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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The memo

The memo

Fables of the reconstruction

Yet the memo is gloomy in most other respects, portraying a country mired in dysfunction and corruption, overseen by a CPA that "handle(s) an issue like six-year-olds play soccer: Someone kicks the ball and one hundred people chase after it hoping to be noticed, without a care as to what happens on the field." But it is particularly pointed on the subject of cronyism and corruption within the Governing Council, the provisional Iraqi government subordinate to the CPA whose responsibilities include re-staffing Iraq's government departments. "In retrospect," the memo asserts, "both for political and organizational reasons, the decision to allow the Governing Council to pick 25 ministers did the greatest damage. Not only did we endorse nepotism, with men choosing their sons and brothers-in-law; but we also failed to use our prerogative to shape a system that would work ... our failure to promote accountability has hurt us."

In the broadest sense, according to the memo's author, the CPA's bunker-in-Baghdad mentality has contributed to the potential for civil war all over the country. "[CPA Administrator L. Paul] Bremer has encouraged re-centralization in Iraq because it is easier to control a Governing Council less than a kilometer away from the Palace, rather than 18 different provincial councils who would otherwise have budgetary authority," he says. The net effect, he continues, has been a "desperation to dominate Baghdad, and an absolutism born of regional isolation." The memo also describes the CPA as "handicapped by [its] security bubble," and derides the US government for spending "millions importing sport utility vehicles which are used exclusively to drive the kilometer and a half" between CPA and Governing Council headquarters when "we would have been much better off with a small fleet of used cars and a bicycle for every Green Zone resident."

While the memo upbraids CPA officials—an apparent majority—who stay inside the Green Zone in the name of personal safety, it also maintains that the Green Zone itself is "less than secure," both for Westerners and Iraqis. According to the author, "screening for Iranian agents and followers of Muqtada al Sadr is inconsistent at best," and anti-CPA elements can easily gather basic intelligence, since no one is there to "prevent people from entering the parking lot outside the checkpoint to note license plate numbers of 'collaborators.'"

Ordinary Iraqis also "fear that some of the custodial staff note who comes and goes," according to the memo, causing a "segment of Iraqi society to avoid meeting Americans because they fear the Green Zone." It also derides the use of heavily armed personal-security details (PSDs) for CPA personnel, saying the practice inspires reticence among ordinary Iraqis. "It is ingrained in the Iraqi psyche to keep a close hold on their own thoughts when surrounded by people with guns," the memo notes. "Even those willing to talk to Americans think twice, since American officials create a spectacle of themselves, with convoys, flak jackets, fancy SUVs."

While the memo offers an encouraging and appealing picture of thriving businesses and patrons on the streets of a free Baghdad, it notes that "the progress evident happens despite us rather than because of us," and reports that "frequent explosions, many of which are not reported in the mainstream media, are a constant reminder of uncertainty."

Indeed, while boosters of the Iraqi invasion delight in the phrase "25 million free Iraqis," if the CPA memo is any indication, this newfound liberty does not include freedom from fear. "Baghdadis have an uneasy sense that they are heading towards civil war," it says. "Sunnis, Shias, and Kurd professionals say that they themselves, friends, and associates are buying weapons fearing for the future." The memo also notes that while Iraqi police "remain too fearful to enforce regulations," they are making a pretty penny as small arms dealers, with the CPA as an unwitting partner. "CPA is ironically driving the weapons market," it reveals. "Iraqi police sell their U.S.-supplied weapons on the black market; they are promptly re-supplied. Interior ministry weapons buy-backs keep the price of arms high."

The memo goes on to argue that "the trigger for a civil war" is not likely to be an isolated incident of violence, but the result of "deeper conflicts that revolve around patronage and absolutism" reaching a flashpoint.


Iraq is deeply, deeply screwed up. The memo says little that outside observers haven't been saying for months. The lack of security crippled the CPA's ability to actually run the country. The exiles simply took over Saddam's rackets in government while wholesale theft was turned into private industry. It is difficult to overstate how unsafe Iraqis feel in the current environment. Corruption, ineptitude and instability has made civil life in Iraqi difficult.

This internal CPA memo predicts civil war as the result of misguided CPA policies. That's a pretty drastic outcome because of bad policies.

Americans have done the worst possible job in trying to actually led Iraqis into taking responsibility for the reconstruction. They hide behind SUV's and bunkers and then expect Iraqis to work with them. Risk adverse is the word. Only soldiers and mercenaries are actually willing to die for Iraq, The CPA values their own safety over anything else, especially Iraqis. Which is why they're holed up in one of Saddam's palaces instead of an office building.

In the desperate rush to establish a US friendly president, we have turned our backs on massive graft, something Iraqis notice and resist with weapons. Our indifference drives the resistance and contempt for the IGC. By ignoring that our Iraqis are not only crooks, but makes the clerics look like honest brokers, we defeat our own policy goals.

posted by Steve @ 11:17:00 AM

11:17:00 AM

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Greedy and stupid

Greedy and stupid

Ex-Goldman Sachs Secretary Convicted Stealing $8 Mln (Update1)

April 20 (Bloomberg) -- A former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. secretary who earned less than 2,000 pounds a month was found guilty of stealing 4.4 million pounds ($8 million) from her bosses to fund a spending spree that included a villa in Cyprus.

Joyti De-Laurey, 35, faces six to 14 years in prison after a jury of six men and six women at Southwark Crown Court in London convicted her on 20 counts of stealing from retired Goldman managing directors E. Scott Mead, Ron Beller and his wife Jennifer Moses from February 2001 to April 2002.

De-Laurey had claimed Beller gave her 1.1 million pounds ``as a reward for me being me.'' Mead, who led the team advising Vodafone Group Plc on its record 154 billion-euro ($184 billion) takeover of Mannesmann AG in 2000, gave her 3.3 million pounds for concealing his extra-marital affair, she said. The men rejected her claims.

The trial attracted attention because it provided a glimpse into the lifestyles of senior staff at the third-biggest U.S. securities firm, who took 20 months to notice the money was missing. De-Laurey, motivated by jealousy, spent their cash as if she were an investment banker and often told people she was one, prosecutors said.


How did she think she was going to steal $8m and get away with it. Not only that, her life went from working class to posh overnight. Hello, people are going to notice. No one is going to pay a secretary a bribe of $3.3 million to avoid a divorce. Besides, the claims were ludicrous. These are investment bankers. This is millions of dollars. Even a divorce would have been cheaper.

What always amazes me about these people, besides the self-justifications that they use for their crimes, is how they expect to remain free. Uh, million dollar villas attract attention. Shopping at Cartier attracts attention. If their bosses don't notice, the tax man will. But since these folks are so twisted internally, they usually give themselves away. They let resentment and jealousy drive them, then they wind up in jail, broke.

It was the driving force behind the Apprentice. A lot of the candidates thought they deserved to be rich. It doesn't work that way. Unless you're born to money, you pretty much have to work hard for it. I mean, everyone who was fired was fired for cause. I don't know how that woman Omorosa fed herself, but she was as crazy as a bedbug. She would give the guys at the VA psych ward a run for their money. Being an untrustworthy, lazy drama queen is no way to inspire confidence. And lying on camera is even worse.

Then you had the relentlessly creepy and game playing Amy. Oh, she forgot to make a good impression during the interview? Ooops. Notice Trump fired her and her little boyfriend, and kept the two slickest guys, including a Harvard MBA. Why? Well, unless you're an Enron exec or George Bush, a Harvard MBA will open a lot of doors. Most of them said they wanted to work hard, but they did things which astonished me as a reporter, forget someone with a business degree, which I don't have.

What I noticed about the show was that the producers hired people who then made fundamental mistakes in business and should have been canned. My favorite moment in the entire show was when they lost money from some task they were doing. In the real world, people get fired for that. Quickly. Crazy people make for great TV, but in the real world, they usually go to jail. Because their craziness usually wins out. It takes a great deal of character to admit mistakes. As I was told as a 14 year old Boy Scout. It takes even more charcter to do your job and not lie or steal your bosses money because you resent them.

What nausiated me about both the Apprtentice and this crazy woman is accountability. Blaming other people for your mistakes. I know it's in vogue in Washington at the moment, but it's a shitty way to live. You can work your ass off, but if people cannot trust you to keep your word, you will never be successful.

posted by Steve @ 7:44:00 AM

7:44:00 AM

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Watching Bush crumble

Watching Bush Crumble

People have been carping at Kerry for not being aggressive enough, but given the last six weeks, only a fool gets in the way of self-destruction. The Kerry Campaign has been smart to lay back and pick their punches. The last thing they need to do is to become the issue.

First, Dick Clarke made the Bush White House act like thugs. Then the debate shifted to whether Condi Rice would reveal what she told her husband the President. Now, it's about whether Bush cooked up a deal with the Saudis.

With little effort, Kerry stands poised to reap the bounty of an incredible string of bad luck. Hell, the Bushies couldn't get anything. Bremer's replacement is best known for his role in the losing Contra war.

What many people forget is the US lost the Contra War. It was a failed policy. The Sandinista Army had superior tactics pulled from the US Army's campaign in Burma in 1944. They formed long range patrols which spent their time in the jungle and chased the Contras down. Very simple, very effective.

Now, John Negroponte, who at a minimum, stood by silently while the Hondurans murdered nuns and priests, is going to Iraq to solve our pronlems there. Except he won't have any death squads to work with unless he hires them at $1000 a day per man. And the fact that his Arabic is nonexistent shouldn't hurt, right?

With management like this, Kerry has to just lay low and pick his spots on when and where to attack. There hasn't been any reason for him to jump in and go hard after Bush. Even on TV, the 527's have done his heavy lifting. As long as Kerry shores up his base and reacts when Bush screws up, he's doing fine.

Bush's numbers are horrible. He's under 50 percent in most polls, which is death for an incumbent, and if Nader wasn't in the way, Bush would be losing in most of them.

Kerry has money, time and Karl Rove working for him. As long as he waits until he's ready to launch his campaign, his way, watching Bush crumble is the smartest of moves.

posted by Steve @ 12:44:00 AM

12:44:00 AM

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Turn off your TV week

Turn off your TV week

Some group has sponsored "Turn off your TV week" which is some silly liberal bullshit about how evil TV is. I read the same shit online, about how I'ven stopped watching TV. Yeah, yeah, and you never take an unfair deduction either. People get so self-rightious and pompous about the subject, it pisses me off. It's either self-serving bullshit or out and out bullshit.

