Friday, August 20, 2004

Najaf Costing Bush

And in a swing state, no less. Juan Cole comments on a large demonstration in Dearborn:

The U.S. military actions in the holy city of Najaf have been deeply unpopular with American Muslims. A major demonstration was held by Shiite Iraqi-Americans in Dearborn, Michigan, last week. It demanded that US troops get out of Iraq. These expatriate Iraqi Shiites had been the most gung-ho group about the US going to war against the Saddam regime in 2003, and they were big Bush supporters. But now they are filled with second thoughts and regrets. The US military campaign in Najaf has deeply offended their religious sensibilities. They have made an about-face and now want the US out of their country, immediately.

The Detroit Free Press covered the peaceful demonstration:

Some held hand-lettered signs that read, "Occupation is not liberation" and "No puppet government in Iraq." A handful of black-clad women stood silently off to one side of the demonstrators outside the Shiite mosque.

Al-Husainy led chants that alternated between English and Arabic, offered prayers for peace in Iraq and called for elections ahead of the Dec. 31, 2005 target date.

The cleric, who strongly supported the U.S. invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, also spoke directly to President Bush: "You are abusing the democratic values of America. Where are the elections you promised us? ... If you can't bring peace and democracy to Iraq, then you don't deserve to be re-elected."

Iraqi-Americans remain grateful that the U.S. military overthrew Saddam, but question the legitimacy of Iraq's interim government, said Youssef Fawaz, corresponding secretary for the Greater Detroit chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Bush and his core supporters, to judge from their rhetoric, might not care about Arab-Americans. But their votes count as much as anyone else's, and if they decide to vote Democratic, then it could be lights out in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Which would end the shelf-life of the Bush administration.

Exp. Date: 01/20/05
This Might Hurt a Bit

Your Right Hand Thief posted this morning on this topic, and here's more from the Internation Herald Tribune:

U.S. Army doctors working at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq helped design abusive interrogation methods and failed to report deaths of Iraqis caused by beatings, according to a study in the Lancet medical journal.

Citing government documents that included testimony of detainees and troops, the medical journal outlined failures by doctors to safeguard the prisoners' human rights.

It said that the failures in some instances constituted serious breaches of international law, providing a further embarrassment for the U.S. military, which is now investigating documented abuses of Iraqi prisoners by its troops at the prison.

The study said: "Medical personnel evaluated detainees for interrogation, and monitored coercive interrogation, allowed interrogators to use medical records to develop interrogation approaches, falsified medical records and death certificates and failed to provide basic health care."

It gave as an example the collapse of a prisoner who apparently was unconscious after a beating.

Medical staff members revived the detainee and left, and the abuse resumed.

Gee--makes Dr. Kevorkian seem pretty humane in comparison...

Meanwhile, a report on the Abu Ghraib matter indicates that top-brass failed to provide the leadership that might have put a stop to prisoner abuse. Of course, this is an oblique way of saying "yeah, they condoned it;" however, no charges are expected to be filed against officers in charge. Boy, that ought to do wonders for troop morale.

Otherwise, in Iraq, it looks like who controls or doesn't control the Imam Ali shrine seems to finally be settled: Sadr's militia does. Iyad Allawi backed off a threat to storm the shrine, perhaps realizing that he's a lot happier being a possible target of assassination than a guaranteed target.

And if you'd like to read a perspective on the situation in Najaf from INSIDE the holy building, then check out this (subscription or ad required) Salon article. Philip Robertson spent three days holed up there, and has some things to say. You can read more of his features here.

Long hard slog--meet cluster fuck.
Give Pax a Chance

The Original Baghdad Blogger is back in business, posting at this site. Thanks to Swopa at Needlenose for the link.

We get into the car and continue towards the Hikma mosque. The guy we saw playing with explosives told us that just an hour ago a delegation from Falluja has arrived with 30 cars full of supplies “in support of the struggle of their Shia brothers in Najaf and Sadir City”. I wonder if the Americans realize how good they have been in bringing two opposing teams to play on the same side.

