Wednesday, November 23, 2005

many musings and much BS.

It looks like for the next few weeks I'll only be able to post to this blog twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays, so all of you two readers out there in the blogosphere will just have to try and find the type of insightful and intelligent political commentary you find here elsewhere for a little while. [Ha!] Good luck!

On the Willy Pete front:

There have been a few reports in the mainstream media on the use of chemical weapons on Iraqi civilians by US military forces in Fallujah last November, but not many. As the right winger pundits like to say about these types of stories, it hasn't really found much traction, by the lazy "liberal media." Notably, on the 18th, NPR did their part to quash this bad news by having John Pike from on ATC, who was allowed to whitewash the whole issue with no attempt by the interviewer to challenge any of his more outrageous assertions about WP. He was quick to point out all the "counterfactual" information contained in Italian broadcasting's documentary, Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre. He claimed WP wasn't really a chemical weapon---and certainly wasn't napalm, which is merely a brand name---but was instead an illumination device. Just because it just happens to have the same effects on human flesh as napalm, is merely a coincidence and if it happened, which it didn't, it was not intentional; all the eyewitness testimony of Marines who were there notwithstanding.

His contention that if WP did fall on someone it would just cause minor discomfort that would go away after time, wasn't challenged. The impression a listener who isn't really up on the whole thing would get from this whitewash is that Willy Pete being dropped on several large sections of a city of, at the time, about 100,000 is much to do about nothing. With this type of uninformed reporting by such a giant of journalistic integrity like NPR news, it's easy to see why everyone is ignoring this very serious and disturbing possible violation of international law. You'd think an editor or an intern or someone would have done a little research into the situation in Fallujah last year before inviting this flack for the pentagon to come in and turn on his smoke machine. [CPB is monitoring.]

Oh, and those gruesome pictures of the bodies of the victims of WP? According to Pike, these don't appear to be injuries or burns at all, but are rather more consistent with signs decomposition in the Iraqi heat. Supposedly burns from WP wouldn't appear all over the corpse. Unless, that is, they were just doused in it during a 'shake and bake' operation which was, of course, targeted specifically at insurgents, so it couldn't have happened. That was good enough for NPR to dismiss this as just another wacko liberal conspiracy story. [Who knew Willy Pete was such a 'smart weapon,' anyway?]

Bombing al-Jazeera:

A British civil servant, David Koegh, was charged with violating the Official Secrets Act over his leaking of a memo saying Bush wanted to bomb al-Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar, which he was luckily talked out of by B-liar back in April 2004. Even though Scott "the oracle of truth" McClellan dismissed the story as "something so outlandish and inconceivable" that it wouldn't be dignified with a response---which isn't a denial. A source familiar with the memo quoted by AP says "Bush was deadly serious," about silencing the Arab news network. (It's funny, it thought that was a Clinton thing, bombing news outlets.)

Cool, calm, collected:

Yesterday, the US death toll in Iraq reached 2,100 and a suicide bomber killed 21 Iraqis in Kirkuk. US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and General Casey were very calmly ushered into a safer place as a mortar fell into a ceremony held to turn over a former palace of Saddam in Tikrit. While soldiers ducked for cover and everyone scattered, Khalilzad and Casey bravely withdrew inside. No biggie, the mortar was a dud and the progress in Iraq continued on its successful path. [CNN]

Padilla in the dock:

Jose Padilla finally gets his day in court as the DOJ scrambles to keep the Supreme Court from ruling against their "enemy combatant" policies. The supposed "dirty bomber" is now charged with providing material support to terrorists. After three years of solitary confinement the dirty bomb charge has disappeared altogether with no explanation. The Inquirer reports the evidence behind Padilla's 11 count indictment came from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is being held in a secret prison at an undisclosed location*, and Mohamed al-Kahtani, who is at Gitmo and whose treatment was found by a military investigator to have been excessive (It must have been pretty bad!) He was the one was smeared with fake menstrual blood and shackled to the floor.

I guess, with the successful conviction of American student Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, on charges of plotting to kill W. and flying planes into buildings based on a confession extracted in a Saudi jail---they don't do torture!---the AG thinks he can make a case based on torture in US prisons.
[The EU is asking the US for an explanation of its black sites in eastern European countries led this time by our good ally the UK. Frank Gafney says we need to work with countries like Romania and Bulgaria, who know a lot about disappearing people, instead of old Europe where the attitude is one of appeasement because this is the only way to fight this war against ideology. What?]

Rummy asks: What war?

