Wednesday, November 02, 2005

War News for Wednesday, November 2, 2005 Bring 'em on: Five Iraqis were killed and eight others injured in two separate explosions south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Zarqawi Lt. number #,### killed by US forces in Mosul. Bring 'em on: Zarqawi Lt. number #,### + 1 killed in US airstrikes on Husayba. Bring 'em on: Five Iraqi soldiers were killed and four wounded when a roadside bomb went off near their patrol in the southeastern district of Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Fears grow for Moroccan diplomats kidnapped in Baghdad. Chalabi for PM: In an interview with Newsweek, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad insisted that "Iraqis will decide" who becomes prime minister and avoided endorsing anyone. But the public perception that Chalabi has influence in Washington would be a plus. After elections last January, Chalabi tried to win the prime minister's job but lost out to Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a fellow member of the Shiite alliance that won the biggest share of parliament seats. Chalabi has since pulled out of the Shiite alliance and will run on his own ticket on Dec. 15. That virtually assures he will make a bid for the prime ministership. And his chances are better this time around. More troops: US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stated that he did not exclude the possibility of increasing the US military contingent in Iraq in December when the next Parliamentary elections would take place, the Spanish information agency Europa Press reported. The latter might occur because of the danger of activation of rebel attacks. Getting some balls?: "After months and months of begging, cajoling, writing letters, we're finally going to be able to have phase two of the investigation regarding how the intelligence was used to lead us into the intractable war in Iraq," said a satisfied Democratic Leader Harry Reid after the session. Reid said the illegal unmasking of secret agent Valerie Plame, as well as questionable efforts by the White House to make the case for going to war in Iraq, warranted thorough congressional scrutiny. "Americans deserve a searching and comprehensive investigation about how the Bush administration brought this country to war," said Reid. Farsighted: "The Italian leader said that at a sensitive moment in world history, Bush would be remembered as "the one who is so farsighted." Neither leader took reporters' questions after their statements. Both are experiencing political difficulties. Suck on this Blair: President of Iraq's Kurdistan region Massoud Barzani attends a conference in London on November 1, 2005, where he stressed there is no evidence of Iran's involvement in Iraq's unrest. Opinion and Commentary Band Reunion:
Ahmad Chalabi, the neocon-darling-turned-persona-non-grata-turned-Iraqi-Deputy-Prime-Minister, is coming to Washington this month -- his first visit to DC since the White House soured on him back in May 2004 and those Pentagon checks stopped coming. For his comeback tour, Chalabi has lined up meetings with Condi Rice, John Snow, and national security advisor Stephen Hadley (no word on whether he and Hadley will have a friendly showdown to see who helped pass along the most bogus pre-war intel. I can see Chalabi offering up Curveball only to have Hadley top him with the phony yellowcake info he passed along). And no word on whether Chalabi will be calling on his old pal Scooter Libby, to whom he turned when the CIA stopped buying his bull, and who gave him a direct line to the White House. Just as he once convinced Libby that American troops would be greeted as liberators, Chalabi could now convince him there is light at the end of the indictment tunnel: "Trust me, Scooter, I've been through much worse. You just gotta put your head down and keep scheming!" Chalabi's visit is the political version of getting the band back together. And, having orchestrated the greatest career makeover since Paris Hilton went from Internet porn curiosity to Vanity Fair cover girl, Chalabi has now set his sights on becoming Iraq's new prime minister following the next round of voting on Dec. 15. Not bad for a guy who, less than two years ago, was being accused by the Bush administration of passing intelligence to Iran that could 'get people killed.' But, apparently, now that Chalabi is a power player in Iraq, all appears forgiven. At least around the White House. The rest of us, on the other hand, would do well to remember that this is still the guy who:
· was a prime source of trumped up claims about Saddam's WMD · bamboozled the Bushies while pocketing $340,000 a month from the US government · tried to sabotage the UN's efforts to put in place an interim government in Iraq · helped the White House Iraq Group sell the war by regularly passing faulty intel to Judy Miller · introduced Curveball, another bogus source on WMD, to the intelligence community · was accused of spying for the Iranians · controlled a group of thugs accused of fraud, torture, kidnapping, and misuse of U.S. funds · was convicted in abstentia of embezzling millions of dollars in Jordan in the 1980s
War Powers:
In the face of this evidence, Yoo boldly asserts that a deeper historical inquiry reveals a very different original intention -- namely, to endow the president with power over foreign affairs virtually identical to that of the king of England, including the power to initiate wars without congressional authorization. He argues that the power to "declare War" given to Congress was not meant to include the power to begin or authorize a war, but simply the power to state officially that a war was on -- a statement that would be "a courtesy to the enemy" and would authorize the executive to exercise various domestic wartime powers. At most, Yoo contends, the clause giving Congress power to "declare War" was meant to require congressional approval for "total war," a term Yoo never defines, but it left to the president the unilateral decision to engage in all lesser hostilities. He quotes dictionaries from the founding period that defined "declare" as "to pronounce" or "to proclaim," not "to commence." He points out that the Constitution did not give Congress the power to "engage in" or to "levy" war, terms used in other constitutional provisions referring to war. And he notes that unlike some state constitutions of the time, the federal constitution did not require the president to consult Congress before going to war. All the evidence Yoo cites, however, can be read more convincingly to corroborate the view he seeks to challenge -- namely, that the Constitution gave the president only the power, as commander in chief, to carry out defensive wars when the country came under attack, and to direct operations in wars that Congress authorized. British precedent is of limited utility here, since the framers consciously departed from so much of it. Dictionary definitions of "declare" also offer little guidance, since Yoo ignores that there is a world of difference between someone's "declaring" his or her love for wine or Mozart and a sovereign's declaring war. "Declare War" was in fact a legal term of art, and there is evidence that it was used at the time to mean both the commencement of hostilities and a statement officially recognizing that war was ongoing. The use of the word "declare" rather than "levy" or "engage in" simply reflects the division of authority under which the president actually levies -- or carries on -- the war once it is begun. Indeed, the framers famously substituted "declare" for "make" in enumerating Congress's war powers for just this reason. And the framers had no reason to require the president to consult with Congress before going to war since it was Congress's decision, not the president's. Most troubling for Yoo's thesis, his account renders the power to "declare War" a meaningless formality. At the time of the Constitution's drafting, a formal "declaration of war" was not necessary for the exercise of war powers under either domestic or international law, so Yoo's hypothesis that the declaration served that purpose fails. Yoo's further suggestion that the clause recognizes a distinction between "total wars," which must be declared, and lesser wars, which need not be, has no historical basis. Despite his ostensible commitment to originalism, Yoo cites no evidence whatever to suggest that any such distinction existed for the founding generation. Nor does he ever explain what the distinction might mean today. And the fact that the text grants Congress both the power to "declare War" and to issue "Letters of Marque and Reprisal" strongly suggests an intent that Congress decide on all forms of military conflict other than repelling attacks. Once these explanations evaporate, all that is left for Yoo's theory of the war clause is that it gives Congress the power to provide a "courtesy to the enemy" -- hardly a persuasive refutation of the clear language of the framers quoted above.
