Friday, August 24, 2007

Nawaz in the house!

The Dawn reports today:

"ISLAMABAD, Aug 23: In a dramatic verdict which may have far-reaching effects on the country’s political future, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the exiled Sharif brothers could come back home and asked the government not to obstruct their return ‘in any manner’.“It is declared that Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif under Article 15 of the Constitution have an inalienable right to enter and remain in country, as citizens of Pakistan.“Their return/entry into country shall not be restrained, hampered or obstructed by the Federal or Provincial Government Agencies, in any manner,” a seven-member bench of the court said in a unanimous short order announced after a day-long hearing. Reasons for the ruling will be specified in the detailed judgment to be announced later."

So, our good, good, anti-terrorism fighting friend Pervez Musharrif is in even more trouble. Our old friend and former Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif has been given the green light by the Pakistani supreme court to return from exile. (And, what is the deal with his hair? Did he just buy a truck load of Grecian Formula for Men?) The speculation is that Sharif will be enplaning for home soon, to put his hat in the ring for his old job in elections slated for the end of the year. Musharrif, had been groping around for some sort of way to get the present parliament to re-elect him as president-in-uniform, but since that's sort of unconstitutional and the supreme court is run by his nemesis, it doesn't look like that'll be happening. He has toyed with the idea of declaring a state of emergency but, so far, one threatening phone call from Condi has been enough to forestall that possibility.

That's not to say he won't actually go through with it if things really go south. The question is, will the army back him? As I've posted before at LTAD, the scuttlebutt is that the Pakistani military has about had it with him and might be thinking about sending him a gift basket of mangos. Whether the military will then make nice with Sharif in Mushariff's stead is another matter.

Although, for its part the administration claims they've been watching the developments in Pakistan closely, it doesn't really seem like they can walk and chew gum at the same time. Iraq has got them mesmerized and Condi's late night phone call to Musharrif proves that W. & Co. were asleep at the wheel. While Sharif and Benezir Bhutto, another exiled PM, have been holding talks about sharing power and the walls have been falling down around Musharrif's ears, the administration has been staunchly defending our bastard in Islamabad, who's been making a royal cock-up of the whole WOT.

Even after al-Qaeda and the Talibs living right under his nose ended the peace deal he made with them back in 2006, after the storming of the Red Mosque, he was still sending his people up to Peshawar to sue for peace with them. The only thing that's keeping Musharrif alive right now is the fact that the majority of Pakistani civil society is still in tact and democratically minded and also that al-Qaeda and the Taliban are having a tiff over whether to overthrow him or not.

Ayman Zuwahiri (yet to be smoked out) is getting nowhere trying to convince the other al-Qaeda types that they're better off without Musharrif. Apparently, Zuwahiri is of the mind that Musharrif should be assassinated, but his cohorts seem to think their friends in the Pakistani military and the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service, might think that was going too far. After all, they may be crazy but their not stupid, you don't bite hand that feeds you.

What I'm wondering about, is if the administration ever gets around to finding Bhutto's or Sharif's phone number whether either of them will go back to letting the ISI get back to business as usual, helping out the Talibs, like they did all throughout the 90's, according to newly released National Security documents.

Meet the new war debate, same as the old war debate

I don't get all this hoopla surrounding the run-up to the big Petraeus/Crocker report to Congress on September 11th: The fix is already in, isn't it? None of this matters our troops aren't coming home, it's all just noise. There is no doubt that the soldiers we have there now will be staying their full 15 month deployments and in the spring there will be another 5000 arriving to continue the Surge (of course, by then they'll probably calling it something else) and it'll just keep going on until W. is safely out of office.

We've already been through this before: If you'll recall, last December, as the Baker/Hamilton report went to the top of the best seller list and two-thirds of the American people told pollsters they disagreed with the plan to send more troops to Iraq, there was a brief moment of hope where it seemed like there might be the slightest possibility that enough of W's Republican enablers in Congress might be persuaded by the overwhelming public resistance to the Surge to join with the Democrats to stop the "War President" from sending another 700 or 800 more US soldiers to their deaths to prop up Nuri al-Maliki and his Shiite killers. But then it was all gone in a flash: The transports were already in the air and the veneer of American Democracy just looked a little shabbier.

