Saturday, February 17, 2007

Mission accomplished again:

The WaPo reports:

"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unannounced visit to Baghdad Saturday and publicly hailed early signs of success in a U.S.-Iraqi operation to quell sectarian violence in the embattled capital."

Condi said she was "very impressed with the leadership of the prime minister and his team." [I wonder if she gave them a piano recital?] Eventhough she had to fly around Baghdad airport for half an hour before she could land, she said the new security crackdown in Baghdad was giving Baghdadis "a new hope and a new optimism." (The WaPo article doesn't mention how she came to this conclusion since it's doubtful she actually went out into the streets to ask any of them.)

As proof of the sweeping successes US and Iraqi forces are having, the Iraqi government came out yesterday and said that the body count at the Baghdad morque was at all time lows. The LA Times reports:

"An ambitious military sweep appears to be dramatically reducing Baghdad's homicide rate, U.S. and Iraqi officials said." Nuri al-Maliki said, "The violence is not increasing…. No, we're not in a civil war. In Iraq, we'll never be in civil war. What you see is an atmosphere of reconciliation."

"U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of military forces in Baghdad, attributed the capital's declining violence to a sweep involving 8,000 U.S. soldiers and 3,000 Iraqi troops aimed at stopping sectarian violence."

Oh, woopse! That was an article from last August, when operation pull together forward was in full swing. I'm sure things will be different this time, though, right?

There is one little spot of bother that Condi dealt with privetly with al Maliki's impressive team. My Way reports: "Rice told Iraqi leaders that the Baghdad security operation needs to 'rise above sectarianism' and noted that no U.S. or Iraqi forces have yet moved into the capital's major Shiite militia stronghold."

Yeah, how about that, weird huh? I'm sure they'll get around to it. But since Muqtada and his gunmen are laying low, better to let sleepiong dogs lay, right? Condi says, "If, in fact, militias decide to stand down and stop killing innocent Iraqis . . . that can't be a bad thing."

Meanwhile Rice told the beleagured US embassy staff that she kept "hearing and reading the American people don't want to fight this war anymore. I don't think that's right. The American people want to know that we can succeed."

Noooo, I think they want us to get the hell out of there, Condi. Have you picked up a newspaper lately?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Staying on message: Iran is meddling in everything!

You've really got to hand it to the vice-president's lackeys; they stay on message no matter what the situation. This week's message is that Iran is meddling in Iraq, so when John Hannah, Scooter Libby's former top assistant and now Cheney's national security adviser, showed up in court on Tuesday as a witness for Libby's defense he listed "Iran's meddling in Iraq" as one of the pressing issues in mid-2003 that clouded Libby's memory in his grand jury testimony. Libby's defense team claims there was so much on Libby's plate in spring and summer of 2003 that he just sort of "misremembered" certain events connected to his dark master's efforts to defame Joe Wilson. Hannah testified that, "On certain things, Scooter just had an awful memory."

It appears that Libby wasn't the only one with a bad memory. I don't seem to recall anyone from the administration bringing up the whole Iran-meddling-in-Iraq thing up until just recently. One would think if in 2003 Iran was involved in supplying weapons that were killing American troops we would have heard about it. The Pentagon says over 100 coalition troops have died from these so-called EFPs, so why have they waited so long to do anything about them? When evidence of these EFPs did start showing up in the media, I do remember US government officials downplaying such stories. Back then, I guess, it wasn't politically expedient to whip up the war fever for an attack on Iran.

Nowadays, though, with a Democratic controlled Congress looking into things like the lies that got us into the Iraq mess and actually debating whether we should even be in Iraq anymore, W. & Co. are seeking to change the subject. They've got a full court press going on trying to point the finger at Iran for all the disasters they're responsible for. You can't open a newspaper or turn on the TV without seeing the hand of Iran in everything from sectarian killings in Baghdad to the death of Anna Nicole. It's 2002 all over again.

