Saturday, October 27, 2007

Still more incompetence and another debacle

Most could see the problems with the PKK coming and many could see a way to avert them. Unfortunately none of those people were in the Bush administration' State Department.
A Missed Moment In Iraq

The Bush administration has only itself to blame for the quandary it faces with Turkish forces poised to intervene in northern Iraq. The Turks want to retaliate against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), whose insurgents killed 12 Turkish soldiers Sunday. A massive retaliation would be a major misfortune for Turkey, Iraq and the United States.

First, it would undermine the stability of the only part of Iraq where the United States is welcome. Second, it could plunge Turkey into an Iraq quagmire of its own.

Sadly, this crisis was predictable and predicted. U.S. officials have long known that a Turkish incursion was just one terrorist event away. As tensions mounted, the administration had numerous opportunities to engage in preventive diplomacy. A combination of lack of imagination, incompetence and sheer lack of knowledge at the State Department has caused this impasse. To make matters worse, on Tuesday the department tried to shift the blame to the Iraqi Kurds, expressing unhappiness over their inaction.
A missed opportunity
The irony is that both Iraqi Kurds and the AKP government directly or indirectly signaled the Bush administration that they were interested in a deal. I know that senior Iraqi Kurds have forwarded ideas to U.S. officials. The AKP, on the other hand, sought to test the waters first by sending its intelligence chief two years ago to talk to the Kurds -- something the government is loath to do officially -- and by organizing a private meeting this year between the Kurdish Regional Government's prime minister, Nechirvan Barzani, and then-Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. The chief of the Turkish general staff, Yasar Buyukanit, who in a fiery speech warned the government not to talk to the KRG, scuttled Gul's meeting.

The Bush administration missed an opportunity when it failed to see and support the desire for such dialogue and use its good offices to construct a "grand bargain" between the Iraqi Kurds and Ankara. At minimum, such a bargain would have required the Iraqi Kurds to dislodge the PKK from Iraq and for the Turks to offer guarantees on trade and security to the Iraqi Kurds.

For the United States, this would have meant the consolidation of northern Iraq; paradoxically, a Kurdish north at peace with Turkey is the best antidote to separation from Iraq. In short, this would have been a winning situation for all.

The best the administration can hope for now is to persuade the Turks to engage in a limited cross-border military operation. That might contain public anger and assuage a vitriolic press.

The only other thing to hope for is bad weather. With the onset of winter and dwindling military activities, Washington will perhaps have the diplomatic window of opportunity it almost closed. Three years late, it will be much harder to succeed.
Of course we are dealing with a State Department headed by Condoleezza Rice - the most incompetent National Security advisor in history who became the most incompetent Secretary of State in history. She has zero respect and credibility in the world so don't expect this or any other "diplomatic" efforts to be successful until 2009.

(cross posted at Middle Earth Journal)

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Army to review Iraq contracts for fraud

A 105mm M1 Abrams tank, outside the
Tank-Army Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM)
Detroit Arsenal, Warren, MI

On Monday, ten specially trained auditors, criminal investigators and acquisitions experts will descend on the Tank-Army Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) north of Detroit to begin an audit of a sampling of approximately 6000 contracts worth $2.8 billion issued by an Army office in Kuwait that has been identified as a hotbed of corruption.

The office in question, located at Camp Arifjan, buys supplies and gear to support American G.I.'s as they rotate in and out of Iraq. Nearly two dozen Army, military and civilian employees have been charged with accepting bribes and kickbacks, and $15 million has changed hands. Depending on what the investigators discover, the number of individuals charged will likely grow. Currently the Army Criminal Investigations Command has 83 ongoing corruption investigations relating to contract fraud.

The highest profile corruption case to be charged so far involves Army Maj. John Cockerham, who stands accused of bribery, conspiracy, money laundering and obstruction. Prosecutors charge that Cockerham, in concert with his wife and sister, took at least $9.6 million in bribes in 2004 and 2005 during the time he was a contract officer in Kuwait.

Some of the red flags that have been raised include contracts awarded to vendors outside the usual competitive bidding process and contracts that went through the motions of the bidding process, then were awarded to the highest rather than the lowest bids. In other instances, what was purchased was not what was delivered.

"Is there anything in there that might indicate to us that there might be some potential fraudulent activity?" Jeffrey Parsons, director of contracting at Army Materiel Command, said in an AP interview. "If there are patterns that we start to identify, then we're going to do further review."

Contracts with significant problems will be forwarded to the Army Audit Agency and the Army Criminal Investigation Command. If there's credible evidence of wrongdoing, the FBI and prosecutors from the U.S. Justice Department are called in.

