Current events
Post-9-11 events and analyses

Ken Novak's Weblog

daily link  Sunday, October 31, 2004

Why Bush let Zarqawi walk. By Daniel Benjamin "military leaders and the CIA felt Zarqawi was a threat that could and should be removed. On at least three occasions between mid-2002 and the invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon presented plans to the White House to destroy the Khurmal camp. Each time the White House declined to act or did not respond at all.  It is impossible to see that refusal as anything other than an enormous blunder. .. What seems evident is that the administration viewed Zarqawi as a lower-tier concern, despite his well-known history ..

The idea that states are the real issue and terrorists and their organizations are of secondary concern has been present throughout the Bush presidency. .. [T]he long, aimless road the administration took to the first meeting of its national security Cabinet on the issue of al-Qaida on Sept. 4, 2001, speaks volumes. By contrast, the first "principals" meeting on the issue of regime change in Iraq took place in January 2001, shortly after Bush's inauguration.  After 9/11, senior officials such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, simply refused to believe the assessment of the intelligence community that Iraq had no hand in the attack and that al-Qaida operated independently of state support. ..

It seems never to have occurred to President Bush and his advisers that in a globalized world, where borders are porous and technologies of massive destructiveness are available, hidden networks can be far more dangerous than a state, which can be threatened and contained. Yet that surely has been the lesson of the last three years. It is an added irony that the administration's inability to fully assimilate the threat from "non-state actors" is leading, thanks in part to Zarqawi, to the failure of its effort to reinvent Iraq as a stable democracy in the Middle East."

  8:57:14 AM  permalink  

Bin Laden's Re-Branding: "hese experts say bin Laden appears to be intensifying his campaign to "re-brand" himself in the minds of Muslims worldwide, and become known more as a political voice than a global terrorist.

"In some ways the tone of the message is as intriguing, and alarming, as the timing," said a U.S. official familiar with the tape, and the U.S. intelligence community's analysis of it. "The absence of an explicit threat does represent a different point of emphasis for this guy.  " ..

The U.S. official said "a political spinoff (of al-Qaida) is one of the greatest fears" of U.S. counter-terrorism authorities, in which bin Laden and the terror network follow the path of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hezbollah and members of the Irish Republican Army. Over the years, those groups evolved from having an emphasis on committing terrorism into broader organizations with influential, widely accepted political wings."

Here's one speculation:  If bin Laden does not and cannot control the various local terrorist groups, he could become a symbolic leader, like Arafat, a unifying but ineffective figure.

  8:52:16 AM  permalink  

Rights Group Warned U.S. of Munitions Cache:  Not just El Qaqaa.  "Human Rights Watch said Saturday it alerted the U.S. military to a cache of hundreds of high-explosive warheads in Iraq in May 2003, but that officials appeared uninterested and still had not secured the site 10 days later. The disclosure, made by a senior official of the New York-based human rights group, raised new questions about how U.S. forces dealt with known stashes of dangerous weapons in Iraq after the invasion. ..  
Peter Bouckaert, who heads Human Rights Watch's international emergency team, said he was shown two rooms "stacked to the roof" with surface-to-surface warheads on May 9, 2003, in a warehouse on the grounds of the 2nd Military College in Baqubah, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. The site also included antitank and antipersonnel mines, he said.   Bouckaert said he photographed the stockpile and gave U.S. officials the exact location of the warheads, but that by the time he left the area on May 19, 2003, he had seen no U.S. forces at the site, which he said was being looted daily by armed men.  "They asked mainly about chemical or biological weapons, which we hadn't seen," he said. "I had a pretty hard time getting anyone interested in it."

Bouckaert said displaced people with whom he was working in the Baqubah area had taken him to the warheads. "They said, 'There's stocks of weapons here and we're very concerned -- can you please inform the coalition?' " he said in a telephone interview from South Africa.  "Looting was taking place by a lot of armed men with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades," Bouckaert said. He said each of the warheads contained about 57 pounds of high explosives.  ..

Car bombs such as those used by insurgents in Iraq require about 6.5 pounds of explosives, Human Rights Watch said. "

  8:50:55 AM  permalink  

daily link  Friday, October 29, 2004

Is God an American Voter? The international press is distrurbed by Bush's religiousity -- even many conservatives.  EG: "In this view, Bush's refusal to admit any mistakes in Iraq reflects not arrogance nor evasiveness but divinely inspired confidence that all is going according to His plan. For the formerly pro-Bush press, it's a scary thought. "  11:48:20 PM  permalink  

BBC: Iraq dates 'planned in advance': "Top secret plans for attacking Iraq were drawn up five months before the war started, a court martial has heard. US defence planners passed plans, with codenames such as P-Day, A-Day and G-Day, to UK army bosses in October 2002.  ..

The secret documents were compiled by Lt Colonel Christopher Warren, staff officer at Land Command, Wiltshire .. P-Day stood for the date on which US President George Bush would make a decision for going for war, he revealed. That date was pencilled in for 15 February, 2003. A-Day stood for the beginning of the air strikes, scheduled for the first week of March 2003, while G-Day stood for the start of the ground offensive, due to start two days later. .. The war against Saddam Hussein was launched on 20 March, 2003, in a series of US air strikes.  ..

The plans were revealed during the court martial of reservist Lance Corporal Ian Blaymire, charged with the manslaughter of a colleague in Iraq. .. The dates and codenames were only revealed after the court martial was adjourned for several hours for legal argument. Assistant Judge Advocate Paul Camp eventually ruled the press and public had a right to hear the evidence. "

  11:44:31 PM  permalink  

Tracking poll: Bush holds on to advantage - October 27, 2000: Wow, did the polls get it wrong last time!  Gallup had Bush up by 13% (!), 3 media companies had results between 3 and 6% up for Bush, while only Zogby showed a Gore advantage (2%).   5:15:52 PM  permalink  

Ohio Election Board Throws Out Challenges: The courts are already active.  The details are telling.  "The Summit County Board of Elections dismissed the challenges against [62-year-old Catherine] Herold and 975 other voters whose registrations had been questioned. Several of the GOP challengers were identified at the hearing, each of whom had questioned hundreds of registrations. ..

That board had scheduled hearings to consider the challenges for several days leading up to the election, and Herold was the first voter whose case was heard.

A Republican activist named Barbara Miller told the board that she had never been to the address where Herold said she lived and did not know Herold, according to a transcript of the hearing. She said she based her challenge on information she received from a lawyer for the Republican Party, who had told her that mail sent to that address was returned to the party.

Herold said she recalled having declined to accept a mailing from the Republican Party.

In a heated moment, one Democrat on the election board suggested that an indictment may be in order against Miller, because she had sworn that she had personal knowledge leading her to believe that the registration was fraudulent, according to the transcript.

At that point, a lawyer representing Miller said the activist would exercise her right against self-incrimination and would say no more.  Ohio Republican Party spokesmen and the lawyer who represented GOP activists at the hearing did not answer a reporter's telephone calls or e-mail.

Even though the challenge against Herold was dismissed, she was outraged that her right to vote had been questioned. "My integrity was questioned here, my veracity. I've basically been accused of lying," Herold told the board.  Most of her ire was directed at the Republican Party. "They're trying to basically disenfranchise people or intimidate people so they don't go to the polls," said Herold, who had taken a day off from her job at a university to attend the hearing. "Other people who got this letter would say, 'I won't just vote.' ''  Herold said she had not missed an election since she first voted 42 years ago." 

Seel also the longer KR story about irate targeted voters:  "The challengers, all older longtime Republicans - Barbara Miller, Howard Calhoun, Madge Doerler and Louis Ray - were subpoenaed by the elections board and were present at the hearings. .. The angry voters had the Republicans on the defensive.  "Why'd you do it?" one challenged voter shouted out at Calhoun. "Who the hell are you?" the man asked. "What the hell do you care," replied Calhoun, who is an attorney. ..

the board voted unanimously to dismiss all 976 challenges.  The move, ironically, came from Republican board member Joseph Hutchinson and was seconded by Republican Alex Arshinkoff after they determined that the four local Republicans who made the challenges had no evidence to back up their claims. ..

Arshinkoff, who is chairman of the Summit County GOP, pointed to the state party and said its Chairman Robert Bennett should be held accountable. .. Arshinkoff and Hutchinson were obviously angry with the state party.  Arshinkoff compared the proceedings to a "train wreck" and said representatives from the Ohio Republican Party should have been at the hearing .. "There was no evidence," Hutchinson said of the challenges. ..

[Democratic board member] Pry and elections board member Wayne Jones said after the hearing that they intend to contact the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the challenges...

  3:17:24 PM  permalink  

Even  Iraqis Favor Kerry over Bush: "A new public opinion poll shows more Iraqis favor Democratic challenger John Kerry than President Bush, who launched the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. But more than half of the 2,000 peopled polled throughout Iraq don't care who wins the U.S. presidency in next week's election."  That's Kerry 22%, Bush 16%, the rest indifferent.  8:37:27 AM  permalink  

daily link  Thursday, October 28, 2004

Where do they find these guys? "Eight months before the White House appointed him the Homeland Security Department’s top intelligence official, retired U.S. Army Gen. Patrick M. Hughes told a public forum at Harvard last year that the government would have to “abridge individual rights” and take domestic security measures “not in accordance with our values and traditions” to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States.  “What I’m about to say is very arrogant — arrogant to a fault,” said Hughes, a former chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), in previously unreported remarks at a March 2003 Harvard University forum on “Future Conditions: The Character and Conduct of War, 2010 and 2020.”

“Set aside what the mass of people think. Some things are so bad for them that you cannot allow them to have them. One of them is war in the context of terrorism in the United States,” Hughes said, according to a transcript obtained by CQ Homeland Security. “Therefore, we have to abridge individual rights, change the societal conditions, and act in ways that heretofore were not in accordance with our values and traditions, like giving a police officer or security official the right to search you without a judicial finding of probable cause,” said Hughes.

“Things are changing, and this change is happening because things can be brought to us that we cannot afford to absorb. We can’t deal with them, so we’re going to reach out and do something ahead of time to preclude them.  “Is that going to change your lives?” Hughes asked rhetorically. “It already has.”"

  10:59:46 PM  permalink  

Krugman in The Texas Observer: "So, my column to Kerry, my open letter to him if he wins, will be: Do not be magnanimous. You need to expose and dismantle this machine. .. The biggest thing would be to end the reign of terror in the agencies, so that the CIA and the Treasury Department—the civil servants—can talk about what actually happened. It’s obvious that there was intense pressure placed upon the agencies to come up with the conclusion that [the Administration] wanted. But very few people are willing to say that, because these guys play rough. There’s a lot of funny stuff involving the Justice Department, where officials who’ve criticized Ashcroft’s handling of stuff—which is disastrous, right? Not a single successful terror prosecution [but] a lot of grandstanding—have found themselves subject to internal investigations. If we can get to a point where these people can speak freely, it will matter a lot. Homeland Security: I want people to be able to talk freely about the timing of terror alerts. You can draw a chart and it’s obvious that terror alerts increase when Bush is down in the polls and vanish when he’s up in the polls. But we need someone to go on the record and say that they’ve been used as a political tool."  10:18:12 PM  permalink  

Eyewitness to a failure in Iraq: A short piece worth reading for details of how Wolfowitz & Co. ignored explicit information.  "In 2003 I went to tell Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz what I had seen in Baghdad in the days following Saddam Hussein's overthrow. For nearly an hour, I described the catastrophic aftermath of the invasion .. As I pointed out to Wolfowitz, as long as [the weapon] sites remained unprotected, their deadly materials could end up not with ill-educated slum dwellers but with those who knew exactly what they were doing. .. [Today,] this equipment could be anywhere. But one good bet is Iran, which has had allies and agents in Iraq since shortly after the US-led forces arrived. ..

I supported President Bush's decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein. At Wolfowitz's request, I helped advance the case for war, drawing on my work in previous years in documenting Saddam's atrocities, including the use of chemical weapons on the Kurds. In spite of the chaos that followed the war, I am sure that Iraq is better off without Saddam Hussein.

It is my own country that is worse off -- 1,100 dead soldiers, billions added to the deficit, and the enmity of much of the world. Someone out there has nuclear bomb-making equipment, and they may not be well disposed toward the United States. Much of this could have been avoided with a competent postwar strategy. But without having planned or provided enough troops, we would be a lot safer if we hadn't gone to war."

