Saturday, January 08, 2005

What Iraq Really Needs: American Trained Death Squads

Coming Soon to a Quagmire Near You...

‘The Salvador Option’: The Pentagon may put Special-Forces-led assassination or kidnapping teams in Iraq

I saw this after I spent some time reading Iraqi bloggers. They are already done with us. They already think we are as bad or worse than Saddam was.

They are also convinced that the US used (and is still using) chemical weapons. They have pictures, though the images are inconclusive to me.

You know what will really win their hearts and minds?

How about some fucking death squads?

It makes me ill.

U.S. Considers Elite Hit-Squads for Iraq -Report

UPDATE: January 11, 2005

The problem with death squads, besides, you know, their whole raison d'etre, is that when they're comprised of local citizens, they bear their local grudges with them. Imagine if your neighbor who thinks your dog shits on his lawn everyday was all of a sudden given the power to determine whether or not you were an enemy sympathizer. How fast would your ass be Gitmo-ized? You get it, kids?

from The Horror of History by the rude pundit.

A non-violent citizen siege to greet the President at his inauguration

My line is that Bush won. Doesn't mean I like it...

Rapid Refund...

I usually avoid photos. I am lazy and they require 13 seconds of work. But I couldn't resist this one.

Since I haven't said anything about the whole Armstrong Williams thing, I'll just post this instead. See, I am still lazy like that...

Patridiots told me to do this. Post This Everywhere, they say, so who am I to argue?

Open War in Iraq...

While the world's attention has been on the disaster in Asia, the situation in Iraq has deteriorated so much that the insurgency has developed into near-open warfare.

The head of Iraq's intelligence service Gen Muhammad Shahwani now puts the number of insurgents at 200,000, of which 40,000 are said to be the hard core and the rest active supporters.

These figures do not represent an insurgency. They represent a war.

Blistering attacks threaten Iraq election

Until recently, the US military has talked of there being about 25,000 fighters in Iraq.

Gen Shahwani has not just upped the estimate, but has put it into the wider context of the active guerrilla support which perhaps gives a truer picture. There are 150,000 US troops.


The level of attacks is now so intense and sophisticated that it is not surprising that the former British representative to the former Coalition Authority, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, said recently that the insurgency was "irremediable" and "ineradicable" by US and other foreign troops alone.

"It depends on the Iraqis. We have lost the primary control," he said.

Recent events indicate that Iraqis have lost the primary control as well.

This is not good... The following might be...

US reviews Iraq military strategy

The Pentagon is sending a retired senior general to Iraq to review overall military operations there.

A spokesman said Gen Gary Luck would mainly assess progress in training Iraqis to take over security - a key exit strategy for US forces.


As well as assessing Iraqi forces, he will also look at overall US operations against insurgents, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

A surprising development... not.

...and far from being able to cut US troop numbers as it had hoped, the Pentagon now has more personnel in Iraq than ever - more than 150,000.

As a result, a senior US army official has also said the army is likely to ask for a permanent increase of 30,000 in its strength.

And some validation for Rumsfeld...

The seven soldiers killed on Friday were travelling in a Bradley armoured fighting vehicle.

The Bradley is the most heavily-protected US vehicle after the Abrams tank.

Who needs armor in an open war? If your card is drawn, you are still going to die.

At a time like this, we really need some good news...

Army Reserve Is 'Hamstrung' by Its Policies, General Warns

Ah, man... I guess not today...

The Army Reserve is unable to meet its missions in Iraq and Afghanistan because of "dysfunctional" personnel policies that senior Army and Pentagon officials have refused to change, its top general has told senior Army leaders.

Today in Iraq refers to this article:

“The Army Reserve is unable to meet its missions in Iraq and Afghanistan because of ‘dysfunctional’ personnel policies that senior Army and Pentagon officials have refused to change, its top general has told senior Army leaders. The officer, Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, said in a memorandum that the demands of overseas commitments combined with restrictive mobilization policies were hampering the Reserve's ability to fill such essential jobs as engineers, truck drivers and civil affairs specialists….The Reserves, General Helmly said, are ‘rapidly degenerating into a “broken” force.’”

A Lower Standard for the Attorney General...

"There's a lower standard, frankly, for attorney general than for judge, because you give the president who he wants," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, ... appearing on "Today."

