Monday, December 11, 2006


Note to readers: 1) Thanks as always to whisker for the links. I don’t usually post late enough to take advantage of his hard work, but on the days I can use his lists, like today, I am ever so grateful. 2) You may notice some of the carnage entries have unique grammar and punctuation. McClatchey Newspapers has a new Iraqi correspondent, Mohammed al Awsy, and they have begun posting his reports directly off the wire. English is clearly not his first language but his reports are comprehensive and McClatchey is a reputable service. On days I have time I’ll clean the entries up but not today. See Dancewater’s Friday post for an example of Awsy’s reports. 3) Yesterday’s comments are a trove of interesting opinions and links. Well worth a look. -m


#1: An improvised explosive device detonated near a Multi-National Division – Baghdad patrol, killing three Soldiers in the northern part of the Iraqi capital Dec. 10. As the Soldiers conducted a late night combat patrol, the roadside bomb detonated killing three Soldiers and wounding two others.

#2: Gunmen kidnapped four bank employees outside their bank in central Baghdad on Monday, an Interior Ministry source said. "Gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms attacked the four employees in their armored minibus outside the Warkaa Bank in Sa'adoun Street, kidnapping them and took a large amount of money," the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. The attack took place while the employees were transforming the money from their bank, he said.

Gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms ambushed a security vehicle transporting money to the Central Bank in Baghdad and made off with $1 million in cash on Monday, police and Interior Ministry sources said. Four private security guards were kidnapped in the daylight robbery in busy Sadoun Street in central Baghdad

#3: At 9 a.m., a suicide car bomb hit an abandoned house being used by policemen as an outpost in Dora, southern Baghdad, killing one policeman and wounding five, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

#4: At 9:45 a.m., a roadside bomb exploded near Mustasiriyah University in east Baghdad, wounding seven civilians who were standing nearby, said police Lt. Ali Muhsin.

#5: A parked car bomb detonated at 10:30 a.m. near al-Maamoun college in western Baghdad, killing one student and wounding two others and two policemen, a police officer said on condition of anonymity out of concern for his safety.

#6: A roadside bomb wounded a man in the Shorja area in central Baghdad, police said.

#7: A roadside bomb went off in Palestine Street in western Baghdad, killing one person and wounding six, police said.

#8: He said that another civilian was shot dead by gunmen in the nearby Fadhel neighborhood, a frequent site of clashes between Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents.

#9: In south Baghdad, four mortar rounds slammed into the often targeted Abu Chir neighbourhood, killing four people and wounding 11, a defence ministry official said.

#10: The U.S. military said Monday that four American soldiers were killed and three wounded by two roadside bombs Sunday in Baghdad as suspected sectarian violence cost another 51 Iraqis their lives. A roadside bomb exploded near a late-night combat patrol in northern Baghdad, killing three U.S. soldiers and wounding two others, the military said.Earlier Sunday, a roadside bomb exploded as a U.S. Army patrol was completing a security mission west of the city, killing one soldier and wounding another, the military said.

#11: Fifty-one bullet-riddled bodies were collected Sunday across the Iraqi capital, victims of what an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said was sectarian retribution between Sunnis and Shiites.

#12: The official also said gunmen killed Iraqi army Col. Yaarub Khazaal, who worked on the security detail for former Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi. The killing happened Sunday in western Baghdad's Yarmouk neighborhood, the official said.

#13: Violence continued Monday with at least three bombings that killed three people in Baghdad.

Diyala Province:

#1: Mayor of Diyala province, Ibrahim Bajillan told the Iraqi state-run newspaper al-Sabah that over 50 people were killed or injured every day in his province due to the ongoing violence, calling the Iraqi government to intervene to stop the bloodshed.


#1: according to the coordination centre in diyala province said this morning that the terrorist groups killed 3 civilians in baquba near the main bus station and this was done by silencer

#2: In the restive provincial capital of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, two police were shot dead.


#1: Gunmen opened fire at a family, killing three of its members and wounding three others while driving near Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

In separate incident, gunmen opened fire on a minibustravelling near the Maqdadiyah town, some 110 km north east of Baghdad, killing two people and wounding six others, including two children, the source added.

jididat al shat

#1: according to a security and health source from khalis hospital 15km northern baquba that one of the armed groups have killed 4 grocers [ sheaats] in jididat al shat area between baquba and Baghdad near mohammed sakran grave yard


#1: clashes in al khalis town 15km noethren baquba in al zikum area between unknown gunmen and a forces from al salam battalion of the iraqi army which let to the killing of 4 gunmen and arrested another 4 and one of them was injured

#2: Elsewhere, four people were killed when gunmen opened fire at a vegetable market near Khalis town, he said.