Of course, there was once a time when the warmongers said our troops would be greeted with flowers and kisses--oh wait, I think I'm beginning to sense a shift in their it seems as if they're saying that JOHN KERRY was wounded by flowers and kisses--some self-inflicted--back in his days in the 'Nam.
When Toy Poodles Attack...

There's a whole lot of yapping and advances on ankles, but no real damage. The New York Times has a long story covering the individuals who've been assigned to yap away, while MSNBC notes the mud isn't sticking. Nightline got into the act as well.

It's not surprising that this kind of crap substitutes for genuine discussion of the issues. Mudslinging is almost as old as the US political system. I noted yesterday that this is a clear sign of desperation from the Bush team--sort of a Plan B. Whether or not it was actually authorized by Karl Rove doesn't matter--the people behind the character assassination of Kerry are well versed in this style of politics.

Combined with lots and lots of money, a Texass "anything goes in politics" attitude, and a fawning media ready to present any degree of slander against the Democratic nominee as "newsworthy," the Swift Boat Veterans Who Lie have managed to make a minor league (Bush league?) stink seem Texass sized (it's fitting that John O'Neill is from Houston, the most polluted city in the US).

Kerry thus far has done the right thing--he's publicly distanced himself from similar attacks on Bush--in spite of the fact that THOSE are a lot more grounded in reality--and, when the moment was right, he came out swinging. As I noted yesterday, the trouble with going this negative this early for Bush is the danger of a backlash: at a certain point, when the thrill of the attack wears off, the realization that it was SO sleazy, underhanded, and wrong will set in. Because the facts are the fact: Kerry served his country honorably, while Bush barely served at all.

And this fact will bring home the point about the REAL issues of the campaign: the economy, Iraq, and Bush's junior-varsity approach to governing. Vietnam speaks to character, not to the day-to-day problems affecting us. At the same time, it offers insight as to the kind of individuals running for the highest office in the land. One candidate accepted the responsibilities that come with privilege, while the other acted like a typical frat boy, snorting cocaine, drinking like a fish, and generally acting like mommy and daddy--and the trust fund--would keep him from ever having to act like a man.

Which is why, for instance, the frat boy saw nothing wrong with ordering the military into Iraq without any real evidence--to him, this was just a fun adventure upon which to base his re-election. Having never seen real combat, Bush's juvenile actions--the aircraft carrier stunt, the 'bring 'em on' flap, the shirking of responsibility (pay close attention to how he pawns off EVERYTHING related to Iraq to either Dumsfeld or the ground commanders)--demonstrate clearly that this man is simply unfit to be commander in chief. Which is why Rove is so desperate to smear Kerry, as the Senator has proven himself to be more than capable of leadership under fire.

But, I believe the American public will see through the sham. Already, Iraq is seen by most as the ridiculous boondoggle that it is, combined with the fact that bin Laden has managed to elude us for almost three years now, the fact that the economy is still tanking, the fact that our schools are still underfunded, the fact that roads, bridges, and other public works are falling apart--all this will register with voters. And Bush has NO plan for any of this. He's only concerned with sliming by proxy.

And I'm not going to let his lies--and those from his attack poodles--bother me too much. Because toy dogs are all bark...

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Tell 'em Kurt

Mr. Vonnegut has a few things to say--check out this article from In These Times.
Take it to Court

A soldier who wishes to remain anonymous is suing the government over the stop-loss order that threatens not only to prevent his retirement, but also could send him to Iraq for a second tour of duty:

The soldier is described in the suit as a sergeant from the San Francisco Bay Area who completed more than nine years of active service in the Army and the Marine Corps, including combat duty last year in Iraq. He then joined the California Army National Guard last December, the suit says, under a program that allows veterans to enlist for one year. On July 6, however, he was informed that his enlistment had been extended by two years and that his unit was mobilizing for duty in Iraq, the suit says.

Let's see: Bush has stop-loss orders in place for real veterans who've truly served in the military, even though he personally went AWOL from a stateside posting. Bush also supports harsh penalties for drug users, even though it's well known that he was a regular cocaine user (and a drunk) when he was a young man. Bush also claims he's against corporate malfeasance, yet his own business deals are cloudy, to say the least...