In Warren, Mich., home to a large Army acquisition center, the contracting review team will examine 314 of the Kuwait contracts, each worth more than $25,000 and issued between 2003 and 2006.

In Kuwait, a separate team of 10 at Camp Arifjan is already going through 339 contracts of lesser value and awarded during the same time period, according to Army Materiel Command at Fort Belvoir, Va.

Both reviews are to be finished before the end of the year.

Preliminary results of an investigation into the contracts coming out of Camp Arifjan in 2007 has wrapped up, and the investigators uncovered numerous problems with the office, including high staff turnover, slip-shod record keeping, inadequate staffing, and lack of oversight. Those personnel problems, coupled with billions of dollars of war funding, create an environment where corruption, malfeasance and misconduct find fertile soil.

The investigative teams in both Michigan and Kuwait will be reviewing paper records, but they will also be using data-mining techniques to search electronically stored data for signs of wrongdoing. "Do we have contractors with different names but the same address?" Parsons said. "That would cause some suspicion." He also indicated that the investigators would be relying on tips provided by individuals familiar with the imperfect process.

If a contractor and an acquisitions officer conspire to break the rules for personal gain, uncovering the corruption can be extremely difficult. "You can have a contract file that is pristine - all the documentation is there," Parsons said. "Just going through the contract files doesn't necessarily give you 100 percent assurance that something else might not have been going on."

Beating the checks and balances in the federal procurement process is a difficult trick to pull off, requiring attention to detail and precise planning. It takes someone schooled in the system to know how to evade it. Unfortunately, the Army had some very smart "bad apples" who knew how to pull it off.

The 6000 contracts that came from the office in Kuwait spawned 18,000 transactions for myriad support items, from laundry and warehouse services to bottled water and food. Every transaction presented an opportunity for fraud to be committed.

In 2005, two Lt. Generals who were top commanders in Iraq, Steven Whitcomb and John Vines, became so concerned about allegations of corruption that they pushed for the Criminal Investigation Command to establish field offices in Iraq and Kuwait.

The Army investigating the allegations of fraud, abuse, bribery, corruption and kickbacks is a good start, but it is time to take a page from history. It is time for a reprise of the Truman Committee.

In 1940, as World War II gripped the globe and United States involvement in the conflict became more and more likely, the United States appropriated $10 Billion in defense contracts in preparation for that eventuality.

Early in 1941, reports of malfeasance and abuses by the contractors reached Missouri Senator Harry S Truman, and the news did not sit well with WW I Infantry Captain “Give ‘em Hell Harry.” In typical Truman fashion, he set out to seek the truth, not by summoning “experts” but by embarking on a 10,000 mile tour of military installations. On this fact-finding tour, he discovered that the companies that received the contracts were clustered in the east, with a mere handful divvying up most of the largesse. He also discovered that they were receiving a fixed-profit, regardless of performance.

He returned to the Senate convinced that the defense efforts of the United States were being undermined by waste and corruption, and he proposed the notion of a special Senate committee that would investigate the National Defense Program.

President Roosevelt was convinced to let Truman head up the committee, being sympathetic to the President and his administration. The President was assured that the committee would not be too much trouble, as it would only be allotted $15,000 to investigate billions in defense contracts.

The Truman Committee was created by unanimous Senate decree on 01 March 1941. Over the next three years, with Senator Truman at the helm, the committee held hundreds of hearings, traveled thousands of miles to conduct field inspections, and saved millions of dollars in cost over-runs. Senator Truman was not shy about threatening executives with prison time as he whacked greedy corporate snouts out of the public trough.

Before Claire McCaskill announced her Senate bid, I was encouraging her to run for the Class I seat that Truman once held, and touting her background as our state auditor and as a tough prosecutor as reasons she should run and reasons we should vote for her, because the Iraq fiasco needed a good auditing, in the spirit of Harry Truman.

During her campaign, she seized on my the idea of a modern day Truman Committee to investigate waste, fraud and corruption in the reconstruction of Iraq. During a speech in Harry S Truman’s hometown of Independence last year, she spoke admiringly of the former President and his diligence in reining in war profiteers. "He was fearless. He uncovered enormous undeserved profits. I believe we need a new Truman Committee. I will fight for such a committee.”

Less than a year after she was elected, and a mere nine months after taking her seat, she is very close to bringing the notion to fruition. The Senate recently agreed to a plan from Senators McCaskill and Webb to get a handle on the Pentagon’s scattershot method of awarding private contracts for work in Iraq. It was added to the Defense Authorization Bill for 2008.