  9:14:04 AM  permalink  

Embedding blow back: "Minneapolis/St. Paul ABC affiliate KSTP has put the video and pictures of the explosives cache their embeds saw on April 18, 2003, online. Click on "video" at the top for the news report. It's really devastating. You can see the American military cutting open the doors to explosives-containing facilities with bolt cutters, and then just leaving the doors open when they leave. There's even a shot of a couple of military guys jokingly posing with a big, dusty metal object, saying, "What do you think America? Is this a big bomb, or what?""  Interesting effects of a video, with GPS coordinates placing the date and time it was taken.  Update: the video appears to show a bunker sealed by the IAEA, closing the argument about whether IAEA material was still on-site.  8:26:46 AM  permalink  

daily link  Wednesday, October 27, 2004

4GW, High Noon, And How Even I Get It Now: Concise summary of "4th generation warfare" or "netwar" concepts.  Many other interesting papers at Defense and the National Interest, especially papers by William Lind on how 4GW relates to Iraq.  11:33:12 PM  permalink  

JointVenture's Index of Silicon Valley:  In depth assessment of the economy and quality of life in the valley.  Some highlights:

  • has lost 15% of the jobs it had at the peak in 2000, down to 1996-97 levels
  • average pay has dropped about 20% from 2000 levels, back to 1998 levels after three consecutive years of decline
  • still has a much higher concentration of innovation and high-paying jobs than the US average
  • per-capita income remains stable and very high compared to the US average ($53k vs $32k)
  • value added per employee never dropped, is now $188k vs the US average $88k
  • household income dropped more for high income than median, and both are still above 1998 levels (80th pctl is $150k down from $160k, median is $85k, 20th pctl is $45k vs $28k national)
  • 26% households can afford the median home, compared to 41% in 1994 and 56% nationally today
  • commercial rents have fallen to levels below 1998's, dropping 2x-3x from 2000 peaks
  • venture capital funding has dropped 6x, back to 1998 levels (under $6B/yr)
  • 15% of people are obese compared to 20% nationally

Most data ends full year 2002, some 2003.  [Found from John Furrier's blog.  Thanks John!]

  10:18:13 PM  permalink  

Chronology of the assault on Tora Bora and the start of planning for the Iraq War.  4:04:38 PM  permalink  

The Terrorist Notebooks:  Notebooks kept by Uzbek trainees in Al Queda-style camps in the late 1990s are reproduced and analyzed, for a provocative view of how the jihadists operate.  See also more from FP, Islam's Medieval Outposts about the history and structure of the madrassas, and Islam's Weakened Moderates for a survey of the status of moderate regimes.  9:39:32 AM  permalink  

A World Without Power: Interesting essay on historical alternatives to today's 'unipolar' world.   "Be careful what you wish for. The alternative to unipolarity would not be multipolarity at all. It would be apolarity—a global vacuum of power. And far more dangerous forces than rival great powers would benefit from such a not-so-new world disorder. ..

If free flows of information and of means of production empower multinational corporations and nongovernmental organizations (as well as evangelistic religious cults of all denominations), the free flow of destructive technology empowers both criminal organizations and terrorist cells. These groups can operate, it seems, wherever they choose, from Hamburg to Gaza. By contrast, the writ of the international community is not global at all. It is, in fact, increasingly confined to a few strategic cities such as Kabul and Pristina. In short, it is the nonstate actors who truly wield global power—including both the monks and the Vikings of our time. "  (Side note: my company does developing country communications.  In the last 5 years, we have received increasing numbers of inquiries from religious and evangelical "missionary" development organizations.)

  9:17:42 AM  permalink  

Daniel Benjamin: What the Terrorists Have in Mind: "Mr. Bush is correct: A central part of our strategy must be to pre-empt terrorists, attacking them before they attack us. But not all offensive strategies are equal, and Mr. Bush errs by arguing that the one being employed is doing the job. One need only listen to the terrorists and observe their recent actions to understand that we face grave problems...

 There has been a drastic shift in mood in the last two years. Radicals who were downcast and perplexed in 2002 about the rapid defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan now feel exuberant about the global situation and, above all, the events in Iraq. For example, an article in the most recent issue of Al Qaeda's Voice of Jihad - an online magazine that comes out every two weeks - makes the case that the United States has a greater strategic mess on its hands in Afghanistan and Iraq than the Soviet Union did in Afghanistan in the 1980's. .. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist now wreaking havoc in Iraq, sees things in a similar way. "There is no doubt that the Americans' losses are very heavy because they are deployed across a wide area and among the people and because it is easy to procure weapons," he wrote in a recent communiqué to his followers that was posted on several radical Web sites. "All of which makes them easy and mouthwatering targets for the believers."  .. "We believe these infidels have lost their minds," was the analysis on a site called Jamaat ud-Daawa, which is run out of Pakistan. "They do not know what they are doing. They keep on repeating the same mistake." ..

Moreover, the radicals see themselves as gaining ground in their effort to convince other Muslims around the world that jihad is a religiously required military obligation. And the American presence in the region is making the case for fulfilling this obligation all the more powerful.  Iraq, in fact, has become a theater of inspiration for this drama of faith, in which the jihadists believe they can win .. we have ceded control of much of western Iraq. Taliban-like councils are emerging in places under the control of extremists, some linked with Mr. Zarqawi's organization. From the militants' perspective, America's record has been one of inconsistency and fecklessness. ..

the Pakistani Sunni extremist group Lashkar-e-Tayba appears to be shifting its sights away from its longtime focus on Kashmir and toward Iraq. Probably the largest militant group in Pakistan, it has used its online Urdu publication to call for sending holy warriors to Iraq to take revenge for the torture at Abu Ghraib prison as well as for what it calls the "rapes of Iraqi Muslim women." .. The organization's postings speak of an "army" of 8,000 fighters from different countries bound for Iraq. While that number is undoubtedly exaggerated, the statement is not pure propaganda: members of the group have already been captured in Iraq.  Another worrisome development is the parallel emergence of a Shiite militancy that shares the apocalyptic outlook of Al Qaeda. ..

our pursuit of the war on terrorism through an invasion of Iraq has carried real costs for our security. The occupation is in chaos, which is emboldening a worldwide assortment of radical Islamists and giving them common ground. The worst thing we could do now is believe that the Bush administration's tough talk is in any way realistic. If we really think that the unrest abroad will have no impact on us at home - as too many thought before 9/11 - not even a vastly improved offense can help us."

  8:50:46 AM  permalink  

daily link  Tuesday, October 26, 2004

U.S. scales back democracy goals in Iraq: "While publicly stressing the need for Iraqis to control their own destiny, the Bush administration is working behind the scenes to coax its closest Iraqi allies into a coalition that could dominate elections scheduled for January.  U.S. authorities in Washington and Iraqi politicians confirmed that top White House officials have told leaders of the six major parties that were on the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council that it would be in the groups' common interest to present a unified electoral slate.

The U.S. effort to influence the parliamentary elections is highly sensitive, coming at a time when President Bush daily expresses his desire to bring liberty and democracy to a nation that for decades has known only authoritarian rule. But the White House move stems from concerns that neighboring Iran is using its money and influence to try to sway the elections in its favor. One U.S. official in Washington said the administration now believes Iraq needs a "negotiated resolution … a scaled-back democratic process."

Between the two conflicting key goals, "I see the arguments for stability now outweighing the calls for democracy," said the official.."  10:35:28 PM  permalink  

Bush administration record on nonproliferation:  Detailed, depressing recounting, from Russia, Pakistan, Libya, North Korea, and more.  See also an interview with Graham Allison.  10:21:13 PM  permalink  

Civil claims provide glimpse into war's impact on Iraqi citizens: Dayton reporters review "4,611 never-before-released civil claims from Iraq — hundreds alleging abuse and misconduct by American military personnel — on a computer database obtained by the Dayton Daily News through the federal Freedom of Information Act. The U.S. Army tort claims database is the most comprehensive public record released to date of alleged acts against Iraqi civilians by American forces, which do not otherwise systematically track civilian casualties.

The records provide a previously unseen portrait of the toll the war has had on civilians in Iraq, and the kinds of incidents described in the records have fueled the growing insurgency and hatred toward the American-led coalition. ..

"When we first got there, the Iraqis were glad to see us. I believe things changed because there was disrespect to the people," said Elizabeth Wisdorf of Colorado Springs, Colo., who served for nearly a year in Iraq as a member of the Colorado National Guard's 220th Military Police Company. "There were a lot of accidents, a lot of deaths."

  10:00:29 PM  permalink  

Wikinews:  Building on the large and successful wikipedia community, a news site is proposed, with review before publication and links to sources.  "We seek to create a free source of news, where every human being is invited to contribute reports about events large and small, either from direct experience, or summarized from elsewhere. Wikinews is founded on the idea that we want to create something new, rather than destroy something old. .. 

While Wikinews aims to be a useful resource of its own, it will also provide an alternative to proprietary news agencies like the Associated Press or Reuters; that is, it will allow independent media outfits to get a high quality feed of news free of charge to complement their own reporting. Thanks to copyleft, anyone can create their own free news source - even a non-neutral one - on the basis of our work. Even if our articles will initially be few, they will be free, permanently available and not require registration before reading.

While we are faced with many new challenges, Wikinews will adopt the key principles which have made Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia websites what they are today: neutrality, free content, and an open decision making process.

We seek to promote the idea of the citizen journalist, because we believe that everyone can make a useful contribution to painting the big picture of what is happening in the world around us. The time has come to create a free news source, by the people and for the people. We invite you to join us in this effort which has the potential to change the world forever."  A potentially important source to open source intelligence.

  9:30:27 PM  permalink  

Cheney loses his cool: "On Sept. 28, at the Vice President's request, the Agency provided a special briefing on the subject of Jordanian terrorist Mu'sab al-Zarqawi. The CIA's Counter Terrorism Center (CTC) reviewed all of the available intelligence on the subject and based its briefing on a just completed comprehensive intelligence analysis. The CTC concluded that Saddam Hussein had not materially supported Zarqawi before the U.S.-led invasion and that Zarqawi's infrastructure in Iraq before the war was confined to the northern no-fly zones of Kurdistan, beyond Baghdad's reach. Cheney reacted with fury, screaming at the briefer that CIA was trying to get John Kerry elected by contradicting the president's stance that Saddam had supported terrorism and therefore needed to be overthrown. The hapless briefer was shaken by the vice president's outburst, and the incident was reported back to Goss, who indicated that he was reluctant to confront the vice president's staff regarding it. "  4:00:27 PM  permalink  

President Kerry and Europe: "From an Oxford professor currently at Stanford:  "This U.S. election will shape the future of Europe and the trans- atlantic West. If President Bush is reelected, many Europeans will try to make the European Union a rival superpower to the United States.
Led by French President Jacques Chirac, they will find the main justification for further European integration in counterbalancing what they see as irresponsible, unchecked American power. In the great European argument between Euro-Gaullists and Euro-Atlanticists, these Euro-Gaullists will be strengthened. The temptation for Europe to define itself as Not America will be increased. All this at a formative moment when an enlarged European Union is hoping to give itself a new constitution and work out what it wants to be. ..

Even more important, in the longer term, is China. Chirac has been pursuing a shameless policy of wooing China, for French economic advantage and to poke Washington in the eye. He has endorsed Beijing's position on Taiwan and said the E.U. embargo on arms exports to China should be lifted. This raises the grotesque prospect of European weapons being pointed at American warships in the Taiwan Strait. But of course it's not France that is calling the shots here. In the 1970s, Henry Kissinger played the China card against the Soviet Union. Today, China is playing the European card against the United States. ..

If, however, Americans choose Sen. John F. Kerry as their 44th president, we will have a chance of reconstructing the transatlantic West on a new basis.""

  3:44:52 PM  permalink  

daily link  Monday, October 25, 2004

Brooks on progressive conservatives:  Long rant with a few good ideas, and one interesting poll result:  "Over the past two decades there has been a sharp rise in the number of people who define themselves to pollsters as ''have-nots.'' Though poverty has declined since 1988, the number of blacks who call themselves ''have-nots'' has risen to 48 percent from 24 percent. The number of whites who use that phrase to describe themselves has risen to 28 percent from 17 percent. These perceptions have been rising steadily over the Bush, Clinton and Bush presidencies.  When people call themselves ''have-nots,'' they are not only commenting on their current economic status. They are also commenting on their prospects."  10:15:35 PM  permalink  

'Frightened to death' of Bush: Another GOP endorsement, this time Marlow W. Cook, a Republican County judge from 1962-1968 and U.S. senator from Kentucky from 1968-1975. "I am not enamored with John Kerry, but I am frightened to death of George Bush. .. we have a duty to rid ourselves of those who are taking our country on a perilous ride in the wrong direction. .. I will take John Kerry for four years to put our country on the right path. "

  3:50:44 PM  permalink  

Bush supporters think Bush is moderate: Good summary contrasting Bush positions to what his supports think they are.  "There are only two issues on which even a majority of Bush supporters know Bush's actual position. As the PIPA report blandly puts it, "Apparently in the absence of evidence to the contrary, Bush supporters assume Bush feels as they do."  That's true, and it's been the essence of George Bush since 2000. He won the primary and the election that year by being the friendly face of movement conservatism, a guy who seemed much more moderate than he really was. And now, even four years later, he still looks to his supporters much more moderate than he really is. If the electorate understood just how conservative Bush really is, he wouldn't have a snowball's chance of winning the election this year.

What's more, this goes beyond George Bush: it's actually one of conservatism's greatest weaknesses. On a wide range of issues — the environment, Social Security, Medicare, abortion, and so forth — conservatives are unable to get support for their actual positions, so they're forced to couch their conservative policies in surprisingly liberal terms. We're environmentalists! We want to save Social Security! We're tolerant of gays!  In the long term, though, this is disastrous, since eventually they'll either have to surrender and adopt genuine liberal policies or else come clean about their conservatism and get swamped at the polls.

