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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Rove's Hatch Act violations finally hit the front pages

Yesterday, McClatchy had a rather significant piece outlining Hatch Act violations,
Top Commerce and Treasury Departments officials appeared with Republican candidates and doled out millions in federal money in battleground congressional districts and states after receiving White House political briefings detailing GOP election strategy.

Tonight/tomorrow, the WaPo has a front page piece looking at some of these meetings. (But this article is also very careful to not label these meetings as anything more than "unprecedented.")

Picture of the Day - 2

In this frame grab from an undated video released by the Iraqi government on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2007, Iraq's Sunni vice president Tariq al-Hashemi visits prison inmates, as he promises them better treatment, during a visit to the crowded prison in eastern Baghdad, Iraq. Many of the prisoners, who were jammed into open wire cages covered with tarps, shouted out complaints of mistreatment and prolonged detentions. Tariq al-Hashemi, whose Iraqi Islamic Party is the moderate third of the largest Sunni bloc in parliament, said his group is working to improve conditions for the inmates and to free the innocent. (AP Photo/Iraqi Government)

Why this matters: Maliki is now trying to pry off Hashemi's "moderate" Sunni party to give his government legitimacy after the Sunni walkout. So, Hashemi makes a highly promoted visit (promoted by the Maliki government,) and will soon get credited with some kind of improvements.

I think that by now the Sunnis are smarter than this.

Changing definitions to manufacture "progress"

From the President's radio address (which unsurprisingly touts progress in Iraq.)
And despite the lack of oil revenue law on the books, oil revenue sharing is taking place. The Iraqi parliament has allocated more than $2 billion in oil revenue for the provinces. And the Shia-led government in Baghdad is sharing a significant portion of these oil revenues with Sunni provincial leaders in places like Anbar.

Okay, let's unfold this. The Iraqi government is paying money to the provinces from the Iraqi national budget. Yes, it is oil money, because oil is the only funding Iraq has right now, but it is not the same thing as the oil revenue law which looks to distribute the profits from the oil industry.

While I'm at it, let's look at this whole "bottom up reconciliation" lie, also in the radio address.
America will continue to urge Iraq's leaders to meet the benchmarks they have set. Yet Americans can be encouraged by the progress and reconciliation that are taking place at the local level. An American politician once observed that "all politics is local." In a democracy, over time national politics reflects local realities. And as reconciliation occurs in local communities across Iraq, it will help create the conditions for reconciliation in Baghdad as well.

The phrase reconciliation has been used to refer directly to the reconciliation between the national factions and parties that are conducting the civil war, Sunni and Shia, Sunni and Kurd. To try and claim that the installation of a Sunni mayor in a Sunni town in Sunni Anbar is reconciliation is absolute gobbledegook.

Although the Sunnis and US attacking each other less is good news from our side, the Iraqi factions are, in fact, much further apart than they were just a month or two ago.

So, we're seeing the September prespin here, a full month ahead of the reporting. This one's gonna be a whopper.

(Sunday: Reuters ("Bush says Iraqi government has not met goals") and AFP ("Bush moves away from benchmarks in assessing Iraq") both attack this Saturday radio address in less specifics.)

Picture of the Day - Petraeus in soft focus

Slowly, David Petraeus is eased out of focus as the White House unveils its "new plan" on Iraq which effectively returns the force to pre-surge levels.

Wasn't that their plan all along?

(By the way, it looks like they're going to pull it off. This plan would get troop levels back down to 130,000 by summer of 2008.

If it stands, that would mean that George Bush will leave likely leave office still claiming "progress" in Iraq.

Take a moment to appreciate that, because thousands of soldiers have died to make that legacy defending claim possible.)

(RAMADI, IRAQ - JULY 07: Gen. David Petraeus watches a slide at a briefing about the security situation in Ramadi and Anbar province July 7, 2007 at Camp Ramadi in Ramadi, Iraq. (Chris Hondros/Getty))


(WaPo) Prime Ministerial hopeful and former CIA asset Ayad Allawi writes an oped in the Washington Post making his case to the Americans as to why he should take over for Maliki
("Let me be clear. Responsibility for the current mess in Iraq rests primarily with the Iraqi government, not with the United States.....")

