Friday, March 31, 2006

News roundup 03.31.2006

This is the 501st post on this blog.

The war in Iraq

The A.P. via the Guardian:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A letter from President Bush to Iraq's supreme Shiite spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, was hand-delivered earlier this week but sits unread and untranslated in the top religious figure's office, a key al-Sistani aide told The Associated Press on Thursday.
BLACKBURN (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accepted on Friday the United States had probably made thousands of errors in Iraq but defended the overall strategy of removing Saddam Hussein.
Someone needs to ask the president if he agrees with that assessment. He had a hard time in 2004 citing one error in his presidency.

BBC News:
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that no-one should doubt America's commitment to justice and the rule of law.

In a major foreign policy speech, Ms Rice said the US had no desire to be the world's jailer, referring to the detention of inmates at Guantanamo Bay.

She said the cause of advancing freedom was the greatest hope for peace today.
Middle East

JERUSALEM -- A Palestinian suicide bomber in the West Bank killed four Israelis after nightfall yesterday, just days after the new Hamas Palestinian government took office and Israel elected a prime minister who pledges to pull out of much of the West Bank.
Al Jazeera:
Two Palestinians have been killed in clashes in Gaza between armed men and security forces after a top fighter died in a car-bomb explosion on Friday, medics said.
Bloomberg News:
March 31 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Iran faces ``deeper isolation'' if it persists with its nuclear program and the U.S. doesn't rule out any option in its efforts to persuade Tehran to cease uranium enrichment.
The Los Angeles Times: "Calm Is Urged in Iran Debate"


The Washington Times: "Fox pledges more border control"

The Arizona Republic:
But conservatives in the House say that the Senate bill does give amnesty and that GOP leaders shouldn't negotiate with the Senate over a bill that includes a way for undocumented immigrants to get citizenship. Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., joined Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., and a caucus led by Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., under a "no amnesty" banner Thursday to ask why any of their GOP colleagues would consider going along with the Senate plan.
The Arizona Republic:
The majority of other residents in metropolitan Phoenix feel the same way, according to a nationwide survey on immigration released Thursday that indicates 55 percent of Phoenix residents consider immigration a bigger problem than crime and traffic, issues that ranked higher in other areas of the country.
The Denver Post:
Washington - Sen. Ken Salazar backed a Senate bill Thursday that provides an 11-year path to citizenship for illegal immigrants as the immigration debate moved to the Senate floor.

But Colorado Republican Reps. Tom Tancredo and Bob Beauprez criticized the bill, saying it will increase illegal immigration.
Bill Frist

The Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — As he prepares to leave the Senate and position himself for a presidential bid, Bill Frist faces mounting criticism that he has proved an ineffectual majority leader whose legislative agenda increasingly is dictated by his White House ambitions.
Indian nukes

The Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration's proposed nuclear deal with India is meeting with a chilly reception from lawmakers, who are predicting that instead of swift approval, the initiative faces revisions and delays, if not outright rejection.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

New roundup 03.30.2006

The war in Iraq

Jill Carroll of the Christian Science Monitor has been released.

The Christian Science Monitor:
For US soldiers who don't grasp the language or the culture here, a central part of their mission - generating goodwill and support - remains far more difficult than capturing insurgent leaders. While their officers remain largely on message and outwardly optimistic, many of the front-line men like Clevenger, who patrol "outside the wire" twice daily, say that their patience is wearing thin.

"I don't want to stay here too much longer. The Iraqi Army is getting to where they can get a hold of things now," says Clevenger. "The longer we're here and the more times they attack us, the more they're going to figure out how to better their attacks."
You can read these two paragraphs in a number of ways. The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Although polls show that Americans disapprove of the administration's handling of the war by a 2-1 ratio, most Americans are not letting that interfere with their daily lives. Antiwar organizers blame the disconnect on a lack of personal stake in the war and on a sense of futility about change.

Without a draft, few citizens seem to feel personally involved in a distant war that requires no sacrifice or commitment from them, organizers say.
A.P. via the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Its origins are murky. But the savagery has turned March into a pivotal month in the three-year war - a month of gruesome news, mixed with some good. A sharp decline in American deaths appears to be the payoff for handing more duties to the Iraqi army, leaving U.S. forces less exposed to attack.
Iran and the U.N.

The Los Angeles Times: "U.N. Warns Iran to End Nuclear Work"

The New York Times: "U.N. Council Urges Iran to Halt Atom Activity"

("Atom activity"? What is this, 1958?)

Bloomberg News:
March 30 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United Nations Security Council stands united in demanding that Iran curbs its nuclear program and assist inspectors.

``This is a strong signal to Iran that negotiation not confrontation should be their course,'' Rice said at a press conference in Berlin today after talks with counterparts from the other four permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany, and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
The Guardian:
Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Aliasghar Soltaniyeh, told Reuters his country would not suspend uranium enrichment work. "We will not, definitely, suspend again the enrichment," he said, adding that the decision was not reversible.

In a unanimous "presidential statement" yesterday, the security council ordered the IAEA to report back in 30 days on Iran's progress in halting its enrichment programme.

The Los Angeles Times:
CANCUN, Mexico — With the emotions of the immigration debate roiling politics to the north, President Bush arrived here Wednesday evening for meetings with Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The three-party conference, aimed at bolstering a year-old economic and security partnership, comes at a sensitive moment in U.S.-Mexican relations. The Senate is debating a proposal that would overhaul the United States' immigration laws. It would tighten border restrictions and create a program that would allow some of the nation's estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants to become citizens without having to leave the country.
The New York Times:
WASHINGTON, March 29 — The battle among Republicans over immigration policy and border security is threatening to undercut a decade-long effort by President Bush and his party to court Hispanic voters, just as both parties are gearing up for the 2006 elections.
The Washington Times:
But Mr. Frist -- who is widely expected to run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination -- later distanced himself from the bill finished this week by the Senate Judiciary Committee. That proposal would fine illegals but let them remain in the U.S. while they apply for full citizenship.

That bill "goes too far in granting illegal immigrants with what most Americans will see as amnesty," he said on the Senate floor. "I disagree with this approach not just as a matter of principle but because granting amnesty now will only encourage future and further disrespect for the law. It will undermine our efforts to secure our homeland."
The Chicago Tribune (via the Baltimore Sun):
WASHINGTON // House Speaker Dennis Hastert indicated yesterday he was willing to consider a guest worker program as part of the immigration-reform package now moving through Congress.
Tough Democrats (???)

The Washington Post: "Democrats Detail Security Policy"

Ron Brownstein in the Los Angeles Times:
The plan, dubbed Real Security, is part of a Democratic effort to clarify the party's message for voters before the November midterm elections by releasing a series of policy statements. Democrats previously issued a lobbying reform plan.

By focusing on national security policies before detailing their ideas on traditional party priorities such as healthcare or education, the Democrats signaled their desire to neutralize an issue that had been President Bush's core political strength since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But the Democratic plan provoked a coordinated flurry of counterattacks from leading Republicans.
The Washington Times:
"For years, Karl Rove's playbook of distortion and distraction have been well-known, but I thought it was interesting today that the president decided to change the time of his [Iraq policy] speech to coincide with our event, and I think that shows their real fear of our agenda," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Mr. Reid.
Chief of Staff

The New York Times:
WASHINGTON, March 29 — Joshua B. Bolten, the incoming White House chief of staff, is expected to press President Bush to assemble new economic and Congressional relations teams and overhaul the management of the West Wing, Republicans close to the White House said Wednesday.
Bob Novak in the Chicago Sun Times:
Yet, this selection becomes understandable as a confirmation of Karl Rove's supremacy in the White House.

Rove holds the mundane titles of senior adviser to the president and deputy chief of staff, but scarcely anything happens in the Bush administration without his approval. Now he is more influential than ever. Andrew Card, the departing chief of staff, served (as a Cabinet member) under the senior President Bush (as Rove did not). In contrast, Bolten can thank his rise in the second Bush regime to Rove, his nominal subordinate.

