No matter what a clever ad campaign tells you, today is not just a day for partying and shopping. To date, the U.S. has lost 4,300 troops in Iraq, and 687 in Afghanistan. More than 30,000 have been wounded in both wars. The distribution of U.S. casualties by state can be found here.
U.S. casualties in all of this country's wars can be found here. The remarkable difference is that modern medicine has made many once unsurvivable wounds survivable. But that means that we have an even greater responsibility to care for those who return to us alive. So on this Memorial Day, God bless the dead, and the living, who have done what the rest of us wouldn't have the courage to do.
To see President Obama's ceremony honoring the troops on Memorial Day, go here.
The New York Times recounts just one of the myriad ways the Israeli attack on Gaza has made things worse in the region. This time: the victims are Palestinian patients, whom their government are now refusing to fund into the care of Israeli hospitals.
It is enough to look at the pictures coming from Shifa Hospital to see how many burned, bleeding and dying children now lie there. History has seen innumerable brutal wars take countless lives.
But the horrifying proportion of this war, a third of the dead being children, has not been seen in recent memory.
God does not show mercy on the children at Gaza's nursery schools, and neither does the Israel Defense Forces. That's how it goes when war is waged in such a densely populated area with a population so blessed with children. About half of Gaza's residents are under 15.
No pilot or soldier went to war to kill children. Not one among them intended to kill children, but it also seems neither did they intend not to kill them. They went to war after the IDF had already killed 952 Palestinian children and adolescents since May 2000.
The public's shocking indifference to these figures is incomprehensible. A thousand propagandists and apologists cannot excuse this criminal killing. One can blame Hamas for the death of children, but no reasonable person in the world will buy these ludicrous, flawed propagandistic goods in light of the pictures and statistics coming from Gaza.
One can say Hamas hides among the civilian population, as if the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv is not located in the heart of a civilian population, as if there are places in Gaza that are not in the heart of a civilian population. One can also claim that Hamas uses children as human shields, as if in the past our own organizations fighting to establish a country did not recruit children.
A significant majority of the children killed in Gaza did not die because they were used as human shields or because they worked for Hamas. They were killed because the IDF bombed, shelled or fired at them, their families or their apartment buildings. That is why the blood of Gaza's children is on our hands, not on Hamas' hands, and we will never be able to escape that responsibility.
He ends with the point that when these children grow up, what they will carry with them is rage, not conciliation. How can peace possibly come of that?
This is what it's come to. The Israelis are now bombing the United Nations. From the Independent UK:
The UN refugee agency says its Gaza headquarters has been struck by Israeli artillery fire and the building is now ablaze.
Spokesman Chris Gunness says the building was hit by what was believed to be three white phosphorous shells. The weapons burn at extremely high temperatures and can set things on fire.
However, witnesses said a nearby building was struck, and the UN building remained intact. It was hard to verify the accounts because the entire area was covered in black smoke.
Gunness says the building had been used as a shelter for hundreds of people fleeing Israel's 20-day offensive in Gaza. It's not clear how many people were there at the time. He says three people were injured.
Meanwhile the Palestinian death toll has topped 1,000, including scores of civilians, which of course, leads to charges that war crimes are being committed (shelling schools was not a good start). And the accusations are coming from inside Israel:
Israel is under suspicion of committing war crimes and should halt the "clear and present danger to the lives and well-being of tens of thousands of civilians" in Gaza, nine of the country's main human rights organisations have declared.
The Israeli organisations have written to the government, armed forces chiefs and the attorney general, condemning the "unprecedented" harm to a civilian population now in "extreme humanitarian distress", the "wanton use of lethal force" and a series of what it says are "blatant violations of the laws of warfare".
These include the fact that, apart from the death toll, with border crossings closed residents are unable to escape the war zone and are living in "fear and terror". The organisations also cited the dire capacity problems of Gaza's hospital system and the failure to evacuate about 600 wounded and chronically ill patients; what they say is prevention by the army of rescue teams reaching isolated areas which have come under intensive attack; and the fact that, with sewage now flowing in many streets, more than half a million people are without clean water and 250,000 residents have been without electricity for 18 days. Another million residents are without power at any one time, the organisations said.
The agencies also said 12 medical personnel had been killed, and another 17 injured, and that there had been 15 separate attacks on medical facilities. Meanwhile, Israel was hitting civilian targets which it defined as military solely because they are defined as "symbols of power" in Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Several human rights representatives went out of their way to make clear they were just as vigorous in their condemnation of the killing and injuring of Israeli civilians in militant rocket and mortar attacks. But their letter says the harm inflicted on Gaza's 1.5 million civilian population is "disproportionate" and calls on the government to open corridors to allow residents to escape the fighting and rescue teams to reach the injured.
Asked about the large majority of Israelis the polls show as supporting the warfare in Gaza, the Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard said: "We are witnessing a moral corrosion." Five years ago, when 15 bystanders were killed when a bomb was used to assassinate the Hamas militant leader Saleh Shehadeh, "there had been a very serious debate. Today we're doing it daily and and no one says a word. The [Israel Defence Forces] has stopped expressing regret".
Someone ought to ask the Israeli leadership, and the citizens of that country: what does it profit Israel to terrorize 1.5 million Palestinians and kill thousands? In the end, who will be left to even want to make peace? The Independent also offers these grim, and telling, statistics:
Gaza: The statistics so far
19 Number of days that the conflict has been going on.
2,360 Number of Israeli airstrikes so far.
1,013 Number of Palestinianskilled so far.
670 Number of casualties who are civilians.
225 Number of childcasualties.
69 Number ofwomen casualties.
4,700 Number of Palestinians wounded.
10 Number of Israelisoldiers killed.
4 Number of Israelis killed by friendly fire.
3 Number of Israeli civilians hit by rockets fired from Gaza.
The UK Foreign Office minister Lord Malloch-Brown says the British government "utterly" condemns the attack on the UN headquarters in Gaza. Fierce criticism also came from the French foreign ministry
The Shurouq tower block in Gaza City, which houses the offices of the Reuters news agency and several other organisations, is hit by an explosion, injuring a journalist for the Abu Dhabi television channel
Leaders of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council are to meet in Saudi Arabia to discuss the crisis. The Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, said the meeting was convened because of what he called Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people
A boat carrying medical supplies to Gaza is surrounded by Israeli warships in international waters off Lebanon's southern coast and forced to return to Cyprus, according to charity Free Gaza
Palestinian deaths in the Gaza Strip reach 1,028 according to Gaza medical sources. Nearly a third of the dead are said to be children
And this very important point:
Egypt and other key Arab players can do some coaxing and arm-twisting with Hamas, says BBC Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi, but there is little pressure they can bring to bear upon Israel: only the US has that sort of influence.
JERUSALEM — Israel hoped that the war in Gaza would not only cripple Hamas, but eventually strengthen its secular rival, the Palestinian Authority, and even allow it to claw its way back into Gaza.
But with each day, the authority, its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and its leading party, Fatah, seem increasingly beleaguered and marginalized, even in the Palestinian cities of the West Bank, which they control. Protesters accuse Mr. Abbas of not doing enough to stop the carnage in Gaza — indeed, his own police officers have used clubs and tear gas against those same protesters.
The more bombs in Gaza, the more Hamas’s support seems to be growing at the expense of the Palestinian Authority, already considered corrupt and distant from average Palestinians.
“The Palestinian Authority is one of the main losers in this war,” said Ghassan Khatib, an independent Palestinian analyst in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “How can it make gains in a war in which it is one of the casualties?”
Israel is proposing, with the tacit agreement of Egypt and the United States, to place the Palestinian Authority at the heart of an ambitious program to rebuild Gaza, administering reconstruction aid and securing Gaza’s borders. But that plan is already drawing skepticism. Mr. Khatib, for example, called the idea of any Palestinian Authority role in postwar Gaza “silly” and “naïve.”
Perhaps more dispiriting to the ever fewer who believe that any overall settlement is possible now — with peace negotiations suspended and Palestinians divided between Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank — is that Israel itself does not really hold out high hopes for a larger postwar role for Fatah. Israel’s proposals seem dutiful, an acknowledgment of a stalemate that not even so ferocious an assault on Hamas can undo.
Israel is to keep up its offensive in the Gaza Strip despite a UN call for an immediate end to nearly two weeks of conflict involving Hamas militants.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the latest firing of rockets into Israel showed the resolution was "unworkable". Hamas has also dismissed the UN's call.
The Security Council resolution demanded a truce, access for aid workers and an end to arms smuggling.
Meanwhile, the UN said its main aid agency would resume operations in Gaza.
And there's this:
Earlier, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said an alleged failure of the Israeli military to help wounded civilians in Gaza - cited by the Red Cross - could constitute a war crime.
On Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said its staff had found four weak and scared children beside their mothers' bodies in houses hit by shelling in the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza City.
Ms Pillay told the BBC: "The incident the Red Cross describes is very troubling because it has all the elements of what constitutes a war crime.
Death ratio in the conflict so far? 770 Palestinians versus 14 Israelis.
The main humanitarian aid group for the United Nations in Gaza has suspended activities in the Palestinian territory, its chief spokesman said Thursday.
The move comes after a U.N. Relief and Works Agency truck driver was killed and two other people were wounded by an Israeli tank shell near the Erez Crossing, said Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the U.N. agency in Gaza.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said it is not aware of the attack but said Hamas militants sometimes have targeted U.N. aid trucks to take food.
The U.N. relief agency will suspend activities until the Israeli military can guarantee the safety of its staff, said the agency's chief spokesman, Chris Gunness, in Jerusalem.
The U.N. agency provides food and relief supplies to about 80 percent of Gaza's 1.5 million people.
... then what is the point of having an "international community," or a United Nations, or an Arab League, for that matter. From the Washington Post (which also runs this photo essay):
JERUSALEM, Jan. 8 -- The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday that it had found at least 15 bodies and several children -- emaciated but alive -- in a row of shattered houses in the Gaza Strip and accused the Israeli military of preventing ambulances from reaching the site for four days.
Red Cross officials said rescue crews had received specific reports of casualties in the houses and had been trying since Saturday to send ambulances to the area, located in Zaytoun, a neighborhood south of Gaza City. They said the Israeli military did not grant permission until Wednesday afternoon.
In an unusual public statement issued by its Geneva headquarters, the Red Cross called the episode "unacceptable" and said the Israeli military had "failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded."
When rescue workers from the Red Cross and the Palestinian Red Crescent arrived at the site, they found 12 corpses lying on mattresses in one home, along with four young children lying next to their dead mothers, the Red Cross said. The children were too weak to stand and were rushed to a hospital, the agency said.
A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces declined to comment early Thursday on the specific allegations made by the Red Cross but said in a statement that the military "has demonstrated its willingness to abort operations to save civilian lives and to risk injury in order to assist innocent civilians."
"Any serious allegations made against the IDF's conduct will need to be investigated properly, once such a complaint is received formally," the statement added.
The Red Cross said its workers evacuated 18 wounded survivors from the houses in donkey carts. They said ambulances could not reach the site because of earthen barriers erected around the neighborhood by the Israeli military. Red Cross officials said that Israeli soldiers posted nearby tried to chase rescue workers away from the site but that the rescuers refused to leave.
"This is a shocking incident," Pierre Wettach, the Red Cross's head of delegation for Israel and the Palestinian territories, said in a statement. "The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestine Red Crescent to assist the wounded."
The Geneva Conventions provide that parties to a conflict "at all times" should "without delay" take "all possible measures to search for and collect the wounded and sick, to protect them against pillage and ill-treatment, to ensure their adequate care, and to search for the dead and prevent their being despoiled." The conventions also say that wounded "shall not willfully be left without medical assistance and care."
Israel has accepted the broad outlines of the French-Egyptian ceasefire proposal, but they want all of the smuggling tunnels into Gaza closed. Coincidentally, since they have instituted a total blockade of Gaza and it's 1.5 million residents since 2007, the tunnels have been the strip's only source of food, besides humanitarian aid, according to the Post. Go figure.
A smart take on the Gaza conflict: both sides are wrong
On the CNN website today, from international human rights lawyer, and "Islamic pacifist," Arsalan Iftikhar ...
Regardless of who's to blame for the origins of the conflict, shame on both Hamas and Israel for their recent violations of international law that have led to a humanitarian inferno in Gaza and southern Israel.
Hamas is to be blamed for its sophomoric provocation of its neighbor's military wrath by firing missiles into southern Israel. Israel also should be condemned for its disproportionately inhumane onslaught in Gaza, which has currently left 555 people dead and 2,750 injured, according to Palestinian medical sources cited by CNN. The United Nations estimates that at least 25 percent of Palestinians killed have been civilians.
Simply put, both sides have committed acts tantamount to "war crimes," and both continue to violate international law repeatedly in this nightmare.
Under international law, the Geneva Conventions prohibit armed reprisals that intentionally inflict "collective punishment" against civilian populations as well as the targeting of nonmilitary targets.
Both Israel (with its military onslaught in Gaza) and Hamas (with its primitive rocket-firing into southern Israel) violate Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, which states: "No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited."
... Further, the legal doctrine of "proportionality" originated in the 1907 Hague Conventions where, according to Lionel Beehner, writing for the Council of Foreign Relations, "a state is legally allowed to unilaterally defend itself and right a wrong provided the response is proportional to the injury suffered. The response must also be immediate and necessary, refrain from targeting civilians and require only enough force to reinstate the status quo ante."
Israeli columnist Gideon Levy bravely tackled the "proportionality" debate recently in Israel's Haaretz newspaper by writing: "Once again, Israel's violent responses, even if there is justification for them, exceed all proportion and cross every red line of humaneness, morality, international law and wisdom. ... What began in Gaza is a war crime and the foolishness of a country."
Levy later cogently added, "In its foolishness, Hamas brought this on itself and on its people, but this does not excuse Israel's overreaction."
Which is to say they issued a sternly worded statement of oblique outrage over the shelling of a United Nations school in Gaza. Take that, Hamas and Israel ... From the BBC:
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for an immediate end to fighting in the Gaza Strip during a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York.
Mr Ban criticised both Israel for its bombardment of Gaza and Hamas for firing rockets into Israel.
Well I'll be... With Mr. Bush punting on the issue, it's left to the French and Egyptians to try and force a peace deal:
France and Egypt announced an initiative to stop the fighting in Gaza late Tuesday, hours after Israeli mortar shells exploded near a U.N. school sheltering hundreds of people displaced by the onslaught on Hamas militants. At least 30 Palestinians died, staining streets with blood.
The Egyptian and French presidents didn't release details of their proposal, saying only that it involved an immediate cease-fire to permit humanitarian aid into Gaza and talks to settle the differences between Israel and the Islamic militants of Hamas who rule the small coastal territory.
They said they were awaiting a response from Israel.
Care to guess how Condi Rice responded?
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice weclomed the initiative, but cautioned that no agreement would succeed unless it halted Hamas rocket attacks on Israel and arms smuggling into Gaza.
Meanwhile President-in-waiting Obama had a little bit more to say on the topic than he has:
Earlier in the day, President-elect Barack Obama broke his silence on the crisis, saying that "the loss of civilian life in Gaza and in Israel is a source of deep concern for me." He declined to go further, reiterating his stance that the U.S. has only one president at a time.
Neither here nor there, I'd say, but at least it's something.
And what is Israel's explanation for shelling a clearly marked United Nation's elementary school, whose GPS coordinates they were given ... by the U.N.?
Israel's military said its shelling at the school — the deadliest single episode since Israeli ground forces invaded Gaza on Saturday after a week of air bombardment — was a response to mortar fire from within the school and said Hamas militants were using civilians as cover.
Two residents of the area who spoke with The Associated Press by telephone said they saw a small group of militants firing mortar rounds from a street near the school, where 350 people had gathered to get away from the shelling. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
Majed Hamdan, an AP photographer, rushed to the scene shortly after the attacks. At the hospital, he said, many children were among the dead.
"I saw women and men — parents — slapping their faces in grief, screaming, some of them collapsed to the floor. They knew their children were dead," he said. "In the morgue, most of the killed appeared to be children. In the hospital, there wasn't enough space for the wounded."
He said there appeared to be marks on the pavement of five separate explosions in area of the school.
An Israeli defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to make the information public, said it appeared the military used 120-mm shells, among the largest mortar rounds.
...U.N. officials demanded an investigation of the shelling. The carnage, which included 55 wounded, added to a surging civilian toll and drew mounting international pressure for Israel to end the offensive against Hamas.
So ... you shell an elementary school where you know civilians are hiding ... so you can kill two low level militants who are firing rockets near by? That strikes me as grossly immoral at worst, and at best, as a blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions. Not that anyone will ever do anything about it... So far, Israel has shelled not one, but three United Nations schools, including a girls school where they claimed militants were hiding. There are other interpretations of who's hiding there:
Some 15,000 Palestinians have packed the U.N.'s 23 Gaza schools because their homes were destroyed or to flee the violence. The U.N. provided the Israeli military with GPS coordinates for all of them.
The three mortar shells that crashed down on the perimeter of the U.N. school struck at midafternoon, when many people in the densely populated camp were outside getting some fresh air, thinking an area around a school was safe.
Images recorded by a cameraman from AP Television News showed crowds fleeing the scene, pavements smeared with blood and battered bodies being carried off by medics and bystanders. A youth who limped away was helped along by several others. Sandals lay scattered on the pavement by a pock-marked wall.
"There's nowhere safe in Gaza. Everyone here is terrorized and traumatized," said John Ging, head of Gaza operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
An Israeli military statement said it received intelligence that the dead at the girls school included Hamas operatives, among them members of a rocket-launching squad. It identified two of them as Imad Abu Askar and Hassan Abu Askar.
Two residents who spoke to an AP reporter by phone said the two brothers were known to be low-level Hamas militants. They said a group of militants — one of them said four — were firing mortar shells from near the school. An Israeli shell targeted the men, but missed and they fled, the witnesses said. Then another three shells landed nearby, exploding among civilians, they said, refusing to allow their names to be published because they feared for their safety.
A total of 71 Palestinians were killed Tuesday — with just two confirmed as militants, Gaza health officials said.
Palestinian health ministry officials put the death toll at 595, including 195 civilians, in the eleven days of constant bombardment. The Israeli death toll from rocket fire stands at 11, including three civilians. The Independent has a depressing take on the shelling, and lists the death toll in Gaza as topping 600 in what the paper has labeled a massacre.
