Friday, August 31, 2007

Benchmarks For Your Benchmarks

White House cool on Iraq report - BBC News - 31 Aug 2007 at 8:25am - The Bush administration has challenged a report for the US Congress which says Iraq has met only three of the 18 targets used to measure progress....White House spokesman Tony Snow also said the GAO's conclusions were unrealistic. He said the GAO set the bar for success too high and did not assess whether progress had been made towards the benchmarks. "The real question that people have is, 'What's going on in Iraq?' Are we making progress? Militarily, is the surge having an impact? The answer is 'Yes'," he said.
Remember when whether to surge was the question?

White House: We're ready to act on the Iraq Commission recommendations.
Congress: It's about time.
White House: We want to implement a "surge".
Congress: A surge? Wait, that Iraq Commission report was supposed to provide us political cover for withdrawal.
White House: But it's also providing political cover for "one last push".
Congress: Oh, boy.
White House: So, are you approving the money?
Congress: This will be very unpopular with our constituents.
White House: What do we care? We're not up for re-election.
Congress: We think the only way we can approve this is to make the money contingent on meeting certain benchmarks.
White House: We're not agreeing to any timetables.
Congress: Not timetables for withdrawal, just benchmarks, so our constituents can see measurable signs of success.
White House: This is a war -- you're not supposed to measure success, just be in favor of it.
Congress: Nevertheless, mutually-agreed-upon benchmarks will be the only way.
White House: OK, whatever. (Hope this buys us time before we have to withdraw.)
Congress: Fine. (Hope we don't get flogged for this.)
White House: (That was easy.)

So Bush got his surge, along with benchmarks -- which he agreed to -- in order to measure the success of the surge. But now, he doesn't want to measure the success of the surge against benchmarks; he wants to measure the progress toward meeting the benchmarks against new, more modest benchmarks.

Iraq calls for freeze on militant operations - 31 Aug 2007 at 8:35am - The Iraqi Government has called on armed groups to follow the lead of the biggest Shiah militia and freeze their operations.
Is the U.S. Army an "armed group"?

Petraeus says Iraq "surge" working: paper - 31 Aug 2007 at 8:06am - CANBERRA (Reuters) - The U.S. troop surge in Iraq has thrown al Qaeda off balance and led to a reduction in sectarian violence and bombings, the U.S. commander in Iraq was quoted on Friday by an Australian newspaper as saying.

Bush to hear military's concerns on Iraq - 31 Aug 2007 at 8:22am - WASHINGTON -- President Bush is expected to hear deep concerns Friday from top Pentagon generals about continuing the military buildup in Iraq, as yet another grim independent report emerges finding lack of progress in the conflict.

Cleared terror defendant sues prosecutor - 31 Aug 2007 at 9:58am - DETROIT -- A Moroccan immigrant who was held for three years before his terrorism-related conviction was thrown out has filed a $9 million federal lawsuit against the prosecutor and two others involved in the case.

1 gay marriage, then judge stays ruling - 31 Aug 2007 at 2:58pm - DES MOINES, Iowa -- Two men sealed the state's first legal same-sex marriage with a kiss Friday morning, less than 24 hours after a judge threw out Iowa's ban on gay marriage and about two hours before he put that ruling on hold.

Thought for the day:
Do you realize if it weren't for Edison we'd be watching TV by candlelight? -Al Boliska

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pro-Israel Lobbyists And a Texas Oil Tycoon

Who else should be privy to classified information? Maybe it doesn't matter, as long as members of the Senate Armed Services committee aren't able to learn whether there exist contingency plans for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq.

US challenges Rice, Hadley subpoenas - 30 Aug 2007 at 1:54pm - ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other senior intelligence officials should not be forced to testify about whether they discussed classified information with pro-Israel lobbyists, federal prosecutors argued in a closed-door court hearing Friday.

Judge allows Saddam link in Wyatt oil trial - 30 Aug 2007 at 2:28pm - NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge ruled on Thursday that prosecutors can introduce evidence in the trial of Oscar Wyatt that suggests the Texas oil tycoon tipped off Iraq about the impending 2003 U.S. invasion.

Iraq says making progress ahead of key reports - 30 Aug 2007 at 9:30am - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq has made good strides improving security while political progress is picking up ahead of key reports to be delivered to the U.S. Congress in the next two weeks, Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said on Thursday.

Iran atom work at slow pace and not significant: IAEA - 30 Aug 2007 at 8:50am - VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran's uranium enrichment program is operating well below capacity and is a long way from producing nuclear fuel in significant amounts, according to a confidential U.N. nuclear watchdog report obtained by Reuters.

U.S. court hearing set for accused Iraq massacre leader - 30 Aug 2007 at 8:44am - CAMP PENDLETON, California (Reuters) - A U.S. Marine accused of leading troops who Iraqi witnesses say massacred 24 unarmed civilians in Haditha will appear on Thursday for proceedings to determine if he should face court-martial.

