Saturday, February 03, 2007

Some more lightning round:

A frequent target for my bile is W. and B-liar's good buddy Moammar Kadafi, who when not counting all the money he's making doing business with Exxon/Mobil and BP is threatening to kill 5 Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor.

On Wednesday, the NYT reported that Momammar's son, Seif al-Islam el-Kadafi, said "No one is going to execute anyone." []Gosh, how enlightened of the Libyans! Of course, there's a rub to all the good news about this.

"Kadafi . . .suggested that in exchange for the extradition of the workers, the country might ask for the extradition of a Libyan man serving a life sentence in Scotland for the 1988 crash of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, according to the Times. In addition, Libyan officials have said that a re-examination of the health care workers' death sentences would depend on Bulgaria paying compensation to the families of the HIV-positive children."

So they want to trade the release of 5 innnocent nurses who they've been holding hostage since 1999 for someone involved in the bombing of PAN AM 103. And on top of that, they want some ransom from the Bulgarians! I can see why Jack Straw called Kadafi a "statesman" and Tony B-liar couldn't get over to Tripoli fast enough to kowtow to this guy.

[More posts about Kadafi: 1/06/07 -- 5/15/06 ]

Maher Arar get's pay back:

Reuters reported on Friday:

"Canada apologized on Friday to software engineer Maher Arar, who was deported to Syria by U.S. agents after Canadian police mistakenly labeled him an Islamic extremist, and paid him C$10.5 million ($8.9 million) in compensation."

That's great, but he still can't fly anywhere that might lead to a layover in the US. If that were to happen, he'd be on his way back to Syria.

[Read more about Arar further back on this blog]

That'as all I have time for. Someone please donate to the Bushmeister0 fund for getting me internet access at home!

Friday, February 02, 2007

The lightning round:

Since I have a little time today, I thought it might be good to go over a few things I saw this week that I didn't have a chance to complain about.

First of all, in Monday's NYT I just noticed Paul Krugman's Op-ED about ethanol. I swear I didn't see it before this. I'm not one of those bloggers that let's some columnist tell me what to think. Occasionally I'll see, after the fact, some big shot in the WaPo or NYT make the same I made here, and I always worry that the accidental visitor not take the time to check the date of the post and just assume I'm parroting the party line. Then again, I probably shouldn't waste my time worrying about crap like that.

the non sum dignus of all ears:

Anyway, I would like to take issue with Krugman a little about the point he made about sugar cane. Krugman rightly debunks W. & Co.'s insistence that ethanol is the answer to our energy future. However, when he writes that ethanol has a "place in the world's energy future -- but that place is in the tropics," he's being a bit too dismissive of what could be a very important source of clean energy for the U.S. Yes, sugar cane grows in the tropics, but not just in Brazil. Last time I checked, Cuba grew a lot of sugar cane, too. And the way global warming is going, we might soon be able to start growing sugar cane in Georgia - or North Carolina.

At the very least, what Brazil has done should be more closely examined. Brazil hasn't just "replaced a lot of its gasoline consumption with ethanol," it's cut its dependence on foreign oil by 70%. Over a thirty year period they've weaned themselves off of oil and in just three years completely changed the way drivers drive with their flex fuel cars. Imagine what the most technically advanced country on earth (at the moment) could do. Obviously, conservation is much more important and we have to put an end to our polluting ways, but we shouldn't just ignore sugar cane. It grows plentifully and also produces electricity from its byproduct. Where's the bad?

That's all I have to say about that. I just think Mr. Krugman ought to get his facts straight.

The Gunshine state:

In the news on Monday was a story from Florida about felons being allowed to purchase concealed weapons permits. The Ft Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported that out of 410,000 Floridians licensed to carry hidden guns, 1,400 had criminal records, 216 had outstanding warrants, 128 were named in domestic violence injunctions and 6 were registered sex offenders. Naturally, the state can't have that sort of thing getting out, so the legislature made the list of guns owners a government secret.

My question is; where's the story? If you've ever lived in Florida, you know this kind of thing is par for the course. Remember, the old tourist board slogan: "Florida, the rules are different here." What more need to be said?

