Current events
Post-9-11 events and analyses

Ken Novak's Weblog


daily link  Thursday, September 30, 2004


Letter from Farnaz Fassihi in Baghdad:  Bleak assessment, from a WSJ reporter no less -- in correspondence, not in his own newspaper.  Ceratinly worth reading it all. "Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come...

Here is how it goes: criminal gangs grab you and sell you up to Baathists in Fallujah, who will in turn sell you to Al Qaeda. In turn, cash and weapons flow the other  way from Al Qaeda to the Baathisst to the criminals. ..

I asked a 28-year-old engineer if he and his family would participate in the Iraqi elections since it was the first time Iraqis could to  some degree elect a leadership. His response summed it all: "Go and vote and risk being blown into pieces or followed by the insurgents and murdered for cooperating with the Americans? For what? To practice democracy? Are you joking?"

  11:51:49 PM  permalink  

Bush debate response war room: "The Bush campaign has set up a network of Web sites to carry instant analysis of tonight's debate. The "Debate Feed" will provide the GOP spin in real time to as many as 5,000 conservative Web outlets, according to Wired News. "Our rapid response effort is based on the premise that no attack or no misstatement will go unchallenged," Michael Turk, director of the Internet campaign, told the Web site. A "war room" is outfitted with 15 computers and two TVs, monitored by two dozen staffers, ready to send out a Republican response or comment, Wired added. The Kerry campaign is not so well organized. It has e-mailed supporters who work with local newspapers and media, telling them the Kerry campaign will provide a response after the debate, Wired reported."  11:42:44 PM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Iraqi schools turn away from secular teachings: Not encouraging.  "Many Iraqis are opting out of the public school system.  Under Saddam, [4-year-old] Beytool's school was only allowed to teach the strict, state-approved curriculum. But now, it's a private school and they are free to teach whatever they like. And in a sign of the changing times here, the focus is now overwhelmingly on Islamic education. Instead of teaching the alphabet, the goal in Beytool's class is to memorize 28 basic verses from the Koran, and learn how to wash before prayers.  The school's director says: "the most important thing for a child to know is religion." ..

At universities too, religious hard-liners are taking hold — at Baghdad's Mustansiriya, self-appointed morality police now guard the campus gate. They recently sent a grad student away because she was wearing pants. .. And the government has no control over hundreds of Shiite religious seminaries — known as the Howza — teaching Islamic theory and law once banned under Saddam."

  5:47:43 PM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, September 28, 2004


Ellsberg: Truths Worth Telling:  Great piece (background also available):  "On a tape recording made in the Oval Office on June 14, 1971, H. R. Haldeman [spoke] on the effect of the Pentagon Papers..:

"Rumsfeld was making this point this morning,'' Haldeman says. "To the ordinary guy, all this is a bunch of gobbledygook. But out of the gobbledygook comes a very clear thing: you can't trust the government; you can't believe what they say, and you can't rely on their judgment. And the implicit infallibility of presidents, which has been an accepted thing in America, is badly hurt by this, because it shows that people do things the president wants to do even though it's wrong, and the president can be wrong."

He got it exactly right. But it's a lesson that each generation of voters and each new set of leaders have to learn for themselves. Perhaps Mr. Rumsfeld - now secretary of defense, of course - has reflected on this truth recently as he has contemplated the deteriorating conditions in Iraq. According to the government's own reporting, the situation there is far bleaker than Mr. Rumsfeld has recognized or President Bush has acknowledged on the campaign trail.

Understandably, the American people are reluctant to believe that their president has made errors of judgment that have cost American lives. To convince them otherwise, there is no substitute for hard evidence: documents, photographs, transcripts. Often the only way for the public to get such evidence is if a dedicated public servant decides to release it without permission.

Such a leak occurred recently with the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which was prepared in July. Reports of the estimate's existence and overall pessimism - but not its actual conclusions - have prompted a long-overdue debate on the realities and prospects of the war. But its judgments of the relative likelihood and the strength of evidence pointing to the worst possibilities remain undisclosed. Since the White House has refused to release the full report, someone else should do so...

The military's real estimates of the projected costs - in manpower, money and casualties - of various long-term plans for Iraq should be made public, in addition to the more immediate costs in American and Iraqi lives of the planned offensive against resistant cities in Iraq that appears scheduled for November. If military or intelligence experts within the government predict disastrous political consequences in Iraq from such urban attacks, these judgments should not remain secret. ..

[In 1964] President Lyndon Johnson might not have won in a landslide had voters known he was lying when he said that his administration sought "no wider war." Seven years and almost 50,000 American deaths later, after I had leaked the Pentagon Papers, I had a conversation with Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon, one of the two senators who had voted against the Tonkin Gulf resolution in August 1964. If I had leaked the documents then, he said, the resolution never would have passed.

That was hard to hear. But in 1964 it hadn't occurred to me to break my vow of secrecy. Though I knew that the war was a mistake, my loyalties then were to the secretary of defense and the president. It took five years of war before I recognized the higher loyalty all officials owe to the Constitution, the rule of law, the soldiers in harm's way or their fellow citizens.

Like Robert McNamara, under whom I served, Mr. Rumsfeld appears to inspire great loyalty among his aides. ..

All administrations classify far more information than is justifiable in a democracy - and the Bush administration has been especially secretive. Information should never be classified as secret merely because it is embarrassing or incriminating. But in practice, in this as in any administration, no information is guarded more closely. .. Some 140,000 Americans are risking their lives every day in Iraq. Our nation is in urgent need of comparable moral courage from its public officials."

  10:39:47 PM  permalink  

Debate advice to Kerry: "Bush is tough. But he's wrong. And America is less secure."  8:20:46 PM  permalink  

Prewar Assessment on Iraq: The intel community strikes back, with an i-told-you-so.  The administration was warned about the upcoming insurgency:  "The same intelligence unit that produced a gloomy report in July about the prospect of growing instability in Iraq warned the Bush administration about the potential costly consequences of an American-led invasion two months before the war began, government officials said Monday.

The estimate came in two classified reports prepared for President Bush in January 2003 by the National Intelligence Council, an independent group that advises the director of central intelligence. The assessments predicted that an American-led invasion of Iraq would increase support for political Islam and would result in a deeply divided Iraqi society prone to violent internal conflict.

One of the reports also warned of a possible insurgency against the new Iraqi government or American-led forces, saying that rogue elements from Saddam Hussein's government could work with existing terrorist groups or act independently to wage guerrilla warfare, the officials said. The assessments also said a war would increase sympathy across the Islamic world for some terrorist objectives, at least in the short run, the officials said. "

  8:26:35 AM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, September 26, 2004


Bush v the facts: From Reuters: "Many of President George W. Bush's assertions about progress in Iraq -- from police training and reconstruction to preparations for January elections -- are in dispute, according to internal Pentagon documents, lawmakers and key congressional aides on Sunday. ..

Bush [said] Iraq's electoral commission is up and running and told Americans on Saturday that "United Nations electoral advisers are on the ground in Iraq." He said nearly 100,000 "fully trained and equipped" Iraqi soldiers, police officers and other security personnel are already at work, and that would rise to 125,000 by the end of this year. And he promised more than $9 billion will be spent on reconstruction contracts in Iraq over the next several months. ..

The documents show that of the nearly 90,000 currently in the police force, only 8,169 have had the full eight-week academy training. Another 46,176 are listed as "untrained," and it will be July 2006 before the administration reaches its new goal of a 135,000-strong, fully trained police force. .. Six Army battalions have had "initial training," while 57 National Guard battalions, 896 soldiers in each, are still being recruited or "awaiting equipment." .. Training has yet to begin for the 4,800-man civil intervention force.. And none of the 18,000 border enforcement guards have received any centralised training

They estimated that 22,700 Iraqi personnel have received enough basic training to make them "minimally effective at their tasks," in contrast to the 100,000 figure cited by Bush.