This time around, the White House is pulling the same crap, using all its powers of bully pulpit and a compliant media to make that bloody pig look like Marilyn Monroe. To listen to W tell it., the Surge is a slam dunk and if we pull out too soon we'll be making the same mistake we made in Vietnam. And instead of just laughing this bozo out of the White House, people who should know better, just sit there and think . . . 'Hmmm. . . let's analyze this: If we pull out now, Pol Pot is going to team up with Osama Bin Laden and tens of thousands of people will die' -- as if tens of thousands of people haven't already died and 4 million Iraqis aren't refugees and a third of the population isn't without access to food, shelter and clean water -- four years after "liberation."

And just to make sure all their bets are covered, zillionaire casino magnate Sheldon G. Adelson is teaming up with Ari Fleischer (the Truth Sayer) and a host of secret money-bags to launch a media blitz in order to keep wavering Republicans, who may be thinking 'this is just to absurd for even me to take,' from jumping the good ship USS Exxon-Mobil/Halliburton/Boeing.

What a crock (er)!

Another "intelligence gap."

Just in a nick of time, the "Intelligence Community" has issued another NIE saying things aren't so hot in Iraq but -- then again -- there's been some "measurable but uneven progress" on the security front. [WaPo] Sure there was that multiple attack on the Yazidis that killed maybe 500 people a few weeks ago, but overall the "bottom up" strategy of arming our erstwhile foes is possibly the "best prospect" we have of tamping down the violence.

One teeny, tiny little fly in the ointment is that, as our new Sunni friends expel AQI, they also wind up with control of their localities and it's very unlikely they're going to turn that power over to the Shiite controlled central government once they have it. (Fiddle-dee-dee tomorrow's another day.)

As if there is any central government! "To date," the NIE says, "Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively," and things will probably become "more precarious over the next six to twelve months." But, hasn't al-Maliki and Co. already had enough time? I thought Condi had told Congress in January that al-Maliki was living on "borrowed time." We let him borrow some more? (Did he get one of those sub prime loans?)

According to Senator Craig Thomas, W. gathered a group of wavering Republicans to the White House before the surge began and, Thomas says, W. "indicated he was going to make pretty clear to what he expects from the prime minister." Thomas said Bush added that, "If [Maliki's effort] doesn't work very well there's a good chance people over there will replace him." Yet, just this past Wednesday W. said al-Maliki "is a good guy, a good man with a difficult job. . . and I support him." This coming a day after al-Maliki threatened to find "other friends" if the US yanked their support for him. [I wonder who he could be talking about. His good buddy Ahmadinejad, perhaps?]

It's no secret that al-Maliki is a paranoid freak who only listens to a small group of advisers who are thinking only of saving their own rotten hides. Khalid H. Rasheed, an adviser to Iraqi deputy pm Salam al-Zubiae, a Sunni, says "The root of the problem is related directly to the prime minister himself." Rasheed says "Sectarian-driven advisers" warn al-Maliki that the US plan of getting the Sunni insurgents to fight AQI, "is a plot to topple or overthrow the government." [AP]

Al-Maliki won't change his stripes:

The prospect of al-Maliki suddenly changing course and doing what W. "expects from the prime minister" is a pipe dream. In their brilliant analysis of the situation in Iraq, six very brave soldiers from the 82nd Airborne, pointed out in an op-ed in the NYT this Sunday that the Shiites are determined not to blow their chance of getting control of Iraq, again, like they did in the 1920's when the Ottoman Empire fell after WWI.

They write:

"The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment. [Re: Ali Sistani's rigged elections] Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. . . Political reconciliation in Iraq will . . happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers."

In other words, they're going to solve their problems the zero sum way, the same way they've been solving their problems since, oh about, 3000 BC. As NPR's Jaime Tarrabay pointed out to Terry Gross yesterday on Fresh Air (I'm paraphrasing here) we're stuck in a situation where we're groping around to make sense out of a culture that's the product of thousands of years of layers upon layers of familial, tribal, ethnic and religious traditions that we'll never be able to figure it all out.

