Thursday, December 30, 2004

All Day Working

I literally just got back from a remote site where we did a rather large amount of data migration to a new server. Fortunately, it looks like everything is running as smoothly as possible, under the circumstances. I guess we'll find out for sure Monday morning.

To be honest, I've not been able to read anything today--well, I guess that gives me this evening to catch up. Hopefully I'll manage to post something before too'd be even nicer if it was something positive, although these dark days of Son of Bush, The Coming of the Second Term, make that less than likely.

Back in a bit...

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Playing the Ethnic Card

UPI notes something that can't be considered at all positive in Iraq:

"We are starting to play the ethnic card in Iraq, just as the Soviets played it in Afghanistan," said former CIA chief of Afghanistan operation Milt Bearden.

"You only play it when you're losing and by playing it, you simply speed up the process of losing," he said.

Phoebe Marr, an analyst who closely follows events in Iraq, told United Press International that "having the U.S. military unleash different historical enemies on each other has become an unspoken U.S. policy."

Bearden, Marr and others also referred to the Pentagon's tactic of pitting one group of enemies against another in Iraq as being fraught with danger.

For example, during the assault on Fallujah, wary of the reliability of Iraqi forces, the Marines used 2,000 Kurdish Peshmerga militia troops against the Arab Sunnis. The two groups share a long history of mistrust and animosity, according to Marr...

And the future? "All sorts of ugly things could happen -- the Kurds could declare independence or the split between the Shiite and Sunni could deepen. The new Iraqi state could fail," an administration official said.

For Marr the outlook was also grim: "The whole Bush administration policy has been outrageously careless" and because of this, she said, the tenuous unity of Iraq "could break down."

Said former senior CIA Iraqi analyst Judith Yaphe: "Elections will not solve anything -- we are grasping for events that will enable us to get out of Iraq, but there are no such thing. Democracy is not an event but a process."

"Speed up the process of losing." Not exactly encouraging words...
Losing the War on Terror

Militants set off two car bombs and fought police in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The "war on terror" was supposed to put a stop to stuff like this. Instead, such attacks are increasing.

A small side effect was a bump in the price of crude oil in commodity markets--imagine that.

In May, Saudi militants attacked oil company compounds in Khobar, 250 miles (400 kilometers) northeast of Riyadh, and killed 22 people, 19 of them foreigners. Earlier the same month, attackers stormed the offices of an American company in Yanbu, 350 kilometers (220 miles) north of Jiddah, killing six Westerners and a Saudi. All four attackers died in a shootout after a police chase in which they dragged the body of an American from the bumper of their car.

On April 21, five people, including two senior police officers and an 11-year-old girl, were killed along with the suicide bomber in an attack on a government building in Riyadh.

In November 2003 a suicide bombing at a Riyadh housing compound killed 17 people, most of them Muslims working in Saudi Arabia.

At a certain point, "staying the course" is an exercise in lunacy--like say, if "the course" is headed straight for a cliff. Unfortunately, too many foks apparently lack the ability--or wherewithall--to understand this, hence, Bush's win at the polls last November. I suppose this isn't too surprising: for instance, I doubt seriously a majority of US citizens could accurately point out ANY Middle Eastern country on a map. But, just as ignorance of the law is no excuse, ignorance of the consequences of your country's actions can likewise come back to bite real hard.

A while back I wrote something like "when you hand your car keys to a drunk, don't be surprised if your car gets wrecked." The more I look at the effects of the Bush foreign policy, the more it becomes apparent that we didn't just hand the car keys to a drunk--we made sure the gun rack had loaded weapons, too.
Tis the Season

For giving--but also for receiving. I saw the Times article over at Tbogg, and heard a related story on NPR on my lunch break (the discussion on NPR actually focused on why fired CEO's get such generous severance packages, aka 'golden parachutes').

So, while veterans from Iraq are showing up in homeless shelters, the monied classes are making do with high end real estate, fancy cars, mink coats, and ski vacations.

What a country...
Penny Wise, Dollar Dumb

Juan Cole makes some interesting observations in the course of linking to several relevant articles covering the earthquake/tsunami disaster in South Asia and Indonesia:

Such catastrophes can have a political impact and can affect security affairs. The failure of the Turkish government to respond in a timely manner to the 1999 earthquake [link] sounded the death knell for the government of then prime minister Bulent Ecevit, and set the stage for the later victory at the polls of the Muslim reform party, Ak.

