Friday, August 05, 2005

(un)Happy Anniversary

Would this maybe make you think about taking an extra THREE WEEKS of vacation?

From August 6, 2001:(.pdf)

Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US

Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate Bin Ladin since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US. Bin Ladin implied in US television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and "bring the fighting to America."

After US missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, Bin Ladin told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington, according to a [redacted] service.

An Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative told an [redacted] service at the same time that Bin Ladin was planning to exploit the operative's access to the US to mount a terrorist strike.

The millennium plotting in Canada in 1999 may have been part of Bin Ladin's first serious attempt to implement a terrorist strike in the US. Convicted plotter Ahmed Ressam has told the FBI that he conceived the idea to attack Los Angeles International Airport himself, but that bin Ladin lieutenant Abu Zubaydah encouraged him and helped facilltate the operation. Ressam also said that in 1998 Abu Zubaydah was planning his own US attack.

Ressam says Bin Ladin was aware of the Los Angeles operation.

Although Bin Ladin has not succeeded, his attacks against the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 demonstrate that he prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks. Bin Ladin associates surveilled our Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam as early as 1993, and some members of the Nairobi cell planning the bombings were arrested and deported in 1997.

Al-Qa'ida members-including same who are US citizens-have resided in or traveled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks. Two al-Qa'ida members found guilty in the conspiracy to bomb our Embassies in East Africa were US citizens, and a senior EIJ member lived in California in the mid-1990s.

A clandestine source said in 1998 that a Bin Ladin cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks.

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [redacted] service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Shaykh" 'Umar 'Abd al-Rahman and other US-held extremists.


Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the US that it considers Bin Ladin-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our Embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group of Bin ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives.

Declassified and Approved
for Release, 10 April 2004
For the President Only
6 August 2001
Good Question

AngryArab asks "what is the US mission in Iraq?"
Not Even Retro Chic

I can think of any number of metaphors to describe this article and recent Democratic Party strategy memos (scroll about halfway down Sirota's page for the .pdf's).

Let's see:

Dropping the Ball--then Kicking it out of reach.
Missing the Wave/Wipe Out
Striking Out on Three Wild Pitches
It's Duck Season--Fire!
512K is Good Enough for Anyone
etc. etc. etc.

Onto the evidence:

"Americans' approval of President Bush's handling of Iraq is at its lowest level yet, according to an AP-Ipsos poll that also found fewer than half now think he's honest. . . .

"Approval of Bush's handling of Iraq, which had been hovering in the low- to mid-40s most of the year, dipped to 38 percent. . . .

"A solid majority still see Bush as a strong and likable leader, though the president's confidence is seen as arrogance by a growing number. . . .

"Bush's overall job approval was at 42 percent, with 55 percent disapproving. That's about where Bush's approval has been all summer but slightly lower than at the beginning of the year."...

Froomkin notes that dissatisfaction with Bush is based primarily on--you guessed it--Operation What-Dubya-Thinks-is-Steely-Resolve-Looks-to-the-Rest-of-Us-Like Pigheadedness--Particularly-When-Shrubelroy-Squints-His-Little-Pig-Eyes. I mean, duh--wingnutters can tangent off into ever higher soaring flights of fantasy when they insist the true cost of war was articulated back in 2002, but this is more a matter of collective airheadedness on their part than anything remotely resembling fact...and people who don't make keeping up with events their hobby are nonetheless more and more aware that the lemon of a war they were sold was packaged as the sleekest of sports cars.

Now that the sports car is demonstrating it's true colors--cheap fenders that dent too easily, "some rust," broken door handles, engine problems, electrical problems, exhaust problems--and parts take six weeks to get to the shop--it's not all that surprising they don't exactly have kind words for the salesman or the shop.

And yet, the competition, i.e., the Democratic Party, stubbornly refuses to take note of this dissatisfaction:

On the issue of the Iraq War, the disconnect between the Washington, D.C. Democratic Party establishment and political reality in America is growing by the day. Case in point is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's attitude towards the tremendous special election run by Paul Hackett in the staunchly Republican Cincinnati suburbs.
Hackett, an Iraq War veteran, made headlines in the campaign for taking a strong position against the original decision to go to war in Iraq, even calling the President of the United States an SOB.

And while it's true, Hackett didn't support full withdrawal from Iraq, few would deny that his position opposing the war was a key part of his campaign.
Ultimately, the anti-war position defined his candidacy, and was the clear reason he was able to do so well in such a Republican district. That should be no surprise: polls have been telling us for months that America agrees with Hackett in believing going to war in Iraq was a mistake. Meanwhile, Americans' view of President Bush's handling of Iraq is at its lowest level ever.

Incredibly, however, in a memo sent to all Democratic House Members about what Democrats should learn from the Hackett race, the DCCC makes not one mention of the Iraq War and its effect on the election. Not one. It is as if the party is going out of its way to deny the importance of Democrats taking a strong position against the war, or making the war a serious issue in their campaigns.

WTF?!? Yes, it's true the heavy hitters on Team Donkey allowed themselves to be swept up on the Rove Tide--but geez, is it really all that hard to defend their vote? Sirota offers the following advice: "tell the truth, admit they were lied to, and acknowledge that they made a mistake."

I wouldn't even acknowledge the mistake (although I would never have voted for such an idiotic war)--the vote itself didn't force Dubya to war, it merely gave him an additional option when dealing with Saddam Hussein (an option, it turns out, he was dying to use--or maybe it's more accurate to say that he was willing to see others die). Hell, I don't think it's all that big of an issue anyway--from the beginning, this has been the neo-con war, and the neo-cons have haughtily dismissed anyone suggesting that it wouldn't necessarily be the cakewalk they thought it would be.

Now, with the war hanging around the collective neo-con necks like a fetid albatross, the Democrats want to CHANGE THE SUBJECT? Geez. If that's the strategem, then they might as well just pack it in and admit that their only concern is providing a modicum of opposition--window dressing (or, more appropriately, gravesite flowers) for a democracy that no longer exists.

