Saturday, August 27, 2005

This Isn't Looking Good

Just yesterday the news was calling for Hurrican Katrina to move up the Florida Gulf Coast towards the Panhandle...what a difference a day makes.

Thoughts, prayers and mantras go out to the good folks I know in NOLA--and to the good folks I almost know, but read on a daily basis--YRHT, PGR, YatPundit Greg Peters--and anyone else in the city.

Friday, August 26, 2005

A Hundred Here, a Hundred There...and Pretty Soon You're Talking Serious Casualties

As the haggling continues--complete with pleadings for calm by the middle-finger-in-chief--a different sort of "negotiation" is going on in Iraq's streets:

As the two-day death toll around Iraq reached 100, fighting between two powerful Shiite militias in the southern city of Najaf subsided, with 19 reported dead overall. The clashes Wednesday night and Thursday between the Mahdi Army, loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, and fighters allegedly linked to the government-allied Badr Organization were the deadliest between Iraqi militia forces since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

In Baghdad, 13 Iraqi police officers, 27 Iraqi civilians and an unidentified American security force member were killed when dozens of fighters believed to be former members of Saddam Hussein's security apparatus laid siege to a neighborhood late Wednesday, openly walking the district's streets in black masks and carrying AK-47s and grenade launchers, according to the U.S. military, Iraqi officials and witnesses. East of the capital, the bodies of 36 other men, their identities unknown, were found heaped Thursday near a road leading toward Iran, security officials told news agencies.

The bloodshed was spurred partly by differences among Sunni and Shiite Arabs and ethnic Kurds over the constitution, along with attempts by insurgents and Hussein loyalists to derail the political process. Laith Kubba, spokesman for Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, said the Baghdad siege in particular was a "stage-managed operation," orchestrated by supporters of Hussein intent on overshadowing work on the constitution. "They wanted the writing on the wall that they are still there," Kubba said.

While the Bush administration has pushed hard for Iraqis to stick to a timeline for approving the constitution that would show progress toward political change -- and would make U.S. troop withdrawals possible -- one negotiator said American officials Thursday appeared more intent on bringing Sunni Arabs on board than on rushing the process to its conclusion. American and Iraqi leaders have called inclusion of mainstream Sunnis in the political process an essential step toward ending the Sunni-led insurgency.

And, on a related note, Billmon makes the case that we've long since passed the point of no return--and, in what might be the only way Iraq ISN'T like Vietnam, the consequences could be very costly indeed:

If success really is defined as "putting Iraq back on course to be a secular, democratic nation," then we passed that particular fail-safe point a long time ago -- maybe in the early 7th century, when the armies of the Caliphate conquered Mesopotamia. Or at the battle of Karbala in 680, when the prophet's grandson was betrayed and slaughtered, laying the emotional foundation for the Shi'aism. Or when the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads and moved the caliphate to Baghdad. Or in 1258, when Baghdad fell to the Mongols and the most magnificant flower of Arabic civilization was destroyed. Or in 1533, when the Ottomans moved in. Or 1917, when the British conquered the place and tried to turn it into a branch office of the government of India -- a colony of a colony. Or maybe in 1958, when the Hashemite monarchy was overthrown. Or '68, when the Baathists finally came to power and stayed there. Or '91, when we betrayed the Shi'a to Saddam's tender mercies.

The point is, the land of the two rivers is filled to the brim with historical turning points -- ones which most Americans, including the idiots who created this mess, know little or nothing about. And that ignorance, maybe more than anything else, is why the "point of no return" for failure in Iraq was reached before the invasion even started. This has been, and always was, a fool's errand...

The real question now is whether even a minimal level of stability can be achieved in Iraq, at least enough to prevent the chaos from spilling over into the parts of the Middle East where it could do some real damage to U.S. interests -- places like the Saudi oil fields.

"Staying the course" when you're in the midst of striking an iceberg isn't exactly a winning strategy--hell, it's not even a particularly intelligent cheer.
The Antithesis of Eloquence

Disclaimer: I've heard that Capitol Hill Blue isn't necessarily a reliable source, so take the following with a grain, if not a shaker, of salt. However, I can't say I'd be all that surprised if the essence of their claims have merit:

While President George W. Bush travels around the country in a last-ditch effort to sell his Iraq war, White House aides scramble frantically behind the scenes to hide the dark mood of an increasingly angry leader who unleashes obscenity-filled outbursts at anyone who dares disagree with him.

“I’m not meeting again with that goddamned bitch,” Bush screamed at aides who suggested he meet again with Cindy Sheehan, the war-protesting mother whose son died in Iraq. “She can go to hell as far as I’m concerned!”

Bush, administration aides confide, frequently explodes into tirades over those who protest the war, calling them “motherfucking traitors.” He reportedly was so upset over Veterans of Foreign Wars members who wore “bullshit protectors” over their ears during his speech to their annual convention that he told aides to “tell those VFW assholes that I’ll never speak to them again is they can’t keep their members under control.”

White House insiders say Bush is growing increasingly bitter over mounting opposition to his war in Iraq. Polls show a vast majority of Americans now believe the war was a mistake and most doubt the President’s honesty.

“Who gives a flying fuck what the polls say,” he screamed at a recent strategy meeting. “I’m the President and I’ll do whatever I goddamned please. They don’t know shit.”

Bush, whiles setting up for a photo op for signing the recent CAFTA bill, flipped an extended middle finger to reporters. Aides say the President often “flips the bird” to show his displeasure and tells aides who disagree with him to “go to hell” or to “go fuck yourself.” His habit of giving people the finger goes back to his days as Texas governor, aides admit, and videos of him doing so before press conferences were widely circulated among TV stations during those days. A recent video showing him shooting the finger to reporters while walking also recently surfaced.