Kenya Muslims say U.S. backed torture and detention - 30 Aug 2007 at 10:06am - NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan Muslims marched on police headquarters in Nairobi on Thursday in protest against what they called the illegal detention and torture of fellow Muslims in an anti-terrorist drive urged on by the United States.

Pentagon disputes bleak Iraq report - 30 Aug 2007 at 12:12pm - The Iraqi government has failed to meet the vast majority of political and military goals laid out by lawmakers to assess President President Bush's Iraq war strategy, congressional auditors have determined.

Justice examining Gonzales' honesty - 30 Aug 2007 at 1:07pm - WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department said Thursday it is investigating whether resigning Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lied or otherwise mislead Congress last month in sworn testimony about the Bush administration's domestic terrorist spying program.

U.N. Inspectors Find Chemicals During Archiving Project - 30 Aug 2007 at 1:42pm - United Nations staff members discover some forgotten vials of chemicals when they were archiving files from U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) inspectors who had been in Iraq, according to a U.N. news release.

Thought for the day:
Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo. -H. G. Wells (1866 - 1946)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

One Year

Study: Withdrawal possible over a year - 29 Aug 2007 at 12:30pm - WASHINGTON -- Most U.S. troops can be withdrawn safely from Iraq in roughly one year and the Bush administration should begin planning the pullout immediately, according to a study released Wednesday.
One year -- does that constitute "precipitous withdrawal"? It's worth noting that this study was undertaken by a liberal think-tank -- maybe a conservative think-tank's study would say it may be safe to withdraw in 30 years.

Bush doesn't appear to be contemplating any sort of draw-down:

Bush wants $50 billion more for Iraq - 29 Aug 2007 at 8:38am - President Bush plans to ask Congress next month for up to $50 billion in additional funding for the war in Iraq, a White House official said yesterday, a move that appears to reflect increasing administration confidence that it can fend off congressional calls for a rapid drawdown of U.S. forces.
While Muqtada al-Sadr, if not drawing down, seems to be cooling off:

Iraq Shiite militia activities frozen - 29 Aug 2007 at 8:12am - Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered a six-month suspension of activities by his Mahdi Army militia in order to reorganize the force, an aide said Wednesday.
And people on the street seem to be warming up to a general cooling-down.

Limit troops abroad, 8-nation poll says - 29 Aug 2007 at 11:02am - WASHINGTON -- People in the U.S., Britain and six other countries showed little taste for stepping up the role their nations' troops play in overseas crises, but seemed more open to other types of involvement abroad, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll.

U.S. forces say free eight Iranians held in Iraq - 29 Aug 2007 at 8:42am - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. forces said on Wednesday they had detained eight Iranians overnight and seized a suitcase full of money from their central Baghdad hotel but later freed them after consultations with the Iraqi government.

Five top contenders for attorney general - 29 Aug 2007 at 9:48am - Moving quickly to replace Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, White House officials are considering five names that "have kind of emerged" as possible candidates to take over the beleaguered Justice Department, according to a senior Bush administration official.

And the Headline Of the Day:
Republicans Backing Away From Craig

Thought for the day:
The dead might as well try to speak to the living as the old to the young. -Willa Cather (1873 - 1947)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Iraq Violence — Army Recruiting — Ahmadinejad On Iraq "Power Vacuum" — Abu Ghraib Trial

Clashes in Iraq's Kerbala kill 52: security source - 28 Aug 2007 at 2:59pm - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Fifty-two people were killed and 206 wounded in a day of fierce clashes between security forces and gunmen in the Iraqi city of Kerbala on Tuesday, a senior security source in Baghdad said.

Army looks to Guard for recruiting help - 28 Aug 2007 at 1:08pm - WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Army, struggling to meet recruitment goals in the midst of a long and unpopular war in Iraq, is turning to the National Guard for help in signing up would-be soldiers in hometowns across America.

Ahmadinejad offers to fill power vacuum in Iraq - 28 Aug 2007 at 1:07pm - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad boldly declared Tuesday that Iran is ready to help fill an imminent power vacuum in Iraq, while also defending the neighboring country's embattled Shiite prime minister who has been criticized by U.S. politicians.

Split verdict in Abu Ghraib trial - 28 Aug 2007 at 12:59pm - A military court Tuesday acquitted an Army officer of charges that he failed to control U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, but it found him guilty of disobeying an order.

Thought for the day:
Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so. -Douglas Adams (1952 - 2001)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Better Late Than Never

Attorney General Gonzales steps down - 27 Aug 2007 at 11:14am - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned on Monday, ending a controversial tenure as chief U.S. law enforcement officer that blemished the administration of President George W. Bush.