From the Libby trial; to secret press briefings with secret "evidence;" to downed helicopters, its all Iran all the time. Since the Pentagon is only presenting evidence against Iran in secret briefings, it leaves the door wide open for W. & Co. and their neocon allies to drive gigantic trucks full of innuendo right through it. They can say anything they want -- Iran is harboring al-Qaeda; they're supplying shoulder fired anti-aircraft weapons to insurgents; they're sacrificing little puppies to their heathen gods etc. There's no way to refute it, how do you prove a negative?

That's how the game is played and the media falls right into line. An example of this is an AP story about Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chief's of Staff, contradicting the Pentagon briefers assertions that Iran's top leadership was behind shipping weapons into Iraq, saying he didn't see the hand of the Iranian government in Iraq. Pace said that although some Iranians had been arrested in Iraq and that 'some of the materials used in the devices were made in Iran:'

"That does not translate that the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this. What it does say is that things made in Iran are being used in Iraq to kill coalition soldiers."

It does? The writer of the news story just goes along with the narrative that the weapons were made in Iran. W. & Co. haven't provided any proof that any of these "sophisticated" weapons coming from Iran are actually made in Iran. They could be coming from anywhere. Borzou Daragahi in an interview on NPR's Day to Day said he asked one of the Pentagon weapon's experts directly if he had any evidence of Iranians manufacturing EFPs and the expert said "No." That's kind of an important point. By not bothering to question these assertions by the administration and Pentagon the media allows them to become facts.

Has anyone questioned W.'s assertion that Iran is providing these weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq? The last time I checked, the insurgents we're fighting in Iraq are Sunnis. And more than likely they're getting their weapons from sympathetic backers in Saudi Arabia and other neighboring Sunni countries. [AP reported in December that: "Private Saudi citizens are giving millions of dollars to Sunni insurgents in Iraq and much of the money is used to buy weapons, including shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles, according to key Iraqi officials and others familiar with the flow of cash."]

Of the four wars the recently released NIE says are going on in Iraq, the one we're fighting is against the Sunnis. If Shiite militias are planting EFPs that are killing our troops why aren't we going after them? And another important question would be, which Shiite militias are planting these weapons? Is it the Mahdi army or the Badr brigade or some other group? Of course, if they were to come out and say exactly who they're talking about, then it could be fact checked and they wouldn't want that.

W.& and company are not only entitled to their own opinions, they're also entitled to their own facts.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Axis of not so evil: The New North Korea.

It looks like U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, our chief weapons negotiator with North Korea, has worked out a deal to get the Hermit Kingdom to disarm. Hill conducted secret face-to-face meetings with his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye-gwan in Berlin last December and this is the result of those talks. Of course, this deal is basically the same thing the Clinton administration came up with back in 1994, then called the "agreed framework." W. could have avoided North Korea throwing the IAEA inspectors out and making enough plutonium to make up to six bombs --and actually testing one -- if he hadn’t been so hell bent on not doing anything Clinton did. But, that's all in the past, what's the point of looking back, right?

The NYT reports that under this new (old) deal, North Korea agrees "to freeze its production of plutonium at its nuclear facility in Yongbyon, and to allow international inspectors to monitor and verify its compliance. In return, the United States, China, South Korea and Russia agreed to provide about $400 million in food and fuel aid." [IHT]

So, what's with this sudden desire to talk to our enemies all about? I thought W. & Co. had a firm policy of not dealing with countries they didn't like. And couldn't this new approach be construed as "rewarding bad behavior?" [Dick Cheney must be spinning in his coffin. Just wait until the sun goes down, there's going to be hell to pay!] Up until now Condi Rice has always said North Korea/Iran/Syria knew what they need to do and that's what passed for "diplomacy." Now, she's let Chris Hill out there actually talking to evil doers.