(Cole) Maliki is in Tikrit reportedly to find some token low level Sunnis to fill his cabinet. (The Iraqis will never buy this. It is aimed solely at pleasing the US and helping meet the Sept goals.)

(MarineTimes) “I guarantee you ... if you have a six- to seven-year war and you don’t get to the war zone, you needn’t wonder what’s going to happen when it’s time for promotion,” said Lt. Gen. Ronald Coleman, deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs in Quantico, Va.

(AP) Troops in Iraq to hit another record, 171,000 this fall.

(Reuters) Ryan Crocker's report (written by the White House) may likely obscure the failure of any political progress by hyping the threat of Iran. (Now that's something Republican congressmen can use.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

Members of the South Carolina League of the South, wait Monday, Aug. 13, 2007, in Columbia, S.C., prior to the arrival of Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain. (AP Photo/Brett Flashnick)

They're still mad about the confederate flag issue from 2000.

Kettle, meet Pot

In the grand scheme of things, this is minor, but I find the US establishment bemoaning foreign groups using video games as recruiting/propaganda fairly laughable.
Miller said video games and other media "are tremendous vehicles of socialization" and can serve as propaganda. He said the Hezbollah video game "can be a tool (of propaganda) ... and we don't have much in the way of instruments to combat it."

Especially since the US Army has a very expensive and widely played game targeted at underaged children on its site that it uses for recruiting.

(And then of course there's the Christians with their kill 'em all "Left Behind" series of games.)

How dare you call the fake cowboy a fake cowboy?

Too funny.

Think about how this went down. Bush reads a tiny article in a tiny paper, gets pissed, calls his White House spokesman, tells her to respond, and manages to bring a tiny story to national attention.

I guess it strikes at the core of the (self) illusion.

Picture of the Day

Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao (L) receives US assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Richard Boucher upon his arrival in Islamabad. The United States was accused of meddling in Pakistani affairs amid reports Washington is trying to broker a power-sharing deal between President Pervez Musharraf and his arch-rival Benazir Bhutto.(AFP/Farooq Naeem)

(NYTimes) "As President Pervez Musharraf begins his campaign this week for re-election to another five-year term, senior figures in the governing party have warned that the Supreme Court will almost certainly block his nomination for president and declare it unconstitutional.

American efforts to prod General Musharraf into a power-sharing arrangement with the exiled opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, as a way for him to continue as president would run into the same difficulty, the politicians said."

The other side on Iran

The US is pricking Russia and China on a number of fronts, so I guess it's no surprise that they would use Iran as a lever.
The leaders of Russia, China and Iran said Thursday that Central Asia should be left alone to manage its stability and security _ an apparent warning to the United States to avoid interfering in the strategic, resource-rich region.....

Russian President Vladimir Putin didn't mention the United States in his speech, but he said that "any attempts to solve global and regional problems unilaterally are hopeless."

Because we all could use a little more panic

Oh no, no, no, no....
Anxious customers jammed the phone lines and website of Countrywide Bank and crowded its branch offices to pull out their savings because of concerns about the financial problems of the mortgage lender that owns the bank.

Countrywide has tapped its last $11.5 billion in credit to try and calm the situation.

(And, the Fed temporarily dropped the discount rate .5 %.)

Quote(s) of the Day - Giuliani

I'm sure it's just coincidental that there have been a ton of old Giuliani quotes (and pressure points) emerging right after the Romney Ames poll "win." Read this twice.
"Freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do."
-- Rudy Giuliani, in a 1994 speech

(This is from the Doonesbury "say what" block, so no real sourcing or link.)

Of course, alot of the Giuliani coverage is self inflicted,
On at least three occasions, in responding to accusations that the city failed to adequately protect the health of workers in the wreckage, he has boasted that he faced comparable risks himself. In one appearance he declared that he had been in the ruins “as often, if not more” than the cleanup workers who logged hundreds of hours in the smoldering pile.....

