“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Hawaii blogger calling it as he sees it. Comments from Doug.

A few days ago we did a two part post on the predicament the US faces in Iraq over Sadr and the Madi army.

Doug at Driveby ,who is a frequent commenter here and at the BC has a new blog and put up this post referring to the Newsweek article on Sadr. The Newsweek article is a superb piece and Doug comments on it. There is another post by Doug above and it is worthy of a read. We reprint Doug's post in its entirety:

..."In the winter of 2004, a senior adviser to Ambassador Paul Bremer, the American proconsul in Iraq, was traveling in the south, meeting with friendly clerics and community leaders.
"I could see how frightened they were of [Sadr] and his Mahdi Army," recalls the aide, Larry Diamond.
"I was driven past an area, a kind of compound where his black-clad army was training for the upcoming revolution to seize power and take over.

It just dawned on me that these people were going to make this place an authoritarian hell of a new sort, Taliban style, and would murder a lot of our allies in the process."

Diamond went to Bremer and gave him his assessment:
the United States urgently needed to act against Sadr. Bremer responded that he was waiting for a new plan from Coalition forces.
"I first wanted to go after him when he had probably fewer than 200 followers,"
Bremer recalled in an interview with NEWSWEEK last week.
"I couldn't make it happen ... the Marines were resisting doing anything."
But in the meantime, on March 28, 2004, Bremer suspended publication of Sadr's newspaper after it ran an editorial praising the 9/11 attacks on America as a "blessing from God."

The response was swift: mass demonstrations, which led to the first of two Sadr uprisings in 2004.
In a final meeting between Diamond and Bremer on April 1, Diamond pressed the point that the United States needed more troops in Iraq. It was around 8 p.m., and Bremer's dinner was sitting on a tray uneaten. He looked exhausted.
"And he just didn't want to hear it," says Diamond.
"In retrospect, I think he had gone to the well on this issue of more troops during 2003, had gotten nowhere ... and had just resigned himself to the fact that these troops just weren't going to come.
I think the tragedy is that everyone just gave up."...

In Washington, some politicians still talk about "victory," while others aim only to stabilize the country and leave with some semblance of dignity.
Many in the U.S. capital are dusting off yesterday's proposals for tomorrow's problems—more training, more troops, disarming the militias, more stability in Baghdad.

The GOP presidential front runner for 2008, John McCain, would prefer to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq by 20,000, at least temporarily. He has also called for Sadr to be "taken out." But it may be too late.The movement may now be more important than the man. Sadr "is faced with a common problem," says Toby Dodge of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. "He can't control the use of his brand name, the use of his legitimacy."

The Mahdi Army has other sources of cash. It's taken control of gas stations throughout large parts of Baghdad, and dominates the Shia trade in propane-gas canisters, which Iraqis use for cooking. Sometimes the militiamen sell the propane at a premium, earning healthy profits; at other times they sell it at well below market rates, earning gratitude from the poor and unemployed.A key source of Sadr's income is Muslim tithes—or khoms—collected at mosques. But his militiamen also run extortion and protection rackets—demanding money to keep certain businesses and individuals "safe." One Iraqi in a tough neighborhood, who did not want to reveal his name out of fear, says he pays the local Mahdi Army the equivalent of $13 a month for protection.
No one in Iraq talks about arresting Sadr for the murder of al-Khoei anymore. That seems like ages ago—back when Sadr's armed supporters were estimated in the hundreds, compared with many thousands today. Now diplomats speak of trying to keep Sadr inside the political system, hoping he can tame his followers.

Posted by Doug at 11:30 PM


  1. You need to consider getting a new hat.

  2. I've got my germainium crystal telegraph repeater up there, so no can do.

  3. Superb entry, Doug!

    Terrific read!

  4. Thanks, Tiger.
    I finally expressed my sadly delayed Kudos to you in the previous thread!
    Keep up the good work, the truth will out!

  5. here is the list of Rumsfeld's options that went out before he was fired:

    Specifics on his options checklist:

    _"Publicly announce a set of benchmarks agreed to by the Iraqi government and the U.S. ... to chart a path ahead for the Iraqi government and Iraqi people (to get them moving) and for the U.S. public (to reassure them that progress can and is being made)."

    _"Significantly increase U.S. trainers and embeds, and transfer more U.S. equipment to Iraqi security forces."

