Friday, July 29, 2005

From North to South, Too

While Central Iraq from east to west is now well known for the violent insurgency, the other points on the compass aren't exactly havens of freedom:

Basra’s lack of car bombs and relative calm have been touted as a victory for the British Army’s softly-softly approach. But fear is often palpable.

Asked about the Islamic gangs who force women to wear headscarves and prevent the sale of alcohol and music, a member of the writers’ union immediately started trembling. “I’m sorry, I can’t talk about that. This is a dangerous thing,” he said. “I have three kids and I love life. The Islamic movement is very hard. Al- Qaeda is not a problem here. The Iranian revolution is the problem.” The various Islamic parties, most of whom spent years of exile from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in neighbouring Iran, deny any link to the violence and blame al-Qaeda.

But officials say that the parties are closely linked to Iran, receiving funding and reciprocating with intelligence.

Samir Jassim Khadair, a spokesman for the Southern Oil Company in Basra, was blunt.

“Iran is running Iraq, frankly speaking,” he said.

And, up north:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has again warned he could take action against Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq if U.S. forces did not stop the rebels infiltrating across the border into Turkey. "At the moment, frankly speaking, we do not see the efforts by the U.S. that we expect to see. We have expressed our views to that effect to the Americans," Erdogan said in an interview yesterday with Britain's Times newspaper. "There is a time limit. There is a limit to our tolerance," said Erdogan.

He said Turkey was within its rights under international law to defend itself from attack and drew a comparison with U.S. action against Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

"That mandate is provided for in international law,"

he said.

"If a country, if a people, if a nation are under threat, that country can do what is necessary under international law ... we would exercise that right in the same way as any other country could, would and did exercise that right."

Turkey has blamed the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) for a rash of violence in the southeast of the country and says the guerrillas use bases in northern Iraq as a launch pad for attacks.

In the latest act of Kurdish insurgency, Turkish officials said Kurdish guerrillas have kidnapped the mayor of a town in eastern Turkey.

Meanwhile, the wingnut faction makes it ever more clear that they simply have no souls whatsoever:

How will hawks maintain their unshakable claims that the war was justified and victory is inevitable? It's a difficult question, but today we have an answer, courtesy of David Ignatius of The Washington Post. Ignatius's contention is that civil war--which, only months ago, hawks argued would never come about--wouldn't be the end of the argument:

Pessimists increasingly argue that Iraq may be going the way of Lebanon in the 1970s. I hope that isn't so, and that Iraq avoids civil war. But people should realize that even Lebanonization wouldn't be the end of the story. The Lebanese turned to sectarian militias when their army and police couldn't provide security. But through more than 15 years of civil war, Lebanon continued to have a president, a prime minister, a parliament and an army. The country was on ice, in effect, while the sectarian battles raged. The national identity survived, and it came roaring back this spring in the Cedar Revolution that drove out Syrian troops.

In this blithe description, fifteen years of carnage and atrocity followed by a further fifteen years of foreign domination was merely a prelude to the hopeful scenes of Martyrs' Square. (Hey, you need martyrs, right?) It's a debatable contention whether the "national identity" of Lebanon survived, though sectarian loyalty certainly deepened. What aren't debatable contentions are that 100,000 people didn't survive, nearly another million were displaced, and one of the world's premier jihadist networks, the still-powerful Hezbollah, was born. These aren't footnotes, and I have a feeling that the participants of the Cedar Revolution would never dream of treating them as such.

And, finally, AmericaBlog picks up on something the medulla-reliant mainstream media missed (they must've been too focused on nodding their heads--and not nodding off):

I posted earlier about our top general in Iraq saying they could start a major pullout in the spring (just in time for the 2006 elections oddly enough). Mostly, I made fun of the fact that the only condition he was really trying to set was that the insurgency not get any worse. That seems a pretty pathetic standard since the insurgency is stronger than ever.

But lots of threaders pointed out the obvious: Bush had just set a deadline. He certainly can't pretend conditions in Iraq have improved -- more people are dying this year than last year and more people were dying last year than the year before. And Bush insisted it was heresy to set a deadline to pull out -- if you do that, all the insurgents have to do is wait you out. Now they know they can hunker down (or even keep killing our men and women at the record levels they've been achieving) and we'll still be out in the spring of 2006.

Wingnut means you never have to keep track of your lies...
Just Plain Sick

Crooks and Liars has a streaming video of a Faux News moron...well, just look at the rush transcript:


Jean-Charles de Menezes was buried today. I'm surprised that Murdoch didn't send someone down to spit on the grave.

Attaturk has his own take on this.
Bolton--B, o, l-as-in-LIAR...

Oh, I'm sure he'll pull out the usual euphamisms--"less than candid," "do not recollect," "memory failed," "don't recall,"--but those are just nice ways to say "lied through his teeth:"

WASHINGTON - John Bolton, President Bush's nominee for U.N. ambassador, neglected to tell Congress he had been interviewed in a government investigation into faulty prewar intelligence that Iraq was seeking nuclear materials in Africa, the State Department said...

Bolton was interviewed by the State Department inspector general in 2003 as part of a joint investigation with the CIA into prewar Iraqi attempts to buy nuclear materials from Niger, State Department spokesman Noel Clay said Thursday.