Number one in the nation...
Eloquence, Part III

Cindy Sheehan's most recent post:

Iraq has been the tragic Lie of Historic Proportions of Washington, DC since before the first Gulf war. For years, Saddam was one of our government's propped up and militarily supported puppets. Many people have seen the famous footage of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam. I suppose the two are smiling so big for the cameras because they are kindred spirits. After all of the hand-shaking and weapon brokering, when did Saddam become such a bad guy to Bush, Cheney, Halliburton and Co.? (Insert your favorite reason here).

During the Clinton regime the US-UN led sanctions against Iraq and the weekly bombing raids killed tens of thousands of people in Iraq. Many of them were children, but since one of her children didn't have to be sacrificed to the homicidal war machine, Madeline Albright, thinks the slaughter during the "halcyon" Clinton years was "worth it." More lies.

Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of current events understands that this invasion/occupation of Iraq was not about Saddam being a "bad guy." If that logic is used, then how many innocent Iraqi people have to die before the citizens of America wake up and know that our government is a "bad guy?" We also know that Iraq was not about WMD's. They weren't there and they weren't going to be there for at least a decade, by all reports. Another reason, so wispy and more difficult to disprove, is that America invaded Iraq to bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people. When one tries to dispute this particular deception, one is accused of being unpatriotic or hating freedom. Even though correct, the statement "Freedom isn't Free" is very insulting to me. False freedom is very expensive. Fake freedom costs about two billion of our tax dollars a week; phony freedom has cost the Iraqi people tens of thousands of innocent lives; fanciful freedom has meant the destruction of a country and its infrastructure. Tragically, this fabricated notion of freedom and democracy cost me far more than I was willing to pay: the life of my son, Casey. The Lie of Historic Proportions also cost me my peace of mind; I do not feel free and I do not feel like I live in a democracy.

Casey took an oath to protect the US from all enemies "foreign and domestic." He was sent to occupy and die in a foreign country that was no threat to the USA. However, the biggest threat to our safety, humanity, and our way of life in America are George and his cronies. Congress made a Mistake of Historic Proportions and waived its Constitutional responsibility to declare war. It is time for the House to make up for that mistake and introduce a Resolution of Inquiry into the Downing Street Memos.

It is time to put partisan politics behind us to do what is correct for once and reclaim America's humanity. It is time for Congress and the American people to work together in peace and justice to rid our country of the stench of greed, hypocrisy, and unnecessary suffering that permeates our White House and our halls of Congress. It is time to hold someone accountable for the carnage and devastation that has been caused. As a matter of fact, it is past time, but it is not too late.
Multimedia Friday

Check this short movie from Scott Bateman out--it's a blast from the recent past, with actual quotes from the liar-in-chief.

(link from Bob Harris)
Robertson Redux

I almost missed this John Chuckman piece in Counterpunch:

It is a sad to reflect in my twilight years that almost everything I was taught as a boy has proved to be wrong. I don't mean subjects like math or English. I mean values. Most of the evidence of my adult life tends to support the opposite of every moral lesson of my youth, certainly as they apply to the land of my birth, a place where power and greed now trump everything.

I was taught murder always is wrong. I was taught lying always is wrong. I was taught that lusting after money and power is wrong. I was taught that good men prevailed and evil men sooner or later paid for their acts. These lessons came from a ferociously-honest and brave mother who alone raised two boys on the South Side of Chicago. They came also from the church I attended. And they came from some wonderful books and stories I read.

The success of vicious Pat Robertson and his even more vicious President, George Bush, provide almost perfect allegories for the soul-dead thing America has become.

Religion, politics, journalism, and even academics serve the American worship of power and greed.

However, I think Chuckman is only partially right--those elements devoted to power and greed ARE as vicious as he asserts; however, I think there are plenty of citizens appalled at the direction they've taken the country. Here's hoping we can get organized and reverse course before it's too late.
Wheels Falling Off

How desperate is Team Bush? Desperate enough to put the phone in Shrubusto's gnarled little paw:

Talks over the Iraqi constitution reached a breaking point on Thursday, with a parliamentary session to present the document being canceled and President Bush personally calling one of the country's most powerful Shiite leaders in an effort to broker a last-minute deal.

Lord only knows what bon mots he managed to spit out before aids replaced the handset on the cradle, but, as always, the official word was that they were "making progress."

Unfortunately for them, most Iraqis, as you might expect, have "other priorities"--like not getting killed:

What constitution are you talking about?" Mr. Sami, a Shiite, said sardonically. "We are fed up with this thing! We would prefer to solve our problems first, such as electricity, water and security. How come they gathered to approve the constitution while Iraqis are slaughtered?" ...

"What can I do with a constitution if I have no water, gasoline and electricity?" asked Hanan Sahib, 29, a Shiite database operator at a telecommunications company in Baghdad, echoing Mr. Sami's thoughts. The main problem, she added, was security, particularly for women. Iraqi leaders and the Bush administration hope that a constitution with widespread public support will help to legitimize democratic rule and undermine the Sunni-backed insurgency that is trying to topple the government and drive out the United States forces.

But the benevolent neocons (that's um, sarcasm there) just want Ms. Sahib to enjoy the rights and privileges of women circa 1900...what more could she ask for?

And I wonder what sort of references the neocons will pull out of their collective asses when the Iraqi civil war begins in ernest...Moqtada as-Sadr as Stonewall Jackson? How about Ahmad Chalabi as J.E.B. Stuart? Nah...probably not.