The status of election planning in Iraq is also in question. Of the $232 million in Iraqi funds set aside for the Iraqi electoral commission, it has received a mere $7 million, according to House Appropriations Committee staff. ..  According to a one-page election planning "time line," registration materials are supposed to be distributed in early October and initial voter lists to go out by the end of October .. So far, the United Nations has .. no more than eight [staff]working on the elections. "The framework for it (free and fair elections) hasn't even been set up. The voter registration lists aren't set. There have to be hundreds of polling places, hundreds of trained monitors and poll watchers. None of that has happened," Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State for President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, told ABC's "This Week."

With the violence expected to intensify in the run-up to the elections, congressional experts were also sceptical $9 billion could be spent on reconstruction projects within several months, as Bush asserted."

  11:52:04 PM  permalink  

Iraq: Bush administration arguing with itself:" Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday that the insurgency in Iraq is getting worse and that the U.S. occupation there has increased anti-American sentiment in Muslim countries, but he said successful elections in Afghanistan and Iraq would turn the situation around.  "We have seen an increase in anti-Americanism in the Muslim world. We'll not deny this," Powell said on ABC's "This Week." "But I think that that will be overcome in due process because what the Muslim world will see . . . is that in Afghanistan, 10 million people who have registered to vote will vote on the ninth of October and bring in place a freely elected president.  "And I think we're going to do the same thing in Iraq if we stay the course, if we defeat this insurgency," Powell said.  He acknowledged that "yes, it's getting worse, and the reason it's getting worse is that they are determined to disrupt the elections."

But he rejected the notion, put forward recently by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, that it would be sufficient to hold elections in most, but not all, of Iraq.  "For the elections to have complete credibility and stand the test of international scrutiny, I think what we have to do is to give all the people of Iraq an opportunity to participate," Powell told "Fox News Sunday." "Just as we would have difficulty with partial elections here in the United States . . . I think it has to be throughout the country."

In contrast, Gen. John P. Abizaid, U.S. commander for the Middle East, told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the goal is that "the election will be able to be held in the vast majority of the country." .. "I am not predicting victory by January at the end of the elections," Abizaid cautioned. "I am predicting that we'll have elections." ..

Abizaid said he found the CIA's recent assessment of Iraq's future over 18 months to be "overly pessimistic." .. Powell, on Fox News, said the CIA report "wasn't a terribly shocking assessment. It was something that I could have written myself."  The assessment contrasted with President Bush's and Allawi's more optimistic portrayal of Iraq's short-term future. "

  11:43:43 PM  permalink  

Violence in Iraq Belies Claims of Calm, Data Show: "Attacks against U.S. troops, Iraqi security forces and private contractors number in the dozens each day and have spread to parts of the country that had been relatively peaceful, according to statistics compiled by a private security firm working for the U.S. government. .. A sampling of daily reports produced during [the past 2 weeks] by Kroll Security International for the U.S. Agency for International Development shows that such attacks typically number about 70 each day. In contrast, 40 to 50 hostile incidents occurred daily during the weeks preceding the handover of political authority to an interim Iraqi government on June 28, according to military officials.  ..

On maps included in the reports, red circles denoting attacks surround nearly every major city in central, western and northern Iraq, except for Kurdish-controlled areas in the far north. Cities in the Shiite Muslim-dominated south, including several that had undergone a period of relative calm in recent months, also have been hit with near-daily attacks.  .. In number and scope, the attacks compiled in the Kroll reports suggest a broad and intensifying campaign of insurgent violence that contrasts sharply with assessments by Bush administration officials and Iraq's interim prime minister that the instability is contained to small pockets of the country. "

  11:24:56 PM  permalink  

Iraqi civilian casualties mounting:  How we lose the hearts and minds.  This is attributed in part to US troops using more air power to limit US casualties.  "Operations by U.S. and multinational forces and Iraqi police are killing twice as many Iraqis - most of them civilians - as attacks by insurgents, according to statistics compiled by the Iraqi Health Ministry and obtained exclusively by Knight Ridder. According to the ministry, the interim Iraqi government recorded 3,487 Iraqi deaths in 15 of the country's 18 provinces from April 5 - when the ministry began compiling the data - until Sept. 19. Of those, 328 were women and children. Another 13,720 Iraqis were injured, the ministry said. .. During the same period, 432 American soldiers were killed. ..

"Anyone who hates America has come here to fight: Saddam's supporters, people who don't have jobs, other Arab fighters. All these people are on our streets," said [Dr.] Hamed, the [Health] ministry official. "But everyone is afraid of the Americans, not the fighters. And they should be." ..

Iraqi officials said about two-thirds of the Iraqi deaths were caused by multinational forces and police; the remaining third died from insurgent attacks. The ministry began separating attacks by multinational and police forces and insurgents June 10.

From that date until Sept. 10, 1,295 Iraqis were killed in clashes with multinational forces and police versus 516 killed in terrorist operations, the ministry said. The ministry defined terrorist operations as explosive devices in residential areas, car bombs or assassinations. The ministry is convinced that nearly all of those reported dead are civilians, not insurgents. Most often, a family member wouldn't report it if his or her relative died fighting for rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia or another insurgent force, and the relative would be buried immediately, said Dr. Shihab Ahmed Jassim, another member of the ministry's operations section. "People who participate in the conflict don't come to the hospital. Their families are afraid they will be punished," said Dr. Yasin Mustaf, the assistant manager of al Kimdi Hospital near Baghdad's poor Sadr City neighborhood. "Usually, the innocent people come to the hospital. That is what the numbers show."

  4:39:36 PM  permalink  

An Inventory of Iraqi Resistance Groups: As of Sept 2004, translated from a Baghdad newspaper.  12:13:39 AM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, September 25, 2004


Musharraf on Iraq:  So it's not just Kerry saying it.  "ZAHN: Is the world a safer place because of the war in Iraq?

MUSHARRAF: No. It's more dangerous. It's not safer, certainly not.

ZAHN: How so?

MUSHARRAF: Well, because it has aroused actions of the Muslims more. It's aroused certain sentiments of the Muslim world, and then the responses, the latest phenomena of explosives, more frequent for bombs and suicide bombings. This phenomenon is extremely dangerous.

ZAHN: Was it a mistake to have gone to war with Iraq?

MUSHARRAF: Well, I would say that it has ended up bringing more trouble to the world. " [via Steven Clemons]  11:46:19 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, September 24, 2004


Many setbacks on road to an effective Iraqi force: Further evidence of the lack of preparation or experience of the Pentagon in nation-building, on top of a very difficult situation to begin with.  "Out-of-shape recruits, equipment shortages, and "unbelievable" retention problems are just some of the myriad challenges facing Sergeant Nunn, tasked with leading a 16-man team to train an Iraqi National Guard (ING) battalion of 1,000 men from scratch.  ..

In June, the Pentagon assigned Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who led the 101st Airborne Division in invading Iraq, to overhaul the training operation. Across the country, more than a dozen battalion-sized units and headquarters had to be reconstituted, and others started from scratch, military documents show.

One of those units was Mosul's 106th Iraqi National Guard battalion. On May 5, Nunn of the Stryker Brigade's 1-23 infantry battalion was given the job of leading training for the Iraqi unit. On May 8, lacking training materials, equipment, or a single interpreter, he took charge of the first 194 Iraqi recruits at a soccer stadium in Mosul.  .. With no training manual, Nunn wrote one himself and later found translators to produce an Arabic and Kurdish version. ..

According to Pentagon figures, only 90,000 Iraqi security forces have been trained of the more than 270,000 needed. These include police, ING, Army, and border-control forces. This summer, US and Iraqi officials sharply increased the number of security forces they believe are required in Iraq: from 16,000 to 32,000 border guards, 45 to 65 ING battalions, and 90,000 to 135,000 police.

