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Saturday, April 17, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

Anyone remember the old Firesign Theatre sketch? "This is the hour of the wolf news"? Kinda how I feel, these days. Honestly, I don't think I've recovered from Bush's press conference. The surreal sense of total dislocation....

On the other hand, it was a beautiful spring day in Philly; the apple blossoms were out. I guess we'd better enjoy it while we can, before it turns ninety degrees and sticky ;-)

Oh, and FTF.

Rocket launchers sought in Oakland warehouse near airport [update] 


Investigators from a dozen federal, state and local agencies raided a sprawling warehouse complex near Oakland International Airport on Friday, looking for items that included devices used to launch rockets from vehicles.

The exact nature of the investigation and the evidence being sought at the complex in San Leandro was not known because the federal search warrant used to conduct the raid was filed in U.S. District Court under seal. The search is expected to continue today.
However, U.S. Magistrate Edward Chen, the judge who signed the warrant earlier in the week, told The Chronicle: "The warrant was for a bunch of devices for rockets that could be launched from military vehicles and (for) some M-16s," semiautomatic assault rifles used by the U.S. military. "


UPDATE Curiouser and curiouser:

Law enforcement agents who raided a sprawling warehouse near Oakland International Airport failed to find the weapons they were looking for, including rocket launchers, officials said Saturday.

After obtaining a warrant to search for rocket launchers and other military weaponry, more than 200 officers from federal, state and local agencies raided the complex early Friday morning, federal officials said.

Federal officials would not reveal the exact nature of the investigation, but said the search was not related to terrorism.
(via AP)

Uh huh.

Harold Chapman, 65, the owner of building, said he suspected that a man dating one of his female friends may have called one of the agencies as a prank.

"I think he called the FBI up and said I had a bunch of ground-to-air missiles," Chapman said. "Of course, it's unfounded. I don't have any ground-to-air missiles."

Well, I'm certainly glad that a raid seeking ground-to-air missiles in a warehouse near an airport had nothing to do with terrorism. Otherwise, I might not feel safer. Weird.

Remember Bush's mustard gas on the turkey farm? It was YABL, YABL, YABL! 

Not once, but twice at his last press conference? How could I have missed this from Al Kamen:

Meanwhile, Bush, in his news conference Tuesday, showed he was ready to raise the level of his play in this arena.

Bush found a way to make not one, not two, but three factual errors in a single 15-word sentence, which must be something of a world indoor record. Bush said it is still possible that inspectors will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"They could still be there. They could be hidden, like the 50 tons of mustard gas in a turkey farm," Bush said, referring to Libya's WMD disclosures last month.

The White House, according to Reuters, said [1] the accurate figure was 23.6 metric tons or 26 tons, not 50. [2] The stuff was found at various locations, not at a turkey farm. And there was [3] no mustard gas on the farm at all, but unfilled chemical munitions.

Other than that, the sentence was spot on.
(via WaPo)

"Factual errors," eh? No, it couldn't be that Bush ... just ... makes .... shit .... up ....

YABL, YABL, YABL! Does sound kind of like a turkey, doesn't it?

Iraq Insurgency: Six Marines killed on Iraq-Syrian border 

More proof that we're winning:

Six Marines were killed and scores of insurgent Iraqis slain in a fierce 14-hour battle Saturday between Marines and mujahedeen fighters who slipped into this town near the Syrian border.
(via Kansas City Star)

Thanks to alert reader Northsylvania.

Iraq insurgency: Still too quiet 

A miscellany from AP:

We've closed down highways into Baghdad:

The U.S. military closed down two major highways into Baghdad on Saturday in the latest disruption caused by intensified attacks by anti-U.S. insurgents.

Sections of the two highways, north and south of the capital, were closed off to repair damage from a mounting number of roadside bombs. Commanders suggested the routes remained vulnerable to attacks by insurgents who have been targeting U.S. military supply lines.

"We've got to fix those roads, we've also got to protect those roads," Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told reporters in Baghdad.
(via AP in the San Jose Mercury News)

This was the press conference that Kimmit fainted at, I imagine.

And I seem to remember those long, vulnerable supply lines from last year. But why now? Maybe to cut Sadr in Najaf off from his supporters in Sadr City, in the Baghdad slums? Since the Najaf negotiations seem to have broken down:

In the south [Najaf], U.S. troops skirmished for a second day with militiamen loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. His aides said Iraqi-led mediation aimed at resolving a standoff with the Americans had broken down.

A top al-Sadr aide, Jabir al-Khafaji, said mediations by Iraqi politicians had ended because of U.S. conditions that the cleric's al-Mahdi Army milita be disbanded.

U.S. forces at Najaf appear to be holding back their firepower to allow moderate clerics to bring pressure against al-Sadr, avoiding an assault on Najaf.

Meaning that Sistani still has Bush by the balls. Eesh.

Goalposts With Wheels 

The secret of not appearing to be flipping when, in truth, you are flopping? Redefine your objective.

You can catch Charles Krauthammer in the act here.

The column is meant to be a lethal blow to the muddled idiocy of all those comparisons of Iraq to "Vietnam," and everything that word entails. And I'm not kidding about that "lethal."

There is no cure for the Vietnam syndrome. It will only go away when the baby-boom generation does, dying off like the Israelites in the desert, allowing a new generation, cleansed of the memories and the guilt, to look at the world clearly once again.

Amnesia as clarity. Interesting concept. Not remembering certainly makes a pundit's life easier; forming an opinion based on a density of likely contradictory data is always more difficult than doing so on a simple set of selectively remembered facts. Works for Bush. And for those who've hitched their wagon to his star.

So, Charles, the Kraut, is waiting for the boomers to shuffle off their mortal coil. And while he waits, he will happily, if sternly, guide non-boomers to the path of moral clarity. That there would be comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam was inevitable, he tells us, but not why. Instead, he offers the example of such a comparison from early in the Iraq war.

During our astonishingly fast dash to Baghdad, taking the capital within 21 days, the chorus of naysayers was already calling Iraq a quagmire on Day 8!

This is nonsense, of course. There was no "chorus of naysayers." What there was were multiple reports and commentaries by journalists and military analysts, often working for media sources that had either endorsed the war or been highly supportive, about unexpectedly fierce localized opposition that raised the perfectly natural question of whether Rumsfeld's lean troop levels, deployed according to an expectation of rapid progress to Baghdad, would prove adequate to subdue the Iraqi nation.

From this non-sequitur, Mr. K moves to this one: the assurance that Iraq was not Vietnam then, and continues not to be, now.

Next we're given a few differences. In Iraq, we didn't inherit a "failed French colonialism," we overthrew "a deeply reviled tyrant." Yes, there were those few who prospered under Saddam, like the entire city of Fallujah for instance, i.e., their resistance is the equivalent of Saddam's tyranny, and must be dispatched with the same thoroughness. And since Sunni Arabs are only 1/6th of the population of Iraq, "a fraction of a fraction," no problem.

Next up, the Shiia, a majority of the Iraqi population. Not to worry. Saddam's frequent victims, the Shiia are glad we invaded; they have been truly liberated. Yes, they "chafe" at being occupied, but the Shiia clerics realize we must stay, lest our leaving leave the Shiia vulnerable to "the sway of either the Saddamites, foreign Sunni (al Qaeda) terrorists, or the runt Shiite usurper, Moqtada Sadr."

Al Sadr, Krauthammer will allow, represents something of a "crises," but look how the Shiia are helping us by negotiating with Al Sadr. Ditto for the Governing Council, working with us in Fallujah. All to the good, because these leaders "have far more legitimacy than Sadr's grandiloquent Mahdi army or the jihaadists of Fallujah." Whether they have more legitimacy than did the various governments that ruled South Vietnam Mr. K doesn't tell us. Nor does he comment on which if any of our "allies" might have more legitimacy than the other. Or whether any of them have sufficient legitimacy to offset our presence as occupiers of Iraq.

Then again, why should Krauthammer bother with such comparisons, or such analysis?

Iraq is Vietnam not on the ground, but in our heads. The troubles of the last few weeks were immediately interpreted as a national uprising, Iraq's Tet Offensive, and created a momentary panic. The panic overlooked two facts: First, Tet was infinitely larger and deadlier in effect and in scale. And second, Tet was a devastating military defeat for the Viet Cong. They never recovered. Unfortunately, neither did we, psychologically. Walter Cronkite, speaking for the establishment, declared the war lost. Once said, it was.

Who would have thought that Charles Krauthammer had a secret, inner "Lovin' Spoonful," but he does seem to believe in "magic." Certainly, nothing about those last two sentences could be interpreted as history.

And now to the "other" big difference between Iraq and Vietnam, according to the gospel of Kraut: in Vietnam we faced "a decades-old, centralized nationalist (communist) movement," and nothing like that exists in Iraq. Well, that's a relief. In fact, in Iraq what we confront is a country "highly factionalized along lines of ethnicity and religion."

Now we get to the heart of darkness Krauthammer's argument.

The gist: We have been responsding to this factionalism as if it is a problem, when perhaps it is the solution. Our motivation, the goal of "a united, pluralistic, democratic Iraq, in which the factions negotiate their differences the way we do in the West, " has turned out to be problematic, not because of any error in the policy, or its implementation, but because of the Iraqiis themselves.

It is a noble goal. It would be a great achievement for the Middle East. But it may be a bridge too far. That may happen in the future, when Iraq has had time to develop the habits of democracy and rebuild civil society, razed to the ground by Saddam.

But until then, expecting Iraqis to fight with us on behalf of a new abstract Iraq may be unrealistic. Some Iraqi police and militia did fight with us in the last few weeks. But many did not. That is not hard to understand. There is no de Gaulle. There is no organizing anti-Saddam resistance myth. There is as yet no legitimate Iraqi leadership to fight and die for.

Now he tells us. It was rather a different story we were told prior to the invasion. In fact, just last Tuesday during his press conference, the President was still sticking up for the democratic instincts of our brown-skinned brothers, and sisters, of course.

And it dawned on me that had we blown the peace in World War II, that perhaps this conversation would not have been taking place. It also dawned on me then that when we get it right in Iraq, at some point in time an American President will be sitting down with a duly-elected Iraqi leader talking about how to bring security to what has been a troubled part of the world.

The legacy that our troops are going to leave behind is a legacy of lasting importance, as far as I'm concerned. It's a legacy that really is based upon our deep belief that people want to be free and that free societies are peaceful societies.

Some of the debate really center around the fact that people don't believe Iraq can be free; that if you're Muslim, or perhaps brown-skinned, you can't be self-governing and free. I strongly disagree with that. I reject that, because I believe that freedom is the deepest need of every human soul, and, if given a chance, the Iraqi people will be not only self-governing, but a stable and free society.

That moment made me cringe, not because I don't believe it to be true, I do. But because nothing that this administration has done in prosecuting its Iraq policy of invasion and occupation suggests that their belief is anything other than rhetorical.

For Krauthammer, as for David Brooks et al, that is sufficient.

True national greatness, after all, requires we be tough-minded, as well as just plain tough, if not with ourselves, with all others, including our allies, including those who have been the object of our liberating invasion of their country. And Krauthammer, ready to move those goalposts, need only help us understand what truly motivates Iraqiis and the wheels will do the rest.

What there is to fight and die for is tribe and faith. Which is why we should lower our ambitions and see Iraqi factionalization as a useful tool


This is no time for despair. We must put down the two rebellions -- Fallujah's and Sadr's -- to demonstrate our seriousness, then transfer power as quickly as we can to those who will inherit it anyway, the Shiite majority with its long history of religious quietism and wariness of Iran. And antagonism toward their former Sunni oppressors. If the Sunnis continue to resist and carry on a civil war, it will then be up to the Shiites to fight it, not for Americans to do it on their behalf.

Hardly the best of all possible worlds. But it is a world we could live with.

I had to read that last paragraph several times before I could be sure that Krauthammer wasn't actually proposing an early withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, or at least committment to some kind of timeline. Instead, I think the point of what he is suggesting is to accept the Shiia as the rightful rulers of Iraq in service of the larger goal of making them our proxy when it comes to putting down jihadist violence.

There is so much dumbness contained in this single column, it's hard to know where to begin.

There are divisions between Shia and Sunni, but there are also profound connections, not the least being that they are all Iraqis, as attested to by the high rate of intermarriage between the two groups. Sunnis were involved in Saddam's oppression of the Shiia, but it was this country which had an army resident in a nearby desert during the brutal suppression of the Shia uprising at the end of the Gulf War and did nothing to stop it. Why would the Shiia be willing to engage in a civil war with Sunni Iraq on our behalf? The problems we are facing in Iraq range beyond Fallujah and Najaf, and include the complicated matter of an Iraqi constitution. Bremer has come down so hard on the side of "indivdual rights," that he/we helped to create the problem of Shiia rejection of the constitution, because they rightly saw that giving the Kurds veto power undermined the central concept of any democratic society, majority rule; what kind of majority rule can be vetoed, not by contitutional guarantees of individual liberties, which Sistanni has made clear he understands, but instead, by constitutional fiat handed to the Kurds; a Shiia government may be able to propose, but minority Kurds, but not the minority Sunnis, would retain the power to depose whatever doesn't please them.

Then there's this unaddressed difficulty inherent in Krauhammer's revised vision; what makes him think, based on the last two weeks, that the means by which we will have to put down the current "two rebellions," won't have created a permanent resistence to any American presence in Iraq?

But I guess that's just all too detailed for those big-picture guys.

Republicans dropping like flies during press conferences 

Now it's DOD Iraqi flak Kimmit who "appeared to briefly lose consciousness during a news conference."

So, it's not exactly the same as Bush, since during his press conference, Bush appeared to briefly regain consciousness.

But still, what's up? Something uniquely stressful about answering questions right now?

With things quiet... Too quiet... In Najaf ....

Iraq insurgency: Hopes for negotiated settlement in Najaf fade 

Via Juan Cole.

It's been quiet... Too quiet...

Except for the explosions in Kufa and the demonstrations in East Baghdad, I mean.

So, the Congressional vote for war, the UN speech, the diplomacy, the speeches to the American people were just a fraud? 

There was just the pretence of demoracy, and in fact a decision for war had been made, by one man, acting alone in secret?


We knew it at the time, but now we really know it, and, as usual with Bush, it's worse than even we imagined. One of our problems is that we have limits, so when Bush or some other winger says something utterly outrageous, we don't take them at their word. Remember this one from Bush?

[BSUH]: I'm the commander—see, I don't need to explain—I do not need to explain why I say things," he told Bob Woodward. "That's the interesting thing about being president."
(via Atlantic

Turns out Bush meant exactly what he said. So much for the Constitution:

On the war's origins, the book describes Bush pulling Rumsfeld into a cubbyhole office adjacent to the Situation Room for that November 2001 meeting and asking him what shape the Iraq war plan was in. When Rumsfeld said it was outdated, Mr. Bush ordered a fresh one.