But an exhaustively detailed account from his mayoral archive.... does exist for the period of Sept. 17 to Dec. 16, 2001. It shows he was there for a total of 29 hours in those three months, often for short periods or to visit locations adjacent to the rubble. In that same period, many rescue and recovery workers put in daily 12-hour shifts.

Then, of course, there are the insane policy positions. In his "tough on terrorism" foreign policy, Rudy Giulaini said that under his presidency there would be no Palestinian state.
"It is not in the interest of the United States, at a time when it is being threatened by Islamist terrorists, to assist the creation of another state that will support terrorism," he wrote.

(Abandoning an (at least a perfunctory) commitment to a Palestinian state would create intense rage at the US across the entire Muslim world, which would, you know, create tons more anti-US terrorists.)

The light is not kind to Rudy Giuliani. Maybe he should head towards the Thompson model, no open to the public appearances, and just a vague reference to the fictionalized character the primary voters want to love.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

(CNN) Answering questions at a town-hall meeting, Giuliani was asked why he should expect loyalty from GOP voters when his children aren't backing him.

"I love my family very, very much and will do anything for them. There are complexities in every family in America," Giuliani said calmly and quietly. "The best thing I can say is kind of, 'leave my family alone, just like I'll leave your family alone."'

(Photo: Rudy Giuliani answers a question from a reporter in Derry, New Hampshire August 16, 2007. REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Political Bits

(CNN) Jenna Bush is engaged.

(BostonHerald) Romney gets slammed for making investing in stem cell tech companies. (Normally I'd let this go as it's blind trust, but Romney's on record in '94, "The blind trust is an age-old ruse,” Romney was quoted as saying at the time.)

(Politico) Robert Mueller has turned over a highly redacted version of his notes from the Ashcroft hospital room meeting and surrounding meetings. (Let's remember that Gonzales "couldn't recall" whether the president was aware of that meeting.)

(WaPo) Ed Gillespie steps into part of Rove's shoes.

(AFP) An antiwar group was warned to remove posters promoting its march in DC because of "improper adhesives." (Right.)

And, the Republicans may control the organized slime like the Swift Boaters, but the viral video belongs to the individual Dems. Gays for Giuliani. (There's a reason for this. Humor comes from the subversion of power, not the application of power. It is the jiujitsu to the Republicans' sumo.)

(Oh, and another embarrassing Giuliani video which contradicts his current "fence" position on immigration. From '96 and pointed to reporters by the Romney campaign.)

Picture of the Day - 2

(The Bushes arrive in Waco, Aug. 13. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci))

From the press gaggle yesterday:
The President today had his normal briefings. He also did some tree cutting this morning, and then either -- I think is right now on a bike ride. Today I want to start off by saying that we join with the Iraqis who are grieving after yesterday's suicide bombings.

Yes, the President was so upset, he could barely ride his bike.....

(Also: Laura never touches the dog.)

Stalling Maliki's collapse until after Sept. 15

If you want to know why the Bush administration is trying to hide Ryan Crocker from the Congressional reporting on Sept. 15,
With a mid-September deadline looming for the Bush administration to deliver its Iraq progress report to Congress, American diplomats in Baghdad are working in overdrive to prevent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government from total collapse – something that could shatter all efforts to forge a long-elusive national reconciliation.....

"Behind the scenes, there is a lot of cajoling and warning. The Americans are very much involved to make sure the Maliki government does not fall," says Rime Allaf of London's Royal Institute of International Affairs, who spoke by telephone from Damascus, Syria.

I would think that this is the truth they're trying to hide.

The military aspect of Iraq gets a fair amount of coverage, but the degree of the political collapse has been largely uncovered. (Part of the reason is that it's always hard to adequately cover the nuances of politics in other countries.)

Also today, likely as part of this pre-collapse "crisis", Maliki announced a new alliance of "moderate" Shia and Kurds.

Impossible to say how much of this is "negotiating," and how much is real threat, but in effect, Maliki just formalized the threat of Shia/Kurd domination over the Sunnis.