The Hill:
Boehner told members during their weekly closed-door conference meeting that they must “put their minds around the fact that they have to vote for the budget” measure, said one member in attendance.

That message included a mild admonishment of those conservative Republicans who raised objections to the emergency supplemental spending bill that passed the House before the March recess, other members said afterward.

The Washington Post:
"This legislation contains very serious reform," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), one of the architects of the Senate bill. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who also wrote large portions of the measure, said the bill goes a long way toward restoring "the bonds of trust with our constituents [that have been] frayed."

However, spokesmen for government watchdog groups and several lawmakers who were active in pushing ethics rule changes expressed disappointment in the Senate's effort. "It's extremely weak," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose lobbying and ethics plan had been hailed by Senate Republican leaders in January as the model for future legislation. He voted against the bill yesterday.
The Boston Globe: "Senate OK's new rules on lobbyists"

The Philadelphia Inquirer (quote of the day):
Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), who voted no on the bill, said the legislation should eliminate earmarks, which he said were at the root of the scandals. Critics said the bill still would have allowed Cunningham to funnel money to Pentagon contractors unnoticed.

"The good news is, there'll be more indictments and we'll be revisiting this issue, if not this year, then next year," McCain said.
More party shifts

With the Dems talking tough, Mitt talks sweet.

Bloomberg News:
March 30 (Bloomberg) -- Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who is eying a presidential bid in 2008, said the Republicans' national priorities should be health care and education, issues Democrats have traditionally dominated.

``Issues which have long been the province of the Democratic Party to claim as their own will increasingly move to the Republican side of the aisle,'' Romney said in an interview yesterday.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Beware the security forces

Andrew Sullivan pointed to River's entry from yesterday to show the state-of-affairs in Iraq:
“The Ministry of Defense requests that civilians do not comply with the orders of the army or police on nightly patrols unless they are accompanied by coalition forces working in that area.”

That’s how messed up the country is at this point.

We switched to another channel, the “Baghdad” channel (allied with Muhsin Abdul Hameed and his group) and they had the same news item, but instead of the general “coalition forces” they had “American coalition forces”. We checked two other channels. Iraqiya (pro-Da’awa) didn’t mention it and Forat (pro-SCIRI) also didn’t have it on their news ticker.
Zeyad had a similar anecdote in late February:
A few months ago, when Baghdad was ripe with news of Interior ministry's death squads raiding Sunni neighbourhoods at night, the local National Guard commander in our area started touring mosques to warn them from uniformed security forces operating at night. The commander's own words were "Never, never open your doors to security forces after dark. If they attempt to force their way in, be prepared to defend yourselves." That was the time when people started forming neighbourhood watch teams again.

Misunderstimating a situation in two parts

First, George W. Bush links Saddam to the insurgency:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush said Wednesday that Saddam Hussein, not continued U.S. involvement in Iraq, is responsible for ongoing sectarian violence that is threatening the formation of a democratic government.

In his third speech this month to bolster public support for the war, Bush worked to counter critics who say the U.S. presence in the wartorn nation is fueling the insurgency.

Bush said that Saddam was a tyrant and used violence to exacerbate sectarian divisions to keep himself in power, and that as a result, deep tensions persist to this day.

"The enemies of a free Iraq are employing the same tactics Saddam used, killing and terrorizing the Iraqi people in an effort to foment sectarian division," Bush said.
This from the current week's New Yorker (which provides a great explanation for how the insurgency actually developed -- my emphasis):
Nor did this sham mask any plan to foil the invasion by launching a guerrilla war. There has long been speculation that the insurgency, which has so far taken more than twenty-three hundred American lives, might have been seeded in part by clandestine prewar cell formations or arms distributions. In fact, according to the study, there was no such preparation by Saddam or any of his generals, not even as the regime’s “world crumbled around it”; the insurgency was an unplanned, evolving response to the political failings and humiliations of the occupation.
More passing of the buck.

If you wanted to get ride of Ibrahim al-Jaafari, what is the one thing an occupier should not do?

The New York Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 29 — Facing growing pressure from the Bush administration for him to step down, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari of Iraq vigorously asserted his right to stay in office today and warned the Americans against undue interference in Iraq's political process.

News roundup 03.29.2006

Andrew Card

The Los Angeles Times:
Challenging the move as falling short of a staff shake-up, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said: "They still need men and women of stature and gravitas in a number of slots there in the White House. They need to bring in some experienced hands to get a handle on things."
The Houston Chronicle:
WASHINGTON - President Bush's choice of budget director Joshua Bolten to replace longtime Chief of Staff Andrew Card signals a low-key shift in strategy away from politics toward a more policy-driven operation, experts and insiders said Tuesday.
The Washington Post:
"When you run into brick walls, you need to figure out ways around it," said a high-ranking administration official, who acknowledged that a White House that once prided itself on tuning out the views of op-ed pages and cable talk shows is now more likely to tune in. "Part of what you are seeing is some adjustment to the political realities."
Time Magazine:
The replacement of Bush’s first chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., with budget director Joshua B. Bolten may foster a badly needed sense of renewal and produce headlines about a shakeup. But this is the comfort food of staff changes — the replacement of a longtime family loyalist with someone who has been one of this President’s insiders since the Austin days.
Bloomberg News:
March 29 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush responded to sinking approval rates and criticism from within his own party by signaling he's staying the course, replacing one senior aide with another in the job of White House chief of staff.
Iraqi politics

Notice the slight differences in detail and sourcing.

The Philadelphia Inquirer:
BAGHDAD - U.S. officials sent a message this week to Iraq's senior Shiite cleric asking that he help end the impasse over forming a government and strongly implying that the prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, should withdraw his candidacy for reelection, according to U.S. officials.
The New York Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 28 — The American ambassador has told Shiite officials that President Bush does not want the Iraqi prime minister to remain the country's leader in the next government, senior Shiite politicians said Tuesday.
The Los Angeles Times:
BAGHDAD — In an effort to break a deadlock in forming Iraq's new government, the Bush administration has notified the leading Shiite Muslim alliance that it opposes the nomination of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari for another term in office, a U.S. official and Shiite politician said Tuesday.
More Iraq news...

The Washington Post:
BAGHDAD, March 28 -- Sectarian violence has displaced more than 25,000 Iraqis since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine, a U.N.-affiliated agency said Tuesday, and shelters and tent cities are springing up across central and southern Iraq to house homeless Sunni and Shiite families.
The Hill:
The chairman of the House Select Intelligence Committee returned from his seventh visit to Iraq last week “extremely frustrated” by the failure of Iraqi leaders to form a new unity government, which he called “the key to the future of Iraq.”
The Japan Times:
The government announced Tuesday that it will extend yen loans totaling 76.5 billion yen for reconstruction in Iraq -- its first such assistance to the conflict-ravaged country in 20 years.

The untied loans will be the first disbursement from a yen loan package worth $ 3.5 billion that Tokyo pledged to Iraq at a donors' conference in Madrid in 2003.

The Washington Post:
With the Republican Party deeply divided, the Senate will take up a broad revision of the nation's immigration laws today amid signs that conservatives are ready to compromise on efforts to offer illegal immigrants new avenues to lawful employment.
The Washington Times:
House Majority Leader John A. Boehner refused yesterday to rule out compromising with the Senate to expand the House border security bill to include a guest-worker program or provisions that opponents call "amnesty."
The Boston Globe:
WASHINGTON -- Conservative lawmakers are pressing the Senate to ignore a sweeping immigration reform bill approved Monday by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and instead are favoring a far narrower measure designed primarily to secure the nation's borders.
India's nukes

Robert Kagan in the Washington Post:
Imagine that this powerful, prosperous, democratic nation sits on the same continent with Russia and China, two huge geopolitical problems waiting to happen. Imagine that this nation possesses a navy capable of helping patrol strategically vital waterways and a military force capable of acting as a deterrent against powerful neighbors. Finally, imagine that this nation, despite its power, has no record of using it for aggressive purposes but has been a remarkably peaceful and often constructive member of the global community.

