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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Excellent web reporting

The NYTimes has an excellent flash item/article surveying the Baghdad neighborhoods with details and descriptions of each. Take a minute to look around if you're interested in that level of detail. It is a great example of web interface reporting.

The dirty little secret on Iraq.

The reason there is no political reconciliation in Iraq is because none of the parties has an incentive to come to the table.

The Shia are slowly sweeping Baghdad clean of the Sunni and consolidating their power throughout the government. Because of the Shia stance, the Sunni have more hope of accomplishing their goals through violence than politics. Meanwhile the Kurds are perfectly happy to let Iraq drift into dissolution because it increases the likelihood of their independent Kurdish state.

You can set some random timelines if you want (like this new 5 year plan from the Institute of Peace,) but the bottom line is that within the current situation, all parties inside Iraq have incentives to continue fighting, not come to settlement.

There's a reason that the "reconciliation" measures are being stalled by the Shia dominated government. They're winning. They have no reason to want to reintegrate Sunnis into the government (deBaathification,) no reason to establish oil laws as their influence and share seems likely to grow, and certainly no desire to hold new elections which might dilute their power.

What no one seems to be saying is that, although Maliki is not doing what's in the US interests, he is doing more or less what's in the broader Shia interest right now.

There is no reconciliation because the Iraqis don't want reconciliation.

There. I said it.

(And I recognize the significant intraShia fighting, but I see that more as a winner's squabble over territory, influence, and resources. In the south, it is a direct battle for space, but in Baghdad and beyond it manifests itself as a race for cleansing with Badr and Mahdi racing to claim neighborhoods from the fleeing Sunnis.)

Picture of the Day

New White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, who accompanied President Bush to Iraq, center, poses with Marines at Al-Asad Airbase in Anbar province, Monday, Sept. 3, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Juicing Petraeus for all the credibility he has

The NYTimes has what can only be called a "pre-game" piece on the Petraeus/Crocker testimony. It's really pretty empty, but there were two bits that raised my eyebrows.
Military aides have coordinated the general’s schedule with the White House, but officials confirmed that some suggestions for public appearances offered by Mr. Bush’s staff for General Petraeus had been rebuffed.

What do you think that means? What appearances did the White House suggest that Petraeus found too unethical, too unstrategic, or too distasteful?

Also, Petraeus and Crocker are testifying before Congress Tuesday, but they need a "very large public hall" appearance the day after? (complete with a followon media blitz?)
A joint news conference by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker is scheduled for Wednesday. The venue will be a large public hall, not at the Pentagon or State Department; the location remains undisclosed for security reasons. Interviews with television anchors and newspaper and magazine reporters are planned.

Sounds to me like the administration doesn't want the last image to be Petraeus knocking back questions from Congress.

I think we got the real flavor of the political Petraeus in the NYTimes story yesterday where he said he wanted to keep all his troops, but was willing to give up one brigade if it would buy him political space at home.

This is a man who sees himself in political combat with those in Washington who want to change his plan.

This is the "highly credible" General Petraeus.

(PS. Why is no media mentioning the fact that Gen. Pace, Gen. Casey, Adm. Fallon, and Sec. Def. Gates, every one of Petraeus' superiors, seem to be advocating against him?)


Obviously, the US couldn't step in and say this.
Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif should honour an agreement to stay in exile for 10 years and should not return on Monday, a Saudi official said on Saturday, citing concern about Pakistani stability.

I don't know Pakistani politics, but it's interesting that ex-PM Bhutto returning is negotiable, but ex-PM Sharif returning is not.
(I think Sharif has military support.)

Picture of the Day

You know what, I'll bet I can piss off the immigration Republicans and get away with it.

(Republican presidential hopeful, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, second from left, speaks with Sen. John McCain after the Republican presidential debate Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2007, at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole))

Friday, September 07, 2007

Giuliani decides he's too popular

Whether true or not, after seeing all the Republican bodies littering the road on the immigration issue, you gotta figure a Rudy Giuliani should know better.
Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani said illegal immigration is not a crime, prompting rival Mitt Romney to accuse him of not taking the problem seriously.....

