Saturday, October 27, 2007

New war same as the old war. The Kurds get screwed every time.

George W. Bush says:

"If you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

The rhetoric has shifted again. It seems, W. & Co. are no longer simply satisfied with just keeping Iran from developing an actual weapon -- in the three to eight years it could take according to the "intelligence community" -- but the deal now is to stop them from even getting the knowledge to build a bomb. They've just lowered the bar considerably for what constitutes a reason for going to war.

And the price of oil soars.


"Crude futures rose to record levels on Friday, supported by worries over political tensions in the Middle East . . . Light, sweet crude for December delivery rose $1.40 to settle Friday at a record $91.86 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after rising overnight as high as $92.22, a new trading peak. Crude prices jumped $3.36 a barrel on Thursday. With the recent gains, the price of oil is closing in on the inflation-adjusted highs hit in early 1980. Depending on the adjustment, a $38 barrel of oil in 1980 would be worth $96 to $101 or more today. "

And as we contemplate a war with Iran, the Turks are shelling and strafing northern Iraq in what looks to be preparation for an invasion. Turkey's PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just rejected an Iraqi offer to place US troops in the Qandil Mountains to keep an eye on the PKK. Not to worry, though, top General Yasar Buyukanit says an attack isn't imminent. It seems the Turks are going to wait until after Erdogan meets with W. on Nov. 5.

That makes me feel a lot better.

Something tells me there isn't going to much W. can say to the Turks to prevent them from going ahead with a full on assault against the rebels hiding in the mountains of northern Iraq. Besides the fact that W. & Co. have done exactly nothing for the past few years about the PKK, despite numerous and heated demands by the Turks, there's also the little problem of the US encouraging the PKK's brothers on the Iranian front, the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), to keep up their insurgency against Iran. (Not to even mention the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). It's kind of hard to claim you feel the Turk's pain when you're letting the Kurds run rampant on the Iranian border.

General Patreaus and Condi talk a good game about how the Iranians are destabilizing Iraq (and now Afghanistan, too) by assisting Iraqi Shiite militias, but the Iranians have been doing that sort of thing for decades. When our good buddy the Shah was in power in the 70's, Tricky Dick and his attack dog Henry Kissinger actively supported the Kurds in their insurgency against Iraq. The then leader of Iraq Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr, had the audacity to give refuge to Ayatollah Khomeini and otherwise discomfort the Shah.

Christopher Hitchens wrote about the dirty double game Kissinger was playing with the Kurds in an article he wrote for Harpers in 1991. It seems that this story came to light thanks to a report put together by the House Select Committee on Intelligence Activities in 1976 headed by Congressman Otis Pike. The report found that Kissinger used the Kurds to help destabilize Iraq. . . but not too much.

"Documents in the Committee's possession clearly show that the President, Dr. Kissinger and the foreign head of state [the Shah] hoped that our clients [the Kurds] would not prevail. They preferred instead that the insurgents simply continue a level of hostilities sufficient to sap the resources of our ally's neighbor [Iraq]."

Sound familiar?

This is the really good part, though:

"This policy was not imparted to our clients, who were encouraged to continue fighting."

That is, continue fighting until Kissinger made a deal with the Iraqi #2 at that time, Saddam Hussein, at which point the Kurds were cut loose. Not too long after that, Saddam was given a free hand to get after the Kurds in the Anfal campaign with no interference from us, culminating in the attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988. Coincidentally, when the news of Halabja got out, W.'s daddy initially blamed the Iranians for it.

Rummy went to visit Saddam's #2 Tareq Aziz in 1983 to talk about allowing Bechtel to build the Aqaba pipeline, Rummy didn't really go out of his way to tell the Iraqis to stop gassing the Kurds. He simply mentioned that "certain things" Iraq was doing made it hard for the United States to help Iraq more in its war with Iran. These "certain things" included "chemical weapons, possible escalation in the Gulf and human rights." Those things were never addressed by Saddam but the US supported him to the hilt anyway. [GWU's National Security Archives]

So you see, all this hand wringing about the Iranians destabilizing Iraq is just slightly hypocritical. And the Kurdish problem we've got now is all about the chickens coming home to roost.

But hey, the silver lining is that the price of oil is on its way to beating the Chinese to the moon.

This has all happened before too. Remember what US ambassador to Iraq April (fool) Glaspie told Saddam on the eve of his invasion of Kuwait?

We don't have any opinion on your border disputes, but . . .

