Sunday, December 31, 2006

Not a Way to Ring in the New Year

Whilst most everyone is looking forward to bringing in the new year, 2006 still had one last reminder of what a terrible year it has been.

This must end. Period.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Another Year Over

Well, 2006 is almost over and what a year it's been. It saw glorying highs and terrible lows. It saw the establishment of a new government in a fledging democracy and the changing of hands in a centuries-old one. It saw the end come for not only a brutal terrorist but three of history's most ruthless dictators.

But with the highs must also come the lows, of which there have been many to choose from. Iraq hastened its descent into anarchy. War spread to other corners of the Middle East this past summer. North Korea tested a nuclear weapon. Iran continues to snub its nose at the world over its path toward potentially making one of their own, raising fears of war spreading still further in the new year.

With each passing year, resolutions are made. Most are done because we wish to change things for the better. It is up to us to see those changes through. Let us strive to make 2007 a year of change. Not just for the United States and Iraq but for the world.

Everyone have a safe and happy New Year's. See you in The Files.

- X

(Best wishes to all at State of the Day)

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Uncut

As predicted, an uncut version of Saddam's execution has hit the Intertubes, albeit this one unofficially shot with a cellphone camera. I myself have no real urge to view the video. But the right wingers are giddy with delight to be about to watch and share this latest war porn snuff film.

What a sad reflection on a society that, according to President Bush, is suppose to cherish the sanctity of life.

Update: I read through a few of the comments on the various right wing blogs in the link above and most were decrying those on the left for supposedly "mourning" the passing of Saddam. While I take offense to that characterization, it is not surprising. Anything short of "I'm glad they killed the fucker" would be considered "mourning" to diehard backers of this war. They constantly speak of how "Leftists" do not care about justice for Saddam's victims. And what of these victims? Why was Saddam tried and convicted of ordering the deaths of only 148 people when he is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi's as the right is always certain to bring up whenever the tyranny of his regime is discussed?

Perhaps one reason is that it would have been hard to justify punishment for those crimes without noting our own complicity in those crimes.

(Filed at State of the Day)

'The next story they tell us'

From the AP:
U.S. troops cheered as news of Saddam's execution appeared on television at the mess hall at Forward Operating Base Loyalty in eastern Baghdad. But some soldiers expressed doubt that Saddam's death would be a significant turning point for Iraq.

"First it was weapons of mass destruction. Then when there were none, it was that we had to find Saddam. We did that, but then it was that we had to put him on trial," said Spc. Thomas Sheck, 25, who is on his second tour in Iraq. "So now, what will be the next story they tell us to keep us over here?"

(Filed at State of the Day)

Opening The Files: Year End Special


I had intended to post this sometime late Saturday or early Sunday since I will be spending my New Year's corralling over indulgent revelers at my place of work. But the Iraqi's were quick to dispose of their deposed former leader.

The big buzz this weekend was of course whether or not Saddam Hussein would live to see the new year, to which we now know the answer is an emphatic 'no'. There was much speculation about when the end would come but it finally did at just before 10 pm EST. Random samplings from Meme throughout the day saw mixed reviews to his impending death. Some declared their opposition to the death penalty in general, even for someone as reviled as Saddam. Others noted the potential for a further escalation of violence just in time for Bush's eventual escalation of troop levels. At the other end of the spectrum were the warbloggers, who were practically jonesin' for a peek at video of The Butcher of Baghdad dangling from the end of a rope. They assuredly awaited its first appearance, which predictably enough came on FOX News. No dangling though. Have to wait for the unedited version to hit YouTube to get their full on jollies.

On the same day that Saddam met his maker, another US soldier was killed, bringing us ever closer to the 3,000 mark. Vice President Cheney once remarked that "the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? [..] And the answer is not very damned many."

Sadly, we've learned just how damned many that was.

Larisa Alexandrovna thinks that Saddam's death will be the spark that sets Iraq ablaze. Let's hope this ember burns itself out before it ignites the brush.

Will Bunch imagined a new Dick Clark special which has since been canceled.

Riverbend tells us about what life has become like for the average Iraqi in the post-Saddam era. Lord knows what it will be like in the now post-post-Saddam one.

And finally, Josh Marshall has the last word on what Saddam's swingin' is really about.

Update: A commenter noted that I failed to mention the countless innocent Iraqi's killed in our attempt to bring this one man to justice. As penance, I send you to Robert Fisk for his thoughts on the crimes that may never likely see justice served.

(Filed at State of the Day)


Friday, December 29, 2006

A Tragedy Hits Close to Home

I don't normally write about personal things on this blog. But after what I learned this morning, I can't help but feel compelled to do so in this instance.

Calvin Calvert is perhaps one of the bravest men I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I first met him when he regaled my elementary school class with his prowess with an ROTC rifle. It wasn't until years later that our friendship came into being. He and I and our friend Mark were literally inseparable. We were the three. The trio. If one of us was absent, the group just wasn't whole. We spent just about every waking hour together, gallivanting all over the place, scarfing down burgers at 4 am as we laughed and recounted the evenings events.

And even when Calvin went to serve in Iraq, spearheading the drive to Baghdad with the 101st Airborne, I just knew that the men in his unit rested a little easier knowing Calvin was with them. For if there were any man I would take into battle, it would be Calvin.