"I was U.S. attorney in the Southern district of New York," he said. "So believe me, I know this. In fact, when you throw an immigrant out of the country, it's not a criminal proceeding. It's a civil proceeding."

Illegal immigration shouldn't be a crime, either, Giuliani said: "No, it shouldn't be because the government wouldn't be able to prosecute it. We couldn't prosecute 12 million people. We have only 2 million people in jail right now for all the crimes that are committed in the country, 2.5 million."

In the current Republican environment, why is Rudy Giuliani licking the frozen flagpole?

Political bits

The tea leaves are starting to look like Chuck Hagel may not run for another term. He's making an announcement Monday. (I guess the antiwar Republican Senators have just had it with the politics within their own party.)

(CNN) Romney tries to raise the bar on Thompson and Huckabee saying they need to raise $20 million to become first tier.

The Thompson campaign is throwing off so many people I almost don't even mention it anymore, but the latest departure, Mark Corallo, is significant because of his high profile (Karl Rove's spokesman Mark Corallo.....,) but also because Corallo was the first guy hired by wife Jeri Thompson way back when.

Meanwhile, Thompson defends his wife from inside his campaign criticism on Good Morning America. (Criticism of her role has risen to this level.)

And, let's end with a flashback,
In mid-September 2003, national polls showed Joe Lieberman to be the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Think about that.

We only tortured 100 so it's okay

CIA Director Michael Hayden "praised" the CIA's system of rendition and secret prisons at the CFR today. His primary defense appears to be one of degree, saying that only 100 people had been subjected to the system of secret prisons.

And then he engages in a little dissembling.
The CIA director said 70 percent of the information contained in the National Intelligence Estimate on the terrorist threat, which was released in July, came from the interrogation of detainees.

Do you like the way that's structured? He cites a statistic, 70% of intel through interrogations which doesn't say whether those interrogated were in the secret prisons or not. Also, there's no way to know if that information would have been revealed without the secret prisons. (And of course, no way to check 70%)

(Oh, and by the way, big courage for doing this on a Friday when all the world is talking about Iraq.)

Picture of the Day - 2

John McCain shows his wife Cindy that he won't have to do "those Bob Dole ads" after he loses the election.

(Republican presidential hopeful John McCain works the controls of a robot to send a package to his wife, Cindy McCain at Granite State Manufacturing in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2007. (AP Photo/Jim Cole))

Petraeus hides

Does anyone else find it questionable that Petraeus' recommendations would be "leaked" to the NYTimes, "foreshadowed" in a letter to troops, and "hinted at" in an interview, all to be printed and released today, on a Friday, the day Petraeus takes "family time" and is unavailable for any statements or interviews?

Then, of course, there's the fact that there may not even be a written element of Petraeus' recommendations to the President.

Have you ever heard of a political or military briefing (of any kind) that didn't come with a written support document?

That alone should raise suspicions.

Picture of the Day - A bad day at APEC

Take a look at that picture. Do you ever remember anyone talking to Bush like that? (Jason Reed/Reuters)

The very public incident came because Bush refused to offer a peace deal to officially end the Korean War (presumably an element in the latest N. Korea deal.)
"I think I did not hear President Bush mention the — a declaration to end the Korean War just now," Roh said as cameras clicked and television cameras rolled.

Bush said he thought he was being clear, but obliged Roh and restated the U.S. position.

That wasn't good enough either. "If you could be a little bit clearer in your message," Roh said.

Bush, now looking irritated, replied: "I can't make it any more clear, Mr. President. We look forward to the day when we can end the Korean War. That will end — will happen when Kim verifiably gets rid of his weapons programs and his weapons."

Then, in a later meeting,

US President George W. Bush and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin showed no sign of progress after talks here Friday to defuse tensions over US missile defence plans that have angered Moscow.....

Visibly grim after their hour-long meeting, Putin said the talks had been "above all related to missile defence.