Iraq Sunnis say deal won't end boycott - 27 Aug 2007 at 7:46am - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A new political accord between Iraq's main Sunni Arab, Shi'ite and Kurdish leaders will not be enough to lure boycotting Sunni Arabs back into the government, a spokesman for the biggest Sunni Arab bloc said on Monday.

Last Abu Ghraib court-martial wraps up - 27 Aug 2007 at 11:13am - FORT MEADE, Md. -- A military prosecutor told jurors Monday that Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan is not being court-martialed for what he did at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, but for what he didn't do.

Bush's statement on Gonzales - 27 Aug 2007 at 12:15pm - Text of President Bush on Monday, as transcribed by CQ Transcriptions.

Thought for the day:
To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge. -Benjamin Disraeli (1804 - 1881)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Stretched To the Breaking Point

Extending Iraq buildup would be tough - 19 Aug 2007 at 12:48pm - WASHINGTON -- Sapped by nearly six years of war, the Army has nearly exhausted its fighting force and its options if the Bush administration decides to extend the Iraq buildup beyond next spring.
This article is a week old, but perhaps still merits comment, in that it appears to validate John Murtha's claim -- and the conclusion of a previous study -- that the U.S. Army is "stretched to the breaking point".

Friday, August 24, 2007

Detainee Rights — Iraq Propaganda Hub — Undermining al-Maliki

Full court access urged for detainees - 24 Aug 2007 at 7:24pm - WASHINGTON -- Twenty retired federal judges, two rear admirals and a Marine general joined 383 current or former members of the European and British parliaments on Friday in urging the Supreme Court to grant detainees at Guantanamo Bay full access to the U.S. court system.

Pentagon to start Iraq info hub - 24 Aug 2007 at 6:39pm - Shaping the Bush administration?s message on the Iraq war has taken on new fervor, just as anticipation is building for the September progress report from top military advisers.

GOP-linked firm working to undermine Iraqi PM - 24 Aug 2007 at 6:03pm - A powerhouse Republican lobbying firm with close ties to the White House has begun a public campaign to undermine the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Which Commander To Listen To

I've an idea which one's advice Bush is more likely to heed.

Top general to urge Iraq troop cut 24 Aug 2007 at 3:00am - Advice by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs poses a potential clash with supporters of the buildup. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is expected to advise President Bush to reduce the U.S. force in Iraq next year by almost half, potentially creating a rift with top White House officials and other military commanders over the course of the war.

General rejects Warner pullout remarks - 24 Aug 2007 at 11:42am - The U.S. military commander in one of the more troubled areas of Iraq said Friday that embracing Sen. John Warner?s call to begin troop withdrawals before the end of the year would be ?a giant step backward.

Omar Khadr case sparks debate over U.S. terror law - 24 Aug 2007 at 2:07pm - U.S. government lawyers argued Friday that discrepancies between the new federal terror law and the way it is being carried out should not stall one of the Pentagon's first terrorism trials, involving Canadian Omar Khadr.

U.S. bomb kills 3 British soldiers in Afghanistan - 24 Aug 2007 at 8:20am - Three British soldiers were killed by a bomb dropped by a U.S. warplane in southern Afghanistan, Britain's Ministry of Defence said Friday.

Thought for the day:
A different language is a different vision of life. -Federico Fellini (1920 - 1993)

Precipitous Withdrawal! Precipitous Withdrawal! Precipitous Withdrawal!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Warner: Start Withdrawals By Christmas (Unless You Don't Really Want To)

Warner: Bush should bring troops home - 23 Aug 2007 at 4:45pm - WASHINGTON -- Sen. John Warner, a prominent Republican on military affairs, urged President Bush on Thursday to start bringing some troops home from Iraq by Christmas.
But Warner doesn't call for Congress to set any deadlines, instead preferring that any deadline for withdrawal be set by Bush, who replaced the last commanders on the ground in Iraq to suggest that the U.S. military was serving no further useful purpose there, so does Warner's statement mean anything, rhetorically or otherwise? I guess not much.

AP: U.S. gave troops OK to enter Pakistan - 23 Aug 2007 at 4:28pm - Newly uncovered "rules of engagement" show the U.S. military gave elite units broad authority more than three years ago to pursue ...

US wants to give break to strip miners - 23 Aug 2007 at 4:27pm - WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration wants to quit requiring coal operators to prove that their surface mining will not damage streams, fish and wildlife.

Put Down the Vinegar, Take Up the Honey Jar

Draft report logs bleak outlook for Iran - 23 Aug 2007 at 11:23am - WASHINGTON -- A draft intelligence report portrays a bleak political situation in Iran, anticipating little progress in getting Tehran to halt its nuclear program or stop supporting militant groups in the region, U.S. officials said Thursday.

Intel report questions Iraq's progress - 23 Aug 2007 at 8:56am - WASHINGTON -- U.S. intelligence agencies have written a mixed report on Iraq, finding some progress but indicating the Baghdad government may not be able to carry it forward, a defense official said Thursday.

