Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bush: History is complex.

AP Reports:

"JERUSALEM - A teary-eyed President Bush stopped in front of an aerial photo of Auschwitz on Friday at Israel's Holocaust memorial and said the U.S. should have sent bombers to prevent the extermination of Jews there. . . Upon viewing an aerial shot of Auschwitz, taken during the war by U.S. forces, he said Bush called the decision not to bomb it 'complex.' [Most things are "complex" to W.]

He then called over Rice to discuss President Franklin D. Roosevelt's decision, clearly pondering the options before rendering an opinion of his own, Shalev told The Associated Press. Shalev quoted Bush as asking Rice, 'Why didn't Roosevelt bomb it?' He said Rice and Bush discussed the matter further and then the president delivered his verdict. 'We should have bombed it,' Shalev, speaking in Hebrew, quoted Bush as saying."

You know it's never good to get W. into a discussion about history. Whacky stiff like this is usually what ensues. I love the bit bit about W. having to ask his old teacher Condi to tell him why FDR didn't bomb the railroad tracks leading to Auschwitz. This question, apparently, had never occurred to him before, so he needed someone like the "brilliant" Dr. Rice to explain it to him. Beautiful!

The idea behind strategic bombing is to end the enemy's ability to make war. Back in 1944, before the advent of "smart bombs," our bombers weren't able to hit targets with anything nearing pin point accuracy. As an article about the Air War in WWII points out: "The target had to be large enough to hit. Small cities or factories in the forests were extremely hard to bomb from high altitude. Big bombers flew high when it was discovered the risk from flak was near 100% at 8,000 feet, but 'only' 25% at 20,000 feet."

Diverting resources to go after a relatively small target like Auschwitz would not have only risked American lives but would also have had little chance of stopping the flow of prisoners to the camp for long. The Germans were very good at repairing railroad tracks very quickly. And it's easy for others to say the camp itself should have been bombed, but what American president would have given the order to kill perhaps thousands of Jews? And if we had gone after Auschwitz then the question would have been, why aren't we doing the same at Chelmno or Majdanek, for example?

The real question W. should be asking is what about the Monowitz facilities next to Auschwitz and who owned them. Good old IG Farben, who made Zyclon B, the gas that killed the Jews, is still alive and well.

Follow the money W.!

Friday, January 11, 2008

REAL ID, really Big Brother.

According to the AP, congressional staffers were briefed by DHS yesterday on the agency's new rules for the REAL ID driver's license that everyone born after Dec. 1 1964 will have to have by 2014 to be able to enter a Federal building or board a plane.

The new rules stem from the REAL ID Act of 2005 which is "designed to make it harder for terrorists, illegal immigrants and con artists to obtain government-issued identification," AP reports. Naturally, because if every good American has a national ID card, only the terrorists and illegal immigrants, who are basically the same thing, won't have one. Michael Chertoff says "this is a win-win. As long as people use driver's licenses to identify themselves for whatever reason, there's no reason those licenses to be easily counterfeited or tampered with." Yeah, that makes sense. [That "for whatever reason" line, though, is a bit ominous.]

What I don't understand is what people who don't drive are supposed to do. It seems that little by little, the number of things most Americans used to take for granted they had a right to do, regardless of economic status, without showing ID every single time are quickly dwindling. Even the franchise, which I thought is pretty much a fundamental right enshrined in the constitution, is no longer assured without providing ID.

Not to worry, though, states that have balked at the cost of these new rules have been assured by Chertoff that these new procedures "will be inexpensive, reasonable to implement, and produce results." DHS has scaled down the cost from $14.6 billion to just $3.9 billion for the states. Whatever happened to all the "state's rights" types in the Republican Party who scream bloody murder every time the federal government threatens the sovereignty of the several states?

I guess abortion and voting rights are the only things they're really concerned with after all. When it comes to the feds horning in on a state's right to issue a driver's license, to basically dictate what the state can and can't do.

The ACLU points out that:

"Real ID is a federal takeover of the state DMVs. The regulations dictate details of DMV operations in a range of areas. Everything from the color of the card background to the fonts used on the card’s face must conform to the federal standard, requiring states to overhaul their systems completely."

But the state's rights-types are perfectly OK with it as long as it's not too expensive.