The war, though, is about to spin out of control, and there's nothing the US can do about it--George Bush can blather on and on about "staying the course," but events are about to overtake him, and his glorious little war is now just a big dead albatross hanging from his neck.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Arabic--It's Like a Whole Other Language

Actually, more like a whole other SET of languages, if I remember right--in other words, Iraqi Arabic is very different from Moroccan Arabic which is different from what is called (I think) modern standard Arabic...

And it's also not an easy language to learn. Which means, in a war like the one in Iraq, you need translators. Duh. But, thanks to the miracle of a sole source Pentagon contract, yet another critical element for success in war is in terribly short supply (hat tip to Today in Iraq for the link):

The widely reported shortages of vehicles, armor and other equipment have demonstrated the level to which the Bush administration has not provided our soldiers or their Iraqi allies with the basic tools needed to do the job. But a less remarked-upon problem, the extreme shortage of translators to help our soldiers communicate with Iraqis, is particularly puzzling.

Without an interpreter, our people are essentially blind to what is happening around them. They cannot tell if the loud argument in the market is over the price of tomatoes or a threat of murder. And because in general we hire local Iraqis to surmount the language hurdle, Americans don't even know if they can trust their own interpreters. Equally important, Iraqis who want to share important information with an American patrol cannot unless there is an interpreter - a message as simple as "look behind the grade school" is impossible to convey in hand signals and pigeon English. How can average Iraqis help us secure the country if they can't speak to us?

Yet American forces in Iraq average only one or two interpreters per company (about 150 soldiers or Marines). When I was there on active duty last year, I worked in the department providing all American logistical and maintenance support for the nascent Iraqi armed forces. Our office had two Americans and 22 Iraqis - and not a single translator. At the various military bases we oversaw, conversation between American advisers and their Iraqi counterparts was catch-as-catch-can. And we were banned from hiring Iraqis on our own because we were told that one American contractor had a "sole source contract" with the Pentagon.

Why couldn't the contractor provide sufficient translators? While I never received an official explanation, I did get a pretty good hint: the translators we worked with told me they were getting about $400 a month for their services. This is clearly insufficient to encourage many Iraqis to risk their lives to help us. The American businesses in the region, like the oil contractors and even press organizations, paid much more.

Knowing the dauphin's own language "skills," I'm not all that surprised HE didn't think too much about this--but a $400 billion dollar operation like the Pentagon SHOULD.

I remember going to Morocco a number of years ago (um, ten, to be exact), and being as baffled by the language as you'd expect (though I did manage to communicate a bit--just a bit--in French, which is a second language to most Moroccans). Some of the Americans I was with, though, took the opposite tack, and had several long laughs about being able to say almost anything to anybody--in English--and get away with it.

In Iraq, the opposite situation--as Hammes notes--can be lethal.
Eloquence, Part II

Having a loss in my own family in the not so distant past--my father, who, incidentally, was a career military officer (22 years in the United States Navy. He was a pilot, who flew planes like the E-1 Tracer, the S-2 Tracker, and C-2 Greyhound. Following his military career, he continued to fly as a private pilot for a company here in Louisiana)...anyway, I can strongly relate to this latest post from Cindy Sheehan:

The most emotional thing for me though was walking through the main tent and seeing the huge painting on canvas of Casey. Many things hit me all at once: That this huge movement began because of Casey's sacrifice; thousands, if not millions of people know about Casey and how he lived his life and the wrongful way in which he was killed; but the thing that hit me the hardest was how much I miss him. I miss him more every day. It seems the void in my life grows as time goes on and I realize I am never going to see him again or hear his voice. (my italics).

It's not nearly the same for an adult to lose a parent, as opposed to a parent losing a child, but I know exactly what Cindy Sheehan means about never being able to see or hear someone ever again.

That said, there's the other side of the coin, namely, those small kids who will never see their parents--I've posted before about this, because that also hit kind of close to home: I remember quite well the times dad was called away for long hitches--although he always came back safe and sound, those were difficult times for our family. For kids who've lost a parent, I can't even imagine how tough that must be.

When blowhards--like Mark Williams--so casually bark about death (the whole "well, they KNEW what they were getting into when they elisted" crap), I really do begin a slow boil--not only because it's just plain callous, but it also demonstrates a remarkable ignorance of the modern military--where, like it or not, even basic infantry personnel are extensively trained. A death doesn't simply mean "put 'em in a box and bring up another." Specialists like my dad represent (or, in his case, represented), among other things, a substantial investment on the part of the military. Finally, they may be soldiers, but these are people as well--with families and friends...their loss isn't simply another number (the wingnut interpretation).

Cindy Sheehan, in her own way, makes that point with her words and deeds. She truly represents the best of the United States--and those who denigrate her, well, calling them wingnuts is really almost too kind.
Just Plain Nuts

Geez, the wingers lay it on so thick at times you've gotta wonder--in this case Mark Williams, Fox radio, um, whatever (of course):

Well, the pontifications of a self-serving Democrat political candidate notwithstanding, this tour is neither anti-Cindy Sheehan, nor is it pro-war. I have not spoken with a single individual in the last three years who is pro-war, nor anybody who is anti-Cindy Sheehan. What we are against is the damage she is causing. I just got back from Iraq, talking with the troops, talking with the Iraqis. And I see the damage that's done by pathetic creatures like the woman I'm talking to [Rowley] and Cindy Sheehan.


O'DONNELL: What specifically do you mean, Mark?

WILLIAMS: I'm about to get to that. When they get up there and they present this country as divided, as still arguing issues that were decided, debated, and voted on three years ago, that both demoralizes our troops and invigorates the insurgency. And it's no mistake that the lion's share of the violence is in and around Baghdad. That's where there are more Western news cameras per capita than probably any other city on the planet Earth. Where they see this kind of division, they use it as a fund-raiser and a recruiting tool.


