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Sunday, August 31, 2003

Iraqi History, the gift that keeps on giving

Remember how I posted all those columns on Iraqi history on Daily Kos?

Iraq is a place where outcomes matter. In 1920, two years after WW I, a nationwide rebellion erupted, and when asked, they're still mad at the British for invading and staying. In 1991, the minute Saddam looked on the ropes, the knives came out. Now, we've created a black hole of a power vacuum. There is no one close to running the country. The Army is gone, the Baathists dying by the bucketload, the various factions are waiting to claim their stake.

Yet, I'm reading articles crowing about how well the war went. The problem is that deposing Saddam is like dumping the Czar in 1917. Just because you establish a democratic government, doesn't mean Kerensky is going to stay in power. If you had said in 1916 that the US would be in Russia until 1920, fighting communists, you would have been deemed a madman.

Just because Saddam was an evil bastard, doesn't mean his methods were ineffective. He kept control of a country with millions of guns and two active factions not dedicated to the territorial integrity of the country. He killed a lot of people to remain in power. The US does not have this option. The war alone has ruined the credibility of the US in the Arab World. Saddam's methods are not available.

The US war against Saddam may soon be over, but that may only be the start of the Iraq war. There are millions of guns, rockets and mortars, billions of rounds of ammo, scattered across the country. No one knows who controls them or what they have planned. The Shia want control of their destiny, as do the Kurds, and the Sunnis may not be happy to lose power.

I wrote that on April 8, 2003.

This is what UPI ran on Friday.

The history of Iraq before the 35-year-long night of the Baath Republic descended upon it should have provided ample warning that once the lid was lifted off, those long decades of repression, more years of terrorism, assassination and massacre were only too likely to follow. For they were what had gone before.

Kanaan Makiya -- today one of the leading figures in the Iraqi democratic opposition and over the past decade and a half, one of the most fearless and perceptive critics of Saddam's tyranny -- summed up the history of Iraq's last decade of political turmoil before Saddam and his colleagues of the Baath took power -- and kept it -- in 1968.

Writing in his classic study "The Republic of Fear," he recalled, "Between 1958 and 1968 there were more than 10 coups and attempted coups two armed rebellions and a semicontinuous civil war against the Kurds."

The 37 years of supposedly constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy which the British Empire created in 1921 until its destruction in the frightful military coup and killings of 1958 was hardly a model of democratic and political propriety either. The late Professor Elie Kedourie of the London School of Economics, the greatest Western authority of his day on the modern political history of Iraq, described it up this way:

"Brief as it is, the record of the kingdom of Iraq is full of bloodshed, treason and rapine and, however pitiful its end, we may now say this was implicit in its beginning."

The Republic of Fear has been in print for a couple of decades.

Someone in Washington could have picked it up and read it.

It doesn't take a genius to see how this would play out, just bothering to read Iraqi history.

posted by Steve @ 8:19:00 PM

8:19:00 PM

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One Weekend a Month, until....then it's your job, marriage and home

So far, 40 reservists and National Guardsmen have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the most in any conflict since Vietnam, military experts say, though the Pentagon could not confirm that. The victims have included engineers, law enforcement officers and college students. One was the grandfather of seven. They have died of hostile fire, a mysterious respiratory ailment, heat and heart attacks. One was killed by a pistol-wielding assassin, another by a fellow GI's hand grenade.

As the occupation continues, so will the deaths, military experts predict.

It is clearly more than most of these men and women bargained for when they agreed to drill one weekend a month and two weeks each summer in exchange for a little extra retirement pay or money for college.

They were once called ``weekend warriors,'' a phrase that now sounds almost quaint.


Many reservists are in their 30s, 40s and 50s, leaving behind children, businesses and homes under construction. More than half of all reservists are married, and 37 percent have children. The rigors of fighting wars and keeping peace have been physically punishing -- even lethal.

Some reservists ``are saying `Hey, this is not what I signed up for,''' said Jeffrey C. Crowe, chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a member of a high-level task force looking into issues such as frequency of call-ups and the unpredictability of deployments. ``Unless we address these issues, retention rates are going to go down.''

For the first time in more than a decade, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserves may fail to achieve recruiting goals, the Defense Department confirmed. The National Guard and Army Reserve were lagging behind recruiting goals by 6,000 and 700, respectively, in recent months. And some National Guard leaders predict that as many as 60 percent of the Guardsmen mobilized today will leave the service at the first opportunity.

``They did not sign up to patrol a perimeter,'' said Jay Spiegel, past president of the Reserve Officers Association. ``They enlisted to drive tanks and shoot artillery.''


Mark O'Neal ended his 26-year Coast Guard career last year after rumors swirled that his Fort Eustis-based reserve unit would be called to duty for the third time in two years. The rumors were right. The call-up came for the war in Iraq.

O'Neal, 44, was a senior chief petty officer and medical corpsman with the Coast Guard's Port Security Unit 305, a team of boat drivers who secure ports and waterways at home and around the world.

While living in tents, his unit helped protect New York City's harbor after the attack on the World Trade Center two years ago. They were called to duty again when prisoners were transferred from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

``A good 30 percent of the unit got out after Cuba,'' O'Neal said. ``There were a lot of people jumping ship, so to speak.'' The back-to-back deployments ``broke the cohesion of the unit. It affected morale.''

O'Neal said after they returned from Gitmo, members of his unit were promised there would be no more activations for 18 months. But when the reactivation rumors began, he applied for, and received, a hardship discharge. He feared another deployment could cause him to lose the business he owns in Lancaster, Pa.

``If they would say you have two years on and then off for two years, that would even be OK,'' O'Neal said. ``But when you put everything on hold and you don't know what's coming next, well, that's a problem

The reductions of the Army and the emphasis on the Revolution in Military Affairs is destroying the Reserve system. The Abrams reserve/active mix system was designed to deal with a land war in Europe. It wasn't designed for these constant deployments in different theaters. These units are not designed to run around the world, deployment after deployment. They are cracking under the strain. People are losing their homes, jobs and families behind these constant deployments.

Iraq is eating the Army alive, day by day.

posted by Steve @ 7:57:00 PM

7:57:00 PM

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Giant lizard terrorises Beirut

By Kim Ghattas
BBC Beirut correspondent

He's big, he's a carnivore, he's terrorising the neighbourhood's residents, he's been swimming in people's pools and he's already claimed victims - several cats, a dog and apparently even a horse.

In Lebanon, a giant lizard has been roaming the streets of a Beirut suburb for several weeks, eluding all the attempts by the authorities to catch it.

He's Lebanon's own Komodo Dragon, or so say the witnesses who have seen him.


It's believed that the one living just outside Beirut was brought to Lebanon by a German who lived here and eventually set him free.


About three months ago, one person sighted him, but his tale was dismissed as that of a crazy person.

But when pets started disappearing, people started paying attention.

A Komodo Dragon? In Beirut?

He was sent by Al Qaeda to strike fear into Lebanese pets.

What I want to know is how you transport a Komodo Dragon anywhere. Those are the meanest freaking animals around. Vicious doesn't begin to describe them.

I mean, you're walking along the street, eating a falaffel or drinking a coke and you see this lizard. Of course, people think you're crazy after you dig up a picture of the thing and the words Komodo Dragon pops out of your mouth. They live in Indonesia. Nowhere near Beirut. But something is making pets disappear and it's not Israeli commandos.

A Komodo Dragon in Beirut. I've seen them in the Bronx Zoo and they scared the crap out me there. I sure as shit wouldn't to see one diddy bopping down my street.

Too weird to pass up.

posted by Steve @ 6:48:00 PM

6:48:00 PM

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Another glimpse at Bush's America

Since last month, dozens of people who came here to work have been sent back to home towns from Florida to Alaska, and dozens more will be getting tickets until the $10,000 donation from a private business owner to fund the program runs out. Administered by the local police and Lutheran Social Services of Nevada, the program has succeeded not only in getting some people off the streets but also in revealing the day-to-day exigencies of people that Sandra Lewis, interim executive director of the charity, refers to as "the situational homeless."

"Those are the ones we're targeting, people who are homeless because of loss of a job, or they're unable to find employment, or a promised job didn't materialize, or someone got sick," she says.

"We're not shipping out people who are homeless to be homeless in another state," adds Jeremy Levy, a police officer who helped start the program, explaining that the people return to relatives so they have a place to stay while finding their way back into the economy. "This is about people who want to get a job, want to be employed, want to better themselves."

Levy and Lewis say they knew such a program would be popular; what they didn't expect was that the little charity would be overwhelmed. "I don't know, the world must think Las Vegas has jobs aplenty," Lewis says, scanning the waiting room as another day begins. Every seat is filled. People are waiting outside. The faces are homeless faces, street faces, bus-station faces; the faces of people long used to dysfunction rather than comfort.

There was the following day when they returned to the bus station and saw the locker hanging open, with everything, including their Bible, gone. There were the three months in the Salvation Army shelter, and the walks along the Strip where they were told they could not be hired as waiters or busboys or janitors without an identity card from the Sheriff's Department ($35) and a health card showing they had been tested for communicable diseases ($35), money they didn't have.

There was the daily two-mile walk they began to make from the shelter to the intersection where landscapers troll at sunrise for day laborers. There were six good months in a small apartment when a landscaper hired them to pass out fliers door-to-door in a 6,000-door retirement community, and another month at the Salvation Army when that work ran out

posted by Steve @ 2:08:00 PM

2:08:00 PM

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How Ann Coulter gets away with murder

In a sop to the liberals, and NBC employee, Larry O'Donnell (producer of the West Wing) got an MSNBC show. It seems he got the Good Doctor Savage's spot. Anyway, he had a bunch of people on, including Penn Jillette, who's another one of these limousine idealists who sneers at politics. Why is it that fat geeks think God put them on earth to make money, smoke dope and do what they want with no consequence? Some California consultant named Flavia, Coulter and someone I forget.

