Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Time to raise taxes...

But only on the wealthy.

The Washington Post reported that about $2.6 billion additional will be needed to treat returning veterans from Iraq. LINK.

Bush stated a rationale for not raising troop levels in Iraq. The idea is that more troops would create more problems than they would solve. OK. Well, if you don't want to raise troop levels, then let's raise equipment levels. I see photos of Iraqi units without armoured equipment. Let's fire up some industrial muscle with some government contracts. Or, more to the point, let's see the Democrats propose that in the Congresss.

This is, by the way, the exact point that Dan Balz made in his analysis of Bush's speech in the Washington Post. LINK.

Here's Balz's conclusion:

"The fact that the public continues to support keeping troops in Iraq has made Democratic efforts to criticize Bush more difficult, as few Democratic leaders are calling for an explicit exit strategy. But it is congressional Republicans who may be most worried now about the course of events in Iraq. They, not Bush, must face the voters next year and they will become leading indicators of how effective the president has been in persuading Americans to stay the course."

One ring to rule them all

Russian President Vladimir Putin has a new gift.

Story broke this morning as a possible theft, or maybe a misunderstanding. Now, this guy is ex-KGB. And, I think Putin sees what he wants and takes it.

Boston Globe's morning edition story. LINK.

Kraft says it was a gift. LINK.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

After "The Speech"

PLUS: I like the fact that Bush clearly said, using bin Laden's words, that victory for jihadists in Iraq will embolden them, defeat would undermine them.

MIX: Bush is right to point out the positive strides made so far, however, claiming that jihadists have failed to disrupt the coalition, en masse, or instigate a civil war glosses over facts and could be used for jihadists as a check list for their own purposes.

MINUS: referring to 160,000 "trained and equipped" Iraqi forces is a huge mistake. According to Biden, there are perhaps 3 fully independent battalions available. A great, and more honest, accounting of Iraqi units. LINK.

Three new steps:

Partnership of units: Wonderful idea.

Embeds with Iraqi units: Another good idea, to make training quicker and more effective. How well this is executed will greatly impact this conflict.

Ministries, command and control: Another fine idea, but the devil is in the details.

So those steps...

Again, the devil is in the details. These points will do a lot to bolster American support in the short term. However, it will require a great expenditure of treasure, and still a lot of blood. With a limited time frame left before the Iraqi government loses legitimacy, the execution of those details is vital. Keep your eyes on this down the road.

More troops?

This stance is tenuous. It seems that the strategic thinking is this: Don't raise troop levels, because that would make the insurgents seem right, and enable Iraqis to avoid the fight. More troops means fodder for insurgents claiming occupation forever, and therefore resistance forever. No more troops risks fatigue for those in the theatre, assuming we could recruit ample replacements and reinforcements.

It seems that troops are needed. To guard the borders, and secure towns pacified. I am not sure how this apparent strategic thinking will play out. It is, as many plans often are, somewhat guesswork.

The punchline

"Iraq is where they are making their stand." (Or close to that.)

It's true. And that was the best line of the speech. How long this speech will bolster the public will depend on how many of the optimistic predictions Bush has presented happen, and how quickly so.

Before "The Speech"

ABC's The Note correctly declared tonight's speech to be The Speech. LINK.

The setting:

I do not like setting this speech at the home of the 82nd Airborne. This in no way is a comment about the setting, but rather where the setting will not be. A speech of this magnitude ought to be delivered from the Oval Office. This will forever be Bush's war, for good or ill, and it needs to be Bush's speech from Bush's office.

The magnitude

Simply put, the magnitude is enormous. It has been well accounted that Syria is at the least allowing for insurgents to cross their borders. Military leaders say that more are crossing than before. It is likely that Iran is going to develop a nuclear bomb, or will at least try to. The CIA (The Agency) has determined Iraq to be a better training ground for terrorists/insurgents than Afghanistan. Public support is at its weakest level since the war's declared beginning. Only victory will alleviate these foreign policy woes.