NATO announced Wednesday that it would increase its number of military trainers in Iraq, from 50 to up to 300."  If each 1000-recruit battalion needs 16 trainers, the 270,000 trainees need 4300 trainers, plus support.  The NATO support is minor.

  9:47:28 PM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, September 23, 2004


How News Portals Serve Up Political Stories:  Why Google News shows so many second-tier conservative news sites. Google won't fully explain it, but Harvard fellow Ethan Zuckerman offers likely explanations.  First, they are organized as alternative news networks, rather than just 'blogs'.  Second, they use more specific phrases like "John Kerry" rather than standard journalism's tendency to use just "Kerry" after the first mention.  The more specific term is considered a better match.

""You have to wonder why some of these wacky sites make the cut..". With an occasional exception, Weblogs are generally not found among the Google News results, so Zuckerman had some advice for aspiring political publishers who want to game the search engines: Don't blog -- start an alternative news network. Use terms like George Bush and John Kerry frequently, rather than their last names alone, in both your text and headlines. Publish new works frequently.  What Zuckerman calls gaming the system, others call optimizing your site."

  11:21:54 PM  permalink  

Flip-flopping charge unsupported by facts / Kerry always pushed global cooperation, war as last resort: Marc Sandalow surveys the record.  Several quotes from Kerry included in the article.  "No argument is more central to the Republican attack on Sen. John Kerry than the assertion that the Democrat has flip-flopped on Iraq. .. Yet an examination of Kerry's words in more than 200 speeches and statements, comments during candidate forums and answers to reporters' questions does not support the accusation.  ..

Over and over, Kerry enthusiastically supported a confrontation with Saddam Hussein even as he aggressively criticized Bush for the manner in which he did so. Kerry repeatedly described Hussein as a dangerous menace who must be disarmed or eliminated, demanded that the U.S. build broad international support for any action in Iraq and insisted that the nation had better plan for the post-war peace. ..

"Let there be no doubt or confusion about where we stand on this. I will support a multilateral effort to disarm (Hussein) by force, if we ever exhaust ... other options,'' Kerry said 23 months ago on the Senate floor before voting to authorize the force, imploring Bush to take the matter to the United Nations.  "If we do wind up going to war with Iraq, it is imperative that we do so with others in the international community," Kerry said, insisting that Bush work with the United Nations. "If he fails to do so, I will be among the first to speak out,'' Kerry said.  "Congressional action on this resolution is not the end of our national debate on how best to disarm Iraq,'' Kerry said on the eve of the vote. "Nor does it mean we have exhausted all of our peaceful options to achieve this goal.''

Yet in the fall of 2002, several months before the air strikes on Baghdad began, Bush himself insisted the vote was not the same as a declaration of war but instead gave him the hand he needed to negotiate the peace.  "If you want to keep the peace, you've got to have the authorization to use force,'' Bush said in September 2002. "It's a chance for Congress to say, 'we support the administration's ability to keep the peace.' That's what this is all about.''"

  11:12:57 PM  permalink  

Iran's bloggers in censorship protest: "Earlier this month, three reformist websites - Emrooz, Rooydad and Baamdad - re-appeared in a stripped-down form after having been blocked by the authorities. One of them moved the content of its site onto a blog as a means of getting around the block.

It is thought that the number of Iranians keeping blogs is now between 10,000 and 15,000.

However, some recent reports have now suggested that Iranian authorities are considering the creation of a national intranet - an internet service just for Iran - which would be separate from the world wide web. This would potentially mean that users would not be able to access anything the authorities do not want them to see. But Mr Derakhshan said he and his fellow bloggers are working on a strategy to get around the intranet, using email subscription services. "

  1:01:52 AM  permalink  

Bloggers as disruptive innovation for media: "disruptive innovations--those destined to change the structure of an industry--tend to attack from below. They usually first appear in a form that is in some ways inferior to the existing dominant technologies, and hence are unlikely to get the attention or respect of industry incumbents. They provide examples in industries ranging from steel to semiconductors. In steel, for instance, the challenger technology was "mini-mills" using electric arc furnaces to melt scrap. At first, the steel produced in these mills wasn't as good as the steel produced with the incumbent technology, the gigantic integrated steel plants, so they focused on an unglamorous and relatively low-margin market: reinforcing bar (rebar). Big-steel executives could afford to disregard the mini-mills and to focus on higher-end business.

I would bet that the comments made by some big-steel execs about their mini-mill counterparts were quite similar in tone to the comment recently made by a CBS exec about bloggers in their pajamas. After all, they (the big steel guys) had the vast facilities, stretching out for miles. They had the globally-recognized brand names. They had the big cash balances and large market capitalizations...

This kind of thing happens all the time. Manufacturers of mainframe computers--and their corporate IT customers--tended to discount the personal computer, which was initially a toy for hobbyists. Most incumbent telephone companies did not intitially perceive the Internet as a threat. And so on."

  12:57:36 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, September 22, 2004


A Guide to the Patriot Act: Excellent, not-too-detailed look at specific provisions of the Patriot Act.  11:59:09 PM  permalink  

20-20 Foresight: Christopher Dickey reviews several sources who publicly predicted the current mess in Iraq (State Dept, Rice Uni, French diplomats, himself), and concludes: "I don't blame most of us Americans for being in denial; I can't blame people who pin their hopes on anybody who tells them it's all really OK. But somebody has got to face reality in the face of persistent lies and delusions. So here's the question looking ahead: What happens if those who refused to know such important things in the past continue to set our agenda for the future? "  11:09:17 PM  permalink  

Even in eager Kosovo, nation-building stalls: Many subtle issues in nation-building.  "five years after the world's first "humanitarian war," Kosovars say the promises of democracy and European integration now seem to be slipping further away, rather than getting any closer..

the West worried what message an independent Kosovo might send around the world: if you want independence, insurgency pays. .. So the UN opted for a familiar tack - kick-the-can diplomacy, as analysts describe it - putting off hard decisions until later. ..  The UN has adopted a process it calls "standards before status," requiring Kosovo to meet satisfactory levels of democratic governance, rule of law, and multiethnic tolerance before beginning discussion of permanent status. Review of Kosovo's standards-before-status progress is slated for mid-2005.  But the standards process is seen as an unreasonably high threshold for a war- ravaged region with little to no tradition of democracy .."

  9:17:04 AM  permalink  

BBC in Basra: How bad can things get? "the most worrying development of the August fighting was that none of Basra's 25,000 police officers came to the aid of the British soldiers. Some even helped the gunmen. 

I met one of the senior civilian political advisors to the military command.  Every time he came to Basra things seemed a "step change worse", he said. The best thing to happen, he went on, would be for a new Islamic government to be elected in January which would ask multi-national forces to leave.  I don't think he was being facetious.

Elections do form part of the exit strategy, but not in this way.  The hope is that national elections in January will produce a government with the authority and the legitimacy to face down the gunmen on its own.  But in local elections in the British sector this week, turnout was just 15%.  A government election with that much backing would be just one faction in the civil war which some American intelligence officials believe is brewing.

That is very much the worst case. But whatever happens, British officers no longer have any illusions that the southern corner of Iraq they run will be immune from the violence. "

  8:59:18 AM  permalink  

British-occupied port of Basra calm, but not truly stable: "August was a bloody month in Basra.  As militiamen loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al Sadr faced off against U.S. troops in Najaf, his forces in Basra launched coordinated attacks on British convoys, seized the old compound of Hussein's Baath Party and rained mortar shells and rockets on British bases.  Three British soldiers were killed, one of them in a 21/2-hour battle in downtown Basra that resembled the movie Black Hawk Down, Wilde said.