The NBC correspondent in the region said the school was clearly marked with the U.N. logo. From the Independent UK:
Two tank shells exploded outside the school, residents said, spraying shrapnel on people inside and outside the building, where hundreds of Palestinians had sought refuge from fighting between Israeli soldiers and Hamas militants.
Reuters journalists filmed bodies scattered on the ground amid pools of blood and torn shoes and clothes. A donkey also lay on the ground in its own blood.
In addition to the dead, several dozen people were wounded, the hospital officials said.
The Israeli military said it was looking into the reports.
Shells landed near a second school in the region also. The U.N. has lodged a protest:
The United Nations said one Israeli air attack struck an elementary school in Gaza City where hundreds of Palestinians had taken shelter, killing three men.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency said Asma Elementary school was clearly marked as a U.N. installation. It said over 400 people had been given shelter at the school when it was hit Monday night.
"Well before the current fighting, UNRWA had given to the Israeli authorities the GPS (global positioning system) co-ordinates of all its installations in Gaza, including Asma Elementary School," the agency said in a news release.
"UNRWA is strongly protesting these killings to the Israeli authorities and is calling for an immediate and impartial investigation," it added.
The residents of Gaza, some 1.5 million people, are now almost completely encircled, by the Israeli military, and by the sea. And many in the small strip of land abutting Egypt are asking, where are the Arab leaders?
Meanwhile ITN reports from the Israeli side of the border, where people are mourning three soldiers killed by friendly fire:
I agree with Zbigniew Brzezinski that the worsening tragedy in Gaza is part of the blur we have been seeing for some time. I put a lot of the blame on Labor Party Leader and Defense Minister Ehud Barak who has been itching to manage a war.
But as Brzezinski said, the Israelis and Palestinians have proven unable to rise to a level of strategic, forward-looking maturity to solve this problem and others now need to stabilize the situation, engage in a credible peace negotiation process that involves the other major Arab stakeholders, the US and Europe.
Having the Saudis, Jordanians, Egyptians, Americans, and Europeans impose a solution can't be worse than what we are seeing today.
On "This Week," George Stephanopoulos talked to Israeli President Shimon Perez, and didn't even bother to have a Palestinian spokesman on. He then went straight to Dick Durbin, who voiced the now familiar, bi-partisan U.S. political line fully supporting whatever it is that Israel is doing.
On Meet the Press, David Gregory framed his questions to war correspondent Richard Engel in terms that sound surprisingly similiar to the charges made by Israeli officials (that Hamas would only use a ceasefire to fortify its defenses):
MR. GREGORY: The fear...(technical difficulties)...that since the point of disengagement from Gaza three years ago that Hamas has been able to fortify its defenses, bring in weaponry. All of that could be brought to bear against Israeli forces. How are they responding on their side?
On CNN, Howard Kurtz repeatedly asked, "doesn't Israel have the right to protect its population?" and quizzed CNN's foreign correspondent on whether the media should have given more coverage to the non-lethal rocket attacks against Israel over the last several years, as opposed to whingeing about the civilian casualties in Gaza.
The death toll in Gaza stands at about 470 to 5, Palestinians to Israelis. Go figure.
NEW YORK (Commentary) Israel launched its much-anticipated invasion of Gaza on Saturday. For over a week, U.S. media had provided largely one-sided coverage of the conflict, with little editorializing or commentary arguing against broader Israeli actions.
Most notably, after more than eight days of Israeli bombing and Hamas rocket launching in Gaza, The New York Times had produced exactly one editorial, not a single commentary by any of its columnists, and only two op-eds (one already published elsewhere). The editorial, several days ago, did argue against the wisdom of a ground invasion - - but even though that invasion had become ever more likely all week the paper did not return to this subject.
Amazingly, the paper has kept that silence going in Sunday's paper, with no editorial or columnist comment on the Israeli invasion.
The invasion, to no one's surprise, did begin on Saturday -- so any further criticism will now come too late. As in the past, U.S. media coverage and commentary has overwhelmingly backed the Israeli actions (as it did in the Lebanon war in 2006, which turned into a fiasco).
Have I mentioned today that the U.N. is useless? The U.S. blocked the latest attempted resolution, and the remaining carping strikes me as a waste of breath.
UN General Assembly chief Miguel d'Escoto has criticized the Security Council for its inability to curb Israel's "monstrosity" in Gaza.
D'escoto criticized the UN Security Council for not showing enough tenacity in ending Gazans suffering in the wake of the weeklong Israeli offensive in the coastal strip.
"I think it's a monstrosity; there's no other way to name it," D'escoto said Saturday when asked about the Israeli incursion on Gaza.
The UN Security Council again failed to call for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip due to US intervention. The statement would have called on Israel to end its ground incursion into the region.
"Once again, the world is watching in dismay the dysfunctionality of the Security Council," D'escoto argued.
The two previous UN draft resolutions seeking an end to the violence in the region have been blocked by Washington. The United States has so far vetoed over 40 anti-Israel resolutions at the UN.
Tel Aviv has so far snubbed international calls for a cease-fire and began what it claims to be the "long-lasting" ground invasion of Gaza on Saturday night
In London, at least 10,000 people, many carrying Palestinian flags, marched past Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Downing Street residence to a rally in Trafalgar Square. Outside Downing Street, hundreds of protesters stopped and threw shoes at the gates that block entry to the narrow road.
Shoe-throwing has become a popular gesture of protest and contempt since an Iraqi journalist pelted U.S. President George W. Bush with a pair of brogues in Baghdad last month.
Police estimated the crowd in London at 10,000 to 12,000, but organizers said the number was much higher. The marchers included activist Bianca Jagger, ex-Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox and comedian Alexei Sayle
Other international developments:
Rallies also were held in other British cities - including Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow - and across Europe. Protests in Paris, Amsterdam, Rome and Berlin all drew thousands of people.
In Paris, police said 21,000 marched through the streets, shouting "We are all Palestinians" and "Israel assassin." Later, about 500 of the protesters turned violent, throwing objects at police, burning Israeli flags, overturning and torching cars, and vandalizing several shops, police said. Ten police officers were injured in the clashes and 20 protesters arrested, a Paris police spokeswoman said.
Angry protests continued for a second day in Turkey, where about 5,000 demonstrators shouted "killer Israel" in downtown Ankara.
In The Netherlands, thousands of people marched through Amsterdam, criticizing both the Israeli attacks and the Dutch government's failure to condemn them. One banner declared: "Anne Frank is turning in her grave. Oh Israel!"
More than 4,000 people demonstrated in Duesseldorf, Germany, and some 5,000 in Frankfurt. One group in Duesseldorf held up a doll representing a bleeding baby with the placard "Made in Israel."
In Berlin, more than 7,000 people braved freezing temperatures for a march along the capital's Unter den Linden boulevard.
Another 2,500 demonstrated in Salzburg, Austria, while scores protested peacefully in Madrid outside the Spanish Foreign Ministry.
Hundreds more marched in the Swedish cities of Malmo and Uppsala, while in Oslo, Norway demonstrators marched from the parliament to the Israeli Embassy, calling on Israel to "let Gaza live."
In Athens, Greece - the scene of violent demonstrations by anarchist youths over the past month - a few of the 5,000 protesters threw stones and petrol bombs at police outside the Israeli Embassy. Riot police retaliated with tear gas and stun grenades.
In Cyprus, demonstrators pelted riot police with rocks, sticks, shoes and oranges near the Israeli Embassy in Nicosia. A peaceful protest by about 2,000 people turned violent when some protesters tried to break through a line of police blocking the road leading to the embassy. The demonstrators eventually dispersed.
UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council convened a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the ongoing conflict in Gaza, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and representatives of various countries calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians.
"There must be an immediate ceasefire that is fully respected by all parties," Ban said at the meeting.
"This must create new conditions on the ground that ensure at last that crossings into Gaza will be reopened; that rocket attacks and weapons smuggling will end; and that we will pursue political dialogue, and only political dialogue, to reunite Gaza with the West Bank; and that the root cause of this suffering, the absence of Israeli-Palestinian peace, is ended.
"Even as this crisis rages, let us never forget the underlying issue: there must be an end to occupation, an end to conflict, and the creation of a Palestinian State," he said. "Let us not lose sight of our goal -- two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region.
"The conflict must end, and it must end once and for all," Ban said.
Meanwhile, you've got to wonder where the Arab League has gone to. All we have so far is a statement from Gaza's immediate neighbor:
The Egyptian ambassador, in his letter to the Council president, said the Arab countries want the Security Council "to adopt an enforceable and binding resolution that would ensure an immediate ceasefire, cessation of the Israeli military aggression, lifting of the blockade, and the provision of international protection to the Palestinian people."
George Bush today blamed the continuing violence in Gaza on Hamas terrorism and offered no criticism of Israel in his first comments since Israeli air strikes began a week ago.
The US president condemned Hamas's campaign of rocket attacks on Israel as an "act of terror" and said no peace deal would be acceptable unless the flow of smuggled weapons to terrorist groups was monitored and stopped.
"This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria that calls for Israel's destruction," he said.
Bush said Hamas ended the latest ceasefire on 19 December and "soon unleashed a barrage of rockets and mortars that deliberately targeted innocent Israelis, an act of terror that is opposed by the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people, President [Mahmoud] Abbas".
I wouldn't expect much from the useless U.N., or the equally useless Quartet. The U.S. position is far too unilateral for anything to come of so-called "diplomacy." Meanwhile, the human tragedy mounts in Gaza, where the only way out for the civilian population is the sea. More than 460 Palestinians have died so far (plus 4 Israelis -- a kill ratio of 100 to 1,) including a dozen civilians, six chldren among them, who were killed leaving a bombed mosque.
It's hard to come by in the media. Glenn Greenwald reads TNR's Marty Peretz and politicians on both sides of the aisle the riot act. The most egregious examples:
... any minimally decent human being -- even those who view the world through the most blindingly pro-Israeli lens possible, the ones who justify anything and everything Israel does, and who discuss these events with a bottomless emphasis on the primitive (though dangerous) rockets lobbed by Hamas into Southern Israel but without even mentioning the ongoing four-decades brutal occupation or the recent, grotesquely inhumane blockade of Gaza -- would find the slaughter of scores of innocent Palestinians to be a horrible and deeply lamentable event.
But not The New Republic's Marty Peretz. Here is his uniquely despicable view of the events of the last couple of days:
So at 11:30 on Saturday morning, according to both the Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz, as well as the New York Times, 50 fighter jets and attack helicopters demolished some 40 to 50 sites in just about three minutes, maybe five. Message: do not fuck with the Jews.
"Do not fuck with the Jews." And what of the several hundred Palestinian dead -- including numerous children -- and many hundreds more seriously wounded?
Israeli intelligence reported 225 people dead, mostly Hamas military leaders with some functionaries, besides, and perhaps 400 wounded. The Palestinians announced 300 dead, probably as a reflex in order to begin their whining about disproportionate Israeli acts of war. And 600 wounded.
Objections to the Israeli attack are just "whining." Those are the words of a psychopath.
Indeed. I cancelled my "New Republic" subscription years ago, along with a letter stating my outrage at the magazine's cavalier treatment of the Palestinian people, whom the magazine generally describes in Likudnik terms, as "cockroaches." American policy toward Israel is shamefully one-sided. I'm not exactly optimistic that that will change much going forward, given the attacks Obama was subjected to during the campaign regarding his Israel bona fides. But there is always hope. The Democrats should listen to Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski once in a while. It's time for Ameican foreign policy to reflect a decent respect for the humanity of both sides, including the millions of Palestinian refugees who are, after all, under decades of occupation and the denial not just of their humanity, but currently, of food, water and medicine.
UPDATE: From the moderate Jewish American community, angst over Peretz's thugism, and anxiety over the Gaza war. And the pro-peace organization J Street sounds off.
Thousands of demonstrators are expected to converge on central London tomorrow to demand a ceasefire in Gaza amid growing international anger over Israel's week-long bombardment.
The singer Annie Lennox, the former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, comedian Alexei Sayle, Palestinian solidarity groups, Muslim organisations, the Stop the War Coalition and several MPs are among those backing the midday march from Embankment to Trafalgar Square.
Since Israeli air strikes started there have been daily protests outside the Israeli embassy in Kensington, west London, where large numbers have forced the closure of nearby streets. A rally was held outside the Egyptian embassy in Mayfair /today to call for the opening of the Gaza-Egypt border, allowing the delivery of more humanitarian supplies.
Other supporters of /tommorrow's mass protest include the former model Bianca Jagger, Tony Benn, the musician Brian Eno, Respect Party MP George Galloway, Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather, Labour MP Jermy Corbyn and the socialist activist Tariq Ali.
Speaking at a press conference ahead of the rally, Jagger appealed to the US president-elect, Barack Obama, to "ask for the immediate cessation of the bombardment of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip."
Ken Livingstone condemned the "Israeli kill ratio of 100 to one" as "obscene". The UK government's response so far had been completely inadequate, he said. "The only time a British government was even-handed [in the Middle East] was Edward Heath in 1973 ... when he refused to let arms shipments through to Israel." ...
With the exception of the Americans, who continue to pursue a lopsided, "whatever Israel wants" policy in the region, the world is speaking loudly. More than 400 Palestinians have died, thus far. It's time for Israel to stop.
As word of the mounting death toll (375 Palestinians, 4 Israelis) and Gaza humanitarian crisis spread worldwide, news that a ship carrying medical supplies for Palestinians in Gaza, called the Dignity, was set to arrive spread around the Web. I remember hearing about the ship for the first time yesterday. Well this morning, CNN's Carl Penhaul, who was aboard the ship (as was former U.S. Congresswoman from Georgia, Cynthia McKinney...) confirmed accounts by the ship's captain that they were, in his estimation, deliberately rammed by an Israeli military vessel that observed the ship for nearly an hour, and which Penhaul said must have seen it because the Dignity had "full lights on."
Penhall reported that the Dignity's captain was not contacted by the Israeli ship until after the boat was rammed, and began taking on water. The ship re-routed to Lebanon, after the Captain was told in no uncertain terms that the Israeli ship would open fire if the Dignity continued. Penhall reported that the Israeli military on board the warship accused the Dignity of "being involved in terror operations." Scary stuff, and possibly a violation of maritime law. From the Guardian:
Activists trying to bring aid to Gaza today claimed their boat had been rammed by Israeli gunboats in a "criminal attack" in international waters.
The Free Gaza Movement said its vessel, the Dignity, was intercepted by several Israeli vessels as it was heading to the Gaza Strip, which has been under Israeli aerial bombardment since Saturday.
One gunboat rammed the Dignity on the port bow side, causing heavy damage, although no one was hurt, the group said.
"[The Dignity] is taking on water and appears to have engine problems," the movement said on its website. "When attacked, the Dignity was clearly in international waters, 90 miles off the coast of Gaza.
"The gunboats also fired their machine guns into the water in an attempt to stop the mercy ship from getting to Gaza.
The Guardian also reports that Israeli officials are characterizing the ramming accidental:
An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, told Reuters there had been no shooting, although two ships made "physical contact".
Palmor said the boat had failed to respond to Israeli naval radio contact and an Israeli vessel "clashed with the ship". He said nobody was hurt and the Israeli ship escorted the aid boat back to Cypriot territorial waters.
Israel declared the coastal territory a closed military zone after it launched air attacks on Hamas targets in Gaza on Saturday in response to Hamas firing rockets into Israel. Israel said the Free Gaza movement boat would not be permitted to dock in the Gaza Strip.
In a radio message, the Israelis accused the Gibraltar-registered Dignity of being involved in terrorist activity, the ship's captain said. The Dignity was carrying 16 passengers, including physicians from Britain, Germany and Cyprus and several human rights activists, including former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney.
The patrol boat rammed the Dignity after pursuing the vessel for about 30 minutes before the collision. Crew members said they believe the Dignity was intentionally struck, which Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called "absurd."
Meanwhile, from Xinhua (a Chinese daily,) comes an account of the ship's arrival in Tyre, and a very different explanation of the ramming, which officially is being called "accidental"...
BEIRUT, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- The "Free Gaza" ship, "Dignity", rammed by an Israeli patrol vessel on waters near Gaza early Tuesday, arrived at Tyre port in south Lebanon in the afternoon, al-Jazeera TV reported.
The ship reaching the Lebanese water was escorted with a Lebanese navy boat and boats of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
... Lebanese President Michel Suleiman gave orders to the Lebanese navy to escort the boat loaded with supplies to Gaza Strip, after it was rammed by Israeli gunboats.
... Sixteen people including rights activists, doctors and Journalists, along with a crew from al-Jazeera TV boarded the ship at Larnaca port in Cyprus late afternoon Monday, from where they made "Symbolic" attempt to cross the border into Gaza.
An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman appeared on al-Jazeera saying that its navy prevented the ship because it is full of Journalists and it is "an act of provocation and propaganda."
"This is a propaganda message which we refuse," the spokesman said.
So who was on board the ship (besides Penhall?) From a site called "Ten Percent," dateline yesterday:
The Dignity has left Cyprus & should arrive in Gaza tomorrow around 10am (local). Check the website for updates, www.freegaza.org Israel has declared Gaza a ‘closed military zone’, making sure no one can witness the atrocities. Our boat is going to challenge that closure.
The passenger list is below and includes Cynthia McKinney, a journalist from CNN and three physicians who will stay in Gaza to assist the overworked doctors there. We will also be sending out the list of medicines on board.
(UK) Denis Healey, Captain Captain of the Dignity, Denis has been involved with boats for 45 years, beginning with small fishing boats in Portsmouth. He learned to sail while atschool and has been part of the sea ever since. He’s a certified yachtmaster and has also worked on heavy marine equipment from yachts to large dredgers. This is his fourth trip to Gaza.
(Greece) Giorgios Klontzas, Relief Captain Cpt. Klontzas is an experienced sailor and human rights activist. This will be his fourth trip to Gaza.
(Greece) Nikolas Bolos, First Mate Nikolas is a chemical engineer and human rights activist. He has served as a crewmember on several Free Gaza voyages, including the first one in August.
(Jordan) Othman Abu Falah Othman is a senior producer with Al-Jazeera Television. He will remain in Gaza to report on the ongoing military onslaught.