(AFP/Alexander Nemenov)

In another appearance with Australian PM Howard (Reuters), Bush thanked Howard for hosting "the OPEC Summit," and then talked about visiting Austrian (not Australian troops) in Iraq.

Then,"Upon finishing his speech, Bush took the wrong way off-stage and, looking slightly perplexed, had to be re-directed by Howard to a centre-stage exit."

You gotta wonder what's going on......

The folly of Petraeus testifying on Petraeus

I can't believe that no one in the media is pointing out the folly of Petraeus testifying on "the successes" of his own performance as the highlight of US decision making.

In 1968, Gen. Westmoreland touted the great successes of his strategy and the coming "the light at the end of the tunnel."

(Maybe we just need to go back to Petraeus' statements of success as the general in charge of training Iraqi forces in 2004 to make that point.)

I should probably point out again that it's Petraeus and Bush against Gen. Casey, Gen. Pace, Adm. Fallon, and Sec Def. Gates who are all recommending greater withdrawals.


The NYTimes gives a taste of Petraeus' recommendations. He would "accept" the withdrawal of one brigade (3,500,) but wants to keep the full presence in place.

(AP) "U.S. troop levels — currently at a record 168,000 — are expected to hit a high of 172,000 in the coming weeks, the Pentagon said Thursday."

(AP) 7 US soldiers killed in Iraq. 4 killed in Anbar. 3 killed by a roadside bomb in Ninevah.

(Reuters) "Leading Republicans in Congress on Thursday declared that troop withdrawal legislation should be scrapped because the United States has made significant progress in the Iraq war."

(TPM) Iraq's National Police (Interior Ministry) are 85% Shia.

Needless to say, (Reuters) the Shia led government is rejecting calls to disband the police.

(Reuters) Allawi tries to wheedle between the US and Baathists.

(CBS) The appearance of a Russian armor piercing hand grenade.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Picture of the Day - 5

Is that background subtle enough for you?

(Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani, left, expounds on his political platform of homeland vigilance and preparedness during a visit before Gov. Haley Barbour, right, students, faculty, supporters and local GOP leaders in Pearl, Miss., Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2007. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis))

More Pictures, Less Mike

We're at that point again coming out of August where the backlog of pictures is building up, so, you'll probably be seeing more and more pictures over the next few weeks.

(This post is a filler. I like to have space between pictures.)

Picture of the Day - 4

(Tina Richards, with Grassroots America Mother of Marine group, screams from a patrol car in Lafayette Park across from the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2007, after she was arrested by Park Police officers for placing anti-war posters in the park. Richards is the mother of a marine who did two tours of duty in Iraq. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds))

Later: AFP story, and maybe a better picture.

Let's play Bogeyman

If CNN and AP can hype a Bin Laden tape to stoke fears, so can I.
If the message is actually a video of bin Laden, it would be the first new footage of him since a video released on Oct. 29, 2004, just before the U.S. presidential elections, in which bin Laden said America could avoid another 9-11 style attack if it stopped threatening Muslims.

Do you like the implied threat? Stoking fear is fun.

Picture of the Day - 3

N.H. hates Brownback. (He got booed at the debate, too.)

(Republican presidential hopeful, U.S.,Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. during a speech at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2007. (AP Photo/Jim Cole))

Bush Justice Department against Net Neutrality

This is mostly filler between pictures, but still, you can't say you're surprised that the Bush administration DoJ recommends to the FCC to side with big business on net neutrality.

Picture of the Day

(President George W. Bush poses with Clarence Solckee, an Aborigine, during a visit to the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney September 6, 2007. REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

Are the piles of dead bodies getting bigger or not?

A must read article on the Iraq statistics.
The U.S. military's claim that violence has decreased sharply in Iraq in recent months has come under scrutiny from many experts within and outside the government, who contend that some of the underlying statistics are questionable and selectively ignore negative trends.

But I find the most telling bit is this. They're not just disputing statistics from antiwar activists, they're claiming that even their own intelligence agencies are flawed.
Senior U.S. officers in Baghdad disputed the accuracy and conclusions of the largely negative GAO report, which they said had adopted a flawed counting methodology used by the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Many of those conclusions were also reflected in last month's pessimistic National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq.