On playing fast and loose with the truth; Rummy was at his most infuriating on the Sunday talk shows last weekend. On This Week with George Stephanopoulos, he said he never advocated invading Iraq (No body asked me anything!), he leaves troops levels in Iraq up to the generals on the ground (Ask General Shinseki about that) and he has nothing to do with the negotiations going on in congress over John McCain's effort to ban torture of detainees in military custody. Farid Zakaria later described him as a potted plant, which is pretty accurate, if you believe Rummy's protestations of ignorance about everything. For someone right in the middle of the Cheney/Rumsfeld cabal, he sure doesn't do or know a lot. His job these days seems to be limited to making the talk shows to defend policies he apparently knows nothing about.

On Face the Nation Rummy was asked if troop levels would be reduced anytime soon: "Oh goodness yes. We're clearly going to go back to 138,000 after the election as the president has said. As we keep passing off the responsibility to the Iraqi security forces we have the prospect of bringing down numbers of coalition forces." (Even though he leaves that up to the generals.) Note the use of "coalition forces," there: which in translation means he's getting everybody ready for UK and South Korean* troops bugging out in the very near future. (Not us.) Where ever we went on Sunday, Rummy kept repeating the mantra that 212,000 Iraqi troops were ready to take over for our guys, but no one thought to ask, if this were true, why do we still need to be there? [Two months ago several generals testified to congress that only one Iraqi battalion was fully equipped and ready to fight on its own.]

[*While Bush & Co. were accusing Democrats of cowardice and cutting and running, W.'s South Korean hosts in Pusan were announcing the imminent withdrawal of a third of their Iraqi contingent, about 1000 troops, next year.]

When elephants fly:

While the GOP's flying monkeys of destruction initially swooped down on John Murtha, intent on Swift boating him right into oblivion, the president was taking the high ground calling him an honorable man. (Even W.'s clueless handlers have cottoned to the idea that the president calling a vet with a chest full of medals a coward is somewhat unseemly.) This hasn't prevented 'Mr. Credibility' himself, Darth Cheney, though---with his 23% approval rating---from calling criticism of the reasons for going to war from certain Senators “reprehensible" and "dangerous."
The White House has been forced to rethink their talking points from last week on this issue because 'smear and protect' isn't flying with the public anymore. It seems attacking Murtha as a fellow traveler of Michael Moore and the "extreme left" isn't playing well in Peoria. The slings and arrows of Bush & Co.'s outrageous attacks are falling harmlessly in very conservative places like southwest PA, these days. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Murtha's district is behind him by a 2-1 majority. Yes, his district is Democratic, but anti-abortion, pro-gun Democratic. As an example of his deep support Steven Thomma quotes Robert Bender, a WWII vet and an adjutant of Legion Hall 294 in Murtha's hometown as saying; "I agree with him wholeheartedly. We shouldn't have been involved in the first place. Now that they have a constitution, we should get out. It's a conservative area, but we don't support this particular war. Most of the people around here are in accord with him [Murtha] on this." [Go call the citizens of Johnstown liberal cowards, Michele Malkin!]

Not that the administration's flak machine is taking this reluctance of the public to tolerate their slime tactics anymore, lying down. Though it might be a dangerous strategy to paint war vets as traitors, some like Charles Black, an operative who keeps in regular contact with the White House says, "If there's any risks, you have to take it. It's showing up in the polls that these people are damaging the president's credibility by saying he lied to get us into the war. You cannot let that stand."

[Note: The defenders of the president have called in the big guns; like Mark Pfeifle whose past good works for the administration involve helping to clean up FEMA's image after Katrina, working on the Social Security "reform" debacle and, just recently assisting New Jersey Gubinatorial loser Douglas Forrester as his communications director. Pfeifle is now regarded as a "new product or tool" in the White House public relations arsenal according to Nicolle Wallace, White House communications director. So, all in all, a good guy you really need on your side. I'm glad he's not on ours.]

When will Dems grow a pair?

The Inquirer's Thomma writes that Murtha's, "continuing political strength in the face of vicious Republican attacks could potentially embolden others to speak out against the war, though it's too early to know for sure." If the congressional Democratic leadership's reaction to Murtha's call for a pullout is any indication, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Senate Dem leader Harry Reid said, "I don't support immediate withdrawal." Nancy Pelosi initially hinted she would back Murtha but in the end came out to boldly declare," Mr. Murtha speaks for himself." Dana Milbank writes that Murtha said his caucus gave him a standing ovation when he told them what he was going to say, but afterwards they all ran for cover. "Rep. Norman Dicks (D. Wash.) walked away when reporters asked if Murtha's move would change the Democrats' position. Asked if he agreed with Murtha Ike Skelton (Mo.), the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, replied: 'Talk to you later.'"

What spineless cowards! How do these Dems expect to regain the congress if they're too afraid to take advantage of such a favorable political situation? Hillary and her "centrist Democrats," who sort of have some kind of policy for Iraq, but they won't discuss it, are going to have to retool their "we're more butch than Bush" slogans now that support for the war has gone south. (No one has any stomach for a more muscular policy in Iraq.)