(USA) Cynthia McKinney Cynthia is a former U.S. Congresswoman from Georgia, and the 2008 Green Party presidential candidate. She is traveling to Gaza to assess the ongoing conflict.
(Australia) Renee Bowyer Renee is a schoolteacher and human rights activist. She will remain in Gaza to do human rights monitoring and reporting.
(Ireland) Caoimhe Butterly Caoimhe is a reknowned human rights activist and Gaza Coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement. She will be remaining in Gaza to do human rights monitoring, assist with relief efforts, and work on project development with Free Gaza.
(Cyprus) Ekaterini Christodulou Ekaterini is a well-known and respected freelance journalist in Cyprus. She is traveling to Gaza to report on the conflict.
(Sudan) Sami El-Haj Sami is a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay, and head of the human rights section at Al-Jazeera Television. He will remain in Gaza to report on the ongoing military onslaught.
(UK) Dr. David Halpin Dr. Halpin is an experienced orthopaedic surgeon, medical professor, and ship’s captain. He has organized humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza on several occasions with the Dove and Dolphin. He is traveling to Gaza to volunteer in hospitals and clinics.
(Germany) Dr. Mohamed Issa Dr. Issa is a pediatric surgeon from Germany. He is traveling to Gaza to volunteer in hospitals and clinics.
(Cyprus) Dr. Elena Theoharous, MP Dr. Theoharous is a surgeon and a Member of the Cypriot Parliament. She is traveling to Gaza to assess the ongoing conflict, assist with humanitarian relief efforts, and volunteer in hospitals.
(UK/Tunisia) Fathi Jaouadi Fathi is a television producer and human rights activist. He will remain in Gaza to do human rights monitoring and reporting.
(Cyprus) Martha Paisi Martha is a senior research fellow and experienced human rights activist. She is traveling to Gaza to do human rights work and to assist with humanitarian relief efforts.
(UK) Karl Penhaul Karl Penhaul is a video correspondent for CNN, based out of Bogotá, Colombia. Appointed to this position in February 2004, he covers breaking news around the world utilizing CNN’s new laptop-based ‘Digital Newsgathering’ system. He is traveling to Gaza to report on the ongoing conflict.
(Iraq) Thaer Shaker Thaer is a cameraman with Al-Jazeera television. He will remain in Gaza to report on the ongoing military onslaught.
One wonders whether the Israeli government and security forces would have had access to the same information about what appears to be a very public, very high profile operation, and why, if they did, they would invite the public relations nightmare of possibly sinking a ship full of journalists, schoolteachers and human rights activists.
Israel's defence Minister, Ehud Barak, warned yesterday that his country was engaged in "a war to the bitter end" with Hamas as a third day of fierce bombing brought the estimated Gaza death toll to 320. Two Israelis were killed in retaliatory rocket barrages last night as Hamas struck deep inside Israeli territory.
Mr Barak's declaration to the Knesset – the Israeli parliament – came as Israel continued its comprehensive bombardment of Hamas targets after overnight aerial attacks that devastated large parts of the Interior Ministry and the Islamic University.
Meanwhile, the usual international tiff is on over who is at fault, with the Bush administration blaming Hamas, and European leaders criticizing Israel:
Amid signs of increased international restiveness about the Palestinian death toll, Mr Barak insisted that "we have nothing against Gaza residents" but added: "We are engaged in an all-out war against Hamas and its proxies. This operation will expand and deepen as much as needed."
As Israel launched a further 20 air attacks and declared Israeli communities to the border area a "closed military zone" for the first time, Gaza militants continued to fire more than 70 rockets and mortars at southern Israel. One killed an Israeli in Ashdod – 18 miles away from Gaza – for the first time. Another Israeli was killed in the border kibbutz of Nahal Oz. After the earlier death of an Israeli Arab construction worker in a rocket attack in Ashkelon, the total of Israeli deaths since the Israeli bombardment began on Saturday is now four.
As the international outcry mounted over the scale of the Israeli crackdown, the Prime Minister's spokesman issued a robust statement, saying Gordon Brown had been "appalled" by the continuing violence in Gaza. The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, spoke of the "unacceptable" loss of human life. European foreign ministers scheduled an emergency meeting in Paris today.
But as President George Bush continued to blame Hamas for the worst violence in Gaza in living memory, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, criticised Israel's "excessive" force and urged the international community to do more. "I think regional and international partners have not done enough. They should do more," Mr Ban said, in a rare departure from the diplomatic norm. "They should use all possible means to end the violence and encourage political dialogue, emphasising peaceful ways of resolving differences."
... Moussa Abu Marzouk, the Damascus-based deputy head of Hamas's political bureau, ruled out a truce in current conditions. He said: "We are going to defend ourselves, defend our people and defend our land." He laid down as conditions for a ceasefire: "Stop all kinds of aggression, open all (crossings), stop all the violence against the people in the West Bank."
In Israel, there's a bit of sneering at what many assume will be condemnation of their side, and a free ride for the Palestinians:
Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular are by nature experts at displays of suffering; the only thing they do all their lives is demonstrate their distress. This time, in the past week, they outdid themselves. The production was truly perfect and succeeded in deceiving the entire world: the way they turned out the lights at one precise moment and sent the children to cry bitterly in front of the cameras, the way they organized long lines for bread and water - miraculous timing and orchestration.
... Gaza's unemployment rate is unknown. Perhaps 60 percent and perhaps 80 percent, what difference does it make, 20 percent more or less. When there is no demand and no money to purchase things, it's better that there is no supply and nothing to buy. There is no envy at least. If the welfare agencies are supporting 900,000 needy people, let them support another 100,000 or 200,000 - the difference means nothing to them.
The Gaza Strip is therefore the perfect place for punishment measures - these steps don't make things better or worse, they only make you tougher, like everything that kills gradually rather than immediately. Gaza is a dream laboratory for experiments on human beings, to discover the precise point when a dependent person transfers from one situation to another - when does he keep up the struggle and when does he stop and become acclimated? Or when is the horse's breaking point - when does it only continue to lose weight and when does it flop and breathe its last?
In this spirit we also have to understand the prime minister's words at a meeting of the Kadima Knesset faction two days ago. He doesn't care, he said, if the kerosene runs out in Gaza, and as far as he is concerned, let them walk. Ehud Olmert did not intend to sound cruel, he only wanted to sound determined.
Meanwhile The Washington Note has a bit of badly needed context from Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative:
Palestine's Guernica and the Myths of Israeli Victimhood
The Israeli campaign of 'death from above' began around 11 am, on Saturday morning, the 27th of December, and stretched straight through the night into this morning. The massacre continues Sunday as I write these words.
The bloodiest single day in Palestine since the War of 1967 is far from over following on Israel's promised that this is 'only the beginning' of their campaign of state terror. At least 290 people have been murdered thus far, but the body count continues to rise at a dramatic pace as more mutilated bodies are pulled from the rubble, previous victims succumb to their wounds and new casualties are created by the minute.
What has and is occurring is nothing short of a war crime, yet the Israeli public relations machine is in full-swing, churning out lies by the minute.
Once and for all it is time to expose the myths that they have created.
1. Israelis have claimed to have ended the occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005.
While Israel has indeed removed the settlements from the tiny coastal Strip, they have in no way ended the occupation. They remained in control of the borders, the airspace and the waterways of Gaza, and have carried out frequent raids and targeted assassinations since the disengagement.
Furthermore, since 2006 Israel has imposed a comprehensive siege on the Strip. For over two years, Gazans have lived on the edge of starvation and without the most basic necessities of human life, such as cooking or heating oil and basic medications. This siege has already caused a humanitarian catastrophe which has only been exacerbated by the dramatic increase in Israeli military aggression. ...
The clamour for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza is growing in intensity even as Israel's determination to press home its attack on Hamas grows more dogged. The unfolding result of this fatal divergence is both an escalating humanitarian disaster and a diplomatic debacle for the "international community" that tasked itself with bringing peace to Israel-Palestine.
The formidable capacity of Israel's leaders for ignoring international opinion is nothing new. But if they calculated, before launching the Gaza operation, that they would face only limited external opposition, they have been proven largely correct. The past few days have exposed just how little leverage foreign governments and organisations are able, or are willing, to bring to bear.
As always, the US wields the most clout. But as with Israel's ill-fated 2006 invasion of Lebanon, the Bush administration is sitting on its hands. US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, whose endless shuttle diplomacy this year is now confirmed in its utter futility, did not even mention Israel's military assault in her first official statement on the situation.
Rice's exact words were: "The US strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza. The ceasefire should be restored immediately. The US calls on all concerned to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the innocent people of Gaza."
Barack Obama's aides, in explaining the US president-elect's silence, are meanwhile sticking to their mantra that the US only has one president at a time. But as the carnage and the outrage mount, this hands-off stance begins to look less like tact and more like a sign of a man who, confronted by a raw conflict that has defeated many more experienced statesmen before him, lacks new ideas.
Irony alert: Bush scolds Russians on 'bullying and intimidation'
Offering further proof that Republicans now believe the U.S. invasion of Iraq happened in the 20th century, President Bush today slammed Russia for invading a sovereign country that didn't threaten it:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Friday chided Russia for Cold War-style behavior, saying, "Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century."
[Feb. 23, 2003] Bush Threatens Economic Retaliation If Other Countries Do not Support Invasion - [Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria] Aznar pleads for patience from Bush, and says that a UN resolution is vital. Aznar notes that public opinion in Spain is heavily against the war. Bush retorts that should certain countries not support the war in the UN, they could face retaliation from the US: “Countries like Mexico, Chile, Angola, and Cameroon should know that what’s at stake is the security of the United States.” Bush mentions negative votes could endanger a free trade agreement with Chile and financial support for Angola. [Agence France-Presse, 9/26/2007]
Back to today's events...
Bush said the United States stands "with the people of Georgia and their democratically elected government." He said the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity "must be respected."
"We will not cast them aside," he said.
Bush said Russia's invasion of Georgia in recent days has "damaged its credibility."
Russia must respect the freedom of its neighbors," Bush said, calling Georgia a "courageous democracy."
Sovereignty ... damaged credibility ... where have I heard those phrases before... oh, I remember!
The way the Iraq war was conducted was a "tragedy" that has seriously damaged the credibility of the US and the UK on the international stage, according to former British Ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock.
Greenstock blamed the architects of the 2003 joint invasion, in particular the US, of "woefully inadequate planning." Years of potential progress were wasted in the first few days in April 2003 after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, he said.
... Greenstock served as UK Ambassador in New York during the countdown to the war and subsequently as Prime Minister Tony Blair's special envoy to Iraq. His own memoirs have reportedly been blocked by the UK Foreign Office.
"We cannot just put these mistakes behind us and move on, because the consequences have seriously affected, at least for a while, the credibility of the US and the UK in the international arena," he warned.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condi Rice is headed to Georgia carrying a peace treaty that would essentially allow Russia to have the two break-away Georgian provinces it already occupies, by letting Russian troops remain there, something Moscow apparently concurs with, since Vlad Putin has already told Georgia to forget about getting them back.
I think it's proper to ask whether the U.S. invasion of a sovereign Iraq and its aggressive, "bullying" tactics in the run-up to that invasion emboldened the Russians, both by setting a dangerous precedent for pre-emptive war, and by neutering the U.S.' ability to respond militarily to an actual crisis. Russia knows that any consequences it suffers from the U.S. will be minor, since the Iraq war also enriched Russia as a major oil producer (those inflated prices went right into their pockets.) So Putin is probably laughing at the man he duped into believing he was his friend, while asking Dubya, in regard to "consequences": you and what army.
More irony: Charles Krauthammer in the WaPo today says he knows what Vlad Putin's REAL objective is in Georgia:
His objectives are clear. They go beyond detaching South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia and absorbing them into Russia. They go beyond destroying the Georgian army, leaving the country at Russia's mercy.
The real objective is the Finlandization of Georgia through the removal of President Mikheil Saakashvili and his replacement by a Russian puppet.
Which explains Putin stopping the Russian army (for now) short of Tbilisi. What everyone overlooks in the cease-fire terms is that all future steps -- troop withdrawals, territorial arrangements, peacekeeping forces -- will have to be negotiated between Russia and Georgia. But Russia says it will not talk to Saakashvili. Thus regime change becomes the first requirement for any movement on any front. This will be Putin's refrain in the coming days. He is counting on Europe to pressure Saakashvili to resign and/or flee to "give peace a chance."
Huh??? Since when does Krauthammer not like regime change? And of course, if there's a neocon in the room, there's gonna be talk of oil:
The Finlandization of Georgia would give Russia control of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which is the only significant westbound route for Caspian Sea oil and gas that does not go through Russia. Pipelines are the economic lifelines of such former Soviet republics as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan that live off energy exports. Moscow would become master of the Caspian basin.
Subduing Georgia has an additional effect. It warns Russia's former Baltic and East European satellites what happens if you get too close to the West. It is the first step to reestablishing Russian hegemony in the region.
So what does Krauthammer want to do? Only dissolve the G8, bar Russia from entering the World Trade Organization, suspend the NATO-Russian alliance and ... Jimmy Carter fans will love this one ... boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics. Yes, you heard it right. He wants to boycott the Olympics.
Yeah, that should show Puty-Put.
Krauthammer is also making news for calling Bush's "lingering in Beijing, yucking it up with the U.S. beach volleyball team" a "mini-Katrina moment." Aside from that, his column is little more than the usual neocon sputter. But it's fully of irony, and we love that!
UPDATE: Yet another one for the irony file ... also writing in the Post today, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili casts the imperative for Western military rescue of Georgia in strangely familiar terms...
The historical parallels are stark: Russia's war on Georgia echoes events in Finland in 1939, Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. Perhaps this is why so many Eastern European countries, which suffered under Soviet occupation, have voiced their support for us.
Russia's authoritarian leaders see us as a threat because Georgia is a free country whose people have elected to integrate into the Euro-Atlantic community. This offends Russia's rulers. They do not want their nation or even its borders contaminated by democratic ideas.
Translation: they hate us for our freedoms ...
This war threatens not only Georgia but security and liberty around the world. If the international community fails to take a resolute stand, it will have sounded the death knell for the spread of freedom and democracy everywhere.
Georgia's only fault in this crisis is its wish to be an independent, free and democratic country. What would Western nations do if they were punished for the same aspiration?
I have staked my country's fate on the West's rhetoric about democracy and liberty. As Georgians come under attack, we must ask: If the West is not with us, who is it with? If the line is not drawn now, when will it be drawn? We cannot allow Georgia to become the first victim of a new world order as imagined by Moscow.
Sounds a lot like George W. Bush in the run-up to the Iraq war. The biggest irony of all, however, is that had Bush not invaded a sovereign country his damned self, and had he not dragged America's military, and our reputation, through the mud, the U.S. might have been freer to come to Georgia's aid in a more substantive way (though I doubt we'd be going to war with Russia in any event.) Still, the biggest reason Georgia will get little more than food and good wishes from America, is one Iraq War -- the same war the neocons demanded.
Hey Scheunemann, it's Georgia calling ... they want their $800,000 back
Exactly what did the nation of Georgia expect in return for the $800,000 they paid to Randy Scheunemann's two-man lobbying firm over the last couple of years? And did they renew the contract this spring, for $200,000, expecting that they were buying a guaranteed U.S. response to any belligerence by Russia, as if they were already in NATO? The Washington Post bombshell about Schenemann's lucrative Georgian lobbying deal was explained brilliantly tonight on "Countdown":
Sen. John McCain's top foreign policy adviser prepped his boss for an April 17 phone call with the president of Georgia and then helped the presumptive Republican presidential nominee prepare a strong statement of support for the fledgling republic.
The day of the call, a lobbying firm partly owned by the adviser, Randy Scheunemann, signed a $200,000 contract to continue providing strategic advice to the Georgian government in Washington.
The McCain campaign said Georgia's lobbying contract with Orion Strategies had no bearing on the candidate's decision to speak with President Mikheil Saakashvili and did not influence his statement. "The Embassy of Georgia requested the call," said campaign spokesman Brian Rogers.
But ethics experts have raised concerns about former lobbyists for foreign governments providing advice to presidential candidates about those same countries. "The question is, who is the client? Is the adviser loyal to income from a foreign client, or is he loyal to the candidate he is working for now?" said James Thurber, a lobbying expert at American University. "It's dangerous if you're getting advice from people who are very close to countries on one side or another of a conflict."
At the time of McCain's call, Scheunemann had formally ceased his own lobbying work for Georgia, according to federal disclosure reports. But he was still part of Orion Strategies, which had only two lobbyists, himself and Mike Mitchell.
Scheunemann remained with the firm for another month, until May 15, when the McCain campaign imposed a tough new anti-lobbyist policy and he was required to separate himself from the company.
Besides being a lobbyists for a foreign government while he was both lobbying Sen. McCain and then working for him, it turns out Scheunemann also ... um ... sucks at his job:
As a private lobbyist trying to influence lawmakers and Bush administration staffers, Scheunemann at times relied on his access to McCain in his work for foreign clients on Capitol Hill. He and his partner reported 71 phone conversations and meetings with McCain and his top advisers since 2004 on behalf of foreign clients, including Georgia, according to forms they filed with the Justice Department.
The contacts often focused on Georgia's aspirations to join NATO and on legislative proposals, including a measure co-sponsored by McCain that supported Georgia's position on South Ossetia, one of the Georgian regions taken over by Russia this weekend.
Another measure lobbied by Orion and co-sponsored by McCain, the NATO Freedom Consolidation Act of 2006, would have authorized a $10 million grant for Georgia.
Too bad Georgia's invasion of the break-away province of South Ossetia and Russia's military rout of their Army after they killed peacekeeping troops, along with the pretty darned clear fact that the Bush administration has NOOOOOO intention of taking military action to defend Georgia has made the possibility of Georgia being let into NATO about ... um ... zilch. They are getting humanitarian aid, though, which is nice. I think one of the ships carrying supplies is scheduled to get there in a month.
Apparently, Georgia's president, Mr. Shakaasvili, didn't get the memo, however. He was on CNN today rebuking McCian, as you saw in the Olbermann clip, for not matching his "we are all Georgian's now" schtick with "action." You mean like ... military action??? ... oh, dude, I'm sorry. How much did you pay that Scheunemman guy again?
