“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."

Friday, August 31, 2007

Guess Who is Leaving the Senate.

Want a Nine Year Old Wife? Move to Iraq.

"The constitution ( of Iraq) says that Islamic Sharia law is the guiding legal principle. In practice, this means that women are losing many of their social privileges. It has, for example, become legal for an adult man to marry a nine-year-old girl, something that used to happen only in secret among local tribes.

The Women of Iraq
Radio Netherlands

For a long time, Iraqi women were among the most modern in the Middle East: highly educated, often working outside the home and dressed according to the latest fashion. Four years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, they have lost most of their liberties, and both Muslim and Christian women risk their lives just walking the streets without a veil.
After the US-led invasion, President George W Bush and his wife Laura emphasised that the lives of Iraqi women would improve. No more torture and executions of political activists and dissenters, no more palaces of horrors where Saddam's son Uday held and raped young virgins.

Losing ground
But women's rights activist and aid worker Yannar Mohammed says that in reality Iraqi women are losing more ground every day. She does not want to trivialise Saddam Hussein's atrocities, but argues that Iraqi women have far less rights today than they did under the former dictator. Not just because of the permanent threat of shootings, bomb attacks, kidnappings or rape, but mainly as the result of al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups taking control of most of urban Iraq. Speaking on the phone from Iraq, Yannar Mohammed says women are forced to live 'in a black box'.
"Women are no longer allowed to wear the modern clothes that they used to wear in the eighties and nineties. First they were forced to put on the veil, and then their dresses had to become longer. And especially in the last months of this year in many suburbs a woman is not allowed to show any skin anymore. She has to wear thick stockings, sometimes two layers and gloves."
Under Saddam Hussein, too, there were women who chose to wear headscarves, but abayas (long black dresses) or face-covering niqabs were rare. Women were highly educated and held all kinds of jobs, including posts as teachers, doctors and politicians.

Extremist intimidation

As early as 2003, shortly after the US invasion, UN aid workers warned about religious extremists intimidating women and girls and forcing them to wear headscarves. The UN aid workers said that radical Sunni and Shi'ite factions were taking advantage of the instability created by the invasion. In addition, the organisation reported an increase in the number of rapes in Iraq. A report from the Dutch foreign ministry in 2004 states: "Reports from the south, Baghdad and Mosul indicate increasing pressure on women to wear the veil."
Local NGOs and Amnesty International report that acts against women are becoming more aggressive with each passing year. Islamist militias regularly distribute leaflets warning women to stay at home 'where good women belong'. Television viewers are bombarded with dozens of Islamist satellite channels. In their programming, all women wear veils and praise is lavished on stay-at-home mothers with numerous children.

Verbal abuse and worse

Students attending university are verbally abused as they enter the gates and Islamist groups are putting pressure on the universities to create at least separate lecture halls for female students. Women who drive a car or work as a doctor, journalist, activist, aid worker or lawyer receive death threats over the phone, via e-mail and on the streets. If they insist on practising their profession or refuse to go home to change their clothes they will be subject to verbal abuse if they are lucky, but more and more often they are beaten up or shot dead in the street.
However, Iraqi member of parliament Maysoon al-Damluji points out that the 2005 constitution actually gave women more rights:
"For instance in the case of travel, a woman had to have a father, a parent a husband to travel with her. This no longer exists; a woman can travel freely without a guardian. Theoretically it is better but in practice not."

She also points to the fact that 25 percent of the country's MPs are women. But women's rights activists like Yannar Mohammed - who earlier this year won the prestigious Eleanor Roosevelt Global Women's Right Award - say that the large number of woman MPs is a sham. Local aid organisations and Amnesty International agree.

These organisations are also highly critical of the new constitution and the predominantly Islamic government which reportedly does little for women. The constitution says that Islamic Sharia law is the guiding legal principle. In practice, this means that women are losing many of their social privileges. It has, for example, become legal for an adult man to marry a nine-year-old girl, something that used to happen only in secret among local tribes.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thompson for President. What do you think?

Political Stupidity, Historical Ignorance and Naive Ideology.

We must have gotten something right in Iraq. No? Maybe? Something? There must be something. Well maybe not. Read this:

Bush's Lost Iraqi Election
By David Ignatius Washington Post
Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ayad Allawi, the former interim prime minister of Iraq, hinted in a television interview last weekend at one of the war's least understood turning points: America's decision not to challenge Iranian intervention in Iraq's January 2005 elections.

"Our adversaries in Iraq are heavily supported financially by other quarters. We are not," Allawi told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "We fought the elections with virtually no support whatsoever, except for Iraqis and the Iraqis who support us."

Behind Allawi's comment lies a tale of intrigue and indecision by the United States over whether to mount a covert-action program to confront Iran's political meddling. Such a plan was crafted by the Central Intelligence Agency and then withdrawn -- because of opposition from an unlikely coalition that is said to have included Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who was then House minority leader, and Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser.

Allawi looks like Tony Soprano. Can he bring the families together?

As recounted by former U.S. officials, the story embodies the mix of hubris and naivete that has characterized so much of the Iraq effort. From President Bush on down, U.S. officials enthused about Iraqi democracy while pursuing a course of action that made it virtually certain that Iran and its proxies would emerge as the dominant political force.

The CIA warned in the summer and fall of 2004 that the Iranians were pumping money into Iraq to steer the Jan. 30, 2005, elections toward the coalition of Shiite religious parties known as the United Iraqi Alliance. By one CIA estimate, Iranian covert funding was running at $11 million a week for media and political operations on behalf of candidates who would be friendly to Iran, under the banner of Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. The CIA reported that in the run-up to the election, as many as 5,000 Iranians a week were crossing the border with counterfeit ration cards to register to vote in Iraq's southern provinces.

To counter this Iranian tide, the CIA proposed a political action program, initially at roughly $20 million but with no ceiling. The activities would include funding for moderate Iraqi candidates, outreach to Sunni tribal leaders and other efforts to counter Iranian influence. A covert-action finding was prepared in the fall of 2004 and signed by President Bush. As required by law, senior members of Congress, including Pelosi, were briefed.

But less than a week after the finding was signed, CIA officials were told that it had been withdrawn. Agency officials in Baghdad were ordered to meet with Iraqi political figures and get them to return whatever money had been distributed. Mystified by this turn of events, CIA officers were told that Rice had agreed with Pelosi that the United States couldn't on the one hand celebrate Iraqi democracy and on the other try to manipulate it secretly.