PR Disaster:
The root of the problem lies in the nature of her agenda. Contrary to official spin, Hughes has not been hired to improve America's standing in the world, but the Bush administration's. This is a hopeless cause - to expect the Muslim world to change its mind over arguably the most brazen and unilateralist American president in history; one who has chosen to make the Islamic world the battle front for "freedom and democracy". The surest way for Hughes and her envoy to begin improving America's relations with the Muslim world and establish the "dialogue" she seeks would be to concede that mistakes have been made - to distance herself from some of the administration's more blatant foreign-policy blunders. As it is, in each of her stops across the Muslim world, she came across as a "mouthpiece" for the president, as a university rector in Indonesia put it. Apparently Hughes thought promoting Bush's agenda would pass undetected among Muslims, so long as she presented herself as receptive and respectful. But when you're a mouthpiece it's hard to hide the fact. The role constricts; it alters inner feelings and outward demeanor. The heart is not open (though constantly strives to give the impression it is); the mind is self-conscious, always returning to the agenda, which is invariably different than how it's officially billed. In a word, the business is insincere. And during her tour, Hughes struggled in vain not to appear so, often ingratiating herself in the process. In Malaysia, for instance, she said it had been "thrilling" to hear the Muslim call to prayer. Are we so naive as to think Muslims won't detect sycophancy coming from the lips of a Western diplomat, when Washington has all but obliterated trust in the Muslim world in recent years, from propping up autocracies while purporting to promote democracy, to claiming its main reason for invading Iraq was to hunt for weapons of mass destruction and liberate the Iraqi people?
Metrics via Billmon:
Great news from Iraq! The enemy's Kill Ratio Per Improvised Explosive Device Effective Attack -- the all-important KRPIEDEA factor -- is going down!
Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff . . . said that while the number of IED attacks has risen, the number of casualties per effective IED attack is going down. As of Tuesday, the U.S. military death toll for October was at least 93, bringing the total number of military deaths to at least 2,026 since the war in Iraq began.
Of course last month's casualty count was the highest since January -- making October the 4th worst month for U.S. combat deaths since the war began. And this year's butcher's bill (ours) is running about 9% ahead of last year's -- although God willing that will change this month, when the first anniversary of Shrub's post-election assault on Fallujah rolls around. And of course there's not the slightest sign whatsoever that these deaths have weakened the insurgency or brought the war within a measurable distance of its end. But goddammit, it's taking the terrorists more IEDs than ever before to blow up a given number of American soldiers. And that's progress. How come we don't read more positive stories like that in the mainstream media?
Jo Fish on Geneva Conventions:
So it continues. More US soldiers charged with more prisoner abuse in Afghanistan. Let's for a moment pretend that we will let these guys off with a "traffic ticket" of an Article 15 hearing for bad behavior, and go for the real culprits in this case ... gee, where would you look. Perhaps in the Oval Office? The dehumanizing rhetoric about Islamic prisoners flowed from the very top of the Chain of Command. Two goobers, however ill-intentioned, were not going to go whaling on prisoners if they did not believe that they had some justification or cover... from somewhere for their misbehavior...
Two U.S. soldiers have been charged with assault for allegedly punching two detainees in the chest, shoulders and stomach at a military base in Afghanistan, the military said Sunday. ... The charges against the two soldiers include conspiracy to maltreat, assault and dereliction of duty. The allegations, if substantiated, could lead to disciplinary action, the statement said, adding that neither detainee required medical attention.
Clearly, even if the commands involved are sensitive to the treatment of their detainees in light of prior bad acts, the "cowboy" philosophy of Preznit Absolutely Ignorant and his other favorite philospher, Abu Gonzales seems to prevail for the troops in the field. Who knows, maybe they figure if they beat on enough "hajis" one will give up the location of Osama, and they'll get to go all Kelly's Heros and collect the gold for turning him in...with "double secret informtion" they got out of a detainee, the hard way. Prosecution of these misguided souls is the only way to ensure "good order and discipline" in the ranks...but somewhere, someone has to be keeping a tally of all this bullshit, because someday there's going to be an accounting by the 1600 Crew for their willful ignorance of the Geneva Conventions...and that's the day these folks will get their real day in court, as spectators watching the protagonists of this war being dragged before the bar for their real bad acts... the ones that have cost us our collective soul as a Republic.


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