The Surge creeps:

The intelligence community's consensus, is that if the Democrats get their way and we start reducing our foot print on the ground and go for a more Baker/Hamiltonian approach, all the "security gains achieved thus far" will be for naught. So let's say the course. Remember what happened in Vietnam!

According to a Newsweek article in the Jan. 29 issue:

"[Lt. General David Petraeus] understands that the main point of the surge is to provide just enough security on the streets of Baghdad. Then, Defense officials speaking anonymously because they are not authorized to discuss Petraeus's thinking, al-Maliki can theoretically convince Sadr to stand down his militia. If that succeeds, then the frightened Sunni population might just be persuaded to part ways with the insurgents."

It looks like we may have had a little mission creep since then. It seems the way things turned out; in order to secure the streets of Baghdad we had to make nice with the insurgents in Anbar, move thousands of troops away from Baghdad to Diyala, and elsewhere, (while the mortars rain down on the Green Zone) to play whack-a-mole with AQI, and all the while al-Sadr has been left to battle it out with Sciri down south for control of the Basra oil fields. And then there's the Kurds up north who want not only Kirkuk but also parts of the "disputed territories," which include parts of Nineveh and the northern bits of Diyala. Won't that be an interesting situation when our new friends the Sunnis turn all those guns we've given them on our old friends the Kurds? Oh, but Iraq is a democracy, don't let those "politicians in Washington" tell the Iraqis what to do.

I think Admiral Michael G. Mullen, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had it right along when he told Congress recently that without a political solution, "no amount of troops in no amount of time will make much of a difference," in Iraq.

Someone call Frederick Kagan quick, tell him we need Plan A-2!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hillary gets ready to fight the new war

What's the deal with the Dems scurrying to get onboard the Anbar Success bus? Last Monday Hillary told an audience at the VFW that, "We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Al Anbar province, it's working."

It is? Did freakin' deal; Anbar has a population of 1.33 people; Baghdad has 6.55 million. [The newshour] Chasing a few bearded jihadis out of a sparsely populated desert doesn't a ringing success make. And it doesn't prove that the Surge is suddenly working.

While we all revel in the victory of Anbar, we should keep in mind that we lost another Black Hawk down, killing 14 more soldiers yesterday (I'm so sure it was a "mechanical problems"), two Iraqi govenors have been killed in the past 10 days and while visiting politicians from Washington are able to leisurely walk the streets of Ramadi (though not so much Fallujah) . . .

AP reports:

"Suicide bombers have killed more than 2,315 Iraqis this year, according to an AP count. The tally far outpaces the January-August period last year, when 441 Iraqi deaths were blamed on suicide bombers aboard vehicles." [Isn't that how long the Surge has been going on?]

And it might be added that since we've been so successful at chasing AQI out of Diyala Province (to the north) the Madhi army and the new model Sciri, the newly dubbed Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council can get now get their war on, fighting for that sweet Basra crude, without having to worry about AQI (that's our problem now).

Hillary has bigger ones than W.

But never mind about all that. Once Hillary is in office she's made it known she's got bigger fish to fry than W.'s success in Iraq. She told the old codgers at the VFW:

"We can't be fighting the last war. We have to be preparing to fight the new war."

The new war? We're not even done with the two old ones yet? What the hell is she talking about?

It looks like if Hillary gets in it will be more of the same. W. may not have the guts to do what needs to be done in Iraq and Iran, but Hillary does.

She says, "And this new war requires different tactics and strategies." Uh huh, like more compassionate datemining and wiretapping?

She says, "Law enforcement in countries that could become havens for terrorists have to believe that American values are not just about America, but they speak to the human dignity, the God-given spark that resides in each and every person across the world." [Is that our God, or their God?]

Sounds a lot like Bush doesn't it? Maybe God will turn in the terrorists? That's the new strategy, get God on our side!