The culprits

At this point, Cheney's legacy, Rumsfeld's too, is all but written. Most likely, so is George W. Bush. Do not forget the Senators that supported this war resolution, in strong opposition to such as Robert Byrd. Bush must deliver a great speech, an honest and compelling speech. Time is of the essence. It was not the case before, but Iraq is the central front for the war on terror.

The "T" word

Iraq was a painful misdirection in the war on terror. This may have been apparent to some at the beginning of the war, including many Britons, Wash. Post's excellent recap, but it can be said now that an unfinished job in iraq would be a damaging blow against the United States in the war on terror.

The other "T" word

What Bush needs to avoid is the utterly unrealistic nonsense that has spewed from Dick Cheney.

Everyone knows that Cheney pronounced the insurgency in its "last throes." Here is exactly what he said:

"I think we may well have some kind of presence there over a period of time," Cheney said. "The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." LINK.

Cheney will probably tell you that he did not back track on this point, which as an assertion serves almost always as prima facie proof that a politician has in fact back tracked. Here is Cheney's revision, once things got hot in the kitchen:

"BLITZER: He says that the insurgency now is at a strength undiminished as it was six months ago, and he says there are actually more foreign fighters in Iraq now than there were six months ago. That doesn't sound like the last throes."

"CHENEY: No, I would disagree. If you look at what the dictionary says about throes, it can still be a violent period -- the throes of a revolution. The point would be that the conflict will be intense, but it's intense because the terrorists understand if we're successful at accomplishing our objective, standing up a democracy in Iraq, that that's a huge defeat for them. They'll do everything they can to stop it.

"When you look back at World War II, the toughest battle, at the most difficult battles, both in Europe and in the Pacific, occurred just a few months before the end, the Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944 and Okinawa in the spring of 1945. And I see this as a similar situation, where they're going to go all out.

"They'll do everything they can to disrupt that process, but I think we're strong enough to defeat them. And I think the process itself of establishing a democracy and a viable security force for the Iraqis will, in fact, signal the end, if you will, for the terrorists inside Iraq." LINK.

Cheney makes a number of bizarre claims here. There's a detour to the Battle of the Bulge, and some claim that just a process of defeating the enemy is in and of itself enough to say that the enemy's defeat is signaled to be ending. But before all this, Cheney claims that he meant that a violent period can be called "throes."

That might be the best claim of his entire journey through the fields of back tracking. "Throes" can be, and often are, violent and/or tumultuous. But if you structure Cheney's response, it follows in this format:

1. A reaffirmation of clause "A and B"
2. A defense on the use of "B", namely that it is appropriate.
3. Unrelated concepts similar to the definition of "B" but not totally identical to the circumstances of word "B". It should be noted that other examples of "B" could be provided to show that circumstances of "B" can lead to the opposite of Cheney's claim "A and B" -- namely, the Tet Offensive.

The third paragraph states that:
1. If we have a process to end the insurgency and
2. If we are strong enough to carry this process out

Then: We will end the insurgency.

Not much special there, folks.

At no point in Cheney's remarks, does a cogent defense of the use of the word "Last" as a vital modifier to "Throes" appear. The only rationales provided to support this, and only problematically, are:

1. Some of the victories in previous conflicts were preceeded by horrific fighting, or throes. And, in these cases, said throes were of a violent and penultimate or ultimate nature.

2. The process of a potentially successful solution is sufficient to declare a signal of a resolution.

Neither claim hits at a successful defense for using the modifier "last".

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Weekly news round up

The insurgency continues to kill about one score people per day. The latest in Mosul. LINK.

Rumsfeld, on the Sunday morning talk shows, echoes the magic 12 year number for the life expectancy of insurgencies. LINK. I'd like to see an explanation for insurgencies lasting about 5-12 years. It sounds dubious.

BBC News' coverage of Rumsfeld and apparent talks with some insurgent groups. LINK. The original story broke in Sunday's Times of London. LINK.