ROWLEY: Mark, if you don't mind, you're making the case that Cindy Sheehan is hurting the morale of our troops?


WILLIAMS: She is aiding and abetting the enemies of this country and the people who killed her son.


WILLIAMS: Right now, Casey Sheehan is spinning in his grave.

Geez, you'd think Cindy Sheehan is eleven feet tall and spits bullets...oh, and as for Colleen Rowley, who's also on the receiving end of Williams's rant? Why, she's only one of many government employees who, unlike Mark's hero in the White House, actually tried to protect the country.

Had Team Bush bothered to do their jobs (instead of following Shrubya's lead by taking vacations), 9/11 might have been prevented. And, once again, we have someone who purportedly knows Casey Sheehan--or, his ghost--better than his own mom.

One more thing: the idea that the insurgency is relying on Cindy Sheehan to sow dissent in the United States doesn't even pass the laff test. Williams's head is so far up his ass on that one that he can see daylight.

And I'd like to know what Mark Williams has EVER done that could reasonably be construed as "service to his country" (court ordered community service doesn't count).
Late in the Day

As darkness begins to fall on Neoconia, there's a whole lot of barking, braying, gnashing of teeth, with the occasional pitiful yelp trying to masquerade as a growl (link is to the E&P story that y'all probably saw first at Eschaton).

But, Tbogg points out that the snarling cur who spat out the American Legion's new "position" is a little long--and weak--in the tooth:

That would be this Thomas Cadmus:

Thomas P. Cadmus of Ypsilanti, Mich. was elected National Commander of the 2.7 million-member American Legion on Sept. 2, 2004 in Nashville, Tenn. during the 86th National Convention of the nation's largest veterans organization.

Cadmus is a United States Army veteran where he served as an Armored Reconnaissance Specialist from 1965 to 1967. He left the Army as a Specialist 5th (E-5). During his time in the Army he was stationed at Fort Knox, Ky. and Munich, Germany.

Soooo...any lessons he learned about Vietnam during his two years of service he obviously learned from afar. Or, to put it another way:

Jane Fonda spent more time in Vietnam than Thomas Cadmus did.

Billmon proved, using the AL's own statements, that the organization--or at least the organization's leadership--is comprised of mere partisan hacks.

Partisan hacks, who, if they are to be believed, were also a bunch of wimps...wimps who got so demoralized by Jane Fonda that they ended up losing Vietnam.

Now the hacks--and their fellow denizens of Neoconia--want to blame the virtually non-existent anti-war movement for their failure in Mesopotamia. Hence, Casmus's yelp. No doubt recycled lies about soldiers getting spat on will froth to the surface, as they desperately look to pin blame on anyone--except for the nitwits who got us into the mess. Watch as the reason for going to war gets ever more garbled--already, here in the Gret Stet, rational discussion of the casus belli is virtually impossible--it's all "freedom" all the time, whatever that's supposed to mean--with a little residual flypaper theory thrown on top. And, when that doesn't work, they try to find someone they can hate.

Well, maybe it makes them feel better--but it can't undo what THEY'VE done. It's THEIR war, and it's THEIR loss, regardless of how much howling they engage in. And I'm not going to let them forget it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Dig Faster! Clap Harder!

The man with the $3,000 dollar Trek Fuel mountain bike--and a 747 and SUV to haul it around (how's THAT for "the common touch?")--boldly spoke about the Iraq war--after fleeing to Idaho:

President Bush says he has listened to but disagrees with Iraq war critics who want U.S. troops brought home immediately, saying to pull out now would hurt that country's fledgling democracy and the United States too.

Here's the "fledgling democracy" in action:

At least four people have been killed as supporters of radical cleric Moqtada Sadr and a rival Shia group clashed in the holy Iraqi city of Najaf.
Violence was said to have flared when Mr Sadr's Mehdi Army re-opened offices near Najaf's Imam Ali shrine.

Iraq's transport minister and a number of MPs were reported to have suspended their membership of Iraq's cabinet in protest at events in Najaf.

Mr Sadr's followers staged two revolts against US troops in 2004.

Note that it was Sadrists who killed Cindy Sheehan's son in 2004--and, if I remember right, at one time Moqtada was yet another one Shrubelroy wanted "dead or alive."

You know, come to think of it, being wanted "dead or alive" by Shrubusto must be the pinnacle of any aspiring fundamentalist Islamic nutjob...being as how not a single one on THAT list ever gets frog-marched, much less taken out (then again, "taken out" has so MANY meanings, according to the Christian variety of nutjob--I dunno, maybe it means "taken out" to a nice restaurant for a decent meal).

Anyway, Sadr is now at least nominally an ally--but evidently not exactly addicted to democracy (even as Bush, to cite Digby again, is behaving as if HE'S back on the sauce--and who knows what else, as he continues to evince zero understanding of anything remotely resembling reality...

Finally, Billmon, in his latest post, updated his penultimate one--SLOWLY pointing out, perhaps for the benefit of a few mouthbreathers, that what was deemed a "poignant" moment in the 2005 SOTU involving Janet Norwood and Safia Taleb al-Souhail turned out to--not surprisingly--to be just another empty gesture from Team Bush:

So, to drive the point of my last post home a little harder, let me summarize:

The White House propaganda maestros used an Iraqi women's rights activist as a living prop at Shrub's state of the union address earlier this year, whipping wing nut war hawks and media dingdongs alike into a frenzy of teary-eyed patriotism. They also arranged for her to stand immediately in front of the mother of a Marine killed in action in Iraq -- setting the scene for a "spontaneous" hug that reduced a national television audience to quivering lumps of sentimental jello and left Joe Klein spitting phlegm-coated bile at the Democratic Party.

