Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Little Prick of Slow Bleed

Two weeks ago, newly formed bastion of Republican friendly reportage, The Politico, revealed in an article plans by Rep. Jack Murtha to tie Iraq war funds to troop readiness. The article attributed the phrase 'slow bleed' as how Democrats were describing the plan. And although it turned out to be a complete fallacy, the GOP nonetheless seized on the phrase, using it repeatedly during the legislature's recent debating of the war.

Now John Harris, chief editor of The Politico, has outed himself as the source of the odious terminology. In a sort of mea culpa confession, Harris expresses regret that he handed Murtha's opponents "ammunition in the form of evocative but loaded language." While I applaud Mr. Harris' efforts clear the air and his conscience, his apology is hollowed by his lame excuse of wanting to make the reporting of the plan "a little snappier".

Harris says that his intention when he started The Politico was "to make the work of political journalists more transparent". If he had taken this advice to heart, reported the facts at hand and refrained from making things "a little snappier", he might have been more than just another prick in our already pockmarked discourse.

More at Meme.

On Comments

It has been an unwritten rule here at The Files that I will not tolerate the advocating of violence against anyone in comments left on my site. Sure you can make fun of someone and I will tolerate a certain, though not excessive, amount of profanity. But one thing that I forbid is wishing harm come to anyone, no matter how deserving of scorn that person may be.

Not that such pronouncements will matter to some on the right, who will use any accuse available to try to prove how 'unhinged' and 'hateful' the left truly is. Lately that has taken the form of holding up the worst examples of violent and loathsome comments made to prominent lefty sites as evidence of this.

The practice was again on display after the failed attempt on Vice President Cheney's life yesterday in Afghanistan. The hypocrisy is astounding. We on the left are scolded for failing to denounce every nutjob who leaves a comment on our blogs but no similar effort is ever made by the right to police their own. Yet when we delete such insipid comments, we are accused of destroying evidence of the left's hatred. A win-win tactic if ever there was one.

And this picking and choosing of the worst offenders among the left to defame the group as a whole only points to how desperate the right is to avoid taking responsibility for the hatemongers in their midst. Indeed, if the same measure were applied to some right-wing blogs, one need not go comment trawling to find commentary equally deserving of contempt and ridicule.

More from Glenn, The Gun Toting Liberal, Michael J.W. Stickings, and Ron Chusid.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Olbermann on Rice's Hilter Analogy

While not as somber and reposeful as some of his previous Special Comments, last night's take down of Sec. Rice's assertion that to alter the resolution authorizing the war in Iraq now would be akin to changing the post Hitler resolution for Europe is still worth a viewing, if for no other reason then to watch as Keith struggles to tamp down his laughter. Indeed, the Secretary's avoidance of easily referenced facts is so laughable as to be perfect for FOX's attempt at political satire.


It could happen here

Last week, when right-wing blogs were ballyhooing the news that Iraqi insurgents have taken to adding chlorine gas to increase the deadliness of their car bombs as 'proof' of WMD's there, a different thought entirely came to mind. Namely the ease with which such attacks can be replicated here in the US.

Many may not remember, but chlorine gas was also in the news way back at the start of 2005, albeit an accident involving a derailed tanker. Perhaps it was my proximity to that event that prompted the flashback when I heard that insurgents were using chemicals similar to those which killed nine people and sickened hundreds of others.Now imagine the chaos that would have erupted had this been a deliberate attack. Somehow I doubt we would brush it off with the same nonchalantness as the First Lady.

Update: Go read Shakespeare's Sister.

Supporting Those Who Support the Troops

It would appear that last week's Murtha hit parade was all for naught because Americans aren't buying into the anti-troops meme.

Via Think Progress:
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that Americans strongly back Murtha’s plan to strengthen U.S. forces:

Would you support or oppose Congress trying to block Bush’s plan by creating new rules on troop training and rest time that would limit the number of troops available for duty in Iraq?

Support: 58 percent
Oppose: 39 percent

Unknown: 4 percent

What really makes these results all the more surprising is the wording of the question that was asked. Respondents were not asked whether they simply supported the troops or supported strengthening our armed forces. They were asked specifically whether they supported Congress' attempt to block President Bush's surge plan by limiting the number of battle ready troops and a plurality answered in the affirmative.

Of course what Americans support probably doesn't matter much to the likes of Joe Lieberman, who TP also reports won't allow any Iraq provisions to be added to a Homeland Security bill up for vote soon. Isn't it strange how we are always told that the war in Iraq is part of the larger war on terror, which by extension makes it part of our effort to protect the Homeland (because we're "fighting them over there instead of fighting them over here") yet when Congress attempts to set policy or even simply debate the subject it's considered taboo.

More from Meme (scroll down) and a great post from Georgia10 on what it should mean to "support the troops".

(Filed at State of the Day)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Lieberman: Give Peace Surge a Chance

Sen. Joe Lieberman today penned an oped for the always Republican friendly pages of the Wall Street Journal in which he pleads with his fellow members of Congress to give the surge strategy a chance to work. A few excerpts (with commentary from moi mixed in) below.
Two months into the 110th Congress, Washington has never been more bitterly divided over our mission in Iraq. The Senate and House of Representatives are bracing for parliamentary trench warfare--trapped in an escalating dynamic of division and confrontation that will neither resolve the tough challenges we face in Iraq nor strengthen our nation against its terrorist enemies around the world.

Just with this lede you can already see how Ole Lieby is going to frame the debate.
If we stopped the legislative maneuvering and looked to Baghdad, we would see what the new security strategy actually entails and how dramatically it differs from previous efforts. For the first time in the Iraqi capital, the focus of the U.S. military is not just training indigenous forces or chasing down insurgents, but ensuring basic security--meaning an end, at last, to the large-scale sectarian slaughter and ethnic cleansing that has paralyzed Iraq for the past year.

Makes you wonder whatever happened to that "clear, hold, and build" strategy that Lieberman heralded way back in 2005 doesn't it?
Tamping down this violence is more than a moral imperative. Al Qaeda's stated strategy in Iraq has been to provoke a Sunni-Shiite civil war,...

Funny, that appears to be the Bush administration strategy too. Lieby goes on to contradict himself about how soon we will see whether the surge strategy is working when first he says:
We of course will not know whether this new strategy in Iraq will succeed for some time...

Only to then say toward the end of his screed:
Gen. Petraeus says he will be able to see whether progress is occurring by the end of the summer...

And what of his peers in Congress?
...for many congressional opponents of the war, none of this seems to matter. As the battle of Baghdad just gets underway, they have already made up their minds about America's cause in Iraq, declaring their intention to put an end to the mission before we have had the time to see whether our new plan will work.

There is of course a direct and straightforward way that Congress could end the war, consistent with its authority under the Constitution: by cutting off funds.

Call this the "triple dog dare" approach, since Lieby suggested last week such an outcome could lead him to switch parties and flip control of the Senate to the Republicans. In any event, all he's asking is for another Friedman in the hopes that this battle for Baghdad will be the one that sticks.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Redirection or Misdirection?

Late yesterday, word leaked out of a forthcoming article by Sy Hersh in the New Yorker in which he reports that the Bush administration has advanced their planning for possible attacks on Iran. The article is now online and offers far more.

Just a taste:

- The Bush administration, under the direction of a Cheney lead cabal of neocons, has come to consider Iran to be a greater threat than Sunni radicals and has shifted their regional strategy to one that plays up the Sunni vs Shiite divide.

- In order to foment this strategy of pitting the Sunnis in the region against the Shiites of Iran, the US has cast a blind eye to support by countries like Saudi Arabia of radical fundamentalist groups, some with sympathies toward Al-Qaeda.

- The strategy has hindered our efforts in Iraq because of the close ties that Iran has garnered with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government.

Head over to the link for more.

Update: Hersh was on CNN today to talk about his article and expanded on his claim that the Bush administration has been channeling funds to radical jihadist groups. Video is here, more buzz here.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Osama Who?

One of the constant refrains we have heard over the years from supporters of the war in Iraq is that advocating policies or actions that are counter to the White House's would "embolden the enemy". This phrase was on display most recently during the Congressional debate on the President's surge plan, albeit it took the more mundane form of "send a message". It rests on the premise that by our actions and words, we signal to the enemy (whoever that happens to be at that moment) that America's resolve in confronting them is faltering.

If that is the case, can someone please explain to me how statements such as this do not "send a message"?
The Army's highest-ranking officer said Friday that he was unsure whether the U.S. military would capture or kill Osama bin Laden, adding, "I don't know that it's all that important, frankly."

"So we get him, and then what?" asked Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the outgoing Army chief of staff, at a Rotary Club of Fort Worth luncheon. "There's a temporary feeling of goodness, but in the long run, we may make him bigger than he is today.

"He's hiding, and he knows we're looking for him. We know he's not particularly effective. I'm not sure there's that great of a return" on capturing or killing bin Laden.

"We know he's not particularly effective". Uh, hello? September 11th ring a bell? Or is the murder of nearly 3,000 people merely chump change? And your not sure there's that great of a return? How's about the knowledge that the mastermind behind one of the worst acts of terrorism to ever hit US soil is no longer able plot, plan and send forth more of his followers to carry out a similar or, heaven forbid, far worse attack? That's not a good enough incentive for you General?

Then again, having him around to "make him bigger then he is today" has been all the incentive the administration ever needed.

More from Meme.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Underestimated Tolls

I know I am as guilty as anyone of only focusing on the American losses in the war in Iraq. But this article only hits home how ashamed we should be of ourselves for letting it happen and allowing it to continue.

Some notable highlights, or low points if you prefer (emphasis mine):
Americans are keenly aware of how many U.S. forces have lost their lives in Iraq, according to a new AP-Ipsos poll. But they woefully underestimate the number of Iraqi civilians who have been killed...

Christopher Gelpi, a Duke University political scientist who tracks public opinion on war casualties, said a better understanding of the Iraqi death toll probably wouldn't change already negative public attitudes toward the war much. People in democracies generally don't shy away from inflicting civilian casualties, he said, and they may be even more tolerant of them in situations such as Iraq, where many of the civilian deaths are caused by other Iraqis.

"You have to look at who's doing the killing," said Neal Crawford, a restaurant manager in Suttons Bay, Mich., who guessed that about 10,000 Iraqis had been killed. "If these people are dying because a roadside bomb goes off or if there's an insurgent attack in a marketplace, it's an unfortunate circumstance of war — people die."

While the human cost of this war can be tallied, what can never be measured is the moral toll this war has taken on our society.

Update: More from Kathy.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Opening The Files: 02/24/07

One Percent Speak

The Cheney Doctrine was in full force this week in that if there is a one percent change that anyone will take what the Vice President says seriously, he'll continue to expel his rhetoric. The Dark One first emerged from his undisclosed location to signal six more weeks of cognitive dissonance and condemnation, proclaiming that the British pullout from Iraq was a sign of progress and that the Democrats are still Osama lovin' terr'st appeasers. By the way Dick, where is Ole OBL these days? Oh, yea, that's right.

Cheney next appeared down under, still professing his criticisms, however, this time claiming he wasn't trying to impugn the patriotism of the Democratic leadership. He simply wants to hold them accountable for the consequences of their policies. Yes, Mr. Unaccountable had the audacity to actually say that. Oy.

Josh Marshall thinks that instead of validating Cheney's feeling of superiority by complaining, what the Dems should do is call out how comedic his rhetoric has been and still is. Some are already taking that advice to heart.

BooMan says Cheney is still lying. So what else is new?

Richard Blair reports of a dual withdrawal while John Nichols has news on the latest front in the war.

RJ Eskow has a new game for everyone to play.

The Veep says that the US wants to return from Iraq "with honor". Here is Scarecrow on Cheney's concept of it.

Carpetbagger, whose blog turned four the other day, says that Cheney appears to be contradicting a former Secretary of Defense: himself.

And finally, MJS and an ode to Dick (Cheney that is. Get your mind outta the gutter).

(Filed at State of the Day)


Friday, February 23, 2007

In a Bind

The blogs are buzzing this morning over what steps the Democrats will take toward ending the war in Iraq. WaPo reports that while Jack Murtha's plan to tie funding to troop readiness is losing favor with Dems in the House, the Senate Dems are looking to revoke the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force and draft one that would see most of our combat forces withdrawn by March 2008.

I favor the Murtha approach for reasons I detailed here. But that is not to say the Senate's idea should be dismissed out of hand. It it the opinion of many bloggers that one of the first steps toward ending our involvement in Iraq is to address the authorization for the war. Some also feel that doing so would curtail the President with regards to potential action against Iran for that country's supposed meddling.

Regardless of how one feels about which of these avenues is the better approach, it is heartening to at least see the Congress finally willing to ask the tough questions. Let us hope they remain just as determined to find the answers.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Progress for thee, but not for we

I had intended to refrain from blogging about the news that the British are pulling out of Iraq given the frequency with which we have heard such claims before, but this time it looks to be the real deal. And right on cue, we have Dick "Last Throes" Cheney spinning the Brits bugging out as a sign of progress but Democratic plans to ensure troops being surged in the opposite direction are properly trained and equipped (not a bad idea after what we learned this morning) would 'validate Al-Qaeda'.

Call me impertinent but I'd say this administration has done far more to 'validate Al-Qaeda' then the Democrats ever could.

More from Meme, Michael J.W. Stickings, John Nichols, and Dan Froomkin.

Update: Hunter has the last word.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Denounce Extremists, Then We'll Talk

So blogs are the reason that the political discourse in this country has become so 'hateful' and 'polarized'. Yes, because lord knows we are the ones responsible for repeatedly booking pundits and bloggers who advocate such 'non-hateful' causes as interning whole groups of individuals based solely on their ethnicity or the killing of civilian scientists.

Only when the mainstream media chooses to denounce extremist points of view no matter which side of the blogosphere they may come from will I take serious their demands for more civil political discourse

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

George, You're No George

It has become maddening to watch the Bushies fall all over themselves to try to come up with new ways to justify their continued warmongering and lawlessness. First we were told that the war on terror was to be the ideological struggle of the 21st century, like nothing this country had ever faced before. Or maybe we had, since it was then supposed to be like the Cold War, a decades long struggle to stop the spread of Islamofascism. After that it was like WWII and Korea, a struggle to stop Islamists from toppling regime after regime in a domino effect that would eventually find its way to our shores. Now its like the Revolutionary War. We are suppose to believe that the threat of terrorism is such that it can literally end liberty and freedom in this country.

Of course to compare our circumstances to those faced by George Washington and our founders is so disingenuous as to be repugnant. But that is how Bush sees himself. Fighting to maintain liberty and freedom just like the first George W. did. Too bad the current one has done more to tarnish the image of our nation as one founded on the rule of law and respect for human rights. And given we know how Washington felt about such matters, I doubt he would take kindly to his image being used to burnish the current fuckup-in-chief's misadventures.

Check out Scott Horton, Wonkette, BuzzFlash, The Heretik, Mary, Michael J.W. Stickings and more to be had at Meme.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Opening The Files: 02/19/07

The Murtha Malign

The hit jobs against Jack Murtha and the Democrats continue unabated. On top of WaPo's disapproval of the congressman's plan to increase troop readiness comes this scathing editorial from Investor's Business Daily which claims the plan "shamelessly seeks to defund and defeat U.S. troops on the battlefield and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory." Brit Hume got in on the Murtha maligning by questioning his senility.

On a related subject, Jeff Jacoby had an op-ed in the Boston Globe in which he tries to point out the supposed irreconcilability of supporting the troops but opposing the war. He cites as an example of this dichotomy "No one who applauds firefighters for their courage and education wants a four-alarm blaze to burn out of control." Of course he fails to point out that the Fire Chief was the one who started this "blaze" in the first place.

Kevin Hayden thinks he knows the real reason behind the Investor's rant. And it has little to do with stale bromides about "victory".

Robert Farley wonders why it is that those who throw out accusations of treason never seem to follow them through to their logical conclusion. Maybe they're just in it for the win, so sez Blue Texan.

Libby Spencer on the unparalleled inanity.

Maha has a long response to Jacoby's contention that you can't be for the troops but against the war. Kathy links approvingly to Maha and brings up some good points of her own.

Yes, BooMan, you can be offended. I know I am.

And finally, BarbinMD helpfully chronicles some of the smears, what Murtha is actually proposing and why it has opponents in a snit.

Update: What Arianna said.

(Filed at State of the Day)


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Supporting The Troops

Now that the GOP has effectively killed a non-binding resolution condemning Bush's war, they and their compatriots in the mainstream media and right wing blogs are setting their sights on the next attempts to end this debacle of a war. Some of the commentary I've read say that Jack Murtha's plan to increase the readiness of our armed forces amounts to a "stab in the back". Yes, because nothing says "stab in the back" like ensuring you have the proper training and equipment needed to fight a war while on an endless series of deployments.

And for those who return home battered, bruised and shattered because requiring such things is considered a "stab in the back", this is what they have to look forward to.
Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

This is the world of Building 18, not the kind of place where Duncan expected to recover when he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq last February with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, nearly dead from blood loss. But the old lodge, just outside the gates of the hospital and five miles up the road from the White House, has housed hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More outrage via.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Binds of Binding Resolutions

Today the Senate is set to failed to second the House's rebuke of President Bush's surge plan and suffered a repeat of the filibuster that killed their debate last week.

But while the Senate may waffle over whether or not to scold Bush over his Iraq strategy, there are some who are looking beyond the non-binding resolutions toward implementing something with a little more bite.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) yesterday linked her support for President Bush's war-funding request to strict standards of resting, training and equipping combat forces, a move that could curtail troop deployments and alter the course of U.S. involvement in Iraq...

Congressional Democrats signaled a willingness to directly challenge and curtail Bush's warmaking powers, a move that will almost certainly spark a legal or constitutional confrontation. Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), a Pelosi ally, is rewriting the president's spending request to limit Bush's options in prosecuting the war, and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he will seek to repeal the 2002 congressional authorization for Bush to wage war in Iraq and substitute legislation that would narrow the mission of troops there and begin to bring some home.

Biden's approach of rescinding the 2002 AUMF is rather laughable since even he points out that the resolution itself is irrelevant to the current situation. One way to tell that Jack Murtha's approach has the GOP worried is because it is already being decried as the "slow bleed" strategy. A rather inappropriate description given the hemorrhaging our armed forces are suffering under the current strategy, a problem which a surge is only likely to exacerbate.

Murtha's plan calls for attaching certain conditions to the upcoming supplemental spending bills, some of which include:

1. Setting a high standard for training and equipping of troops being sent to the front lines.
2. Limiting the number of deployments per soldier.
3. Mandating at least one year's downtime between such deployments.

There are many things to like about this approach. For starters, it forces Republicans to put their votes where their "support the troops" mouths are. Because the provisions are to be attached to bills to pay for the war, the GOP is unlikely to kill the entire bill (nor is the President likely to veto it). And if they try to kill the provisions themselves, they risk sending the message that they don't care how unprepared, under equipped and over deployed our forces are.

Of course this approach is not without risks for the Democrats. But with a public that is far ahead of Congress on the issue of our involvement in Iraq, I suspect Americans will be far more forgiving of Democrats if they were to offer up something more binding.

More from McJoan and BooMan.

Update: Still more from Michael J.W. Stickings, The Talking Dog, Nicholas Rivera, Shaun Mullen, and Hilzoy.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Master Debaters

Now that the House has passed a non-binding resolution condemning President Bush's decision to send additional forces to Iraq, it might be a good idea to examine the truly extraordinary juncture at which we find ourselves. After four long years, we are finally having a serious debate about the war and how best to proceed. And we are having it despite the best efforts of the GOP to stifle and/or change the subject.

Some notable highlights:

- Rep. Todd Akin cited the Alamo for why we should support the surge, which in retrospect probably wasn't the best historical parallel given the outcome of that battle.

- Rep. Virgil Goode, as to be expected, flogged the treat posed by radical Muslims who he claims would like nothing more then to see "In Muhammad We Trust" stamped on our currency.

- Rep. Don Young quoted Abraham Lincoln who said that any Congressmen who does anything to demoralize the military during wartime are traitors. Sounds pretty damning. Too bad Lincoln never said it.

- Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite channeled Larry The Cable Guy. Insert gratuitous joke about Ted Kennedy channeling Ron White's liver here.

While some may say this vote is all for naught because it lacks teeth (indeed a majority of Americans would like to see the Congress go further in ending the war), it is nonetheless important because of the precedent it sets. No longer will Congress simply be a rubber stamp for the President's dictates. Instead, it will be the deliberative body that our Founding Fathers knew was important to our system of checks and balances.

Update: More from Cernig, Michael Froomkin, John Nichols, Ari Berman, and BarbinMD.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Gut Check

From ABC's Political Radar:
ABC News' Teddy Davis Reports: In the forthcoming issue of Texas Monthly, former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd writes that President Bush's "gut-level bond" with the American people "may be lost" and that "wholesale change" is needed in Iraq.

Once again we are treated to references to the President's "gut". Can we please stop talking about policy decisions in terms of gastrointestinal determination and instead discuss serious use of an organ further north?

More from Carpetbagger.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Where in the world is Moqtada al-Sadr?

In honor of the "he's there, no he's not, well yea he is" regarding al-Sadr's whereabouts.

Bonus if you spot the other famous enemy of convenience for the Bush administration.

(Filed at State of the Day)


Opening The Files: Bush Presser Edition

Chewing the Qud.

As everyone I'm sure is aware by now, President Bush held a press conference yesterday. While many things were discussed during the hour long session, the topic that loomed large over the proceedings were allegations the administration has made against Iran. When asked about the accuracy of such statements, the President emphatically proclaimed that he knows "with certainty" that the Quds (or Kuts as he called them) force of the Iranian government is supplying sophisticated IED's that are being used against our troops. He said it was preposterous to suggest that the intelligence alleging this was wrong or somehow being fabricated. I mean, come on, its not like they have a history of making up intelligence assessments or anything.

But he also seemed to contradict the intelligence briefing from last Sunday that alleged the orders came from the "highest levels" of the Iranian government. A few knowledgeable bloggers have pointed out this whole "who gave the orders" issue is really just to dodge the more important issue of where the weapons are going (an issue they would probably rather not raise given the likely recipients). But realize this is just how this administration operates. They intend to muddy the debate, just as they did in the run up to war with Iraq. And make no mistake, war with Iran is their ultimate aim, protests to the contrary notwithstanding.

Bush was also asked about his assessment of whether or not a civil war is raging in Iraq to which he proclaimed his lack of clarity on the subject was due to his occupy of a beautiful mind house.

Commissar has the details of the next offensive to crack down on governments supplying Iraqi's with arms.

I think I know why CNN continued to catapult the propaganda about "high level" involvement even after the White House backed off the claim. They've apparently been reading too much Needlenose.

The Heretik says to expect a lot of cud chewing or rather, quds chewing.

Larry Johnson says that like any good propagandist, the Bushies started with a kernel of truth. Too bad it is the seed for a crop we would rather not see reaped.

Tim Grieve gives Dubya a quick geography lesson.

Jill on what Bush really meant by "protect the troops".

And finally, Robert Dreyfuss says that Bush is like the Wizard of Oz, pulling levers and switches in a desperate attempt to fool his audience. Unfortunately for him, that curtain was pulled back a long time ago.

(Filed at State of the Day)


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sadr off to Tehran

ABC News reports that anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has fled to Tehran. Predictably the right wing blogs are ballyhooing this as a sign that Bush's "surge" is working. That may well be true but regardless, this story just doesn't pass the smell test for me. I wonder how much it is simply part of the larger narrative about Iran that the Bush administration has been trying to push. Consider that when talk of a "surge" was first floated, many felt it was in response to the growing threat posed by al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia. Now we are told that not only is Iran supplying these militias with bombs and weapons being used against US forces but are also "harboring" a man who Newsweek once called "The Most Dangerous Man in Iraq".

More from Michael J.W. Stickings, John in DC, and Steve Soto.

Update: Not surprisingly, al-Sadr's people are denying he fled the country.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Osama Team Hunger Force

This post from Oliver Willis inspired this little mad-lib.

My name iz...
The mic-rula,
The old schoolah,
Ya wanna trip? I'll bring it to ya.
Ayman and I'm on top, Rock you like a cop
Omar you up next with your knock-knock.
Omar make the money, see.
Omar get the cherries, G.
Hiding in my cave, makin' lots of waves.
Fear at my fingers and my toes and I'm a Terr'st

uh, check-check it, yeah

'Cuz we are Osama Team,
make Jihadi's wanna blow! and the girlies wanna scream
'Cuz we are Osama Team,
make Jihadi's wanna blow! and the girlies wanna scream

Osama Team Hunger Force.
Number 1 in the caliphate, G

Opening The Files: 02/13/07

Penetrating the Propaganda.

On Sunday, the Bushies added to the list of acronyms our troops face in Iraq. In an anonymous PowerPoint presentation (pdf), briefers attempted to lay out their case that Iran was behind the so-called "explosively formed penetrators" or EFP's causing mass causalities amongst coalition forces. To paraphrase one astute blogger, the presentation made Colin Powell's UN speech look credible by comparison.

And credibility is of course a real problem for the Bushies. America is once bitten, twice shy when it comes to believing anything the administration says, especially when it's evidence that could lead to more war. It doesn't exactly help when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs refuses to endorse assertions that Iran's government is behind the arms shipments. But, hey, not to worry. If this "Iran is the real problem" campaign doesn't work out, there's always the Gulf of Tonkin approach.

Something else to ponder about this whole Iranian EFP's meme: at same we are told about how deadly these devices have been to our forces, we also learn our troops still lack the proper armor to protect against such threats. If, as the PowerPoint alleges, these types of weapons have been around since 2004, why are our troops still unprotected from them? And why are we only hearing about these allegations in earnest now?

Patrick Cockburn says that the administration wishes us to believe that the Iraqi's were so technologically advanced just a few years ago that they could produce WMD but now they lack the skills needed to build a weapon that has been around in some form or another for nearly a century?

Libby Spencer thinks that maybe military planners should read some fantasy fiction. Certainly they want us to buy their fairy tales.

AJ is unconvinced the Bushies will attack Iran. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't still push back against the stupidity.

Tim Grieve notes how stories from "anonymous sources" use to be resigned to the inner folds of printed media.

Josh Marshall on some of the fundamental questions that still aren't being asked.

And finally, Glenn Greenwald, in one of his last posts before moving to his new home, wonders if we are giving Democrats an undue pass on ending the war in Iraq.

Elsewhere in the 'tubes...

Following up on my previous post about the influence that the show "24" is having on our anti-terrorism efforts, some big names in the blogosphere are also weighing in on the controversy. Check out Will Bunch, Digby, Christy, Carpetbagger, Kevin Drum, and Ezra Klein.

(Filed at State of the Day)


Monday, February 12, 2007

Waiting For a Tonkin in the Persian Gulf

From Newsweek (via Think Progress):
At least one former White House official contends that some Bush advisers secretly want an excuse to attack Iran. “They intend to be as provocative as possible and make the Iranians do something [America] would be forced to retaliate for,” says Hillary Mann, the administration’s former National Security Council director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs. …

A second Navy carrier group is steaming toward the Persian Gulf, and NEWSWEEK has learned that a third carrier will likely follow. Iran shot off a few missiles in those same tense waters last week, in a highly publicized test. With Americans and Iranians jousting on the chaotic battleground of Iraq, the chances of a small incident’s spiraling into a crisis are higher than they’ve been in years. (emphasis in original)

It should be evident by now that despite all claims to the contrary, the Bush administration has already made the decision to go to war with Iran and is merely waiting for an excuse to do so. This media blitz we have been witnessing is an effort to cement the image of Iran as public enemy #1 in the eyes of Americans and make them more accepting when the missiles start to fly.

More here.

Update: Paul Krugman on this ill-advised sequel.

From WMD's to IED's

The Bushies rolled out their "dossier" yesterday alleging that some of the most deadly improvised explosive devices being used against US forces in Iraq came courtesy of the Iranian government. I'll leave it to the esteemed Cernig to debunk those talking points.

Still, many are curious as to why the three officials who gave the Sunday briefing in Baghdad refused to be identified by name. We are told this information is so vitally important, yet it was delayed for several weeks and when it finally is revealed, no one is willing to attach their names to it? Looks like someone is afraid of pulling a Tenet.

Of course a little thing like credibility problems won't stop the Bushies, aided by an ever helpful media, from catapulting the propaganda.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

To-Do List

Thirty years on and still pretty much the same.

The Influence of "24"

FOX's hit show "24" is but one of the many shows which cashed in on the post-9/11 fear of terrorism. Indeed, one could say that the show's success can be attributed to the desire of many Americans to see easily recognizable evidence that we are "winning" against those who would do us harm. Because such evidence is often few and far between in the real war on terror, the exploits of Jack Bauer helps to fill that void.

But it's not without its price. Because in an effort to keep their ratings high, FOX has continually pushed the envelope. This is especially true on the issue of torture, of which the show's lead has become a predictable recidivist. And while such scenes may make for good TV drama, they are also having a negative influence on those tasked with conducting the war on terror.
The grossly graphic torture scenes in Fox's highly rated series "24" are encouraging abuses in Iraq, a brigadier general and three top military and FBI interrogators claim.

The four flew to Los Angeles in November to meet with the staff of the show. They said it is hurting efforts to train recruits in effective interrogation techniques and is damaging the image of the U.S. around the world, according The New Yorker.

"I'd like them to stop," Army Brig. Gen. Patrick Finnegan, dean of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, told the magazine.

Finnegan and others told the show's creative team that the torture depicted in "24" never works in real life, and by airing such scenes, they're encouraging military personnel to act illegally.

"People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they've just seen," said Tony Lagouranis, who was a U.S. Army interrogator in Iraq and attended the meeting.

"The kids see it, and say, 'If torture is wrong, what about '24'?" Finnegan said.

Those who support a "Whatever it takes" approach to combating terrorism often point to the show as an example of how effective such a stance can be. Leaving aside for the moment that "24" is FICTION, another problem with such invocations is the omniscience enjoyed by the audience.

More often than not, the audience is already aware of the guilt or innocence of the person being subjected to torture. We get to see that person as they oversaw the construction of a bomb or the training of suicide bombers. Such omniscience lessens ones aversion to torture because in the eyes of the audience, the person being tortured is clearly guilty and therefore deserving of the punishment.

But real life does not work that way. Interrogators have no way of knowing if the person being questioned has the knowledge they seek or is even guilty of the crimes to which they are accused. And because of what is shown on shows like "24", it only makes it more likely that tactics that are not only ineffective but hurt our standing in the world will be employed.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Pretty Good

So we've gone from "slam dunk" to "pretty good" to describe intelligence which may eventually be used to justify the next war, this time with Iran. Given this administration's track record with intelligence (see previous post), taking such claims with a copious amount of salt would be warranted.

And as the need to find a scapegoat for their debacle in Iraq becomes ever more paramount, look for the Bushies to lower the bar for war further from "pretty good" to just plain "good enough".

More from Lindsay and Cernig.

Update: While the administration has been focusing mainly on the IED angle as part of their evidence against Iran (with help from the usual suspects), another angle the Bushies might try to push is on some pretty wobbly legs.

From WaPo:
Last week, the CIA sent an urgent report to President Bush's National Security Council: Iranian authorities had arrested two al-Qaeda operatives traveling through Iran on their way from Pakistan to Iraq. The suspects were caught along a well-worn, if little-noticed, route for militants determined to fight U.S. troops on Iraqi soil, according to a senior intelligence official.

The arrests were presented to Bush's senior policy advisers as evidence that Iran appears committed to stopping al-Qaeda foot traffic across its borders, the intelligence official said. That assessment comes at a time when the Bush administration, in an effort to push for further U.N. sanctions on the Islamic republic, is preparing to publicly accuse Tehran of cooperating with and harboring al-Qaeda suspects.

Of course the administration says these arrests prove nothing. No doubt some would contend they are yet more proof that the Mullahs in Tehran are in cahoots with the Sunni terrorists of Al-Qaeda.
"We are not convinced that the Iranians have been honest or open about the level or degree of al-Qaeda presence in their midst," said one Bush adviser who was instrumental in coming up with a more confrontational U.S. approach to Iran. "They have not made proper accounting with respect to U.N. resolutions, have not been clear about who is in detention and have not been clear as to what is happening to individuals who might be in custody."

Yes, because only a country with something to hide would hold people in secret.

Friday, February 09, 2007

OSP: Office of Special Propaganda

This may seem like one of those things that should be filed under "D" for Duh!" but turns out all those claims by the administration of a "link" between Saddam and Al-Qaeda was just such so much propaganda peddled to help sell the war.

From WaPo*:
Intelligence provided by former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith to buttress the White House case for invading Iraq included "reporting of dubious quality or reliability" that supported the political views of senior administration officials rather than the conclusions of the intelligence community, according to a report by the Pentagon's inspector general.

Feith's office "was predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda," according to portions of the report, released yesterday by Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.). The inspector general described Feith's activities as "an alternative intelligence assessment process."

An unclassified summary of the full document is scheduled for release today in a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which Levin chairs. In that summary, a copy of which was obtained from another source by The Washington Post, the inspector general concluded that Feith's assessment in 2002 that Iraq and al-Qaeda had a "mature symbiotic relationship" was not fully supported by available intelligence but was nonetheless used by policymakers.

See Meme for more.

* WaPo submitted a major correction to the article quoted above. I say major because all the inflammatory quotes of Feith's office producing intelligence that was of "dubious quality or reliability" and "predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda" came from a 2004 report from Sen. Levin and not the Inspector General's report.

The IG's report did say that the OSP had "developed, produced, and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al Qaida relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers." Not quite as damning as WaPo first reported but nonetheless revealing given we now know which assessments the administration chose to go with.

Opening The Files: 02/09/07

Crossing Over with John Edwards.

Well the talk of the 'tubes the last couple of days has been the faux brouhaha over two recent hires to the John Edwards presidential campaign. It started out with Michelle Malkin noting what a potty-mouth (or fingers rather) Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon has. With the addition of Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare's Sister, who also occasionally uses some rather colorful language, Catholic League president Bill Donohue got in on the act. He accused Edwards of hiring "anti-Catholic vulgar trash-talking bigots." Speaking of bigots.

And you can tell this whole episode is so much bullshit (oops, so much for me getting hired for any campaigns anytime soon) because of the lack of any equal scrutiny of other candidate's staff hirings. Initial rumors claimed that Melissa and Amanda got the axe but Edwards, via a rather appropriate venue, killed the got fired gossip and said he would give his new hires a "fair shake" (was that a pun on Melissa's account?)

It was good to see Edwards standing up to the smear-o-sphere, though for some, the fact that he took so long to defend his staff only gave more validity to the smear. It will no doubt only encourage the likes of Malkin and Donohue to keep up with their political hit jobs as the election draws ever nearer.

There is literally a cacophony of excellent posts being generated by this, far to numerous to link here. Thankfully, Meme always comes through with a roundup of some of the best in the blogs. Be sure to check out Ian Welsh, Tristero, and John Dickerson too.

Charge of the Dike Brigade.

Rep. Gary Ackerman noted the aversion the military has toward gay and lesbian members, saying that if the terrorists were smart "they’d get a platoon of lesbians to chase us out of Baghdad". Perhaps the Congressman misinterpreted the demand for more "cunning linguists".

(Filed at State of the Day)


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

No Taxation Without Terrorization

Jihadists upset over war tax debate.

WASHINGTON (XF) - A suggestion by Sen. Joe Lieberman that the US should consider a "war on terrorism tax" to help fund the war in Iraq has prompted backlash from an unlikely source, The Xsociate Files has learned. Al-Qaeda's number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has released an audiotape railing against the idea, citing a lack of representation in Congress or the ability to lobby its members on behave of terrorist organizations who would be most affected by the proposed tariff.

Zawahriri also expressed worries that a tax might increase pressure on the administration to end US involvement in Iraq.

"If the Americans learned the true cost of fighting, they might wish to put an end to the war. This is definitely one area in where we agree with President Bush that Americans should not have to sacrifice," Zawahriri is quoted as saying.

(Filed at State of the Day)


Chipmunks and Shallow Pools

The Bush administration tries to work on their image.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Iraq: That's (Un)Debatable

So once again the GOP (and wannabe Joe Lieberman) prove where their loyalties ultimately lie. They successfully blocked a debate on the Iraq war yesterday which isn't really news. As we have seen time and again, no matter how much they may bloviate about holding the administration accountable for their mistakes (I'm looking at you Hagel), when it comes crunch time they back down like the obedient lagdogs they are.

If the GOP can't even stomach a debate on a non-binding resolution on Iraq, imagine how gutless they will be to stop the next misadventure on Bush's agenda.

Update: While debate on Iraq may have stalled in the Senate, the House is set to give it a try.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Opening The Files: 02/05/07

(Adapted from a previous post)

The Phantom Menaces

War and Terror were the main accompaniments of the Symphony of Scare last week. Boston thwarted an invasion by the dreaded Mooninite menace at the same time we were bombarded with warnings of the equally fictional Iranian menace in Iraq.

But still the band played on.

The drumbeat for war started early. Reports that Iran was meddling in Iraq's affairs came from the usual suspects. We were told of incidents far too sophisticated for the Iranians to not be involved and evidence that Iranian-made weapons are in the hands of militias in a region that is probably awash with such weapons. And even though President Bush denied the plan for Iran is invasion, there still leaves the possibility that rising tensions could trigger an accidental war.

Then there was the Boston scare-a-thon touched off by LED promos for Cartoon Network that didn't seem to bother the other ten cities the devices were placed in. But I guess you can't blame Bostonians for being overly cautious. LED does sound alot like IED after all.

Josh Marshall thinks the preeminent question vis-a-vis war with Iran should be: is it in our best interest? Unfortunately, he also notes that President Bush may not share those interests. Sean-Paul Kelley and The Anonymous Liberal also weigh in on our approaching the 'edge'.

Jeff Huber on how the media is once again in the propaganda business.

Pamela Leavy says that with the Bush administration, there are no such things as "accidental war".

Cernig took time out from his self imposed hiatus to comment on the administration's credibility problem.

Robert Parry says the clock in ticking. Let's hope we can hit the snooze button in time.

Larry Johnson on the little diddy coming from the White House that the Bushies hope everyone will soon be humming.

The General, meanwhile, noticed Iran's latest link to terrorism.

And finally, Ed Naha, in his own inimitable style, examines the cartoonish saber-rattling that really just isn't that funny.

(Refiled at State of the Day)


The Long Shadow

As the perjury trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has played out, it has shed some light on just how much power and influence the Office of the Vice President has accumulated under the current occupant. For an interesting discussion of what some are calling the establishment of a "Fourth Branch", see Meme.

Bonus snark from Kvatch.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

How Do You Say 'Red Herring' in Farsi?

Seems the Iranian distraction is working.

This article by James Fallows touched off a debate in the blogs yesterday. In the piece, Fallows argues that while the debate on what to do about Iraq is complex, Congress still has a chance to put its foot down with regards to Iran. Matthew Yglesias made a similar argument the other day. However, some where not happy that Fallows and Yglesias were suggesting that Iraq should be put on the backburner. Big Tent Democrat and McJoan lay out their case that ending the Iraq war should remain the primary focus because it would deprive the Bush administration a casus belli for war with Iran. But others noted the history this administration has with ignoring those who don't agree with their predetermined agendas.

So is Iran a red herring? Are we arguing just for the halibut?

Or is it more likely we are just plain Moby Dicked?

More from New Donkey, Cernig and JB.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

On the Iraq NIE

Well they finally released the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq that has been promised would be forthcoming for nigh on a year. And it's no surprise the administration fought tooth and nail to keep it from seeing daylight. Because even just the nine pages (pdf) declassified for public consumption does a pretty good job of refuting just about everything the administration has been saying about the war. Among some of its key findings:

- The "surge" of US troops into Iraq is unlikely to work because the chances of an expedited political reconciliation are nil given the deep-seeded sectarian nature of the participants involved. But in Bushworld, the "surge" is still the best plan evah.

- Though it notes that the complexity of the conflict makes it difficult to characterize it as a "civil war", it nonetheless applies that label to key elements of the conflict. Bushworld: nope, no civil war here.

- It downplays the role of Iran in fomenting violence, which explains why the release of the so-called "evidence" that Iran is meddling in Iraq was put on hold. Even our allies across the pond aren't jumping on the "blame Iran" bandwagon. No need to worry though, because the Bushies assure us they aren't planning for war with Iran.

Fool me once indeed.

As always, Meme has the roundup of analyses. See also Stirling Newberry.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Standby For A Transmission...From The Moon

More transmissions from American Copywriter, AlterNet, Alex Whalen, Sean-Paul Kelley, Daryl Orht, RJ Eskow, Joe Powell, Justin Gardner, Cicero, August J. Pollak, Chris Bowers, skippy, Libby Spencer, and Wonkette.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

First Year of The Files

Has it already been a year since The Xsociate Files came into being? Man, how time flies with when your writing about the inanities of the political sphere. Like many who got caught up in the blogging trend, what first prompted me to begin committing my thoughts to the virtual forum was outrage at the Bush administration. My first ever post was on the Downing Street Memo and I began to blog in earnest shortly after Hurricane Katrina (sadly the post I had written on that was lost). And while I had blogged at both MySpace and Yahoo360, it wasn't until I migrated to Blogger that I realized the true potential of my writings. Since then it has been a veritable roller coaster. Recognition on some prominent political blogs and a stint at Creature's State of the Day are just some of the highlights of my wonderful journey through cyberspace.

A heart felt thanks to all my associates and readers. I look forward to bringing you another year of The Files.

In Memoriam

Molly Ivins 1944-2007
Best-selling author and columnist Molly Ivins, the sharp-witted liberal who skewered the political establishment and referred to President Bush as “Shrub,” died Wednesday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 62.

A tenacious Texan who will be sorely missed. Requiescant in pace, Molly.

More reactions and tributes here.

(Filed at State of the Day)

To The Moon

WASHINGTON (XF) - In the wake of reports of a terrorism scare in Boston, President Bush has taken the unusual step of declaring war on the moon, The Xsociate Files has learned. The move is considered unusual because the suspects in question, Mooninites, are fictional characters of the hit animated show Aqua Teen Hunger Force, part of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup.

The declaration comes after a series of devices were found throughout the Boston area. While initial reports indicated possible terrorism, it was soon determined that the devices were part of a marketing campaign concocted by Turner Broadcasting, parent company of Cartoon Network. Turner has since apologized for the incident, expressing regret that the campaign caused any anxiety with the public.

Nevertheless, President Bush remains undeterred. He has ordered NASA to begin making plans for shuttling US forces to the moon to hunt down so-called "Mooninitofascists" who the administration believes are really the ones responsible for the "improvised entertainment devices" (IED's).

(Filed at State of the Day)