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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, July 08, 2006

What's next?

International warrantless phone tapping, sneak and peak searches, national security letters, warrantless domestic call logging, and very possibly warrantless internet surveillance.

So, to what new, as yet unknown, dubiously legal intelligence program is Peter Hoekstra referring?
WASHINGTON, July 8 — In a sharply worded letter to President Bush in May, an important Congressional ally charged that the administration might have violated the law by failing to inform Congress of some secret intelligence programs and risked losing Republican support on national security matters.....

But Mr. Hoekstra, who was briefed on and supported the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program and the Treasury Department's tracking of international banking transactions, clearly was referring to programs that have not been publicly revealed.....

The letter appears to have resulted at least in part from the White House's decision, made early in May, to name Gen. Michael V. Hayden to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, with Stephen R. Kappes as his deputy. The letter was sent the day of General Hayden's confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee.....

(Representative Heather A. Wilson, (R- NM)) She would not discuss any programs on which the committee had not been briefed, but she said that in the Bush administration, "there's a presumption that if they don't tell anybody, a problem may get better or it will solve itself."

Curious? I sure am. Here's a PDF version of the letter. (The key bit is in the second to last paragraph.)
"I have learned of some alleged intelligence community activities about which our committee has not been briefed.... If these allegations are true, they may represent a breach of responsibility by the administration, a violation of the law, and, just as importantly, a direct affront to me and the members of this committee who have so ardently supported efforts to collect information on our enemies."

Question: The letter was written May 18. Why is this coming out now? Are we about to hear about another program, and Hoekstra is trying to get out front? Is somebody trying to chum the waters for reporters? Why now?

Picture of the Day - 2

Saturdays are always slow blogging.

What's the plan?

I recognize that both of these could be technically true, that Bush was inexact in his wording, but, still...... (WaPo)
President Bush on Friday defended his response to the budding crisis spawned by North Korea's missile tests, saying he will not "get caught in the trap of sitting alone with North Korea at the table."

Or maybe Saturday's plan is better. (AP)
A U.S. envoy expressed support for China's proposal to hold informal six-nation talks on the North Korean nuclear threat and offered to meet bilaterally with the North on the sidelines of those discussions.

For some reason, this is starting to remind me of the Paris Peace Talks on Vietnam where the principles broke down over a dispute about the size of the table.

The North Korea situation is a different version of the same mistake that has been made in the battle over terrorism. Certainly an element of the efforts to combat Islamic terrorism is to neutralize the individuals who are currently committed to that course, BUT, the long term answer is to change the conditions of the relationship that is spawning terrorism in the first place. Hearts and Minds, Drain the Swamp, choose whatever catchphrase you like to reflect the broader idea.

The problem isn't that North Korea has nukes, the problem is that they have separated from the world society and have no incentive to "play along." The solution is not about forcing N. Korea to do what we want, the solution is to alter the larger situation to where it is in their interests to do what we want.

Despite all the tough sounding rhetoric, the solution to N. Korea goes through Beijing. Much like Russia supporting Iran, it's in the Chinese interest to have the North Korea situation fester, eating up US attention and resources. It is a rather low cost way for the Chinese to siphon US strategic influence. So long as we're hostile, it's in the Chinese interest to let us run down our strength battling with the gnats in N. Korea.

What we need is diplomatic imagination. We need someone to step outside the binary world of "the enemy" to find a multi-dimensioal solution that benefits all of the players. One key element, perhaps the most important element, would be a reassurance that the US will reenter the global community and abandon its overtly aggressive unitary foreign policy.

(This post could be rewritten changing North Korea and China to Iran and Russia. With a few wrinkles, it's the exact same problem.)

Another possible allegation

This is from the parents, not directly from the military, so, take it for what it is.

DINUBA (AP) - The shot in the chest that killed a 22-year-old soldier in Southern Iraq wasn't fired by the enemy, but by someone on his base, his parents said.....

