Saturday, July 02, 2005


Why We Need an Iraq Withdrawal Timetable

"Collateral Damage"
He said Mohammed, an engineering student, was visiting his family home when some 10 marines with an Egyptian interpreter knocked on the door at 1000 local time.

He opened the door to them and was "happy to exercise some of his English", said the ambassador.

When asked if there were any weapons in the house, Mohammed took the marines to a room where there was a rifle with no live ammunition.

It was the last the family saw him alive. Shortly after, another brother was dragged out and beaten and the family was ordered to wait outside.

As the marines left "smiling at each other" an hour later, the interpreter told the mother they had killed Mohammed, said Mr Sumaidaie.

"In the bedroom, Mohammed was found dead and laying in a clotted pool of his blood. A single bullet had penetrated his neck."

The US military said the allegations "roughly correspond to an incident involving coalition forces on that day and in that general location".
(Source: BBC News Iraq envoy accuses US of killing, July 2, 2005.)
If the late Mohammed hadn't been Iraq's UN Ambassador's cousin this would have been either ignored or reported as just another dead insurgent. As it stands, some low ranker will get punished for this one incident. The real problem is that similar incidents undoubtedly happen on a regular basis, and every dead Iraqi has LOTS of cousins in their extended family. Thus, every Iraqi killed generates more volunteers for the insurgency.

US Armed Forces fighting World War 2 had a well-defined end point: the war was over once Berlin / Tokyo surrendered or were taken by force. Gulf War 1 had a defined goal: freeing Kuwait. This is more like Reagan's ill-fated Lebanese adventure: occupy Beirut until the situation stabilizes.

Reagan withdrew our forces after a truck bomb attack on the Marines' barracks, thus dodging the "quagmire" problem. The Bush-2 administration refuses to give up their dream of permanently occupying those 12 "permanent" military bases in Iraq for ensuring continued oil flows from the area. This means they can't promise to withdraw without admitting they made a big mistake.

The insurgents have a much easier task: keep Iraq in chaos until they achieve their goals. Iraq's Sunnis want political control over the Shi'ites and Kurds. Al Qaeda, like the US, doesn't care who runs the country so long as they let Al Qaeda have lots of bases and support their positions.

Setting up a deadline for withdrawal of US forces makes this a potential wedge issue between the Sunnis and the foreign Al Qaeda terrorists. Think of all US vehicles bearing placards saying "Every bomb means one more week the US has to stay in Iraq" and meaning it. Posting a withdrawal date, and pushing it out after each car bomb or suicide attack gives everyone something to look forward to - and puts the blame on the terrorists when the date slips. It won't work immediately, but it would have a cumulative effect - and let us counter the "patriot fights for his countryside" message unifying the insurgents.

Thursday, June 30, 2005


Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: 'Evil' Iran

W and his Bush league minions love to play to US voters' emotions. Their primary tool is the "our opponents are evil incarnate" routine used throughout history to unify the citizenry and make them easy to control. (Easier to unite people against something than for something.)

Of course, polarization is a two way street. The other side's extremists get empowered by your rhetoric, and folks trying to find a middle ground find it washed out from under them. Case in point:
Iran victor 'kidnap role' probe
The US says it is examining reports that Iranian President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took part in the 1979 hostage-taking at Tehran's US embassy.

Some of the former US hostages have said they recognise Mr Ahmadinejad as one of their captors.

But three Iranians involved in the action, as well as Mr Ahmadinejad's own staff, have denied that he took part.
(Source: BBC News, June 30, 2005 [emphasis in original.])
Regardless of its truth, I expect these rumors will only help Iran's new president at home even as they fuel the flames of anger here. Thank you, President Bush, for adding to the political pressure on Iran to make itself a nuclear power.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Area Folk on John Bolton

"Appointing Bolton to the UN is like appointing a fish to ride a bicycle that he hates and wishes to destroy."

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Army Seeks Indictments Against Iraqi Terrorists

Bush League Evil Genius Karl Rove says only "liberals" would seek indictments against terrorists. I guess the US Army thinks the liberals know more than The Bush League's "Brain:"
Hassan's conviction was a breakthrough in the military's increasingly successful effort to prosecute those who target its troops, Army lawyers here said. Since March 30, 18 people have received life sentences from the court for crimes related to attacks against coalition forces, according to Maj. J. Ed Christiansen of Task Force 134, which processes detainees and their legal cases. No one previously had been sentenced to life in prison.

The Hassan case has helped bring about more comprehensive training for front-line soldiers in gathering crime-scene evidence and highlights the challenges facing military lawyers in Iraq's legal system, which they are still working to understand. For example, before Hassan was convicted, the Iraqi prosecutor on the case sought to have it dismissed, citing an alibi the defendant had offered.

In recent weeks, lawyers with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division -- to which Irizarry was assigned -- began providing counterinsurgency units with kits containing cameras, explosive detection devices and pens and paper for sketching diagrams of the events. A slide show prepared by judge advocates shows soldiers how to photograph crime scenes and place evidence in plastic bags without smearing fingerprints.

