Thursday, December 07, 2006

The New Way Forward!

It isn't very likely W. will admit to the fact that he's following any of the ISG's recommendations, but this is not to say the administration isn't going to adjust its policies in Iraq. Many of the recommendations in the ISG's report have been floating around for a long time; W. & Co. just felt no urgency to seriously consider any of them until Nov. 7. Now that W. & Co. have got their backs to the wall, they've decided to preempt the report's release by taking a little from column A and a little from column B and dubbing it the "new way forward."

The "new way forward" is a not so clever way of getting around having to admit that they needed Daddy's help in Iraq. The Pentagon is well on its way to enacting ISG's recommendations for moving a substantial number of US troops into advisory roles to train the Iraqi army. The NYT reported yesterday that, "American commanders in Iraq are already shifting thousands of combat troops into advisory positions with Iraqi Army and police units. . . Changes in troop assignments over just the past three weeks included moving about 1,000 American soldiers in Baghdad from traditional combat roles to serve as trainers and advisers to Iraqi troops."

The Pentagon's new plan involves tripling or quadrupling the number of "advisers" assigned to training the Iraqi army, elite police units and border guards in order to eventually draw down US combat forces as the Iraqis theoretically become more capable. [But not the 10,000 a month that would be needed to have the number down to zero by April '08] Although this all sounds great on paper, who will be left to continue to fight the "Battle of Baghdad?" As more combat units are transitioned into training roles there's going to be this rather large donut hole in Baghdad. It's not like those 5,000 Iraqi ghost troops US commanders have been asking for the past five months are suddenly going to materialize to help the miniscule number of US troops trying to keep the lid on. And even if they were there, a DoD report recently said only one in four Iraqi battalions were able to "perform a useful function." [The Afghan army is slightly worse]

And what about Anbar province? If anything, the Marines there need massive reinforcements. A "senior officer" tells the NYT, not too hopefully that, "we'll try and keep our heads above water in Anbar." This doesn’t sound like a very promising start to the "new way forward." Perhaps if another administration were attempting this dubious scheme I'd have more faith in the ultimate outcome, but this panicked pivoting is being orchestrated by the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.

I heard Carl Levin, soon to be the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, on NPR today saying that he would favor spending billions more in funding to purchase equipment for the Iraqi forces. He reasons that spending billions more is worth the expense if it means our people come home sooner. That is all well and fine, but the billions we've spent on them so far has all gone into the pockets of crooked Iraqis and crooked contractors. Very little equipment winds up in the hands of Iraqi troops. In fact, Iraqi army units that actually do fight regularly run out of ammunition and wind up beheaded.

Tony Snow-job said in October that the administration's thinking on the ISG was that they weren't going to "outsource the business of the handling of the war in Iraq." Of course, this is precisely what they've done. They just don't want anyone crashing the party. The situation with the contractors is totally out of control. The WaPo reports that there are almost 100,000 contractors in Iraq -- all getting fat off the US tax payer. Before we talk about pumping zillions more into the Iraq/Afghanistan money hole, there needs to be some serious oversight of what exactly companies like DynCorp. are actually up to. The NYT reported on Monday that a joint report by the Pentagon and the State Department found that:

"The American-trained police force in Afghanistan is largely incapable of carrying out routine police law enforcement work, and that managers of the $1.1 billion training program cannot say how many officers are actually on duty or where thousands of trucks and other equipment issued to police units have gone. . . [The DoD report cited above said that in Iraq, too, there is no way to count the number of Iraqi police or the effectiveness of their units] Police training experts who have studied or had first-hand experience with the American effort in Afghanistan said they agreed with the report's findings . . . But they said additional problems needed to be investigated, including the quality of private contractors and the cost and effectiveness of relying on them to train police officers. . . In particular, the experts questioned why the report focused on United States managers and only glancingly analyzed the performance of the principle contractor in Afghanistan, DynCorp International of Virginia."

We all know why the report passed over the likes of DynCorp, which has received $1.6 billion for its training and security work in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past three years (and has damn little to show for it.). The administration, for obvious reasons, doesn't want to anyone looking too closely into what they're business buddies are up to. The mindset in the administration is that business can always do a better job than the government. Perhaps, this government can't find its ass with both hands, but previous administrations have managed to win wars without the help of KBR and Halliburton. This reliance on outsourcing our wars has to end. The only way the "new way forward" has any chance of working is if the Congress actually starts holding the administration accountable and begins to put people in jail for ripping us off.