For months while McCain's presidential campaign was gearing up, Scheunemann held dual roles, advising the candidate on foreign policy while working as Georgia's lobbyist. Between Jan. 1, 2007, and May 15, 2008, the campaign paid Scheunemann nearly $70,000 to provide foreign policy advice. During the same period, the government of Georgia paid his firm $290,000 in lobbying fees.
Since 2004, Orion has collected $800,000 from the government of Georgia.
Damn, I sure hate it. I don't suppose you have a receipt for where Randy told you the U.S. would stand by its new ally come what may against Russian aggression ... do you?
Meanwhile, the neocons at the corner are probably a little disappointed that McCain stumbled and bumbled his way through a major walk-back from his Russo belligerence today, saying he "didn't want to re-start the Cold War." And presto! They've uncovered proof that Georgia may have seen it coming, which would put them one up on the vacationing through the crisis Condi Rice... Sez the Corner:
Here's an interesting Radio Free Europe story from 2006 (my emphasis added):
EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana told the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee in Brussels today that during a recent phone conversation, Saakashvili had confessed to "tremendous worry" about the possible consequences that ongoing UN-sponsored Kosovo status talks could have for Georgia...Solana indicated that he, too, considers it possible that independence for Kosovo could have a negative effect on Georgia's territorial integrity, acknowledging it would set a "precedent."
In other words, though the Corner folks apparently missed it in their zeal to back-slap Bill Clinton's foreign policy more than a decade later, independence for Kosovo prompted the ethnic Russians in South Ossetia to give it a go themselves, causing ... wait for it ... the Georgian army to invade South Ossetia, killing some peace keepers in the process. And while Russia looks like the ogre here, I think Barack Obama turns out to be the grown0up by noting that both sides committed aggressive acts, rather than implying that the U.S. should act like Georgia is already a member of NATO and go to war on their behalf. In fact, the very idea of putting Georgia in NATO looks suicidal, given the present situation and the ongoing Georgian internal conflict over not one, but TWO ethnic Russian provinces. Russia and Georgia have both behaved badly, it seems clear to anyone who isn't a neocon or a complete right wing hack. The difference is, only one side of the Ruso-Georgian conflict had a United States Senator's chief foreign policy adviser on the payroll.
UPDATE: McCain is sending his wing-men, the comedy act of Lieberman and Lindsey, to Georgia to ... um ... reassure them that they should still pay Scheunemann because he's a good neocon??? According to the New York Times:
BIRMINGHAM, Mich. — Senator John McCain turned aside questions today about whether Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, had strayed over the political line yesterday when he said that Senator Barack Obama had shown inexperience in his initial response to the war between Russia and Georgia.
And he tried to tamp down earlier charges from the Obama camp that he was responding to the Russian crisis with a belligerence that could only make the situation worse. He said he was taking a hard line on Russia but wasn’t trying to “reignite the Cold War.”
It was all part of a continuing effort by the McCain campaign to seize on the events overseas to appear presidential and in command on the world stage while at the same time not appearing to be political. At several points today, he emphasized that he had visited Georgia many times and was familiar with the players.
He also said he was sending Mr. Lieberman, of Connecticut, and Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, to Georgia, as both stood beside him at a flag-bedecked news conference here. All three are members of the Senate Armed Services committee.
... At a fund-raiser in Teaneck, N.J., on Tuesday, Mr. Lieberman had criticized a statement from Mr. Obama, the likely Democratic nominee, about the war in Georgia.
“As the Russians move into Georgia as aggressors, and if you read the statements from the beginning, from Senator McCain and Senator Obama, one had a kind of moral neutrality to it,” Mr. Lieberman said Tuesday. “That comes, I think, from inexperience.” He added that Mr. McCain’s statement was “strong and clear” and showed he was ready to be commander in chief from day one.
Really? (And why does Lieberman sound so much like Hillary Clinton circa March???) On the contrary, Joe, I honestly don't see why anyone continues to take John McCain seriously on foreign policy. He seems completely oblivious to the fact that his grand standing against Russia has only one possible consequence: making both himself, and the U.S. look silly, since he cannot hope to back up his tough talk with action since 1) he is not the president of the United States, 2) he and Lieberman helped cook up a ridiculous war in Iraq that's draining our troop strength and 3) nobody in their right mind in the U.S. wants to go to war with Russia (and there I exclude the neocons, Lieberman included, who are insane, and I INCLUDE one George W. Bush. Even HE's not that stupid. In fact, Bush has already ruled out a military response, which ... and this is the big one ... Vlad Putin and his puppet president KNOW ... and told the Georgians point blank that all that previous talk about standing with them was all crap: all they're getting is humanitarian aid.
BTW check out this series of wiggles by the Bush administration today, about that aid:
Saakashvili also caused an uproar when he said that Bush's pledge of humanitarian aid meant the U.S. military would take control of "Georgian ports and airports." The Pentagon swiftly contradicted his statement, and Saakashvili did not repeat it during a subsequent television appearance.
But the administration appeared to be sending mixed signals with its aid shipments, pointedly using military planes and ships and warning Russia not to block sea, air or land transport routes, while insisting it had no plans to intervene militarily.
"This is not an attempt to put military assets in closer proximity to inject U.S. forces into this conflict," a senior defense official said.
An Air Force C-17 cargo plane with medical supplies, shelters and bedding, dispatched from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., landed yesterday in Tbilisi. Onboard was what the Pentagon called a 12-man "assessment team," which will stay in Georgia to act as liaison. Some team members had served in the country as part of more than 140 U.S. military and contract civilian trainers who previously worked with the Georgian military.
U.S. officials denied reports in the semi-official Russian media that U.S. advisers have been working with Georgian combat troops. On Monday, the U.S. military transported about 2,000 Georgian troops home from duty as part of the multinational force in Iraq.
Now our reticent Cowboy in Chief doesn't even want to own up to training Georgian troops, and damned sure doesn't want the Russians to feel that we're placing troops along their southwestern border ... WHICH IS WHERE GEORGIA IS... Why?
Think Cuban missile crisis. In other words, if we deploy military assets essentially along the Russian border in order to "help" a breakaway former Soviet republic that is hanging onto two ethnic Russian provinces against their will, and thus interfering with Russia's sphere of influence AND threatening them militarily? Cuban ... missile ... crisis. Which of course, would be fine by the neocons, because they're crazy (and Georgia has oil pipelines.) But the rest of us who are NOT crazy? Not so much.
And, we're supposed to trust John McCain with the button?
And what's this I hear about Joe's friends the Israelis joining with the Bush administration to train Georgian troops (apparently not very well...)? Could that be another reason why the neocons are so hopped up on Georgia, because it has become a sphere of influence for the Israelis, with lots of oil, right next to Israeli-U.S. ally Turkey, to boot? Just a thought...
Meanwhile, Steve Clemons at TWN speculates on the neocons' plans to purge McCain's foreign policy team of the taint of realism, by exporting Collin Powell.
The reviews are in, and from the Wall Street Journal to papers not owned by Rupert Murdoch, George W. Bush's handling of the Russia-Georgia situation is getting panned. This is why they only watch Fox News...
Meanwhile, at the WaPo, former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev says the conflict is Georgia's fault. |
The end of American influence? Plus, the neocons new, old crusade
George Bush at the Olympics, says he and Vlad Putin have a "good relationship" and he was "firm with him"on Georgia. Perhaps someone should have been firm with Dubya about the proper direction of the American flag...
According to BBC News, Russia has ended its military operations in Georgia. (Background on the conflict here.) However, the current situation in Georgia is as clear a demonstration as any in recent history of America's waning influence in the world. Watching George W. Bush cavorting around Beijing with U.S. Olympic athletes was kind of funny for a while, but against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Georgia, and Bush's absolute impotence in the face of it, it's actually downright embarassing. UPDATE: Georgian officials are disputing that Russian military attacks have ended in South Ossetia. And there are charges of ethnic cleansing being thrown around.
I haven't posted much about the Georgia situation because I wanted to dig into it first on my own, and know what's actually going on. The political back and forth in the U.S., the silly spectacle of John McCain pretending to give ultimatums to Russia that a) he has no authority to deliver because hello? he isn't president ... (where's Dana Milbank with a "hubris" column when you need him) and b) the U.S. doesn't have the available troops to do anything to Russia even if we wanted to (leading to the possibility of the Russians throwing down the perennial classic, "you and what Army?" Besides, the fact that McCain's neocon chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, was up until recently a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government puts his comments in a less than glowing context. (Not to mention his inability to accept the notion of context coming out of the mouth of one Barack Obama.)
So much about the Russia-Georgia mess speaks of America's inability to influence events:
If Washington’s diplomacy with Russia should have had one thing going for it, it is that Bush has an expert on the job. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a Soviet (a.k.a. Russia) specialist from way back. But so busy has Rice been with global diplomacy that she appears to have dropped the ball entirely on Georgia. Or so one might infer from the past few days in which President Bush appeared caught by surprise, tied up watching Olympic basketball and swimming in Beijing, while Russia got down to the business of bombing and shooting its way into Georgia — a U.S. ally which not so long ago Bush was praising for its Rose Revolution, thanking for its troop contributions in Iraq, and trying to usher into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
2) Bush: all hat, no cattle. While I hate to agree with the neocon nutjobs, the sight of Dubya hanging with his good friend, Prime Minister Putin on the Olympic sidelines looked downright silly while back in Washington, his government was issuing stern sounding warnings to Putin's hand-picked president, Mr. Medvedev, while Putin did all the big talking. (Bush is finally back from his Beijing vacation, and is issuing even sterner sounding warnings. And reportedly, while at the opening ceremonies, he gave Putie-Put a good talking to. Well, that should do it...) The fact is, Bush hasn't got any leverage over Russia, and can't do anything more than he is doing: talking. His own policies, including in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, are partly to blame. Russia is richer than it was when he arrived, thanks to the skyrocketing oil prices that he and Cheney helped engineer, and Putin feels freer to act, knowing that the U.S. is as bogged down in Mesopotamia as the Soviets once were in Afghanistan.
3) The U.S. seemed so taken aback by the events in Georgia, you've got to wonder what they're smoking. The U.S. has been pouring military aid into the former Soviet satellite (much of it through GOP-patented privatization) ever since they agreed to join the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq. They had the third largest troop contingent still remaining there, but Georgian troops now face being airlifted out of Iraq by the U.S. military, so they can return to their own war zone. That airlift coming at U.S. taxpayer expense. By flexing military muscle right on Russia's doorstep, you've got to believe that the U.S. and Georgia should have expected a response from the likes of Putin ... sorry, Medvedev, who's really "in charge" nowadays ... and if you believe that... As Dmitri Simes, president of The Nixon Center, guest posts on TWN, the Bushies aren't the only ones who were caught flat footed. Count the Georgian government in, too:
It is remarkable, but probably inevitable, that so many in Washington have reacted with surprise and outrage to Russia's response to President Mikheil Saakashvili's attempt to reestablish Georgian control over South Ossetia by force.
Some of the angriest statements come from those inside and outside the Bush administration who contributed, I assume unwittingly, to making this crisis happen. And like post-WMD justifications for the invasion of Iraq, the people demanding the toughest action against Russia are focused on Russia's lack of democracy and heavy-handed conduct, particularly in its own neighborhood, and away from how the confrontation actually unfolded. Likewise, just as in the case of Saddam Hussein, these same people accuse anyone who points out that things are not exactly black and white, and that the U.S. government may have its own share of responsibility for the crisis, of siding with aggressive tyrants - in this case, in the Kremlin.
Yet many both outside and even inside the Bush administration predicted that the U.S. decision to champion Kosovo independence without Serbian consent would lead Moscow to become more assertive in establishing its presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The Kremlin made abundantly clear that it would view Kosovo's independence without Serbian consent and a U.N. Security Council mandate as a precedent for the two Georgian de facto independent enclaves. Furthermore, while President Saakashvili was making obvious his ambition to reconquer Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Moscow was both publicly and privately warning that Georgia's use of force to reestablish control of the two regions would meet a tough Russian reaction, including, if needed, air strikes against Georgia proper.
So it would be interesting to know what President Saakashvili was thinking when, on Thursday night, after days of relatively low-level shelling around the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali (which both South Ossetians and Georgians blamed on each other), and literally hours after he announced on state-controlled TV the cessation of hostilities, he ordered a full-scale assault on Tskhinvali. And mind you, the assault could only succeed if the Georgian units went right through the battalion of Russian troops serving as international peacekeepers according to agreements signed by Tbilisi itself in the 1990s.
Under the circumstances, the Russian forces had three choices: to surrender, to run away, or to fight. And fight they did - particularly because many of the Russian soldiers were in fact South Ossetians with families and friends in Tskhinvali under Georgian air, tank, and artillery attacks. Saakashvili was reckless to count on proceeding with a blitzkrieg in South Ossetia without a Russian counterattack.
4) The Georgian situation proves, if there remained any doubt, that the neoconservative movement is a cult of insane people. They would dearly love to revive their Reagan-era drive for a U.S. war against the former Soviet bad guys. (In fact, it was Ronald Reagan's refusal to fire up the nukes and take the Soviets out that ultimately drove the neocons away from him. and into their PNAC think tanks.) No sooner did the guns start blazing in Georgia than the Hitler analogies and calls for war started streaming from the keyboards of war cultists like Bill Kristol and the aforementioned Mr. Kagan. But as Rossett's column goes on to lament, the cons have lost control of their White House cowboy to the evil one world government of the U.N.
For the democratic world, there will be no easy recovery from the chilling spectacle of Georgia’s 2,000 or so troops pulling out of Iraq to go join their own country’s desperate defense. The message so far is that America will ferry them home, but while Georgia rallied to the defense of freedom in Iraq, none of Georgia’s erstwhile allies will risk taking up arms to help the Georgians against a Russian onslaught.
The damage in many dimensions is already enormous. As historian and former State Department official Robert Kagan wrote in an incisive article in Monday’s Washington Post, “Historians will come to view August 8, 2008, as a turning point no less significant than Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell” — though for far less promising reasons. Kagan notes, correctly, that the issue is not how, exactly, this war in Georgia began, but that the true mistake of Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili, “was to be president of a small, mostly democratic and adamantly pro-Western nation on the border of Putin’s Russia.”
China’s Communist rulers, while basking in the glow of their Olympics bash, are surely checking the tea leaves for what this might presage about U.S. support for another U.S. ally: the democratic Republic of China on Taiwan. If the U.S. will not stand up to North Korea, will not stand up to Iran, will not stand up to Russia, then where will the U.S. stand up? What are the real rules of this New World Order?
And Rossett reveals, if anyone had remaining doubt, that the neocons have gone home, quitting their second choice, Mr. Bush, for their first love, John McCain:
Apart from Afghanistan and Iraq, the main rule right now seems to be that while anti-democratic bullies do the shooting, everyone else does a lot of talking and resolving. The UN Security Council meets, repeatedly. The European parliament ponders. Presumptive Republic nominee John McCain at least has the gumption and insight to point out that Russia’s actions threaten not only Georgia, but some of Russia’s other neighbors, such as Ukraine, “for choosing to associate with the West and adhering to Western political and economic values.” Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama calls for more diplomacy, aid, and not just a U.N. resolution but also a U.N. mediator — despite the massive evidence that U.N. mediators can’t even protect the dissident monks of Burma or the opposition in Zimbabwe, let alone a small country trying to fight off single-handed an invasion by the Russian army.
Ironically, the neocons cheered when Condi Rice succeeded the hated Colin Powell at State. Now, color the cons disappointed:
President Bush, lapsed cowboy and former global top cop, dispatches his envoys to talk, and talk — and talk about talking some more. America’s ambassador to the U.N., Zalmay Khalilzad told the U.N. Security Council on Sunday that Russia’s Ambassador Vitaly Churkin had told Secretary of State Rice that Georgia’s elected President Mikhail Saakasvhivili “must go.” Khalilzad informed the Security Council that this is “unacceptable” and “this Council must act decisively to reaffirm the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia.” This is a phrase that satisfies the U.N. brand of etiquette, but it stops no bombs or bullets.
Bush, upon his return from Beijing to Washington, having failed to stop the Russian invasion of Georgia by declaring himself “deeply concerned,” issued a tougher statement in the Rose Garden: That by invading a neighboring state and threatening to overthrow its elected government, Russia has committed an action that is “unacceptable in the 21st century.”
Oh really? While declaring this invasion “unacceptable,” the global community of the 21st century seems prepared to accept it in spades. While Russian guns close in on Tbilisi, even the basic diplomatic penalties are not yet fully on the table, for whatever they might be worth. By all means, let’s see the G-8 expel Russia, if the will can be found to do even that much. By all means, let the U.N. Security Council engage in the farce of discussing reprimands and maybe even sanctions for Russia — which happens to be both a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, and one of the world’s most adept and experienced sanctions violators.
5) It's the oil, stupid. A clip from John McCain's bellicose statement yesterday tell us what McCain thinks this is really all about:
"The implications of Russian actions go beyond their threat to the territorial integrity and independence of a democratic Georgia. Russia is using violence against Georgia, in part, to intimidate other neighbors such as Ukraine for choosing to associate with the West and adhering to Western political and economic values. As such, the fate of Georgia should be of grave concern to Americans and all people who welcomed the end of a divided of Europe, and the independence of former Soviet republics. The international response to this crisis will determine how Russia manages its relationships with other neighbors. We have other important strategic interests at stake in Georgia, especially the continued flow of oil through the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which Russia attempted to bomb in recent days; the operation of a critical communication and trade route from Georgia through Azerbaijan and Central Asia; and the integrity an d influence of NATO, whose members reaffirmed last April the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Georgia.
Well, that and giving McCain's neocon friends another war. ... As Joe Klein points out:
With Word War IV--Norman Podhoretz's ridiculous oversell of the struggle against jihadi extremism--on a slow burn for the moment, Kagan et al are showing renewed interest in the golden oldies of enemies, Russia and China. This larval neo-crusade has influenced the campaign of John McCain, with his comic book proposal for a League of Democracies and his untenable proposal to kick the Russians out of the G8.
To be sure, Russia's assault on Georgia is an outrage. We should use all the diplomatic leverage we have (not all that much, truthfully) to end this invasion, and--as Richard Holbrooke and Ronald Asmus argue in this more reasonable take--help Georgia to recover when it's over. And, to be sure, neither Russia nor China are going to be our good buddies, as many of us hoped in the afterglow of the fall of communism. They will be a significant diplomat challenge.