At one point in the discussion, Coulter describes a Howard Dean rally as "like Nuremberg".

No one, not O'Donnell, not this Flavia chick, no one challenged her.

I wasn't even paying much attention until then, because I was ruining Stonewall Jackson's day at Chancellorsville and fighting to a draw. Kept a corps in reserve the whole first day and hammered the units to the Union left flank right with Meade's fifth corps.

But that made me stop.

I mean, that's crazy talk. And Larry and crew let it pass. Which is what they always do with crazy Annie. She's sitting in a East Hampton house, proof she has friends, of some sort, Crazy Annie says crazy shit and people either ignore it or get steamrolled.

What someone needs to do next time is this:

What? Did you just compare a gathering of Americans to a rally of Nazis? Let me understand you here, are you comparing Howard Dean and his supporters to the Nazi Party. The Nazi Party who murdered men, women and children? I want to know something, Ann. You went to Cornell, you have a law degree. Are words so cheap to you, so meaningless, you would defame Americans who are execising their civil duty to be involved in politics? You owe those people an apology. What you said was not only unfair, but completely uncalled for. Just like Joe Conason has no right to get into your sex life, you have no right to defame people who disagree with you with such savage, unfair language.

Larry should have cut off her mike for that. You wouldn't compare a Bush rally to a skinhead meeting, not even as a joke.

As long as everyone treats her words as some sort of political freak show, she'll get away with this crap. Someone is going to have to either walk out or cut off her mike to get her to move towards some semblence of civility.

But you have to remember, these folks drink with her, fuck her, socialize with her. They may play liberal or conservative on TV, but in the real world, Crazy Annie is a member of the club. Until someone, maybe a Janeane Garofalo or Al Franken, actually get offended by her words, like Chris Rock, she's going to continue to do this. I pray Jon Stewart gets her on the Daily Show. Someone has to get nasty and take her to task. You have to realize that even if they exchange harsh words for your amusement, when they leave, it's all drinks and jokes and maybe a little slap and tickle.

That's how Crazy Pat Buchanan got away with his racist screeds for so long. People like him. He's a nice guy and his door is always open for his friends. When people had marriage issues or needed advice, he was the guy they went to. Until he wrote about fighting Stalin over Hitler and then people flipped. Coulter gets the same protection. Until she really says something indefensible, and she's crafy enough to avoid it about blacks or jews, she'll get a pass. Either because they like her, or feel sorry for her or want to fuck her.

posted by Steve @ 1:45:00 PM

1:45:00 PM

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Our friends the Saudis

(Gerald) Posner elaborates in startling detail how U.S. interrogators used drugs—an unnamed "quick-on, quick-off" painkiller and Sodium Pentothal, the old movie truth serum—in a chemical version of reward and punishment to make Zubaydah talk. When questioning stalled, according to Posner, cia men flew Zubaydah to an Afghan complex fitted out as a fake Saudi jail chamber, where "two Arab-Americans, now with Special Forces," pretending to be Saudi inquisitors, used drugs and threats to scare him into more confessions.

Yet when Zubaydah was confronted by the false Saudis, writes Posner, "his reaction was not fear, but utter relief." Happy to see them, he reeled off telephone numbers for a senior member of the royal family who would, said Zubaydah, "tell you what to do." The man at the other end would be Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, a Westernized nephew of King Fahd's and a publisher better known as a racehorse owner. His horse War Emblem won the Kentucky Derby in 2002. To the amazement of the U.S., the numbers proved valid. When the fake inquisitors accused Zubaydah of lying, he responded with a 10-minute monologue laying out the Saudi-Pakistani-bin Laden triangle.

Zubaydah, writes Posner, said the Saudi connection ran through Prince Turki al-Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, the kingdom's longtime intelligence chief. Zubaydah said bin Laden "personally" told him of a 1991 meeting at which Turki agreed to let bin Laden leave Saudi Arabia and to provide him with secret funds as long as al-Qaeda refrained from promoting jihad in the kingdom. The Pakistani contact, high-ranking air force officer Mushaf Ali Mir, entered the equation, Zubaydah said, at a 1996 meeting in Pakistan also attended by Zubaydah. Bin Laden struck a deal with Mir, then in the military but tied closely to Islamists in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (isi), to get protection, arms and supplies for al-Qaeda. Zubaydah told interrogators bin Laden said the arrangement was "blessed by the Saudis."

Zubaydah said he attended a third meeting in Kandahar in 1998 with Turki, senior isi agents and Taliban officials. There Turki promised, writes Posner, that "more Saudi aid would flow to the Taliban, and the Saudis would never ask for bin Laden's extradition, so long as al-Qaeda kept its long-standing promise to direct fundamentalism away from the kingdom

A: Any testimony from this is now as uselss as candle wax in making cars. He was tortured.

B: The Saudis paid off Bin Laden

C: The Saudis were rooked by Bin Laden. Unless the deal was to only attack Americans and not the Saudi king.

Hmmm, maybe we invaded the wrong country?

posted by Steve @ 1:13:00 PM

1:13:00 PM

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Tom Friedman gets a clue

If you think we don't have enough troops in Iraq now — which we don't — wait and see if the factions there start going at each other. America would have to bring back the draft to deploy enough troops to separate the parties. In short, we are at a dangerous moment in Iraq. We cannot let sectarian violence explode. We cannot go on trying to do this on the cheap. And we cannot succeed without more Iraqi and allied input.

But the White House and Pentagon have been proceeding as if it's business as usual. It is no wonder that some of the people closest to what is happening are no longer sitting quiet. The gutsy Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, acting on his own, told reporters last week that the U.S. would consider a new U.N. resolution that would put U.S. forces in Iraq under U.N. authority — which is the precondition for key allies to send troops. And Paul Bremer, who oversees Iraq's reconstruction, told The Washington Post that it was going to cost "several tens of billions" to rebuild Iraq. Both men were telling the American people truths that should have come from the White House.

Our Iraq strategy needs an emergency policy lobotomy. President Bush needs to shift to a more U.N.-friendly approach, with more emphasis on the Iraqi Army (the only force that can effectively protect religious sites in Iraq and separate the parties), and with more input from Secretary of State Colin Powell and less from the "we know everything and everyone else is stupid" civilian team running the Pentagon.

There is no question that we would benefit from a new U.N. mandate that puts U.S. forces in Iraq under a stronger U.N. umbrella. It would buy us and our Iraqi allies more legitimacy, as well as help, and legitimacy buys time and time is what this is going to take.

No shit.

It's about time that he understood how serious things are. But secterian violence is the least of our problems. The Shias blame, correctly, the Baathists and Al Qaeda for the attack. But they blame the US for the utter lack of security in the country. There are 300,000 Shia at the beginning of three days of funerals for their dead. The end of that mourning period bodes ill for the US.

Friedman only saw the possibilities, he didn't see the downside. Well, the downside is here and it's as bad as we imagined.

posted by Steve @ 11:29:00 AM

11:29:00 AM

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Saturday, August 30, 2003

Adam Nagourney says the Dems can't win......again

This is why I don't trust political reporters.

But many Democrats express reservations about both these New Englanders, and that is reflected in the failure of either to draw the institutional party support that typically rallies around a perceived winner. Some Democrats worry that Dr. Dean would prove an easy mark for Mr. Bush, given his liberal views and his lack of any experience in foreign affairs; others warn that Mr. Kerry is an awkward public figure who has run a timorous campaign

Aides to Dr. Dean's rivals said there was no shortage of issues with which to try to discredit Dr. Dean. They pointed to what they said would be his poor chance of beating Mr. Bush, given his lack of foreign policy experience, stands that could hurt him in Democratic primaries, like his opposition to gun control, and shifts in positions on major issues that his opponents said would undercut his effort to present himself as the straight-talking outsider.

But the unorthodox character of Dr. Dean's candidacy — and the nature of his support from men and women who have been drawn into politics for the first time by his candidacy — has turned Dr. Dean into a difficult target for conventional political attacks.

Aides to his rivals said they had drawn a lesson from Dr. Dean's unsteady appearance on "Meet the Press" in June, which was mocked as near disastrous among party leaders, but now appears to have served to rally his base around him. As a result, Dr. Dean's rivals are all stepping gingerly, waiting for someone else to risk the first shot.

"No one wants to be the person to take on Dean," said Ron Klain, a Democratic consultant who was a senior adviser to Al Gore in 2000.

Dr. Dean's success poses a potentially big problem for Mr. Kerry, and his advisers planned to spend much of the weekend debating how to handle him in the weeks ahead. Many Democrats say it is hard to see how Mr. Kerry could survive losing to Dr. Dean in New Hampshire.

"There's at least a 90 percent likelihood right now that either Dean or Kerry will be the nominee," said Mr. Kerry's campaign manager, Jim Jordan. "And the race is as even as it can be. His advantages are purely stylistic. Kerry's are substantive and experiential."

Yeah and his fundraising just appeared from nowhere.

Look, Nagourney is missing the point because he's being fed shit by four other campaigns.

The issue is not that Dean has vunerabilities, but that Bush is imploding.

He doesn't even address the fact that the insiders are all pissed that Dean doesn't need them to win. He's running a winning campaign, at the moment, because he's not part of the institutional party. People are sick of the say little, no fight back, triangulating Dems. Aaron Magruder made the point this week in Boondocks. Al Sharpton says many of the same anti-Bush things Dean does, but gets no credit for it. Even though he's always warmly received for it. Now, they're ginning up some argument on gun control to use against him, even though that is an ancillary issue for minority voters and turns white males voters off.

The economy is doing nothing, the war is going badly and when people come back from their summer, the news is going to suck. People are going into their third year of either unemployment or underemployment.

