.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Sadr withdraws from Maliki's coalition

Oh, this can't be good.
The political movement loyal to radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr has withdrawn from Iraq's governing Shia alliance.

The move deprives Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's coalition of 30 votes - leaving it in control of about half the seats in parliament.

Technically, this leaves the Maliki coalition short of a majority (AP), but there are many small, unaffiliated Shia parties that will likely vote with him on most issues. His bloc is now extremely reliant on the Kurds.

(I would guess Sadr is trying to claim the nationalist/anti-American mantle as well as drawing distance with the increasingly unpopular Maliki government.)

Iran to a head

I don't know what's true and what's not, but the noise towards Iran is ratcheting up.

We've got the US very publicly committing to a base 5 miles from the Iranian border, claims of an Iranian 240mm rocket being fired at Camp Victory, the ludicrous claims of N. Korean nuclear tech into Syria, the mysterious and uncommented on Israeli airstrike on Syria, new claims of Iranian weapons flowing to the Taleban, and a sudden and very public "leaked" discussion that Mr. Bush may now be leaning towards Cheney's "bomb Iran" position.

I don't think this necessarily presages an imminent attack, but if both sides keep adding sticks to the pile, sooner or later it's going to topple over.

Picture of the Day - 2

"He admitted to being out-smarted by the enemy at several stages of the Iraq war, and spoke glowingly about the sacrifices of the military and of military families."

- NBC - Brian Williams' blog describing the "anchors meeting" with Bush.

(The soldiers' "sacrifices" being all the more noble as they came as a result of their leader being "outsmarted" at several stages. - mike)

(President Bush walks towards his limousine after morning services at St. John's Church in Washington, Sunday, Sept. 2, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

The future utility of the Sunni tribal/militia groups

Michael Ware made a very good point tonight. As Iraq does finally go into the crapper, these Sunni groups the US is arming, training, and building contacts with will likely be used by the US to violently counterbalance Iranian influence in Iraq.

I repeat violently.

More mystery on the N. Korea/Syrian nuke allegation

Getting a little more interesting. The NYTimes reprints the Semmel allegations of N. Korean/Syrian nuclear cooperation from the AP article yesterday, but adds this:
American officials have been similarly tight-lipped, and officials who ordinarily see intelligence reports on such issues say their access has been restricted.

That sure makes it sound a little more than fishy, doesn't it?

(And the NYTimes goes with the interpretation that this "speculation" is aimed at damaging the recent N. Korea deal.)

Bush is everyone's Michael Brown

Alan Greenspan tries to rewrite his legacy.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan criticized President George W. Bush for pursuing an economic agenda driven by politics rather than sound policy, with little concern for future consequences....

In 2001 testimony before Congress, Greenspan was widely interpreted to have endorsed Bush's proposed tax cuts. In the book, he characterized his testimony as politically careless and said his words were misinterpreted.

By 2009, even Cheney may write a book blaming Bush for everything.

President Bush is quickly becoming everyone's Michael Brown.

Picture of the Day

((Now Former) U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wipes away a tear as he takes the podium to make remarks to Justice Department staff members on his last day in the post in Washington, September 14, 2007. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

There have been no photos of Bush and Gonzales together since before Gonzales made his resignation. The only exception was at the 9/11 commemoration where they were kept far apart.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

Senator Joseph Biden, seen here in August 2007, has told the US war commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, that his military "surge" was failing to translate into political peace in Baghdad. (AFP/Scott Olson)

North Korea nuclear aid to Syria?

Here we are again with administration officials alleging a North Korean/Syrian nuclear axis.

The original sourcing appears to be Israeli, but I'm not exactly sure why the administration is propagating this thin reed.

Is it a direct effort to pressure Syria/Iran or is it another "rogue" effort within the administration to scupper talks with Syria or perhaps the recent deal with N. Korea?

Political bits

(AP) The VECO CEO says in open court that Sen. Stevens son took bribes.

(WaPo) Alberto Gonzales leaves the White House today. (Still friends with Bush, but largely reviled among conservatives, I'll be really curious where he lands.)

