Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Friday, March 27, 2009
Obama to announce his Afghan plan today
Spoiler alert: it doesn't appear to be an escalation, but we're not leaving, either. In short, there's going to be more money (60 percent more), 4,000 more troops on top of the 17,000 fresh combat troops greenlighted earlier, and more training for a much larger Afghan Army. But this, I think, is the key point, from the WaPo:
Obama plans to announce a "simple, clear, concise goal -- to disrupt, dismantle and eventually destroy al-Qaeda in Pakistan," said the official, one of three authorized to anonymously discuss the strategy.
That's "Pakistan..." with a "P." The president is speaking now.

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posted by JReid @ 9:42 AM  
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
The other 'Gitmo'
With all the excitement on my side of the aisle over President Obama's order to close the Byzantine Guantanamo Bay prison camp, the American public, thanks to the media, has completely overlooked another American gulag operating at the behest of the former henchman of the Bush administration, which could be just as problematic.
ASHINGTON — For months, a national debate has raged over the fate of the 245 detainees at the United States military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

But what may be an equally difficult problem now confronts the Obama administration in the 600 prisoners packed into a cavernous, makeshift prison on the American air base at Bagram in Afghanistan.

Military personnel who know Bagram and Guantánamo describe the Afghan site as tougher and more spartan. The prisoners have fewer privileges and virtually no access to lawyers. The Bush administration never allowed journalists or human rights advocates inside.

Problems have also developed with efforts to rehabilitate former jihadists, some of whom had been imprisoned at Guantánamo. Nine graduates of a Saudi program have been arrested for rejoining terrorist groups, Saudi officials said Monday.

President Obama must now decide whether and how to continue holding the men at Bagram, most of them suspected of being Taliban fighters. Under the laws of war, they are being held indefinitely and without charge. He must also determine whether to go forward with the construction of a $60 million prison complex at Bagram that, while offering better conditions for the detainees, would also signal a longer-term commitment to the American detention mission.

Mr. Obama tried last week to buy some time in addressing the challenges Bagram poses even as he ordered Guantánamo closed. By a separate executive order, Mr. Obama directed a task force led by the attorney general and the defense secretary to study the government’s overall policy on detainees and to report to him in six months.

But human rights advocates and former government officials say that several factors — including expanding combat operations against the Taliban, the scheduled opening of the new prison at Bagram in the fall and a recent federal court order — will probably force the administration to deal with the vexing choices much sooner. ...
The truth of the matter is the Obama team are acting with as much "deliberate speed" as they probably can, but even the temptation to continue the most horrific policies of the Bush administration, given the difficult task of fighting an on-going 'war' with al-Qaida, which is based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, must be something else.

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posted by JReid @ 3:52 PM  
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
IAVA launches 'community of veterans'
Watch the PSA:



Get more info here. If you're a veteran of the Afghanistan or Iraq wars, click here to join.

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posted by JReid @ 11:01 AM  
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
D is for 'didn't do much for veterans'
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is out with its 2008 Congressional Report Card, and the news for our most prominent veteran at the moment, John Sydney McCain III, isn't good. McCain gets a "D" from the IAVA. That would be the letter immediately after the letter "C," which, incidently, is what Mac's fellow Arizona Sen. John Kyl got.

The scoring was based on the Senators' votes on a number of bills important to veterans, including:
  1. A 2007 bill funding veterans' healthcare
  2. A March 2007 bill funding so-called MRAPS ("mine resistent ambush protected" vehicles for use in Iraq and Afghanistan
  3. A 2008 vets' healthcare funding bill
  4. October 2007 legislation added to the National Defense Authorization Act that expanded veterans' opportunities to seek VA healthcare and for Guardsmen and Reservists to keep education benefits after separating from the military.
  5. An April 2008 bill to improve so-called "adaptive housing" for disabled veterans
  6. A move in may of this year to stop the second rate G.I. bill being pushed by Miss Lindsey Graham to try and kill Jim Webb's stronger benefits bill
  7. The "Post 9/11 G.I. Bill" improving veterans' education benefits
  8. The second vote on the G.I. Bill that passed with an emergency supplemental for Iraq war funding in June of this year
  9. And the final phase of passage of the 21st Century G.I. Bill (Webb version, which McCain opposed.)
McCain declined to become a co-sponsor of the Webb G.I. Bill, despite entreaties from friends of his in the Senate including Chuck Hagel. His low score also stems from the fact that he was absent for 6 of the 9 votes. (Kyle was there every time, but he voted against veterans benefits four out of nine times, including against the enhanced G.I. Bill).