They said military officers said their son was killed Saturday by personnel from his base at Camp Bucca, an internment center for captured insurgents, as he made his way back to his barracks at the end of his shift.

Picture of the Day

Friday, July 07, 2006

Marine response to Haditha was negligent

The NYTimes has a front page story on this, but notice that it was "leaked" for the Friday night dump, the intentional graveyard for negative stories to get the least coverage.
WASHINGTON, July 7 — The second-ranking American commander in Iraq has concluded that some senior Marine officers were negligent in failing to investigate more aggressively the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians by marines in Haditha last November, two Defense Department officials said Friday.

The officer, Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, concluded that in the deaths, including those of 10 women and children and an elderly man in a wheelchair, senior officers failed to follow up on inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the initial reporting of the incident that should have raised questions.

(Is the Friday dump operative in the Islamic week? Are they more afraid of Americans finding out than Iraqis?)

Picture of the Day - 3

Gary Matthews, Jr. was named to the AL All-Star Team on July 2. I know nothing about the guy, but about a week ago, I ran across this picture of him visiting Iraq vet Kenneth Dixon back when he played for the Orioles. I'll be rooting for him.

Touching the powderkeg

US and vaguely defined Iraqi forces arrested a major leader of the Mehdi army today, unconfirmed as Abu Deraa. Sadr, through a representative, has blamed the US and is demanding an immediate withdrawal. (AP) "The situation is tense and the Mehdi Army is deploying in the streets," said the official." (AFP)

(I refer to the Iraqi forces as "vaguely defined" because there is a significant political difference whether this was conducted by the predominantly Sunni army or the Shia Interior Ministry, or some group of mixed troops, and reading every source easily at hand, I could find no distinction beyond "Iraqi troops." NYTimes, AP, Reuters, AFP.)

Sadr "and his allies control at least 30 of the 275 seats in Parliament as well as several important ministries, making him one of the country's most powerful political leaders." (NYTimes)

This operation was ostensibly related to the kidnapping of Sunni female legislator Tayseer al-Mashhadani and seven of her bodyguards. (Canadian Press) "The Sunni Arab bloc announced Sunday it was suspending participation in the legislature until al-Mashhadani was freed." (AP)

This is a really big move by Maliki in taking on Sadr. Sadr is not only one of the biggest political forces, but through his affiliated militias, the largest and most organized in the country. Sadr is a military force on par with the Iraqi government.

Thus far, most of the violence between the Sadr's militias and Iraqi/American forces has been frictional as each has pursued its own goals. But if this event turns the guns of the Shia towards the government and/or the US, Iraq may be about to become still more unstable. What happens to the fragile Iraqi security forces if some fraction of the Shia who have infiltrated the 146,000 strong Facilities Protection Services and the militia presence in the Interior Ministry choose sides against the government?

It's still too early in this to tell how far this schism is going to go, (hopefully an acommodation is reached,) but Maliki is in an awful position. In order to bring the Sunnis into the government, he has to go after the Shia militias.

This could be really significant or just another day in Iraq depending on how Sadr wants to play it. I just don't have a sense of where his best interests lie. We'll just have to wait and see.

UPDATE: Two items from the BBC version. "A senior official in Moqtada Sadr's office said the intended target of the operation was Abu Dera, a senior figure in the Mehdi Army, who is still at liberty."

Also, I neglected to mention that this took place in Sadr City, Baghdad.

2 in 3 Americans want a plan to leave Iraq

I'm including the last quote in this excerpt because that's the mood I'm in.
NEW YORK A new Gallup poll finds that roughly 2 in 3 Americans urge a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, with 31% wanting this to start immediately. ....

Results showed that almost 1 in 3 want to "pull the troops out and come home," as soon as possible. About the same number seem to wish for a gradual pullout. The remaining one-third back the present course or want to "finish what we started." .....

Newport writes: "Suggestions that the United States engage in some type of gradual withdrawal increase significantly as educational level increases."

At least it's not AT&T

My internet service has been down all afternoon. Catching up now.