All but THE most deluded can see the handwriting on the wall--and it's a lot of ugly crayon scratchings. The war is LOST--there's no magic formula for regaining any support among the Iraqi people, and without that support, the occupation forces simply can't function at their present size (the other option, increasing the size of the occupation force, is equally impossible without massive wingnut enlistment, and I think we know that ain't gonna happen). And the blame for this debacle rests squarely on the shoulders of one George W. Bush.

So, pin the blame on the tail of the pig--it fits.
Uncounted Casualties

From Cursor:

Two young soldiers who served in the Iraq war have killed themselves in separate incidents in Killeen since the weekend, post officials said Wednesday.

Sgt. Robert Decouteaux, 24, of Rosedale, N.Y., died Saturday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had been airlifted from his home to a Temple hospital for emergency surgery, but he died while doctors tried to save his life.

And on Monday morning, Spc. Robert Hunt, 22, of Houston, was found dead in his apartment by Killeen police, who were alerted after members of his unit tried to contact him when he failed to report to work.

Carol Smith, a Killeen police spokeswoman, said Wednesday that Hunt's cause of death was listed as asphyxiation.

Fort Hood spokesman Dan Hassett said Decouteaux served in Iraq from April 2003 to March 2004, and that he was scheduled to redeploy when the division returns to the war zone beginning this fall.



A Fort Carson Army soldier, who had just returned from Iraq, has apparently killed his wife and himself...

Private 1st Class Stephen S. Sherwood was a member of the 2nd Battalion with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team. His wife's name hasn't been released yet.

Sherwood's combat team was transferred from South Korea to Iraq where the team lost 68 soldiers during its tour of duty.

The couple's 8-month-old daughter was staying with a neighbor at the time.

The Larimer County sheriff's department and the Fort Carson criminal investigation division are both looking into the deaths as an apparent murder-suicide.

This would be the second Fort Carson soldier to commit suicide in the last year-and-a-half. Chief Warrant Officer William Howell killed himself outside his home in Monument last year. He had returned from Iraq three weeks earlier.

Psychologist Edward Cable says roughly a third of the veterans coming home from Iraq are returning with some sort of mental disorder. "They've been there and had to kill people for their own safety and their mission," he says.

Doctors first began to understand Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after soldiers returned home from Vietnam. Cable says the violence can be triggered when something back home reminds the soldier of a sight, sound, or smell from the battlefield, "and they can become really scared, because your sanity is at stake."

Other bases have also seen the tragic consequences of emotional wounds left from the battlefield. Four soldiers based at Fort Bragg killed their wives after returning from Afghanistan. Two of the soldiers also killed themselves.

Soldiers headed home do go through a debriefing process, but afterwards it is up to them to seek help.

The war is costing a LOT more than the lives lost directly in combat, or the dollars and cents. I don't like sounding pessimistic, but I also fear--very strongly--that we'll eventually have at least one instance where a veteran does something even more horrific than suicide or murder-suicide.

That's not to excuse such a crime if it happens--but war is a wrenching experience...which is why those who've experienced combat (or who've witnessed it up close as staff officers) understandably think of it as an absolute last resort. Only chickenhawks would go to war on a whim.

And I think we can expect to hear more stories like the ones above.
For the Record

WIIIAI caught these three items that are worth passing on:

Achmad Chalabi’s head of public relations is shot to death, which to my mind speaks very poorly about his abilities in the public relations field. Just saying. (note: had to substitute an alternate link)...

Astonishingly, Haitians are not registering to vote. Only one-fifth have so far, and the deadline is next week. The International Crisis Group is blaming poor security, as opposed to the fact that the last democratically elected president was bundled onto a plane by American Marines, more or less at gun point, and sent into exile. Makes the whole voting thing seem kinda pointless.

As always, crises in Haiti, as often as not manufactured by the Northern colossus, are not merely ignored, but swept under the rug.

And, finally, to begin today, WIIIAI links to Lee Tyler's updated Oscar Wilde. Sample:

There are two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is thinking about why one wanted what one got.

Back in a's been another busy day over here.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Objective and Unbiased

This piece captures the essence of the Capital City about as well as anything I've ever seen:

Bob Omar, head of the WCSL Visual City Research Group (VCRG), thinks thoughtful design of a city with a focus on visually stimulating landscapes is an important part of development and construction, a part that has been severely lacking in Baton Rouge since its inception 190 years ago.

"The outcome of decades of development of the metropolitan area has influenced each person into an uncreative way of thinking," said Omar. "From the drab design of buildings to the lack of attractive green space, the current state of Baton Rouge has been found to not inspire its citizens."

Omar's group spent a year studying Baton Rouge, documenting not only landscapes and developments, but also the weather and physical environment.

The report -- which groups climate as well as air pollution, mosquitoes, and pollen counts into the same category -- rates Baton Rouge low in overall air quality. Being outdoors during a typical summer day is punishing. The city is surrounded by chemical plants that have found homes on the Mississippi River. The plants, in combination with the large number of cars on the road each day, pour large amounts of pollutants into the air for the citizens to breathe in. Air pollution, pollen, and mold have made swollen sinuses so common that most people have grown accustomed to not being able to breathe well.

Heat and humidity are the most noticeable qualities when outdoors. During the day, people flee the scalding, thick air by going indoors to temperature-controlled buildings. And as sunset approaches, people stay inside to stay away from the mosquitoes that come out. This has created considerable distance between people and a natural, green environment, which removes any demand for developing parks and medians into attractive green areas.

VCRG also found light pollution to be a serious problem in the city. Billboards and businesses shine bright lights up at their signs at night. Most of these lights are brighter than they need to be and are misaimed, shining instead into the sky. There is little consideration for energy-efficient, purposeful lighting. The general consensus is the brighter, the better. The results are wasted electricity and a muddy sky without stars.

Because there is no community design plan with stores and other businesses close to residences, people must frequently travel far from home, says the report. Cars are a necessity in Baton Rouge due to these distances. The only other option is waiting in the oppressive heat for a city bus that will not necessarily bring people to where they want to go. Bus routes cannot be created for every possible path to the scattered commercial and residential areas. Also, most buses stop running at 10:00pm.