Taser incidents renew debate over usage - 23 Aug 2007 at 8:18am - BRATTLEBORO, Vt. -- Chained to a 55-gallon drum to protest the proposed development of a vacant lot, Jonathan Crowell wasn't threatening anyone. But he refused police orders to unshackle himself and leave, so they zapped him with a Taser, then charged him with trespassing.

Charity wants seized documents back - 23 Aug 2007 at 8:09am - DETROIT -- An international Muslim humanitarian organization, which was raided by federal counterterrorism officials nearly a year ago, is asking a judge to order the return of nearly 200 boxes of paperwork it says are critical to its operations.

Army secretary won't extend deployments - 23 Aug 2007 at 11:13am - WASHINGTON -- Army Secretary Pete Geren on Thursday ruled out extending troop deployments beyond the current 15 months, saying that longer tours in Iraq put stress on soldiers and their families, and have contributed to an increase in suicides.

Defense starts case in Abu Ghraib trial - 23 Aug 2007 at 12:11pm - FORT MEADE, Md. -- Attorneys began presenting their defense of Army Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan on Thursday after a military judge denied a motion to acquit him of all charges related to the abuse of detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

US tasked to scan millions of containers - 23 Aug 2007 at 3:01pm - WASHINGTON -- The specter of a nuclear bomb, hidden in a cargo container, detonating in an American port has prompted Congress to require 100 percent screening of U.S.-bound ships at their more than 600 foreign starting points.

Thought for the day:
If it weren't for baseball, many kids wouldn't know what a millionaire looked like. -Phyllis Diller

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How Hasty Is "Hasty"?

Bush ties Iraq to Vietnam, South Korea, Japan - 22 Aug 2007 at 1:54pm - KANSAS CITY, United States (AFP) - US President George W. Bush on Wednesday warned that a hasty withdrawal from Iraq would trigger a bloodbath like the one in Southeast Asia after the US defeat and retreat from Vietnam.... "A free Iraq is not going to transform the Middle East overnight, but a free Iraq will be a massive defeat for Al-Qaeda. It will be an example that provides hope for millions throughout the Middle East. It'll be a friend of the United States. And it's going to be an important ally" against terrorism, he said.
First, how does a free or not-free Iraq impact Al-Qaeda? Also, why would the U.S. base all of its foreign policy on what it thinks Al-Qaeda would consider a "defeat"?

"Negative message" if Japan ends Afghan mission - 22 Aug 2007 at 8:43am - ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The failure of Japan to extend a navy mission in support of U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan would send the wrong message to the world and to terrorists, Japan's defense minister said on Wednesday.

Copter crash in Iraq kills 14 U.S. soldiers - 22 Aug 2007 at 8:43am - A helicopter went down in northern Iraq on Wednesday, killing all 14 U.S. soldiers aboard, the military said, the deadliest crash ...

U.S. sees limits, "manipulation" in Iran deal with IAEA - 22 Aug 2007 at 8:21am - VIENNA (Reuters) - A nuclear cooperation pact Iran struck with the International Atomic Energy Agency has "real limitations" and Tehran should stop trying to manipulate the IAEA to dodge more U.N. sanctions, a senior U.S. envoy said.

Iraqi PM hits back at US criticism - 22 Aug 2007 at 9:01am - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has hit back at US criticism of his government, saying nobody has the right to set timetables for progress in Iraq.

Bush must release global warming reports - 22 Aug 2007 at 10:24am - SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal judge ordered the Bush administration to issue two scientific reports on global warming, siding with environmentalists who sued the White House for failing to produce the documents.

Calif. Bush critic elected to Congress - 22 Aug 2007 at 10:31am - LOS ANGELES -- California voters are sending an outspoken critic of President Bush to Congress to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Democratic Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald.

Bush insists he supports "good man" Maliki - 22 Aug 2007 at 12:16pm - KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A day after expressing frustration with the Iraqi leadership, U.S. President George W. Bush said on Wednesday he supported Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as "a good man with a difficult job."

Growing pains for terror appeals court - 22 Aug 2007 at 2:29pm - WASHINGTON -- The nation's new terrorism appeals court opens for business this week and among the first questions it faces is whether the court itself is even legal.

Pentagon cuts armored vehicles due in Iraq in 2007 - 22 Aug 2007 at 2:13pm - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. troops in Iraq will receive at least 1,000 fewer special armored vehicles than expected this year due to the amount of time needed for shipment, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

Justice Dept. argues limits of FOIA law - 22 Aug 2007 at 2:13pm - WASHINGTON -- Opening a new front in the Bush administration's battle to keep its records confidential, the Justice Department is contending that the White House Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Thought for the day:
Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear. -Harry S Truman (1884 - 1972), August 8, 1950

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

When FOXNews Presumes, It Doesn't Fool Around

Surge Results Don't Quell Calls for Iraq Withdrawal - 21 Aug 2007 at 12:37pm - WASHINGTON - Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Fred Thompson criticized Iraq war critics Tuesday by noting that lawmakers are ready to withdraw troops from the country even though surge reports are positive.