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An Iraqi woman cries over the loss of her vegetable stand in last week's Sadr City market bombing.

Invest your money with Hastert

Can somebody explain to me how you pull this off earning "an annual salary that has ranged from $77,400 when he first entered Congress to his current salary as House speaker of $212,100?"
In all, Hastert's net worth has soared from no more than $290,000 to more than $6 million during his 19-year tenure on Capitol Hill that has seen him rise from the back benches of Congress to speaker of the House.

Hastert's accumulation of wealth through a series of land deals has been the subject of recent scrutiny since a private research group last month questioned his sale of land near a federally funded highway project that he championed. The transactions appear to comply with the law.

Hastert is a vocal opponent of raising the minimum wage. If only those minimum wage folks were smart with their money like Denny......

(He also received a $200,000 inheritance from his father, and put 2 kids through college.)

Iraq's oil

I found this an interesting assessment of foreign investment in Iraq's oil industry. Short version, the majors are still steering away for two reasons. The number one reason is obviously security of their workers which the head of Shell said, "It's too soon to make a judgment on how close we are. I suspect we could be a few years away."

But more tellingly for those, like myself, who are more concerned with the war than the oil, is the underlying problem of the Iraqi Constitution and uncertainty as to who the oil "belongs to."

Like several other major areas of dispute, ownership and revenue splits on Iraq's oil reserves were glossed over in the effort to get a Constitution signed by a deadline. (It was late you'll remember.) There are substantial and meaningful disagreements over who owns Iraq's various reserves. Do the Kurds own the Kirkuk fields outright? What percentage do the Sunnis get from national sales? Does the national government have precedence? How much can the southern Shia extract as the chokepoint on tanker based exports?

This will be a major source of conflict going on into the future of Iraq.

(Another dispute that was glossed over was the role of Islam in the government, and whose version of Islam.)

Also: Unrelated I'm sure, oil hit a new record yesterday, $75.42/barrel.

Picture of the Day

Bush blows. (Or maybe, "I wish I were big.")

Thursday, July 06, 2006


2001 - At his ranch in Crawford Texas Bush receives the PDB Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the US. Doesn't cut the vacation short.

2003 - The first months of the Iraq occupation and critical decisions are being made whose repercussions are still being felt today. Doesn't cut the vacation short.

2005 - The Iraq war is going still worse, and it's not until days after Katrina floods New Orleans that Bush is forced by his aides to cut his vacation short.

What do these have in common? Why, they're all non-election years.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Forget the hot, dusty weeks relaxing at his Texas ranch. President Bush, still down in the polls and grappling with grave matters on the world stage, is breaking his summer routine this election year to travel the country and boost the standing of his presidency and the Republican Party.

With Republicans nervous about keeping control of Congress and worries about the future of Iraq, Iran and North Korea, White House officials have decided too much is at stake this year for Bush to spend so much time on vacation. He'll spend some time at the ranch, but it will be less than previous summers and interrupted by more time on the road.

See, there's "too much at stake" this year. It's Congress after all, not Iraq or New Orleans.

I really wish this White House had been making LBJ or Nixon-style tapes so that forty years from now, when I'm an old man, I could actually hear the detached bullshit that must fly in their internal discussions.

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Not one.

I guess this is as good an excuse as any. (I seem to remember a past excuse around security and not wanting to disrupt.) Has he been invited to any?
President Bush has met hundreds of families of fallen soldiers, but he has yet to attend a servicemember’s funeral, he said Tuesday.

“Because which funeral do you go to? In my judgment, I think if I go to one I should go to all. How do you honor one person but not another?” he said.

And, by the way, he's met with "hundreds of families?" Would that be twenty-five "hundreds?" So, it's okay to honor one family over another, just not one dead soldier over another.


Marines in Ramadi "stormed" a hospital.

Brigadier Ed Butler, who is in overall command of the UK troops in Afghanistan, has put in a request for "a "significant" increase in resources."