With so many personal vehicles on the roads, each usually carrying a single person who is travelling several miles from home, traffic volume constantly clogs up major roadways. It may take three or four light cycles to get through a busy intersection.

"The solution in Baton Rouge has always been to add more lanes to existing roads," said Omar. This increased volume of potential customers gives businesses incentive to build their stores near these busy intersections and roads.

Since people do not like to live near traffic, developers tend to build large, isolated neighborhoods away from these roadways. This maintains the need for owning cars and driving large distances. "Cars, roads, and short-sighted design make it impossible to break out of perpetual stand-still traffic," said Omar.

Wow. They really DID study the city.

Don't forget to check out Red Stick Slideshow, which could offer a serious challenge to any of a number of James Kunstler's Eyesore of the Month winners...on the other hand, I'll admit that at least you don't have to deal with winter down here...all that much. And we're just an hour up the road from New Orleans (an hour in time, an eternity in outlook).

A couple of years ago, Baton Rouge ran an ad campaign featuring the slogan "We Are BR!" The best comment I heard about said slogan came from a friend: "They forgot to add the '549' at the end."
The Undead One Blows a Fuse

So that's how they keep Novak looking functional--with massive jolts of electricity.

Alas, that stuff can be hard to control.

I wonder if Bob also has an unnatural fear of fire...

Red Ken/Blue States

Mayor Livingstone (London, England) makes a lot of sense:

Protecting London from terrorists requires the best possible policing - which, in turn, needs the greatest possible flow of information from all communities. It also demands that we shrink the pool of the alienated that bombers draw on by treating all communities as equal parts of British society - not only theoretically, but in reality. And it means withdrawing from Iraq. All are interrelated...

The reason the US is not able to stabilise Iraq is related to the same critical issue that affects policing in Britain: information. Which is simply another way of saying the attitude of the population.

US forces are ineffective because the great bulk of the population will not give them intelligence voluntarily. Therefore elements within the US military are led to resort to ritual humiliation and torture. This does not yield remotely sufficient information. Therefore US forces are led to relatively blind strikes against those opposing them - inevitably killing innocent civilians. This, of course, has the effect of alienating the population further...

Nevertheless, I want to make the point to some opponents of the war. It is not a policy simply to explain to people: "You are dying because Britain is in Iraq." The bombers came to kill indiscriminately. As one Londoner put it to me: "I am a Muslim and scared - and my first fear is being blown up." I supported action against the Iraq war and I support measures to stop Londoners being bombed.

Right now, only the police can stop bombers. Anyone who tries to avoid this is not dealing with what are literally life and death matters. But the police can only be effective if they get community cooperation. Opponents of the war should continue to oppose it. But they also have to say to London's communities: "Cooperate with the police to catch terrorists" - and explain that the quality of information the police get will be decisively affected by the degree to which communities are treated with respect.

Read the whole thing, which goes on to make connections with broader issues--without "apologizing" for terrorism, or any like nonsense accusations made by wingnuts when someone tells them to stop stamping their collective feet and bellowing for indiscriminate bombing (just like the terrorists, I might add).

Compare and contrast--Livingstone demonstrates the capacity for complex thought, an essential component in countering terrorism without turning the free world into a self-imposed prison. Bush, on the other hand, offers nothing more than two bit bluster. All but the biggest Kool Aid drinkers can see it's nothing more than piss in a bottle, even as the shyster-in-chief insists it's nectar from the gods (excuse me--the one, true, male god).
"Roadside Russian Roulette"

The above is Bob Herbert's term for an Army workaround--the rotation of soldiers between armored, up-armored, or non-armored Humvees. It's as apt a description as any for a war where the "front lines" are, as often as not, the roads.

Herbert writes about Hugo Luis Gonzalez, who paid a heavy price--but, thankfully, not the ultimate price--for riding in an open backed Humvee (called a "bucket" in military jargon):

"It was a whole experience to prepare that vehicle to go out," said Specialist Gonzalez, "because you knew that if something happened, you were definitely going to get it. We put as many sandbags as possible on the floor, hoping those sandbags might save your life."

I asked if he had done anything else to prepare. "Oh, yes," he said. "Pray. And then you take a big breath when you go out of the gates to start the mission. You inhale at that moment. And when you come back from the mission, then you exhale."

On that morning, Specialist Gonzalez had to be carried back from the mission. The "bucket" took a direct hit from an I.E.D., and a furious gun battle with insurgents broke out. Fragments from the blast ripped into Specialist Gonzalez's head.

"I remember trying to get down and calling for a medic," he said. "I lost consciousness on the floor."

Gonzalez lost his right eye, his left eye is severely damaged, and the brain injuries he sustained altered his psyche. Still, he was lucky.

Because even though some Humvees STILL lack proper armor, a much more important consequence of the Bush-Rumsfeld war plan--the one involving lots of victory parades and campaign photo-ops, at the expense of, oh, say SECURING explosives at places like Al Qaqaa--is the latest insurgent tactic of using very large shells with shaped charges, which can not only obliterate armored Humvees, but can literally flip Amphibious Assault Vehicles over:

In recent months the roadside bombs favored by insurgents in Iraq have grown significantly in size and sophistication, the officers say, adding to their deadliness and defeating efforts to increase troops' safety by adding armor to vehicles...

Senior American commanders say they have also seen evidence that insurgents are making increased use of "shaped" charges, which concentrate the blast and give it a better chance of penetrating armored vehicles, causing higher casualties.

Insurgents are also planting multiple bombs at a single site--this can either cause additional casualties, or, at the very least, make much harder work of bomb removal.

Oh, and for those who can stand plowing through enough shit to keep a Greatful Dead tour in hallucinogens for decades, here's a transcript of a Defense Department briefing featuring Lawrence DiRita and Carter Ham, the "B" team at the Pentagon...I guess Rummy and Dick had more important things. The transcript, alas, doesn't truly catch the level of snide dripping from DiRita, or the deer-in-the-headlights-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel visage of the Brigadier General. Maybe C-SPan has the video.