#1: According to the same source said that unknown gunmen assassin brigadier humam nori ibraheem head of the customs in najaf and according to colonel ali nomas the media spokesman of the security forces in najaf said that the brigadier was killed with his brother working as a general at the ministry of interior when unknown gunmen stormed to their house in baghdad and killed both of them


#1: (Khalila area) According to an aye witness in al khalila area southern basra that one civilian was killed and 5 others were injured 4 of them are children from one family when a mortar shell fail on their house and according to sheikh ahmed al janabi who is the victims neighbor said that the father of that family was killed immediately and the others were badly injured.

Tuz Khurmato:

#1: Gunmen stormed a house and killed six members of one family and wounded the father in a village near Tuz Khurmato, 70 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.


#1: Just north of Baghdad, in the town of Dujail, gunmen hijacked a minibus carrying five primary school teachers on their way to work and kidnapped them, said police at the joint coordination centre in Tikrit.


#1: Gunmen killed four brothers driving in their car in Mosul, police said.

#2: Gunmen killed a policeman in the northern city of Mosul, police said.


#1: Armed men burst into the home of a pregnant Shiite woman of the Turkmen ethnic group and shot her and her children in the town of Salaja, 75 kilometres south of Kirkuk, Iraq's northern oil city. Three of her children, aged between five and 13, were killed while two other daughters survived the attack. Police could give no motive for the attack, but noted that her husband was a Kurd and a member of the old army.

Kidnap victims: Thursday marked the third week since four American security contractors and an Austrian co-worker were abducted in southern Iraq, with no hard information about their fate.

The men's employer said there's still "no proof" that the men are well. U.S. and Iraqi officials say they're pursuing leads, but offer no details. The unknown kidnappers have made no public pronouncements about the case.

Paul Reuben, 39, a former Minnesota police officer, Jonathon Cote, 23, a New York-born veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and their unidentified colleagues, two other Americans and an Austrian, were providing security for a supply convoy in southern Iraq on Nov. 16 when they were ambushed in the southern town of Safwan and taken away.

Ethnic cleansing 1: Baghdad has been suffering from a series of attacks aimed at driving Sunnis or Shiites out of neighborhoods of the capital where they form a minority. Omar Abdul-Sattar, a member of the Sunni Arab Iraqi Islamic Party, said Sunday that an organized effort was under way in Hurriyah to force Sunnis out, and he accused Iraq's Shiite-led government of doing little to stop the violence.

Abdul-Sattar claimed that during the past five months, more than 300 Sunni families have been displaced from Hurriyah, more than 100 Sunnis killed and 200 wounded, and at least five Sunni mosques burned, along with houses and shops.

Clashes also erupted between Sunni and Shiite militants in Baghdad's mixed western Amil district, a policeman said. One Shiite militiaman was killed and six people — five Sunnis and one Shiite — were wounded, the officer said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

The fighting ended with U.S. and Iraqi forces rushing to the area to contain it, he said.

Ethnic cleansing 2: The displacement of Sunni Muslims from a Baghdad neighborhood this weekend could tip a large portion of Baghdad to control by Shiite militias, residents there and militiamen agreed Sunday.

Since Saturday Sunni residents have been displaced or voluntarily left the northwest Baghdad neighborhood of Hurriyah after police said three Sunni families were killed. Those who fled voluntarily said they did it because they did not trust the government forces to protect them. On Sunday, they continued fleeing, moving into schools or strangers' homes, the best immediate refuge they could find.

Shiite militiamen loyal to rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr openly admit to entering their homes and forcing them to leave. That speaks to the ongoing open battle for control of the capital and the apparent domination by the Mahdi Army, Sadr's militia.

It is clear that the government cannot protect neighborhoods, making it difficult for U.S. officials to hand control over to Iraqi forces. Other than outraged Sunni politicians, the mostly Shiite government was largely silent Sunday about the displacement.

The U.N. calls the displacement of Iraqi families the fastest growing humanitarian crisis in the world. They estimate that at least 1,000 Iraqis are displaced every day. Said Arakat, the local U.N. spokesman, said that if the displacement of families continues, "it will lead to calamity in Iraq."

Sunni quandary: Iraq's Sunni Arabs, the backbone of the anti-American insurgency, continue to issue vehement calls for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Privately, however, many of them describe American troops as the only reliable buffer between Sunni Arab enclaves and the Shiite-led government's militia-ridden security forces.

Now, even Sunni tribesmen accused of supporting attacks against American troops are taking U.S.-chauffeured helicopter rides to meet with officials in the fortress-like U.S. and Iraqi headquarters known as the Green Zone. Americans escorted the Anbar leaders to the Rasheed Hotel, where visitors in Saddam Hussein's era stepped on an inlaid mosaic of the elder President Bush's face as they entered.

"We trust only Sunni security forces and they must be supported by the Americans. We must have our Sunni police and army that the Americans must build and support," said Falih al Dulaimi, an Anbar councilman.