As for Barack Obama? He receied a "B" from the IAVA. The Illinois Senator signed on as a co-sponsor of the G.I. Bill, and voted with veterans all but the four times he was absent from the chamber.

To download the IAVA report card, click here.

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posted by JReid @ 11:16 PM  
Monday, July 21, 2008
Run for the border, and get that man a map!
John McCain warns of a long, hard struggle on the Iraq-Pakistan border ... (psst! John McCain! There is no Iraq-Pakistan border...!)
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posted by JReid @ 6:13 PM  
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Obama in Afghanistan
The Senator begins his trip abroad as part of a Congressional junket to the war zone (he's with Chuck Hagel and Jack Reed fo Rhode Island.)

The Illinois senator, undertaking a campaign-season tour of combat zones and foreign capitals, began his first-ever visit to Afghanistan as part of an official congressional delegation that landed in Kabul.

Obama and other members of Congress visited Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. military base in the country, to meet with top U.S. military leaders and troops, according to a U.S. military statement.

The delegation also met with troops at Jalalabad Air Field, in Nangarhar province. Jalalabad lies near the Tora Bora mountains where al-Qaida leaders fled and faced a U.S. bombardment during the U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban regime in late 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks. Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden escaped U.S. troops at that time and is believed to be in the region.

Obama also visited Kuwait, met with and even played some basketball with U.S. troops. And so far, he has been careful not to sound presumptuous, or to take the media bait:

Obama advocates ending the U.S. combat role in Iraq by withdrawing troops at the rate of one to two combat brigades a month. But he supports increasing the military commitment to Afghanistan, where the Taliban has been resurgent and Osama bin laden is believed to be hiding.

Obama recently chided Karzai and his government, saying it had "not gotten out of the bunker" and helped to organize the country or its political and security institutions.

Also on his itinerary later in the trip is a meeting with Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi leader. On the campaign trail, Obama has said one benefit of withdrawing U.S. troops is that it would pressure al-Maliki to shore up his government as well.

Nonetheless, he said he did not plan to reiterate those messages in person.

"I'm more interested in listening than doing a lot of talking, and I think it's very important to recognize that I'm going over there as a U.S. senator," he said. "We have one president at a time."

The AP reporter also gives some hints to the local reaction in Afghanistan, which mostly is, not much. They've got a lot on their minds in that country...

Few citizens in impoverished Afghanistan were aware of Obama's unannounced visit, and few have been following the U.S. presidential race, being too busy eking out an existence amid soaring violence and with limited access to news media.

But some interviewed Saturday said they would welcome an Obama presidency if he could help their country end the fighting, corruption and poverty that have crippled it for so long.

"Obama is a good person," said Abdul Basir, 40, a former army officer. "During his campaign I heard he was saying that if I become president I will withdraw the U.S. troops from Iraq and bring them to Afghanistan and I will attack on the terror center on other side of border (in Pakistan). It is very important and I appreciated that."

Meanwhile, sorry, but is Gordon Brown the George W. Bush of Great Britain?