Petraeus and Crocker's assessments must be pretty bad,

Yesterday the White House let slip that it will be writing the September reports on Iraq, not trusting Petraeus and Crocker.

Today, we find out that they're trying to limit the accompanying testimony, replacing them with Sec Def Gates and Condi Rice.
Senior congressional aides said yesterday that the White House has proposed limiting the much-anticipated appearance on Capitol Hill next month of Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to a private congressional briefing, suggesting instead that the Bush administration's progress report on the Iraq war should be delivered to Congress by the secretaries of state and defense.....

White House officials suggested to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week that Petraeus and Crocker would brief lawmakers in a closed session before the release of the report, congressional aides said. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates would provide the only public testimony.....

U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Baghdad appeared puzzled yesterday when told that the White House had indicated that the two may not be appearing in public.

The logical conclusion is that the early assessments trickling back to Washington do not meet their political needs (which says alot.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Is this news on wiretapping?

I admit I haven't kept up on all the ins and outs of the wiretapping court cases, but to me, this is news.
One, a class action against AT&T, focuses mainly on accusations that the company provided the N.S.A. its customers’ phone and Internet communications for a vast data-mining operation. The lawyers in the AT&T case call that program, which the government has not acknowledged, a “content dragnet.”

I think this is the "closets" that AT&T allowed the NSA to operate in its switching offices, but did we know that AT&T had backhandedly confirmed the massive warrantless collection of "content?"

Picture of the Day - 3

A boy wounded in a suicide bomb attack lies in a hospital in Dahouk, August 15, 2007. (Azad Lashkari/Reuters)

(AP) The bombing "killed at least 250 and possibly as many as 500."

Tracking the missing weapons

Newsweek reports that the unaccounted for weapons the US supplied Iraq are turning up all over the region in the black market and among militant groups.

(They also mention Westhusing's suicide which has been under question in some quarters for a long time.)

Abandoning Iraq's Constitution

I don't know if this is anything, but if it is, it could be big.
Under pressure from the Congress, Arab states and Sunni Iraqi leaders, the US administration on Tuesday set the stage for "major" political changes in Iraq.

The changes will be in "the structure, nature and direction of the Iraqi state," a senior American official in Baghdad was quoted by AP as saying.

He did not give out details, but the plan is expected to be high on the agenda of a 'crisis summit'....

Reading between the lines of other recent statements, I would guess they're talking about a non-elected "presidential council" of some sort consisting of members of the different factions.

Just something to keep an eye on.

An interesting point on the IRGC terror designation

Last night I was struck by the politics of the terror designation being applied to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, dismissing the idea that this was related to possible military action and seeing it as a bargaining chip being played in the Iran nuclear row.

Will Bunch points out that this terror designation of the IRGC could lump them (and Iran as one who harbors terrorists) into the already existing Authorizations of Military Force passed by Congress for Iraq or Afghanistan.

My gut still says this designation is about the nuclear program, but it does open the door to "authorized" military strikes. But that threat could be part of the nuclear discussions, too.

Petraeus declares the inevitable as his plan

It's a very clever tactic, really....
The top American commander in Iraq said Wednesday he was preparing recommendations on troop cuts before he returns to Washington next month for a report to Congress, and believes the U.S. footprint in Iraq will have to be "a good bit smaller" by next summer.

It's been widely reported that is impossible for the Army to maintain the current troop levels through spring, so, declaring recommendations of troop cuts (coincidentally matching the deployment limitations) isn't really news.

Picture of the Day - 2

Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani gets a touch of make-up as he prepares for an interview with Bill O'Reilly on Fox News Channel's 'The O'Reilly Factor' in New York, Monday Aug. 13, 2007. (AP Photos/Bebeto Matthews)

Petraeus' report will be written by the White House?!?!?

After all the BS hyping of "commanders on the ground" you would think this might merit more than being buried in the 29th paragraph.
Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.

Isn't that a headline on its own?

(The broader article predicts that the WHITE HOUSE WRITTEN REPORT, will try to meet the spring drawdown required by rotation problems by "removing American troops soon from several areas where commanders believe security has improved, possibly including Al Anbar province."