Bush says Iraq is just like Vietnam.

W. says we should have stayed the course in Vietnem:

"One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people,' 'reeducation camps' and 'killing fields.'" [The White House]

And, as if that's not ridiculous enough, he then throws the war with Japan (all of Asia, in fact) along with the kitchen sink and wraps the whole thing around the WOT. They're not too desperate are they?

"Here at home, some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price to American credibility -- but the terrorists see it differently."

Oh yes, and they also see that you said you'd smoke OBL out and that you'd bring him in "dead or alive." Whatever happened to that W? What does that do for our credibility? Bring 'em on!

Anyway, I'm glad he's finally embraced the Vietnam analogy. As usual, though, he's totally twisted that analogy. I'm not a big John Kerry fan, but he nailed-it right on the head when he said:

"Half of the soldiers whose names are on the Vietnam Memorial Wall died after the politicians knew our strategy would not work. The lesson is to change the strategy, not just to change the rhetoric."

Ted Kennedy said, "[The United States] lost the war in Vietnam because our troops were trapped in a distant country we did not understand, supporting a government that lacked sufficient legitimacy with its people." [WaPo]

I'm just kind of wondering who W.'s handlers think is going to suddenly decide that 'yeah, you know, if we had just stayed the course in Vietnem, we could have won'? Those old coots he had as a captive audience might think the soldiers who fought in Vietnam were a bunch of drug addicts and losers and the politicians (i.e. Democrats) lost the war at home, but no one else is going to swallow this tripe.

I found this line sort of interesting:

"There is no power like the power of freedom and no soldier as strong as a soldier who fights for a free future for his children."

Whose children are the soldiers dying in Iraq fighting for? Al-Maliki's? Is W. implying that they'd better get the job done quick so their kids won't have to go?

How old are the twins now anyway? If W. really believes that the "defense of freedom is worth our sacrifice" and "love of freedom is the mightiest force of history," then why isn't he sending his daughters to Iraq?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Protecting Bush from us.

The WaPo reports:

"A White House manual that came to light recently gives presidential advance staffers extensive instructions in the art of 'deterring potential protestors' from President Bush's public appearances around the country. . . The manual offers advance staffers and volunteers who help set up presidential events guidelines for assembling crowds. Those invited into a VIP section on or near the stage, for instance, must be ' extremely supportive of the Administration,' it says."

I guess, after his first inauguration he got the idea he didn't like interacting with the plebs too much. I recall his welcome to Washington wasn't so warm in either 2001 or 2004.

An article in the Inquirer from 2001 reported:

"Protesters clashed briefly with police at a few flash points, while Bush remained inside his car for most of the parade up a soggy, cold Pennsylvania Avenue. The motorcade sped up as it reached some protests, causing Secret Service agents to break into a run alongside the vehicles. At one point, police stopped the motorcade for five minutes because of the protests. A couple of protesters threw bottles before Bush's limousine arrived, and one hurled an egg that landed near the new Cadillac, which featured puncture-proof tires and six-inch-thick bulletproof glass. "


The manual also says:

"To counter any demonstrators who do get in, advance teams are told to create 'rally squads' of volunteers with large hand-held signs, placards or banners with 'favorable messages.' Squads should be placed in strategic locations and at least one squad should be 'roaming throughout the perimeter of the event to look for potential problems."

A case in point is during the second inauguration when Code Pink got in . . .

The SF reported:

"a small band of activists, including several from the Bay Area, obtained tickets to a VIP area near the U.S. Capitol and interrupted Bush's speech by standing on their chairs and shouting, 'Stop the celebration, end the occupation!' Their chant was quickly drowned out by a loud chorus of "Four More Years" from the pro-Bush crowd."

As bad as the keep the people away from Bush at all costs manual is, even talking to Cheney can get into real hopt water. messing with Cheney can get into real hot water!

Remember back in October of '06 when citizen Steven Howards was arrested by the Secret Service for daring to walk to His Darkness and telling him his poicies were "reprehensible." The Denver Post reported:

Howards told the Secret Service agent, "If Mr.Cheney wants to be shielded from criticism he should avoid public places. I closed by telling him, 'If exercising my constitutionally protected rights to free speech is against the law, you should arrest me."

And he was. Don't mess with Cheney, you'll lick if you're ever seen again!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A little comedy from Defense Link

Defense Link reports:

"WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2007 – The Iraqi government’s automated biometrics identification system -- used to screen civilian workers, police and soldiers, as well as to catch criminals -- is a “tremendous success,” a U.S. military officer said in Baghdad today. . . Army Lt. Col. John W. Velliquette Jr., who runs the fingerprint and retina scanning center located at the International Zone in Baghdad . . . [says] official identification cards carried by the Iraqi police demonstrate they’ve been vetted through the biometric identification program . . . Iraqi police who are found not to possess a proper biometrics identification card are relieved of their weapons, he said. 'The Iraqi people need to have confidence in their police,' Velliquette pointed out."

April 12 2007

"A suicide bomber on Thursday killed at least eight people, including two lawmakers, at the Iraqi parliament in the heavily protected Green Zone in Baghdad." [PBS]

The jelly fish of the 110th congress.

Pardon me if I'm mistaken, but I had the idea that after electing this new crop of anti-war Democrats in November and giving them the control of the Congress, they would do something about ending the war in Iraq. What the hell happened? For a brief moment there, the Baker/Hamiliton report was on everyone's lips and after Rummy was unceremoniously dumped it looked like we were finally on our way . . . and then . . . suddenly, there was the Surge. How did that happen?

Back in January we had 132,000 troops in Iraq, now we have 162,000 and by this spring we'll have 171,000. According to, we've lost -- from the beginning of the Surge until this moment -- 704 more troops in Iraq, and for every one of those dead add about 8 more who were wounded. The CBO predicted back in Feb. that, contrary to the White House's estimate of $5.6 billion, the Surge could wind up costing us another $20 to $27 billion if it goes on into next year, which its going to. [CNN]

And yet it goes on and on and on. The Democrats are so afraid of their own shadows, I could actually imagine seeing them fall all over each other to vote for another war resolution, this time to attack Iran, if they thought it would get them into the White House. The resolution, naturally, would have to be post dated, because W. & Co. would attack first and then ask for congressional approval. That's no problem, though, from what we've learned from this Congress, all W. has to do is say 'boo' and they'll do something like turn the fourth amendment to Al Gonzales for safe keeping. It's not such a stretch to figure they'd sign off on another war if it made them look tough on national defense.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Earthlink Sucks: Part II

Here is an addendum to my previous post about Earthlink and how much they suck.

As some of you might know, the new Wireless Philadelphia project is on the verge of expanding the "city’s leadership position in using wireless technology to meet our people’s needs and to enhance the city’s services, visitor experience and business environment," according to Mayor John Street.

The only problem is that the people of Philadelphia are paying $10 million for a crappy ass system that doesn't work outside of Center City. But who care about that, right? Who the hell is going to be able to afford a laptop in West Philly or Port Richmond? And if they complain, no one is going to listen anyway.

In any case, yet another one of my firends tried and canceled their Earthlink contract, mere moments after discovering it didn't work. And, as in my case, they took money out of their bank account, that they weren't supossed to, and kept her on the phone for three hours giving her the run-around trying to wear her down. Besides providing the shittiest ustomer service in the history of mankind, they also add insult to injury by lying their their asses off.

So, anyway, the point of this tirade is, this friend of mine told me she has a friend at WHYY, the local public radio station, who did a story on Philly's Earthlink experience and tried to get it on NPR, but they rejected it on the basis of lack of lack of 'balance.' It seems he just couldn't find anyone to say anything positive to say about Earthlink. That's not good enough for NPR though.

The next time NPR does a story on the Holocaust, they'd better provide balance by presenting the other side. I mean, there were 40 million Germans who thought Hitler was the bee's knees. And what about cancer? There are some good things cancer has done, what about that NPR? God, they're so biased!

Rolling out the new Alien and Sedition Act. Congress remains sonamulent.

The NYT on Sunday reports:

"Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include -- without court approval -- certain types of physical searches of American citizens and the collection of their business records, Democratic Congressional other officials said."

How about that? All W. & CO. had to do was run out the clock a little, start warning darkly of terrorist "chatter" and "intelligence gaps," threaten to hammer the Democrats throughout the August recess on being soft on terror and -- voila! -- the Scardicrats pee their pants, shred the fourth amendment, and put a cherry on top by turning over the protection the privacy rights of the all Americans to Alberto Gonzales.

It appears from what the NYT reports that by changing the meaning of "electronic surveillance" in the new legislation they rubber stamped before leaving DC, Congress indirectly allowed the government to "use intelligence collection methods far beyond wiretapping that previously required court approval if conducted inside the United States."

Of course, these changes might have been simply "unintended consequences" of the rush to get the legislation done before Congress got out of town and not "a purposeful effort by the administration to enhance its ability to spy on Americans," but I wouldn’t count on it.

If I recall correctly, about three seconds after 9/11, the administration had the Patriot Act all ready to go for Congress to green light. And even after Congress began to realize that they were getting blindsided everywhere they turned with new revelations about all the powers they had unintentionally given this administration, they still went ahead and renewed the law last year -- only to find out they had given away the store to W. & Co. again! Among other the things they found out this last round was that they'd given Gonzales the authority to appoint federal attorneys without having to go through the Senate.

Boy, were their faces red!

You'd think at this late date, after all the BS Gonzales has been blowing up their skirts since April, they'd be a little more judicious when it came to giving him cart blanch to spy on Americans, but no. They just rolled over, as usual.

Hell, we still don't exactly what AG was going to see John Ashcroft about on his sick bed. Was it the warrantless wiretapping program or "other intelligence activities?" And what are those "other intelligence activities?" After years of banging their heads against W.'s stonewall, Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter still don't know what they don't know. After months of demanding information on the NSA's domestic spying programs, the Senate Judiciary Committee had given the administration a firm deadline of today to cough up the documentation on the legal justifications for the warrantless eavesdropping, but at the last minute, Fred Fielding asked for more time.

Fielding is claiming that the documents the Senate Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed are "extraordinary national security information" and that the administration -- get this -- may not even have to give it to them. You know, it’s that "executive privilege" thing. According to USA Today, " Fielding asked Leahy to suspend the deadline until after Labor Day."

After all, you don't roll out a new product in August . . . What have they got planned for after Labor Day? Perhaps whatever it is will render all this silly Congressional oversight moot? Could it be the new Heimat Sicherheits Ministerium's lock-everyone-up-plan, code-named ENDGAME: The bold new inititive based on, according to a 49-page Homeland Security document: "A mission first articulated in the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798?" [See my post on this subject at The Philadelphia Aurora. History always repeats itself!]

Prison says the new plan calls for the removal of all "removable aliens [including] illegal economic migrants, aliens who have committed criminal acts, asylum-seekers (required to be retained by law) or potential terrorists." [i.e. anyone who dares question the administration's plans.]

But I digress . . .

Not that any of this new congressional outrage about being suckered again means anything anyway. Beyond the fact that they've gotten exactly nowhere on figuring out what the NSA is really up to, the administration apparently doesn't even feel it needs to follow the FISA law it rammed down Congress' throat.

Bruce Fein tells the NYT that at a meeting he and other critics of the administration's spying policies had with the DoJ, they were told the administration considered the new FISA law simply "advisory." Fein relates DoJ's opinion that: "The President can still do whatever he wants to do. They have not changed their position that the President's Article II powers trump any ability by Congress to regulate the collection of foreign intelligence." [Congress' power is enumerated in Article I]

So the administration feels that Congress is just there to advise the Unitary Executive. They can pass laws, but W. always has his "signing statements," with which he just rewrites the law. At this point, why doesn't W. just issue an executive order that says Congress can't come back in September?

If Congress is just going to allow W. & Co to ignore every law he finds inconvenient, why even bother spending all that money on a puppet theater?
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