September 24, 2007 archive

Iraq: A GOP Change in Strategy

According to multiple sources of mine at the White House, RNC, Capitol Hill, and several Georgetown bars, a consensus seems to be forming among White House and GOP strategists on a bold new political strategy that can be spun as an Iraq withdrawal plan and as a much needed cost cutting measure to reduce Operation Iraqi Freedom expenditures.  When this efficient new strategy is implemented, millions of taxpayer dollars will be saved on Army transport, supply, and logistics costs; and troop levels in Iraq will be systematically reduced on a timeline, in accordance with the wishes of the American people. 

Advocates of this developing GOP strategy for Iraq, not to be unveiled until the propaganda is sufficiently catapulted, are impressed with its cost-effectiveness elements and the bottom line business rationale behind it.  According to this rationale, there’s no way to prevent at least 1,000 American soldiers from being killed over the coming year, in a prohibitively expensive occupation that needs some cost cutting, so why even deploy them to Iraq? 

Just blow them up here.


Four at Four

This is an OPEN THREAD. Here are four stories in the news at 4 o’clock to get you started.

  1. According to the Washington Post, the U.S. military’s Asymmetric Warfare Group in Iraq has a classified program to lure ‘insurgents’ with ‘bait’. “A Pentagon group has encouraged some U.S. military snipers in Iraq to target suspected insurgents by scattering pieces of “bait,” such as detonation cords, plastic explosives and ammunition, and then killing Iraqis who pick up the items, according to military court documents. ¶ The classified program was described in investigative documents related to recently filed murder charges against three snipers who are accused of planting evidence on Iraqis they killed.”

    Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, said such a baiting program should be examined “quite meticulously” because it raises troubling possibilities, such as what happens when civilians pick up the items. “In a country that is awash in armaments and magazines and implements of war, if every time somebody picked up something that was potentially useful as a weapon, you might as well ask every Iraqi to walk around with a target on his back,” Fidell said.

    It is unknown how many people have been killed by the baiting tactic.

  2. The New York Times reports post-9/11 cases fuel criticism of Michael Mukasey as the Attorney General nominee. “Critics say a 1984 material witness law was abused by the Justice Department, and by Judge Mukasey and his judicial colleagues, to hold terrorist suspects indefinitely after Sept. 11 without having to accuse them of a crime and afford them the rights of a criminal defendant. ¶ The roundup of men like [Osama] Awadallah under the material witness law in September and October 2001 was an early effort by the Bush administration to rewrite or reinterpret laws on the detention, interrogation and surveillance of people suspected of terrorist ties after the Sept. 11 attacks — a campaign that is now the subject of furious debate between the White House and the Democratic leaders of Congress. ¶ Critics say the material witness cases before Judge Mukasey after Sept. 11 offer insight into his performance and temperament at a time of duress. The cases came before him at a time when New York was still in turmoil, with the courthouse in Lower Manhattan, only blocks from the rubble of the World Trade Center, partly shut down and operating under extraordinarily tight security… Prominent defense lawyers and legal scholars have said that Judge Mukasey and other federal judges were too quick to accept the administration’s reasoning after Sept. 11 that young Arab men should be held as ‘material witnesses’ in terrorism investigations. It was a ruse, the lawyers say, for the government to detain them, often for months at a time, without any need to cite evidence of possible wrongdoing… ¶ The Justice Department’s widespread use of the 1984 federal material-witness law to detain dozens of young Arab men after the Sept. 11 attacks has been widely criticized by legal scholars as an abuse of the law, which was intended to prevent witnesses in criminal cases from fleeing before they could testify.” Mukasey is no friend to civil liberties. No wonder he is a good friend of Giuliani and Bush’s nominee.

  3. Iraq has backed down from its initial demand that Blackwater USA leave Iraq. Reuters reports, Iraq says no Blackwater move until after inquiry. “Iraq said on Monday no action would be taken against U.S. private security firm Blackwater over a shooting in which 11 people were killed until after a joint investigation with U.S. officials. ¶ Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had vowed to freeze the work of Blackwater, which guards the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and prosecute its staff over the shooting eight days ago which he called a crime. But Iraq has since appeared to soften its stand.” The U.S. and Iraq are conducting a joint-investigation into the shootings. Plus the U.S. “embassy is conducting a separate inquiry into the circumstances of the shooting”. Iraq’s own investigation concluded Blackwater was unprovoked. According to Reuters, Iraq is saying now that a Blackwater departure from Iraq would leave a “security vacuum“. The AP reports that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki kept a “polite distance… and avoided discussion” of the shooting. Blackwater is employed by the U.S. State Department to protect embassy workers and diplomats.