But after seeing a second episode of Fox's The Swan, I'm convinced Hitler didn't die in 1945, but is working as a Fox programming executive. He's sitting over on 6th Avenue, chortling at the abusive nature of this show, which is akin to hunting foals with an Uzi, claymores and hand grenades. Only an SS officer could feel comfortable with a show where breaking down humans, encouraging their insecurities, and then carving them up like a turkey is the primary attraction. It's sadism on TV.

I've written about this show before, and commented on the sick souls who need the surgery. However, Howard Stern summed that up. "They're still ugly and they dress them like whores."

They had one woman on this week who shaved. She fucking shaved, and I'm talking about her face. She had a classic Mexican Indian nose and it seemed her Anglo schoolmates said she looked like a witch. Hell, even the doctor was brutal in his assesment. Uh, hello, most of Mexico looks like her. There's nothing wrong with her nose.

The other victim was this 40 year old woman who had her brother burn alive in a car accident and then had her husband leave her for someone else. For some reason, her depression focused on her looks and how her life would be better if she changed them.

I would like to know the person who would approach these women with this deal and ask them if the Office of Special Investigation was looking for anyone in their family. Had they ever visited anyone in Argentina?Was April 30 a special day in their household? Did dad get all misty eyed when the Odessa File came on TV. When they asked dad if he served in WWII, he kept talking about how cold Russia was.

Because only a war criminal or their spawn could think this TV show was anything but evil.

This show is evil beyond the surgery in the way Iraq is beyond screwed up. The whole concept is evil. It doesn't have small evil attached to it, but the kind of evil which will condemn you to hell where you get to watch Saddam Hussein bugger the Devil. That kind of hell. One even Dante would pass on.

Of course, like watching a car crash, it's impossible to not watch and sneer at the same time. I found myself wondering exactly how evil these people were, and they ran off the fucking scale. Past Mao evil, even past Stalin. I was trying to decide if Hitler had risen from the dead or if Pol Pot had faked his death and gotten a job at Fox. I went with Hitler, because only he could think of evil on this vast a scale and disguise it as entertainment. I know the executives at Fox have no shame, but The Swan is the kind of thing where someone should seriously consider jailing these people and torturing them, kind of like the mercs who used to work for the SADF or the Chiliean DINA.

posted by Steve @ 12:15:00 AM

12:15:00 AM

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Monday, April 19, 2004

About that small plane, Mrs. Bush....

About that small plane, Mrs. Bush

Atrios is running a quote about a slip Condi Rice made at a dinner party filled with Timesmen and women.

Political Conversation: Condi’s Slip
A pressing issue of dinner-party etiquette is vexing Washington, according to a story now making the D.C. rounds: How should you react when your guest, in this case national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice, makes a poignant faux pas? At a recent dinner party hosted by New York Times D.C. bureau chief Philip Taubman and his wife, Times reporter Felicity Barringer, and attended by Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Maureen Dowd, Steven Weisman, and Elisabeth Bumiller, Rice was reportedly overheard saying, “As I was telling my husb—” and then stopping herself abruptly, before saying, “As I was telling President Bush.” Jaws dropped, but a guest says the slip by the unmarried politician, who spends weekends with the president and his wife, seemed more psychologically telling than incriminating. Nobody thinks Bush and Rice are actually an item. A National Security Council spokesman laughed and said, “No comment.”


Poignant? Maybe if you're Laura Bush. If I was her, I'd stay out of light aircraft for the next decade or so. If her husband ever suggests it, she needs to remember Paul Wellstone. While I don't think he was assasinated, the risks of light aircraft are pretty high.

You could call it a freudian slip if you want, but let's get real. Bush has kept Rice's incompetent ass around past any normal justification. Given the Bush history of fidelity (pops hired his mistress as White House chief of protocol), it is far from impossible that GW is tapping Rice or at least thinking really hard about who his second wife will be.

I mean, unless she secretely married someone, Rice has some very strong feelings for her boss, and I don't think they stop at the like/respect line. If Laura Bush gave a damn about more than her smokes, Xanax, Charodnnay, and her trollope daughters, she might not like her husband's closest advisor calling him her husband. Unlike the married and able to leave Karen Hughes, who was probably smart enough to cultivate Laura to keep her off her back, Condi seems to have had a different goal from day one. While being First Lady is impossible, being the next Mrs. George Bush is not.

After all, like a good born-again Christian, dumping your wife is par for the course. After a couple of years on the pig farm, some brown sugar might be all too sppealing. And does anyone get the feeling that Condi wouldn't love to replace Laura?

I mean Clinton, who was stupid in tapping a 25 year old for blowjobs, at least was treating Lewinsky like the disposable office ho. He went a bit far in stringing her along, but his behavior was at least recognizable, if despicable. It wasn't like he expected her to replace Hillary, except in his most maudlin moments.

Bush, otoh, would clearly be looking for a full replacement. Hillary could at least blame her husband's dick. If Laura got dumped, it would be an act of comission. Condi is more accomplished than his wife by degrees. And given how sympathetic Barbara Bush is, she'd be living in a Houston condo faster than you can say mistress, chugging down booze, popping Xanax and wondering what happened as she kept her mouth shut.

I can see this whole thing, the stolen kisses (never more than that, plausable fildelity here), the lingering looks. It would be romantic if it wasn't creepy and disgusting. You don't think during Bush's Prince Hal days that he kept the trouser snake in a cage, do you? Dad reportly used hookers for some parties, why not GW?

Seriously, time is the greatest aide to romance. The more time you spend with someone, the easier it is to be attracted to them. And given that Rice is single and pushing 50 and has a neglible social life, it is natural that she feel some attraction to her boss. The creepy part is that you get the feeling that Bush is not immune to her charms. While he keeps his wife around, you just get the feeling that he might be looking for a upgrade.

If you think that's impossible, I have one name for you: Newt Gingrich. Dumped his first wife while she had cancer. Dumped his second wife over the phone and took up with a 25 year old Hill Rat. And given the rumors about Jeb, Neil's messy divorce and dad's cheating, being surprised that Condi may well wind up being Condi Rice-Bush, is naive to say the least.

posted by Steve @ 1:07:00 PM

1:07:00 PM

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Our American Foreign Legion-cash and carry

Our American Foreign Legion-cash and carry

Security Companies: Shadow Soldiers in Iraq
By DAVID BARSTOW

Published: April 19, 2004

his article was reported by David Barstow, James Glanz, Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Kate Zernike and was written by Mr. Barstow.

They have come from all corners of the world. Former Navy Seal commandos from North Carolina. Gurkas from Nepal. Soldiers from South Africa's old apartheid government. They have come by the thousands, drawn to the dozens of private security companies that have set up shop in Baghdad. The most prized were plucked from the world's elite special forces units. Others may have been recruited from the local SWAT team.
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But they are there, racing about Iraq in armored cars, many outfitted with the latest in high-end combat weapons. Some security companies have formed their own "Quick Reaction Forces," and their own intelligence units that produce daily intelligence briefs with grid maps of "hot zones." One company has its own helicopters, and several have even forged diplomatic alliances with local clans.

Far more than in any other conflict in United States history, the Pentagon is relying on private security companies to perform crucial jobs once entrusted to the military. In addition to guarding innumerable reconstruction projects, private companies are being asked to provide security for the chief of the Coalition Provisional Authority, L. Paul Bremer III, and other senior officials; to escort supply convoys through hostile territory; and to defend key locations, including 15 regional authority headquarters and even the Green Zone in downtown Baghdad, the center of American power in Iraq.

With every week of insurgency in a war zone with no front, these companies are becoming more deeply enmeshed in combat, in some cases all but obliterating distinctions between professional troops and private commandos. Company executives see a clear boundary between their defensive roles as protectors and the offensive operations of the military. But more and more, they give the appearance of private, for-profit militias — by several estimates, a force of roughly 20,000 on top of an American military presence of 130,000.

"I refer to them as our silent partner in this struggle," Senator John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican and Armed Services Committee chairman, said in an interview.

The price of this partnership is soaring. By some recent government estimates, security costs could claim up to 25 percent of the $18 billion budgeted for reconstruction, a huge and mostly unanticipated expense that could delay or force the cancellation of billions of dollars worth of projects to rebuild schools, water treatment plants, electric lines and oil refineries.

In Washington, defense experts and some leading Democrats are raising alarms over security companies' growing role in Iraq.

"Security in a hostile fire area is a classic military mission," Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a member of the Armed Service committee, wrote last week in a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed by 12 other Democratic senators. "Delegating this mission to private contractors raises serious questions."

The extent and strategic importance of the alliance between the Pentagon and the private security industry has been all the more visible with each surge of violence. In recent weeks, commandos from private security companies fought to defend coalition authority employees and buildings from major assaults in Kut and Najaf, two cities south of Baghdad. To the north, in Mosul, a third security company repelled a direct assault on its headquarters. In the most publicized attack, four private security contractors were killed in an ambush of a supply convoy in Fallujah.

The Bush administration's growing dependence on private security companies is partly by design. Determined to transform the military into a leaner but more lethal fighting force, Mr. Rumsfeld has pushed aggressively to outsource tasks not deemed essential to war-making. But many Pentagon and authority officials now concede that the companies' expanding role is also a result of the administration's misplaced optimism about how Iraqis would greet American reconstruction efforts.

The authority initially estimated that security costs would eat up about 10 percent of the $18 billion in reconstruction money approved by Congress, said Capt. Bruce A. Cole of the Navy, a spokesman for the authority's program management office.

But after months of sabotage and insurgency, some officials now say a much higher percentage will go to security companies that unblushingly charge $500 to $1,500 a day for their most skilled operators.

"I believe that it was expected that coalition forces would provide adequate internal security and thus obviate the need for contractors to hire their own security," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the new inspector general of the authority. "But the current threat situation now requires that an unexpected, substantial percentage of contractor dollars be allocated to private security."

"The numbers I've heard range up to 25 percent," Mr. Bowen said in a telephone interview from Baghdad. Mark J. Lumer, the Pentagon official responsible for overseeing Army procurement contracts in Iraq, said he had seen similar estimates.

But Captain Cole said that the costs were unlikely to reach that level and that the progress of reconstruction would eventually alleviate the current security problems.