According to "officials" in the administration, this surprising change of course has Condi's fingerprints all over it. The theory goes that now that the leading warmongers like Rummy and John Bolton are gone she's got more sway with the president. Of course, this theory presupposes that she's ever had any interest in diplomacy in the first place, which I doubt. I wouldn't break out the Champaign quite yet and claim that Condi has regained her "realist bent" as Trudy Rubin writes in today's Inquirer.

North Korea is on the "Axis of Evil" list to begin with because of Rice. According to former Bush speech writer Michael Gerson, it was her suggestion to add Iran and North Korea to the list as a way of not tipping their hand on the plans for the Iraq invasion. [Newsweek] We have to keep in mind that she's as responsible for Iraq as anyone. And who could forget her tickling the ivories in Kuala Lumpur as Beirut burned last summer? That was a fine example of her diplomatic skills.

I don't think the administration has turned a new leaf, I think they're just desperate to have some sort of breakthrough diplomatically just to relieve some of pressure they're getting from Congress. 'See, we made a deal with North Korea, so can we bomb Iran now?'

Rummy may be gone, but Cheney is still there and he's only got tool in his tool box: The big stick. So why would he have signed off on this deal? It's so unlike him. The theory goes that he's expecting the North Koreans to renege, which really isn't such a long shot. They'll just keep asking for more and more money and threatening to start up their plutonium factory again if they don't get it and that will be that.

Darth can then argue that Rice's approach just hasn't worked; it didn't work in Iran and it didn't work in North Korea. He'll have the green light to say: "In the immortal words of the Great Communicator: 'The bombing begins in five minutes!'"

Monday, February 12, 2007

New Moon, New War:

So I wonder when W. & Co. will be launching operation Persian Shock and Awe? Some people it will might be this spring, but other folks think it'll more likely happen next spring, just before W. leaves office. Either way it happens, the consensus seems to be that the attack will take place in the spring. Probably because the weather is better then. You can be sure it will be on the night of a new moon, so we can bomb away without being seen. According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, there will be a new moon from April 14 to the 18th, so get ready for some extended CNN watching that week.

There is absolutly no doubt that they are going to get us into another war, though. The power point presentation three un-named pentagon officials gave to reporters in the Green Zone on Sunday pretty much seals the deal. Last time they pulled this BS in 2002 they got Doug Feith to cook evidence up in the bowels of the pentagon and made a big public show of all the compelling "evidence" they had. This time around, not only aren't they going to provide the evidence for the public to see, they're not even going to let the media know who's actually presenting the evidence. According to the WaPo the reason given for all the secrecy was "So the explosives expert and the analyst, who would normally not speak to the news media, could provide information directly." But why did they need to be there, I don't understand.

Oh I know why, it's because when people finally get around to figuring out they've been had again, there won't be anyone around to point the finger at. If anyone says, 'hey, the intel was flawed' W.'s defenders will say, 'what intel? We never showed you any.'

I don't know why they're even bothering to go through this whole cloak and dagger extravaganza anyway. I mean, even when a direct link can be made to the Bush administration sheisters who lied their way into Iraq, no one pays for it. No one is held accountable. Douglas Feith and Dick Cheney worked day and night to make a case for war based on unsubstanciated rumors and the deluded rantings of drunken Iraqi ex-pats (Curveball) working for Ahmad Chalabi and now that it is out there and known, no one cares.

Especially, the neocons and Republicans in the Senate. David Brooks says the whole thing is a waste of time. (Why look back?) "The Armed Services Committee spends a day talking about a story about something that happened four or five years ago, about a guy, Doug Feith, who has been out of office for two years. . . It's just -- to me, this is a matter for historians, something that's been covered many times. And I think it's pretty well-established." [Newshour]

Who cares if the case for a war that's cost us a half a trillion dollars and 3,125 lives was totally made up? It's all in the past. I bet Brooks thinks the Nuremberg Trials were a waste of time, too. I mean, by the time they got around to trying the surviving Nazi leaders, they were out of office as well. At that point the US should have been thinking ahead to rebuilding Germany and fighting the Cold War.
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