Clean and safe nucler energy: Kaboom!
From an AP story on Tuesday, comes the news that Nuclear Regulatory Agency says it’s not up to nuclear power operators to keep their power plants safe from terrorist attacks. The NRC report "which was the subject of internal discussions for 15 months" and which was approved by a 15-0 vote says its up to the military or the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure terrorists don't fly planes into a nuke plant. "The NRC rejected calls by some nuclear-watchdog groups that the government establishes no-fly-zones near reactors or that plant operators build 'lattice-like' barriers to protect reactors, or be required to have anti-aircraft weapons on site to shot down an incoming plane."

NRC chairman Dale Klein pooh poohed any concerns about terrorists flying planes into a nuclear plant and assured us that the plants are "inherently robust structures that our studies show provide adequate protection in a hypothetical attack by an airplane." [After all, who would have thought terrorists would use planes as missiles?] The "studies" he's referring to is apparently a single $1 million study by the Electric Power Research Institute, which, according to the AP, "last year concluded that the concrete enclosure surrounding a reactor would withstand the impact of a large jet without releasing radiation."

See, there you have it. The EPRI said it, I believe it, that settles it. Of course, didn't the builders of the Twin Towers say something similar? By the way, who is the EPRI and where do they get their funding? A web site called "Integrity in Science says: "According to its 2001 annual report, EPRI members include almost 1,000 energy producers as members; 27 of its 30-member Board of Directors represent utility companies. (EPRI Annual Report 2001)." So you can tell its conclusions on power plant safety was completly impartial.

I always find it funny that the same corporate mucky mucks who rail against government interference and spend billions to elect politicians who pledge to dismantle the government, are the very same people who expect the government to come to the rescue when it comes to protecting their assets. They like their huge tax breaks and the big subsidies, but when it comes to making sure millions of people aren't eradiated . . . that's the government's job.

Also on Tuesday, there was the news that 10,000 residents of Juneau, Alaska, were without power after a bald eagle "lugging a dear head crashed into power lines." [USA Today]Where were the military and the FAA in that case? Imagine if that eagle had been a terrorist and it had crashed into a nuclear power plant! This is just another example of the failure of government to do anything. If it was up to the market, bald eagles would be extinct by now, and this kind of thing wouldn't have happened.

Bush will control all that you see and hear. . .

This is probably why W. signed an executive order making sure his political appointees have a say in every new government regulation that might interfere with the smooth functioning of corporate America. The NYT reports that in his new directive, "Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries." (It's about time!) "The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and benefits of new rules making sure the agencies carry out the president's priorities." Jeffery Rosen, general counsel at the OMB says, "This is a classic good-government measure that will make federal agencies more open and accountable."

Some might say that is classic Orwellian new-speak, but after 6 years of this nonsense, it's not so new anymore. There is really nothing new either about this new directive except that W.'s handlers have finally got around to codifying what they've been doing all along. In the EPA his political hit man was Philip Cooney a former oil industry lobbyist who edited reports on global warming to make them less frightening. [MSNBC] At NASA there was George Deutsch who censored NASA scientist James Hansen to shut him up about -- you guessed it -- global warming. It goes on and on. . . Even to the point of changing NASA's mission statement from "to understand and protect our home planet," to "pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research."

The president's priority in this case was to divert NASA's attention away from the earth disintegrating below and focus on building moon bases and sending men to Mars. And, by the way, they'll be going on the new "Aries" rocket, which sounds great, but is named after the Greek god of war. Purely coincidental, I'm sure. And incidentally, after China's little "test' to see it they could destroy a satellite in orbit -- they could -- how much do you want to bet NASA's new moon base will be armed to the teeth with all kinds of nifty particle weapons and directed energy rays?

Well, that's all for today. Looks like I only got to Tuesday. There's just too much out there that's torks me off, I guess. I’ll try to do Wednesday and Thursday tomorrow, if I don't get bogged down in Friday and Saturday's news.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Mexican canaries in the mine: feed ethanol industry, starve the rest of us:

Elizabeth Malkin of the NYT reports from Mexico City that "tens of thousands of workers and farmers filled this city's central square on Wednesday to protest spiraling food prices." The price for tortillas, one of the main food staples for Mexicans, has risen to 40% above where it was just a few months ago. In contrast to this steep increase the minimum wage has increased only 4%, which is just $5.00 a day. (At least they've gotten a minimum wage increase!) Malkins writes, "Most analysts agree that the main cause of the increase has been a spike in corn prices in the United States, as demand for corn to produce ethanol has jumped."