British troops held back, choosing to nibble at the edges of militant strongholds rather than risk extensive civilian casualties.  The restraint appears to have paid off. In late August, when Iraq's most revered Shiite religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al Sistani, came to Basra, the fighting stopped immediately. There've been sporadic conflicts in the weeks since, but nothing to match the violence of August."

  8:56:42 AM  permalink  

What if the US were Iraq?  Ouch.  8:44:12 AM  permalink  

Marines Bide Their Time In Insurgent-Held Fallujah: Interesting dynamic reported inside the city:  "In what may be the strongest sign of tension between residents and foreigners, the head of the Shura Council, Abdullah Janabi, who had invited foreigners to the city in April, issued a statement on Friday calling Zarqawi a "criminal."

"We don't need Zarqawi to defend our city," said Janabi, who sought to draw a distinction between what he called "Iraqi resistance fighters" and foreign fighters engaged in a campaign against Iraq's infrastructure, foreign civilians and Iraqi security forces. "The Iraqi resistance is something and the terrorism is something else. We don't kidnap journalists and we don't sabotage the oil pipelines and the electric power stations. We don't kill innocent Iraqis. We resist the occupation." Zarqawi's actions, Janabi said, have "harmed the resistance and made it lose the support of people."

Residents have reported skirmishes between residents and foreign fighters in recent weeks. The fighting has broken out after residents, fearful of airstrikes, have sought to evict foreigners from their neighborhoods, the residents said. "

  7:40:14 AM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Going after Iraq's most wanted man: If they get him in October, it could help Bush.  Background:  "Mr. Zarqawi's Iraq-based group, Tawhid and Jihad, claims responsibility for beheading hostages, kidnappings - including two Americans and a Briton last week - attacks on churches, and the bombings of Iraqi police stations that have left more than 400 people dead. US bombs rain down almost daily on Fallujah, targeting alleged Zarqawi associates and killing roughly 70 people this month. But some terrorism analysts, and old associates who spent time with Zarqawi in a Jordan prison, say he runs an organization separate from Al Qaeda. They say that killing the poorly educated, tattooed Jordanian - or many of his followers - will do little to slow the wave of terrorist attacks inside Iraq.

"Just like with Osama, if you were to kill him today, it wouldn't make a difference at all to these networks he's helped create,'' says Rohan Gunaratna, a counterterrorism expert and author of "Inside Al Qaeda." "While much of the suicide bombing in Iraq is coordinated by his network, it's being driven from the bottom up. Regional and local operational leaders plan and execute attacks. Zarqawi probably doesn't know much about them ahead of time and he doesn't need to."

This doesn't mean the shadowy Zarqawi isn't an important contributor to Iraq's instability. But analysts such as Mr. Gunaratna say that .. Zarqawi is just the most visible figure today in a tight-knit group of operatives, many with guerrilla and terrorist training gained in Afghanistan. If this analysis is correct, the damage is already done. While Zarqawi may be captured or killed, his network is now largely autonomous [and] civilian casualties brings more Iraqis and foreigners to the cause.

The US has "killed some important individuals but the power of the network is such that they're able to replace them. They're living in a war zone where the generation of new members is easy,'' says Gunaratna, because of the conviction of many that they're fighting an infidel invader. "Iraq has clearly become the new land of jihad, like Afghanistan produced the last generation of Mujahidin, Iraq is creating the new generation." ..

analysts - as well as German and Italian government court documents in cases against Zarqawi associates - say it's clear now that while Zarqawi has had contact with Al Qaeda members in the past, he has sharp tactical differences with the organization and appears to be operating a wholly separate network. Shadi Abdallah, a Zarqawi associate arrested on charges of running a terrorist cell in Germany, has told interrogators that Zarqawi saw himself as a rival of Al Qaeda, not an ally.US officials now say they don't believe he lost a leg, and analysts such as Gunaratna say there is no evidence he had ties to Hussein's regime.

After failing to find work that year in Jordan (at one time he told friends he wanted to open a small fruit-stand), he returned to Afghanistan, where European court documents allege he founded a training camp for his group, Tawhid and Jihad (which roughly means "Oneness of God and Holy War.")

After the US invasion of Afghanistan, he fled to northern Iraq, where he began putting his Iraq network together with the help of Ansar al-Islam. The first suicide attack in Iraq attributed to him occurred in August last year, against the Jordanian Embassy."

  6:13:20 PM  permalink  

A Liberal Strategy: Nice rhetorical formula. "George W. Bush: Out of Touch. Irresponsible. Unconcerned. Wrong for the American People."  8:24:31 AM  permalink  

Terror report revision arrives: "In April the U.S. government released its yearly report called "Patterns of Global Terrorism." This edition showed a welcome decrease: the number of people wounded in terrorist incidents in 2003 fell to 1,593 from 2,013 the year before. The decrease in injuries, as well as in deaths and in terrorist incidents, prompted Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to say, "You will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight."

Then, in June, the State Department updated the original document's incorrect statistics and revealed that terror-related injuries in 2003 in fact totaled 3,646. This number, according to mathematicians, is higher than 2,013. The updated report also revealed more deaths [625 instead of 307] and terrorist incidents in 2003 than had the first document. The new data raise a question: If the interpretation of the original report led the deputy secretary of state to the conclusion that "we are prevailing in the fight," has the corrected report compelled him to announce that we are losing the fight? "

  12:38:05 AM  permalink  

Chris Dickey: Frequently Unasked Questions: "you can tick off the disaggregated triumphs [after 9/11]: Using conventional war against the Taliban, Bush ended a loathsome, fanatical regime that had provided shelter to an organization openly at war with the United States. Using the full resources of the C.I.A. and other agencies, the Bush administration then hunted down, with great success, most of  the key Al Qaeda operatives who had planned and facilitated the attacks on New York and Washington. By January 2003, the shooting war and the covert actions against those terrorists had been won. Job well done. .. But in its quest for absolute security against all enemies real and imagined, whether powerful or impotent, the Bush administration found its own victories impossible to acknowledge. ..

Wise policy would have been to intimidate and isolate Saddam Hussein, who posed a separate problem. And in fact he was isolated, he was intimidated. Another triumph. .. [In Jan 2003,] the goal should have been to calm the international scene and build cooperation. The cancer of Al Qaeda had largely been cut out. The challenge was to keep it from metastasizing. This was the moment for the war of ideas to begin in earnest and international cooperation to be at its height. This was the time when terrorist recruiters could have been isolated and their lies exposed.

Instead, our impulsive, almost petulant invasion of Iraq did just what so many of our friends and allies warned it would do. It created a whole new hot-bed of fanaticism, and an inspiration to terrorist recruiters everywhere.

By pretending the War on Terror is one all-embracing fight, Bush has created a war he has no idea how to win. At the same time, he’s succeeded in pulling together many separate enemies. No, terrorism is not a force of nature. But we have done a lot to create the perfect storm."

  12:00:14 AM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, September 20, 2004


Classic guerrilla war forming in Iraq:  Plenty of depressing reading this morning.  "Defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute sees two basic defects in the US-led counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq today. "First, policymakers wrongly assume that Sunni Arabs can be induced to join in a democratic government where they are assured of permanent minority status," says Dr. Thompson, who supported the US invasion of Iraq. "Second, policymakers insist on viewing violence through the prism of the war on global terrorism, which obscures the sources of conflict and requirements for victory." Thompson's controversial answer would be to partition Iraq into three countries: Sunni Arab, Shiite Arab, and Kurd. ..

Even if the insurgents dwindle to a handful of terrorists, their impact on security and stability in Iraq could far outweigh their numbers. RAND's Hoffman points out that just 20-30 members of the Baader Meinhof Gang terrorized the former West Germany for two decades; 50-75 Red Brigadists did the same in Italy; and some 200-400 IRA gunmen and bombers required the prolonged deployment of tens of thousands of British troops in Northern Ireland. ..