Would we or would we not want to have the closest possible relationship, partnership, even alliance with such a country as we head into an uncertain future?
Jimmy Carter in the Washington Post: "A Dangerous Deal With India"

Domestic spying

The New York Times:
WASHINGTON, March 28 — Five former judges on the nation's most secretive court, including one who resigned in apparent protest over President Bush's domestic eavesdropping, urged Congress on Tuesday to give the court a formal role in overseeing the surveillance program.

The Boston Globe:
WASHINGTON -- A special Pentagon office created by Congress to review the performance of new weapons has not publicly released an assessment in four years, raising concerns that the Department of Defense's commitment to oversight is dwindling at a time when weapons spending is on the rise, according to current and former Pentagon officials.
French revolution

The Christian Science Monitor sub-headlines: "A million people took to the streets Tuesday, but the leaders treated the 'crisis' as part of the political process."

An excerpt:
"Demonstrations are no longer even seen by the government as a sign of open crisis," says Danielle Tartakowski, a historian and professor at the University of Paris.

The prime minister, she adds, is flirting with danger. "If you make the demonstrations a quasi-norm of political life for resolving disputes," Mrs. Tartakowski says, "you can create a very strong destabilization of society and a strong sentiment of revolt."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The "Super Executive"

The president has asserted a great deal of power in his term. Could this be a harbinger of what the White House can expect in court challenges? Today's Los Angeles Times online:
Justices Look Askance at War Tribunal Order
By David G. Savage, Times Staff Writer
10:56 AM PST, March 28, 2006

WASHINGTON -- A Bush administration lawyer ran into sharp and skeptical questions from the Supreme Court today in defending the president's order to use specially arranged military tribunals for suspected war criminals.

Most of the justices said they were inclined to rule against the administration's claim that the president — on his own — can set up military trials that do not follow the rules of either the U.S. military or the Geneva Convention.

Target: Iraq

I don't, at this time, doubt the character of any current administration official. I do, however, doubt their competence. Dick Cheney was in hot pursuit of a war with Iraq before September 11th. Last night's Hardball:
MATTHEWS: He may have had some help in this regard, Mr. Sands. A passage in a new book, your book is called “Lawless World.” This other book by Bernard Trainor, “Cobra Two,” describes a phone call from then Vice President Elect Cheney to then Defense Secretary William Cohen regarding Iraq. This phone call came soon after the debate by the Supreme Court when they gave the election to President Bush after the Florida dispute.

Here‘s what Cohen received, a call from the vice president, Cheney. Here‘s what he said. He said that he wanted to see one thing. He did not want to see a tour of the world or all the potential threats to our country, he wanted to get a briefing for the new president, his partner, George W. Bush, on one topic, Iraq. That‘s all he wanted.”

I talked to Bill Cohen a number of times on this, and he said it was breath taking. All the vice president wanted to know about, he didn‘t care about the world all around the globe, the only thing he cared about was Iraq. He was already honing in on that decision in December of 2000. What does that tell you?

SANDS: Well, I think it tells us that all of this is completely consistent with the materials that emerged, the Downing Street Memo of July 2002, and now this White House meeting memo of January 2003, that an early decision was taken, and I think what it raises is fundamental questions about competence.

It raises, in my view, fundamental questions of legality, but also more importantly perhaps for the president‘s purpose, incompetence. We face other threats. I‘m absolutely convinced, for example, that the situation in Iran is altogether more serious than it ever was in Iraq. But what we now have is two leaders, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair, who have effectively taken our two countries to war on a false prospectus and now have undermined the trust that is needed at a time of real threat for the United States and real threat for Britain, and that‘s why I think the situation today is extremely serious.

MATTHEWS: Well, in this country, we have been given so many reasons for this war, that have turned out not to be accurate, so many prediction that have turned out to be inaccurate that we still wonder really deep down, why did this president go to war in Iraq.

We know the vice president was raring to go, we know that Wolfowitz was raring to go. We don‘t know, by the way, whether Rumsfeld was even asked by the president, because I asked him once, did the president ask your opinion, and he said, funny thing, he‘s never asked me whether we should go to war or not.

It‘s still tricky to figure out when and why our president, much less your prime minister over there, decided to go to war, because all the reasons they have given and all the predictions they have made, have not come to anything. Anyway, thank you for very much. The book is called “Lawless World.” Is it going to be on sale over here soon?

SANDS: It‘s coming to the U.S. in the new additional. So, absolutely, with more material I hope.

MATTHEWS: Great. “Lawless World” by Phillipe Sands. Thank you, sir, from London. Coming up, Pat Buchanan and former Clinton chief of staff, John Podesta, on the Republican split over illegal immigration and why Democrats are feeling good about their chances in November.

New Roundup 03.28.2006

Once again, a late post. This will be kept brief as well.

Andrew Card

So, the administration does reshuffle, but stays with the promotion of internal staff.

The New York Times: "In 1st Major Shift of 2nd Term, Bush Looks to Inner Circle"

The Financial Times:
But if the White House is yearning for change, the choice of Joshua Bolten to replace Mr Card left many in Washington scratching their heads.

Mr Bolten, the director of the Office of Management and Budget since 2003, has been a trusted member of Mr Bush’s inner circle since the contentious 2000 presidential campaign, where he - a rare non-Texan in the then Governor Bush’s team - served as policy director.

“It seems to be that if you are saying ‘bring new blood in’, this doesn’t cut it,” said one business lobbyist with close ties to the White House. “If you could criticise the same team for being tired and for having vetted all their ideas, it doesn’t seem you are gaining anything. I’m not sure [the appointment] is going to help with the idea of [Mr Bush] being too insular and needing fresh ideas,” the person said.
The Financial Times: "Card exit reflects grim reality of Bush’s second term"

The Houston Chronicle (A.P.): "New chief of staff at a glance"


The Asia Times:
NEW YORK - Last week's announcement that Iraq will now have to pay for its own reconstruction has left some observers wondering whether the country's yet-to-be-formed government will be up to the task.
The San Jose Mercury News (A.P.):
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Shiite politicians raged at the United States and halted negotiations on a new government Monday after a military assault killed at least 16 people in what Iraqis claim was a mosque.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (A.P.):
"If I were grading, I would say we probably deserve a D or a D-plus as a country as to how well we're doing in the battle of ideas that's taking place in the world today," Rumsfeld told his questioner. "I'm not going to suggest that it's easy, but we have not found the formula as a country" for countering the extremists' message.

The Boston Globe:
WASHINGTON -- Two senior Democratic House members yesterday demanded that President Bush withdraw his assertion that he can ignore portions of the USA Patriot Act calling on him to provide periodic reports to Congress on how new law-enforcement tactics are being used.
Immigration and the Church

The Washington Times:
The Roman Catholic Church, dozens of grass-roots coalitions and Spanish-language radio disc jockeys have helped fuel protests nationwide against congressional efforts to tackle illegal immigration.

One protest organizer described the effort as "the beginning of an immigration civil rights movement."

Monday, March 27, 2006

News roundup 03.27.2006

Sorry that this post is so late...

The war in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- At least 30 people were killed and more than 30 wounded Monday by a suicide bomber outside a northern Iraq recruitment center for security forces, the U.S. military said.
The New York Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 27 -- American and Iraqi government forces clashed with Shiite militiamen in Baghdad on Sunday night in the most serious confrontation in months, and Iraqi security officials said 17 people had been killed in a mosque, including its 80-year-old imam.
Howard Kurtz:
What is undeniable is that the tone of much of the coverage matches the public-opinion polls showing that a majority of the country has turned against the conflict.
The Los Angeles Times:
KHARTOUM, Sudan — Arab countries promised Sunday to consider reopening diplomatic missions in Iraq, after the nation's foreign minister accused them of not doing enough to support his country's efforts toward peace and stability.