If you haven't seen it already today, the WaPo had a blistering page A01 analysis piece on the disaster that has been the Bush administration's foreign policy. (Or perhaps you prefer the more partisan Kevin Drum, "the Bush administration literally seems to have no foreign policy at all anymore....")

A court ordered that Tom Delay's name will remain on the ballot in Texas' 22nd district. That's really good news for Lampson. It's being appealed.

The right wing hits are beginning against McCain.

And, there's a little possible rumor/confirmation for my theory yesterday, "Multiple sources have also said that McCain has a practice of leaking stories on those he doesn't get along with -- and is believed by several reporters and Senate aides to have been behind a series of leaks in the Jack Abramoff scandal."

I just find it hard to believe that McCain, as head of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, really cares about Indian affairs enough to warrant the amount of "investigation" he's been doing on his potential political enemies.

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President Bush visiting with Santiago Frias who was wounded in Iraq.

Where's the "good news?"

After reading through the Iraq coverage this morning and feeling even more despondent than usual about the situation, for some reason my mind wandered back to the old administration accusation that the media wasn't reporting the "good news from Iraq."

So, I went to where I thought the "good news stories" would be just to see if I could find something to pick me up just a little, the Army's news release page, the Navy's, Stars and Stripes, the White House's Iraq page. Nothing.

Even they can no longer find "good news" stories in Iraq.

Is it bad form to alternate scotch shots and Haagen Dazs at 8:09 in the morning?

Worth a quick read

This very brief interview with Rod Nordland who served as Newsweek's Baghdad bureau chief for two years is worth a quick read. It's worse than what is being reported, and "the military has started censoring many [embedded reporting] arrangements."

Picture of the Day

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The rising price of guns in Iraq

NPR has a very good interview with an Iraqi small arms merchant who describes the rapidly rising price of weapons in Iraq. Handguns and AK's have doubled, the more exotic weapons, RPG's grenades, have gone up alot more.

The question about the price rise is whether it is supply or demand. Whether it is the US finds of weapons caches that are dropping supply, or whether all sides are arming up for a civil war. The weapons dealer thinks it's the latter.

Ken Lay cheats even from beyond the grave

I wondered about this earlier today.
HOUSTON, July 5 — In yet another bizarre twist to the Enron saga, the sudden death of Kenneth L. Lay on Wednesday may have spared his survivors financial ruin. Mr. Lay's death effectively voids the guilty verdict against him, temporarily thwarting the federal government's efforts to seize his remaining real estate and financial assets, legal experts say.

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U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Tony Mallett, of Orange, Massachusetts, smokes flavored tobacco from a traditional Arab water pipe in Ramadi, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, July 3, 2006. More than 125,000 U.S. troops will spend Independence Day in Iraq. (AP Photo/Jacob Silberberg)

Reports on the various security "crackdowns" in Iraq

The US military's multiple shifts in tactics have led to no downward change in the number of attacks or the overall level of violence in the Sunni Anbar province.

The security "crackdown" in Baghdad of 70,000 US and Iraqi troops has made no appreciable change in the level of violence in Baghdad. If anything, the number of deaths and attacks in Baghdad have risen.

The "state of emergency" in Basra, (Maliki threatened an "iron fist") appears to have failed as well. (Month old post on the Basra "state of emergency.")

We're not winning.

And as for a change in overall tactics: Mr Khalilzad admitted the situation in Iraq was difficult, but said the US had "no other option than to persist."

Italian court still active on renditions

This is still part of the ongoing case about the "rendition" of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr from the streets of Milan. I don't think the Italians will be able to convincingly tell the EU they weren't involved.
(AFP)A top director and two other members of the Italian secret service have been arrested for their possible role in the 2003 abduction, allegedly by the CIA, of a Muslim cleric in Milan.

Those arrested include Marco Mancini, number two in the military intelligence service Sismi, and two others, Italy's TV channel Sky TG24 reported Wednesday.....

Italian prosecutors issued arrest warrants in November against 22 CIA agents alleged to have taken part in the operation.