"We have many Americans who would like to see the price of oil go above $25 [about $90 in today's money] because they come from oil-producing states." [NYT via]

Wonder who she could have been talking about?

Friday, October 26, 2007

There's an Iranian under every bed!

If you listen to US Maj. General Rick Lynch these days, the Surge is working like a charm. An AP story quotes Lynch saying, "I've never been more optimistic than I am right now with the progress we've made in Iraq." US military deaths are down to 2005 levels, 1.2 a day, and for the current month civilian casualties are only running so far at about 900 (last month the number was 1,023).

And hey, AQI is on the run! Even OBL is so concerned about the sorry state of AQI these days that he's issued a communiqué imploring Sunnis to put aside their tribal traditions, to "beware of division," and join al-Qaeda in the fight against the American invader. [AP]

[Two funny things about the OBL message: The first thing that strikes me is that he apparently doesn't understand the whole Iraqi tribal system any better than we did when we went in. The second thing is that he's still out there making videos and audio messages. While things appear to be more "stable" in Iraq, which is a very relative term, Pakistan is falling apart. And guess who's sitting comfortably in a cave somewhere in Pakistan pulling all the levers waiting for the "Islamic bomb" to fall into his lap?]

Rather than the brilliance of General David Patreaus, though, there might be another reason violence is down in Iraq. Besides the fact that after a year and a half of intense ethnic cleansing, which has separated the Sunnis and Shiites into walled off ethnic enclaves ( i.e. there's no one left to kill) -- and the exodus of over four million Iraqis to Syria and Jordan -- NEWSWEEK reports that another reason things might be going so swimmingly in Iraq is, according to senior U.S. officials, "a decrease in the number of attacks attributable to insurgents backed or armed by Iran."

Why is the question. Mark Hosenball writes: "Multiple officials note that radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has close ties with Iran, recently ordered his militia to settle down. It's also possible, two U.S. officials say, that Iranian leaders are responding to diplomatic lobbying from the Iraqi government and scaling back some of their support for the insurgency."

Or it could be that they're pulling back their resources within Iranian borders to face the coming shock and awe campaign.

In any case, as Hosenball notes, this development sort of flies in the face of the administration's war rhetoric that Iran is interfering in Iraq to such a level that W. can pretty much blame them for everything that goes wrong in Iraq.

What's the next excuse? Ahmadinejad's bad breath is a WMD?

Hillary has got ones made of brass, you can trust her to do the right thing in Iran. After it's too late.

Reuters reports:

"The United States slapped new sanctions on Iran and accused its Revolutionary Guard of spreading weapons of mass destruction on Thursday . . . Also labeling Iran's Qods military force a supporter of terrorism, Washington imposed sanctions on more than 20 Iranian companies, banks and individuals as well as the defense ministry, hoping to increase pressure on Tehran to stop uranium enrichment and curb its 'terrorist' activities. "

Well, he's gone and one it. W. is on a mission and he's a man of conviction: As he told the American legionaries:

"Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. And that is why the United States is rallying friends and allies around the world to isolate the regime, to impose economic sanctions. We will confront this danger before it is too late."

The Senate resolution Hillary is so proud of voting for, designating the Guards a terrorist organization, has given W. the go-ahead he needed to levy these sanctions against Iran's military. [Which not an act of war at all, right?]

While the rest of us anti-war types and the most of the world are pretty much convinced these sanctions are a precursor to a military strike or, at the very least, a ploy aimed at goading the Iranians into doing something stupid so we can clobber them; to hear Nick Burns tell it, the United States is actually offering an olive branch to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He claims, "This decision today supports diplomacy, and in no way, shape or form does it anticipate force." Right, you just keep on telling yourself that Nick -- we've been there, done that, and only a fool would buy the snake oil W. & Co. are selling this time around.

Well, a fool or . . . a cynical politician, perhaps?

Hillary, for example, is all for these sanctions. In response the news of the administration’s actions, Hillary said: "We must work to check Iran's nuclear ambitions and its support of terrorism, and the sanctions announced today strengthen America's diplomatic hand in that regard."

How Hillary? How exactly does sanctioning the Iranian military strengthen our diplomatic hand? They've got oil money coming out of their ears, they're not hurting. And the Russians are more than happy to provide anything the Iranian's little hearts could possibly desire. The sanctions aren't going to prevent the Russians from making a buck or two (or a billion) off the next war. Even as we speak, the Russians are rushing as many weapons and as much materiel as the roads can bare down to Tehran in anticipation of the US using force

Hillary isn't stupid, surely she must know the sanctions on the Guards and the Quds are a shot across the bow rather than any type of useful diplomatic tool. When she says W. should use this "opportunity" to engage the Iranians in "robust diplomacy" while, naturally, "also averting military action" she is clearly lying through her teeth.