"Hopefully, you are going to see more of these convictions as our lawyers get a better handle on the justice system and our soldiers get more comfortable with how to gather evidence," said Col. William Hudson, staff judge advocate for the 3rd Infantry Division. "People who commit crimes against us and against Iraqi society should be held accountable."...
(Source: Washington Post For Soldier, a Posthumous Day in Iraqi Court, June 28, 2005 [emphasis added.])
Interesting that the party condemning folks for treating terrorism as a criminal justice problem have ordered the US Army to turn accused Iraqi terrorists over to iraq's criminal justice system. Maybe we shouldn't rub Karl Rove's face in it though, it's such a good idea for winning hearts and minds that he'd probably order W to have the practice stopped immediately.


"Duke" Cunningham's Buddy's Company Loses Pentagon Contract

Yet another member of the "values" party shows "poor judgement." Shall we start a pool on how long it takes before he decides to leave office "to spend more time with his family?" Sure looks like he's spiralling in for a crash:

The Pentagon has ordered a halt in new work for MZM Inc., a (DC) defense and intelligence firm, under a contract that has brought the company $163 million in revenue during the past 2 1/2 years.

A Pentagon spokesman said in a statement that the decision to cut off further awards for MZM under the 2002 contract, known as blanket purchase agreement, was because of a change in procurement law.

Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), a member of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, acknowledged last week that his relationship with MZM founder Mitchell J. Wade is being examined by federal authorities.
News reports earlier this month disclosed that Wade, MZM's founder and president, bought Cunningham's California home for $1.675 million in late 2003 and then sold it at a $700,000 loss. Cunningham also has been living on Mitchell's 42-foot yacht on the Potomac while in Washington. Cunningham said last week that he exercised "poor judgment" in the relationship, but he denied doing anything improper.
(Source: Washington Post Pentagon Ends New Work On D.C. Firm's Contract, June 28, 2005 [emphasis added.])
Looks like the other rats on that 42-foot yacht better stock up on life preservers...


"Mainstream Media" Controlled by 118 People?

Suburban Guerrilla linked to this disturbing article in her post That Whacky Corporate Media:
Big Media Interlocks with Corporate America
by Peter Phillips

Mainstream media is the term often used to describe the collective group of big TV, radio and newspapers in the United States. Mainstream implies that the news being produced is for the benefit and enlightenment of the mainstream population-the majority of people living in the US. Mainstream media include a number of communication mediums that carry almost all the news and information on world affairs that most Americans receive. The word media is plural, implying a diversity of news sources.

However, mainstream media no longer produce news for the mainstream population-nor should we consider the media as plural. Instead it is more accurate to speak of big media in the US today as the corporate media and to use the term in the singular tense-as it refers to the singular monolithic top-down power structure of self-interested news giants.

A research team at Sonoma State University has recently finished conducting a network analysis of the boards of directors of the ten big media organizations in the US. The team determined that only 118 people comprise the membership on the boards of director of the ten big media giants. This is a small enough group to fit in a moderate size university classroom. These 118 individuals in turn sit on the corporate boards of 288 national and international corporations. In fact, eight out of ten big media giants share common memberships on boards of directors with each other. NBC and the Washington Post both have board members who sit on Coca Cola and J. P. Morgan, while the Tribune Company, The New York Times and Gannett all have members who share a seat on Pepsi. It is kind of like one big happy family of interlocks and shared interests...
(Source:, June 24, 2005 [emphasis added.])
Somehow I doubt this story will make it to the front page in the immediate future...

Monday, June 27, 2005


Iran's Answer to Bush League's Tough Talk

One of the more insidious effects of The Bush League's Excellent Iraq Adventure is how it has inspired everyone else to stand up to pressure from Washington:
TEHRAN: Iran's president-elect Mahmood Ahmadinejad ... said that Iran "did not really need" relations with arch-enemy the United States.
(Source: Gulf Daily News New president promises restraint, June 27, 2005.)
Iran, North Korea, China and the rest know that W and his Bush League minions no longer have the power to back up any threats.

Iran is a good case in point: with oil at $60/barrel and climbing, what would the US do if Iraq suddenly reported that one or two oil terminals needed "maintenance" like Enron did to California during the fake "energy crisis?" Oil doubles in price to $120/barrel, and the US oil-based transport net shuts down. What is the "free market" US going to do - invade to make them sell their own oil? Don't blather about drilling in ANWR, either - there isn't enough oil there to make our country independent of oil imports. Hybrid cars running on biodiesel is about the only reasonable alternative, but Detroit and W's Texas Oil Buddies keep blocking that.