The American Foreign Legion is a highly paid mercenary force draining the regular Army of needed special operators. We have 10,000 mercenaries under only nominal US control and with the full expectation that privates making $1300 a month will come to their rescue. We have no idea what kind of deals they're making, what triggered an attack, or how they behave with Iraqis. Yet, some kid feeding his family off food stamps will be expected to die for these people who make in a day what he makes in a month.

No wonder professional soldiers are not running to save their mercenary buddies. They well could be walking into a blind trap caused by mercenaries violating law and common sense.

The failure of Iraq policy has been clearly ennunciated by the reliance on this foreign legion of ex-soldiers and SWAT team members. And in some cases, ex-torturers have been enlisted. A few members of the old SADF, the Chilean Army have been called to Iraq. What are they doing to the Iraqis who fall in their hands? Who is responsible for anything they do? The US, private companies? What if they hook some electrodes to the testicles of an unwilling Iraqi? Who is ultimately responsible? Who are they ultimately loyal to.

They aren't soldiers, they can quit at any time and go home.

While outsourcing repair functions and other tasks is one thing, buying the services of private soldiers is highly risky and filled with downsides.

I know the idea of a private army may appeal to some on the right, the risks to our policy and soldiers is just too high.

posted by Steve @ 10:04:00 AM

10:04:00 AM

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It's coming undone, part seven

It's coming undone, part seven

The Spanish are leaving Iraq "as soon as possible". They smell the disaster coming and they're not hanging around. While the new PM, Zapatero claims he's just fulfilling a promise, he's not moving his military alone. His commanders told him, quickly, that the world is going to explode and if he left the troops there, well, it would explode around them as well as the Americans.

This is the start of the exodus from Iraq. The British commander said point blank that the day the Shia want us to leave, we're gone. While Tony Blair may want to hang on to the bitter end, Gordon Brown, his likely successor, will not.

Now, the NY Times is reporting that Bremer is losing patience and wants a military solution to end these revolts. Which is sad and insane, but the talk of an armchair general misled by his miliatry commanders. We are being told, in fluent English, invading Najaf would trigger a Shia uprising. Yet, Viceroy Jerry wants this wrapped up.

What has amazed me is the way the media can't state the obvious: the guerrilla forces are winning. Maybe I'm stupid, but the Marines are stalemated outside Fallujah and the Army is letting Sadr's militia grow by the day. Then of course, the roads are blocked. Good luck in feeding Baghdad like that.

If someone was told this was the situation, they would see a disaster. But bercause so much is invested in it, including national self-image, we can't see the obvious. We expect things to change, to get better. That the Iraqis will see that we're right. Which is quite unlikely to happen. Unless the Iraqis suffer a convincing defeat, something US forces cannot deliver with their numbers, we will lose.

No one says the simple fact that the Iraqis are amazingly well armed for guerrillas. Which allows them to stand against US troops.

The only hope to save lives is for the US to admit their tactics failed and political goals will not be met. Anything short of this, much less trying to attack Najaf, can only lead to disaster.

posted by Steve @ 1:25:00 AM

1:25:00 AM

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Sunday, April 18, 2004

Jamie Gorelick: Traitor

Jamie Gorelick: Traitor

It's nice to know that we've found the source of all our problems for 9/11. I mean, after all, Tom DeLay said so.

If you listened to right-wing radio, you'd think this evil traitorous bitch's memo was the cause of the murder of 3,000 people. For this crime, she needs to die. The heroes who have been calling her house, threatening her life, have been the finest kinds of Americans. They see a traitor and they threaten to kill her and her family.

I mean, why not? Let's slt her and her family's throats and burn down her house. Isn't that what Rush and his buddies want? She wrote a memo backed by law and custom since 1979 and somehow she's a traitor who should die slowly and painfully. It's all her fault. Not Bush's or Rice. Let's all blame the assistant attorney general who left office in 1997.

This is ridiculous in the extreme. The cowards who would threaten her are not joined by the 9/11 families who had to shame Bush into allowing Rice to testify under oath. They aren't bitching about a memo when so many other flaws are responsible for what happened. No, only the small dicked cowards who feel pumped up by talk radio make death threats.

If Tom DeLay and John Ashcroft were men, they would denounce this behavior. But since Ashcroft's main role is to cover his ass first and foremost, he won't say a word.

What is wrong with these radio bundists? Everytime they get a chance, the death threats flow. They're not running to Iraq, they're not enlisting, but they feel pumped up by the modern day Father Coughlins. What would murdiering Jamie Gorelick solve? Would it make America stronger? Capture one terrorist? Or make some basement-dwelling coward feel good?

posted by Steve @ 6:54:00 PM

6:54:00 PM

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Guerillas block highways, CPA forced to eat MRE's

Guerillas block highways, CPA forced to eat MRE's

U.S. Closes Long Sections of 2 Routes to Baghdad
By JOHN F. BURNS and IAN FISHER

Published: April 18, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 17 — The United States military command on Saturday closed down long stretches of two strategic highways leading to Baghdad, as American troops labored against insurgent attacks that have severely reduced the flow of food, fuel and other supplies into the capital.

The closings appeared to confirm the effect of two weeks of heightened violence in Iraq. American soldiers, stretched thin, have already been deployed in large numbers to contain serious and unresolved uprisings in the cities of Falluja and Najaf. Now they have been sent to face the growing problem of keeping crucial sections of highway open for the passage of critically needed convoys reaching the Iraqi heartland from Turkey, Jordan and Kuwait.

The American command's hope appears to be that by keeping all civilian traffic off the roads on the approaches to Baghdad, it will be more difficult for insurgents to mount ambushes against the trucks and convoys in the most dangerous sections of the highways.

On Saturday, travelers heading north to Baghdad on the main highway from Kuwait saw at least three highway bridges destroyed in a 60-mile section immediately south of the capital. Munadel Abdul Ellah, 44, a Hilla resident who drove to Baghdad on Saturday, said large numbers of American helicopters flew overhead and hundreds of troops patrolled the roads.

"It's a very bad situation," said Mr. Ellah, who spent nearly eight hours making a round trip that usually takes only two hours. "There were so many troops on the highway. It was like when they first came to occupy the airport last year during the war."

American forces had already effectively lost control of long sections of the 375-mile highway leading west from Baghdad to Jordan. The road runs through the battle zone around Falluja, 35 miles west of the capital. Ambushes near Falluja and the adjacent city of Abu Ghraib have destroyed numerous convoys carrying fuel and other supplies for American troops in the past two weeks.

...................

The announcement on Saturday of the the closing of the highways running north to Turkey and south to Kuwait was accompanied by an American military statement saying that the routes "are damaged and too dangerous for civilian travel," and that anybody driving on the closed sections could be subject to attack. "If civilians drive on the closed sections of the highways, they may be engaged with deadly force," the statement read.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the chief spokesman for the military command, was dismissive when asked if the closings had been forced by threats from insurgent groups to enter Baghdad in force and attack Western targets. "If the fighters would like to take the fight to Baghdad, they'll have the First Cavalry Division waiting for them," he told reporters here in the capital.

Still, American officials here and in Washington have been frank about the disruption in supplies reaching Baghdad.

On Friday, General Kimmitt said American commanders believed that there was "a concerted effort on the part of the enemy to try to interfere with our lines of communication, our main supply routes," but said the main effect would be on ordinary Iraqis, who would eventually pay higher prices in the capital's shops and markets.

The general said American military supplies were less of a problem because there were "alternative methods" of delivering ammunition, food and fuel, presumably by air. But even at the bases, commanders have been rationing use of critical stockpiles and urging decisive action to ensure that road convoys get through.

But a senior American official said Saturday that the cutoff in supplies reaching the American occupation authority's headquarters in Saddam Hussein's former Republican Palace in central Baghdad were approaching a critical point. Canteens feeding 2,000 people, civilians as well as military personnel, may soon be forced to serve combat rations in plastic sleeves, known as meals ready to eat.


The guerillas are winning.

They have cut the supply lines and US forces are unable to get what they need. Sure, they can airlift critical supplies, and dodge SAM's, but cutting the highway is a major deal and will limit combat operations.

We are on the verge of a disaster, a Chosin Resevior-like disaster, in Iraq. The US should be able to keep supply lines open with their forces. Now that they can't, we may have to fight our way out. This is a very serious, extremely serious, development.

Logistics is the way armies operate. Forget the tactics, if you can't eat and change uniforms, you can't fight effectively. If the guerillas have blocked the main supply lines from Kuwait, they have achieved a victory which is 200 times more important than their stand in Fallujah.

The generals behind the guerrillas have figured out that we can't do two things: fight the guerillas on their turf and feed ourselves. We're going to have to choose. Which is why going after Sadr was so incredibly bone stupid. Alienating the Shia means every mile of our supply lines could face attack.

Once again, CENTCOM says stupid things, while the facts say something else. The NVA never cut the supply lines to MACV. The insurgents are threatening to starve Baghdad or at least make food resupplies difficult. That's a massive deal, it's probably the most important development of the war to date.

This is why we needed 400,000 troops. You could have put the Pakistanis to clear the highways while the US went after the guerrillas. Now, we can't do both. Something has to give and it has to give soon.

Make no mistake, none. This has been a month of defeats for the US. We had to stop outside Fallujah, stop outside Najaf and now face a blockade of Baghdad. We are actively losing this war and that will be clear as time goes on.

posted by Steve @ 10:23:00 AM

10:23:00 AM

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Why supporting the war was wrong

Why supporting the war was wrong

Atrios is running Big Media Matt's exculpation on why he supported our current folly in Iraq. His excuses are rather pathetic and ahistorical, but at least he admits they're wrong.

The idea among the pro-war liberals that we could save the brown people from themselves is as deeply racist and ingrained as belief in the Super Bowl as a national holiday. They listened to exiled Iraqis talk about how they would do better than nasty, evil Saddam and how we could enlighten the whole region, let women drive and have the vote.

What they missed, of course, was that Iraq under Saddam had granted more rights to women than any subsequent government would
They would never admit that they thought what those wogs needed was a little enlightenment. They thought the average Iraqi was like Kenan Makiya, author of Republic of Fear, the first popular book on Saddam and the reign of terror which was the Baath Party.

A lot of liberals recoiled when faced with the culture of the Arab world and thought a chance to remake it would bring their values to that part of the world. They can say now that they didn't want Bush to screw it up, but to be fair, George Marshall would have screwed it up. What pro-war liberals wanted was nothing less than a new culture to be implanted in Iraq, one which would meet their goals, and one which had no historical support.