The audits that get underway on Monday certainly underscore the need for the the oversight body that would be created from the legislation offered by Webb and McCaskill. In fact, they demand it.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Talking George Bush Action Figure

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The Real Iran, Six Lies About Iran, And Some Consequences Of An Attack On Iran

This is the country that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney want to expand their Iraq Debacle into by attacking.

This is the country that Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Leadership, through their complicity and their refusal to do what they were elected in November 2006 to do - stop funding and end the Iraq Occupation - are helping George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to expand their Iraq Debacle into by attacking.

Fortunately, there are clearer heads in the world than Bush's, Cheney's, or Pelosi's, and if the Democrats will not put a stop to Bush's insanity, it appears that our old "enemies" the Russians, will.

The barely reported highlight of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Tehran for the Caspian Sea summit last week was a key face-to-face meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

A high-level diplomatic source in Tehran tells Asia Times Online that essentially Putin and the Supreme Leader have agreed on a plan to nullify the George W Bush administration's relentless drive towards launching a preemptive attack, perhaps a tactical nuclear strike, against Iran. An American attack on Iran will be viewed by Moscow as an attack on Russia.
Iranian hawks close to Ahmadinejad are spinning that Putin's proposal involves Iran temporarily suspending uranium enrichment in exchange for no more United Nations sanctions. That's essentially what International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammad ElBaradei has been working on all along. The key issue is what - in practical terms - will Iran get in return. Obviously it's not the EU's Solana who will have the answer. But as far as Russia is concerned, strategically nothing will appease it except a political/diplomatic solution for the Iranian nuclear dossier.

US Vice President Dick Cheney - who even Senator Hillary Clinton now refers to as Darth Vader - must be foaming at the mouth; but the fact is that after the Caspian summit, Iran and Russia are officially entangled in a strategic partnership. World War III, for them, is definitely not on the cards.

A photo essay of Iran.

Iran's Capital, Tehran.

Six Lies You Shouldn't Believe About Iran, Especially Since, Hey, There's People Down Here.
by Rosa Schmidt Azadi
February 3, 2007,

It feels so different watching an aircraft carrier group coming toward you than watching it sailing away from you toward another part of the world.

I'm an American who used to live in New York City. All my life, when I heard about warships, it was US warships going places far away. I never even imagined hostile warships sailing toward New York. Now I'm in Tehran, and aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis is heading our way. And as it sails, people are discussing Israel and/or the US bombing Iran as if my family and 69 million other people weren't even here. I'm getting scared.

Most Iranians that I know don't worry about this as much as I do, though they're wondering how the sanctions will affect the economy. Khomeini had a famous saying that we actually saw on a sign yesterday in another town: "America can't do anything to us." Some friends here speculate that Bush just needs an enemy so that he can continue his programs in the US, and that Iran is the enemy du jour. I wish I could believe that.

The way I see it, somebody has to stop the US president right now, and it's very upsetting that the Congress isn't doing it. My frustration is greater because I'm in a country where the Internet is not completely available. For example, I tried to send a donation to Dennis Kucinich, but PayPal wouldn't take it because of the embargo. I tried to write to my Congressperson, but the Islamic Republic blocked the communication, presumably because it was with the US government. (Sometimes news stories that I want to read are blocked, too, but there are ways around that.)

If the US and/or Israel attack Iran, it will be a war based on lies, just like the Iraq war. Iraq didn't have WMD, but Iraqis died in the hundreds of thousands. The lies about Iran seem intended to, first, make Iran look like the new Nazi state that must be bombed so as to avoid a new Holocaust, and second, make Americans fear that Iran will hurt our soldiers in Iraq or give nuclear weapons to terrorists who will hurt us in "the homeland."

History shows that Americans are very susceptible to demonization of particular leaders of countries that the US wants to attack. Remember Castro? Noriega? Saddam? Now it's Ahmadinejad. Whatever people think of views attributed to Ahmadinejad, it remains the case that it's not morally acceptable to kill people because of their president, whether that president be Saddam Hussein, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or George Bush.

I want to discuss six big lies we are hearing to justify expanding the war to Iran.

LIE NUMBER 1: President Ahmadinejad "has repeatedly threatened to wipe Israel off the map."

Even Al Jazeera English version based in Qatar keeps saying that. Why hasn't this mistranslation been corrected after it's been thoroughly exposed? (in the Guardian and

Juan Cole, in Informed Comment, explained how "wiped off the map" was a mistranslation; Ahmadinejad was restating the official Iranian policy that the government system based on Zionism must end. And why the heck can't newscasters learn to pronounce the man's name? Anyone who knows Farsi could teach them in a minute. Why should we think they know what he said, in Farsi, if they can't even say his name?