Typically, W.'s wrong headed energy policies are hurting the most vulnerable citizens of yet another poor country and creating political turmoil that could, in this case, spill over our southern border. His obsession with corn based ethanol is creating a new gold rush that benefits huge corporations that grow corn at the expense of other more viable and less environmentally damaging alternative fuels. In the process, food prices are going to rise substantially in this country as the scarcity of corn becomes more acute and as more of it is made into fuel.

And article in Truth About Trade Technology quotes Lester R. Brown, an agriculture expert in Washington, D.C., and president of the Earth Policy Institute saying, "We're putting the supermarket in competition with the corner filling station for the output of the farm." Joachim von Braun of the International Food Policy Research Institute says, "I do not just expect somewhat higher food prices, but new instability as well. In the future, instability of energy prices will be translated into instability in food prices."

Despite W. & Co.'s new PR campaign to convince Americans that the economy is going gang busters, most people know better. They're living pay check to pay check and the more hours they work the smaller those checks get. A major rise in the price of meat along with every other food product that contains corn syrup -- which is about everything -- will hit working people the hardest. Most folks are already spending about 70% of their income on just paying the rent, and now the sky rocketing costs of utilities is taking what's left. An increase in food prices just might cause people here in the US to hit the streets, too. You know the old axiom: 'Every society is just one missed meal away from a revolution.'

The ethanol scam:

According to Tax Payers for Common Sense:

The federal government has subsidized the ethanol industry since 1978 with tax exemptions totaling over $11 billion and a production mandate through 2012. . . Although there has been plenty of time for the industry to mature, production is still much more expensive than gasoline, and not as energy efficient. Ethanol production does not help reduce American’s 'addiction to oil' and might not be as environmentally friendly as was once thought. Moreover, allowing government policy to choose winners and losers instead of the market has suppressed investment in other alternative fuels—including non-corn biofuels—which may have far greater economic and environmental benefits. . . ethanol subsidies are a corporate handout to big agribusiness disguised as fuel innovation."

Instead of funneling zillions of dollars of tax payer money to develop a fuel that's more costly to produce, uses more energy to make than it saves and increases green house gases, we should be looking at what the Brazilians are doing with sugar cane.

The Sugar Cane/flex-fuel alternative:

A NYT article from April of last year reported that Brazil:

"Expects to become energy self-sufficient this year, meeting its growing demand for fuel by increasing production from petroleum and ethanol. . . Ethanol can be made through the fermentation of many natural substances, but sugar cane offers advantages over others, like corn. For each unit of energy expended to turn cane into ethanol, 8.3 times as much energy is created, compared with a maximum of 1.3 times for corn, according to scientists at the Center for Sugarcane Technology here and other Brazilian research institutes."

And it gets better . . .

"In the past, the residue left when cane stalks are compressed to squeeze out juice was discarded. Today, Brazilian sugar mills use that residue to generate the electricity to process cane into ethanol, and use other byproducts to fertilize the fields where cane is planted."

In addition, the Brazil has flex fuel cars, which can run on gas or ethonal. And this isn't pie in the sky far down the road stuff: "Today, less than three years after the technology was introduced, more than 70 percent of the automobiles sold in Brazil, expected to reach 1.1 million this year, have flex fuel engines, which have entered the market generally without price increases."

But, of course, they don't grow sugar cane in Iowa, so no politician, especially a politician running for president, is going to dare say we should chuck corn-based ethanol and go with sugar cane instead. Better to waste $3 billion a year subsidizing corn growers to starve the world.


The NYT reprts:

"Exxon, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, reported profit of $10.3 billion in the fourth quarter. That represented a decline of 4.3 percent from its record profit in the fourth quarter of 2005 and was Exxon’s first quarterly decline in almost three years. But for the year, Exxon’s profit rose 9 percent from 2005 results to a record of $39.5 billion, the largest annual profit ever for an American company.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Senators dither:

The NYT reports today that John McCain and Lindsay Graham along with other hawks are trying to derail the efforts of the majority of Democrats and a significant minority Republicans like Susan Collins, Chuck Hagel and John Warner from passing any resolutions, even nonbinding resolutions, that are directly critical of the administration's plans in Iraq. McCain and Graham, along with so-called "independent Democrat" Joe Lieberman, are "trying to enlist support for a resolution that would set benchmarks for the Iraqi government and describe the troop increase as a final chance for the United States to restore security in Baghdad." [Whatever that means.] Haven't we given al-Maliki benchmarks before? What happened with that oil revenue sharing agreement, anyway? Oh right, nothing. The Iraqi parliament can't even find a quorum on a good day, so I don't see how they would get around to meeting any of the required benchmarks.

