The selection of geographical areas in 18 regions across Iraq was based on population size, not on the level of violence, they said.

For a reference point, it's estimated that at least 400,000 have died in Darfur. 900,000 were slaughtered in Rwanda.

October 10, 2006

The Last Horse Crosses The Finish Line

Fareed Zakaria is the latest Eye-Rack war cheerleader-turned-pessimist to finally see that the shitmire is not worth waging any more:

Oct. 16, 2006 issue - When Iraq's current government was formed last April, after four months of bitter disputes, wrangling and paralysis, many voices in America and in Iraq said the next six months would be the crucial testing period. That was a fair expectation. It has now been almost six months, and what we have seen are bitter disputes, wrangling and paralysis. Meanwhile, the violence has gotten worse, sectarian tensions have risen steeply and ethnic cleansing is now in full swing. There is really no functioning government south of Kurdistan, only power vacuums that have been filled by factions, militias and strongmen. It is time to call an end to the tests, the six-month trials, the waiting and watching, and to recognize that the Iraqi government has failed. It is also time to face the terrible reality that America's mission in Iraq has substantially failed.

More waiting is unlikely to turn things around, nor will more troops. I understand the impulse of those who want to send in more forces to secure the country. I urged just such a policy from the first week of the occupation. But today we are where we are. Over the past three years the violence has spread and is now franchised down to neighborhoods with local gangs in control. In many areas, local militias are not even controlled by their supposed political masters in Baghdad. In this kind of decentralized street fighting, 10,000 or 20,000 more troops in Baghdad will not have more than a temporary effect. Nor will new American policies help. The reason that the Democrats seem to lack good, concrete suggestions on Iraq is that the Bush administration has actually been pursuing more-sensible policies for more than a year now, trying vainly to reverse many of its errors. But what might well have worked in 2003 is too little, too late in 2006.

I wonder how it feels to know that even Thomas Friedman could see the fucking writings on the wall earlier than you can.

October 9, 2006

Arsonists Promising To Be Better Firemen

This is getting ridiculous. Yesterday North Korea conducted its first underwater nuclear test, making it officially part of the nuclear club. This happened under the watch of the Bush administration and the reign of the Republican cabal, and Republicans are still claiming that they are better at protecting Americans than are Democrats. The thing that is ridiculous is not that Republicans are shameless in making that claim, but that the press is giving it the airtime and credibility that it doesn't deserve:

Within hours of North Korea’s proclaimed nuclear test yesterday Dennis Hastert, the Republican speaker in Congress, and John Boehner, the Republican majority leader on Capitol Hill, issued politically charged statements. With only a month to go before mid-term congressional elections many Republicans believe the tests could help restore their waning prospects.

“This reckless move by North Korea highlights the importance of a US missile defence shield capable of protecting America against madmen with weapons of mass destruction,? said Mr Boehner. “It is time for the Democrats . . . to abandon their long-standing policy of voting against missile defence programmes. It is now clear that such a position would put Americans in danger.?

Yep, no matter what happens, the Republicans ALWAYS stand to gain if we are to believe the media.

October 6, 2006

It Keeps Getting Worse

Back in the good ole days of yore Iraqis can't even dial 911 without the insurgents knowing about it and killing you. Now Lara Logan (the woman I fantasize sitting on the anchor chair while Katie Couric debases our hard news with her coos) is reporting that Iraqis can't even get shot and be brought to the hospital without being killed by death squads who are now manning the hospitals and morgues:

A U.S. intelligence report finds that sectarian death squads have taken control of hospitals and morgues in Iraq, reports Lara Logan of CBS News.

Secret documentation by the U.S. military shows that sectarian militias use hospitals for command and control centers. The militias often kill Sunni patients, some "dragged from their beds." Ambulances are used to transport hostages and weapons and to escape from coalition troops.

Lara Logan interviewed one hospital worker, who said, "A man was bringing his murdered brother to the morgue. They asked him if he knew who the killers were and he said 'yes.' They shot him right there." The hospital worker says that spies are everywhere. Militia member have replaced more than eighty percent of the original staff where she works.

Sunnis are too terrified to retrieve the bodies of their relatives from the morgues. As the violence worsens, more nameless bodies fill anonymous graves in Iraq.

Welp, at least Baghdad is still safer than Philadelphia.


October 5, 2006

Jesus Christ On A Trailer Hitch


What is wrong with these people? I would like to know what past event or issues would make these so-called human beings behave in this truly evil way:

Pajamas Media, Instapundit Facilitate Outing Of Foley Victim An obscure right-wing blogger, Wild Bill, has outed one of Mark Foley’s victims, a former Congressional page. It is a despicable act. Wild Bill however, gets almost no traffic, so the damage done to the victim’s life could have been minimal.