Is it possible to prevail over the Iraqi insurgency?

First, says John Pike of the group GlobalSecurity.org, enemy combatants must be killed, captured, or demoralized faster than new ones can be recruited, and the majority of the population must come to see the insurgency as illegitimate and its defeat as inevitable.  It's a tough job, one that's likely to take years - as long as 10 years, says Dr. Metz at the Army War College. And the outcome is by no means assured.  "The government must appear to be legitimate, inevitable, and effective at providing security and services," says Mr. Pike. "As long as Iran does not stir the pot, these objectives could be approached by the end of this decade, with luck."

Here's another review of several pessimistic military voices, including retired general William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency, who "remarked that the tension between the Bush administration and the senior military officers over Iraqi was worse than any he has ever seen with any previous government, including Vietnam. "I've never seen it so bad between the office of the secretary of defence and the military. There's a significant majority believing this is a disaster. The two parties whose interests have been advanced have been the Iranians and al-Qaida. Bin Laden could argue with some cogency that our going into Iraq was the equivalent of the Germans in Stalingrad. They defeated themselves by pouring more in there. Tragic."

  10:10:53 AM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, September 19, 2004


Don't rely on polls to pick this election: "The emergence of hot-button issues on the ballots of many swing states .. probably will draw droves of less-likely voters to the polls because these issues are powerful in terms of economic and cultural values. These people are largely disregarded by most pollsters because it's wastefully expensive and misleading to survey people who usually don't vote. But if they show up to vote in large numbers, they'll make many a poll prediction useless ..

[Also,] pollsters using phones can't reach many of the nation's 165 million cell-phone subscribers [because of FCC regulations.  Another] technological factor is that users of wired telephones screen out unwanted calls from pollsters and survey researchers with caller-ID and computer programs that filter out calls from any unrecognized phone number.

So, read the poll numbers for entertainment. Just don't rely on them for decision-making. "

  12:36:09 AM  permalink  

Why You Should Ignore The Gallup Poll: "the Gallup Poll, despite its reputation, assumes that this November 40% of those turning out to vote will be Republicans, and only 33% will be Democrat. .. the Democrats have been 39% of the voting populace in both 1996 and 2000, and the GOP has not been higher than 35% in either of those elections. ..  Folks, unless Karl Rove can discourage the Democratic base into staying home in droves and gets the GOP to come out of the woodwork, there is no way in hell that these or any other Gallup Poll is to be taken seriously."  12:26:56 AM  permalink  

IT-led innovation in health care delivery:  Interesting story of how networked medical records and nurse follow-up improves results and cuts costs overall.  But, reimbursements are not worked out and result in doctors taking losses.  "When, as with the Whatcom County program, medical care is improved, and money saved, there are winners: in this case, insurers, including Medicare, which could save millions, and pharmaceutical companies. And there are losers: general practitioners and hospitals, with each doctor standing to lose at least $2,000 a year, according to projections, and some doctors reporting that their costs are already much higher.

The program is considered a model for how health care can be improved .. But participating in the program is costing each doctor in the group $500 a month for four years for the electronic medical record system. Other innovations, like group office visits and e-mailing with patients, are poorly compensated, if at all. Nor are the follow-up calls by a nurse checking on patients when a doctor changes a medication or recommends a different regimen.  "I've been in practice for 25 years and I've made less money this year than I ever did before," Dr. Safford said. But, she said, she will not return to her old ways when the county's grant ends this year and will accept less income if she has to. "We made the culture change and there's no going back," Dr. Safford said. "It changes everything. I look at this as a wonderful blessing."

  12:20:06 AM  permalink  

Electoral College Graph: A race driven by events.  12:03:14 AM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, September 18, 2004


Terrorism works: Dave Pell says it well.  "there is a much more important and much more troubling lesson in all of this. It has to do with the effectiveness of terrorism. A limited number of people in Iraq have managed to throw that country into instability and by all evenhanded accounts, the very idea of a democratic and peaceful Iraq is now at stake.

Terrorist acts will rearrange the government in Russia. They've impacted elections in Europe and largely dominated the airtime in our own election. They've thrown the Middle East peace process into what seems like an endless backwards spiral (and remember, Israel is the country with the by far the most expertise when it comes to dealing with terrorist threats).

The lesson of these times is that relatively small groups of people can have a major impact on world leaders and populations. And we should be spending a much more significant amount our debate time trying to come up with better ways to defuse this growing threat."  7:52:09 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, September 17, 2004


Foreigners prefer Kerry:  "If the world could vote, the global majority would overwhelmingly elect Democratic challenger John Kerry over incumbent George W. Bush in the upcoming U.S. presidential election. So say two recent polls that reveal the extent to which American foreign policy has galvanized international public opinion. .. Kerry was the clear choice for 30 of the 35 nations surveyed from regions around the world. According to a BBC report on the poll, “Only Filipino, Polish and Nigerian respondents clearly backed Mr. Bush.” ..

another survey taken by the German Marshall Fund that found 76 percent of Europeans disapprove of current U.S. foreign policy -- bad news for the 60 percent of Americans who favored strengthening ties across the Atlantic. .. "

  10:15:05 PM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, September 16, 2004


U.S. in the World:  160-page resource book for promoters of bipartisan multilateralism.  12:26:35 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, September 15, 2004


The Australian: In Iraq's wasteland, total chaos looms: Aussie and British journalists are pessimistic.  "Over the past three days Iraqis have found themselves plunged back into the front lines of a full-scale guerilla war, with the thin-stretched forces of the US-led coalition attempting both to maintain order in Baghdad and to conduct offensive campaigns in rebel cities such as Fallujah.   There have been attacks on American soldiers and Iraqi troops and police as far north as Kirkuk, and in the southern city of Hilla, while Baghdad itself has exploded, with unrest near-continuous in the Sadr City district and the central Haifa Street neighbourhood.

Much of this upsurge stems from the fact that both sides in the fight want to press their advantage now: the Americans so as to prevent a disaster before their presidential elections, the insurgents because they feel they have gained the critical advantage.  This has become clear from the increasingly bold pronouncements by the key figure behind the terror, Musab al-Zarqawi, who has even begun claiming responsibility for attacks through internet statements in his own voice.

Over the past two months, the scale and nature of the unrest has changed. Previously, even at the height of the bombings in Baghdad, there was an improvised feel about the attacks. Many observers now see a more concerted kind of direction to the terror, and the ability of the attackers to move freely is striking. ..

What lies behind the bleak picture is a catastrophic failure of intelligence – one so deep as to cast doubt on the viability of the US-backed Baghdad Government.  US and Iraqi forces and their coalition allies neither know where the next attacks against their interests will fall, nor who is conducting them – nor who is carrying out the hostage-kidnapping operations. The Allawi Government has been alternately trying to stifle its enemies and to reach out to them with offers of ceasefires and local deals.

According to Middle Eastern intelligence websites and Western officials, one of the central initiatives of the Baghdad Government and the US, aimed at stopping the conflict in the Sunni triangle around Fallujah, has just foundered after prolonged negotiations. The aim had been to broker a peace deal with Sunni rebels and prominent figures from the old Baathist regime. Extensive talks progressed on several fronts but collapsed over Sunni demands for more power in the Baghdad Government. The murky security climate is matched by constant political infighting in the capital, where Western diplomats are becoming frankly pessimistic about the capacity of the present Government to keep the country together. "

and, Autumn in Iraq, when death grows on trees: "Against this sound and fury, pro-war critics complain that good news is being ignored, and they are right. So, too, is a lot of bad news. Kidnapping, looting, criminal opportunism and xenophobia make it simply too dangerous for Western journalists to visit many areas. 

