Saturday, January 08, 2005
Lyric of the Day
As a matter of a fact, I foresee it
But only pimpin' hoes with the big tush
While you be left pimpin' Barbara Bush
"Rethinking" tactics (updated)
Julian Borger reports in the Guardian—
A retired four-star general, Gary Luck, is due to arrive in Iraq next week to conduct an "open-ended" rethink of tactics, troop levels and the training of Iraqi forces, reflecting growing concern in Washington over the resilience of the Iraqi insurgency.
"He will have a very wide canvas to draw on," Lawrence Di Rita, the Pentagon spokesman, told journalists. General Luck is due to report to the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, within a month.
NPR this morning ["Senate Panel Seeks Answers on Iraq Security Training"] quoted Senator Jack Reed as saying "sending an assessment team to Iraq is the kind of thing you do when you don't know what else to do." Certainly we may take the mission as an admission that the present tactics, troop levels and training of Iraqi forces are not going as the administration would like. But I find Sen. Reed's assessment of the meaning of the mission hard to accept.
I am reluctant to believe that this exercise represents anything that might qualify as an "open-ended rethink." There is nothing to suggest that anyone in this administration—least of all Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld—is willing to listen to anything other than the voices in their heads. It would be out of character for these guys to be soliciting advice.
Instead, I believe it signals that they've already hatched a scheme for which they will need cover. It is Gen. Luke's job to provide it.
"What you're beginning to see is an assessment of how to make sure our policy dovetails with the elections in the post-election period1
"And that's precisely why the assessment team is going to Iraq: to make sure that, at this historic moment in the history of Iraq, there is a focused, determined strategy to help the new government to stand up the forces necessary to defend themselves."
When we analyze the statements of this administration, we must throw out considerations of syntax and simply look at the words themselves, in isolation. So let's see what, if anything, we can do.
The U.S. has already augmented troop levels for what it says is an anticipation of increased pre-election violence, but not nearly to the strength advocated by either General Shinseki before the war or by Senator McCain currently. It is an increase of only 12,000 troops.
The truth is that the increase in troop levels has precious little to do with the elections. The fiction that this is all about the elections gives the public the impression that there is some near-term goal in sight, which in turn allows the administration to increase troop levels without a great deal of public outcry. The election fiction also allows Bush to blather on about how the insurgents resent our "freedom."
Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post wrote of the troop increase over a month ago—
"The purpose is mainly to provide security for the elections, but it's also to keep up the pressure on the insurgency," Army Brig. Gen. David Rodriguez, deputy director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon briefing.
Other military experts, however, said the escalation reflects the more intense nature of the war after the U.S.-led assault on the rebellious Sunni city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad.
"The ferocity with which the war is being waged by both sides is escalating," said Jeffrey White, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who is now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "It is not just that the number of incidents are increasing. The war looks to be changing in character."
Retired Army Col. Ralph Hallenbeck, who worked in Iraq with the U.S. occupation authority last year, said he is worried that the move represents a setback for the basic U.S. strategy of placing a greater burden on Iraqi security forces to control the country and deal with the insurgency. "I fear that it signals a re-Americanization2 . . . of our strategy in Iraq," he said.
Some observers said the latest announcement indicates that the Pentagon is recognizing just how long the effort in Iraq may take. "This announcement makes it clear that commanders in Iraq need more troops and that this will be a long and very expensive process for the United States," said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a member of the Armed Services Committee who recently returned from a visit to Iraq.
Reed, who served in the Army with the 82nd Airborne, also said in an interview that it is becoming increasingly clear that Iraqi forces will not be capable of taking over from U.S. forces for five to 10 years. [emphasis added]
The neoconservative strategy in invading Iraq has been unswerving—
- the acquisition of the Iraqi oil fields for American oil companies and the prevention of said oil fields from falling into the hands of the French and Russians.
- the protection and advancement of Israel and Israeli interests
- showcasing of the benefits of unrestrained capitalism, which were expected to be a boon to the non-energy sectors of the U.S. economy.
- further destabilization of the Middle East, with the U.S. military ensconced at the heart of it.
Saddam Hussein's oil agreements with France and Russia not only would have been a strategic gain for those countries but would have further weakened the U.S. energy position by denominating oil purchases in currencies other than the dollar. Meanwhile, reports continue to trickle in that as the war rages in the populated areas, petrogeologists are going merrily about their work of testing the Iraqi oil fields.