And, just as a curiousity, who really visits the "anti-sites" like PhoneyFred, against Fred Thompson, or Don'tMarkWarner?

Picture of the Day - Electability

Generally speaking, the party that is picking their candidate on his (or her) "electability" is usually in a whole lot of trouble.

"Electability" talk is a sign of a party that is grasping at straws because it expects to get mauled in the polls.

(Republican presidential candidate former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has makeup apply before the Fox News Channel Republican Presidential debate at the University of New Hampshire, September 5, 2007. REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Gillespie's "Golden Apples."

Look, it is pretty amazing that the President would utter an outright and provable lie in a major written speech, (36 countries having military troops in Iraq disproved in this WaPo fact check,) but understand that part of the point of this lie is to give critics something small to distract themselves with.

The White House is more than happy to argue about the size of "the coalition." That means we're not challenging the core substance.

This new "golden apple" tactic has become a feature since Gillespie took over Rove's spot. Watch for it.

(Is Atalanta and the "Golden Apples" too obscure?)

(Later: Intentional ambiguity over which troops and how many troops come home when only forces media reporting that reinforces the "coming home" message.)

Let's play headline

These are the top headlines on Bush's speech. They're all over the place.

AP: Bush preserves big troop level in Iraq

Reuters: Bush agrees to limited troop cuts in Iraq

AFP: Bush orders partial Iraq pull-out, citing 'measure of success'

USAToday: Bush: Continue U.S. presence in Iraq

NYTimes: Success Allows Gradual Troop Cuts, Bush Says

WaPo: Bush Tells Nation He Will Begin 'Surge' Rollback

LATimes: President redefines the U.S. objective in Iraq

CNN: 'Come together' on Iraq war, Bush urges

McClatchy: New Iraq plan recalls strategies past

Now we're supposed to vote based on Law and Order cases?

ABC has this article about Fred Thompson commenting on the Terri Schiavo thing. He said something, his campaign issued a correction, whatever.

But what really alarmed me is that the entire second page of the article discusses what Arthur Branch, Thompson's fictional Law and Order character, did in an episode which loosely mirrored the Schiavo case.

What the hell is that?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Picture of the Day - 3

It takes a truly special kinda guy to come up with "declare victory and not go home."

Also notice we've gone from "victory" to "success."

(President George W. Bush looks up after delivering a televised address to the nation about troop levels in Iraq from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington September 13, 2007. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Pouring concrete

I was listening to some guy on the radio discussing the US/Russian dispute regarding the missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic.

He made the point that the Bush admin will never consent to the Russian requested change of venue for those facilities because the Bush admin wants to start "pouring concrete" before the next president arrives in office making discontinuation nearly inevitable.

It really got me thinking about how many different ways the Bush Presidency is trying to "pour concrete" broadly across its foreign policy, much like the current policy to pass the Iraq occupation on to the next administration or the potential irrevocable acts towards Iran.

This administration desperately wants to pour that concrete of irrevocability even if it is into a bucket attached to the next president's feet.

Later: From ABCNews and Tim Russert it sounds like tonight the President will commit to a "long term security arrangement" (permanent presence) in Iraq. (That's alot of concrete.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Olga Capetillo cries as she holds her favorite family snapshot of her son Sgt. Omar Mora with his daughter Jordan at her home Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2007 in Texas City, Texas. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Hiding behind statistics

I would think that the Bush administration is more than happy to have the media space filled with disputes over "the metrics" rather than stories outlining the political stagnation.

A debate about metrics creates the illusion that there's a real debate as to the degree of success.

Picture of the Day

CNN is reporting that Sunni sheikh Sattar Abu Reesha has been killed in a carbombing. This is the Sheikh that Bush smilingly shook hands with in Anbar 10 days ago.

I remember the discomfort on his face as if he didn't expect to be photographed.

(Later: I didn't catch this from Bush's visit ten days ago, "During his meeting with President Bush in Anbar last week, Abu Risha, reportedly joked that his people had achieved in four months what the American military could not achieve in four years.")

And all this is for.......