The whole thing is a crock. The entire Senate is getting all worked up over a resolution that isn't going to stop anything and McCain and Graham and their fellow travelers are seriously living in la la land. People are dying! Our GIs are coming home in body bags at the rate of about 100 a month and the number of wounded is topping 50,500. This according to an article in the NYT yesterday, which reported that the Veterans Administration web site had posted the number of wounded at 50,508 but reduced that number to 21,649 when this "error" was discovered. The higher number includes all injuries caused by the war, not just those who were "wounded in action." Just as the DoD likes to keep the cost of the war off the books by sending "emergency" supplemental funding requests to Congress, they also like to cook the books by splitting hairs over what is and what is not a strictly war related injury.

If someone comes back from his or her second or third tour with PTSD or looses a leg in an accident, then obviously that's not an injury related to their service in Iraq or Afghanistan. It happened there and they're here dealing with it now, but they weren't wounded in action, so they're SOL. It would be nice if the media started publishing the actual cost of this war instead of playing the Pentagon's game. You never see the higher number in stories that mention the wounded. Never. By omitting the 25,000 extra people suffering as a result of their service to this country, the media does them a great disservice. But the omission does serve to hide the true cost of the war, which is why they do it, I guess. If the WaPo or the NYT were to actually show us the bloody truth about what's going on over there, then they'd be accused of being bias by the few remaining loud mouths that just won't admit they were wrong.

Like Frederick Kagan for instance, the architect of W.'s new surge plan. He told Marty Moss-Coane on WHYY's Radio Times yesterday that any criticism of placing 21,500 U.S. troops in the middle of a civil war was just "silly." 'Didn't we put troops in Bosnia and Kosovo,' he asked? Didn't that all work out just dandy?

Actually, as I remember it, we put troops into Bosnia only after we had bombed the competing sides into submission. Bill Clinton had all the sides over for some talks (actual diplomacy) and they agreed to work out their differences, while we provided security. But only after the fighting had stopped. And, in the case of Kosovo, if Bubba had lost one U.S. soldier in stopping Milosevic from ethnically cleansing every Albanian from Kosovo, Tom DeLay would have had him hung from the Washington monument with a noose fashioned out of Monica's stained blue dress. Ironically, today the people who condemned Clinton's squeamishness in spilling American blood are the very same folks hell bent on sacrificing as many young Americans as it takes to prove the plans they hatched in the comfortable confines of PNAC were right.

It is time for Congress and the media to stop listening to a small group of media savvy "intellectuals" with delusions of grandeur and begin to notice the tens of thousands of Americans who want this war to end. There are thousands of military family members actively lobbying Congress to bring their children home. There are thousands of active duty military people and National Guard troops openly calling for this insanity to end. 1,200 service members signed a petition of redress which was delivered to Congress recently. Service members are risking jail sentences to avoid going back to Iraq. General officers are speaking out. Even lowly dog faces are openly telling the media that the whole thing is a crock. I heard Pfc. Ryan Schmidt from Charlie Company of the 2nd Battalion, 136th Infantry on ATC last night, who had had a question answered by W. during Juan William's interview with him. In a follow u ppiece he was asked if had answered his question and he said:

"No, it did not answer my question. I would have liked to know more so that there will be a plan if this does not work. For some of us that are over here, particularly me, my unit, we all feel, what's the point of us being extended if your initial plan to send more troops over here does not work? What are you going to do, Mr. President?"

The mood of the nation is getting angrier and the all volunteer military is getting down right mutinous. These professionals will go wherever they're sent and do whatever has to be done, but they have to know that what they're risking their lives for is worth it. After four years of W.'s bullshit, they've had it. Trust, loyalty and respect is a two way street. W. has violated our trust and he's unnecessarily put our young people into harm's way. The Senate should quit wasting our time by debating nonbinding resolutions and get down to the business of curbing this president's power before he gets us into another war. It is the solemn duty of all members of Congress to obey the will of the people and the people are saying "enough is enough." Bring our troops home!