I don't understand why it's so hard to just come out and say enough is enough. Bush has the support of just 28% of independents and he's even losing his base: Dick Polman cites a poll from Political Hotline showing that of 326 Republicans questioned only "37% strongly approve of Bush's performance---down from 59 percent eight months ago." He quotes John Zogby as saying, "Bush doesn't have much wiggle room to improve his status...because at this point, half the nation already hates his guts." So what's stopping them from growing a back bone? Unless, they can come up with a credible counter to Bush's 'stay the course' and die policy, beyond calling him a liar, people are just going to stay at home in 2006 and say, "a pox on both their houses."

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi sighting?

News earlier this week was that there was a raid on a "safe house" in Mosul which supposedly killed eight al-Qaeda operatives and initial reports were that Zarqawi might have been one of those killed. The AP reports the level of military force used in this raid was reminiscent of the killings of Odai and Qusai back in 2003, and you know how that particular "turning point" led to victory and the end of major combat in Iraq. But even if Zarqawi had been killed, what difference does it make?

Despite Rummy's dubious prediction of a Zarqawi take over if we leave the Iraqis to their own devices, an article in the WaPo last week points out the foreign element of the insurgency represents, only "4 to 10 percent of the roughly 30,000 insurgents in Iraq...many of them adherents of a radical branch of Islam known as Salafism."

The report points out that for all the high profile offensives over the past several months on the Syrian border to interdict weapons and fighters entering Iraq, the Third Armored Cavalry "last detained a foreign fighter in June. "This even after reportedly killing 200 insurgents and capturing over 1,000. Andrew Cordesman explains, "Both Iraqis and coalition people exaggerate the role of foreign infiltrators and downplay the role of Iraqi resentment in the insurgency. It makes the government's counterinsurgency efforts seem more legitimate, and links what's going on in Iraq to the war on terrorism. "

The problem is:

The fact is the vast majority of insurgents are homegrown. They conduct most of the attacks in the country and they’re mainly responsible for the roadside bombs that have killed over half of our soldiers. (The foreigners are responsible for fewer but more spectacular car bomb attacks on mainly Shiite civilians.) Our conundrum is, the indigenous insurgency is seen as a legitimate resistance movement to US occupation by many in the Arab world. As long we hang around we provide the fuel for their fight.

If we don't stop the Shiite led "security forces" from rounding up Sunnis and torturing and killing them, if that is even possible anymore, we're not going to have any chance of co-opting the non-Baathist Sunnis into the political process, which is the only solution to the entire mess over there. I still say, sooner or later, we're going to have to court the Sunnis again, specifically the secular Baathists, in order to counter the complete take over two thirds of Iraq by the Iranians through their Iraqi Shiite clients. Much of the chaos that has destabilized the country is being orchestrated by various secret Iranian groups' intent on bleeding us dry and keeping Iraq weak.

The Iranians:

The White House keeps conflating the Iranians and their crazy Mullahs with Zarqawi and his crazy Jihadis as all together in their hatred of us and our way of life. This is either an incredibly ignorant reading of the situation or a cynical distortion of what's really going on intended to scare Americans into continued support for this disaster. The Iranians are Persian, not Arab, they're Shiites, not Sunnis, and their agenda is more in line with our Shiite allies in the "government," including the Interior Minister and Ahmad Chalabi, the deputy PM. The idea that Zarqawi and the Ayatollahs are in cahoots, beyond their shared hatred of Israel, is just nonsense.

Their tactics may be directed at the same result, hurting us, and recent development of more lethal roadside bombs are seen by some to be a product of Iranian know-how, but the idea behind the Iranians assisting the insurgents in the short term is aimed at making our long term stay in Iraq impossible, in terms of our domestic politics, while at the same time keeping us from doing anything serious about their nuclear ambitions militarily. As has been stated again and again, but doesn't seem to be getting through; our overthrow of Saddam in three weeks accomplished all the Mullahs couldn't in 8 years of genocidal warfare.

Iraq reaches out to the region:

The democratization of Iraq is going so swimmingly that it seems the rest of the region wants in too. Michael Matza of the Philly Inquirer writes most experts now think the Iraq war is spilling over into the rest of the Middle East and Iraq is the main training ground for terrorists. (Not really news.) The bombings engineered by Zarqawi in Jordan last week have served pretty effectively to focus the media's attention on what anybody closely watching the situation in Iraq already knew, that the war is rapidly going regional, which has been al-Qaeda's master plan all along. "Zarqawi is actually fulfilling the old strategy of al-Qaeda, not just to globalize the struggle all over, but first and foremost against so-called Arab infidel governments," Reuzen Paz, an expert at the International Policy Institute for Counter Terrorism in Tel Aviv, is quoted as saying in Matza's article. Nassaer Lozi, a former Jordanian information minister says, "The consequences of the absence of a clear strategy to contain the aftermath of the war in Iraq are reflected on neighboring countries and probably on the world as a whole."