Disturbing story on up-armoring in Sunday's NY Times magazine. LINK. Nut graf: "Yet more than two years into the war, efforts by United States military units to obtain large numbers of these stronger vehicles for soldiers have faltered - even as the Pentagon's program to armor Humvees continues to be plagued by delays, an examination by The New York Times has found."

One examination, from San Francisco Chronicle, finds members of the 42nd ID frustrated, depressed, but still going. LINK.

Bush and his administration commences a 'stay the course' p.r. blitz. According to the Christian Science Monitor, Bush will try and show that he is not disconnected from reality. LINK.

The administration will look to repeat the outstanding success of the Social Security p.r. blitz...

A great way to begin to show this would be an apology and a call for more recruits and more boots on the ground. If Bush honestly wants to wager success on the Iraqis writing a constitution within the next 60 days (that is the real deadline), then the situation is out of American control. If deadlines aide the insurgency, then they have plenty of deadlines already in their arsenal. In simple, unequivocal language -- something that Bush can home-spin on campaign but is incapable of presenting when Iraq is at issue -- he needs to tell the American public that this war is going to be long, and that a quick exit will be more dangerous than finishing the job.

Professor Michael Ignatieff articulates the American idea of spreading democracy. Rightly pegs Iraq as Bush's entire legacy to the world, to the 21st century. And has a few pointers for the wordsmith-president who likes to talk loudly and wave a small stick. LINK.

The Sunday Times of London has a leaked document site, so you can see how honest Dubya was in 2002, 2003. LINK.

The Economist, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, argue for more troops in Afghanistan. Rumsfeld's transition army expected an easy roll-up, and would have had it had Iraq never happened. But even the CIA now says that the best training camps are in Iraq now. Afghanistan is so 2000. LINK.

Iran's hard liner is in the news. NY Times says a growing rift between Tehran and DC is in the cards. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad campaigned on the nuclear issue. The Washington Post is not optimistic. In his first news conference, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the 'peaceful' nuclear program will continue. BBC News link. The Economist takes a stance on Iran's new hard-liner. LINK.

There is so much else going on in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan that this fascinating story about Italy and the CIA may not get the attention it deserves. Or maybe it will begin to heat up this week. It's got classy hotels in Milan, so give it a 50-50 shot of becoming big by Wednesday. Italy to arrest CIA operatives?

Renditions, the Clinton era process of spiriting terrorists to less than friendly prisons, may have been carried out with the help of Canada. LINK.

Gitmo getting better, says some US leaders. LINK. That implies that it was bad, no?

Tony Blair's eldest son will intern with the GOP on the Hill. LINK. Story ends with a hint of a sequel with the Dems.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Downing Street Memo -- For Further Review


(a) We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action. But we needed a fuller picture of US planning before we could take any firm decisions. CDS should tell the US military that we were considering a range of options.

So concludes the Downing Street Memo, filed in July 2002. LINK to the London Times' copy.

But nothing the Downing Street memo contains, not the particulars about a 'rolling start' plan or the view that only Powell thought the UN could work, is a surprise. Unlike what some pundits want you to believe, this memo is no "smoking gun." CS Monitor's headline.

Much of these details were available before the presidential election in Bob Woodward's book, "Plan of Attack". Now, these details look troubling, and they need to be reviewed. But, this is no earth shattering indictment.

The Downing Street Memo can teach us a lesson, though. Debate ought to be public and it needs to be extensive. Lengthy does not necessarily qualify as extensive, but what debate occured before the war was obviously insufficient. There were fine points raised, predicting an insurgency and questioning post-invasion plans.

I am going to begin with one assumption. The situation in Iraq is not going well. I'd barely call that an assumption, because it seems so evident. However, our Vice President would beg to differ. We have units on their third rotation. We've seen an upswing in attacks and the effectiveness of IEDs. There are recruiting problems. Political problems in Iraq. A pourous and problematic border with Syria. And, Syria seems to believe it can act with impunity in Lebanon. Also, linked below, things do not look good for the Marine Corps and the Army supply lines.