CNN ran an especially stupid piece on Wal Mart Democrats vs Starbuck Democrats. I wanted to scream, "you know what they have in common, you patronizing idiot? No fucking jobs." Class matters a lot less now than it did in previous recessions. Because they're shipping all the jobs away. Not just the factory jobs anymore. An Ivy League degree is no more protection than being a certified welder.

The game here is poke the hole in Dean. Every candidate gets it, but unlike Clinton or Carter, Dems are not having it. You go after Dean, as Adam Nagourney will find out, people hammer you. Even if you don't necessarily support him, playing this game with Dean while Bush takes a vacation in August, while Iraq falls apart is silly. President layabout has seen all manner of disaster happen and then done nothing, except raise money and make speeches.

Dean may well stumble, but this is so early in the process, that he has time, room and money to screw up. At the same time, he's denying that to his opponents. There are real questions about Dean's appeal outside the base. He has to make sure he's not just the angry guy, but doctors do that well. Most importantly, he needs to make the issue Bush's policies. If he runs on jobs and the war, the other Dr. Dean can pick the new carpet for the oval office. If it becomes about anything else, he could have real problems.

posted by Steve @ 8:48:00 PM

8:48:00 PM

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You have to be kidding

This came across the e-mail transom and was so blindingly wrongheaded I felt the need to comment on it.

Before I comment, let me say this: I am no pacifist. Our war in Iraq is wrong but Saddam's depature is a good thing. The problem is that the follow through sucked. War on the cheap doesn't work. But as long as human beings exist, some will have to be shot down like dogs so the rest of us can be safe. It's sad, it's regretable, but it's a fact of life. Not that war works. War is always a monument to human failure. But sometimes, humans fail.

column by Justin Raimondo

"Yes, but what about World War II?" There was a triumphant finality in his voice, as if to say: Gotcha! "What would you have done then?"

"Stayed out of it. After all, what did we get out of it? Soviet-occupied Europe and half a century of Cold War."

"What are you" – the poor kid looked frightened, for a moment, as if he'd seen a ghostly apparition – "some kind of isolationist?"

"You got that one right."

Now, isolationism failed. Besides the millions murdered by the Germans and Japanese, the US would have been unable to protect its basic interests. The Germans spent a lot of time and resources in South America. The idea that the Germans could have controlled our markets and resources like rubber and oil would have weakened the ability of the US to protect their basic economic interests. Would Nazipec be better than OPEC? I don't think so. Isolationism is an ideology of ignorance.
We didn't fight WWIII just because we were good guys and it was a moral cause. Our basic security was at stake.

There is a case to be made that a Dean victory would be worse than four more years of Team Bush. The Bush crowd at least is now saying that the occupation of Iraq is going to be as short as possible. We know they're lying, but at least they pay homage to the traditionally "isolationist," i.e. non-interventionist sentiments of the American people. The Democrats, and the more "internationalist" Republicans, like Senator Richard Lugar, are critical of the President for not "admitting" that the occupation is going to be anywhere from 5 to 10 years, if not more. They take the Dean line, that "we're stuck" there, and can't leave because, although it wasn't before, Iraq is somehow mysteriously tied in with our "national security."

Both sides are wrong. But what is he supposed to say? We'll withdraw immediately? That's not coming out of anyone's mouth. And if he can't see the difference between anyone and Bush's Iraq policy, well, you can lead an idiot to a library, but you can't make them read.

In order to get a word in edgewise, the antiwar movement is going to have to mobilize behind a third party candidacy, most practically a party that already has ballot status in most states.

This narrows the field considerably, since the Libertarian and Green parties are the only ones that come close to meeting such a tough standard. ......... I've had a few letters from readers who would dearly like Congressman Ron Paul to run, as he did in 1988. Now that's the kind of doctor we need to run for President: not the politically ambidextrous Dr. Dean, but the principled plain-speaking Dr. Paul. If only he would do it….

Oh yes, let's have another fantasy candidacy and let Bush get reelected again.

Let's have a real discussion here, not some peacenik fantasies.

The US is going to be involved around the world. The American people like that involvement and support it. Dean, like most mainstream pols, want to redefine how we are involved in the world. Kerry has pretty much made it clear that the current fascination with Imperium is doomed to fail. But we do not get to walk away from global responsibilities. The US, as both a democracy and superpower, will be asked to help create stability.

Raimondo mentions Liberia, but forgets that the Liberians asked for US help. So have others.

Why aren't we isolationists? Because all that does is allow unstable conditions to develop and we wind up there anyway. Not all use of force is bad or wrong. The US can and should use its power wisely and carefully, but there will be times Americans can prevent suffering. There is such a thing as the just use of power. But how can you argue with someone who thinks fighting WWII was wrong. We should not be blinded by Bush's abuse of that power. We have to reset the terms of the debate and the way we use our power. But it is a fantasy to think we will not use it.

No one ever accused Dean of being a pacifist and he isn't one. The ideologically pure will have to run to Nader or the Liberterians or some other people who won't get elected so they can make their points and feel good about themselves.

posted by Steve @ 4:39:00 PM

4:39:00 PM

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Four arrested over Najaf bombing

Four men have been arrested in connection with Friday's car bomb blast in Najaf which killed at least 95 people.

The local governor said two of the suspects were members of the former regime from Basra, while the others were non-Iraqi Arabs subscribing to the puritannical Wahhabi Muslim faith.

The four men are said to have confessed to the bombing and to other plots intended to destabilise the country.

The arrests were announced as crowds gathered at the scene of the blast - outside one of the holiest Shia Muslim shrines - to prepare for the funerals of many of the victims.

Iraq's leading Shia Muslim politician - Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim was among the victims

A gift from our Saudi friends.

Did anyone really think Sadr would have taken a dose of stupid pills and killed a man who, by his position, had to at least be on speaking terms with his father? Not to mention so many others outside his religion's holiest site? He knew Hakim, could have had an audience with him any time he chose. He didn't need a car bomb to kill him.

But with the Hakims out of the way, you have Sistani and Sadr and he has one hell of an argument to oppose the Americans. You have to imagine the debate in SCIRI will go something like this:

"Sadr is young, but he is right, the Americans have to go"

"They will hand over power. Bakr was right."

"Bakr is dead because he waited. Saddam's men killed Bakr in Najaf. They couldn't do it in Tehran, but the bastards got us in our holiest of places. And what do the Americans do? Stand there with their thumbs in their asses. If we don't act, Saddam will be back. The Americans are useless"

"But we lost so many people. The Americans are ruthless. You see what they do. They will send their gunships and kill our people. You see what they do to the Sunnis"

"If they stay here, Saddam will come back and they will steal our oil and women. If we don't oppose them, nothing will change. We have to protect ourselves. They cannot do it and no one will help them."

They realize that the Coalition is not protecting them and cannot deliver the democracy Hakim wanted. Sadr has been proven right by events and another week ends in disaster.

We are past any role for the UN. Even if they wanted, the countries would never get parlimentary approval at this point.

No one, in either party, wants to admit this. Not Dean, not DOS or DOD. We crossed a line when our Saudi friends sent that bomb to kill Hakim. And of course, Al Qaeda and Saddam are now fused like brothers.

We have entered a nightmare from which escape will be painful and bloody.

Bush wants the deaths to stop by March. I think he'll get that wish. Because the odds of us being in Iraq in March are less than 50/50. A lot less.

posted by Steve @ 4:08:00 PM

4:08:00 PM

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A love story, of sorts

Iraqi girlfriends capture GI hearts

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- In the 20 weeks since the fall of Baghdad, two U.S. soldiers and two Iraqi women won each other's hearts.

The American men and Iraqi women courted, fell in love and decided to marry, but they had to battle disapproving senior American officers and fears of retribution by militant Iraqis.

When they finally held their double wedding ceremony Aug. 17, the nuptials were carried out with the secrecy and synchronization of a commando operation.

The two brides -- one in a print dress, the other in slacks -- and a few family members came to a city street corner at mid-morning. From there, an Iraqi intermediary led them to the route of their fiance's foot patrol.

The grooms, carrying M-16 rifles, marched up in their Army uniforms, complete with bulletproof vests. A nervous Iraqi judge arrived, and the group ducked into the grassy courtyard of a dilapidated restaurant, where the vows were exchanged.


No one minded that the Iraqi women and U.S. soldiers flirted with each other. But as the friendships deepened into romance, U.S. officers decided the relationships posed a security problem and prohibited the men from "fraternization" during "combat."

In spite of the prohibition, the soldiers -- National Guardsmen from the Florida Panhandle -- converted to Islam in an Iraqi court a couple of weeks before the ceremony. The double wedding, including the exchange of rings and recitation of vows, was carried out with an American reporter watching.


The weddings-on-patrol were necessary because the soldiers' superior officers were trying to block them.

"We are accomplishing a mission on the street and protecting our forces," Capt. Jack McClellan, a spokesman for the Florida Army National Guard, said. "We cannot develop relationships with the locals unless they are mission-related. If it's true love, in a few months . . . they can pursue it. They are not allowed to see them."

Yet Sgt. Sean Blackwell, 27, and Cpl. Brett Dagen, 37, were determined.

"I've done two years overseas on active duty, and I never thought this would happen," Blackwell said. "I love her."

Now, he is trying to figure out how to bring his wife -- they are married under Iraqi, but not yet under American, law -- to the Pensacola area, where the couple plans to hold a larger wedding with friends and family.

Subsequent requests for interviews with the men were denied by the military, although Blackwell could answer questions by e-mail.

The women, who agreed to be interviewed, face their own problems. Speaking to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the condition that their names not be published, they said they fear militants could target them just as they have targeted interpreters, police and other Iraqis cooperating with the Americans

Jeez, what a mess.