Now, that very same activist is telling the world the Americans just sold her, and her Iraqi sisters, down the river to a bunch of medieval mullahs with Made-in-Tehran labels on the insides of their turbins.

Will her betrayal simply be pushed down the media memory hole with yesterday's garbage? Are we really that far gone?

Yeah, I remember Bobby Jindal as one of those smug asshole Reps proffering a purple finger...well, Mr. Jindal, why don't you take that finger and shove it (which, unlike the Iraqi elections, might actually accomplish something).
When Nutjobs Backtrack

Late Update: What does a nutjob do when he's called on his lies? Writes an apology, of course. I get the feeling Robertson won't "be available for interviews" over the next few days.

Ah, the ubearable lightness of Pat Robertson's, um, whatever substitutes for upper brain within his cranium. He now insists that he merely wanted US forces to engage in a non-lethal class 1 felony (kidnapping) re: Hugo Chavez...but, alas, the magic of videotape proves that "Rev." Robertson is nothing more than a bald-faced liar:

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson insisted Wednesday that he did not call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, despite comments broadcast on his program two days earlier.

"I didn't say 'assassination,'" Robertson said Wednesday on his Christian Broadcast Network show "The 700 Club" about remarks reported by The Associated Press and other media outlets.

"I said our special forces should 'take him out.' 'Take him out' could be a number of things including kidnapping.

"There are a number of ways of taking out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted by the AP, but that happens all the time."

But a video of Monday's telecast shows that Robertson's exact words were: "You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war, and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

The last sentence says it all: the oil made him do it.

Even more amazing, though, is something Digby noticed over at CNN--apparently one of the anchors attributed Robertson's vicious statement to the doctrine of "religious freedom," which has to make you wonder what sort of religion condones assassination...particularly when it's pretty obvious that Chavez's "crime" is that unfortunately Venezuela owns..."our" oil.

That fact must just drive Pat Robertson up the wall...that is, when he isn't yelling at neighborhood kids to get off his lawn.
Tipping Their Hat...

To the new constitution in Iraq, or maybe it's "meet the new boss, same as the old:"

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 24 - Insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles and hand grenades roamed the streets of western Baghdad in cars this morning, attacking police patrols in residential areas, an Interior Ministry official said.

Two policemen and three civilians were killed, the official said. Twenty-four civilians and seven policemen were wounded. Two insurgents were arrested and a third was killed.

"It was raining bullets," a police official in Baghdad told Reuters. He added that a dozen police vehicles had been sent in to try to evacuate forces, but had failed because of the onslaught.

Also today, the deputy justice minister, Awshoo Ibrahim, escaped an assassination attempt when gunmen fired on his convoy in Ghazaliya, west of the capital, killing four of his guards and wounding five.

The mass attack in Baghdad came a day after a suicide bomber killed at least seven people, including an American soldier and an American contractor, when he rushed into a heavily guarded compound in Baquba where officials coordinate emergency response efforts in the region.

You've gotta love how these days the casualty count is almost an afterthought--indeed, the suicide attack merits six paragraphs, in a style that could be referred to as "Associated Press Lite." Ho-hum, another body--for whom EVERYTHING, not just the war, is over.

I'll admit that I'm not a military strategist; however, it seems pretty obvious that Baghdad is both tactically and strategically important, it being the capital and largest city...the fact that gunbattles are breaking out makes me think that even Dick Cheney might have to modify his 'violent last throe' position...if you can't control the major city of the country you're "occupying," then all bets are off.

I think it's also pretty evident that any concern of the insurgents re: the new consititution is likely to be more related to its usefulness as scrap or toilet paper than anything approaching a set of founding principles. Which might be the REAL lesson absorbed by the Iraqis re: the US invasion. Indeed, we ran roughshod through the country early on, although the occupation has been about as effective as an umbrella in a hurricane. Still, I'm guessing enough Iraqis picked up on--or already held--the position that might makes right, or close enough, and have adopted this as a guide.

And Team Bush can do whatever the hell they want--bellow, bray, admonish...whatever...but at this point the iceberg has already done its damage--the constitution, and any elections are merely rearranging the deck chairs.
Almost Missed This

Like everyone else, I was wondering if Pat Robertson had gone off on a crystal meth binge with his chest thumping re: Hugo Chavez (I'll admit this--Pat's rant is a STRONG indicator of a distinctly UN-evolved individual, which perhaps explains his antipathy towards things Darwinian).

But taking one more look at the Post article I noticed this off-handed remark about Operation Soon to Be an Islamic Theocracy:

"We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator.

Which, amazingly, kind of sums up the whole sorry state of affairs.

I doubt Robertson fully understands the significance of his statement--I believe it's more akin to "a blind pig will stumble upon an acorn now and then." And, like most of the wrong-wing persuasion, he ignores the cost in lives literally shredded (US and Iraqi)...which once again makes ME wonder just exactly what sort of mail order operation ordained him.

But I'll give Pat one smidgen of credit--before I blast him yet again for being a vicious, batshit insane fuck. Rot in hell, "reverend."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Operation Iraqi Enron Memorial Park

From Dependable Renegade, here's the latest in chiseled granite fashion:

ARLINGTON, Va. - Unlike earlier wars, nearly all Arlington National Cemetery gravestones for troops killed in Iraq or Afghanistan are inscribed with the slogan-like operation names the Pentagon selected to promote public support for the conflicts.