I can see calling him a presumptive candidate, but presumptive nominee?
Pentagon to suspend anti-terror database - 21 Aug 2007 at 10:46am - WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon said Tuesday that it will shut down an anti-terror database that has been criticized for improperly storing information on peace activists and others whose actions posed no threat.

White House seeks delay on subpoenas - 21 Aug 2007 at 11:09am - WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney's office acknowledged it has documents that "may be responsive" to an investigation into a secret eavesdropping program, although it indicated it would not turn over the papers without a fight.
Cheney, who claims the Vice President's office doesn't fall within the executive branch of government, wouldn't think of claiming executive privilege, would he?

Iraq progress extremely disappointing: US envoy - 21 Aug 2007 at 12:43pm - BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraqi political progress has been "extremely disappointing," the US ambassador in Baghdad said on Tuesday, two weeks before he and the top American military commander in Iraq are to report to Congress.

CIA called passive on al-Qaida threat - 21 Aug 2007 at 1:10pm - WASHINGTON -- Former CIA Director George Tenet did not use all of his available powers and the U.S. spy community lacked a comprehensive plan to stop al-Qaida in the run-up to the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the agency's internal watchdog concluded in a report released Tuesday.... The report said top CIA officers "did not discharge their responsibilities in a satisfactory manner" and it described a "systemic breakdown" in a watch list for tracking terrorism suspects who seek to enter the United States.
But Tenet evidently discharged his responsibilities in suffciently a satisfactory manner, in GWB's view, as to merit the award of a Medal Of Freedom. Something still doesn't add up.

Spy court gets new home of its own - 21 Aug 2007 at 1:14pm - WASHINGTON -- The nation's spy court is moving from its longtime home at the Justice Department to a nearby federal courthouse, a move that some hope will assert the court's independence even as Congress shifts some of its authority to the Bush administration.

Bush acknowledges frustration in Iraq - 21 Aug 2007 at 1:43pm - MONTEBELLO, Quebec -- President Bush acknowledged frustration with the troubled government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Tuesday but said it's up to the Iraqi people to decide whether to continue supporting him.

Bloomberg says won't run for president - 21 Aug 2007 at 1:51pm - NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he cannot win the U.S. presidency and won't run, the strongest statement to date about his intentions for the 2008 presidential race.
Bloomberg: presumptive non-nominee.

Thought for the day:
If God wanted us to fly, He would have given us tickets. -Mel Brooks (1926 - )

Monday, August 20, 2007

Soft Focus

Iraq options focus on reducing U.S. role - 20 Aug 2007 at 4:42pm - WASHINGTON -- U.S. military officials considering Iraq strategy options appear to be focusing on reducing the U.S. combat role in 2008 while increasing training of Iraqi forces, a senior military official told The Associated Press on Monday.
Why hasn't training been the focus for the last year, or two, or three?

Leahy threatens Bush aides with contempt - 20 Aug 2007 at 4:49pm - WASHINGTON -- A top Senate Democrat on Monday threatened to hold members of the Bush administration in contempt for not producing subpoenaed information about the legal justification for President Bush's secretive eavesdropping program.

All Progress Is Local?

Bush stresses local successes in Iraq - 20 Aug 2007 at 12:39pm - CRAWFORD, Texas -- President Bush said Saturday that while political progress is moving too slowly on the national level in Iraq, positive steps in cities and towns are offering hope for future stability.

U.S. lawmakers get no respite at home on Iraq debate - 20 Aug 2007 at 11:31am - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Anti-war groups knew U.S. Rep. Timothy Murphy was going home to Pittsburgh for this month's congressional recess, so they baked him a cake.

Iraq trial revives bitter memories of "U.S. betrayal" - 20 Aug 2007 at 11:31am - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Fifteen former members of Saddam Hussein's regime go on trial in a U.S.-backed court on Tuesday for their role in the crushing of a Shi'ite uprising in 1991, but many Shi'ites still talk bitterly of an American betrayal.

Dual role taking toll on British troops: general - 20 Aug 2007 at 11:48am - British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are "stretched" to capacity because of simultaneous operations in the two countries, the head of the British army says.

Extended buildup would exhaust US forces - 20 Aug 2007 at 11:42am - WASHINGTON -- Sapped by nearly six years of war, the Army has nearly exhausted its fighting force and its options if the Bush administration decides to extend the Iraq buildup beyond next spring.

Pentagon sets goals to hit before end of Bush term - 20 Aug 2007 at 1:28pm - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon has set 25 goals to meet by the end of the Bush administration, including implementation of a long-term plan for detaining terrorism suspects, according to a memo obtained by Reuters.