Specter: Gonzales confirmation likely

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Friday he feels certain that Alberto Gonzales will be confirmed as attorney general despite concerns about his role in a Bush administration legal doctrine that critics said undermined prisoner-of-war protections and a law against torture.

From the BBC:

A senior senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrat Patrick Leahy, said the Bush administration in its first four years had set out to "minimise, distort and even ignore our laws, our policies and international agreements on torture and treatment of prisoners".

"America's troops and citizens are at greater risk because of those actions," he said.

Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy said: "The issue of your commitment to the rule of law is what most concerns us."

I never really thought that the hearings would lead to Gonzales removing his name from consideration, or to the Senate flat out telling the Administration no.

I was looking forward to the hearings, though, figuring that it would be good for the public to be exposed to the details on the Administration's approach to the Geneva Convention and to torture.

Originally, I expected the Administration's image to be damaged by the hearings, even if Gonzales was confimed.

Unfortunately, there is this other big story that is eclipsing the hearings...

Note to the media: I understand that the survival stories are compelling, but you are hurting America, not helping disaster victims, by giving events in our own country such a low profile at this time.

"Would you not concede that your decision and the decision of the president to call into question the definition of torture, the need to comply with the Geneva Conventions, at least opened up a permissive environment of conduct?" asked Richard Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat.

Gonzales said he was sickened and outraged by photos of abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. He described the U.S. troops in those photos as "people who were morally bankrupt having fun." Other abuses of foreign detainees probably occurred because "there wasn't adequate training, there wasn't adequate supervision," he said.


"Torture and abuse will not be tolerated by this administration," Gonzales assured senators. "I will ensure the Department of Justice aggressively pursues those responsible for such abhorrent actions."

Low ranking soldiers, watch out and play it straight, the gloves are off and there could be the need for many of you to take the fall, ensuring that high ranking officers and civilians in the Administration are not held accountable for "such abhorrent actions."

Well, maybe not...

Soldier cleared in drowning case

A US military court has cleared an army sergeant of killing an Iraqi civilian by ordering him into the River Tigris.

But Sgt Tracy Perkins was found guilty of assault on the man, Zaidoun Hassoun, who the prosecution say was drowned.

He was accused of ordering Mr Hassoun and his cousin into the river at gunpoint in the Iraqi city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, a year ago.

Okay, this is a complicated case... There is no proof that there was actually a death, but it is still a shining example of America's successful campaign to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

Mind you, these men were not forced to go stand in water, they were thrown off of a bridge.

Perkins was accused of killing Zaidun Hassun, 19, by having soldiers force him and a cousin off a ledge above the Tigris river in Samarra, Iraq in January 2004.

The cousin, Marwan Fadil, testified on Wednesday that the soldiers tossed the two at gunpoint into the water after they begged for mercy and then laughed as Hassun drowned.

Maybe there should be an investigation into this seemingly systemic culture of abusive behavior?

There have been eight major official investigations into allegations of prisoner abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

A further three are outstanding.

US to hold new Guantanamo inquiry

Meanwhile, back at the hearings...

Mr Gonzales told the Senate: "I am deeply committed to ensuring that the US government complies with all its legal obligations... [including] of course the Geneva Conventions whenever they apply."

Gonzales Hands Dems Some Rope: Will They Use It?

I doubt it. I had to dig deep to find this exchange in the first place...

LEAHY: The Bybee memo concludes that a president has authority as commander in chief to override domestic and international law as prohibiting torture and can immunize from prosecution anyone -- anyone -- who commits torture under his act.

Whether legal or not, he can immunize them.

Now, as attorney general, would you believe the president has the authority to exercise a commander-in-chief override and immunize acts of torture?

GONZALES: First of all, sir, the president has said we're not going to engage in torture under any circumstances.

And so you're asking me to answer a hypothetical that is never going to occur.

This president has said we're not going to engage in torture under any circumstances.

And therefore, that portion of the opinion was unnecessary and was the reason that we asked that that portion be withdrawn.

LEAHY: But I'm trying to think what type of opinions you might give as attorney general. Do you agree with that conclusion?