Petraeus has eclipsed Crocker, that was always the White House plan, but in reality, this is what matters.
The debate in Washington over troop numbers is intense. But in Baghdad, there's been little sense of alarm or urgency among the Iraqi politicians who would have the most to lose if the United States decides to begin a major pull back.

Both Sunni and Shiite leaders have been largely convinced for weeks that President Bush would press to keep forces in Iraq until he turns the White House over to a successor....

But the signals this week of just modest troop withdrawals ahead — perhaps back to pre-surge levels of about 130,000 — mean the Shiite-led government feels little pressure to accelerate work toward true political reconciliation.

Instead, they are focusing their energy on shoring up their positions: outflanking political challengers, leaning on more-radical Shiite factions to behave and flirting with Sunni sheiks to build personal alliances.

That's the bottom line, isn't it? The Shia are winning in the current status quo and have little need for reconciliation.

(By the way, this "Petraeus wants to be President" piece is likely to get big play, but notice the single source for this credibility sapping anecdote is an SIIC power man at the Interior Ministry who just happens to mention this in the middle of Petraeus' PR.)

And we're back to "it's all Iran's fault"

(AP) Military spokesman Bergner says a 240mm rocket attack on Camp Victory points straight to Iran.

(HeraldSun) Petraeus says "The evidence is very, very clear" that Iran was behind the Karbala killings.

(If they're as presented, both of these do indicate Hezbullah.)

But, the winner has to be Michael Ledeen who writes in a new book that Iran is actually behind Al Qaeda all the way back into the 1990's.
He says the 1998 bombings of the United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania “were in large part Iranian operations,” which would come as news to the 9/11 Commission, which attributed them solely to Al Qaeda. He says Shiite Iran was largely behind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a man famous for his genocidal hatred of Shiites. He claims that “most” Iraqi insurgents are “under Iranian guidance and/or control,” not just Shiite warlords like Moktada al-Sadr, but Sunni militants as well — the very people who say they are fighting to prevent Iranian domination.

In Ledeen’s view, in fact, Sunni-Shiite conflict — the very thing that most observers think is tearing Iraq apart — is largely a mirage, because Iran controls both sides. And Al Qaeda is a mirage too, a mere front for the regime in Tehran. “When you hear ‘Al Qaeda,’ ” Ledeen writes, “it’s probably wise to think ‘Iran.’ ” Not surprisingly, he thinks the mullahs were probably behind 9/11.

The really frightening thing is that this administration listens to Ledeen.

Trying to cut a deal around the Mahdi

Not too much in this article outlining US attempts to create a pact with elements of the Mahdi, but it sounds like the US is attempting to pry off some of the more "moderate" elements by trying to work through tribal leaders.

What's not clear is whether this is attempt to get Sadr himself into the fold, or to try and set up tribal Shia tribal leaders as a counterbalancing force.

(Note: Within the key Mahdi areas, tribal power structures and affiliations are generally pretty weak.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


(NYTimes) Compromise on Oil Law in Iraq Seems to Be Collapsing.

(And not only that, but one of the key breaking points is that the Kurds are now using their oil contracts to exercise elements of independence.)

Picture of the Day - 3

(A poster showing what to avoid doing when in contact with the Ebola virus, Congo, 2004. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed a major outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo (AFP/Alexandra Lesieur))

(WHO statement: "As of 11 September 2007, WHO is aware of 372 cases and 166 deaths associated with the ongoing event in the province. Additional samples have been taken for further laboratory analysis.")

No wonder Bush loves Petraeus

It's no wonder Bush loves Petraeus. If you believe this hearsay report, Admiral Fallon describes Petraeus as Bush's favorite kind of guy.
Fallon told Petraeus that he considered him to be "an ass-kissing little chickenshit" and added, "I hate people like that", the sources say. That remark reportedly came after Petraeus began the meeting by making remarks that Fallon interpreted as trying to ingratiate himself with a superior.

If we've learned anything, it's that the way to Bush's decision making brain is through kissing his ass.

(Maybe it's because they're so frequently close together.....)