Families of fallen soldiers and Marines are being told they have the option to have the government-furnished headstones engraved with "Operation Enduring Freedom" or "Operation Iraqi Freedom" at no extra charge, whether they are buried in Arlington or elsewhere. A mock-up shown to many families includes the operation names.

The vast majority of military gravestones from other eras are inscribed with just the basic, required information: name, rank, military branch, date of death and, if applicable, the war and foreign country in which the person served.

Families are supposed to have final approval over what goes on the tombstones. That hasn't always happened.

Nadia and Robert McCaffrey, whose son Patrick was killed in Iraq in June 2004, said "Operation Iraqi Freedom" ended up on his government-supplied headstone in Oceanside, Calif., without family approval.

"I was a little taken aback," Robert McCaffrey said, describing his reaction when he first saw the operation name on Patrick's tombstone. "They certainly didn't ask my wife; they didn't ask me." He said Patrick's widow told him she had not been asked either.

"In one way, I feel it's taking advantage to a small degree," McCaffrey said. "Patrick did not want to be there, that is a definite fact."

The owner of the company that has been making gravestones for Arlington and other national cemeteries for nearly two decades is uncomfortable, too.

"It just seems a little brazen that that's put on stones," said Jeff Martell, owner of Granite Industries of Vermont. "It seems like it might be connected to politics." long before we see something like "Stay the Course," or "Honor the Completing the Mission," etc. etc.?
The Dog Ate My Constitution

Maybe it's just me, but watching the tortured process (no pun intended) of producing the new Iraqi constitution--which may or may not be a written first draft, and might have been an English-to-Arabic-tanslation--somewhat undercutting the the notion of an august group of selfless framers working in the national interest hammering it out...anyway, I'm betting that the chaos, half-starts, and present text are as much a reflection of Shrubusto as anything: half-assed, slapped together, etc. etc. I'll bet that any number of college papers carrying the name of George W. Bush were equally cobbled together at the last possible moment (including the ones he no doubt farmed out and paid for with his allowance).

Billmon called some passages "borderline gibberish," citing this clause, "All persons are free within their ideology and the practice of their ideological practices," which sort of sounds like the constitutional equivalent of Luca Brasi's speech to Don Corleone--but that's all good for Mr. I'll-Take-Three-More-Weeks-Off even as the military continues to stop-loss folks with a much better concept of "hard work."

The dauphin also took time to argue that antiwar advocates want to weaken the United States--as if his war in Iraq has somehow managed to strengthen us. And it fell to Rummy to deliver the sober news: don't expect THIS round of "light at the end of the tunnel turning the corner" to amount to much of anything in terms of the slow, steady toll of casualties...which has to make you wonder just what the hell it's supposed to be all about at this point.

In the midst of all this you've got Georges Bush and Allen comparing Iraq to Normandy during WWII, while the old "moral equivalent of our founding fathers" statements were pulled out of Centrals American and Asian mothballs by Condi Rice in trying to salvage some sort of passable grade on the whole sorry operation...

Yep--sounds exactly like what you'd expect from this George Bush, based on his entire life history, that is, one slip-shod job after another...

But who's there to bail him out this time?
X'tian Values

"X" as in rub out--so says "good Christian" Pat Robertson, as reported yesterday at Media Matters and by Atrios (so you've probably seen it)--and now by mainstream media like CNN and the NY Times.

To be fair, both news orgs point to other, equally batshit insane rantings from the televangelist (and I can report my own observations of the televised Robertson engaged in charlatan "faith healing," claiming to cure everything from bursitis to cancer--what a NUTJOB). So perhaps this latest episode is, to use a term I'm sure he's familiar with, par for the course (though god only knows--no pun intended--what sort of course we're talking about):

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested on-air that American operatives assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to stop his country from becoming "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."

Well, Pat managed to get both bogeymen in, although I find it amusing--but not in a good way--that he'd conflate two diametrically opposed social movements.

The Times, ever tactful, made oblique reference to the US backed 2002 attempted coup, noting that Robertson "accused the US of failing to act," which, if nothing else, proves that whatever "god" is supposedly speaking to him tends to omit certain facts.

Both articles point to other bizarre statements, like Pat's fervent wish for a nuclear bomb to blast the State Department to kingdom come, or his belief that feminism is the gateway to infanticide, witchcraft, socialism, and lesbianism (once again, cornering the market there). CNN makes-do with accusations of friendship with Fidel Castro.

As for me, I'm beginning to think Robertson practices the wrong faith--with his desire to subvert democracy (whether or not one like Chavez, the fact is he WON national elections), his desire to kill people, his desire to blow things up...Robertson belongs with his good buddy Osama bin Laden out in a cave somewhere along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

I'm sure they'd enjoy each other's company.
The Persistence of Vacation

President Loafer--Billmon found this gem...not only can Vacationman fall off bicycles and go bass fishing in a single day--his unique powers allow him to take a break...from his break.

It's hard work.
"Hypocrites and Liars"

I was told about this last night by a friend of mine--it's an article from Cindy Sheehan (complete coverage at Truthout can be found here):

The media are wrong. The people who have come out to Camp Casey to help coordinate the press and events with me are not putting words in my mouth, they are taking words out of my mouth. I have been known for sometime as a person who speaks the truth and speaks it strongly. I have always called a liar a liar and a hypocrite a hypocrite. Now I am urged to use softer language to appeal to a wider audience. Why do my friends at Camp Casey think they are there? Why did such a big movement occur from such a small action on August 6, 2005?...