His statement came hours after another State Department official said Bolton had correctly answered a Senate questionnaire when he wrote that he had not testified to a grand jury or been interviewed by investigators in any inquiry over the past five years.

Clay said Bolton "didn't recall being interviewed by the State Department's inspector general" when he filled out the form. "Therefore, his form, as submitted, was inaccurate," Clay said. "He will correct it."

And on the subject of 'less than candid,' let's note for the record that John ROBERTS, alas, soon to be a fucking Supreme Court Justice, not only is a card carrying member of the Federalist Society (which Lambert at Corrents correctly refers to as the "most powerful theocratic front organization in the country"), but also was a prime force behind the Bush Florida blitzkrieg in 2000. Not that he recalls any of it.

"For the record, is your name John?"

"Senator, I don't recall."
You Can't Make This Stuff Up, Redux

Thanks to TBogg, I don't have to hit (gag) Powerline directly:

Glad to see that during my exceedingly brief hiatus, Republicans are picking up the "Are You Fucking Serious?" flag and waving it for me. Both of these are from Kos, so you've probably already read them...but they're too good to pass on:

First there is the Anal Strap-On from Powerline, who apparently wrote this with a straight (or as Chris Muir might put it strait) face:

It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.

C'mon. If you said that in front of Laura Bush at lunch she would probably shoot milk out of her nose.

Next, the Cat Killer Who Would Be King on why the Gun Manufacturers & Racketeers Protection Act is more important than the defense appropriation bill.

And linking the bill to the war in Iraq, Frist said that Beretta, the manufacturer of pistols to U.S. forces in Iraq, warned that it may go bankrupt if the lawsuits are not stopped.

"These frivolous suits threaten a domestic industry that is critical to our national defense," Frist said. "Given the profusion of litigation, the Department of Defense faces the very real prospect of outsourcing sidearms for our soldiers to foreign manufacturers."

That is absolutely dazzling in its complete bullshittedness or bullshitosity...take your pick.
Chimes of Freedom

The WaPo's latest on Operation It's Not So Shiny Now:

At 11 a.m. in the Iraqi capital, the popping of automatic-weapons fire broke out from one end of a Tigris River bridge to another. Pedestrians jaded by gunfire walked for cover. It was Baghdad's equivalent of a car horn -- guards shooting into the air to clear the way for some dignitary.

Across the Tigris, gray smoke billowed over the city from a bomb. Under the bridge, ski-masked Shiite Muslim commandos cruised through checkpoints in pickups mounted with machine guns.

Nearby, a man stood in the middle of the street holding a gun to the head of another man in a car. Other drivers steered around them. No one stopped to help, or looked that carefully. After more than two years of war, Baghdad's people have learned to choose their battles, and this one didn't qualify.

On the city's streets, the daily reality involves death, random violence and routine deprivations for people who are beyond anger...

The Americans' statements are always untrue," said Ali Abed, 50, a taxi driver standing in a 1 1/2 -mile-long line for gas. "We are fed up.

"They destroyed the country, and now they say they want to leave," Abed said. "Let them go to hell, not to their home."

Many Iraqis complain about the continuing hardships here. Because of power outages that the Iraqi government blames on insurgent attacks, electrical power is turned on in Baghdad 30 minutes at a time, four times a day. "Electricity is like medicine in Iraq now," a much-repeated joke on Iraq's al-Sharqiya TV declared this week. "You get it every six hours."

The lack of electricity means no air conditioning, making sleep difficult in the summer heat, when daytime temperatures exceed 120 degrees, said Nouri Muhsen Kadhim, an engineer at an electrical supply store, who added that water shortages forced him to shower only every other day.

U.S. military operations to combat the insurgency mean roadblocks that tie up traffic for hours, Kadhim said. "God save us from the terrorists' attacks too," he said. "Aren't we human beings, with a right to live like others?

"When I was a kid, some teacher told me that we are lucky to live in Iraq, that we have two rivers and we are floating over an ocean of oil," Kadhim added. "I just want to see him now and ask him, 'Where is all that?' "

Bad as it is, comparatively few Iraqis say they want back the days before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted President Saddam Hussein. But the summer of attacks and shortages leaves them short on hope about what will happen when the Americans leave.

"The Americans want to glue together all the parts they broke, to shape it back as a real, new country. But you cannot bring back what you broke as it was before -- everyone will be able to see the break marks," said Jamal Hindawi, 42, at his Baghdad paint shop. "They just want to leave, even if everything will come apart after they go."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

From Whatever It Is, I’m Against It:

The US has imposed a total, indefinite curfew in Samarra after an attack on a convoy. The Press Association story has this line: “There is currently, and until further notice, no vehicle or pedestrian activity allowed in Samarra,” said a spokesman for Task Force Liberty.

Here's another link.

As WIIIAI says: They might want to rethink the name of that task force.
Inspired by Dubya, No Doubt

From Crooks and Liars, here's a Raw Story piece about a Blue Star Mom:

Marsha Walker’s son survived a suicide bomb in Iraq.