Saudis refuse to attend US's token peace conference

Admittedly, this peace conference was all theater, but the Saudis bailing out is a big diplomatic embarrassment.
Saudi Arabia will probably skip a Mideast peace conference called by President Bush if it doesn't tackle substantive issues such as the status of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees, the kingdom's foreign minister said Wednesday.

(The current policy seems to be to prop the Saudis up as the Palestinians new defenders in place of Iran. So, maybe the Saudis holding out for terms is all a part of the Kabuki.)

Nukes in Syria?

I'm sorry, I just don't buy it.
One Bush administration official said Israel had recently carried out reconnaissance flights over Syria, taking pictures of possible nuclear installations that Israeli officials believed might have been supplied with material from North Korea. The administration official said Israeli officials believed that North Korea might be unloading some of its nuclear material on Syria.

But, hey, anytime the administration can get the NYTimes to print baseless allegations including the words Iran, Syria and nuclear, I guess they're doing their job. Right?


(E&P) "The Op-Ed by seven active duty U.S. soldiers in Iraq questioning the war drew international attention just three weeks ago. Now two of the seven are dead."

"He was coming home in November. He was coming home in November,” his mother Olga Capetillo said.

Picture of the Day - 2

(Hillary Clinton reads a note during the testimony of U.S. Army General David Petraeus. REUTERS/Molly Riley)

Taleban seize more Pakistani soldiers - Musharraf less popular than Bin Laden

This is getting so little coverage.
Pro-Taleban militants have attacked a check post in north-west Pakistan and abducted 12 soldiers, officials say.....

The rebels are still holding scores of soldiers they kidnapped a fortnight ago in nearby South Waziristan......

The latest kidnapping comes amid negotiations to free the soldiers abducted two weeks ago. The insurgents say they are holding about 300 troops.

There was very vague reporting last week of 180 Pakistani troops being captured by the Taleban without firing a shot.

Also: (CNN) "Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf -- a key U.S. ally -- is less popular in his own country than al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, according to a poll of Pakistanis conducted last month by an anti-terrorism organization.....

Bin Laden has a 46 percent approval rating. Musharraf's support is 38 percent."

And: Negroponte has arrived in Islamabad to try and help Musharraf wade through the politics of the Sharif deportation, and to push the US's preferred Musharraf/Bhutto powersharing deal.

Germans pull out of Iran sanctions - FoxNews hypes bombing Iran

Two bits of news here. First, Germany backs out of the US anti-Iran sanctions coalition. (The breaking point appears to be the designation if the Revolutionary Guard as a terror group.)
Germany — a pivotal player among three European nations to rein in Iran's nuclear program... — notified its allies last week that the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel refuses to support the imposition of any further sanctions against Iran that could be imposed by the U.N. Security Council.

But, as interestingly, this article reports on the growing "bomb Iran" movement, giving a timeline and even naming some surprising names.
Political and military officers, as well as weapons of mass destruction specialists at the State Department, are now advising Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the diplomatic approach favored by Burns has failed and the administration must actively prepare for military intervention of some kind. Among those advising Rice along these lines are John Rood, the assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation; and a number of Mideast experts, including Ambassador James Jeffrey, deputy White House national security adviser under Stephen Hadley and formerly the principal deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs.

Consequently, according to a well-placed Bush administration source, "everyone in town" is now participating in a broad discussion about the costs and benefits of military action against Iran, with the likely timeframe for any such course of action being over the next eight to 10 months, after the presidential primaries have probably been decided, but well before the November 2008 elections.

As much as there is a lopsided policy balance in the administration between Cheney and Rice, Stephen Hadley represents a key swing vote. If he has, in fact, switched to the "bomb Iran" side, the momentum is already underway.

Picture of the Day

President Bush visited neither Ground Zero nor the Pentagon for a 9-11 commemoration.

(President Bush and first lady Laura Bush at a ceremony marking the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2007, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Israeli airstrike/troops in Syria?

I think we now know what prompted that rocket from Gaza this morning that wounded dozens of Israeli soldiers, an Israeli airstrike against Syria last week.
The airstrike may have targeted weapons that were destined for Hezbollah militants, according to sources in the region and in the United States.....