Despite the pledge, bitterness remained between Iraq and other Arab states before an Arab League summit that begins Tuesday in the Sudanese capital.
The Los Angeles Times: "War May Hurt GOP in Heartland"

The New York Times: "In an Election Year, a Shift in Public Opinion on the War"

The New York Times: "Bush Was Set on Path to War, Memo by British Adviser Says"

Chicago Sun Times: "Reservists fight to keep jobs"

The Guardian: "Blair: anti-Americanism is madness"


The New York Times:
When members of the Senate Judiciary Committee meet today to wrestle with the fate of more than 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States, they can expect to do so against a backdrop of thousands of demonstrators, including clergy members wearing handcuffs and immigrant leaders in T-shirts that declare, "We Are America."
The Boston Globe:
WASHINGTON -- With the fate of more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the balance, the Senate Judiciary Committee is prepared to work into the night tonight to craft a historic immigration bill that would allow the unlawful workers to earn their way to legal status in the United States, committee chairman Arlen R. Specter said yesterday.
The Christian Science Monitor:
WASHINGTON – How does the United States count the cost of at least 11 million immigrants living and often working outside the law?
The Houston Chronicle:
Seventy-one percent of Americans asked say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who favors tighter controls on illegal immigration, compared with 11 percent who would be less likely, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted in mid-March. The poll also found that 59 percent oppose President Bush's proposal to allow illegal immigrants who hold jobs to apply for legal, temporary worker status.

Ron Brownstein in the Los Angeles Times:
On a broader level, Democratic leaders are drifting toward a midterm message that indicts Bush more on grounds of competence (on issues such as Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and prescription drugs) than ideology. It wasn't a coincidence when three senior Senate Democrats marked the third anniversary of the Iraq war last weekend by employing variations on the phrase "dangerous incompetence" to describe Bush's record there.

Such language is a tip-off that Democrats want Americans to cast their ballots this November looking backward, at the missteps and setbacks that have depressed Bush's approval ratings to anemic levels.

The Christian Science Monitor: "Two faces of democracy: Belarus, Ukraine"

The Guardian: "Reeling Ukraine president considers coalition"

Big oil

The New York Times: "Vague Law and Hard Lobbying Add Up to Billions for Big Oil"


The Chicago Tribune:
Democrats around the country are counting on the stem cell issue to give them a boost in November's congressional elections. On Monday, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), who heads the Democratic effort to retake the House, is to visit New Jersey to join Stender in unveiling Internet ads targeting Ferguson and six other Republican candidates, including Illinois state Sen. Peter Roskam and Rick O'Donnell in Colorado, who oppose stem cell research.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Abstract terrorism

The Bush administration's desperate efforts to keep the ill-planned mess in Iraq under the control of the ill-planners continues with the most abstract evocation of September 11th that I can recall.

Today, it was stunning and odd. Apparently, something like sorcery or ghostmanship took place on September 11th, and Saddam was involved.

Condoleezza Rice on Meet the Press today:
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn back to Iraq. The war is now in its fourth year, and these are the grim statistics: U.S. troops killed, 2,316; wounded/injured 17,271; Iraqis killed, an estimated, estimated number of 30,000; 130,000 American troops on the ground. When you were planning the war some three and a half years ago, did you have any idea that three years into the war those are the numbers that you would be confronting?

SEC’Y RICE: Well, I certainly thought that it would be difficult. I don’t think anyone knew precisely what we would be facing in terms of numbers. And look, every one of those deaths is, is mourned by people in the administration because these are families that have lost husbands and wives and daughters and sons. But we also know that nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice.

We’re in Iraq because the United States of America faces a different kind of enemy in a different kind of war. And we have to have a different kind of Middle East if we’re ever going to resolve the, the, the problems of an ideology of hatred that was so great that people flew airplanes into buildings. Iraq was—Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was a threat. Now that the...

MR. RUSSERT: But, but Saddam was not related to flying airplanes into buildings.

SEC’Y RICE: No, and we have never said that Saddam—Saddam was not related to the events of 9/11. But if you really believe that the only thing that happened on 9/11 was people flew airplanes into buildings, I think you have a very narrow view of what we faced on 9/11. We faced the, the outcome of an ideology of hatred throughout the Middle East that had to be dealt with. Saddam Hussein was a part of that old Middle East. The new Iraq will be a part of a new Middle East, and we will all be safer.
Rice is greatly mistaken if she honestly believes that anything but that old Middle East is thriving in Iraq at present. That old Middle East is anti-west, pro-violence, sectarian and will return to America's shores. It has paid a visit to London and Madrid recently, as well as numerous other places.

The nonsense of Saddam as part of some old philosophy that needed to be countered and also included the hijackers continued on Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer:
BLITZER: Here's what Republican Senator Chuck Hagel said a week ago today, Republican senator from Nebraska: "Are we better off today than we were three years ago? Is the Middle East more stable than it was three years ago? Absolutely not. It's more unstable."

RICE: Well, the question is not just is it unstable but is it moving in a better direction than it was when it was supposedly stable?

We thought it was stable for 60 years. And those authoritarian governments on which we counted for stability ended up producing an ideology of hatred or allowing an ideology of hatred so great to form and form terrorist groups that people flew planes into our buildings on September 11.

BLITZER: Are you referring to Saudi Arabia?

RICE: I'm talking about the entire Middle East. If you look at Al Qaida, you will find names from many of the governments in...

BLITZER: Well, 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.

RICE: Well, you'll also find that there are names from many other countries in the region.

So the authoritarianism that we associated with stability was, indeed, a false stability. Sixty years of that policy produced not just September 11 but the Cole and the bombings of our embassies, going all the way, really, frankly, back to the bombings of the '80s, the terrorist attacks of the '80s. So when people say, is it more stable today, I think the question is not "stable." The question is, are we moving in a direction in which Kuwaiti women now have the right to vote, in which Syrian forces are out of Lebanon and they are going to be able to work democratically, in which Yasser Arafat's corrupt regime is, indeed, gone? And yes, that's produced a difficult circumstance with Hamas, but Palestinians have had the chance, the right to speak their minds about who will govern them.

The point, Wolf, is that we had a false stability. It is not as if we disturbed a placid and functioning Middle East...

BLITZER: I just want to press you on this point.

RICE: ... in which our security interests were not at risk.

BLITZER: Did Saddam Hussein and his regime have anything to do with 9/11?

RICE: Saddam Hussein, and we have said this many times, as far as we know, did not order September 11, may not have even known of September 11. But that's a very narrow definition of what caused September 11.

If you think that what caused September 11 was that the people who flew airplanes in caused September 11, then no, Iraq has no relationship.

But if you think that this was a broader problem of an ideology of hatred, of terrorism becoming an acceptable means in places where there was a freedom deficit and where there was no possibility for legitimate political discourse, then you realize that you have to have a different kind of Middle East.

And a different kind of Middle East with Saddam Hussein at the middle of it is unthinkable.
Somehow, once again, Saddam was at the forefront of al Qaeda's barbaric assault on American civilians on September 11th. The connection is now so certain that Saddam didn't even have to know about it in order to be involved.

There is spin in great quantities today. It is a vapid and annoying fact of life. This, however, is not spin. It is pathetic insanity. The last throes of an administration.

Also notice that Rice did not want to accuse Saudi Arabia of involvement in September 11th, but made a cryptic reference to other nationalities, an obvious repetition of the vague accusation leveled against Saddam to sell this war.

Take a look at today's events in Iraq to see the absence of terrorism and anti-American sentiments. Two paragraphs from CNN:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- At least 20 members of the militia loyal to a radical Shiite Muslim cleric have been killed in ongoing clashes with the U.S. military in Baghdad, Iraqi police said Sunday. ...

Thirty beheaded bodies were found along a road in southern Baquba, the Iraqi Army said Sunday.

Friday, March 24, 2006

From Russia with espionage (and other news)


The A.P.:
WASHINGTON - The Russian government had sources inside the American military command as the U.S. mounted the invasion of Iraq, and the Russians passed information to Saddam Hussein on troop movements and plans, according to Iraqi documents released as part of a Pentagon report.
Sort of related...

The Washington Post:
The White House today denounced the suppression of political protests against election fraud in Belarus and said the United States plans to join European nations in imposing sanctions on Belarusan leaders.
Other news....