    _"Initiate a reverse embeds program ... by putting one or more Iraqi soldiers with every U.S. and possibly coalition squad."

    _Aggressively beef up Iraqi ministries by reaching out to U.S. military retirees and Reserve and National Guard volunteers.

    _Conduct an accelerated drawdown of U.S. bases, noting they have already been reduced from 110 to 55. "Plan to get down to 10 to 15 bases by April 2007, and to 5 bases by July 2007."

    _"Retain high-end ... capability ... to target al-Qaida, death squads, and Iranians in Iraq, while drawing down all other coalition forces, except those necessary to provide certain key enablers" for Iraqi forces.

    _Provide U.S. security forces "only for those provinces or cities that openly request U.S. help and that actively cooperate."

    _Stop rewarding "bad behavior" with reconstruction funds and start rewarding "good behavior."

    _"Position substantial U.S. forces near the Iranian and Syrian borders to reduce infiltration and, importantly, reduce Iranian influence on the Iraqi government."

    _Withdraw U.S. forces from vulnerable positions and move to a quick reaction force status, operating from within Iraq and Kuwait, to be available when Iraqi security forces need assistance.

    _"Begin modest withdrawals of U.S. and coalition forces (start `taking our hand off the cycle seat') so Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country."

  6. In Fallujah I it was definitely NOT the Marines that called it off:
    The Marine Commander in charge there was quite outspoken about how removed from reality a policy of attack, encircle, and prepare to kill the enemy then CALL IT OFF was!
    Somebody up the chain gave the order, along with many many others for FEAR OF WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN!

    Lincoln would have done his job and found someone who would fight, but then GWB is no Lincoln!

  7. Hu Dat? and Buddy Larsen are still in the Ball room at the Masquerade party . It is very funny

  8. I let them know you spoke with the landlord who agreed to allow the party to continue.

  9. You have to see
    tiger's post this morning. scroll down and look at the pictures if you are on info overload.

  10. CNN is reporting this. Pay attention to the last line on what I clipped. I'll be these guys wish they were being waterboarded...

    "RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- Saudi security officials said Saturday they foiled a planned terrorist suicide attack and arrested 139 suspected Islamist militants who were in "sleeper cells" believed to be affiliated with al Qaeda.

    A senior official in the Saudi Interior Ministry told CNN that the suspects, who are from several Arab nations, were monitored by Saudi security agents for several months. They rounded the men up just before the expected attack was launched.

    The suspects, arrested in different areas of Saudi Arabia, were being interrogated Saturday, the official said."..

  11. _"Significantly increase U.S. trainers and embeds, and transfer more U.S. equipment to Iraqi security forces."

    _"Initiate a reverse embeds program ... by putting one or more Iraqi soldiers with every U.S. and possibly coalition squad."

    For 43 months I have taken this position
    Drawing analogies to the KATUSA Program in Korea, speaking of techniques used in Central America and 'Nam.
    But these options were not taken seriously, Prejudging the Iraqi as incapable, untrustworthy and to dangerous for US to interact with.

    Thus at Camp Tanji, the site CounterInsurgency headquaters of the US Military the Iraqi and US troops were segregated, for US troops "safty". Force Protection taking the premier position over Victory. Senator Allen, in his debate with Mr Webb made this point of importance, strongly.

    I know the mantra for enlisted Marines is
    KILL the Haji
    Hear it from time to time when the crowd scenes from Iraq are on the TV and the Marine vet from Iraq is in the room.

    Not the best attitude for a trainer to have, a desire to kill the trainees.

    I do not know, but doubt that the embed training process can be accelerated, it normally takes a while to build the bonds of trust.
    Doubt we have the time required, now, but on that point I could be wrong.

    Catch and Release
    No Justice, No Peace.

  12. Worth it, whit?

    To empower Mr Maliki, Mr al-Sadr's frontman?
    Provide Iraq with a Demo-crazy?

    Mr Abdel Aziz Hakim, the SCIRI leader has gotten defacto control of the Southern provinces. The Parliment approved their forming a autonomous region, similar to that of the Jurds, in the north.

    "...SCIRI has thrown its weight behind a federated Iraq in which southern provinces are joined in a region similar to an autonomous Kurdish area in northern Iraq. Fearing isolation in the mostly desert center of the country, Sunni Arabs see federalism as a recipe for Iraq's breakup and suspect an Iranian hand.