But the sources told CNN the military operation, which happened Wednesday into Thursday, may have also involved Israeli ground forces who directed the airstrike, which "left a big hole in the desert" in Syria......

Sources in the U.S. government and military confirmed to CNN's Barbara Starr that the airstrike did happen, and that they are happy to have Israel carry the message to both Syria and Iran that they can get in and out and strike when necessary.

I'd be really curious who the "sources in the US government" are that are cheering this on.

Our "ally" Saudi Arabia

(ABCNews) "Despite six years of promises, U.S. officials say Saudi Arabia continues to look the other way at wealthy individuals identified as sending millions of dollars to al Qaeda....."

(AP) "Oil prices rose to a new record settlement price Tuesday...."

Picture of the Day - 4

There's a new poll showing Thompson catching Giuliani, primarily by polling well among evangelicals and southerners, although you gotta wonder how that'll shake out.

(Bloomberg) "Republican presidential contender Fred Thompson, who is basing his campaign on an appeal to conservative voters, says he isn't a regular churchgoer and doesn't plan to speak about his religion on the stump."

(Former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson wipes the sweat off his brow after a town hall meeting in Davenport Iowa, September 8, 2007. REUTERS/John Gress)

Picture of the Day - 3

Busy today, so light posting, but I gotta say, the growing idea that "the surge" presentations are going to reinvigorate the McCain campaign seems pretty laughable to me.

(Senator John McCain arrives at the Senate Armed Services Committee to hear testimony from the Iraqi Security Forces Independent Assessment Commission on Capitol Hill September 6, 2007. REUTERS/Jim Young)

(Update: McCain has started collecting "care packages" for the troops. (PS. His campaign bus is now called "No Surrender.")

The Pentagon doesn't want Petraeus to go unrebutted?

Think about this for a minute. The Pentagon at senior level (Fallon, Casey, Pace, Gates) is preparing its own document to undermine the plans of the top General in the field in the middle of a war.
NEWSWEEK has learned that a separate internal report being prepared by a Pentagon working group will “differ substantially” from Petraeus’s recommendations, according to an official who is privy to the ongoing discussions but would speak about them only on condition of anonymity. An early version of the report, which is currently being drafted and is expected to be completed by the beginning of next year, will “recommend a very rapid reduction in American forces: as much as two-thirds of the existing force very quickly, while keeping the remainder there.” The strategy will involve unwinding the still large U.S. presence in big forward operation bases and putting smaller teams in outposts.

“There is interest at senior levels [of the Pentagon] in getting alternative views” to Petraeus, the official said. Among others, Centcom commander Admiral William Fallon is known to want to draw down faster than Petraeus.

If that doesn't tell you the isolation of Petraeus' view.....

(And, once again, knowing the sourcing on this item would help in understanding it. Was this leaked out of one of Petraeus' bosses offices?

The timing couldn't be more intentional, though.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Gen. David Petraeus, left, talks about force reductions during in an interview with Brit Hume on FOX News on Monday, Sept. 10, 2007 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Petraeus - Pied Piper to the Republicans

I think it's important to note that Petraeus' testimony and the concomitant White House PR blitz is not aimed at the American people, but instead towards the Republicans in Congress and the small base of remaining Iraq supporters in the country.

The goal is simply to stave off a Congressional voting bloc that could mandate changes to the current plan past the '08 election.

But as the majority of Americans have a fairly calcified opinion on the Iraq war as a whole, I have to wonder if Petraeus is actually serving as Pied Piper, luring the Republican Congressmembers away from the people they represent.

The Bush strategy right now is to get these Republican Congresspeople into '08 with a pro-Iraq position that can't be changed mid-campaign.

But I find myself wondering whether, come '08, the Republicans will find themselves looking around and alone, seeing only wilderness, and cursing the President and his Piper who led them there.

Juan Cole asks the next question

From a long post,
But in all likelihood, when the Democratic president pulls US troops out in summer of 2009, all hell is going to break loose. The consequences may include even higher petroleum prices than we have seen recently, which at some point could bring back stagflation or very high rates of inflation.