Insurgency's "Final Throes" May Last 10+ Years

Somebody better tell Dick Cheney that Donald Rumsfeld contradicted him:
Iraqis may fight rebels for years, says Rumsfeld
By Alastair Macdonald

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Sunday that American forces would not defeat Iraq's rebels but would make way for Iraqis to put down an insurgency that could go on for a decade or more.
"That insurgency can go on for any number of years," Rumsfeld said in a U.S. television interview. "Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years. Foreign forces are not going to repress that insurgency.
The insurgency appears driven partly by fears among some in Saddam's formerly dominant Sunni Arab minority that they will lose out in an Iraq run by a Shi'ite majority government. It has drawn support from foreign Arabs, most of whom are Sunnis, who want to wage holy war against the West and the Shi'ites.
(Source: Reuters, June 26, 2005)
Oddly enough, the rather obvious tensions between the Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds were not considered by W and his Bush League minions in their rush to war. Fortunately, initial fears of casualties caused by US armored vehicles slipping on the vast number of flower petals thrown by grateful Iraqis turned out to be as illusory as the WMDs they were hunting.


Lifestyles of the Corporate Elite

Gee, guys, we just don't have the money to both adequately fund your pension plan and still keep our business necessities:
Some of America's largest and best-known corporations have been significantly underreporting the cost of letting their executives use company aircraft on personal trips, a pattern that has come to light through reports the companies have filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, a recent enforcement case and a warning by a top SEC official.

In reports filed with the SEC this year, some companies have put a higher price on past years' flights and disclosed that they were changing the way they determined the value of the benefit.
Bank One last year valued chairman and chief executive James Dimon's 2003 personal use of corporate aircraft at $30,889. Bank One is now part of JPMorgan Chase & Co., which recently reported that under the incremental cost method Dimon's personal aircraft use in 2003 cost the company more than five times that amount, or $160,590.
Invoking security "is a convenient justification" for executives to fly corporate planes on vacation, but one "that I don't think washes," said Vahid Motevalli, director of the Aviation Institute at George Washington University. "In terms of security of air travel itself or safety of it, I think the scheduled airline travel is going to be more secure and more safe."
(Source: Washington Post A Closer Look at Costs of the Corporate Jet, June 27, 2005.)
Amazing how extra perqs for the top brass get funded, while employee pension plans do not.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


Kristof Sounds Like Krugman

I wonder how many more times people will state the very obvious before the Republicans start worrying more about our nation than about their party's donors?
A Glide Path to Ruin
Published: June 26, 2005

The biggest risk we Americans face to our way of life and our place in the world probably doesn't come from Al Qaeda or the Iraq war.

Rather, the biggest risk may come from this administration's fiscal recklessness and the way this is putting us in hock to China.
Mr. Walker, America's watchdog in chief and head of the Government Accountability Office, is no Bush-basher. He started out his career as a conservative Democrat, then became a moderate Republican and has been an independent since 1997.

Now he's running around with his hair on fire, shrieking about America's finances. Well, as much as any accountant ever shrieks.
President Bush has excoriated the "death tax," as he calls the estate tax. But his profligacy will leave every American child facing a "birth tax" of about $150,000.

That's right: every American child arrives owing that much, partly to babies in China and Japan. No wonder babies cry.
(Source: New York Times)
I guess nobody will start worrying until this financial Titanic hits a Chinese iceberg, and we all suddenly realize W and his Bush League minions sold the lifeboats for cash to prop up Fearless Leader's Excellent Iraq Adventure.


Gold Plating Isn't Just for Weapons Systems

I guess the moral of this story is that Al Qaeda terrorists should avoid hiding near 5-star resorts:
Italians Detail Lavish CIA Operation
13 Charged in '03 Abduction Allegedly Stayed in Finest Hotels

By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, June 26, 2005; Page A18

MILAN, June 25 -- For 19 American intelligence operatives assigned to apprehend a radical Islamic preacher in Milan two years ago, the mission was equal parts James Bond and taxpayer-financed Italian holiday, according to an Italian investigation of the man's disappearance.

The Americans stayed at some of the finest hotels in Milan, sometimes for as long as six weeks, ringing up tabs of as much as $500 a day on Diners Club accounts created to match their recently forged identities, according to Italian court documents and other records. Then, after abducting their target and flying him to Cairo under the noses of Italian police, some of them rounded out their European trip with long weekends in Venice and Florence before leaving the country, the records show.
While most of the operatives apparently used false identities, they left a long trail of paper and electronic records that enabled Italian investigators to retrace their movements in detail. Posing as tourists and business travelers, the Americans often stayed in the same five-star hotels, rarely paid in cash, gave their frequent traveler account numbers to desk clerks and made dozens of calls from unsecure phones in their rooms.

During January 2003, they were regular patrons at the Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan, which bills itself as "one of the world's most luxuriously appointed hotels" and features a marble-lined spa and minibar Cokes that cost about $10. Seven of the Americans stayed at the 80-year-old hotel for periods ranging from three days to three weeks at nightly rates of about $450, racking up total expenses of more than $42,000 there.
(Source: Washington Post)
This one operation probably cost enough to up-armor a whole bunch of Hum-Vees. Would they have gone to this much trouble laying a fake (and easily traceable) trail if they'd been staying at the italian equivalent of Motel-6?

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