Ethically, that was certainly a principled view. But on the ground in Iraq, the start-stop maneuver had the effect of pulling the rug out from under moderate, secular Iraqis who might have contained extremist forces. (Asked about the withdrawal of the intelligence finding, spokesmen for Rice and Pelosi declined to comment.)

"The Iranians had complete command of the field," recalls one former U.S. official who was in Iraq at the time. "The Iraqis were bewildered. They didn't understand what the U.S. was doing. It looked like we were giving the country to Iran. We told Washington this was a calamitous event, from which it would be hard to recover."

Allawi, in a telephone interview Tuesday from Amman, Jordan, confirmed that the United States had shelved its political program. "The initial attitude of the U.S. was to support moderate forces, financially and in the media," he said. "This was brought to a halt, under the pretext that the U.S. does not want to interfere." Allawi said the American decision was "understandable" but ceded the field to Iran and its well-financed proxies.

Allawi said he is trying to gather support for a new coalition of Kurds, Sunnis and secular Shiites as an alternative to the Shiite religious coalition that installed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in power. Some commentators see Allawi's recent decision to hire a Washington public relations firm as a sign of the Bush administration's support, but the opposite is probably the case. If Allawi had U.S. government backing, he wouldn't need the lobbyists.

Future historians should record that the Bush administration actually lived by its pro-democracy rhetoric about a new Iraq -- to the point that it scuttled a covert action program aimed at countering Iranian influence. Now the administration says it wants to counter Iranian meddling in Iraq, but it is probably too late.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Iran is Ready to fill Vacuum in Iraq.

Of course that means after the Americans pull out. That does put a political problem up for those calling for an American withdrawal from Iraq. The very act of an American withdrawal fulfills Iran's destiny of becoming the major power in the Gulf. It would be the culmination of the perfect storm of political stupidity, historical ignorance and naive ideology. Mission accomplished.

Mideast power vacuum ‘benefits Iran’
By Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran Financial Times

Published: August 28 2007 23:53 | Last updated: August 28 2007 23:53
Iran’s president said on Tuesday that diminished US political influence in the Middle East was creating a “power vacuum” that would benefit Iran and other countries in the region.

Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad went on to say that that the US’s “weakening” of the Iraqi government – an apparent reference to recent criticism of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki by senior US politicians – would not help the US maintain control over the country.

The comments are a reminder of Iran’s long-standing ambition to be the top power in the Persian Gulf, as it was before the 1979 Islamic revolution – a nightmare scenario for some of the other countries in the region.

Iran’s nuclear programme – which Tehran says is purely for peaceful purposes – has fuelled Sunni Arab countries’ fears of Shia Iran.

Mr Ahmadi-Nejad was speaking before US president George W. Bush launched a fresh verbal attack on the Tehran regime’s nuclear programme which the US and other western powers believe is designed to produce nuclear weapons.

“Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere, and the United States is rallying friends and allies to isolate Iran’s regime to impose economic sanctions,” Mr Bush told a US Veteran’s rally. “We will confront this danger before it is too late.”

But Mr Ahmadi-Nejad called for co-operation with some of the regional nations who have expressed concern at its growing influence.

“With the help of neighbours and regional friends like Saudi Arabia, we are ready to fill up this vacuum to the benefit of regional nations and Iraq,” Mr Ahmadi-Nejad said in a press conference. “This is happening… and those who close their eyes are fooling themselves.” more here

President Musharraf given 48 hours to respond to Bhutto demands. Then what?

Bhutto 'ultimatum to Musharraf'
By Barbara Plett
BBC News, Islamabad

Could Benazir Bhutto co-operate with a Musharraf government?
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has given President Musharraf 48 hours to respond to her demands for a power-sharing deal, media reports say.

The embattled military ruler is seeking support for presidential elections that would give him another five-year term.

But his options have narrowed after a series of Supreme Court decisions.

Ms Bhutto wants a clear statement the general will resign as army chief of staff before year end, some say before a presidential vote due in the autumn.

Uniform off

She also wants a pledge to remove legal obstacles currently preventing her from becoming prime minister.

Until now Gen Musharraf has said he will abide by the constitution when it comes to his dual role as president and army chief.

Some say this means he will take off his uniform by year's end.

But Ms Bhutto wants a public declaration. So why has she upped the ante now?

Analysts say she was alarmed by the Supreme Court's decision last week allowing the exiled opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, to return to Pakistan, perhaps as early as next month.

Mr Sharif has gained much support for opposing army rule and vowing to force President Musharraf out of office.

Ms Bhutto on the other hand has been losing public support by negotiating with the general.

It is not clear whether the military leader can accept her demands.

At the moment he has enough votes in parliament to win another five-year term.

But there are growing defections from the ruling party and crucially, the Supreme Court might rule that his re-election from existing assemblies is unconstitutional.

Oliver Stone Making a Movie about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Stone chatting with Fidel.

Stone plans Ahmadinejad the movie

Ed Pilkington
Wednesday August 29, 2007
The Guardian

One minute, he's denouncing George Bush, the next he's accepting an invitation for a biopic from Oliver Stone. No one can accuse Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of leading a dull life.

Barely had the dust settled on the war of words between the Iranian president and his counterpart in Washington yesterday than Mr Ahmadinejad was fielding questions about his prospects in Hollywood. To go from a pronouncement about Iran's nuclear future to a discussion about his own potential celluloid future without stuttering was quite an achievement.

Quizzed about Stone's desire to make a documentary about his life, Mr Ahmadinejad said: "I have no objection, generally speaking." Stone has a history of documentaries on American figures of hate. In 2003 he made a film on Fidel Castro which was praised on the left for debunking the myth of a Cuban monster and condemned by the right for soft soaping him.

That Mr Ahmadinejad should have no objections to being the next subject of a Stone documentary comes as a surprise, as the last word heard on the matter was a rejection. Last month the Iranian president's media adviser said Mr Ahmadinejad was against the movie.

"It is right that this person [Stone] is considered part of the opposition in the US, but opposition in the US is a part of the great satan. We believe that the American cinema lacks culture and art," he said.

To accuse one of America's most famous artists of coming from a country with no art is one thing; to accuse him of being part of the great satan quite another. Stone shot back: "I have been called a lot of things, but never a great satan.