But it is important, yet again, to call out the endless neoconservative search for new enemies, mini-Hitlers. It is the product of an abstract over-intellectualizing of the world, the classic defect of ideologues. It is, as we have seen the last eight years, a dangerous way to behave internationally. And it has severely damaged our moral authority in the world...I mean, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, after Abu Ghraib, after our blithe rubbishing of the Geneva Accords, why should anyone listen to us when we criticize the Russians for their aggression in the Caucasus?
Indeed. Meanwhile, Matthew Yglesias calls out more neocon alarmists on the warpath here.
McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds apparently lost it over the weekend, leveling probably the lowest road political attack I've heard in ages, this as both candidates weigh in on the near-all-out war between Russia and Georgia. It all started when the Obama campaign pointed out that one of McCain's lobbyist advisers, Randy Sheunemann, used to lobby for Georgia. That touched off this jaw dropper from Bounds:
"The Obama campaign's attacks on Randy Scheunemann are disgraceful. Mr. Scheunemann proudly represented a small democracy that is one of our closest allies in a very dangerous region. Today, many are dead and Georgia is in crisis, yet the Obama campaign has offered nothing more than cheap and petty political attacks that are echoed only by the Kremlin. The reaction of the Obama campaign to this crisis, so at odds with our democratic allies and yet so bizarrely in sync with Moscow, doesn't merely raise questions about Senator Obama's judgment--it answers them."
The Bounds comment hits so far below the belt, it's almost unbelievable that it was approved for release, unless you remember that John McCain isn't exactly known for comity. The low road is kind of where he lives, especially now that he's fighting to get the keys to the White House, apparently at any cost.
Three things that are certain in the current election cycle:
The GOP will fight dirty (and their candidate will condone it, quietly)
Dirty means accusing Barack Obama of being a Muslim terrorist, mostly because they can't directly call him the n-word. And dirty means viciously going after his wife, using the Internet, radio and any other available means.
Wherever possible, the Bush administration will use government power to try and take Obama down.
A sleazy GOP operation called the National Campaign Fund has launched a website called ExposeObama.com, along with a commercial that they don't have to get paid airtime for, because they know that winger blogs and talk radio shows will help them make it viral. The ad, surprise, surprise, accuses Barack of being a closet Muslim:
The PAC, founded by a guy named James V. Lacy, isn't very well funded, so far (its donors can be found here) but they don't need money. They need talk radio and Internet hacks to do the dirty work for them, and there are plenty of those.
Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger leveled the first blow, introducing Republican John McCain’s wife at a fundraiser this week as someone who is “proud of her country, not just once but always.” Obama wasn’t mentioned by name, but the audience got it.
The dig signaled the start of what Democrats expect will be a concerted effort to cast Michelle Obama — and, by extension, Barack Obama — as an unpatriotic radical. It also pointed out the urgency to define Michelle Obama to general election voters before the opposition goes too far in doing it for her, strategists said.
“We live now in an era where everything and everyone is fair game,” said Douglas E. Schoen, who was a pollster and adviser to former President Bill Clinton from 1994 to 2000. “It is certainly the case that Teresa Heinz Kerry was probably not an asset in John Kerry’s campaign, at least publicly, and the jury is still out on how the public will view Michelle Obama.”
Imprisoned Chicago businessman Antoin “Tony” Rezko has accused federal prosecutors of improperly pressuring him to implicate Barack Obama in a corruption case.
In a letter to the U.S. District judge who presided over his trial, Rezko, who was convicted this month of 16 corruption-related counts, including fraud and money laundering, called prosecutors “overzealous.” And he singled out what he said were their efforts to get him to turn on Obama, an Illinois senator and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and Illinois Gov. Rod Bagojevich.
“They are pressuring me to tell them the ‘wrong’ things that I supposedly know about Gov. Bagojevich and Sen. Obama,” Rezko wrote in an undated letter released by the court this week. “I have never been party to any wrongdoing that involved the governor or the senator. I will never fabricate lies about anyone else for selfish purposes. I will take what comes my way, but I will never hurt innocent people.”
Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago, wouldn't comment on Rezko's allegation.
Shades of Susan McDougal, no? And the U.S. attorneys scandal. I guess not much has changed over at Justice...
Make no mistake, the GOP is going to go to war to keep control of the White House, and to keep the money flowing from the Iraq war, and the various money-pumping schemes involving turning everything from war to mortgages into a sellable commodity. They aren't going to let a little thing like voters get in the way.
Reporters say the media has dropped the ball on the war. Says CNN's best correspondent, Michael Ware (ok, tied for best with Christiane Amanpour):
"This is the Vietnam War of our generation. This conflict is going to have repercussions that far exceed that of an Indo-Chinese, essentially, civil war," he says. "Yet for a litany of reasons, which may or may not be legitimate, from cost to security to audience fatigue, the media has dropped the ball on this conflict. It is a tragic indictment on the Fourth Estate."
Ditto the media's coverage of the Bush administration, which was slavish after 9/11, and only critical after the public figured out the administration was lying anyway.
Dig into the New York Observer's lengthy article on the misreporting of the Iraq war here.
While grabbing links for the previous post, I noticed something that hadn't caught my attention before, for some reason. I knew that Jeb Bush was an original signer of the Project for a New American Century's "statement of principles," back in 1999, but there's another name on the list that I hadn't taken note of before: Dan Quayle, the dim-witted former vice president under George Bush I. How did his name get on the list of something called a "think" tank? He was probably asked to sign on by his former chief of staff, Bill Kristol, who co-founded the PNAC with fellow McCain adviser Robert Kagan.
Like other neoconservatives Frank Gaffney Jr. and Elliott Abrams, Kristol worked for hawkish Democratic Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson. But by 1976, he became a Republican. he served as chief of staff to Education Secretary William Bennett during the Reagan administration and chief of staff to former Vice President Dan Quayle during the George H. W. Bush presidency.
And let's not forget who Elliot Abrams is:
In 1991, Abrams pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress about the Iran-Contra affair. President George H. W. Bush pardoned him in 1992. In 1980, he married Rachel Decter, daughter of neocon veterans Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter.
I think it's safe to say that Junior isn't the only Bush who has found himself in the thrall of the neoconservatives. They have hovered around all three Bushes. George was just the one who implemented their policies in the most screwed up fashion. You could argue that the Iran-Contra affair was a neocon project, and if you believe Ronald Reagan's contemporaneous denials (he did beat back the neocons as long as he could -- they would have had him go to war with the U.S.S.R.) that operation may have emerged from the vice president's office. Bush I went to war against Saddam on the dubious provocation of Kuwait, which makes you wonder what noises were coming out of his vice president's office, where Kristol was probably Quayle's brain, in much the way Rove was for Dubya. And now we have Iraq War II.
Makes you wonder... clearly, these guys are effective at influencing the powerful. Makes you shudder all over again just thinking about a McCain presidency...
George W. Bush has been making increasingly threatening noises in the general direction of Tehran, leading many people to believe that he plans an attack on Iran before he finally, and mercifully, leaves office in January of 2009.
In fact, Bush's recent speech to war veterans in Nevada, in which he prognosticated a "nuclear holocaust" in the Middle East if Iran is allowed to develop a nuclear program (Iran denies it's for weapons), sent shockwaves through much of the world, as did his call for U.S. troops to seize any Iranian that Bush claims is causing havoc inside Iraq. This comes on the heels of the Bush administration's decision this month to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guards -- its highest level military establishment -- as a terrorist group. Put it all together, and up goes the temperature.
The subsequent arrest of a group of Iranians inside Iraq has only made things worse. Reports the Asia Times:
With Congress gearing up for a fight with the White House on the "surge" policy in Iraq, Bush has arguably many reasons to talk up tensions with Iran. Focusing on Iran may help deflect attention away from the "surge" strategy's failure to turn the tide in Iraq. It can also help convince Congress that Iran is responsible for US misfortunes in Iraq and that cutting the funds for the war would embolden the clergy in Tehran.
Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad is certainly not making the work of the administration more difficult. Shortly before Bush's address to the Nevada war veterans, Ahmadinejad did his part in ratcheting up tensions.
"Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region," he predicted at a press conference. "Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap, with the help of neighbors and regional friends like Saudi Arabia, and with the help of the Iraqi nation," he continued in a clear reference to the US's declining position in the Middle East and Iran's bid to reclaim a regional leadership role.
Still, the nature and implications of the Bush administration's recent moves do not have the characteristics of a customary rhetorical deflection exercise. Accusing Iran of seeking to put an already unstable Middle East under "the shadow of a nuclear holocaust" and promising to confront Tehran - whose actions "threaten the security of nations everywhere" - before it is too late echo statements made by the Bush White House about Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein prior to the invasion of Iraq.
In fact, Bush's speech to the veterans in Nevada has several similarities to his address to the nation on January 10. That was also slated as a major speech on Iraq, though it spelled out little new about Washington's strategy except to call for staying the course. Instead, it revealed key elements of the US's new aggressive posture on Iran.
For the first time, the president accused Iran of "providing material support for attacks on American troops" while promising to "disrupt the attacks on our forces" and "seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq".
Moments after the president's speech in January, US Special Forces stormed an Iranian consulate in Irbil in northern Iraq, arresting five Iranians who Tehran said were diplomats. Washington described the detained Iranians as agents and members of the IRGC. Later that day, US forces almost clashed with Kurdish Peshmerga militia forces when seeking to arrest more Iranians at Irbil's airport.
The US move drew stark criticism from the Iraqi government. "What happened ... was very annoying because there has been an Iranian liaison office there for years and it provides services to the citizens," Iraq's Minister of Foreign Affairs Hoshiyar Zebari told Al-Arabiya television.
The administration has since declared the seizure of the Iranians to have been an unfortunate misunderstanding, as the BBC reported on Wednesday:
BBC World News reported Wednesday that "an embarrassed American military has said it regrets that eight Iranians ... were arrested, handcuffed, and blindfolded by US soldiers in Baghdad." The US now acknowledges that the Iranians are engineers who were in Iraq to help rebuild the local electrical system.
According to BBC, "the eight Iranians were taken away from the Sheraton Hotel in the dead of night to be interrogated. American troops also seized their bags, a laptop computer, and phones. All this just a couple of hours after President Bush began a speech to American veterans which included a bitter attack on Iran, accusing it of arming and training Shiite militants inside Iraq."
"I have authorized our military commanders inside Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities," promised Bush in that speech. ...
... but that hasn't stopped many nervous Bush watchers from predicting that the provocative actions are a prelude to yet another war, particularly as it might be the only thing a lame duck, woefully unpopular president could do to help his party, heading into the presidential election... And its not just Bush critics on the left. Smart journalists like Sy Hersh and analysts like The Washington Note's Steve Clemons are saying the same thing. In fact, Clemons sees some of these neocons fishing around to make a buck off the next war.
Besides that, Bush is still being advised by a coterie of neocon advisers who dearly want to attack, not just Iran, but also Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Check Joe Lieberman for that.
On the right, Pat Buchanan, a former Republican and unrestructed paleoconservative, has been sounding the alarm, too.
Let's hope that all of these voices are wrong. But don't count on it.
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. ...
It seems a legitimate quetsion to ask, given his recent public statements on Iraq, where in Joe's mind, things are just greeeaat... to his breathtaking inability to grasp the concept that the troops he gets to talk to on his two day junkets to our violent little tributary in Mesopotamia aren't free to tell him where to stick his war plans ... to his latest statements on Iran, which Joe thinks we should commence bombing, like, yesterday...
"I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq," Lieberman told Bob Schieffer. "And to me, that would include a strike into... over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers."
Lieberman made the comments to Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation" this past Sunday, as a follow up to his rather dramatic attempt to link Shiite Iranian arms and dollars to, of all things, Wahabi/Sunni al-Qaida:
Sen. LIEBERMAN: Well, we'll see when we talk to Admiral Mullen, but so far I don't think so. I think the president is holding firm and Secretary Gates is. And the firmness, as I can tell you coming back from Iraq, Bob, is that you can't look at Iraq in a vacuum. What we're involved in here, as General Lute said to our committee last week, is the--Iraq is now the main front in the long war we are fighting against the Islamist terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. In fact, 90 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq today killing Iraqis and American soldiers are foreign al-Qaeda fighters. Iran is training and equipping soldiers, Iraqis to come in and kill American soldiers and Iraqis. So we--we've got to see that larger context, and that's why we're committed to helping the Iraqis to stability and victory.
Witness that masterful conflation! Iraq is where we're fighting the Saudis, Yemenis and Egyptians who attacked us on 9/11??? Well I'll be damned! And 90 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq are al-Qaida? Good thing suicide bombers are responsible for less than five percent of the violence in Iraq. Any more than that and we'd really be screwed! And Iran has put aside its fundamental hatred of al-Qaida Sunnis, which it demonstrated when Tehran helped us fight the Taliban and al-Qaida ... which it has always detested ... in Afghanistan, to arm and train these Saudis, Yemenis, and other al-Qaida types, despite those same al-Qaida types' hatred for Shiites??? And despite the fact that al-Qaida in Mesopotamia is KILLING SHIITES DAILY ON THE STREETS THROUGHOUT IRAQ??? Wow... Joe sure knows Muslims... not...
Lieberman has been down this road before. Not only was he the co-sponsor of our current war debacle in Iraq, he has repeatedly issued threats of doing the same thing to Iran, including all-but declaring war on them single-handedly last December. As a matter of fact, perhaps the only people more eager for the U.S. to bomb Iran might be the neoconservative nutjobs, and the Israeli Likudniks (not to mention the big defense contractors and oil giants who have made a killing on the breaking of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps in Iraq, but who have yet to profit from a war waged primarily by the men and women of the Navy and Air Force... oh, yeah, and Dick Cheney, he's really into the bomb Iran thing... and worse, Lieberman has become the convenient lure that the Cheney wing of the Bush administration dangles before the press gaggle to make the idea of another war sound bipartisan ... or is that tripartisan???
Lieberman's warmongering is particularly scary because it dovetails with an apparent push inside the Bush administration's militant wing to get a war going, even if it means going around Secretary of State Rice, or even around the president himself, if we won't play ball. Curious leaks to the Jerusalem Post and other militant Likudnik outfits don't help:
Predicting that Iran will obtain a nuclear weapon within three years and claiming to have a strike plan in place, senior American military officers have told The Jerusalem Post they support President George W. Bush's stance to do everything necessary to stop the Islamic Republic's race for nuclear power.
Bush has repeatedly said the United States would not allow Iran to "go nuclear."
A high-ranking American military officer told the Post that senior officers in the US armed forces had thrown their support behind Bush and believed that additional steps needed to be taken to stop Iran.
Predictions within the US military are that Bush will do what is needed to stop Teheran before he leaves office in 2009, including possibly launching a military strike against its nuclear facilities.
On Sunday, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut said the US should consider a military strike against Iran over its support of Iraqi insurgents. ...
The story goes on to posit a theory that the U.S. could institute a Naval blockade against Iran, without closing the Straights of Hormuz completely. Are you thinking Gulf of Tonkin? Naval ship left curiously unprotected? Supposed Iranian attack on said ship... and Dems fainting into a pro-war swoon??? You get the picture.
“Only someone who never wore the uniform or thought seriously about national security would make threats at this point. What our soldiers need is responsible strategy, not a further escalation of tensions in the region. Senator Lieberman must act more responsibly and tone down his threat machine.”
Spoken like a true soldier.
And by the way, if Joe and the neocons are able to trick or goad the U.S. and Israel into launching World War III with Iran, it will drag in Russia and China, and not on our side. The idea of launching a war against Iran, which has a real military, including a Navy and Air Force, unlike the paper tiger that was Iraq, is insane. Or maybe it's not ... because such a war would send global oil prices through the stratosphere, which will mean big bucks for Big Oil. And it could have the secondary effect of pushing the reluctant Iraqi parliament to approve that abomination of an oil law, signing away that country's rights to exploit its own oil to the major Western oil companies for 30 years, in order to help Iraq make up for sidelined Iranian oil, to feed Europe and Asia's need. This thing stinks to high heaven, and as Sy Hersh and others have been warning us for years, it's only a matter of time and timing. Enough of the right people want war, and they know that the Democrats in Congress cannot, or will not, stop them.
Washington, DC – At a Memorial Day event in an American Legion hall in Alton, N.H., yesterday, Mitt Romney lashed out at an Iraq War veteran who “complained that he hasn't been able to get adequate medical care since returning from Iraq in January 2005.” [AP, 5/29/07] When asked by the man’s wife and friend about his problem getting treatment for a broken foot, Romney “questioned the man's status, wondering why the military wouldn't help him if he is active duty.” According to news accounts, when the man’s friend began to explain by saying, "He's in the window," Romney “cut him off” and snapped "Don't give me, ‘he's in the window’…He's either active duty or not." [AP, 5/29/07] Romney’s only response: the man should call his senator. [Concord Monitor, 5/29/07]
The “window” Romney’s questioner was referring to is the gap resulting from the persistent failure to form a seamless transition between Department of Defense and Veterans Administration health care programs. Too many injured active duty personnel lose their health coverage for a time when they are transferred from military health care to the VA system. While Democrats have been working to close that gap, Romney’s insensitive response shows both a lack of understanding of the issue and a lack of sensitivity to the hardships it causes.
“Mitt Romney’s heartless tirade shows how little he understands the challenges facing our veterans and military families,” said Democratic National Committee spokesman Damien LaVera. “Republicans in Washington have consistently shortchanged those who have served this country. They have failed to fully fund veteran’s health care programs or plan for the needs of our wounded troops, shortcomings Democrats in Congress are working to correct. Unfortunately, Mitt Romney apparently doesn’t understand that supporting our troops and veterans means more than offering empty platitudes about their service while clinging to President Bush’s failed leadership and failed strategy in Iraq.”
Read the Concord Monitor story here. And more on Romney's New Hampshire visit here.
Dick Cheney continues his campaign of using the American military to oust his former business partners. First it was Iraq, where Halliburton continues to make a ton of profits, even without his and Don Rumsfeld's buddy Saddam. Next, there's increasing talk that Cheney is looking for ways to get around Condi Rice, and even George W. Bush, so that he can attack Iran, another frequent Halliburton business partner.
... The person in the Bush administration who most wants a hot conflict with Iran is Vice President Cheney. The person in Iran who most wants a conflict is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran's Revolutionary Guard Quds Force would be big winners in a conflict as well -- as the political support that both have inside Iran has been flagging.