What we're talking about here is the federal government saying you can't drive, travel or even enter a federal building -- something that you've paid for with your taxes -- without a national ID card. Sounds kind of like NAZI Germany where you couldn't even walk down the street without having a cop come up to you and ask "where are your papers?"

The scariest thing about these news cards is that the states will be sharing all your personal information with any number of federal agencies. No potential there for abuse! My God, you want the same government that brought you FEMA to be compiling all you information into one national ID? I read today that the FBI got their domestic spying wire-taps cut off because they couldn't pay their phone bill. How many different federal agencies have lost the SS#'s of millions of Americans in the past few years? Do you really want to trust these bozos to secure all your most vital information?

Instead of worrying about an illegal immigrant voting or a terrorist getting his hands on a driver's license, we should be worrying about a terrorist or a hostile country getting their hands on the personal information of every American, thoughtfully provided by the REAL ID Act.

A lot of older folks worry about someone getting their SS# if they buy something on the internet or go to the trouble of tearing up their credit card receipts before they throw them in the trash, but in today's world of global banking and the internet, why would any crook bother going through someone's trash when they can cull zillions of bits of information simply hacking into a bank's computer system or the Social Security Administrations?

It would appear the government is aware of this as well, they're not as stupid as they let on. The more cynical of us out there might conclude the real reason behind this push to burden every American with the yoke of a national ID card has more to do with controlling our every movement.

You want to travel; they know where you're going. You want to rent an apartment, buy a house, a big screen TV, some fixing for dinner down at the local super market, vote? Got your READ ID? No? Sorry you're out of luck.

And why even bother with such a bulky thing such as a card? It could get damaged, lost, or stolen. What about we just inject a microchip into everyone's finger, say? We already do it for our pets and some really stupid people even Lo-Jack their kids, why not make everyone get one? Talk about convenience!

Don't make everyone wait at a checkout line while your fumble for your cash or fast cash card, just swipe the microchip reader with your finger! Such a card could even monitor your cholesterol level and let you know if you're about to have a heart attack. Naturally, the government would know your every movement, even what your blood pressure is, but if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to worry about, right?

Published in the Inquirer Letter's to the Editor section 1/18/07

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Operation Phantom Enemy:

AP reports:

"ZAMBARANIYAH, Iraq - U.S. bombers and jet fighters unleashed 40,000 pounds of explosives on the southern outskirts of Baghdad within 10 minutes Thursday in one of the biggest airstrikes of the war, flattening what the military called safe havens for al-Qaida in Iraq
. . . Maj. Alayne Conway, a spokeswoman for troops in the Multi-National Division-Center, which controls the broad swath of territory south of Baghdad, said the amount of ordnance dropped in 10 minutes nearly exceeded what had been dropped in that region in any month since the U.S. military surge began in earnest in June 2007. . . The attack came a day after the U.S. military reported that nine American soldiers were killed north of the capital in the first two days of a new offensive."

For all of this ordinance dropped what did the US tax payer get?

"[The] attack that led to 12 arrests and the discovery of two houses used to torture kidnap victims, according to an Iraqi army officer. He said the troops faced no resistance."

Of course, there was no resisitance, no one was there. Except for the poor bastards who may or may not have been unlucky enough to have been under our B-1s and F-16's. Oddly, there's no mention of any "collateral damage" at all in this story. That's a lot of ordinance not to have killed anyone.

This operation was part of a larger overall operation to go after al-Qaeda all over Iraq, focusing mainly in Diyala province, specifically the capital Baquba, which is where I thought we had routed AQI back in June.

Anyone remember Operation Arrowhead Ripper? Back then we swooped into Baquba and after shaking and baking half the city, victory was declared.

The NYT reported on June 18:

"Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim al-Rubaie, the Iraqi commander of operation in Diyala, said the coalition and Iraqi forces had made significant advances during the recent large-scale operation to clear al-Qaeda from Baqubah. 'Life has gradually started to go back to normality in these areas, and residents are happy with the military operations."

Yes clearly, that's why we're back again. The problem is, despite Gen. Odierno's boast that "We are beyond a surge of forces, and we are now into a surge of operations," AQI skipped out of Baquba days before we even got there.