In the end, the debate is all definitional, but by my count, you've got the CIA, DIA, and GAO (not to mention the AP and McClatchy) all saying violence is about the same, while it's just Petraeus, Odierno, and the White House citing improvements.

(In this debate, I think it's very important to watch the shift in reference between "the military" and "senior officers in Baghdad.")

while we're looking at the "shaping" of statistics, it's probably worth a moment to take a look at this,
Indeed, interviews with numerous military and intelligence analysts, both inside and outside of government, suggest that the number of strikes the group has directed represent only a fraction of what official estimates claim. Further, al-Qaeda's presumed role in leading the violence through uniquely devastating attacks that catalyze further unrest may also be overstated.

Not really a surprise, is it?.

What Iraqi forces?

As you watch and read about Gen. Jones' report to Congress today on the state of the Iraqi forces, it's probably a good idea to keep in mind this observation from the NYTimes article.

With no viable Iraqi forces, claims of security gains through "the surge" are folly.
The commission’s call for remaking the national police in some respects raises questions about a major pillar of the troop increase strategy put in place earlier this year by the White House. National police units were designated under that strategy to secure neighborhoods after American and Iraqi Army units cleared the areas of insurgents.

(To this day, I still don't see how "training" reduces sectarianism.)

The shift to a permanent presence in Iraq

Has anyone else noticed the very quiet, but growing, shift in rhetoric among the Bush administration towards a permanent presence in Iraq?

Josh Bolten explains/extends Bush's remarks in the Draper book.
In an interview with the USA TODAY editorial board, Bolten said the president plans to talk later next week about what his aides recommend and how he plans to proceed.

Bush wants to make "it possible for his successor — whichever party that successor is from — to have a sustained presence in the Middle East," Bolten said. "And have America continue to be a respected and influential power in the Middle East."

Despite the coded "presence in the Middle East," there can be little question this White House is talking about Iraq Forever.

Separate from any discussions of the merits of permanent bases in Iraq, how does this play within the current politics in Iraq? Does it make them more or less likely to work with the current US force?

And, why now? With Maliki on the ropes and reconciliation all but dead, why would the White House be (so publicly) introducing this aggravating element right now?

More vulnerable to terrorist attacks

I feel like I've already written too much this morning, but I have to mention this from the WaPo.
Hobbled by inadequate funding, unclear priorities, continuing reorganizations and the absence of an overarching strategy, the Department of Homeland Security is failing to achieve its mission of preventing and responding to terrorist attacks or natural disasters, according to a comprehensive report by the Government Accountability Office.

That's some pretty serious news.

(Reading everything today, I guess we can gather that Congress is back from its vacation, eh?)

Thompson's qualifications

My favorite so far.
Thompson, 65, a Hollywood actor whose face is familiar to millions of Americans and who has played presidents three times in movies, launched his bid in a video on his Web site, www.Fred08.com, and in an appearance on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

Three times you say.....?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

A demonstrator dressed as a duck carries a sign noting the absence of former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson, before a debate among the other Republican presidential candidates, at the University of New Hampshire in Durham September 5, 2007. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

(Is this just some nutball doing this or is it affiliated with another campaign like Brownback's Romney dolphin?)

Afternoon off.

Not feeling very bloggy, but I'll leave you with a question. Will Petraeus and his credibility end up being chewed up the way Colin Powell was?

Picture of the Day - 2

So here's the sequence:

1) George Bush says we can "withdraw troops" if security is better.

2) Petraeus "recommends" to "withdraw troops" because he has to.

3) The surge was a success.

(Footnotes: "Withdrawing troops" simply means ending the surge as planned. Restrictions on the Army require an end to the surge.)

(President George W. Bush stands beside General David Petraeus at Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq, 03 September 2007.(AFP/Jim Watson))

Declaring victory and going home (which means 130,000 troops staying.)

I am just so disgusted by the media coverage.