Several things stood out in the briefing, aside from the overall mein of the principles. One is that it's evident we lack the troop strength to do anything more than engage the insurgents in a never ending game of whack-a-mole...and the insurgents aren't always on the receiving end. Second, I wonder what the hell a Brigadier General does that's more important than determining exactly what happened to upwards of 15 people who've been hired and trained by the military for dangerous tasks. Was the guy busy reading or writing reports? Typing up grant proposals? Or what? The sheer number of times--and ways--Ham said "I don't know" pushed the limits of creative phraseology, while DiRita, interestingly, parsed answers in a way that any defense attorney would look upon with pride in a client well advised.

On a more serious note, though, reality is beginning to nip at the exposed backside of Team Bush, no matter how much they believe they can "create their own reality." Bush continues to trot out tired old nags of responses to Al Qaeda taunts despite the fact that the military is so hamstrung fending off "Baathist dead enders and foreign fanatics" in Iraq that it may not recover for a decade or more.

Perhaps the press will one day call him on that--or any of hundreds of examples of GOP lunacy...though I won't bet on it. The public, though, is a different story. Ohio voters almost elected Paul Hackett to an Ohio seat that hasn't seen a Democratic victory in decades, much less a close race. And as more and more soldiers pay the ultimate price in a horrible game of "roadside Russian Roulette," with no end in sight, their loved ones and those of us who pay attention might well decide we're sick and tired of the chickenhawks who sent those soldiers there--and who are so blase about the losses...
Hard Work

Halliburton must've finally finished delivering some cost-plus loads of brush to the Crawford ranch, necessitating a State Vacation from the dauphin. Yeah, he's ready to go all nukulur on the brambles and tangles so carefully placed by Cheney's minions to look real...and no doubt Little Lord Shrubelroy, chainsaw in hand, dreams of medals and flightsuits and carrier landings as he takes on bin Laden and the Iraqi insurgents...I mean the briar patch. And, after all, thorns and stickers can hurt (maybe they'll pin a Purple Heart on him--or at least a Purple Heart bandaid).

There might also be some speechifying and foot stomping when it comes to proper names--"Damnit, Dick, I ain't sayin' GSAVE. I wanna call it WAR!" And so war it is, because when you're a "war president" it means there's an extra snap to the salute you get when boarding Marine 1.

Why, being preznit is such hard work that sometimes you forget the stuff they mention in the morning after a hard day of clearing brush, followed by a bike ride or half round on the front nine...and heaven knows that the enemy is perpetually on vacation, so taking five weeks or so off doesn't mean that you're AWOL or anything. Besides, it's good for troop morale when at least one of the guys gets leave--even if others have to pick up the slack. But don't worry--Shrubelroy will thank you for your service--not personally, of course, because he's working so hard, and obviously he won't be able to attend the funeral, but he'll think about you--maybe right after he hits his first good drive of the day.

Because remember--he works hard. It's hard work. And sometimes, a Shrub needs a little R&R.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


It's been that kind of a day...Back tomorrow, assuming things calm down a bit.
Review, Part II

If you're like me, and feeling not quite up to date re: the late King Fahd and Saudi Arabia (and the associated policy implications), you might wantto take a look at this transcript from an interview with As'ad AbuKhalil.

Note: this might turn into a busy day for me, hence, the short posts.

If you read nothing else today, you can still call it worthwhile if you check this out, a brief but comprehensive review of US Middle East policy by (of course) Juan Cole.

Short version (no pun intended): the idiots running the show in the 80's set the table for the idiots running things today, opting for short term policy gains without considering the long term ramifications. Hmmm...sort of like how some athletes take steroids without considering how it will affect them over time.

But don't just take my word for it--check out Cole's summary, and don't forget to remind the wingnuts that their heroes were the ones who got the ball rolling in the first place.

That's the death toll from an IED attack in Iraq today. Fourteen US soldiers and a "civilian interpreter," who seems to be forgotten, at least in the radio reports.

And the commander in chief is ON VACATION. Think about it.

On a related note, Yat Pundit pointed to a Daily Kos post by Bill in Portland Maine. Of all people, George "My-Bow-Tie-Literally-Shouts-Out-That-I'm-a-Wanker" Will mentioned a very sobering fact: in Northern Ireland, the hardcore IRA militants never really numbered over around 500 (Will actually said "200 to 400"). But they fought tens of thousands of British troops to essentially a stalemate. And that's in spite of the fact that the British had a significant ally in the Ulster faction, as well as a reasonable degree of familiarity with the language and terrain. In other words, we're up against a lot worse in Mesopotamia, and we've got a lot less on our side.

A reasonable person--or group of people--would have seen this (hell, even yahoos like Brent Scowcroft and H.W. did). But the gang running things in DC scorns reality--and why not? After all, it's not their kids who pay the price.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Old Product?

The recent use of quotes from an anonymous Iraqi in two military press releases was an "egregious error," the Pentagon's top spokesman said in a memo aimed at preventing it from happening again.

Lawrence Di Rita also said Monday that an investigation was under way into how the quotes made it into the press releases. They were versions of the same quote, modified the second time it was used...

The first quote was used in a press release issued by the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq on July 13. The second appeared on July 24.

The military has since removed the quotes from the press releases posted on its Web site. The originals were unavailable at the Pentagon.

According to, which picked up the quotes before they were removed, the military's July 13 release came after an attack. The sentence quoting the Iraqi read:

"'The terrorists are attacking the infrastructure, the children and all of Iraq,' said one Iraqi man who preferred not to be identified. 'They are enemies of humanity without religion or any sort of ethics. They have attacked my community today and I will now take the fight to the terrorists.'"

The July 24 release was after a second attack, this one on Iraqi security forces (ISF):

"'The terrorists are attacking the infrastructure, the ISF and all of Iraq. They are enemies of humanity without religion or any sort of ethics. They have attacked my community today and I will now take the fight to the terrorists,' said one Iraqi man who preferred not to be identified."