The evidence of these consequences have been right under our noses for quite a while, if anyone has cares to look: In the west of Iraq, there have been reports of US troops engaging in fire fights with Syrian troops, and more seriously, incursions, both accidental and intentional, into Syrian territory in the recent seemingly endless offensives on the border supposedly intended to stem the flow of foreign fighters and arms into al-Anbar province. [See above.] From the east, it's no secret that Iran has been heavily involved in Iraq both militarily and politically from the start having trained and armed the Badr brigade and now has a seat in the government through its influence with Sciri, the biggest political bloc in the Iraqi government.

Tony Blair made a little noise about Iranian interference in al-Basra province a few weeks ago, which has now been forgotten about, but the US has said almost nothing because, I think, if they were actually to go into what is really going on they'd be painting themselves into a corner they couldn't get out of, PR-wise, short of war, which is an impossibility in our current weak military state. [Or possibly: the call up of 92,000 more troops for normal rotation into Iraq is actually intended for action against Iran?]

This "globalization of the struggle" also extends as far as Afghanistan where a coordinated suicide attack this week in Kabul, which killed a German peacekeeper and several civilians, along with the new introduction of IED attacks followed by RPG and small arms ambushes, is an obvious indication of a merging of Afghan and Sunni Iraqi insurgent tactics.

Add to this, the revelation of secret underground Interior Ministry prisons torturing Sunnis with the likely OK of the Shiite dominated government and you have a ready made recruitment poster for all those terrorist groups (And the countries that love them.), both Shiite and Sunni, bent on humiliating our military forces.

The 9/11 commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste in comments on the "unfulfilled" grade the Bush administration gets for its efforts to comply with the commission's recommendations on making the country safer, said Iraq was on the way to becoming the next Afghanistan due to the administration's boneheaded policies. "How much this trend has been fueled by the highly publicized reports of brutalization, humiliation and desecration cannot be measured accurately, but the flames of extremism undoubtedly burn more brightly when we are the ones who deliver the gasoline."

You know what Dick Cheney has to say about that; "Go fuck yourself, Ben-Veniste!" While the rest of the world is launching investigations into where our "black site" secret prisons are and even the normally compliant congress is on the fast track to passing laws to prevent our intelligence and military personnel from committing further human rights violations, Darth is remaining steadfast in his determination to keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

Just my opinion:

Of course, this is all just my opinion, what do I know? If anyone asks me, we have to get out of Iraq as soon as possible. I'm not saying tomorrow, but soon. Our leaving will end the foreign insurgency immediately and leave them with out such a big target. The indigenous fighters will be left without a reason to exist and will have to eventually come to some accommodation with the Shiites. No matter how many security forces the Iraqi government will have next year or the year after, they won't have any better luck ending the war than we've had. By taking our forces out of the equation we're not longer bogged down and we have more political room to maneuver.

Right now, we're totally isolated in the international community and news reports of Iraqi civilians being killed in our offensives and at our road blocks---never mind the torture allegations and secret prisons---doesn't make it any more politically easier for countries to go along with us. Every government in the world agrees with us that terrorists shouldn't be going around blowing up hotels and destabilizing entire regions. The problem is they can't be seen to be working with us as long as we keep generating such bad press. Our counter terror policies are the biggest detriment to our actually being able to do anything about it.

Us leaving within the next six months, as John Murtha suggests, couldn't possibly hurt us any worst than what we're currently doing.

Musings on right wing puppetry:

I think the right wingers regard W. as just as much of an idiot as we do, but they've defended him up till now because they think he's a useful idiot. They've known all along he wasn't capable of being president---that's what Cheney and Rove were there for---his job was to be the new Reagan, the telegenic cowboy for the 21st century, who cuts tree trunks with a chain saw and chokes on pretzels while playing Play Station 2.

As long as he dutifully pushes through their agenda, they don't care how stupid and inarticulate he is; with the connivance of a compliant media cowed by the right wing echo chamber, most of the American people could be sold on the idea that it was OK to convince themselves that he was the man for the job because they heard he was a regular guy they could drink a beer with, as opposed to Al Gore who apparently intimidated them with his intellect. W. is as stiff and tongue tied as Gore is but he's slightly less socially inept. (Even though, I'd love to see him interacting with some good old boys in a dive bar in Little Rock without his handlers there to protect him.)

The truth is the right wing true believers hold him in lower esteem than we do, just look at the way they savaged him over the Miers nomination. They knew the emperor wasn't wearing any clothes and they threatened to expose him unless he did what they told him to do. Up until now, Bush & Co. haven't been on the other end of the Limbaugh/Coulter buzz saw---how dare he even think about putting anyone else but another Scalia on the court? We'll show him!

I don't know, it's just a thought.
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