    Federalism is enshrined in the constitution adopted in a referendum a year ago. Parliament this month agreed to allow creation of federal regions, empowering provincial councils elected in the next local polls to initiate such action, subject to the approval of voters.
    (26. October 2006).

    So before we can decide if the additional efforts are "worth it" we have to decide what the meaning of "it" is.

    Who is the Enemy?
    Where are they and why are they not dead or dying, today?

  13. 2164th quoted, "The suspects, arrested in different areas of Saudi Arabia, were being interrogated Saturday, the official said."

    Al-Qaeda has nothing to fear from the questioning of these men, all the deprivation they received at the hands of the Americans, like not getting their customary orange juice with their continental breakfast sometimes, has made them implacable towers of silence.

  14. If the objective is "Nation building" Iraq, at this point I'd vote "NO" it is not "worth it".

    If there is another objective, Mr Bush has never articulated it, regardless of the "Wink and Nods" that so many others thought were "signs from on high".

  15. The Democray Project has definately run aground.
    It's never a good sign for a country when the Prime Minister and most of his Cabinet members spend their days barricaded in an Ottoman-era compound. That's what Fouad Siniora and Lebanon's other top officials have done since Nov. 21, when gunmen assassinated Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel in broad daylight.

    Siniora's worries go beyond his personal safety. With Lebanon still trying to recover from last summer's 34-day war between Israel and the Shi'ite militant group Hizballah, the government has seen its authority undermined, renewed meddling from the country's neighbors and the growing assertiveness of Hizballah. Organized by Hizballah and its allies, about 800,000 protesters—a rather grand figure in a country of just 3.8 million—gathered in the center of Beirut last Friday to demand the resignation of Siniora. At the time, Lebanon's leader was in his barracks, surrounded by machine guns and barbed wire.
    from Time.

  16. Now Mr Fred Barnes tells us how Mr Bush can abstain from Lame Duck status.
    Moxie in the Executive
    1. Fire generals
    2. Keep John Bolton as American ambassador to the United Nations.
    3. Stop earmarks.
    4. Give judicial nominees recess appointments.
    5. Talk up the military option in Iran.
    6. Apply the Kennedy model to North Korea.
    7. Push a radical energy independence plan.
    8. A final gift to the world. As Bush is leaving office in January 2009, he could implement the military option and take out all of Iran's nuclear facilities

    To implement any or all of these 8 points, outlined more fully by Mr Barnes, would take more cajones than Mr Bush has displayed, of late. One can hope for a positive turn of events, but the trend lines indicate that no such turn is in the works.

  17. desert rat 11:51 am

    "To implement any or all of these 8 points, outlined more fully by Mr Barnes, would take more cajones than Mr Bush has displayed, of late. One can hope for a positive turn of events, but the trend lines indicate that no such turn is in the works."

    Unfortunately, I must agree... however, perhaps the past six years combined with the results of 2006 will disabuse the man of any illusion of being able to New Tone his way through the next two years...

    Thinking apprehensively, specifically WRT #8, if he waits until 2009, the mullahs might already have a few working fission devices on-hand... I vote for a strike much sooner... hell, if it needs doin', and I think it needs doin', then do it when it'll actually hurt'em... and since he'll be accused of playing politics by those Jedi Masters of playing politics (Dems), then he may as well time it for maximum effect WRT energizing the conservative base ahead of the next election cycle.

    Imagine how unpopular the Dems would become trying to anal probe the administration at the same time the CIC is actually conducting himself like the BigSwingingD (taking out Iran's nuke capacity).

  18. Triton,
    If Bush can say the Texas version of these words, he has a shot.

    .."Presume not that I am the thing I was;
    For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,
    That I have turn'd away my former self;
    So will I those that kept me company.
    When thou dost hear I am as I have been,
    Approach me, and thou shalt be as thou wast"...

  19. Woah - I'm with you Rufus but I didn't think I'd pick up these compatriots. Guess I've just been had by some prankster with more time on his/her hands than myself.

    Here's something more OT:

    Given the goals of what's been called 4th generation warfare, and that we can point to enemy capabilities specifically pursuing those goals, how do we distinguish between masterful propaganda and bad policy?

    These information techniques used against us really has me worried that were having our minds changed for us.