In other words, the Democratic president risks being Fordized when s/he withdraws from Iraq, by the aftermath. A one-term president associated with humiliation abroad and high inflation at home? Maybe I should say, Carterized. The Republican Party could come back strong in 2012 and then dominate politics for decades, if that happened.

Picture of the Day

U.S. Army General David Petraeus, the top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, gives a thumbs up to the committee as technicians work on the sound system after his microphone malfunctioned during testimony on Capitol Hill, September 10, 2007. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Crocker fudged, too.

Amidst all the overfocus on Petraeus' testimony (I'm guilty, too,) don't miss this fairly scathing NYTimes article on Crocker's omissions.
The assessment that Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador to Iraq, gave to Congress on Monday left unmentioned or glossed over some of the most troubling developments of the past nine months. His portrait of Iraq failed to include many of the signs of deepening divisions between Sunni Arabs and Shiites and within each sect, which has raised fears among many Iraqis that their country will fracture further.

His testimony did not address the continuing wave of internal displacements, only glancingly mentioned Baghdad’s starved infrastructure and said almost nothing about the government’s inability or unwillingness to deliver services to other parts of the country as well.....

The loss of faith in the government has driven Iraqis to militias, tribes and nongovernment organizations like Mr. Sadr’s.

That's not quite the "debate" over security that's being featured in the press, is it?

Answering a question

Last Wednesday, I posited a question, "Will Petraeus and his credibility end up being chewed up the way Colin Powell was?"

I think today we have the answer, and the answer is yes.

As you read the straight news coverage of the hearings today and tomorrow, notice the tone and construction of the coverage.

Now, my next prediction is a flash forward to 2009 or 2010 when Petraeus releases his self-exculpating book blaming everyone else for what Iraq has become.

Picture of the Day - 3

This photo released by the U.S. Army public affairs office shows Spc. Rodney J. Johnson, 20, of Houston, who died of wounds when insurgents attacked his unit Sept. 4, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo/U.S. Army)

Terrorism in Mexico

Nigerian style attacks come to Mexico.
Several explosions believed to be the work of saboteurs ripped apart natural gas pipelines for Mexico's state oil monopoly early Monday, the company said. There were no reports of injuries....

In July, a small, left-wing guerrilla group claimed to have attacked a major Pemex gas pipeline extending from central Mexico City to Guadalajara, the industry-rich capital of the western state of Jalisco.

Bits of the Iraq charade

McClatchy has a good article looking at the sea of statistics and concludes that there has been no major security successes from "the surge." (It appears that Sadr's decisions have more impact on security than those of the US.)

Perhaps more striking this morning,
BRITAIN was prepared to withdraw its forces from the southern Iraqi city of Basra in April, but held off for five months after the United States asked it to stay, Britain's military commander in Iraq has said.

Speaking to Britain's The Daily Telegraph, Brigadier James Bashall, commander of 1 Mechanised Brigade, said that he wanted to leave Britain's Basra Palace base in April, which he said would have been "the right thing to do".

"In April we could have come out and done the transition completely and that would have been the right thing to do, but politics prevented that," Brig Bashall, 44, told the paper.

"The Americans asked us to stay for longer," he said.

Hmmm.... Let's see..... 5 months from April..... Wow. That just happens to coincide with the September reporting. What a coincidence....

I've said it before

Three things that I think should be rementioned today.

1) It's not Petraeus' reporting that matters. It's Crocker's.

2) If this administration had fought this war as hard as they've fought the politics of this war.......

3) Every one of Petraeus' bosses, Gen. Pace, Gen. Casey, Adm. Fallon, and Sec. Def. Gates, all advocate against his plan.

Picture of the Day - 2

(A supporter of Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif throws a stone at policemen during a pro-Sharif rally in Rawalpindi near Islamabad, September 10, 2007. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood)

(Sometimes it's just because I like the photo. Look at the flow in the fabric.)

Worst President ever.

Congress doesn't do too much better at 21%, but, still, wow.
Only 5 percent of Americans — a strikingly low number for a sitting president’s handling of such a dominant issue — said they most trusted the Bush administration to resolve the war, the poll found.