The book says Mr. Bush told Rumsfeld to keep quiet about their planning and when the defense secretary asked to bring CIA Director George Tenet into it at some point, the president said not to do so yet.

Even Mr. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, was apparently not fully briefed. Woodward said Mr. Bush told her that morning he was having Rumsfeld work on Iraq but did not give details.

The book says Gen. Tommy Franks, who was in charge of the Afghan war as head of Central Command, uttered a string of obscenities when the Pentagon told him to come up with an Iraq war plan in the midst of fighting another conflict.

Rumsfeld gave Franks a blank check worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the book, but Congress was kept in the dark about it.

About that, Woodward told Mike Wallace in the 60 Minutes interview, "(At) the end of July 2002, they need $700 million, a large amount of money for all these tasks. And the president approves it. But Congress doesn't know and it is done.

"They get the money from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War, which Congress has approved. ... Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the treasury unless appropriated by Congress. Congress was totally in the dark on this."
(via CBS)

Now, of course, Bush and his handlers are saying these were just plans, no decision has been made, et cetera.

And, oh yeah, so much for Congressional spending authority, checks and balances, and the Constitution.

It's enough to make me go to one of those MoveOn bake salses, and I am not a bake sale kind of guy.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

Wierd. No 5:00 horror. Have they just gotten undisciplined, or is it just horror 24/7?

UPDATE From Corrente Chief Lyricist MJS:

It's one Iraq, two Iraq, three Iraq rock
Four Iraq, five Iraq, six Iraq rock
Seven Iraq, eight Iraq, nine Iraq rock
It's Iraq around the clock tonight...

Well, on that note....

Color Us Red, White & Blue 

Is there anything more American, more down home, more "red state" than a Bake Sale? Church auxiliaries do them, YWCAs do them, PTAs do them, so figured, if anything goes, let's do it, Let's Have A Bake Sale.

And if one Bake Sale is a good idea, isn't a thousand Bake Sales a thousand times better?


Tomorrow [Saturday], from Lincoln City, OR to Kent, OH to Peaks Island, ME, MoveOn members will holding over 1,000 bake sales to help raise some dough (sorry) and take our country back. It's a great way to demonstrate the contrast between Bush's millionaire-backed campaign and our grassroots movement.

The creativity and energy folks are putting into their sales is just astounding. Over 11,000 bakers have signed up to help. And just take a look at some of the sales' titles:

Beat Bush Bake Bash in
Mountaineer Bake Sale for Democracy in Charleston, WV
Cheekypotato's Home-made Aussie Cookies, Cakes, Pizzas & Calzones for Democracy in Phoenix, AZ
No CARB (Cheney, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Bush) Bake Sale in Seattle, WA
Have Your Cake and Beat Bush II in Storrs, CT
Sweet Eating, Bush Beating in Brooklyn, NY
Hippies against Hoodlums (HAH!) in Boulder, CO
Afternoon Tea for Democracy in Princeton, NJ
Goodies for Good in Davie, FL
. . . and the list goes on.

With over 1,000 bake sales, it’s likely there’s a bake sale you can drop by near you

To find one, click here, you'll be whisked away to events in the LA area, but you can find out what is in your area by entering your zip code in the appropriate box. That's the best I can do because MoveOn's emails are tailored to the geographical imperatives of each member.

This won't be the last of these efforts, so sign up to bake or to otherwise help.

UPDATE Alert reader peanut asks: Is Condi bringin' her special yellowcake?

UPDATE Alert reader skaterina adds Moab, UT to the list. See you there, Moabites!

Iraq insurgency: the legal case against Sadr 

Via The Australian from The Agonist.

Interesting that the judge who compiled the case is in the sacred city of Najaf, Sadr is holed up in Najaf, Sistani has an office in Najaf, and the Marines have surrounded Najaf. So, again, I wonder what Sistani wants?

Yes, Sistani has Bush by the balls indeed 

The classic question one politician asks another: "What do you want?"

More than 2500 US troops surround the city, primed for an attack to capture the renegade imam Moqtada al-Sadr. But the spiritual leader of all Iraq's Shiites, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has told them he has "drawn a red line" around Najaf.

It is a classic Iraqi power play. Ayatollah Sistani has brought the rambunctious Sadr to heel, so now he will protect him against a US threat to capture or kill the headstrong young imam, who is wanted on murder charges.

The implicit deal Ayatollah Sistani is offering the US is that it should back off in the face of his defusing a Shiite uprising
that risked all-out war between the US and the majority Shiites.

There has been an ominous Iraqi silence on a United Nations outline of the structure of a provisional government to run the country between the return of sovereign power by the US on June 30 and elections to be held in January.

The plan calls for the abolition of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and of the US occupation administration, the Coalition Provisional Authority. It calls for the UN to lead a consultative process to appoint officials and a national conference to appoint a national assembly.

But no light has yet been shed on how tense relations between religious, tribal and ethnic groups will be reflected in the structure of the interim government...
(via Sidney Morning Herald)

Sistani, Sistani I love you Sistani,
You're always a day away...

Iraq insurgency: US forces holding 200 members of Iraqi Civil Defence Corps 

Winning hearts and minds.... Honestly, what did we expect?

US forces have detained around 200 Iraqi paramilitary soldiers who refused to take part in a US offensive against the Sunni Muslim city of Fallujah, their former comrades said today.

The US military declined to confirm whether the men were being held.

Senior officers play down the significance of such incidents but, asked about reports of mutiny among Iraqi troops, have acknowledged a "command failure" took place during the Fallujah offensive.

Soldiers from the Baghdad-based 36th Security Brigade, part of the Iraqi Civil Defence Corps (ICDC), said that last week US commanders took them at night to Fallujah, west of the capital, where US forces were massing to crush a growing insurgency.

"They told us to attack the city and we were astonished. How could an Iraqi fight an Iraqi like this? This meant that nothing had changed from the Saddam Hussein days. We refused en masse," said Ali al-Shamari.

Shamari said the brigade members did not know they were heading to Fallujah until they arrived there.

After the brigade refused to fight, he said, soldiers were stripped of their badges and confined to tents in a US base on the outskirts of Fallujah. Their rations were restricted to one meal per day.

"I escaped, but around 200 of our comrades remain there. We demand their release," Shamari said.

Ali Hussein, a Shi'ite private, said the brigade's mission since its formation had been security tasks such as conducting searches and guarding buildings.

"Suddenly, we were asked to take part in a huge offensive," Hussein said, adding that he felt sympathy for Fallujah residents although they were from the Sunni minority who had dominated the Shi'ites for decades.
(via Sidney Morning Herald)

Hey, I've got an idea! Let's ship 'em to Gitmo!

Seems like the situation in Fallujah must have been a lot worse than we were told, for us to throw these guys in there.

At long last, a Republican operative has the decency to admit a mistake! 

And it's none other than Acting President Rove himself.

President Bush's top political adviser said this week he regretted the use of a "Mission Accomplished" banner as a backdrop for the president's landing on an aircraft carrier last May to mark the end of major combat operations in Iraq.

"I wish the banner was not up there," said White House political strategist Karl Rove. "I'll acknowledge the fact that it has become one of those convenient symbols."

Last October, Bush said the White House had nothing to do with the banner; a spokesman later clarified that the ship's crew asked for the sign and the White House staff had it made by a private vendor. It wasn't clear who paid for the sign.
(via the LA Times)

"Convenient symbol," eh?

Symbolize this!

Have they transplanted a heart back into Dick "Dick" Cheney? 

Here's a curious little item from alert reader Xan that I quote in its entirety:

Was Vice President Dick Cheney recently treated at Culpeper Regional Hospital?

Some with connections to the hospital say they heard that Cheney was recently treated at and released from the facility.

A spokesman for Cheney declined to comment.

When asked yesterday whether it was true, hospital spokeswoman Lynn Martin said, "We have no record in our system of Mr. Cheney being here."

When further asked if Cheney had been seen by hospital personnel but there was simply no record of the visit, Martin replied, "We have no record in our system of Mr. Cheney being here."

When asked if his office had helped provide security for the reported visit, Culpeper County Sheriff Lee Hart replied: "No. He has his own people."


When asked if the Sheriff's Office knew that Cheney was or would be at the hospital, Hart said, "We had some knowledge."

When questioned further, Hart said he could say no more until he made a telephone call. Less than two minutes later the sheriff called back to report, "We had no knowledge of the incident."

The exact date of or reasons for the vice president's reported hospital visit are unclear. It has long been rumored that Cheney, who has a history of heart problems, has occasionally been secreted at some remote Culpeper government facility since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
(via the Fredericksburg Freelance-Star)

And you all know the joke: "Bush is a heartbeat away from the Presidency." [rimshot. Laughter]

UPDATE Alert reader Jon H asks:

Maybe the hospital is keeping Cheney supplied with the blood he needs for nourishment?

Lyric Corner: "I'm your puppet" 

Somehow, the prospect of Bush and Cheney testifying together at the 9/11 Commission brings this song to mind. I don't know why...

Which shall it be? The Marvin Gaye version, or the Elton John version?

Pull the string and I'll wink at you, I'm your puppet
I'll do funny things if you want me to, I'm your puppet

I'll be yours to have and to hold
Darling you've got full control of your puppet

Your every wish is my command
All you gotta do is wiggle your little hand
I'm your puppet, I'm your puppet

I'm just a toy, just a funny boy
That makes you laugh when you're blue
I'll be wonderful, do just what I'm told
I'll do anything for you
I'm your puppet, I'm your puppet
(via here)



US Treasury puts Government Seal on RNC propaganda—and my taxes are paying for it! 

Great headlines of our time: "Fighting erupts as U.S., Iraqis start dialogue" 

We really expect better of the Canadians.

Explosions shook a riverbank as U.S. soldiers battled Shiite militiamen outside the southern city of Kufa today. The fighting came as the U.S. military held its first direct negotiations in an attempt to end fighting in Falluja.

The military said U.S. soldiers fought back after they were attacked by supporters of radical cleric near Kufa, which neighbours the holy city of Najaf. Some 2,500 U.S. soldiers are deployed outside Najaf to kill or capture al-Sadr and dismantle his al-Mahdi army militia.

Large explosions were seen by the river in a sparsely populated area on the edge of Kufa. Five civilians caught in the crossfire were killed and 14 wounded, hospital officials said.

In Falluja, west of Baghdad, U.S. military and civilian officials met today with leaders from Falluja, the first known direct negotiations involving Americans since the siege of the city began April 5.

Until now, U.S.-allied Iraqi leaders have been holding talks with city representatives trying to find an end to fighting that has killed dozens of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of Iraqis.

Both countries want to avoid a U.S. attack on Najaf, site of the holiest Shiite site — the Imam Ali Shrine, near the office where al-Sadr is located, surrounded by armed gunmen.

Shiite Governing Council member Ibrahim al-Jaafari said he saw "flexibility from al-Sadr's side" and urged Americans to show "similar flexibility."

Top U.S. administrator Paul Bremer was involved in "multiple channels" to try to negotiate an end to the standoff in the south and in Falluja, said Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But Myers warned there was a limit as to how long the marines can wait. "At some point somebody has to make a decision on what we're going to do, and we certainly can't rule out the use of force there again," he said.

U.S. commanders have vowed to "kill or capture" al-Sadr, but have limited their actions to small skirmishes on the outskirts of the city.

Maj. Neal O'Brien said the units at Najaf "will not complete this operation" and will likely be replaced by other troops — a rotation that suggests that an assault on the city is not imminent.

Negotiations appeared focused on dissolving al-Sadr's al-Mahdi army militia — a demand he has refused — and how to deal with al-Sadr himself. He has been charged with involvement in the assassination last year of a rival Shiite cleric.
(via Toronto Star)

I don't get what's to negotiate about: The CPA wants to kill Sadr and destroy his militia, and Sadr doesn't want that. So how do we make a deal?

I think Rick Santorum would want to know about this 

Go read.

Gotta watch out for those disgruntled employees...

Anyhow, in case his staff isn't, uh, on top of it, you can Rick all about it here.

Heh heh heh.

Incomparably, The Howler shows us what a free press would look like 

Here are the questions that Bush was asked at his press conference (what the hell has he got to be stressed about, anyhow?), what's wrong with them, the questions that should have been asked, and how to ask them.

Of all the words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: It might have been.

Sigh. That slippery little scut gets a free pass again.

Juan Cole on Sadr and the Sadrists 

So—ho hum—all that "gangster" and "thug" rhetoric from Dear Leader is just wrong:

I am often highly impressed with the intelligence and learning of the military officers I meet at security conferences. But I confess myself deeply puzzled as to how, after being in Iraq for over a year, these bright and well-informed persons could have gotten the Sadrist movement so wrong.

1) It is a longstanding social movement, not just a fly by night militia
2) It is not tiny in numbers of adherents, though not all adherents are willing to put themselves out for it at the moment; that could change.
3) It has lots of potential leaders besides Muqtada
4) Its cadres can easily become guerrillas, as the Army of the Mahdi shows.

So you can't wipe it out, and you can't hope that it will just go away, and it is highly unwise to start a decades-long (yes) feud with it.
(via Informed Comment)


The "kill 'em all" strategy won't work.


The Republican sense of "impunity" 

Buried at the end of a Reuters story about "partisanship" is a list of three probes into Republican lawbreaking. Why would the Republicans do such things? In the punchline of the old joke: "Because they can." They felt they could get away with anything, so they did whatever they wanted.

That's a feeling of impunity.

Adding to the rough-and-tumble atmosphere has been squabbling over Bush's handling of Iraq and terror threats prior to Sept. 11, 2001 as well as some unrelated investigations.
(via Reuters)

"Squabbling"?! I mean, did Bush lie his way into a war, or not? Did Bush drop the ball on 9/11 not? To Reuters, raising these questions is "squabbling." And Nedra Pickler doesn't even work there! Merciful Heavens.

One probe involves possible bribes on the House floor on behalf of an administration-backed prescription drug bill that narrowly won passage late last year.

Authorities are also examining an alleged threat to dismiss a federal actuary if he revealed what the bill might actually cost, drawing fire from some Republicans as well as Democrats.

The Senate's top law enforcement officer found that two Republican aides tapped into Democratic computer files, part of an apparent renegade effort to track opposition to Bush's most contentious judicial nominees.

Man, that's a lot of probing, and there's no mention of The Plame Affair at all.

And do I sense a common thread here? Gee, it seems like the very same people who were prating about "the rule of law" while in the process of overthrowing Clinton are now being investigated for bribery, threats, and theft. What a surprise!
The essential Orcinus nails it:

The GOP, and the conservative movement generally, has been overtaken by people whose chief concerns have little to do with true conservatism and more with the Machivellian acquisition of power by any means. This is not mere opportunism, but a malignant metastasis that not only finds white supremacism an acceptable impulse but one fully consonant with its drive to power.