Sounds like a "mission accomplished" to me. I'm sure the Shia government will be ecstatic at a safe haven for the Sunni insurgency.)


(AP) Maliki's "emergency conference" appears to have transformed itself into a casual lunch. Not too much accomplished, but Sunni Dulaimi did lower the rhetoric after an unspecified release of detainees.

(FT) "Mr Talabani on Tuesday hosted a lunch attended by 50 members of various political groups. He said the meeting was “very friendly” and would pave the way for further meetings. But it was still unclear when the proposed summit would take place or whether key Sunni Arab leaders would attend."

(AFP) Allawi goes public in his efforts to replace Maliki.

(McClatchy) "U.S. officials say the number of civilian casualties in the capital is down 50 percent. But U.S. officials declined to provide specific numbers, and statistics gathered by McClatchy Newspapers don't support the claim." (Also a bleak prognostication by officers on the ground.)

(IHT) "U.S. general says 15-month Army rotations in Iraq, Afghanistan, to continue into next summer."

And, just as a curious aside. When Maliki met and held hands Ahmadinejad in Iran recently, that meeting took place on the day Iran celebrates its victory over (Sunni) Iraq in their 8 year war. (Just an odd bit of Shia diplomatic symbolism.)

Picture of the Day

(An Iraqi militia member protecting a funeral procession, July 26, 2007.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Watering down terror

This is a really big deal because of the implications of this designation.
The United States has decided to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country's 125,000-strong military branch, as a "specially designated global terrorist," according to U.S. officials, a move that allows Washington to target the group's business operations and finances.

But I think the bigger question is what happens when a terrorist designation is deemed to be political?

Because this takes place within the greater context of the Iran nuclear issue, this application will be viewed as a political act which will have undermining effects in the real efforts against terror.

The US has made clear that the issues of Iranian activities in Iraq are not to be included in the nuclear negotiations leaving the impression that the nuclear program is the larger concern. (Sorry, US soldiers. It's administration policy that you're a lower priority.)

If the US is seen to be using terror designations as a political tool, how much foreign assistance can the US expect in carrying out the implementation?

A Little Later: The NYTimes came in with its version of the story in which this non-terror motivation is made explicit.
According to European diplomats, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has warned of the move in recent conversations with European counterparts, saying that a delay in efforts to win approval from the United Nations Security Council for further economic sanctions on Iran was leaving the administration with little choice but unilateral action.

In other words, it's all about the nuclear program.

Iraq is getting better?

We've been hearing alot how Iraq security is getting better. I don't have a tight eye on the statistics, but let's take a look at some of the security events of just the last several days.

1) 5 US soldiers were killed in an incident where a sniper shot one soldier, then lured the rest into a booby trapped building that exploded around them.

2) The governor and police chief of Diwaniyah were killed.

3) The deputy oil minister and four other officials were kidnapped in broad daylight. ((NYTimes) "at least 100 gunmen in Iraqi Army uniforms.")

4) An increasing US death rate.

5) The very bloody bombings today in the north of the country.

All of these are complex, planned operations, and they seem to indicate that (whether or not August is "bloodier") this period coming up to the September reports will be marked by serious efforts to influence that opinion.

For all the talk of "successes" in security, I think we should watch these types of attacks to get a real sense of the existing operational capacities. I would expect more kidnappings and assassinations, and probably some efforts to kidnap more US soldiers.

I don't know if August will actually be "bloodier," but I feel certain the red team will be pulling out the stops.

Another bad day in Iraq

Early reporting,
Four suicide bombers hit a Kurdish Yazidi community in northwest Iraq on Tuesday, killing at least 175 people and wounded 200 others, the Iraqi military said.

Generally, the numbers go up.

(You may remember the Yazidis as the group around Mosul which stoned a young girl to death for dating a Sunni. They are not Muslim and worship an archangel that some Muslims consider the devil.)

Picture of the Day

Ranked among the top 43 US Presidents.

President Bush holds up a jar of graphite while touring the manufacturing line during his visit to GrafTech International Ltd., Tuesday, July 10, 2007 in Parma. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Question on a slow morning

Not too much going on this morning, so I thought I'd pose a question that's been bouncing around my head for the last few months.