Her daughter spent a year in Kuwait last year, and her father is a former Marine reservist. She’s part of a military family; she and her sister went into criminal justice because their father dissuaded them from a military career. Marsha is a Blue Star mother, meaning a mother whose son is serving overseas.

So it came as a bit of a surprise when an email exchange with her local Blue Star chapter concluded with an expletive: "fuckoff."

Charming, no?

Marsha earned the ire of the anonymous (i.e., gutless) troll because she saw references to 9/11 on a local website for Blue Star Moms in Ohio. She thought these references weren't appropriate, and wrote in saying as much. She initially received a poorly written screed that accused her of not giving "a rat's ass" about her son, and following a second email, was F-bombed.

Check out the entire story. It demonstrates pretty clearly how dense things are getting in wingnuttia--among both the groundlings AND the higher ups.

For instance: Marsha's son not only was shipped out without up-to-date body armor, but he didn't have the proper tools to do his job (he's a communication specialist who, among other things, repairs gear like radios).

What the fuck? The next defense budget will top out at $491 BILLION dollars. And there's no money for tools? No wonder we're losing this war.

Way to go, wingnuts. But I dunno--maybe Halliburton will toss y'all a few crumbs.
Freedom Handles

It's not just the Army that's got problems with recruits:

CIA officials used a sledgehammer handle to beat various prisoners in Iraq, and one official, whose name is classified, would often brag about his abuse of prisoners, according to testimony in a closed session of a military hearing.

Well, that ought to work--beating the shit out of people in the name of freedom (at least one prisoner was beaten to death). Oh, and the article doesn't mention ANY information being obtained as a result.
Operation Turd Tulip

William Lind has a history lesson for the Mayberry Machiavellis:

In the sixteenth century, Europe was devastated by wars of religion, a fact which gives that unhappy time some relevance to our own. The foremost soldier and commander in sixteenth-century Europe was the Duke of Alba. An excellent new biography of the Duke by Henry Kamen offers some less than encouraging lessons.

In the 1560s, Spain faced a minor revolt in the Netherlands, which were then controlled by the Spanish crown. Hundreds of Catholic churches were sacked and desecrated by mobs of Calvinists. Philip II of Spain decided to send an army, commanded by the Duke of Alba - - despite the fact that by Spring, 1567, the Netherlands' regent had put the rebellion down. In effect, Philip and Alba embarked on a "war of choice," against the advice of both local authorities and many of Philip's counselors.

The Duke of Alba's arrival in Brussels on Friday, August 22, 1567, at the head of an army of 10,000 men - - it was the first to follow the famous "Spanish Road" - - created a problem where none existed...

Once Alba got himself settled, he began arresting Flemish aristocrats, including some of those who had helped Margaret [of Palma, the local regent] suppress the previous year's rebellion. King Phillip wrote to Alba in November, 1567, "you have a free hand." He did so despite some excellent advice from Friar Lorenzo de Villavicencio, who had lived in the Netherlands...

Alba's motto was "Hombres muertos no hazen guerra" - - dead men make no war. His army did what armies do, kill people and break things, and the result was a string of local victories. By the summer of 1570, Kamen writes,

Alba felt he could congratulate himself on having achieved what no other general in history had ever achieved: the pacification of a whole province, "and without losing a single man, because I can assure you that in the two campaigns barely a hundred soldiers died."

But that wasn't the end of the story. The Dutch rebels adapted in a way the Spanish had never imagined: they based themselves where no Spanish troops could reach them, at sea. On April 1, 1572, the Sea Beggars, as the maritime rebels called themselves, seized the offshore port of Brill. On April 14, the Prince of Orange called on the Dutch people to revolt against "cruel bloodthirsty, foreign oppressors," and they did. The resulting war would last for 80 years and result in Dutch independence and Spanish ruin.

As to the Duke of Alba himself, and his policies in the Netherlands, the best summary was offered by his successor there, Luis de Requesens. As Henry Kamen quotes him,

All I know is that when he came to this post he found the disturbances in them settled and no territory lost, and everything so quiet and secure that he could wield the knife as he wished. And by the time he left all Holland and Zealand was in the power of the enemy, as well as a good port of Guelderland and Brabant, and all the opinion of these provinces, with the finances wholly ruined.

Whether this epitaph will apply equally well to America's invasion of Iraq, time will tell. But it is all too possible that the Middle East will end up being America's Netherlands. In any event, I somehow doubt that history will accept the Bush administration's Newspeak name for the invasion of Iraq, "Operation Iraqi Freedom." Might "Operation Duke of Alba" be a more credible substitute?
What's Missing from This Article?

To give the Post some credit, the piece notes the closeness of the vote (217-215), points out that the GOP leadership has trouble telling time (yet another instance when a 15 minute vote was stretched out to almost an hour), reports that arms were twisted and slabs of bacon were promised...Bluestein and Allen even note that Dubya made an appearance to shill for a "yea" vote:

Underscoring the importance that Bush attaches to the pact, he put his prestige on the line by making a rare appearance with Vice President Cheney at the weekly closed-door meeting of the House Republican Conference. Bush spoke for an hour, lawmakers said, stressing the national security implications of CAFTA, which are rooted in the concern that growing anti-American sentiment in Latin America would flourish if the United States refused to open its markets wider to the nations that negotiated the pact.