LIE NUMBER 2: The Iranian government is run by 1930s-style anti-Semites.

Last Spring, a story was planted that the Iranian parliament had passed a law forcing Iranian Jews to wear yellow badges. "Fourth Reich," screamed a banner headline on one of the New York City tabloids. In a few days, the neocon source was disclosed and the story was completely retracted by the Canadian paper in which it was first published. The New York paper never apologized. When I mention the "yellow badges" to people here in Iran, they look incredulous. "But ... that didn't happen." I know. But I'll bet there are some Americans, and Israelis, who actually believe Jewish Iranians are walking around wearing yellow badges.

LIE NUMBER 3: Iran is bent on wiping out the Jews.

Maybe Americans should have a little humility and remember how recalcitrant the US was about accepting Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler during WWII. Iran has a very good history, under Cyrus the Great, of protecting the Jews. The long history of Jews in Persia is indicated by a monument to the Jewish prophet Daniel in the south of Iran. As for the European Holocaust deniers who were among the speakers at the Holocaust conference in Tehran, I just can't figure it out, unless Ahmadinejad is trying to win popularity points with pro-Palestinian regional populations by appearing to be unafraid of Israel and the US. Or he could be a fool and/or a religious fundamentalist (like some other presidents who shall go unnamed).

LIE NUMBER 4: Iran is causing trouble in Iraq and threatening Arab states.

Everyone should be very clear: Who's meddling in Iraq, who's flying thousands of missions shooting at Iraqi citizens, who attacked whose diplomatic mission, who is detaining whose citizens, and who has announced that it is supporting subversive operations inside whose country and across whose border (from Iraqi Kurdistan)? Most likely some of the undemocratic and unpopular rulers in the Middle East are afraid that their own citizens may be attracted to the Iranian model. That may concern the US oil men and financiers who have business and military ties with them, but it's not a reason for Americans to back destruction of Iran.

LIE NUMBER 5: Iran is dangerous to humanity because it's trying to get nuclear weapons.

Other people who know more than I are writing about the nuclear issues. But regarding threats by Israel and the US to bomb Iranian nuclear research sites, that's a violation of international law, not to mention a danger to innocent civilians. Regulating nuclear activities is the responsibility of the IAEA. So far, the IAEA has declared that Iran does not have nuclear weapons and is in compliance with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. That's more than we can say about the USA, which is supposed to be actively disarming its 10,000 warheads, not refurbishing them and developing new kinds of nuclear weapons. Though there are good reasons to think Iran does not want nuclear weapons, let's imagine, just for the sake of argument, that Iran would someday acquire them. Humanity has managed to live with other countries having nukes. The only reason Iran's having nukes would be of greater concern would be if the lies spelled out above were true. But they're lies.

LIE NUMBER 6: Iranians are looking to the USA to bring them democracy, just like the USA has brought democracy to Afghanistan and Iraq.

I'm living here in Tehran, Iran, now, with my family, as are many other Americans, Europeans, Asians, and other foreigners. We are inviting friends and relatives to come and visit. The skiing's fine. More democracy and more civil liberties would be better, but there are elections and there are laws and there are non-governmental organizations and you can approach public officials. Whatever's not right with this country is the business of the people here to work on. Some Iranians living in other countries want the US to "save" Iran. I don't know, but I suspect people like that would like the US to magically bring back the good old days when the US-allied Shah sat on his throne and the well-off classes had a fine life. If anyone finds any overseas Iranians who actually are willing to see Iran bombed, I hope the reporters ask them if they have any relatives currently living in Iran. I hope Americans don't take these has-beens too seriously.

Rosa Schmidt Azadi is a long-time peace activist, an anthropologist, and a retired civil servant who's also a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, great-aunt, godmother, and the mother of two college students. After walking out of the smoke of the 9-11 attacks in New York City and returning to participate in the recovery effort, Rosa began working to prevent further death and destruction in other countries at the hands of the U.S. government. Participating in a peace vigil at the World Trade Center site for more than three years gave her the privilege of talking with thousands of people from all over the world about things that matter most. Dr. Azadi has earned two advanced degrees and is still learning. Currently, she's splitting her time between Tehran, Iran, and upstate New York.