Just sayin' ...
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posted by JReid @ 2:32 PM  
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Joint Chiefs Chair: the forgotten war needs more troops
The latest in the "Iraq stole our war" saga, courtesy of the Washington Post:


The nation's top military officer said today that more U.S. troops are needed in Afghanistan to help tamp down an increasingly violent insurgency but does not have sufficient forces to send because of the war in Iraq.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said insurgent Taliban and extremist forces in Afghanistan have become "a very complex problem" that is tied to the extensive drug trade, a faltering economy and the porous border region with Pakistan. Violence in Afghanistan has increased markedly over recent weeks, and June was the deadliest month for U.S. troops since the war began in 2001, with 28 combat fatalities.

"I am and have been deeply troubled by the increasing violence there," Mullen said, adding that he has made no secret of wanting to send more forces into the country. "The Taliban and their supporters have become more effective in recent weeks. ... We all need to be patient. As we have seen in Iraq, counterinsurgency warfare takes time and commitment."

Mullen said military commanders are looking at the prospects for sending additional troops to Afghanistan in 2009, but conditions in Iraq would have to continue to improve for that to happen. The war in Iraq has occupied as many as 20 military brigades during the troop buildup over the past year. The military is reducing that force to 15 brigades this year.

"I don't have troops I can reach for, brigades I can reach to send into Afghanistan until I have a reduced requirement in Iraq," Mullen said. "Afghanistan remains an economy of force campaign, which by definition means we need more forces there. We have the ability in almost every single case to win from the combat standpoint, but we don't have enough troops there to hold. That is key to the future of being able to succeed in Afghanistan." ...

And as for the neocons' plans for the next war?

Mullen said plainly that he opposes the U.S. or Israel engaging Iran with a military strike.

"My strong preference is to handle all of this diplomatically with the other powers of government, as opposed to any kind of strike occurring," Mullen said. "This is a very unstable part of the world and I don't need it to be more unstable."
Shhh! Don't tell Lieberman and McCain!


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posted by JReid @ 6:08 PM  
Thursday, May 22, 2008
G.I. Bill passes in Senate!
Barack Obama flew back to Washington this morning to cast his "aye" vote on the G.I. Bill, which passed today as part of a $165 billion war funding bill that was, against the president's wishes, married to a domestic spending package. (Score one for Jim Webb and IAVA...)

Says the WaPo:
... The 75-22 vote surprised even the measure's advocates and showed clearly the impact of the looming November election on Republican unity. Senate Republicans who face reelection broke first on the amendment, followed by other Republicans who quickly jumped on board.

It was a clear rebuke to Bush, who has promised to veto any measure that adds domestic spending to his $108 billion request to fund the war. The White House opposed the expanded G.I. Bill, concerned that the price tag was too high and the generous benefits could entice soldiers and Marines to leave the overburdened military rather than reenlist.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, who was in Ft. Bragg, N.C. with Bush, said of the vote: "There's a long way to go in this process, and fortunately it takes two houses of Congress to send a bill to the president. Our position hasn't changed: This is the wrong way to consider domestic spending, and Congress should not go down this path."

The Senate measure extends unemployment benefits for 13 weeks, funds levee construction around New Orleans and guarantees that veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will receive education benefits equal to the tuition of the most expensive state universities.

It provides additional funds for the Food and Drug Administration, the 2010 Census, federal prisons, local law enforcement agencies, heating assistance for the poor and many other domestic priorities. It also blocks the administration from implementing regulations that would limit access to the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

Although parts of the amendment have always enjoyed bipartisan support, the measure has taken on the weight of the presidential campaign in recent weeks. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the presumptive GOP nominee, opposed the domestic spending and advocated a slimmed-down version of the G.I. Bill, adopting the administration's argument that the original version -- authored by Sens. James Webb (D-Va.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) -- would deplete the military.

In so doing, McCain went against virtually every veterans organization, from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion to the more partisan VoteVets.org.

McCain did not interrupt his campaign schedule to vote today, but his Democratic rivals, Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), did.