Hypocrite fits--he might as well wear a label.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Link via Unfair Witness. Bush's use of the Iraqi soccer team in campaign advertisements is lacking the endorsement of key people, namely, the Iraqi soccer team:

"Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign," Sadir told through a translator, speaking calmly and directly. "He can find another way to advertise himself."

Ahmed Manajid, who played as a midfielder on Wednesday, had an even stronger response when asked about Bush's TV advertisement. "How will he meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women?" Manajid told me. "He has committed so many crimes."

The Bush campaign was contacted about the Iraqi soccer player's statements, but has yet to respond.

To a man, members of the Iraqi Olympic delegation say they are glad that former Olympic committee head Uday Hussein, who was responsible for the serial torture of Iraqi athletes and was killed four months after the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in March 2003, is no longer in power.

But they also find it offensive that Bush is using their team for his own gain when they do not support his administration's actions in Iraq. "My problems are not with the American people," says Iraqi soccer coach Adnan Hamad. "They are with what America has done in Iraq: destroy everything. The American army has killed so many people in Iraq. What is freedom when I go to the [national] stadium and there are shootings on the road?"

This follows on the heels of the latest pro-Bush attack ad, concocted by Lying Swiftboat Veterans who further their lies by claiming to be Swiftboat veterans for truth. John Kerry took the time today to slam Bush's refusal to denounce the ad (Kerry also denounced a MoveOn spot that questions pResident Bush's service record--or lack thereof).

The level to which the incumbent has sunk is unbelievable, and clearly a sign of desperation. With Iraq literally blowing up all around, an economy that's still in the hole, and no real plan for anything, is it any wonder that they've resorted to not just slinging mud, but blasting it from a howitzer?

I'd like to think that, even if Bush managed to pull off another "win," he'd be pretty much rendered ineffective after engaging in such sleazy tactics. However, I also figured four years ago that he'd be a caretaker, based on hollow "victory" one would expect from an election decided not by the public, but by the Supreme Court. I guess I was proven wrong.

Last year (and I just don't feel like plowing through the archives, so you'll have to take my word) I wrote that negative campaigning works in a "lesser of evils" election. It's a lot easier to build up a dislike for a candidate than vice versa--especially if you time your negative ads just right. But I believe that Bush is blasting away with mud a little too early--it's one thing to go negative late in the race, but quite another when you're still three months out. Kerry has plenty of time to respond, AND the backlash that comes from negative ads will build.

If that happens, don't look for Kerry to win in a close election, but to romp. And, while I keep saying that I'm not a big fan of his, I'll definitely be raising a glass should he wipe that goddamned smirk off Dubya's face...
A Courageous Voice

Well worth checking out is this Interview with Mordechai Vanunu in yesterday's Counterpunch. Vanunu spent 18 years in solitary confinement for revealing the extent of the Israeli nuclear weapons program. In spite of their best efforts, the government of Israel couldn't break him.
Be All That You Can Be

Via TalkLeft and Cursor, The Monitor reports on one person called into active duty from the Individual Ready Reserve:

He’s 57 years old, afflicted with skin cancer, partially deaf and suffers from high blood pressure. But the U.S. Army still wants Master Sgt. Luis Jaime Treviño.

On July 14, the Vietnam and Desert Storm veteran received his third order to report to active duty — mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"I was very shocked," Treviño said, a member of the Army’s Individual Ready Reserve. IRRs are not part of a reserve unit, do not get paid and do not attend monthly reserve training. However, because of critical skills they possess, they can be recalled to duty if needed.

Treviño will be given the option of appearing before a medical review board, which might well keep him stateside on the basis of his disabilities. But the mere fact of his call-up is a sure indication that the military is stretched dangerously thin.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

How to Lose the Peace

The New York Times provides some details of the latest Battle of Najaf:

What the Marines had hoped would be a quick, decisive action has bogged down into a grinding battle that appears to have strengthened the hand of Mr. Sadr, whose stature rises each time he survives a confrontation with the American military. It may have weakened the credibility of the interim Iraqi government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, showing him, many Iraqis say, to be alternately rash and indecisive, as well as ultimately beholden to American overrule on crucial military and political matters.