James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies
Monterey Institute of International Studies, Monterey, CA
Consequences of an Attack on Iran's Nuclear Facilities
Contrary to popular belief, it appears that Israel's attack on Osirak [Iraq's nuclear reactor] in June of 1981 did nothing to hinder Iraq's nuclear aspirations. Although it temporarily set back its capabilities, it served rather to reinforce and increase Saddam's desire for a nuclear arsenal.
With regard to Iran, there is no reason to believe that an attack on the facilities in Bushehr, Arak, or Natanz would have any different consequence than the Osirak example. Such an attack would likely embolden and enhance Iran's nuclear prospects in the long term. In the absence of an Iranian nuclear weapon program, which IAEA inspectors have yet to find, a preemptive attack by the United States or Israel would provide Iran with the impetus and justification to pursue a full blown covert nuclear deterrent program, without the inconvenience of IAEA inspections. Such an attack would likely be seen as an act of aggression not only by Iran but most of the international community, and only serve to weaken any diplomatic coalition currently available against Iran.

The most troubling aspect of such a scenario is that, unlike Iraq in 1981, Iran is not dependent on foreign imports for nuclear technology and already has available the raw materials, and most of the designs and techniques, required to pursue a nuclear weapons program. Iran has the necessary know-how and has already produced every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle.[31] Furthermore, Iran has uranium mines in Yazd and is in the process of constructing milling plants to manufacture yellow cake uranium and conversion plants that convert it to UF6 gas.[32] Iran has also begun manufacturing its own gas centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Even if Natanz, Arak, and Bushehr were destroyed in a preemptive strike, Iran probably has duplicate equipment that can be activated and has the know-how to produce more, to pursue a more vigorous and unabated nuclear weapons program in the long term.

Effect on Iran's Relationship Vis-a-Vis the IAEA and International Coalition

In the event of an unprovoked preemptive attack on its nuclear facilities, Iran could justifiably argue that it requires nuclear weapons to guard against aggression and protect its sovereignty, effectively announcing its intention to withdraw from the NPT and altering the current international dynamic. Especially given the recent lack of substantiation in the Iraqi WMD case, such a strike would undoubtedly result in U.S. or Israeli diplomatic isolation.

The practical diplomatic consequences of a preemptive attack in Iran are worth considering. In the aftermath of such a strike, it is highly unlikely that the United States would be able to convince members of the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran. Without international sanctions, Iran will be able to allocate greater financial and human resources to its nuclear program. If the Iraqi Osirak example is any indication, the size of Iran's nuclear program would probably increase dramatically, as the Iranian government touts an expanded nuclear program as the key to deterring Iran's enemies.

As the target of an unprovoked attack, Iran gains by pointing to justifications for escaping the constraints of the NPT, therefore becoming a much greater proliferation threat. Unrestrained, the Iranians will have the means and technology to eventually manufacture gas centrifuges and mine, mill, convert, and enrich uranium. Even under IAEA intrusive inspections, Iran has assembled more than 920 gas centrifuges, 120 of which were assembled in just two and a half months, between November 2003 and mid-January 2004.[33] To enrich enough HEU to make one nuclear bomb requires running 750 gas centrifuges for one year.[34] If Iran seceded from the NPT, and increased the size of its nuclear program, it would be able to manufacture and assemble many more gas centrifuges, and therefore rapidly enrich uranium. Once sufficient fissile material is obtained, designing a basic nuclear warhead can be easily accomplished. In the absence of intrusive inspections or threat of UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions, the only way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability would be to occupy Iran, a very unlikely occurrence given the serious challenges already faced by the United States in a smaller, weaker Iraq.

Effect on U.S.-Russian Relations

Attacking Iranian nuclear facilities also has the potential of igniting a diplomatic crisis between the United States and Russia. The Russian Federation is not only Iran's foremost supplier of nuclear technology and training, it is reported that hundreds of Russian scientists and technicians currently work in Bushehr. A preemptive attack on Bushehr may kill a large number of Iranian and Russian personnel; the ensuing diplomatic crisis could seriously affect not only Russian-U.S. trade but also cooperation on international matters, including the war on terrorism.
A pre-emptive attack on George Bush's and Dick Cheney's psychotic fantasies would result in much better consequences.

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Some Politicians Just Never Learn

The rest had better learn, for their own good.

Isn't that right, Nancy? Harry? Never Give An Inch

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ted Rall tells soldiers to stop whining until they start voting with their feet

In what is sure to be one of the blunt-speaking Rall’s more unpopular columns, he tells soldiers in Iraq to STFU as long as they continue to support Bush:

It’s bad enough that a majority of soldiers voted for Bush in 2004. Over and over since the war began, American troops have been seen on television applauding Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice and others whose cynical recklessness have sent their buddies to their graves. …

Four years after the WMDs and liberation flora failed to turn up, people still enlist. After soldiers die, their parents insist that theirs was a noble sacrifice. Tell me again: Why should I care about the war? Why shouldn't I go shopping?