"I wish the Iranian people well, and only hope their experience with an inept, rigid ideologue president goes better than ours."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Why do we have sex? Why do you have sex?

Top reasons for men:
1. I was attracted to the person.
2. It feels good.
3. I wanted to experience physical pleasure.
4. It's fun.
5. I wanted to show my affection to the person.
6. I was sexually aroused and wanted the release.
7. I was "horny".
8. I wanted to express my love for the person.
9. I wanted to achieve an orgasm.
10. I wanted to please my partner.

Top reasons for women:
1. I was attracted to the person.
2. I wanted to experience physical pleasure.
3. It feels good.
4. I wanted to show my affection to the person.
5. I wanted to express my love for the person.
6. I was sexually aroused and wanted the release.
7. I was "horny".
8. It's fun.
9. I realised I was in love.
10. I was "in the heat of the moment"
Source: Archives of Sexual Behaviour/AP

Senator Craig

On Way to Gonzales Vote, Craig's GOP Star Extinguished
Washington Post

How's this for political scandal synergy?

The Alberto R. Gonzales scandal may have indirectly claimed another victim yesterday: Sen. Larry Craig, the onetime rising Idaho Republican star who admitted yesterday to pleading guilty to disorderly conduct in an airport men's restroom.

Shortly after 1 p.m. EDT, June 11, Craig was in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, making a connection to Washington. Detained by police for 45 minutes that day, Craig made it back to the Capitol for an early Monday evening vote to support Attorney General Gonzales. Democrats, led by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), had forced a highly unusual, non-binding vote of no-confidence in Gonzales, and Republicans used procedural tactics to prevent the vote.

A loyal Republican member of Congress for more than 20 years, Craig voted "nay" on June 11 on the procedural motion, along with more than 35 other Republicans, successfully blocking the no-confidence vote on Gonzales.

Make no mistake, this is a major event in the political life of a politician who once envisioned himself as Senate majority leader. Unlike Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who had been in the Senate barely two years when he admitted a "sin" when his name ended up on the client list of the "D.C. Madam", Craig has been a major force in the Senate for almost two decades. On gun rights, Craig is a member of the board of directors of the National Rifle Association and has been the leading GOP voice opposing any efforts at restricting gun rights on the Senate floor for years. A co-chairman of the Congressional Property Rights Coalition, Craig's biography begins by touting how he was born and raised on his family ranch in Midvale, Idaho.

A member of the Appropriations Committee, Craig is the top Republican on the subcommittee that doles out funding for the Interior Department and several other agencies.

And within the Senate Republican Conference, Craig had charted a course through the party's leadership ranks beginning in the early 1990s. He chaired the informal Steering Committee, a caucus that was formed in the 1980s to push the conservative agenda back when GOP moderates such as then-Sens. Bob Packwood (Ore.), William Cohen (Maine) and Alan Simpson (Wyo.) cast major influence in the party. Craig used that perch to win a narrow leadership victory in June 1996 over then-Sen. Dan Coats (Ind.) to become the Republican Policy Committee chairman. Craig assembled a strong staff that was in charge of putting out policy missives designed to back up the conservative flank.

Craig became a loyal soldier to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who was GOP leader during Craig's six-year tenure as the Policy chairman, the No. 4 ranking position. Under conference rules, all leadership posts face six-year term limits, and in 2002 Craig prepared his biggest political move - a bid to become Republican whip, the No. 2 spot.

That 2002 whip race was viewed as a proxy battle determining who would be in line to succeed Lott. Craig faced off for months and months against Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), with each man quietly jockeying for support among their colleagues for a race that would be held shortly after the 2002 midterms. But McConnell got out to an earlier start and raised more money for his colleagues. McConnell also had served in more critical positions that built up years of chits - chairing the Ethics Committee, the Rules and Administration Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Just before Election Day 2002, Craig officially bowed out of the race, handing the whip by acclamation to McConnell, who used that job to become Republican leader this year. [Lott's intemperate remarks at the late Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday in December 2002 hastened his demise, leading to a four-year reign by Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) as leader during which McConnell was always assumed to be the leader-in-waiting.]

Craig never again sought a leadership position, but remained influential within the conference on certain western issues. He is currently second in GOP seniority on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, behind Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), 75, who has been on a retirement watch in recent years. If he wins re-election in 2008, Craig could easily become chairman of that powerful panel before his term would expire in 2014.

But now political observers are anxiously awaiting Craig's next move, considering he was already being eyed for a potential retirement himself. And that decision may have been irrevocably altered by his pit stop in a Twin Cities restroom while jetting back to Washington for a Monday evening no-confidence vote in mid-June on Gonzales -- whose surprise resignation announcement was the story-of-the-day yesterday ... until Roll Call broke the Craig story.

Weapons of Mass Corruption or Media Hit; Where Will it Lead?

Iraq Weapons Are a Focus of Criminal Investigations

Published: August 28, 2007

BAGHDAD, Aug. 27 — Several federal agencies are investigating a widening network of criminal cases involving the purchase and delivery of billions of dollars of weapons, supplies and other matériel to Iraqi and American forces, according to American officials. The officials said it amounted to the largest ring of fraud and kickbacks uncovered in the conflict here.

The Reach of War

The inquiry has already led to several indictments of Americans, with more expected, the officials said. One of the investigations involves a senior American officer who worked closely with Gen. David H. Petraeus in setting up the logistics operation to supply the Iraqi forces when General Petraeus was in charge of training and equipping those forces in 2004 and 2005, American officials said Monday.

There is no indication that investigators have uncovered any wrongdoing by General Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, who through a spokesman declined comment on any legal proceedings.

This article is based on interviews with more than a dozen federal investigators, Congressional, law enforcement and military officials, and specialists in contracting and logistics, in Iraq and Washington, who have direct knowledge of the inquiries. Many spoke on condition of anonymity because there are continuing criminal investigations.

The inquiries are being pursued by the Army Criminal Investigation Command, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, among other agencies.

Over the past year, inquiries by federal oversight agencies have found serious discrepancies in military records of where thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces actually ended up. None of those agencies concluded that weapons found their way to insurgents or militias.

In their public reports, those agencies did not raise the possibility of criminal wrongdoing, and General Petraeus has said that the imperative to provide weapons to Iraqi security forces was more important than maintaining impeccable records.