All tyrannies and all tyrants, including Bush and his regime in Washington, feel they posses "impunity," because the powper they have makes them crazy. It's our job, as citizens, to teach them differently.

Great headlines of our time: "Economic Rebound on Track Despite Reports" 

Who you gonna believe? Me or your lyin' eyes?

U.S. industrial production unexpectedly dropped in March while consumer sentiment slipped this month, but economists downplayed the two disappointing reports and said the economy's solid expansion remains on track.

Strong data this week on regional factory output and retail sales have boosted forecasts for overall economic growth in the first half of the year. Some economists are now looking for gross domestic product of about 5 percent, up from the 4.1 percent pace in the fourth-quarter last year.

Yet Federal Reserve officials have sought to play down worries they will be eager to lift official interest rates from 46-year lows in response, even with an surprising jump in consumer price inflation in March.

Richmond Federal Reserve Bank President Alfred Broaddus reinforced that message on Friday, saying the central bank was "some distance" from tightening monetary policy to choke off a future inflation threat. Broaddus also said he wanted "more confirmation" economic growth would be sustained.
(via Reuters)

What's "unexpected" about it? Bush is still in office!

Out of the mouths of babes 

So Dick "Dick" Cheney and his wife, authoress Lynn, travelling in the fabled East, and Lynn is doing a photo-op with some cute South Korean kids:

Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, faced some tough grilling Friday when she met American and South Korean third graders on a tour of a U.S. military base in Seoul.

Among the questions: "Did your husband ever fight in a war?"

Mrs. Cheney stopped in at the Seoul American Elementary School on the sprawling Yongsan Army Garrison in the South Korean capital to give a short history lesson from her 2002 book "America: A Patriotic Primer."

As for her husband's military record, she said: "He was in college, so he did not fight in a war."
(via AP)

As with all the chickenhawks, "patriotism" and putting your own ass on the line are two very, very different concepts.

Too bad one of the kids didn't ask this:

Mrs. Cheney, why don't you feel your lesbian romance novel is "your best work"?

Oh well....

Our CEO President: Bush shows leadership by hiding decision for Iraq war from "team" 

Here's an example of Bush courage:

President Bush secretly ordered a war plan drawn up against Iraq less than two months after U.S. forces attacked Afghanistan and was so worried the decision would cause a furor he did not tell everyone on his national security team, says [Woodward's] new book on his Iraq policy.
(via AP)

Including his exercise partner and surrogate Mom, Condi.

It's the new Republican concept: "implausible deniability"!

Eesh. "Furor," eh?

The following presentation is 100% American! 

Crawford Dinner Theater Presents!

"I Remember It Well" ~ by MJS

We fought for peace.

We had a plan.

Long distance called


Ah yes, I remember it well.
We fought for peace

I fought for war

My ticker raced

My ass is sore

I remember it well.
Then on to Saddam’s Iraq

It’s Saddam’s no more
Caught him, and made him crack

War is such a chore

If not for France

You stuffed your crotch!

I creamed my pants

Ah, yes, I remember it well.
You wore a special suit

I swaggered strong

I stayed at home

I wore a thong!
How strong we were
How young and gay
Two valiant men
In every way!

Ah yes, I remember it well.

Based on:
Original song from "Gigi"
Music: Frederick Loewe
Lyrics: Alan Jay Lerner

Parody arrangement by MJS.
Makeup, wardrobe, and costume design by the farmer.

A Mustard Gas Turkey Farm Production ~ 2004


Thursday, April 15, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

Paid the price of civlization today.

Oh, and FTF (back)

I always knew those studies about cool college Republicans were part of Operation Steaming Load 

At last, some data:

College students favor Democratic presidential contender Sen. John Kerry over President Bush by a 10-point margin and have become substantially more dissatisfied with Bush over the past six months, according to a poll released Thursday.
(via CNN)

Now, if only we can get them to vote, and the Republicans don't manage to disenfranchise them.

Sunday's 60 minutes: Woodward to paint picture of dysfunctional WhiteWash House 

Who knew?

CBS has a teaser here. And Drudge (sigh) writes:

Top administration officials now barely speak to each other

Well, naturally.

With all the criminal investigations going on, their lawyers probably told them that not talking to each other would be a good idea.

Weird jobless claims numbers 

The experts tell us there's nothing to worry about:

New claims for unemployment benefits increased last week by 30,000, the biggest jump in 16 months. Still, analysts said Thursday they believe the labor market has turned a corner, pointing the way to a sustainable economic recovery.
(AP via Pandagon)

Of course, it could be just a blip. Let's hope. Honestly.

Say no more! Say no more! 

In case striking likely Democratic voters from the rolls won't be enough to win Florida in 2004, Bush takes out an insurance policy:

President Bush's embrace yesterday of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to unilaterally disengage from the Palestinians carries potential political benefits for Bush... Bush's strategists believe that even small inroads into the Jewish vote could mean the difference between winning and losing Florida, and several Republicans believe the announcement could further inhibit Kerry's fundraising in the Jewish community.
(via WaPo)

Nudge nudge wink wink!

"Brave and courageous"? How about "Craven and boneheaded"?

Iraq insurgency: Sadr negotiating, with the Iranians, of all people, mediating 

From The Agonist.

The latest: According to Pakistani sources:

NAJAF Firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr said on Thursday he was prepared to meet an Iranian delegation in Najaf as he embraced mediation efforts to avert a showdown with US troops massed outside the holy city.

Another aide in nearby Kufa, Sheikh Fuad al-Torsi, said Sadr “welcomes the Iranian initiative because it is coming from an Islamic country.” But the contents of any Iranian proposal remained unknown to the Sadr camp and the delegation was tight-lipped about the purpose of its visit.

A senior US official said the delegation was in Iraq at the request of the British government.

What is clear is that Sadr has significantly toned down his rhetoric over the past week as US troops massed near Najaf with the stated mission of killing or capturing him.

On the ground in Najaf, all was quiet Thursday as Iraqi police were seen around the city’s main streets, while Sadr’s black-clad fighters milled around the shrine of Imam Ali, the city’s holiest site.
(via Pakistan Daily Times).

Well, as long as we don't we don't shell any mosques in Najaf, like we just did in Fallujah. That would'n't play real well on Iraqi TV, would it?

Iraq insurgency: The Brahimi Plan for a transitional government 

From the essential Juan Cole:

[Brahimi's plan] suggests a handful of top appointments, and wants the United Nations to have a strong hand in making them. But then he also suggests the election of a Consultative Assembly that would be more broadly based and would advise the government during the transition.

The danger in Brahimi's plan for a corrupt Pentagon-supported expat like Chalabi is that Brahimi is saying that the UN doesn't want him in a high appointive post because of all the questions that swirl around him regarding embezzlement and playing fast and loose with other people's money.

Brahimi seems to be saying that the appointed high officials--a president, two vice-presidents, and a prime minister-- should have genuine grass roots in Iraq and be respected as upright. I think Barzani and Talabani among the Kurds fit this bill, and so do Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and Ibrahim Jaafari among the Shiites. I don't know, however, to whom you would turn among the Sunni Arabs for a politician with substantial grass roots.

it seems likely that Chalabi also does want to clear the decks so that he can rule unopposed if he can get into power, without a lot of pesky informed technocrats second-guessing him and even thwarting some of his policies. Since the CPA is a creature of the Neocon-dominated Department of Defense, it may well be that punitive measures against former Baath Party members is designed to punish them for their hostile attitudes to Israel or to ensure that Iraq is able to conclude a Camp David-style peace treaty with Ariel Sharon down the road.
(via Juan Cole)

We have the word "Byzantine" to describe all this. It's interesting the linkage between Chalabi and Sharon, eh?

Rapture index closes mixed: Volanoes down, plagues up 


But trading closed before the Sharon's ghetto wall was blessed by The Leader. I'll check back tomorrow.

Bush remains unserious about loose nukes 

UnbelievableAll too believable. (See "Reckless indifference to the nightmare scenario," back). Anyhow:

Some Iraqi nuclear facilities appear to be unguarded, and radioactive materials are being taken out of the country, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency reported after reviewing satellite images and equipment that has turned up in European scrapyards. The International Atomic Energy Agency sent a letter to U.S. officials three weeks ago informing them of the findings. The information was also sent to the U.N. Security Council in a letter from its director, Mohamed ElBaradei, that was circulated Thursday.

The IAEA is waiting for a reply from the United States, which is leading the coalition administering Iraq, officials said.

The United Sattes has virtually cut off information-sharing with the IAEA since invading Iraq in March 2003 on the premise that the country was hiding weapons of mass destruction.

No such weapons have been found, and arms control officials now worry the war and its chaotic aftermath may have increased chances that terrorists could get their hands on materials used for unconventional weapons or that civilians may be unknowingly exposed to radioactive materials.
(via AP)

You know, there could be a shipping container in the Port of Philadelphia right now with radioactive material, a conventional explosive, and a timer. If I were AQ, I'd set it for July 4th, and try to take out the Liberty Bell and Constitution Hall.

If Iraqi nuclear material is loose (sure sounds like it), and AQ takes out an American city with it, Bush will have caused it: (1) by lying his way into the war, (2) by butchering the security situation after the war, and (3) not protecting our ports.

Aw, fuck 'em. It's only the port cities that in danger, and they're the enemies of all decent Americans: They're Blue, they're full of non-Christians, they don't all drive cars or own guns, and they harbor gays, so they deserve to be cleansed by the fire from Heaven. Any questions?

Return the Gift 

Lambert's question below invites at least two more, namely:
  • Does the "Almighty" (Judeo-Christian variety) really give a shit about freedom?
  • How does Islam stack up in comparison?

The Bible's position on slavery is pretty clear:

"All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God's name and our teaching may not be slandered. (NIV 1 Timothy 6:1)"

Elsewhere, that lovable whackjob Leviticus, when not dispensing proscriptions about shellfish and sodomy, sagely advises,

"Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour. (Leviticus 25:44-46 )

Now, one could see how this vision of society would appeal to a Bushie, but for the not so high-born fundamentalist who believes in the literal inerrancy of Scripture, this doesn't sound like a "freedom-loving" God at all.

As for the second question, I don't know enough to say, though this site takes up the case on Islam's behalf. My own view is that freedom is reason's gift to man and consequently the mortal enemy of bigotry and fear, which are the coin of the realm in Bushworld and any other belief system governed by revealed truth. Any readers care to chime in?

If "Freedom is the Almighty's gift" to humanity, is that the same as igniting a crusade over "which Almighty"? 

And which "freedom"?

Just asking.

OBL heard from 

Yeah, the Israelis assassinating Yassin was another match under the insurgency, along with shutting Sadr's newspaper.... Thanks, Ariel.

April 15, 2004: A man identifying himself as bin Laden offers a "truce" to European countries that do not attack Muslims, saying it would begin when their soldiers leave Islamic nations. The tape gives the countries three months to start pulling out its troops. It vows revenge against the United States for the Israeli assassination of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin. The CIA is reviewing the tape's authenticity.
(via AP)

UPDATE The tape is "likely authentic".

Brave And Courageous 

With those two words, George W. Bush, surely destined to be the worst US President in the history of this country, and even, perhaps, the worst president of anything in the history of the world, torpedoed his own stated policy for carving from the chaotic violence of the fifty year-plus Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a path to a peaceful, just settlement, his so-called "road map" at the end of which Palestinians were to have forsaken random terrorist violence for a national state of their own.

Who else but George W. Bush could turn two excellent words like "brave" and "courageous," into lethal missiles which he then aims directly at his own stated policy, his big-picture vision for a newer, better version of the Middle East But that's what he did, by applying them to Sharon's peace plan for Israel; withdrawal from Gaza, in exchange for acceptance of a "security barrier," otherwise recognized as a huge concrete wall, whose path will guarantee that when Israel withdraws behind it, signifigant settler portions of the West Bank will become part of Israel, leaving Palestinians with an expanse of isolated bantustans from which to try and build a national state.

My expectations of this administration are minus nil, but it simple isn't possible to be sufficiently cynical not to find oneself surprised once again at the utter vacancy at the heart of everything it does. I did expect Sharon's presence at Crawford to produce a lot of attempts to dance on raindrops. Yes, Bush would probably endorse the withdrawal from Gaza, ignore the issue of that hideous wall, and give some kind of deliberately vague gesture in the direction of something less than total Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

What happened is a complete capitulation to Sharon's master plan, the one he's been actively pursuing since 2002.

Bush's disgusting letter is truly the final stone in that commerative mounument, built primarily from Palestinian corpses, but also not a few Israeli ones, that will mark the final and complete death of the Oslo accords, and with it any pretense that we're engaged in a peace process, or following a genuine roadmap toward a just settlement between these two peoples. Two state solution? No, just another Bush lie.

Take the wall. Please.

Here are the words the President's speechwriters put in his mouth today:

The Government of Israel is committed to take additional steps on the West Bank, including progress toward a freeze on settlement activity, removing unauthorized outposts, and improving the humanitarian situation by easing restrictions on the movement of Palestinians not engaged in terrorist activities.

As the Government of Israel has stated, the barrier being erected by Israel should be a security rather than political barrier, should be temporary rather than permanent, and therefore not prejudice any final status issues including final borders, and its route should take into account, consistent with security needs, its impact on Palestinians not engaged in terrorist activities.

Every word of that statement, including, as Mary McCarthy once famously said, the "ands" the "thes" and the "buts," is a lie. That security, separation wall is already all the things the statement claims the Israeli government recognizes and accepts it should not be.

Four decades of American policy, flushed down the Bush potty. No surprise there. Has this administation ever met a policy it didn't view as inferior to anything it could think up in the time it takes to fly Airforce One to Crawford?

Colin Powell, how do you live with yourself; how do you manage to shave everyday without looking at yourself in the mirror. And when you do, who and what do you see staring back at you?

This way, Sharon's way, Bush's and the whole parade of neo-con revelers, lies madness. And not only for the Palestinian people. It's a tragedy for Israel, precisely because it will not provide genuine lasting security. As long as enough Israelis are willing to keep in power a government which believes that there is some way to rid themselves of Palestinians once and for all, by making life so impossible for them that they will either finally leave, or take up arms, thus justifying Israeli's willingness to slaughter them in the name of all that is right and good in the world, Israel will never find either security or peace. And Israelis misread Americans if they think that American support is as impregnable as that wall in the face of the kind of injustice Israel is preparing itself to rain down on the heads of all Palestinians. When those Palestinians begin to be seen not as terrorists, but as the latest in a long line of oppressed peoples struggling for the most basic human rights, it won't be as easy to color them "terrorists." When the American people wake up to what Israel is allowing itself to become, all those bets so carefully crafted by those who claim to be supporters of Israel, will be inoperative. What happens when the rest of the world comes to a consensus that Israel no longer has a moral claim to Palestine so long as it denies and actively suppresses Palestinian claims to nationhood. This brave new Israel is a fool's fantasy. Not that Sharon hasn't been masterfully clever, far too clever for the likes of George W. Bush, whose road map leads nowhere, except, perhaps, to a hundred year war with the muslim world.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

The effort of processing the results of last night's Operation Steaming Load was really too much for me, so, surly to bed. Night all.