Also: AP, BBC, NYTimes,

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Maybe an official connection after all

On Saturday I noted that the two soldiers who were captured, tortured, and beheaded on June 16 were from the same platoon as Steven Green, the soldier currently charged with the rape and killing of a girl and three family members in March.

At the time, the official statement from the military was that there was no connection whatsoever between the events, but the LATimes has been asking questions around the investigation.
BAGHDAD — The U.S. military is investigating whether the kidnapping, killing and mutilation of two American soldiers was carried out in retaliation for an alleged rape and murder of an Iraqi woman by another member of the same unit three months earlier, a military official said Tuesday.....

"We are trying to find out if this hit on these three soldiers was a retribution for the rape and murder," said the official. "I cannot fathom the audacity it would take to do such a complex attack. What sort of rage exists in the populace? Are they saying, 'We aren't going to take this from people who do this to our women?' "

That's what struck me about a possible connection between these events; it would take significant tactical and intelligence sophistication on the part of the insurgents to track and target the specific platoon, lure the main body of soldiers away, and isolate and capture Pfc's Menchaca and Tucker.

If the connection is there and the slayings were a response to the rape, this was not the act of a few isolated "dead enders." This was a massive technical operation involving the coordination of several dozen fighters just outside Baghdad.

Sellout McCain striking at the heart of the right machine

I find it very interesting that Sellout McCain is leading a Senate investigation on Abramoff dealings at the same time he is crafting his presidential run. Think about the politics of that, McCain using his Senate office to selectively dig and reveal dirt on the folks who do or don't support him, a lever directly into the money-religious right axis.

If you doubt that this is a direct effort on his part, make note that he is conducting these investigations out of his role on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee not any of the normal ethics or oversight committees.

Also: A McCain/Jeb Bush ticket?

North Korea's missile tests

First off, I don't understand the level of outrage over N. Korea's missile tests so long as those missiles were fired over open ocean. Obviously, they were launched as a provocation, but this doesn't substantially change anything in the situation.

But what's really troubling me about this story is the absolute uncertainty by the US intelligence apparatus of when and how many missiles the N. Koreans launched. In North Korea, we're talking about a country that borders on two nuclear powers who have to be classed as potential nuclear threats to the US(Russia and China.)

The US has known for at least a week that such missile firings were possibly imminent, and yet the early warning systems could not determine if, when, or how many missiles were fired?

I accept that all of these tests were short range, probably not reaching the extremely high altitude of ICBM's, but I would also assume that the US has a naval presence in the Sea of Japan.

CORRECTION: I mistook the imprecise knowledge expressed by people at the State Dept. and the White House to reflect imprecision overall. Norad apparently tracked them on launch. (Leo was right.) Sorry about that. But, to some degree, my point still stands, in that it apparently took the folks at the White House half a day to get precise numbers.

Picture of the Day


Tuesday, July 04, 2006


The NYTimes has an article up tonight on the conditions in Ramadi. The living conditions sound very similar to the BBC report out of Haditha I linked a couple weeks ago, and the fighting is described as unrelenting. There's also this:
In three years here the Marine Corps and the Army have tried nearly everything to bring this provincial capital of 400,000 under control. Nothing has worked.

Now American commanders are trying something new.

Instead of continuing to fight for the downtown, or rebuild it, they are going to get rid of it, or at least a very large part of it.

They say they are planning to bulldoze about three blocks in the middle of the city, part of which has been reduced to ruins by the fighting, and convert them into a Green Zone, a version of the fortified and largely stable area that houses the Iraqi and American leadership in Baghdad.

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House may vote on Minimum Wage

Without a concurrent Senate vote, this house vote may not matter too much, but it's a step in the right direction and indicates a growing pressure on the issue.
Faced with elections that could cost them control of Congress, John A. Boehner, the House majority leader, acknowledged Thursday that Republican leaders are likely to reverse course and hold a vote on a proposed minimum wage increase. Though Boehner said it was a ``cynical ploy" for Democrats to make it a campaign centerpiece,

According to Boehner it's a "a cynical ploy" to push for a higher minimum wage.