William Fallon and the surge:

So Admiral William Fallon, W's new nominee to head CentCom, told the Senate Armed Services committee yesterday that "what we've been doing is not working and we've got to be doing, it seems to me, something different." Surprise, surprise, he told the Senators W.'s past policies haven't worked. How candid! (I love straight talk from those military types.) He wasn't so clear on a lot of political guest ions of the day, he said 'I don't know' a lot to direct questions from Senators like John McCain and Hillary Clinton about specific issues regarding the mess in Iraq, but he's sure that "with God's help" it will all work out. He's got a month to bone-up on the disaster W. has decided to hang around his neck before John Abizaid retires, but I'm sure he'll do great.

Abizaid, by the way, is basically persona non grata in the neocon-crazy-world these days for his "light footprint" strategy in Iraq which, according to geniuses like William Kristal and the brains trust at the Weakly Standard, has failed so spectacularly. [The misspelling, this time, is intentional.] From now on, the plan is to "clear and hold." No really, this time we mean it. All the times that we've attempted the very same strategy in the past and it turned out to be a catastrophic failure -- like operations Pull Together Forward I and II [And Fallujah I and II, for that matter] that was just poor execution on the part of generals like Casey and Abizaid.

Meet the new surge, same as the old surge:

I was trolling through my archives the other day and I came across a NYT article from December 5, 2005 about what the military was then calling "raid and dig in." Not as nice sounding as "clear and hold," but basically the same thing this new surge policy is supposed to accomplish. And just as futile, I might point out. Back then the plan was to move into a town, in this case Husabya, in Anbar Province, and "dig in." Husabya was considered to be a "well-spring" of the Sunni insurgency; a warren of pipelines and "ratlines" of weapons and fighters into Anbar.
Kirk Semple wrote that by:

"Providing a continual security presence and improvements in the quality of life, the American command hopes to win support for the elected leadership and deny the insurgency the popular support they seek [Where have I heard that recently?] . . . Since spring, the number of Iraqi troops operating in Anbar Province has surged to the current level of about 16,000 from about 2,500 in March, said Maj. General Stephan T. Johnson, commander of Multinational Force West and Second Marine Expeditionary Force, which oversees security in Anbar. The Iraqis join about 32,000 coalition troops." [Funny, isn't that the exact number of U.S troops General Patreaus will have in Baghdad if W.'s new surge plan is implemented?]

Of course, back then, too, there was (and still is) that ever present problem of the capability of the Iraqi soldiers to act like adults, of which I've posted so much about in the past few days:

"To this reporter embedded with the assault force, the Iraqis often seemed disorganized, complacent and undisciplined. On the north side of the river, [the Euphrates] where the Iraqis had a chance to take the lead, because they outnumbered the Americans, house-to-house clearing operations were sloppy. The troops moved unsystematically from house to house, sometimes giving buildings nothing more than a glance or, worse, bypassing them altogether. [See previous posts on operations in Haifa Street] Some soldiers demonstrated unorthodox uses of their weapons, including two soldiers who used their Kalashnikov rifles to swat a ball around as if they were playing field hockey, according to American soldiers who witnessed the scene, and several who used their rifles to pry metal security doors off their hinges."

Now, someone please tell me what has changed in a year since this article was written? The Iraqi army is no more ready to operate as an effective military force than they were a year ago. Having them "take the lead" is going to lead to higher U.S. casualties, plain and simple. If a casual observer of the situation in Iraq can see this train wreck about to happen, why can't many of our most distinguished Senators see it?

Arlen Specter: The Viagra kicked in.

Looks like Senator Arlen Specter finally got his shipment of Viagra. He's been a little quiet of late. We haven't heard much from him since he knuckled under to Darth Cheney on the domestic spying thing. But yesterday he pulled his glasses off and gave W. a stern talking to: "I would suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider. The decider is a shared and joint responsibility." Whoa there Arlen, don't have a stroke! Though Specter broke ranks with his GOP colleagues to point out to the Decider that there is a constitution that gives Congress the power of the purse strings, Russell Feingold's insistence on hammering the point home was too much for him. According to the Inquirer, as Feingold summed up the days hearings, "Specter rose from his chair, collected his papers, and glared at his colleague until he finished."