As a reconstruction of the battle in Najaf shows, the sequence of events was strikingly reminiscent of the battle of Falluja in April. In both cases, newly arrived Marine units immediately confronted guerrillas in firefights that quickly escalated. And in both cases, the American military failed to achieve its strategic goals, pulling back after the political costs of the confrontation rose. Falluja is now essentially off-limits to American ground troops and has become a haven for Sunni Muslim insurgents and terrorists menacing Baghdad, American commanders say.

The net result of the latest fighting is that Sadr is now even more credible in the eyes of many Iraqis as a voice against the occupation:

Militant cleric Muqtada Sadr's refusal Tuesday to meet with a delegation of Iraqi religious and political leaders is the clearest indicator yet that recent fighting in Najaf has strengthened the anti-American leader, some analysts say.

The snub, which followed last week's breakdown of talks with envoys of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, made it clear that Sadr expected any resolution to the two-week confrontation to proceed on his terms and timetable. The message was reinforced by the 1,000 militiamen who greeted the delegation with raised fists and shouts of "Long live Muqtada!"

Several observers say Allawi and U.S. forces have no viable options other than trying for a negotiated end to the uprising because attempting to crush Sadr militarily would carry too high a political price.

"In all probability, it would take an unacceptable level of force in and around the shrine," noted Cliff Kupchan, a Middle East specialist at the Nixon Center in Washington. "Whether Iraqi troops do this or Americans, it would be a generational setback for U.S. legitimacy in the Arab world."...

Analysts believe that a key to Sadr's political clout has been his emergence as the only national symbol of defiance to the massive U.S. military presence that remains in Iraq despite the formal hand-over of sovereignty. As the U.S. presence grows more unpopular, Sadr's aura gains more luster...

In his public statements, Sadr has made opposition to the American presence tantamount to a patriotic duty.

"Everyone can learn from him on how he has used the media to communicate his message," noted Bruce Hoffman, acting director of the Rand Corp. Center for Middle East Public Policy in Washington. "He came out of nowhere into a vacuum to become the most recognized populist political figure in Iraq."

Recall that last year Team Bush was publicly hoping for a Sh'ia rebellion in the country, the idea being they'd naturally follow the "old arab saying" that James Baker was fond of during Gulf War I: the enemy of the enemy is my friend. However, it now appears that a good number of Iraqis, regardless of religious preference, have simply lopped off the last six words in the statement.

Buttoned Down

The New York Times reports on the Bloomberg administration's plan to keep political protest peaceful during the upcoming weeks:

Law-abiding protesters will be given buttons that bear a fetching rendition of the Statue of Liberty holding a sign that reads, "peaceful political activists." Protesters can present the buttons at places like the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Sex, the Pokémon Center store and such restaurants as Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too and Applebee's to save some cash during their stay...

In announcing the program, Mr. Bloomberg was joined yesterday by former Mayors Edward I. Koch and David N. Dinkins. While Mr. Dinkins said that he might have handled the request to protest in Central Park "differently," Mr. Koch said he agreed with the Bloomberg administration's plan to keep the largest protest off the Great Lawn. That decision has angered many New Yorkers, particularly those who have ambivalent feelings about the convention, which Mr. Bloomberg has repeatedly said will be an economic boon for the city.

Among more veteran protesters, the city's offer had a certain appeal. "Since we're both guests, New York City should treat us equally," said Aron Kay, who is also known locally as the Mad Yippie Pie Thrower. Mr. Kay is the organizer of a protest planned for outside Mayor Bloomberg's townhouse on the Upper East Side on Aug 22.

"Maybe we would like to eat in a restaurant or catch a play," he mused. Before or after haranguing the mayor? "I would say after," he said.

Being moderately industrious, I also came across links via Tom Burka and Electablog to a "card" which offers the same discounts. As I'll be in and around the City next week, I'll see what I can do to take advantage of the deals being offered ($5 discount on admission to the Museum of Sex, for instance).