2 Abu Ghraib charges dropped - 20 Aug 2007 at 2:57pm - FORT MEADE, Md. -- A military judge on Monday dismissed two of the most serious charges against the only officer charged with abusing detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison after an investigator acknowledged he failed to read the defendant his rights.

Thought for the day:
To accomplish great things, we must dream as well as act. -Anatole France (1844 - 1924)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Close That Door

Bush pushes agenda without Congress - 16 Aug 2007 at 8:48am - The door is closing on President Bush?s opportunity to shape domestic policy.

Early clash over Iraq report - 16 Aug 2007 at 8:40am - Senior congressional aides said yesterday that the White House has proposed limiting the much-anticipated appearance on Capitol Hill next month of Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to a private congressional briefing.

Death toll may reach 500 in Iraq bombings: local officials - 16 Aug 2007 at 9:15am - More than 250 bodies have been recovered from the rubble of a series of suicide bombings in northwestern Iraq, and local officials said Thursday the death toll may be twice that number.

Padilla convicted on terror charges - 16 Aug 2007 at 2:35pm - Jose Padilla was convicted of federal terrorism support charges Thursday after being held for 3 1/2 years as an enemy combatant in a case that came to symbolize the Bush administration's zeal to stop homegrown terror.
So the legal system was able to deal with Padilla, after all -- without having to hold him forever, without charge.

Shiites, Kurds form alliance; 4 Iraqi kids found in rubble of bombed area - 16 Aug 2007 at 2:26pm - Iraq's Shiite prime minister and Kurdish president emerged Thursday from three days of crisis talks to announce a new alliance of political parties, but the reshaped power bloc — while it will control a parliamentary majority — included no Sunnis and automatically called into question its legitimacy as a unifying force.

Thought for the day:
Nobody knows the age of the human race, but everybody agrees that it is old enough to know better. -Anonymous

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Prime Suspect

U.S. suspects Al Qaeda in bombings - 15 Aug 2007 at 11:46am - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Wednesday al Qaeda was the "prime suspect" in suicide bomb attacks on a minority sect that Iraqi officials said killed 200 people in northwest Iraq.
Has the U.S. military ever failed to suspect that al Qaida was behind any bombing in Iraq since 2003?

General to call for Iraq pullbacks - 15 Aug 2007 at 2:13pm - The top American commander in Iraq said Wednesday he was preparing recommendations on troop cuts before he returns to Washington next month for a report to Congress, and believes the U.S. footprint in Iraq will have to be "a good bit smaller" by next summer. But he cautioned against a quick or significant U.S. withdrawal that could surrender “the gains we have fought so hard to achieve.”

US moving to name Iran's Revolutionary Guard terror group - 15 Aug 2007 at 11:47am - WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States plans to designate Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard a "terrorist" group, a move aimed at disrupting the business network of the Islamic republic's elite military wing, a US government official said Wednesday.

Rumsfeld resigned before election, letter shows - 15 Aug 2007 at 11:40am - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donald Rumsfeld, architect of the unpopular Iraq war, resigned as defense secretary before last year's November election but his decision was not announced until after the voting, according to his resignation letter obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.

American Spy Satellites To Snoop On U.S. - 15 Aug 2007 at 9:48am - Domestic security officials can now use spy satellites to snoop on Americans, the Wall Street Journal reports Plus, bigtime baksheesh on U.S. contracts in Iraq. Keach Hagey has the day's top headlines and the best of the Web.

Thought for the day:
"Refrain from doing ill; for one all powerful reason, lest our children should copy our misdeeds; we are all too prone to imitate whatever is base and depraved." -Juvenal (55 AD - 127 AD)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Balancing a Number Of Factors

Army reprimands in Tillman case mild - 10 Aug 2007 at 10:42pm - SAN FRANCISCO -- Official reprimands issued to three high-ranking Army officers are only mildly critical of their mistakes after the friendly fire death of Pat Tillman and at times praise the officers.

War czar: Draft worth considering - 10 Aug 2007 at 9:49pm - Frequent tours for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have stressed the all-volunteer force and made it worth considering a return to a military draft, President Bush's new war adviser said Friday.

Marine involved in Iraqi killing released - 10 Aug 2007 at 9:33pm - SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A young Marine involved in the April 2006 killing of a 52-year-old Iraqi man was released following a clemency decision, the Marines said on Friday.... Pennington, 21 at the time of Awad's death, received an eight-year prison sentence in February after pleading guilty to conspiracy and kidnapping. In exchange, prosecutors dropped murder, larceny and housebreaking charges. In making the clemency decision, Lt. Gen. James Mattis balanced a number of factors including the ages of those involved, their military experience and rank, and their level of involvement, the Marines said in a statement.
Balancing a number of factors... and completely discounting that lil murder factor.