These are the matters that are driving this war, and any tactical shifts will have to flow from them. So far there is no indication that the strategy is being "rethought."
What have been our tactics so far? Militarily, they have consisted of "shock and awe" bombings, recently repeated in Fallujah, search and destroy missions, intimidation of the population, torture, and propaganda.
The plan to reconstruct the Iraqi army and turn security over to them, as noted by Sen. Reed above, is "five to ten years away."
According to the Guardian,
One of the key issues General Luck will address is the training of Iraqi forces. They represent the key to the US exit strategy, but their numbers and performance so far have disappointed some American commanders. Just over 120,000 Iraqi troops and police have been trained. The target is 273,000.
But this morning's NPR piece ends by noting that there are now 9500 in the Iraqi army. I have no idea how to reconcile these numbers, but 9500 seems more likely to approach the truth of the current situation.
Reconstruction and elections were supposed to pacify the population. Reconstruction is clearly impossible, and it will shortly be seen that elections are impossible as well.
A senior US officer in Baghdad warned yesterday that the violence could worsen dramatically, with the possibility of "spectacular" attacks in the days before the election.
Brigadier General Erv Lessel was quoted by Associated Press as saying: "I think a worst case is where they have a series of horrific attacks that cause mass casualties in some spectacular fashion in the days leading up to the elections."
Notice that both officers speak of the days before the election. Perhaps they do not dare speak of election day, January 30. There may be a shortage of poll workers.
My own conclusion, for what it's worth, is this: The administration knows that the violence will not end with the elections—if they're held, that is—and that additional troops are going to be needed into the foreseeable future if the neocon strategy is to be pursued. Somehow this has to be made palatable to the public.
That's where General Luck comes in. Luck will return with his report, which the administration will declare to be "sobering." The report will have two essential conclusions—(1) that more troops are needed and (2) that far more time will be needed to train the Iraqi security forces than had been anticipated, which is to say that American forces will have to stay longer than planned.
Armed with this new "intelligence," the Congress will be asked to increase the size of the army. Who knows? They may even be asked to reinstitute the draft.
Michael Hirsh and John Barry of Newsweek are reporting that Rumsfeld is considering the "Salvadoran" option: death squads—
Following that model, one Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with the discussions. It remains unclear, however, whether this would be a policy of assassination or so-called "snatch" operations, in which the targets are sent to secret facilities for interrogation. The current thinking is that while U.S. Special Forces would lead operations in, say, Syria, activities inside Iraq itself would be carried out by Iraqi paramilitaries, officials tell Newsweek.
U.S. assumptions continue to be dashed on the I-rock of reality (12/23/04)
Iraqi insurgents couldn't wait this time (1/5/05)
1 The President has picked up, probably from his dad, the odd notion that when his mouth is moving he is having a thought. I defy all comers to make sense of the phrase "our policy dovetails with the elections in the post-election period." [back]
Friday, January 07, 2005
Statistic of the Day
—The Economist, on English Quebeckers
U.S. anti-U.N. aid bloc to dissolve
Victor Mallet, Hugh Williamson, and Dan Dombey write in the Financial Times—
The “core group” of nations announced by US President George W. Bush to channel aid to victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami will be dissolved on Thursday after only eight days as the United Nations takes control of the international relief effort, delegates to a donors summit said on Wednesday.
Mr Bush’s initiative on December 29 - which at first included only the US, India, Japan and Australia - appeared to have been prompted by an accusation by Jan Egeland, the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, that the US was “stingy”. The UN was included the next day after Mr Bush was criticised for sidelining the UN in a rescue operation involving dozens of countries.
Whatever caused them to see the light is not clear. Pressure from Blair? But the official statements are delightfully lame—
Koji Tsuruoka, a senior official at the Japanese foreign ministry, said the core group would “cease to exist” following the Jakarta summit. “Having accomplished the task they imposed on themselves, it will just evaporate and become part of the overall international effort,” he said.
UN officials and Washington’s allies have tried to avoid public criticism of the core group during its short life, and Mr Tsuruoka insisted the group had been “innovative” and “very effective” in mobilising aid.
The task they apparently imposed on themselves was to appear to be assholes, so it is all to the good if they "cease to exist" and "evaporate"—actions that should be deemed "innovative" and "very effective."