But that's for the future. In the meantime, the compassionate conservative schtick is working pretty well. I wonder how much longer they can pull it off?"

  3:45:19 PM  permalink - Questions Mount Over Failure to Hit Zarqawi's Camp: "The Pentagon drew up detailed plans in June 2002, giving the administration a series of options for a military strike on the camp Mr. Zarqawi was running then in remote northeastern Iraq, according to generals who were involved directly in planning the attack and several former White House staffers ..

Senior Pentagon officials who were involved in planning the attack said that even by spring 2002 Mr. Zarqawi had been identified as a significant terrorist target.. But the raid on Mr. Zarqawi didn't take place. Months passed with no approval of the plan from the White House, until word came down just weeks before the March 19, 2003, start of the Iraq war that Mr. Bush had rejected any strike on the camp until after an official outbreak of hostilities with Iraq. Ultimately, the camp was hit just after the invasion of Iraq began. ..

Gen. Keane characterized the camp "as one of the best targets we ever had," and questioned the decision not to attack it. When the U.S. did strike the camp a day after the war started, Mr. Zarqawi, many of his followers and Kurdish extremists belonging to his organization already had fled, people involved with intelligence say. Questions about whether the U.S. missed an opportunity to take out Mr. Zarqawi have been enhanced recently by a CIA report on Mr. Zarqawi, commissioned by Vice President Dick Cheney. Individuals who have been briefed on the report's contents say it specifically cites evidence that Mr. Zarqawi was in the camp during those prewar months. ..

Administration officials say the attack was set aside for a variety of reasons, including uncertain intelligence reports on Mr. Zarqawi's whereabouts and the difficulties of hitting him within a large complex. .. Another factor, though, was fear that a strike on the camp could stir up opposition while the administration was trying to build an international coalition to launch an invasion of Iraq. Lawrence Di Rita, the Pentagon's chief spokesman, said in an interview that the reasons for not striking included "the president's decision to engage the international community on Iraq." "

  3:26:30 PM  permalink  

daily link  Saturday, October 23, 2004

Update on the Franklin/AIPAC investigation: "Was he trying to inform AIPAC, or Israel, about the contents of the draft NSPD? Or rather, and perhaps more plausibly, was he trying to enlist the powerful Washington lobbying organization in advocating for a Iran-destabilization policy? In other words, is the Franklin case really about espionage, or is it a glimpse into the ugly sausage-making process by which Middle East policy gets decided in Washington and, in particular, in the Bush administration?.. On October 6, the Los Angeles Times reported that Franklin had stopped cooperating with the FBI entirely. He had hired a high-profile lawyer, Plato Cacheris (of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen fame), and had rejected a proposed plea agreement whose terms Franklin considers “too onerous,” according to the Los Angeles Times"  9:10:07 AM  permalink  

Al-Ahram: Europe's silent revolution:  Profile of European Arab intellectual Tariq Ramadan.  "By offering a new reading of Islam's primary sources, Ramadan wants to provide an alternate way of imagining Islam and Islamic rules ..  "Our reading of our Islamic sources and references," he explains, "is much more about how we protect ourselves from the dominant civilisation. There is something in the way we invoke our Islamic references, the way we read our history, legacies and traditions. We tend to examine those references very often through what differentiates us from the West or from the Other, and not what there might be in common between those traditions and the Western tradition." .. "I think we need to be confident of our own legacy and heritage, and not make our relationship with the West the yardstick by which we measure everything."..

Despite his strong defence of Islamic traditions, Ramadan does not believe that an Islamic model of society exists per se. And this is perhaps where we can see most clearly the personal dilemma of Ramadan himself. His belief that many Western values can easily be reconciled with those of Islam means he does not believe that there is such a thing as an Islamic economic order or an Islamic state, for example. "These are just words and slogans," he insists. The problem, he continues, "is that we act as if everything in our culture of origin is right: but this is a wrong perception. Not everything in European culture is against Islamic principles, and by the same logic, not everything in the Egyptian or in any other Arab culture is in accordance with Islamic principles, either. There are many things in our culture that are not faithful to our religious principles." Thus he believes that a process of tajdeed (renewal) will eventually lead Muslims to a better understanding of the foundational texts. This process is likely, however, to be hampered by the lack of freedom prevalent in Muslim societies. .. "I am asking the Muslims in the West to be the voice of the voiceless" ..

Ramadan was about to begin a term as professor of Islamic ethics at the University of Notre Dame when [he was denied entry to the US]. But it was no surprise either when dozens of American scholars of Middle Eastern studies protested against the move in a petition to US Secretary of State Colin Powell earlier this month.

  9:00:20 AM  permalink  

Dickey: The Executioner's Song: "The well-orchestrated rise of Jordanian thug Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi to superterrorist stardom may soon come to an abrupt end. The Americans and the Iraqi government say they are closing in on him. .. How soon? Perhaps before Nov. 2? Iraqi officials in Baghdad are perfectly aware that if Zarqawi is betrayed, caught or killed, U.S. President George W. Bush will get a boost at the polls. “We will do anything to help our friend on the other side of the sea get elected,” one Iraqi official told me...

It’s important to remember how small this guy’s numbers are. Both U.S. military intelligence and sources with close ties to the rebels estimate Zarqawi has no more than a couple of hundred people answering directly to him. Homegrown Iraqi insurgents, on the other hand, number in the thousands, if not tens of thousands, and they are the ones carrying out scores of attacks on American soldiers every day. “They just want to push out the people who have occupied the country,” said the jihadist. “They are not fighting some grand international battle like Zarqawi.”  Iraq has never been a cause for Zarqawi, it’s been his stage. ..

Zarqawi only started to get famous when Secretary of State Colin Powell tried to present him as the missing link between Saddam hussein and Osama bin Laden to help justify the rush to war last year. The evidence for a direct connection was thin and circumstantial, like so much in Powell’s presentation to the United Nations. But now Zarqawi’s name was on the record...

But, no, [catching Zarqawi] wouldn’t all be good news. The insurgency—the one that targets American soldiers—would still be alive and well, and very probably better off without this grandstanding butcher. Like many media creations, even his gruesome fame will fade quickly from the global consciousness. And bin Laden lives on." Related:  Pincus: Iraq Called 'Springboard' for Insurgency Figure

  8:39:34 AM  permalink  

Muslim peacekeepers for Iraq nixed:  Oct 18, 2004: "President George W. Bush rebuffed a plan last month for a Muslim peacekeeping force that would have helped the United Nations organize elections in Iraq, according to Saudi and Iraqi officials. As a result, the UN continues to have a skeletal presence in Iraq, with only four staff members working full time on preparing for elections set for the end of January. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has refused to establish a new UN headquarters in Baghdad unless countries commit troops for a special force to protect it.

Saudi leaders, including Crown Prince Abdullah, personally lobbied Bush in July to sign off on the plan to establish a contingent of several hundred troops from Arab and Muslim nations. Abdullah discussed the plan in a 10-minute phone conversation with Bush on July 28 after meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell, according to Saudi officials familiar with the negotiations. 

Diplomats said Annan accepted the plan. But the Bush administration objected because the special force would have been controlled by the UN instead of by U.S. military officers who run the Multi-National Force in Iraq. Muslim and Arab countries refused to work under U.S. command, and the initiative died in early September. ..

After meeting with Abdullah on July 28 in the Saudi port city of Jeddah, Powell called it "an interesting idea, a welcome idea." At that point, no countries had signed on to send troops, but Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Algeria and Morocco were "seriously interested," the Saudi official said. Saudi diplomats also had presented the idea to officials in Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia and Oman.

Initially, the Saudis pressed to create a full-fledged peacekeeping force, possibly made up of several thousand Muslim troops. That force would have protected the UN mission and worked alongside Iraqi forces in other security functions. The Saudi official said Pakistan, which has one of the largest and most experienced armies in the Muslim world, was willing to commit several hundred soldiers to help start the process. But Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf insisted that other countries must commit forces before he would give final approval.  Iraqi officials said they did not want countries that border Iraq to contribute to a security force, ruling out Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Syria, Iran and Turkey. The Saudis agreed with that condition and promised to provide financial support to the peacekeeping force and possibly to some of the nations that agreed to contribute troops...

At one point, the Saudis proposed that Muslim forces be placed under the command of the Iraqi government. That idea won over Allawi, but not the United States. "The Americans wanted ultimate control, and that made it impossible to make this work," said the Iraqi official. ..

UN envoy Ashraf Jehangir Qazi said .. the UN's limited presence in Iraq is a missed opportunity. "If our peacekeeping initiative had been adopted," he said, "the UN would have a much more active role in Iraq today.""

  12:53:11 AM  permalink  

Big G.O.P. Bid to Challenge Voters at Polls in Ohio:  "Republican Party officials in Ohio took formal steps yesterday to place thousands of recruits inside polling places on Election Day to challenge the qualifications of voters they suspect are not eligible to cast ballots.  Party officials say their effort is necessary to guard against fraud arising from aggressive moves by the Democrats to register tens of thousands of new voters in Ohio, seen as one of the most pivotal battlegrounds in the Nov. 2 elections. ..

Ohio Democrats were struggling to match the Republicans' move, which had been rumored for weeks. Both parties had until 4 p.m. to register people they had recruited to monitor the election. Republicans said they had enlisted 3,600 by the deadline, many in heavily Democratic urban neighborhoods of Cleveland, Dayton and other cities. Each recruit was to be paid $100.   The Democrats, who tend to benefit more than Republicans from large turnouts, said they had registered more than 2,000 recruits to try to protect legitimate voters rather than weed out ineligible ones. "   The article also refers to pre-election-day challenges to incorrect voter addresses.

  12:38:43 AM  permalink  

Why so many still support Bush: "Even after the final report of Charles Duelfer to Congress saying that Iraq did not have a significant WMD program, 72% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing them (25%). Fifty-six percent assume that most experts believe Iraq had actual WMD and 57% also assume, incorrectly, that Duelfer concluded Iraq had at least a major WMD program. Kerry supporters hold opposite beliefs on all these points.

Similarly, 75% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda, and 63% believe that clear evidence of this support has been found. Sixty percent of Bush supporters assume that this is also the conclusion of most experts, and 55% assume, incorrectly, that this was the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission. Here again, large majorities of Kerry supporters have exactly opposite perceptions.

These are some of the findings of a new study of the differing perceptions of Bush and Kerry supporters, conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes and Knowledge Networks, based on polls conducted in September and October.

Steven Kull, director of PIPA, comments, "One of the reasons that Bush supporters have these beliefs is that they perceive the Bush administration confirming them. Interestingly, this is one point on which Bush and Kerry supporters agree." Eighty-two percent of Bush supporters perceive the Bush administration as saying that Iraq had WMD (63%) or that Iraq had a major WMD program (19%). Likewise, 75% say that the Bush administration is saying Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda. Equally large majorities of Kerry supporters hear the Bush administration expressing these views--73% say the Bush administration is saying Iraq had WMD (11% a major program) and 74% that Iraq was substantially supporting al Qaeda.

Steven Kull adds, "Another reason that Bush supporters may hold to these beliefs is that they have not accepted the idea that it does not matter whether Iraq had WMD or supported al Qaeda. Here too they are in agreement with Kerry supporters." Asked whether the US should have gone to war with Iraq if US intelligence had concluded that Iraq was not making WMD or providing support to al Qaeda, 58% of Bush supporters said the US should not have, and 61% assume that in this case the President would not have. Kull continues, "To support the president and to accept that he took the US to war based on mistaken assumptions likely creates substantial cognitive dissonance, and leads Bush supporters to suppress awareness of unsettling information about prewar Iraq."

This tendency of Bush supporters to ignore dissonant information extends to other realms as well. Despite an abundance of evidence--including polls conducted by Gallup International in 38 countries, and more recently by a consortium of leading newspapers in 10 major countries--only 31% of Bush supporters recognize that the majority of people in the world oppose the US having gone to war with Iraq. Forty-two percent assume that views are evenly divided, and 26% assume that the majority approves. Among Kerry supporters, 74% assume that the majority of the world is opposed.

Similarly, 57% of Bush supporters assume that the majority of people in the world would favor Bush's reelection; 33% assumed that views are evenly divided and only 9% assumed that Kerry would be preferred. A recent poll by GlobeScan and PIPA of 35 of the major countries around the world found that in 30, a majority or plurality favored Kerry, while in just 3 Bush was favored. On average, Kerry was preferred more than two to one.

Bush supporters also have numerous misperceptions about Bush's international policy positions. Majorities incorrectly assume that Bush supports multilateral approaches to various international issues--the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (69%), the treaty banning land mines (72%)--and for addressing the problem of global warming: 51% incorrectly assume he favors US participation in the Kyoto treaty. After he denounced the International Criminal Court in the debates, the perception that he favored it dropped from 66%, but still 53% continue to believe that he favors it. An overwhelming 74% incorrectly assumes that he favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements. In all these cases, majorities of Bush supporters favor the positions they impute to Bush. Kerry supporters are much more accurate in their perceptions of his positions on these issues.