As John F. Harris and Robin Wright of the Washington Post cannily note [link], US President George W. Bush has missed an important opportunity to reach out to the Muslims of Indonesia. The Bush administration at first pledged a paltry $15 million, a mysteriously chintzy response to what was obviously an enormous calamity. Bush himself remained on vacation, and now has reluctantly agreed to a meeting of the National Security Council by video conference. If Bush were a statesman, he would have flown to Jakarta and announced his solidarity with the Muslims of Indonesia (which has suffered at least 40,000 dead and rising).

Indeed. Any number of blogs have noted a distinct lack of serious reaction on the part of the Bush administration to what is a catastrophe of truly global consequences (for instance, consider: many of the areas affected by this tragedy produce goods and/or services consumed here in the USA). Bush has been tepid in his response--in fact, my own opinion is that he's probably a little pissed that a such an event would ruin his perfectly good vacation--unlike, say, Iraq, which at this point looks more and more like the baby from Eraserhead.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the world showed an incredible degree of solidarity with the United States. In contrast, it speaks volumes that Bush very publicly made it clear that more important things were on his agenda--like clearing brush, working on his inaugural and SOTU addresses. Which makes me wonder what the world reaction will be if, god forbid, another major terrorist attack occurs in the country...
Good Morning, This is Your Wakeup Explosion

Insurgents set a trap for Iraqi police officers overnight. According to The Guardian, they passed a false tip suggesting that militants were holed up in a house in Baghdad's Ghazaliya district. When the cops arrived, the insurgents detonated about 400 pounds of explosives--blowing up the house in question, and six more nearby.

Twenty eight people are known dead at this point.

And, as the story goes on to note, the Coalition of the Willing is getting so light that it soon will float. Ukraine, which sent over slightly more than one battalion, will withdraw most of its 1,650 troops by April. They will be completely gone by 2005. Their contingent was the fourth largest among countries being bribed sending troops.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Freudian Slip, or Just Another Dumb Comment by Rummy?

If you hit CNN's international site, you'll find this story, which hasn't appeared on the standard CNN page--at least as of yet:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A comment Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made during a Christmas Eve address to U.S. troops in Baghdad has sparked new conspiracy theories about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

In the speech, Rumsfeld made a passing reference to United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to stop al Qaeda hijackers.

But in his remarks, Rumsfeld referred to the "the people who attacked the United States in New York, shot down the plane over Pennsylvania."

A Pentagon spokesman insisted that Rumsfeld simply misspoke, but Internet conspiracy theorists seized on the reference to the plane having been shot down.

The article goes on to note a comment someone posted at World Nut Daily, so take this with a box of salt. Or, maybe, it's a parting shot from short-timer Don...which would be too bad. The other day I posted something to the effect that the war is as much Rumsfeld's mess as anyone's in this sorry administration, and therefore he should be required to stick around to see it through (a "stop-loss" order for SecDef?). Besides, when the neo-cons start barking that Rummy must go--well, that's reason enough for me to want him to stick around...
Playing the Odds

According to this Slate article--which I initially found by linking to Intel Dump from YRHT--suggests that Iraq 2004 isn't really all that different from Vietnam 1966--if you're looking at the possibility that an individual soldier will be killed or wounded.

To be honest, I find the statistical analysis a little dry--but the conclusion is spot on accurate. That is, regardless of how you parse the numbers, the war is just that--war. As such, there's always the potential for destruction, mayhem--and the grim reaper to come a calling. And, in the case of Iraq, the war has been fought for--what?

Just think: if we hadn't spent almost $150 billion dollars and counting up to this point (with the promise that more is needed just to maintain the level of chaos there), we might be able to come through with quite a bit more for disaster relief in South Asia. By the way--note that the $35 million dollars promised thus far (more than half of it in loans, not grants) is still slightly less than the $40 million budgeted for Bush's inauguration.

After all, one must set priorities...
But Seriously...