So, what's missing? This--Dubya's lets out his inner feelings.

It's not the first time he's given the world the same one-fingered salute--just the most recent. But it speaks volumes.

Hmmm. Rove had a similar flip-out just before the truth landed like an anvil on his doughy frame. Maybe we can hope for something similar for the dauphin...
Marketing Strategery

So, GWOT is out, and GSAVE is in...

WASHINGTON, July 26 (UPI) -- The Bush administration has begun downplaying the "war on terror" in favor of "a global struggle against violent extremism," the New York Times reports.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the National Press Club that if something is a war "then you think of people in uniform as being the solution."

Myers said that while the military may be in the forefront now the long-term solution is more diplomatic, economic and political.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used the new terminology at a retirement ceremony Friday for the naval chief of operations. Rumsfeld said the country "wages the global struggle against the enemies of freedom, the enemies of civilization."

Officials told the Times that the new language is a product of meetings of President Bush's top national security advisers.

I wonder if they focus grouped it.

How long before they introduce GWOLD? My guess is as soon as their pea brains understand that they've lost the war in Iraq--which means time to go after their REAL enemy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Numbers Game

Army recruitment goals continue to delve into fuzzy math territory--one month, goals are met (thanks to dialing down), next month, hmmm...

The Army, which expects to miss its 2005 recruiting goal by about 12,000, already is falling behind for next year.

The pool of recruits who sign up as much as a year before they report for training is dwindling...

Stephen Cheney, a retired Marine brigadier general and recruiting coordinator, said the small size of the delayed entry pool would make it extremely difficult for the Army to meet its 2006 target.

Next year's recruits may also not be as qualified as this year's, because the Army will be looking for enlistees it can quickly ship to basic training. That means recruits whose options are limited, "are not in school and not in a job," said Cheney, chief operating officer of Business Executives for National Security in Washington, D.C.

The Army is offering unprecedented enticements - including enlistment bonuses as high as $20,000 and service stints as short as 15 months - but so far has been unable to persuade enough young men and women to join.

Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey recently proposed increasing the top enlistment bonus to $40,000 and is about to add 800 additional recruiters to the force. Even the new recruiters and higher bonuses "may not be enough for everyone," Rochelle said.

Well, good to see they're offering bonuses of up to $40,000 dollars--maybe that'll keep the new soldiers from doing this:

A company of the California Army National Guard has been put on restricted duty and its battalion plunged into disarray amid allegations that battalion members mistreated detainees in Iraq and extorted money from shopkeepers, according to military officials and members of the unit...

Among the allegations now under investigation is that at least six soldiers from the battalion took part in a scheme to extort money from Iraqi shopkeepers, apparently in exchange for protection from insurgents.

The payments allegedly exceeded $30,000, two sources said, and were made in U.S. currency, according to one member of the battalion who has been briefed on the investigation. Another soldier said the scheme allegedly was carried out during night patrols in the Baghdad area.

It is unclear whether any soldier has been charged in connection with those allegations.

The military revealed earlier this month that 11 U.S. soldiers have been charged with dereliction of duty in connection with the alleged mistreatment of detainees in Iraq but did not identify their names or unit. Baldwin confirmed on Tuesday that the soldiers are members of Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion of the 184th Infantry Regiment.

Extortion, dereliction? Sounds like they can't afford to be real choosy about who enlists...

On the other hand, maybe that's just a first step towards a career in GOP politics for some of these soldiers--where at least they'll never get swiftboated.
Simmer for a While

There are very few red meat revelations re: Rovegate over the last few days, but as I noted Monday, this doesn't mean Karlos(er) can laugh it all off (even as Rove-kill yuks it up at fundraisers and/or cheats on his wife). However, that doesn't mean the coverup worked:

The special prosecutor in the CIA leak probe has interviewed a wider range of administration officials than was previously known, part of an effort to determine whether anyone broke laws during a White House effort two years ago to discredit allegations that President Bush used faulty intelligence to justify the Iraq war, according to several officials familiar with the case.

Prosecutors have questioned former CIA director George J. Tenet and deputy director John E. McLaughlin, former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, State Department officials, and even a stranger who approached columnist Robert D. Novak on the street.

In doing so, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked not only about how CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was leaked but also how the administration went about shifting responsibility from the White House to the CIA for having included 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union address about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Africa, an assertion that was later disputed.

In other words, Team Bush still needn't go to a sauna if they want a good sweat.

Roger Morris, writing in Counterpunch, also suggests that none other than Secretary of State Condi herself might want to keep an expensive lawyer on retainer:

[Rice's] manifest failures in the fateful months before 9/11 in meeting the principal responsibilities of the National Security Advisor-the sheer incompetence and shallowness that left so much intelligence uncoordinated, so much neglected or misunderstood-should have been enough to have run her from public office long ago, of course, were it not for her hold on this tragically flawed president, and her deplorable immunity amid the chronic political cowardice of both the Democrats and the media.