The Iraq Study Group's report: File under ignore.

The Baker/Hamilton Iraq Study Group report is finally out and uncle Jimmy has finally gotten his chance to make the boy president to listen to the grown ups. If nothing else comes of this -- which it probably won't -- that will be a major achievement all on its own. Finally someone has told the emperor he's buck naked. There's no doubt W. won't have liked what he heard.

The ISG report's appraisal of the mess in Iraq is pretty stark:

"The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. There is no path that can guarantee success, but the prospects can be improved."

Not exactly the 'absolutely we're winning' happy talk he usually hears from his yes-men. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall as Baker made W. take his medicine. I'm probably not going too far out on a limb to guess that W. probably listened impassively, fidgeted in his chair a bit and in the end wound up asking no questions. This would be SOP for the great "decider," who is notoriously incurious about things people tell him that don't correspond to his preconceived notions. And writing that our "leaders must be candid and forthright with the American people," is certianly not going to win Baker any friends in this administration. One committee member reportedly said of Bush's reaction: "[He] was very gracious and did not push back, but he made no commitments." In other words; they were talking to the wall.

Judging from what I've been hearing from administration officials in the media leading up to the report's release, the White House was already prepared to be "under whelmed" by Baker's recommendations. In particular, Baker's crazy notions about talks with Iran and Syria; that was never going to fly. Yesterday, Tony Snow-job threw cold water on the idea of talking to the Iranians by repeating the administration’s oft stated refusal to talk to Tehran until it accepted our preconditions; namely that they stop enriching uranium (which won't be happening). And the US pushing for sanctions against Iran in the Security Councel isn't going to help matters, either. Condi's diplomatic gambit to get Iran to the table is DOA, so rather than expecting any kind of diplomatic effort, I'd say Cheney & Co. will havew a green light for military action.

The administration talking to Syria is equally far fetched, mainly because the chances of getting the Syrian regime to provide the rope to hang themselves in the investigation of the Rafik Hariri assassination are highly improbable. [Baker's Saudi buddies made sure that got in to the report.] Enlisting the assistance of the "axis of evil" in extricating us from the rapidly degenerating inter-religious and ethnic struggle of biblical proportions that is George W. Bush's Middle East is surely a non-starter. This is just the sort of consensus building and diplomatic give-and-take that the Cheney/Rummy cabal and the neocons hated so much about 41 & Co

And what about Israel? On the subject of the Palestinians and the Israelis the reports says:

"The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab/Israeli conflict and regional stability. There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab/Israeli peace on all fronts. ."

That'll be the day! The Israeli government is pretty adamant that they aren't onboard with the whole idea. Ehud Olmert said yesterday, "The attempt to create a linkage between the Iraqi issue and the Mideast issue - we have a different view. [AP]Not really much of a surprise there. I'm thinking the Israelis aren't about to get involved in any nutty ideas cooked up by James Baker that involve international conferences. They did that once before in Madrid and they felt they gave up too much. [James Baker's political calculations back then, remember, were encapsulated in one famous phrase: "Fuck the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway."] George Bush, the best friend Israel ever had in the White House, isn't about to do anything like force the Israelis to give up the Golan Heights for peace. Perish the thought! (Perhaps, another big shipment of cluster bombs, but nothing like that!)

What makes the ISG think anything W.'s administration could do now would make any difference? They have spent W.'s entire presidency ignoring the Arab/Israeli conflict, except for signing off on anything Israel wanted (and starving the Palestinians half to death), so it's not like the Palestinians should be any more open to the US coming in at this late date and saying they're committed to a two state solution. [Give me a break!]The administration claims it's got Condi over there working on something or other, but the Palestinians and the Lebanese are not likely to forget her infamous piano recital in Kuala Lumpur last summer while Beirut burned. The only way any progress is going to be made is after W. and Condi are out of a job.

I'm affraid W. has screwed the pooch so thouroughly that all the kings men and all the kings horese wouldn't be able to fix this mess.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Uighurs get the shaft from our freedom loving president.

The WaPo reports today:

"Attorneys for a group of Chinese Muslims held for nearly five years in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, filed suit yesterday, asking that the men be released immediately and alleging that they have been held as part of a political deal between the United States and China.