Man, those RPGs are pesky 


And the Iraqi insurgents resourceful, and getting more organized all the time.

So, Bush's new ambassador to Iraq, Negroponte, is a death squad enabler. Your point? 

Kos has a bit more, and some pointers.

History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake ....

OK, the Sharon plan 

Head Trip 

Atrios lauds today's column by William Saletan, in which he ridicules Bush's "unhinged" idea of "credibility". According to Saletan, the problem is that Bush sincerely believes that credibility means refusing to change one's mind, when even reality demonstrates that the "picture in his head" is wrong.

Atrios' props notwithstanding, the same could be said of Saletan. Saletan is, after all, the guy who recently lectured Democrats that "most voters don't [think Bush is a liar], for a good reason: It isn't true." The ludicrousness of this assertion gives new life to the old line about some things being so preposterous it takes an educated person to believe them.

To normal people, a lie is a statement knowingly at variance with reality. Occasional false statements do not automatically point to dishonesty, but a constant stream of false statements made in the teeth of evidence that demonstrates their falsity does. That has been abundantly on display since Inauguration Day 2001.

The picture in Saletan's head is that Bush's moral rigidity and self-righteousness prevents from seeing and adapting to reality. But that mental picture depends on his own selective picture of reality for its preservation, namely, that Bush never compromises his "principles" in the face of changing reality. As it happens, I'm listening to Franken on Air America right now, and they're having a field day listing just such Bush's broken promises. And this doesn't even get to his well-documented history of untruths about his own intentions, not least of which were those towards Iraq before 9/11. When Saletan calls Bush dangerously unhinged from reality, he's being unkind to the dangerously unhinged, who, after all, are not responsible for their mental state.

Is this how dysfunctional the national family has become under our dry drunk President, that his enablers in the intelligentsia, such as Saletan, bullied by relentless abuse of power and shameless prevarication, have so skewed public perception that delusional half truths are applauded simply because they are a break from 4 years of flat-out denial and sycophancy?


Is that not the single most conspicuously absent emotion from those our current President seems capable of expressing?

From his news conference last night:

There's no question it's been a tough, tough series of weeks for the American people. It's been really tough for the families. I understand that. It's been tough on this administration. But we're doing the right thing. . .. '

"And as to whether or not I make decisions based upon polls, I don't. I just don't make decisions that way. I fully understand the consequences of what we're doing. We're changing the world. And the world will be better off and America will be more secure as a result of the actions we're taking. "

"And you can understand why. This is a guy who was a torturer, a killer, a maimer; there's mass graves. I mean, he was a horrible individual that really shocked the country in many ways, shocked it into a kind of -- a fear of making decisions toward liberty. That's what we've seen recently. Some citizens are fearful of stepping up. And they were happy -- they're not happy they're occupied. I wouldn't be happy if I were occupied either. They do want us there to help with security, and that's why this transfer of sovereignty is an important signal to send, and it's why it's also important for them to hear we will stand with them until they become a free country."

"I feel incredibly grieved when I meet with family members, and I do quite frequently. I grieve for the incredible loss of life that they feel, the emptiness they feel.

There are some things I wish we'd have done when I look back. I mean, hindsight is easy. It's easy for a President to stand up and say, now that I know what happened, it would have been nice if there were certain things in place; for example, a homeland security department. And why I -- I say that because it's -- that provides the ability for our agencies to coordinate better and to work together better than it was before. "

"And the other thing I look back on and realize is that we weren't on a war footing. The country was not on a war footing, and yet the enemy was at war with us. And it's -- it didn't take me long to put us on a war footing. And we've been on war ever since. The lessons of 9/11 that I -- one lesson was, we must deal with gathering threats. And that's part of the reason I dealt with Iraq the way I did.

The other lesson is, is that this country must go on the offense and stay on the offense. In order to secure the country, we must do everything in our power to find these killers and bring them to justice, before they hurt us again. I'm afraid they want to hurt us again. They're still there."

"Q Thank you, Mr. President. Two weeks ago, a former counterterrorism official at the NSC, Richard Clarke, offered an unequivocal apology to the American people for failing them prior to 9/11. Do you believe the American people deserve a similar apology from you, and would you be prepared to give them one?

THE PRESIDENT: Look, I can understand why people in my administration anguished over the fact that people lost their life. I feel the same way. I mean, I'm sick when I think about the death that took place on that day. And as I mentioned, I've met with a lot of family members and I do the best I do to console them about the loss of their loved one. As I mentioned, I oftentimes think about what I could have done differently. I can assure the American people that had we had any inkling that this was going to happen, we would have done everything in our power to stop the attack.

"Here's what I feel about that. The person responsible for the attacks was Osama bin Laden. That's who's responsible for killing Americans. And that's why we will stay on the offense until we bring people to justice"

"I don't plan on losing my job. I plan on telling the American people that I've got a plan to win the war on terror. And I believe they'll stay with me. They understand the stakes. Look, nobody likes to see dead people on their television screens -- I don't. It's a tough time for the American people to see that. It's gut-wrenching. One of my hardest parts of my job is to console the family members who have lost their life. It is a -- it is -- it's a chance to hug and weep and to console and to remind the loved ones that the sacrifice of their loved one was done in the name of security for America and freedom for the world. "

Two stories about "family members."

Here's Steve Gilliard talking about one of them:

Thomas Hamill was a dairy farmer not long ago. But then he sold his farm and started driving trucks. Living in rural Mississippi, that didn't pay great. Then, of course, his wife had open heart surgery a couple of months back. With debts and a sick wife, he was looking for a better paying job. Kellogg, Brown and Root had one. Great pay, 10K a month, tax free. Benefits. Only one catch. It was in Iraq.

And then there's the story of the three sisters, perhaps not sadder than, but certainly more wrenching than Chekov's.

Brookfield - The two sisters of a United States soldier slain in Iraq last week will not have to return to active duty with their units in Baghdad once their emergency leave expires, a spokesperson for the family said on Tuesday.

All three women had enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard, a part-time citizen soldier's unit, and were deployed to Iraq.

Specialist Michelle Witmer, 20, with the Guard's 32nd Military Police Company, was killed on Friday when her Humvee was ambushed. She was killed just weeks before her unit was expected to go home.

Her grief-stricken parents pleaded for their two remaining daughters - Rachel, 24, and Charity, Michelle's twin - to be allowed to serve out the rest of their tour of duty in the United States.

But the women said on Tuesday that they were deferring the wrenching decision until after their sister's funeral.

"They are focusing their attention on spending time with their family and grieving the loss of Michelle," spokesperson Joan Apt said.

In the same statement, Specialist Rachel Witmer, who is attached to the same unit as Michelle, and Sergeant Charity Witmer, a medic with the Guard, also stationed in the Baghdad area, touched on the dilemma facing them.

The women, tearful and clinging to their parents and brothers, did not speak at the brief press conference at a church in Brookfield.

But they sent a message to their comrades back in the field in a written statement.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with you," they wrote. "Not a minute goes by that we don't think of you. We are conflicted, because we have two families and we can't be with both at the same time."

Both of these stories would surely be the most tragic of last week, if it weren't for these stories, and these, and these, and these.

Meanwhile, it all still goes on:

Iraq Cleric Offers Peace Terms; U.S. Forces Poised

Iraq Shiite radical leader must be brought to justice: top US general

With the occasional twist:

Bush stands firm on Iraq, as Iran says it's been called on to help

Iran Halts Its Work With U.S. on Iraq

For bearing witness so that all of us can know what is being done in our name, we owe a huge thank-you to all the journalists who are there to tell us these stories, including the young Iraqi woman, Riverbend, and all the other Iraqi bloggers so many of us have become so fond of, and about whom we worry on a daily basis for bearing witness.

Richard Brookheiser is less grateful. One can see why.

The mere fact of having been here before throughout history is not comforting. Post-wars can be lost, just like wars. After the end of the Civil War, violent white resistance in the South rolled back black rights by weakening the North’s willingness to sustain Reconstruction. Robert E. Lee surrendered, but because the Ku Klux Klan did not, President Grant was unable to accomplish what General Grant had. That is why the fighting in Iraq is as important as it is depressing. The die-hards must die hard. But we, the television-watching public, have a task, too—not to be mesmerized into paralysis.

His position is completely understandable. Actual facts get in the way of what he is sure is the truth.

Real wars keep going after they end, by other means or by the same means, as Iraq shows. The Baathists in Fallujah, augmented by foreign predators and the followers of Moqtada Sadr, the ambitious young Shiite politician/cleric, took the fight to the Americans. The Americans obliged.

That, of course, is not what happened. Al Sadr said and published highly intemperate sentiments. He led demonstrations, he made threats. We, i.e., the CPA, some provisional that, made the decision to close the newspaper and to seek a warrant from a so-called Iraqi court, one that is controlled by those who truly govern Iraq today. But Mr. Brookheiser's real aim lies elsewhere.

All postmodern war is mindful of the camera. When did rabble the world over first bring hand-lettered signs in English to their demonstrations? During Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution in Iran? A similarly iatrogenic event landed on the front page of the April 10 issue of The New York Times—the grinning Iraqi man, all teeth, displaying a pair of American boots he had looted from an attacked supply convoy. This shot was more badly staged than most. No crowd, not even of idle boys, was gathered for an Adoration of the Boots. The man was, seemingly, all by himself, performing for Your Correspondent. College girls on spring break show their boobs for Girls Gone Wild; this Iraqi showed his boots for Baathists Gone Wild. American men support the strip show with their bottomless appetite for flesh; Americans support the boot show with their appetite for failure.

Hence the need for other voices, other chat rooms

And the ever vigilant "Rick" finds those voices he needs to hear, all two of them. Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan. There is Ali of Iraqthemodel. blogspot.

What does Ali hope for? "When this riot will be crushed … all the clerics will no longer seem as strong as they seemed before, and once they see … Sadir [his spelling] in handcuffs, they will think a million times before committing a similar stupidity in the future." Even though we are not clerics, we can offer a prayer: from his lips to God’s ears.

There's also one other witness Rick finds worthy of note. What other Iraqi voices need he consult than the two that Andrew Sullivan recommends, along with an email from a Marine, all worthy of reading, mind you, but there are twenty-five million Iraqis and a hundred thousand or so of American troops there.

Are they a representative sample? Do I look like a pollster? Do they have their own agendas? No doubt. But their agendas—the desire for liberty, and the determination to secure it—compare favorably with those of the Boot Man, who is at best mischievous, at worst a fanatic too cowardly or incompetent to take up an AK-47, but willing to help the cause of re-enslavement in little ways. The confusion of voices from the ground, on whatever side, is infinitely more interesting than Bob Kerrey’s audition for a Vice Presidential nomination at the hearings of the 9/11 commission. We do have a war on, and mistakes will be made, though none so bad as the mistakes all of us, Republicans and Democrats both, made when we imagined we lived in a world of peace.

Bosnia, the Sudan, ten years ago and today, Somalia, Rawanda, Haiti, Kosovo, Chechynya -- not to mention the first bombing of the WTC, Oklahoma City, US Embassies in Africa, and the USS Cole -- Richard Brookheiser spent the nineties thinking he lived in a world of peace?

Most remarkable - see if you can find one moment of genuine anguish in the whole piece?

You won't find any anguish here either, but at least this typical dingbat Newsmax column as the virtue of let-it-all-hang-out blood-thirsty, blood-curkling honesty.

When it comes to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory there is no more successful collaborator than the media.
As desperate terrorist insurgents in Iraq pour gasoline on embers to attract journalists like moths to a flame it should be noted that the bad guys are ‘using’ the media as a tactical resource.

They know there is "no way nohow" they can defeat the American coalition forces militarily. However, they also know that IF they can manipulate the media to bludgeon the American homeland with images and stories of outrageous atrocities, there is a distinct possibility the American people will compel the administration to leave.

It worked in Vietnam.
It worked in Somalia.
I seriously doubt it will work in Iraq.

Next time David Brooks tries to convince himself, and you, that there is a fundamental difference between his rightwinged soul and that of extremists Clinton-haters among whom Mr. Brooks seems not to place himself, look for the anguish, and when you can't find it, you'll know there is as much difference between Chris Ruddy and David Brooks as there is between Richard Brookheiser and Geof Metcalf.

And if that seems like harsh rhetoric, well, sometimes we're called upon not to be mesmerized into complacent good manners

Iraq insurgency: Latest on Sadr and the standoff in Najaf 

Somehow I doubt that, after we've dug in, we'll end up cancelling the assault. After all, that wouldn't look tough. And doubtless Sistani or his son is on the phone to someone in the WhiteWash House, trying for all they can get in exhange for their mediation services (and who can blame them). Hey, maybe we'll sell out the Kurds yet again! Anyhow:

In the south, 2,500 U.S. troops were digging in outside the Shiite holy city of Najaf, preparing for a possible assault against radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. An attack on the city would likely outrage Iraq's Shiite majority, a community that - aside from al-Sadr's militia - has so far shunned anti-U.S. violence.

Iraqi clerics and politicians have launched negotiations with al-Sadr, trying to get him to back down sufficiently to avert a U.S. attack. But al-Sadr appeared to take a tough stance, demanding U.S. troops withdraw from all Iraqi cities.
(via AP)

Does anyone else have the feeling (especially after reading Orcinus, below) that we're watching some kind of cheap horror movie?

I mean a really cheap horror movie. The kind where Condi, Rummy, Wolfie, Bush and all the rest of them are wandering round in the woods, and, as night falls, it starts to rain.

And they're wondering whether they should seek shelter—say, in that house with no lights in the windows, over there in the clearing.... Down the path with the, with the—"Say, are those footprints? Then... why the claw marks?" "Oh, come on, Rummy, I'm getting wet. Let's go!"

And the entire audience yells: "No! Don't go in the haunted house!"

But, of course, they do anyway....

Iraq insurgency: Sadr and the stand-off in Najaf: A second Waco? 

The ever essential Orcinus brings us this analysis from Jean Rosenfeld:

Watch what is happening with al-Sadr in an-Najaf. This is a critical incident writ large of the type my colleagues and I have advised about, studied, and written about over a period of eight years. I am hypothesizing that we risk making the same mistake at an-Najaf with al-Sadr

I have written and spoken many times about how a religiously motivated critical incident, or standoff, differs qualitatively and markedly from a criminally-motivated hostage standoff. The latter is the model for defusing critical incidents among law enforcement and [coutner-terrorism] specialists. They remain uninformed and skeptical about these important differences to this day.