Soldiers who want antiwar Americans to march to demand that they be brought home should take a cue from Vietnam veterans. They marched with peace protesters and threw their medals at the Capitol. Soldiers serving on the front refused orders. Some fragged their officers. Vietnam Veterans Against the War claimed more than 50,000 members by 1971. That year saw numerous dramatic acts of dissent by U.S. troops, including 50 veterans who marched to the Pentagon and demanded that they be arrested as war criminals. Fifteen vets took over and barricaded the Statue of Liberty for two days. These acts swayed opinions and helped convince lawmakers it was time to withdraw.

As usual, I agree with Rall. I think many soldiers are even intoxicated with war as a form of pornographic violence.

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The "Hitler Comparison"

The "Hitler comparison" should be shouted from the rooftops, as should the Goebbels comparison, the Himmler comparison, the Mengele, Stalin, Torquemada, Beelzebub comparisons and all the rest. If it struts like a Nazi, talks like Nazi, tortures like a Nazi and wages aggressive and illegal war like a Nazi... it's not a duck.
Eighteen months or so ago I wrote a post comparing Bush, Cheney and the boys from PNAC to Hitler, to the Nazi hierarchy and to the wonderful folks who gave the world kristallnacht, the terror bombings of Guernica, of London and conducted history's magnum opus of human carnage, the holocaust, the destruction of two thirds of the Jews in Europe and millions of other "undesirables."

I took a moderate amount of heat for what one local (Dayton) commenter called my "classlessness," and received a few surly EMails from people who are probably, to this day, driving around with "Bush/Cheney" bumper stickers on their Cadillac and Lexus SUVs but since I want so badly to be loved and admired, (or at least not ignored) I resolved to try to avoid using the "Hitler Comparison" after that.

I saw it used by others on the blogs and, guardedly, in the MSM, witnessed their reception of similar treatment and I realized that a taboo (see Godwin's law) had been created. "Disrespectful to the office of the President," some cried, "diminishes the horror of the holocaust and the brutality unleashed on Europe's Jews by the real Hitler," cried others, "the ultimate ad hominem attack," wrote one academic seeking to show that such comparisons were childish , demeaning to those who offered them and "kills dead," scholarly internet discussions.

As the months dragged on and the war escalated, the deaths, the casualties, the carnage mounted, the attacks on dissent increased, civil liberties began to erode and disappear, as the regulatory bureaucracy and the judiciary were stripped of independent professionals and replaced with ideological partisans, as tens of billions of dollars of American taxpayers cash simply disappeared into the black hole of "privatization" and reason itself came under constant attack, I couldn't help myself, I began to use the "Hitler Comparison" more often in my various rants.

I don't pretend to scholarship, or journalism, I'm an old carpenter, not an academic, I'm content to be a pamphleteer. As long as the feedback tells me that people are reading my electronic leaflets, not ripping them from under their wiper blades and kicking them to the curb, if I sense that they are following the links, I find a small measure of hope, not a lot, just enough to make me look forward to coffee and another batch of leafleting in the morning.

The war..s continue, and as the fervor grows for another, in Iran and more evidence of official "misdeeds," of lies, of outright criminality, of incompetence, rampant cronyism and fraud continue to seep out from under the closed doors of what has developed into the most secretive, insular, antidemocratic administration in the history of the Republic, the "Hitler comparison" has grown in my mind and, I believe, much of the public's to the point that we need to repeal the "Godwin law" and popularize the idea in the hopes that by holding up the mirror to the tyrant we may drive him from our shores. I'm serious, we need "Hitler Comparison" T shirts, by the millions.

Sunday night I watched Naomi Wolf on PBS as she was interviewed about her recent book by "guest interviewer" Viet Dinh, a former Assistant Attorney General, and principle author of the Patriot Act, greatly admired by none other than Rupert Murdoch, in other words, as Adol George W is wont to say, no cream puff. Ms Wolf more than held her own, after all, she knows her book and the research on which its based and defended it well against a wholly predictable neo-con cross examination.

Her book may represent, albeit in a much more scholarly and reasoned way, the ultimate in "Comparisons," (I confess I haven't yet read it) She says that she charts the closing of various previously open societies, from Hitler to Stalin to Pinochet and on to our current rapidly closing system, and finds the comparisons striking, the trends frightening, ant the peril, imminent enough to cause her to run around the country like a latter day Paul Revere shouting that the redcoats brown shirts are coming, while making astute "comparisons" between current and past events, motives and personalities.