U.S. tsunami response—Simply disgusting (1/1/05)
A point of American history
SIR – It is incorrect to point at the use of the word “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence and say that “the place of religion in the public sphere has never been fixed” (“A hot line to heaven”, December 18th). America's founders attempted to establish a firm divide between religion and government. Evidence comes from Article 11 of the 1797 Tripoli treaty, which reads “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” When you consider that this was included in the treaty to dispel fears of a war arising from religious differences between America and Muslim nations, the actions and opinions of George Bush and his religious, war-hawking, hyper-patriotic supporters seem eerily ironic.
Graffito of the Day
—Letter to the editor, The Economist
This was brought to mind as I read Neil Western's "Tsunami conspiracy theorists come out" in Australia's News Interactive. He opens with—
Just 11 days after Asia's tsunami disaster, conspiracy theorists are out in force, accusing governments of a cover-up, blaming the military for testing top-secret eco-weapons or aliens trying to correct the Earth's "wobbly" rotation.
In bars and Internet chat rooms around the world questions are being asked, with knowing nods and winks, about who caused the undersea earthquake off Sumatra on December 26, and why governments did not act in the minutes and hours before tsunamis slammed into their shores, killing almost 150,000.
Note the conflation of a speculation ("who caused the undersea earthquake off Sumatra") with a legitimate question ("why governments did not act in the minutes and hours before tsunamis slammed into their shores"), thereby making the question seem somehow beneath the reader's consideration. Indeed, if there are "knowing nods and winks," they are from Mr. Western to his readers.
While filling the rest of the article with a denunciation of the view that the earthquake was manmade, Western gives only three paragraphs to the question of U.S. government accountability—
The Free Internet Press, which claims to offer "uncensored news for real people", has an article saying the US military and the US State Department received advanced warning of the tsunami, but did little to warn Asian countries.
America's Navy base on the Indian Ocean jungle atoll of Diego Garcia was notified and escaped unscathed, it said, asking "why were fishermen in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand not provided with the same warnings?".
"Why did the US State Department remain mum on the existence of an impending catastrophe?," author Michel Chossudovsky pondered.
"Probably because fishermen in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand don't have multimillion dollar communications equipment handy," one respondent said as readers posted angry replies.1
The post by Michel Chossudovsky to which Western alludes is at the Canadian site, Centre for Research on Globalisation. Chossudovsky provides a timeline, copies of NOAA bulletins, some excellent maps and reasonable questions. Senator Snowe of Maine, unknown until now as a conspiracy theorist, has also proposed some questions of her own.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
Psychiatrist deluded at Andrea Yates' trial
The prosecution featured the testimony of Dr. Park Dietz. According to Ruth Rendon of the Houston Chronicle—
Dietz ... told the jury he had served as a consultant on an episode of the television drama Law & Order in which a woman drowned her children in the bathtub and was judged insane. He testified the show aired shortly before Yates drowned her five young children.
Well, it turns out no such show was ever produced. Apparently the fact was discovered during jury deliberations and "both sides agreed to tell jurors that Dietz had erred in his testimony and to disregard that portion of his account." A Texas appellate court has decided that wasn't good enough, reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial.
Dietz later said he had confused the show with others and wrote a letter to prosecutors, saying, "I do not believe that watching Law & Order played any causal role in Mrs. Yates' drowning of her children."
The defense attorney is said to be "stunned," not by the delusional psychiatrist but by the reversal.
Cutting Social Security
[T]he Wall Street Journal runs a memo from Bush's director of strategic initiatives to conservative allies outlining how private investment accounts must be accompanied by benefit cuts, and emphasizing, "the current system is heading for an iceberg." The scope of the distribution, and whether the White House wanted the memo to get out, are unclear. [emphasis added]I would go for the WSJ article, but I don't link to sites that don't offer free registration.
Hot air fails to rise at CNN
The bow-tied wearing conservative pundit [Tucker Carlson] got into a public tussle last fall with comic Jon Stewart, who has been critical of cable political programs that devolve into shoutfests.
"I guess I come down more firmly in the Jon Stewart camp," Klein told The Associated Press.
Jonathan Klein is CNN's new chief executive of CNN's U.S. network, so his opinion counts.
Now if we can just get Tucker Carlson off PBS... but that may be more difficult since Tucker enjoys the advantages of nepotism in that system.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Iraqi insurgents couldn't wait this time
Matt Spetalnick of Reuters has reported—
A suicide car bomber has killed at least 13 people1 at an Iraqi police academy....