She's anticipating inheriting a war with Iran after her coronation, so she wants to be able to hit the ground running having already established the fact that she was the most bloodthirsty Democratic candidate going into the war.

While all the other Democrats were wasting their time trying to prevent the coming disaster she was the only "centrist" speaking out about the threat to Israel. Cha-ching.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Global Warming report "eviserated?" The problem with the "Science."

Two days ago the NYT reported:

"The White House significantly edited testimony prepared for a Senate hearing on the impact of climate change on health, deleting key portions citing diseases that could flourish in a warmer climate, documents obtained by the Associated Press showed Wednesday. The White House on Wednesday denied that it had 'watered down' the congressional testimony that Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had given the day before to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. But a draft of the testimony submitted for White House review shows that six pages of details about specific disease and other health problems that might flourish if the Earth warms were not delivered at the hearing. "

Today, AP reports that Gerberding says "I was absolutely happy with my testimony in Congress. I don't let people put words in my mouth, and I stand for science."

Of course, we all know that's a load of hooyee, because if she really stood for science she would have never gotten the job in the first place. It's been pretty well established by now that this administration makes its own reality.

White House press secretary Dana Perino says some parts of the draft were deleted because they didn't "comport with the science" of a UN report on the effects of global warming on the rise of infectious diseases.

One of the deleted parts of the reports said : "Climate change-driven ecological changes such as variations in rainfall and temperature could significantly alter the range, seasonality and human incident of many zoonotic and vector-borne diseases."

A 2005 United Nations Environment Programme press release states:

"Scientists are linking a rise in new and previously suppressed infectious diseases with the dramatic environmental changes now sweeping the planet. Loss of forests, road and dam building, the spread of cities, the clearing of natural habitats for agriculture, mining and the pollution of coastal waters are promoting conditions under which new and old pathogens can thrive. . . Today the changing pattern of infectious diseases is as much due to environmental change as to trade, travel, migration and social conditions."

Now who would know better about something like this, W. and his gut feelings or or stuffy old UN scientists? Your life may depend on the answer.

Chang'e versus Space Jalopy.

The WaPo reports:

"China sent a satellite rocketing toward lunar orbit yesterday, the latest step in an ambitious national program to put more astronauts in space, build a space station, and eventually land Chinese astronauts on the moon. The satellite, called Chang'e after a goddess who flew to the moon in Chinese legend, was launched atop a Long March 3A rocket that lifted off at 6:05 p.m. local time (6:05 a.m. in Philadelphia) from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province in central China. The China National Space Administration said Chang'e was due to enter a lunar orbit Nov. 5 and send back images and analyses of the moon's surface for about a year. "

Meanwhile, back on the Space Jalopy:

AP reports:

" Discovery's astronauts used lasers and digital cameras yesterday to examine the shuttle's wings for any signs of launch damage as they headed toward a docking this morning with the International Space Station. . . NASA wants to make sure that none of the protective coating has chipped away and that nothing else is wrong with the reinforced-carbon panels, before bringing Discovery home. The three space station residents also will snap hundreds of digital pictures of Discovery as the shuttle makes its final approach for today's docking. The shuttle will do a slow-motion backflip, exposing its belly. "

Now what's more impressive, the Chinese sending a satellite to the moon or the Space Jalopy doing backflips to see if it's in good enough shape to return to earth without blowning up?

This is another proud moment in the annals of US space exploration. We're so close to Mars right now I can smell it.

Michael Griffin weighs in on protecting corporate profits:

As far as the $8.5 million NASA pilot survey goes. . . NASA administrator Michael Griffin says he disagrees with Thomas S. Luedtke's, his associate administrator, stated reason for keeping an aviation safety survey a secret (and, by the way, trying to have it shreaded before anyone could see it). [see previous post]

Griffin said:

"This rationale was based on case law, but I do not agree with the way it was written. I regret the impression that NASA was in any way trying to put commercial interests ahead of public safety. That was not and will never be the case."


Just because Luedtke says the release of the survey could "materially affect the public confidence in, and the commercial welfare of, the air carriers and general aviation companies," that shouldn't leave anyone with the idea that NASA is covering anything up to protect corporations friendly to the administration. Heaven forfend!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Here we go again, more NASA follies.