A screaming headline, "Petraeus hints at U.S. Iraq troop reduction," but if you actually read the article, what Petraeus said is that they are going to stick to "the surge" plan which requires a Spring withdrawal.

(This matches the coverage of Bush's comments yesterday.)

This is not a change. This is a deception with a coy little smile to let the media think they are getting something. This is all part of the lie that "the surge" is working, and the media is playing right along.

Picture of the Day

(US soldiers hold their weapons above their heads as they wade through a chest-deep canal during a patrol in Baghdad, August 2007. (AFP/File/David Furst))

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

This far, no farther from the NYTimes

C'mon, NYTimes. Don't frame this as a question. Call it what it is.
It was the White House and the Iraqi government, not Congress, that first proposed the benchmarks for Iraq that are now producing failing grades, a provenance that raises questions about why the administration is declaring now that the government’s performance is not the best measure of change.

Yeah, that's some mystery there. (They would've gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those nosy kids.)

C'mon, NYTimes. Report it straight. The surge has failed by the White House's own measurements. Why is that not the lede?

(Look at the way the LATimes did it this morning.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Government Accountability Office Comptroller General David Walker testifies on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2007 (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)

Softening the blow and ending the argument on Iraq

Look at the sourcing, that's the key here. A multiple sourced leak of this type would not come out without authorization.
President Bush's senior advisers on Iraq have recommended he stand by his current war strategy, and he is unlikely to order more than a symbolic cut in troops before the end of the year, administration officials told The Associated Press Tuesday.

See, the argument's over. There's no need to look at the reports.

Picture of the Day - 2

Questioner: Mr. Romney, what... is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Romney: What do you mean? An African or European swallow?

(Too obscure?)

(Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney speaks to supporters in North Charleston, S.C., Thursday, Aug.30, 2007. (AP Photo/ The Post and Courier, Grace Beahm))

Political bits

A new YouTube video attacking Giuliani. It's pretty good. (One of the questions I have this election cycle is whether the independently produced "viral" videos will have the same level of impact as the 527's hit pieces.)

(CNN) McCain got roasted by some high school students. When asked "Do you ever worry that like you might die in office or get Alzheimer’s or some other disease that might affect your judgment?....McCain then ended the exchange in his quintessential style: “Thanks for the question, you little jerk … you’re drafted.”

(USNews) Karl Rove's next job will be creating a new Bush legacy running the Bush Library. (To replace the legacy he created running the Bush presidency.)

And, OMG, the very last item on the CNN catchall this morning,
THOMPSON CAMP CALLED "DEVIL WEARS PRADA II": ....According to a Republican consultant, some female staffers on the Thompson campaign have taken to referring to the operation as "The Devil Wears Prada II," comparing the campaign to the movie and Thompson's wife, Jeri, to the lead character played by Meryl Streep. You'll remember (oh, admit it, you watched it) that Streep plays a rhymes-with-witch tyrant who runs a fictional fashion magazine with an iron hand and antagonizes underlings with an impossible-to-please attitude.

The funny thing is, all of the slams on Jeri Thompson are coming from inside the Thompson camp, not from opponents. They're waging an internal war against Jeri Thompson in the press. That's how bad it is inside the Thompson campaign.

(And he wants to run the White House....)

Picture of the Day

"I hereby open Baghdad to post cleansing Shia domination.

To my Shia brethren I say, remember, I stalled reconciliation for you."

((MSNBC) "Shiites now dominate the once mixed capital, and there is little chance of reversing the process.")

(Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, center, cuts a ribbon during an opening ceremony for the National Operational Center in Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday Sept. 2, 2007. (AP Photo/Iraqi Government))

The Charlie Brown press and the football of troop withdrawal

The press is falling for it again, interpreting this,
After talks with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, and Ryan C. Crocker, the ambassador to Iraq, Mr. Bush said that they “tell me that if the kind of success we are now seeing here continues it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces.”