The lawyers -- Sabin Willett and Susan Baker Manning -- allege in the court documents that their clients' detention was one of several demands the Chinese government solicited in mid-2002 as the United States was seeking global support for toppling Saddam Hussein."

Selling out human rights for the march of freedom. That would never happen, right?

Colin Mackerras writing for the Atimes Online confirms the contention that the Bush administration sold the Uighurs out to make friendly with the Chinese.

"The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington heightened the general fear of terrorism in Xinjiang. In January 2002, the government released a long report accusing terrorist forces fighting for an independent Uighur state of having been responsible for more than 200 terrorist incidents in Xinjiang between 1990 and 2001. . . The US Department of State commented with a forked tongue: its counter-terrorism office was generally sympathetic toward China's position, even commending it for taking concrete actions against terrorism, but its human-rights section continued to condemn discrimination against Uighurs in Xinjiang and any action it saw as a human-rights abuse."

Erkin Dolat wrote in September 2002 for the Atimes that:

"The United States government has officially placed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), an obscure group even most Uighurs know nothing about, on its Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list. US Deputy State Secretary Richard Armitage on Monday announced this decision in Beijing, saying that the US government had put ETIM on its terrorist list after "careful study. . . the political implication of this decision is disastrous to the Uighur freedom movement worldwide and to the ever-deteriorating human-rights situation in East Turkestan. This decision by the United States will justify China's claim since September 11 that 'East Turkestan terrorist forces' are part of an international terrorist network, and legitimize China's aggressive clampdown on any form of Uighur dissent, no matter how non-violent and peaceful they may be."

Jose Padilla case. The framers didn't have this in mind.

The NYT reported yesterday that a video tape has sufaced of so-called "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla being readied for a trip to the dentist during his 21-month stay at Naval Weapons Station in Charleston, S.C.

Padilla was shackled and then "noise-blocking headphones" were put over his ears and "blacked-out goggles" were put on his eyes. The military guards "whose faces were hidden behind plastic visors," then "marched their masked, clanking prisoner down the hall to his root canal."

Padilla's lawyers plan to present the video in court as evidence of the fact that Padilla has been so traumatized by his three and a half year detention by the military that he isn't able to aid in his own defence in court.

Of course, this is provided the judge in the case will allow any testimony concerning his detention. The NYT: "Federal prosecutors have asked the judge to forbid Mr. Padilla’s lawyers from mentioning the circumstances of his military detention during the trial, maintaining that their accusations could 'distract and inflame the jury.'"

Yes, I can see how a jury might be "inflamed" to know that an American citizen has been held in solitary confinment by the military, without any charges, or access to a lawyer for over three years. I think there's some sort of musty old document somewhere that says the government can't do this kind of thing -- ever. It might also be distracting to learn that the original reason for arresting Padilla in the first place -- that he was about to explode a "dirty bomb" -- isn't a part of the charges against him. He's just being charged now with "conspiracy," which is a somewhat amorphorous catch all for prosecutors who really have nothing.

It might also come as a shock that the information the government based its arrest of Padilla on, and the subsequent fearmongering that went on about "dirty bombs" in the media, was coming from a "senior" al-Qaeda suspect who was tortured and most likely lied abbout a lot of stuff to get them to stop.

According to ABC News:

"After treatment there for gunshot wounds, he was whisked by the CIA to Thailand where he was housed in a small, disused warehouse on an active airbase. There, his cell was kept under 24-hour closed circuit TV surveillance and his life-threatening wounds were tended to by a CIA doctor specially sent from Langley headquarters to assure Abu Zubaydah was given proper care, sources said. Once healthy, he was slapped, grabbed, made to stand long hours in a cold cell, and finally handcuffed and strapped feet up to a water board until after 0.31 seconds he begged for mercy and began to cooperate."

This where Padilla comes in. A June 12 2002 CNN report says:

"U.S. officials said the first tip came from Zubaydah about two weeks before Padilla's May 8 arrest. Zubaydah gave a physical description of Padilla, officials said, but did not name him. After following up on the information and obtaining photos of Padilla and another man, U.S. authorities showed the pictures to Zubaydah, who confirmed they were the two men allegedly involved in the 'dirty bomb' plot."

Hey, that's good enough for me. Lock him up and throw away the key!
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