Efforts To Undermine Or Obstruct Him Are Dangerous and Unwelcome

U.S. backs Maliki, avoids talk of Iraq government collapse - 10 Aug 2007 at 3:11pm - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Talk about whether Iraq's government will survive is taboo among U.S. officials, but experts and diplomats say the hobbled coalition is in big trouble and the betting is it won't last.... "Prime Minister Maliki has our full support. In view of the urgency and seriousness of the issues that he and his partners in leadership are confronting, efforts to undermine or obstruct him are dangerous and unwelcome," said Philip Reeker, public affairs counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Does that "efforts to undermine" category include GWB's "surge"?

UN expands mission in Iraq - 10 Aug 2007 at 2:01pm - UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - The Security Council on Friday unanimously agreed to expand the UN mission in Iraq despite the high level of insecurity in the country and resistance by United Nations staff.

Thought for the day:
"Always" "and "never" are two words you should always remember never to use. -Wendell Johnson

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Little Space

Iraq: Changes in attitudes? - 9 Aug 2007 at 12:05pm - WASHINGTON -- Even some critics of President Bush's Iraq war policies are conceding there is evidence of recent improvements from a military standpoint. But Bush supporters and critics alike agree that these have not been matched by any noticeable progress on the political front.
The "surge" was supposed to give the Iraqi government "a little space" to facilitate political reconciliation. Isn't it as likely to create reconciliation-impeding tensions?

CSIS suspected U.S. would deport Arar to be tortured: documents - 9 Aug 2007 at 11:08am - Newly released portions of the Maher Arar report show Canadian security officials believed the United States might send him to another country to be questioned under torture.

Bush Opposes Tax Hike To Fix Bridges - 9 Aug 2007 at 11:05am - President Bush dismissed Thursday raising the federal gasoline tax to repair the nation?s bridges at least until Congress changes the way it spends highway money.

U.S. withdrawal needed for security, Iran tells Iraq - 9 Aug 2007 at 10:59am - TEHRAN (Reuters) - An end to violence in Iraq depends on the United States withdrawing its troops, Iran told Iraq's prime minister on Thursday, seeking to deflect accusations from Washington that it is responsible for bloodshed there.

Marine's charges dropped in Iraq deaths - 9 Aug 2007 at 12:13pm - LOS ANGELES -- A general dropped all charges Thursday against a Marine who had been accused of killing three Iraqi brothers in response to a roadside bomb attack in Haditha in 2005.

Pentagon calls suspects enemy combatants - 9 Aug 2007 at 12:10pm - WASHINGTON -- The 14 so-called "high-value" detainees who were transferred from secret CIA prison to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, last year have all been declared enemy combatants and are subject to trial, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

Thought for the day:
"The future ain't what it used to be." -Yogi Berra (1925 - )

Monday, August 06, 2007

As If the U.S. Is a Stabilizing Force?

"It's up to Iran to prove to the world that they're a stabilizing force as opposed to a destabilizing force." -George W. Bush, 2007-Aug-06

That's right: the U.S. is already a proven destabilizing force in Iraq; it's high time for Iran to get off the fence.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A Very Difficult August

US: Soldiers case shows law needs fixing - 3 Aug 2007 at 11:11am - WASHINGTON -- When three soldiers were abducted in Iraq in mid-May, U.S. government lawyers began drafting emergency warrants to try to monitor communications that could lead to the suspected captors. The Bush administration and its allies, The Associated Press has learned, have argued that the legal work ate up precious hours because of an odd twist to a U.S. surveillance law. One of the soldiers was later found dead in the Euphrates River, and an al-Qaida offshoot has said the others are dead as well.
But we've been told that in such an emergency, the authorization may be requested retroactively.

Four U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq - 3 Aug 2007 at 12:39pm - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Four U.S. soldiers were killed in Baghdad, the U.S. military said on Friday, underlining U.S. President George W. Bush's grim prediction of "a very difficult August" for U.S. troops in Iraq.

Marine gets time served in Iraqi's death - 3 Aug 2007 at 12:24pm - A jury sentenced a Marine corporal Friday to time served and reduced his rank to private for conspiring to murder an Iraqi civilian during a frustrated search for an insurgent. Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, 24, has already served 448 days in custody and was to be freed Friday. He was acquitted of murder but also found guilty of larceny and housebreaking, and cleared of making a false official statement.

Marine gets 15 years in Iraqi's death - 3 Aug 2007 at 3:21pm - CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- A jury sentenced a Marine sergeant Friday to 15 years in prison for the murder of an Iraqi civilian during a fruitless search for an insurgent.

Bush: Congress must stay in session - 3 Aug 2007 at 2:59pm - President Bush said Friday that Congress must stay in session until it approves legislation modernizing a U.S. law governing eavesdropping on foreigners.
"Modernizing" = watering down to the point of uselessness?