Here's what you have: commanders stupid enough to think they can tell people who to marry when they are determined to convert to Islam. Soldiers willingly disobeying lawful commands with superiors fighting each other over whether they can marry or not. US policy which treats Iraqis as an occupied people. No one stopped Americans from marrying French or British women, even interracial marriages when that was illegal in the US. The US did have this policy in occupied Germany and it broke down in weeks.

It's amazing. There was a total collapse of discipline that the commanders could not deal with and now these women, who they clearly see as a security risk, have to be dealt with.

Anyone who thinks we're in Iraq to liberate the people need to read this story. Marriage should be encouraged, not discouraged, if we were liberators. Now, occupiers have a different agenda.

posted by Steve @ 1:48:00 AM

1:48:00 AM

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The Great Betrayal

I was watching NBC tonight. Dateline had a documentary on people who have lost their jobs in the era of Bush. Middle class working people finding out they have been sold out by Bush and his friends. The land of no health insurance and living hand to mouth.

I dislike paranoia as politics. I don't go in for believing in great conspiracies, which is why the Greens mantra about the two parties being the same always bugged me. There is a massive difference in taking big money from Wall Street and Hollywood than from big oil and Enron. A massive difference. Big oil and the people in it seem to care about nothing but finding more oil, at any cost. Movie makers will not pollute Alaska.

But George W. Bush has validated every single dark belief I have ever had in government, and I remember Watergate. Bush is no Nixon, who may have been deeply evil, but he had his limits. Bush has no clue. He's never had a boss, missed a meal, suffered a bad day. He blindly goes through life protected in every way from brutal realities. The ideologues around him no more care about the average American than they do the average Iraqi. I have never seen a politican so dogmatic in my life. America is losing the war in Iraq. We control nothing. Yet, despite offers for help, we refuse. This is getting people killed. Every day.

Bush's tax cuts should be called the Master Card/Visa relief act. Because that is where the money goes. You have $300, where does it go, for dinner or to the credit card company. It's a basic fact and Bush blithely ignores it. Tax cuts is no stimulus. A tax cut during wartime is amazingly reckless.

Bush is betraying the country. He's losing jobs, men, our living standards. The GOP has become so venal that they now contract out call center jobs to India. Instead of being an outrage, it's a footnote in the news. His war betrays our ideals and the Iraqi people. His economic policy benefits his friends while even middle class jobs go overseas. His environmental policy betrays our health and welfare. His justice policy betrays the constitution and what it stands for. His foreign policy betrays our principles and our allies. His military policy leaves our soldiers to swelter and dehydrate while the Vice President's company makes millions in profits for jobs they are unable to do competently.

He fixes his mind and the world is supposed to change. When it doesn't, he keeps on with the same policies.

Bush has made true the statement "what is good for General Motors is good for America". Except it isn't General Motors, but Halliburton.

We have been betrayed by George Bush. By his word and deed. he has done what he wanted, what he thought was best, without regard to the consequences of his actions or what will come after him.

Bush was popular because like any demagouge, he told people what they wanted to hear: we were the strongest, we should rule the world, they didn't understand our pain. We can bring justice with violence and it will cost us little. We may lose a few men, but the enemy will be crushed. We don't have to sacrifice, we can cut taxes and wage war and you won't feel a thing. Our allies are weak and unwilling to use force because they have become soft. We not only will rebuild Iraq, but make the middle east safe for Israel. Our ideals are so superior, all must fall before them.

When reality hit, in a series of truck and car bombs, all Bush can say is "there will be no retreat". Huh? There are 142 dead from the latest attack, 125 wounded and a grieving Shia population. What happens when they get Bremer. He's the last high value target left and considering they're so successful no one knows who they are, his life expectancy is dicey at best. These folks have wounded and killed over 500 people in a matter of weeks. Security problem? One might think so. What does Bush say then? "We're there until the end"?

Bush listened to a group of people who saw Iraq as a stepping stone to US/Israeli domination of the middle east. The reality is brutally different. Instead of dealing with North Korea, crazy, unstrustworthy, dangerous North Korea or stabilizing Afghanistan, home of the world's largest poppy crop, our Army is trapped in Iraq, dying one man a day.

Every day Bush continues in office, he betrays everything this country stands for. Osama Bin Laden may have destroyed two office towers, but George Bush and his minions are well on their way to destroying our souls. He has made America more hated and despised than Bin Laden's greatest dream. In fighting a monster, Bush seems all too willing to turn America into one.

The only way to win a war on terror is to offer real justice, real law, real alliances. To defend democracy and the rule of law, not seek exemption from it at our whim. As long as we blunder about in Iraq, in a pointless, futile war, we will not only lose that struggle, but much of what makes America great. For an America which describes justice as a JDAM bomb, Hellfire missle and Guantanamo Bay will make more enemies than friends. This is not the wild west but the real world. Defending ourselves is fine and just. But to call aggression defense and mismangement and anarchy liberation is to betray what we stand for and who we are.

It is a shame that the president can't seem to tell the difference.

posted by Steve @ 1:12:00 AM

1:12:00 AM

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Friday, August 29, 2003

Politics of Porn
Justice Department Launches Long-Anticipated War on Obscenity

By Jake Tapper

Aug. 28— Rob Zicari and his fiancée, Janet Romano, are facing the first major federal prosecution for obscenity in more than a decade. They face 10 counts relating to the production and distribution by mail of obscene materials, and each could get 50 years in prison and a fine of up to $2.5 million.

"We're facing more time than the guy that they just arrested that was trying to sell the surface-to-air missile," said Zicari.

On April 8, law enforcement seized five movies produced by Zicari's California-based company, Extreme Associates, which bills itself as "The Hardest Hard Core on the Web."

One of the confiscated movies, Forced Entry, features three graphic scenes of women being spat upon, raped and murdered. Extreme Teens #24 has adult women dressed up and acting like little girls in various hard-core pornographic scenes. We can't even tell you the title of one of the films.


Ashcroft had planned on launching the anti-obscenity initiative back in 2001, but was sidetracked by the 9/11 terror attacks. Now the issue is once again a priority for the Justice Department.

"I can tell you that as long as I'm chief of the section, the section will work very hard to prosecute obscenity cases along with child pornography, another important focus for us," said Andrew Oosterbaan, chief of the Justice Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.

"This is about a priority for the country. This is something the country wants prosecuted and therefore we're prosecuting it."

Why in God's name is John Ashcroft wasting our money on this nonsense? They roll up that Al Qaeda network, yet?

The problem with this prosecution, like all obscenity prosecutions, is that it depends on the jury. With porn so widespread, it's hard to say what is truly obscene, even if you find it tasteless or even revolting. Ashcroft is going to wind up facing the best of the First Amendment bar here. Even if he venue shopped the case. A good lawyer will stress the risk to privacy and the comparison with violence in mainstream films.

It's not the kind of prosecution Ashcroft needs at this point. It seems like a sop to the Christian Right at a really inopertune time. He has NO major convictions in a 9/11 case, he has no evidence of rolling up the network which supported the hijackers and his Patriot Act II is facing increasing opposition. So what does he do? Double down his bet and go for an obscentity prosecutition which hands his opponents a case to hammer him with.

He's going to be asked where he would stop and given his freakish views on sex, he's liable to bungle that question badly.

posted by Steve @ 11:39:00 PM

11:39:00 PM

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I Saw the Suffering

A retired teacher who served as a human shield during the war recounts her experience in Iraq and braces herself for the fines and jail time she faces now that she is back

By Lynn Waddell

Aug. 27 Faith Fippinger, a 62-year-old retired teacher of the blind, was one of more than 200 international human shields who hunkered down in Iraq early this year in hopes of discouraging a U.S. attack.

Why would a retired woman leave her home in sunny Florida to sleep on a cot in a desert halfway around the world where there was an impending war? Couldn't you have protested the war from America?

It was a humanitarian reason: to serve justice, help the people and instill good will. I follow Gandhi's principle to nonviolent resistance. I wanted to stand beside and protect those who had already suffered. They were caught between their domestic tyrant and United States' ambitions. I went in hopes of stopping what I perceive as an illegal and unnecessary war.


What happened when the bombing started, were you scared?

The first missile didn't go over our house until 5:30 at night [on March 19]. I have never experienced that sound before. Knowing it was so close, my heart definitely pounded harder than it has before. More than feeling fear, I was overwhelmed by sadness that our government would do such a thing. I knew why I went to Iraq, and I was prepared to give my life if need be for those innocent civilians. When all labels and names are taken down, we are all just human beings.

Did you see Iraqis rejoice at Saddam's fall from power?

Yes, people were relieved, but they were also concerned about what's going on now. They worry if worse is coming. Their motto to America is:- Drink your oil, take your oil, bathe in oil, and get out.- I did not see people dancing through the streets.


How did people in the hospital respond to you when you told them you were American, and were you ever hesitant to tell them?

I always said I was American because I wanted the Iraqi people to see that our country has concerned caring people. Usually when I did say that I was from America, they would say, "Thank you for helping us. Why this war?" One time there was a man standing beside his dying wife. Six of their children had been killed in the bombings. With tears streaming down his face, he asked me where I was from. I said America, but it was very difficult to admit.

How long did you volunteer at the hospital, and what other experiences did you have there?

Actually I spent about a week, but to me it seemed like a lifetime. Many of the horrors [I saw] will stay with me the rest of my life. There was this beautiful, young pregnant woman whose right arm had been taken off and her left was badly damaged. They took her baby by Cesarean; fortunately she was almost full term. Then the mother in fact lost her left arm. When I would pass by her room, I could hear her crying. She would say, "I can't hold my baby."'

Another Iraqi woman, Dena, went in for surgery on her leg. Bombing had destroyed her home and her whole block. They had to remove her entire left leg. After her surgery, she looked up at me and said,"And this is liberation?"