"The roots of the Bush supporters' resistance to information," according to Steven Kull, "very likely lie in the traumatic experience of 9/11 and equally in the near pitch-perfect leadership that President Bush showed in its immediate wake. This appears to have created a powerful bond between Bush and his supporters--and an idealized image of the President that makes it difficult for his supporters to imagine that he could have made incorrect judgments before the war, that world public opinion could be critical of his policies or that the President could hold foreign policy positions that are at odds with his supporters." "

KR reports it first, as usual, and asked the Bush campaign about it:  "A Bush campaign official, Reed Dickens, said the perceptions on weapons were understandable ``given that it's only in the last few weeks we've had this definitive finding'' of the Duelfer report."

  12:10:44 AM  permalink  

daily link  Friday, October 22, 2004

Afghanistan, Iraq: Two Wars Collide:  "In the second half of March 2002, as the Bush administration mapped its next steps against al Qaeda, Deputy CIA Director John E. McLaughlin brought an unexpected message to the White House Situation Room. According to two people with firsthand knowledge, he told senior members of the president's national security team that the CIA was scaling back operations in Afghanistan.

That announcement marked a year-long drawdown of specialized military and intelligence resources from the geographic center of combat with Osama bin Laden. As jihadist enemies reorganized, slipping back and forth from Pakistan and Iran, the CIA closed forward bases in the cities of Herat, Mazar-e Sharif and Kandahar. The agency put off an $80 million plan to train and equip a friendly intelligence service for the new U.S.-installed Afghan government. Replacements did not keep pace with departures as case officers finished six-week tours. And Task Force 5 -- a covert commando team that led the hunt for bin Laden and his lieutenants in the border region -- lost more than two-thirds of its fighting strength.

The commandos, their high-tech surveillance equipment and other assets would instead surge toward Iraq through 2002 and early 2003, as President Bush prepared for the March invasion that would extend the field of battle in the nation's response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks .." The article also provides quotes from experts about the lack of non-military responses to terrorism.

  4:05:37 PM  permalink  

Cringely on polls and cell phones: "the FCC said two years ago that five percent of U.S. homes have only mobile phone service and that 15 percent of university students have only mobile phone service. And with 77 million U.S. mobile phones owned by people age 18-24, many of those supposedly counted are probably still associated with a parent's hard-wired telephone number but are really mobile. So the numbers of unpolled votes could be huge. ..

In the last presidential election, one might have expected the final tracking polls to pretty closely reflect the actual outcome of the election only a few hours later. But no. Gore was generally two to three points down in most tracking polls conducted on November 6, 2000, but won the popular vote on November 7 by about half a million voters, or half of one percent. True, this is within the statistical range of most polls, but if the deviation from the actual vote count was truly random noise, then half of the tracking polls would have counted high and half counted low. But that's not the way it happened, and the reason isn't noise, but a consistent sampling error.

More recently in the 2003, Philadelphia mayoral election the final tracking polls gave incumbent mayor John Street a slight statistical lead over challenger Sam Katz, yet the actual vote went 59 to 41 for Street. How could those Philadelphia tracking polls be so far off? They missed the extensive effort to register student voters in that city, with its several major universities.

Now how about Diddy and all the others urging young people to register and vote in the upcoming Presidential election? Their stated goal is 20 million new voters (out of a total of perhaps 110-120 million voters) and given the fervent message and extensive advertising on MTV, VH1 and elsewhere, that goal just might be reached, presumably with most of those kids voting for Kerry, the Democratic challenger. .."

  10:49:30 AM  permalink  

daily link  Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Wizards of Armageddon:  Steve Clemons on Saddam's strategy of deception, game theory, and the need for layers, protocols, hotlines and other systems to prevent miscalculation in the decision to go to war.

  2:48:58 PM  permalink  

ProgressivePunch: Home: "ProgressivePunch is a non-partisan searchable database of Congressional voting records from a Progressive perspective. But we're convinced it's extremely useful irrespective of anyone's political positions. "  2:24:38 PM  permalink  

daily link  Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Strategy to Secure Iraq Did Not Foresee a 2nd War: Michael Gordon provides more insider info about losing the peace:  "Military aides on the National Security Council prepared a confidential briefing for Ms. Rice and her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, that examined what previous nation-building efforts had required. .. If the United States and its allies wanted to maintain the same ratio of peacekeepers to population as it had in Kosovo, the briefing said, they would have to station 480,000 troops in Iraq. If Bosnia was used as benchmark, 364,000 troops would be needed. If Afghanistan served as the model, only 13,900 would be needed in Iraq. .. More forces generally are required to control countries with large urban populations. The briefing pointed out that three-quarters of Iraq's population lived in urban areas. In Bosnia and Kosovo, city dwellers made up half of the population. In Afghanistan, it was only 18 percent. ..

James F. Dobbins, who was the administration's special envoy for Afghanistan and had also served as the ambassador at large for Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia and Haiti, thought that the administration was focusing on the wrong model. The former Yugoslavia - with its ethnic divisions, hobbled economy and history of totalitarian rule - had more parallels with Iraq than administration officials appeared willing to accept, Mr. Dobbins believed. It was Afghanistan that was the anomaly. "They preferred to find a model for successful nation building that was not associated with the previous administration," Mr. Dobbins said in an interview... As the Iraq war approached, Mr. Dobbins was overseeing a RAND Corporation study on nation building. The larger the number of security forces, the fewer the casualties suffered by alliance troops, the study asserted..

Mr. Bush had agreed in January that the Defense Department was to have authority for postwar Iraq. It was the first time since World War II that the State Department would not take charge of a post-conflict situation. ..

[After Baghdad fell] Mr. Rumsfeld had started to question whether the military still needed the Army's First Cavalry Division, a 17,500-member force that was slated to follow the lead invasion force into Iraq. He and General Franks discussed the issue repeatedly.  "Rumsfeld just ground Franks down," said Mr. White, the former Army secretary who was fired after policy disputes with Mr. Rumsfeld. "If you grind away at the military guys long enough, they will finally say, 'Screw it, I'll do the best I can with what I have.' The nature of Rumsfeld is that you just get tired of arguing with him." .. The deployment of the division was canceled on April 21. ..

In late June, John Sawers, the senior British official in Baghdad, sent a confidential report to his government, which chronicled Mr. Bremer's concerns. .. "Bremer's main concern is that we must keep in-country sufficient military capability to ensure a security blanket across the country," Mr. Sawers reported. "He has twice said to President Bush that he is concerned that the drawdown of US/UK troops has gone too far and we cannot afford further reductions."  Mr. Bremer also questioned whether multinational forces "will be sufficiently robust when push comes to shove," Mr. Sawers reported.  According to United States officials, Mr. Bremer raised the troop issue in a June 18 video conference with Mr. Bush. Mr. Bremer said the United States needed to be careful not to go too far in taking out troops. The president said the plan was now to rotate forces, not withdraw them, and agreed that Washington needed to maintain adequate force levels.

Still the American forces shrank, from a high of about 150,000 in July 2003 to some 108,000 in February 2004, before going up again when violence sharply increased early this year. Some of the troop declines were offset by the arrival of the Polish-led division in August 2003. ..

"John Abizaid was the only one who really had his head in the postwar game," General Garner said, referring to the general who served as General Franks's deputy and eventually his successor. "The Bush administration did not. Condi Rice did not. Doug Feith didn't. You could go brief them, but you never saw any initiative come of them. You just kind of got a north and south nod. And so it ends with so many tragic things." "

  10:34:38 AM  permalink  

daily link  Monday, October 18, 2004

A Green Peace Prize (  David Sandalow on the many connections between ecological balance and peace.  10:33:34 PM  permalink  

KR: Post-war planning non-existent:  Many important details on how the peace was lost.  "The U.S. intelligence community had been divided about the state of Saddam's weapons programs, but there was little disagreement among experts throughout the government that winning the peace in Iraq could be much harder than winning a war.  "The possibility of the United States winning the war and losing the peace in Iraq is real and serious," warned an Army War College report that was completed in February 2003, a month before the invasion. Without an "overwhelming" effort to prepare for the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the report warned: "The United States may find itself in a radically different world over the next few years, a world in which the threat of Saddam Hussein seems like a pale shadow of new problems of America's own making." ..

The Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency was particularly aggressive in its forecasts, officials said. One briefing occurred in January 2003. Another, in April 2003, weeks after the war began, discussed Saddam's plans for attacking U.S. forces after his troops had been defeated on the battlefield.  Similar warnings came from the Pentagon's Joint Staff, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and the CIA's National Intelligence Council. The council produced reports in January 2003 titled "Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq" and "Regional Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq."..

Franks' Central Command did have an extensive plan to restore order and begin rebuilding the country, called Operation Desert Crossing, said retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who drew up the plan and updated it continuously when he led Centcom until 2000. It was never utilized.  On March 17, 2003, two days before the war began, ground force commanders asked the Army War College for a copy of the handbook that had governed the U.S. occupation of postwar Germany, which began in 1945.

The same officials who saw no need for a plan to secure and rebuild a defeated Iraq also saw no need to position thousands of U.S. soldiers, including military police, engineers, ordnance disposal teams and civil affairs specialists, to begin taking control in Iraq even before the war against Saddam was over.  Longstanding Army doctrine calls for beginning reconstruction in freed areas of a country while fighting rages elsewhere. It also calls for a shift in military forces from combat troops to civil affairs, military police and the like.  "Unfortunately, this did not occur despite clear guidance to the contrary," Army Col. Paul F. Dicker wrote in an assessment. ..

Central Command originally proposed a force of 380,000 to attack and occupy Iraq. Rumsfeld's opening bid was about 40,000, "a division-plus," said three senior military officials who participated in the discussions. Bush and his top advisers finally approved the 250,000 troops the commanders requested to launch the invasion. But the additional troops that the military wanted to secure Iraq after Saddam's regime fell were either delayed or never sent."  Like the reconstruction money that was never spent.

  10:15:39 PM  permalink  

Statement by William G. Milliken: The Republican former governor of Michigan issues a clear and well-written call.  "The truth is that President George W. Bush does not speak for me or for many other moderate Republicans on a very broad cross section of issues. Sen. John Kerry, on the other hand, has put forth a coherent, responsible platform of progressive initiatives that I believe would serve this country well. .. As a result, despite my long record of active involvement in the Republican Party, and my intention still to stay in the Republican Party, when I cast my ballot November 2, I will be voting for John Kerry for President."  Reminds me of my favorite MoveOn ad, "Stranded Republicans".  7:48:54 PM  permalink  

KR on Iraq's future path:  Knight Ridder has had good coverage and analysis on Iraq.  " "The unpalatable options are either to make things worse slowly, by keeping our troops there, or to make things worse quickly, by withdrawing them," said James Dobbins, a nation-building expert who was President Bush's envoy to Afghanistan  ..

"If you really want to control the situation in Iraq, you have to treat this as major war scenario, and we need a quarter of a million more troops," said former British infantry officer Charles Heyman, an analyst for Jane's Consultancy in London. "The problem is, you're up against the limits of Western military power. We have the technology, but we don't have the boots to put on the ground."   Heyman said he thinks the United States and Britain could muster 100,000 additional soldiers, and should do so. Iraqi forces will be unreliable for the foreseeable future, he said.  ..

Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who commanded U.S. forces in the Middle East until 2000, believes U.S. troops could be in Iraq for up to 10 years. He said he would call in more counter-intelligence teams and ask Arab countries to send English-speaking officers as advisers and planners. ..

"It's not Vietnam - yet - but it is a huge blow to the U.S. ability to project power abroad," said Toby Dodge, an Iraq expert at Queen Mary University in London. "The Bush doctrine died on the outskirts of Baghdad."  That doctrine threatened pre-emptive war against rogue states that harbored terrorists or weapons of mass destruction. But two alleged state sponsors of terror that Bush wanted to deter by toppling Saddam Hussein - Iran and Syria - now can be confident that America doesn't have the troop strength to invade them, Dodge said."

  10:52:45 AM  permalink  

daily link  Saturday, October 16, 2004

Schneier: License Plate "Guns" and Privacy: Good observations on 'wholesale surveillance'.  He has related articles on this, commenting on aerial photos of buildings and RFID for personal IDs:  "The effects of wholesale surveillance on privacy and civil liberties is profound; but unfortunately, the debate often gets mischaracterized as a question about how much privacy we need to give up in order to be secure. This is wrong. It's obvious that we are all safer when the police can use all techniques at their disposal. What we need are corresponding mechanisms to prevent abuse, and that don't place an unreasonable burden on the innocent. ..

For license-plate scanners, one obvious protection is to require the police to erase data collected on innocent car owners immediately, and not save it. The police have no legitimate need to collect data on everyone's driving habits. Another is to allow car owners access to the information about them used in these automated searches, and to allow them to challenge inaccuracies.