All that ended, however, when some of the most highly-trafficked right-wing bloggers decided to direct their readers to Wild Bill’s site. First, Roger L. Simon, co-founder and CEO of Pajamas Media — a portal and advertising broker for nearly every major right-wing blog — posted a link to Wild Bill on his personal site. (The Pajamas Media portal also linked to Wild Bill.) Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit — probably the most highly-trafficked right-wing blog — followed suit by linking to Simon’s post and the Pajamas Media post.

October 4, 2006

Eye-Rack & Roll

While the media is busy giving their viewers hot man-on-boy action courtesy of Mark Foley, here's what's been happening in Iraq for the past few days:

BAGHDAD, Oct. 4 -- Thirteen U.S. soldiers have been killed in Baghdad since Monday, the American military reported, registering the highest three-day death toll for U.S. forces in the capital since the start of the war.

The latest losses -- four soldiers who were killed at 9 a.m. Wednesday by small-arms fire -- are part of a recent spike in violent attacks against U.S. forces that have claimed the lives of at least 24 soldiers and Marines in Iraq since Saturday, the military said.

The number of planted bombs is "at an all-time high," said Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, a military spokesman, defying American efforts to stanch the vicious sectarian bloodshed in Baghdad that threatens to plunge the country into civil war.

"This has been a hard week for U.S. forces," Caldwell said. "Unfortunately, as expected, attacks have steadily increased in Baghdad during these past weeks." Independent databases showed the three-day toll for American troops to be the highest in Baghdad so far.

This is gonna be one tough Ramadan.

The FAUX Guarding The Henhouse

According to an AP article, the Fox News organization, as well as various right-wing Florida newspapers, were leaked emails that disgraced congressman Mark Foley, but decided not to run with them because, well, blaming Clinton for 9-11 is much MUCH more important.

Party Like It's 2006. . .2007. . .2008. . .?

Oy vey iz mir.

In Bill’s Fine Print, Millions to Celebrate Victory


Published: October 4, 2006

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 — Even as the Bush administration urges Americans to stay the course in Iraq, Republicans in Congress have put down a quiet marker in the apparent hope that V-I Day might be only months away.

Tucked away in fine print in the military spending bill for this past year was a lump sum of $20 million to pay for a celebration in the nation’s capital “for commemoration of success? in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Not surprisingly, the money was not spent.

Now Congressional Republicans are saying, in effect, maybe next year. A paragraph written into spending legislation and approved by the Senate and House allows the $20 million to be rolled over into 2007.

The original legislation empowered the president to designate “a day of celebration? to commemorate the success of the armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to “issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe that day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.?

Well, at least that $20 million that won't be added to the deficit.

We Who Are Also Wrong

The Washington Post, in what is possibly the most unforgivable hit piece against the war critics masquerading as a "news piece", is saying that war critics aren't vindicated by the complete and utter disaster going underway in Eye-Rack because, um, some of them might not have predicted accurately how the events would unfold. Imagine what the Post would print if WMDs were found, a Jeffersonian democracy was founded right after The Fall of the Statue, and a neoconservative economic paradise had flourished in the Arab heartland, in other words, if we were actually wrong about the war:

Antiwar liberals last week got to savor the four most satisfying words in the English language: "I told you so."

This was after a declassified National Intelligence Estimate asserted that the war in Iraq was creating more terrorists than it was eliminating. For millions of people who opposed President Bush's mission in Iraq from the start, this was proof positive that they had been right all along. Yes, they told themselves, we saw this disaster coming.

Only . . . that isn't quite true.

One of the most systematic errors in human perception is what psychologists call hindsight bias -- the feeling, after an event happens, that we knew all along it was going to happen. Across a wide spectrum of issues, from politics to the vagaries of the stock market, experiments show that once people know something, they readily believe they knew it all along.

This is not to say that no one predicted the war in Iraq would go badly, or that the insurgency would last so long. Many did. But where people might once have called such scenarios possible, or even likely, many will now be certain that they had known for sure that this was the only possible outcome.

"Liberals' assertion that they 'knew all along' that the war in Iraq would go badly are guilty of the hindsight bias," agreed Hal Arkes, a psychologist at Ohio State University, who has studied the hindsight bias and how to overcome it. "This is not to say that they didn't always think that the war was a bad idea."

He added: "It is to say that after it was apparent that the war was going badly, they assert that they would have assigned a higher probability to that outcome than they really would have assigned beforehand."

The hindsight bias plays an important role in public debate, because it gives people a false sense of certainty. When people convince themselves that they knew something would happen, what they effectively ignore is how much that outcome may have been unpredictable.

In place of accuracy, what the hindsight bias seems to offer is a form of comfort. It is easy to be confident about the past, because one cannot be proved wrong.

But have heart, gentle liberal, there is a way to disabuse yourself of this so-called "hindsight bias":

Indeed, research by both Fischhoff and Arkes show that people can fight the hindsight bias only when they honestly and systematically try to explain how different outcomes are possible. Such self-doubt is the exact opposite of how modern politics works: In the age of the blogosphere, certitude is king.