To Boehner, the standard of living for the poorest working Americans is not nearly as important as the critical issues he has shepherded to the House floor over the last month, flag burning, gay marriage, immigrant bashing, and non-binding resolutions.

(Questions: Does this mean that this Dem campaign centerpiece has real traction? And how will the Republicans bring it to a vote but not pass it? A poison pill?)

Yoo on Hamdan

John Yoo, the principal author of the legal justification for the unitary executive in wartime, finally weighs in on the Hamdan decision.
"What the court is doing is attempting to suppress creative thinking," said Professor Yoo.....

The court's decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Professor Yoo said, may signal the collapse of the entire enterprise. "It could affect detention conditions, interrogation methods, the use of force," he said. "It could affect every aspect of the war on terror.".....

But the effect of the decision, constitutional lawyers across the political spectrum agreed, could devastate the administration's main legal justifications for its campaign against the terrorist threat.

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Bin Laden unit disbanded last year

Maybe, just maybe, this is because they actually know where Bin Laden is, but aren't pursuing him for political reasons. Remember that it was just over a year ago, right before this unit was disbanded, that Porter Goss went on CNN. "CIA Director Porter Goss says he has an "excellent idea" where Osama bin Laden is hiding, but that the al Qaeda chief will not be caught until weak links in the war on terrorism are strengthened."

Here's the current story that's making the rounds.
WASHINGTON, July 3 — The Central Intelligence Agency has closed a unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, intelligence officials confirmed Monday. The unit, known as Alec Station, was disbanded late last year and its analysts reassigned within the C.I.A. Counterterrorist Center, the officials said. ....

The realignment reflects a view that Al Qaeda is no longer as hierarchical as it once was, intelligence officials said, and a growing concern about Qaeda-inspired groups that have begun carrying out attacks independent of Mr. bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Does the One Percent Doctrine apply to Iran?

Amidst all of the eye opening revelations from Ron Suskind's new book (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), the overarching theme and title of the book got somewhat lost. (Unfortunately, I can't seem to link to the Froomkin blogpost from which this is excerpted.)
"Absorbing the possibility that al-Qaeda was trying to acquire a nuclear weapon, Cheney remarked that America had to deal with a new type of threat -- what he called a 'low-probability, high-impact event' -- and the U.S. had to do it 'in a way we haven't yet defined,' writes author Ron Suskind in his new book, The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11.

"And then Cheney defined it: 'If there's a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It's not about our analysis . . . It's about our response.' Suskind writes, 'So, now spoken, it stood: a standard of action that would frame events and responses from the Administration for years to come.' "

Whether or not this "doctrine" existed, or more importantly, still exists is a matter of some concern with the US currently staring down Iran with a newly issued June 12 deadline for Iran to stop enrichment.

Right now, there is no hard evidence that Iran is conducting any sort of nuclear weapons research and even their energy research is still at least five years, maybe ten, from yielding much of anything.

However, when operating on a 1% threshold, intelligence becomes moot because a shadow of a doubt is enough to start a war. A 1% case that Iran represents a real threat could be made fairly easily(far more easily than in Iraq): Known past ties to a terror organization(Hizbullah,) known previous efforts to enrich uranium covertly, a long history of strong anti-US statements, possible ties to AQ Khan and North Korea, a lack of intelligence about possible unknown weapons reasearch.

Those facts could certainly be argued as a 1% fractional likelihood that Iran represents a possible imminent threat, despite the fact that there is not one shred of intelligence indicating that Iran has made any strides or efforts towards a nuclear weapon.

Also, in this belief based war, you run into the impracticalities of a war launched with no accurate intel. How do you select bombing targets or sites of interest when a war is launched on the fractional possibility of WMD development? Which specific buildings and sites house the 99% fictional nuclear weapons program?