This is not a logical proof, but this is hardly 'going well.'

At the very least, we need more debate on this matter. To his credit, Senator Joe Biden, Delaware, appears to push for just that. Washington Post story on his June 21 speech.

Biden's assessment is, and always has been, that the matter is far more grave than the administration will let on. Iraq is far too important for rosy optimism. America needs cold hard facts and recruits. If we lose this war, we will suffer for a long time.

Evening copy

Under-funded pensions and sky-rocketing liabilities. The Economist analyzes. LINK

Southern Baptists will no longer protest Disney, claim a victory. LINK On the news, Disney lost 4 cents in trading today.

The Economist rails against irrational farm subsidies, and the fact that those subsidies hurt poorer farmers and are counter to global economic liberalisation. LINK Similar story, more partisan take. The Guardian sides with Blair in the Blair-Chirac rift over EU funds. In the story, notice how much French farmers get under the current system. LINK

Morning copy

Environmentalists suffered a setback in the Senate. A slight piece of anti-Global warming legislation has passed. The NY Times ledes with a strong call, from the Senate, to have voluntary cuts. Then the article gets realistic about the better legislation left on the cutting room floor. The Globe has a more realistic lede: WASHINGTON -- Attempts to require US industries to cut carbon dioxide emissions as a way to address global warming appear to be headed for defeat in the Senate after a key Republican withdrew his support amid White House lobbying to keep greenhouse gas control programs voluntary. Exxon-Mobile asked me to spike the following sentence: What the hell are these people thinking?

The Governator is forced to ... Uh, I'm too lazy and tired for puns. But, The Mercury News uses "tepid" in their lede!

Someone is killing anti-Syrian leaders with precision, overwhelming force and a fondness for timing. Poor George Hawi becomes the latest victim of some brutal power. It'd be nice to hold them accountable.

Some Republicans have gone against the White House to prob Gitmo. The NY Times reports. Senator Durbin apologizes for his Gitmo comments, just as McCain had forseen on Sunday.

Deadlock in the MidEast peace process, The Guardian reports.

NY Times: Insurgents developing better IEDs.

Will B-I-G finally get J-U-S-T-I-C-E?

The second largest army in Iraq is a gathering of mercenaries. Some of them are very talented, especially the agency protecting the Army Corps of Engineers. Some of them are not. Private warriors featured on this week's Frontline. The best observation, I think, comes from a soldier. To paraphrase: They can't be ordered to man a guard tower, and you can't make them do push ups when they mess up.

Finally, "The Pottery Barn Rule."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Evening Copy

Why no Morning Copy? I was too tired. I may need to invest in a coffee-maker/alarm clock. Any suggestions?

Marines in Iraq.

I am ashamed that I can only post this article at 7 p.m., when it has been available all day. The Lede doesn't even begin to hit this issue as hard as it needs to be hit. Heck, these two grafs don't either.But the report says that about a quarter of the Second Marine Expeditionary Force's Humvees lack sufficient armor to protect troops against roadside bombings, including 1,000 vehicles that have yet to be fitted with armor plates to protect the undercarriage.

The report also says that if the current demands in Iraq continue, the Corps will need another 650 Humvees, which have been logging an average of 480 miles a month, mostly over rough terrain. And despite an agreement with the Army to repair broken vehicles at a maintenance facility in Kuwait, the Marine Corps had not scheduled any repairs as of last month.

That is the state of affairs? And people are meddling about John Bolton? As long as the Bush administration doesn't level with America; as long as the media fails to cover this war to the extent it deserves, then we will be in trouble. Folks, if you see tomorrow night's "For Further Review" then you are correct.