So far as I'm aware, until this bombing the insurgents have waited until the Iraqi police trainees could don their uniforms and go on their first patrol, or stood in line to pick up their first paychecks. This is a "preemptive strike."
The targeting of a police training site again showed the vulnerability of Iraq's new security branches, which have gained a reputation for ineffectiveness even as they undergo crash training to take over eventually from American-led forces.
This attack mirrors the killing of U.S. troops in the mess tent in Mosul and takes the demonstration of the might of the insurgency a step further. If neither the Iraqi nor the American forces are safe within their own compounds, how hopeless must it be on the streets?
Spetalnick devotes most of his article to the question of whether the elections will be held January 30. This is buried in the article—
In a fresh sign of divisions over the election, Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar, the government's senior Sunni official, urged the United Nations on Tuesday to look into whether the country should hold the polls as scheduled. [emphasis added]
This election is, after all, under the auspices of the U.N, even while Kofi Annan has stood up to the U.S. and refused to send in more election workers. This could be the diplomatic "out" for the Evil Trinity of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush, if they only had the sense to take it.
David Jackson of the Dallas Morning News also picks up on al-Yawar's statement—
In calling for a U.N. review of the Jan. 30 date, Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar told Reuters: "Definitely the United Nations, as an independent umbrella of legitimacy ... should really take the responsibility by seeing whether that is possible or not."
In a Dec. 28 column in The Washington Post, Iraq's U.N. ambassador Samir S.M. Sumaidaie said "to hold elections under current circumstances, when a sizable part of the country is not secure, just for the sake of voting, would produce a disproportionate and non-representative national assembly."
"Far from stabilizing the country," he added, "this could be a recipe for a greater rebellion."
Borzou Daragahi and Robert Collier in today's San Francisco Chronicle write—
Many U.S. analysts agree that the administration is likely to pressure the Iraqi government to go ahead with the scheduled vote.
"There really is no Plan B," said Loren Thompson, an analyst with the Lexington Institute, a think tank in Arlington, Va. Thompson said that because of the departure of many of the administration's top Iraq policy officials during the transition to Bush's second term, "the only ones left really driving Iraq policy are Bush, (Vice President Dick) Cheney and (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld, and their point of view is identical. They are sticking with the election come hell or high water." [emphasis added]
There has never been a "Plan B." Ideologues—one of them God-crazed and all of them so convinced of U.S. omnipotence that they would be certifiable in a sane world—do not require a Plan B.
In those countries, McDonald said, "There was violence, intimidation, efforts to dumb down the vote, long lines and people being turned away from the polls.2 But in Iraq you could die if you vote. I haven't seen anything like this anywhere."
1 Google provided a bizarre illustration of the situation in Iraq. I searched for the opening line of this article "A suicide car bomber has killed at least 13 people" and immediately matched the phrase. But the quote was from an AFP article of December 13: "A suicide car bomber killed at least 13 people in Baghdad today." It's enough to give you triskaidekaphobia. [back]
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Prove me wrong, Barbara!
William Pitt of TruthOut.com writes [see "Re: Tubbs-Jones and Boxer"],
After a series of telephone calls, the aforementioned story regarding Tubbs-Jones and Boxer stands just about where you'd figure. Senator Boxer is definitely considering offering a challenge to the Electors. If she actually decides to do so, however, she won't break cover until Thursday. That is, frankly, wise. To do otherwise would be calling down the thunder on herself and her staffers.
I couldn't get anyone to go on the record to confirm Lytel's statement that Rep. Tubbs-Jones can get Boxer to stand up just by asking her to do so. At the end of things here, Lytel's claim last night (which I am told he has repeated to a number of other blogs) is just going to hang out there in space until it is proven true or false.
Nevertheless, hope springs eternal and I will grasp at any straw. If we can get an election challenge, the media, both national and international, will be forced to take a long, hard look at this election—perhaps the longest, hardest look an election has ever had.
Bush twins to display family values for inauguration
Patridiot asks its readers to urge Bill O'Reilly to launch another of his boycotts. But I fear that O'Reilly's recent brush with a loofah may have taken the hot air out of his moral sails.
The drug test: A new weapon for the bureaucrat?