Which is why when I learned of the tragic fate that has befallen my dear friend, my heart breaks. For I know the type of man that Calvin is and how this must be affecting him. And though he may never read these words, I hope that he knows there are those who care about him.

My thoughts are with you my friend.

- Travis

Why the Pony Show?

As my new co-blogger Michael has already pointed out, the Decider is taking his sweet time in deciding what to do about Iraq. He held a non-decisional meeting yesterday for all of three hours where they made "good progress" on a marketing pitch strategy. What I would like to know is why the big dog and pony show?

All this talk of "consultations" is just building up expectations that the Bush administration will miraculously come up with a plan to pull victory from the jaws of defeat (or stomach rather, since its already been swallowed and partly digested) when really we are just meandering toward the inevitable.

Anyone else get the sense that since the death of Gerald Ford, who many say lost Vietnam even though that war was lost long before he took over, President Bush is more determined than ever not to be remembered in a similar light?

(Filed at State of the Day)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bush needs more time to craft Iraq plan - I'm shocked....

Bush taking more time to craft Iraq plan
CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush worked nearly three hours at his Texas ranch on Thursday to design a new U.S. policy in Iraq, then emerged to say that he and his advisers need more time to craft the plan he'll announce in the new year.

To me that translates to: Moron (I mean President) Bush drank coffee with his cronies at his ranch for three hours telling jokes about how we have allowed him to get away with his stupidity for so long. As I am a republican let me explain why I call Bush a moron. It isn't that I necessarily think he is overall a bad guy. In fact I am sure he truly believes he is doing the right thing. However, only a moron would have ever invaded Iraq to begin with, especially with the flimsy evidence Bush had at the start. I have been against the war from the start, and (as I have said before) it never took rocket science to see from day one that the result of an invasion could only result in the mess we are currently in.

Whatever the case, Bush will probably not give us any kind of a new strategy until after they have murdered (I mean executed) Saddam Hussein. More than likely he is waiting to see what the repercussions of the execution will be. In any event I have this gut wrenching feeling that he will send more troops which will only make matters worse.

Hussein's lawyer says US should not hand Saddam over to Iraq to be executed.

AMMAN, Jordan — Saddam Hussein's chief lawyer implored world leaders on Thursday to prevent the United States from handing over the ousted leader to Iraqi authorities for execution, saying he should enjoy protection from his enemies as a "prisoner of war."


I found this article on which, in my opinion, brings up an interesting question. Should the US hand Saddam over to Iraq for execution? My first gut reaction to the question is no; however, I feel this way for the simple reason that I do not believe in capital punishment. If they (Bush, Shiites, whoever) wanted him dead they should have shot him on the battle field. However, as he so cowardly allowed himself to be captured and he no longer posses a threat to anyone it is now our obligation not to kill him. What gives us the right to execute him, and how would that make us any better than him? Don't get me wrong, I have no respect for the man; and he certainly deserved to be stripped of his power. However, no matter what he may or may not have done I do not believe anyone has the right to execute him, or anyone else for that matter.

Of course there are other factors which weigh in on this as well. Albeit I will be the first to admit I am not exactly up on my understanding of international law or any of the various treaties we (the US) have signed governing prisoners of war; it seems to me Saddam's attorney has a point. Out of all of the treaties we have singed I am fairly sure at least one would prevent the US from handing over a POW to his or her enemies. While one could argue we would simply be returning Saddam Hussein back to his native country, as would be customary with POWs, it could easily be argued that Iraq as it is today is no longer the same Iraq from which Saddam is from. Yes this argument dances around pins and needles; however, in my opinion it is worth mentioning.

On the flip side of the coin is of course another argument. Saddam is from Iraq, is an Iraqi citizen, and he committed his crimes in Iraq. While he may currently be in US custody the current acting government of Iraq has every right to ask the US to extradite Saddam to Iraqi custody so that he can answer for his crimes. This of course begs the question; was he tried according to the current laws governing Iraq or the laws in place during his leadership of Iraq? Whichever the case Iraq is (somewhat) of a sovereign nation and has already tried and convicted him according to their laws and will expect the US to hand him over to be executed; which begs the question, "How would Iraq receive and respond to the US refusing to hand him over?

I will leave it up to you, the reader, to answer these questions and to draw your own conclusions. But, you must admit, it does make you think.

A New Face at the Files

The new year will soon be upon us and with it comes a new member to The Files. Please join me in welcoming my brother-in-law Michael. He has decided he would like to contribute to this blog and I graciously agreed. Please treat him with the same respect and dignity you do me.

On second thought, treat him better then that.

- X

Opening The Files: 12/28/06

The Accidental vs. The Decider

Many bloggers have noted the passing of Gerald Ford this week. And while I am far too young (not even born yet) to remember his ascension to the highest office in the land, I can understand why many look back on that era fondly. For it was Ford who picked up the shattered remnants of the presidency following the Vietnam and Watergate years. Undoubtedly there are many who long for a similar reconstruction after enduring the Bush II years.

And given how the Decider has governed in that time, it should come as no surprise that the Accidental President would oppose the war in Iraq.

Carpetbagger says that Ford's criticisms of the war seems awfully close to what Democrats have been saying and wonders if this will change how the GOP praise him. (Update: The smearing begins)

Ford is probably best remembered (or reviled depending on who you talk to) for pardoning Richard Nixon. Mr. Fish imagines that Bush might be a little envious.