Contrary to what the main stream media thinks, I did not just fall off a pumpkin truck in Crawford, Tx. on that scorchingly hot day two weeks ago. I have been writing, speaking, testifying in front of Congressional committees, lobbying Congress, and doing interviews for over a year now. I have been pretty well known in the progressive, peace community and I had many, many supporters before I even left California. The people who supported me did so because they know that I uncompromisingly tell the truth about this war. I have stood up and said: "My son died for NOTHING, and George Bush and his evil cabal and their reckless policies killed him. My son was sent to fight in a war that had no basis in reality and was killed for it." I have never said "pretty please" or "thank you." I have never said anything wishy-washy like he uses "Patriotic Rhetoric." I say my son died for LIES. George Bush LIED to us and he knew he was LYING. The Downing Street Memos dated 23 July, 2002 prove that he knew that Saddam didn't have WMD's or any ties to Al Qaeda. I believe that George lied and he knew he was lying. He didn't use patriotic rhetoric. He lied and made us afraid of ghosts that weren't there. Now he is using patriotic rhetoric to keep the US military presence in Iraq: Patriotic rhetoric that is based on greed and nothing else.

Now I am being vilified and dragged through the mud by the righties and so-called "fair and balanced" main stream media who are afraid of the truth and can't face someone who tells it by telling any truth of their own. Now they have to twist, distort, lie, and scrutinize anything I have ever said when they never scrutinize anything that George Bush said or is saying. Instead of asking George or Scotty McClellan if he will meet with me, why aren't they asking the questions they should have been asking all along: "Why are our young people fighting, dying, and killing in Iraq? What is this noble cause you are sending our young people to Iraq for? What do you hope to accomplish there? Why did you tell us there were WMD's and ties to Al Qaeda when you knew there weren't? Why did you lie to us? Why did you lie to the American people? Why did you lie to the world? Why are our nation's children still in harm's way and dying everyday when we all know you lied? Why do you continually say we have to "complete the mission" when you know damn well you have no idea what that mission is and you can change it at will like you change your cowboy shirts?"

Camp Casey has grown and prospered and survived all attacks and challenges because America is sick and tired of liars and hypocrites and we want the answers to the tough questions that I was the first to dare ask. THIS is George Bush's accountability moment and he is failing ... miserably. George Bush and his advisers seriously "misunderestimated" me when they thought they could intimidate me into leaving before I had the answers, or before the end of August. I can take anything they throw at me, or Camp Casey. If it shortens the war by a minute or saves one life, it is worth it. I think they seriously "misunderestimated" all mothers. I wonder if any of them had authentic mother-child relationships and if they are surprised that there are so many mothers in this country who are bear-like when it comes to wanting the truth and who want to make meaning of their child's needless and seemingly meaningless deaths?

The Camp Casey movement will not die until we have a genuine accounting of the truth and until our troops are brought home. Get used to it George, we are not going away.


Monday, August 22, 2005

Riding Off Into the Sunset
Slinking Away with His Tail Between His Legs

Crawford's village idiot ran off to a safe haven in Utah for yet another "stay the course" moment--which is pretty easy for him to say, given that neither he nor his has an ass on the firing line...

But, in what portends bad things for Vacation Man (able to fall off bicycles and go bass fishing in a single afternoon--but not face the reality of Camp Casey...), Utah is no longer Kansas anymore (link is photo-intensive for those with dial-up connections):

Oddly, Mr. Bush faced war protests in Utah, where he took 71 percent of the vote in his 2004 re-election race, making it the reddest of Republican-red states. But Salt Lake's mayor, Ross C. Anderson, a Democrat, organized a protest in a park near the V.F.W. convention, calling on people who oppose Mr. Bush's Iraq and environmental policies to gather around him.

Mr. Anderson, in an interview on CNN, called the president's policy in Iraq "just a disaster" and said that the war there - begun in a quest for weapons of mass destruction that did not exist - had "created more enemies" for the United States.

Celeste Zappala of Philadelphia, the mother of a National Guardsman killed in Iraq, was at the protest, telling a Reuters reporter, "We all know that noble cause for war that Bush talks about has changed several times." Ms. Zappala is a founding member of the antiwar group Gold Star Mothers for Peace. Its most prominent member is Cindy Sheehan of California, who gained wide notice by camping outside the president's ranch with a growing coterie of war protesters until last week, when she returned home after her mother suffered a stroke.

Television images of the Salt Lake City protest showed a quiet, orderly protest. The Associated Press estimated the turnout at 400 or 500. A spokesman for Gold Star Mothers said the turnout was closer to 1,000.

There's also this notation from the Times re: Shrubya's speech:

Mr. Bush recited the latest toll of United States dead. "We have lost 1,864 members of our armed forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom," he said.

Must've taken him a long time to count that high.

No word on whether or not Cheney took him out for an ice cream treat afterwords.
But...There's a Constitution!...

Or, at least there will be, according to a red banner atop CNN's website. However, judging from this article, there's at least one city--and several more like it--that will dismiss ANY constitution as a mere scrap of paper. And, guess what? There ain't a damn thing we can do about it:

A three-hour drive north from Baghdad, under the nose of an American base, it is a miniature Taliban-like state. Insurgents decide who lives and dies, which salaries get paid, what people wear, what they watch and listen to.

Haditha exposes the limitations of the Iraqi state and US power on the day when the political process is supposed to make a great leap - a draft constitution finalised and approved by midnight tonight.

For politicians and diplomats in Baghdad's fortified green zone the constitution is a means to stabilise Iraq and woo Sunni Arabs away from the rebellion. For Haditha, 140 miles north-west of the capital, whether a draft is agreed is irrelevant. Residents already have a set of laws and rules promulgated by insurgents.