"I thought the prepared remarks that he was reading saying what this hearing had found was a little presumptuous," Specter said. Apparently referring to the dose of Viagra, Specter said. "my patience was running thin . . . My shorts were getting a little tight." He really had to go. All the peace protesters applauding Feingold and the constitutional experts who presented "convincing" testimony that Congress can stop the war "if it wants to, " was just was too much for old Arlen.

Imagine being so presumptuous to think the voters had given Congress their marching orders in the November elections! Old Arlen wants W. to know Congress is still at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, but beyond that, he's not going to go nuts and do something like vote for a resolution that rebukes the president or, God forbid, cuts off funding for a war a majority of Americans want ended. No, no, Arlen wants to work with the president who doesn't want to work with him.

I think it might be time to give good old Arlen an early vacation. I'll see you at the polls in two years, Senator Specter.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Soldiers of Heaven and the army that couldn't shoot straight:

I'm still not buying what I'm hearing and reading about this battle the Iraqi army got into with the so-called "Soldiers of Heaven" near Najaf on Sunday. Besides the ridiculously inflated body counts, there's the matter of who these people and their leader actually were --or if he's even alive or not -- and whether the Iraqi army fought courageously or were almost wiped out by their blundering into the fight in the first place. No one even knows how many fighters of the so-called "Soldiers of Heaven" there really were. I heard a report on NPR yesterday which quoted the Iraqis saying they killed more fighters than other reports claimed were actually involved in the fight. The whole thing is very sketchy, if you ask me.

Two days later, news articles in the both the WaPo and NYT highlight the confusion about what was by all accounts a pretty hot engagement. Marc Santora in the NYT reports that the leader of the "cult" was a man named Ahmed Hassan al-Yamani, but who was in actuality Diyah Abdul Zahraa Khadom. "However," Santora writes, "a Shiite cleric who has contact with the group said that the real leader is Ahmad bin al Hassan al-Basri. The cleric said that Mr. Basri was still alive and probably hiding near Karbala." The WaPo, on the other hand, reports that the Iraqi government is saying the leader is, or was, someone called Samar Abu Kamar. The Iraqi government and the U.S. military are so sure this battle was a brilliant victory, yet they can't agree on who was really behind this supposed plot to kill every cleric in Najaf or whether they even killed him or not.

Yesterday, there was even confusion about whether the Soldiers of Heaven were Sunnis or Shiites or a combination of the two. Naturally, some in the Iraqi government were quick to point the finger at al-Qaeda, but the NYT reports "numerous Shiite clerics, seeking anonymity for fear of contradicting the government, said . . . [that] was highly unlikely." The WaPo reports that Iraq's minister of national security, Shirwan al Wahli "said the structure of the groups was Shiite, but that it involved Sunni fights and that: 'based on the level of training, support and financing, it obviously has received support from outside Iraq.'" And you know what that means; it's either Saddam's dead-enders or the Iranians. In either case, it's not our fault.

While the some Iraqis were hatching absurd excuses to divert attention away from any hint that Shiites were attempting to kill other Shiites, the WaPo writes that U.S. military officials and other Iraqi officials were characterizing the Iraqi army's "attack" on the cult as "a positive signal that the Iraqi security forces were able to lead a major battle and were willing to target extremists from the same Muslim sect that runs the central government."

W. has bought into this line telling Juan Williams on NPR that the Iraqi army's great "victory" is "an indication of what is taking place, and that is the Iraqis are beginning to take the lead. So my first reaction on this report from the battlefield is that the Iraqis are beginning to show me something."

That contention is highly dubious. I'm sure W. would love to spin the battle as the Iraqis -- who they just recently turned over security to in Najaf Province -- finally standing up so we can stand down, but the truth appears to be far from that. Santora in the NYT writes that the reality is that "Iraqi forces were surprised and nearly overwhelmed . . . and needed far more help from American forces than previously disclosed, American and Iraqi officials said Monday. They said American ground troops -- and not just air support as reported Sunday -- were mobilized to help Iraqi soldiers, who appeared to have dangerously underestimated the strength of the militia." Imagine that! "'This group had more capabilities than the government', said Abdul Hussein Abtan, the deputy governor of Najaf Province." [That's a real shocker!]