We need to go further. Criminal penalties are severe in order to create a deterrent, because it is hard to catch wrongdoers. As they become easier to catch, a realignment is necessary. When the police can automate the detection of a wrongdoing, perhaps there should no longer be any criminal penalty attached. For example, both red light cameras and speed-trap cameras all issue citations without any "points" assessed against the driver.

Wholesale surveillance is not simply a more efficient way for the police to do what they've always done. It's a new police power, one made possible with today's technology and one that will be made easier with tomorrow's. And with any new police power, we as a society need to take an active role in establishing rules governing its use. To do otherwise is to cede ever more authority to the police."

  8:13:12 AM  permalink  

daily link  Friday, October 15, 2004

Haaretz on CIA's Al Queda detainees in Jordon: "The Central Intelligence Agency declined Wednesday to comment on a Haaretz report that it is holding 11 susepcted senior Al-Qaida members in Jordan, the BBC reported. Haaretz has learned from international intelligence sources that the CIA is running a top-secret interrogation facility in Jordan, where the detainees - considered Al-Qaida's most senior cadre - are being held.  Since the war in Afghanistan ended three years ago, reports spoke of these special detainees being held outside the United States, but no location was mentioned.  A report on these prisoners issued Tuesday by the Human Rights Watch organization claims they are being held somewhere so secret that U.S. President George Bush asked the CIA heads not to report it to him. ..
Their detention outside the U.S. enables CIA interrogators to apply interrogation methods that are banned by U.S. law, and to do so in a country where cooperation with the Americans is particularly close, thereby reducing the danger of leaks. ..

The CIA's prisoners at the facility in Jordan include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, considered Al-Qaida's head of operations and number three in the Al-Qaida hierarchy .. along with the Yemeni Ramzi bin al-Shibh .. Also at the secret facility are Abu Zubaydah, described as Al-Qaida's "recruitment officer," and Riduan Isamuddin, also known as Hambali, who was captured in Thailand a year ago. The Indonesian Hambali was the only non-Arab Muslim participant in Al-Qaida's supreme military council. He served as the operations chief for Jemaah Islamiya, which was behind attacks in the Philippines before 9/11 and for the attack on the Bali night club in October 2002 that killed over 200 people.

Haaretz was unable to obtain the identities of the other detainees in Jordan...

The 46-page Human Rights Watch report levels harsh criticism at the U.S. administration for using "undisclosed locations" and "disappearing" prisoners. The report charges that the U.S. thereby is in breach of all international conventions, including the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war, by refusing prisoners access to the Red Cross or their families.  The report contends that American operatives detained Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's children to serve as "hostages" through which to pressure their father into cooperating.  The prisoners were subjected to severe torture, the report states. "

  10:56:08 PM  permalink  

Through Hussein's Looking Glass: The Duelfer report has insights on what Iraqis were thinking:  "In Hussein's view, Washington and Baghdad should have been close allies. He could have helped curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, and solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He offered to become America's "best friend in the region, bar none." He was certain U.S. forces would never invade. .. In Hussein's view, the U.S. priority in the region was to ensure that Iran's Islamic Revolution did not spread to other nations and give radical Shiite clerics a chokehold on global oil supplies. He was convinced that Washington's national interest lay in containing Iran's suspected nuclear arms program, not in toppling his regime...

Hussein's own view of the United States was conflicted. In his mind, he was a heroic leader who gained prestige in the Arab world for his defiance of the sole superpower. But Hussein told aides it would be equally prestigious to become a U.S. ally. So he used U.N. diplomats, journalists and others to carry back-channel offers to improve relations with Washington.  "They really thought they could cut a deal," said a former CIA officer who was contacted by a senior Iraqi official shortly before the invasion in March 2003. ..

Ironically, Saddam Hussein misread U.S. intentions in part because he believed the CIA was far better at spying than it turned out to be. Senior aides told interrogators that Hussein was convinced the U.S. intelligence agency knew he had no illicit weapons. Hussein assumed that the CIA had penetrated his regime, just as his own intelligence services used wiretaps, secret cameras and informants to spy on the U.N. weapons teams. He was wrong. In July, the Senate Intelligence Committee reported that the CIA had no informants or spies inside Iraq for at least five years before the war.  .. Other Iraqis also believed in the CIA. Duelfer recounts how a top regime official, Abdel Tawab Mullah Huweish, began to worry that Hussein was hiding banned weapons after Bush named Iraq as part of an "axis of evil" in January 2002. "Huweish could not understand why the United States would challenge Iraq in such stark and threatening terms unless it had irrefutable information," Duelfer writes. ..

In other cases, U.S. officials simply misunderstood the high-tech intelligence they had. On Feb. 5, 2003, for example, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell appeared at the U.N. Security Council [and] played a tape of a phone call that he said was intercepted on Jan. 30 between a Republican Guard officer and an underling in the field. According to Powell, the officer issued orders to "clean out all the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas. Make sure nothing is there."

Powell said the tape proved Hussein was hiding "the presence of weapons of mass destruction." U.S. investigators never found the officers. But they concluded that Powell misinterpreted the tape. The call concerned materials from Iraq's long-defunct, pre-1991 arms program, not new weapons.  In fact, on Jan. 25, five days before the call was taped, a senior regime official met Republican Guard military leaders and warned that "the government would hold them responsible" if U.N. inspectors found any of the old material in their areas "or if there was anything that cast doubt on Iraq's cooperation." "

  10:51:17 PM  permalink  

Iraq's New Power Couple:  How Sadr and Chalabi are working together as Shiites, towards the coming elections.  Hopeful, if it is true...  "The Mahdi Army insurrections this summer in Najaf and Sadr City had nothing to do with Mr. Sadr's thinking that he could achieve military goals against American forces. If he had wanted to derail the occupation, he would have done what the Sunni insurgents do.. Rather, he was moving to ensure his future role by seizing political momentum among the Shiite demographic that matters to him: the young urban poor. Similarly, it is not weariness and attrition that are now making him lay down his weapons. It is easy to buy or make more weapons in Iraq. And the ranks of his followers can be as endlessly replenished as were those of the Vietcong. ..

Mr. Sadr's new party and the older Shiite groups are likely to form the basis for a unified list of candidates that should capture at least 55 percent of the vote in January - and possibly more if Kurdish and Sunni groups can be brought into the fold. If this front includes all Shiite factions, it will receive Ayatollah Sistani's approval. But if it leaves out any important Shiite components - including Mr. Sadr - the old man will remain silent.  Thus Mr. Sadr's new direction, like his efforts in Najaf, is not a military move but a political one. Just as most of his country's violence consists of Iraqi attacks against fellow Iraqis, the basic fact of Iraqi politics is not opposition to the occupation, but maneuvering between Iraqis in the game of sectarian and ethnic politics.  ..

Meanwhile, Ahmad Chalabi's resurgence is natural. While American officials have been embarrassed by reports that he convinced them of exaggerated claims about Saddam Hussein's weapons, most Iraqis do not care if he hoodwinked Washington. He is an Iraqi, and his loyalties and destiny lie with his own country, not America. What does matter to Iraqis is that if there is one man alive without whom Saddam Hussein would still be in power, that man is Mr. Chalabi. "  5:38:35 PM  permalink  

daily link  Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Blue Lemur and Raw Story - Drudge for the left?  9:28:19 AM  permalink  

Boycott Sinclair Broadcast Group: Real time example of using the Internet in politics. Check the user-supplied database of the Sinclair advertisers, and the wiki summary of the issues and up-to-date advertiser responses.  9:15:50 AM  permalink  

Kerry economic plan:  Pages 8 and 9 have dollar costs of programs and offsetting tax changes.  12:10:36 AM  permalink  

daily link  Wednesday, October 13, 2004

USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup post-debate poll-results look very good for Kerry on all 3 debates.  9:53:02 PM  permalink  

Bush special envoy embroiled in controversy over Iraq debt:  "President Bush's special envoy, James Baker, who has been trying to persuade the world to forgive Iraq's crushing debts, is simultaneously working for a commercial concern that is trying to recover money from Iraq, according to confidential documents.
Mr Baker's Carlyle Group is in a consortium secretly proposing to try to collect $27bn (£15bn) on behalf of Kuwait, one of Iraq's biggest creditors, by using high-level political influence. It claims Mr Baker will not benefit personally, but the consortium could make millions in fees, retainers and commission as a result. ..

One international lawyer described the consortium's scheme as "influence peddling of the crassest kind".  Jerome Levinson, an expert on political and corporate ethics at American University in Washington, told the Guardian: "The consortium is saying to the Kuwaiti government, 'Through us you have the only chance to realize a substantial part of the debt. Why? Because of who we are and who we know'." "  This proposal was put on hold upon Baker's appointment, but other deals continue, including a fund to manage $1b in investments for Kuwait.

  8:53:57 AM  permalink  

The CIA 'old guard' goes to war with Bush: "In the latest clash, a senior former CIA agent revealed that Mr Cheney "blew up" when a report into links between the Saddam regime and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist behind the kidnappings and beheadings of hostages in Iraq, including the Briton Kenneth Bigley, proved inconclusive. Other recent leaks have included the contents of classified reports drawn up by CIA analysts before the invasion of Iraq, warning the White House about the dangers of post-war instability. Specifically, the reports said that rogue Ba'athist elements might team up with terrorist groups to wage a guerrilla war.

Critics of the White House include officials who have served in previous Republican administrations such as Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA head of counter-terrorism and member of the National Security Council under Ronald Reagan. "These have been an extraordinary four years for the CIA and the political pressure to come up with the right results has been enormous, particularly from Vice-President Cheney. "I'm afraid that the agency is guilty of bending over backwards to please the administration. George Tenet was desperate to give them what they wanted and that was a complete disaster.""

  12:07:29 AM  permalink  

daily link  Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Insurgent Alliance Is Fraying In Fallujah: "Local insurgents in the city of Fallujah are turning against the foreign fighters who have been their allies in the rebellion that has held the U.S. military at bay in parts of Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland, according to Fallujah residents, insurgent leaders and Iraqi and U.S. officials.
Relations are deteriorating as local fighters negotiate to avoid a U.S.-led military offensive against Fallujah, while foreign fighters press to attack Americans and their Iraqi supporters. The disputes have spilled over into harsh words and sporadic violence, with Fallujans killing at least five foreign Arabs in recent weeks, according to witnesses. ..
"If the Arabs will not leave willingly, we will make them leave by force," said Jamal Adnan, a taxi driver who left his house in Fallujah's Shurta neighborhood a month ago after the house next door was bombed by U.S. aircraft targeting foreign insurgents ..

"He is mentally deranged, has distorted the image of the resistance and defamed it. I believe his end is near," Abu Abdalla Dulaimy, military commander of the First Army of Mohammad, said. One of the foreign guerrillas killed by local fighters was Abu Abdallah Suri, a Syrian and a prominent member of Zarqawi's group. Suri's body was discovered Sunday. He was shot in the head and chest while being chased by a carload of tribesmen, according to a security guard who said he witnessed the killing. ..

Adnan, the taxi driver who moved his panicked wife and four children to another town, said attitudes toward the foreign fighters have changed dramatically since they poured into Fallujah after the Marines' siege ended in April. "We were deceived by them," he said. "We welcomed them first because we thought they came to support us, but now everything is clear." ..

The proposal the delegation took back to Fallujah calls for surrendering control of the city to the Iraqi National Guard. U.S. forces would remain outside the city unless the lightly armed government forces were attacked. But first, all foreign fighters must leave the city, and the foreigners are adamantly and publicly opposing the plan. Their representative voted against it in a meeting last week of the city's ruling mujaheddin shura, or council of holy warriors, which supported the peace proposal, 10 to 2. The local insurgent who cast the other negative vote was later persuaded to change his mind, residents say. ..

Some foreign fighters already have left, at least for now. The fighting Tuesday in Hit erupted as Marines pursued insurgents who had recently arrived in the city from Fallujah, residents said. "

  11:56:29 PM  permalink  

Daily Show: Seymour Hersh:  Sometimes 5 minutes with Jon Stewart beats an hour with Charlie Rose.  And while you're there, check out comments on the Iraq report (and taxes), and Bremer's statements.  3:39:30 PM  permalink  

daily link  Monday, October 11, 2004

Bush's Sinking Credibility in the Battleground States:  Nice collection of local editorials.  11:24:09 AM  permalink  

FBI seizes independent media servers: Patriot Act plus MLAT results in international seizures of internet servers without formal explanation or recourse.  "The FBI has issued an order to hosting provider Rackspace in the US, ordering it to turn over two of the servers hosting the Independent Media Centre's websites in the UK, a statement from the group says.  Rackspace has offices in the US and the UK. Independent Media Center, which is better known as Indymedia, was set up in 1999 to provide grassroots coverage of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) protests in Seattle.

Rackspace complied with the FBI order, without first notifying Indymedia, and turned over Indymedia's server in the UK. This affects over 20 Indymedia sites worldwide, the group said.   Indymedia said it did not know why the order had been issued as it was issued to Rackspace. Rackspace told some of the group's volunteers "they cannot provide Indymedia with any information regarding the order." ISPs have received gag orders in similar situations which prevent them from updating the parties involved on what is happening."