It is, of course, a book tour and yes, the object is to sell the book but there is much more here, I hear a clarion call in her voice and feel truth in her message.

Would that several million people, Germans perhaps, in 1933, 34 or 35 had been possessed of the poor taste and "classlessness," had been willing to succumb to the gaucherie of loudly and publicly comparing Adolph Hitler to... well ..what the hell, lets go for it.. Adolph Hitler, I wonder what result might have ensued. Or, back in the USSR, had Russians stood up and said "hey this Stalin guy is becoming a real Hitler or maybe even a Stalin," how many of the fifty million Russian dead might have been spared, the cold war, arms race avoided, at least greatly reduced.

There is a responsibility of those who govern to speak truth to the governed, but, when they fail in that responsibility, there is a greater responsibility on the part of the governed to speak truth to power, to spit in its eye and to dethrone it as necessary to insure the continuity of the rights, freedoms and welfare of the public, for that is what finally matters, not the government, nor the corrupt interests of the criminal oligarchs that it represents.

I listened to the GOP candidates a bit the other night, a little goes a long way with these birds, and heard the words "personal responsibility" several times, a phrase which is nothing more, on Republican lips, than a code word for racism, sexism and a continuation of the war they have waged against the "lesser classes' for all of modern history.

I agree with them in this sense, it is time for a large percentage of the population to take personal responsibility for themselves, for their country, to unite in the name of freedom, in the name of economic, political and spiritual liberty, to rise up and seize control of the whole package, the big damn shebang, to wrest control from the five percent who have kept them enslaved, who have enforced ignorance and poverty and to throw aside the twenty percent who guard the prison.

It may be "classless" and a violation of "Godwin's law to "Compare" George Walker Bush, the arrogant young scion of eastern establishment wealth and power, grandson of Senators and son of Presidents, cowboy of windshields and owner of chainsaws, to the beer swilling gutter scum of the beer halls of Munich and Berlin but I'm afraid it is unavoidable, it is inescapable, obvious, and it is historically necessary.

Terrorism? 9/11? The attack on the World Trade Center was their Reichstag fire, the invasion of Iraq, comparable to the blitzkrieg into eastern Europe. They share the same motives and ideology, the same vision, they exhibit the same compassion, and wield power with the same ruthless disregard for the lives, for the welfare and dignity of common humanity.

Make no mistake, these people, the architects of the last six years of international turmoil, of domestic division, of war and death, of crushing despair and hopelessness, are Nazis, perhaps not yet in the full bloom of adulthood, not yet grown to the evil proportions of their twentieth century predecessors, but they have emerged from their larval stage and are prepared for full flight, They have all the weapons, they lack nothing, nothing, but to complete their rewriting of our laws and of course, they need those handsome uniforms.

The only thing that can prevent them from fulfilling their wretched and terrible goals of oligarchy, universal slavery and domination of the world is your voice, your derision, your hand, raised in resistance, your lips mouthing a simple no.

Hurry, I think the uniforms have been ordered.

Bob Higgins

Worldwide Sawdust

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A Little Blood Won't Deter The Bushliburton Administration

Cross posted from BFD Blog!

Condoleeza Rice is confronted by Desiree Farooz inside the hearing room for the House Foreign Affairs Committee today in this photo by AP photographer Charles Dharapak. Rice seems unmoved by the demonstration, which seems to be par for the course for the Bushliburton administration. No matter how much blood is shed in their Phony War.

It's just business as usual, while the economic machine that feeds off of the hostilities in Iraq grinds on, grinding out more profits for the corporate puppeteers who enable Bushliburton. It is time to bring back the draft, and fill the draft boards only with current era combat veterans, then let the war profiteers' children get called up and get bloodied. How quick would the United States withdraw from the theater then?

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The Power Of No

[Crossposted from Docudharma]

Thank you Chris Dodd.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

This is Leadership, this IS how it works.

Until one person says no, evil cannot be stopped. Until one respected figure, one LEADER, finds the courage to step forward and OPPOSE, weaker people, not finding the courage within themselves, have nowhere to turn and no one to follow.

The sad, no....the horrifying part, is that it is not one of the leading candidates, the 'mainstream' candidates, the 'electable' candidates who stood up for our rights and for the Rule of Law. Now after being led by Dodd, they are (seemingly a bit reluctantly) falling in line. Because the power of no cannot be denied.

Is our politicians learning?

Let us hope to god they are, for as we all know, the stakes are incredibly high.
"When you give up basic Constitutional rights, you give terrorists a far greater victory in ways." Dodd said.
One man stood up and said no!