Actually I'd been joking when I guessed that Bush would accuse the Social Security Administration of holding "weapons of mass destruction." But according to this Boston Globe article, an Iraq style propaganda offensive IS part of the Bush plan to gut Social Security:

WASHINGTON -- The run-up to President Bush's plan to deal with Social Security is looking a lot like the run-up to his plan to deal with Saddam Hussein...

Much as the Iraq war was preceded by speeches designed to show Hussein in the most threatening light, the Bush economic summit seemed designed to dominate a slow news week with the idea that failing to deal with Social Security now will hurt the national economy.

"The time to start making sacrifices is now . . . so that the markets can have confidence that we're on a course that is going to avoid a train wreck," Bush said at the summit.

Still, the link between the current economy and a Social Security deficit that will begin to strike benefits in decades is every bit as speculative and theoretical as the link between Hussein and the war on terrorism in late 2002.

Now, the problem here is that you've STILL got people who believe the nonsense about Hussein and WMD (see Safire, Bill, for example--or, better yet, check out The Poorman's "edited" Safire column). Will the media actually study the facts and ask serious, genuine questions--or will Tim Russert turn it into a "Bush said, they said, what does Dr. Phil say?" circle jerk...?

Because, at this point, the spectacular failure--characterized by Bush as a "catastrophic success"--should give anyone pause when anyone in this administration opens their mouth. If they're willing to send mostly young men and women to their deaths for non-existent weapons, does anyone think they WOULDN'T be willing to make old people suffer--and maybe die--to further their domestic neo-con fantasies?
Memo to Bush: Security is More Than Mere Rhetoric

Today's grim news out of Iraq is that at least twenty five individuals were killed by insurgents today. Among the dead were civilians, police, and a government official...

Over at Needlenose, there's an interesting thread which began with a post by Swopa. In it, "guest blogger" J. Thomas (who apparently no longer posts at The Radical Center), makes several significant observations--and yeah, I've said similar stuff here, but Thomas does an excellent job of summing it up:

The rule is, if you occupy a foreign nation it's your responsibility to maintain order. It isn't the responsibility of random foreign nationals not to be disruptive. It's your responsibility to maintain order and protect civilians from each other.

If you have reason to think you can't do that, then don't occupy that foreign nation...

The international law position is, "You break it, you own it." It's your job to make the occupied nation a safe place for its citizens, against whatever criminals happen to arise. It isn't your place to do airstrikes against cities that are temporarily controlled by criminal groups. It isn't your place to do counterbattery artillery fire. It isn't your place to torture civilians who might have information about the criminals. Rape is right out. If you can't run a humane occupation, then you're wrong to run an inhumane one.

It isn't that you're supposed to make an agreement with the criminals. It isn't that it's OK for you to do atrocities if they do. If you want to destroy a regime, and you don't have the resources to actually get a replacement, then don't do it.

Of course Saddam had done atrocities against "his own people." Saddam doing it that doesn't justify us doing it. Terrorists doing it doesn't justify us doing it. If we aren't strong enough to beat the Iraqis without doing war crimes ourselves, then we have made a mistake.

See, it isn't just squeamishness. If we can't win without war crimes, then it's real unlikely that we'll get a result that's worth the cost. . . .

. . . Our violations of international law here are entirely our choice. We didn't have to invade and occupy when we weren't ready to do the job right. Now we're stuck with it and we don't know how to do it, and our atrocities aren't even getting us the results we need.

And, to stay ON topic for once, I'd like to also point out this from Your Right Hand Thief. In it, Oyster cites a couple of pieces from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, one of which asserts that the problem with Iraq at this point is NOT anything that can be fixed, patchwork style. Instead, what we have is a general policy failure, brought about by ongoing neo-con hubris. We will be paying for this policy failure for some time.

So, the next time you hear Bush or one of his proxies mouth off about "the enemies of freedom," or other such drivel, remember that they've done NOTHING to counter the descent into anarchy that is the story of today's Iraq. While they pat themselves on the back for "removing Saddam," they've ignored the very real problems that have resulted from this--problems they'd been warned about but chose to ignore.
From the "A-Blind-Pig-Sometimes-Finds-an-Acorn-Department"

I came across this odd little rant from Arnaud de Borchgrave from Cursor. You know, I've been wondering where the co-"mastermind" (with Claire Sterling) of the thesis that "the communists tried to assassinate the pope" theory was skulking about. Incidently, the "commie plot to kill the pope" kind of fell apart when Mehmet Ali Agca, to paraphrase Alexander Cockburn, said the one thing you can't say in the west without everyone thinking you're completely insane--namely, he claimed to be Jesus Christ. "Io sono Jesus Christo," I remember Agca announcing on the first day of his trial.