Odierno said: "I think that they knew an operation was coming in Baquba. They watched the news. They understood we had a surge." [See, it's the media's fault] Odierno predicted 80% of AQI escaped before the battle even bagan: "They always do this,” Lt Odierno said. “They don't stay and fight.” []

Some things never change:

Just as AQI militants moved from Anbar to Diyala in June, now they're moving ahead of our attacks up to Salahuddin from Diyala. Again they seem to always know where we'll be. Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling said yesterday: "Operational security in Iraq is a problem. I'm sure there is active leaking of communication."

From whom I wonder? Our good buddies the Awakening Councils perhaps?

Pax Patraeus and Iraqi Solutions:

You know, it seemed like when W. was telling the insurgents to "bring 'em on," all insurgents were considered "terrorists." There was no distinction between AQI and any of the other groups. Now since the advent of Pax Patraeus, we're willing to pick and choose who is and is not a terrorist.

Who exaclty is winning here? Thomas Ricks and Karen deYoung have an interesting article today which kind of points out that Gen. Patraeus and Ryan Crocker are pretty much willing to do business with anyone who will get us out of this mess.

The new emphasis on "Iraqi solutions" is basically us throwing in the towel.

They write:

"For some observers, the approach indicates a new realism in Washington, a recognition that long years of grandiose plans drawn from U.S. templates have not worked in Iraq. But others charge that the phrase 'Iraqi solutions' implies a cynical U.S. willingness to turn a blind eye to sectarianism, political violence and a wealth of papered-over problems -- if that is the price of getting the United States out of Iraq."

Hell, not only are we willng to talk to the guys who were planting all the those IEDs a year ago but Patraeus says he'll even talk to the Mahdi Army!

"'Politically, realistically, representatives of . . . Sadr are important,' said Paul Folmsbee, a Foreign Service officer who heads the U.S. civilian-military reconstruction team in Baghdad's Sadr City. 'There's an office called the Office of the Moqtada al-Sadr, and they also provide many services to the population, and so we work with them.' That includes working with Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, elements of which are fighting U.S. forces elsewhere, Folmsbee told reporters last month."

Patraeus told NEWSWEEK this week:

"If we could sit down across the table with insurgents who were shooting at us—like we did in the late spring and summer, [with] Sunni Arab insurgents—we figured we could at least give Jaish al-Mahdi a chance. Now, having said that, once an element or an individual violates that ceasefire, obviously they're criminals and they have to be dealt with by Iraqi or Coalition forces, or together, more likely."

Keep in the mind this is the same Jaish al-Mahdi who are finding their own "Iraqi solution" in Basra by killing women.

The BBC:

"Many residents told the BBC that militias have tightened their grip in Basra since the last British troops pulled out of the city in September, after months of relentless attacks.
They accuse Shia militias, including the Mehdi army of Moqtada Sadr, of a campaign of intimidation and violence, particularly against women. Mafia-style turf battles bring further bloodshed, partly competing for a slice of the oil revenues flowing through the city. More than 40 women have been killed in the past few months, according to Basra's police chief - most shot dead by unidentified gunmen. Extremists linked with militias are widely blamed."

We're not caring so much about that these days, though.

What the Surge is all about: We're not playing their game anymore -- or are we?

Dave Kilcullen wrote back in June on the "surge of operations" in Baquba:

"For professional counterinsurgency operators such as our SWJ community, the thing to understand at this point is the intention and concept behind current ops in Iraq: if you grasp this, you can tell for yourself how the operations are going."

Thanks Dave, try to explain it slowly, after all, I'm not in the SWJ communty.

Kilcullen writes of the insurgent, or AlQaeda type or whoever it is this week we're fighting:

"We can drive him off from the population, then introduce local security forces, population control, and economic and political development, and thereby 'hard-wire' the enemy out of the environment, preventing his return [that sure worked in Baquba!]. But chasing enemy cells around the countryside is not only a waste of time, it is precisely the sort of action he wants to provoke us into [my italics]. That’s why AQ cells leaving an area are not the main game—they are a distraction. We played the enemy’s game for too long: not any more. Now it is time for him to play our game." [SWJ]

So why are we chasing AQI all over the place again? Not being in the SWJ community, obviously, I need things explained to me, I'm kind of confused because General Odierno explained that the objective of Operation Phanom Phoenix was:

"Working closely with the Iraqi Security Forces, we will continue to pursue al-Qaida and other extremists wherever they attempt to take sanctuary. Iraqi citizens continue to reject extremist elements. We are determined not to allow these brutal elements to have respite anywhere in Iraq." [UPI]

Isn't that playing "his" game?