In recent weeks, Sunni demands for U.S. help have triggered soul-searching among tribesmen, clerics, politicians and workaday Iraqis who are torn between their fury over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the struggle to defend their communities from both Shiite militia and Sunni insurgent attacks. Their predicament puts American troops squarely in the middle of the sectarian violence, and hints at a potential bloodbath if they leave too soon.

As the Shiite-dominated government began flexing its power this fall - and, some argue, emboldening the Shiite militias and death squads - Sunnis began turning to U.S. troops for help. That top Sunni leaders are now willing to work publicly with coalition forces speaks to their weakened state.

"Now, when we see an American checkpoint, we are less worried than when we see an Iraqi checkpoint," said Jassim al-Samurraie, who lives in the Sunni neighborhood of Adhemiyah. "It's a fact, but it's a fact introduced by them. America worked very hard to make the situation like this so that Iraqis would prefer them to stay than ask them to leave."

Iraqi Politics

Parliamentary maneuvers: Major partners in Iraq's governing coalition are in behind-the-scenes talks to oust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki amid discontent over his failure to quell raging violence, according to lawmakers involved.

The talks are aimed at forming a new parliamentary bloc that would seek to replace the current government and that would likely exclude supporters of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is a vehement opponent of the U.S. military presence.

The new alliance would be led by senior Shiite politician Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, who met with President Bush last week. Al-Hakim, however, was not expected to be the next prime minister because he prefers the role of powerbroker, staying above the grinding day-to-day running of the country.

…It was not immediately clear how much progress had been made in the effort to cobble together a new parliamentary alliance. But lawmakers loyal to al-Sadr who support al-Maliki were almost certainly not going to be a part of it. They had no word on al-Maliki's Dawa party.

They said al-Maliki was livid at the attempt to unseat him.

"We know what's going on and we will sabotage it," said a close al-Maliki aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivities involved. He did not elaborate.

A senior aide to al-Sadr, who insisted on anonymity for the same reason, said the proposed alliance was primarily designed to exclude the cleric's backers and they would resist.

Oil law (See the entries on the sham ISG report below for other oil news): Iraqi officials are near agreement on a national oil law that would give the central government the power to distribute current and future oil revenues to the provinces or regions, based on their population, Iraqi and American officials say.

If enacted, the measure, drafted by a committee of politicians and ministers, could help resolve a highly divisive issue that has consistently blocked efforts to reconcile the country’s feuding ethnic and sectarian factions. Sunni Arabs, who lead the insurgency, have opposed the idea of regional autonomy for fear that they would be deprived of a fair share of the country’s oil wealth, which is concentrated in the Shiite south and Kurdish north.

The Iraq Study Group report stressed that an oil law guaranteeing an equitable distribution of revenues was crucial to the process of national reconciliation, and thus to ending the war.

Without such a law, it would also be impossible for Iraq to attract the foreign investment it desperately needs to bolster its oil industry.

Officials cautioned that this was only a draft agreement, and that it could still be undermined by the ethnic and sectarian squabbling that has jeopardized other political talks.

The Sham ISG Report

Note to readers: Regular readers – or anyone who reads the title of this section - may have deduced that the editors of this site are less than impressed with the report of the Iraq Study Group. But in our crippled political system, with our horribly dysfunctional media, we should at least acknowledge the ISG report has realigned the parameters of our national discourse on Iraq. For all its flaws, it has made it ok for our national media to say directly that the war is a miserable failure. That is not an insignificant thing. It appears that the ISG report is going to be a lynchpin of the national debate over the next two years – this and the next section are devoted to representative reports and commentary. -m

Republican reactions: The release of the report by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group this week exposed deep fissures among Republicans over how to manage a war that many fear will haunt their party — and the nation — for years to come.

A document that many in Washington had hoped would pave the way for a bipartisan compromise on Iraq instead drew sharp condemnation from the right, with hawks saying it was a wasted effort that advocated a shameful American retreat.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page described the report as a “strategic muddle,” Richard Perle called it “absurd,” Rush Limbaugh labeled it “stupid,” and The New York Post portrayed the leaders of the group, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, a former Democratic member of Congress, as “surrender monkeys.”

Republican moderates clung to the report, mindful of the drubbing the party received in last month’s midterm elections largely because of Iraq. They said they hoped President Bush would adopt the group’s principal recommendations and begin the process of disengagement from the long and costly war. But White House officials who conducted a preliminary review of the report said they had concluded that many of the proposals were impractical or unrealistic.

The divisions could make it more difficult for Republicans to coalesce on national security policy and avoid a bitter intraparty fight going into the 2008 campaign.

Democratic reactions: Top Democrats in Congress left a White House meeting with President Bush on Friday frustrated over what they perceived as his reluctance to embrace major recommendations from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.

Democrats stressed to Bush in separate meetings the dire need for the administration to revamp its Iraq policy, but they don't expect him to embrace all 79 recommendations made this week by the panel, which was chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind.