For over a year, Kos and I wrote, repeatedly, that this wasn't going to happen. Societies faced with radical political change can go in many ways, some quite reactionary. What stunned me was the way that the pro-war liberals thought Iraqis would embrace our ideas of what their country should be with acceptance. After all, they listened to the same exiles who only knew the Iraq of their childhood, not the Iraq of war and privation.

No implantation, whether done by the inept Bush or a competant admistration, would have worked, because Iraqis have their own history and culture. They are a fiercely nationalistic people and one who would never accept outside change easily. They have also suffered a great deal since 1980. The idea that a bunch of well-heeled academics, traitors to Iraq and shady liars could be an effective government was a fantsy quickly rejected by the Iraqi people. Why liberals thought the most independent minded of Arab peoples would accept our lectures on how to live is beyond me.

There are other, practical, reasons on why our efforts in Iraq were doomed from day one. Very simply, the US forces supported no one with a base of support in Iraq. Chalabi was unknown in Iraq and when he was known, became quickly reviled as a con man and American puppet. SCIRI, the Hakim's organization, was reknowned for torturing Shia POW's to get them to join up. So when we get there and remove Saddam, the last men standing are the clerics, and they don't like the US much, forget any liberl ideas of remaking their society.

We tried to ignore Sadr, who's appeal is closer to the Black Panthers with vastly more guns and no drug dealing. Sadr's power comes from living and working with the oppressed. You can call him a thug all you want, and fairly so, but he's the voice of the poor and and his father lost his life standing up for them.

We tried to pretend that Sistani was a friend, when he would never let an American darken his door. No pictures with Viceroy Jerry for him. Unlike when Hirohito allowed pictures with MacArthur, giving the imprimature of support for the occupation, Sistani hs never allowed a CPA ofiicial to hold a meeting with him. He sits in Najaf, sends his aides out and keeps waiting for the CPA to hand him power.

What the liberals never got, and this goes deeper than the CPA's incompetance and bad management, was that we are neither trusted nor liked in the Middle East, and a major reason is our culture. Remaking Iraq, especially when we had no real allies, even the Kurds are gaming us, was impossible. Only a racist arrogance encouraged us to think it was possible. One, more than a few liberals bought into, thinking all Iraq needed was a dose of Western culture and not realizing they would kill to protect their own, no matter how we viewed it.

posted by Steve @ 9:17:00 AM

9:17:00 AM

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Saturday, April 17, 2004

Porn industry in HIV scare

H.I.V. Cases Shut Down Pornography Film Industry


By NICK MADIGAN

Published: April 17, 2004

LOS ANGELES, April 16 — The nation's multibillion-dollar pornographic film industry virtually shut itself down this week after producers learned that at least two of its actors had been infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

Most of the major companies in the adult-movie industry, which turns out about 4,000 films and videos a year, agreed to halt filming for 60 days so that any of the performers who worked with the infected actors could be tested and re-tested for exposure to the virus, H.I.V.

Darren James, the first of the two performers known to have been infected, may have contracted the virus while shooting a film in Brazil, friends and associates said, and passed it on to at least one of the 12 actresses he worked with in Los Angeles after his return.

"That was kind of a downer," said Jill Kelly, a producer whose production house, which is named after her, normally turns out eight films a month. "People think this is something that happens all the time in this industry, but it really doesn't."

Mr. James appears to have infected a Canadian actress who is new to the business and goes by the stage name Lara Roxx, industry leaders said. About 65 performers have been identified as having had sex with either of the two actors or with someone else who did. All are being tested.

On Friday, preliminary test results on a second actress who worked with Mr. James raised fears that she too might have contracted H.I.V., Ms. Kelly said.

The last recorded H.I.V. infections in the pornography business here were in 1999.

"It hurts everyone's pocket, but we're talking about people's lives," Ms. Kelly said of the shutdown, which was initiated not by public health authorities but by the industry itself.

Leaders of the industry said the moratorium indicated the seriousness with which they handled health issues.


The reason this is news is that porn is an $11 billion dollar industry backed by the largest companies in America. While Ashcroft cam babble about HBO being porn, which is insane on it's face, he won't do much about it. Prosecutions and other federal action tend to backfire. The Meese Commission, which was liberally sprinked with Andrea Dworkin's psychotic rantings, was some of the best collections of porn ever created.

How potent is porn? Well, Netflix, the DVD rental service, is losing money. If it rented porn, it's profitiablity will be assured. Blockbuster and Walmart are entering the DVD by mail business, but they will all remain vunerable to the company which rents Hollywood and porn side by side. All of the major cable companies rent soft core porn, and most major hotel chains rent hard core porn as part of their profitability picture.

Sharon Mitchell pretty much forced the issue of HIV in porn, and the industry has been relatively successful in keeping it under control. But there is an essential conflict: people like to see their fantasies on film, but real people are having real sex on screen. There are no stunt anuses on camera in porn. When you see unsafe sex in porn, it's unsafe sex.

Also, people, even porn actors, have real sex lives with real partners. Which makes them just as vunerable as anyone else to HIV infection.

Considering that this is the first outbreak in five years and the industry's largest film producers eagerly shut down for sixty days, they've acted with far more speed than other industries have to save their business. Keep in mind, Vivid makes four films a day or at least 20 films a week. That's 160 films which won't be made. Now, it might not be fun to not get the next Kobe Tai or Jenna Jameson film for a couple of months, this is where real life intrudes on fantasy.

What needs to be considered is that this is the ONLY way porn producers protect their workers. Otherwise, it is an exploitative, generally sleazy industry which treats their workers like dirt. The legal brothels in Nevada have much better work rules, including mandatory condom use for ALL customers. Violate that rule and lose your business.

The reason the California porn industry has to worry about HIV is simple: customers want to see unprotected sex. All those cum shots are a risk for the actresses involved. But people's fantasy lives are often stronger than realistic constraints. If customers bought films where condoms were used in greater numbers, more producers would make those films.

The actresses are often young and naive, either working out issues in their personal life (Howard Stern usually asks porn actresses if they were abused as kids) or seeking a desperate sort of fame. They don't realize that only two actresses have crossed the line from doing porn to straight film in nearly 30 years. Jenna Jameson's fame is still that as a porn actress and she still works in the industry.

While I have nothing against porn, it's like a slaughterhouse, We all like beef, but few of us want to rip the innards out of a cow. Porn fills a sexual need for most men, but few of us want to think about how it's produced or the conditions the actors and actresses work under.

posted by Steve @ 3:31:00 PM

3:31:00 PM

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The FBI and CIA don't talk?

The FBI and CIA don't talk?

One of the most amazing things which Condoleeza Rice said during her public testimony is that the CIA and FBI don't communicate well with each other and that this was a "structural" problem.

Uh, no kidding. Any book about the CIA since Victor Marchetti's highly redacted 1973's The Cult of Intelligence has depicted a virtual cold war between the Agency and the Bureau. The OSS, the predecessor to the CIA, reportedly took pictures of J. Edgar Hoover screwing a bus boy in a Washington hotel, and passed the pictures on to the CIA. The FBI tried to strangle the OSS in its bed. Relations between the two agencies have ranged from icy cold to lukewarm. They have never been good.

There are cultural and political reasons for the hostility, but to act surprised that it exists is not only shocking, but insulting to any sentinent adult with ANY knowledge of national security issues.

There is talk of creating an American Surete or MI-5, but that would miss the point. It's moving in the wrong direction. The FBI, despite it's numerous flaws, spends most of it's budget on counterintelligence. What is needed is not an MI-5, but an agency dedicated to crime intelliegence and supporting local and state police forces. The function which needs to be removed from the FBI is not the murky world of spookdom, but the every day business of crime and investigation. Why? Because it is clear that the Bureau cannot do both, and the reputation of the FBI is dirt with most local police forces. A new agency dedicated not only to investigating crime on a national basis, but providing support to other law enforcement agencies would probably be a far wiser solution that building a new MI-5 for America.

While the FBI wants to protect their turf, it is clear that the two missions are incompatible. The FBI cannot be a one-stop shop for all domestic threats to America.

However, what is missing from this conversation is the role of the Defense Department in this. Most of the intelligence budget and operations are controlled by DOD. The CIA is the only major intelligence agency not controlled by DOD. How come the Defense Intelligence Agency missed links to Al Qaeda, they were heavily invested in Pakistan. Where was the National Security Agency's intercepts of AQ communications? The defense department agencies missed as much as the CIA and FBI, yet will now only get the scrutiny which is needed.

It is easy to blame Langley for what happened on 9/11 and share the blame with the FBI. That's an old and established habit. The missing link is DOD. It isn't as if one agency alone screwed up. They all missed something. But to act as if it was a mystery that the FBI and CIA refused to talk is an insult to common sense. Anyone who could pick up one of a hundred books could have figured that out. Unless Rice shares the reading habits of her boss, her ignorance of this is either disingenuous or shocking.

posted by Steve @ 12:35:00 PM

12:35:00 PM

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The road to anarchy

The road to anarchy

Read Juan Cole today. Sistani's top aide has said that if the US tries to take Najaf, he'll call the Shia into the street.

No one wants this confrontation. Even Sadr has had second and third thoughts between fits of paranoia. But the US is poised on creating anarchy if they launch attacks on either Kerbala or Najaf. Sistani woud have to order the defense of the city. Once that happens, Sadr City would explode as well.

At every turn, the US seems not to understand anything about Iraq. Asking Sadr to surrender to the collaborationist police and expecting to have people hand over their cousins.

I'm watching Gen. Kimmit telling the press that most people in Fallujah feel that they are "held hostage". Which is a joke, or would be if American teenagers weren't going to die. Now they're declaring highways no go zones. Of course, that makes the guerrillas job easier. No civilians in the way to be killed. Unless they take the wrong road and are shot by Americans.

Did it occur to anyone in the CPA that maybe they don't have the pulse of the Iraqi people? That maybe, just maybe, when poor Shia give their food to Sunnis, that the perception that the resistance in Fallujah doesn't have widespread support might be wrong.

I don't think anyone understands what we're running towards, which is anarchy. Order in Iraq isn't going to collapse slowly, but quickly. Once Sistani orders the defense of Najaf all hell will break lose. The Americans are saying "it's only Sadr." The Iraqis are saying "no, it's not." You already have one disaster in Fallujah, why in God's name would you invite another one in Najaf. And if anything happens in Najaf, Sadr City will not remain calm. So Coalition forces could face a three front war and supply lines threatened.