Mr. Bush did not say how large a troop withdrawal was possible. Nor did he say whether he envisioned any forces being withdrawn sooner than next spring, when the first of the additional 30,000 troops Mr. Bush sent to Iraq this year are scheduled to come home anyway.

Into a headlines like this, "Bush, in Iraq, Says Troop Reduction Is Possible" or "Bush sees possible troop cuts in Iraq," or "Bush hints at US troop reduction in visit to Iraq."

Shouldn't the headline be, "Bush says he'll stick to current deployment schedules only if security improves"?

PS. Dear Press, you are being outsmarted by this man,
On Air Force One after leaving Iraq, Bush acknowledged that his comment about troop reductions had piqued interest. "Maybe I was intending to do that," the president said, sitting around a table with reporters in his plane's conference room as he flew to Australia to meet with Asia-Pacific leaders.

"If you look at my comments over the past eight months, it's gone from a security situation in the sense that we're either going to get out and there will be chaos, or more troops," the president said. "Now the situation has changed where I'm able to speculate on the hypothetical."

Josh Marshall on the false debate

After pointing out that deaths in Iraq are not down, as has been claimed without citing statistics, Josh Marshall gets to the point.
So here we have that classic sort of modern media moment in which we have a debate wherein both sides arguments are fairly and equally represented -- one side with a series of bogus 'facts' and another with actual facts. Both sides get to make their case. And you can decide between them.

I often refer to this as "covering the controversy." The news networks have learned that controversy (argument) delivers far more viewers than actual news and have drifted their programming towards these "debates." (Much as MTV doesn't show videos anymore.)

Separate from the incredible disservice of sanctioning meritless arguments (on both sides,) this has also had an incredibly corrosive effect on our nation.

(Every once in awhile, we should all go back and watch Jon Stewart's appearance on CNN's Crossfire which was cancelled shortly afterwards.)

Potemkin "success"

A snapshot of "success" from the WaPo.
Hours before Campbell spoke, a delegation led by an American general, with several reporters in tow, filed through Combat Outpost Gator. Scores of Iraqis were milling inside the fortified market, where shopkeepers were selling clothing, shoes, and other consumer goods.....

Still, the Dora market is a Potemkin village of sorts. The U.S. military hands out $2,500 grants to shop owners to open or improve their businesses. The military has fixed windows and doors and even helped rebuild shops that had burned down, soldiers and others said.....

Two days earlier, a squad of Iraqi police entered the market. Shoppers left and shopkeepers scurried to shutter their businesses. The police are widely said to be infiltrated by Shiite militias. "We were scared of them. Everybody ran away," said Hussein Ali, 37, another shop owner.

Also: The WaPo has an eyeopening story on the "cooperation" of militia infiltrated Iraqis security forces in Kadhimiyah.

Also: Juan Cole takes apart the claims of "success" in Anbar.

Monday, September 03, 2007


Occasionally you run across these little snapshots of Iraq like this one from an interrogation during a house search outside Salman Pak.
What did he know about Sunni insurgents living in the area, asked Staff Sgt. Kenneth Braxton, who's from Philadelphia. Nothing, the man said. Braxton said he knew the man was lying because of the way he moved his eyes. The sergeant tore an American flag Velcro patch from his sleeve and told the Iraqi to hold it to his chest. Then another soldier used a digital camera to take a picture of the man.

"So we've got a picture of you holding an American flag now," Braxton said. He told the man that if he didn't cooperate, the photo would be posted around the neighborhood.

That's a very real threat. (Related to the next picture.)

Picture of the Day - 2

This picture is so interesting to me.

(President Bush shakes hands with Sheikh Abdul Sattar, an Iraqi tribal leader, during a meeting with tribal leaders at Al-Asad Airbase in Anbar province, Iraq, Monday, Sept. 3, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

1) Is the President of the United States smiling as he shakes hands with "tribal leaders" who were killing US forces in May?

2) Think about this from the Sheikh's side. This photo endangers him, his family, and his position. What does he get for this photo? (Look at the discomfort in his face.)