What is not known about Waco is that the final assault plan was amended on the ground by the tactical field commanders on the very day of the assault. That alteration had been discussed and rejected by the FBI brass over several weeks. Nonetheless, the FBI HRT commander, Richard Rogers implemented the rejected plan via a loophole signed by Janet Reno the morning of the final assault on April 19. That alteration was identical to the gassing and demolition plan that two Delta Force advisors seconded to the Justice Dept. in a principals meeting of April 14. Those two advisors supported the rejected plan that was later implemented "hypothetically" in order to conform to the letter of Posse Comitatus law. I also have published a peer-reviewed article with this finding. It is based on government documents--all open source. The rejected plan supported by Jeff Jamar, Richard Rogers, and the two Delta Force officers resulted in a disaster that did not have to happen. It was an ill-advised tactical approach to a religious community that feared that Satan was attacking them.

Those two Delta Force officers were Peter J. Schoomaker and "Jerry" Boykin, now both top officials in the US Army in charge of military planning for the war on terrorism.

I believe [Republican operative Dan] Senor's approach is similar to the tactical one taken at Waco against another "messiah." It resulted in many deaths and a legacy that led us to the "commemoration" atrocity in Oklahoma City.

[And Orcinus adds: It is worth observing, of course, that (as Atrios notes) the coalition appears determined to make this mistake, since its official stance is that "The mission of U.S. forces is to kill or capture Moqtada al-Sadr."
(via Orcinus)


The good news is that it seems like the Ayatollahs are playing a mediating role in all this—meaning that they really do have Bush by the balls.

Sistani, Sistani I love you Sistani,
Your’e always a day away...

Stupid, stupid 

I imagine the wingers and freepers and LIttle Green Snotballs are going nuts over this one.

Fortunately, the Kerry campaign was on top of the story as it broke. Good work, guys.

Sheesh. Rush calling Democrats traitors to an audience of 15,000,000 and Anne Coulter calling for liberals to be killed, and not a peep from the watchdogs, and then they go nuts over an ad in a shopper. Just a reminder not to be stupid, people. It's like the Dean scream: something essentially harmless gets magnified.

Bush news conference: The harder they come 

WaPo style columnist Tom Shales makes a nice point:

Bush similarly struggled, a few minutes earlier, to cite the single biggest mistake of his presidency. He looked baffled and incredulous. "I'm sure something will pop into my head here," he said, noting the intense "pressure" of holding a news conference on TV. Of course people watching throughout the country expect a president to be able to handle that kind of pressure without blinking, based on the assumption that this is one of the milder forms of pressure that come with the office.
(via WaPo)

Yes, The Harder They Come does have relevance today, doesn't it?

Pressure Drop
It is you (oh yeah)
It is you, you (oh yeah)
It is you (oh yeah)

Cause a pressure drop, oh pressure
Oh yeah pressure drop a drop on you
I say a pressure drop, oh pressure
Oh yeah pressure drop a drop on you

I say when it drops, oh you gonna feel it
Know that you were doing wrong.


Bush couldn't take the hints on AQ, just like he couldn't take the hints on trading Sammy Sosa 

There's a pattern, and Trapper John at Kos finds it.

Nobody seems to have noticed, but Ashcroft heaved Bush over the side in his testimony 

They're starting to turn on each other...

MR. GORTON Did you make any changes reflecting that millennium after-action review [recommendations to disrupt the Qaeda network after a bomb plot] in your time as attorney general before 9/11?

A. [ASHCROFT]: This is a report which was not briefed to me or briefed to other individuals. It was a report which is a classified report.

Q. So you didn't know of its existence?

A. No.
... We — and these are the kinds of recommendations that were involved in the report, which was simply not made available —— ... The SEIB [Senior Executive Intelligence Briefing] available to me.

Q. On Aug. 7, 2001, a SEIB that reflected much of — although it was not identical to — much of the content of the Aug. 6 Presidential Daily Brief — came out. And I would like to ask you if you remember seeing a document headed Terrorism bin Laden Determined to Strike In The United States in the SEIB.

A. I do not remember seeing that. I was in, I believe I was in Chicago speaking at the American Bar Association meeting, I believe, at the time. So I do not have a recollection of seeing that.

Q. Did your staff regularly brief you on the intelligence when you returned?

A. I was briefed, and items of interest were noted for me from time to time by my staff.

Q. Would something like this, which is a memorandum that is going out to your colleagues — hundreds of your colleagues in the government — saying that bin Laden is determined to strike in the United States — been an item of significance that you would think would have been briefed to you?

A. These items had been briefed to me. They had been briefed to me by the F.B.I. They had been briefed to me by the C.I.A. The administration asked me to get briefings when appropriate in regard to these measures. I remember Ms. Rice, for example, early in July during the threat period and the heightened and elevated threat, asking me if I would receive a briefing from the C.I.A. because she thought it important. It's that kind of briefing that I received early. The C.I.A. — we have reconstructed it from the slides they used — talked a lot about the threat overseas. And we obviously were aware of the historical information that Osama bin Laden had issued statements years before, much of which is in the SEIB and was in the Aug. 6 P.D.B., which I have now read.

And but [sic] we inquired of the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. are there domestic threats that require — is there any evidence of domestic, of threat? And they both said no.
(via NY Times)

Contrast Bush:

BUSH: I was satisfied that some matters were being looked into.

Given what Ashcroft says about what he wasn't shown, how on earth could Bush have been "satisfied"?

Iraq insurgency: US adopting Israeli tactics 

And don't think the Iraqis haven't noticed.

With sporadic fighting in Falluja and US forces moving into position outside Najaf, the Arab press is pointing to similarities between US military operations in Iraq and the tactics Israeli forces employ in the West Bank and Gaza.

Such similarities are not coincidental.

While many of Israel's methods are controversial it has, in purely military terms, developed highly effective tactics for offensive operations in urban areas along with a range of specialised equipment which, for example, can help troops to breach walls, gather intelligence, and locate snipers.

And senior US commanders have visited Israel specifically to discuss what the Pentagon jargon calls "Military Operations on Urban Terrain".
(via BBC)

Great news, eh?

What next? A generation of warfare? A wall? Where would we build it?

Mission accomplished? Not! 

As always, the numbers tell the story.

(Via BBC via The Agonist.

This kind of stunt pisses me off so much I can't even write about it. 

President Bush, fulfilling a 15-month-old promise, scheduled a jog around the South Lawn Wednesday with a soldier badly wounded in Afghanistan.
(via AP)

Christians don't lie 

Ashcroft lies (via Atrios).

Therefore, Ashcroft is not a Christian.


(Roger Ailes wrote:

His review showed, [Ashcroft] testified, that there was "no covert action program to kill bin Laden."

But several commissioners disagreed. They cited the 1998 "memorandum of notification" signed by Clinton, which was found among the documents that the Bush White House originally refused to turn over to the commission.

Imagine that!

Joseph Wilson's book on the way 

You know, the one where he outs the outer of Valerie Plame.

Preorder The Politics of Truth here.

Drip, drip, drip....

Iraqi insurgency: Sadr, negotiations, and the dry humor of the Ayatollahs 

Superb analysis from Juan Cole. Go read.

A reasonable wrapup of Bush's press conference from Howie the Whore 


At least he gives a lot of links.

The CW seems to be that Bush changed few minds. I still think that's a win for us, since that means the drip, drip, drip dynamic is still in place.

Did Bush really give a speech at the start that took 17 minutes of a 60 minute news conference?

And what's up with the tie? The Bush media operation is famously disciplined—who let him go on national TV looking like a 60's acid casuality?

And how about the turkey farm and the mustard gas? Twice, yet. Was that bizarre? Has Bush been secretly reading Atrios on "Preznit give me turkee"?

And call me cynical, but I don't really see how Bush can lie his way into a war, and then grieve with the families whose children he sent to die. That kind of contradiction is what makes my head explode whenever I watch the guy.

Republicans cut back on the air war because it hasn't moved the numbers 

Why would that be, I wonder?

Despite its unprecedented fundraising success, President Bush's reelection team is scaling back its massive level of television advertising, according to senior Republicans familiar with the campaign's planning.

In the next few weeks, viewers in the 18 states where the ads have aired since early March will see about 30% fewer a week, one ranking GOP strategist said.

Of course, they claim the cutbacks were planned.

Anthony Corrado, an expert on campaign finance at Colby College in Maine, said that since March 4 — just after Kerry in effect wrapped up his party's nomination — Bush has bought about as much television advertising as past presidential candidates purchased for the entire general election campaign.

"And frankly," Corrado said, the president's campaign "didn't move the [poll] numbers that much."

He added: "The Bush campaign came out heavy, both in terms of volume and with some of their strongest attacks, and they didn't get a knockout."
(via LA Times)

As they say in the Navy: You can't buff a turd.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Good night, moon 

And don't stand under the turkeys when they fly overhead.

NOTE I took the tie picture down. Alert reader nope says it was some kind of moire pattern. Damn, but many thanks. What I get for not being media-minded, I guess.

So, how did Bush do? Any signs of the earpiece? 

I don't have a TV, so I couldn't watch with the sound turned down even if I wanted to.

NOTE Pandagon are, as usual, blogging live.

President delivers opening statement on Iraq before White House news conference (MSNBC via WaPo.)

Bush certainly doesn't look good. And what's with the tie? Is he on the brown acid, or what?

UPDATE Seems like AP is putting the transcript up in near real-time:

BUSH: This has been tough weeks in that country.

Yep, it's the brown acid, alright.

UPDATE Some lowlights:

Non-answer: Why Bush is appearing with Cheney before the 9/11 commission

QUESTION: Mr. President, why are you and the vice president insisting on appearing together before the 9-11 commission? And, Mr. President, who will we be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30th?

BUSH: We'll find that out soon. That's what Mr. Brahimi is doing. He's figuring out the nature of the entity we'll be handing sovereignty over.

And, secondly, because the 9-11 commission wants to ask us questions, that's why we're meeting. And I look forward to meeting with them and answering their questions.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) I was asking why you're appearing together, rather than separately, which was their request.

BUSH: Because it's a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9-11 commission is looking forward to asking us. And I'm looking forward to answering them.
(via AP)

I don't see an answer. Do you see an answer?

Scripted? Yes, it was scripted

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

BUSH: I've got some must-calls. I'm sorry.
(via AP)

[UPDATE: Alert reader Matt corrects me on the must calls:

[Re:] "must-calls." Every president since Reagan has come to each press conference with a list of the first 8-12 reporters to call on, to make sure all the wire service and network and major newspaper reporters get their turn. Until at least last time, they didn't have to submit the questions in advance, but the order for the first several questions has been pre-determined for about 20 years.

It's only after those reporters have had their shot that the President starts taking questions from the floor, and that's when he snapped tonight about not calling on anyone who shouted. He probably also had a list of other suggested questioners, or at least a seating chart with names and affiliations. That's how he knew to call on Don Gonyer of NPR, whom he admitted he'd never called on before.

I still wouldn't put it past them to force the questions to be cleared in advance, though.

I can think of some other farms with turkeys...

BUSH: By the way, they found [in Libya], I think, 50 tons of mustard gas, I believe it was, in a turkey farm, only because he was willing to disclose where the mustard gas was. But that made the world safer.
(via AP)

Certainly a reason for our troops to die. No question.

Sick and bizarre

BUSH: One of my hardest parts of my job is to console the family members, who've lost their life. It's a chance to hug and weep and to console, and to remind the loved ones that the sacrifice of their loved one was done in the name of security for America and freedom for the world.
(via AP)


BUSH: One of the things that's very important, Judy, at least as far as I'm concerned, is to never allow our youngsters to die in vain. And I made that pledge to their parents. Withdrawing from the battlefield of Iraq would be just that, and it's not going to happen under my watch.
(via AP)

The very definition of a quagmire. Because some died, more must die, otherwise the deaths are in vain. And let's infantilize the troops. Yech!

Scripted? Yes, it's scripted!

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you'd made in your life, and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa.

You've looked back before 9-11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9-11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have learned from it?

BUSH: I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it.

[Alert reader says norbizness says "This is the question that had him frozen like a deer in the headlights." Readers, did it really play that badly on TV?]

Now read the whole response. Is there any sign Bush can ever admit a mistake?

BUSH: John, I'm sure historians will look back and say, gosh, he could've done it better this way or that way. You know, I just - I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with answer, but it hadn't yet.

I would've gone into Afghanistan the way we went into Afghanistan. Even knowing what I know today about the stockpiles of weapons, I still would've called upon the world to deal with Saddam Hussein.

What is it that you know??!?! That they didn't exist?

BUSH: See, I'm of the belief that we'll find out the truth on the weapons. That's why we sent up the independent commission.

Huh? What commission was "sent up"? Not David Kay?

BUSH: I look forward to hearing the truth as to exactly where they are. They could still be there. They could be hidden, like the 50 tons of mustard gas in a turkey farm.

And there's that turkey farm again. Beautiful plumage!

At this point, they only way the "truth" could correspond to Bush's beliefs is if some CPA contractors planted them (or papers about them, or plans).

BUSH: One of the things that Charlie Duelfer talked about was that he was surprised of the level of intimidation he found amongst people who should know about weapons and their fear of talking about them because they don't want to be killed.

You know, there's this kind of - there's a terror still in the soul of some of the people in Iraq.
(via AP)

Fah. When we can offer millions of dollars in reward money and a new identity, we can't even get Ahmed Chalabi to fake a scientist for us? What a load of bollocks.

Our CEO President

BUSH: Let's see. Last question here. Hold on for a second. Those who yell will not be ask - I tell you a guy who I have never heard from.

[mush deleted]

BUSH: One thing is for certain, though, about me, and the world has learned this: When I say something, I mean it.
(via AP)

Except for things like, oh, the PDBs, meeting with the 9/11 commission for only an hour, et cetera, et cetera et cetera (via Kos). There's actually quite a list of things that Bush said, and turned out not to mean—outright lies and bait and switch aside, it's still quite a list.

AP has some person in the street reaction.

My gut take: Unless there's something the small screen conveys that I'm missing—was that tie really as goofy as it looked?—I don't think Bush hurt himself. That's a win for us, because he needed to help himself. And I'll be interested to see how that "mustard gas on a turkey farm" bit plays. The performance by the press corps was utterly shoddy, as they allowed themselves to be manipulated by the scripting, but we've come to expect that.


Well, the US just bombed Fallujah with F16s 

The Agonist (and Al Jazeera) and it looks like the holy city of Najaf is next (Reuters).

This should set us in solid with Sistani, yes indeedy. What was that I kept hearing about a truce? And just in time for Bush's news conference, too!

UPDATE More from Juan Cole: Sistani's strongly-worded message to the US warning them against attacking Najaf.