There is frightening lack of foresight here. Picking fights you cannot win is insane. We cannot fight the entire enraged Shia population. Saddam tried it and nearly lost and he had most of his army intact. His million man . We don't have a million men in Iraq.

Now, you have the shaky 1st Armored Division ready to attack Najaf. They are one bad day from a collapse in combat. Extending their tours was as braindead an act as possible. These guys have to feel that they're being sentenced to death after escaping a year in Iraq. That extra 120 days is a number in Washington, but it's the difference between life and death or injury in Iraq.

Here's a question: who will fight harder-Americans with low morale or Shia defending their holy sites?

posted by Steve @ 9:14:00 AM

9:14:00 AM

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Friday, April 16, 2004

We are meaner than you

We are meaner than you

Watching the incredibly unlucky Pfc. Keith Maupin on TV, it is easy to realize one thing: for all of Bush's tough talk, the Iraqis are meaner than us. Americans are good at remote killing, with bombs and rockets and cannon, but we cannot stare into a camera with hostages. At least for politics.

Have no illusions. The hostage takers, who are more than likely ex-Iraqi soldiers, will kill all 40 hostages to meet their goals, which is to get rid of Americans. Or they will hold them until their families are crying on TV and cursing Bush to do something. There is no Jessica Lynch-type rescue possible. All the movie dramatics don't apply here. Charlie Sheen will not be sliding down and crashing into a window, The point seems to be that hostages are free for the taking.

The Iraqis, despite the Americans myopia, keep raising the stakes. They can show how hard they truly are and how they can make Americans suffer while Bush watches and repeat his mantra of toughness. Maybe he thinks he's John Wayne. But the real world makes short work of John Waynes. Those who talk tough are soon forced to eat their words.

All of the blather eminating from CENTCOM and the White House can be defeated with the murders of American truck drivers. Burn a couple alive on tape and that will cut the heart out of the civilian workforce. As evil and as ghastly as it is, it will show exactly how tough the Iraqi resistance is. We are dealing with people who will do what is required to win. These are the same people who faced American B-52's and Iranian Revolutionary Guards as well as Saddam. These are tough people and they don't waste their time with cheap words.

Everyone wants the hostages to come home alive, which is what they are playing on. They want us to beg for their release. But at the same time, we better realize that they will kill them all if they have to. They will raise the level of pain well past what we can bear. And no matter what Bush says, we will break. Because they will match our tough words with their tough actions.

posted by Steve @ 6:50:00 PM

6:50:00 PM

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$76? At Outback? For Takeout?

$76? At Outback? For Takeout?

Meals made to order for families on the go

Every week, Scott Wilson drives to the Outback Steakhouse in Ellicott City, pulls his green truck to the curb and waits to pick up dinner for his family of five.

Inside, two takeout waitresses rush to take phone orders while another runs Wilson's food out to his Chevrolet.

This steakhouse, one of the chain's busiest outlets in the nation, logs 50 to 60 curbside takeout orders each weekday and 150 orders each weekend day, so workers try to keep traffic moving.

"It's very convenient," said Wilson, 47, a Marriottsville contractor.

Wilson, who paid $76 for his family's meal, is one of a growing crowd that is choosing to neither cook nor dine out but instead pick up restaurant meals curbside.

Customers say it's quick and allows them to eat higher-quality food at home with their families. For busy restaurants, the extra income from selling meals at the curb is irresistible. So, restaurants are racing to implement or increase their curbside service.

Chains like Applebee's and Chili's have joined Outback in tapping into this call for convenience.


I"m sorry, but $76 for Outback? Every week? Man, give me a grill and some decent cuts of meat and I'll kick Outback's ass. I can see that once in a while, but every week is a waste of money.

I'll admit I'm not Outback's biggest fan, but shit, their food is mediocre and a smart cook could blend takeout from the supermarket with prime grade steak and some quick deep frying and get a better meal.

I love the occasional steak or grilled chicken, but unless you're crashing through the door bone tired, 30 minutes can get you a better meal. I have to admit that their garlic mashed potatoes rule, but even the bloomin' onion leaves me cold.

I will say this, it is a step up from fast food. It might even be healthier. But it is nearly half of what a family spends on food in an average week. I cannot see dropping that kind of money on Outback or any chain without the resturant ambiance. Although with kids, that can be a pain in the ass.

My way of thinking is that if your kids all eat beef, you can do a Tuscan steak, which is a porterhouse (t-bone and filet minon) grilled and then sliced, medium, in 30 minutes on a grill. Steak cooks quickly. Frozen mashed potatoes can be cooked quickly and have garlic and parsely added.
Coconut shrimp can be pre-prepared and dipped into a fryer. A bloomin' onion is merely a whole onion breaded and deep fried. But to be honest, I'd spend $10-12 bucks on the sides there and cook the steak myself.

The drive for quick meals is not just a dietary one, but an economic one. I was watching Oprah one day and this woman left her 11 year home alone while she worked long hours. I was stunned that this woman's priorities was so out of wack. Economic success, for selfless reasons, had totally placed her family life secondary.

The reason someone can drop $76 at Outback and think this is a good idea is not for the food. The food is OK. It's about exhaustion and trying to recapture family time. It's easier to eat Outback than to cook for three kids. It makes daddy a hero to come in with restaurant food, and not just to the kids.

We should all have the time or the planning to do better than Outback, but in a society where you need two incomes to live decently, you can't.

posted by Steve @ 12:15:00 PM

12:15:00 PM

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Warnings ignored

Warnings ignored

Warnings ignored, says retired Marine
By Rick Rogers
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

April 16, 2004

Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni wondered aloud yesterday how Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld could be caught off guard by the chaos in Iraq that has killed nearly 100 Americans in recent weeks and led to his announcement that 20,000 U.S. troops would be staying there instead of returning home as planned.

"I'm surprised that he is surprised because there was a lot of us who were telling him that it was going to be thus," said Zinni, a Marine for 39 years and the former commander of the U.S. Central Command. "Anyone could know the problems they were going to see. How could they not?"

At a Pentagon news briefing yesterday, Rumsfeld said he could not have estimated how many troops would be killed in the past week.

Zinni made his comments during an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune before giving a speech last night at the University of San Diego's Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice as part of its distinguished lecturer series.

For years Zinni said he cautioned U.S. officials that an Iraq without Saddam Hussein would likely be more dangerous to U.S. interests than one with him because of the ethnic and religious clashes that would be unleashed.

"I think that some heads should roll over Iraq," Zinni said. "I think the president got some bad advice."


Gee, just because Zinni was a former head of CENTCOM, what does he know about Iraq? He's just another liberal who is betraying our troops. Just like Eric Shinseki, Hugh Shelton and Wes Clark. Traitors one and all. They should shut up and support the troops. Which translates into shut up and support Bush, regardless how many dead teenagers come home.

I say let's really support the troops and bring them home, alive and able to defend this country against real threats, like Osama Bin Laden. Staying in Iraq is a suicide pact which will destroy the US Army and the Iraqi people.

posted by Steve @ 11:51:00 AM

11:51:00 AM

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Fear of a GOP Draft

Fear of a GOP Draft

Ralph Nader is running around campuses telling kids that Bush is going to reinstate the draft. My Congressman, Charles Rangel wants to reinstate the draft to "balance" who serves in the military.

Both are dead wrong.

First of all, the modern, lottery-based draft is no more fair that the exemption based draft which existed after WW II. Why?

It all breaks down to who serves and who takes the most risk. While a draft would have a flood of middle class kids, few would serve in the combat arms. The most balanced formation, in terms of social class, ever in US history is the modern National Guard infantry platoon. More middle class soldiers are serving in combat today than in any time in American history.

What a draft would do is simple. The poor kids who get advanced technical jobs in today's military would be shunted into the combat arms (infantry, artillery, armor, combat engineers). All those vaunted middle class kids would be, if they didn't get medical exemptions, given all those rear-area jobs, or join the Navy or Air Force, avoiding combat.

Besides the fact that Bush would be chased from office if he tried to pass a draft, and the fact that the military wants nothing to do with it, tthe draft is not a social leveler. It never has been. The most socially balanced US army was the Continental Army, which had nearly 25 percent black soldiers, percentages which it would not see again until Vietnam.

The composition of the infantry has remained remarkably consistant for over 250 years, according to Charles Moskos: the poor and lower middle class led by middle class officers. The US is one of the few nations on earth who's generals grew up either poor or working class. The reason many went to West Point is that it was the only way they could afford a college education.

The myth of the draft as a class leveller comes from WWII, where it was only true for about six months. And the reason for that was the ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program), which took oridnary soldiers and trained them in various skills in colleges. As infantry casualities hit 90 percent for units in Normandy, these programs were emptied out and stocked with these educated young men.

But for most of the war, the infanty was those unwanted by other branches.

The reason we think the draft was a social leveller comes from two sources. One is the GI Bill. We forget that the men who basically changed America were poor before the GI Bill and middle class after, with their low interest houses and college educations. The benefits were the same if you typed on Governor's Island, survived Bataan and years as a guerilla in the Philippiines or landed on Utah Beach. Everyone who served and was discharged honorably was eligible to participate. It literally created a middle class where none existed.

And while the middle class willingly served in the Cold War draft, most avoided service in the infantry. Why?

The Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT). That one test, which determines the range of careers you're eligible for in the military, seperates the stupid from the smart. If you do poorly, well, I hope you like driving trucks, traditionally, the job of the stupid in the military. If you do well, any job you want is yours. The infantry requires some reasonable intelligence.

Also, many of the draftmongers don't get that the military can increase their ranks by changing enlistment requirements. The military is a third smaller than it was in 1991. This isn't the WW II or the Vietnam army where you can take people from the street and train them for a few months and send them into an infantry platoon. Infantry operations are far more complex these days and requires vastly more training.

A draft would do nothing for Iraq, because it would take two to three years to build a new division. If you think we'll be in Iraq in two to three years, fine, but it wouldn't help the current military. It would be, if a draft passed in 2005, churning in the second cohort of draftees into those new divisions in 2008. You would lose a cohort (the first draftees) in the formation of those divisions, and the second cohort would fill them out.

Also, the military wants nothing to do with a draft because of all the losers they would have to take. As it stands, if someone doesn't work out in the military, they can leave with little stigma, a draft army won't work that way. All the mental lightweights, social misfits and general losers who would now be shunted out of the military would have to be accepted.