Fortunately or unfortunately, I won't be around long enough to be at the march planned for August 29th. But I'll at least be able to check out the security setup--and enjoy about a week in the capital of the empire. It seems like NYC is becoming an annual trip these days, which suits me just fine.

If I can make it there...
Just Plain Weird

Alan Keyes, if nothing else, has managed to turn himself into even more of a joke now that he's been given the, uh, mini-bully pulpit that comes with a carpetbagger Senate candidacy. In the past week or so, he's managed to:

Liken abortion to both 9/11 AND slavery.
Call for the abolition of the 17th Amendment.
Come out in favor of reparations--sort of--by suggesting that descendents of slaves be exempt from federal income taxes (though Keyes would like to simply abolish the federal income tax. I guess this makes him in favor of abolishing the 16th Amendment).
Justify running for Senate in a state he doesn't reside in--after harshly criticizing Hillary Clinton for doing the same in 2000.

Jesus' General has more.

In a sense, this is almost better than seeing Barack Obama run unopposed for election, as Keyes demonstrates quite clearly that he, and, by extension, his faction of the GOP, is simply bizarre.
Eroding Support

Republican Rep. Doug Bereuter, who is retiring this year, now considers the Iraq war to be a mistake:

"I've reached the conclusion, retrospectively, now that the inadequate intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action," Bereuter wrote in a letter to constituents in the final days of his congressional career.

That's especially true in view of the fact that the attack was initiated "without a broad and engaged international coalition," the 1st District congressman said.

"Knowing now what I know about the reliance on the tenuous or insufficiently corroborated intelligence used to conclude that Saddam maintained a substantial WMD (weapons of mass destruction) arsenal, I believe that launching the pre-emptive military action was not justified."

As a result of the war, he said, "our country's reputation around the world has never been lower and our alliances are weakened."...

"Left unresolved for now is whether intelligence was intentionally misconstrued to justify military action," he said...

Despite acknowledged intelligence failures and failure to locate weapons of mass destruction, President Bush continues to forcefully argue the war was justified because Saddam represented a threat to the United States, his neighbors and the people of Iraq.

Recall what Bush said: "Saddam Hussein was a threat. And I want you to remember, he was a threat because he behaved like a threat." Hmmm. Bush, as I noted a week or so ago, has the circular reasoning thing down pat (even if he resembles no one so much as his own father when it comes to "the vision thing.")

For once, I'd like to see the wingnuts actually produce SPECIFIC EVIDENCE to prove that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States. Something, anything. The whole "he was a threat because we said he was a threat" is just more mindless, racist bullshit. Was he a despot? A disgusting murdering dictator? No doubt he was (which makes the wingnut support for him throughout the 80's more a testament to their own contempt for democracy than anything else). But a threat to the United States?

I wonder if Bush and his wingnut supporters are afraid of small dogs...

Not Going Gently Into the Good Night...

No, not at all. The Rude Pundit has some thoughts about Vietnam, Iraq, history, the failure of the neo-cons to understand it, and more. Near the end, this paragraph, bracketed off, caught my eye:

And let's be clear here, Fox "News" fuckfaces who want to propagate the myth that John Kerry only served for 4 months in 'Nam: if Kerry was in the shit, facing down fire for one fucking day, it was one day longer than your man.

Exactly. For Bush to play along with this (while pretending to stay above the fray) is the absolute height of arrogance--the moral equivalent of an inside trader shaking his head over corporate fraud and malfeaseance. We've got a president who thinks wars are for other people (or THEIR kids), a vice-president who IS a coward, a group of people in the Defense and State Departments who can't stop squabbling long enough to figure out just what the fuck the plan is in Iraq, and an economy which is only growing thanks to an infusion of almost $400 billion dollars worth of borrowed money (which doesn't even count the "supplementals" funding the war).

But why would anyone expect anything different from Bush? Does the man have ANYTHING to point to as an "accomplishment," besides executing 152 Texas prison inmates? By any measure, this election shouldn't even be a race--when history finally passes judgement, Bush will rank alongside Warren Harding as one of the least qualified individuals to ever hold the office.