  20. I guess that was Kasparov's point - that we could not recognize a bad strategy.

  21. Well, rufus, what is it we've "won" and who is "we"?
    Mr al-Sadr and Mr Hakim, are they included in the "we"?
    If they are, then has not President Abracadbra won as well?
    If they are not, then how can Mr Maliki and the Iraqi Government be considered to have "won"? As those two Iraqi patriots are representitive of the major components of the UIA ruling coalition in Iraq.

    It seems you do not consider the Iraqi people to be part of "we", either

    Record number die in Iraq during November
    Associated Press

    BAGHDAD, Iraq — Gunmen shot and killed a television comedian today who was famous for mocking everyone from the Iraqi government to U.S. forces to Shiite militias to Sunni insurgents.

    Walid Hassan's slaying came as the Iraqi death toll rose to more than 1,300 for the first 20 days of November — the highest for any month since The Associated Press began tracking the figure in April 2005.
    The Iraqi death toll this month is already well above the 1,216 who died in all of October, which had been the deadliest month in Iraq since the AP began its count.

    So it must be obvious that the Haji do not count in your calculations, and you must consider Force Protection as the military's prime mission in Iraq, as that is your benchmark of Victory, aye?

  22. If we remember the Iraqi comparison factor, 12, then let US compare.

    1,300 X 12 = 15,300 or almost four times the US 9-11 casualties. In a month.

    Heck of a victory parade, all the way to the cemetary.

  23. What is thee number, rufus, of dead insurgents?

  24. Was that dead family, the daughter raped, killed and entire family butchered by GIs considered "civilian or insurgent"?

    How about those 20 some killed in Hadithia by the Marines, "Insurgent or Civilian", in your book?

    The Insurgents have been deIraqisized? No longer Iraqis?

  25. It is not "Peaceful" what a load of shit that staement is.

    Again how many Insurgents does Brookings say died in November. You did not link to it. so I wonder?

  26. Were those killed, Insurgents or Civilians, that is the question. There is no doubt they were killed.

    They could well have been Civilians killed in a justifiable crossfire, so no Marine is convicted by me. But again were those folk civilian or insurgent?

    I hear all the time about the Israeli "factor" how small a country it is and how casualties there must be seen in the "larger context" of their smaller base.
    You mean to tell me that we should not "factor" for Iraq but only for Israel? Does not seem fair or equitable, to not use the same measures of comparison.

    I looked to Brookings, ran the search, they do not have the numbers of Insurgents compared to Civilians available, in a simple site search.

    So, please, reference your source documentation.

  27. Rufus said, "What Hadji hasn't figured out yet, but the Sheiks have, is that THE ELECTION IS OVER. The MSM got the Dems elected; Now, no one gives a shit. The news cycle has passed them by."

    Wait until you see how much they don't give a shit about Mr. Bush's War when Mr. Bush is an ex-president.

  28. In the next two years, rufus?
    Doubt the palm trees will grow fasst enough to save the GOP, in '08. Only stability in Iraq will do that.

    As to the orbital battle star, doubt it gets funded. Congress being what it is, now.

    It is your basic operating style, though. When the news is bad, just say it does not matter.
    That technique failed in November, big time. It'll fail next cycle, as well.

    Tell me, how many acres have you got planned and financed for Palm production? How many acres, down on the Georgia farm are you committing to the project, yourself?
    Or do we need to conquer Columbia to find the required hectres?

  29. You're in Georgia, aren't you?
    If that is to far north, then where can we grow these palms, in the US, to achieve "energy independence"?

    Or will we just be trading one supplier cartel for another?

  30. Palm trees are water intense, as well, aren't they?

  31. rufus's Brookings index did have this interesting article about how the US will end up destabilizing the entire Region as the belated flow of Iraqi refugees increases
    Iraqi Refugees: Carriers of Conflict

    Regional Instability is coming, whether US wants it or not, unintended consequence or Master Plan?

    The Brookings Index is interesting, but still no breakdown of civilians vs insurgents killed, but since Brookings is a reliable source, they put the foreign fighters, currently in Iraq, at between 800- 2,000.

    The numbers of daily insurgent attacks does not look like it is related to US elections, steady upward trend line, to 180 attacks per day in Nov '06 from a base of 8 in Jun '03. (pg 22)

    Iraqi income from oil exports drops 50% from October to November '06. (pg 30)

    Now as to ciilians killed, Brookings data ends in August '06.
    It's numbers are more than DOUBLE those cited by AP.
    AP said 1,300 was the highest on their records, but Brookings says that Civilian deaths in Iraq in Jun=2,990 dead, Jul=3,405 dead, Aug=2,855 dead. All classified as CIVILIANS by Brookings.(page 10)

    So your source, rufus, proves my point. The numbers of dead Iraqi civilians laid out by Brookings are HIGHER than those cited by AP.