The A.P.:
LOS ANGELES - Thousands of people across the country protested Friday against legislation cracking down on illegal immigrants, with demonstrators in such cities as Los Angeles, Phoenix and Atlanta staging school walkouts, marches and work stoppages.
Could this energize the far right wing of the GOP, thus making things even more difficult for Bush?


The New York Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 24 — The bill of death appeared overnight on Thursday, addressed to "the Palestinian traitors," and the killers were specific in their intent.

"We warn you that we will eliminate you all if you don't leave the area for good within 10 days," the leaflet said. It was signed by a group calling itself the Judgment Day Battalion, and it was scattered in front of the homes of Palestinians in Al Hurriya, a northern Baghdad neighborhood.

"We are ready to leave Iraq — if we have the chance," a Palestinian resident of Al Hurriya said today, declining to provide his name for fear of retribution. "This is the opinion of everyone here."

He added, "We feel unsafe — and today is better than tomorrow."

The Christian Afghan

CNN has very good news:
> BREAKING NEWS An Afghan man threatened with execution because he converted from Islam to Christianity is expected "to be released in the coming days," an official says.
But, the impact in the Islamic world may be troubling.

1600 EST Update:

The New York Times:
KABUL, Afghanistan, March 24 — Afghan clerics used Friday Prayers at mosques across the capital to call for death for an Afghan man who converted to Christianity, despite widespread protest in the West.
:(CNN) -- An Afghan man possibly facing execution for converting from Islam to Christianity is expected "to be released in the coming days," a source with detailed knowledge of the case said Friday.

Iraq from a blog's eye view

Today it was all out war in Baghdad.

Please don’t ask me whether I believe Iraq is on the verge of civil war yet or not. I have never experienced a civil war before, only regular ones. All I see is that both sides are engaged in tit-for-tat lynchings and summary executions. I see governmental forces openly taking sides or stepping aside. I see an occupation force that is clueless about what is going on in the country. I see politicians that distrust each other and continue to flame the situation for their own personal interests. I see Islamic clerics delivering fiery sermons against each other, then smile and hug each other at the end of the day in staged PR stunts. I see the country breaking into pieces. The frontlines between different districts of Baghdad are already clearly demarked and ready for the battle. I was stopped in my own neighbourhood yesterday by a watch team and questioned where I live and what I was doing in that area. I see other people curiously staring in each other’s faces on the street. I see hundreds of people disappearing in the middle of the night and their corpses surfacing next day with electric drill holes in them. I see people blown up to smithereens because a brainwashed virgin seeker targeted a crowded market or café. I see all that and more.

Don’t you dare chastise me for writing about what I see in my country.
How can anyone think the president has a clue?

News roundup 03.24.2006

The (very, very) long war in Iraq

Yet another story about our prolonged base occupation in Iraq. But first, a cartoon to set the tone. Then, Howie Kurtz:
Leaving aside whether President Bush intended this or not, all the headlines about "American troops to stay until 2009" seem almost to diminish his role in the war that he started.

If Bush didn't intend to send that signal at his news conference, by the way, it was a colossal misstep.
3/24/2006 Los Angeles Times: "Bush's Requests for Iraqi Base Funding Make Some Wary of Extended Stay"

3/20/2006 A.P.: "Iraqis think U.S. in their nation to stay"

2/4/2006 Washington Post: "Biggest Base in Iraq Has Small-Town Feel"

3/7/2006 Philadelphia Inquirer: "U.S. bases hold clue in Iraq"

Rumsfeld indicated yesterday that the U.S. combat role in Iraq will decrease. This is exactly what Seymour Hersh reported late last year: America will replace combat troops with airpower to bolster the Iraq army. The Washington Times: "Rumsfeld vows Iraq drawdown will continue"

Note the target. Xinhua:
BAGHDAD, March 24 (Xinhua) -- A roadside bomb exploded outside a Sunni mosque in northern Iraq on Friday, killing five and wounding 18, a local police source told Xinhua.
Mail and Guardian:
Drive-by shootings, roadside bombings and sectarian killings left 28 dead in Iraq on Friday. American and Iraqi troops swept the oil-rich region of Kirkuk for suspected insurgents and captured dozens.
Reuters: "Danish Soldier Killed in Roadside Blast Near Basra"

The Washington Post (via SF Gate):
Baghdad -- Iran is publicly professing its support for Iraq's stalemated political process while its military and intelligence services back outlawed militias and insurgent groups, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Thursday.
The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Report: Military errors held up armor in Iraq"

The New York Times: "Challenge for U.S.: Iraq's Handling of Detainees"

Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post:
This whole debate about civil war is surreal. What is the insurgency if not a war supported by one (minority) part of Iraqi society fighting to prevent the birth of the new Iraqi state supported by another (majority) part of Iraqi society?

By definition that is civil war, and there's nothing new about it. As I noted here in November 2004: "People keep warning about the danger of civil war. This is absurd. There already is a civil war. It is raging before our eyes. Problem is, only one side" -- the Sunni insurgency -- "is fighting it."
Very interesting Op-Ed in the Asia Times:
The reality of the situation is that as Iraqi politicians bicker among themselves, people are dying every day. These politicians fail to grasp that their duty before history and the Iraqi people is to bring security to Iraq - at any cost. They need a strong man to do that, but they refuse to accept one because it would remind them of Saddam.

Yet sadly, this is probably what Iraqis need - not a Saddam, but a powerful man who has the will and ability to be forceful on all sects and bring everybody under the strict authority of the central government. This is a concept that must be accepted by Iraqi politicians and the US administration.

The Times of London: "Former hostage Terry Waite criticises Kember's Iraq trip"

The Des Moines Register:
Bill and Jean Basinger of Des Moines didn't fear being kidnapped when they were part of a peace activist mission in Iraq two years ago, but escalating violence has kept them from going back.
Afghan Christian

The Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration stepped up pressure Thursday on Afghanistan's government to free a man who could be sentenced to death for converting from Islam to Christianity, a case that is further heightening tensions between the West and the Islamic world.

The Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — President Bush on Thursday urged all sides in the immigration debate to tone down their rhetoric and engage in civil, respectful discussion as Congress nears action on an issue that has sharply divided the nation and the Republican Party.
The Washington Post:
President Bush's effort to secure lawful employment opportunities for illegal immigrants is evolving into an early battle of the 2008 presidential campaign, as his would-be White House successors jockey for position ahead of next week's immigration showdown in the Senate.
The New York Times:
WASHINGTON, March 23 — In the days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, immigration policy was going to be President Bush's signature issue. It was central to his thinking as the former governor of a border state, key to his relationship with President Vicente Fox of Mexico and essential in attracting new Hispanic voters to the Republican Party.
The super-executive

The Boston Globe:
WASHINGTON -- When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers.

The National Journal:
For all of the talk about "lobbying reform," no one knows how many lobbyists are actually doing business in the nation's capital. Counting how many angels can dance on the head of a pin is probably easier than counting the lobbyists on K Street.
Top 25 lobbying firms (.pdf)

Top clients for some of those firms (.pdf)


The New York Times (skip over the condescending lede):
Democratic women are running major campaigns in nearly half of the two dozen most competitive House races where their party hopes to pick up enough Republican seats to regain control of the House. Democratic strategists are betting that the voters' unrest and hunger for change — reflected consistently in public opinion polls — create the perfect conditions for their party's female candidates this year.
The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Santorum gets Bush aid, quietly"

Bloomberg News:
March 24 (Bloomberg) -- Democratic Representative Leonard Boswell has two messages for the senior citizens living in his eastern Iowa district: The Republican Medicare prescription drug benefit is a disaster -- and they should sign up for it.
The Hartford Courant:
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman dropped his usual air of imperturbability during a drive-time radio appearance Wednesday, snapping at the host over a column criticizing the senator and backing his challenger, Ned Lamont.

Six years ago, when Lieberman last ran for re-election, his comments would have had the shelf life of an ice-cream cone. But on Thursday, they only grew louder, amplified by Internet bloggers.
Paris Riots 2.0

The Times of London: "Protests erupt into firebombings"

The Guardian:
For would-be revolutionaries reduced to living vicariously through those who still have the energy to mobilise a proper protest, ie the French, comes welcome news, writes Laura Smith.