GONZALES: Sir, again --

LEAHY: You're a lawyer, and you've held a position as a justice of the Texas Supreme Court, you've been the president's counsel, you've studied this issue deeply.

Do you agree with that conclusion?

GONZALES: Senator, I do believe there may come an occasion when the Congress might pass a statute that the president may view as unconstitutional.

And that is a position and a view not just of this president, but many, many presidents from both sides of the aisle.

Obviously, a decision as to whether or not to ignore a statute passed by Congress is a very, very serious one.

And it would be one that I would spend a great deal of time and attention before arriving at a conclusion that in fact a president had the authority under the Constitution to --

LEAHY: Mr. Gonzales, I'd almost think that you'd served in the Senate, you've learned how to filibuster so well, because I asked a specific question:

Does the president have the authority, in your judgment, to exercise a commander-in-chief override and immunize acts of torture?

GONZALES: With all due respect, Senator, the president has said we're not going to engage in torture.

That is a hypothetical question that would involve an analysis of a great number of factors.


That is an indisputably unacceptable response.

His evasiveness is unacceptable, and his implied answer -- that the president can give immunity to torturers -- is unacceptable.

Of course, the conservative response to this hearing is that the Democrats do not take the Global War on Terror seriously. They may even, maybe, hate America.

Powerline adds this to the conversation:

The first day of the Senate hearings seemed to confirm that the key Senators opposing Gonzales don't take the war on terrorism very seriously. Democratic Senators (along, unfortunately, with Republican Lindsay Graham) kept arguing that our use of debatable interrogation tactics puts our soldiers in harm's way because it means that when they are captured they are more likely to be tortured. There is some truth to this argument, but it would have been nice if one of these Senators had acknowledged that our actual enemies will behead any American (soldier or not) that they capture regardless of what interrogations tactics we use. It would also have been edifying if Gonzales' opponents had recognized the possibility that information obtained through aggressive interrogation can save lives. But, again, if you don't think the war on terror is real, this point is easier to lose sight of.

deacon is actually saying that the issue is not that Gonzales was involved in creating an atmosphere where torture was acceptable, but that torture is just fine with him.

This quote from New Frames seems like a good response:

What difference does it make if they cut heads off and we shove fluorescent light tubes up detainees' asses and beat them to death. When we torture, we no longer have any kind of moral ground to stand on. Fidel Castro can now put up billboards of Abu Ghraib, after we've demanded that he release 75 dissidents. It makes it possible for any government we critcize for violating human rights to tell us to shove it out loud.

Have we become like them?

98-pound weaklings

Top CIA Officials Faulted...

CIA report faults top officials for pre-9/11 lapses

A report from the CIA's independent investigator is expected to conclude officials at the highest level of the agency are to blame for pre-September 11 intelligence lapses.

I know that the tsunami coverage is tremendously compelling, and I will not lump the media's obsession with this story, one of the biggest in our lifetime, in with crap like the Michael Jackson case, but it is important not to overlook the fact that important news is still happening here in the United States.

I've said it before...

With the vast majority of the media's attention on the Indian Ocean, I hope someone has their eye on the White House.

If they want to slide a couple of zingers through, this is an opportune time to do it.

The Administration also has a habit of sliding through items that reflect negatively upon them while the media's attention is elsewhere.

Iraq Again...

It is too late to put up a silly title; my wit is fading with the day... But this is a good illustration of the progress being made in Iraq, at least in the sound bite department.

DESPERATE YET? A few quotations:

Essentially, it a list of quotes from September 2003 though January 2005 saying that the recent brutality of the terror attacks in Iraq must show that the insurgents must be getting desperate.

The war may not be a quagmire yet, but the PR is.

Atrios found it, I just stole it from him.

Read the blogs I posted recently if you want an idea of what Iraqis are thinking about this whole ordeal.

Someone in my History of Modern Arabia class asked why western powers thought that they could go into that part of the world and impose nation-state governments on historically tribal cultures?

Mind you, for most of the current state of Iraq's existence, its artificial nation has been held together by brutality. And the above question doesn't even touch on the Sunni, Shii and Kurd divisions...

Now that this brutality is gone, there is nothing holding that piece of geography together as a nation. Except for the U.S. military (and the allies- Sorry, Tony almost over looked your guys).