If anyone wondered what a Dan Quayle administration would look like...well, I can't imagine it would be any worse than 43...

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Katy Lied

From Democratic Underground's Top Ten Idiots of the Week, we learn about another Katherine Harris lie:

Republican Rep. Katherine Harris said Wednesday she regrets making the claim that a plot existed to blow up the power grid in Carmel, Ind., a notion city officials disputed...

Harris, who was at the center of the political storm over the disputed 2000 presidential election, made the comments about terrorism and the plot on Monday at a rally for President Bush in Venice, Fla., and a subsequent interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

She told the audience that while in the Midwest recently, the mayor of Carmel told her how a man of Middle Eastern heritage had been arrested and hundreds of pounds of explosives were found in his home.

"He had plans to blow up the area's entire power grid," she said, according to the newspaper...

Questioned Wednesday, Harris' office issued a statement in which the congresswoman said, "I regret that I had no knowledge of the sensitive nature of this situation."

Well, I guess on the positive side, Katherine finds herself with a lot of company, namely, the entire Rethuglican leadershit--hmmm--that was a typo (it was supposed to be "leadership") but on second thought, it fits.

If you like your bullshit piled high and deep, then the Republican party is definitely for you...
Seventh Inning Stretch

I came across this Josh Marshall post and it reminded me a little bit of something I wrote a week ago. Marshall uses a baseball analogy to describe Bush's decision to go to war, namely, that he stepped up to the plate ready to swing regardless of what came down the pike.

Marshall's post, though, is actually about John Kerry's position on the war and his vote on the resolution which "granted" Bush the power to go to war. Far from being "nuanced," which seems to give Dubya a big-time case of the smirks, it's a pretty straightforward position (and one I disagree with).

In summary, Kerry voted for the war resolution, believing that in spite of being granted the authority to invade whenever he felt like it, Bush would show a degree of prudence. The idea, apparently, was that the pResident would work with the United Nations to establish a genuine inspectors presence in Iraq, and come up with a reasonable estimate of what, if anything, Hussein possessed by way of banned weapons. IF Iraq was intransigent, or belligerent, then Bush had the "authority" to call out the dogs.

As noted, I think this is an abrogation of the Constitution. Congress authorizes war, and no amount of weaseling around about "police actions" or any such tripe can convince me that an invasion of another country is anything BUT war. At the same time, I'm aware of the last fifty or so years of US "policy," the gist of which has put entire sections of the Constitution into the shredder. But I digress...

Inspections for the type of weapons Hussein, um, DIDN'T possess, aren't all that difficult. Chemical weapons come mostly in one flavor, chlorine. The manufacture of chlorine requires a lot by way of facilities. And, like any genuine resident of Louisiana knows, containment of this toxin isn't perfect. The same goes for nuclear material. Not only could on-site inspectors take measurements, but things like satellite-based monitors could likewise record instances of chemical or nuclear manufacture. It's only a sheeplike press, dutifully bleating the words of a politician, that suggest inspections for chemical and nuclear material could be inconclusive.

My own opinion as to Hussein, by the way, is far less "inside-the-beltway" than Marshall's. It seems as if the years following Gulf War I, there was a general consensus to treat Saddam Hussein as the most convenient "enemy of the people," to be trundled out whenever a diversion was needed. Little mention was ever made during the 90's as to the horrific sanctions, the no-fly zones, the de facto independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, etc. etc. Instead, it was "accepted" by the cognoscenti that Hussein was a dangerous meglomaniac, instead of a defanged despot desperately trying to hang on to what he had (perhaps in Hussein's dreams there was the fantasy of retaking the northern territories). Scott Ritter was a lone voice seeking to dispel the myth of Saddam's arsenal, and his opinions were dismissed.

Ritter was a lot closer to the truth, though, than all the pundits.

To add to Marshall's analogy, Bush was not only swinging on every pitch, he was also insisting that he'd see nothing but fastballs. Unfortunately he took a big whiff at a monster curve and missed completely. In my mind, that's at least strike six, and I'd like to see the rookie take his seat on the bench so Kerry can step to the plate.