Iraq insurgency: Negroponte to be ambassador to Baghdad 

And the embassy building is going to be the largest in the world.

John D. Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who played a central role in trying to win support for war with Iraq, is emerging as the leading candidate for the sensitive job of ambassador to Baghdad.

Negroponte, 64, is a career foreign service officer whom President Bush recruited from the corporate world to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

There, he helped win approval of a resolution to expand the mandate of an international security force in Afghanistan after the overthrow of the Taliban government.

Negroponte's nomination for the U.N. post was confirmed by the Senate in September 2001 after a half-year delay caused mostly by criticism of his record as the U.S. ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985.

There he played a prominent role in assisting the Contras in Nicaragua in their war with the left-wing Sandinista government, which was aligned with Cuba and the Soviet Union.

For weeks before his Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Negroponte was questioned by staff members on whether he had acquiesced to human rights abuses by a Honduran death squad funded and partly trained by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Negroponte testified that he did not believe the abuses were part of a deliberate Honduran government policy. "To this day," he said, "I do not believe that death squads were operating in Honduras."
(via AP)

"See no evil," eh? Negroponte should do just fine....

RPG price on eBay 

A rocket propelled grenade launcher costs $100 (thanks to alert reader scaramouche).

On the other hand, our helicopters, tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and Hummers are very, very expensive.

Questions for Bush 

Yes, he's having a news conference today, and I'm sure there are a lot of questions people would like to ask him.

I'll start.

Q: Mr. Bush, do you believe, as do many of your supporters, that the Earth is only 6000 years old?

Q: As a follow up, Sir, can you tell your supporters what steps you have taken to bring about the Rapture? (alert reader attaturk )


Thank you Mr. President...I was assuming this would be a joint press conference....Where is Mr. Cheney? (alert reader MQ)

UPDATE Tbogg brings back happy memories of the last Bush press conference—the scripted one. I wonder if this one will be scripted too?

Bush as uniter: The birth of Iraqi nationalism 

We've heard the insurgency called a "two front war." That's not good news for the occupation. What if the news is worse, and the insurgency is a war of national liberation?

The lopsided battle 35 miles to the west [in Fallujah] -- where 2,500 Marines have been deployed -- has had a profound impact here, redefining for many in Baghdad the nature of the campaign against U.S. troops.

Intense, sympathetic and often startlingly graphic coverage on Arab channels has deepened a vein of nationalism, stirred in part by still unconfirmed reports of high civilian casualties. Over the weekend, in the living room of a decidedly secular family, a woman wept over the images on a screen she finally leaned forward and kissed.

Headlines in Iraq's newly free press reinforce the video images: "Fallujah Wakes to a Grave Massacre" read the banner in Monday's edition of the daily Azzaman. Fresh graffiti sprayed in sweeping Arabic letters is turning up across the city. On one wall in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Jihad, the messages were spaced 10 yards apart: "Long live Fallujah's heroes." "Down with America and long live the Mahdi Army," a Shiite militia. Then: "Long live the resistance in Fallujah." And finally, "Long live the resistance."

The popular response -- of Shiite and Sunni giving aid, shelter to refugees and even volunteers to the fight -- has pushed fears of an Iraqi civil war to the background. The fighters in Fallujah are said to include Mahdi Army militiamen loyal to the radical cleric Moqtada Sadr. A housewife in Baghdad's Salaam neighborhood told of a passionate argument with her husband, a Shiite who insisted on joining friends volunteering to fight in Fallujah.

"This is jihad," she quoted him as saying. She added: "It was the first time he ever slapped me."

Some here are already speaking with the sense of history -- that powerful, deeply symbolic myths are being created.

"What is striking is how much has changed in a week -- a week," said Wamid Nadhmi, a political science professor at Baghdad University. "No one can talk about the Sunni Triangle anymore. No one can seriously talk about Sunni-Shiite fragmentation or civil war. The occupation cannot talk about small bands of resistance. Now it is a popular rebellion and it has spread."

"I think it will be bigger than Karameh," he added.
(via WaPo)

Waist deep in the big muddy...

With friends like these ... 

Every so often, I read the Christian Broadcasting Network, and they unearthed this nugget:

On Monday at a press conference with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Bush said the FBI's 70 on-going investigations in 2001 on al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden gave him comfort.

Bush said, "It meant the FBI was doing its job. The FBI was running down any lead. And, I will tell you this, if they had found something they would have reported back to me. That's the way the system works."
(via CBN)

No, it isn't. As the 9/11 Commission is in the process of showing.

Bush just seems goofily passive and weirdly ignorant of how stuff gets done in DC. It's a Federal system, with separation of powers. Conflict is built in. (That's why Condi's excuse that it is a "structural" problem is so pathetically naive.) The FBI is an independent agency, in fact and even more so politically. That isn't a "technical" problem to be solved with better information systems.

It isn't enough to wait for a report to come back! You have to shake the trees!

Oh, my head. I can feel it starting to explode again.

What if Gore had won.... 

This is one of those jokes that isn't even funny, because it's true:

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Al Gore was impeached by the House of Representatives but not convicted by the Senate, thanks only to the vote of Senator Jim Jeffords (R, VT) who was the only Republican to vote against Gore's removal from office. The historic vote ended a three-year fight by the Republican party to repudiate what Rep. Tom Delay called Gore's "reckless, evil and unnecessary" response to the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001.
(via Oliver Willis: Read the whole thing)

Oh, surely not.

Kerry's WaPo OpEd on Iraq strategy 

I was wondering what to say about this, but go read Pandagon.

Personally, I think Kerry's wise not to say too much on this—it's an old political maxim never to attack an enemy who's in the process of destroying himself all on this own. OTOH, maybe Kerry believes this is, oh, an issue of national importance or something, and really wants to start a policy debate. Will Ed Gillespie extend the right hand of good fellowship, I wonder?

Iraq insurgency: Why killing the latest "bad guy," Sadr, won't work 

Excellent analysis from the essential Juan Cole:

The problem with this approach is that the Sadrists are a widespread social movement whose history goes back over a decade, and killing Muqtada [Sadr] will not end the movement. There are lots of potential successors to Muqtada [Sadr]. The chief characteristic of the Sadrists is their cheekiness. They were cheeky to Saddam, and they will be cheeky to Gen. Abizaid. They are desperately poor ghetto dwellers, they don't like The Man, and they think they have nothing to lose in taking Him on. If the US military thinks this is a military problem with a military solution, they are just clueless. Someone on a discussion list said that Iraq is not Vietnam because this time the generals are in charge, and they know what they are doing. The US officers in Iraq are bright, dedicated persons, but they don't know squat about Iraq (even Abizaid, a Lebanese Christian, is hardly an Iraq expert), and it also isn't at all clear that they are setting the agenda. Going after Muqtada [Sadr], for instance, almost certainly was the idea of the civilian politicians in the CPA and the Department of Defense.
(via Informed Comment)

Thanks, RNC operatives in the "Republican Palace", for using brute force and ignorance to make a bad situation far worse.

Krugman: On our way out, leave the golden key under the mat for the moderate Shi'ites 

I'm so tired of hearing that infantilizing "bad guys" rhetoric. So, apparently, is Krugman.

When will we learn that we're not going to end the mess in Iraq by getting bad guys? There are always new bad guys to take their place. And let's can the rhetoric about staying the course. In fact, we desperately need a change in course.

The best we can realistically hope for now is to turn power over to relatively moderate Iraqis with a real base of popular support. Yes, that mainly means Islamic clerics. The architects of the war will complain bitterly, and claim that we could have achieved far more. But they've been wrong about everything so far — and if we keep following their advice, Iraq really will turn into another Vietnam.
(via The Times)

Sistani, Sistani I love you Sistani,
Your’e always a day away...

Heck, I guess I'd better leave this lyrical stuff to alert reader MJS.

Bush: Talking the talk, or walking the walk? 

Talking the talk:

[BUSH]: "We stand for a culture of responsibility in America. We're changing the culture of this country from one that has said, if it feels good, do it, and if you got a problem, blame somebody else, to a culture in which each of us are responsible for the decisions we make in life."
(via EJ Dionne in WaPo)

But not walking the walk.

I was satisfied that some matters were being looked into.

Talk is cheap.

Iraq insurgency: The Viet Nam comparison 

Richard Cohen is good today:

Here are the reasons Iraq is not Vietnam: It is a desert, not a jungle. The enemy is not protected and supplied by major powers such as the Soviet Union or China, not to mention a formidable front-line state such as North Vietnam. The Iraqis are not, like the Vietnamese, a single culture fighting a long-term war of liberation from colonial masters. They are fragmented by religion and language, and they have been independent ever since the British left lo these many years ago. In almost every way but one, Iraq is not Vietnam. Here's the one: We don't know what the hell we're doing.
(via WaPo)

The cynical view, of course, is that we thought we knew what we were doing. There seemed to be no real reason to light the match by closing down Sadr's newspaper, leading me to think it's all election year politics: burst the guy's bubble now. Too bad it wasn't a bubble, there was no back-up plan, and that the unintended consequence has been to bring about a nascent Iraqi nationalism—directed against us.

Even with our eyes open, we were blind as a bat.

It is the same in Iraq. We went to war for the wrong reasons, and with too few troops and too few allies. Just about every expectation turned out to be misplaced. The occupation has not been financed by oil revenue, as we were assured. The Iraqi army and police are not, as promised, up to the task of maintaining order. Americans were often greeted as liberators, but also as conquerors. The United States did not commit enough troops to intimidate looters and the civilian leaders we backed turned out to have larger followings in Georgetown than in Baghdad. Victory remains possible, but first we'll have to figure out what victory is.

The lesson of Vietnam is that once you make the initial mistake, little you do afterward is right.

Yep, quagmires are like that.

Iraq insurgency: Helicopter downed by RPG 

No US soldiers killed.

U.S. military helicopter crashed outside Fallujah on Tuesday, but there was no indication anyone in the crew was killed or injured, a Marine commander said.

U.S. troops blew up the downed craft to keep it from being looted, he said. Insurgents said they shot it down with a rocket-propelled grenade.
(via The Globe, AP)

Pesky grenades. Wonder how much an RPG costs on eBay?

Iraq insurgency: We're bringing back Saddam's generals?! 

First, Bremer disbands the entire Iraqi army, and sends them home—with their weapons.

Now, we're going to put Saddam's generals back on the job? WTF? Given that Saddam's regime was as bad as Bush says, isn't this kind of like putting Hermann Goering back in charge of the German army after World War II—without de-Nazification? How will this play among the Iraqis, I wonder?

"It's ... very clear that we've got to get more senior Iraqis involved - former military types involved in the security forces," [Gen. John Abizaid] said. "In the next couple of days you'll see a large number of senior officers being appointed to key positions in the ministry of defense and the Iraqi joint staff and in Iraqi field commands."
(via AP)

Curiouser and curiouser.

Iraq insurgency: Civilian casualties 

How the story plays in Iraq:

More than 600 Iraqis have been killed in Fallujah since the siege began on April 5, said the head of the city hospital, Rafie al-Issawi. Most of the dead registered at hospitals and clinics were women, children and elderly, he said.
(via AP)

See back here on US tactics and the high number of civilian deaths.

Nice timing, Crisco Johnny! 

Nice timing by the 9/11 Commission too, releasing this on the day of Ashcroft's testimony....

The day before the Sept. 11 attacks, Attorney General John Ashcroft rejected an FBI appeal for an extra infusion of money for counterterrorism, according to a Sept. 11 commission staff statement released Tuesday.

The commission staff statement quotes a former FBI counterterrorism chief, Dale Watson, as saying he "almost fell out of his chair" when he saw a May 10 budget memo from Ashcroft listing seven priorities, including illegal drugs and gun violence, but not terrorism.
(via AP)

I guess Ashcroft didn't get the memo.

Of course, throwing money at the problem never solves anything (unless you're a CEO, or Halliburton, of course).

Monday, April 12, 2004

Good night, moon 

Again, what a day.

And FTF.

Iraq insurgency: US uses crude tactics against Iraqi civilians seen as untermenschen 

Take up the white man's burden...

Speaking from his base in southern Iraq, [a senior British officer] said: "My view and the view of the British chain of command is that the Americans' use of violence is not proportionate and is over-responsive to the threat they are facing. They don't see the Iraqi people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen. They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are."

The phrase untermenschen - literally "under-people" - was brought to prominence by Adolf Hitler in his book Mein Kampf, published in 1925. He used the term to describe those he regarded as racially inferior: Jews, Slavs and gypsies.

Although no formal complaints have as yet been made to their American counterparts, the officer said the British Government was aware of its commanders' "concerns and fears".

The officer explained that, under British military rules of war, British troops would never be given clearance to carry out attacks similar to those being conducted by the US military, in which helicopter gunships have been used on targets in urban areas.

British rules of engagement only allow troops to open fire when attacked, using the minimum force necessary and only at identified targets. The American approach was markedly different, the officer said.

"When US troops are attacked with mortars in Baghdad, they use mortar-locating radar to find the firing point and then attack the general area with artillery, even though the area they are attacking may be in the middle of a densely populated residential area.

"They may well kill the terrorists in the barrage, but they will also kill and maim innocent civilians.
That has been their response on a number of occasions. It is trite, but American troops do shoot first and ask questions later."

The officer believed America had now lost the military initiative in Iraq, and it could only be regained with carefully planned, precision attacks against the insurgents.
(from The Age, via Juan Cole)


But "General" Kimmit—since when did a PR flak get to be a General, anyhow?—claimed that reports of numerous civilian casualties in the latest fighting are products of "propaganda machines that are operating inside of Fallujah"! (CNN)

Oh well. I guess that was just part of Operation Steaming Load....

Great to see the SCLM picking this story up. Oh, wait...

UPDATE As far as having "lost the military initiative": It sure looks like it. See this article from Reuters. I'm to tired to lampoon the quotes from the wingers who think that flattening Fallujah is the answer, but have at it yourselves, if you like.

Sistani edges closer to Sadr 

Guess whatever deal Bush tried to make with his Eminence, the Shi'ite moderate Sistani didn't work. (Sistani, no fool, must understand that making a deal with Bush is, well, about as smart as Max Cleland voting for tax cuts on the assumption that would buy him some safety.)

The sons of Iraq's top Shiite cleric and two other grand ayatollahs met Monday with radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, telling him they oppose any U.S. assault to capture him, a man who attended the meeting told The Associated Press.

Al-Sistani's son, Mohammed Rida, often serves as his main envoy: The 75-year-old grand ayatollah never leaves his home, which is not far from al-Sadr's office.

The rare gathering reflected the depth of Shiite Muslims fears of military action in Najaf, their holiest city. The top cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani - a moderate who opposes anti-U.S. violence - has long kept the young, vehemently anti-American al-Sadr at arm's length.