Now, however, her role in the Plame scandal cannot be ignored or excused. She alone among senior officials was knowing and complicitous at every successive stage of the great half-baked yellow cake fraud. She alone was the White House peer-and in national security matters the superior-to Rove and Libby, who never could have acted without her collusion in peddling Plame's identity. She as much as anyone had a stake in smearing Wilson by any and all means at hand. If Rove and Libby are to be held criminally or at least politically accountable for a breach of national security, our "mushroom cloud" secretary of state should certainly be in the dock with them.

Well, as they say, chicken(hawks) always come home to roost...

And whether or not Fitzgerald's inquiry leads to indictments or not (for the record, I'm inclined to think it will, otherwise, there wouldn't be ever more desperate measures looked at in order to contain him)--anyway, whether or not the investigation actually bears fruit, it's worth remembering the following:

Iraq is Team Bush's war--it's not the GWOT, it's NOT something a reluctant administration was pulled into--it's THEIR war. They bellowed for it, they DEMANDED it, in the face of literally world-wide opposition to wars of aggression. No matter--they and the people who supported it were more than comfortable to watch American soldiers and Iraqi civilians die for the greater glory of their Rethuglican party and the idiot they nominated to lead it. The lies justifying the war were/are egregious--and would be whether or not the war is figuratively blowing up in their faces (and blowing up on plenty of people in a far more literal sense). And now it should be rightfully assessed as THEIR failure. Catching Rove in the act might make for a reasonable appetizer, but the main course is the utter folly of Cheney, Rummy, and Bush, who thought they could ignore not only history, but sanity, when they decided to embark on a splendid little festival of killing. Americans should be thoroughly disgusted by this action--not only because it's been totally boneheaded in a strategic and tactical sense, but it is morally repugnant--in fact, the war embodies all we ostensibly despise about terrorists and terrorism.
Grainy Footage...

...but I think Attaturk is onto something...

Scroll down at his site for another revelation--the Shroud of Eschaton.

This is truly ridiculous:

About a dozen papers objected to Tuesday's and Wednesday's "Doonesbury" comic strips, and some either pulled or edited them.

The strips refer to Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff, as "Turd Blossom."

Hell, Turd Blossom is probably the most accurate thing Dubya ever said.

Question: Are any of Rummy's layovers in Iraq NOT reported as "surprise visits?" And, if he did announce, how much security do you think it'd require?

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld urged Iraqi political leaders today to settle their differences and agree on a new constitution quickly, and to exert more influence with Syria and Iran to force them to end support for the insurgency here.

He also warned any undesirables to "get off [his] goddamned lawn."

Mr. Rumsfeld renewed his criticism that Syria and Iran are harboring financiers and organizers of the insurgency, or are failing to clamp down on fighters infiltrating into Iraq from their territory. But he also urged Iraqi leaders to be more aggressive to stop what he called "harmful" behavior by Iraq's two neighboring rivals.

"They need to demonstrate that they're a big country, they're a wealthy country, that they'll be around a long time, and they don't really like it," said Mr. Rumsfeld, adding that he would leave specific actions up to the Iraqis.

You know, it's almost sad to watch the Donald fade into flights of fancy and incoherence (emphasis on ALMOST). Meanwhile, General Casey is likewise engaged in a little bit of reality denial:

General Casey painted an upbeat picture of steadily improving Iraqi security forces pitted against an insurgency that the general said was neither weakening nor gaining strength.

"I wouldn't say that it's necessarily a stalemate," said General Casey. "Insurgencies need to progress to survive, and this insurgency is not progressing. There's been a change in tactics, to more violent, more visible attacks against civilians. That's a no-win strategy for the insurgents."

Of course, General. Why, it sounds like we're "making progress:"

BAGHDAD - Gunmen ambushed a minibus carrying factory workers as it left a project site in Abu Ghraib, on the western outskirts of Baghdad. Police sources said 12 people were killed and nine wounded. A hospital source said as many as 17 may have been killed in the attack.

BAQUBA - An aide of the radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr was shot dead while stepping out of his car in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad. A police source said Saad Younis al-Difa'ie was head of Sadr's office in the town.

MOSUL - A paramedic and an Iraqi woman were killed and six civilians injured during clashes between the Iraqi army and insurgents in the predominantly Arab district of Risala, in southern Mosul, according to a hospital official.

There were no immediate reports of Iraqi military or insurgent casualties.

BAGHDAD - Three Ministry of Health employees were assassinated when gunmen opened fire on their car in the capital's eastern district of New Baghdad, a police source said.

TIKRIT - Gunmen killed a Pakistani truck-driver in Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad. A police source said they found his body in his truck.

BASRA - A police officer was killed when gunmen attacked his car in central Basra, 550 km (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad. A police source said a child was also killed and three civilians injured in the attack. BAGHDAD - Gunmen attacked the Major Crimes Unit in the Karkh area, west of the Tigris river. An Iraqi military statement said one policeman was injured and two suspects were detained.

Ah, from Mosul to Basra, i.e., the entire length of the nation. At this point, I think we should be looking towards total chaos as the ultimate sign of victory.

Mr. Rumsfeld gave his most detailed remarks aboard his plane en route to Iraq.