Maybe they were just following Andy Card's advice and 'not introducing new product' at the end of the summer...
Not Like Vietnam at All (Repeat)

Because Iraq really is not like Vietnam--at all:

Military doctors are fighting to contain an outbreak of a potentially deadly drug-resistant bacteria that apparently originated in the Iraqi soil. So far at least 280 people, mostly soldiers returning from the battlefield, have been infected, a number of whom contracted the illness while in U.S. military hospitals.

Most of the victims are relatively young troops who were injured by the land mines, mortars and suicide bombs that have permeated the Iraq conflict. No active-duty soldiers have died from the infections, but five extremely sick patients who were in the same hospitals as the injured soldiers have died after being infected with the bacteria, Acinetobacter baumannii.

"This a very large outbreak," says Arjun Srinivasan, a lieutenant commander in the U.S. public health service and a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control.

Acinetobacter was the second most prevalent infection for soldiers in Vietnam but the military did not expect to see it as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Researchers are still working to understand where it came from and how patients were infected. (See: "Military Chases Mystery Infection.")
Oh, Fallujah It!

Maybe the military can turn the rubble into dust...

Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Intervention Force, and soldiers with the U.S. Army's 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, searched more than 445 homes during the operation. A cache of bomb-making materials was found, including an artillery fuse, 20 blasting caps and five triggering devices.

Officials noted that all of the items were found hidden in an air conditioning duct staged on a pile of trash. An Iraqi explosive ordnance disposal team removed the materials.

Three suspected terrorists were detained during the operation. Two of the suspects were found in possession of an AK-47 assault rifle, five loaded magazines, four bayonets and insurgent propaganda materials. The third suspect had a .38- caliber revolver.

In a similar operation, soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Intervention Force, searched 205 houses and captured one mortar tripod and an improvised explosive device detonator, while detaining four suspected terrorists.
Making Progress by Regressing

Considering that today the Preznit came out against evolution, it's only fitting that the LA Times reports that Iraq--home to the second largest known crude oil reserves--has a shortage of gasoline:

Iraqis will be issued ration cards next month allowing them to buy limited quantities of kerosene and cooking gas. Later, they will face restrictions on gasoline purchases...

Some people said that the ration cards would make it even more difficult to obtain fuel. Currently, they must stand in gas lines for hours or purchase higher-priced gas from black marketeers who hover alongside dusty roads hawking their product from jerry cans.

"Do you believe that this country … would suffer from an oil crisis?" asked Mazen Abdul Aziz, 52, a mechanical engineer who watched a half-mile gas line snake past his copy shop Monday. "It's unbelievable."

Oh, and the death toll for US military personnel rose above 1800.
An Army of Andro

Ask, and ye shall be answered--last night I was half paying attention to Nightline, which found time to report on--the horror--Rafael Palmeiro--I began to wonder if steroid use/abuse might have found its way into Operation Rich Kids Don't Serve. Today, Cursor has the answer:

Italian police seized 215,000 doses of prohibited substances as they broke up a ring that supplied steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to customers around the world, including American soldiers in Iraq, a police official said Monday.

The U.S. military there had no immediate comment, but steroid abuse has long been discussed as an issue in Iraq, where American troops and contractors work out in gyms on military bases and even in the mirrored halls of one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces.

Joseph Donahue, program director for the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, who spent 16 months in Iraq — often lifting weights in the gyms of Baghdad's Green Zone — said steroids were available to those who wanted them.

"I had them offered to me by an Iraqi guy who sure … looked like he was using them," Donahue said. "There were guys I'm pretty sure were juicing, but not a lot of them."

Private security contractors said steroid use was a problem among their employees in Iraq because the drugs were so readily available there — as easy to buy as a soda, according to one contractor.

Earlier today I turned to google--using the search phrase "steroids U.S. military," I found this:

U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan submit to regular drug tests, but
are not routinely tested for steroid use, a potential problem that
surfaced recently after Italian police busted an international drug
smuggling ring whose prospective clients included U.S. troops in Iraq.

Even while deployed to a combat zone, the services follow the general
Defense Department practice of randomly testing 10 percent of a
military unit's members each month for drugs such as marijuana,
cocaine, heroin, and barbiturates, and designer drugs such as
Ecstasy, representatives from each of the services said.

But testing for steroids is done only when commanders specifically
request it, and to date, none have, said Col. Aaron Jacobs, chief
deputy medical examiner at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology's
Forensic Toxicology office in Washington.

Sounds like the drug ring in Italy is the same one referenced in the LA Times piece, although the dateline is a week earlier.

I point this out not so much to wag a finger at either athletes or soldiers, but to note the odd dichotomy: athletes doping up merit screaming headlines (hell, Contains No News made Palmeiro a top story yesterday), but the not-so-surprising revelation that soldiers are juiced barely gets mentioned at all. I'm guessing that, should this somehow get wider notice, there will suddenly be any number of people defending steroid use/abuse by the military.

Now, to be honest, soldiers might actually HAVE a reason to bulk up--after all, combat ain't beanbag. However, if the scientific studies of steroid use are accurate, the short term gain resulting from such use will have long term negative consequences...I know, I know--in combat, there are short term hazards FAR more dangerous than 'roids. But, unless you're EXPECTING that soldiers won't come back (i.e., you think/hope they get killed), some effects of steroid use might concern you--particularly aggressive or violent behavior.

Then there are unknown factors, such as: what are the effect of steroid use and, say, exposure to Depleted Uranium? What about 'roids, DU, and the host of other pills and injections soldiers routinely receive as part of their deployment? I doubt anyone knows.

Finally, suppose steroid use proves to be effective in the short term for soldier use, i.e., bulked up grunts perform better in the field? I wouldn't put it above the army to put such short term considerations over the long term health of enlistees. And it's not like the military hasn't used "performance enhancing drugs," even as questions remain about how effective they really are.