Sy Hersh published a really good article this week discussing military resistance to launching another 1% war.

It must be said that at this point all indications are that the current pressure is toward sanctions, and with the Chinese and Russians acting as counterbalancing inertia, a bombing campaign would be a tremendous act against the world community.

But Cheney's still lurking in the foreign policy arena of the White House. If "the doctrine" still applies, his doubts, and the doubts he can create in President Bush, might be enough justification to launch another 1% war.

Just something floating around in my mind.

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Plame Gossip - Cheney was just following orders

I really don't see too much new in the new National Journal article by Murray Waas. It had already been reported that Bush had authorized selective declassification of information from the NIE and that he had done so at Cheney's suggestion, but this is a more direct statement of that.

(Waas repeats that Bush did not order the outing of Plame.)

The Wives' Club

Paul Kiel has a really good post on how Jack Abramoff used Julie Doolittle to funnel money to her husband, Rep. John Doolittle (R - CA.)

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Maliki's trip bears some fruit

Okay, I know I've been going on too much about Maliki's foreign trip as an effort to tamp down the Sunni insurgency through Saudi Arabia, but just a little more because we may have some confirmation.
Al-Adalah runs on the front page a 100-word Buratha news agency report citing Akram al-Hakim, state minister for national dialogue affairs, confirming that a Gulf state has stopped its financial aid to some Iraqi insurgent groups, urging them to invest Al-Maliki's National Reconciliation Initiative and enter into dialogue with the government. The minister declined to identify the state but observers said that it is either Saudi or UAE. . .

Again, we hear a whole lot about the Iranians supporting the Shia, because they're "the enemy" right now, but we hear nothing about our "allies" in the war on terror fomenting the insurgency in Iraq.

So, if the Saudis or the UAE were/are supporting the Sunni insurgency, what does it mean that the Bush admin has kept this out of the rhetoric and headlines? Our soldiers are dying while fighting insurgents funded by "our allies," and the Bush administration, for broader political reasons, isn't doing everything they can to stop the support?

This is the shooting gallery where this administration has placed our soldiers. And, apparently, the Saudis have gotten to play for free.

Sellout McCain

The NYTimes has an article describing the "deepening if impersonal relationship" between McCain and Bush. This is not new news. In the 2004 election, McCain cast his lot during the Swiftboat episode, and earlier this year there was a flurry of Bush support for McCain's presidential bid, with Bush annointing McCain with the major donor list and personnel from his 2004 campaign.

The new element in this NYTimes story is the raw political crassness of the relationship. They don't like each other and don't respect each other.

And that's why he's called Sellout McCain.

Picture of the Day

June 15 at the Initiative for Global Development Regional Summit.

(I figured if I was talking about people being forced out by a negative culture....)

The Best and Brightest - How do you fix the culture?

US Special Forces "face shortages of elite special operations forces that are playing a leading role in the war against terrorism." One of the main culprits are private contractors who are hiring seasoned professionals away.

Top DHS and anti-terror officials are finding the pastures greener in the private sector as well, often going into lobbying positions with contractors.

And now we have reports that the FBI is having revolving door problems in its top antiterror positions with top agents going into corporate security positions.

(Also make note of the CIA purge/exodus under the Bush administration and Porter Goss.)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

She was 15

This story just keeps getting worse with every new detail. The Iraqi girl who was allegedly raped and killed by US soldiers was apparently 15 years old.

UPDATE: (AFP) Court documents (FBI) put the age of the vistim at 25. (In the same article, it cites the WaPo's reporting above that she was 15 according to Iraqi hospital records.)

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Attacks in Baghdad going up

Remember that this is going on during the unprecedented security "crackdown" in Baghdad.
"I think since we have started Operation Together Forward, you'll find that the number of attacks are going up," Army Col. Jeffrey Snow told reporters on a videoconference from Baghdad, referring to the security crackdown.....

"As we populated and put additional patrols, both dismounted and mounted, into neighborhoods ... and we increased the number of checkpoints, we expected that there would be an increase in the number of attacks," Snow said. "And that is precisely what's happened."