How much of the tens of billions of dollars and billions in missing and unlocatable equipment in Iraq has been diverted to other covert efforts in other countries?

That huge pot of untraceable and unaudited cash and weapons must be irresistable to some of the intelligence agencies.

Monday, August 13, 2007

That's what I'm saying

It's the metapoint of this blog,
The US government is on a “burning platform” of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic healthcare underfunding, immigration and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon, the country’s top government inspector has warned.....

Drawing parallels with the end of the Roman empire, Mr Walker warned there were “striking similarities” between America’s current situation and the factors that brought down Rome, including “declining moral values and political civility at home, an over-confident and over-extended military in foreign lands and fiscal irresponsibility by the central government”.

I also see tremendous parallels in the status of the provinces/colonies/conquered lands. Rome didn't fall in a day. The ultimate collapse of its empire was preceded by centuries of increasing independence among its conquered lands. We're at the very early stage of this dissolution of control, but it is happening.

One of the reasons I'm so hard on the Bush administration is the very basic disagreement as to the status and future of the empire.

This administration set out its policy to try and convert our current (and temporary) military advantage into another century of American dominance. Hence, The Project for a New American Century.

Whereas I tend to favor the Bush I/Clinton internationalist approach that attempted to convert the US's current dominant position into a rigid framework of international law that framed the relationship changes from the rise of China (and generally Asia) in the most beneficial way.

That's the bottom line of why I hate these bastards. Based on some pipe dream of fighter jets changing the far greater geopolitical tide, they have squandered our best chance at a good post hegemon existance. By the time we clean up all their mistakes, we will be negotiating from a substantially weaker position.

Their mistakes have not just been bad. They've been disastrous.

Picture of the Day - 3

Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani gestures to employees after trying the frozen custard during a campaign stop in Dallas, Texas July 27, 2007. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

The Clintons are good at "Strawman"

Pouncing on "War Czar" Lute's comments over the weekend regarding a draft being "on the table," Hillary Clinton sends a "concerned" letter to Bush.
In a letter to Bush dated Monday, Clinton writes, "While our forces, in particular the Army and Marine Corps, are under strain, re-establishing a draft is not the answer. The seeds of many of the problems that continue to plague our mission in Iraq were planted in the failure to adequately plan for the conflict and properly equip our men and women in uniform."

"In previous years, when asked about a draft, your Administration has stated that it is the Administration’s policy to oppose a military draft and support the all-volunteer force," the presidential frontrunner added. "Given Lieutenant General Lute’s comments last week, I ask that you clarify whether there has been a change in your Administration’s opposition to reinstituting a draft."

Of all the Dems we've seen over the last decade, the Clinton camp is by far the best at ginning up these non-existant arguments where they hold the strong position. This tactic has been used very effectively over the years by former (too soon?) White House political advisor Karl Rove.

The idea is simple. Take some statement that can be miscolored out of context and amplify it. Then, ask the target to defend it or cave in.

They've done it to Obama a couple of times, most recently over the "nukes in Pakistan" comment. Obama gave a great sweeping speech, but it was totally lost in the ginned up argument. And then there was the Edelman fracas.

This one was effective enough to force a loud and massive Pentagon denial that appears in big red letters on Drudge.

It's ugly, but it's good politics. It makes the attacker look strong and mainstream and makes the defender look weak and diminished.


For as much as Giuliani has been campaigning, he still doesn't seem particularly able to deal with, you know, people.

First we had the snap back answer about the health risks from Ground Zero which caused a back down. Now we have this.
Jill Martin, a teacher from Le Mars, Iowa, her child in her arms, was becoming emotional as she told the candidate how she could not afford the rate increases on her health insurance.

“What are you going to do to make health care possible for people like me and my children?” Ms. Martin asked, her voice cracking.

Mr. Giuliani extended one arm in her direction, not to offer support but to beckon her to be seated.

He did not utter any of the soothing words that can come so easily to a Clinton or a Romney.