As recently as last (northern) spring we could travel relatively freely throughout Iraq, even to hotbeds of Sunni resistance such as Fallujah or Ramadi. We could eat in Baghdad's restaurants and shop in its markets. We lived in a suburban house until the day we received death threats. Today, we live in fortified hotels and move around the capital with extreme caution.  A year ago every fatal attack on coalition forces, or suicide bomb, made news. Today they are so common we report only the really big ones.

Diplomats and officials remain as upbeat as they can. One thing on which everyone agrees is that, in the skeleton that holds Iraq together, the security bone is connected to the election bone, the election bone is connected to the legitimacy bone and the legitimacy bone connects right back to the security bone. "

  11:55:53 PM  permalink  

The Man in the Snow White Cell: Interesting short history of the interrogation and torture of a key prisoner in the Vietnam War.  9:14:44 AM  permalink  

A Model for When Disclosure Helps Security: "Open Source and encryption [communities] view that revealing the details of a system will actually tend to improve security, notably due to peer review. In sharp contrast, a famous World War II slogan says loose lips sink ships. Most experts in the military and intelligence areas believe that secrecy is a critical tool for maintaining security ..  this Article provides the first systematic explanation of how to decide when disclosure improves security, both for physical- and cyber-security settings..

many computer and network security problems appear different from the traditional security problems of the physical world. The analysis focuses on the nature of the first-time attack or the degree of what the paper calls uniqueness in the defense. Many defensive tricks, including secrecy, are more effective the first time there is an attack on a physical base or computer system. Secrecy is far less effective, however, if the attackers can probe the defenses repeatedly and learn from those probes. It turns out that many of the key areas of computer security involve circumstances where there can be repeated, low-cost attacks. For instance, firewalls, mass-market software, and encryption algorithms all can be attacked repeatedly by hackers. Under such circumstances, a strategy of secrecy - of security through obscurity - is less likely to be effective than for the military case."  It seems to me this model also applies to many types of public facilities where probes and attacks can be rehearsed.

  8:53:47 AM  permalink  

BRUCE SCHNEIER on the no-fly list: "Imagine a list of suspected terrorists so dangerous that we can't ever let them fly, yet so innocent that we can't arrest them - even under the draconian provisions of the Patriot Act. This is the federal government's "no-fly" list. First circulated in the weeks after 9/11 as a counterterrorism tool, its details are shrouded in secrecy.  .. It has been a complete failure, and has not been responsible for a single terrorist arrest anywhere. ..

People can be put on the list for any reason; no standards exist. There's no ability to review any evidence against you, or even confirm that you are actually on the list. ..
security is always a trade-off .. the problem is that the no-fly list doesn't protect us from terrorism. It's not just that terrorists are not stupid enough to fly under recognized names. It's that the very problems with the list that make it such an affront to civil liberties also make it less effective as a counterterrorist tool. ..

Any watch list where it's easy to put names on and difficult to take names off will quickly fill with false positives. These false positives eventually overwhelm any real information on the list, and soon the list does no more than flag innocents - which is what we see happening today, and why the list hasn't resulted in any arrests. .. Watch lists can be good security, but they need to be implemented properly. It should be harder than it currently is to add names to the list. It should be possible to add names to the list for short periods. It should be easy to take names off the list, and to add qualifiers to the list. There needs to be a legal appeals process for people on the list who want to clear their name. For a watch list to be a part of good security, there needs to be a notion of maintaining the list.

This isn't new, and this isn't hard. The police deal with this problem all the time, and they do it well. We do worse identifying a potential terrorist than the police do identifying crime suspects. Imagine if all the police did when having a witness identify a suspect is ask whether the names "sound about right"? No suspect picture book. No lineup."

  8:38:09 AM  permalink  

Vote Drives Gain Avid Attention of Youth in '04: "After dismal turnout by young voters in 2000, surveys this year show that interest in the election among the young is near the highest level it has reached at any time since 18- to 20-year-olds were given the vote in 1972. And state election officials say registration of new young voters is coming in at levels they have not seen in years.

Over 30 years, there has been a steady decline in youth turnout, with one big uptick, in 1992. The last presidential election featured a particularly low showing for those 18 to 24 - just 37 percent voted, compared with 64 percent for those 25 or older, surveys of voters leaving the polls say...

The pool of potential young voters is substantial - about 40.6 million Americans ages 18 to 29, or one in five eligible voters .. larger by 25 percent than the generation that preceded them..

Young voters, who split evenly between Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush in 2000, are also notoriously fickle, according to those who study them... Young voters flocked to Ronald Reagan. In 1992 - the year of Bill Clinton's "boxers or briefs" answer in a youth voter forum - they swung to Democrats. In 1996, Mr. Clinton beat Bob Dole among young voters by nearly 20 percentage points."

  8:04:54 AM  permalink  

Slippage of control in Iraq makes a mockery of power hand-over: "To see how the situation has deteriorated one only needs to be reminded of the bullish confidence of coalition commanders in Iraq a year ago. Back then reporters were admonished if they talked of "no-go zones": the coalition presence, and with it the rule of law, extended to every corner of the country.   Nowadays, by comparison, even British troops in the relatively quiet southern sector have all but conceded certain hostile towns.

The prospect of a "super rogue state", as raised in recent days by Iraq’s new UN ambassador Samir Sum-aida'ie, is no longer a distant nightmare but an approaching possibility.

Alas, it is no use expecting "ordinary Iraqis" - the God-fearing, Saddam-hating, violence-abhorring majority to whom the coalition constantly appeals - to rally round to stop the worst-case scenarios unfolding.  As the falls of Fallujah, Najaf and Samarrah have shown, Iraqis’ popular support - explicit, tacit or otherwise - tends to go to whoever wields the biggest sticks in town.  For the first year after the fall of Saddam, that pretty much meant the United States Army.  Now, however, as the half-way point of year two approaches, it is a role that is increasingly up for grabs."  12:48:15 AM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, September 14, 2004


Afghan vote threatens Bush's credibility: "After voter registration centres closed across Afghanistan on the weekend, election officials acknowledged the number of voting cards issued far exceeded the estimated number of eligible voters — and that the illegal practice of multiple registrations is widespread... With seven weeks to go before the Oct. 9 poll, the Star has found the practice of multiple registrations is rife. ..  United Nations officials overseeing the elections admit that more than 10 million voting cards have been issued — surpassing the estimated 9.8 million eligible voters..

Observers also claim the ground work necessary for a free and fair election — security, reconstruction and political stability — has not been established in Afghanistan and that the U.S. hurriedly pushed the country into elections to further its own agenda. ..

In a country where the average income is $2 a day, some Afghans who heard that political parties and presidential candidates would pay up to $150 for voting cards, gladly lined up at registration centres several times to get multiple voting cards.  In separate interviews, two Afghans told the Star it was easy to obtain more than one card. One man who registered six times, using his real name and photograph, said U.N. election workers asked him only once if he had previously registered. A woman said her nephew had been approached at school numerous times to sell his laminated voting card and that she knows a woman who obtained 40 cards while cloaked in a burqa.

The blatant violation of election rules has prompted two presidential candidates — Latif Pedram, leader of the Congress Mili Afghanistan Party and independent candidate, Ahmad Shah Amadzai — to call for an investigation. Overall, the registration process has been rife with many problems: 12 election workers were killed; Afghans confused their voter ID cards for food rations and prescriptions; men forbade wives, sisters and daughters from getting voting cards; and many uneducated people simply don't understand what their first election is about. Originally scheduled for last June, the election has twice been postponed — first due to low registration turnout and later because of security concerns. ..

Mustafa Durani, country representative for the International Republican Institute in Kabul, believes more than 1 million Afghans have registered twice. But he shrugs it off. "Illegal things happen," said Durani, whose Washington-based group is associated with the U.S. Republican Party. He stressed that it does not matter if someone registers one or 30 times because they are only allowed one vote."