"They agreed not to allow any hostile act against Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr and the city of Najaf," said the man in the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said the meeting took place in al-Sadr's office, where his supporters said he moved to from Kufa several days ago and where he has remained holed up, surrounded by armed militiamen.

But the unexpected strength shown by al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army militia in last week's uprising has increased his influence, and the prospect of a U.S. military operation in Najaf is alarming to Iraq's Shiites.

Al-Sadr office is a stone's throw from the Imam Ali Shrine, raising the possibility of damage to the holiest Shiite site in Iraq if he is targeted in an attack. The shrine also is the third holiest in the world after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

The pullback by al-Sadr appeared to be an attempt to avert U.S. action, though al-Sadr followers rejected another U.S demand - the dissolution of the al-Mahdi Army.
(via AP)

Well, Bush is certainly uniting the Sunnis, and the Shi'ites, both radical and moderate. Think he'll go for the trifecta, and get the Kurds pissed off at us too? (It would be interesting to know if we are aiming the Kurds at Syria.)

Now Scalia flipflops on confiscating reporters' tapes. Will wonders never cease? 

Yes, Scalia apologized for having his goons violate federal law (WaPo) by seizing reporters's tapes:

Justice [sic] Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court has apologized to two Mississippi reporters who were required to erase recordings of a speech he gave at a high school there on Wednesday.

The reporters, for The Associated Press and a local newspaper, had been told by a deputy federal marshal to destroy the recordings at the end of a half-hour speech by the justice at the Presbyterian Christian High School in Hattiesburg.

The marshal cited the justice's standing policy prohibiting the recording of his remarks. The policy had not been announced at the high school.
(via NY Times)

Memo to Fat Tony: If you want to know what else to apologize for, I've got a list.

Memo to alert readers: Scalia seems to feel the need to prevent bad publicity in the press. I sure hope that doesn't signal BOHICA on the case now before the court where Dick "Dick" Cheney wants to keep his energy task force papers secret from the citizens who paid for them.

Bush's eyes 

I don't have a TV, so every so often I ask my Mom what was on the news, and today she said that Bush's eyes looked "strange." Not just that his eyes looked "nervous" but there was "something behind them." Then she had to think, and said what was behind Bush's eyes was "disbelief, as if he couldn't believe what was happening to him."

OK, I'm fine with that.

And I think I know what Bush can't believe is happening to him: It's the Plame Affair, and the prospect of having to get a lawyer. Joe Wilson's book is coming out this month, and Wilson has said he's going to name the leaker. (Cf. Atrios here.)

NOTE OK, I admit it. This is in the print version of Vanity Fair. I broke down and bought it. I feel... so used.... Maybe that's just the perfume inserts, though. It sure isn't the table of contents—that isn't usable at all. [rimshot. Laughter. [material recycled from Leah. [Put it in a box, it'll never get their in brackets. [OK, it's late...]]]]

Real men attack Teheran 

Waist deep in the Big Muddy:

Neo-conservatives close to the administration of President George W Bush are pushing for retribution against Iran for, they say, sponsoring this week's Shia uprising in Iraq led by radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr.

But independent experts say that while Iran has no doubt provided various forms of assistance to Shia factions in Iraq since the ouster of former President Saddam Hussein one year ago, its relations with Sadr have long been rocky, and that it has opposed radical actions that could destabilize the situation.

"Those elements closest to Iran among the Shia leaders (in Iraq) have been the most moderate through all of this," according to Shaul Bakhash, an Iran expert at George Mason University here.

The Iran hand was first raised in connection with Sadr's revolt by Michael Rubin, who just returned as a "governance team adviser" for the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq to his previous position as a resident fellow at AEI.

Another senior CPA adviser, Larry Diamond, a neo-conservative who specializes in democratization at the California-based Hoover Institution, told IPS this week that Sadr's Mahdi Army, and other Shia militias, are being armed and financed by Iran with the aim of imposing "another Iranian-style theocracy".

On Tuesday, the 'Wall Street Journal's editorial page took up the same theme, arguing that Sadr has talked "openly of creating an Iranian-style Islamic Republic in Iraq (and) has visited Tehran since the fall of Saddam. His Mahdi militia is almost certainly financed and trained by Iranians," the editorial continued, adding, "Revolutionary Guards may be instigating some of the current unrest".

"As for Tehran, we would hope the Sadr uprising puts to rest the illusion that the mullahs (in Tehran) can be appeased. As Bernard Lewis teaches, Middle Eastern leaders interpret American restraint as weakness. Iran's mullahs fear a Muslim democracy in Iraq because is it a direct threat to their own rule."

"If warnings to Tehran from Washington don't impress them, perhaps some cruise missiles aimed at the Bushehr nuclear site will concentrate their minds," the Journal suggested.-Dawn/The InterPress News Service.
(via Hi Pakistan)

Thanks to alert reader Xan for the pointer to Hi Pakistan—whoever they are, they get the WSJ, which is more than unfunded bloggers can do.

The CPA is, of course, a nest of Republican operatives and a branch of the RNC (back).

Half a league, half a league, half a league onward.....

UPDATE A little tu quoque from alert reader pfc:

Cruise missles thrown at a plant in a Muslim country? Isn't that defined by this administration as "swatting at flies"?

Rapture index closes up 3, on Leadership, Global Turmoil, and Gog 

The "Help America Vote" Act turns even more Orwellian 

Yet more Americans disenfranchised:

Many overseas Americans - possibly thousands - may not be able to vote in this year's presidential election because of an omission during the latest round of U.S. electoral reform, according to U.S. officials and organizations representing Americans abroad.

Left out of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 were young Americans who have never lived in the United States but who do have U.S. citizenship through an American parent.

While some states allow these youths to register at the voting address of their parents, more than three-quarters of the states do not, leaving a significant slice of U.S. citizens abroad effectively disfranchised as they come of age.

"There is no federal legislation on this at present," said Polli Brunelli, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program. "The states are the ones who administer elections. They pass the laws on voting."

Gee, I wonder if there are more disenfranchised voters in Red States or Blue States? What do you think? Let's look:

Twelve states allow Americans who have always resided abroad and are children of U.S. citizens to use a parent's voting address, Brunelli said in a telephone interview from Washington. The states are Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Organizations representing Americans abroad put the number of civilians overseas at 4.1 million.

Of those, the number who have always lived abroad and have turned 18 since the last presidential election in 2000 - when overseas absentee ballots became an issue in the Bush-Gore count - is unknown.

"There could be thousands in that category," said Lucy Laederich, a Paris-based nonpartisan advocate for overseas Americans. "But of course we'll never know until we're counted in the census." has a full panoply of information about voting for overseas Americans, with links to many other sites. is the official site of the Federal Voting Assistance Program.
(via The Herald Trib)

A razor thin election, and yet more Blue State voters disenfranchised. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Can we get some international monitors for election 2004?

Memes and the memo 

An interesting sample from Reuters. Content aside:

K.B. Forbes, a Republican operative who has worked on the presidential campaigns of Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes, said most undecided voters would make up their minds on the election in September and October, by which time the memo would be a footnote.

"I don't think it's politically damaging. What is hurting Bush much more than this is the quagmire in Iraq," he said.

(via Reuters)

Looks like the reporter has been reading the blogosphere, doesn't it? "Operative", "quagmire"....

I also love the way that the SCLM goes to Republicans all the time for "objective" advice. Working on the principle that this is just disinformation, it looks like the memo must be really hurting Bush. And why wouldn't it?

Things must be really bad: President earpiece is holding a news conference! 

And in other news, Xanax stocks are up.

As he further defended his administration's actions prior to Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush said Monday that he would answer questions surrounding the information in a pre-Sept. 11 intelligence memo in his first press conference of the year Tuesday night
(via WaPo)

Iraq insurgency: Bush's rhetoric of "tough" 

OK, you want to read my sympathetic post on the guy, go back.




From Dear Leader:

We're plenty tough and we'll remain tough.
(via WhiteWash House)

Where to begin? Who ever said toughness was the essential here? Has being "tough", all by itself, ever done any good? Don't honesty and intelligence count? I don't care if the President is a wuss or fucks goats, as long as he leaves the country in better shape than he found at—and at this Bush has been a miserable failure

Bush is confusing being tough with being vicious. We all know Bush is vicious and vindictive toward those he sees as enemies: McCain, Plame, Iraqi insurgents—it's all the same to Bush.

But Bush, tough? When he just got rolled on the PDB? I don't think so.

Iraq insurgency: Getting our supply lines in order 

A top priority:

The military has been trying to regain control of supply routes after several convoys were ambushed at least 10 truck drivers kidnapped. Nine were released, but an American -- Thomas Hamill of Macon, Miss. -- remained a captive.

On Monday, a convoy of flatbed trucks carrying M113 armored personnel carriers was attacked and burned on a road in Latifiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad. Witnesses said three people were killed.

A supply truck was also ambushed and set ablaze Monday on the road from Baghdad's airport. Looters moved in to carry away goods from the truck as Iraqi police looked on without intervening.

An attack on a convoy Sunday killed a Romanian working for a security company, Romania's ambassador to Iraq said. Two German security guards were killed on a highway last week, prompting Germany to urge all of its citizens to leave Iraq on Monday.

Securing roads has now become a top priority for the military, U.S. Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said Monday.
(via SF Chonicle)

Funny thing: I remember our supply lines being vulnerable a year ago in the war—all the way from the gulf up to Baghdad. I sure hope the cities Sadr seized weren't, you know, strategic or anything....

NOTE The Agonist has a good round up.

Good question! 

And asked by a Republican, James Pinkerton:

If you knew that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had received a memo a month before Pearl Harbor entitled, "Japanese Determined to Attack the United States in the Pacific," and that he had done nothing about that information, would that knowledge change your perception of FDR as a wise war leader?
(from Newsday via Josh Marshall)

From drip, drip, drip to splash, splash, splash....

Bush at prayer 

Bush's words:

And today, on bended knee, I thank the good Lord for protecting those of our troops overseas, and our coalition troops and innocent Iraqis who suffer at the hands of some of these senseless killings by people who are trying to shake our will.
(via WhiteWash House)

There's a lot I could say about Bush's words, but I want to focus on the act of prayer itself. Let's look at how one author with enlightenment values (Shakespeare) portrays a ruler at prayer, and what it means for a ruler to pray. Bear with me for the long quotation: I think it's important and revealing.

[KING:] O, my offence is rank it smells to heaven; ...
         Then I'll look up;
My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn?
'Forgive me my foul murder'?
That cannot be; since I am still possess'd
Of those effects for which I did the murder,
My crown, mine own ambition and my queen.
May one be pardon'd and retain the offence?
In the corrupted currents of this world
Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice,
And oft 'tis seen the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law: but 'tis not so above;
There is no shuffling, there the action lies
In his true nature; and we ourselves compell'd,
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
To give in evidence.
What then? what rests?
Try what repentance can: what can it not?
Yet what can it when one can not repent?
O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
O limed soul, that, struggling to be free,
Art more engaged!
Help, angels! Make assay!
Bow, stubborn knees; and, heart with strings of steel,
Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe!
My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.
(via href="">Hamlet, Act III, scene 3)

I'll give Bush the benefit of the doubt, and take his claim that he prays seriously, seriously.

All the same, I doubt very much whether Bush's prayers are efficicacious.

"May one be pardoned and retain the offense"? Bush starts a war, politically timed, fuelled by lies, run by operatives from his party, benefitting party contributors, and used for political purposes to portray him as a "war president." That's "retaining the offense," in my book. If the Lord is keeping the troops safe, it isn't because Bush is praying for them.

"Oft 'tis seen the wicked prize itself / Buys out the law: but 'tis not so above." The tactics that worked so well for Bush in Florida won't work when Bush prays.

"We ourselves compell'd, Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults, to give in evidence. " Bush can't stonewall the Lord, or tell him he'll only talk with Dick Cheney by his side, or give the Lord only one hour.

"What can it when one can not repent?" Bush never apologizes for anything; but that is a sign of a deeper character flaw: he isn't capable of repentance. How much would it have cost him to say what Clarke said before the 9/11 commission, and ask for forgiveness? Nothing. And it would have been a political masterstroke. But he can't repent.

"O limed soul, that, struggling to be free, / Art more engaged!" This is an exact description of a quagmire, or should I say qWagmire: the more Bush struggles, the deeper he gets. Sad but true: Bush's spiritual quagmire is mirrored in our Iraq quagmire.

You know, I started out this post by calling Bush's prayer a "shameful piece of sanctimony," and then I that out. Reading Shakespeare's words, I almost feel for Bush, as much as one can feel for a Shakespearean villain. No wonder Bush looks "drawn and somber" (here. King Claudius probably did too. Like Claudius, Bush seems to think that the outward form of "kneeling" will be efficacious in itself, when in fact prayer is inward.

"Words without thoughts never to heaven go."

No, they don't. And now, of course, it's too late for his words to mean anything. You know, they call Hamlet a tragedy for a reason....

UPDATE Alert reader pansypoo asked for the Macbeth reference. It was back here (check the links ;-).

White House Releases Second PDB 

Washington (AP) -- Seeking to stem a rising tide of incredulity, the Bush Administration released a second President's Daily Briefing today, to show reporters what National Security Advisor Condi Rice meant by describing them as "historical", with "no actionable items." The latest one is a copy of today's PDB, and unlike the August 6, 2001 PDB, unredacted.

President's Daily Briefing and Word Jumble for April 12, 2004

Soviets Determined to Achieve Supremacy in Outer Space; Suspected Islamists Determined to Bomb Oklahoma City Federal Building

Today in History

  • Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin became the first human being to travel into space. During the flight, the 27-year-old test pilot and industrial technician also became the first man to orbit the planet, a feat accomplished by his space capsule in 89 minutes. He orbited Earth at a maximum altitude of 187 miles and was guided entirely by an automatic control system. The only statement attributed to Gagarin during his one hour and 48 minutes in space was, "Flight is proceeding normally; I am well."
  • The Civil War started. No foreign involvement suspected.

True Americans Born on this Day

  • Vince Gill
  • Tom Clancy

Also this Month

  • On April 19, 1993, members of a Texas faith-based group trying to exercise its First and Second Amendment rights were killled in cold blood by jackbooted thugs from the Clinton Administration.
  • Exactly two years later, terrorists exploded a home-made bomb outside the Alfred R. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City killing hundreds of people including children.
  • Although some concluded from the coincidence that the attacks were in revenge for the earlier killings in Texas, and although two American men were convicted in the attacks, suspicions remain of Islamist involvement. Currently there are 70 investigations underway seeking to establish this connection, both within government agencies and in the press. Although no evidence has been found, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, as we know.

Today's Word Jumble

________ _______



Connect the Dots

Draw a line connecting the items in Column A with the correct item in Column B
A                                                        B
Saddam Hussein                              Oklahoma City
                                                        World Trade Center 1993
                                                         Joe Wilson

Your Fortune

You work hard and have the respect of all god-fearing true Americans. You've earned a vacation.