He said the United States is now overseeing 15,000 detainees, a number that has climbed sharply in recent months as more insurgents are captured in operations but a smaller percentage are released because they are considered higher risk.

American forces currently run detention centers at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, Camp Bucca near Basra, and Camp Cropper, a site for high-value detainees including Mr. Hussein, near Baghdad International Airport. But the prison population is growing so quickly that the United States will soon open a fourth major prison in northern Iraq. The prison operations are requiring increasing numbers of American military police and prison guards, who are being diverted from other jobs in Iraq.

Well, at least in that respect, Iraq is getting more like the United States. And, speaking of prisoners, here's a wonderful example of how Team Bush shows their "respect for the Iraqi people:"

Two Iraqis at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison were bitten by dogs as they were being handled by sergeants who were competing to see who could scare more detainees, a witness testified Tuesday.

That, uh, technique, apparently was something taught to the Abu Ghraib guards by the team in Guantanamo, along with all sorts of other fun stuff, according to this WaPo article.

Finally, in yet another sign that the insurgency is in it's last throes (remember, we mean the violent version), Al Qaeda claims it killed two Algerian envoys previously kidnapped. Yeah, Operation-Turn-Iraq-into-a-Terrorist-Haven--complete with lots of live training exercises--is proceeding apace. THAT'S apparently the goal of Team Bush.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Because Prosecuting Terrorists is for Wussies

I'm sure plenty of people remember Dick 'n Dubya hooting and hollering like drunks at a lynching when folks like John Kerry suggested that the GWOT might REALLY work if we added the extra dimension of law enforcement to the mix (indeed, if we made law enforcement the MAJOR component, things like 9/11 might be prevented, instead of reacted upon).

Yeah, stopping crimes from happening sure is lame:

The Justice Department blocked efforts by its prosecutors in Seattle in 2002 to bring criminal charges against Haroon Aswat, according to federal law-enforcement officials who were involved in the case.

British authorities suspect Aswat of taking part in the July 7 London bombings, which killed 56 and prompted an intense worldwide manhunt for him.

But long before he surfaced as a suspect there, federal prosecutors in Seattle wanted to seek a grand-jury indictment for his involvement in a failed attempt to set up a terrorist-training camp in Bly, Ore., in late 1999. In early 2000, Aswat lived for a couple of months in central Seattle at the Dar-us-Salaam mosque.

A federal indictment of Aswat in 2002 would have resulted in an arrest warrant and his possible detention in Britain for extradition to the United States.

"It was really frustrating," said a former Justice Department official involved in the case. "Guys like that, you just want to sweep them up off the street."

British intelligence officials now think that in the days and hours before the July 7 bombings, Aswat was in cellphone contact with at least two of the four suicide bombers, according to The Times of London.

But hey, pursuing the war angle has resulted in the capture of bin Laden Zawahiri Zarqawi, um...well, we got Saddam...and Iraq is um, well, kind of free, provided you don't mind playing car bomb lottery--or dodge-the-freedom-bullets:

Three men in an unmarked sedan pulled up near the headquarters of the national police major crimes unit. The two passengers, wearing traditional Arab dishdasha gowns, stepped from the car.

At the same moment, a U.S. military convoy emerged from an underpass. Apparently believing the men were staging an ambush, the Americans fired, killing one passenger and wounding the other. The sedan's driver was hit in the head by two bullet fragments.

The soldiers drove on without stopping.

This kind of shooting is far from rare in Baghdad, but the driver of the car was no ordinary casualty. He was Iraqi police Brig. Gen. Majeed Farraji, chief of the major crimes unit. His passengers were unarmed hitchhikers whom he was dropping off on his way to work.

"The reason they shot us is just because the Americans are reckless," the general said from his hospital bed hours after the July 6 shooting, his head wrapped in a white bandage. "Nobody punishes them or blames them."

And the war approach sure has reduced terrorist activity by Al Qaeda--let's see...we went from six suspected acts of terrorism by those lunatics from 1993-2000, nineteen between 2001-2005...
99 Cent Beach Shoes

Also known as Flip-Flops:

10/5/01: Bush Pulls Security Clearances From 92 Senators
“We can’t have leaks of classified information. It’s not in our nation’s interest.” - President George W. Bush, 10/9/01

President Bush’s defiant statement came in the immediate weeks following 9/11, as the administration clamped down on the information it provided to Congress. President Bush issued an order limiting access to classified intelligence only to 8 members of Congress — the Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Senate Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader, and chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees.

What precipitated this course of action?

Gannett News Service reported on 10/1/01 that Bush was restricting information because, “The Washington Post reported last week that various lawmakers had been told there would be more terrorist attacks if the United States retaliated.”

Here’s what the Washington Post reported:

Asked whether more terrorist attacks are inevitable if the United States retaliates, [Sen. Richard] Shelby said, “You can bet on that.” … U.S. intelligence officials have told members of Congress there is a high probability that terrorists associated with Osama bin Laden will try to launch another major attack on U.S. targets here or abroad. [Washington Post, 10/6/01]

I'd love to see Bush asked about this, should he ever hold an actual press conference...
More "Making Progress"

Sorry again for the late start--yesterday I wasn't feeling all that well and was posting from was virtual server instruction (including--gasp--"cloning" virtual machines...what's next? Computers purchased strictly, so much for the work related satire...