A UK analysis dug further, in Home Office in frame over FBI's London server seizures:  "Statewatch analysis. Statewatch considers that the seizure is likely to have been made under a US-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) of 1996, but it seems doubtful that the Indymedia request could have been justified under even the broad terms of this treaty.  Indymedia itself does not know why its servers were seized, while Rackspace, the hosting company which was compelled to hand them over, issued a statement saying it was complying with a court order under an MLAT, and that the court prohibited it from commenting further. Under the terms of this MLAT (there are more in the works, and others now litter the globe's legal systems) the Home Office may not admit that a request has been made. The FBI commented to Agence France Presse that this was not an FBI operation but a subpoena issued "on behalf of a third country" and that the FBI was acting for the Swiss and Italian governments. 

Indymedia had been contacted recently by the FBI and Swiss authorities regarding two photos of Swiss undercover police published on Indymedia's French site, IMC Nantes. The police had been handling the G8 events in Switzerland in 2003, but their identities do not appear to have been clear in the photos. .. 

And even if there were something far more serious involved than just a couple of photos, the procedure ought to send shivers down the spine of every publishing organisation on the Internet. It is clearly perfectly possible for their operations to be crippled without warning, without their being told what it is they've done, and without explanation. Depending on whether the authorities (under the international MLAT regime this could be many, many authorities) want something you've got or just want to stop you doing something, the crippling could be pretty extensive and pretty long term. If they want you to stop doing something then they'll quite likely want your backups as well, and if you've no servers, no backups, and no idea when/if you're getting them back, two photos is going to be the least of your worries. ..

According to Indymedia in the AFP report: "The order was so short-term that Rackspace had to give away our hard drives in the UK." This suggests that the FBI requested something that was on the hard disk, now and that handing over the hard disk or the server was the only way to comply. So although the authorities will have known very well that they would be carrying off the hardware, the request itself quite possibly did not specify this. It is however clear from the MLAT's terms that it was devised primarily in order to detain or question individuals, and that if it has indeed been used here, the treaty has been to some extent repurposed."

  8:38:02 AM  permalink  

daily link  Sunday, October 10, 2004

Bush's security plan now rests on nothing but hope: Clarity from Peter Galbraith.  "the greatest flaw of the Bush doctrine is that it is poor strategy... Since no country can do everything, the most important task of a strategist is to set priorities, taking into account available resources, costs and risks. In his West Point speech, Bush rightly identified the most serious danger as coming "at the crossroads of radicalism and technology".

But Bush never prioritised. North Korea with nuclear weapons and Iran acquiring nuclear technology posed far greater threats in 2003 than an Iraq with some hidden chemical and biological weapons. The Clinton administration threatened war to get Pyongyang to freeze its nuclear programme in 1994. In 2002, the Bush administration noisily terminated the 1994 agreement because of North Korean cheating, and then did nothing when the country withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and began reprocessing previously safeguarded plutonium into nuclear weapons. All this took place before the start of the Iraq war, but the Bush administration never shifted its focus. ..

By not distinguishing between serious immediate threats and distant potential ones, Bush ducked the hard choice at the core of all sound national security strategy - how to ration scarce military and diplomatic assets. As a result, the US invaded Iraq to eliminate a threat posed by non-existent weapons. As for North Korea and Iran, the US is reduced to hoping that others - China in the case of Pyongyang and the Europeans in the case of Tehran - can solve the problem. Hope is not a strategy"

  11:06:40 PM  permalink  

Heart of Darkness: Who Is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi?: Another skeptical summary.  "Many intelligence officials in Europe doubt that the man jailed 13 years ago for sexual assault in Jordan possesses the organizational skills or manpower muscle to launch even a small percentage of the nearly 100 insurgents' attacks that occur across Iraq daily.

"I do not think that anyone in Europe or the Middle East honestly believes that he is responsible for everything that the United States says he has done in Iraq," said a senior European intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The guy is on the run. He is hiding from the U.S. forces, and he is probably changing houses every night. It would be almost impossible for him to calmly plan and execute the operations all over Iraq that some people believe he has done." ..

After Sept. 11, Mr. Zarqawi was believed by senior American officials to be working closely with Ansar al-Islam, the Kurdish group based in northern Iraq that was formed to attempt to overthrow Saddam Hussein. This represents a fundamental contradiction about Mr. Zarqawi's apparent alliances, some terrorism experts say.

"I have always been quite puzzled by the story that Zarqawi was allegedly closely linked to Ansar al-Islam but also allegedly linked with Saddam Hussein's regime, the very regime that Ansar al-Islam aimed to destroy," said Jessica Stern, who lectures on terrorism at Harvard. "I have been genuinely confused by that."  Some terrorism analysts and European-based intelligence officials say captured associates of Mr. Zarqawi have said he had forged stronger ties with Iran and Syria than Iraq. "Zarqawi spent more time in Iran than anywhere else after Sept. 11," said Peter Bergen, a fellow at the New America Foundation and an adjunct professor of international studies at Johns Hopkins University. "Zarqawi called Saddam a devil on one of his Web site postings this year." ..

Some say that his burgeoning network assisted [Madrid, UK and Jordon plots].. further investigation into all three plots has raised substantial doubts that Mr. Zarqawi played any role, several senior European officials said.

Shadi Abdullah, a Tawhid member apprehended in Germany in 2002, told investigators that Mr. Zarqawi's group saw itself to be "in rivalry" with Al Qaeda, according to several senior German officials."

  11:01:42 PM  permalink  

daily link  Saturday, October 09, 2004

For Marines, a Frustrating Fight: Amazing quotes from front-line Marines (Oct 2004): 

  • "I feel we're going to be here for years and years and years," said Lance Cpl. Edward Elston, 22, of Hackettstown, N.J. "I don't think anything is going to get better; I think it's going to get a lot worse. It's going to be like a Palestinian-type deal. We're going to stop being a policing presence and then start being an occupying presence. . . . We're always going to be here. We're never going to leave."
  • "Snyder, who was listening, added: "Pretty much I think they just diverted the war on terrorism. I agree with the Afghanistan war and all the Sept. 11 stuff, but it feels like they left the bigger war over there to come here. And now, while we're on the ground over here, it seems like we're not even close to catching frigging bin Laden."
  • "Every day you read the articles in the States where it's like, 'Oh, it's getting better and better,' " said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Snyder, 22, of Gettysburg, Pa. "But when you're here, you know it's worse every day."
  • Pfc. Kyle Maio, 19, of Bucks County, Pa., said he thought government officials were reticent to speak candidly because of the upcoming U.S. elections. "Stuff's going on here but they won't flat-out say it," he said. "They can't get into it."
  • Lance Cpl. Alexander Jones, 20, of Ball Ground, Ga., agreed: "We're basically proving out that the government is wrong," he said. "We're catching them in a lie."
  • Asked if he was concerned that the Marines would be punished for speaking out, Autin responded: "We don't give a crap. What are they going to do, send us to Iraq?" "
  11:40:32 PM  permalink  

Behind the Scenes, Officials Wrestle Over Voting Rules:  "In the battlegrounds of Ohio and Missouri, Republican secretaries of state have crafted election rules that Democrats say could disenfranchise legitimate voters likely to cast ballots for Kerry. Republicans say Democratic election officials in New Mexico and Iowa are making it easier for potential Kerry supporters to vote.  .. Lawsuits have been filed or litigated in more than half a dozen swing states over state officials' interpretations of election law. Even in Maryland and Virginia, which are not battlegrounds this year, court battles have been waged over the role of state election officials and which candidates should be included on ballots. ..

Just as Harris served as co-chair of Bush's 2000 Florida campaign, Ohio's J. Kenneth Blackwell (R) is co-chairing the president's effort in that state. Nevada's Dean Heller (R) and Arizona's Jan Brewer (R) are also active on behalf of Bush, as is Missouri's Matt Blunt (R), who is also running for governor. West Virginia's secretary of state, Joe Manchin III (D), is helping Kerry even as he runs for governor. "

Why is this?  The OSCE and some NGOs are visiting the US this year and are shocked.  "David MacDonald, a Canadian member of a team organized by the San Francisco human-rights group Global Exchange, said observers were shocked to find that partisan officials run US elections. Requiring election officers to be nonpartisan "is as close as you can get in democratic or electoral terms to a universal norm," MacDonald said after visiting Missouri, where Secretary of State Matt Blunt, a Republican, is the chief electoral officer and a candidate for governor. "There are some very serious problems that need to be addressed," MacDonald said."

  10:55:10 PM  permalink  

daily link  Thursday, October 07, 2004

Former U.N. Inspectors Cite New Report as Validation: "Duelfer said he believed when Hussein first began discussions with the United Nations in late 2000 about readmitting inspectors, "to me that was a very key indicator that there probably wasn't large stocks there to be found." When the U.S. troop buildup began in the Gulf, it became "clear that Saddam chose not to have weapons at a point in time before the war," he added. "  10:15:26 PM  permalink  

UN role in Iraq elections at risk:  "Two UN staff associations, representing 60,000 members, yesterday asked Kofi Annan, the secretary general, to withdraw all staff because of the "unprecedented" risk to their lives. They said the organisation "has become a direct target". But the UN Security Council Resolution 1546, passed in June, saysthe UN should play a key role in helping the Iraqi interim government to hold elections, scheduled for January. The US, Britain and the European Union stress that UN involvement will give the poll credibility.

There are just 35 UN international personnel in Iraq. They returned two months ago after Mr Annan pulled all staff out of the country last year following a spate of attacks, including one in which the UN envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 21 others were killed. Fred Eckhard, a UN spokesman, said: "We will need more than 35 in there to do what we want to do on the elections." ..

A spokesman for the US ambassador to the UN, John Danforth, said that "we would hope the secretary general would recognise that the UN exists to help governments in crisis".  A UN staff member in Baghdad said: "Are they seriously saying that it is safe for people to go out and about and organise elections with suicide bombings every day? The EU are offering some money, but we notice they are not sending one single election monitor." The EU recently agreed to contribute €30m (£20m) for the UN mission.

So far not a single country has offered to provide troops for such a mission. So the UN team is protected by US troops, something which, they say, identifies them with the occupying power, and puts them at greater risk. "

  8:28:29 PM  permalink  

Terrorism & Security: Review linked to many stories about Al Queda's and Zarqawi's  use of the net.  "Al Qaeda has a "virtual university" that teaches "electronic jihad." .. 'They lost their base in Afghanistan, they lost their training camps, they lost a government that allowed them do what they want within a country. Now they're surviving on Internet to a large degree. It is really their new base,' says terrorism expert Peter Bergen." .. [It gives] new awful meaning to the words 'online community.' "  Specific example of use of YouSendIt file transfer service for videos.

  6:06:11 PM  permalink  

Afghans vote, ready or not: "The darkest assessment may be the refusal of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to send election monitors to Afghanistan, because "the present conditions in Afghanistan are significantly below the minimum regarded by OSCE ... as necessary for credible election observation." The UN, for its part, agrees that this election will have its flaws, but says these flaws are manageable. "

  6:00:40 PM  permalink  

UCLA International Institute :: Are the Jihadists Losing the War? Gilles Kepel Thinks So: Interesting recent history, reviewing a 2001 Al Queda booklet, the Palestinian intifadas, and Iraq:  "Despite car bombings, beheadings, and kidnappings, French scholar Gilles Kepel says the jihadists are losing their hold on the Muslim masses. ..

Gilles Kepel concluded that he saw cause for optimism in the failure of the jihadists to gain a mass base. "We now see as we saw in the 1990s, civil society turning its back on violence, and mobilizing to oppose it." Now, he said, it will be crucial for an American leadership to be perceptive enough to effectively speak to Muslim civil society. "

  5:50:27 PM  permalink  

daily link  Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Rewriting History: Detailed debunk on Cheney claims.  New useful bit: "The claim that Saddam's agents had instructed Al Qaeda terrorists in making "poisons and gasses" had in fact been a prominent feature of the administration's prewar assertions, highlighted by Powell in his Security Council speech and Cheney repeatedly in his TV appearances and speeches. But the allegation was almost entirely based on the claims of one high-level Al Qaeda detainee—first identified by NEWSWEEK as Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi—who, according to the 9/11 commission, has since recanted his story. Asked if Duelfer's team had found any evidence that Iraq had provided such training for terrorists, the U.S. official familiar with Duelfer's report shook his head and said simply: "No." "  10:54:12 PM  permalink  

Avoiding attacking suspected terrorist mastermind: As far as I know, no one has refuted this story from March 2004:  "NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger.

In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.  The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.  “Here we had targets, we had opportunities, we had a country willing to support casualties, or risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didn’t do it,” said Michael O’Hanlon, military analyst with the Brookings Institution.

Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe.  The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it.  By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq.  “People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists,” according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.

In January 2003, the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terror suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq.  The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it.   Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.