But I digress: de Borchgrave, showing the kind of insight that only he can muster, has revealed that his keen senses tell him Osama bin Laden will shift his focus from attacking the United States to attacking US interests and allies in the Middle East. Arnaud also has it on good authority that the sky is blue, the grass is green, and the pope is almost certainly Catholic.

Not to be too hard on the man--after all, perhaps the Department of Homeland Security can now move beyond color codes--but I think it's pretty evident to folks with more than four or five functioning brain cells that bin Laden's overall plan involves the Middle East/Central and South Asia and/or Indonesia--the restoration of the Caliphate isn't exactly on the agenda for Taos, New Mexico.

Sadly, indeed, pathetically, de Borchgrave can't let go of the communist menace, asserting that bin Laden is recruiting in "many of the same spawning grounds that provisioned communist parties throughout the Cold War." Well, old habits die hard, I guess. However, he notes, correctly, that Pervez Musharraf is despised in Pakistan, while Osama boasts high approval ratings--which, as far as I can tell, is correct. He further notes that the juhadist strategy will, in his words, seek

to (1) further detach America from its European allies...(2) assist the insurgency in Iraq by encouraging more jihadis to volunteer for suicide duty; (3) stoke public opinion against the royals in Saudi Arabia; (4) stoke public opinion against Musharraf in Pakistan.

This, astonishingly, isn't all that far off the mark (hence, the title of this post). The question will be whether or not bin Laden can accomplish this. And, judging from the events in Iraq, Bush will do everything in his power to assist.

Post Holiday, um, Post

I actually meant to resume last night, but Cox Cable took care of that with its own holiday break (something tells me that won't be reflected in the bill). Anyway, attention obviously is being focused on South Asia, and rightly so. After seeing some of the tamer tsunami footage on Nightline yesterday, all I could think was "oh my god."

The surge in some areas rivaled anything you'd see in a hurricane--except there was little or no warning.

Others can certainly provide more detail on the science or the tragedy itself, so I'll move on to some other things, even as I look for agencies that could use a few of my dollars.

Moving the focus back to Iraq for a moment, I saw these stories linked to at Juan Cole's website: the first, from CNN's international edition, quotes one of the French journalists held hostage as saying that his captors, as you might expect, were thrilled by Bush's election--it will do wonders for recruitment. The second story, from the BBC cites Georges Malbrunot (one of the journalists), as saying he felt like he was on "planet bin Laden." Great--Iraq under Saddam tolerated such lunatics, but was never a home base for them. Now, thanks to the idiotic occupation, they've got recruits, ridiculous amounts of explosives, targets--and the US Military is powerless to stop them. The captors went on to say that their real goals are destabilizing Saudi Arabia and Egypt--in other words, the richest and the most populous of the Arab nations. If they succeed, what happens in Iraq will matter a LOT less--it will be more gravy than main course.

However, in one hopeful sign, Cole suggests that bin Laden shot "himself in the foot" with his latest audiotape, which calls for a boycott of the upcoming election. According to the professor, Iraqis will see him as meddling in their internal affairs. He further notes that Iraqis, as a group, aren't real comfortable with Wahabbist Islam of the type bin Laden practices. In Cole's mind, this could indicate an erosion of Al Qaeda's power--as he put it, perhaps they're more like the Baader Meinhof Gang or Red Army Faction, albeit with greater reach.

If true, this would be good, because the alternative--a true fundamentalist theocracy taking control of Mesopotamia--would make an absolute mockery of Bush's simplistic "the world is better off without Saddam Hussein" statements he's fond of spitting out like so much tobacco juice. Saddam, for all his viciousness, was not going to embark on jihad. Those who WOULD engage in such insanity are the flip side of a coin that has George W. Bush's ugly mug on the obverse--the bin Ladens of the world NEED George W. Bush and vice versa.

I'd add a few more things, but work calls. Back in a bit.