    Thanks for the help in proving me right.

  32. rufus, how small a farm is economical?

  33. That's why the US is losing, rufus, no one gives a shit about Mr Bush and his Policies to win the War.
    Even his most ardent backers.

    Again you prove my case.

  34. It is the distillery, duece, that is thhe profit center, not the farm. The relevent numbers are the capacity of the distillery, costs of the feed stock, operating costs and market value of the end product.

    How large the capacity of the still is paramount, if greater stocks were needed than one farm could produce, a farmer co-op could supply the stocks or buy the distilleries.
    The co-op being an age old agricultural system.

  35. That answered my question. Not practical for Northeastern farms.

  36. When I was stationed at Keesler, I dated a girl from Meridian. I know the country side up that way.

  37. what is the value of those acres, in the midsouth, rufus?

    The dominant farm is 4-5000 acres is valued at $?, per acre or overall.

  38. Hey, Rat!
    Don't knock not giving a shit about Iraqi Civilians:
    Bush don't give a shit about American Citizens, so it is a "Coherent Strategy."
    Symbiotic even.
    Hell all the killed and wounded from non-licensed, non-insured illegals W just calls Road Kill.
    The best way to win a war is SAY you did, I say.
    Next time we'll just say we won and never leave CONUS.
    That'll work until their ain't no CONUS.

  39. For the Palm Deal, just Bulldoze Honolulu-Wakiki-Pearl and plant palms!
    Problem solved.

  40. 3,000 dead/month = 36,000/yr

    20 million vs 300 million USA:

    15 TIMES LARGER = 540,000/year.

    THAT is fuckin PEACEFUL, 'Rat:

    War OVER.

    We Won!

    (plus a thousand a month hauling ass out of the peaceful paradise)

    Hope the Dentists and their families make it.

  41. So every YEAR they are losing what we lost in all of WWII.

  42. ...not counting refugees.
    THAT's what I call SUCCESS!

  43. If Clinton were President, they'd be calling for his impeachment, but that's another story, isn't it?

  44. The factor is 12, not 15, doug, the Iraqi base population is 25 million, they say.

    Proportionality, that only is applicable to Israel, not Iraq.

    In Iraq we must make direct comparisons, or one 9-11 per month, every month, without a factor or proportionality, at all.

    But do not worry, it does not matter. We will win their hearts and minds, regardless of the death toll.
    The Brookings Index shows oil sales from Iraq dropping like a rock, in just the last month, 50% decline.

  45. $7 million USD for the land.
    $3 million USD for the still.

    650 gallons of palm bio diesel per acre per year - 2,600,000 gallons for the farm
    $2 per gallon retail for the product or a $5 million gross per year.
    Minus operating expenses of farming and distilling and delivery.
    Minus time value of the $10 Million USD, $700,000 per year.

    Pretty thin deal for the capitialization.

  46. Page 30, rufus, revenues:
    October $2.45 Billion
    November $1.26 Billion

    It's not volume, rufus, but revenues that really count.

  47. Must be why I'd not be a farmer.
    If those kinds of margins on capitialization are considered "good".

  48. I do know folks with feed stores, rufus, that make less on their labor and buildings and land then they would if they just rented their buildings and land at market value for other uses.

  49. Perhaps the land appreciates, perhaps not.

    In my neck of the woods we had appreciation well above the historic norm, 45% in three years.

    Should have been no more than 20%, a 25% correction is due, over the next three years, just to get even.
    The effects are being seen, even today. Homes sales stagnaated, but prices remained high. Now sales have increased but prices are falling. One fellow I know has a family owned construction company. They have 700 houses in inventory, and not selling them, though they would if they could. Fulton Homes bought up a lot of Phoenix Metro farm land, in the past. They've put a hold on further purchases.

  50. Not all that clever then, the American farmer.

  51. Doug said, "If Clinton were President, they'd be calling for his impeachment, but that's another story, isn't it?"

    "The purpose of government is to rein in the rights of the people." -- Bill Clinton, May 28, 1993, from a speech at Philadelphia city hall.