But the last two years, I hear, show that the insurgents must be getting desperate.

UPDATE: January 7, 2005 - 5:50 AM

School has been keeping my busy so I just noticed this old Atrios post...

The Good News From Iraq

Heroic tales of sacrifice are not "good news." Last I checked it was thought to be fucking horrible when heroes died. Maybe I didn't get the memo.

A different perspective from Lance in Iraq: Sweet justice

Additional Homework: January 7, 2005 - 11:30 PM, and beyond...

I am reviewing the Iraqi blogs I posted recently tonight, so here are some links...

'I did not want to be a collaborator' - Monday July 28, 2003

Success, a year and a half ago, looked like...

Iraq is now in almost total chaos. No one knows what is going on. We're not talking here about trying to achieve an ideal political system. People cannot understand why a superpower that can amass all that military might can't get the electricity back on. Iraqis are now contrasting Saddam's ability to bring back power after the war in 1991 to the apparent inability of the US to do so now. There are all kinds of conspiracy theories.

Written by: Isam al-Khafaji is a professor of political economy at the University of Amsterdam and author of the forthcoming Tormented Births: Passages to Modernity in Europe and the Middle East. He was a member of the Democratic Principles Working Group convened by the US state department to discuss the future of Iraqi governance.

Ishtar talking - English translations by Salam Pax

British examples of not pissing off Iraqis: Basra under the Brits feels like another country. - Wednesday July 2, 2003

In Baghdad that gun would be pointing either at the car right behind the military vehicle or at the sidewalk, scanning the buildings. But the British guy wasn't pointing at anything, he was just looking around with the gun turned in, at an angle that would have shot him in the foot if it had gone off by accident. You appreciate this only after you have been driving behind an American Humvee and praying that your car doesn't backfire or make strange noises, because the US soldier has that gun pointing right at you.

The next thing was getting into Basra and being stopped at the checkpoint. One soldier in a floppy hat waving his hand for you to slow down, and when you lower the window he actually greets you with "al salamu alaikum". That got him some appreciative giggles - imagine that happening in Baghdad. Everybody here in Basra is so much more laid back, even after the incidents in al-Majar al-Kabir. To their credit they didn't decide to punish the whole population and clamp down on them.

--Salam Pax
It is coming up on midnight and I am tired and I want to go to bed, so I will leave these glimpses of Iraq with these two quotes...

Monday, July 07, 2003:
..about 5 million people were living under a temperature of 47 degrees and without electricity and water for three days :-/

You know, I reviewed my "dream list" back then; there was no "New passports" in it. It just contained three simple wishes: Electricity, Water, and Security.

Saturday, December 18, 2004:
No electricity for three days in a row (well, unless you count that glorious hour we got 3 days ago...). Generators on gasoline are hardly working at all. Generators on diesel fuel aren't faring much better- most will only work for 3 or 4 straight hours then they have to be turned off to rest.

Ok- what is the typical Iraqi Christmas wishlist (I won't list 'peace', 'security' and 'freedom' - Christmas miracles are exclusive to Charles Dickens), let's see:

1. 20 liters of gasoline
2. A cylinder of gas for cooking
3. Kerosene for the heaters
4. Those expensive blast-proof windows
5. Landmine detectors
6. Running water
7. Thuraya satellite phones (the mobile phone services are really, really bad of late)
8. Portable diesel generators (for the whole family to enjoy!)
9. Coleman rechargeable flashlight with extra batteries (you can never go wrong with a fancy flashlight)
10. Scented candles (it shows you care- but you're also practical)

When Santa delivers please make sure he is wearing a bullet-proof vest and helmet. He should also politely ring the doorbell or knock, as a more subtle entry might bring him face to face with an AK-47. With the current fuel shortage, reindeer and a sleigh are highly practical- but Rudolph should be left behind as the flashing red nose might create a bomb scare (we're all a little jumpy lately).

-from Baghdad Burning

It's the progress being made in Iraq that really makes me feel that this is worth it, for us and for them.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Uh, John... Isn't this a couple months too late?

John Kerry in Iraq. Hell, I still like the guy. But, man, no one ever said that he had any sense of timing at all, did they?

Kerry goes to Iraq

UPDATE: January 8, 2005

Interesting post on Mercury Rising...

