Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sunday news

The war over the war in Iraq

Today featured a great interview of Senators Biden and Warner on Meet The Press. That link will take you to the transcript, which is a must read. What you cannot see in the transcript is Biden's wide eyed reaction to this comment:
SEN. WARNER: Joe, when I talked to Pace yesterday, he said one of the means with which we're going to maintain those force levels is what we call cross-training, taking certain segments of the Army and retraining them in 30 to 60 days to perform the basic fighting we see against the insurgents, take elements of the Guard, which might take a little longer. You know, artillery men can become infantry men, artillery men can become policemen.

SEN. BIDEN: Fundamental change.

SEN. WARNER: No, well, it may be a fundamental change. We certainly did it in World War II. We did it...

SEN. BIDEN: It's possible.

I also detected an audible sigh from Biden, I believe, when Warner refused to acknowledge that battalion commanders had asked for more troops repeatedly:
MR. RUSSERT: But, Senator, let me stop you there...


MR. RUSSERT: ...'cause this is an important point.


MR. RUSSERT: We have heard Secretary Rumsfeld say over and over and over again that he will give the men on the ground exactly what they ask for and he has never, never turned them down. It appears that your meeting with military officers indicates something much different. Is Secretary Rumsfeld being candid when he says that he has provided all the troops that his commanders on the ground have requested?

SEN. WARNER: The answer is yes. Again, I cannot comment on that meeting because I cannot continue to function with this committee if we don't have a measure of confidentiality. I told each of those officers when they came in there, "This is an off-the-record meeting." All senators present understood that, all staff, but it came out as a leak but I will not confirm it.

Back to Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld when asked this question I think gave a proper answer. And I've been associated with the men and women of the uniform of this country for many years as you well know. There isn't a young company commander, there isn't a lieutenant, there isn't a battalion commander who at times wishes he didn't have more people. But those requests go up, and in this instance, those requests were reviewed by senior officers. And Rumsfeld has to rely on the--General Abizaid, General Casey to make those evaluations. Each time they've asked for more individuals, he has sent them. The best example, we're up to 158,000, an increment of 20,000, to make sure the referendum was done under the best controlled circumstances.

Newsweek analyzes the shift in U.S. policy in Iraq:
Piece by painful piece, this is the new American plan for succeeding in Iraq—and, just as important, for getting out of Iraq. Move in, clear the area of insurgents, and then hold it with an increasing proportion of better-quality Iraqi troops. That will allow the benefits of peace and reconstruction to flow in. Military commanders say their old "whack-a-mole" approach—hitting towns to scatter insurgents, then moving on—will continue through the all-important Dec. 15 election for the first permanent Iraqi government. But a dramatic shift will take place in the new year, with U.S. forces trying to give more responsibility to their Iraqi counterparts.

Newsweek and the Boston Globe have stories on Iraqi war vets running as Democrats in 2006. The Fighting Dems.

The Los Angeles Times has a measured and thoughtful editorial:
Americans need to understand that we need help from other nations and are more likely to get it if we offer assistance as well. The longer suicide bombers devastate Iraq and U.S. troops die with little signs of progress, the greater will be the cry to withdraw no matter the result. The U.S. needs to tell Iraqis we will be gone before too much longer, although we won't yet say just when. And the administration needs to shore up its own credibility with Americans to maintain their support for this nation's engagement in world affairs.

The New York Times on the ascendancy of Moktada al-Sadr:
Even as that battle raged on Oct. 27, Mr. Sadr's aides in Baghdad were quietly closing a deal that would signal his official debut as a kingmaker in Iraqi politics, placing his handpicked candidates on the same slate - and on equal footing - with the Shiite governing parties in the December parliamentary elections. The country's rulers had come courting him, and he had forced them to meet his terms.

Wielding violence and political popularity as tools of his authority, Mr. Sadr, the Shiite cleric who has defied the American authorities here since the fall of Saddam Hussein, is cementing his role as one of Iraq's most powerful figures.

The Observer: Human rights abuses in Iraq have prompted a troubling comparison:
'People are doing the same as [in] Saddam's time and worse,' Ayad Allawi told The Observer. 'It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things.'

The Observer on the Bush/Blair meeting last April:
The status of the now infamous five-page document concerning the meeting between Bush and Blair, on 16 April last year, has already reached mythic proportions among bloggers on the internet. It is the smoking gun to end all smoking guns, claim conspiracy theorists, who believe it details everything from an agreed date to pull the troops out, to plans to take the one-time rebel stronghold of Fallujah.

The one indisputable fact, though, is that part of the memo - 10 lines to be precise - concerns a conversation between Bush and Blair regarding Al Jazeera, the Arabic satellite television station that the US accuses of being a mouthpiece for al-Qaeda. According to those familiar with the memo's contents, Bush floated the idea of bombing the Qatar-based station. The Daily Mirror, which ran the story last Tuesday, claimed the Prime Minister talked Bush out of the plan.

As they attempted damage limitation last week, government officials suggested Bush's comments were nothing more than a joke. It was preposterous to suggest Bush would countenance such an idea, the officials said. The White House described the allegations as 'unfathomable' although according to those who have seen the memo 'there is no question Bush was serious.'

The Sunday Times of London has a story on the tracking of Arabic media up to Spring 2004:
In 2001, after the September 11 attacks, the Pentagon awarded the Rendon Group, a public affairs firm, a $16.7m contract to monitor media in the Islamic world. It was assigned to track “the location and use of Al-Jazeera news bureaux, reporters and stringers”, and was asked to “identify the biases of specific journalists and potentially obtain an understanding of their allegiances”.

The firm says that it did not go on to monitor Al-Jazeera. But the original contract suggests the Pentagon was interested in targeting the station and its journalists.

Katrina fatigue

The Houston Chronicle reports on the terrible suffering endured by the sick and elderly during and after Katrina.

The Boston Globe shows us that the tardy yet bold promises of our Commander in chief will not do much to change injustices that Katrina brought so clearly into view:
WASHINGTON -- Two months after President Bush promised to confront Gulf Coast poverty with ''bold action," the US government is moving on a far more narrow track to aid the hurricane-devastated region, focusing on pouring concrete rather than confronting the underlying race and poverty issues through Bush's ambitious proposals.

Republican Senate leader

The New York Times on Trent Lott's possible bid to take back party leadership in the Senate:
As he considers whether to run for re-election next year, Mr. Lott, Republican of Mississippi, is also dropping hints about a possible bid for a return to the Senate leadership. Democrats are enjoying the show. Some Republicans are cringing, but others are eyeing Mr. Lott with some appreciation.

Ohio Republicans

Robert Novak in the Sun Times reports that Tom DeLay's former job may soon have a permanent occupant:
There is no doubt Rep. John Boehner of Ohio is quietly enlisting support from fellow House Republicans to elect him as majority leader in January. The question is whether Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York is campaigning to be majority whip.

Newsweek and the Washington Post have stories on GOP ethics cases influencing 2006.


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