On the subject of work--or, should I say "hard work?"--here are two eye-opening examples of what George's hard work has produced in Mesopotamia:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Talib Abu Younes put his lips to a glass of tap water recently and watched worms swimming in the bottom.

Electricity flickers on and off for two hours in Muthana Naim's south Baghdad home then shuts off for four in boiling July heat that shoots above 120 degrees.

Fadhel Hussein boils buckets of sewage-contaminated water from the Tigris River to wash the family's clothes.

The capital is crumbling around angry Baghdadis. Narrow concrete sewage pipes decay underground and water pipes leak out more than half the drinking water before it ever reaches a home, according to the U.S. military.

Over 18 months, American officials spent almost $2 billion to revive the capital ravaged by war and neglect, according to Army Gen. William G. Webster, who heads the 30,000 U.S. and foreign troops and 15,000 Iraqi soldiers known collectively as Task Force Baghdad. But the money goes for long-term projects that yield few visible results and for security to protect the construction sites from sabotage.

As a result, Iraqis have seen scant evidence of improvement in their homes, streets or neighborhoods. They blame American and Iraqi government corruption.

"We thank God that the air we breathe is not in the hands of the government. Otherwise they would have cut it off for a few hours each day," said Nadeem Haki, 39, an electric-goods shop owner in the upscale Karrada district in the east of the capital.

Alas, on the latter point, the air they breathe (and, by the way, the air US soldiers breathe) is contaminated by depleted uranium (courtesy of the US government). So much for any relief there.

The rest of the country also "celebrated" a milestone--Iraq is the first nation state to be placed on the endangered list by the World Monuments Fund..that's right, the entire country:

This is the first time that the Fund has ever put a whole nation on its list and so represents a singular accomplishment for the Bush administration, which knew not -- and cared less -- what it wrought...

First, there was the looting of the National Museum. That took care of some of the earliest words on clay, including, possibly, cuneiform tablets with missing parts of the epic of Gilgamesh. Soon after, the great libraries and archives of the capital went up in flames and books, letters, government documents, ancient Korans, religious manuscripts, stretching back centuries -- all those things not pressed into clay, or etched on stone, or engraved on metal, just words on that most precious and perishable of all commonplaces, paper -- vanished forever. What we're talking about, of course, is the flesh of history. And it was no less a victim of the American invasion -- of the Bush administration's lack of attention to, its lack of any sense of the value of what Iraq held (other than oil) -- than the Iraqi people. All of this has been, in that grim phrase created by the Pentagon, "collateral damage."

Worse yet, the looting of antiquity, words and objects, not only never ended but seems to have accelerated. From well organized gangs of grave robbers to American engineers building bases to American soldiers taking souvenirs, the ancient inheritance not just of Iraqis but of all of us has simply headed south. According to Reuters, more than 1,000 Iraqi objects of antiquity have been confiscated at American airports; priceless cylinder seals are evidently selling on-line at eBay for a few hundred dollars apiece; and this represents just the tiniest fraction of what's gone. The process is not only unending, but in the chaos that is America's Iraq beyond counting or assessing accurately.

Ah, eBay...where looted artifacts become an entrepreneur's stock in trade. Maybe that can be added to never ending admonitions about how we're ignoring all the newly repainted schools.

Oh, and on that note: if you ARE a soldier who's been tasked with a thankless job like repainting a school, well, don't expect any sympathy from the wingnut crowd, who will question your service record even if you've been targeted by something like and IED. I believe there's a word for describing such wingnuttery (besides wingnuttery, that is). Shameless.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Wall Street's Lament

"Why can't Costco be more like WalMart?" analysts bray....:

But not everyone is happy with Costco's business strategy. Some Wall Street analysts assert that Mr. Sinegal is overly generous not only to Costco's customers but to its workers as well.

Costco's average pay, for example, is $17 an hour, 42 percent higher than its fiercest rival, Sam's Club. And Costco's health plan makes those at many other retailers look Scroogish. One analyst, Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco "it's better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder."...

"They could probably get more money for a lot of items they sell," said Ed Weller, a retailing analyst at ThinkEquity...

Emme Kozloff, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, faulted Mr. Sinegal as being too generous to employees, noting that when analysts complained that Costco's workers were paying just 4 percent toward their health costs, he raised that percentage only to 8 percent, when the retail average is 25 percent.

"He has been too benevolent," she said. "He's right that a happy employee is a productive long-term employee, but he could force employees to pick up a little more of the burden."

To paraphrase a Molly Ivins quote, I'm sure the analysts' remarks sounded much less offensive in the original German...

There's another reason for Wall Street analysts to be smarting, though, and that's the stubborn fact that Costco's stock continues to outperform WalMart's, despite disparaging remarks like those above--and despite analysts' recommendations (note: in WallStreetese, a "hold" recommendation might as well be a "sell"). Dreher claims that this is because Costco is "a cult stock."

Cult? Yeah, I guess that's how big finance defines a company that defines good business as basic common decency--quite a departure from Wall Street's own fine examples, which include Enron, WorldCom, HealthSouth,, no cult stocks there.