Picture of the Day

Iraqi soldiers hang their national flag on the gate of the Basra Palace. (AFP)

Bush goes to Iraq

Bush flew into Iraq on his way to the Asian summit, but I question this spin.
Bush and his national security team flew directly to this air base in a remote part of Anbar province, bypassing Baghdad in a symbolic expression of impatience with political paralysis in the nation's capital. The gesture underscored the U.S. belief that the spark for progress may come at the local level.

Maybe, just maybe, going into Anbar has something to do, not with a "symbolic expression of impatience" with Baghdad, but instead with the fact that a Congressional delegation's plane was fired on just days ago leaving Baghdad.

(No pictures or text of speech or appearance yet.)

Inside baseball

In a bit of a hurry this morning, but there are three good "inside baseball" stories on the Bush administration this morning.

The WaPo has an article on the upcoming Draper book, loaded with lots of chewy little bits we haven't heard before. (John Roberts, Harriet Miers, Rove's leaving, Bush's biking, Rumsfeld's firing....)

The WaPo also has a piece looking at Condi Rice
, her rise to Sec State, her relationship with Bush, her change from a "realist" to whatever Bush is, and a more personalizing look at her day to day. (This sounds like one of those pieces where a top figure authorizes her staff to talk to a reporter in an effort to rehab an image.)

And, Newsweek has a short Periscope piece saying the reason Gonzales left was the widening internal Justice Department investigation. (It sounds like Gonzales wanted to stay on, but was thrown overboard at that Sunday dinner at Crawford.)

(Okay, one more. Regarding the British pullout in Basra
But the move produced an angry reaction in Washington. Bush administration officials were furious that the operation was launched at a time when the president is begging for more time for his "surge" strategy to turn the tide of the war.

Because, after all, military strategy is being set by conditions on the ground, not politics in Washington, right?)

When lazy hits another level

Newsweek has a huge article on Fred Thompson that talks about the lazy charge. Funny how lazy turned into this from one of his own advisers.
There may be something to the chatter. Thompson has never been an enthusiastic politician. GOP elders in Tennessee had to plead with him to run for the Senate in 1994, and he never felt at home in the Capitol, with its arcane rules of order and endless late-night jawboning sessions. This time around, some close to him question whether moving into the White House is truly Thompson's life ambition—or more the dream of his second wife, Jeri, a former GOP operative who is his unofficial campaign manager and top adviser. People "wonder if she's more into this than he is," says a Thompson adviser, who asked not to be named talking about private matters.

If that mantra catches on, it doesn't flatter Thompson or his wife.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

(WaPo) "Draper writes that Bush was "gassed" after an 80-minute bike ride at his Crawford, Tex., ranch on the day before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast and was largely silent during a subsequent video briefing from then-FEMA director Michael D. Brown and other top officials making preparations for the storm."

President George W. Bush prepares for a bicycle ride at the Ft. Belvoir U.S. Army base in Virginia September 2, 2007. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

(There's a whole lot of chewy little bits inside this WaPo article.)

When did Wolf Blitzer become a journalist?


I didn't know TV hosts allowed to challenge war supporters with facts.

North Korea to declare, disable nuclear programs?

This sounds really good, but we need a little more detail before we celebrate V-NK day.
North Korea agreed Sunday to account for and disable its atomic programs by the end of the year, offering its first timeline for a process long sought by nuclear negotiators, the chief U.S. envoy said.

Kim Gye Gwan, head of the North Korean delegation, said separately his country's willingness to cooperate was clear—in return for "political and economic compensation"—but he mentioned no dates.

What is the difference between "disable" and "dismantle?" Does this include already enriched weapons material?

(Funny how much better this has gone since it got moved out of the White House and away from Condi Rice.)

The British are pulling out of Basra

According to the BBC, the British are pulling out of their last base in Basra to the final British base at the airport which will now contain all 5,500 British troops.

The next step will be a formal handover of security to the (militia, primarily SIIC, infiltrated) Iraqi forces, expected to happen fairly soon.

NPR reported this morning that a complete British withdrawal from Iraq is expected by the end of the year and could begin within a month. (Notice this is after the Sept. reporting period.)