George: Do you bring an umbrella when it looks like rain? 

[BUSH] "There was not a time and place ..."


I don't think George takes an umbrella with him when the forecast calls for rain. Weather forecasts often use percentage chances, don't give specific times (4:13 pm) and specific places (George's neighborhood).

A big tip of the Corrente hat to alert reader midderpidge!

Totally Awesome Teen Tales 

And other great momemts in minor development.

[snip] "Hi its been a long time my dad got fired from his job becuz of librals and then we had to cut off the internet too but now we're back since my mom and dad both work at mcdonalds opposite shifts plus my dad works overnights at a kinkos store. George Bush is awesome for creating a country where there's so many jobs that people can have two at the same time! I do not know how people complain about the jobs in america because the jobs are like so everywhere if you are not lazy and go look for them and you aren't a girl who doesn't get married and has libral sex and a baby." [snip]

Most likely to become a right wing radio talk show host.
Go read some more at: Angry 15 Year Olds For Bush

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

Our CEO President 

Is this the worst alibi you've ever heard, or what?

[BUSH] "There was not a time and place of an attack," he said. "It said Osama bin-Laden had designs on America. Well, I knew that."
(via VOA)

Sheesh. No one ties up the package for him with a nice pretty bow?

Let's play a little word substitution game (original here):

The document, entitled "Drug Dealers Determined to Saturate Crawford" ... said the Texas Rangers had detected "patterns of suspicious activity in Crawford consistent with preparations for dealing Xanax and other prescription drugs, including recent surveillance of clubs and bars in Crawford, Austin, and Waco."

Now, we know about about the proclivities of the Bush twins (a picture should be here, but I can't bring myself to post it).

And so does Bush.

So, faced with this report, what does Bush do? Take a nap, or maybe shake the tree a little? Maybe call the twins in, and ask them about their party plans for the next few evenings? Oh, there's that word... Plan... What was I thinking?

Fortunately, it seems that the press isn't buying the Bush spin, according Editor and Publisher. Perhaps the whores have turned....

Howell Raines on our parade 

From the print edition of the May 2004, Atlantic we have these words of wisdom from deposed Times editor Howell Raines:

The Times's image as a bastion of quality had become even more important as tabloid television, Britain's declining newspaper values, and the unsourced ranting of Internet bloggers polluted the journalistic mainstream of the United States.


Remarkably, Howell Raines manages to write a very long apologia for his ceaseless efforts to revitalize the Times newsroom without mentioning Whitewater (Jeff Gerth), the coverage of Gore in Election 2000 (Kathryn Seelye), or WMD (Judith "Kneepads" Miller), let alone the Dunciad-reminiscent prose stylings of the post-Raines "public editor," hapless and overworked Daniel Okrent.

Are they so arrogant and ignorant that they think no one is keeping track?

Memo to Howell: Read The Daily Howler.

Memo to the blogosphere: When we can work out a funding model, we'll eviscerate the Times. The "sources" of which Raines is so proud are, after all, the same 1,500 who laughed at Bush's sick jokes about WMDs.

NOTE For good Times coverage, see The A1 Project. Howell: If, as you profess, you still love The Times, you should read that too.

Bush sees Iraq war as a religious war 

That's what Bush dynasty members say, anyhow. And they release this news on Easter, yet. Disgusting!

Ask Bush family members and friends about the intersection between the war on terrorism and George W. Bush's Christian faith and you get some strong answers.

"George sees this as a religious war", one family member told us. "He doesn't have a PC view of this war. His view is that they are trying to kill the Christians. And we the Christians will strike back with more force and more ferocity than they will ever know.
(via LA Times)

Feel safer now?

The insurgents see the war as a jihaad.

Bush sees it as a crusade.

Mirrror images, anyone? And when you place two mirrors opposite each other, what happens? The reflections go on forever. Just like Bush's (very profitable) war will.

What we need is a not a war on terror but a Campaign Against Fundamentalism—at home and abroad. Of course, the wingers at the Hoover Iinstitute who shared this noxious little tidbit with us think that "Even those who don't share Bush's religious convictions should see them as a good thing. His faith compels him to wrestle with ethical questions that less religious men might simply ignore." Oh, I have to stop typing now, my head is exploding.

UPDATE As alert reader Rook reminds me: FTF.

UPDATE A-and another thing: America's most vicious and vincdictive political dynasty is in charge of a blood feud in the Middle East? In what part of their base feels is the End Times? The mind reels....

Iraq insurgency: Anatomy of a clusterfuck 

I said I wouldn't use the word "clusterfuck," but there doesn't seem to be another word that's quite as appropriate.

Let's watch the self-sucking ice cream cone at the CPA in action. Some of it will seem very familiar! Here are some of the juicy details from WaPo:

"There was a conclusion early on that this guy [Sadr] was trouble and needed to be contained," said a senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition he not be identified by name. "But there was not a clear plan on how to go about it."
(via WaPo)

"No clear plan." Sound familiar? Of course, the RNC-infested CPA has plenty of plans for shovelling money at well-connected Republican firms, back. But for managing an occupation? Zip, zilch, nada!

But the overall commander for the Middle East at the U.S. Central Command, Gen. John P. Abizaid, was hesitant to move on Sadr out of concern that arresting or killing him would simply elevate his stature, the officer said. Moderate Shiite clerics also advised the occupation authority against an arrest.

The people who will have to risk their lives, and the experts in the field, raise caution flags. Sound familiar?

With the planned handover of sovereignty less than 100 days away, political officers within the occupation authority called for more aggressive efforts to disband Sadr's militia

"Political officers." Translation: Republican operatives with their eyes on the November election. Sound familiar?

When Bremer ordered the shutdown of al-Hawza, there was no intention to use force to apprehend Sadr or leaders of his militia, according to occupation authority officials familiar with the decision.

One U.S. official said there was not even a fully developed backup plan for military action in case Sadr opted to react violently. "In hindsight, it was a huge mistake. The best-case scenario was that he would ignore it, like the earlier threat, or that he would capitulate. The worst case was that he would lash back. But we weren't ready for that."

There's no plan, but owing to political pressure, they go ahead anyway, hoping for the best. In fact, the worst happens. Sound familiar?

At the time, occupation authority officials figured that Sadr had between 3,000 and 6,000 militiamen, only 2,000 of whom were armed fighters -- a figure that turned out to be a vast underestimate. "We were relying on the most optimistic predictions possible", the official said.

The intelligence was bad, and the numbers were wildly optimistic. Sound familiar?

And while top officials may not have been familiar with military details, one senior administration official said that Washington had repeatedly advised Bremer and U.S. commanders in Iraq to ensure they were prepared for trouble if they went after Sadr.

The WhiteWash House and the DOD play cover-your-ass when things go bad. Sound familiar? (When in fact, given the fact that the CPA in Baghdad's "Republican Palace" is an arm of the RNC, there is certainly a back channel from Bush and Rove right to Bremer, and it's doubtful he makes any moves without getting the OK straight from the top. "Plausible deniability, don't you know.")

[The same day that Bremer closed Sadr's newspaper] in an unrelated incident, four American civilians working for a private security firm were ambushed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades as they drove through Fallujah.

"Unrelated incident," eh? Maybe. It would still be nice to have some real detail on what (those unfortunate) men were doing in Fallujah. That delivering food story doesn't ring true to me.

As soon as word of the incident reached Baghdad, "it was clear we would have to deliver a serious response," a senior U.S. official said. "We were going to have to do something significant to clean up the town."

So the CPA used the incident to do what it had wanted to do all along. Sound familiar?

Instead of de-escalating, the Americans kept increasing the pressure on Sadr. On Saturday, April 3, U.S. forces arrested Yaqoubi, Sadr's top deputy, on charges of involvement in the killing of Khoei, the Shiite cleric.

"We didn't choose the time for the uprising. The occupation forces did. It's clear that by arresting Sheik Yaqoubi and closing the Hawza newspaper, they wanted to provoke the Shiites," Tarfi said. "We didn't want to choose this time for the uprising."

Looks to me like Bush and the CPA operatives decided if it was going to happen, it had better happen now—before the November election. It's just that they weren't competent to execute what they had decided on. Sound familiar?

And so a cycle of violence begins. Many Americans will die. Many more Iraqis will die. But for the Republican operatives and companies that are part of the Iraqi self-sucking ice cream cone, the violence will be very, very profitable. In fact, for them, worse is better. Up to the point where they clear out with the cash and leave the mess for the Democrats to clean up. Sound familiar?

UPDATE And in related news, Bush gives prayer a bad name.

"I pray every day there are less casualties. but I know what we are doing in Iraq is right, right for long-term peace, right for the security of our country," Bush said.

"It's hard work. I thank the Good Lord for protecting those of our troops overseas and our coalition troops and innocent Iraqis suffering at the hands of these senseless killings," he added.
(via Reuters)

Oh please.

Iraq: Maybe they want their country back? But there is a plan, and that's not part of it 

From a nice piece by Naomi Klein in the ever essential Nation. Forgive the long quote, but in fact there is a plan, and Iraqi sovreignty isn't part of it. Here it is:

As the June 30 "handover" approaches, Paul Bremer has unveiled a slew of new tricks to hold on to power long after "sovereignty" has been declared.

Lots of privatization.
Some recent highlights: At the end of March, building on his Order 39 of last September, Bremer passed yet another law further opening up Iraq's economy to foreign ownership, a law that Iraq's next government is prohibited from changing under the terms of the interim constitution.

Assuming that Sistani, who has Bush by the balls (back), and regards himself as a source of law in his own right, accepts this "prohibition," of course.

Bremer also announced the establishment of several independent regulators, which will drastically reduce the power of Iraqi government ministries. For instance, the Financial Times reports that "officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority said the regulator would prevent communications minister Haider al-Abadi, a thorn in the side of the coalition, from carrying out his threat to cancel licenses the coalition awarded to foreign-managed consortia to operate three mobile networks and the national broadcaster."

Which is too bad for the Iraqis, since the mobile network our pigs at the trough are forcing on them won't work.

The CPA has also confirmed that after June 30, the $18.4 billion the US government is spending on reconstruction will be administered by the US Embassy in Iraq. The money will be spent over five years and will fundamentally redesign Iraq's most basic infrastructure, including its electricity, water, oil and communications sectors, as well as its courts and police. Iraq's future governments will have no say in the construction of these core sectors of Iraqi society.

Well, we'll have to start over again with the Police. It looks like a lot of them have vanished into the militias, carrying the weapons we thoughtfully gave them.

Retired Rear Adm. David Nash, who heads the Project Management Office, which administers the funds, describes the $18.4 billion as "a gift from the American people to the people of Iraq." He appears to have forgotten the part about gifts being something you actually give up. And in the same eventful week, US engineers began construction on fourteen "enduring bases" in Iraq, capable of housing the 110,000 soldiers who will be posted here for at least two more years. Even though the bases are being built with no mandate from an Iraqi government, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy chief of operations in Iraq, called them "a blueprint for how we could operate in the Middle East."

This paragraph is the money, I think. The bases, and a Status of Forces Agreement with some Iraqi government, any Iraqi government. For "at least two years," read "indefinitely." Saudi Arabia must be a lot more unstable than we're being told... And right astride the oil and the pipelines. Any doubts now as to why the Iraq war was fought?

The US occupation authority has also found a sneaky way to maintain control over Iraq's armed forces. Bremer has issued an executive order stating that even after the interim Iraqi government has been established, the Iraqi army will answer to US commander Lieut. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. In order to pull this off, Washington is relying on a legalistic reading of a clause in UN Security Council Resolution 1511, which puts US forces in charge of Iraq's security until "the completion of the political process" in Iraq. Since the "political process" in Iraq is never-ending, so, it seems, is US military control.

In the same flurry of activity, the CPA announced that it would put further constraints on the Iraqi military by appointing a national security adviser for Iraq. This US appointee would have powers equivalent to those held by Condoleezza Rice and will stay in office for a five-year term, long after Iraq is scheduled to have made the transition to a democratically elected government.

There is one piece of this country, though, that the US government is happy to cede to the people of Iraq: the hospitals. On March 27 Bremer announced that he had withdrawn the senior US advisers from Iraq's Health Ministry, making it the first sector to achieve "full authority" in the US occupation.
(via The Nation)

Eesh. The Iraqis get to handle the injured, the dying, and the dead, and everything else is for us. Anyhow, that's the plan. Where to begin?

The June 30th date is clearly meaningless except as a photo op for domestic political consumption. The Iraqis really don't have any sovreignty before or after that date, since the entire country is being run by the CPA.

The whole exercise is probably the biggest exercise of the spoils system in the history of the world. The RNC is running the CPA (back), and through the CPA is running the reconstruction effort, and funnelling billions of taxpayer dollars to Republican-connected firms, all without any significant budgetary oversight. And the RNC is running the mercenaries (ibid), also Republican-connected, who have formed the world's largest private army, without any oversight either. This doesn't look a lot like democracy to me, but then maybe the Republicans genuinely believe it does. Who knows?

And given that the entire exercise depends heavily on foreign contractors to build the bases, build the embassies, build the wireless networks, train the policemen, redesign the courts, et cetera, et cetera, it looks like the insurgents are doing the strategically savvy thing by targetting them, and the tactically smart thing too, since the contractors don't tend to travel in tanks or wear body armor.

So expect the hostage-taking, the kidnapping, and the shootings to keep getting worse. (Sorry, contractors, but as it turns out that's why the pay was so good. Some of you may be genuinely in it for good, but Bush has made sure you won't be seen that way.) All this will play very badly on domestic TV (as opposed to Al Jazeera). So look for the CPA, when more of those images show up on our enabling SCLM, to defend its operatives by further embroiling the regular military in its, well, quagmire. Fallujah is, then, a prototype not only for the insurgents, but for us. "Bring it on...."

Bottom line for me is that the whole CPA is a cancer not only on Iraq but on the American body politic, given that it's a self-sucking ice cream cone infested with Republican operatives. If and when Kerry gets elected, one of his jobs will be to cut this cancer out, if it's not too late.

UPDATE Alert reader smiley (George Smiley?) points out that permament bases in the Mideast have always been part of the PNAC blueprint. So obvious I forgot to point it out....

Iraqi insurgency: Helicopter shot down in Baghdad 

More proof that we're winning:

Insurgents shot down a U.S. Apache attack helicopter in western Baghdad Sunday, according to a U.S. military spokesman, killing its two-member crew.
(via WaPo)

Too bad the crew can't go fishing, eh George?

"Why should we hear about body bags, and deaths, and how many, what day it’s gonna happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Oh, I mean, it’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?" - former first lady Barbara Bush - "Good Morning America" March 18, 2003


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