A blog created by a group of concerned individuals and hosted by a libertarian community website is claiming to offer "the most comprehensive English language coverage" of the ongoing battle between the French government and angry students and trade unionists.
Indian Nukes

The Christian Science Monitor:
WASHINGTON – The Bush administration's landmark nuclear deal with India could alter the world's nonproliferation regime, and rewrite the geopolitical rules of South Asia.

If it passes Congress in its current form, that is. And that is far from a foregone conclusion.
Chinese PCs

The New York Times:
HONG KONG, March 23 — A State Department purchase of more than 15,000 computers built by the Lenovo Group of China is starting to draw criticism in the latest sign of American unease about the role of foreign companies in the American economy.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Christian Afghan

This story has only grown in its import.

George Bush and Tony Perkins have done well, thus far. The New York Times has not.

The New York Times:
KABUL, Afghanistan, March 23 — Despite growing international concern, the judge presiding over the prosecution of an Afghan man facing the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity said today that international pressure would not affect his rulings in the case.
The Washington Times:
WHEELING, W. Va. -- President Bush yesterday said he was "deeply" troubled by the trial in Afghanistan of a Christian who could face execution for converting from Islam and vowed to pressure the Afghan government on the matter.
The A.P.:
KABUL, Afghanistan - Senior Muslim clerics demanded Thursday that an Afghan man on trial for converting from Islam to Christianity be executed, warning that if the government caves in to Western pressure and frees him, they will incite people to "pull him into pieces."
The New York Times Editorial page asked:
What's the point of the United States' propping up the government of Afghanistan if it's not even going to pretend to respect basic human rights?
Then, troublingly concluded:
If Afghanistan wants to return to the Taliban days, it can do so without the help of the United States.
Which was a damnable and repugnant conclusion for the newspaper that's September 11th coverage in her home town was so praise-worthy.

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council stated the problem more elloquently:
"How can we congratulate ourselves for liberating Afghanistan from the rule of jihadists only to be ruled by radical Islamists who kill Christians?" Mr. Perkins said.
This may be one of the most difficult spots in which George W. Bush has found himself -- and that is saying something. Morality and an active Christian base force the president to bring this to a confrontation. Foreign policy and increasing trouble in Afghanistan complicate the potential consequences. I don't envy the president. It would be worth saying a prayer for him and Mr. Rahman.

Another day, another raid on an Iraqi police site

Dan Froomkin referenced Cam Simpson, thus compelling me to post on it as well. But first, the latest...

A suicide car bomber detonated his explosives at the entrance to the Interior Ministry Major Crimes unit in Baghdad's central Karradah district, killing 10 civilians and 15 policemen employed there, authorities said.

The Interior Ministry is a predominantly Shiite organization and heavily infiltrated by members of various Shiite militias. The unit targeted Thursday investigates large-scale crimes and has about 20 suspected insurgents in custody, police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammadawi said.

He ruled out that the assault was aimed at releasing the prisoners — the goal of previous days' attacks on other police facilities.

Insurgents engineered a successful jailbreak that released more than 30 prisoners north of Baghdad on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the militants laid siege to a prison south of the capital, but U.S. troops and a special Iraqi unit thwarted the pre-dawn attack, capturing 50 of the gunmen, police said.
Of course repeated insurgent attacks on Iraqi security installations is not a sign of a civil war. Now, Simpson's exceptional blogging:
Repeated suggestions by the White House and friendly commentators that the news media’s selective displays of terrorist attacks in Iraq are warping American public opinion seem to belie several unclassified assessments of the situation produced by the U.S. government itself.

In fact, just two weeks ago the Bush administration publicly released a detailed report stating that “even a highly selective” inventory of the terrorist attacks inside Iraq “could scarcely reflect the broad dimension of the violence” there.
Maybe we're just over-interpreting the State Department's report.

Whatever you do, don't over-interpret

Today's The Note:
While appearing on morning television, Dan Bartlett discussed President Bush's comments from Tuesday that American troops will be in Iraq after 2008 saying that "the comment is over-interpreted," and that the President answered a specific question, regarding "all" American troops. "He understood that as every single one of our troops," Bartlett said.
I'm THE ONLY blogger that under-interpreted his remarks to mean ONLY the First Infantry Division, which will spearhead our assault into Iran.

Of course I didn't.

Over-interpreted? That's the spin-counter-spin-spun now? OVER-INTERPRETED? Why not this, Bartlett: "he meant it as a possible result of uncertain events." Nah, that makes too much sense. Sounds too innocent too.

Nothing has been over-interpreted with Iraq 2009.

Not the Long War.

Not the planning that was reported in the New Yorker:
There are several proposals currently under review by the White House and the Pentagon; the most ambitious calls for American combat forces to be reduced from a hundred and fifty-five thousand troops to fewer than eighty thousand by next fall, with all American forces officially designated “combat” to be pulled out of the area by the summer of 2008. In terms of implementation, the planner said, “the drawdown plans that I’m familiar with are condition-based, event-driven, and not in a specific time frame”—that is, they depend on the ability of a new Iraqi government to defeat the insurgency. (A Pentagon spokesman said that the Administration had not made any decisions and had “no plan to leave, only a plan to complete the mission.”)

A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the President’s public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower. Quick, deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes are seen as a way to improve dramatically the combat capability of even the weakest Iraqi combat units. The danger, military experts have told me, is that, while the number of American casualties would decrease as ground troops are withdrawn, the over-all level of violence and the number of Iraqi fatalities would increase unless there are stringent controls over who bombs what.

“We’re not planning to diminish the war,” Patrick Clawson, the deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told me.
Not the semi-permanence of Balad, A.P.:
Are the Americans here to stay? Air Force mechanic Josh Remy is sure of it as he looks around Balad.

"I think we'll be here forever," the 19-year-old airman from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., told a visitor to his base.
Bartlett probably thinks Gary Hart over-asked this question:
"Are we or are we not building permanent military bases [in Iraq]? I keep trying to get anybody [in the press] to ask about this. ... I'll tell you what I mean by permanent: pouring concrete and welding steel. Yes or no? Not tents and ditch latrines. Concrete bases and structures. Yes or no? They [the Bush people] have never disavowed it. ... You can't say you are leaving Iraq if you're also welding the steel. Why can't we seem to find out? I know the Republican Congress will not do its job of asking questions, even though that's the job of Congress.

News roundup 03.23.2006

The long war in Iraq

CNN: "Special forces free Iraq hostages"

BBC News: "Baghdad suicide car bomb kills 15"

CNN's Nic Robertson reports four car bombs in Iraq thus far today, with another large explosion in Baghdad. Almost two dozen killed, almost four dozen wounded.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette:
WHEELING, W.Va. -- West Virginians cheered as President Bush maintained that the war in Iraq and his assertive foreign policy were "laying the foundation of peace for a generation to come.''
The Boston Globe:
WASHINGTON -- Military analysts said yesterday that President Bush's signal that US troops may remain in Iraq beyond his presidency reflected the reality on the ground: A long, hard fight against a still-robust insurgency.

But Democrats, seizing on the growing unpopularity of the war, vowed to use Bush's comments to make the case that the president has lost control of a war he initiated.
Senator Chuck Hagel in a New Hampshire radio interview via the Omaha World Herald:
"I think it is very uncertain as to what the world looks like in 2009," Hagel said when Laura Knoy, host of the public radio program "The Exchange," raised the issue.