Thought for the day:
"The world owes all its onward impulses to men ill at ease. The happy man inevitably confines himself within ancient limits." -Nathaniel Hawthorne

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A Sincere Effort

House votes to ensure troops' home time - 2 Aug 2007 at 7:58pm - WASHINGTON -- The House voted Thursday to give U.S. troops guaranteed time at home between deployments to Iraq, the latest but assuredly not the last challenge to President Bush from Democrats determined to end an unpopular war.... Rep. Howard (Buck) McKeon, R-Calif., said the legislation was "a backhanded attempt to force a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq." He noted the requirement for time at home did not apply to troops deployed to the war in Afghanistan. "If this were a sincere effort ... it would apply to all deployments," he said.

White House accused of meddling with EPA - 2 Aug 2007 at 7:35pm - WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday released an analysis of its new proposal to reduce smog levels that shows higher economic costs - but potentially more lives saved - the more stringent the regulation is. The document angered environmentalists because in addition to analyzing three relatively stringent smog levels, EPA decided to study a fourth less-stringent smog level after intervention by the White House Office of Management and Budget, according to public documents in an EPA docket.

British troops 'are stressed out' - 2 Aug 2007 at 8:14pm - Long periods of deployment are putting the at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, research suggests.

Gonzales issue snarls surveillance law - 2 Aug 2007 at 7:35pm - WASHINGTON -- Congress struggled Thursday over giving the government more power to eavesdrop on suspected terrorists, bogged down by concerns about the man who would oversee the plan - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Senate approves children's health bill - 2 Aug 2007 at 10:32pm - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday agreed to legislation that would raise tobacco taxes to pay for expanding a children's health program, shrugging off a veto threat from President George W. Bush who wants a more limited program.

Hard Work

Gates: Iraq political reform difficult - 2 Aug 2007 at 11:12am - ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- U.S. officials underestimated how difficult it would be for the Iraqi government to pass political reforms, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday, adding that the "depth of mistrust" among the factions is greater than anticipated.
No kidding. Actually, Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, & Feith underestimated the difficulty, or, more likely, chose to ignore it. Is anyone else really that surprised?

Young Bush Staffer Gets Grilled - TIME - 2 Aug 2007 at 2:37pm - J. Scott Jennings, at the tender age of 29, became the latest sacrificial lamb the White House has sent up to answer questions about the controversial firings of eight US Attorneys last year.
But he didn't actually answer any questions -- he was just there to announce that he wouldn't be answering any questions, and to compare himself to Ulysses, or something like that.

Congress passes ethics reform bill - 2 Aug 2007 at 3:02pm - The Senate voted Thursday to make lawmakers disclose more about their efforts to fund pet projects and raise money from lobbyists, a move some called the biggest advance in congressional ethics in decades.

Bush raps Democrats on spending - 2 Aug 2007 at 2:40pm - WASHINGTON -- President Bush ridiculed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday -though not by name - for saying that the $22 billion that separates congressional Democrats from the White House on spending bills is a "very small difference."
The guy who's spending hundred$ of billion$ every year on a war to take non-existent weapons away from a dead man.

Thought for the day:
"Wars teach us not to love our enemies, but to hate our allies." -W. L. George

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Not Since Reagan

White House threatens water bill veto - 1 Aug 2007 at 2:49pm - WASHINGTON -- President Bush will veto a $20 billion water projects bill unless lawmakers remove the billions added for new plants and new costs shifted onto the federal government, the White House said Wednesday.... Not since President Reagan has an administration threatened to veto a water projects bill, said Stephen Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan watchdog group tracking the bill's pet projects, or "earmarks" that many consider to be pork-barrel spending.
But it's fine to spend hundreds of billions of dollars (and hundreds of lives) per year on a war to separate a dead guy from his non-existent weapons.

Sunni bloc quits Iraq govt - 1 Aug 2007 at 10:54am - BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The main Sunni Arab political bloc quit the Iraqi government on Wednesday in a blow to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's shaky coalition as suicide bombers killed more than 70 people in three attacks across Baghdad.

Bush to prevent aides' testimony - 1 Aug 2007 at 12:36pm - WASHINGTON -- President Bush is expected to claim executive privilege to prevent two more White House aides from testifying before Congress about the firings of federal prosecutors.

Cigarette regs OK'd by Senate panel - 1 Aug 2007 at 2:00pm - WASHINGTON -- A Senate committee Wednesday embraced legislation that would for the first time allow federal regulation of cigarettes.

Children's health program sparks strife - 1 Aug 2007 at 2:38pm - WASHINGTON -- Republican efforts to scale back expansion of a popular children's health insurance program failed in the Senate Wednesday, as a bitter partisan battle unfolded in the House over a more generous version that includes broad Medicare changes.

Thought for the day:
"Prosperity is only an instrument to be used, not a deity to be worshipped." -Calvin Coolidge (1872 - 1933)