Multiple sources have reported that a senior aide on Vice President Cheney's national security team has been meeting with policy hands of the American Enterprise Institute, one other think tank, and more than one national security consulting house and explicitly stating that Vice President Cheney does not support President Bush's tack towards Condoleezza Rice's diplomatic efforts and fears that the President is taking diplomacy with Iran too seriously.
This White House official has stated to several Washington insiders that Cheney is planning to deploy an "end run strategy" around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument.
The thinking on Cheney's team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran's nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles).
This strategy would sidestep controversies over bomber aircraft and overflight rights over other Middle East nations and could be expected to trigger a sufficient Iranian counter-strike against US forces in the Gulf -- which just became significantly larger -- as to compel Bush to forgo the diplomatic track that the administration realists are advocating and engage in another war. ...
Cheney is insane. Or maybe not.
His oil holdings stand to substantially benefit from another war, and he and his cronies have to fear that if Republican support seriously erodes in September, the major oil companies and oil exploitation firms like Halliburton stand to lose substantial income should the war draw down, Iraq's insurgency cools without the pressure of U.S. occupation, and gas prices begin to fall. So what to do? Start another war, take Iran's oil off market (or seriously reduce the output of the world's fourth largest oil exporter, and watch the profits from sky-high gas prices roll in. Cheney & Co. also have to realize that with Democrats in control of both houses of Congress, investigations into current gouging could force Big Oil to bring the prices down.
So what to do? Start another war.
War is the answer to the Oil Industrial Complexes dreams of unlimited profits. They saw what the defense industry was able to make of the wars from Korea onward, and what industrial America was able to reap from World War II. They want their piece of the pie, and they're not going to let anybody stop them. Not even George W. Bush.
Clemons' conclusion is chilling:
The zinger of this information is the admission by this Cheney aide that Cheney himself is frustrated with President Bush and believes, much like Richard Perle, that Bush is making a disastrous mistake by aligning himself with the policy course that Condoleezza Rice, Bob Gates, Michael Hayden and McConnell have sculpted.
According to this official, Cheney believes that Bush can not be counted on to make the "right decision" when it comes to dealing with Iran and thus Cheney believes that he must tie the President's hands.
On Tuesday evening, i spoke with a former top national intelligence official in this Bush administration who told me that what I was investigating and planned to report on regarding Cheney and the commentary of his aide was "potentially criminal insubordination" against the President. I don't believe that the White House would take official action against Cheney for this agenda-mongering around Washington -- but I do believe that the White House must either shut Cheney and his team down and give them all garden view offices so that they can spend their days staring out their windows with not much to do or expect some to begin to think that Bush has no control over his Vice President.
Update: Did you hear the one about the undersecretary of defense who made up a fake company in the Netherlands in order to justify going to war with Iraq?
George W. Bush has succeeded in making a horse's ass out of himself four years running, maintaining a consistent record of failure in Iraq, of mendacity and stubbornness at home, of using American troops and pawns and props the world over, and of cementing in stone, his place as the most incompetent and worst president in U.S. history.
Today, on the four year anniversary of his infamous flight suit adventure aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln (an affair so staged and false it was actually prissy, and after which his administration very crisply blamed the troops for hanging that ridiculous banner, produced by the White House, oh, and media, before you get to haughty today, some of us remember how Glorious you thought the flight suit thing was at the time ... Chris Matthews...) Mr. Bush vetoed legislation that would have funded the troops, funded increased mental and physical health care for those wounded in his useless war in Iraq (and the forgotten war in Afghanistan), given those troops the body armor, and the rest, they should have been entitled to from the beginning, and given the American people the timeline that 7 in 10 of us -- the citizens of this country -- have made clear that we want.
When this war began, Bush told us that we were going in with some 30 allied countries: a "coalition of the willing," that actually meant more than 150,000 American troops, 11,000 brits, 1,200 or so Aussies, the scatterlings of the old Soviet empire and a smattering of technicians and mechanics from here and there, a scad waving at us from the ground as we flew over their tiny states, plus really strong "tally hos" from the rest... (yes, and not a single Arab country.) The war was swift, and successful, lasting just 41 days, as our troops marched relentlessly towards Baghdad, benching the Saddam Hussein government, and handing a free country to his formerly repressed people, who promptly began to trash, loot and blow it up, and that was before the civil war. In seven more months, Saddam would be captured. The following June, an interim government would be in place. Another year on, the first of three elections, followed by three prime ministers (shuffled at the whim of the Bush administration, rather than the Iraqi people...) endless newfangled surges, revamped strategies, tweaks and milestones: Zarqawi killed, Saddam hanged, and on and on and on. In the meantime, there were darker milestones: Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, the bombing of the Golden Mosque, and about that hanging...
Today, there have been 3,622 coalition casualties in the war, 3,351 from the U.S. There have been 117 in this month alone, 107 U.S. That's versus just 92 coalition including 65 U.S. combat deaths on this day four years ago, on the day the war supposedly ended.
How much damage can one man do to a military, to a country? And can he yet do more?
Sadly, the answer to the last question is yes. George W. Bush seems determined to keep on damaging this country, this military, and Iraq, until his last damned day in office, and probably beyond.
Happy fourth anniversary of Mission Accomplished, George W. Bush. I'd say I hope you can sleep tonight, but unfortunately, I know all too well that you're going to sleep like a baby. You're just that kind of guy.
“I want to share with you how two Iraqi bloggers — they have bloggers in Baghdad, just like we’ve got here,” Mr. Bush told an audience of ranchers and cattlemen, after remarking that Iraqis were beginning to see “positive changes.”
He went on to quote the bloggers directly: “Displaced families are returning home, marketplaces are seeing more activity, stores that were long shuttered are now reopening. We feel safer about moving in the city now. Our people want to see this effort succeed. We hope the governments in Baghdad and America do not lose their resolve.”
But just who were these anonymous bloggers? The deputy White House press secretary, Dana Perino, spent a good chunk of her regular briefing on Wednesday deflecting that question, and defending the propriety of the president’s use of anonymous quotes.
Ms. Perino called the bloggers “one input from many different inputs that are coming in regarding progress on the ground,” and said she herself had often responded to anonymous quotations. “Blogs are new for all of us,” she said, “and I know that you all look at them, because you call me and ask me what we think about the blogs.”
As for the writers’ identity, it remained a mystery — until the White House distributed a transcript of the briefing. In a footnote at the end, the administration disclosed that the bloggers were Omar and Mohammed Fadhil, two brothers who are both dentists and who write an English-language blog, IraqTheModel.com, from Baghdad. The White House said their writings had been cited in mainstream news outlets; on March 5, the Fadhil brothers wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal titled “Notes from Baghdad.”
Oh, yes, and on Dec. 9, 2004, they met in the Oval Office with Mr. Bush.
Now that the subject is old and tired, the Times has stumbled on the “news” that the blogosphere is more aptly termed the propaganda-sphere.
Boxer takes on the case of Iraq the Model, a website that captures in its very name the neocon vision of a democratized and properly domesticated Middle East. The pro-war bloggers have been touting the brothers Fadhil, as exemplars of the “good news” from Iraq. Their capstone of their triumphant American tour, sponsored by a “charitable” organization known as the “Spirit of America,” occurred when two of the brothers were received at the White House for face time with the Prezt. But there’s a fly in this ointment, as I pointed out at the time, and I?m glad to see that the MSM, in the person of Ms. Boxer, has fished it out: the disenchantment of the third brother, Ali, whose last post on Iraq the Model read as follows:
“This is the last time I write in this blog and I just want to say, goodbye. It’s not an easy thing to do for me, but I know I should do it. I haven’t told my brothers with my decision, as they are not here yet, but it won’t change anything and I just can’t keep doing this anymore.
“My stand regarding America has never changed. I still love America and feel grateful to all those who helped us get our freedom and are still helping us establishing democracy in our country. But it’s the act of some Americans that made me feel I’m on the wrong side here. I will expose these people in public very soon and I won’t lack the mean to do this, but I won’t do it here as this is not my blog.
“At any rate, it’s been a great experience and a pleasure to know all the regular readers of this blog, as I do feel I know you, and I owe you a lot.
“Best wishes to all of you, those who supported us and those who criticized us as well.”
Boxer got in touch with Ali, and her depiction of his ambiguity about the American occupation, and the tenuousness of his position in relation to the realities of Iraq, ruined the Potemkin Village rah-rah propaganda regularly emitted ? in English ? on ?Iraq the Model? and a slew of other pro-occupation Iraqi blogs:
?Why did he quit Iraq the Model? When was he going to expose the Americans who made him feel he was on the wrong side? He was surprisingly frank. The blog had changed him. When the blog began, he said, ?People surprised me with their warmth and how much they cared about us.? But as time passed, he said, ?I felt that this is not just goodwill, giving so much credit to Iraq the Model. We haven’t accomplished anything, really.?
“His views took a sharp turn when his two brothers met with the president. There wasn’t supposed to be any press coverage about their trip to the United States, he said. But the Washington Post wrote about the meeting, and the Arabic press ended up translating the story, which, Ali felt, put his family in real danger. Anyway, he said, he didn’t see any sense in his brothers’ meeting with President Bush. ?My brothers say it happened accidentally, that it was not planned.? But why, he asked, take such an ?unnecessary risk?? He explained his worries: ?Here some people would kill you for just writing to an American.??
Ali, in short, was tired of being used by the War Party to make propaganda in America. The pro-war bloggers are now getting up on their high horses, screeching that Boxer has put the Fadhil brothers in danger. But Ali is right: it is the propagandists in America, including the laptop bombardiers? brigade, who put them in danger the minute they started holding them up as model New Iraqis, the offspring of the “liberation.” But since Glenn Reynolds-Powerline-Little Green Footballs crowd is definitely not part of the reality-based community, the hard reality of Ali?s comment that ?Here some people would kill you for just writing to an American? is inadmissible, becasue “some people” means an awful lot of people.
Boxer takes up the suspicions first raised by Martini Republic that ?Iraq the Model? might have informal connections to the U.S. government, a suggestion that was greeted with outrage by pro-war bloggers, but Ali?s account doesn?t dispel the murky aura of intrigue that hangs over the whole affair:
“Ali never did expose the people who made him feel that he was on the wrong side, and in fact conceded that he couldn’t. As he confided on the phone, ‘I didn’t know who the people were.’”
But Ali isn’t disenchanted with the idea of human freedom: it’s just that now he doesn?t identify this idea with the U.S. government:
“‘Me and my brothers,’ he said, “we generally agree on Iraq and the future.’ (He is helping his brother Mohammed, who is running on the Iraqi Pro-Democracy Party ticket in the Jan. 30 election.) But there is one important difference: ‘My brothers have confidence in the American administration. I have my questions.’”
So it's not that simple, Mr. Bush. Much of what you read in blogs is pure political propaganda (think Pajamas Media, LGF, Wizbang (sadly, because there are some good guys over there, but they're becoming subsumed by the Kim Priestaps of the world), Redstate, and on and on). But there are also some independent-minded writers, too, like Rick Moran, Mark in Mexico, Alex Nunez (who I wish had more time to blog) and others, and even some bloggers, even of the Iraq the Model variety, for whom the Kool-Aid eventually wears off.
13 March 1979, Radio Free Grenada, Maurice Bishop, Address to the Nation Brothers and Sisters,
This is Maurice Bishop speaking.
At 4.15 am this morning, the People's Revolutionary Army seized control of the army barracks at True Blue.
The barracks were burned to the ground. After half-an-hour struggle, the forces of Gairy's army were completely defeated, and surrendered.
Every single soldier surrendered, and not a single member of the revolutionary forces was injured.
At the same time, the radio station was captured without a shot being fired. Shortly after this, several cabinet ministers were captured in their beds by units of the revolutionary army.
A number of senior police officers, including Superintendent Adonis Francis, were also taken into protective custody.
At this moment, several police stations have already put up the white flag of surrender.
Revolutionary forces have been dispatched to mop up any possible source of resistance or disloyalty to the new government.
I am now calling upon the working people, the youths, workers, farmers, fishermen, middle-class people, and women to join our armed revolutionary forces at central positions in your communities and to give them any assistance which they call for.
Virtually all stations have surrendered. I repeat. We restress, resistance will be futile. don't be misled by Bogo DeSouze or Cosmos Raymond into believing that there are any prospects of saving the dictator Gairy. ... [From The Grenada Revolution Online
So began the revolution in Grenada, on March 13, 1979. It preceded much like leftist revolutions everywhere -- beginning with wild-eyed idealism, as the "autocratic" capitalists were dethroned, and the "people's revolutionary government (PRG)" promised shared wealth, equality and brotherhood. And of course, it wound up with the revolutionaries, in this case, the NJM or New Jewel Movement, soon turning autocratic, paranoid, increasingly brutal, and worst of all, permanent.
The leader of the NJM, Maurice Bishop, was installed as the new prime minister, but his deputy, Bernard Coard, quickly subsumed him and seized power, as his faction of the revolutionaries demanded strict obediance to the revolution, while Bishop waivered, on the increasing placement of Soviet bases on the Spice Isle, on the driving away of investors and business partners like the Royal Bank of Canada (which abandoned Grenada and was then taken over at the selling price of $1 by the revolutionary council) and of the increasingly close ties with Cuba, which was sending advisors to the island. Bishop was under pressure from the U.S. and other quarters to ban the Cuban ambassador from attending cabinet meetings. When he relented, he lost favor with the Cubans, the Soviets, and the hard-line revolutionaries of the People's Revolutionary Movement under his deputy, Mr. Coard.
On October 13, 1983, Coard pulled a coup of his own, accusing Bishop of not being a "true revolutionary" and placing him and his cabinet under house arrest. Weary of the increasing oppression by Coard's faction, including curfews, shop closures and strict limits on free expression, and clearly preferring the seemingly well meaning Bishop over the harsh Coard, some 25,000 Grenadians took to the streets, overpowering the guards and freeing Bishop and his cabinet, only to have government troops in armored personnel carriers arrive and blitz the crowd with gunfire (forcing many to jump to their deaths from the high prison walls) and execute Bishop and the others against a wall on which the phrase "TOWARDS GREATER DISCIPLINE IN THE PEOPLE'S REVOLUTIONARY ARMY" was written (source: WTPS news reporter and longtime Grenadian radio personality Edward Frederick.)
My colleague at the station, Eddie Frederick (above) has written extensively on this subject, providing chilling details of what led up to the counter-revoltuion and invasion by the Reagan administration, and a coalition of Caribbean states, which were so outraged by the executions and draconian actions of the Coard faction that they banished Grenada from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and led to several Caribbean nations, including Jamaica and Barbados, breaking off diplomatic ties.
The U.S. used the chaos, and the rather paltry excuse of some 700 American students "stranded" in Grenada, as a pretext to invasion (as it turns out, against the advice and wishes of Ms. Thatcher's England). Ronald Reagan at the time was dealing with twin crises, in the Western hemisphere and also in the east -- where U.S. Marines were battened down in Lebanon and revolution was also continuing to vex the U.S. in the Persian empire of Iran (the Shah, Reza Pahlevi, having been overthrown by the Ayatollists in 1979).
The U.S. invasion, alongside Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, commenced on October 25, 1983. It lasted just a few days, and resulted in 19 U.S. and 45 Grenadian military deaths, two dozen civilian deaths, and 116 U.S. and more than 350 Grenadian wounded. Cuba, which was caught somewhat flat footed by the U.S. invasion, lost 25 of its soldiers, had 59 wounded and more than 640 taken prisoner. Much of the world condemned the U.S. action, but many Grenadians were grateful to the U.S. for freeing them from Coard's despotism.
That's the nuts and bolts of the story. It's a tale of the dangers of "revolution" -- which rarely winds up having much to do with the people, and everything to do with a mad scramble for power.
I rather disliked Ronald Reagan, but looking back, I can sort of see the case for the Grenada invasion (though there was no pressing U.S. national interest. At that time, during the Cold War, Grenada looked like another domino the U.S. had to keep from falling into Castro, and thus Soviet, hands. Perhaps it was a show of force as against our relative weakness in the Middle East, or an attempt to cool the fires of populist revolution throughout the world.
Whatever the reason, the invasion of Grenada allowed the U.S. to flex its military might for what would be the next to last time. After that, victories in the Persian Gulf in 1991 and the Balkans during the Clinton years would be undone by the complete castration of U.S. Middle East policy and military hegemony by one George W. Bush, who failed to learned the Reaganite lesson: if you're going to use the United States military on a weak, small country, you'd damned better beat them. The U.S. sent 7,000 troops to fight 1,500 Grenadian regulars and 600 Cuban engineers. And they spared nothing in winningthe war quickly, decisively, and overwhelmingly. Big difference.
We'll be talking about Grenada tomorrow on the show, including with Eddie. Worth tuning in, if I do say so myself.
Update, Tuesday, March 15: I was talking with Ed this morning and he added yet another wrinkle. It seems there remains some doubt in Grenada as to the real truth about Mr. Coard's alleged wrongdoing, and whether he and his cohorts in fact ordered the executions of the wildly popular Mr. Bishop and his cabinet. There is some conspiracy theorizing on the island, even today, as to whether Mr. Coard was, in a sense, the subject of a superpower frame up. Coard and his cohorts remain in prison today.
Scooter Libby's conviction on perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI provided some satisfaction to those of us who have long believed that the current administration has been, since its inception, engaged in a criminal conspiracy to mislead Congress and the American people into supporting an invasion of Iraq, for the purpose of taking over that country's natural resources and controlling it currency. But the core question, which remains under debate, is whether there was an underlying crime, beyond Libby's lying lips. Bush supporters and conservatives (there is a distinction these days) argue that no such underlyng crime occurred, because, they insist, Valerie Plame was not a covert agent, having been out of the field for more than five years. They argue that this was a case about perfectly legitimate "push back" by the administration against critics of its pre-war claims, which got elevated when put into the hands of an overzealous prosecutor (exactly the flip side of their Clinton-era argument, which stated that lying and obstruction WERE the underlying crimes...)