Some of the "laws" promulgated by the insurgent mix of Ansar al-Sunna and Tawhid al-Jihad must have Team Bush literally oozing with envy: morning executions at the Haqlania bridge (the town entrance), floggings, breaking of arms--you know, the standard fundie stuff (fundie as in "fundamentalist wingnut")--why, it's a veritable cornucopia of Old Testamentism--or at least those elements of Old Testament that share common ground with nutjob interpretation Koranic equivalents.

US forces have periodically swept the area; however, insurgents simply disappear until they inevitably leave. And Haditha isn't the only town under their control--other towns in Anbar province with a significant if not dominant insurgent presence are Qaim, Rawa, Anna and Ramadi.

The article goes on to note that the operative tactic right now is to simply wait the US out--while establishing a certain sense of, um, order, as brutal as it is. Sadly, the article notes that children seem to enjoy the vicious spectacle of public punishments, including beheadings, that not only are carried out in public, but are also avaiable on DVD (the story also suggests that city residents tolerate this sort of monopoly of violence because they find it preferable to violent chaos--and perhaps also because, also unlike the rest of Iraq, electricity is available 24 hours a day).

Haditha is, in a manner of speaking, the fruit of Team Bush's, um, I was going to say labor in Iraq, though I don't actually see Shrubya doing any heavy lifting...anyway, you know what I mean.

Hat tip to Rising Hegemon for the link.
Does This Mean We're Screwed?

Greenboy notes a joke making the rounds:

From an email making the rounds (thanks to Game Buddy):

How many members of the Bush Administration are needed
to replace a light bulb?

The Answer is TEN...

1. One to deny that a light bulb needs to be changed,

2. One to attack the patriotism of anyone who says the
light bulb needs to be changed,

3. One to blame Clinton for burning out the light

4. One to tell the nations of the world that they are
either for changing the light bulb or for eternal darkness,

5. One to give a billion dollar no-bid contract to
Halliburton for the new light bulb,

6. One to arrange a photograph of Bush, dressed as a
janitor, standing on a step ladder under the banner "Bulb Accomplished",

7. One administration insider to resign and in detail
reveal how Bush was literally "in the dark" the whole time,

8. One to viciously smear #7,

9. One surrogate to campaign on TV and at rallies on
how George Bush has had a strong light-bulb-changing policy all along,

10. And finally, one to confuse Americans about the
difference between screwing a light bulb and screwing the country.

Hehe - I think they forgot one: "One to denounce light bulb screwing as a threat to the American family"
Grasping at Straws

Well, Shrubya must be feeling a little on the down and outs--because, as he usually does when prone to what substitutes for introspection in the summery, blast-furnace air contained in his cranium, he called upon the vision of 9/11 to grant him strength...or, more precisely, to stifle any nagging doubts in the public regarding Operation "Those Weapons of Mass Destruction Have Got to be Here Somewhere--yuk, yuk."

Bush plans to follow up with yet another rousing death cheer, stopping off in Idaho and Utah this week to "articulate" the, um...stay the course. Because it's clear now to all with more than a few functioning brain cells and neurons that what Team Bush calls a "plan" is actually "hope." And "hope" is not a plan.

Dauphin Dimwit will be desperately pressing the easy button this week, while the slime machine continues to do the dirty work, but reality--so disdained by the cloud-god worshippers occupying the White House--continues to rear an exceptionally ugly head over the most visible part of BushVision, namely, the perfect storm in Mesopotamia.

Billmon, citing Juan Cole and others, has two posts up regarding the impending mini-me Iranian-style Islamic Republic...ok, it won't be an exact clone, but it's starting to look a LOT more "Islamic" than Shi'a Lite, particularly in regards to women's rights--which, as you might expect, are of little concern to the Bush cabal (duh--they nominated John Roberts for the S.C.), even if they used THAT as--oh, I forget, excuse number 33(?) for invading the country (for the record, Team Bush is equally willing to throw women to the wolves--almost literally--in their other neocon project over in Afghanistan). The US soldier death count continues to steadily rise, and last week Robert Fisk put some definitive numbers on the Iraqi toll, at least for one month--1,100 in Baghdad alone...which means the cost to Iraqis might well be higher than some tend to estimate.

When not embracing Islam, by the way, certain elements in Iraq have adopted methods that remind people of...Saddam Hussein--which should be about as surprising to anyone as seeing the sun rise in eastern skies each morning. And, lest there be any doubt that Project Iraq is utterly FUBAR, the undead corpse of Henry Kissinger managed to bang out a smug little op-ed this weekend--well, smug regarding his own "accomplishments" back in the day, but decidedly pessimistic when it comes to figuring out a graceful exit from the desert.

Finally, Oyster has a superb post up along somewhat similar lines, but he goes on the note the NECESSITY of DISCUSSING exactly why it is that we are in such a mess--and I think that's a good idea.

Almost from the moment it became clear that the aircraft carrier stunt--and the associated "bring 'em on" crack--were co-equals in being literally off the scale in a measure of stupidity, there have been those (see Oyster's post) who've argued that the bull is out of the barn, as it were, and that's that. True, but IGNORING the numbnuts who opened the barn door--while THEY, on the other hand, go out of the way to slime anyone and everyone who thinks we might want to wait before bestowing honors and privileges upon them--make it quite clear that a discussion is a good idea. And since they see nothing wrong with playing hard ball, then maybe we should do the same.

Besides--it's NOT too much to ask for a genuine plan regarding Iraq. Same with bin Laden. Same with Afghanistan. Same with the economy. And let's not confuse leading with cheerleading.

Hope is not a plan.