I saw doctors sobbing while they worked. One doctor would point bed to bed, telling the names of the children who had died there. There were vans in back of the hospital for the dead bodies. Due to sanctions they had no air conditioning. I witnessed families who had sent their children to relatives thinking they would be safe, try to find their children's bodies there.

The Treasury Department wants to garnish this woman's pension and social security. While Dick Cheney makes millions and the Shia have no protection for their leading clerics. Your tax dollars at work at a billion a day

posted by Steve @ 12:57:00 PM

12:57:00 PM

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Alastair Campbell to resign

Alastair Campbell is to resign as the government's director of communications and strategy.

Mr Campbell's decision was announced by Downing Street shortly after 1430 BST on Friday.

He said: "It has been an enormous privilege to work so closely in opposition and in government for someone I believe history will judge as a great transforming prime minister."

Mr Campbell said his family had paid a price for his role and said his partner, Fiona Millar, would be leaving No 10 at the same time "in a few weeks".

The BBC is to have a small party celebrating this victory, nothing too obvious, just a few flutes of champagne and a couple of pints. Public chortling is to be avoided.

One down, two to go. So when will Defence Minister Hoon leave the government? I hope Gordon Brown has picked out his colors he wants in the PM's office. He may be sitting there sometime sooner than he planned.

posted by Steve @ 10:14:00 AM

10:14:00 AM

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Another column on why Dean's money matters

Howard Dean has a lot of cash.

More cash than any Democratic candidate has ever had.

What makes Dean's operation so formidable?

He has found a way to get cheap money.

In any campaign, most of the time and effort is devoted to holding fundraisers. So you have the candidate run from pillar to post meeting executives and movie people and begging for cash. He has to bend the ear of a lot of people. This process takes months and inflicts a bunch of rubber chicken (or in Bush's case, hot dogs and burgers) on people. So you don't get much strategy from campaigns during the fundraising period.

By collecting so much money on the web, Dean can start to focus on Bush as a target, Not just in speeches, but on TV. He can go to tv early and stay there. Which is a tremendous advantage. Not only that, but it costs him almost nothing to get that money from the web. So he's spending pennies per dollar raised. It gives him the flexibility to move around the country and stay visible. His people, knowing that the web allows them to raise money, raise it quickly and raise it cheaply, can plot to run campaign swings like the Sleepless Summer Tour.

What has to scare the other campaigns is that with Dean estimated to raise $10.3m in a normally dormant 3Q, they have no way of knowing how much he can raise in the far more active 4Q. He could easily raise double that as his profile grows.

That money means he can pay staff, not go into debt and run TV ads. He can also target his pitches to the money people carefully. He doesn't have to keep hitting them up. He can go to them and say "we've raised X percentage from online fundraising, we have a popular message". When he goes to Hollywood, people can already see that he's got money coming in. When he goes to Wall Street, he can say the same thing. He won't have to beg them for last minute cash either.

What this does is make it hard to give to other campaigns and forestalls late entries. Because it sends two messages. One, this Dean guy has a lot of support. Why should we give to you instead of him. Two, he has such a money lead and such an efficient way of getting it, how can you match it? The Dean money machine is starting to choke off support to every other candidate. Kerry is doing the best, but it's because of his resume. Gephardt's problem is that he's getting mercy support, but Dean union support is growing. Unions have to be wondering if Gephardt is a ticket to nowhere. A lot of the union activists have to wonder if backing Dean now might serve them well in 2005. Graham, Edwards and Lieberman are being choked off by a lack of cash and exposure.

Why does Dean have such a lead in fundraising?

He bet against the war. Simple as that. And as the war goes south, he benefits. Even if we stablize Iraq, Dean's skepticism has been validated. Lieberman, who still truly supports the war, has been sliding towards oblivion. You won't read that in the papers, but the race so far has turned into a national security refendum and Dean is winning it handily. The only reason Clark would even consider entering the race, and the Dean money lead has frozen him in place, is because of the same issues. Unfortunately for him, there is so little daylight between him and Dean on these issues, his resume is the only outstanding factor in his favor.

The reason people need to pay attention to the money is that is what the pros do. Howard Dean may be your average doctor, well-meaning, slightly arrogant and bossy, but he's an above average fundraiser. Which has caught everyone by surprise.

posted by Steve @ 10:04:00 AM

10:04:00 AM

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17 killed at Sherif Ali Mosque: Hakim assasinated

Last Updated: Friday, 29 August, 2003, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK

At least 17 people have been killed by a car bomb in the holy city of Najaf - among them leading Shia Muslim politician Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim.

The bomb blew up near the Tomb of Ali in the central Iraqi city, one of the holiest shrines for Shia Muslims, just as main weekly prayers were ending.

No group has admitted carrying out the attack.

But correspondents say that a power struggle has been going on within what is known as the Hawza - the Shia religious establishment based in Najaf.

Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim was leaving the shrine after saying Friday prayers when the bomb went off

Very bad news. Hakim was one of the main faction leaders and his death could very well drive many people into the arms of Sadr, especially if the Baathists killed him. This is a major blow to US policy in Iraq.

Staff and agencies
Friday August 29, 2003

Up to 17 people have been killed and dozens more injured in a car bombing in the Iraqi town of Najaf, al-Arabiya satellite television reported today
The explosion took place at the Imam Ali mosque, the most holy shrine for Shiite Muslims in Iraq, as worshippers gathered for Friday prayers.

The report, monitored by the Associated Press in Baghdad, could not immediately be confirmed. But there has been considerable unrest among the religious communities in the holy city, which lies 110 miles south-west of Baghdad.

The reported bombing comes one week after a device exploded outside the house of one of Iraqi's most important Shiite clerics, killing three guards and injuring 10 others including family members.

A gas cylinder, which had been placed along the outside wall of the home of Mohammed Saeed al-Hakim in Najaf, exploded just after noon prayers July 22.

The Al-Hakims are one of the most influential families in the Shiite community in Iraq, and Iraqi newspapers reported two weeks ago that the cleric had received threats against his life

In other news:

Earlier, an American soldier was killed and four others wounded in an ambush north of Baghdad, and the police chief in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit narrowly escaped an assassination attempt, the US military said.

Insurgents fired three rocket-propelled grenades at a support convoy on a main road north-east of Baqouba.

The soldiers were also hit by small arms fire. One of the wounded soldiers will need to have a leg amputated, said Captain David Nelson from the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade.

The death raised the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq to 282.

OK, a second attempt on Hakim (more like 11th, really), but at the Sherif Ali mosque?

Sadr would have to be clinically insane to risk such a naked attack. And given that it's a car bomb, something his people have shown no skill in making, that has the feel of Saddam's boys. Propane tank, ok, but a car bomb? Nope. Someone has to teach you how to make one and the only folks who can teach him, Hezbollah, sure as shit are not going to blow up the Sherif Ali mosque.

What this does is show the Shia that the Americans will not and cannot protect them. In a rather flagrant manner.

If the Americans can't prevent the bombing of the holiest site in Shia Islam, why are they in Iraq?

posted by Steve @ 9:03:00 AM

9:03:00 AM

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We're from the American Army and we're here to help

Salam Pax's family had a little visit from the US Army .

Our house was searched by the Americans. That happened almost ten days ago. I wasn’t home, but my mother called the next day a bit freaked out.


have been “informed” that there are daily meetings the last five days, Sudanese people come into our house at 9am and stay till 3pm, we are a probable Ansar cell. My father is totally baffled, my brother gets it. These are not Sudanese men they are from Basra the “informer” is stupid enough to forget that there is a sizeable population in Basra who are of African origin. And it is not meetings these 2 (yes only two) guys have here, they are carpenters and they were repairing my mom’s kitchen. Way. To. Go. You have great informers.


their genius translator comes to the commander of operation [Pax House Bust] and tells him he has found “suspicious documents”. They are passes to various conferences he has attended and bank cards for old closed accounts he used to have and most alarmingly for the person in charge was an invitation my father received a couple of days earlier to a meeting with General Abi Zaid to which he and others were flown to the Bakr Air Base north of Baghdad.

Winning hearts and minds with bum tips across Iraq.

posted by Steve @ 1:26:00 AM

1:26:00 AM

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Tube sell-off blamed for blackout

Thousands stranded as big power cut hits London

Andrew Clark
Friday August 29, 2003
The Guardian

The government's part-privatisation of the London Underground was blamed last night for exacerbating a massive power failure which blacked out large parts of the capital and brought the transport network to a halt.

Early reports suggested that 250,000 people were affected by the blackout, including tens of thousands of tube passengers who were stuck in tunnels as trains broke down.

Buildings along the Thames were in darkness, 270 sets of traffic lights failed and train services stopped from four main stations

The blackout sparked fears of a terrorist attack. But it quickly became clear that the failure was caused by a fault in one of the National Grid's key circuits serving south London and the home counties.

Different country, same crooks.

posted by Steve @ 1:20:00 AM

1:20:00 AM

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Thursday, August 28, 2003

Gen. Bemoans Iraq Violence; Briton Killed

Sanchez said casualty figures since the end of major fighting were ``about what we would expect to get in this kind of conflict.'' Since then, 143 U.S. soldiers have died -- five more than during the war itself.

Sanchez's news conference was interrupted by two activists from the Chicago-based group ``Voices in the Wilderness,'' which opposes the U.S. occupation. They demanded the Army investigate an incident in which they said six Iraqis were killed by U.S. forces on the northern outskirts of Baghdad on Aug. 7.

Soldiers removed the two women, one of whom held a photo of the alleged victims and read out their names. The other woman held up a black mourning banner for television cameras.