"I was a little puzzled to see the president jump out that far to make that kind of a comment," he said. "I'm not sure that helps settle Americans' concerns, or settles them down in their lack of confidence in what they have been told about Iraq."
A.P. via the Philadelphia Inquirer:
BAGHDAD - Thousands of Shiite and Sunni families who once lived side by side have been forced from their homes and into a desperate exile, victims of the beginnings of ethnic cleansing a month after the bombing of an important Shiite shrine.
Al Jazeera: "Iraqi marriages defy civil war spectre"

The Financial Times:
The British military is combining the prospect of improved training with the threat of arrest in its attempts to create a more professional police force in southern Iraq, a key factor in speeding the transfer of security responsibility to Iraqis and eventual British troop withdrawals, the senior British officer in Iraq has told the Financial Times.
The New York Times: "Iraq Abuse Trial Is Again Limited to Lower Ranks"


Jim Hoagland in the Washington Post:
President Bush must treat the Iranian decision to open discussions in Baghdad as trap and opportunity. It is both. The administration should pursue this small opening in the Iranian wall with discipline and attention to maintaining a united front with its European and Asian partners. They are Iran's immediate targets.
Iran's acceptance of the proposal of Iraqi religious figure Ayatollah Abd al-Aziz Hakim to hold talk with the US on Iraq will boost hopes of restoring stability and security in Iraq and the region, said an Iranian lawmaker here on Sunday.

"Having realized the peculiar limitations it faces in Iraq, Iran and the region, the US is now willing to engage Iran," said a member of Majlis' National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Reza Talaienik, in an interview with IRNA here on Sunday.

The Financial Times:
“China’s costs are all going up,” Mr Fung said. “It is no longer the most cost-effective country in the region...Anything [sourced] from China has a higher inflation component than from other places around the world.”
The New York Times:
BEIJING, March 22 — Global Times, a tabloid newspaper in China's capital, usually offers its readers a rich diet of nationalist propaganda on subjects like Japanese war crimes and American hegemony.

So it is telling that it devoted its front page on Tuesday to respectful, even admiring, coverage of the China visit of two United States senators, Charles E. Schumer of New York and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who have attacked Beijing for "illegal currency manipulation," "mercantilism" and "failure to play by the rules."
From Russia with Espionage

The Baltimore Sun:
WASHINGTON // Even as the United States and Russia are cooperating to resolve international crises and track militant Islamic groups, Moscow is working at least as hard at stealing U.S. military and industrial secrets as during the Soviet era, current and former intelligence officials say.

MSNBC: "From Senate job to nuclear lobbyist — twice"


This will work. Keep telling yourself that, Hil.

The New York Daily News:
Sen. Hillary Clinton used the Bible yesterday to belt Republicans who back a tough new immigration bill she said was not only un-American, but un-Christian as well.

"It is certainly not in keeping with my understanding of the Scriptures," Clinton said. "This bill would literally criminalize the Good Samaritan - and probably even Jesus himself."
Pen vs. sword

USA Today (published also in the Arizona Republic):
WASHINGTON - President Bush today becomes the longest-sitting president since Thomas Jefferson not to exercise his veto, surpassing James Monroe.

Monroe was in office 1,888 days before he vetoed his first bill on May 4, 1822, a measure that would have imposed a toll on Cumberland Road, the first federal highway and the key route to the West. Jefferson never exercised his veto.

Thursday is Bush's 1,889th day in office, and no veto is in sight. So far, Congress has sent him 1,091 bills. He has signed them all.
Dems in 2006

The Boston Globe:
WASHINGTON -- The Democratic Party is targeting at least 17 Republican-held House seats in the Northeast among its top races nationwide, seeking to use voter dissatisfaction with President Bush and congressional leaders to oust many long-serving GOP representatives this fall.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Two recent raids on Iraqi police

Nic Robertson has some interesting points on the recent raid, the successful one. But there are even more questions after the rebuffed attack. Robertson:
Looking at video of the overrun police headquarters in Moqdadia, the first question that comes to my mind is: Why so little damage?

Burnt out police vehicles, yes. Gutted building, yes. Bloodied clothes, yes. But nothing recorded on the camera footage I saw to indicate a massive, long, drawn-out fight. It begs the question: How could police in a secure compound allow themselves to be overrun?

It's happened before, most notably in Mosul in November 2004, when insurgents stormed multiple police outposts, torching and destroying many of them. Almost over night, the police ran away. The assessment at the time was many of the police were sympathetic to or afraid of the insurgents.

The police force in Moqdadia should be better trained and by most accounts is better motivated than the force in Mosul two years ago. So was there an informer among their ranks giving insurgents vital information about weaknesses? Or were they simply so ill-equipped or poorly trained they couldn't match the insurgents?

U.S. military officers have told me they believe infiltration of Iraq's new security forces is so significant it may take years to eradicate. But if the police were let down by poor equipment or a lack of training, then that raises other questions about the speed with which they are being put in harm's way.

The area around Moqdadia is typical of regions in Iraq where U.S. forces are handing over "battle space" to Iraqis. It puts Iraq's police and army in operational control of a clearly defined area, allowing U.S. troops to scale back and ultimately leave the country.

Regardless of which explanation answers my initial question, the simple answer may be the one provided by U.S. field commanders: Iraq's police and army are a long way from standing alone.
Professor Cole wrote:
The guerrillas have seldom dared to field more than a platoon (say 28 men) for fear of attracting fire from American helicopter gunships. Here, they fielded an entire company or perhaps two companies. The provincial authorities in Diyala seem convinced that the Miqdadiyah police chief was a double agent working for the guerrillas.
It was another violent day in this low grade civil war, CNN:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Thirteen Shiite pilgrims were gunned down Wednesday in Baghdad in two separate attacks, the latest examples of sectarian violence that have raged since last month's bombing of a mosque in Samarra, police said.
Bush made his fifth consecutive day of upbeat estimates on Iraq, Reuters reports:
He said he hammered home the message during a videoconference from the White House with U.S. Iraq Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and U.S. Gen. George Casey.

"We talked about the need to make it clear to the Iraqis it's time to get a government in place that can start leading this nation and listening to the will of the people," he said.
I am left to wonder if the recent uptick in U.S. popular opposition, Bush's vociferous efforts to rally support, and these brazen attacks are related.

The insurgents have demonstrated a high degree of media awareness. They may anticipate a Tipping Point as much as anyone else.

Yes, he linked al Qaeda with Iraq

David Shuster's recap on Hardball last night may have been even more damning than Keith Olbermann's video comparisons from Monday night. From last night's Hardball:
BUSH: I was very careful never to say that Saddam Hussein ordered the attacks on America.

SHUSTER: But history shows the president did link Saddam with those who were responsible. Here’s what he said in 2002.

BUSH: The war on terror is—you can’t distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam with you talk about the war on terror.

He’s a threat because he is dealing with al Qaeda.

We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade.

SHUSTER: Vice President Cheney claimed that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official in the Czech Republic in April 2001.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As well, you have said in the past that it was, quote, “pretty well confirmed.”


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, I think that is ...

CHENEY: That’s absolutely not.

SHUSTER: But Cheney was captured on videotape almost three years before that interview, just a few months after 9/11, saying exactly that, the very thing he denied saying to the reporter.

CHENEY: It’s been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.

SHUSTER: More contradictory still, on the eve of the Iraq war, the White House in a letter to Congress telling lawmakers that force was authorized against those who, quote, “aided the 9/11 attacks.”

In any case, both the president and vice president are presenting themselves as upbeat and seemingly unworried about their credibility problems. Though the violence in Iraq has gotten worse if recent months, the vice president said today ...

CHENEY: Progress has not come easily, but it has been steady.

SHUSTER: And President Bush added at his news conference ...

BUSH: We’re making progress because we’ve got a strategy for victory.

SHUSTER (on camera): The problem for the White House is the public is increasingly convinced that just because the Bush administration argues it has a plan doesn’t mean it will be carried out well or accomplished, and today President Bush acknowledged that a decision about a withdrawal from the U.S. forces may be left to his successor, the strongest declaration so far that U.S. troops will likely be staying in Iraq through early 2009.

I’m David Shuster for HARDBALL, at the White House.
This administration will say anything to get themselves out of the dog-house for a newscycle.

Kevin Drumm, keeping them honest:
No one has ever suggested that Saddam had no contact at all with al-Qaeda. He did. But it never amounted to anything, and the credible evidence indicates that there hadn't even been any casual contact between Saddam and al-Qaeda for over four years by the time we invaded Iraq in 2003. This document does nothing to suggest otherwise.
One way to build credibility and "stay the course" is to stop lying about things. Especially when there is video tape.