    In other Blackwater news from the weekend, The News & Observer reported that the U.S. government is investigating Blackwater for illegal weapons shipments to Iraq. “The U.S. government is investigating whether private military contractor Blackwater USA… has been shipping unlicensed automatic weapons and military goods to Iraq. ¶ Two former Blackwater employees have pleaded guilty in Greenville to weapons charges and are cooperating with federal officials investigating Blackwater… ¶ The investigation into Blackwater’s weapons is noteworthy because Congress and the Iraqi government have criticized the company and accused it of acting with impunity. One of its contractors, for example, shot and killed an Iraqi vice president’s security guard on Christmas Eve in Baghdad. Blackwater sent the man back to the United States and fired him. He has not been charged in the U.S. or Iraq. ¶ Two sources familiar with the investigation said that prosecutors are looking at whether Blackwater lacked permits for dozens of automatic weapons used at its training grounds in Moyock. The investigation is also looking into whether Blackwater was shipping weapons, night-vision scopes, armor, gun kits and other military goods to Iraq without the required permits.” While yesterday, Reuters reported that Blackwater denies making illegal weapons exports to Iraq. “‘Allegations that Blackwater was in any way associated or complicit in unlawful arms activities are baseless. The company has no knowledge of any employee improperly exporting weapons,’ the company said in a statement… ¶ Two former Blackwater employees had pleaded guilty in Greenville, North Carolina, to weapons charges and were cooperating with the federal investigation. ¶ Court records showed Kenneth Wayne Cashwell and William Ellsworth Grumiaux pleaded guilty earlier in the year to possessing, receiving and concealing between May 2003 and August 2005 stolen firearms that had been ‘shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.'”

  4. The Washington Post details how a nuclear-armed bomber was accidentally allowed to fly over U.S. airspace in they article, ‘Missteps in the Bunker‘ by Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus. Details point to “security failures at multiple levels in North Dakota and Louisiana”… A simple error in a missile storage room led to missteps at every turn, as ground crews failed to notice the warheads, and as security teams and flight crew members failed to provide adequate oversight and check the cargo thoroughly. An elaborate nuclear safeguard system, nurtured during the Cold War and infused with rigorous accounting and command procedures, was utterly debased, the investigation’s early results show. ¶ The incident came on the heels of multiple warnings — some of which went to the highest levels of the Bush administration, including the National Security Council — of security problems at Air Force installations where nuclear weapons are kept. The risks are not that warheads might be accidentally detonated, but that sloppy procedures could leave room for theft or damage to a warhead, disseminating its toxic nuclear materials.

One more story below the fold…

Criticizing Speech Versus Punishing Speech

I have been very critical of Move On’s “Betray Us” ad. I thought the Senate’s censure resolution was silly but not serious. A waste of time but not a threat. Perhaps this description by Glenn Greenwald of a threat to PUNISH speech, in this case, Columbia University’s, for its decision to invite the Iranian President Ahmadenijad to speak there, will illustrate the difference between criticizing speech and punishing speech:

In an interview with The New York Sun, the speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, said lawmakers, outraged over Columbia’s insistence on allowing the Iranian president to speak at its World Leaders Forum, would consider reducing capital aid and other financial assistance to the school.

“There are issues that Columbia may have before us that obviously this cavalier attitude would be something that people would recall,” Mr. Silver said. “Obviously, there’s some degree of capital support that has been provided to Columbia in the past. These are things people might take a different view of . . . knowing that this is that kind of an institution” . . .

“It’s not going to go away just because this episode ends. Columbia University has to know . . . that they will be penalized,” an assemblyman of Brooklyn, Dov Hikind, who also attended the rally, said. . . .

Penalized. Punished. Not criticized. This makes all the difference in the world to me. Legally. And Substantively. Censuring Move On with a tootless sense of the Senate bill is silly. What Silver and Hikind propose is a violation of the First Amendment. The differences are stark. Where’s the blogswarm on this? Where’s the concern for free speech?

Marx/ Prashad/ OPOL: Radicalism in a neoliberal age

crossposted at

This is a defense of OPOL’s diary “Why I Am A Radical.”  Some of the respondents thought that OPOL wasn’t “really a radical,” others thought that  our “solution” to present-day political problems should focus on the election of Hillary or Obama or Edwards or whomever, more others just cheered another well-decorated OPOL diary.  Here I wish to set radicalism on the bedrock of economic thinking incited by Karl Marx in the Preface to “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,” and compare the words of OPOL to those of Vijay Prashad, from his book “Fat Cats and Running Dogs.”

Frankenstein Finance: Supercomputers Play Craps with Mortgages!

No kidding – what is at the heart of the credit industry meltdown is so bizarre that Kurt Vonnegut might have channeled the story:  literally a game of computerized craps.

While the US homeowner is being impugned and scapegoated for the credit meltdown in the MSM, the comely mask was torn off a monster, exposing insider trading at the heart of the fiasco.  While the MSM pillories the US mortgage holders, finance media blogsphere erupts into a field day satirizing “Frankenstein Finance” and computers gone berserk

Time to shred the costumery and parlance adorning hedge funds.  This is too easy to understand.  This credit crash evokes 2001: A Space Odyssey and the treacly voice of Hal, one seemingly omniscient computer. 

Hal, you there?  Hal, can you help us make sense of this mess?

Immigrant Limbo

When ancient Christian theologians began examining the system of eternal rewards and punishments manifested in the concepts of heaven and hell, they were soon faced with a conundrum. What would the fates be of those virtuous souls who had lived and died long before Christ’s earthy arrival, or those who died in infancy before baptism?  They neither qualified for heavenly inclusion nor deserved condemnation to hell.