And, as I've said before, I certainly hope no one returning from the Iraqi debacle of the 21st century decides to react like Tim McVeigh or John Allan Mohammed--but I don't think such a reaction can be ruled out, particularly if an individual not only feels the sting of Bush's stingy policies towards veterans but also has to deal with the effect of steroid use/withdrawal.
Not so Intelligent Design

So our chimp in chief has come out in favor of creationism in public schools:

WASHINGTON - President Bush waded into the debate over evolution and "intelligent design" Monday, saying schools should teach both theories on the creation and complexity of life.

In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with a small group of reporters, Bush essentially endorsed efforts by Christian conservatives to give intelligent design equal standing with the theory of evolution in the nation's schools.

Alas, no word on where he stands re: snake handling and/or speaking in tongues. We DO know where he stands when it comes to Iraq: far enough away to comfortably say "brimg 'em on" without having to actually suffer the consequences.

In that respect, the comparison above between Bush and chimp is a little the chimpanzee, that is.

Bush spoke to a group of Texas reporters prior to yet another vacation--while seven more soldiers--and approximately 15 Iraqis--were killed (note that the story leads with political news, with the soldiers' deaths mentioned almost as an afterthought).

Bush also found the time to focus on what truly must be a stressful incident for him: whether or not a baseball player really DID use steroids (the dauphin's response: "Rafael Palmeiro is a friend. He testified in public and I believe him."). Hmmm. Maybe Dubya will offer Palmeiro a Medal of Freedom--and lobby team management to give the guy a raise.

Finally, perhaps attempting to prove that HE hasn't fallen all that far from the tree, as it were, Bush got testy when asked about John Roberts and Roe v. Wade--then he concluded with a rousing defense of administration leaker/liar Karl Rove:

"Karl's got my complete confidence. He's a valuable member of my team," Bush said. "Why don't you wait and see what the true facts are?"

Hmmm, again. The true facts? Hey, why don't you just call the guy into your office and get the true facts yourself? Lazy bastard.

Monday, August 01, 2005

This is Your Captain Slurring

Here's another excuse for America West and Northwest Airlines to leave Baghdad off their list of destinations (from Juan Cole):

BAGHDAD -- Iraq's transportation minister, a Shiite Muslim, has ordered a ban on alcohol sales at Baghdad International Airport, declaring that the facility is "a holy and revered" piece of Iraq, a spokesman said Friday.

The airport duty-free shop so far has refused to comply with the order by Salam Maliki. Airport officials said Maliki threatened to have the store's $800,000 supply of alcoholic beverages destroyed.

The alcohol ban heightened fears of some more secular Iraqis that the Shiite Muslim majority might seek to impose a rigid interpretation of Islamic law in Iraq, traditionally considered to be tolerant in its observance of religious law. The order followed a visit Maliki made this month with other government officials to Iran, which is controlled by fundamentalist Shiite clerics...

Employees at the duty-free shop in the airport said they received a letter Thursday from the airport's director general, Emad Fasih Dawood, after a recent trip by Maliki. "In reference to the minister's airport visit the decision has been made to prevent the selling or advertising of alcohols in the duty-free shop," said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.

A spokesman for Maliki confirmed the order.

"The issue is that the minister landed in the Baghdad airport and saw alcohol being sold there," Maliki's aide, Karim Jabiri, said Friday. "Given that the airport is a holy and revered part of Iraq's land, the minister ordered a ban on selling alcoholic drinks in the airport."

"The airport represents the new Iraq," the spokesman said. "We are an Islamic country."

An airport official said Maliki ordered the airport alcohol ban after flying into Baghdad's heavily guarded airport and noticing the shelves of whiskey, wine and other alcohol on display.

Alcohol sales in Baghdad's departure lounge and the separate lounges for private security contractors generate about 85 percent of duty-free sales there, the airport official said.

Cole goes on to note that the entire country will probably ban alcohol soon...but before moralists claim victory, he points out that in countries like Iran and Pakistan, banning booze has led to increased use of opiates.

And, maybe it's just me, but if I EVER had to deal with a spiral landing at Baghdad International, you can bet I'd want something less than stingy.
Afghanistan--The Other Iraq Fatigue

Atrios posted on "Iraq Fatigue" in the media over the weekend, i.e., the fact that Operation Instant Gratification and, Look Mom, I'm Embedded! is Operation It's Not So Shiny Now (aside: nothing sums that up quite as well as a small paragraph in this WaPo story that Steve Gilliard found:

Ryan Autery's calamity was scarcely noted when it happened last August.

The headline was: "Marine injured in bomb explosion that claimed life of another."

The 236-word, nine-paragraph Associated Press report out of Murfreesboro, Tenn., announced that the then-19-year-old from LaVergne, near Nashville, "lost a limb" when his Humvee hit a land mine in Najaf, Iraq. Another Tennessee Marine, Cpl. Brad P. McCormick, 23, had been killed, the report said.

And while Iraq is fading into desert sand--at least as far as the media is concerned--events in Afghanistan likewise are becoming the press. For the soldiers, it's anything but:

WHEN the paratroopers of Chosen Company learnt that their battalion was to be sent to the mountains of southern Afghanistan instead of back to the deserts of Iraq, they heaved a collective sigh of relief.

“I thought it’d be pretty relaxed, that I’d be spending a lot of time in the gym,” Sergeant Timothy Smith recalled wryly. “I figured it was more of a peacekeeping mission than anything.”

But less than a month after setting up camp amid the rugged mountains of Zabul province, the heartland of the Taleban, they walked right into the battle of their lives — an intense hand-to-hand fight with what proved to be a surprisingly tenacious and determined enemy.

Dug into bunkers in an orchard in the remote village of Gazek Kula, armed with machineguns and rocketpropelled grenade launchers, dozens of Taleban fighters fought for hours with the Americans, about 50 of them to the death.

Weeks later the Americans were in action again, battling for almost 12 hours to oust at least 200 Taleban from the district headquarters in Miana Shin.