But those of us on the other side have argued that first, Valerie Plame WAS a covert agent, otherwise the CIA would not have gone to the Justice Department to demand an investigation of her outing. Further, the stamp of "secret" that accompanied the memo to then Secretary of State Colin Powell regarding Plame's status speaks to how crucial her work was considered to the national security operations of the United States. Thirdly, critics of the administration have concluded that Libby only would have put himself in such legal jeopardy if he deemed it important to protect someone higher up -- in this case, the vice president -- from public disclosures that could damage him, either politically or legally. In fact, the Libby jury seems to have concluded that Libby did, in fact, become the willing fall guy, either for Karl Rove, or for Dick Cheney, or for someone else.
So we're back to the quetsion at hand: Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney went to great lengths to see that Valerie Plame's identity wound up in the newspapers. Why?
I have come to the conclusion that Cheney and Libby became so desperate to refute Joe Wilson, not so much because they thought he was a threat, but bcasue they saw his disclosures -- his very presence in Niger -- as the latest challenge from a recalcitrant CIA, which had been fighting the administration the whole way on Iraq intelligence. Outing Valerie Plame wasn't about punishing Joe Wilson, or about hurting Valerie Plame -- it was about slapping down the CIA, impeding its work on finding the truth about WMD (something Plame had dedicated her work to) and stopping any additional CIA officials from daring to challenge Bush, Cheney or their operatives inside the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans on the subject of Iraq's WMD or supposed nuclear programs.
Last week, we had 27 year CIA veteran Ray McGovern on the program for the second time. He made much the same point on the air, and does so in his latest piece for Common Dreams. McGovern writes:
CIA analysts were still insisting, correctly, that there were no meaningful ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq, despite Tenet's acquiescence to Powell's request that Tenet sit behind him on camera as Powell wove his web of half- and un-truths at the UN. (Watching Tenet sit impassively as Powell spoke of a "sinister nexus" between al-Qaeda and Iraq was a tremendous blow to the morale of the courageous analysts who had resisted that particular recipe for cooking intelligence. As for their colleagues working on WMD, most of them had long since been pressured to cave in to Cheney's pressure during the dozen visits he made to CIA headquarters and were not as incensed.)
No trace had been found of weapons of mass destruction. In some quarters (even in the corporate press) the casus belli had morphed into a casus bellylaughi. Reports in Fox News that Saddam had somehow transported his WMD to Syria undetected (or maybe buried them in the desert) elicited widespread ridicule. Constant reminders of how difficult it is to find something in such a large country as Iraq - "the size of California" - were wearing thin. The attempt to associate uranium enrichment with the (in)famous aluminum tubes had, well, gone down the tubes. And the "mobile biological weapons laboratories," initially applauded by the president himself as proof the administration had found the WMD, turned out to be balloon-making machines for artillery practice, as the Iraqis had said. It was getting very embarrassing.
So this new challenge from Joe Wilson and his obnoxiously expert wife made for a very bad hair day. Cheney readily saw it as payback by honest CIA professionals for all the crass arm-twisting they had experienced at the hands of Cheney and kemosabe Libby. It is not hard to put oneself in Cheney's frame of mind as he witnessed the gathering storm.
Worst of all, the Iraq-Niger caper was particularly damaging, since it was tied directly to the office of the vice president. There was that unanswered question regarding who commissioned the forgery in the first place. And not even Judy Miller could help this time, since most thinking folks knew her to be a shill for the Bush administration.
And yet this insubordination, this deliberate sabotage, had to be answered. Something had to be done, and quickly, so that others privy to sensitive information about the litany of lies leading up to the war would not think they could follow Wilson's example and go to the press. ...
But wait, there's more. Because ultimately, Plamegate was about protecting the administration from an even more damaging truth -- that they probably knew Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction long before they made the decision to invade, and the decision to invade was itself made long before 9/11 provided the excuse. A second piece from Common Dreams, by investigative reporter Dave Lindorf, breaks it down:
way back in early 2001 there was a pair of burglaries at the Niger Embassy in Rome and at the home of the Niger ambassador. Police investigating the crimes found that the only things stolen were official stationary and some official stamps, used to make documents official. A cleaning lady and a former member of Italy's intelligence service were arrested for the crimes. They were odd burglaries to be sure, since there is precious little one could use, or sell, such documents for, given the country involved. I mean, it might make sense to steal official stationary from the French Embassy in Rome, which a thief might use to finagle a pass to the Cannes Festival. But Niger?
Jump to October 2001. A few weeks after the 9-11 attacks, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, accompanied by his ministers of defense and intelligence, made a visit to the White House. There he reportedly handed over the forged Niger documents (they were on Niger government stationary, and had Niger government stamps!), which appeared to be receipts for uranium ore, made out to Saddam Hussein. Now forget the matter of why either Hussein or Niger's government would want paper receipts for such an illegal transaction, and forget the matter of how Hussein would have transported 400 tons of yellow dust across the Sahara to his country without somebody noticing. The simple fact is that Bush's own intelligence experts at the CIA and State Department promptly spotted the forgeries, and they were dumped.
We know this because we know, from the likes of onetime National Security Council counterterrorism head Richard Clarke and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, that Bush was pushing for war with Iraq almost as soon as he finished reading My Pet Goat following the attack on the Twin Towers. Surely if the White House had even thought those Niger documents might be legit, they would have leaked or broadcast them all over creation.
They didn't. The documents were deep-sixed, and mentioned to no one.
But according to some dedicated investigative reporters at the respected Italian newspaper La Repubblica, they resurfaced before long at a very suspicious meeting. This meeting occurred in December 2001 in Rome, and included Michael Ledeen, an associate of Defense Department Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith and a key figure in the White House's war-propaganda program, Larry Franklin, a top Defense Intelligence Agency Middle East analyst who later pleaded guilty to passing classified information to two employees of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), convicted Iraqi bank swindler Ahmed Chalabi, then head of the CIA-created Iraqi National Congress, and Harold Rhode of the sinister Defense Department Office of Special Plans, that office set up by the White House and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld under Feith's direction to manufacture "evidence" to justify a war on Iraq. Also at this peculiar meeting were the heads of the Italian Defense Department and of SISMI, the Italian intelligence agency.
According to La Repubblica, it was at that meeting that a plan was hatched to resurrect the forged Niger documents, and to give them credibility by recycling them through British intelligence.
And that is what Bush was referring to when, in his 2003 State of the Union address, he famously frightened a nation by declaring, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Bush lyingly implied that this was new information, when in fact he knew--had to know--that the "evidence" in British hands was the same set of documents he had been offered by Berlusconi almost a year and a half earlier, which had been declared to be bogus. ...
That, my friends, is the real story behind Plamegate, and as Lindorf points out further down in the piece, it's right there, waiting for some enterprising mainstream media organization to uncover.
The question is, will anyone do so.
On Friday, Valerie Plame will testify before Henry Waxman's House committee on government reform. Let's hope that's the first step in getting the truth out. If it does emerge, it could mean there is incontrovertible proof that the president, the vice president, and key members of the administration committed high crimes -- lying to Congress, misleading the country into war, and, as we have seen the bribes and dollar unfold, engaging in war profiteering.
Kind of makes Monicagate look like a walk in the park.
You kind of figured that a few too many die-hard fans of the show "24" have begun to mistake the fictional Fox show for "war on terror" reality, didn't you? Well, guess what? Thrown into interrogations without any rules or Geneva restrictions, guess what confused, frustrated U.S. troops turned to when trying to extract information from Iraqi and other detainees?
In the meantime, how do you keep things like bad publicity over piss poor treatment of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans from sinking the GWOT P.R. flotilla? Why, you shut up the soldiers, of course! From the Army Times:
Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.
“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.
Soldiers say their sergeant major gathered troops at 6 p.m. Monday to tell them they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters.
They were also told they would be moving out of Building 18 to Building 14 within the next couple of weeks. Building 14 is a barracks that houses the administrative offices for the Medical Hold Unit and was renovated in 2006. It’s also located on the Walter Reed Campus, where reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel. Building 18 is located just off campus and is easy to access.
The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: “It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place,” referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed.
Not appropriate, indeed.
Anyway, we wouldn't want the press hyping up those tens of thousands of vets who insist on darkening the doors of the VA system for those silly dental problems... now, would we? Oops, did I say "dental problems?" Sorry, I was quoting a disingenuous Bush administration official. What I mean to say was "catastrophic brain injuries..."
So while we're on the subject of the military and war, just how the hell are things going with that "surge" in Iraq, pray tell? Says the Guardian:
An elite team of officers advising US commander General David Petraeus in Baghdad has concluded the US has six months to win the war in Iraq - or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat. The officers - combat veterans who are leading experts in counter-insurgency - are charged with implementing the "new way forward" strategy announced by president George Bush on January 10. The plan includes a controversial "surge" of 21,500 additional American troops to establish security in the Iraqi capital and Anbar province.
But the team, known as the "Baghdad brains trust" and ensconced in the heavily fortified Green Zone around the US embassy, is struggling to overcome a range of entrenched problems in what has become a race against time, said a former senior administration official familiar with their deliberations. "They know they are operating under a clock. They know they are going to hear a lot more talk in Washington about 'Plan B' by the autumn - meaning withdrawal. They know the next six-month period is their opportunity. And they say it's getting harder every day," the former official said.
By improving security, the plan's short-term aim is to create time and space for the Iraqi government to bring rival Shia, Sunni and Kurd factions together in a process of national reconciliation, us officials say. If that works within the stipulated timeframe, longer-term schemes for rebuilding Iraq under the so-called "go long" strategy will be set in motion. But the next six months are make-or-break for both the US military and the Iraqi government.
The main obstacles confronting Gen Petraeus's team are: · Insufficent numbers of troops on the ground · A "disintegrating" international coalition · An anticipated upsurge in violence in the south as the British leave · Morale problems as casualties rise · A failure of political will in Washington and/or Baghdad
"The scene is very tense. They are working round the clock. Endless cups of tea with the Iraqis," the former senior administration official said. "But they're still trying to figure out what's the plan. The president is expecting progress. But they're thinking, what does he mean? The plan is changing every minute, as all plans do."
And why do we STILL not have enough troops in the theater? ThinkP:
Top U.S. intelligence officials yesterday disclosed to the Senate “that the deployment of Iraqi forces into Baghdad under President Bush’s new plan to stabilize Iraq is running behind schedule and that all of the units sent so far have arrived under strength, some by more than half.“
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.
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..."
Sy Hersh reports that the Bush administration is making very real plans to attack Iran. Also, the New Yorker reprints Hersh flashbacks from 2005 and 2006, on the administration's consolidation of control over the intelligence operations of the CIA and Pentagon, and their plans to use their unprecedented powers to upend Iran. Hersh also asks two key questions: first, is the Bush policy helping or hurting the war on terror, and second, will the military go along? At least one paper, the Times of London, reports that some U.S. generals plan to resign if the Bush administration insists on attacking Iran:
Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.
“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”
A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.
There's also this:
A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.
A second US navy aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS John C Stennis arrived in the Gulf last week, doubling the US presence there. Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, the commander of the US Fifth Fleet, warned: “The US will take military action if ships are attacked or if countries in the region are targeted or US troops come under direct attack.”
But General Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said recently there was “zero chance” of a war with Iran. He played down claims by US intelligence that the Iranian government was responsible for supplying insurgents in Iraq, forcing Bush on the defensive.
Pace’s view was backed up by British intelligence officials who said the extent of the Iranian government’s involvement in activities inside Iraq by a small number of Revolutionary Guards was “far from clear”.
Hillary Mann, the National Security Council’s main Iran expert until 2004, said Pace’s repudiation of the administration’s claims was a sign of grave discontent at the top.
“He is a very serious and a very loyal soldier,” she said. “It is extraordinary for him to have made these comments publicly, and it suggests there are serious problems between the White House, the National Security Council and the Pentagon.”
Mann fears the administration is seeking to provoke Iran into a reaction that could be used as an excuse for an attack. A British official said the US navy was well aware of the risks of confrontation and was being “seriously careful” in the Gulf.
The US air force is regarded as being more willing to attack Iran. General Michael Moseley, the head of the air force, cited Iran as the main likely target for American aircraft at a military conference earlier this month. ...
So which is it? Are we planning an Iran attack or not? It could be that the Bush administration, led by Dick Cheney, is pushing for an attack, but elements within the Pentagon and the uniformed military are resisting it every way they can.
Meanwhile, Israel is now denying it is seeking U.S. overflight permission to traverse Iraqi airspace to attack Iran.
"Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.
In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present
... and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientifictechnological elite.
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society."
Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.
Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.
Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war -- as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years -- I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight. ...
... You and I -- my fellow citizens -- need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nation's great goals.
To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America's prayerful and continuing aspiration:
We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.
From his Farewell Address to the Nation on January 17, 1961. Eisenhower was a warrior; a war hero during World War II as the leader of allied forces. For that reason, he, more than many, knew the value of peace.
We may not be able to get a phased withdrawal going in the halls of Congress or the bowels of the White House or Pentagon, but 10 Downing Street is a whole 'nother matter... Enter the Beeb:
Tony Blair is expected to announce a timetable for the withdrawal of UK troops from Iraq. The prime minister is due to make an announcement in the House of Commons on Wednesday in which he is expected clarify the details.
Mr Blair is expected to say hundreds of troops will return from Basra within weeks with more to follow later.
Some 7,000 UK troops are currently serving in Iraq and about 1,500 are expected to return within weeks.
BBC political correspondent James Landale said: "We have been expecting an announcement for some time on this."
He said by Christmas a total of 3,000 troops were expected to have returned to the UK from Iraq.
Blair has been under intense pressure to disentangle his country from George W. Bush's mess in Mesopotamia, but his expected announcement is quite a reversal from just a few weeks ago:
As recently as late last month, Blair rejected opposition calls to withdrawal British troops by October, calling such a plan irresponsible.
"That would send the most disastrous signal to the people that we are fighting in Iraq. It's a policy that, whatever its superficial attractions may be, is actually deeply irresponsible," Blair said on Jan. 24 in the House of Commons.
Well, I guess as they say in Jamaica, 'tings change.
So what say you now, White House? Do we add the U.K. to the list of those who are with the terrorists?
The BBC uncovers the Bush administrations plans for an attack on Iran:
US contingency plans for air strikes on Iran extend beyond nuclear sites and include most of the country's military infrastructure, the BBC has learned. It is understood that any such attack - if ordered - would target Iranian air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres.
The US insists it is not planning to attack, and is trying to persuade Tehran to stop uranium enrichment.
The UN has urged Iran to stop the programme or face economic sanctions.
But diplomatic sources have told the BBC that as a fallback plan, senior officials at Central Command in Florida have already selected their target sets inside Iran.
That list includes Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. Facilities at Isfahan, Arak and Bushehr are also on the target list, the sources say.
And what would trigger such an attack by the U.S.?
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says the trigger for such an attack reportedly includes any confirmation that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon - which it denies.
The Natanz plant is buried under concrete, metal and earth Alternatively, our correspondent adds, a high-casualty attack on US forces in neighbouring Iraq could also trigger a bombing campaign if it were traced directly back to Tehran.
... the Congress, the Pentagon and the Bush administration should be ashamed. Unfortunately, most of the aforementioned appear to be incapable of shame.
Update: But wait ... there's more. Courtesy of ThinkProgress and Americablog (who has apparently moved on from the Snickers episode to more pressing matters):
“‘Are you telling me that I can’t go to the ceremony ’cause I’m an amputee?‘” asked David Thomas, an Iraq war veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart. Thomas was told he could not wear shorts to attend a ceremony with President Bush because the media would be there, and shorts were not advisable because the amputees would be seated in the front row. David responded, “I’m not ashamed of what I did, and y’all shouldn’t be neither.” When the guest list came out for the ceremony, his name was not on it. John Aravosis tracks other cases of disgraceful treatment toward veterans.
Well you know, an amputee Iraq war veteran wouldn't exactly be good p.r. for the president or the war... nasty reminder of the downside, you know...
Here's how it will work. President Bush will continue to insist that Iran is funneling weapons and money to Iraqi militias who are in turn, killing American troops, but that, aw shucks, he doesn't have ANY intention of starting another war... But he will ratchet up the rhetoric, and the tactical provocations, like detaining Iranian officials in Iraq, hoping to trigger an overreaction by Tehran. Then he will make a sober sounding speech to the nation, stating that by his authorization, U.S. troops have been forced to retaliate against these outrageous acts, "in the name of peace." We will be at war with Iran, and nobody will have had the opportunity to stop it -- not Congress, not the American people.
#5. The entire Middle East region is imploding, starting with Iraq, but increasingly including Lebanon, something which strengthens Syria, which further strengthens Iran, because those two countries are seen as uniquely able to get their arms around the chaos, in a way we clearly cannot. A military confrontation with Iran could have disastrous consequences for the region, and could suck the United States into a quaqmire that would make Iraq look like a walk in the park. And this time, there will be no "coalition."
The Bush administration continues to beat the war drums on Iran, persistently charging that Iran is funding and supplying... well, not the insurgency, right? ... since the insurgents are Sunnis and Iran is a Shiite power that supports ...the ... same ... government ... we... put in ... place... hmmmmmm......
Righto, so they're supporting somebody bad that we don't like in Iraq but who is in many ways on our side of the ledger, but it's still bad anyway ... right? Right.
So if Bushie could just convince the world that this time, he and his Pentagon guys have really, really gotten it right, and Iran really, really is trying to destabilize Iraq ... rather than to prop up Iraq's Shiite government that ... we ... put in ... place... ooooohhhhhh.... sorry ... hmm...... well they might start by convincing their own Joint Chiefs chairman...
WASHINGTON - A day after the U.S. military charged Iran's government with shipping powerful explosive devices to Shiite Muslim fighters in Iraq to use against American troops, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday that he hasn't seen any intelligence to support the claim.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace's comment could make it harder for the Bush administration, its credibility about Iran questioned because of its false pre-war claims about Saddam Hussein, to make its case that Iranian meddling in Iraq is fueling sectarian violence and causing U.S. casualties.
At a briefing Sunday in Baghdad, U.S. military officials said the al-Quds Force, an elite Iranian paramilitary organization, is sending arms into Iraq that include bombs that shoot molten metal jets through the armor of American tanks and Humvees.
They said these "explosively formed projectiles," or EFPs, have killed 170 U.S. troops and wounded more than 600 others and are "coming from the highest level of the Iranian government."
Asked about the briefing during a visit Monday to Canberra, Australia, Pace said he couldn't substantiate the assertion that the clerical regime in Tehran is shipping such devices to Shiite militias in Iraq.