Right now, anyone in an infantry unit volunteered to be there. There is always a pool of young men eager to see combat. The idea that policy would change because middle class kids are filing papers in division headquarters is silly. There will always be 18 year olds willing to shoot other people, at least until they actually have to.

Also, the job of the military is to provide national security, not make a fair, socially balanced military. If that was the case, the current reserves and National Guard provide that balance. Americans have never rushed to send their sons in the military. Not in any war. The Civil War was fought by the poor, working class and former slaves. Harvard and Yale had their boat race without a pause in 1864, while black former slaves served in the bloodiest battles of the war.

The draft is, for the most part, a tool of the past. Our military is too expensive to use the bodies created by the draft, the task of infantry combat too delicate to accept the unwilling in their ranks. Only the committed can do the most dangerous of jobs.

If you want social equality, fund schools equally. Nothing else, especially not a draft, will spread the burden of war across society. In reality, the military has served as tool of social promotion. The 7th Cavalry in 1876, the men who died at Little Big Horn, were mostly immigrants and ex-Confederates. The Army was the employer of last resort, even then.

The draft is technically possible, but the realities of it mean it would be less efficient than simply raising military salaries. Draft or not, the men who become 11 Bravos will not change. Rich kids, through education, medical care or luck, will avoid the burden of combat service, just like they have for nearly 250 years.

posted by Steve @ 9:22:00 AM

9:22:00 AM

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Thursday, April 15, 2004

Sadr wins

Sadr wins

Our friend Sadr gets to have his militia kill Americans, avoid arrest and according to the NY Times, may well get to live in Tehran for a month or two.

The Iranians, eager to avoid the near-apocalyptic bloodbath which would come from an attack on Najaf, have tried to negotiate a settlement where Sadr escapes martyrdom and the US escapes engraging the Muslim world.

This is, without question, a complete and total victory for Sadr and a humilating defeat for the US. Our big talk strategy has ended with US forces looking impotent and ineffective. US forces are effectively stalemated in Fallujah, taking casualities and unable to control the city. Now, after demanding Sadr surrender, not only will his militia be "disbanded", which is semantics for sent home with their guns, he'll be allowed to escape.

He's been turned from a pest into a major player in Iraqi politics. His willingness to fight the Americans, force Sistani to defend him and serve as a voice for the poor, as well as having his militia kill Americans without sanction, has allowed him to win respect that he didn't have before. He may have been fading before two weeks ago, but now, no deal in Iraq can happen without him.

Even Chalabi was quoted as backing away, ever so slightly, from his American patrons over Sadr and Fallujah. This won't save his life when the mobs come for him on July 1, but it is a sign that this has all gone too far.

So does anyone think the Mahdi Army will stop their reign of terror with Sadr cooling his heels in Tehran? Not likely, since cell phones haven't been abolished. Sadr City will still be seen as a no-go zone for Americans and Sadr's lectures will be spread by tape and internet throughout Iraq.

Oh yeah, he's now a nationalist hero who wanted to avoid bloodshed from the crazy Americans. The Shis who stood by the Sunnis when the Americans attacked them.

If negotiations don't collapse, Sadr can laugh all the way to Tehran, knowing the Americans gave him status and prestige he never would have gotten on his own.

Now Viceroy Jerry looks like a fool unable to keep his word. If he can't bring in Sadr, dead or alive, much less pacify Fallujah, what can he do?

Update: Iranian diplomat killed in Baghdad; Japanese hostages freed

The Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Gunmen killed a high-ranking Iranian diplomat in Baghdad today, but it was unclear whether the killing was linked to Iranian efforts to mediate between U.S. forces and a radical Shiite cleric.

Khalil Naimi, the first secretary of the Iranian Embassy, was shot in the head while he was in his car near the embassy, Foreign Ministry official Mohammad Nouri told The Associated Press in Tehran.

 
The killing came as a senior Iranian envoy visited Iraq to try to mediate an end to the U.S. standoff with radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Asked whether the killing was linked to the envoy's visit, a embassy official said on condition of anonymity, ''There is some speculation, but we do not have a clear idea.''

The hood of Naimi's car was crumpled and bullet holes pockmarked the windshield. The diplomat's car had diplomatic plates but no symbols on it suggesting it was Iranian.

posted by Steve @ 9:40:00 AM

9:40:00 AM

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Wednesday, April 14, 2004

The day the neocons won

The day the neocons won

The Neocon Likudniks have their great victory. Bush endorsed Sharon's desperate land grab in the West Bank not realizing the blowback effects in Iraq. To any Arab, this is naked land theft. There is no hope for a Palestinian state with armed compounds in their midst, with the right of Israeli protection and no responsibility to the local government.

Instead of saying to Sharon that he needs to stop the killing, Bush gave him what he wanted and ruined any chance we could be seen as an honest broker. This one sided land theft makes it impossible for any Palestinian government to make a deal.

Of course, this is an insane burden for any Israeli government. Having to fortify the settlements and protect them from the inevitable blockade they would face. Their very existance would enrage Palestinians. And given the deep racism of many of the settlers, it would be like setting up Klan compounds in Baldwin Hills and demanding the LAPD protect them.

Sharon is a supremacist who holds Arabs in the deepest racist contempt. He made his name as an IDF officer for his efficiency in killing Arabs. Now, as he faces jail for corruption, he devises a plan which well could lead to an Israeli civil war. The moderate secularists are going to grow tired of paying for Israel's colonial adventure for a bunch of diehard anti-Arab bigots.

Bush's carefully crafted neocon endorsement of this insane plan which pisses off the right and the left leaves the US screwed. What does he think led on Al Arabiya tonight? The shafing of the Palestinians. What does that tell the Iraqis. Here comes the shaft. You better get used to President Chalabi and like it. But unlike the Palestinians, the Americans live far away.

Bush babbled on about a Palestinian state, but you can't have a state where your enemies can destabilize you at their will. Terriortorial integrity is a key aspect of nationhood, this violates it.

The Israelis expect the Palestinian Authority to end violence. But how can they do that when Bush and Sharon say openly that they endorse the theft of Palestinian land.

The neocons have worked long and hard to tie US policy to the Likudnik vision of the world. Kerry will have to abrogate this and change US policy because it is a shortsighted and dangerous plan. It also isolates us from the EU and UN, who oppose land theft.

Bush, once again, listened to the neocons, and heads face first into a disater. These settlements and this plan cannot stand. This is a plan for the colonization of the West Bank without having to pay for the occupation. There will be no peace as long as racists drive the need for settlements on the West Bank. Without their imput, there would be no settlements. The low rents, benefits for living on the West Bank, which drove many normal, non-ideological Israelis to these settlements, was a carefully designed racist policy to deny Palestinians their land. Expecting peace to be made on that basis is insane.

posted by Steve @ 7:04:00 PM

7:04:00 PM

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Fixing Iraq

Fixing Iraq

The cold hard fact is that if we have to wait for John Kerry to be elected, there won't be an Iraq to make policy for. No one, not pundits, not policy makers, realize that events are moving rapidly against us in Iraq. There are no secular politicians to make a deal with and the longer we remain, the worse the war gets.

First, the CPA needs to begin direct negotiations with Shia and Sunni clerics and the Kurdish parties on a handover of power. Let us admit who runs the country and lets cut a deal with them. We need to work out some kind of legitimate transfer of power under UN mandate

Second, US forces need to begin a phased withdrawal while they still can. There is too much blood shed to think we can be there a decade as if was Kosovo. The Iraqi Army should be reconstituted and given all security missions as the US withdraws. Iraqi security is an Iraqi problem, not one for American teenagers. All Iraqis, whether in party militias or the resistance be given a chance to rejoin their units or join new ones.

Third, with Iraqi approval, a UN mandate with peacekeeping and training forces should be established. Then, a mixed Arab League and NATO force should come in and work with the Iraqi Army. They would retrain the police and Army over time.

Fourth, most Western company contracts should be abrogated and Iraqis put back to work.

Fifth, basic criminal and civil law should be established to allow a real crackdown on criminal gangs and begin the restoration of security to Iraq.

Bush wanted to remake Iraq in the neocons image, one where a Chalabi could flourish. That isn't going to happen. We either deal with the realities of Iraq, and Kerry's suggestions are just as impracticable as Bush's, but for different reasons, or face a defeat which will ruin the Army, cripple foreign policy and kill many Iraqis in the resulting mayhem.

The US has to realize that this misguided war means no one will join us in Iraq, most of our partners will pull their troops after a year, and our position will be horribly exposed. It will not matter if Bush or Kerry asks the questions, no country who isn't in Iraq will join us. We have to deal with the people on the ground and get out of the way. If not, 83 dead will be one day's total, not two weeks.

posted by Steve @ 12:10:00 PM

12:10:00 PM

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83 Dead

83 Dead

After Bush's pathetic performance last night, all he could say was that "we have to stay the course." The fact that the course will be bloody and ultimately fail seems not to have penetrated the White House. It may not penetrate until the Shia and Sunni clerics are wandering around the CPA headquarters, picking through burned American documents as collaborators are shot in the streets for the pleasure of Al Arabiya and BBC cameras.

We have no friends in Iraq, no faction we can trust. As bad as the South Vietnamese government was, it was a government. There is no government in Iraq. The IGC isn't one, not with most Iraqis hating them. Even our puppet, Ahmed Chalabi, plays us like a naive girlfriend. Whatever lie he tells us, even bragging about his lies, we just accept it, saying he provides an "invaluable service".

The pace of war has changed, and all the negotiations prove this. The US overreached in Fallujah and talked themselves into a corner with Sadr. Comparing him to Hitler or Lenin is rhetorical overreach. He may run a bunch of thugs, but he's not trying to kill Sunnis or Kurds. Stating outright that we were going to arrest or kill him was mindbendingly stupid. That's what he and his followers want, martyrdom. Now, we have to either back down or go into Najaf and kick off the Shia rebellion.

From the first days, this has been a military-based rebellion. I honestly don't think that paying off the Army would have worked. Iraqi nationalism is too strong a force, and the combat refusals and defections we've seen would have happened anyway. What the army might have done is stop the crime explosion.

The WaPo has a nice piece on the resistance today by Tom Ricks.