“I don’t know,” Mr. Giuliani said brusquely. “I don’t know the answer in your particular circumstance how you are going to afford it.”

Also: (BostonGlobe) Giuliani flees from his previous stance supporting gay civil unions.

Picture of the Day

They aren't even willing to campaign for Romney to serve their country.

President George W. Bush's twin daughters Jenna and Barbara ride with an unidentified friend (R) on the back of a cart just outside the home of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush in Kennebunkport, Maine, August 12, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Reed


(Reuters) "Attacks in Iraq last month reached their highest daily average since May 2003.... Pentagon officials were not immediately available to comment on the statistics. "

But military officials were available to comment on this one, (USAToday) "Major attacks decline in Iraq."

(AP) Maliki has called a "crisis conference" to try and end the Sunni move to war.

(Iraqslogger) Maliki's threat is that he will form a cabinet of SIIC, Dawa, and Kurds which will steamroll Sunni interests.

(Same Article) Maliki is also trying to find Sunni tribal chiefs he can bribe/cajole into taking the cabinet posts vacated by the Sunni bloc. (How little legitimacy will that have?)

(AP) "In 2006, the number of traditional high school graduates recruited by the Army dropped to 73 percent, from 84 percent a year earlier.... The goal is 90 percent high school graduates — a benchmark last met in 2004."

(Reuters) Will the assassinations in Diwaniyah ignite the Iraq wide Shia war?

(CSM) Another piece looking at the Shia on Shia conflict.

CNN has a piece on the translators working for the US, how they've had to abandon their families, and how they will likely be left behind to die.

(TimesOnline) Lee Hamilton sums it up, “It is inconceivable that General Petraeus will say the surge has failed. So I think we’re going to have a military stay-the-course strategy well into next year.”

Karl Rove to Resign

Good Morning.

It's been a long time since the first headline of the morning made me smile.

(Has anyone else noticed Rove is leaving Washington before Congress returns to subpoena him?)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

Meanwhile, George Bush is on vacation until September.

(President George W. Bush nearly loses his cap while fishing with his father former U.S. President George H.W. Bush in the waters off Kennebunkport, Maine August 12, 2007. REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Dulaimi invites regional Sunni nations into the war

Iraq is unravelling quickly. Any pretense of "unity" dies today.
Iraq's most senior Sunni politician issued a desperate appeal Sunday for Arab nations to help stop what he called an "unprecedented genocide campaign" by Shiite militias armed, trained and controlled by Iran. The U.S. military reported five American soldiers were killed, apparently lured into an al-Qaida trap.

Adnan al-Dulaimi said "Persians" and "Safawis," Sunni terms for Iranian Shiites, were on the brink of total control in Baghdad and soon would threaten Sunni Arab regimes.

"It is a war that has started in Baghdad and they will not stop there but will expand it to all Arab lands," al-Dulaimi wrote in an impassioned broadside e-mailed to The Associated Press.....

"Arabs, your brothers in the land of the two rivers and in Baghdad in particular are exposed to an unprecedented genocide campaign by the militias and death squads that are directed, armed and supported by Iran," al-Dulaimi said.

And he castigated fellow Sunnis in the Middle East, saying they "did not make any move and did not even bother to denounce what is taking place against your brothers at the hands of Iranian militias and death squads."

Let's remember that this is coming from the top mainline Sunni politician who, up until a week ago, was a part of Maliki's government. Now he's asking for assistance in the civil war.

The really interesting thing to me about this is that while he is appealing to regional Sunni nations, a good part of this appeal is aimed at the emotions of "the street."

It's an indirect call not only for regional national support, but also for private assistance and foreign fighters.

Sunni-Shia politics are dead. We're now entering the open regional war.

The Italians break up a huge Iraqi weapons smuggling shipment

I'm sure we'll get more on this as it goes forward.
Their discovery led anti-Mafia investigators down a monthslong trail of telephone and e-mail intercepts, into the midst of a huge black-market transaction, as Iraqi and Italian partners haggled over shipping more than 100,000 Russian-made automatic weapons into the bloodbath of Iraq.