"We know that the explosively formed projectiles are manufactured in Iran. What I would not say is that the Iranian government per se knows about this," Pace replied. "It is clear that Iranians are involved and it is clear that materials from Iran are involved. But I would not say based on what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit."
Neither the White House nor the Pentagon responded to requests for an explanation of the apparent contradiction between the nation's highest-ranking military officer and his subordinates in Baghdad.
Pace's apostasy aside, if Bushie could just convince the world to trust him just this one more time, and perhaps if they can just convince the country and the Congress that Iran really is the THE real problem for the U.S. in Iraq, perhaps he could put that third carrier group to use straffing Iran's ... nuclear facilities? Thus stopping Iran's provocation in Iraq by denying them the chance to build a "nucular" bomb. As one former Bush administration official put it, we could just "accidentally" end up at war...
Oh, and the Europeans believe it's too late to stop Iran getting a nuke anyway...
In an admission of the international community’s failure to hold back Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the document – compiled by the staff of Javier Solana, EU foreign policy chief – says the atomic programme has been delayed only by technical limitations rather than diplomatic pressure. “Attempts to engage the Iranian administration in a negotiating process have not so far succeeded,” it states.
The downbeat conclusions of the “reflection paper” – seen by the Financial Times – are certain to be seized on by advocates of military action, who fear that Iran will be able to produce enough fissile material for a bomb over the next two to three years. Tehran insists its purposes are purely peaceful.
“At some stage we must expect that Iran will acquire the capacity to enrich uranium on the scale required for a weapons programme,” says the paper, dated February 7 and circulated to the EU’s 27 national governments ahead of a foreign ministers meeting yesterday.
“In practice . . . the Iranians have pursued their programme at their own pace, the limiting factor being technical difficulties rather than resolutions by the UN or the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“The problems with Iran will not be resolved through economic sanctions alone.”
The admission is a blow to hopes that a deal with Iran can be reached and comes at a sensitive time, when tensions between the US and Tehran are rising. Its implication that sanctions will prove ineffective will also be unwelcome to EU diplomats.
When intelligent, thoughtful, good men like Mark Daily die in Iraq, wasting their lives and talent for an idealistic goal that is not shared by the greedy, cynical, war profiteers who sent them there, non-fighting, blowhard righties, who themselves would never, ever volunteer or serve, and who continue to hero worship a president and vice president who didn't bother to serve when it was their turn, applaud.
I don't think I will ever understand these people.
R.I.P. Second Lieutenant Daily. I applaud your service and your ideals, but am deeply saddened by the waste of your life and the loss to your loved ones.
The hanging of Saddam Hussein (pictured above with his good friend, Don Rumsfeld,) perhaps in days or weeks, or maybe to coincide with a certain State of the Union address... will accomplish three things:
1. It will satiate some of the Iraqi Kurdish and Shiite thirst for revenge ... 2, It will harden the Sunni insurgency and further divide Iraqis from one another ... 3. It will make a martyr of Saddam among his Ba'athist and other Sunni supporters ... and that includes al-Qaida types, who like Saddam, are Sunnis.
Already Ba'athists are threatening to retaliate. Iraqis are lining up to apply for the job of hangman, and Saddam is filling out his martyrdom papers and writing a letter, telling Iraqis to unite, but not to hate the infidels, for they know not what their leaders do. He must have had a P.R. coach...
Meanwhile, remembering what the dictator was convicted of, courtesy of the BBC:
The American journalist Bob Woodward, in his third book about the Bush administration at war, State of Denial, relates a story told by Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, who was the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States.
Prince Bandar recalls a conversation that Saddam Hussein had with King Fahd of Saudi Arabia after a group of extremists took over the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979.
The rebels had been caught and thrown into jail, and this was the Iraqi leader's advice: "In my mind, there is no question that you are going to kill all 500, that's a given.
"Listen to me carefully, Fahd. Every man who in this group who has a brother or father - kill them. If they have a cousin who you think is man enough to go for revenge, kill them.
"Those 500 people are a given. But you must spread the fear of God in everything that belongs to them, and that's the only way you can sleep at night."
That seems to have been the tactic that Saddam Hussein used at Dujail in 1982, when - after an attempt to assassinate him - 148 people were killed. It is the crime for which he has been sentenced to hang.
Perhaps Saddam Hussein will accept his fate on the gallows as an occupational hazard of being a despot. Or maybe he never intended his own rules to apply to himself.
Pushing for war witn Iran? And more chaos in Basra
If that was your goal, how about detaining a handful of Iranians inside Iraq and positing nebulous charges that they were "planning attacks against Iraqi security forces"? Then, since you're already bungling the damned war, how about detaining the Iranians in the compound of the very party you're trying to boost as the new Shiite leadership of a coalition government, embarrassing the current Shiite Prime Minister in the process?
It's like a neocon cluster-f*** from hell. From the Sunday NYT:
BAGHDAD, Dec. 24 — The American military is holding at least four Iranians in Iraq, including men the Bush administration called senior military officials, who were seized in a pair of raids late last week aimed at people suspected of conducting attacks on Iraqi security forces, according to senior Iraqi and American officials in Baghdad and Washington.
The Bush administration made no public announcement of the politically delicate seizure of the Iranians, though in response to specific questions the White House confirmed Sunday that the Iranians were in custody.
Gordon D. Johndroe, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said two Iranian diplomats were among those initially detained in the raids. The two had papers showing that they were accredited to work in Iraq, and he said they were turned over to the Iraqi authorities and released. He confirmed that a group of other Iranians, including the military officials, remained in custody while an investigation continued, and he said, “We continue to work with the government of Iraq on the status of the detainees.”
It was unclear what kind of evidence American officials possessed that the Iranians were planning attacks, and the officials would not identify those being held. One official said that “a lot of material” was seized in the raid, but would not say if it included arms or documents that pointed to planning for attacks. Much of the material was still being examined, the official said.
Nonetheless, the two raids, in central Baghdad, have deeply upset Iraqi government officials, who have been making strenuous efforts to engage Iran on matters of security. At least two of the Iranians were in this country on an invitation extended by Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, during a visit to Tehran earlier this month. It was particularly awkward for the Iraqis that one of the raids took place in the Baghdad compound of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite leaders, who traveled to Washington three weeks ago to meet President Bush.
So what exactly is the evidence, or will these guys be simply declared "enemy combatants" and shipped off to one of our secret prisons, or dare I say for interrogation in Syria, like we did before Syria became country non grata?
A bit more:
A senior Western official in Baghdad said the raids were conducted after American officials received information that the people detained had been involved in attacks on official security forces in Iraq. “We conduct operations against those who threaten Iraqi and coalition forces,” the official said. “This was based on information.”
A spokesman for Mr. Hakim, who heads a Shiite political party called Sciri, which began as an exile group in Iran that opposed Saddam Hussein, declined to comment. In Tehran, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, had no comment about the case on Sunday other than to say it was under examination.
The action comes at a moment of extraordinary tension in the three-way relationship between the United States, Iran and Iraq. On Saturday, even as American officials were trying to determine the identity of some of the Iranians, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution imposing mild sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has rejected pressure to open talks with Iran about its actions in Iraq.
Much about the raids and the identities of the Iranians remained unclear on Sunday. American officials offered few details. They said that an investigation was under way and that they wanted to give the Iraqi government time to figure out its position. A Bush administration official said the Iranian military officials held in custody were suspected of being members of the Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. It has been involved in training members of Hezbollah and other groups that the Americans regard as terrorist organizations.
American and Iraqi officials have long accused Iran of interfering in this country’s internal affairs, but have rarely produced evidence. The administration presented last week’s arrests as a potential confirmation of the link. Mr. Johndroe said, “We suspect this event validates our claims about Iranian meddling, but we want to finish our investigation of the detained Iranians before characterizing their activities.”
Hm. So guys, are we shoring up Mr. Hakim or accusing him? Do go on, Grey Lady:
The raids and arrests were confirmed by at least seven officials and politicians in Baghdad and Washington. Still, the development was being viewed skeptically on Sunday by some Iraqis, who said that they suspected that the timing was intended to reinforce arguments by some in the administration that direct talks with Iran would be futile.
And I'd say they're probably correct...
The United States is now holding, apparently for the first time, Iranians who it suspects of planning attacks. One senior administration official said, “This is going to be a tense but clarifying moment.”
“It’s our position that the Iraqis have to seize this opportunity to sort out with the Iranians just what kind of behavior they are going to tolerate,” the official said, declining to speak on the record because the details of the raid and investigation were not yet public. “They are going to have to confront the evidence that the Iranians are deeply involved in some of the acts of violence.”
Clarifying, indeed. More about "Sciri":
The predawn raid on Mr. Hakim’s compound, on the east side of the Tigris, was perhaps the most startling part of the American operation. The arrests were made inside the house of Hadi al-Ameri, the chairman of the Iraqi Parliament’s security committee and leader of the Badr Organization, the armed wing of Mr. Hakim’s political party.
Many Shiite political groups are now suspected of having ties to Iran, and Sciri is no exception. Senior party leaders lived in exile in Iran for years plotting the overthrow of Mr. Hussein. Some married Iranians and raised their children there.
Mr. Hakim has emerged as the central Iraqi Shiite who is backing a new bloc made up of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds that would isolate more radical politicians. Americans back the new bloc, and Mr. Hakim traveled to Washington earlier this month to discuss its formation with Mr. Bush. It was not clear how the arrests, embarrassing to Mr. Hakim, would affect those political efforts.
Hiwa Osman, a news media adviser to Mr. Talabani, said, “The president is unhappy with the arrests.”
To understand this, you have to remember that during the time of Saddam, opposition groups were as likely to be based in Tehran as in London, with Shiite groups becoming closely aligned with the Iranians (as we ourselves have been from time to time.) It would follow that Mr. Hakim -- not unlike Grand Ayatola Ali al-Sistani, the most powerful Shiite cleric, and perhaps the most powerful man, in Iraq -- is closely aligned with Iran (Sistani was born there, though to my knowledge, he is not a Persian.) One last bite before I'm through:
The disagreement will further irritate relations between Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq and his American supporters. The Shiite-led government has begun to chafe under the control of the Americans, pressing for more control of its army and for greater independence from what it says is unilateral American decision making.
And what could this sudden burst of independence by Mr. Maliki signal? If the U.S. is seeking to isolate him, and perhaps to replace him, with Mr. Hakim, then why piss off Mr. Hakim by arresting Iranians who may have been his allies? It makes about as much sense as, well, invading Iraq. What is clear is that on the same weekend when meek-ish sanctions were passed by the UNSC against Iran, this little diplomatic raid won't do a thing to ease tensions, but it could provide our neocon president with a fresh reason to push for war with Iran.
Now to the British, who are doing some pissing off of their own. Writes the BBC:
Basra City Council has withdrawn co-operation from UK forces in southern Iraq after the police's serious crimes unit was disbanded by troops. More than 1,000 troops helped to break-up the unit, which has been blamed for robberies and death squads.
Major Charlie Burbridge said local politics was "complicated" and targeting the unit had been justified.
Mohammed al Abadi, head of the city's council, said the raid was provocative and illegal.
During the operation, troops stormed the unit's headquarters and took charge of 127 prisoners whom they feared might be killed.
hey demolished the Jamiat police station, which was the Serious Crimes Unit's base in Basra.
Hm. So how to "put this in context...":
Major Burbridge, speaking on behalf of the British Army in Basra, said: "The local provincial council, or a few members of the local provincial council, conducted a press conference a couple of hours after the operation was completed and they criticised the way in which, or the means by which, we conducted the operation.
"Now let's say we put this in context. Of course the local political scene is a complicated one and the governor [Mohammed al-Waili] wasn't there at the press conference."
The major added: "He [Mohammed al-Waili] even had a conversation with our general and said that we had done the right thing.
"Furthermore, we have continued to have overwhelming support up in Baghdad from the Ministry of Defence, so we're pretty confident we've done the right thing here."
Perhaps we're at such a bad stage in Iraq that "pretty confident" is the best we're going to get...
Maj Burbridge added: "For some time we've been talking about culling the police force; well, this is exactly what we've done.
"We've removed a very significant and nasty part of the police force which has been scaring people in Basra and ultimately it's going to make Basra a better place.
There have been long-held fears of the Iraqi police being infiltrated by corrupt officers.
And British forces have said some Iraqi commanders were using the unit as a cover for death squads and criminal activities.
I'm sure they have. The station in question had earned the catchy moniker, "the stastion of death. Catchy, no?
Welcome to post-Saddam Iraq. Same as pre-Saddam Iraq, only with bloody, out of control violence on every street corner.
If you ever doubted that President Bush has licked every last droplet out of the neocon Kool-Aid pitcher, you need look no further than the rumblings about his ISG-spurning, soon-to-be unveiled plan for carving out "a way forward" in Iraq. It reads like a post from "pick your right wing blog," or like a William Kristol column from the Weekly Standard.
According to Kristol and others who are following the goings-on inside Bush's palace of delusion in Washington, not only does Bush plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq (permanently, Kristol hopes, escalating the war with a focus on Baghdad, he also plans to shake off the last vestiges of his supposed conservatism by embracing an expensive "New Deal" for Iraq, pouring lard and Karo syrup onto the $663 billion Iraq boondoggle to the tune of another $10 billion (for now), probably with more to come. From the Times of London:
THE White House is expected to announce a reconstruction package for Iraq as part of a plan for a “surge” of up to 30,000 troops into Baghdad when President George W Bush unveils America’s new strategy next month. Bush is being urged to give up to $10 billion (£5.1 billion) to Iraq as part of a “New Deal” that would create work for unemployed Iraqis, following the model of President Franklin D Roosevelt during the 1930s depression.
No word on who, if anyone, will provide oversight over the spending of these fresh funds.
Bush has reportedly cowed the squishy Joint Chiefs once again, and led by the punk-ass JCS chief, Bill Casey, they are going along with Bush's escalation plan. It's all about forcing some elusive "victory," apparently at any cost. And how ironic that Bush would embrace a Rooseveltian strategy, given his family's historic distaste for FDR... oh, and then there's the small fact that Iraq's primary issue isn't an economic depression. Their economic problems are but one outgrowth of an ongoing and bloody civil war unleashed by us. FDR responded to a domestic economic crisis and a war abroad. Bush has collapsed the two into one inside Iraq, which is now the official laboratory of the bruised but unbowed neocons.
Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House and a member of the defence policy board advising the Pentagon, is calling for a cross between the New Deal and the post-second world war Marshall Plan that would “mop up every young Iraqi male who is unemployed”. He said it would be “as big a strategic step towards victory as whether you have more troops or fewer troops”.
Gingrich believes his position as a staunch conservative could help to sell the reconstruction package to sceptical Republicans who argue that Iraq has already cost too money. The Pentagon this month requested an extra $100 billion from Congress as an emergency supplement to the 2007 military budget, bringing the total to $663 billion.
So how much is Iraq worth to you? Are you prepared to watch your country spend a trillion dollars on the war, plus jobs for every accounted for Iraqi male, while your job is by no means secured here at home? The Jobs for Iraqis plan, married to the new, bigger, kick down Iraqi doors project is what it's increasingly looking like Bush will go with in 2007. God help us all. This fool is going to both bankrupt us, and destroy any last vestiges of our superpower status.
Anybody remember the Roman Empire? I don't think it ended well...
"Though it's tempting to think that adding troops for a little while would solve the problem, this is a seductive and dangerous road. It's the same vague reasoning that led to sending hundreds of thousands of troops to Vietnam. ..." -- From the editorial board of USA Today
The latest gambit: send Bob Gates to Iraq to "bypass the filter" of the uniformed military leadership, and ask the troops what they want. Well that in the hell do you think they want? They want back-up, meaning more troops. So will this be Bush's way of using the soldiers as a prop, yet again, in order to create an excuse to turn "I listen to the generals" into this year's "read my lips, no new taxes?" Righto. More from that USAT editorial:
So far, there's not much specificity beyond "more troops in Baghdad." Where in a city of 5 million would they go? Which warring groups would they fight? How would this be different from what's not working? This is the most pointed criticism of the surge idea, and the president acknowledged it at a news conference Wednesday, saying he would only approve a "specific mission." The fact that he couldn't immediately articulate one suggests the surge is an idea in search of credibility, not a strategy developed to solve a defined problem.
Assuming the short-term goal is to stabilize Baghdad, which the administration has labeled the definitive battleground, the next question is whether that is achievable. U.S. and Iraqi forces have been trying to pacify the capital since summer by massing forces there, but an unusually downbeat Pentagon report revealed this week that "Operation Together Forward" seems only to have intensified the violence. The report notes that the effort to control the violence in Baghdad worked at first, but that the insurgents adapted and violence surged again in September. One factor: Iraqi police tipped insurgents to raids by U.S. and Iraqi troops, allowing the bad guys to melt away. ...
... Bush likes to say he listens to his commanders about troop levels, and two of the nation's wisest combat veterans — former secretary of State Colin Powell and Gen. John Abizaid, the outgoing top U.S. commander in the Middle East — have advised against surging U.S. troops.
Sending more troops to Iraq would have been a good idea in 2003 to stabilize the country after Saddam Hussein was toppled. Today, it has the scent of doubling down on a losing bet, a desperate option seized upon because the cost of others is so high.
Promoters of the more-troops option Bush is considering include Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and neoconservative think tanks that supported the war and are frustrated with its failures. Those supporters should ask themselves one more question: Would they want their own children "surged" into a chaotic environment with such an ill-defined mission and limited prospects of success?
My guess would be they would not.
The bottom line is, everybody knows that the Iraq war is lost and over, except for President Bush and a last remnant of his wack-job followers. Oh, and Joe Lieberman and John McCain. How pathetic. Even Reagan Republicans like Joe Scarborough have begun to describe the president as dangerously isolated and almost delusional in his determination to "stay the course." What is it going to take? How many lives is this president willing to waste in his vain pursuit of "victory" in Iraq? Dude, there IS no victory to be had in Iraq. They're not fighting us, they're fighting each other, and we're in the way.
It's time to leave Iraq.
And if I were the Democrats in Congress, I would prevent Bush's vain little troop surge the old fashioned way: by refusing to pay for it. The Dems should tell the president: we will fund only ongoing battlefield necessities for existing forces (including necessary troop rotation), but won't give you a dime for a single soldier more. Period.