In an interview on Aug. 18, General Petraeus said that with ill-equipped Iraqi security forces confronting soaring violence across the country in 2004 and 2005, he made a decision not to wait for formal tracking systems to be put in place before distributing the weapons.

“We made a decision to arm guys who wanted to fight for their country,” General Petraeus said.

But now, American officials said, part of the criminal investigation is focused on Lt. Col. Levonda Joey Selph, who reported directly to General Petraeus and worked closely with him in setting up the logistics operation for what were then the fledgling Iraqi security forces.

That operation moved everything from AK-47s, armored vehicles and plastic explosives to boots and Army uniforms, according to officials who were involved in it. Her former colleagues recall Colonel Selph as a courageous officer who was willing to take substantial personal risks to carry out her mission and was unfailingly loyal to General Petraeus and his directives to move quickly in setting up the logistics operation.

“She was kind of like the Pony Express of the Iraqi security forces,” said Victoria Wayne, who was then deputy director of logistics for the overall Iraqi reconstruction program.

Still, Colonel Selph also ran into serious problems with a company she oversaw that failed to live up to a contract it had signed to carry out part of that logistics mission.

It is not clear exactly what Colonel Selph is being investigated for. Colonel Selph, reached by telephone twice on Monday, said she would speak to reporters later but did not answer further messages left for her.

The enormous expenditures of American and Iraqi money on the Iraq reconstruction program, at least $40 billion over all, have been criticized for reasons that go well beyond the corruption cases that have been uncovered so far. Weak oversight, poor planning and seemingly endless security problems have contributed to many of the program’s failures.

The investigation into contracts for matériel to Iraqi soldiers and police officers is part of an even larger series of criminal cases. As of Aug. 23, there were a total of 73 criminal investigations related to contract fraud in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, Col. Dan Baggio, an Army spokesman said Monday. Twenty civilians and military personnel have been charged in federal court as a result of the inquiries, he said. The inquiries involve contracts valued at more than $5 billion, and Colonel Baggio said the charges so far involve more than $15 million in bribes.

Just last week, an Army major, his wife and his sister were indicted on charges that they accepted up to $9.6 million in bribes for Defense Department contracts in Iraq and Kuwait.

Investigations span the gamut from low-level officials submitting false claims for amounts less than $2,500 to more serious cases involving, conspiracy, bribery, product substitution and bid-rigging or double-billing involving large dollar amounts or more senior contracting officials, Army criminal investigators said. The investigations involve contractors, government employees, local nationals and American military personnel.

Questions about whether the American military could account for the weaponry and other equipment purchased to outfit the Iraqi security forces were raised as early as May of last year, when Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia and then the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a request to an independent federal oversight agency to investigate the matter.

But federal officials say the inquiry has moved far beyond the initial investigation of hundreds of thousands of improperly tracked assault rifles and semiautomatic pistols that grew out of Senator Warner’s query. In fact, Senator Warner said in a statement to The New York Times that he was outraged when he was briefed recently on the initial findings of the investigations.

“When I was briefed on the recent developments, I felt so strongly that I asked the Secretary of the Army to brief the Armed Services Committee right away, which he did in early August,” Senator Warner said in a statement.

An Army spokesman declined to comment on the briefing by the secretary of the Army, Pete Geren. In a sign of the seriousness of the scandal, the Defense Department Inspector General, Claude M. Kicklighter, will lead an 18-person team to Iraq early next month to investigate contracting practices, said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary.

Mr. Morrell said Mr. Kicklighter, a retired three-star Army general, would stay in Iraq indefinitely to investigate contracting abuses, and was empowered to fix problems on the spot or take action if his team identified potential criminal activity.

Congressional officials who have been briefed on the Defense Department inspector general’s inquiry said Monday that one focus would be on weapons, munitions and explosives. In addition, Mr. Geren, the Army secretary, is expected to announce later this week the creation of a panel of senior contracting and logistics specialists to address any systemic problems they identify.

Senator Warner’s request last May for an independent federal oversight agency to investigate the accountability of weapons and equipment given to Iraqi security forces underscored concern about the issue.

That federal agency, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, responded with a report in October 2006 that found serious discrepancies in American military records of where thousands of the weapons actually ended up. The military did not take the routine step of recording serial numbers for the weapons, the inspector general found, making it difficult to determine whether any of the weapons had ended up in the wrong hands.

In July 2007, the Government Accountability Office found even larger discrepancies, reporting that the American military “cannot fully account for about 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 90,000 pistols, 80 items of body armor, and 115,000 helmets reported as issued to Iraqi security forces as of Sept. 22, 2005.”

Monday, August 27, 2007


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Embattled U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has resigned, senior administration officials told CNN Monday.

President Bush will likely nominate Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to the position, senior administration officials said. Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, would replace Chertoff, the officials said.

Many lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have long called for his ouster after the firing of several U.S. attorneys in 2006. Bush had long stood by Gonzales.

Gonzales will announce his resignation at a news conference at the Justice Department at 10:30 a.m. ET.

It is Past Time to Fight Back and Restore (and Impose) Values.

Western society has a lot of work to do to undo the incredible damage done by the progressive left. What is needed is a social surge. How we go about doing it without charging, breeching and tearing down the ramparts is a challenge. If it cannot be done peacefully, a Darwinian struggle will emerge and it will happen the old fashion way. The problem is slowly being recognized. Some thoughts from The Telegraph :

...When the great progressive movement for personal liberation took hold of our public institutions - when the concept of authority itself was trashed by the education system, the media and the mainstream culture, and the idea of individual guilt was replaced by the assumption that all crime and bad behaviour had a socially determined "cause" - it was not the educated, affluent classes who were cut adrift.

They usually had the confidence and the connections to cultivate their comfortable rebelliousness and cope with their wayward children. (But not always - the odd drug overdose hit even the most smugly "enlightened" household.)

What everybody failed to notice as all those "repressive" old prejudices were gleefully dismantled was that it was the poor - struggling to keep their families on the straight and narrow - who depended on devices such as stigma and shame to police their own communities.

There was a time when parents who were not all that secure in their own ability to supervise the young - who themselves may not have been particularly rigorous in their moral standards, and perhaps did not have the psychological resources to maintain consistent order - could rely on the support of public institutions.

"Got by without MTV."

They could expect the schools to encourage outer discipline and the inner self-discipline of structured learning. They could expect the State to attempt to deter single girls from having babies on their own. They could expect the police and the courts to side unfailingly with the law-abiding rather than offer excuses for the criminal.