Dave Johnson and Taylor Marsh think Ford set an awful precedent with that pardon.

TBogg calls Ford the Bookmark President, the best thing after our long national nightmare. The Heretik, meanwhile, reminds us that nightmares have a tendency to come back.

And finally, Wonkette, noting WaPo's apparent hiring of a zombie obit writer, says life probably is just like an SNL skit.

(Filed at State of the Day)


The Bush Imbalance

My brother-in-law has recently taken to reading some of my blog and we have begun discussing politics. One topic of discussion was where we stood in the political spectrum. He says that from the content of my writings, I seem to have a pretty liberal viewpoint. While I don't doubt I do have some liberal tendencies from time to time, I would prefer to think of myself as more of a moderate with a leftward lean. My brother-in-law casts himself as the opposite, a moderate with a lean to the right.

I tell you this because of an incident he recounted to me in which one of his posts (which has since been deleted) prompted a rather heated exchange with some conservatives. The reason he became interested in my blog was because he saw it as a possible haven for posting some of his more liberal opinions (more on this later).

Hearing about this got the gears in my head turning and I began to realize that what happened to my bro-in-law has really become endemic of the political discourse in this country as a whole. It might best be characterized as The Bush Imbalance.

Consider that the past six years of Bush II have been some of the most divisive in perhaps our entire history as a nation. The policies put forth by this administration have shifted us far from where we once stood on well established and accepted norms. Be it preventive war, indefinite detention, torture, warrantless wiretapping, all have been called justified by Bush and his neocon allies. We have come to accept that the President will do as he pleases, no matter how many object to his policies. And it is that opposition which now dictates one's political orientation. It is no longer about whether you are conservative or liberal. It is about whether you are for or against the neocons and their agenda. But because any opposition will always be characterized as the "liberal" view, people who once considered themselves squarely in the conservative camp have now found themselves being called moderates at best and liberals at worst for expressing this opposition. It's not that their views have changed necessarily, it's just that the policies of the Bush era have shifted the accepted norms so far toward radicalism that it has thrown the scale out of balance. (Side note: Tim F. has a great post about shifting "the window" of acceptable policies)

Thankfully, the neocon dream may be coming to an end now that reality has begun to intrude upon their reverie. And though there will always be those who try to make this dream come true, we must work hard fight it and regain our equilibrium.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Tale of Two Tolls

Consider for the moment the numbers 2,973 and 2,978.

The first represents the widely accepted number of individuals who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. The second is the number of service members killed in Iraq since the US invaded in March of 2003. Yesterday, when the media reported that this latter number had outpaced the former, some on the right were livid at the juxtaposition of what they saw as two completely unrelated tallies.

And indeed they would be unrelated, had it not been for the Bush administration who constantly cited 9/11 and Iraq together so often that they became inexorably linked in the minds of many Americans. They exploited the revenger mentality which still lingers to this day, particularly amongst the troops. Which makes the comparison all the more apt, since it is the troops who are being asked to continue to add to the needless death toll began on that gloomy September morn.

Update: It's been pointed out to me that this post may be read in such a way that it advocates that terrorists or other nations can get a free pass so long as they don't kill more Americans than we are willing to lose in a war. That was not my intention of course. The point was to highlight the needlessness of all who have perished, and continue to do so, for the wrong war.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The X-mas Files

For reasons that should be fairly obvious, this audio file from Skippy has a certain appeal. Have a listen.

Here's wishing you and yours a safe and happy holiday.

- X

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Not So Goode Hate

Last month, right-wing talk show host Dennis Prager whipped up a fake scandal over Congressman-elect Keith Ellison's intention to be sworn in using a Koran come January. Prager has since been reprimanded by the Holocaust Memorial Council of which he is a member but it would seem we have another willing to stir the bigotry pot. And this one's a member of Congress.

Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode (R) has made headlines after sending out a letter to constituents in which he raised fears of an influx of Muslims into the US. He also criticized his soon to be fellow Congressman, in fact Muslims in general, saying that if Americans don't wake up on immigration there will be many more Muslims elected to Congress. Never mind that Ellison isn't an immigrant to begin with but hey when your on a roll, little things like facts just get in the way.

Mr. Ellison, for his part, took it all in stride, a fact for which his to be commended. For no doubt he has already received threats of violence against himself and his family because of these hate-filled comments.

Which makes such episodes all the more appalling. These men must be aware that there are some out there who may read or hear their words and be compelled to act upon them. Should that tragic day ever arrive, which I sincerely hope it does not, we should remember the hate preached by such individuals and hold them accountable for it.

More from The Heretik, Cenk Uygur, NY Times, and a scathing op-ed from WaPo.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Iraq: 'Worth the Investment'

So says Condi, even if the return rate sucks.

Of course that won't stop the Bushies from thinking of expanding our portfolio.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Escalation and the PNAC

With all the talk of a possible "surge" in Iraq and the deployment of more ships to the Gulf as a show of force against Iran, now seems most appropriate to once again remind everyone of who the real policy makers are in the Bush administration.

(An obliging tip of the hat to my brother-in-law, who like many of us, is frightened of what the new year will bring)

(Filed at State of the Day)

Charting the New Way His Way Forward

Bush gave a year end press conference on Wednesday and not surprisingly the New Way Forward in Iraq is going to be his way. And when he's good and ready, he'll tell us the dangerous hypothetical is no longer dangerous nor hypothetical. But not to worry, Bush has learned his lessons. We have a clear set of goals and a strategy for achieving them. So just go shopping and everything will turn out all right in the end.

Christmas is fast approach and with it a grim milestone. If this President has any say in the matter, we can expect many more to come.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I Love a Parade

Dan Froomkin has the Bush Parade Year in Review.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Nomo Rights For You, Mr. Roboto

Religious right in uproar over robo rights.

WASHINGTON (XF) - In the wake of reports from the UK that robots, should they ever become a reality, may be afforded some of the same rights as humans has some on the religious right seething, The Xsociate Files has learned. Particularly troubling says Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, are claims that robots may be allowed to marry.

"I don't really like the idea of robots marrying," Mr. Dobson said, "Unless we create them with male and female parts, much the same way God created Adam and Eve, then I wouldn't have a problem it. But for two unisex robots to marry each other would be unnatural."

Mr. Dobson said that his organization is already lobbying Congress to enact legislation that would prevent rights from being given to robots yet to be created. Outgoing Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum was particularly adamant that Congress act now before the issue became critical.

"We must enact laws now," Mr. Santorum said during a recent luncheon, "Otherwise what is to stop someone from marrying their toaster or their laptop?"

Critics, however, say that the need for such legislation is far from imperative and may in fact be harmful.

"How do you think people will react when they learn the truth about President Bush?" one analyst is quoted as saying.

(Filed at State of the Day)


Opening The Files: 12/20/06

Fixin' to Blow a Fuse

So it would appear that not only are the Bushies thinking of overloading the surge protector but also upping the voltage and adding a few outlets to our already overworked fusebox (not to mention our electric bill). I'm just dreading the day when this sucker finally blows, because all hell is going to break loose.

Will Bunch as a much needed Christmas gift for America. A shame it may already be too late.

Billmon is back from a long hiatus and says that it's looking increasingly likely the Bushies are opting for the "total war" strategy. BooMan says it might be time to choose something (or someone) else.

Josh Marshall wonders if this "surge" would better be described as a "ratchet". Knowing the Bushies, my money's on the latter.

Blue Girl noticed something about the Joint Chiefs that may explain why they don't like the idea of a "surge" in Iraq. Too bad it's not a trait shared with their Commander-in-Chief.

Robert Scheer wonders what they're smoking in the White House. Dubya Doobage perhaps?

And finally, The Rude One tells us what is really "dick"-tating this "surge".

(Cross-referenced at State of the Day)


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Exit...Stage Left

For anyone who grew up during the last half century, the name Hanna-Barbera still brings to mind the joys of being a child. The cartoons produced by the duo of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera literally brought laughter to millions and helped inspire generations of cartoonists and artists. I myself grew up watching reruns of such classics as The Flintstones and Yogi Bear. And though I may have become an adult, my love for cartoons hasn't diminished and indeed probably never will.

Joe Barbera, who passed away yesterday at the age of 95, helped keep the kid in me alive.

Thanks, Joe. You will be missed.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Wanted: "Surge" Protector

A debate is raging over whether President Bush plans a "surge" in Iraq after the new year. I'll leave it to W. Patrick Lang/Ray McGovern, AJ, Brij Khindaria, and Eugene Robinson to explain why this "surge" is a bad idea.

And I wouldn't count on newly sworn SecDef Robert Gates to be the "surge" protector we so desperately need. He's already drank the Kool-Aid.

Update: "Surge" protection from the Joint Chiefs?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Heave Ho, Ho, Ho!

Santa booted from park.

ORLANDO (XF) - The Xsociate Files has learned that after a man impersonating Santa at the Disney theme park in Florida was told by park officials to cease and desist, another man was ejected from the park for a similar offense. Only in this case the man turned out to be the real Kris Kringle.

Park officials have since apologized over the incident, saying that they were only attempting to "preserve the magic of Santa Claus" but the damage has been done. A spokes-elf for the red-suited gift giver has said that all those involved have been moved into the "Naughty" column but due to energy concerns will not be receiving the traditional lump of coal in their stockings this year.

In a related incident, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was fined by the FAA for flying in restricted airspace and confusing pilots attempting to land at LAX.

(Merrily filed at State of the Day)



From the NY Times:
One night in mid-April, the steel door clanked shut on detainee No. 200343 at Camp Cropper, the United States military’s maximum-security detention site in Baghdad.

American guards arrived at the man’s cell periodically over the next several days, shackled his hands and feet, blindfolded him and took him to a padded room for interrogation, the detainee said. After an hour or two, he was returned to his cell, fatigued but unable to sleep.

The fluorescent lights in his cell were never turned off, he said. At most hours, heavy metal or country music blared in the corridor. He said he was rousted at random times without explanation and made to stand in his cell. Even lying down, he said, he was kept from covering his face to block out the light, noise and cold. And when he was released after 97 days he was exhausted, depressed and scared.

Detainee 200343 was among thousands of people who have been held and released by the American military in Iraq, and his account of his ordeal has provided one of the few detailed views of the Pentagon’s detention operations since the abuse scandals at Abu Ghraib. Yet in many respects his case is unusual.

The detainee was Donald Vance, a 29-year-old Navy veteran from Chicago who went to Iraq as a security contractor. He wound up as a whistle-blower, passing information to the F.B.I. about suspicious activities at the Iraqi security firm where he worked, including what he said was possible illegal weapons trading.

But when American soldiers raided the company at his urging, Mr. Vance and another American who worked there were detained as suspects by the military, which was unaware that Mr. Vance was an informer, according to officials and military documents.

Even after it was determined who Mr. Vance was, he was still held because officials said he "posed a threat". Though it would appear the threat he posed was to the Iraqi firm wanting to make a buck via some very nefarious activities.
Mr. Vance went to Iraq in 2004, first to work for a Washington-based company. He later joined a small Baghdad-based security company where, he said, “things started looking weird to me.” He said that the company, which was protecting American reconstruction organizations, had hired guards from a sheik in Basra and that many of them turned out to be members of militias whom the clients did not want around.

Mr. Vance said the company had a growing cache of weapons it was selling to suspicious customers, including a steady flow of officials from the Iraqi Interior Ministry. The ministry had ties to violent militias and death squads. He said he had also witnessed another employee giving American soldiers liquor in exchange for bullets and weapon repairs.

So why was Mr. Vance detained? For the Orwellian reason of associating with the people he was trying to blow the whistle on. Instead of being commended for helping to keep weapons out of the hands of insurgents, this was Mr. Vance's reward:
Mr. Vance said he began seeking help even before his cell door closed for the first time. “They took off my blindfold and earmuffs and told me to stand in a corner, where they cut off the zip ties, and told me to continue looking straight forward and as I’m doing this, I’m asking for an attorney,” he said. “ ‘I want an attorney now,’ I said, and they said, ‘Someone will be here to see you.’ ”

Instead, they were given six-digit ID numbers. The guards shortened Mr. Vance’s into something of a nickname: “343.” And the routine began.

Bread and powdered drink for breakfast and sometimes a piece of fruit. Rice and chicken for lunch and dinner. Their cells had no sinks. The showers were irregular. They got 60 minutes in the recreation yard at night, without other detainees.

Five times in the first week, guards shackled the prisoners’ hands and feet, covered their eyes, placed towels over their heads and put them in wheelchairs to be pushed to a room with a carpeted ceiling and walls. There they were questioned by an array of officials who, they said they were told, represented the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“It’s like boom, boom, boom,” Mr. Ertel said. “They are drilling you. ‘We know you did this, you are part of this gun smuggling thing.’ And I’m saying you have it absolutely way off.”

The two men slept in their 9-by-9-foot cells on concrete slabs, with worn three-inch foam mats. With the fluorescent lights on and the temperature in the 50s, Mr. Vance said, “I paced myself to sleep, walking until I couldn’t anymore. I broke the straps on two pair of flip-flops.”...

“Treating an American citizen in this fashion would have been unimaginable before 9/11,” said Mike Kanovitz, a Chicago lawyer representing Mr. Vance.

Treating anyone, especially an American citizen, like this should always be unimaginable. Sadly under the Bush administration that is no longer the case.

Christmas at War

While I am loathe to clutter up Creature's place with one too many videos from YouTube, the latest from Ava Lowery at Peace Takes Courage warrants an exception.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Tongue of Serpent Still Mouthing Off

Newt Gringrich continues to rail against The First Amendment, without which he wouldn't have to right to rail against The First Amendment (irony much?). He also said that the six Imams booted from their flight last month should have been "arrested and prosecuted for pretending to be terrorists".

No word yet on when Newt will be arrested and prosecuted for pretending to be a patriot.

More from The Heretik, Michael Stickings, and Preemptive Karma.

Mystery of the Burning Six...Solved?

Well it would appear that Michelle Malkin might not have to travel to Iraq to solve the mystery of the Burning Six. Xsociate Associate Matt Ortega has the details.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Worst of the Worst

That was how former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once characterized the men held at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. For years we were told how dangerous these men were. How they were "vicious killers" who would stop at nothing to kill as many Americans as they could, even chewing through their own restraints if necessary. The need to keep them locked up seemed obvious.

But now the AP has found that of the hundreds of men transferred to various other countries, many of them were subsequently set free. How can this be you might ask? How could these countries just let these men go? Don't they know how dangerous they are, as we have been told by our leaders for the past five years?

Or is it more likely that this "worst of the worst" rhetoric was just that: a baseless attempt to demagogue the American public into accepting the establishment of a facility that has since become a blight on this country. No doubt there are some at Gitmo who would wish to see harm come to Americans. But we should not let that change who we are: a nation that stands for justice for all, even for the worst among us.

Life for those still at Gitmo will be getting harder. The warden, Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris, said of these men "They’re all terrorists; they’re all enemy combatants". One wonders if this is how the Admiral thinks of men like Badarzaman Badar, now a free man in Pakistan who said of his time at Guantanamo "I can't wash the three long years of pain, trouble and humiliation from my memory. [..] It is like a cancer in my mind that makes me disturbed every time I think of those terrible days."

If only the same were true for this administration.

More from Jane Hamsher, The Heretik, and Liberty Street.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Opening The Files: 12/17/06

Further into the quagmire

Despite opposition from the American people, the Iraqi people, and even his own generals, The Decider appears to be diggin' in on Iraq. It would seem that his neocon buddies have been able sell him on their final fantasy. And even though the venture is unlikely to win us any hearts and minds anytime soon, it's onward into the quicksand we go.

But don't worry. The Decider's not losing any sleep over it.

David Kurtz dispels a few myths for us. Matthew Yglesias and Atrios chime in as well.

Bob Patterson wonders if Bush's new strategy involves trying to "out crazy the crazies".

Swopa drops the snark for some straight talk about Iraq and the need for change.

Bog Geiger has this week's cartoons.

And finally, Lewis Black schools us on time and how the anticipation of "the moment" is often better then the actual moment. A choice quote: "So I say, really, when you plan to do something, just plan it. Don't do it." Perhaps President Bush should have taken this advice to heart three years ago.

(Filed at State of the Day)


Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Bourne Ultimatum

Matt Damon thinks we should send the Bush twins to Iraq. While I agree with the sentiment, haven't we done enough to the Iraqi people already without subjecting them to the antics of Jenna and Not Jenna?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ironic Headline of the Day:

Border Fence Firm Snared for Hiring Illegal Workers

Malkin and the Mystery of the Burning Six

Michelle Malkin has been one of the most vehement detractors of the so-called "liberal media" for what she perceives as their bias reporting of the war in Iraq. The most recent episode was over an Associated Press piece which alleged that six Sunni men were dowsed with kerosene and burned alive. Immediately the right wing blogs began to piecemeal the details of the incident, never believing such a ghastly event could take place in a land where hundreds of bound and mutilated bodies dumped in the street each day has become the norm. Though no doubt those reports are suspect in their eyes as well.

Now Michelle has accepted the challenge to travel to Iraq to set the record straight on what the wingers have dubbed Jamilgate (one source for the AP story was an Iraqi police captain named Jamil Hussein who the wingers contend does not exist), though the consensus seems to be that she will ultimately chicken now that she will be required to put her money where her mouth is. I agree that it is unlikely she will go. For imagine if she were to learn that the violence in Iraq is actually worse than is being reported (one nugget of the Iraq Study Group report). She would no longer be able to blame the media.

Which is ultimately what this whole escapade is about. It's not about the truth. The truth, or the lives of Iraqis, matter little to people like Malkin. What matters is finding someone else to blame for why their idea, that invading Iraq was the greatest idea evah, was in fact a colossal mistake bordering on, as one senator recently put it, criminal.

Update: Check out Eric Boehlert.

Wanted: Saddam-lite

Jonah Goldberg says that what Iraq really needs is an Iraqi version of recently departed Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to beat some sense into the Iraqi people and set them on the path to shiny happy democracy.

I seem to recall they once had such a hardliner. That is until we removed him for, of all things, being a hardliner.

See Meme and Tailrank for roundups.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Why the rush?

The Decider will not be rushed. He has a lot of deciderating to do about Iraq. It's not good to make rash decisions, see, cause this war we happen to stumble upon some four years ago is complex don't cha know. But rest easy. We have plenty of troops for the New Way Forward By Going Backward To Victory.

And Dick is completely behind him 110%.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

House of Cards, House of Saud

New developments do not bode well for Iraq and indeed the Middle East as a whole. On the heels of the abrupt resignation of the kingdom's ambassador, we learn that the Saudis may well fund the Sunni insurgency as a counterweight to the Iranian backed Shiites should the US withdraw. This ultimatum was delivered to Vice President Cheney when he was summoned to Riyadh last month and may explain why the Bush administration is seriously considering an escalation of the conflict.

A storm is brewing on the horizon. Let's hope it's not too late to change course and avoid it.

Check out analysis from Josh Marshall, Joseph Cannon, and Richard Cranium.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Pony Postponed

So The Decider has decidered to wait until after the new year to reveal his super duper plan to salvage his legacy Iraq.

[Insert obligatory joke about Bush hoping for a pony from Santa here]

Meanwhile, Jack Cafferty lays the smackdown.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Opening The Files: 12/12/06


Yet again I've been scooped on some of the best material by my esteemed colleague. No matter. Still plenty of commentary to choose from on President Bush's attempt to appear receptive to "new ideas" on his New Way Forward Sideshow Extravaganza.

Dan Froomkin has the roundup of MSM reportage on Bush's new title. Media Matters, meanwhile, reports what the media doesn't.

With all the listening that's apparently going on at the White House, let's hope this isn't some of the advice being taken seriously.

Pamela Leavey reports that WaPo commissioned some artists to spice up the cover of the ISG report. Maybe that will get President Bush to do more then just skim through it and pick out the parts he likes.

DBK relates Bush's strategery meetings to that of a swamp draining. Whatever you wanna call, we are neck deep in it and still sinking.

Hilzoy scolds the UnDecider for diddling while Iraq burns. As much as this week "reeked" for President Bush, it has been far worse for far too many others with no end in sight.

Steve Soto says Bush is trying to appear to be an adult without, y'know, actually being an adult.

And finally, Carpetbagger says that despite all the talk of listenerin' and advisorin' , the Bush Bubble remains very much intact.

(Filed at State of the Day)


Ask Again Later

WASHINGTON (XF) - In the wake of reports that the US State Department used the online search engine Google to gather intelligence on Iran, The Xsociate Files has uncovered more unorthodox intelligence gathering methods employed by the Bush administration. The most unusual was the use of a Magic Eight Ball nicknamed "Lil' Cheney" by White House insiders.

According to a source who asked to remain anonymous, the eight ball, emblazoned with the official seal of the President, was present for all foreign policy meetings. Whenever the topic of Iran's nuclear capabilities and ambitions would be raised, President Bush would consult with the eight ball, often asking the same question several times.

When confronted with the allegations, a spokesman for the White House refused to comment on whether a similar method was used for gathering intelligence in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

(Filed at State of the Day)


"I'll be dead when they get it right"

The above quote is how President Bush described his legacy. This probably comes as little comfort to the families of the 2,934 Americans killed thus far in Iraq. (h/t Desi)

As a friend notes, what happens now matters little to President Bush. So perhaps a more important question we should all ask is who will be the last to die while our faux Truman waits for history to absolve him.

Monday, December 11, 2006

War on Terror Ends

No there wasn't some "Mission Accomplished II" ceremony on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln that slipped under the radar of the major news orgs. What I mean is that the Brits have decided that they will expunge the "war on terror" label from their lexicon. As The Guardian reports, our allies across the pond are concerned that the continued use of the thoroughly American, or rather Bush, phrase might do more to further widen the already vast gulf between the British and their Muslim citizenry.

I for one applaud the British for finally seeing the inanity of the phrase which has come to be the driving force behind so much violence in the last five years. Words, as any good intellectual will tell you, are powerful things. They can evoke emotions, both the good and the bad. In the wrong hands, they can even be deadly. And as Iraq War vet Philip Martin notes here, what we call something can profoundly change how one views themselves and their country.

I pray that America will soon wake up and see how the twisted language employed by this administration has so harmed this country and everything it once stood for. Perhaps when that day arrives we will be able to consign "war on terror" to the dustbin of phrases used by a country that, for a time, lost it's way.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Harry Bush Show

So President Bush fancies himself a modern day Truman. Sure he is unpopular now, he probably thinks to himself but so was Harry when he left office and history eventually came to vindicate his presidency. So all Dubya has to do is wait forty or fifty years for the final glorying reviews to come in. And no doubt we will still be in Iraq when they do.

Talk of impeachment has been buzzing through the mainstream blogs as of late, especially since is has become evident that Bush has no intention of changing course. Despite what the ISG recommends and what the American people support, Bush is still The Decider and as far as he is concerned it's full speed ahead with "stay the course" until 2009.

Democrats have shied away from talking about impeachment for obvious political reasons. But at some point it will become abundantly clear to everyone that the only way to affect real change in Washington may be to finally cancel this ill-conceived Truman Show.

More from Steve Gilliard, Carpetbagger, Hilzoy, and BooMan.

(Filed at State of the Day)

The Most Coveted Job

It is a sad reflection on the state of affairs in Iraq that the most sought after job entails adding one more death the thousands already needlessly slaughtered there.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Oily G and the ISG

For the longest time everyone, particularly those in Washington, have been hesitant to admit that a primary reason for the invasion of Iraq was the vast oil fields it possessed. But as the rationales slowly fell away, even President Bush was forced to cite keeping that oil out of the hands of extremists in a desperate attempt to maintain support for our continued presence. But regardless of what the President says, there are still many who refuse to accept that our motive for invasion had less to do with weapons of mass destruction and more with wells of deposited consumables.

The members of the Iraq Study Group, however, have no such qualms about admitting the importance of those WDC's:
While the Bush administration, the media and nearly all the Democrats still refuse to explain the war in Iraq in terms of oil, the ever-pragmatic members of the Iraq Study Group share no such reticence.

Page 1, Chapter 1 of the Iraq Study Group report lays out Iraq's importance to its region, the U.S. and the world with this reminder: "It has the world's second-largest known oil reserves....

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

As the article cited above concludes: "We can thank the Iraq Study Group for making its case publicly. It is now our turn to decide if we wish to spill more blood for oil."

Sadly, as long as the later substance remains more valuable, the former will continue to flow.

See Matthew Rothschild and Tom Hayden for more.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Opening The Files: ISG Edition

I have been nursing a cold the last few days (hence the light posting). So this OTF will just be a simple round up to add to the many insightful reactions to the Iraq Study Group's report already highlighted by my ever vigilant co-blogger Creature.

Check out Dan Froomkin, Marty Kaplan, Josh Marshall, Christy Hardin Smith, The Heretik, Steve Soto, Michael Stickings, Steve M, AJ, Cernig, and elrod.

(Filed at State of the Day)


Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Imagine for a moment that you are sitting at home with your spouse one evening when there is a knock at the door. But before you can even stand up to answer, it is crashed open and dozens of men wearing all black spill into your home. Everything happens in the span of mere seconds. You are forced to the ground, a knee resting heavily on your neck as your hands are wretched behind your back and secured painfully tight with a plastic tie. A black hood is thrown over your face and you are pulled to your feet, led to a destination you do not know. There is a flash of light, but only briefly, as the hood is replaced by a pair of blacked-out goggles and sound proof headphones. There is no light, no sound. Nothing.

Except for the pain. A punch here, a kick there, a hard shove to the ground, this pain is your only link to the outside world. When you are freed from this void, it is only to face men whom you do not know, asking questions you do not know the answers to. Or you are isolated in a cell with no windows, no clocks, no means of telling the passage of time. You are forced to sleep on a steel bunk and the cell is kept at a bone chillingly cold temperature. Your life becomes an endless repetition of the void, the cell, the questions. This becomes your world for three years.

Now try to imagine this isn't America.

More here and here.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Big Brother

Glenn Greenwald has a great post up this morning about the ever expanding collection of data on ordinary Americans. It is a must read, especially since every day we learn of new ways in which the government can, and most likely does, spy on the citizenry of this country.

'Major Adjustment'

Something tells me that when Rummy secretly proposed a "major adjustment" in the administration's strategy in Iraq, he wasn't betting on his resignation being part of that "adjustment".

Reaction roundups here, here, and here.

Sacred Text and the Oath of Office

For the most part, I try to shy away from commenting on religion. I am not particularly religious but I am of the persuasion that whatever religion one chooses to practice is their own business and no one else's. I also think it is wrong to force your beliefs onto others which is why I find the controversy surrounding Congressman-elect Keith Ellison so repugnant.

You see Ellison is a Muslim. He intends to take his oath of office on a Quran rather than a Bible. This didn't sit well with right-wing talk show host Dennis Prager who said that America is a Christian nation and as such, anyone who doesn't swear on the Bible shouldn't be able to serve in Congress. "Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath" said Prager in a column for

Never mind that the Constitution forbids any religious test for holding office or that the issue of a Bible as part of the swearing in ceremony is a rather moot one considering it is mostly for photo-ops, it still has the religious right in a uproar.

Prager is right about one thing though. America does choose a sacred text to which it's public servants swear an oath to. It's called the Constitution. At the end of the day, their willingness to uphold that text should be what really matters.

I'll wait for the paperback version

If Mistakes Were Made, Here's How We Made Them - by Condoleezza Rice.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Taking Sides in the 80% Solution

A couple of weeks ago, before the current brouhaha over whether or not the conflict currently raging in Iraq constitutes a civil war, Laura Rozen broke the story that some in the Bush administration were giving consideration to a strategy whereby we drop the pretense of neutrality and side with the Shiites against the Sunni insurgency.

Rozen confirmed that this "unleash the Shia" option was indeed under consideration as she dissected the Hadley memo leaked to the NY Times. And it would appear this option may be the one the Bush administration is giving considerable weight to:
The Bush administration is deliberating whether to abandon U.S. reconciliation efforts with Sunni insurgents and instead give priority to Shiites and Kurds, who won elections and now dominate the government, according to U.S. officials....

Some insiders call the proposal the "80 percent" solution, a term that makes other parties to the White House policy review cringe. Sunni Arabs make up about 20 percent of Iraq's 26 million people.

It will be interesting to know how this "80 percent" solution will sit with the Saudis considering they have voiced their intention to protect the other "20 percent".

Friday, December 01, 2006

How do you rate on the Terro-Meter?

From the AP:
Without their knowledge, millions of Americans and foreigners crossing U.S. borders in the past four years have been assigned scores generated by U.S. government computers rating the risk that the travelers are terrorists or criminals.

The travelers are not allowed to see or directly challenge these risk assessments, which the government intends to keep on file for 40 years.

The government calls the system critical to national security following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Some privacy advocates call it one of the most intrusive and risky schemes yet mounted in the name of anti-terrorism efforts.

Virtually every person entering and leaving the United States by air, sea or land is scored by the Homeland Security Department's Automated Targeting System, or ATS. The scores are based on ATS' analysis of their travel records and other data, including items such as where they are from, how they paid for tickets, their motor vehicle records, past one-way travel, seating preference and what kind of meal they ordered.

But just like with other anti-terror activities, this one isn't really designed to track terrorists so much as find them.
But Jayson P. Ahern, an assistant commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said the ATS ratings simply allow agents at the border to pick out people not previously identified by law enforcement as potential terrorists or criminals and send them for additional searches and interviews.

Update: Kvatch highlights some rather appalling aspects of this program.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Half Baked Recommendations and Ungraceful Exits

So the Times reports that the Iraq Study Group will recommend a gradual reduction in our troop levels without setting any particular timetable for doing so (or as WaPo reports, maybe they will). Whatever the case, big freakin' whoop. That's been the status quo for the last four years, people. We'd love to drawdown our troop levels in Iraq. But as long as Bush is in charge, that will never happen, as he reiterated yesterday. So the ISG's report is essentially not worth the paper it will be printed on. I hope we didn't spend too much on this "study".

But our Dear Leader is right about one thing, there will be nothing "graceful" about our exit from Iraq. Because when the feces finally hits the air oscillator, the fall of Baghdad will make Saigon look orderly by comparison. And all the US will be able to do is stand on the sidelines and watch the horror we unleashed.

PS: A quick note for Al-Maliki. When George W. Bush professes his complete support that you can clean up the mess he has made, it might be time to clean out your desk and think about that timeshare in Jordan.

More from Scott Rosenburg, reality-based educator, The Heretik, Dan Froomkin, Taylor Marsh, Oliver Willis, Walter Shapiro, Carpetbagger, and Georgia10.

Future Headlines

Bush Orders "American Civil War" Renamed "American Sectarian Violence Conflict of 1861-1865" in Light of Iraq Concerns

Olbermann on Free Speech

Keith has a Special Comment about Newt Gringrich's contention that we should "reexamine" freedom of speech in the war on terror.