In Iraq, it can make you a quick $2500 dollars--if you can get to or from your destination. MSNBC has more:

While insurgents from the Mahdi militia battled U.S. Marines in Najaf, others were waging a much more subtle—and successful—war on Iraq's long and lonely highways. Their targets are mostly unarmed, unprotected truckers; their tactics, robbery, arson and kidnapping. Over the past month the insurgents have brought civilian trucking into central Iraq to a virtual standstill. Three months ago, for example, 1,500 Jordanian trucks plied Highway 10 between Amman and Baghdad every day. Now only 30 a day make the perilous trip...

30 Jordanian drivers have been killed in the past year, and 300 trucks have been either stolen or lost. Only 4 percent of Jordan's fleet of independent trucks (which once totaled 11,500) are now operating. "It's never been this bad, even during the [beginning] of the war," says Habashneh.

No major route into Iraq is safe. The highways spanning the 600 kilometers from the Turkish border to Baghdad are crawling with saboteurs. The Turkish International Transport Association has declared a total ban on supplying goods to U.S. forces in Iraq. Thirty-three Turkish drivers have been killed, kidnapped or injured over the past 12 months. Turkey's trade with Iraq doubled last year, but it is certain to fall off dramatically with a trucking moratorium. The even longer highways from Kuwait, usually much more heavily guarded by U.S. troops, have also seen a spate of kidnappings and robberies. Around Baghdad, truck stops are deserted.

Trying their best to put a good face on the situation, the military insists that "critical supplies" continue to arrive. Well, good, I guess. But the war won't be won or lost based on ammunition alone. "Victory" is a matter of winning hearts and minds. Without basic items like food (or parts to run electrical generators), you can't expect the Iraqi public's support.

At this point, the insurgents have the upper hand. Iraq is their country. They can wait us out.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Boiling Oil

Reuters and Salon (subscription or ad-viewing required) look more closely at the Iraqi resistance's "new" tactic of disrupting the transport of crude oil from the northern and southern oil fields.

Combined with the abysmal news coming out of "liberated" Iraq, you can't help but get the feeling that the "October Surprise," at least the one Team Bush dreads, could possibly be a complete breakdown of what little civil order is left in the country. I'll link again to the general page for Today in Iraq--check it out. Reporters are being ordered away from Najaf, some of whom were threatened with arrest or even shooting. Four more US soldiers were killed--though Bush and the wrongwingers will manage to spit on the bodybags by calling the casuality level "acceptable." As noted above, the resistance is sabotaging an extremely vulnerable target--the pipelines--which not only cause physical damage that has to be repaired, but also undermines the funding for any sort of government that might try to impose a degree of order.

Juan Cole notes that the national congress in Iraq was disrupted repeatedly by mortar fire, comparing and contrasting John Burns and Rajiv Chandrasekaran's versions of the story (finding Burns's to be more believable--it's also the more pessimistic). Any sort of "victory" in Najaf will by necessity be tempered--because victory comes at the price of pissing off millions of religious Iraqis, not to mention Sh'ias throughout the world. Any way you look at it, Iraq is one hell of a mess--brought to you by the people in the Bush administration.

You'd think the media would be all over this--but they've learned their priorities. Why look into serious breaches of public trust when you can, say, deliver a hardhitting profile of Jessica Cutler, aka Washingtonienne? Nothing like a little bit of titillation to take one's mind off tragedy...
When C Students Govern

Another from Atrios (actually both this and my earlier post rely on links from Mrs. Atrios). Matthew Yglesias, in American Prospect, highlights a number of points I not only agree with, but have been doing my best to make as well--although not nearly as well or as thorough as he does.

Yglesias has a laundry list of items that Bush has screwed up, mostly due to his unprecedented disinterest in actually governing. Several times the point is driven home that the presidency REQUIRES the office holder to make difficult decisions--which means you need someone at the top who shows a degree of responsibility. Bush, according to the article, tends to latch onto the position of whoever is the last to catch his ear.