To be fair, I have no idea--and the article doesn't say--whether or not Costco takes advantage of Asian sweatshop labor in their marketing of products...if I had to guess, I'd say they probably do. However, my purpose is not to praise a globally benevolent company (again, I don't know if they are or aren't), but to point out that a sound business model doesn't require all cutthroat, all the time.

Besides, I'll bet the analysts whining about health care costs, $17 dollar an hour jobs, and lower mark ups haven't exactly been subject to the same compensation recently. It's pretty goddamn easy to make these complaints when year end bonuses are in the six figure range (and that's on top of salary). Here in the real world, though, where $17 dollars an hour is known as, under the circumstances, a pretty decent wage, it's nice to see there are still companies that offer that kind of salary, along with "extras" like health benefits, sick leave, paid vacations, and so forth. We still ARE the richest country on earth, even if Team Bush is busy ringing up debts on the national credit card (supplying boat loads of cash to Halliburton, while going into phenomenal hock to the People's Republic of China). As the richest country on earth, we can well afford to provide more than a few crumbs to workers (even as we discover that our gutting of public education, not to mention our outdated system of paying for health care are hurting us).

Against that backdrop, Costco doesn't seem like such a bad place to do business--except for one thing...they don't operate here in the Gret Stet (well, I can hit the website, I guess--although, to be honest, I don't do a whole lot of shopping, period).
And Furthermore...

I meant to highlight this from Peter Galbraith's article (Whiskey Bar did, though). Along with cynicism and sadism, Team Bush will also be noted for sheer ignorance:

Recently, the Kurds identified the retired Iraqi officer who personally carried out the 1983 execution of more than five thousand members of the tribe of the Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani. The killer's son holds a senior security position in Iraq, appointed by the American occupation authorities.

In other words, the administration has NO fucking clue as to who they're actually dealing with in Iraq. No wonder the operation went so wrong so fast.
Monday, Monday

Well, the weekend saw Karl Rove move from the front pages to the op-eds and talk shows, as erstwhile national security types, in their continuing upside-down-world interpretation of things, sought to justify his behavior...let's see...John McCain played the ignorant card, claiming he didn't know the definition of "negligent." Perhaps he should read Frank Rich's op-ed, which has as good an example as anything, pointing out that Abu Gonzalez, in his capacity as White Houst counsel, waited 12 hours to inform the White House that all materials relevant to the Plame-Wilson scandal should be preserved...something Rich likens to the infamous 18 and a half minute gap. Still, Rove can briefly sigh in relief, although I'm inclined to believe this is more Indian summer for him than off-the-hook...

Among other things that temporarily relegated Rove, there was the horror in Egypt, the tragedy in England, a bit of farce in New York City--and grim reality in the Middle East. Billmon cites this New York Times article by John Burns, along with additional pieces by Patrick Cockburn, Peter Galbraith, and Helena Cobban to paint a picture about as upbeat as Goya's Saturn:

There are several recent articles on the Iraq War that are probably worth a read -- that is, if you're the kind of person who likes to slow down and gawk at horrible car crashes on the freeway. Even the New Pravda is getting into the act...

Bob Herbert also looks at this weekend's events, while today's death toll in Iraq stands at roughly thirty (Iraqi civilians and US soldiers)...oh, and as Galbraith--and others, like Juan Cole, note, all the hard work (genuine hard work by the US military, as opposed to Dubya's "hard work" clearing the neverending brush at the Crawford Ranch...aside: does Halliburton have a cost-plus contract to supply brush there?)--anyway, all the hard work is definitely benefitting...Iran. Score one for the GOP/mullah alliance.

Oh, on the subject of hard work, the Times had a piece this weekend noting a decided lack thereof, at least on the part of the US public at large. And, to take a reality based look at this, it's pretty easy to see why--a significant number of people, like myself, correctly saw that war in Iraq was a sham, a distraction from genuine efforts to counter terrorism, while the cheerleaders comprising the 101st Fighting Keyboarders take a decidedly different approach to war, apparently thinking that actually backing up their words with actions to be beneath them. Then there's the fact that, despite the apocalyptic rhetoric emanating from Team Bush, there's no great urgency on the part of them to see their sons and daughters enlisting...which speaks volumes.

Also speaking volumes is the decision by the Bush administration to stonewall on releasing yet more photos detailing abuses to detained Iraqis. In a related story, Bush Cheney threatened to veto legislation designed to prevent such abuses...demonstrating a degree of cynicism and, well, sadism that, more than almost anything, will define this administration in history.

Finally, I'll note to start this week that Lance Armstrong, winner of the Tour de France, made the following remark after his victory:

The biggest downside to a war in Iraq is what you could do with that money. What does a war in Iraq cost a week? A billion? Maybe a billion a day? The budget for the National Cancer Institute is four billion. That has to change.

"Polls say people are much more afraid of cancer than of a plane flying into their house or a bomb or any other form of terrorism. It is a priority for the American public."

Indeed. However, such a decision would deprive Halliburton of all those (ahem, definitely Iraqi) one hundred dollar bills to light their cigars with.