He's a "war president," you know.

(Also in the poll, "Nearly two-thirds of Americans said the United States should reduce its troops in Iraq now or withdraw them. Asked if a timetable should be established for a 2008 withdrawal.... 64 percent favored doing so.")

Later: USAToday/Gallup: "A majority of Americans are sceptical of what Petraeus will report and most support setting a timetable to withdraw forces regardless of what is going on in Iraq."

Picture of the Day

President Bush shows the press what he is eating for lunch with Australian troops during his visit to Garden Island naval base before the APEC summit in Sydney, September 5, 2007. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Taking his eye off the (exploding) ball.

Maybe someone should mention again that while George Bush has tied us down in Iraq, Al Qaeda has rebuilt its training camps.

Maybe, just maybe, someone should note that the terrorists in Germany (8 white guys) received Al Qaeda training on how to make chemical car bombs in Waziristan just last year.

As Rumsfeld put it four years ago, "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"

You know the answer.

Petraeus asks for one more Friedman

I've got to admit, I laughed out loud.
The top American commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, has recommended that decisions on the contentious issue of reducing the main body of the American troops in Iraq be put off for six months, American officials said Sunday.

Just six more months, then it'll really turn around.


From Drudge: "Following their testimony to Congress, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will appear exclusively on FOX News Channel on Monday at 9pm EDT for a one hour live interview with Brit Hume."

I assume this is part of the after testimony PR blitz,
The decision to place the general and the ambassador as the advance guard for the president’s own announcement on Iraq strategy continues with what one aide called “an aggressive schedule” even after the two days of hearings.

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.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that they're going on Hume's show, the man deemed safe enough to interview Cheney after he shot a man in the face.

Later: (WaPo/ABC poll) "Only about four in 10 said they expect the general to give an accurate accounting of the situation in Iraq. A majority, 53 percent, said they think his report will try to make the situation in Iraq look better than it really is."

Picture of the Day

Isn't this how his last marriage broke up?

(Republican presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) autographs a campaign sign attached to a Betty Boop cartoon figurine during a campaign stop at Alicia's Diner in Pelham, New Hampshire August 16, 2007. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder))

Someone finally wrote it (sort of)

The WaPo finally wrote (at least part of) the article I have been waiting for discussing some of the reservations about "the surge" within the Pentagon command. Unfortunately, they only really outline Gates' and Fallon's objections (Fallon's are far stronger than we knew,) and they frame the dispute almost entirely in the past.

But if you want a little snapshot of how things really run,
When Rice told Crocker to get ready for talks with Iran, he asked her the "blindingly obvious" question of whether Vice President Cheney would allow it, a U.S. official said. Rice, according to the official, told Crocker that it "wasn't your lane," adding, "I'll work it back here. That's not your problem."

Let's remember that Rice got outflanked as the Iran EFP campaign emerged just in time to derail those talks.

(This would be much more useful if it was written on the present, not what happened from January to May, and had included the objections of Gen. Pace, Gen. Casey, and the other dozen or so active generals who disagree with the policy.)

And, as a counterpoint, check out how this headlines from the AP: "Bush advisers favor current war strategy." The advisers are Petraeus and Crocker. I don't know why, but that seems a little deceptive to me.

Pakistan in crisis?

Again, I'm not enough of a Pakistan expert to judge the validity of this threat, but as Musharraf has arrested 2,000 of Sharif's supporters, I think we have to look at this as a rather serious juncture.
"I will go back to Pakistan on Sept. 10 with my brother because my country needs me," Sharif said Saturday at a news conference in London. "I am going to lead the people of Pakistan against the dictatorship, and the dictator sitting in Islamabad should give up his futile efforts to stop me."

But there is some context. He could just be trying to short circuit the Musharraf/Bhutto deal to get his party a spot at the table.
Analysts say Sharif's return could upset talks on a power-sharing pact between his archrivals Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto, another exiled former premier plotting a political comeback in the country, which is a key U.S. ally in the war on terror.

Anyway, he's planning to land tomorrow.

Picture of the Day

"Now I'm going to play something off my new album....."