Clinton lied about a dress. Bush lies about war.

Blog round up 03.22.2006

There are a few very worthwhile posts out there.

Jorg W at the Atlantic Review asks: "Why is Abu Ghraib a cover story again, but not Darfur?"

Andrew Sullivan posts the following:
Looking for the Bright Side in Iraq
21 Mar 2006 06:07 pm

That was what ABC News' Jake Tapper tried to do. And then tragedy struck. This is gripping footage.
The Cunning Realist assails the media:
What the press actually did with today's opportunity, though, is quite another matter. I counted over a half-dozen bursts of giggles and laughter from the crowd of reporters. On a day when four more troops were reported killed in Iraq with another six currently pending confirmation/family notification, expecting the White House press corps to maintain at least some semblance of professionalism apparently is expecting too much. Moreover, this space has chronicled the numerous misleading intimations and allegations about Iran's nuclear program that Bush and other senior administration officials have made during the past few months. Unless I've missed something, not once has a reporter asked Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bolton etc. how their dire warnings comport with our intelligence community's estimate that Iran is a decade away from nuclear weapons capability. Since the invasion of Iraq, there's been a lot of mirror-gazing and teeth-gnashing by the Fourth Estate about its own prewar failings. Today was the perfect opportunity for reporters to at least get the president on record about a crucial issue. Instead, they laughed.
MikeVotes at Born at the Crest of Empire posts the following report and opinion:
Leaving aside the debate over whether or not Iraq is already in civil war, (I know, Greyhair) take a look at this piece by NBC's Jim Miklaszewski on the military's planning for that possibility.

Military officials tell NBC News the first objective, however, is to head off a civil war. The U.S. military hopes to keep Iraqi security forces from taking sides in the sectarian violence by pressuring the Iraqi government to crack down on any rogue elements within the police or military.

The second option: U.S. forces could again be sent into combat against sectarian militias, which military officials say would require an increase in the number of American soldiers and Marines in Iraq.

And the last resort, if violence is spinning out of countrol: Military officials say they would also have to consider the possible withdrawal of American forces.
No real surprise in any of those options, but it seems to me that option one is more or less a tinkerbell strategy, and with Bush still in office, option three is probably off the table.

(My reasoning on this is that Bush seems more concerned about his legacy being "losing Iraq" than any concern for US troops, the fate of Iraq, or the US's future standing. Like the debt, his plan is to leave the mess to the next president so his "legacy" will be clear. He can then blame failure in Iraq on someone else for "not continuing his policy.")

So, if these are the choices the military is really considering, the American public had better prepare itself for US troops in the middle of an Iraqi civil war.

It just keeps getting worse.

New roundup 03.22.2006

The long war (till 2009!) in Iraq

Howard Kurtz this morning:
Bush is in the unenviable position of saying much the same thing day after day, which is why he's not breaking through. The new tweaks are that he's taking real questions at his town hall meetings, instead of the pre-screened variety, and talking more candidly about the violence in Iraq, to show that he is not detached from the facts.
The Daily Show last night had a montage of Bush's speeches that demonstrated how repetitive the president has been in the past 700 days or so.

The Los Angeles Times notes Bush's definition of a civil war:
"The Iraqis took a look and decided not to go to civil war," he said. "The army didn't bust up into sectarian divisions. The army stayed united."
The New York Times on yesterday's presser:
"The problem with the speeches is they get gradually more realistic, but they are still exercises in spin," said Anthony Cordesman, a military specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "They don't outline the risks. They don't create a climate where people trust what's being said."
The Chicago Tribune on the presser:
WASHINGTON -- As public confidence in the prospect of success for U.S. military forces in Iraq diminishes, President Bush is displaying increasing frustration with the gulf between Main Street America's perception of the conflict and his own unflinching optimism.
Michael Goodwin of the New York Daily News:
If President Bush's press conference yesterday carried a title, it would be "Freewheelin'." He careened all over the emotional highway - forceful, animated and impassioned one minute, jocular, testy and exasperated the next. At some points during the hour-long give-and-take, he was at his resolute best, at other moments, he looked goofy and punch-drunk. If you like roller coasters, you had to love the ride.
The Times of London on Tony Blair's effort to improve public opinion on the war. The PM will conclude his three part effort with a speech in the United States:
Mr Blair said of terrorism: “The only way to win is to recognise this phenomenon is a global ideology; to see all areas in which it operates as linked and to defeat it by values and ideas set in opposition to those of the terrorists.”
More Iraq news

The second insurgent raid on police stations in as many days was rebuffed, the New York Times.

The Washington Post:
BAGHDAD, March 21 -- A group of U.S. senators met with the prime minister of Iraq on Tuesday and urged him to speed the formation of a national unity government, warning that American support for helping Iraq could start to dwindle if there was too much delay.
The Washington Post:
Tammy Duckworth, the decorated Iraq war veteran who lost both legs in a grenade attack, appeared victorious this morning in a close race in her bid for the Democratic primary nomination to succeed retiring Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R) in Illinois's 6th Congressional District.

The Los Angeles Times: "Iranian Leader Reaffirms Offer of Talks"

The Times of London:
BRITAIN is pressing for a United Nations resolution that would open the way for punitive sanctions and even the use of force if Iran were to refuse to halt its controversial nuclear programme.
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The United States still believes the UN Security Council can reach agreement in the coming days on a statement calling on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment activities, a senior envoy said on Wednesday.
Dubai II

The Financial Times:
A person familiar with the thinking of both the US and United Arab Emirates said officials were concerned that the pending investigation of Dubai International Capital’s £700m ($1.2m) purchase of Doncasters, a privately-held British aerospace manufacturer that works on sensitive US weapons programmes, including the Joint Strike Fighter, could provoke a similar backlash and further damage the relationship between the two countries.

The Washington Times (apparently these Republicans have not seen any of the dozen or so presidential speeches at military facilities):
Republicans accused Capitol Hill Democrats yesterday of plotting to use military bases as props for political press events to criticize President Bush for his handling of the war in Iraq.

"I think that is deplorable," Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, said yesterday on Fox News. "It is pitiful. We are at war. This country needs to be unified and realize who the enemy is -- it's not fellow Americans."
The Democrats cannot go to Fort Bragg, like the president did in June 2005, and critique the opinions of the other party:
Some contend that we should set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces. Let me explain why that would be a serious mistake. Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message to the Iraqis, who need to know that America will not leave before the job is done. It would send the wrong message to our troops, who need to know that we are serious about completing the mission they are risking their lives to achieve. And it would send the wrong message to the enemy, who would know that all they have to do is to wait us out. We will stay in Iraq as long as we are needed, and not a day longer.
National Guard

Good idea.

The Christian Science Monitor:
WASHINGTON – The increasing demands on the Army National Guard appear at last to be moving both Congress and the Guard toward tough decisions about the future of the force.

For the Guard, the past 12 months have been something of a worst-case scenario dreamed up by the most diabolical of Pentagon planners. Buffeted first by the war in Iraq and then by the relief effort for hurricane Katrina, the Guard has had to manage perhaps the two most ambitious operations in its long history, which dates back 369 years to the days of breeches and powdered wigs.

The Times of India:
ISLAMABAD: Urging Pakistan government to address the US' proliferation concerns, former Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar has, nevertheless, sought production of more fissile uranium for the country's weapons programme and expansion of nuclear cooperation with China to counter the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Pakistan cannot afford to "ignore concerns in Washington due to Pakistan's past failure in preventing leakage of sensitive nuclear technology by greedy persons in the Kahuta plant," he said referring to disgraced scientist A Q Khan, who headed the principle nuclear installation.

The Financial Times:
China will take measures to meet US complaints about their bilateral trade imbalance as part of next month’s trip to Washington by Hu Jintao, Chinese president, but has warned the US also to take responsibility for its economic problems.
Our overconsumption in America is helping to build a rival.