"I respect Senator John McCain's service to our country," Obama said. "But I can't understand why he would line up behind the president in opposition to this G.I. Bill. I can't believe why he believes it is too generous to our veterans."
So who were the 22 Senators who voted against the bill? My money's on Traitor Joe and Miss Lindsey being in that number. Let's take a look-see:

Alexander (R-TN)
Allard (R-CO)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bennett (R-UT)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hatch (R-UT)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Lugar (R-IN)
McConnell (R-KY)
Sessions (R-AL)
Voinovich (R-OH)

Well I'll be damned! Lieberman surprised me this time, although his favorite little warmonger didn't even bother to show up and vote. Way to show that courage, McCain... And with the other AZ Republican Senator voting down veteran's benefits (the vote you'd have to assume McCain would have cast, had he had the cojones to show up), you've got to wonder what Arizona's veterans and active duty troops think of their present leadership. Could it be time to revive the question, Senator, "when and why did you sell your soul?"

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posted by JReid @ 2:54 PM  
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Losing 'the good war'
The Times explores how the Bushies' naivete and arrogance turned what should have been a decisive win against the people who launched the 9/11 terror attacks -- that's the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan, not some errant Iraqis or Saddam Hussein for you unreconstructed neocons out there -- into yet another Bush quagmire.
Two years after the Taliban fell to an American-led coalition, a group of NATO ambassadors landed in Kabul, Afghanistan, to survey what appeared to be a triumph — a fresh start for a country ripped apart by years of war with the Soviets and brutal repression by religious extremists.

With a senior American diplomat, R. Nicholas Burns, leading the way, they thundered around the country in Black Hawk helicopters, with little fear for their safety. They strolled quiet streets in Kandahar and sipped tea with tribal leaders. At a briefing from the United States Central Command, they were told that the Taliban were now a “spent force.”

“Some of us were saying, ‘Not so fast,’ ” Mr. Burns, now the under secretary of state for political affairs, recalled. “While not a strategic threat, a number of us assumed that the Taliban was too enmeshed in Afghan society to just disappear.”

But that skepticism had never taken hold in Washington. Since the 2001 war, American intelligence agencies had reported that the Taliban were so decimated they no longer posed a threat, according to two senior intelligence officials who reviewed the reports.

The American sense of victory had been so robust that the top C.I.A. specialists and elite Special Forces units who had helped liberate Afghanistan had long since moved on to the next war, in Iraq.

Those sweeping miscalculations were part of a pattern of assessments and decisions that helped send what many in the American military call “the good war” off course.

Like Osama bin Laden and his deputies, the Taliban had found refuge in Pakistan and regrouped as the American focus wavered. Taliban fighters seeped back over the border, driving up the suicide attacks and roadside bombings by as much as 25 percent this spring, and forcing NATO and American troops into battles to retake previously liberated villages in southern Afghanistan. ...

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posted by JReid @ 8:46 PM  
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Why is the Bush administration lying about the attempt on Cheney?
Dick Cheney came within earshot of a suicide bomber, who got through the first of three checkpoints protecting him at Kabul's Bagram Air Base during his visit to the "Mayor of Kabul," Hamid karzai. So why is the U.S. military lying about Cheney being the target of the assassination attempt? (Maj. William Mitchell said it did not appear the explosion was intended as a threat to Cheney. "He wasn't near the site of the explosion," Mitchell said. "He was safely within the base at the time of the explosion.") The resurgent Taliban says its bomber did in fact target the vice president:
A purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said Cheney was the target of the attack carried out by an Afghan named Mullah Abdul Rahim.

"We knew that Dick Cheney would be staying inside the base," Ahmadi told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location. "The attacker was trying to reach Cheney."
... The bad guys clearly knew where he would be. So why the obfuscation? Could it be that the Bush administration is continuing to try and hide the fact of just how badly things are going in our original theater of the war on terror? Signs point to yes:
BAGRAM, Afghanistan — In what the Taliban claimed was an assassination attempt, a suicide bomber attacked the main gate of a U.S. military base Tuesday within earshot of Vice President Dick Cheney. The explosion killed 23 people, including two Americans, and delivered a propaganda blow that undercut the U.S. military and the weak Afghan government it supports.