Insurgents Display New Sophistication
Campaign Leaves Bridges Heavily Damaged, Hampering Military's Push South

By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 14, 2004; Page A01


FORWARD OPERATING BASE DUKE, Iraq, April 13 -- Insurgents fighting the U.S.-led occupation force have sharply increased the sophistication, coordination and aggressiveness of their tactics over the past week, Army officers and soldiers involved in combat here said.


Most dramatically, as several thousand U.S. troops pushed south this week from the Baghdad area to this new base in central Iraq, one highway bridge on their planned route was destroyed and two others were so heavily damaged that they could not be used by heavy Army trucks and armored vehicles.

Those attacks on convoy routes, which U.S. forces were using for the first time, revealed a previously unseen degree of coordination among insurgent groups, said Army Col. Dana J.H. Pittard, the commander of a brigade-size task force now assembling for possible combat operations against the forces of radical Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr in or near the holy city of Najaf.

"The dropping of the bridges was very interesting, because it showed a regional or even a national level of organization," Pittard said in an interview. He said insurgents appeared to be sending information southward, communicating about routes being taken by U.S. forces and then getting sufficient amounts of explosives to key bridges ahead of the convoys.

With occupation forces battling Sadr's Shiite militiamen south and east of Baghdad and Sunni Muslim insurgents to the north and west, the timing of the Iraqis' tactical development is nearly as troubling for U.S. forces as its effect. But the explanation for the change is not yet clear, military commanders said.

Here in southern Iraq, which is overwhelmingly Shiite, U.S. officers say the best guess is that former soldiers who served under President Saddam Hussein have decided to lend their expertise and coordinating abilities to the untrained Shiite militiamen.

"It's a combination of Saddam loyalists and Shiite militias," Maj. Gen. John R. Batiste, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, said in a brief interview here at FOB Duke, where he was reviewing combat preparations.

Batiste said the influence of former Iraqi Republican Guard officers was especially apparent in the fighting in the Sunni town of Fallujah, where, he said, many veteran officers made their homes. "You could staff a division with the Iraqi officers living there," he said.

Maj. Kreg Schnell, Pittard's intelligence chief, agreed with Batiste's assessment. "There's been a marriage of convenience between Sadr's militia and Saddam loyalists," he said.


No. Schnell is wrong. The Iraqi Army was mostly Shia, except in the top ranks. There are plenty of Shia majors and colonels who were expert engineers. In fact, the Iraqi Army was reknowned for their engineering skills, which would place the bridge dropping campaign in good stead.

And they are not untrained militiamen. Most over 19 had military training. Iraq is chock full of combat vets. Their teeth to tail ratio is a lot lower than 13:1, as the US Army has. Most Iraqi soldiers were Shia, not Sunni.

These assumptions have cost 83 dead in 13 DAYS. That makes April the bloodiest month of the war, with a rate of 6.07 killed a day, according to the Iraq Casuality Count. That is twice as high as November, 2003.

It is absolutely criminal to pretend that this is some Red Brigades-type movement instead of a widely supported rebellion. The American Revolution only had the support of 1 out of three Americans. Over 50 percent of Iraqis want us gone. If ten percent of Iraqis opposed us, that's 2.6 million people. We have less that 200,000 Americans, civilian and military there. We cannot do anything in Iraq without the support of the people. Not their quiet indifference. Most Iraqis are neutral or leaning to oppose the US. That makes our position impossible. The sad fact is that the Nazis had more support in occupied France than we do in Iraq. We don't even have a decent puppet government.

It's been a year, Iraqis have been more than happy to kill Americans while their citizens watch and cluck their teeth. Why does Bush pretend that Iraqis actually give a damn if American teenagers die to make their country safer. They don't care and they resent our presence. It's also true that the American teenagers forced into making policy have shot and robbed their way across Iraq.

The fatal flaw in the occupation is a simple one: US citizens are above the law. Why have there been no rape or murder courtmartials of soldiers who have assaulted Iraqis? You mean no GI has assaulted an Iraqi in a year? No questionable shootings? Two Gi's staggered drunk into the Baghdad Zoo and shot it up. So what happened to them? Nothing much.

Unless you commit a crime where there are witnesses who care, nothing happens. Americans routinely disrespect Iraqis and get away with it. We're the occupying power, not the friends of Iraqis. Pretending that they support us is a murderous fiction.

posted by Steve @ 10:33:00 AM

10:33:00 AM

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Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Watching the Idiot King Choke

Watching the Idiot King Choke

Okay, didn't realize that Bush was on at 8:30 and not 9. Oh, well, at least I caught an old Star Trek: TNG episode that I actually never saw before--a true rarity.

What's NOT rare on TV tonight: Watching Bush choke.

Man, he looks AWFUL. He is stuttering. He looks like he woke up late. He is rambling. He is not answering questions. He is being FORCED to do this press conference, by whom, we shall find out soon, I suppose. He looks like a teenager at his shotgun wedding.

Ironically, I got a free issue of Craine's. It said that jobs were up in NYC--by a sliver.

Watch that number pitch now.

I can't believe the true depths of the lack of Bush's intelligence, in all ways.

Did anyone else catch his inability to admit that he made a mistake--ever, for ANY decision?

Wonder if Mrs. Kerry is hitting her Rolodex for a good interior decorator. She should; Monkey Boy is moving out soon.

Ooh, nice camera cut to Condi Rice--she looks about as comfortable as...oh, I dunno, someone really uncomfortable. Use Comments to put in your own snappy comparison!

Jesus, this is just AWFUL.

I weep for my country.

I think I'll just finish my eggy rice and go to bed.

posted by Jenonymous @ 9:18:00 PM

9:18:00 PM

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Fallujah rallies Iraqis

Fallujah rallies Iraqis

Fallujah Gains Mythic Air
Siege Redefines Conflict for Iraqis in Capital

By Karl Vick and Anthony Shadid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, April 13, 2004; Page A01


BAGHDAD, April 12 -- The U.S. Marine siege of Fallujah, designed to isolate and pursue a handful of extremists in a restive town, has produced a powerful backlash in the capital. Urged on by leaflets, sermons and freshly sprayed graffiti calling for jihad, young men are leaving Baghdad to join a fight that residents say has less to do with battlefield success than with a cause infused with righteousness and sacrifice.


"The fighting now is different than a year ago. Before, the Iraqis fought for nothing. Now, fighters from all over Iraq are going to sacrifice themselves," said a Fallujah native who gave his name as Abu Idris and claimed to be in contact with guerrillas who slip in and out of the besieged city three and four times daily.

He spoke in a mosque parking lot emptied moments earlier of more than a ton of donated foodstuffs destined for Fallujah -- heavy bags of rice, tea and flour loaded into long, yellow semitrailers by a cluster of men who, their work done, joined a spirited discussion about the need to take the fight to the enemy. They included a dentist, a prayer leader, a law student, a lieutenant colonel in the Iraqi police and a man who until 10 days earlier had traveled with U.S. troops as a member of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.

"Our brothers who went to Fallujah and came back say: 'Oh, God, it is heaven. Anyone who wants paradise should go to Fallujah,' " Abu Idris said.

The lopsided battle 35 miles to the west -- where 2,500 Marines have been deployed -- has had a profound impact here, redefining for many in Baghdad the nature of the campaign against U.S. troops.

Intense, sympathetic and often startlingly graphic coverage on Arab channels has deepened a vein of nationalism, stirred in part by still unconfirmed reports of high civilian casualties. Over the weekend, in the living room of a decidedly secular family, a woman wept over the images on a screen she finally leaned forward and kissed.

Headlines in Iraq's newly free press reinforce the video images: "Fallujah Wakes to a Grave Massacre" read the banner in Monday's edition of the daily Azzaman. Fresh graffiti sprayed in sweeping Arabic letters is turning up across the city. On one wall in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Jihad, the messages were spaced 10 yards apart: "Long live Fallujah's heroes." "Down with America and long live the Mahdi Army," a Shiite militia. Then: "Long live the resistance in Fallujah." And finally, "Long live the resistance."

The popular response -- of Shiite and Sunni giving aid, shelter to refugees and even volunteers to the fight -- has pushed fears of an Iraqi civil war to the background. The fighters in Fallujah are said to include Mahdi Army militiamen loyal to the radical cleric Moqtada Sadr. A housewife in Baghdad's Salaam neighborhood told of a passionate argument with her husband, a Shiite who insisted on joining friends volunteering to fight in Fallujah.

"This is jihad," she quoted him as saying. She added: "It was the first time he ever slapped me."


Yeah, this is having the effect CENTCOM expected. The guerillas are getting reenforcements. Great. I'm sure they won't shoot down any more helicopters or take any more hostages.

posted by Steve @ 12:52:00 PM

12:52:00 PM

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Confessions of a wargamer

Confessions of a wargamer

I'm listening to Howard Stern tease Jon Favreau about playing Dungeons and Dragons in high school. An alumnus of Bronx High School of Science, it was pretty much a rite of passage. I played some D&D, but I liked Traveller a lot more. There was nothing better than seeing gauss rifles, which could penetrate armor, in action.

For those who remember, Traveller was a lot more flexible than D&D in that you could use the rules to play in any time period.

It sounds kind of silly now, all the dice rolling and character generation, but then, this has been transfered to computers, in both the stand alone version and the multiplayer version. Many of the fans created in childhood now play as adults, anonymously, shielded from the laughter of people like Stern, who while geeky, never got the joys of combating dragons.

I was slightly too old to play Magic and the other card games, but I have seen my nephew, who's eight, become addicted to Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh.

I have to admit that my knowledge of the military doesn't come from wargaming as much as model building. There, I would log hours in the library researching equipment and uniforms. Because wargames came self-contained, models don't. Right now, I'm researching Air America (the CIA Airline) to build a kit of one of their planes. It's therapy for my hands, and it amuses me in a snarky sort of way.

My favorite wargame in high school was Arab-Israeli Wars, probably the best title to deal with the subject. It was based on the Panzerblitz system from Avalon Hill. Not until Tanks was released for the PC by SSI did I find a game as entertaining.

Of course, the rise of Advanced Squad Leader changed everything. Complicated to play, filled with pieces, it was the sign that many of these things needed to be done off paper. I never got far with ASL, because it was expensive as hell. But it has its fans, even today, 20 years later. Curt Schilling, the Red Sox pitcher, runs a company which keeps the game alive. Personally, I converted to Steel Panthers a while back. The homebrewed conversions are still on my PC.