Tom Cruise
The lede from this review of War of the Worlds in June 27th's Newsweek: June 27 issue - When you're making a $135 million movie about aliens invading Earth, it's good to have some rules. So in 2003, while Steven Spielberg was shooting "The Terminal" in Montreal, screenwriter David Koepp flew north with a list of cliches that he believed "War of the Worlds" had to avoid. "Here are the things we could not have in this movie," Koepp says. "One: no destruction of famous landmarks. Two: no unnecessary beating up of New York City. Three: no politicians or scientists or generals as main characters. Four: no shots of military leaders pushing ships around on a big map with sticks. And five: no shots of world capitals." If they'd been able to peek into the future, they might have added six: no star who's going to have a Howard Dean moment on "Oprah," and turn prerelease publicity into a referendum on his love life.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Echo Chamber: Bush, Bolton and Gitmo

The Financial Times' lede says it all: NEW YORK - Bill Clinton has become the most prominent figure so far to add his voice to criticisms of the US prison camp at Guant?namo Bay in Cuba. It is interesting to ponder if this was Bill's opinion or something to clear the way for Hillary to speak... Or both?

More Gitmo, and a fine point. From Meet the Press on Sunday, June 19th.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Guantanamo. In October--excuse me, December of 2003, "Sen. John McCain said he is concerned about the failure to move ahead with prisoners' trials at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. ...`These cases have to be disposed of one way or another. After keeping someone two years, a decision should be made.'" That was a year and a half ago. It's now been three and a half years. Should we close it?

SEN. McCAIN: I don't think necessarily. But I think the important thing is it's not the facility of Guantanamo, it's the adjudication of the cases of the prisoners who have been held there without trial or without any adjudication of their cases. So the frustration is not the fact we have a facility at Guantanamo, although that certainly becomes symbolic. The frustration is: What are we going to do with these people?

Late filing from Tom Curry of MSNBC tonight. Once again, we see a reference to Bush's power slipping. Mid terms are still more than a year away, but the problems are substantial. The poll numbers for Iraq are now 59-39 toward unfavorable; though what does it matter, "we broke it -- we bought it," as Powell said. The Dems, and Voinovich, have held on two calls for an up-or-down vote on Bolton. Privatized Social Security apparently is a no-go.

Will the Dems hold out, and force the issue? Perhaps they believe it's smarter to wrestle over Bolton (keep in mind Voinovich is also on their side.) Are they positioning for another compromise? Or will things blow up? It's hard to see a lot of heat coming in Mid 2005 about John Bolton. This may be AA baseball.

Aside: In 1941, FDR said the following of Social Security, and the concept of earning a dignified pension at retirement.

"With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program."

Follow ups

This is not a follow up, but it should be noted. John Bolton's nomination for US Ambassador to the UN has been put on hold once again. CNN: "Democrats said they will continue to block Bolton's nomination until the White House produces records of communications intercepts he sought from the National Security Agency."

Bush's summer slump in the upcoming Newsweek, June 27th edition.

Some news from F1's crazy weekend at Indy. Were the drivers and teams responsible? Of course not...

Someone made a great point: Porter Goss looks like an actor playing the DCI. His name also has a Tom Clancy ring to it.

Introducing Porter Goss as Porter Goss

Morning copy

CIA Director Porter Goss has an "excellent" idea where Osama bin Laden is, according to June 27th's Time Magazine. He states that respect for a nation's sovereignty prevents bin Laden's capture.

Richard W. Stevenson of the New York Times raises the spectre of 'lame duck'.

Richard A. Clarke, in the Times' Sunday Magazine, reads the tea leaves from American Generals. He says the year 2012 and Iraq in the same sentence.

The Economist's June 17th reporting on OPEC's production increase. They are not overly impressed. Monday looks to begin with crude oil on investor's minds. In the Asian markets today, Crude oil hit $59.18. How heavily will this weigh on the markets?

Did President Bush help the hard-liners in Iran? Is anyone in Iran not a hard-liner?

Patrick Henry College trains young republicans. No word on how good their parties are.

The strangest sporting event of the week, and a major set back for F1 in America.