They could, in other words, count on the idea that all of the forces of adult life were joined together to uphold the structure of civilised life: that we all had pretty much the same conception of right and wrong, and the will to enforce it.

The British elites persuaded themselves that their great crime was to impose bourgeois values on everyone. In fact, it is the undermining of those values that is destroying the lives of the poor.
The entire essay

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Maliki to Clinton and Levin: 'Come to your senses...respect democracy.'

Maliki returns fire at US critics
Nouri Maliki said the US politicians should "come to their senses"
Iraq's prime minister has hit back at senior US politicians who have called for him to be removed from office.
Nouri Maliki singled out senators Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin.

He said the Democratic senators were acting as if Iraq was "their property" and that they should "come to their senses" and "respect democracy".

Analysts say Mr Maliki is fighting to hold his government together. His words come days before a report to Congress on the US Iraq "surge" strategy.

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge, in Baghdad, says the already heated political situation inside and outside Iraq has now got even hotter.

Leaders like Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin have not experienced in their political lives the kind of differences we have in Iraq
PM Nouri Maliki

Mr Maliki has just taken part in several meetings with other political leaders in Iraq.

Afterwards, he indicated that Sunni Vice-President Tariq al Hashemi's Iraqi Islamic Party was about to join forces with the four Shia and Kurdish parties who recent established a new moderate alliance, with a joint statement imminent.

The almost total Sunni Arab withdrawal from and boycott of the cabinet at present has been at the centre of the embattled prime minister's difficulties, our correspondent says.

But senior Iraqi Islamic Party member Omar Abdul Sattar later told the BBC Mr Maliki had no right to speak on behalf of the party and there were no plans to join the new alliance.


Earlier this month, Senators Clinton and Levin both urged Iraqi politicians to choose someone else to lead Iraq's ruling coalition and seek faster national reconciliation.

A report about the military "surge" in Iraq is due in September

"I share Senator Levin's hope that the Iraqi parliament will replace Prime Minister Maliki with a less divisive and more unifying figure when it returns in a few weeks," Sen Clinton said in a statement on 22 August.

But the Iraqi prime minister hit back during a news conference in Baghdad, saying: "Leaders like Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin have not experienced in their political lives the kind of differences we have in Iraq.

"When they give their judgment they have no knowledge of what reconciliation means."

He also rebuffed French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner who, in an interview with a US news magazine, apparently also suggested Mr Maliki step down.

"... we were surprised that the minister made a statement which can't be called in any way diplomacy, when he called for replacing the government," Mr Maliki said.

The introduction of some 30,000 US troops - the "surge" strategy - was supposed to buy time for the Iraqi government to make political progress.

But, our correspondents say, far from making progress, Mr Maliki's government is visibly falling apart.

US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and US ambassador Ryan Crocker are soon expected to report to the US Congress on progress in Iraq since the surge began.

Mr Maliki said a negative report by Gen Petraeus would not cause him to change course, but he expected the general to "be supportive of the government".

What Happened over Fifty Years? We Need a Fatwah Against Fat.

Friday night, I waited for a friend to arrive on a US AIR flight. The plane was late and I waited outside the security section at the terminal. I watched the travellers arriving for an hour. So much time, so many fat people. Big fat, real fat, fat fat. How did that happen?

1950's stylish woman.

2000's reality in any American public place.

Thirteen Reasons Why Iraq is No Viet Nam.

Christopher Hitchens with his favorite things.

To invoke Vietnam was a blunder too far for Bush

The Presidents's crass comparison between Iraq and war in south east Asia was the most ludicrous misreading of history

Christopher Hitchens
Sunday August 26, 2007
The Observer

How do I dislike President George Bush? Let me count the ways. Most of them have to do with his contented assumption that 'faith' is, in and of itself, a virtue. This self-satisfied mentality helps explain almost everything, from the smug expression on his face to the way in which, as governor of Texas, he signed all those death warrants without losing a second's composure.

It explains the way in which he embraced ex-KGB goon Vladimir Putin, citing as the basis of a beautiful relationship the fact that Putin was wearing a crucifix. (Has Putin been seen wearing that crucifix before or since? Did his advisers tell him that the President of the United States was that easy a pushover?)

It also explains the unforgivable intervention that Bush made into the private life of the Schiavo family: leaving his Texas ranch to try and keep 'alive' a woman whose autopsy showed that her brain had melted to below flatline a long time before. Here is a man who believes the 'jury' is still 'out' on whether we evolved as a species, who regards stem cell research as something profane, who affects the odd belief that Islam is 'a religion of peace'.

However that may be, I always agreed with him on one secular question, that the regime of Saddam Hussein was long overdue for removal. I know some critics of the Iraq intervention attribute this policy, too, to religious motives (ranging from messianic, born-again Christian piety to the activity of a surreptitious Jewish/Zionist cabal: take your pick).

In this real-world argument, there is a very strong temptation for opponents of the war to invoke the lessons of Vietnam. I must have written thousands of words attempting to show that there is absolutely no analogy between the two conflicts.

Then, addressing the convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars last week, the President came thundering down the pike to announce that a defeat in Iraq would be - guess what? - another Vietnam. As my hand smacks my brow, and as I ask myself not for the first time if Mr Bush suffers from some sort of political death wish, I quickly restate the reasons why he is wrong to join with his most venomous and ignorant critics in making this case.

1) The Vietminh, later the Vietnamese NLF, were allies of the United States and Britain against the Axis during the Second World War. The Iraqi Baath party was on the other side.

2) Ho Chi Minh quoted Thomas Jefferson in proclaiming Vietnam's own declaration of independence, a note that has hardly been struck in Baathist or jihadist propaganda.

3) Vietnam was resisting French colonialism and had defeated it by 1954 at Dien Bien Phu; the real 'war' was therefore over before the US even landed troops in the country.

4) The subsequent conflict was fought to preserve an imposed partition of a country striving to reunify itself; if anything, the Iraqi case is the reverse.

5) The Vietnamese leadership appealed to the UN: the Saddamists and their jihadist allies murdered the first UN envoy to arrive in Iraq, saying that he was fit only for death because he had assisted in securing the independence of East Timor from Indonesia.

6) Vietnam never threatened any other country; Iraq under Saddam invaded two of its neighbours and declared one of them (Kuwait) to be part of Iraq itself.