Kilcullen writes:

"The enemy is fluid, but the population is fixed. (The enemy is fluid because he has no permanent installations he needs to defend, and can always run away to fight another day. But the population is fixed, because people are tied to their homes, businesses, farms, tribal areas, relatives etc). Therefore—and this is the major change in our strategy this year—protecting and controlling the population is do-able, but destroying the enemy is not.."

Hence the fourty thousand tons of ordinance on top of Zambaraniyah?

Sounds like the enemy isn't the only thing that's fluid.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The road to peace leads through Tehran? Bush in the Middle East:

News Item:

"U.S. President George W. Bush arrived in Israel Wednesday as part of a nine-day visit to the region to boost stalled Mideast peace talks. . . 'We seek lasting peace. We see a new opportunity for peace here in the holy land and for freedom across the region,' said Bush while standing on the airport tarmac. 'We will discuss our deep desire for security and freedom and for peace throughout the Middle East.'" [CBC.CA]

W. and Condi are off on the first leg of their awesome adventure to the Middle East; first stop Israel. W.'s selling the story that he's confident Israel and the Palestinians will have come to some sort settlement for the creation of a Palestinian state by the time he leaves office, "I'm an optimistic guy," W. says. Ha!

As I remember it, he was also an optimistic guy when it came to the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, the spread of democracy throughout the Middle East, the elections in the PA in 2006 that put Hamas into power and the outcome of the mid-terms in November 2006; just to name of few famous predictions from the Decider that went horribly wrong.

W. & Co. seems to think all he has to do is say some optimistic sounding stuff and --voilà -- a new reality is created. Sure, he's done precisely nothing about the Arab/Israeli conflict the past seven years -- beyond giving Israel carte blanch to do whatever they feel like doing and re-arming them when they shot their wad in Lebanon -- but now with just over a year to go in office, just because W. says so, everybody in the region is just going to fall into line and accept whatever Israel wants.

In return for selling the Palestinians out, however, the U.S. will assure that all the Sunni oil monarchies and authoritarian regimes in the region that they will be protected from the emerging Shiite threat posed by Iran with tons of U.S. arms and boat-loads of borrowed money.

Such a deal!

[Perhaps, King Abdullah will wall paper one of his new palaces with all those worthless greenbacks.]

W.'s arrival in the Middle East is the follow-up to that big meeting in Annapolis six weeks ago which was initially hyped as a ground breaking initiative that was going reanimate the fossilized remains of the "road map" and usher in a new era of peace, which would in turn would secure W.'s legacy as the great peace maker (or some such drivel). As a hint of how unpromising the prospects of any such thing actually coming to fruition were, before he even arrived, Ehud Olmert played down any expectations of anything positive occurring saying that just showing up would be a major achievement.

Of course, even that wasn't true. In the event, besides the photo-ops and W. mangling Olmert's and Abbas' names, all that came out of this elaborate hoax was a vague promise by Abbas and Olmert to keep talking. In effect, what resulted was the status quo: Abbas keeps flailing and Olmert keeps building settlements. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

The real story of the Annapolis meeting was the so-called memorandum of agreement, a deal made via video conference (totally under the radar), between W. and Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki to set up a process for the final disposition of the role of US forces in Iraq. By summer, as we withdraw a token amount of troops, we and the Iraqis will be codifying our legal status to stay in Iraq for decades to come. Naturally, unlike similar Status of Forces Agreements Congress this time will have no say in ratifying any such far ranging agreement that will lock this country, and whoever becomes president in 2008, into an open-ended commitment of blood and treasure to Iraq.

But, we're over Iraq, that's yesterday's news.

All eyes now are on the threat of Iran, the one thing the Arabs and Israelis can all agree on. If you listen to today's press conference in Israel most of what anyone wanted to talk about was Iran. The Iranians seem to have figured this out as well; they can read the writing on the wall.

The "incident" in the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday between a few Revolutionary Guards fast-boats and three U.S. Navy warships seemed aimed at making the point to the rich oil Sheikhs in the region that Iran could really mess with the life-style they've become accustomed to if they throw in too eagerly with the U.S. ahead of W.'s grant arrival in their capitals.