Bush said he talked about "the need for a new way forward in Iraq" in his morning session with leaders from both parties and chambers of Congress, "and we talked about the need to work together on this important subject."

But some Democrats came away unconvinced that major changes were coming.

Daddy’s circle reactions: Former White House advisers to George H.W. Bush are keenly disappointed and concerned about the current President Bush's initial reaction to the report by the Iraq Study Group.

They consider him rather dismissive of the group's conclusions, issued yesterday, which include the view that current Iraq policy is failing. The group recommends a variety of important changes, such as assigning U.S. troops to play more of an advisory and training role and less of a combat role. The ISG also recommends that the United States withdraw most of its combat brigades by early 2008 and that the administration increase diplomatic efforts, including starting talks with Iran and Syria and energetically working toward an Israeli-Palestinian solution.

Adding to the unease were President Bush's comments at his Thursday news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in which he avoided commenting on specifics in the ISG report.

"We have a classic case of circling the wagons," says a former adviser to Bush the elder. "If President Bush changes his policy in Iraq in a fundamental way, it undermines the whole premise of his presidency. I just don't believe he will ever do that."

The ISG’s reaction to Bush’s reaction: Former secretary of state James A. Baker III said for the first time yesterday that the Iraq Study Group remains committed to democracy in Iraq, as he and Co-Chairman Lee H. Hamilton offered conciliatory words to a Bush administration that has reacted coolly to the panel's key recommendations.

The group's report makes no mention of President Bush's oft-stated goal of establishing democracy in Iraq; in the five days since its release, Baker and Hamilton have talked in more modest terms, referring to Bush's recent formulation of creating an Iraq that can govern and defend itself. But in an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Baker emphasized: "We don't negate the goal of democracy."

"The goal of democracy has always been a goal and foundation and basis for American foreign policy, and it will always remain that," Baker said.

The comments appeared part of an effort by Baker and Hamilton to use the Sunday talk shows to play down talk of rifts between the panel and the Bush administration, which is finishing its own review of strategy in Iraq.

Federal employee unions reactions: The Iraq Study Group’s recommendation that the Bush administration consider ordering government civilians to Iraq has drawn outrage from federal employees’ unions.

Civilian agencies have been seeking volunteers to assist with efforts in Iraq. But the report states that the potential danger of the assignment means few qualified candidates have taken the offer.

Therefore: “In the short term, if not enough civilians volunteer to fill key positions in Iraq, civilian agencies must fill those positions with directed assignments,” the report says. “Steps should be taken to mitigate familial or financial hardships posed by directed assignments, including tax exclusions similar to those authorized for U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq.”

Created to advise Congress, the study group has no formal power. It is not clear what chance the group’s recommendations have of adoption. But American Federation of Government Employees President John Gage said that while his organization needs more information, “we are alarmed at the idea of directed reassignments of civilian agency employees to a military war zone.”

Talabani’s reaction: Iraqi President Jalal Talabani rejected the Iraq Study Group's report Sunday, calling it "very dangerous" to Iraq's sovereignty and constitution.

"We can smell in it the attitude of James Baker," Talabani said, referring to the report's co-chair who served as secretary of state under President George H. W. Bush during the 1991 Iraq war.

Talabani blamed Baker for leaving then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in power after that conflict, which ousted Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

He also criticized the report for recommending a law that would allow thousands of former officials from Hussein's ousted Baath party to serve in Iraqi government posts.

…"As a whole, I reject this report," Talabani said.

"I think that Baker-Hamilton is not fair, is not just, and it contains some very dangerous articles which undermine the sovereignty of Iraq and the constitution," Talabani said.

Barzani’s reaction: The leader of Iraq's Kurdish region says the US Iraq Study Group report is "unrealistic and inappropriate".

Massoud Barzani was sceptical of plans to involve Iraq's neighbours in peace efforts, and for any weakening down of the Kurds' effective autonomy.

In the first Kurdish reaction to the Iraq Study Group (ISG) report, Mr Barzani said the Iraq's Kurds were not committed to the report "in any way".

Members of the ISG did not visit Kurdish regions of northern Iraq while compiling their report, Mr Barzani said, calling that a "huge shortcoming".

He was critical of the report's emphasis on strengthening Iraq's central government, apparently "in contrast to the principles of federalism and the constitution, on which the new Iraq is built".

Syria’s reaction: The United States will face hatred and failure in the Middle East if the White House rejects the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, Syria warned on Sunday, according to The Associated Press. Syria's ruling party's Al-Baath newspaper urged President Bush to take the group's report seriously because it would "diminish hatred for the U.S. in region," AP reported.

And Bush is still winging it: In a rush to chart a new course for the Iraq war, President Bush's national security team is debating whether additional troops are needed to secure Baghdad — a short-term force increase that could be made up of all Americans, a combination of U.S. and Iraqi forces, or all Iraqis, a senior administration official said Saturday.