Col. Snow's assumption seems to be that the increase in violence is related to an increased number of patrols. Certainly that's probably a part of it, but let me offer another possibility.

The current crackdown has forced the militias and neighborhood protection groups to abandon their self made/self operated checkpoints. I don't know the relative methodologies and personnel numbers between, for instance, the Sadr militia and the current "crackdown" forces, but it could be that some areas are receiving less checkpoint type protection than they were before the crackdown allowing more access to violent factional elements.

Take, for example, the major car bombing yesterday in the Shia marketplace in Sadr City, Baghdad that killed at least 65 and wounded at least 200. Is the current government led security operation giving the same protection to that very popular market as the Sadr/Mehdi Army militias were before they were forced from the streets?

I don't know whether the militias are a good thing or not, probably a bit of both, but they have developed and gained support primarily because they offered the public some degree of protection. If the US and Iraqi governments want to force them from the streets, they will have to offer that level of security or better.

Apparently, Feb. 11, 2001 changed everything.

It's in a court filing so it's not dead solid, but still, there's sure alot of smoke indicating a constitution on fire.
June 30 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. National Security Agency asked AT&T Inc. to help it set up a domestic call monitoring site seven months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, lawyers claimed June 23 in court papers filed in New York federal court.

Remember that the claims of executive power under which this sort of wire tapping were justified came from the post 9-11 military authorization. So, what's the Yoo argument for February 11...?

(Side note: We're yet to see whether the Hamdan ruling will extend to other "non-specifically authorized" claims of "war powers" by the administration like warrantless wiretapping.)

Also: In the same rough area, Sen Diane Feinstein from the Senate Intelligence Committee says she was only briefed on the "banktapping" story after it became clear the the NYTimes was going to run the story.

Picture of the Day

Dick Cheney speaking at a NASCAR event yesterday.

It's all there: Overwhelming American flag, "troops" as props, prominent sponsorship....

(and not a non-white face in the whole shot?)

Obviously, this a group being targeted for 2006. Remember Bush's "NASCAR appearance" a month ago?

Or maybe it's just the last public audience outside military gatherings where they can go without fear of being booed.

Or, maybe, just maybe, NASCAR represents the last bastion of eroding core Bush support.

Iraq as a regional conflict

Yesterday, I was asking questions about Iraqi PM Maliki's trip to 3 Sunni neighbors Saudi, Kuwait, UAE, in the midst of the "settlement" negotiations with the Sunnis(and also in the middle of the failing Baghdad security crackdown.)
Saudi militants are among the top four nationalities of foreign fighters flocking to Iraq according to the US military and many in Maliki's camp are suspicious of Riyadh's true intentions towards the ascent of the once-oppressed Shiite majority in Iraq.

It would make sense for the Saudis and other neighboring Sunni nations to offer support for the Sunni insurgency. It is not in the Saudi interest, for example, for Iraq to become a Shia dominated Iranian client state able to agitate and act across the border.

We've heard a whole lot from the US government about how the Iranians are interfering in the Iraqi process. With Iran's "enemy" status it's unsurprising that those reports are finding their way into headlines.

But, I wonder if Saudi interference in Iraq is being downplayed because of their "ally" status. (Much like Pakistan's apparent continued inaction against the Taliban who are sheltering on their side of the border.)

Has the level of Saudi interference in Iraq reached a point that, in order to manage a "settlement" deal, Maliki must first deal with the Saudis? Has Iraq reached a point where foreign interference is turning Iraq into a regional Sunni/Shia proxy war? Are any of the Saudi "foreign fighters" who have been captured or killed tied to the Saudi intel services or government?

Questions, questions along a new line, and very few answers.

Trade talks breakdown

The Doha round of WTO talks focusing on agricultural subsidies appears to have critically broken down. The main players in the stalemate are the US and India, who is acting as spokesman for a broad coalition of second and third world nations.