7) Vietnam was a victim of chemical and ecological warfare; Iraq was the perpetrator of such illegal methods and sought to develop even worse nuclear and biological ones.

8) Vietnam neither sponsored nor encouraged terrorist tactics beyond its borders; Iraq under Saddam was a haven for Abu Nidal and other random killers and its 'insurgents' now proclaim war on Hindus, Jews, unbelievers and the wrong sort of Muslim.

9) There has for years been a 'people's war' fought by genuine guerrillas in Iraq; it is the war of liberation conducted by Kurdish fighters against genocide and dictatorship. Inconveniently for all analogies, these fighters are ranged on the side of the US and Britain.

10) The Iraqi Communist party and the Iraqi labour movement advocated the overthrow of Saddam (if not necessarily by Bush), a rather conspicuous difference from the situation in Indochina. These forces still form a part of the tenuous civil society that is fighting to defend itself against the parties of God.

11) The American-sponsored regimes in Vietnam tended, among other things, to be strongly identified with one confessional minority (Catholic) to the exclusion of secular, nationalist and Buddhist forces. The elected government in Iraq may have a sectarian hue, but at least it draws upon hitherto repressed majority populations - Kurds and Shias - and at least the American embassy works as a solvent upon religious and ethnic divisions rather than an inciter of them.

12) President Eisenhower admitted that if there had ever been a fair election in Vietnam, it would have been won by Ho Chi Minh; the Baath party's successors refused to participate in the Iraqi elections and their jihadist allies declared that democracy was an alien concept and threatened all voters with murder.

13) The Americans in Vietnam employed methods ('search and destroy'; 'body count') and weapons (napalm, Agent Orange) that targeted civilians. Today, those who make indiscriminate war on the innocent show their hand on the streets of Baghdad and are often the proxies of neighbouring dictatorships or of international gangster organisations.

The above list is by no means exhaustive, but will do, I think, as a caution against any glib invocation of historical comparisons. One might add that among the results of the Vietnamese revolution was an admittedly crude form of market socialism, none the less wedded to ideas of modernisation; a strong resistance to Chinese expansionism (one excuse for Washington's invasion); and a military expedition to depose the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.

I cannot see how any self-respecting Republican can look at this record without wincing and moaning with shame or how any former friend of the Vietnamese can equate them with either a fascist dictatorship or a nihilistic Islamist death-squad campaign. And now Bush has joined forces with anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan in making the two struggles morally equivalent.

It is true that the collapse of the doomed American adventure in Indochina was followed by massive repression and reprisal, especially in Cambodia, and by the exile of huge numbers of talented Vietnamese. But even this grim total was small compared to the huge losses exacted by the war itself. In Iraq, the genocide, repression, aggression and cultural obliteration preceded the coalition's intervention and had been condemned by a small but impressive library of UN resolutions. Thus, the argument from 'bloodbath', either past or future, has to be completely detached from any consideration of the Vietnamese example.

Bush made his speech just as French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, a distinguished socialist and humanitarian, visited Baghdad and embraced some Iraqi and Kurdish freedom fighters, such as President Jalal Talabani, the leader of a party that is a member of the Socialist International. It takes a special kind of political and moral idiocy to choose such a moment to wax nostalgic for America's inheritance of a moribund French colonialism in Indochina. If one question is rightly settled in the American and, indeed, the international memory, it is that the Vietnam War was at best a titanic blunder and at worst a campaign of atrocity and aggression.

But not all the ironies are at Bush's expense. Change only the name of the analogous country and it becomes fairly clear that in Iraq we are fighting not the Vietcong, but the Khmer Rouge, as the Vietcong eventually had to do on our behalf. The logic of history is pitiless and Bush is not the only one who will find this out.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Life Imitates Art, Sadly.

US 'sole survivor' to leave Iraq

The sole survivor policy was created during World War II

A US soldier is to return home from Iraq under a military proviso known as the "sole survivor" rule after losing both of his brothers in the war.
Jason Hubbard, 33, will be re-united with his family in Clovis, California after his brother Nathan, 21, died in a helicopter crash in Iraq on Wednesday.

His other sibling Jared Hubbard was killed by a roadside bomb in 2004.

The "sole survivor" policy, which has allowed Jason to leave Iraq, formed the premise of movie, Saving Private Ryan.

Nathan and Jason Hubbard had joined the army in 2005, shortly after their elder brother, Jared, died aged 22.

Jared died in Ramadi along with his best friend from school, Jeremiah Baro, and the two friends were buried next to each other in Clovis.

After his first son's death, his father Jeff Hubbard said: "I hope and pray it comes to a good solution because there's been a tremendous sacrifice.

"And it would just be awful if it didn't accomplish something great."

Meanwhile, Nathan died when a helicopter crashed during a night mission in the Tamim province that surrounds Kirkuk, an oil-rich city 180 miles (290 kilometres) north of Baghdad.

A military official said facts gathered indicated the crash was almost certainly due to a mechanical problem and not hostile fire, although the final cause remained under investigation.

'Distraught' family

Following Nathan's death, military officials ordered the return home of Jason, the eldest Hubbard sibling.

The BBC's David Willis in Clovis says Jared's death prompted his two other brothers to sign up for military service.

"The fact that you've gone through this before doesn't prepare you to suffer it all over again," said the family pastor Tim McLain Rolen.

Our correspondent says the family is distraught and adds that the funeral will take place next week.

Under the US military "sole survivor" policy, the last remaining sibling in a war zone can ask to return home when his brothers or sisters have been killed. The regulations are designed to spare parents losing all their children to war.

The US War Department introduced the policy after five siblings, the Sullivan brothers, died when their light cruiser the USS Juneau was sunk in World War II.

This rule formed the basis of Steven Spielberg's 1998 film Saving Private Ryan, where a team of soldiers are sent to Europe to look for a last remaining sibling amid heavy fighting in World War II.

China and Technology. Is it Toxic to US Security?

Chinese Seek to Buy a U.S. Maker of Disk Drives 
New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 24 — A Chinese technology company has expressed interest in buying a maker of computer disk drives in the United States, raising concerns among American government officials about the risks to national security in transferring high technology to China.

The overture, which was disclosed by the chief executive of one of the two remaining drive makers in the United States, William D. Watkins of Seagate Technology, has resurrected the issues of economic competitiveness and national security raised three years ago when Lenovo, a Chinese computer maker, bought I.B.M.’s personal computer business.