So U.S. Army Colonel Michael Garrett's contention that the Iraqi soldier's performance was "impressive" is just a load of bull? It would seem so. Equally unimpressive was how the Iraqi security forces (and I use that term loosely) allowed such a large and well equipped force set up shop just ten miles from Najaf and not notice anything amiss. The mind boggles. [These are the people we're sending 21,000 more troops to fight along side of?]

Santora in the NYT writes that the Soldiers of Heaven had set up an "elaborate encampment, which Iraqi officials said included tunnels, trenches and a series of blockades. . . After the fight was over, Iraqi officials said they discovered at least two anti-aircraft weapons as well as 40 heavy machine guns." The WaPo reports that at a press conference Abtan, "said the fighters were able to amass vehicles and weapons under the pretext that they were moving building materials destined for the Najaf airport, which is under construction." Anti-aircraft guns at an airport? Of course, they're essential to the construction of any airport. Everyone knows that.

Well, in any case, it was a victory for the ages and whether it was 139 Soldiers of Heaven killed or "more than 400," the Iraqis are now clearly able to defend themselves from terrorist threats both domestic and foreign. I say W. should declare victory -- again -- and bring the troops home.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Iraqi body count BS:

So I heard on Morning Edition this morning that W. thinks the fighting yesterday in Najaf shows that the Iraqis may be ready to take on the task of securing their country. According to a NYT story, Abdul Hussein Abtan, the deputy governor of Najaf province, told an Iraqi TV station while standing in front of some bodies that: "Beside me are a large number of prisoners, hundreds of them. There are also hundreds dead."

The WaPo reports that a "spokesman for Iraqi security forces in Najaf, Col. Ali Nomas Jerao, said that 250 suspected insurgents were killed in the fighting, which took place about eight miles northeast of Najaf."

250 killed, huh? In just a few hours by the Iraqi army? Not very likely. To me this sounds like a PR stunt. Congress is not in the mood to put up with any more of Maliki's crap, so the Iarqis come up with this wildly inflated body count to try and prove they're really taking on the militants.

What really appears to have happened is that they blundered into the fight.

The WaPo:

"The fighting began overnight when a police checkpoint near Najaf came under fire, leading the Iraqi police to the farms in the Zargaa area where the fighters had dug trenches and stockpiled weapons, said Lt. Rahim al-Fetlawi, a police officer in Najaf. The officers who responded found themselves outgunned by the estimated 350 to 400 insurgents entrenched there, said Col. Majid Rashid of the Iraqi army in Najaf."

Supossedly, these so-called "Soldiers of the Sky" set up camp in a "date palm orchard near the village of Zarqaa, about 120 miles south of Baghdad. The village is alongside a river and a large grain silo that is surrounded by orchards," according to the NYT. How several hundred fighters were able to set up a training camp so close to Najaf and not be found for so long is a question that has not been answered.

Galal says the militants were planning to attack Najaf during the Ashura festival and kill all the Shiite religious leadership. The Iraqis, though, broke up the plot just in a nick of time. "The deadline was very close."

But, as I say, what really happend was that they got stuck in a fight they couldn't handle and they had to call in the Americans, who lost yet another helicopter and two more dead in the process.

"A Washington Post special correspondent at the scene saw the helicopter trailing smoke and circling before coming down in a field of sandy dirt. Maj. Beshari al-Ghazali of the Iraqi army said that the helicopter was shot down and that another U.S. helicopter took fire but did not crash. Iraqi officials said the insurgents were using shoulder-fired rockets, antiaircraft guns and Katyusha rockets."

This is the second US military helicopter shot down in just over a week. ABC reported on the 22nd that the Blackhawk shot down in Baghdad, killing all 12 aboard, was "brought down by a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile, a senior military official tells ABC News." There was also a Blackwater security contractor helicopter shot down in Baghdad last Tuesday. In that case, the copter went down after being damaged by small arms fire and the crew was shot execution-style on the ground.

If the insurgents are now able to shoot down US helicopters on a regular basis with their newly aquired shoulder-fired missiles, this could be the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan all over again.

In any case, no matter what really happened this weekend in Najaf, I'm sure the fighting isn't over and the Iraqis will not be able to defend themselves without the Americvans coming to the rescue again. I mean, didn't we just turn over Najaf to the IRaqis last month? Sure didn't take long for the insurgents to set u pshop did it?
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