Other options being debated for inclusion in what the president has said will be his "new way forward" include a revamped approach to procuring the help of other nations in calming Iraq; scaling back the military mission to focus almost exclusively on hunting al-Qaida terrorists; and a new strategy of outreach to all of Iraq's factions, whose disputes are fueling some of the worst bloodshed since the war began, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the disclosure of internal discussions had not been authorized.

The official would not disclose how the administration was leaning in each of these areas, or provide details of the many other options said to remain on the table. The source cautioned that although Bush is planning to present his plan to the nation in a speech in the next two weeks, the discussions remain fluid and no final decisions have been made.

Want to know how to predict what Bush will do? Just figure out what action will give him the most immediate short-term political advantage. Works every time. -m

Military issues: Beyond its prescriptions for fixing Iraq, the special commission that studied a new approach to the war also spotlighted less obvious military ills that have deepened as fighting has dragging on. The military is war-weary, the defense budget is in danger of disarray, and relations between the military brass and their civilian overseers are frayed, the Iraq Study Group said. The bipartisan panel's report poses tough challenges for Robert Gates, who has no previous Pentagon management experience but will become defense secretary on Dec. 18.

A little reality fix: Whatever its ultimate fate, the Iraq Study Group report released Wednesday should have destroyed the spurious notion that flooding Iraq with more U.S. troops might win the war. As the report makes clear, a major influx of U.S. combat brigades into Iraq is somewhere between totally unrealistic and completely impossible.

In interviews with Salon, experts who served on the study group's "working groups" explained why: The military is running out of troops and equipment. The cold, hard facts about military readiness and a 1.4 million-strong active duty force rule out a big increase in the size of the U.S. footprint in Iraq. "We don't have enough is the short answer," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University who served on the "military and security" working group of the bipartisan commission headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton. Advocating a big increase in troop levels now is just political theater, argued Hoffman. "This is the beginning of the who-lost-Iraq debate," he explained.

ISG Related Commentary

Glenn Greenwald: I've been persuaded by those who have argued here over the past couple days that the Baker-Hamilton Report isn't pure evil, because it so fundamentally undercuts the neoconservative narrative about the world. That may be true. But its effect of solidifying our ongoing presence in Iraq and transforming anti-withdrawal sentiment into the mainstream, centrist, bipartisan position vastly outweigh that. As long as we stay as an occupying force in Iraq -- with all of the abuses and destruction and drain that inevitably goes with it -- it is difficult to imagine how we are going to reverse any of the damage that has been done to our country over the last six years. The neoconservatives are being revealed as the ugly, crazed extremists that they are. But they still remain more or less firmly in control in the form of George Bush, Dick Cheney and company. And that control has not been loosened any by the Baker-Hamilton Report. If anything, the opposite has occurred.

Glenn Greenwald again: There is something profoundly undemocratic about what Establishment Washington is doing here. As always, they begin from the premise that their physical presence in Washington and their greater information about the inner workings of the Beltway bestow upon them not just greater information, but superior wisdom, elevated judgment (and the fact that they bear substantial responsibility for what has happened here doesn't seem to have diluted that abundant self-regard in the slighest). They now recognize that Americans have given up on the war but they believe that that view is rash, uninformed, emotional -- "precipitous," to use the condescending label assigned to that view by the Report. The crazed and lowly masses need the steady, sober hand of the Washington Establishment -- symbolized by the old Washington relics dragged out to put their stern seal of approval on the next two years of our occupation (despite the fact that they were the ones who helped bring about this disaster). And before the ink was dry on the Report, all of the entrenched propagandists for the Washington Establishment fell all over themselves praising its great wisdom and pronouncing it to be the solemn duty of all serious people to endorse it. There is something for everyone to love and hate in this Report. That was necessary to attract the approval stamps of the "bipartisan" members and, more importantly, to provoke the wrath from "extremists" on both sides -- always the most convincing "proof" for the simple-minded Beltway elite that they struck the sensible center ("hey, both sides hate it, so we must be doing something right"). But the rhetoric and specific claims in the Report matter little. What matters most -- really exclusively -- is that this Report (in the eyes of the Beltway media and related types) has become the defining position of the Center. And the Report unmistakably endorses our ongoing occupation of Iraq, and emphatically rejects the notion of withdrawing any time soon.

Tom Raum: Call President Bush a lame duck, a weakened leader, a disappointed president whose party lost control of Congress - and the decider when it comes to a new approach in Iraq. After all the studies and recommendations and talk, the president will call the shots.

Members of Congress can complain and investigate, yet there is little they can do to change Iraq policy short of cutting off funds. Regardless of Bush's diminished state, the ball is in his court. While Congress can declare war, the president, after all, is the one who moves troops.