The bomber struck about 10 a.m., and U.S. military officials declared a "red alert" at the sprawling Bagram Air Base while Cheney was rushed to a bomb shelter. Cheney, who had been stranded at the base overnight by a snowstorm, met with President Hamid Karzai in the capital before heading back to the United States via the Gulf state of Oman.

"I heard a loud boom," Cheney told reporters aboard Air Force Two en route to Oman. "The Secret Service came in and told me there had been an attack on the main gate."

Many of the victims were said to be Afghan truck drivers waiting to get inside the base. A dozen men — many of them sobbing heavily — left the base holding a stretcher bearing their loved ones wrapped in black body bags. Tears streamed down the face of one man sitting in the passenger seat of an SUV that carried another victim away.

Although the bomber did not get closer than roughly a mile to the vice president, the attack highlighted an increasingly precarious security situation posed by the resurgent Taliban. Five years after U.S.-led forces toppled their regime, Taliban-led militants have stepped up attacks. There were 139 suicide bombings last year, a fivefold increase over 2005, and a fresh wave of violence is expected this spring.
And this:
The guerrillas, according to NATO officials, have the flexibility to organize an attack quickly and may have been able to plan a bombing at the base while Cheney was there after hearing news reports on Monday that he was delayed by bad weather. The Taliban have attacked in the area north of the capital in the past even though people living in the Bagram area have not been supportive of the guerrillas. Col. Tom Collins, the top spokesman for the NATO force, said the Taliban had a cell in Kabul that could have traveled the 30 miles north to Bagram.
But perhaps the most interesting note in the AP account was the rather casual reaction of the Bush faction at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:
President Bush was not awakened to be told about the attack, but received an update early Tuesday morning. White House press secretary Tony Snow said Bush's first reaction was to ask if Cheney was OK.
I'm tempted to ask whether his reaction to the news that in fact Cheney was fine, was "damn..."

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posted by JReid @ 6:18 PM  
How can you kill him, when he's already dead?
A suicide bomber targets Vice Lord of Doom, Dick Cheney, in Afghanistan:

BAGRAM, Afghanistan - A suicide bomber killed and wounded some two dozen people outside the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan on Tuesday during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney. The Taliban claimed responsibility and said Cheney was the target.

The blast happened outside the base at Bagram, north of the capital, Kabul. Cheney's spokeswoman said he was fine, and the U.S. Embassy said the vice president later met with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

There were conflicting reports on the death toll. Provincial Gov. Abdul Jabar Taqwa said 20 people were killed, but NATO said initial reports indicated only three were killed, including a U.S. soldier, a South Korean coalition soldier and a U.S. government contractor whose nationality wasn't immediately known. NATO said 27 people were also wounded.

It was unclear why there was such a large discrepancy in the reports.
Meanwhile, in a notty twist of irony:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's Shiite vice president narrowly escaped assassination Monday as a blast ripped through a government meeting hall just hours after it was searched by U.S. teams with bomb-sniffing dogs. At least 10 people were killed.

Adel Abdul-Mahdi was slightly wounded in the explosion, which splintered chairs, destroyed a speakers' podium and sent a chilling message that suspected Sunni militants can strike anywhere despite a major security crackdown across Baghdad.

As U.S. forces sealed off the area around the municipal building, investigators grappled with the troubling question of how the bomb was smuggled into the ministry of public works — a seven-story structure with crack surveillance systems from its days as offices for Saddam Hussein's feared intelligence service.
Last but not least, is our military ready for a third "major conflict" should one arise? Er ... no:

WASHINGTON - Strained by the demands of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a significant risk that the U.S. military won't be able to quickly and fully respond to yet another crisis, according to a new report to Congress.

The assessment, done by the nation's top military officer, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represents a worsening from a year ago, when that risk was rated as moderate.

The report is classified, but on Monday senior defense officials, speaking on condition on anonymity, confirmed the decline in overall military readiness. And a report that accompanied Pace's review concluded that while the Pentagon is working to improve its warfighting abilities, it "may take several years to reduce risk to acceptable levels."