At its core, in other words, the hindsight bias is a form of overconfidence. Clearly acknowledging how you might be wrong is the only weapon against the error, Fischhoff said, but that is one thing politicians hate to do.

Okay, I'll bite. How was I wrong about the Eye-Rack war. . .

Well, I did predict that removing Saddam Hussein would create a power vacuum where the three ethno-sectarian groups would jockey for control of the country, but that was pretty simplistic. I ignored the fact that the Kurds would want to break away, the Shiites would align with Iran and would not allow a separate Kurdistan, that the armies would come in the form of splintered sectarian militias created by John Negroponte while he was ambassador to that country in a failed bid to create a "controlled chaos".

I also didn't predict that the Iraq KIA count would be so low, thanks to the advances of modern wartime medicine where 90 percent of the wounded survive. Otherwise we'd be talking about 5,000 deaths.

Finally, I also seriously misjudged how the Bush administration could be so utterly wrong about Saddam's weaponsofmassdestruction. I mean, I know the UN inpectors were not finding any weapons or weapons program that would pose a serious threat to this country, but I thought Saddam must have had something tucked away in his sleeve, if I were to believe 2 percent of all the boogieman stories that were out there. That he literally had nothing contrary to conventional wisdom has made me reconsider my predictions. From now on, I'll believe the opposite of what the Bushies and their enabler have to say about anything ever again.

Update: Tim Blair from Road To Surfdom makes a statement about the bullshit article that should be framed and displayed at every art gallery:

I’m just looking through the scientific literature for studies on the phenomenon of wrong-about-fucking-everything bias.

Rush Limpballs Wants To Cut And Run

John Murtha wants to redeploy troops to safe areas along the Iraq border in order to give Iraqis the control of their own country. He was branded as every kind of loser, quitter and mushhead. Rush Limbaugh wants to redeploy troops along the Iraqi borders, and he thinks it's the greatest idea since sliced cunt:

…We're trying to build a democracy; these people are going to have to learn to defend it; they can only do that by failing and dusting themselves off. The irony here that Lowry points out is that that is what the Democrats are saying, "Get out of there and let the Iraqis have this," yet they hate him. Their hate is irrational. It's not based on substance and strategy. Looking at the Woodward book, I have a strategery, folks. I think there's two things we can do in Iraq. Let me run them by you and see what you think. The first thing is that we pull back out of Baghdad, and we position along the Syrian, Jordan and Iranian borders, and we say to the Iraqis:

"We're going to stop anybody coming across these borders. No more help from Iran. No more from Syria. No more from Jordan. Nobody's getting into this country. If we have to, we'll go 20 miles inland in each of these countries to make sure nobody gets through, but this is on you. We will make sure nobody else gets in. Now, you go in there (the Iraqis) and you clear out Baghdad. You do it once and for all, and then we're out." The second strategy is, "You don't want to go for that?" We say to the Iraqis, "All right, here's what we're going to do. We're going to take everybody we got and we're going to bring 'em into Baghdad and we're going to do search-and-destroy and we're going to take out anything that looks like an insurgent and we're going to take out anything that looks like a sympathizer, a terrorist or whatever, we're going to clean this place out — and then it's up to you."

Those are two things that are… Well, they're think pieces. I'm just thinking about this. But they both center on the fact that the Iraqis are going to have to at some point take care of all this. We'll either take care of it in Baghdad for them and we'll clear the place out and leave it up to them, or we'll go back to the borders and we'll make sure nobody is getting in there, and: "You clear out who's there. We'll go to Turkey, wherever we have to go to keep people from getting in, but it's up to you guys to wipe them out." Give them those two options. In either example, it is Shock and Awe of one form or another.

via Crooks and Liars.

October 1, 2006

Time Magazine Blog of the Year, 2004 (Defending The Indefensible Edition)

I was going to check out moral idiots at Powerliars to see what they think of the Pagegate scandal surrounding former congressman Tom Foley and see if they still have a death grip on their brand of Republican sycopanthy. Glen Greenwald beats me to the punch, and sure enough, Assrocket doesn't disappoint:

But, in view of the history of far more egregious cases in the House, the idea of pursuing the House leadership on a "when did they find out that Foley sent a creepy email" basis seems ludicrous, and is understandable only in the context of two facts: Foley is a Republican, and there is an election in five weeks.

Yes, crybaby Republicans are ALWAYS the victim. This guy almost literally got caught in bed with a live boy, and they still dismiss it as petty politics and a smear campaign. Greenwald dissects the rest of the post with more lucidity and eloquence than I could ever hope for, but this pretty much confirms that if Hitler and Stalin can grace the covers of that august magazine as "Man of the Year" there's no reason why the bunch of mincing reprobates can receive the same honor.