Come to think of it, I did notice the Kerry visit because of a blog, not the traditional media.

So of course, what was the one Kerry-related story on the local news of my "liberal" National Public Radio station this morning? It was about a bus company in Rochester, Minnesota who was suing Kerry over an unpaid bus-rental bill.

File This Under "WHAT 'Liberal Media'?!"

Is Boxer the only Senator with a sense of decency?

It is not about being bitter. It is not about being a sore loser. It is not about trying to stop the inauguration. It is not about trying to over turn the election.

It is about making damn sure that we still have democracy in America.

I do believe that Bush probably did win this election.

I find it highly unlikely that the voting irregularities in Ohio are responsible for well over 100,000 more votes for Bush than Kerry in that state.

However, investigating irregularities in Ohio and Florida is not about overturning the election. It is about finding out what went wrong so we can fix those problems so they will not happen again.
And it is about making sure that anyone who did try to illegally influence this election is held accountable.

Thank you, Sen. Boxer for having the courage to help keep this issue alive.

Senator defies party to make election protest

Congress Certifies Bush's Win After Protest

Senator Barbara Boxer, a hero for our time

House Committee on the Judiciary-Democratic Members - Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio A Status Report of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Crossfire will stop hurting us...

One down, but how much more work still needs to be done. And, though this may be out there, I don't know what they are going to replace it with. What if they put on a Court TV style show and take an hour away from bad coverage of actual news and just replace it with tabloid style gossip masquerading itself as news?

Tucker temporarily unemployed? Never bad... Actual result of this change?

Time will tell.

What is really gross? The New York Times reports:

"Tucker is a great journalist and we are exploring options with him for a 9 p.m. job," said Jeremy Gaines, a spokesman for MSNBC.


And the Wonkette is right, Carlson was bad, but the show itself was even worse.

And I will post this again, too: Jon Stewart 'Crossfire' Transcript: Stewart Slams Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala

Debate Shows
CNN Will Cancel 'Crossfire' and Cut Ties to Commentator
Jon Klein, Hero to Most

UPDATE: January 7, 2005 - 6:15 AM

Mark at The Moderate Liberal has compiled quite the link library on the Stewart/Crossfire Chronicles...

Jon Stewart Wins

I love Jon Stewart and greatly appreciated his Crossfire smackdown in all its honest awkwardness, but I never thought in a million years Jon would actually win that fight. Amazing.

Also, Mark uses footnotes in his blog. Genius. Makes us all look like slackers.

UPDATE: January 8, 2005

Steve Gilliard touches upon something that is often overlooked when looking at media issues these days...

The reason people like Howard Stern and Jon Stewart are heroes is simple: they have honest opinions, not manufactured ones. Not ones to get ratings alone. They actually have thoughts which go beyond the happy smile.

We want debate, not spin. We need debate. Informed debate on real issues. And talking chimps like Tucker Carlson can su... Sorry, I want to say it, but I think we need to elevate the debate.

Thank you Steve for saying what you said. It is such an obvious truth that is so easily over looked.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Life moves... School...

I am attempting to get some education, or at least a piece of paper increasing my hiring potential, so...

Anyway, I started Winter Quarter this week.

Updates may be few and far between...

Baghdad Burning

Monday, January 03, 2005

Occupation Fun...

I only have a moment, but River has a new post on Baghdad Burning and I wanted to link it up here... I'll comment later

A quote:

The elections are set for the 29th. It's an interesting situation. The different sects and factions just can't seem to agree. Sunni Arabs are going to boycott elections. It's not about religion or fatwas or any of that so much as the principle of holding elections while you are under occupation. People don't really sense that this is the first stepping stone to democracy as western media is implying. Many people sense that this is just the final act of a really bad play. It's the tying of the ribbon on the "democracy parcel" we've been handed. It's being stuck with an occupation government that has been labeled 'legitimate' through elections.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Investigate the Vote

I haven't posted this in a while...

Investigate the Vote

We are not done yet, people.

Consider it absoultion for your New Year's Eve sins...

Yes, Skippy probably won, but that is not the point.

This election demands accountability.

And also, just because I think that this illustrates an important point... Just because I feel like it...

Jon Stewart 'Crossfire' Transcript: Stewart Slams Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala