Saturday, August 19, 2006

The mess in Iraq, we've got a plan.

Newsweek reported last week that: "President Bush will move U.S. troops out of Iraq if the country descends into civil war according to one senior Bush aide who declined to be named while talking about internal strategy. 'If there's a full-blown civil war, the president isn't going to allow our forces to be caught in the crossfire,' the aide said. 'But institutionally, the government of Iraq isn't breaking down. It's a unity government.'" (Pass the kool-aid!)

It is? Didn't I just read something about Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki having to make a bee-line back to Baghdad from meeting with W. to prevent a coup? And didn't he get raked over the coals for going to Washington by some clerics connected to Party within the government? Sheikh Khafaji, a confidant of Mutada al-Sadr -- who’s Party, by the way, has 30 seats in the "unity" parliament intoned from his fiery pulpit last month, "What forced you to eat with the occupiers? Is that your reward? Islam is aloof from you!" [LA Times]

I don't know, call me crazy but the government doesn't look all that unified to me. Not to worry, though, the US military has a plan to keep the country from going over the edge. (As if it hasn't already) Richard Wolffe and John Berry write for Newsweek that:

"The U.S. military has completed several elements of contingency planning in case of civil war, based on lessons learned from Bosnia and Kosovo. The military's approach revolves around three principles. The first is to stop massacres by physically separating communities, moving minorities out of harms way if necessary."

Wait a second: Isn't separating the various religious groups exactly what the Shiite and Sunni death squads have been trying to do all along? How does assisting the militias to draw clear sectarian lines throughout the country prevent the breakup of the country?

"The second is to stop the flow of paramilitary gangs across the country."

Good luck doing that with only 133,000 troops. . .

"And the third is to halt any incitement to violence on Iraqi TV and radio."

Censorship? So much for teaching the Iraqis the joys of democracy! By the way, didn't we try to shut down one of al-Sadr's papers once? How did that work out, I forget?

And now we get to the big plan for stopping the country from falling into civil war.

"Baghdad will pose the biggest problem, requiring a strict curfew and a ban on road traffic. The security measures would include widespread checkpoints and a ban on carrying firearms or explosives."

Wait; let me check the date on this story again. . . 'August 14, 2006.'

Yep, just wanted to make sure. Isn't all of this what they've been doing since the 14th of June when Nuri al-Maliki began 'operation futile flailing' or whatever it was called. "The raids during this plan will be very tough . . . because there will be no mercy toward those who show no mercy to our people," he said back then. Famous last words!

I read today that the government of Iraq has issued yet another ban on vehicle traffic. AP reports: a government statement says this time around it is, "'absolutely forbidden' to carry weapons, cell phones and any type of bags, even plastic ones into the shrine." That's one way to provent violence. Just lock everyone up in their homes.

Unfiortunetly, another year has gone by and it's time for Shiites to again honor Imam Moussa ibn Jaafar al-Kadhim, bringing an estimated 2 million Shiahs into Baghdad. Last year while we were all transfixed by Katrina 1000 Iraqis died when a rumor of suicide bombers in the crowd caused people to panic on a bridge. This year I'm sure things will go just as well.

More bad news:

Now, some people -- like the overall commander of US forces in Iraq, John Abizaid, and General Peter Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs -- say Iraq is on the verge of a civil war, but W. knows better. 'People are talking about civil war this and civil war that' but the Iraqis "had a chance to fall apart and they didn't." (He's given them every chance and they haven't taken it!)

It's not like the avalanche of bad news coming from Iraq would lead anyone to come to the conclusion that things have been going from bad to horrific over the past year. Figures from the Iraqi Health Ministry and the Baghdad morgue show that about 110 Iraqis are dying each day. In the past month the body count was 3,438 up 9% from June. This toll is nearly double the number of dead in January. The NYT reports that the Baghdad morgue received 1,855 bodies in July, an 18% increase over June.

In another story the NYT reports that the Pentagon has published statistics showing that July had the highest number of IEDs exploded or disarmed since the war began -- "despite the killing of al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." (Imagine that!) Although the number of American soldiers killed in action went down the number of those wounded reached a whopping 518, up from 287 in January. [US military deaths reached 2,600 this week] The Times quotes a "senior Defense Department official who agreed to discuss the issue on condition of anonymity" -- because he wants to keep his cushy government job -- as saying; "the insurgency has gotten worse by almost all measures, with insurgent attacks at historically high levels. The insurgency has more public support and is demonstrably more capable in numbers of people active and its ability to direct violence than at any point in time."

And all this after Nuri al-Maliki began his big crackdown back on the 14th of June, right after W. looked in his eyes and decided he could get the job done. Judging al-Maliki's efforts to be somewhat less than successful, the US military has now decided that flooding Baghdad with troops is the answer (it's worked so well in the past!). Operation "pull together forward" is now in full swing. US and Iraqi army troops are going to be going from neighborhood to neighborhood --sealing them off, searching houses and rounding up insurgents -- to show the Baghdadis that the government can provide security.

This is really the final push because if after three years the US can't get a handle on controlling the capital city there isn't any way the Iraqi government is going to be able to run the country.

To most people not living in the alternative universe occupied by W., Cheney and Rummy, this situation in Iraq is pretty desperate and the stakes couldn't be higher. Newsweek quotes a military officer who warns that if the country does go into a civil war and the US pulls out, "all the neighboring powers would be drawn in. It would become a regional war."

Israel's cluster bombs found in Lebanese towns:

The world reported on Thursday that in the southern Lebanese town of Nabatiya the Lebanese army was trying to clean up over 2000 bomblets left by Israeli cluster bombs. The local hospital has reported several serious injuries already from these anti-personel weapons. The NYT reports 16 civilians have been harmed by bomblets so far in the south. The Boston Globe reported 4 days ago that "villages in the south are littered with Israeli shells and cluster bombs." HRW says, "United Nations deminers beginning emergency survey and clearance work in the south of Lebanon have identified 10 locations where Israel used artillery-delivered cluster munitions during the recent hostilities."

Didn't I read somewhere that as a condition of our providing Israel these cluster bombs that they were forbidden from using them in populated areas? It seems pretty clear to me that they have violated this agreement -- again. As I noted on the 11th, the NYT reports that David Siegel, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, says: "As a rule, we obviously don’t fire into populated areas." But rules are made to be broken, right Dave?

It's not like they haven't used cluster bombs on Lebanese civilians in the past. In fact, every time they've gone into Lebanon they've used these deadly weapons. This time around, even the US State Department was seriously debating even sending them more cluster bombs. As the war came to an end the decision hadn't been made. I don't know where the issue stands at the moment.

I'm sure someone from Cheney's office has already made the trip over to Foggy Bottom to read them the riot act. As I write this there's probably a plane load of shiny new cluster bombs sitting on a runway in Scotland on their way to Israel along with a new supply of Willy Pete.

You get what you pay for W.!

Yesterday W. decided to give the people of Lebanon some helpful advice on coming to "a sober realization of what forces create stability and what don't." You know, sometimes it takes a while to really sort things out and understand what's going on. For instance, right now most folks living in the south of Lebanon are of the mind that Hezbollah (or 'Hezbah' as W. likes to call them) were the victors in Israel's 34-day onslaught on Lebanon. W. cautions, though, that "the first reaction, of course, of Hezbollah and its supporters is to declare victory. I guess I would have done the same thing if I were them." [NPR] The thing they should keep in mind, he said, was that it was Hezbollah that destroyed their homes (not US bombs dropped from Israeli planes). I guess if anyone would know about declaring victory prematurely it would have to be W.

Lest we forget, on May 1, 2003 just one short month after overthrowing Saddam's regime, W. announced from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln that, "major combat operations in Iraq have ended." Now, of course, after three years of fighting an intractable guerilla war in Iraq he's come to the sober realization that --- victory is just around the corner. So, listen up Lebanese civilians, W.'s telling you what's what.

Besides, how would anyone get the idea that Hezbollah came out of this disaster smelling like roses? According to the Israelis and W. Hezbollah has been basically destroyed, even though they somehow managed to fire 250 rockets into Israel on the last day of fighting, the highest number since the war began. As decimated as Hezbollah is they've some how been able to start paying out thousands of dollars to many of what they estimate to be the 15,000 families who lost their homes. The AP reported from Beirut on Thursday that "hundreds of people went from room to room yesterday to report damage to their homes from Israeli bombing attacks. Hezbollah agents with pens and notebooks promised to help them rebuild. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah appeared on television (I thought the Israelis knocked al-Manar out? NO?) and promised to rebuild, pledging money for civilians to pay rent and buy furniture," for a year.

AP reported today that Hezbollah has started handing out "crisp $100 bills to residents who lost homes in the Israeli bombing campaign -- $12,000 to each claimant. The stacks of bills were pulled out of a suitcase." While the Lebanese government and UN agencies are "undertaking assessments countrywide" Hezbollah is providing assistance right now. Other reports say that in the south yellow Hezbollah flags are popping up everywhere in front of damaged or destroyed homes. These denote that their assessment teams have been there and that they'll be back with money. (Gosh, these guys are pretty damned efficient; maybe we should have contracted them to rebuild Iraq!)

While the US has so far pledged $50 million for relief aid to Lebanon, Iran is pumping money in like there's no tomorrow. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have pledged billions, too. The Saudis, in fact, almost single-handedly kept the Lebanese economy from collapsing pumping over a billion dollars into the Lebanese treasury at the beginning of the war. This prevented panicked investors from pulling all their money out, which would have devastated any chance of the country rebounding from the war. [IRIN]

Obviously, the Sunni Gulf Arabs are very worried about Iran gaining too much influence over Lebanon, a fear the Bush administration seems to be oblivious to. W. can spout all the nonsense he wants to about Hezbollah being a destabilizing force in Lebanon, but money talks. What the US is offering for aid is miniscule in comparison to the amount of military aid its provided to Israel in the first place to pulverize half of Lebanon. Judging by the mountains of rubble, the blown up bridges, the bombed out power plants and the 85 mile long oil slick along the coast; if you were a Lebanese civilian who would you consider the most destabilizing force?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Kill 'em all, in a manley way.

The WaPo reported on the 15 of this month:

"The number of alleged and substantiated violations by U.S. military recruiters increased by more than 50 percent in one year, a rise that may reflect growing pressure to meet wartime recruiting goals, according to a Government Accountability Office report released yesterday...the GAO found that about 20 percent of active-duty recruiters believe that irregularities -- such as coercion, concealing information that would disqualify a candidate and falsifying documents, among others -- occur frequently."

That would go a long way to explaning the case of Steven D. Green and his cohorts in the 502 Infantry Regiment 101 Airborne who are alleged to have killed a 14-year old girl in Mahmudiyah back in May. "That kid should have never ever been let in the military," says Nacy Hess, mother of Pfc. Jesse Spielman. "Goes to show you what kind of scum the military lets in. The recruiters will take anything with warm blood." [Newsweek]

Green got into the military on a so called "moral character waiver." Apparently, a criminal background is no longer an impediment ot joining the Army, but if you're gay you can forget it! Sure Steven Green was in trouble all the time and really wanted to get to Iraq to 'kill them all" but he wasn't a fag!

Cease-fire, my eye!

So, the fighting in Lebanon is over -- for the moment. How long this "cease-fire" will last is the 64,000 dollar question. I'm not buying this notion that both sides have seen the light and now they're ready to settle their problems diplomatically. (Besides, Israel hasn't has a chance to salt the soil and poison all the wells yet.) There is just something not right about this entire situation. It doesn't add up.

For almost a month the Bush administration has been dragging its feet on a cease-fire, buying time for Israel to finish the job. And then, all of a sudden, it becomes clear the IDF won't be able to wipe Hezbollah off the map -- without killing every third Lebanese citizen -- so W. & Co. panic and rush this rickety resolution through the Security Council? Not very likely.

My spider sense is telling me all of this US diplomacy is just a big show to give Israel time to regroup and rearm. Because I don't see why Israel would sign on to this cease-fire under any circumstances. (It certainly wasn't in the interests of international peace.) There certainly hasn't been any political pressure domestically for a cease fire. Quite the contrary, large majorities of Israelis support the war, even if it hasn't been a rerun of 1967. And I'm finding it very hard to believe the Bush administration put any pressure on the Israelis at all. The whole idea is laughable. W. and his blood drenched maniacs are so obviously full-square behind the war and its aims that such a scenario is just unimaginable.

So, what's going on here?

I think Israel's generals are going back to the blackboard, while they wait for the next big shipment of jet fuel and brand new super bombs for "Lebanon Smackdown: Shock and Awe, Part II." I seriously doubt either this administration or the Israelis has been chastened by Hezbollah's surprising staying power. The bigger mess the make out of things, the more they're convinced they're on the right track. More than likely, this next war will be a more comprehensive offensive against not only Hezbollah but also against Syria and Iran.

But not before the midterm elections! A full scale war in the Middle East would most likely be a loser for the GOP, so better to bide their time, and who knows, in the interim maybe Kadima will be tossed out of office and Netanyahu will take over. Now there's a guy who's got the guts to wage a biblical conflagration! (He'd better hurry up and convert, though; because you know when HE comes down to rescue W. & Co. he ain't taking any Jews.)
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