Editor and Publisher: Don't count New York Times columnist Frank Rich among those hailing the work of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which produced its long-awaited report this week. Among other problems: Their much-needed policy proposals for Iraq were "bogus," he writes in his Sunday column. Even so, other pundits have praised the new bi-partisanship and how that could get more things done in D.C. Of this Rich retorts: "Only in Washington could an unelected panel of retirees pass for public-policy Viagra." Rich notes (in his column available via TimesSelect) the long buildup for this "holiday release" -- it could have been had a movie title such as "The Way Forward" -- before the letdown. The panel's recommendations, he writes, "are bogus because the few that have any teeth are completely unattainable. Of course, it would be fantastic if additional Iraqi troops would stand up en masse after an infusion of new American military advisers. And if reconciliation among the country’s warring ethnicities could be mandated on a tight schedule. And if the Bush White House could be persuaded to persuade Iran and Syria to 'influence events' for America’s benefit. It would also be nice if we could all break the bank in Vegas. "The group’s coulda-woulda recommendations are either nonstarters, equivocations (it endorses withdrawal of combat troops by 2008 but is averse to timelines) or contradictions of its own findings of fact. To take just one example: Even if we could wave a magic wand and quickly create thousands more military advisers (and Arabic-speaking ones at that), there’s no reason to believe they could build a crack Iraqi army and police force where all those who came before have failed. As the report points out, the loyalties and capabilities of the existing units are suspect as it is. "By prescribing such placebos, the Iraq Study Group isn’t plotting a way forward but delaying the recognition of our defeat. Its real aim is to enact a charade of progress to pacify the public while Washington waits, no doubt in vain, for Mr. Bush to return to the real world."

The Capital Times: The Iraq Study Group report was greeted with a proper measure of skepticism by U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat who has been right from the start about the ill-thought-out invasion and occupation of Iraq.

"I'm not buying the Washington embrace of this thing. ... It's time for us to have a clear plan to disengage in Iraq. This doesn't do it," declared Feingold, who notes that the report "leaves the strong possibility of an open-ended commitment."

While too many other members of Congress - including members of the Wisconsin delegation who should know better - have tried to find something to like in the report, Feingold has been blunt in his dismissal of it.

Appearing on MSNBC's "Countdown With Keith Olbermann," Feingold, who in 2002 voted against authorizing Bush to attack Iraq, correctly characterized the report from the group headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton as "a classic Washington compromise."

NY Times: No one could ever suggest that James Baker lacks ambition or self-confidence. So it is not surprising that along with its effort to salvage Iraq, the report from Mr. Baker’s Iraq Study Group offers some strong advice on how to fix George W. Bush’s dysfunctional Washington — and the president’s dysfunctional relations with the rest of the world.

We were particularly drawn to Recommendations 46, 72 and 78. Under separate headings dealing with the military, the federal budget and the nation’s intelligence agencies, they share one basic idea: Government officials should not lie to the public or each other, especially in matters of war.

One should not need a blue ribbon commission to know that. But the fact that it had to be said, and so often, in the report goes a long way toward explaining how Mr. Bush got the country into the Iraq mess and why it is proving so hard to dig out of it.

LA Times: While the Bush administration, the media and nearly all the Democrats still refuse to explain the war in Iraq in terms of oil, the ever-pragmatic members of the Iraq Study Group share no such reticence. Page 1, Chapter 1 of the Iraq Study Group report lays out Iraq's importance to its region, the U.S. and the world with this reminder: "It has the world's second-largest known oil reserves." The group then proceeds to give very specific and radical recommendations as to what the United States should do to secure those reserves. If the proposals are followed, Iraq's national oil industry will be commercialized and opened to foreign firms.

The report makes visible to everyone the elephant in the room: that we are fighting, killing and dying in a war for oil. It states in plain language that the U.S. government should use every tool at its disposal to ensure that American oil interests and those of its corporations are met.

My emphasis. Well, thank you LA Times. And it only took three years, billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives before a national paper would state the obvious. -m

US Military News

First it was homemade armor. Now it’s donated Silly String: Last month TIME wrote about soldiers and Marines in Iraq requesting an unusual life-saving item in their care packages sent from home: Silly String. It seems that the neon plastic party streamers sprayed into an open doorway before a building search or across a darkened room can help detect nearly invisible trip wires attached to bombs and boobytraps. The old methods to detect trip wires — sweeping the space with a metal grappling hook or getting close enough for a visual inspection — just aren't as safe, Marines discovered.

Marcelle Shriver, an office manager and Army mom from Stratford, N.J., first advertised for Silly String donations in her church bulletin after her son called from Ramadi and mentioned how the Marine unit he was working with had passed on their tip to his combat engineers new to Iraq.

Since our item on this latest display of military ingenuity first ran, it's been picked up by everyone from Fox & Friends to Jon Stewart's Daily Show. And Shriver has been inundated with donations and cash for shipping. She's even had a private pilot volunteer his services to fly the stuff to Kuwait where it will be taken by truck to Iraq in January.