Ironically, the revelation by the most recent NIE that Iran gave up their nuclear weapons program in 2003 has not only cut the legs out of Cheney's war plans, but it has also allowed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's opponents to become more bold. As the reality has set in that the Bush administration hasn't got a leg to stand on when it comes to threatening Tehran with either bombs or sanctions, Ahmadinejad has lost his best weapon to cow his more moderate detractors, the ones who favor a more nuanced and less belligerent approach to the West.

The Revolutionary Guards faction, who Ahmadinejad is a part of, apparently sensing this ebbing of their power, are attempting to ramp up the fear and regain their status, the best thing we could do is not allow ourselves to get suckered into some shooting incident in the Strait that could reinvigorate the whacko wing of the Iranian political labyrinth.

Of course, another more serious incident in the Strait is just the sort of thing the whacko wing of in this country, centered within the Veep's office, would love see happen. While Cheney & Co. probably hammered away about the threat of Iran's nukes before W. left, something tells me Olmert has prepared a pretty impressive power-point presentation for W. in Israel showing what the US intelligence community got wrong and what the Mossad got right.

Real men want to go to Tehran:

To me, this entire exercise W. & Co. are engaging in is laying the ground work for some sort of military adventure against Iran. He'll wrap up his charm offensive in the West Bank and then move on to Egypt with the check-book open, overlook his worries about how quickly a civilian nuclear program can be turned into a weapon's program, give Mubarak a fast track to a meeting at the IAEA -- say nothing about Ayman Nour, of course -- move on to the Saudis and assure them of our continued support for their fellow Sunni "concerned citizens" brigades in Iraq and then on to the Gulf States to promise the protection of the 5th Fleet no matter what happens and beg them to cling to the petro-dollar, despite the hole its burning in their pockets.

Once he's got all his ducks in a row he'll bide his time until probably the very second an new president is elected and then leave whoever it is with a big fat war to deal with as he skates out the door to do some brush clearing at the ranch and raise some more money for his presidential "lie-brary."


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

More progress in Iraq

The US military, with their Iraqi partners, have launched another "major operation" all over the country to root out al-Qaeda. AP reports Operation "Phantom Phoenix" is a mission "hoping to build on a recent reduction of violence and push militants from their strongholds." Our old friend Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno says US and Iraqi forces will "continue to pursue al-Qaida and other extremists wherever they attempt to take sanctuary."

It seems you can chase them out of a stronghold, but you can't stop them from moving to another and anopther and another. Even with the assistance of our new buddies those concerned citizens the "awakening councils."

If fact, the past few days or so, the Awakening Councils have been taking it on the jaw. yesterday alone, there were 10 bombings aimed at them all over the country.


"On Monday, a double suicide bombing in Baghdad's northern Azamiyah district killed 12 people and wounded 28, including former police Col. Riyadh al-Samarrai, a key leader of the local awakening group. That attack came days after Osama bin Laden condemned the new American allies in an audiotape released Dec. 29, and said they would 'suffer in life and in the afterlife.'"

Osama Bin Laden? Wasn't W. going to bring him in "dead or alive" about 7 years ago? What the hell happened?

In "You're safer now" news, the CAP gap:

"The grounding of hundreds of F-15s because of dangerous structural defects is straining the nation's air-defense network, forcing some states to rely on their neighbors' fighter jets for protection, and Alaska to depend on the Canadian military." [AP]

And even better than that . . .

"For three weeks in November, Canadian CF-18s filled in for the F-15s over Alaska. Several times, the Canadian fighters scrambled to "do an identification" of Russian bombers flying exercises outside U.S. airspace near Alaska, said Maj. Mike Lagace, a Canadian military spokesman for NORAD. "

The Knucks are protecintg us from the Russians!

Defensetech reports:

"F-15 models A through D -- a total of 442 planes -- were ordered grounded by Air Combat Command,Langley Air Force Base, Va., late on Nov. 27, ACC spokesman Maj. Thomas Crosson said in an interview. The latest problem is with cracks in the planes' metal support beams, called longerons, that run the length of the aircraft, and make up the sill on which the canopy sits, Crosson told"

Nice, your tax dollars at work!
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