  8:56:31 AM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, September 13, 2004


Powell said what?:  "respected British journalist James Naughtie [reports that] Powell, in a conversation with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, called Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz "f ----g crazies."

Powell denies it, and Straw backs him up, but Naughtie stood his ground, telling the New York Post: "Whatever the statements issued from the two offices concerned, I stand by the quote.""

  10:35:20 PM  permalink  

TIME Magazine: Who Left the Door Open?  So much for homeland security.  "The U.S.'s borders, rather than becoming more secure since 9/11, have grown even more porous. And the trend has accelerated in the past year. It's fair to estimate, based on a TIME investigation, that the number of illegal aliens flooding into the U.S. this year will total 3 million—enough to fill 22,000 Boeing 737-700 airliners, or 60 flights every day for a year. It will be the largest wave since 2001 and roughly triple the number of immigrants who will come to the U.S. by legal means. (No one knows how many illegals are living in the U.S., but estimates run as high as 15 million.) "  10:28:56 PM  permalink  

Hurricane gets Nader on ballot in Florida: "Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's name can appear on Florida ballots for the election, despite a court order to the contrary, Florida's elections chief told officials on Monday in a move that could help President Bush in the key swing state. The Florida Democratic Party reacted with outrage, calling the move "blatant partisan maneuvering" by Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's younger brother, and vowed to fight it. ..

Maddox noted that Tallahassee, the state capital where Davey sits, is not expected to be directly hit by the hurricane. He said the circuit court could hear the case as scheduled on Wednesday and rule immediately.  In addition, the case is before the Florida Supreme Court, which could also rule at any time, he said."  The state's rationale for allowing Nader's name is that the issue is before the court, which may not be able to meet as scheduled due to the hurricane (!).

  10:16:50 PM  permalink  

After the election, Bush will cut what he'll promise to fund: Mark Shields:  "Look at the new fiscal year begins Sept. 30, that's the fiscal year that we'll be dealing with for this presidential election.  The president has asked for increases in job training as he spoke of last night [in the convention], for the next fiscal year. But over the next four years, his administration and his budget calls for cuts of $1.7 billion in job training. 

In other words he's going to increase it just for this year, the same thing in elementary and secondary education, he's increasing it by $834 million, but he will cut it by five and a half billion over the next four years. Those are the administration's own budget documents for 2006 through 2009..

What it says is he made promises he can't keep. The president got the biggest cheer in the hall when he said I'm going to make permanent the tax cuts. He didn't address the deficits anyway.  And he said we're going to cut this runaway federal spending."

  2:10:53 PM  permalink  

Rebutting the fly paper thesis:  Josh Marshall is on a roll this morning.  "The recent run of denial on Iraq has brought back to the fore what a year ago was known as the 'fly paper' thesis.   Namely, that the outbreak of chaos, terrorism and insurgency in Iraq is actually a good thing since it allows us to kill 'the terrorists' in Iraq rather than wait for them to come to our own shores.  Thus the 'fly paper' analogy. ..

Logically this is nonsensical; strategically it is moronic; morally it is close to indefensible.  ..

The key fallacy, as so many have pointed out, is the notion that there are a finite number of 'terrorists' who we can kill and be done with.  Added to this, is the idea -- as antiquated as it is ridiculous -- that fighting 'the terrorists' in Iraq prevents them from hitting us in the United States. Have these fools heard about globalization? Can't [bin Laden] spare a couple dozen jihadis to come over here to spring another 9/11 on us? ..

As a TPM reader put it to me both hilariously and brilliantly more than a year ago, this 'fly paper' thesis is like saying we're going to build one super dirty hospital where we can fight the germs on our own terms.   ..  It is the classic case of dousing the fire with gasoline.

Of course that leaves untended the fact the guerillas we're blowing up in Iraq aren't the folks running the safe houses in Karachi and Peshawar who constitute the real threat. Adrift as well is the straightforward matter that turning Iraq into a killing field isn't really compatible with making it into a redoubt of democracy, prosperity and western values."

  11:40:11 AM  permalink  

Iraq in this election:  Josh Marshall on Iraq's Sept 12 Bloody Sunday:  "Iraq has quite simply become a disaster for the United States. And while people disagree over why this has happened, no thinking person can now fail to see that it has happened.  ..

In the last two months, all of this has been pushed to the side of the election debate -- either by rhetorical tangles over 9/11 and terrorism, or attack politics centered on the two men's war records or lack thereof. That is the reason for the president's resurgence in the polls. It's really that simple. ..

Recently, President Bush has sought -- with real success -- to edge Iraq out of the campaign dialogue by putting the issue back on to Kerry, asking what he would do differently and how it would produce a better result.   This puts Kerry in a bit of a bind because the politically-unspeakable answer here is that there are no good solutions anymore. A year ago, even six months ago, there were. Now, there really aren't.  President Bush at least has a straightforward approach: denial. Pressed to come up with a soundbite-able and practical policy, Kerry is, well ... hard-pressed.   (As I said, President Bush, in this way, has managed to derive political advantage from the magnitude of his own failure.) ..

The emphasis should be on the undeniable fact that though the way forward may be murky, the last person you want to lead the country down that foggy path is the guy who screwed everything up so badly in the first place.  As my friend John Judis noted recently, the key to winning an election is often simply a matter of bringing to the surface of the public consciousness what voters already really know. They know Iraq is a disaster. They know it's President Bush's fault."

  11:31:17 AM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, September 12, 2004


Key General Criticizes April Attack In Fallujah:  Another debacle from the chickenhawks:  "March 31 [marine general Conway] was confronted in Fallujah with the killing of four U.S. security contractors, whose bodies were mutilated or burned by a celebrating mob. Conway said he resisted calls for revenge, and instead advocated targeted operations and continued engagement with municipal leaders.

"We felt like we had a method that we wanted to apply to Fallujah: that we ought to probably let the situation settle before we appeared to be attacking out of revenge," he said in an interview with four journalists after the change-of-command ceremony. "Would our system have been better? Would we have been able to bring over the people of Fallujah with our methods? You'll never know that for sure, but at the time we certainly thought so."  He echoed an argument made by many Iraqi politicians and American analysts -- that the U.S. attack further radicalized a restive city, leading many residents to support the insurgents. "When we were told to attack Fallujah, I think we certainly increased the level of animosity that existed," Conway said.

He would not say where the order to attack originated, only that he received an order from his superior at the time, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the overall commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. Some senior U.S. officials in Iraq have said the command originated in the White House. "We follow our orders," Conway said. "We had our say, and we understood the rationale, and we saluted smartly, and we went about the attack."

The Marine assault on Fallujah in April ended abruptly after three days. Conway expressed displeasure at the order he received from Sanchez to cease offensive operations, a decision that culminated in the formation of the Fallujah Brigade.  "When you order elements of a Marine division to attack a city, you really need to understand what the consequences of that are going to be and not perhaps vacillate in the middle of something like that," he said. "Once you commit, you got to stay committed." ..

Marine officials say they believe that threats, tribal ties and other influences led many of the soldiers to tacitly support the insurgents. The leaders of two National Guard battalions, which had been working with the Fallujah Brigade, were kidnapped. One was beheaded and the fate of the other is unknown. A video of the killing has circulated in Fallujah to dissuade people from working with security forces.

Eventually, the 800 AK-47 assault rifles, 27 pickup trucks and 50 radios the Marines gave the brigade wound up in the hands of the insurgents, according to Marine officers. Marines manning a checkpoint on the city's eastern fringe were shot at by gunmen wearing Fallujah Brigade uniforms."