The wise biblical scholars decided that there existed a place that was neither heaven nor hell. …A place for the righteous unsaved called Limbo, somewhere between heavenly bliss and the tortures of eternal damnation.

Today in the United States there exists for millions of foreign-born legal residents a different kind of Limbo. A legal limbo for those who have not been afforded the full rights and privileges guaranteed by citizenship but are spared the daily hell of the living as outcasts as undocumented immigrants.

The Move On Money Machine

Matt Bai writes:

MoveOn’s management team – led by Eli Pariser, a 25-year-old Internet whiz – runs a sophisticated political operation, and its main preoccupation, beyond ending the Iraq war, is to keep growing. To do that, MoveOn is always looking for what Mr. Pariser and his team call “the message object” – the controversy of the month that will viscerally attract more liberals to sign up and write checks.

An attack on MoveOn from the Bush White House is, of course, the mother of all message objects. Six months after Mr. Bush’s re-election, when opposition to the Iraq war suddenly seemed to be breaking out like a rash around the country, Karl Rove publicly accused MoveOn and its liberal sympathizers of offering “therapy and understanding for our attackers,” and membership soared. That probably explains why MoveOn was eager to run the provocative Petraeus ad in the first place.

In a sense, MoveOn is shrewdly gaming liberal politics in the way the National Rifle Association has long gamed conservative politics; the more controversy, the more members it attracts, and the more power it has to leverage on their behalf.

Seeing how Move On leverages its power, by selling out on Iraq this year, I truly oppose the effect of this controversy. Move On has used the Netroots and the anti-war movement for its own greater glory, to the detriment of the chances of ending the Iraq Debacle. Their conduct has been deplorable.

Pony Party: How to make a pickle glow – Part I

Light Emitting Pickle here to bring you the most recent open thread. First, a few words about Pickle Pony Parties:

Please do not recommend a Pony Party when you see one.  There will be another along in a few hours.

The King’s Dimwitted Son

I wrote this diary a little over a year ago under the name of shruticounseling for dkos. It is my favorite entry and I never felt like it was appropriate for that site but couldn’t find an appropriate home for it. It is more of an essay. As I have been reading this site for the last several days, it has come to mind that this is perhaps a more appropriate home for it. Only time wilt tell. Here it is.

Ending the war vs. “pretending” to end the war

Despite some very heroic efforts in the Senate by Feingold, Dodd and to a degree Reid (and a few others) and the heroic efforts in the House by members of the “Out of Iraq caucus”, I think we are getting closer and closer to a point where it is looking like many Democrats are “acting like they want to end the war” as opposed to actually, truly, REALLY doing whatever they can to bring an end to this war. 

Smart politics?  Who really knows at this point.  Smart policy?  Hell no – not when we have found out that the US has been arming insurgents, the Bush administration is desperately trying to find a way to bomb Iran, al Qaeda and the Taliban are running free in Pakistan and the only signs of any success in Iraq are either due to sectarian cleansing or areas where local tribes have taken the lead without much assistance from our troops.  Oh yeah, more deaths and more potent attacks are happening every day, likely to lead to well over 1,000 more dead US troops before January 2009.

Helping Hand False Prosthesis

When an individual is in distress, common advice is for him or her to reach out for help, to seek solace and resiliency in groups, and to keep a positive outlook.  These things are uttered as if they are ingredients in a recipe to a better life.  Bake them in the right proportions, and the dish that is created is a sure success.

Reality, though, is very different.  And perhaps shockingly, those who espouse progressive values – sometimes the most vocal – act in identical ways and with the same callous disregard – by offering phony offers of assistance.

The real message is the same: take care of yourself.  It can’t be that bad.  God helps those who help themselves.  God never gives you more than you can handle. I wish I could help you, but…. Here’s a number to call for a homeless shelter in my area – maybe they can tell you where you can find help wherever you are.  You need to learn how to beg.  You need to humble yourself.  It doesn’t matter what you think you need; I know what you need. There must be something wrong with you if you can’t get a job.

Jena: The South, Politics And Race

In today’s NYTimes, Krugman writes:

Last Thursday there was a huge march in Jena, La., to protest the harsh and unequal treatment of six black students arrested in the beating of a white classmate. Students who hung nooses to warn blacks not to sit under a “white” tree were suspended for three days; on the other hand, the students accused in the beating were initially charged with second-degree attempted murder.

. . . Many press accounts of the march have a tone of amazement. Scenes like those in Jena, the stories seemed to imply, belonged in the 1960s, not the 21st century. The headline on the New York Times report, “Protest in Louisiana Case Echoes the Civil Rights Era,” was fairly typical. But the reality is that things haven’t changed nearly as much as people think. Racial tension, especially in the South, has never gone away, and has never stopped being important. And race remains one of the defining factors in modern American politics.

Consider voting in last year’s Congressional elections. Republicans, as President Bush conceded, received a “thumping,” with almost every major demographic group turning against them. The one big exception was Southern whites, 62 percent of whom voted Republican in House races. . . .

Indeed. I wrote about this back in December 2004. I want to reprint what I wrote then.

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