The United States did attack the camp at Kirma at the beginning of the war, but it was too late — Zarqawi and many of his followers were gone.  “Here’s a case where they waited, they waited too long and now we’re suffering as a result inside Iraq,” Cressey added.  And despite the Bush administration’s tough talk about hitting the terrorists before they strike, Zarqawi’s killing streak continues today"

  10:51:11 PM  permalink  

Plutonium: rising terror threat: Just in case you need more to worry about:  "The world is swimming in plutonium. Although military stockpiles have stabilized, the amount of civilian-held plutonium has doubled in the past 13 years, says a new ISIS report. At the end of 2003, 14 nations' civilian reactors held 235 metric tons of the most dangerous variety in terms of a terrorist threat - separated plutonium. That's enough material to fashion some 40,000 Nagasaki-sized weapons; the amount is growing by five to 10 tons a year.

France annually converts tons of this plutonium to a mixed-oxide or MOX fuel, which is trucked to its nuclear power plants. Despite its "reactor grade" label, MOX could make an effective bomb - as a US test in 1962 revealed. Even if a weapon "fizzled" because its plutonium was only reactor-grade, it would still yield a one-kiloton explosion that would "rip the heart out of a city," says Leonard Spector, deputy director of the Monterey Institute's Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

While it's far simpler to make a bomb from HEU, it's conceivable that terrorists could build a plutonium-based device with expert help, observers say. Just 15 pounds of the material, a baseball-sized chunk, would be enough to wipe out a large portion of a major city. Last month, Kyrgyz security agents arrested a man trying to sell 60 small containers of plutonium. ..

[In 2003] international nuclear inspectors reported that the Tokaimura nuclear-fuel reprocessing plant north of Tokyo could not account for some of its plutonium - enough to make 25 nuclear weapons. Similarly, France's COGEMA Cadarache plant where the US is shipping its excess military plutonium, was found by EURATOM in 2002 to have "an unacceptable amount of material unaccounted for," according to a recent report in Nuclear Fuel, a trade publication." 

Of about 200 metric tons of separated plutonium, all but 11 are in the EC, Japan or Russia.  Civilian stockpiles of all plutonium have roughly doubled since 1990, to almost 2000 metric tons.

  5:37:50 PM  permalink  

Dave Pell's summary:  Cheney "was still only able to name one terrorist who had been in Iraq for a very short time. That is now the justification for an invasion? ..

Our invasion into Iraq strengthened Zarqawi, earned him more support, and, if anything, made his capture less likely. ..

If you are voting for this president, then you have to believe that it is appropriate for us to go to war over the risk that a guy who doesn't have any weapons of mass destruction will pass them on to those with whom he has no ties."

  4:06:00 PM  permalink  

Poll Shows More than 4 in 10 Still Link Saddam to 9/11: Oct 5, 2004:  "While the press gave extensive coverage Tuesday to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s statement that he hasn't seen "any strong, hard evidence" to link Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaeda terrorists who staged the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, it became ever more apparent that the media still have their work cut out for them on this issue.  

Rumsfeld's comments came as a new USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll found that 42% of those surveyed thought the former Iraqi leader was involved in the attacks on New York City and Washington.  In response to another question, 32% said they thought Saddam had personally planned them.  The same poll in June showed that 56% of all Republicans said they thought Saddam was involved with the 9/11 attacks. In the latest poll that number actually climbs, to 62%. "  Wonder who gave them that impression?  9:40:31 AM  permalink  

daily link  Tuesday, October 05, 2004

How US fuelled myth of Zarqawi the mastermind: UK's Telegraph reporter says that the stories of Zarqawi's influence are based on dubious sources, that the number of foreign fighters may be as low as 200, that the emphasis on a foreign terrorist is cited by some US military intelligence agents as more selective reading of intelligence for political purposes.  Also, some reports have the famous Zarqawi letter as a hoax, and emphasize Zarqawi's rivalry with bin Laden and his ambition and desire for fame.  10:06:33 PM  permalink  

CIA review finds no evidence Saddam had ties to Islamic terrorists:  Oct 5, 2004.  " A new CIA assessment undercuts the White House's claim that Saddam Hussein maintained ties to al-Qaida, saying there's no conclusive evidence that the regime harbored Osama bin Laden associate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.  The CIA review, which U.S. officials said Monday was requested some months ago by Vice President Dick Cheney, is the latest assessment that calls into question one of President Bush's key justifications for last year's U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.  ..

While intelligence officials cautioned that information about al-Zarqawi remains incomplete, Bush, Cheney and other top officials have publicly made al-Zarqawi the linchpin of their contention that Saddam's Iraq had ties to al-Qaida.  .. Since the Sept. 11 commission's judgment in June, Bush and Cheney have repeatedly said that al-Zarqawi was an associate of bin Laden and received safe haven from Saddam. But Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld backed away Monday from such claims, apparently as a result of the new CIA assessment. ..

According to a senior administration official and intelligence officials familiar with the review, at Cheney's request CIA analysts spent several months reviewing new material gathered since Baghdad fell last year and re-examining earlier intelligence.  He said the report contained new details of al-Zarqawi 's prewar activities in Iraq, including the arrests in late 2002 or early 2003 of three of his "associates" by the regime.  "This was brought to Saddam's attention and he ordered one of them released," he said, providing no further details.  ..  The report didn't conclude that Saddam's regime had provided "aid, comfort and succor" to al-Zarqawi, a senior administration official said. .. He added that there are now questions about earlier administration assertions that al-Zarqawi received treatment at a Baghdad hospital in May 2002.  "The evidence is that Saddam never gave Zarqawi anything," another U.S. official said.  Some officials believe that Saddam's secular regime kept an eye on al-Zarqawi, an Islamic extremist, but didn't actively assist him.  ..

Al-Zarqawi 's ties to al-Qaida are in dispute. While he clearly shares much of al-Qaida's violent ideology and ran an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan, the Jordanian has his own organization, acts independently and hasn't sworn fealty to bin Laden. ..

Bush and Cheney have charged that Saddam's regime allowed al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian native, to travel to Baghdad and to set up cells of his Islamic terrorist network in the Iraqi capital.  .. Secretary of State Colin Powell, in his Feb. 5, 2003, presentation on Iraq to the U.N. Security Council, said al-Zarqawi went to Baghdad in May 2002 for medical treatment and stayed two months, during which time nearly two dozen extremists converged on the Iraqi capital and established a base there."

  12:04:49 PM  permalink  

Why Putin is backing Kyoto again: "The Bush administration was deceiving itself if it thought that Russia was really opposed to Kyoto; Moscow was simply playing hard to get. .. Traders on the new London carbon exchange, where the price of carbon dioxide jumped 20 per cent to more than $11 per tonne on the news of Moscow's forthcoming ratification, estimate that Russia will be able to earn around $10 billion a year by selling the unused part of its carbon quota to countries that cannot meet their own quotas. ..

Why did Russian President Vladimir Putin decide to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change last week, only six months after his top adviser, Andrei Illarionov, called it a "death treaty?" One reason is that the European Union offered Russians visa-free travel within the 25-country bloc plus EU support for Russia's membership in the World Trade Organization. "  Could it also be that Bush started to criticize Putin for his anti-democracy moves, and Putin thought that he'd held back on Russia's economic interest long enough?

  11:18:41 AM  permalink  

Oceans Alive - Eat Smart: Concise guide to seafood health and depletion issues. Includes printable Pocket Seafood Selector.  10:57:42 AM  permalink  

Russian missiles found in ETA arms caches: "French police have found two Russian-made surface-to-air missiles among huge arms caches uncovered during a sweep against Basque separatist guerrilla group ETA in southwestern France, officials said on Tuesday.  French police sources said they were SAM-7 missiles that can be used to bring down helicopters or low-flying aircraft.  The Russian missiles were "in perfect condition and ready to be used", Spain's Interior Ministry said in a statement. "  If you're the worrying type, recall that ETA attempted a Madrid bombing campaign in December 2003, similar to the one jihadists did in March 2004.  There have been suggestions of cooperation between the two.  9:16:34 AM  permalink  

Iran missiles now reach 2,000 km: "Iran's former president Hashemi Rafsanjani said Tuesday that his country has created missiles that can now reach targets 2,000 kilometres away, a substantial increase from its previous range.   Rafsanjani made the announcement to staff at the Aerospace Research Institute in Tehran, adding that Iran is determined to improve its military capabilities.

In August, Iran test-fired a new version of its Shahab-3 missile. The old version was known to have a range of 1,296 km, which would make it capable of hitting Israel. A missile with a 2,000- km range could hit parts of Europe. ..

Rafsanjani also said Iran possesses the basic technology to produce and launch satellites. Iran said in January it would put a satellite into orbit within 18 months. . "

  9:13:53 AM  permalink  

Next wave of Al Qaeda leadership may be Pakistani:  ""It is a new generation of Al Qaeda," says Riffat Hussain, a leading defense and security analyst based in Islamabad, Pakistan. "These are new converts to Al Qaeda. They may have no links with Al Qaeda in the past, but now they are willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause as they feel Al Qaeda is the name of defiance to the West. They are young and angry, and their number has swelled in the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq."

Police here suggest that Pakistan's newly organized jihadis and educated radicals might number in the hundreds. Police say that more than 600 suspected Al Qaeda militants have been rounded up by security forces over the past three years."

  12:19:08 AM  permalink  

daily link  Monday, October 04, 2004

How the White House Embraced Disputed Arms Intelligence: Long chilling story of the manipulation of intelligence to support the war preference of Bush and Cheney.  "In 2002, at a crucial juncture on the path to war, senior members of the Bush administration gave a series of speeches and interviews in which they asserted that Saddam Hussein was rebuilding his nuclear weapons program. Speaking to a group of Wyoming Republicans in September, Vice President Dick Cheney said the United States now had "irrefutable evidence" - thousands of tubes made of high-strength aluminum, tubes that the Bush administration said were destined for clandestine Iraqi uranium centrifuges, before some were seized at the behest of the United States.

Those tubes became a critical exhibit in the administration's brief against Iraq. As the only physical evidence the United States could brandish of Mr. Hussein's revived nuclear ambitions, they gave credibility to the apocalyptic imagery invoked by President Bush and his advisers. The tubes were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs," Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, explained on CNN on Sept. 8, 2002. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

But almost a year before, Ms. Rice's staff had been told that the government's foremost nuclear experts seriously doubted that the tubes were for nuclear weapons, according to four officials at the Central Intelligence Agency and two senior administration officials, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity. The experts, at the Energy Department, believed the tubes were likely intended for small artillery rockets.

The White House, though, embraced the disputed theory that the tubes were for nuclear centrifuges, an idea first championed in April 2001 by a junior analyst at the C.I.A. Senior nuclear scientists considered that notion implausible, yet in the months after 9/11, as the administration built a case for confronting Iraq, the centrifuge theory gained currency as it rose to the top of the government."

  11:55:56 PM  permalink  

US arms exports poorly controlled, 'blowback' feared:  "The United States is failing to safeguard much of the highly sought weaponry it sends abroad - from assault rifles to sophisticated combat technology, a review by The Denver Post concludes. Lax oversight of weapons exports opens the door for adversaries to get their hands on lethal missiles, assault guns and components for larger weapons systems, sources say.

Homeland Security agents recently have uncovered plots to divert night-vision lenses to Iran, fighter-jet parts to China, grenade launchers to Colombian guerrillas, nuclear triggers to Pakistan, and more. And despite internal warnings, government-sanctioned sales worth more than $10 billion a year continue spreading more weapons worldwide.  Congressional leaders [incl Sen. Feinstein] are promising legislation. ..

Homeland Security agents investigating illegal dealing say sophisticated weaponry probably already has reached adversaries. Total arrests for illegal arms dealing doubled from 62 in 2002 to 125 last year. Customs agents last year made 665 seizures of arms worth $106 million. ..

Overall, State and Defense department regulators last year approved more than 49,500 deals involving all types of weapons without full review - let alone monitoring and inspection abroad, documents show. Arms deals are screened by staffers who process electronic applications but generally lack time and expertise to conduct detailed investigations of buyers and sellers. Even in cases where an application is flagged for closer scrutiny, the most detailed reviews seldom involve inspections.

Last year, State Department officials charged with overseeing private-company deals selected 413 for more careful review, though still not inspections to verify where weapons are and how they are used.These targeted reviews found irregularities with 76, or 18.4 percent, of those deals. That's the highest percentage ever, up from 11 percent, or 50, of the deals reviewed in 2002, State Department documents said.  The 413 reviews interrupted a plan to move firearms to a criminal in Central America, sales of helicopter parts to a hostile country, and misuse of electronics and communications equipment sent to Asia, records show. Details were omitted.  State Department supervisors said 32 inspectors - including contract employees - must process applications for some 50,000 commercial arms deals each year."

  11:32:42 PM  permalink  

Rumsfeld: No evidence of al-Qaida-Iraq link -- then, oops: "Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Monday that he knew of no “strong, hard evidence” linking Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al-Qaida, despite describing extensive contacts between the two before the invasion of Iraq.  During a question-and-answer session before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Rumsfeld was asked to explain the connection between Saddam and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network, which is blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. .. “To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two.  I just read an intelligence report recently about one person who’s connected to al-Qaida who was in and out of Iraq. And it is the most tortured description of why he might have had a relationship and why he might not have had a relationship. It may have been something that was not representative of a hard linkage.” ..