Drug testing is another industry that, like prisons, continues to grow as rights are stripped from citizens by corporations for the benefit of corporations. It is a wonderful and guaranteed-to-be lucrative system. As the largest drug tester, OHS, Inc. brags, "DRUG TESTING EMPLOYEES in your workplace is our CORE business!" They also explain the necessity of drug testing with some "facts"—
- Today, just 'one' country - a country with only 'five' percent (5%) of the entire world's population - buys and consumes fully sixty percent (60%) of the entire world's supply of illicit drugs.
- That 'one' country is our United States.
- In the United States, 77% of all illicit drug users are EMPLOYED!
OHS provides some data on how extensive and costly the testing is—
During 2003, an estimated 55 million drug tests were performed in the United States on job applicants, existing employees who were randomly tested, employees who had or caused a workplace accident or injury, certain federal and state prisoners, certain parolees, recovering addicts, moms or dads who were drug tested by court-order as a result of child custody cases, et al. More than 90% of those 55 million drug tests were performed using urine specimens, not blood.
... [U]rine test cost probably averages $44. Hair specimen testing is about $115-$150 per test nationally.
Of the list of people being tested, you will note the omission of politicians1 and police officers. But a number of police are being tested, at least in Massachusetts.
An article in yesterday's Boston Globe points to a new weapon in the bureaucratic arsenal—the drug test. According to Benjamin Gedan,
The Somerville police union asserts that the police chief is punishing officers who criticize him by deciding when to send officers for mandatory drug tests rather than allow the outside laboratory to handle random testing.2
A union grievance and a threatened federal lawsuit are based on the contention that, to stifle dissent, Chief George F. McLean is interfering in drug testing, said Jim Hyde, union president.
The Chief has his comeback—
The testing is managed by the department's Office of Professional Standards, McLean said. Assertions that he is meddling are "union rhetoric," McLean said. "Their claims are completely false and unwarranted. It's a tool we use to keep officers safe from the perils of drugs."
Safety from the perils of drugs is apparently not uppermost in the minds of the rank and file of police—
Drug testing is often a contentious issue in collective bargaining, and in Boston, at least, it was imposed at a high cost. In 1998, Boston police patrolmen accepted a regular drug test in exchange for hefty incentives, including pay bonuses for college and advanced degrees, known as the Quinn Bill. In contrast, Brookline officers are not subject to drug tests because the issue has not been negotiated with the union, said Captain John O'Leary, a department spokesman.
The issue generates controversy in government, too. The federal government has been ordering urinalysis since 1988 for employees of the FBI, CIA, and other agencies. But a recent proposal to broaden testing to hair and saliva analysis drew 2,000 written comments and the issue is still under review, said Charles Lodico, a chemist at the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
All of this leads me to wonder how often the threat of a drug test is being used to keep dissenters in line throughout state and federal bureaucracies, not to mention corporations. Failing a drug test would not only imperil the dissenter's job, it would also be a very effective way of discrediting anything he or she might have to say. Is the situation in Somerville, Massachusetts, an aberration or the tip of the iceberg?
1 Any intrusion into privacy and personal rights as significant as drug testing should begin at the top. George Bush, a former cokehead, has been acting erratically ever since he took office. Isn't it time he be tested? [back]
Monday, January 03, 2005
Marijuana: Better than faith-healing
Angel McClary Raich "39-year-old mother of two teenagers, suffers from ... wasting syndrome, tumors in her uterus, endometriosis and other ailments." If that wasn't enough, "she started having seizures, and doctors found a deep brain tumor. Eventually she became partially paralyzed on one side." So she ended up in a wheelchair.
Mrs. Raich is also the subject of a case before the Supreme Court, Ashcroft v. Raich. The Feds are appealing the decision of the 9th Circuit Appellate Court (California, you know), which ordered the DEA to stop taking Mrs. Raich's marijuana plants from her patio and basically to leave her alone.
According to Evelyn Nieves of the Washington Post, Mrs. Raich's marijuana means a lot more to her than just getting high—
The more she smoked or inhaled, she said, the more sensations she began feeling. She could eat. She could move. Within a year and a half, she felt strong enough to learn how to walk again. After four years in a wheelchair, she put it away.
From a judicial viewpoint, the case is all about whether Federal law prohibiting marijuana use trumps California state law. But from a political viewpoint, this case could be a major unravelling of the "War on Drugs"—if the Supremes concur with the 9th Circuit, that is.
Mrs. Raich has already experienced one miracle. Let's hope she receives another at the hands of the Supreme Court.