  11:43:24 PM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, September 11, 2004


September 11 and Its Aftermath:  Juan Cole's assessment.  And, James Fallows' "Bush's Lost Year" in the Oct 2004 Atlantic.  Depressing.   8:38:44 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, September 10, 2004


Poll finds Europeans and Democrats think alike: "While 69% of Republicans said they did not think a United Nations mandate would be necessary for future Iraq-style operations, 81% of Democrats said they thought it would be essential - as did 80% of Europeans.  The same pattern emerges in attitudes about the war in Iraq: 79% Republicans say the results were worth the loss of life and other costs, while 81% Democrats and 80% Europeans disagree. Democrats and Europeans also harbor the same sorts of doubts about whether military action is the most appropriate tool to fight terrorism. While 86% Republicans believe so, only 49% Europeans and 52% US Democrats agree, the poll finds. ..

The Marshall Fund poll [finds] majorities in France (63%) Germany (57%) and Spain (66%) support the idea of sending their soldiers to Iraq if the UN approved a multinational force to help secure and rebuild the country. ..

At the same time, the survey reveals the limitations of European ambitions for an independent global role. Though 71% Europeans say they would like the EU to become a superpower like the US, nearly half of them drop the idea if it requires increased military spending.  Nor should Washington see Europe's superpower aspirations as particularly threatening, the poll suggests: 30% respondents said they wanted to boost Europe's political clout to compete with the US. 63% said they wanted a bigger EU role in the world to cooperate more effectively with the US."

  10:24:57 PM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Fewer Asians live on less than $1 a day: "In a new report, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) says the number of people in Asia living on less than $1 a day fell by 223 million between 1990 and 2002. China accounted for 3 out of 4 of those whose incomes rose above a level classified as "extreme poverty" by economists. ..  Ifzal Ali, chief economist of the ADB estimates that by 2015, provided this growth is sustained, the number of Asians living extreme poverty could fall as low as 150 million, down from 690 million in 2002. ..

The growing gap [between rich and poor] is particularly evident in India. A booming software industry has sprouted office towers and gated communities, while the number of people living on under $2 a day actually rose 17 percent to 840 million through 2002. ..

Access to land, clean water, education and healthcare are also crucial to the fight against poverty. The ADB chides South Asian governments for failing to invest in public services. .. "People are no longer willing to be patient for trickledown growth. They want a better life and they want it now," says Ali. "Governments must be sensitive to their issues or they will be tossed out.""

  10:21:45 PM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, September 07, 2004


Bush Unlikely to Fulfill Vow on Deficit, Budget Office Projects: "In the last independent assessment of Mr. Bush's fiscal legacy before the elections, the Congressional Budget Office said that if there were no change to existing law, the federal deficit would decline only modestly from a record of $422 billion in 2004 to about $312 billion in 2009. If Mr. Bush persuades Congress to make his tax cuts permanent, he will fall even farther short of his promise. The federal deficit could reach nearly $500 billion in 2009 and the federal debt could swell by $4.8 trillion over the next decade. The new estimate is the first time that the Congressional agency has projected that President Bush will not be able to fulfill his promise, made last February, to cut the deficit by half. .. The new report is sobering because it arrives at similar conclusions even when analysts made extremely optimistic assumptions about war costs in Iraq and robust economic growth. "

  5:27:28 PM  permalink  

iTunes could hurt RIAA majors:  "The power of the RIAA and its members has always lain in money and marketing. The big record companies were able to pay large advances to top acts, and their marketing organizations were able to make small bands into bigger bands by aggressively promoting them and supporting tours. That was then. Today, technology has taken a lot of the cost out of recording music .. the RIAA's advantage still lies with their ability to take a local group and push it to a national audience.

But then Apple announced its iTunes affiliate program, .. paying a nickel to me if through my web site, you download some song I say is great. .. Apple in the last year has signed deals with more than 300 independent record labels, most of them not big enough to do much promotion. But now they don't have to because that promotion will be handled by mtv.com and every music web logger, now that they have a material incentive to make recommendations and print lists. "

  10:26:38 AM  permalink  

The unwinnable war: "There is the single most troubling aspect of the war in Iraq. We launched it against the wicked Saddam Hussein, yet the majority of so-called "insurgents" against whom our forces are arrayed hated Hussein more than we did. We are killing people by the thousands who threaten absolutely nothing of ours."  9:12:27 AM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, September 06, 2004


Responding to the Rumsfeld Memo:  Excellent summary on national security from Steve Clemons at the New America Foundation.  10:19:58 AM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, September 05, 2004


Stuck on The Fence: Interesting focus group profile of undecided voters in Erie Ohio:  "They are the true swing voters who do not so much swing between candidates as between voting and not voting.  .. In the next two months, these voters want the candidates to drop the flags, fireworks and florid freedom talk -- we're onto that game. Lose the negativity. More specifics, fewer ads -- and more debates.  And please: Beginning right now, start talking about something other than 9/11 and Iraq."  11:12:47 PM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, September 04, 2004


On the drift in non-proliferation policy: South Korea's admission of nuclear enrichment experiments sparks a review of the current situation:  "When one considers Libya's rescinded efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons program; the revelations about North Korea's warheads and Iran's presumed intention to build a program; Hussein's unconsummated interest in nuclear weapons development; al Qaeda's clear efforts to acquire a warhead and/or nuclear fuel; South Korea's admission of nuclear play to the IAEA; Israel's undeclared but known program of 200 plus warheads; and Pakistan's role in providing nuclear weapons technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea -- one sees powerful proliferation forces eroding what used to be a fairly stable non-proliferation regime. ..

The fact is that American intelligence had known for years that Khan was engaged in these activities. Why was nothing said? I happen to know that the intelligence community was well informed about Khan, well before the public revelations, through two instances. ..

For those of you into proliferation questions, check out Jon Wolfsthal's article yesterday about the Russians dispatching troops to deepen the security around Russian nuclear arsenals. After the tragic end to the Russian school hostage crisis in which so many died, Wolfsthal speculates that the government is worried about Chechen terrorist attempts to acquire a nuclear weapon."

  12:24:36 PM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, September 03, 2004


Al-Jazeera TV brings GOP to the Arab world: "For 40 million viewers in the Arab world, Al-Jazeera, a Qatar-based satellite television channel, provides a window into the intricate world of American politics. This week, its 16 reporters and staff will air 13 hours of broadcasts from the convention -- more time than the combined coverage of America's major television networks, ABC, CBS and NBC..

the Al-Jazeera coverage might help America's 500,000 Arab-speaking voters, who get the channel through the Dish Network, al-Mirazi said. In 2000, nearly 70 percent of Arab Americans voted for Bush because they "could identify with Republicans on conservative issues," Ghadbian said. But since then, the Bush administration has "done so many things they cannot accept -- the Patriot Act, the way Muslims are being treated, the war in Iraq," he said. "

  8:29:59 AM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, September 02, 2004


Molly Ivins:  "ANOTHER RECORD. We have already lost more American soldiers (488) in Iraq in 239 days of this year than we did in 287 days last year (482), when there was a war on and before our mission was accomplished.

The grind of the numbers is so relentless. Price of oil — pressing $50 a barrel. Poverty rate — increased again, third year in a row. Number of Americans without insurance — increased again, third year. Part of the “vibrant economy” Bush touts daily now. And the news from Iraq just keeps getting worse and worse.

Then, to liven things up, someone from Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith’s office is accused of passing classified information to the Israelis via the lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Be interesting to see whether Laurence A. Franklin, the alleged spy, gets as much publicity as Clinton’s former NSC adviser Sandy Berger did for allegedly taking notes on classified documents for his 9-11 Commission testimony. The Justice Department has announced no charges will be filed against Berger, and the matter is closed."

  9:18:01 AM  permalink  

Copyright 2006 © Ken Novak.
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