Before the war, U.S. officials spoke of Iraq’s already possessing weapons of mass destruction, not a potential for gathering them.  “It turns out that we have not found weapons of mass destruction,” Rumsfeld said."   More quotes on Electablog.  But, after this appearance, he issued a statement from the Pentagon: "I have acknowledged since September 2002 that there were ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq. This assessment was based upon points provided to me by then CIA Director George Tenet to describe the CIA's understanding of the Al Qaeda-Iraq relationship."  Mostly non-denial. See also Steve Clemons.

  10:38:00 PM  permalink  

daily link  Sunday, October 03, 2004

Moves toward reform wane in Saudi Arabia:  "Just a year ago, democratic changes in this absolute monarchy seemed to be gathering steam. But what observers saw as a promising opening has been stymied as an influx of oil money and victories against militants linked to Al Qaeda have reduced the urgency surrounding reform. A number of signs point to retrenchment. A law issued recently by the Council of Ministers makes the signing of petitions by government employees, or speaking critically of the government to the press, punishable by firing or jail. A trial of three reformists charged with dissension and other crimes, which started in August and was open to the public, has been closed. And in King Fahd's annual speech last month to the Shura Council, an advisory group, reforms were ignored, analysts say.

"It seems that the Interior Ministry has the upper hand in the war on terrorism, so they think it's about time for them to target reform-minded individuals," says Khaled al-Dukhayel, assistant professor of political sociology at King Saud University. "To [government officials], reforms are as much of a threat as terrorism, and they are now criminalizing reform activities," he says...

All but three of the dozen activists arrested in March were released after pledging to no longer publicly demand reforms or talk to the media. But academics Abdullah al-Hamid and Matrouk al-Faleh and poet Ali al-Dimeini remain behind bars. "

  9:29:49 PM  permalink  

Winning the Oil Endgame: RMI's latest book on energy futures.  "Winning the Oil Endgame offers a coherent strategy for ending oil dependence, starting with the United States but applicable worldwide. There are many analyses of the oil problem. This synthesis is the first roadmap of the oil solution -- one led by business for profit, not dictated by government for reasons of ideology. This roadmap is independent, peer-reviewed, written for business and military leaders, and co-funded by the Pentagon"  11:40:47 AM  permalink  

daily link  Saturday, October 02, 2004

David Kennedy: Before the fall: "President Bush today claims to be pursuing the hallowed Wilsonian goal of making the world safe for democracy. But the president and his neoconservative brain trust have witlessly jettisoned Wilson's means even as they piously invoke Wilson's ends. The essence of Wilson's approach was the careful, laborious toil of building international institutions, agreements and partnerships step by careful step. He didn't expect to create a better world by flaunting America's military might or naively attempting to export democracy, but instead by patiently cultivating ties of trust, mutual interest and reciprocity.

The Bush administration's path to war in Iraq is but the most dramatic example of a set of policies that has put at risk the kind of international leadership that has served both America and the world so well for the past half-century. The policies of the past four years have made America and the world less safe, not more. ..

Wilson's [began with] two premises: that modern technologies had rendered warfare grossly, inhumanely and intolerably destructive, and that only in a world made more interconnected could America's own security be safeguarded at an acceptable cost. Accordingly, Wilson proposed a new doctrine, 'collective security,'"

  11:07:39 PM  permalink  

With China at G-7, new leverage: Some facts. "Over the past 25 years, China's economic performance has been spectacular. Growth has been so rapid that a quarter billion Chinese have been pulled out of poverty. China now ranks as the world's second largest economy, if measured by the purchasing power of the yuan. China accounts for roughly 12 percent of world output, almost twice as much as Japan by this measure.

China has $480 billion of US Treasury securities in its international monetary reserves, the result of large trade surpluses with the US. China's huge financial reserves, if switched substantially out of the dollar into the euro or yen, could put upward pressure on United States interest rates as the Treasury strives to finance the huge budget deficit in Washington. Vargo notes, though, that Japan's government ceased buying Treasuries this year, with no apparent effect on US interest rates."

  10:52:52 PM  permalink  

Match Iraq Policy to Reality, By Jessica Tuchman Mathews:  Important prescriptions from a person who proposed alternatives before the war.  "What is needed is a policy that takes deadly seriously what Iraqis believe about why the war began and what the United States intends. These beliefs [are] that the United States came only to get its hands on Iraq's oil, to benefit Israel's security, and to establish a puppet government and a permanent military presence through which it could control Iraq and the rest of the region ..

To succeed, the United States needs to do what it can to undermine each of these convictions. The president -- no one less -- needs to state formally and unequivocally that the United States will not maintain a permanent military presence in Iraq, and to repeat it at every opportunity. The phrase "enduring bases" should be erased and the construction of permanent facilities halted. A transparent mechanism that makes clear that no Iraqi oil revenue will touch American fingers should be created, and questions about what happened to that revenue over the past year should be quickly and forthrightly answered. The U.S. Embassy should be drastically cut in size and moved outside the Green Zone (to Camp Victory, for instance) to emphasize that the United States is no longer running the country and that it and the Iraqi government are not one and the same. A statement signed jointly by Iraq's neighbors should pledge the United States and each of them to respect Iraq's territorial integrity within its present borders. And the president needs to address many Iraqis' conviction that elections held under the occupation will be fixed, by saying loudly and often that the United States favors no candidate or party and will accept whatever government Iraqis elect."  She also recommends more troops and a delay to elections until they can be "robustly" monitored by the UN.

  10:35:20 PM  permalink  

Why We Cannot Win by Al Lorentz: Stunning, precise summary from a conservative Texan Army reservist in Iraq.  For writing this essay, he has been threatened with trial and prison (though it's unlikely he'll be convicted).   " I am not an armchair quarterback. Nor am I some politically idealistic and naïve young soldier, I am an old and seasoned Non-Commissioned Officer with nearly 20 years under my belt. Additionally, I am not just a soldier with a muds-eye view of the war, I am in Civil Affairs and as such, it is my job to be aware of all the events occurring in this country and specifically in my region.

I have come to the conclusion that we cannot win here for a number of reasons. Ideology and idealism will never trump history and reality. ..

First, we refuse to deal in reality. We are in a guerilla war, but because of politics, we are not allowed to declare it a guerilla war and must label the increasingly effective guerilla forces arrayed against us as "terrorists, criminals and dead-enders."  This implies that there is a zero sum game at work, i.e. we can simply kill X number of the enemy and then the fight is over, mission accomplished, everybody wins. Unfortunately, this is not the case...

Second, our assessment of what motivates the average Iraqi was skewed, again by politically motivated "experts." .. While at one time there may have actually been support and respect from the locals, months of occupation by our regular military forces have turned the formerly friendly into the recently hostile. Attempts to correct the thinking in this regard are in vain; it is not politically correct to point out the fact that the locals are not only disliking us more and more, they are growing increasingly upset and often overtly hostile. Instead of addressing the reasons why the locals are becoming angry and discontented, we allow politicians in Washington DC to give us pat and convenient reasons that are devoid of any semblance of reality. ..

Third, the guerillas are filling their losses faster than we can create them. .. Fourth, their lines of supply and communication are much shorter than ours and much less vulnerable.  .. Fifth, we consistently underestimate the enemy and his capabilities. .. Our tactics have not adjusted to the battlefield and we are falling behind. Meanwhile the enemy updates his tactics and has shown a remarkable resiliency and adaptability.

Because the current administration is more concerned with its image than it is with reality, it prefers symbolism to substance: soldiers are dying here and being maimed and crippled for life. It is tragic, indeed criminal that our elected public servants would so willingly sacrifice our nation's prestige and honor as well as [its] blood and treasure to pursue an agenda that is ahistoric and un-Constitutional. .."

  10:16:43 PM  permalink  

Baghdad's Green Zone 'island' prepares for rough seas: "The Green Zone - as opposed to what the military calls the "Red Zone," anything outside the vast compound's 12-foot concrete walls - is experiencing a case of the jitters. One reason is the approach of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, set to start around Oct. 15 (the exact commencement depends on phases of the moon). Last year Ramadan saw a surge in violence against the US-led military occupation. This year the holy month starts just two weeks before the US presidential election, an event some US officials say Iraq's insurgents may try to mark with another wave of violence.  Other reasons for the heightened anxiety include the ever-bolder attacks on Baghdad streets just a short drive from the zone, and the recent spike in kidnappings and killings of foreigners in Baghdad. ..

[This] is prompting "what-if" sessions, where scenarios involving various security breaches are thrown out and responses are weighed.. "What if they were able to take 200 Americans hostage, and announced they would kill one a day until they got what they wanted," one official queries. "What would our response be?""

  8:03:53 PM  permalink  

Iraq Universities: Insights on Iraq from the point of view of higher ed, titled "How Should America’s Academic and Humanitarian Communities Respond to Iraq’s Coming Civil War and the Rise of Arab-Islamist Nationalism?":

"A few months ago.. I had to ask myself what would Iraq look like in a couple months’ time. And I choose the term “civil war.” .. Iraq may not as yet fulfill the normative definition of civil war employed by political scientists, but it must be close. Militias have been formed and armed, and most Iraqis being killed are being killed by other Iraqis, though large numbers are also being killed by Americans. Lines are being drawn in anticipation of an American withdrawal, and US forces are fighting elements of the Iraqi body politic that welcomed us a year ago, primarily the Shia of Sadr City. Clearly, the status quo in Iraq is much more than a mere insurgency pitting a rag-tag guerilla force against an occupational army in the way America’s Vietnam war was more than just a conflict with the Viet Cong, in the way France’s Algerian war was more than just about protecting their pied-noirs colonists..

We are at war with Iraqi society and Iraqi society is a war with itself. This statement should be the central principle for understanding what is happening in Iraq and contribute how we respond to the needs of Iraq’s people. ..

US Department of State sources confirm that almost none of the funding promised by the CPA as redevelopment aid for Baghdad’s universities has materialized.. [Iraqi educators] saw the CPA’s advisor to Ministry of Higher Education, John Agresto, as a man of “little knowledge.” ..

Understanding why John Agresto was there and was a failure, and exploring why USAID grants have taken the form they have and worked and not worked is crucial to reformulating the way the US should approach higher education in Iraq. I’ve written about Agresto elsewhere. In brief, Agresto, who was senior advisor to the Ministry of Higher Education, was one of the leading right-wing figures in the “culture wars” of the 1980s and a friend of the Secretary of Defense’s wife, Joyce Rumsfeld.

His appointment was an act of cronyism. He has an admitted lack of knowledge of Iraq’s history, languages, culture, or empathy for Iraqis themselves. He has no experience in the administration of large, public, graduate higher educational systems, no background whatsoever in international education or the role of higher education in developing nations, and no understanding of how higher education can emerge from totalitarianism. Unfortunately, however, Agresto has emerged as an “expert” on higher education in Iraq and is giving speeches about “what went wrong” at colleges and universities around the country . .

USAID programs are another issue. These have tremendous potential if they are formulated in coordination with Iraqis and meet Iraqi needs – not ours. Ironically among the largest grants made was for archaeology, museum conservation and the teaching of ancient Mesopotamian languages. Something of incredible importance to us – as we often identify with Iraq’s ancient past rather than the Arab Islamic present - but of less relevance to Iraqis; but millions of dollars are going to this effort and almost none to contemporary arts, humanities, social sciences or Islamic studies. The other problem is the USAID programs are subcontracted and those dedicated to community building initiatives/ democratization programs, usually go to those companies with Republican-party connections or sympathies (think Halliburton, but on a very small scale). And there is no body of evidence that top-down democratization programs of this kind even work. This old-fashioned style of corruption allied to neocom utopianism is cataloged at-length in a recent article for Harper’s Magazine by Naomi Klein. "  The article concludes with suggestions on improving relations between Iraqi and US higher education. 

  1:05:13 PM  permalink  

daily link  Friday, October 01, 2004

Debate moderator's conflict of interest:  In the commentary section; I haven't checked it but it sounds true.  "I'm sure that you know this already, but Bob Schieffer, the moderator at the 2nd debate, is the brother of Tom Schieffer who was president of the Texas Rangers under Bush's ownership. Bob is the older brother and has always acted in the role of Tom's father. I knew them both many years ago. I think that it is only fair that Bob disclose his relationship to the President at the outset of the next debate."  11:10:36 PM  permalink  

"Practice to Deceive" by Joshua Micah Marshall: April 2003:  Masterful prediction of our current predicament, based on a clear understanding of the neocon agenda.  What's next? "we may soon find that it's unwise to hand off power to the fractious Iraqis. To invoke the ugly but apt metaphor which Jefferson used to describe the American dilemma of slavery, we will have the wolf by the ears. You want to let go. But you dare not. "  12:05:27 AM  permalink  

Copyright 2006 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 5/16/2006; 3:00:07 PM.
0 page reads.