The thing about wargames is that they don't provide some magic insight to the concept of war. They're games, with rules and constraints. But if you think clearly, you can learn a lot about the kinds of decisions you might make in combat.

Take Fallujah. No matter how they gamed that out at CENTCOM, and they did, they forgot one thing, the weight of the opposition. If they drank their own kool-aid, then they thought it was a few hundred guerillas. The problem is that moving a mechanized army through a congested city leads to ambushes. You can see this when you play Steel Panthers:MBT, a homebrew version of the original SP series.

You move a tank into a town and you need infantry to protect them. In fact, you want to keep them as far back as possible to avoid them being ambushed. You lose visibility, range, all of the advantages that they have in the open. A city can eat up an attack like kids at McDonalds. One minute, you have a battalion crossing a few city blocks, and then a couple of hundred guys hold them up. Buildings, streets, all turn into death traps.

This translates into real life when you hear Marines say they will resume the offensive and it makes no sense. They're in the most open part of the city and stalled out. They go into a residential area and they're trapped. The Marines claimed they killed mostly guerillas, which is a fantasy. In a city, with civilians, and high powered rifles, most of the dead are the weak and the slow. Which means children and women, not teenage boys with rifles and their dads. Then, you have teenagers with rifles.

Philip Caputo, who wrote the first successful memoir about Vietnam, A Rumor of War, quoted his sergeant, who had served in Korea, and said he had seen his fellow Marines zero their rifles on Korean farmers. He told Caputo "there is no more dangerous thing than an American teenager with a rifle."

People don't realize that the round from an M-16 goes through clay and wood buildings. You could be sitting a block away from the fighting, drinking a Coke, and get wounded. Bullets travel and they don't have names on them. You could shoot a guerilla and depending on the weapon, wound someone not close to them. It's not the movies. It's not a game, where the bullets all go the right places.

Now, we're about to repeat this in Najaf, where the stakes are that much higher.

posted by Steve @ 9:24:00 AM

9:24:00 AM

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Economic Warfare

Economic Warfare

Thomas Hamill was a dairy farmer not long ago. But then he sold his farm and started driving trucks. Living in rural Mississippi, that didn't pay great. Then, of course, his wife had open heart surgery a couple of months back. With debts and a sick wife, he was looking for a better paying job. Kellogg, Brown and Root had one. Great pay, 10K a month, tax free. Benefits. Only one catch. It was in Iraq.

Which was fine until his convoy got hit and he became a hostage.

In a jobless economy, Halliburton's wages call like a siren song to the desperate. The problem is that the convoys come under gunfire.

Iraq is filled with America's economic vicitims. Mercenaries lured by action and money, soldiers who expected their duty would get them to college before a war would breakout, Now truck drivers and construction workers desperate for that tax free $100K a year, paid for by US taxpayers.

Kidnapping is nothing new in Iraq. Little girls have been snatched off the streets for about a year. Now, it's come to foriegners.

The Iraqi resistance knows that if you kidnap enough foreign workers, they will stop coming. No one wants to be the Hamill family. You don't have to even burn them alive, as they threatened to do with the Japanese captives, just scare them. Although I fear there will be dead captives, just to make a point.

Of course, this serves a wider strategic purpose. This cuts the supply lines. The US military needs those convoys, but can't protect the roads which brings them supplies. Throw in scared workers running home and the basic underpinnings of reconstruction are being destroyed.

The US expects Iraqis to stand up and stop the resistance. Which proves how clueless they truly are. Forget nationalism for a moment, since 1968, any Iraqi who objected to the bosses got either a trip into exile or a trip to Abu Gharib prison and a grave. The last mass uprising ended with 300K dead. Remember, these are the same people who fought Iraq and America for Saddam. All in the name of nationalism. The Iranians waited eight years for the Shia to turn on Saddam and it didn't happen.

They aren't going to risk anything for anyone at this point.

Besides, the Americans don't make it easy. They treat all Iraqis as suspects. And the Commonwealth press is filled with stories of bone ignorant GI's humiliating Iraqis. In British and Australian papers, the GI is seen as little better as a racist thug willing to murder at the drop of the hat.

You would think their bosses would act better, but when Marines say that 95% of their kills were guerillas, you don't know whether to laugh or cry. It reminds me of a line from Full Metal Jacket :"if they're dead, they're VC". That's the kind of lie which makes guerillas.

Of course, CENTCOM knows they're in trouble. They didn't add a third regiment and begin negotiations in Fallujah for appearances sake. Their supply lines are in danger and they're losing too many people to take more of the city.

Yet, the big talk never ends. The resistance keeps their mouth shut and confounds the Americans. The Americans bluster and threaten and fall short. The resistance may not have a formal umbrella organization, but they are going for the economic guts of reconstruction and winning.

posted by Steve @ 12:05:00 AM

12:05:00 AM

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Monday, April 12, 2004

Why our Iraqi legions quit

Why our Iraqi legions quit

Phil Carter takes alook at the Iraq security forces. While he does a nice job at explaining the issues around unit cohesion, he misses the larger political implications of the stateless Iraqi security forces.

The Iraqi forces represent no political force. The IGC is regarded as little better than a puppet government by most Iraqis. Those who work with it face a threat to their lives. Most members live outside the country and have not moved their families back. They represent who the Americans think should be in charge, not who Iraqis would choose. So while there is a need for security, when the Sadrist militias demand the police station, they have as much political legitimacy as the Americans. And they know where these people live. So the cops flee and wait for another day.

The failure of the security forces represents a larger failure of the politics of Iraq. Since the police and Civil Guard only represent themselves and some vague notion of Iraqi nationhood, the resistance has just as much a valid claim to the heart and minds of the Iraqi people. The cops can easily be seen as the collaborationist arm of the American occupiers. They don't have an Iraqi boss, they can't defy the Americans, much less arrest them, Why should the Iraqis respect them?

The only reason that they're allowed to exist, and just barely, is that Iraqis desperately need security.

The reason that they's so ineffective is simple: American racism. In yesterday's Daily Telegraph, British soldiers think the Americans treat the Iraqis like untermenschen, a damning comment from their fellow professionals. With the barely concealed contempt that Americans have for Iraqis, anyone working with them is not only risking their lives, but facing the hostility of Americans who have only one goal, going home alive.

The Americans also play with fire without realizing it. One of the two civilians killed a couple of weeks ago, who was not a former SEAL or Ranger, was an expert on woman's rights. Many Iraqis who have no love of the resistance may well participate in killing someone who they feel is defiling their culture. Her killers were Iraqi policemen. Anyone dealing in woman's rights is going to be a target in Iraq, regardless of politics. But except for a Nightline profile, outrage was muted.

The Americans simply don't realize that service in the security forces leaves Iraqis ripe for blackmail. Too many people, like Phil, see this as security issue and it's not. It's a political issue.

Crime and resistance often go hand in hand. The criminal gangs exist with the tolerance of the resistance and vice versa. The money made from theft and the black market often goes into anti-American activities. The Americans can get informants, and considering that Iraq was a Republic of Fear, informants were cheap, but they can't get the loyal police force that they need. Not loyal to the Americans, but to an Iraqi government. The IGC, roundly held in contempt, is not a suitable substitute.

The Iraqis are being asked to repress their fellow Iraqis for the promise of "democracy". At least Saddam offered real benefit and promotion to those who toed the line. You could be the most honest cop in Iraq, and your cousin could send your name to the local resistance cell as a traitor, and the Americans will do nothing to help you. What is often being missed is the incredible social pressure being placed on Iraqis to not aid the occupation.

Bremer sits there and lies about how most Iraqis support the occupation, but the reality is that anyone who works with the Coalition faces blackmail or death. This indicates that there is a vast number of Iraqis who cannot stomach the occupation. It only takes a few men to do sabotage, but it takes the widow in the shop window who lets the "boys" know when the cops are coming to keep the resistance alive.

If the occupation had real support, Shias would be flocking to be cops and soldiers. Instead, they stand on street corners and listen to Sadr and his fellow clerics. They also hold those who work with the Americans in deepest contempt. Anyone whon says they work with Americans can face assasination.

The Americans now act surprised that an Iraqi battalion wasn't going to march to Fallujah and join in the killing. Uh, didn't you get the hint that they have to wear masks to patrol. That if their families knew, they could face death. That there is a stigma in serving the Americans?

The French Milice, who fought the Resistance, could at least justify their treason by saying they were serving Marshal Petain. What can an Iraqi policeman say? I'm serving the IGC? Not likely, they don't deserve to be served. He could say he's serving the Iraqi people, but then, when the resistance comes, they have to betray the Americans.

Many Iraqi soldiers, when faced with fighting Iraqis or killing Americans, turned on their masters. That's far worse than a combat refusal. And even then, the Americans seem tone deaf. The Iraqis were saying : We are not traitors. We will not be your lackies and kill our fellow Iraqis because they resist you. Even Saddam gave us better reasons. The Americans sit around and wonder "why won't they follow orders?" Well, they only did it for the money and they knew if anyone found out they had fought with the Americans in Fallujah, not only would they be pariahs, not only would the resistance spies in their units tell, but their families would reject them.

Every security unit in Iraq is riddled with spies. All have their links to the resistance, for self-preservation if nothing else. They are not going to do any more than they have to, especially kill their cousins. They even have to lie to their families about working with the Americans.

The rhetoric coming from Washington is so misguided, and so contrary to the facts. The resistance is popular and widespread. While only a few have picked up guns, the popular sentiment supporting them is deep. Even if, intellectually, you want the freedoms Americans promised, culturally, the idea of serving the occupier offends you. So it's easy to spread word that Hamid is working for the Americans and then the local resistance cell finds out. So Hamid faces a choice, help the resistance or die.

We can pretend that this isn't the case, but too many ambushes and assasinations have happened for anything to be the fact. All it takes is random scraps of information and near constant observation for this to take place. You don 't need the Red Orchestra to determine when a convoy will pass by, just some bored kids.

Iraq was a clandestine culture for centuries. It doesn't take much for people to hide their intentions and keep secret links. Building resistance and avoiding informants has to be ingrained in the culture. And given the close family links, once the US lost the heart of the people, it could only grow.

We cannot expect Iraqi "security" forces to serve a phantom. There is no government, no political ideology for them to serve, no government to protect them. As long as that exists, the Iraqi security forces are going to remain a spy-ridden failure which could turn on the US at any moment.

posted by Steve @ 10:55:00 AM

10:55:00 AM

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