“It’s the most intense combat I’ve ever seen,” Sergeant Smith said. “They fight harder than anyone in Iraq ever did. I really never expected anything like this. We all kind of thought the Taleban were gone.”

In the last four months, 37 US soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan--that's far less than in Iraq, but it's a strong indicator that Central Asia isn't exactly pacified. The article goes on to note that the resurgent Taliban are a mix and match of locals and people crossing the border from Pakistan...which speaks volumes as to the effectiveness of our "ally" Busharr, excuse me, Musharraf.

To be fair, Musharraf is walking the thinnest of tightropes; however, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that, under the circumstances, it might not be all that wise to team up with him (then again, maybe we don't have much choice--things came to um, a boil with Uzbekistan "President" Islam Karimov over the weekend).

As a result, in Afghanistan we find ourselves Iraq a rock and a hard Pakistan, with little end in sight. Like their Mesopotamian counterparts, the insurgents in Central Asia can wait us out--they're not going anywhere. Meanwhile, the media will move on to other shiny objects, leaving the soldiers wondering if anyone gives a damn about the fact that they're fighting, dying, and, if not dying, living in horrific conditions--and stuck in a situation every bit as difficult as Sisyphus's.
On Canaries and Coal Mines

Global Warming "just a theory?"

BROOKLIN, Canada - Hurricane Ivan, the incredibly powerful storm that killed at least 120 people in the Caribbean and southern United States, may be a harbinger of the Earth's hotter future, say experts.

"As the world warms, we expect more and more intense tropical hurricanes and cyclones," said James McCarthy, a professor of biological oceanography at Harvard University...

Over the last 100 years, the Earth has warmed by about .6 degrees C, according to the 2001 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international scientific body that studies the relationship between human activity and global warming.

The IPCC report was based on research by more than 2,500 scientists from about 100 countries who determined that emissions of gases such as carbon dioxide act as a blanket that prevents much of the sun's energy from dissipating into space.

Much of the extra energy from this "greenhouse effect" is being absorbed by the oceans.

The "proof" that the oceans are warming is the fact that global sea levels have risen 3.1 cm in the past 10 years, said Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

Water expands when heated, and sea levels are expected to continue rising by as much as 50 cm by 2100.

While the warming of the oceans is not uniform -- the North Pacific and North Atlantic are a bit cooler -- the hurricane-producing mid-Atlantic and Caribbean oceans have warmed significantly.

"Global warming is creating conditions that are more favorable for hurricanes to develop and be more severe," said Trenberth.

Will that result in more Category 4 or 5 storms like Ivan?

"That's the logical conclusion, although it may be somewhat controversial," he said.

Let's see...Team Bush's environmental policy, no policy. He also wants to stiff Louisiana, which ALREADY has a critical problem with coastal erosion WHETHER OR NOT a super-cane either sideswipes or hits us head on, but sees no problem spending upwards of $300 billion for war in Iraq (and already only god knows how much of that has been lost to graft and corruption).

Hell, about the only thing left IS a "faith-based" initiative--pray the Gret Stet can dodge the proverbial bullet.
Where it's Due

There are times when I want to rip Richard Cohen a new one...then there are times when I couldn't agree more with what he says (hat tip to Ben for telling me about this):

I need to be very careful here, to say precisely what I mean and leave nothing to chance. I have just seen the play "Primo," which is performed by a single actor, Antony Sher, with material taken from Primo Levi's incomparable "If This Is a Man," the book that made the obscure Italian chemist an international literary sensation. It is an account of his time spent in Auschwitz. I could not help but think of Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo.

I know, I know. One must never compare anything to the Holocaust. One must never invoke Nazism except in reference to the Nazis. One must isolate that era as a way of honoring the victims, keeping it pristine and removed from all other human experience because it was so uniquely awful. I know all this -- and I believe it, too.

What's more, I am not likening what happened at Auschwitz and the other camps to what's happening or happened at Guantanamo and other places where America's enemies -- real or supposed -- are kept. Our purpose is not to murder. We do not engage in slave labor. We are not evil, and our intent is to safeguard the innocent both here and abroad, not to kill them for whatever reason. I hope I have made myself clear.

Yet much of this remarkable play is not about genocide and the annihilation of many, but about shame and the annihilation of self. The famous number, 6 million, is never mentioned. When numbers are used, they are small and comprehensible -- squads, for instance. Levi, after all, was not killed right off, as most were, but was made a slave laborer, slated for death eventually but kept alive to do mostly meaningless work and so severely abused that it amounted to a minute-by-minute torture. The purpose of the torture, aside from it mostly having none at all, was to annihilate the prisoner's sense of self. For Levi and the others at Auschwitz, it meant the loss of his identity and the replacement of his name with a number, 174517. It was an inventory tag.

In the play, Sher repeats the number 174517 frequently because, of course, this is who Levi had become. We are entitled to wonder if Levi's subsequent emphasis on the importance of work -- he resumed his career as a chemist after liberation -- was not an obsessive effort to reconstruct himself, to give a kind of visibility to a man made invisible. If that was his intention, he succeeded -- at least until he possibly failed. It's hard to know what to make of his apparent suicide in 1987. By then, he had retired as a chemist. By then, he was a famous writer. By then, he was only 67. To this day, some still insist his death was accidental -- a plunge down his staircase in Turin. It's too painful to think that, in the end, Auschwitz finally claimed him.

But it was Levi's admission of shame that got me -- shame, not guilt. He was ashamed of what had happened to him, his horrible degradation, but mostly his silence. He yelled "Yes!" when the Nazis demanded it of him, and he watched the gruesome hangings of the recalcitrant and the brave while he mostly avoided eye contact, said nothing and shamed himself with his silence.

That shame is what persists after -- way after -- the torture has been concluded and the pain is gone. That shame is what my Post colleague Pamela Constable recently invoked when she wrote about a 1990 trip through Chile, where she had once worked, interviewing torture victims. She likened what she found then to what she found much more recently in Afghanistan, her latest overseas assignment. The abusers there were Americans.