Senator Smith’s Brouhaha

Integrity – Better Late Then Never: Sen. Gordon Smith's sudden about-face on the Iraq war -- in a Senate speech, he said the war was "absurd" and "may even be criminal" -- reverberated throughout Washington and across Oregon on Friday.

The Oregon lawmaker, who had been a largely quiet supporter of President Bush's war policies until his floor speech Thursday night, became the first Republican senator to suggest that the United States quickly pull out many of its troops from the violence-racked country.

"I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way being blown up by the same bombs day after day," said Smith. "That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that anymore."

Analysts said Smith's speech could signal the beginning of a major slide of Republican congressional support for the president on Iraq.

Rats on the gangplank: President Bush, weakened by an unpopular war and the loss of Republican control in Congress, is now confronting disaffection within his own party that could complicate his attempt to set an agenda for his final two years in office. As Republicans departed Capitol Hill this weekend, some who used to dismiss Democratic attempts to investigate the administration as political posturing are now lining up behind calls for greater oversight of the executive branch.

They are advertising attacks on Bush's foreign policy that they once kept largely private. Last week, Oregon Sen. Gordon H. Smith gave a speech calling the current war strategy "absurd" and sent out a news release with his remarks. Some longtime Bush allies, such as Texas Sen. John Cornyn, are even adopting Democratic rhetoric to criticize the Iraq war. And on other issues that will confront the new Congress in January — including trade and judicial appointments — Republican lawmakers have signaled an unwillingness to follow the White House.

And now for the infuriating quote of the day:

"Frankly, I think there is a greater recognition and awareness of the necessity for us to exercise checks and balances," said Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), noting how much the Nov. 7 election changed the climate on Capitol Hill.

Olympia, you useless sack of protoplasm. Have you ever read the Constitution? Do you think your constitutionally mandated RESPONSIBILITY to oversee the executive applies only in years your party loses an election?

God, I despise these punks. And the so-called ‘moderate’ Republicans are the worst of the bunch. At least with a Tom Delay you know right where you stand. -m

Another ‘Well, Duh!’ Moment

Jolly good: Cabinet ministers have been told by the Foreign Office to drop the phrase 'war on terror' and other terms seen as liable to anger British Muslims and increase tensions more broadly in the Islamic world.

The shift marks a turning point in British political thinking about the strategy against extremism and underlines the growing gulf between the British and American approaches to the continuing problem of radical Islamic militancy. It comes amid increasingly evident disagreements between President George Bush and Tony Blair over policy in the Middle East.

Our New American Values

Tough one for the judge: Lawyers for former detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan argued in federal court on Friday that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was personally responsible, and thus legally liable, for acts of torture inflicted on their clients by American military interrogators.

The nine plaintiffs, Iraqi and Afghan men held at American-run prisons, endured an array of physical and psychological abuse during their confinements in 2003 and 2004, including beatings, mock executions and painful physical restraints, their lawyers said in court papers. All were eventually released without being charged with crimes.

The hearing Friday, before Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan in Federal District Court in Washington, was the first time a federal court had considered whether top administration officials could be liable for the torture of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the hearing concerned only questions of jurisdiction and did not delve into whether Mr. Rumsfeld, because he personally approved certain interrogation techniques in 2002 like the use of “stress positions,” was legally responsible for specific acts of torture committed in overseas military prisons.

Instead, lawyers from each side argued over whether noncitizens confined in prisons outside the United States had legal standing to sue Mr. Rumsfeld and other American military officials for constitutional violations.

Analysis - Karen Greenberg: To the Bush administration, words, it seemed, were everything. And if the laws, domestic and international, depended upon definitions, then the definitions of words would simply have to change across the board. So it was unavoidable that the first casualty in the President's Global War on Terror, which also became his global war for immunity, would be language itself. The captives who arrived at Gitmo were not to be called prisoners, nor was the facility itself to be referred to as a prison; it was a "detention facility" and the inmates were "detainees" and "enemy combatants." If other words were used -- prison, prisoner, prisoner-of-war -- then high officials and members of the Armed Forces would not, as Ashcroft explained, be immune from the law.

In the same vein, torture was to be banned from the premises (but only as a word); instead coercive techniques that for centuries plainly came under the rubric of torture were relabeled "counter-resistant coercive interrogation techniques." The infamous "torture memo" of August, 2002 drew narrow parameters around the definition of torture, which was now to be limited to "serious physical injury such as death." Repeatedly, the memo asserted that other methods "do not amount to torture." And it essentially turned the very definition of torture over to the torturer. Abetted here as elsewhere by the media, the Bush administration also successfully de-legitimized the statements of the detainees themselves, consigning them to the trash heap of history -- all of them were the accounts of well-drilled liars, false accusations inspired by Al Qaeda training manuals.