Pace's report comes as the U.S. is increasing its forces in Iraq to quell escalating violence in Baghdad. And top military officials have consistently acknowledged that the repeated and lengthy deployments are straining the Army, Marine Corps and reserve forces and taking a heavy toll on critical warfighting equipment.
Between this and his continued contrariness on the subject of Iran's supposed meddling in Iraq, how much longer until General Pace is put out to pasture by the Bushies?

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posted by JReid @ 6:30 AM  
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Quick take headlines: Tuesday
New Bush, same as the old Bush -- the prez seeks more power, this time over domestic affairs.

What's the latest on the domestic spying front? Why it's the FBI, conducting widespread surveillance that's akin to the NSA warrentless wiretaps. Groovy! No wonder 58 percent of Americans just want the Bush term to be over, already.

Ari Fleischer testifies at the Scooter Libby trial -- contradicting Dick's right hand man on the subject of just when Scooter found out about Valerie Plame's identity (he testified that Scooter told him three days before Scooter's fabled convo with Tim Russert -- you know, the one where he heard about Plame for the "first time" -- during the one and only lunch Libby ever invited Ari to...) BTW, the Ari-Libby convo was "hush hush, on the QT..." On the stand today: Judy Miller.

South Dakota lawmakers try it again on abortion.

Shiite pilgrims attacked on the high holiday of Ashura in Iraq. And how about this sunny outlook on Iraq:
The US must draw up plans to deal with an all-out Iraqi civil war that would kill hundreds of thousands, create millions of refugees, and could spill over into a regional catastrophe, disrupting oil supplies and setting up a direct confrontation between Washington and Iran.

This is the central recommendation of a study by the Brookings Institution here, based on the assumption that President Bush's last-ditch troop increase fails to stabilise the country - but also on the reality that Washington cannot simply walk away from the growing disaster unleashed by the 2003 invasion.

Even the US staying to try to contain the fighting, said Kenneth Pollack, one of the report's authors, "would consign Iraqis to a terrible fate. Even if it works, we will have failed to provide the Iraqis with the better future we promised." But it was the "least bad option" open to the US to protect its national interests in the event of full-scale civil war.

US troops, says the study, should withdraw from Iraqi cities. This was "the only rational course of action, horrific though it will be", as America refocused its efforts from preventing civil war to containing its effects.

The unremittingly bleak document, drawing on the experience of civil wars in Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, Congo and Afghanistan, also offers a remarkably stark assessment of Iraq's "spill-over" potential across the Persian Gulf region.

It warns of radicalisation and possible secession movements in adjacent countries, an upsurge in terrorism, and of intervention by Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Ending an all-out civil war, the report says, would require a force of 450,000 - three times the present US deployment even after the 21,500 "surge" ordered by President Bush this month. ...
Meanwhile, who's to blame for Iran's dramatic rise in power and influence in the Mideast? George W. Bush, start talking to the man in the mirror... And Europe, which blames the U.S. for Iran's rise, is balking at Bush administration attempts to force Western countries to cut ties to Tehran.

And let's not forget Afghanistan, where civilian deaths are on the rise, too.

Over on Capitol Hill, experts will testify today before a Russ Feingold-led Senate committee today that Congress does indeed have the authority to end the Iraq war. Who knew?

And last but not least, guess whose picture Russian special forces like to use for target practice?

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posted by JReid @ 10:20 AM  
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Quick take headlines, Wednesday
Slavery? This guy says "get over it..."

Cue the doomsday clock ...

Iran reportedly shoots down a U.S. spy drone... hm ... I wonder what Jack Bauer would do in this situation ... and who would he torture...?

The Pentagon's leading advocate for a Soviet-style government apologizes for calling on U.S. corporations to boycott law firms who provide pro bono counsel to Gitmo detainees.

And you want a surge? How about Afghanistan? Seems Bob Gates is considering it.


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posted by JReid @ 12:13 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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