It turns out that during the Clinton administration NASA began an air safety survey, known as the National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service, which was tasked with studying ways to reduce fatal air crashes by 80% by the year 2007. According to the Associated Press, which has spent the last 14 months wrangling with NASA to get hold of the data collected by the survey through a FIA request, NASA was on the verge of purging every bit of data collected without ever making any of it public when a House committee got wind of what was going on and ordered them not to.

Now why would NASA want to press the delete button on a file it spent years putting together, without ever letting it see the light of day? NASA's associate administrator, Thomas S. Luedtke, in a letter denying the AP's FIA request, explained: "Release of the requested data, which are sensitive and safety-related, could materially affect public confidence in, and the commercial welfare of, the air-carriers and general-aviation companies whose pilots participated in the survey."

In other words, 'whadda' crazy? If people knew how damned dangerous air travel was, it could endanger the air-carrier's profits.' (The business of the government, after all, is business, isn't it?) Indeed, the average air traveler doesn't need to know that pilots "reported twice as many bird strikes, near mid-air collisions and runway incursions as other government monitoring systems."

Is that a problem? Not really. The FAA disputes NASA's methodology, naturally, and AP reports the FAA assures everyone that it is "confident it can identify safety problems before they lead to accidents." I know I feel better. No need to look too closely at what NASA came up with.

Besides, NASA has bigger fish to fry. NASA shelved the survey a while back, AP reports, so they could divert more funds into "sending astronauts to the moon and Mars." That's W.'s big contribution to the knowledge of all mankind, sending the most technically advanced government agency the world has every seen -- the agency that put a man on the moon in less than ten years -- off on a wild goose chase to find pie in the sky. Better that than sticking its nose into places it doesn't belong like scaring everybody about global warming and the safety -- or lack thereof -- of air travel.

Isn't this just so typical of everything the government does nowadays? Newt Gingrich is right, government just doesn't work. Especially when you systematically dismantle every agency involved in protecting the public and place corporate flunkies and political hacks at the head of them. Of course, everyone knows the private sector can do anything the government can ten times better. Anyone who has ever worked for a big corporation knows that.

Has anyone who buys this business-can-do-no-wrong clap trap ever looked at what goes on every day at their job and extrapolated that to the services the government provides, the services they take for granted every day? Do you really want your boss -- or even worse, his boss -- running the FAA or the EPA? Imagine your boss in charge of the pentagon. [Well that's pretty much what we got with Rummy, I guess.] I know I don't want my physical safety placed in the hands of some jackass armed only with all the education an MBA gives you. 'Sure, I understand your house is burning down, but it’s the end of the quarter and I've got to push sales. Have you got a garden hose? Someone just broke into your house? Well, we're over budget this month, go buy a gun.'

NASA's very bad year

I've got to say, NASA is not having a good year. First there was the astronaut diaper debacle and then there was the drunken astronauts’ story and now this. What an embarrassment. Gus Grissom must be rolling in his grave.

What a shame that the same agency that brought us the likes of Neil Armstrong and the Mercury astronauts, guys with the right stuff like Deke Slayton and Al Shepard - real American heroes -- have been reduced to holding water for George W. Bush and his moneyed friends.

What can you say about a space agency that can't get into space without the help of the Russians in most of the time? The RUSSIANS! These are the same people who routinely erased all evidence of the existence of their Cosmonauts every time one of them crashed into Kazakhstan. These are the same people who brought us that orbiting deathtrap MIR, which was always either on fire or crashing into its re-supply ships. Now, when we can actually get one of our clunky space trucks into space, our astronauts spend the entire time they're hurtling around Earth trying to figure out if they're going to be able to get back without blowing up. And when one does, we have to rely on the freakin' Russians to do the job for us. We went to the MOON damn it, what the hell happened?

Now, even the Japanese are orbiting satellites around the moon and the Chinese, for Christ sake, are working on putting a man on the moon, and here is NASA; the butt of every diaper joke. Just pathetic.

Special note: NASA's IG is in hot water at the House Committee on Science and Technology:

"In November 2006, the House Science and Technology Committee began work to obtain a report from the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency (PCIE) investigation of NASA’s Inspector General, Robert 'Moose' Cobb. Members made the request after allegations of Cobb’s misconduct were made in November 2005. . .

The PCIE report found that Cobb abused his authority by creating a hostile work environment and appeared to lack independence in his relationships with top NASA officials, and in his review of staff’s work. The Integrity Committee of the PCIE further felt that NASA Administrator Michael Griffin’s proposed course of action for Cobb was inadequate to address his conduct. The Committee “further believed that disciplinary action up to and including removal, could be appropriate.

'Chairman Miller and Senator Nelson and I agree that NASA is poorly served by an Inspector General who is not perceived as being completely independent,' Gordon said. 'If whistleblowers and the Inspector General’s own staff do not feel that they can trust him or work with him, he cannot possibly be effective. NASA and the nation deserve better.'"

The news just gets better and better.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dick Cheney and Hillary are ready for World War III: Are you?

To paraphrase Daniel Ellsberg from the documentary on the Vietnam War Hearts and Minds: 'It is to the credit of the American people that their leaders perceived that they had to lie about what they were doing in Vietnam. That they found it so easy to lie about what they were doing, however, is not'

Yesterday in Leesburg, Va, at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, Dick Cheney did a slight reprise of his August 26, 2002 speech at the VFW convention in Nashville, when he kicked off the new War Product Year by declaring, "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."

Basically, what his speech writer did this time around was freshen up that 2002 speech by deleting the word "Saddam" and changing the "q" to an "n."

Last time around it was Saddam who, with an "arsenal of these weapons of terror, and seated atop ten percent of the world's oil reserves . . . [would] seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world's energy supplies, directly threaten America's friends throughout the region, and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail."

Now, according to the AP: "Cheney said the ultimate goal of the Iranian leadership is to establish itself as the hegemonic force in the Middle East and undermine a free Shiite-majority Iraq as a rival for influence in the Muslim world."

See? You knock one mole down, another pops up.

Although nowadays, lots of people, including the "Intelligence community," think Iran is, at least, 5 to 10 years away from having a nuke. . . Cheney had (and has) an answer to that:

"Intelligence is an uncertain business, even in the best of circumstances. . . America's top intelligence analysts would come to my office in the Defense Department and tell me that Saddam Hussein was at least five or perhaps even 10 years away from having a nuclear weapon. After the war we learned that he had been much closer than that, perhaps within a year of acquiring such a weapon."

So, who really knows how close they are? Better to err on the side of safety and "impose serious consequences."

Don't be fooled! What the Iranians are doing is practicing "delay and deceit in an obvious effort to buy time."

Just like Saddam.

Back in 2002 those opposed to going to war in Iraq thought that perhaps we might send inspectors in first to see if Saddam actually had any WMD.

Well, that was clearly a crazy idea. Cheney explained to all those lame-brains back then: "What he wants is time and more time to husband his resources, to invest in his ongoing chemical and biological weapons programs, and to gain possession of nuclear arms."

And what about the argument that attacking Iran could possibly rally all those Iranians opposed to Ahmadinejad to the side of the Regime?

Cheney: "Middle East expert Professor Fouad Ajami predicts that after liberation, the streets in Basra and Baghdad are 'sure to erupt in joy in the same way the throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans.' Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of Jihad. Moderates throughout the region would take heart. And our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced, just as it was following the liberation of Kuwait in 1991."

And it all worked out just like he said it would. Now who are you going to believe, those Ahmadinejad-lovers like Zinni and Abizaid, for instance, or are we going to believe Dick Cheney and George W. Bush?

As Cheney said on August 26, 2002:

"In the face of such a threat, we must proceed with care, deliberation, and consultation with our allies. I know our president very well. . . I know that he will proceed cautiously and deliberately to consider all possible options to deal with the threat that an Iraq [or Iran] ruled by Saddam Hussein [Amadinejad] represents. And I am confident that he will, as he has said he would, consult widely with the Congress and with our friends and allies before deciding upon a course of action."

And most importantly, "He welcomes the debate that has now been joined here at home, and he has made it clear to his national security team that he wants us to participate fully in the hearings that will be held in Congress next month on this vitally important issue."

Yes, and like that great "debate" that went on in Congress over authorizing W. to wage war in Iraq, you can be sure that those that voted for war then will think twice this time.

Like Hillary, for example. Just because she just voted for that little resolution calling the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization, this time around she says, even though she supports a "robust diplomacy" against Iran [someone at AIPAC is smiling], W. shouldn't get the impression the "the 2001 resolution authorizing force after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in any way, authorizes force against Iran. If the administration believes that any use of force against Iran is necessary, the President must come to Congress to seek that authority."

Right, but he might just use that resolution you voted as a Causus Belli just like he did last time.

Time to fight the "next war," huh Hillary?
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