And yet, even reclassifying words and redrawing the lines of the law did not sufficiently assuage their fears -- and here's where the hidden confessional element of all this crept into play. They were clearly hounded by what can only be called a kind of lurking institutional conscience, a sense that the acts already being committed in their name (or future ones) might someday be declared illegal under laws and agreements they were trying unilaterally to abrogate, resulting in prosecutions.

So, to ensure that their legal reasoning and linguistic demands would hold sway in the policy world, Bush administration officials found they had to go even further. They determined to find a way to control the environment of detention as completely as possible. First, of course, they chose an American base in Cuba to be the jewel in the crown of the detention system they were putting in place globally because it seemed to lie "in legal limbo" outside any international or domestic legal system. Second, "ghost prisons," some in facilities borrowed from allies known to employ torture themselves, were established so that the techniques for extracting confessions, even though no longer defined as torture, could not be seen or known about. Third, just to be sure about things, the United States launched a campaign to free itself from any future international prosecution for war crimes under the auspices of the new International Criminal Court (ICC). In return for money and services, after cases of remarkable diplomatic arm twisting, 102 countries agreed, one by one, to an American demand for immunity from future ICC prosecution.

Then, the Bush administration charged ahead, convinced that it had addressed its legal liabilities and given itself that eternal hall pass. In truth, however, it had been confessing all along, laying out a remarkable record of tacit admission to criminal activity. The administration had, for example, informed the military commanders at Gitmo that they should consider themselves to be "guided by the Geneva Conventions but not bound by them." At Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, interrogation needs took precedence over matters of detention -- and it was all on the official record.

The administration's urge to claim immunity, which is, in essence, the confession of crimes about to be committed (or already committed), has not waned over the years. If anything, it has gotten stronger.

Impeach? Impeach!

McKinney does the right thing: On Monday, gathering in a conference room in Washington D.C., Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and her advisors worked on a draft copy of the articles of impeachment against President Bush. At the heart of the charges contained in McKinney’s articles of impeachment, is the allegation that President Bush has not upheld the oath of presidential office and is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. Article I states that President Bush has failed to preserve, protect and defend the constitution. Specifically cited in this article is the charge that Bush has manipulated intelligence and lied to justify war: “George Walker Bush … in preparing the invasion of Iraq, did withhold intelligence from the Congress, by refusing to provide Congress with the full intelligence picture that he was being given, by redacting information … and actively manipulating the intelligence on Iraq’s alleged weapons programs by pressuring the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies.” This manipulation of intelligence was done, the charge continues, “with the intent to misinform the people and their representatives in Congress in order to gain their support for invading Iraq, denying both the people and their representatives in Congress the right to make an informed choice.”

David Swanson - The Best Reasons Not to Impeach, And Why They're Wrong: OK, now we're back to those of you who believe that Bush has committed impeachable offenses. Most of you also want to see him impeached, but some of you do not. Among those of you who do not, a common theme is a belief that other people disagree with you and will be turned off just by your proposing impeachment. Well, let me ask you this:

Are you a freak?

Do you believe that other people think completely differently from you?

Do you imagine that significant numbers of actual humans believe the rot that Rush Limbaugh is paid to spew?

Newsweek says that 51 percent of Americans want impeachment to be either a high or low priority, while 44 percent oppose it.

Are you in the "make it a low priority" bunch? If so, you may subscribe to one of the four most common reasons for your position:

1. Dick Cheney would become president 2. Impeachment is divisive and partisan 3. Impeachment will make the Democrats lose in 2008 4. There are more pressing issues. We must pass positive legislation.

Let's look at each of these in order…

Marc McDonald: "Has the President so failed in his duties to the nation that he should leave office? The answer to that question is yes, and the time for the President to leave is not after months of continued national embarrassment but now. Clinton should resign." ---USA Today editorial, Sept. 15, 1998 George W. Bush is a crook. He has violated the Constitution. He has violated his oath of office. He lied America into a disastrous war of aggression that killed 650,000 Iraqi men, women and children. He made the United States the most feared and hated nation on the planet.

By contrast, all Bill Clinton did was lie about a blow job. Guess which president our nation's media called upon to resign?

Screw Jim Baker – Listen To A Quaker

10 Reasons Why the U.S. Must Leave Iraq

1 - The human cost of war is unacceptable.

2 - The U.S. occupation is a catalyst for violence.

3 - U.S. actions inflame divisions and the chance of civil war.

4 - Iraqis want the United States to leave now.

5 - Democracy cannot flourish under an occupation.

6 - The United States has failed to rebuild Iraq or provide for Iraqis’ basic needs.

7 - The Iraq war and occupation waste resources needed for U.S. domestic programs.

8 - The U.S. occupation of Iraq destabilizes the Middle East.

9 - Humanitarian aid is crippled by the occupation.

10 - The global community wants the war and occupation to end now.


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