Tensions have been increasing lately between the countries over China’s ambitions in developing its military abilities and advanced technologies for industrial and consumer uses.

Although disk drives do not fall under a list of export-controlled technologies, the attempted purchase of an American disk drive company would require a security review by the federal government, according to several government officials.

In recent years, modern disk drives, used to store vast quantities of digital information securely, have become complex computing systems, complete with hundreds of thousands of lines of software that are used to ensure the integrity of data and to offer data encryption.

That could raise the prospect of secret tampering with hardware or software to make it possible to pilfer information via computer networks, intelligence officials have warned.

Seagate has recently begun selling drives with hardware encryption abilities.

Mr. Watkins did not identify the Chinese company. But he said that the possibility of an acquisition had sent alarm bells ringing at some government agencies.

“The U.S. government is freaking out,” Mr. Watkins said during an interview on Thursday.

Reached Friday night, Treasury officials declined to comment on possible Chinese overtures for an American maker.

While Mr. Watkins said that Seagate, which is the largest drive maker in the United States, was not for sale, he also said that if a high enough premium was offered to shareholders it would be difficult to stop.

Seagate’s shares rose 1.05 percent Friday to close at $24.96 and were up about 4 percent for the week after news that it might enter the flash memory market. There does not appear to have been any significant increase in trading of Seagate options.

With a booming economy and $1.33 trillion in foreign-exchange reserves, Chinese companies are in a position to acquire American companies, as Japanese and West European companies were several decades ago. While those earlier acquisitions were often opposed out of fears that they would damage American economic competitiveness, the acquisition of American companies by Chinese companies is regarded with more suspicion, particularly in the high-tech sector... All the rest of the story fit to print.

Friday, August 24, 2007

National Intelligence Security on Iraq

Prospects for Iraq’s Stability:

Some Security Progress but
Political Reconciliation Elusive

Update to NIE, Prospects for Iraq’s
Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead

Key Judgments

There have been measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq’s security situation since our last National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq in January 2007. The steep escalation of rates of violence has been checked for now, and overall attack levels across Iraq have fallen during seven of the last nine weeks.
Coalition forces, working with Iraqi forces, tribal elements,
and some Sunni insurgents, have reduced al-Qa’ida in Iraq’s (AQI) capabilities, restricted its freedom of movement, and denied it grassroots support in some areas. However, the level of overall violence, including attacks on and casualties among civilians, remains high; Iraq’s sectarian groups remain unreconciled; AQI retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks;and to date, Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively. There have been modest improvements in economic output, budget execution, and government finances but fundamental structural problems continue to prevent sustained progress in economic growth and living conditions.

We assess, to the extent that Coalition forces continue to conduct robust counterinsurgency operations and mentor and support the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), that Iraq’s security will continue to improve modestly during the next six to 12 months but that levels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high and the Iraqi Government will continue to struggle to achieve national-level political reconciliation and improved governance.

Broadly accepted political compromises required for sustained security, long-term political progress, and economic development are unlikely to emerge unless there is a fundamental shift in the factors driving Iraqi political and security developments.

Political and security trajectories in Iraq continue to be driven primarily by Shia insecurity about retaining political dominance, widespread Sunni unwillingness to accept a diminished political status, factional rivalries within the sectarian communities resulting in armed conflict, and the actions of extremists such as AQI and elements of the Sadrist Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) militia that try to fuel sectarian violence.
Two new drivers have emerged since the January Estimate: expanded Sunni opposition to AQI and Iraqi expectation of a Coalition drawdown. Perceptions that the Coalition is withdrawing probably will encourage factions anticipating a power vacuum to seek local security solutions that could intensify sectarian violence and intra-sectarian competition. At the same time, fearing a Coalition withdrawal, some tribal elements and Sunni groups probably will continue to seek accommodation with the Coalition to strengthen themselves for a post- Coalition security environment.
  • Sunni Arab resistance to AQI has expanded in the last six to nine months but has not yet translated into broad Sunni Arab support for the Iraqi Government or widespread willingness to work with the Shia. The Iraqi Government’s Shia leaders fear these groups will ultimately side with armed opponents of the government, but the Iraqi Government has supported some initiatives to incorporate those rejecting AQI into Interior Ministry and Defense Ministry elements.

  • Intra-Shia conflict involving factions competing for power and resources probably will intensify as Iraqis assume control of provincial security. In Basrah, violence has escalated with the drawdown of Coalition forces there. Local militias show few signs of reducing their competition for control of valuable oil resources and territory.

  • The Sunni Arab community remains politically fragmented, and we see no prospective leaders that might engage in meaningful dialogue and deliver on national agreements.

  • Kurdish leaders remain focused on protecting the autonomy of the Kurdish region and reluctant to compromise on key issues.

The IC assesses that the emergence of “bottom-up” security initiatives, principally among Sunni Arabs and focused on combating AQI, represent the best prospect for improved security over the next six to 12 months, but we judge these initiatives will only translate into widespread political accommodation and enduring stability if the Iraqi Government accepts and supports them. A multi-stage process involving the Iraqi Government providing support and legitimacy for such initiatives could foster over thelonger term political reconciliation between the participating Sunni Arabs and the national government. We also assess that under some conditions “bottom-up initiatives” could pose risks to the Iraqi Government.

  • We judge such initiatives are most likely to succeed in predominantly Sunni Arab areas, where the presence of AQI elements has been significant, tribal networks and identities are strong, the local government is weak, sectarian conflict is low, and the ISF tolerate Sunni initiatives, as illustrated by Al Anbar Province.

  • Sunni Arab resistance to AQI has expanded, and neighborhood security groups, occasionally consisting of mixed Shia-Sunni units, have proliferated in the past several months. These trends, combined with increased Coalition operations, have eroded AQI’s operational presence and capabilities in some areas.

  • Such initiatives, if not fully exploited by the Iraqi Government, could over time also shift greater power to the regions, undermine efforts to impose central authority, and reinvigorate armed opposition to the Baghdad government.

  • Coalition military operations focused on improving population security, both in and outside of Baghdad, will remain critical to the success of local and regional efforts until sectarian fears are diminished enough to enable the Shia-led Iraqi Government to fully support the efforts of local Sunni groups.