This is what you'd expect from someone who has coasted through life. And, if someone is lucky enough to be able to do so, fine. But that doesn't mean he (or she) should be occupying the highest elected office in the land. C-level work just doesn't cut it--not now, not ever.
Voting Rights, Florida Style

From Atrios, here's a New York Times op-ed that looks at the latest efforts by the Bush family to suppress African American voter turnout in the Sunshine State:

State police officers have gone into the homes of elderly black voters in Orlando and interrogated them as part of an odd "investigation" that has frightened many voters, intimidated elderly volunteers and thrown a chill over efforts to get out the black vote in November.

The officers, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which reports to Gov. Jeb Bush, say they are investigating allegations of voter fraud that came up during the Orlando mayoral election in March.

Officials refused to discuss details of the investigation, other than to say that absentee ballots are involved. They said they had no idea when the investigation might end, and acknowledged that it may continue right through the presidential election...

Not surprisingly, many of the elderly black voters who found themselves face to face with state police officers in Orlando are members of the Orlando League of Voters, which has been very successful in mobilizing the city's black vote.

The president of the Orlando League of Voters is Ezzie Thomas, who is 73 years old. With his demonstrated ability to deliver the black vote in Orlando, Mr. Thomas is a tempting target for supporters of George W. Bush in a state in which the black vote may well spell the difference between victory and defeat.

The vile smell of voter suppression is all over this so-called investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Joseph Egan, an Orlando lawyer who represents Mr. Thomas, said: "The Voters League has workers who go into the community to do voter registration, drive people to the polls and help with absentee ballots. They are elderly women mostly. They get paid like $100 for four or five months' work, just to offset things like the cost of their gas. They see this political activity as an important contribution to their community. Some of the people in the community had never cast a ballot until the league came to their door and encouraged them to vote."

Now, said Mr. Egan, the fear generated by state police officers going into people's homes as part of an ongoing criminal investigation related to voting is threatening to undo much of the good work of the league. He said, "One woman asked me, 'Am I going to go to jail now because I voted by absentee ballot?' "

Doing their best to limit the black vote is intregal to the Republican election strategy. This should be condemned, and efforts should be made to put the Rethuglicans on the defensive on this one.
What's Missing from this Article?

New York Times reports on Hugo Chavez winning a clear majority of the vote in Sunday's recall effort.

The title of this post refers to what I DON'T see in several articles I've glanced at, namely, an official response from the United States government. The closest we get is a statement from Jimmy Carter, who commented on the large voter turnout.

I'm reminded of something I read in the book Propaganda. It can be just as important to OMIT reference to something as to comment upon it. For instance, in Nazi Germany, the directive most often ordered by the Propaganda Ministry was to remain silent on one topic or another.

Chavez's opponents, of course, are crying foul, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if the Bush Team is waiting to see if that will fly. After all, they did their damnedest to pull the rug out from under Aristide in Haiti. Chavez is a far bigger, um, I was going to say burr under the saddle, but given POTUS's fear of horses, perhaps the better metaphor is bigger spring sticking out of the bench front seat in the pickup. Two years ago, this administration displayed a remarkably cynical attitude--even by their standards--in regards to an attempted coup backed by disgruntled elites. Some have charged that the US was doing more than just reading the breeze. Whether this is true or not, it is evident that the Bush administration doesn't give a damn about the principle of democratic government in the region. If Bush is re-elected, the overthrow of Chavez would likely be at the top of their wish list, although the quagmire in Iraq might dampen the enthusiasm just a bit.

Still, it's good that Chavez survived, and even the business community is reacting favorably to the vote, as the price of oil futures fell following the news from Caracas.

This, by the way, is another issue where, should Kerry win, would require pressure on the new administration. The Kerry team has grumbled a bit here and there about the Venezuelan president. At the same time, I recall Kerry's own defense of Aristide last spring during a primary debate--he said something to the effect that while he wasn't a big fan of the Hatian president, we as a country must respect the democratic institutions of other countries. A Kerry administration will need to be reminded of that statement--often.

Oh--and how about the Puerto Rican basketball team?