Picture of the Day

And his qualifications for fighting two wars, combating terrorism, and leading the free world are....?

Former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson tapes in a scene on the set of the television crime show 'Law & Order' in New York on Feb. 19, 2003. (AP Photo/Matt Moyer)

Iraq - Lots on the Karbala violence

(AFP) "Sadr warns of retaliation if Karbala probe delayed" (So much for the six month stand down.)

(AP) "Iraqi gov't orders Karbala investigation" (Reading this carefully, it is remarkably vague which, in Maliki's world, means it's not going to happen.)

(AP) "Iraq's Shiite prime minister said Friday hardline Sunni clerics outside Iraq share the blame for this week's bloodshed at a Shiite religious festival in Karbala because they issued religious decrees terming Shiites heretics." (It's the Saudi's fault.)

The LATimes reports that the pecipitant event for the Karbala violence was the entry of future SIIC leader Amar Hakim into the Imam Hussein shrine. (Interesting. Also, a nice starting look at the future leader of SIIC.)

(Reuters) Maliki claims that he stopped the civil war.

(UPI) "A leaked U.S. State Department report concludes the Iraqi government is unable to fight corruption, National Public Radio reported Saturday.

The report found that corrupt officials apparently have no reason to fear for their jobs, while employees of the Commission on Public Integrity have been killed."

And, (NYTimes) "Just how much President Bush’s goals abroad are now at the mercy of some of the world’s weakest leaders was clear last week in how the White House reacted to events in Pakistan..... Musharraf.... Maliki..... Abbas..... Karzai....." (But Sanger left out Lebanon.)

Renzi expects to be indicted

Absolutely buried, deep on page two, in a Chicago Tribune piece on Larry Craig's resignation is this,
Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) recently said he would not run for re-election, privately telling his staff that he expects to be indicted for his ties to Abramoff.

Did we know that?

Bribing the Sunnis in Anbar

In a fairly interesting NYTimes article on US aid to the Sunni tribes in Anbar, the picture of what's going on becomes a bit clearer.

The US, frustrated with Maliki's refusal to share oil wealth and other economic benefits, has decided to use US money to try and fill the gap.
“This is all about finding ways to circumvent Maliki,” said one senior official who is involved in preparing Mr. Bush’s presentation of a new strategy, which will probably come in an address to the country after General Petraeus and the American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker, have presented their report to Congress starting on Sept. 10. “We can’t go to the Hill again and say Maliki will perform if we just give him the space. He won’t. So you find other means to accomplish the goal.”

(I maintain that the genesis of this program was to take over for the Saudi financing of the Sunnis. This allowed the US to reshape the money flows and thus the broad direction of the Sunni insurgency.

Also, keeping the Saudis out of the financing and support limelight is essential in dealing with the Iranians.)

The "consequential" president

The NYTimes has a pretty odd and worthless article on a series of interviews Bush gave last December for a book, but it does have a few excerptible quotes.
“Self-pity is the worst thing that can happen to a presidency,” Mr. Bush told Mr. Draper, by way of saying he sought to avoid it. “This is a job where you can have a lot of self-pity.”....

In response to Mr. Draper’s observance that Mr. Bush had nobody’s “shoulder to cry on,” the president said: “Of course I do, I’ve got God’s shoulder to cry on, and I cry a lot.” In what Mr. Draper interpreted as a reference to war casualties, Mr. Bush added, “I’ll bet I’ve shed more tears than you can count as president.”....

“I made a decision to lead,” he said, “One, it makes you unpopular; two, it makes people accuse you of unilateral arrogance, and that may be true. But the fundamental question is, is the world better off as a result of your leadership?”

Picture of the Day

Army Maj. Gen Richard Rowe presents an American flag to Victor Jones from the casket of his wife, Army Sgt. Princess Samuels, during funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery, Aug. 31, 2007. Samuels, 22, of Mitchellville, Md. was killed earlier this month in Taji, Iraq from indirect enemy fire. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)