How dare they disrupt the general's conference with some nonsense about dead Iraqis. Dead Americans barely count. Dead Iraqis? They were probably all bitter-enders anyway. Even the kids.

posted by Steve @ 8:10:00 PM

8:10:00 PM

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Al, Joe and Ann

Having read the relevant sections of both Al Franken's and Joe Conason's new books, I can now precisely place where my discomfort with Conanson's approach comes from.

His book, while it makes a lot of good points, comes off as a moralistic screed against the right, which is fair. But he trips up with his attacks on the sex lives of people. He jumbles hypocracy with adultery and comes off poorly. Ann Coulter has never come out for abstinance or sobriety or born-again Christianity. He then attacks her for having an active sex life and being friends with gay men. Which is a bizarre argument. One would hope that she wasn't serious with her hateful blather, that it was an act like Jenna Jameson's blowjobs or something. The real scam is that she's a secular Jimmy Swaggart. She says what she says but you know it's an act if you want to.

Instead of discretely nailing each of his targets, the loathsome Laura Ingraham, who taunted gays and lost a big assed judgement while at Dartmouth, he blurs them all into one mass and misses the point. Ingraham is loathsome because she harmed people. Coutler is loathsome because she, in the words of Chris Rock "makes shit up".

There is a great argument to be made from Conason's raw facts. Which is this: liberalism has become so deeply ingrained that even its opponents benefit from the lifestyles it has permitted. By redefining the role of women, Coulter and Ingraham were free to be successful commentators, jobs they would have found impossible to get as late as the 1970's. They have benefitted from what they think they despise. It isn't relevant who these women sleep with, nor should it be used against them.

Franken takes the smarter and frankly more relevant approach. He doesn't discuss her. He discusses her work.

In one hillarious exchange, he calls Newsweek's Evan Thomas. Coulter claimed that he was the son of Socialist Presidential candidate Norman Thomas.

He says no, my father's name is Evan Thomas, Sr. I'm Evan Thomas, Jr.

Franken asks, are you sure

He says yes, is this about that Ann Coulter thing?

Franken says yes.

Thomas replies, "You know I think there's something wrong with her".

Simple as that he demolishes her. He doesn't describe her as evil or ask about the men she's fucked. He nails her lunacy in a brief, clever way. He debunks her with facts.

Look, the problem with Coulter is that, as Chris Rock says, "she makes shit up". Franken did note something which I think is highly relevant. She doesn't endorse conservative social stands. She endorses the idea of conservatism. She doesn't attack homosexuals and call for their conversion, but homosexuality. When she talks about Christianity, she would rather be having a beer at a Southhampton beach party than be caught dead with the Roy Moore rock worshiping crowd. Her Christianity isn't the snake handling, jesus praising kind, but a sort of strict thing to keep people in line.

Coulter has a weird rhetorical style. She attacks everything and everyone in what is best described as a human wave of words. She's not interested in facts. She wants to overwhelm you. She as indifferent to facts as Soviet officers were to the fact that some of their men would charge German machine guns without rifles. She's got so many crazy arguments going that even if you shoot one down, she's got others flying at you. She says public schools have failed, not that vouchers are the solution. She says liberals are degenerates, but she doesn't endorse pro-life or abstinance. You're so pissed at her crazy reasoning and arguing, like her defense of Tail Gunner Joe, you miss the fact that she doesn't mention the Venona transcripts about real Soviet spies or that only a tiny minority past 1950 spied for ideology.

It's like fighting with your girlfriend. She's gets you so crazy, you miss the points which would win your argument. So instead of fighting about her forgetting to fill up the gas tank, you're arguing about that old girlfriend and your trip to Cancun, which happened before you met her.

Conason rises to the craziness she brings on and picks a fight over her sex life, which isn't the issue.

Franken looks at her work and demolishes it, which is.

posted by Steve @ 8:04:00 PM

8:04:00 PM

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Power cut causes chaos

A rush-hour power cut has caused major disruption on rail and Tube services in London and the South East.
Power returned to the system at about 1900 BST but the knock-on effects are still being felt by commuters struggling home.

Network Rail says between 500 and 1,000 trains have been affected by the power cut, caused by a fault with the National Grid.

Train company Connex reported the power went out between London and Ashford, in Kent.

South London was hardest hit and Transport for London said 60% of the Tube network was affected.

Panic in London. People run from trains.


A couple of weeks ago, the Brits used our power problems as a commentary on American society.

I guess the Iraqis are having another bitter laugh.

posted by Steve @ 5:07:00 PM

5:07:00 PM

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British soldier killed in Iraq

A British soldier has been killed in southern Iraq, the army has confirmed.

The soldier was hit by gunfire when his patrol was attacked by a crowd with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, said a military spokesman.

He has been named as part-time Fusilier Russell Beeston from Govan, Glasgow.

The 26-year-old was a member of the 52nd Lowland Regiment, attached to the 1st King's Own Scottish Borderers.

Another soldier is said to be in stable condition after being wounded in the incident, which occurred in Ali al-Sharqi, about 200 kilometres (120 miles) north-west of Basra.

But there's a small area north of Baghdad where there's trouble. Or at least that is what they say on CNN every day.

posted by Steve @ 10:02:00 AM

10:02:00 AM

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Did they really say that?

There is a holy shit moment in this article. I'll point it out to you in a moment.

General Is Said to Want to Join '04 Race

WASHINGTON, Aug. 27 — Wesley K. Clark, the retired four-star general who has been contemplating a run for president, has told close friends that he wants to join the Democratic race and is delaying a final decision only until he feels he has a legitimate chance of winning the nomination.

The addition of General Clark into the presidential campaign could shake up a race that has remained fairly static for months, with Dr. Dean, Mr. Kerry and Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri showing greater traction than the others running: Senators Bob Graham of Florida, Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, John Edwards of North Carolina, Representative Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, former Senator Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

While some contenders view General Clark more as a running mate than presidential threat, his credentials could pose problems for several of them. As a former military officer, he would sound at least as credible on national security matters as Dr. Dean. As a Southerner from Little Rock, General Clark might blunt the appeal of Mr. Edwards and Mr. Graham in the South.

And as a Vietnam veteran, he would temper a prominent theme of Mr. Kerry's campaign, that he is the only Democrat running to have served in combat.

But almost all the other Democrats have financial and organizational advantages over General Clark. He has done almost nothing to prepare for a nationwide campaign or even one centered in the early test states, Iowa and New Hampshire. A spokeswoman, Holly Johnson, said his only political activity had been traveling the country, giving speeches

Excuse me, I thought the White House said Dean was the liberal pansy who was a friend of Saddam Bin Laden.

This is a big deal quote because it means that Dean's national security arguments are making headway.

The draft Clark people say they can raise a million, but given his poll numbers and Dean's really large lead in money, Clark would have to spend a LOT of time raising money. Late entries aren't done any more because of the ground work done by the campaigns early in the process. The pledges won't be enough. I don't like late entries into races unless they really add something to the mix. Richard Reeves is talking about Hillary Clinton, other people are talking about Clark. I think both won't meet the reality test. Hillary Clinton is regarded as evil by the right and the first ad would be her promising to serve out her term. Clark would need a staff and millions he isn't going to get.

Popularity is illusive. Poll numbers change. Hillary may seem a dream candidate, but what Southern state would she win? None? Imagine the ads and the attacks. Clark? His peers have sharp words about how he ran EUCOM. There's a bunch of folks, starting with David Hackworth, and going way beyond him, more than willing to attack Clark's character. Read the Halberstam book about the Clinton-era Pentagon. He does not come off well. It may not be fair, but it's politics.

Let's get real: we have a two person race and that may end pretty quickly. We have Kerry and Dean and everyone else is suffocating slowly. Lieberman and Edwards, moribund. Graham and Gephardt, staggering to defeat. Kuchinich, Mosely-Braun, Sharpton, irrelevant. You can add more people in, but that's stupid. If it's going to be Dean, and his money speaks very loudly and is a clear vote of confidence, Clark will not stop him. Hillary can, but she would have to convince people that with three years in the Senate, she should be President.

Remember one thing about political reporters: they don't know what happens in the room with the candidate. They think they do. But they don't. Do yourself a favor, pick up four books on politics. Ed Rollins' memoirs, Boys on the Bus, recently reissued, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 and the Begala/ Carvillebook on campaigns. You will then know more than most political reporters do.

So when you read me, and I don't agree with the Times, or WaPo, remember this: I've been in the room and they haven't. Once you're in that room, your world view changes.

posted by Steve @ 2:03:00 AM

2:03:00 AM

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Wednesday, August 27, 2003

How badly did Bush's speech suck?

The Daily News's Michael Kramer, as late as last week, was defending the war

Listening to the Bush administration defend its Iraq policy is like listening to an insurance agent remind you about the fine print - after the accident. All the problems, all the caveats, all the potential downside was there for all to see from the start.

This insulting, legalistic defense of a policy gone astray is becoming tiresome. It's true that before the war began, the President made a point of saying that securing a stable and democratic Iraq would take time and effort and wouldn't be easy.


After Saddam's regime was gone, the Iraqi people would welcome our troops as liberators, security would involve little more than directing traffic, businesses would thrive in a free market, basic services would be restored swiftly, the march to democracy would be inexorable.

That wasn't the best-case scenario. It was the only scenario. No one inside the administration ever predicted anything remotely resembling the current mess.

No. Those who did were fired or humiliated in public.

We don't need to be told how tough it is - and we surely don't need to be told that we were told all along that it would be tough. Rather, we need to hear that pacifying Iraq is proving a lot tougher than anyone expected - so tough that things are going to have to change.

....... The guerrilla resistance is doing well precisely because it can blend into villages and cities without fear of being ratted out to U.S. forces. Increasingly, it seems that the opposition to America in Iraq is broad-based, a lot like the opposition to Israel among Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza.

I guess he's gotten around to reading the real estimates about rebuilding Iraq.

Bush's speech yesterday may have been the worst of his career. It certainly pissed off a bunch of people.

But Bush isn't going to change his mind. Because that means he's a failure and he cannot fail again. It's a psychological/unresolved daddy thing. So Americans will die so GW can gain the respect of his father.

posted by Steve @ 6:47:00 PM

6:47:00 PM

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Why Dean is scaring the crap out of everyone


Dean has it. His opponents have a lot less of it.

Dean led the eight other candidates for the Democratic nomination by raising $7.6 million in the second quarter, and there has been a huge surge in small-dollar contributions to his campaign over the Internet and from more traditional, meet-and-greet fundraising events, Trippi said. Dean is virtually certain to win the money race -- an important measure of a candidate's popularity inside the party -- this quarter, too, according to rival campaigns. The third quarter will end Sept. 30.

Money from small contributors which none of his rivals can hope to match. He's been able to raise money in spots on the level of Bush and Cheney at a fraction of their cost. Make no mistake, Dean is running against Bush, not John Kerry. Dean has already defined the debate as who will best be able to beat Bush. The minute they start debating Dean and his tactics, the base of the party howls in his defense. It also has to cause Wes Clark to think hard. Dean can bury him in ads and cut off his money. In political terms, he's got the high ground. Joe Lieberman tried to turn Dean into the issue and it was a body blow to his campaign. Al From tried to scare people away, and it backfired on the DLC. Dean's money has pushed all the candidates to attack Bush harder and harder.

Political pros know that money tells the story. Dean's fundraising has been phenomenal.

The physician-turned-politician raised nearly $1 million this past weekend, as thousands of people flocked to rallies in Falls Church and several other cities around the country. If Dean tops $10 million in contributions, which his rivals expect him to do easily, he would become the second Democrat to hit that mark in the year before a presidential election. President Bill Clinton did it in 1995, when he was running for reelection.

Which mean he's raised more money than any Democratic challenger ever and done it earlier.
"We're not going to raise that -- that's for sure," said Steve Elmendorf, a top Gephardt adviser. But, "at the end of the day, money isn't everything."

Jim Jordan, Kerry's campaign manager, said Dean's fundraising has been an "impressive" feat his candidate cannot match. "We won't hit $10 million this quarter, and we don't need to."

The reason, Jordan said: Democratic candidates can spend only $45 million in the primaries, including the federal matching funds, unless they operate outside the traditional campaign finance system

Uh Jim, bullshit. You would kill to have Dean's money and the resources it brings. Any campaign would. Then he lays this whopper on:

Jordan said voters would be "distressed" if Dean broke his earlier pledge to abide by the spending limits for "purely political reasons." But most Democrats do not think Dean would pay a political price for doing what Bush is doing: seeking to raise as much money as he can. Trippi said the decision will not be made anytime soon.

Well, the next quarter will show if they can pull it off. But the reason Dean is doing well is simple: he opposed the war. If the war had gone well, Kerry or Gephardt might have had a chance. But Dean's money advantage is a very big deal as well. Wes Clark has to know he'll never raise that kind of cash in the time left.

What does that money do? It alters the debate. Lieberman and From tried to make Dean the issue. The base, not even Dean supporters, but the base of the party turned on them like wolverines. Because Dean is setting the agenda. He's running against George Bush. If you run against Howard Dean, people want to know why. Which is a pretty intense handicap to deal with. Dean is creating a simple litmus test: how hard will you run against Bush. It's crippled Lieberman and Edwards already. It's hindered Kerry and Gephardt.

Dean's money comes in cheaply and can be spent taunting the ever tempermental Bush.

One message which should be drawn from Dean's summer fundraising is that he's being rewarded for opposing Bush. By fighting Bush's policies and attacking democratic passivity, he's not only cutting himself away from the pack, he's getting records amounts of cash.

posted by Steve @ 6:10:00 PM

6:10:00 PM

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You mean Leni Riefenstahl isn't dead?

The putrid 9/11 teledrama will air on Showtime next Sunday. In a movie which would do Leni and Sergei Einstein proud, this bit of agitprop turns the fraidy cat Bush into a hero of Eisenhower proportions. The reality is that Bush ran like a little bitch until he was sure he was safe. While off-duty firemen, retired firemen (including actor Steve Buschemi, who had been a fireman in the 1980's) ran into the Twin Towers, Bush ran from airbase to airbase, cowering from Al Qaeda. While real heroes were saving lives and dealing with real horror (burning people falling from the buildings), Bush was reading childrens stories and hiding.

This vulgar fiction is now being done in an Orwellian way to rewrite history.

The turgid DC 9/11 would doubtless have been more entertaining with Harrison Ford or Arnold Schwarzenegger or even Ronald Reagan in the role of the president. DC 9/11 is instead the spectacle of Reagan in reverse: Rather than being a professional actor who entered politics, Bush is a politician who has been reconfigured, packaged, and sold as a media star—dialogue included. Indeed, that metamorphosis is the movie's true subject.

The basic Dubya narrative is the transformation of a roistering Prince Hal into a heroic Henry V (as dramatized in the agitprop version of Shakespeare's play staged this summer in Central Park). In DC 9/11, the young Bush—spoiled frat boy and drunken prankster—is subsumed in the image of the initially powerless president. The movie is thus the story of Bush assuming command, first of his staffers (who attest to his new aura with numerous admiring reaction shots) and then the situation. He is the one who declares that "we are at war," who firmly places Cheney (Lawrence Pressman) in his secure location—not once but twice. (To further make the point, Chetwynd has Scott Alan Smith's Fleischer muse that the press refuses to get it: "The Cheney-runs-the-show myth is always going to be with some of them.") Rudy Giuliani, who eclipsed Bush in the days following the attack, is conspicuously absent—or, rather, glimpsed only as a figure on television.

Rumsfeld (impersonated with frightening veracity by Broadway vet John Cunningham) emerges as the Soviet-style positive hero, embodying the logic of history. In the very first scene, he is seen hosting a congressional breakfast, invoking the 1993 attack on the WTC, and warning the dim-witted legislators that that was only the beginning. Rumsfeld is the first to utter the name "Saddam Hussein" and, over the pooh-poohs of Colin Powell (David Fonteno) goes on to detail Iraq's awesome stockpile of WMDs. But there can be only one maximum leader. Increasingly tough and folksy, prone to strategically consulting his Bible, it is Bush who directs Rummy and Ashcroft to think in "unconventional ways." This new Bush is continually educating his staff, instructing Rice in the significance of "modernity, pluralism, and freedom." (As played by Penny Johnson Jerald, the president's ex-wife on the Fox series 24, Condi is a sort of super-intelligent poodle—dogging her master's steps, gazing into his eyes with rapt adoration.)


Several incidents in the Iraq war—the semi-fictional Saving Private Lynch saga, the made-for-TV toppling of Hussein's statue, the outrageous Top Gun photo op with which Bush announced victory—are ready to be excerpted in Republican Party 2004 campaign propaganda. DC 9/11 is that propaganda: The "Battle Hymn of the Republic" swells as Bush flies into ground zero, where he astonishes even Rove (Allan Royal) by spontaneously vaulting a police barricade to hop on the rubble and grab the microphone. A nearby fireman, compelled to tell the president that he didn't vote for him, swears allegiance, mandating Bush to "find the son of a bitch who did this." Once Bush realizes that "today, the president has to be the country," Rove considers the image problem solved. Bush, he explains, has become commander in chief and taken back "control of his destiny." The climax is Bush's televised, prime-time September 20 speech—a montage of highly charged 9-11 footage that ends with the real-life, now fully authenticated Bush accepting the adulation of Congress as he fingers the talismanic shield worn by a fallen New York police officer

Jesus, this is bad fiction. How fake is this? Compare the Longest Day to Saving Private Ryan's first 20 minutes. In one, a bunch of Marines run on the beach (it was shot partly in Southern France with the 6th Fleet's cooperation), in the other, people explode in front of your face. A real movie about the two weeks from 9/11 would make heroes of firemen and cops and ordinary people. Sure, the cops wouldn't be able to communicate with firemen and Mayor Giuliani would hijack all credit and then be humiliated by Gail Collins in the Times, but it wouldn't reek of fiction. Bush desperately needs to be seen as a hero, even when he is a coward in his heart. He wants heroics without risk. One thing about his father is that he neither wanted nor accepted heroism as a birth right. And he was heroic, not just as a pilot, but as a scholar as well. And when no one wanted jobs like CIA chief, he stepped in. He is not my favorite person by any means, but he had character. Too bad his son inherited his mother's virtues of pettiness and badger-like meanness.

Bush is no Augustus. He's closer to Nero, fiddling while America burns.

posted by Steve @ 2:58:00 PM

2:58:00 PM

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Bush's long day

Today was not a good day for George Bush.

His palid speech before the American Legion drew fire from Joe Biden and Chuck Hagel, who were pissed. They want help from the UN. That help isn't coming, but Bush's actions sure make it impossible to even ask.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL:I do agree with it. I think the world would respond to our leadership. We have nothing to fear from our partners. My goodness, we're in this together. What the world wants to see is responsible American leadership that includes our friends and our allies and those who we are going to have work with over a long period of time if we are to win this war on terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. No one nation is big enough, great enough or powerful enough to do this alone. We need our friends and we'll need our friends for a long time. I don't know if a power or an individual who doesn't need friends. It's especially important in this kind of a world.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN: The president invoked Afghanistan in the beginning as if that was a model. I hope to goodness that's not the template we use. Afghanistan is in the hands of the warlords. You essentially have Mr. Karzai who both Chuck and I know well who is the mayor of Kabul - where the Taliban is reasserting itself although we're going after it again. It is a long way from being solved. And it took us a year to finally go back to NATO after a number of us urged... Chuck had a proposal calling for spending additional tens of millions of dollars in Afghanistan ten months ago. They didn't spend a penny of it.

Finally they went back to NATO and said, "NATO, we need help." A lot of us -- Democrat and Republican -- were saying over a year ago, ask NATO to expand the force. Be in there. Get control. Now it's the largest opium producing nation in the world. So I mean we have to act more decisively and more quickly in my view.

Which would be bad enough. Then, NASA issued its report, which ripped into it.

Then of course, Howard Dean has been tormenting Bush with his sleepless summer tour.

We have to be in the president's face to win," Dr. Dean, 54, said aboard the ancient Boeing 737 his staff dubbed the Grassroots Express.

"When this president talks, sometimes the opposite of what he says is really the truth," he said yesterday in Chicago, between speaking to a tepid union convention and being embraced by about 1,500 supporters atop Navy Pier, "and if we don't call him on it, we can't win."

posted by Steve @ 12:36:00 AM

12:36:00 AM

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Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Jesus for governor

Chief Justice Moore seemed undeterred. This afternoon he stepped in front of a crowd chanting, "Go, judge, go!" He shouted in response, "To do my duty, I must obey God!"

Chief Justice Moore added that he was appealing -again- to the United States Supreme Court, which rejected him on Wednesday.

"I've been ordered to do something I cannot do," he said. "I cannot violate my conscience."

Many of Chief Justice Moore's supporters said they were outraged by the other justices' action.

"Does Judas mean anything to you?" Rusty Thomas, a minister from Waco, Tex., said. "Those judges betrayed a righteous man. They'll pay the price."

Roy Moore is using this to run for governor or Senator.

Not only is he a religous wacko, he's pretty much running a scam on the gullible. If he practiced Santeria and sacrificed a goat in that lobby, he'd be in an insane asylum. Not surrounded by people worshiping a graven image. Moore is deeply un-american. His stand, as cynical as it is, violates the basic concept of religious freedom and if he can't sacrifice goats, he can't stick a christian symbol in a government building.

I have a couple of bibles in my home. I've seen Chuck Heston smite the Israelites more than once. My grandmother loved that film and I like it as well, cheezy as it is.

But his whole use of this graven image of the 10 Commandments offends the hell out of me. I may not go to church, but I don't think my faith is any less strong or complete than Moore's. My religious tradition, Methodist, finds such a display, vulgar. If you want to serve God, this is not the way to do it. Jesus would be ashamed to see his disciples worshiping a block of stone.

Religious tolerance is no joke. It's important for Christians, no matter what denomination, as well as every one else. I don't want Baptists to define my faith for me any more than a Jew wants me to define their's for them. Roy Moore is wiping his ass with the constitution for his political benefit. A person of truth religious faith wouldn't demean it so easily. God didn't tell him to place that thing there, his campaign manager did. So the christians of Alabama, something like 90 percent of the state, if not more, can feel persecuted. Why? I don't know. It's not like anyone is burning down churches and stealing bibles. It's just a few people who want to remind everyone which religion comes first.

God is closer in a whorehouse than among Roy Moore and his "flock"

posted by Steve @ 6:26:00 PM

6:26:00 PM

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Send Bush and Cheney a pink slip

I got an e-mail from the Gephardt campaign today. They're running an online campaign to send a pink slip to Bush and Cheey, destroyers of jobs.

This is what they want to send to the White House. Since this is a good idea, I say send it to your newspaper as well. Why the hell not? It's all true.

Dear [ Decision Maker ] ,

This message is to inform you that Americans can no longer afford to have you running our country into the ground.

Under your administration, more than 3.2 million jobs have been lost, 41 million Americans have no health insurance and our economy continues to suffer.

Rather than engaging our allies and the world to help us rebuild Iraq, you have opted to go it alone. The outrageous act of terror against innocent peacemakers this week in Iraq will strengthen the world's resolve against terrorism. We should seize upon that resolve and begin building new coalitions for peace in Iraq and around the world.

Additionally, your administration is so inexorably tied to Persian Gulf oil and old energy, you are incapable of devising a comprehensive, forward looking energy strategy. America must strive to achieve real energy independence.

It is time for a change! You will not receive my vote in 2004.

Just click the link for the form, or make a copy, edit it and send it to your local paper. Send it on to your local elected officials as well (as needed).

posted by Steve @ 5:50:00 PM

5:50:00 PM

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Hey, Hey it's the Taliban

Afghan Taliban a Growing Menace to Stability
Tue August 26, 2003 06:52 AM ET
By Mike Collett-White

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Operating in growing numbers, the Taliban and their allies have succeeded in destabilizing large parts of Afghanistan and creating conditions that could undermine the U.S. military and central government.

Aid and reconstruction is suspended across swathes of territory in the center, south and southeast, giving Afghans the impression the international community has abandoned them now the Taliban has been formally ousted.

"Once people are discouraged, that is the point of success for them, as no one will collaborate (with the authorities)," said Khalid Pashtun, director of foreign affairs in the south of the country.

Officials and aid workers say that most Afghans, including Pashtuns in the conservative south, oppose the ousted Taliban regime, which has stepped up attacks on government forces and is moving in groups as large as 600 fighters.


Critics say the United States may be paying the price for committing only around 10,000 soldiers to Afghanistan compared with about 136,000 in Iraq.

Osama Bin Who?

Isn't this one of the victories Michael O'Hanlon was citing in an article?

In reality, this is no victory, but a dangerous quagmire against a group which should have been destroyed in the field months ago.


As I write this, Bush is chortling about killing more "terrorists", when in reality, they are kicking our asses up and down the Hindu Kush and central Iraq. His wars are failing. His version of "decisive" action is the action of a child going after a bully, not a democracy dealing with real threats.

He's talking about how the taliban ran. Well, yes. They ran away and ran right back.

And in his sociopathic way, he's equating war with justice. Dropping bombs on the enemy is not justice. It's self-defense.

He's talking about the "new" Afghan Army. The one which is outnumbered by the private Army of the minister of defense. There are two wars. One in his head, one on the ground. He talks about Al Qaeda in the same deluded way Westmorland talked about COSVN, the mythical headquarters of the North Vietnamese. AQ is not a fixed organization, but a dynamic one. Kill one leader, another pops up. It's not even known how many groups AQ controls directly. They fund a lot more than they run.

Now he's dragging out the poor, dead Shia as his justification for the Iraq war.

We're beating AQ, but they're flocking to Iraq. Insane, insane, insane.

"The more freedom we gain in Iraq, the more desperate they become"

LOL. Right. The freedom to be kidnapped and raped on the streets. The freedom to steal munitions and blow things up. You don't import 500lbs Soviet bombs. Desperate, how about effective.

"....seizing thousands of AK 47's" to be used by our rifle short troops.

"We captured the man named Chemical Ali" who we said was dead three times during the war.

Bush is lying before the American Legion. If they believe him, that would be sad.

posted by Steve @ 4:36:00 PM

4:36:00 PM

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A new millstone-140 dead after the war

Today, the 140th soldier was killed in Iraq. This is two more than died duing the first part of the war.

Some would call it a milestone, but it's more burden than anything else.

As the Congress debates the magic fairy troop solution, the realities on the ground are grim and getting grimmer by the day.

In a report by CSIS's Tony Cordesman, he outlines the issues:

There are some “stupid mission tricks” the United States and its allies should avoid:

Trying to block infiltration is fine and necessary, but no one who knows Iraq can talk seriously about securing its borders. Iraq’s borders are too long, too diverse, and open to infiltration by anyone or any group willing to move in as a civilian. Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iran all have areas where it would take vast manpower to cover the border as a whole, and in every case, terrorist cadres could come in as civilians into a nation with arms over the entire area.

* Don’t make Islam the issue: One of the keys to dealing with religious extremism is to be extremely careful not to attack Islam and confuse small elements of extremists with a religion and a culture. Careless references to terrorism, Islamists, etc. will compound the already serious problems the United States faces in alienating the Islamic and Arab world.

* Don’t create problems with the Shi’ites: The present war is likely to be lost or won on the basis of whether the Iraqi Shi’ites join in. The outside Iraqi opposition cannot do this; and the United States must be ready to deal with Iraqi clerics. The United States should be careful not to move more of its own troops into sensitive areas without a clear cause or see allied troops come in.

* Use both sticks and carrots in dealing with Iran: The United States needs to find some modus vivendi that minimizes action from Iran. This is an area where the British and Europe might well take the lead.

* Don’t tolerate quiet ethnic cleansing in the north: The United States cannot afford to have the Kurds alienate more Sunnis and the Turkomans.

* Rush the Iraqis forward wherever possible: The good may be the enemy of the acceptable. Winning hearts and minds means putting Iraqis in charge as fast as possible even at the cost of political compromises and problems in efficiency. Giving the Iraqis the Iraq they want and can build is the goal, not meeting our objectives.

* Take a hardline on Syria but a focused one: The United States cannot afford to get involved in Israel’s priorities; it has its own. It should focus on blocking Syrian support of Iraqi and volunteer hostile elements, and not allow itself to be diverted over issues like the Hezbollah and Lebanon.

* Remember regional allies like Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait: It is far too easy to forget the role local powers can play in limiting infiltration, in providing intelligence and aid, and in helping to deal with Iraq’s ethnic issues. This means hard bargaining with Turkey, and trying to rebuild working relations with Saudi Arabia.

* Don’t overreact in terms of force protection and casualties: Hard as it may be, accept the fact that some casualties are the price of keeping the right profile, interacting with Iraqis, and moving nation building forward. The primary mission is not force protection, and everyone has to understand this.

Of course this all makes sense. Everything he's written since last winter has made sense.

The odds are high that this will be ignored.

posted by Steve @ 12:28:00 PM

12:28:00 PM

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