The sense that torture or abuse is a momentary thing, a fleeting thing that sometimes has to be done but which, in any case, ends when the shackles are removed or the pain ceases, is a fiction. A person tortured once is tortured forever. Torture is not merely something we can do -- forgive us, but we must -- because it is quick and we are right and then it is over . . . and no big deal because, really, we have moved on. Too often, the victim has not.

So understand, please. I am not likening us to the Nazis (or the communists), and I am not comparing victimhoods. I will not permit the trifling of the Holocaust. But if Primo Levi is to have the value I think he does, then he must make the horror of his time tell us something about our time. In "Primo" -- in the body and voice of Antony Sher -- he does.
Idiot Wind

Someone must've put some ballast in George Stephanopoulos's pockets yesterday--either that or television is a relative medium, and interviewee Rick Santorum registers a negative atomic weight:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about something else in the book, radical feminists. A second quote from the book, you say, Respect for stay-at-home mothers has been poisoned by a toxic combination of the village elders’ war on the traditional family and radical feminism’s mysogynistic crusade to make working outside the home the only marker of social value and self-respect.

Let’s get specific here. Name one or two of these radical feminists who are on this crusade.

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, you know, you have — you go back to, what’s her name, well, Gloria Steinem, but I’m trying to remember — I can’t remember the woman’s name. It’s terrible. Anyway…

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it’s kind of an important point. Because you paint this broad brush: radical feminists, village elders. Name one.

SANTORUM: There’s lots of — no, there’s lot’s of — well, Gloria Steinem. There’s one. I mean, there’s lots of writings out there…

STEPHANOPOULOS: She’s been on a crusade against stay-at-home moms?

SANTORUM: There’s lots of writings out there, and there is an opinion by the elite in this country across academia, across the media, that stay-at-home motherhood is not adequately affirmed and respected by our society.

Wow. I tell you--Santorum's skull might be thick, but it's 100 percent aerogel.

Man-on-dog also wouldn't let go of his now oft repeated claim that Boston is the spiritual headquarters of all that is deviant--this despite the fact that George called his bluff on this, citing reports on what is obvious to both full and half brained individuals, namely, that the Catholic Church pedophilia scandal is a nationwide, if not global issue. Rick, lacking critical gray matter upstairs, either didn't get it...well, that or he sees nothing wrong with slandering an entire American city for cheap political points. Or maybe both--he doesn't get it AND he gets off on truly disgusting behavior like sliming Boston (which wouldn't surprise me: Bush spent a good bit of time last year sliming the entire STATE of Massachusetts, and we've seen how his gang will undermine national security if there political hay to be made).

And, on a not entirely unrelated subject, I'll guess most of y'all saw this thanks to an Atrios link--equal time for anti-idiocy. Short version: Uwe Reinhardt reminds us that it's awfully damn easy for Bush, Cheney, et al to commit to "staying the course," given that the cost to them is...well, nothing, if you think about it. And, when it's all over, they can tell the people who DID pay the price to stick it.

Santorum'll claim all those killed or disabled were from Boston anyway.
The Neocon Shuffle

Attaturk sure knows how to compare and contrast (emphasis on the contrast part).
Sentence First, Verdict Afterwards!

Another example of freedom on the march:

As the Pentagon was making its final preparations to begin war crimes trials against four detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, two senior prosecutors complained in confidential messages last year that the trial system had been secretly arranged to improve the chance of conviction and to deprive defendants of material that could prove their innocence...

Among the striking statements in the prosecutors' messages was an assertion by one that the chief prosecutor had told his subordinates that the members of the military commission that would try the first four defendants would be "handpicked" to ensure that all would be convicted.

The same officer, Capt. John Carr of the Air Force, also said in his message that he had been told that any exculpatory evidence - information that could help the detainees mount a defense in their cases - would probably exist only in the 10 percent of documents being withheld by the Central Intelligence Agency for security reasons.

Captain Carr's e-mail message also said that some evidence that at least one of the four defendants had been brutalized had been lost and that other evidence on the same issue had been withheld. The March 15, 2004, message was addressed to Col. Frederick L. Borch, the chief prosecutor who was the object of much of Captain Carr's criticism.

The second officer, Maj. Robert Preston, also of the Air Force, said in a March 11, 2004, message to another senior officer in the prosecutor's office that he could not in good conscience write a legal motion saying the proceedings would be "full and fair" when he knew they would not.

Here's another article:

...another prosecutor, Captain John Carr...says the commissions appear to be rigged.

"When I volunteered to assist with this process and was assigned to this office, I expected there would at least be a minimal effort to establish a fair process and diligently prepare cases against significant accused," he wrote.

"Instead, I find a half-hearted and disorganised effort by a skeleton group of relatively inexperienced attorneys to prosecute fairly low-level accused in a process that appears to be rigged."

Capt Carr says that the prosecutors have been told by the chief prosecutor that the panel sitting in judgment on the cases would be handpicked to ensure convictions.

"You have repeatedly said to the office that the military panel will be handpicked and will not acquit these detainees and that we only needed to worry about building a record for the review panel," he said.

Now, interestingly, we can compare and contrast Team Bush's idea of justice with that of the United States, namely, something Judge John C. Coughenour's said when imposing a sentence of 22 years in prison for Ahmed Ressam, the would be Millenium Bomber (note: Coughenour is a Reagan appointee):

"We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant or deny the defendant the right to counsel...The message to the world from today's sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart."

Team Bush's ideas are more along these lines:

'Let the jury consider their verdict,' the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

'No, no!' said the Queen. 'Sentence first - verdict afterwards.'
If No Good Deed Goes Unpunished...

Then no bad deed goes unrewarded:

President Bush bypassed the Senate confirmation process today and appointed John R. Bolton as the new United States ambassador to the United Nations.

I mean, what the hell else can you say? Bolton is a lying, vicious hack of a human being. He lacks even the most basic of skills required for a diplomatic position. Which is why the Senate held up the nomination.

On the other hand, he's the perfect fit if Bush's goal is to gut the UN even further...