As the secretive, $40 million deal neared completion, Italian authorities moved in, making arrests and breaking it up. But key questions remain unanswered.

For one thing, The Associated Press has learned that Iraqi government officials were involved in the deal, apparently without the knowledge of the U.S. Baghdad command — a departure from the usual pattern of U.S.-overseen arms purchases.....

In Baghdad, the Interior Ministry wouldn't discuss the AK-47 transaction on the record. But a senior ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the matter's sensitivity, acknowledged it had sought the weapons through al-Handal.

Asked about the irregular channels used, he said the ministry "doesn't ask the supplier how these weapons are obtained."

So, the Iraqi Interior Ministry is acting as purchaser on what must be assumed to be Shia militia weaponry that they didn't want registered and tracked by the US forces?

I'll bet the Sunnis will just rush back into that government.

You gotta love the YouTube

Dick Cheney in 1994 explaining why the US was right in not proceeding to Baghdad. (At least read the transcript.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Hmmm.... I wonder if that giant English subtitle is aimed at the Taleban/Al Qaeda/tribal regions or the Afghani people?

Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai meet delegates of a joint peace meeting in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday Aug. 12, 2007. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

The factions turn on themselves.

Yesterday, there was the story of the governor of Diwaniyah (a key Badr militia figure) and the province's police chief, being killed in a bombing apparently carried out by a Mahdi affiliated group in an amplification of the IntraShia violence.

Today, a Sunni cleric Wathiq al Obedi, a key Sunni cleric who has endorsed working with the Americans, was targeted by a bombing on his home by Sunni militants.
The attack against Obeidi highlights a major hurdle for American forces to overcome if the strategy of arming Sunnis is to succeed. The death threat issued against the cleric this week, which was posted to the Web site of an umbrella group for Sunni insurgents, made clear that he was being targeted not only for opposing al-Qaeda in Iraq but for aiding the enemy.

The factions are now turning on themselves.

Reconciliation looked impossible enough when it was just three or four sided political negotiations between the Sunnis, Shia (SIIC, Sadr,) and Kurds, but as those factions fully splinter, there is no one left to bring to the table.

(Here's another story of a different attempted kidnap or assassination by Mahdi against an SIIC/US cooperating general. Plus it's got some good background on the Mahdi side of the intraShia battle.)

Losing "The Other War" because of Iraq

I assume you saw this in the NYTimes, but still....Wow.
How the ‘Good War’ in Afghanistan Went Bad

.....President Bush’s critics have long contended that the Iraq war has diminished America’s effort in Afghanistan, which the administration has denied, but an examination of how the policy unfolded within the administration reveals a deep divide over how to proceed in Afghanistan and a series of decisions that at times seemed to relegate it to an afterthought as Iraq unraveled.....

At critical moments in the fight for Afghanistan, the Bush administration diverted scarce intelligence and reconstruction resources to Iraq, including elite C.I.A. teams and Special Forces units involved in the search for terrorists. As sophisticated Predator spy planes rolled off assembly lines in the United States, they were shipped to Iraq, undercutting the search for Taliban and terrorist leaders, according to senior military and intelligence officials.

This is the provable core of the Democratic charges against the Bush administration, and the NYTimes has just filled out this narrative. Because of the "classified" nature of the chase for Al Qaeda, it is extremely difficult to create a similar story there, but this well documented story certainly allows that extrapolation.

Oh, and in case you might think this is somehow partisan, in the 3rd through 6th paragraphs of the second page, the first three Bush ambassadors to Afghanistan repeat the charge.

The vacationing White House cannot be happy about this. I would bet we'll see one of those "Setting the Record Straight" document blasts very quickly.

(And, Let me say clearly that I believe Afghanistan is still "winnable." It is unquestionably trending the wrong way, but because "the enemy" represents only one face (the Taleban) rather than the complex multisided civil war of Iraq, counterinsurgency could still work there.

But, for it to work, it needs alot more US attention, alot more US money, and alot more US/NATO presence. (and the US has to stop killing large numbers of civilians through the airstrikes currently used to amplify its undersized force.))