Iraqi Security Forces involved in combined operations with Coalition forces have performed adequately, and some units have demonstrated increasing professional competence. However, we judge that the ISF have not improved enough to conduct major operations independent of the Coalition on a sustained basis in multiple locations and that the ISF remain reliant on the Coalition for important aspects of logistics and combat support.

  • The deployment of ISF units from throughout Iraq to Baghdad in support of security operations known as Operation Fardh al-Qanun marks significant progress since last year when large groups of soldiers deserted rather than depart their home areas, but Coalition and Iraqi Government support remains critical.

  • Recently, the Iraqi military planned and conducted two joint Army and police large-scale security operations in Baghdad, demonstrating an improving capacity for operational command and control.

  • Militia and insurgent influences continue to undermine the reliability of some ISF units, and political interference in security operations continues to undermine Coalition and ISF efforts.

  • The Maliki government is implementing plans to expand the Iraqi Army and to increase its overall personnel strength to address critical gaps, but we judge that significant security gains from those programs will take at least six to 12 months, and probably longer, to materialize.

The IC assesses that the Iraqi Government will become more precarious over the next six to 12 months because of criticism by other members of the major Shia coalition (the Unified Iraqi Alliance, UIA), Grand Ayatollah Sistani, and other Sunni and Kurdish parties. Divisions between Maliki and the Sadrists have increased, and Shia factions have explored alternative coalitions aimed at constraining Maliki.

  • The strains of the security situation and absence of key leaders have stalled internal political debates, slowed national decisionmaking, and increased Maliki’s vulnerability to alternative coalitions.

  • We judge that Maliki will continue to benefit from recognition among Shia leaders that searching for a replacement could paralyze the government.

Population displacement resulting from sectarian violence continues, imposing burdens on provincial governments and some neighboring states and increasing the danger of destabilizing influences spreading across Iraq’s borders over the next six to 12 months.The polarization of communities is most evident in Baghdad, where the Shia are a clear majority in more than half of all neighborhoods and Sunni areas have become surrounded by predominately Shia districts. Where population displacements have led to significant sectarian separation, conflict levels have diminished to some extent because warring communities find it more difficult to penetrate communal enclaves.

The IC assesses that Iraq’s neighbors will continue to focus on improving their leverage in Iraq in anticipation of a Coalition drawdown. Assistance to armed groups, especially from Iran, exacerbates the violence inside Iraq, and the reluctance of the Sunni states that are generally supportive of US regional goals to offer support to the Iraqi Government probably bolsters Iraqi Sunni Arabs’ rejection of the government’s legitimacy.

  • Over the next year Tehran, concerned about a Sunni reemergence in Iraq and US effortsto limit Iranian influence, will continue to provide funding, weaponry, and training to Iraqi Shia militants. Iran has been intensifying aspects of its lethal support for select groups of Iraqi Shia militants, particularly the JAM, since at least the beginning of 2006. Explosively formed penetrator (EFP) attacks have risen dramatically.

  • Syria has cracked down on some Sunni extremist groups attempting to infiltrate fighters into Iraq through Syria because of threats they pose to Syrian stability, but the IC now assesses that Damascus is providing support to non-AQI groups inside Iraq in a bid to increase Syrian influence.

  • Turkey probably would use a range of measures to protect what it perceives as its interests in Iraq. The risk of cross-border operations against the People’s Congress of Kurdistan (KG) terrorist group based in northern Iraq remains.

We assess that changing the mission of Coalition forces from a primarily
counterinsurgency and stabilization role to a primary combat support role for Iraqi forces and counterterrorist operations to prevent AQI from establishing a safehaven would erode security gains achieved thus far. The impact of a change in mission on Iraq’s political and security environment and throughout the region probably would vary in intensity and suddenness of onset in relation to the rate and scale of a Coalition redeployment. Developments within the Iraqi communities themselves will be decisive in determining political and security trajectories.

  • Recent security improvements in Iraq, including success against AQI, have depended significantly on the close synchronization of conventional counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations. A change of mission that interrupts that synchronization would place security improvements at risk. The entire pdf

Thursday, August 23, 2007

An Old Trick Revived.

A previous post, on a published NYT article, "The War as We Saw It" was signed by seven active duty soldiers.

Some have speculated that the seven will testify before Congress. It is a cleverly crafted political move. Too clever by half, in my opinion. The cleverness begins with the selection of the group. How will serious inquiry be conducted?

So few Americans now serve in the military that there has evolved a kind of genuflection and political correctness, even silliness towards the few that do. Supporting the troops you know.

There is no question that these troops are serious soldiers in combat. One of them was shot in the head, but they have stepped beyond that role and are now in political combat. This is a political move. It also makes them fair game for question.

This political group has inoculated itself from serious inspection, by the disengenuous "bow your head, here comes a soldier" presently in vogue. In the previous national election, the Democrats were waiting at the separation centers to induct veterans to run for congress. This is more of the same. It is my opinion that there is more to this story.

Let the seven debate with another group of soldiers with not a civilian amongst them. They can all leave their chevrons at the door. Then, and maybe then, we will have some interesting testimony and inquiry. Thank you for your service.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

US officials now say they are willing to settle for a government that functions and can bring security.

Was good at security and making government function.

U.S. officials rethink hopes for Iraq democracy

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Nightmarish political realities in Baghdad are prompting American officials to curb their vision for democracy in Iraq. Instead, the officials now say they are willing to settle for a government that functions and can bring security.

Continuing violence -- like this Baghdad blast from May -- is causing a rethink of U.S. goals, generals say.

A workable democratic and sovereign government in Iraq was one of the Bush administration's stated goals of the war.

But for the first time, exasperated front-line U.S. generals talk openly of non-democratic governmental alternatives, and while the two top U.S. officials in Iraq still talk about preserving the country's nascent democratic institutions, they say their ambitions aren't as "lofty" as they once had been.

"Democratic institutions are not necessarily the way ahead in the long-term future," said Brig. Gen. John "Mick" Bednarek, part of Task Force Lightning in Diyala province, one of the war's major battlegrounds.
More & more

Soldiers' View of Iraq. What do They Know?

The War as We Saw It ( Hat Tip: Desert Rat)

Published: August 19, 2007 New York Times

VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight against Al Qaeda.

However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.

In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a “time-sensitive target acquisition mission” on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse — namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.

Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.

Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.

The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.

Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. Washington’s insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made — de-Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of a loose federalist system of government — places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.

Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now — will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.

At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. “Lucky” Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.