And...was rewarded by The People. Contributions totalling over $200,000 in just 36 hours, as well as with adulation in the blogosphere and beyond.

For saying what amounts to one

What we have been saying on the blogs for quite a while has now penetrated the MSM's bubble. Watch this Chris Mattews interview. The Democratic Party's "strategy" of cowering before Bush is being exposed already, more than a full year before the election. Cowards do NOT win elections. Right now, as Dodd has proven, standing up to Bush and saying no is leading. It is newsworthy. It is popular. It is a winning strategy. And it is what it will take to begin to reverse the damage.

One would think it would be obvious Saying no to the most unpopular President ever.....makes you popular.

Whoever says no to George Bush INSTANTLY gains support.

This is not politics as usual....because people are DYING because of Bush, this is not 'an issue,' It is literally a life and death struggle. Whoever says no to George Bush is an instant hero to the 75% of the country who disapprove of The Worst President ever. It seems like a no-brainer, but it took one man to do it, to stop the pathetic, pervasive capitulation that has swept the Democrats like a virus.

Let's hope it is contagious.

Let's hope it is a trend.

Let's hope that it leads to a rash of saying no.

Because once the first no appears and is successful, who knows where no can lead.

Chris Dodd is the first to point out that the Emperor has no clothes. Learn his lesson Democrats....if you want to be elected....Just say no.

But more importantly, if you want to take America back and restore Justice and the Rule of Law, the whole process starts with just one tiny word....


[Read all posts about Chris Dodd]

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Why Is The Middle East So Volatile?

How did we get here? Why is there so much strife in the Middle East? Why are there so many deadly competing cultural, national, political and economic interests there? What is the history behind it all? How can we understand it all without spending years and years becoming becoming scholars of Comparative Religion or Historians?

There is no easy way of course, but the following two 90 second animated Flash maps, courtesy of Maps Of War, can help to give us a good nutshell summary of answers to questions that have perplexed and caused untold misery and death for centuries.

It helps to visualize all that history from an "80,000 foot view" to understand what happened without getting buried by the details of years of history study.

Hint: Hover your mouse pointer over the dates above and below the yellow bar in the first one. There are pop up descriptive balloons.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Red Zone Blues

[cross posted at Middle Earth Journal]

A few weeks ago I read Pepe Escobar's
Red Zone Blues:
a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge
Escobar returned to Iraq to see for himself what Iraq was like during the surge. In my review of the book I wrote the following:

Escobar starts his trip in Damascus, Syria the home of thousands of Iraqi refugees.
This is a biblical exodus—the YouTube version. Welcome to Little Fallujah—previously Geramana, southeast Damascus. The Nahda area of Geramana now boasts at least 200,000 resident Iraqis. They visibly came with all their savings—and made good use of it. The congested main drag of al-Nahda is an intoxicating apotheosis of anarchic capitalism, business piled upon business—Hawaii fruits, Galilia underwear, Call Me mobile, Snack Bambino, Discovery software school, Eva sunglasses, boutique Tout le Mond, all Iraqi owned.
Yes, many of the people who should be building Iraq are no longer there-driven out by ethnic cleansing and violence.
One of those who was driven out is a blogger that many of us has followed since the invasion and occupation, River at Baghdad Burning who has supplied her first post since leaving Baghdad for Damascus.
Syria is a beautiful country- at least I think it is. I say “I think” because while I perceive it to be beautiful, I sometimes wonder if I mistake safety, security and normalcy for ‘beauty’. In so many ways, Damascus is like Baghdad before the war- bustling streets, occasional traffic jams, markets seemingly always full of shoppers… And in so many ways it’s different. The buildings are higher, the streets are generally narrower and there’s a mountain, Qasiyoun, that looms in the distance.


It is estimated that there are at least 1.5 million Iraqis in Syria today. I believe it. Walking down the streets of Damascus, you can hear the Iraqi accent everywhere. There are areas like Geramana and Qudsiya that are packed full of Iraqi refugees. Syrians are few and far between in these areas. Even the public schools in the areas are full of Iraqi children. A cousin of mine is now attending a school in Qudsiya and his class is composed of 26 Iraqi children, and 5 Syrian children. It’s beyond belief sometimes. Most of the families have nothing to live on beyond their savings which are quickly being depleted with rent and the costs of living.

Within a month of our being here, we began hearing talk about Syria requiring visas from Iraqis, like most other countries. Apparently, our esteemed puppets in power met with Syrian and Jordanian authorities and decided they wanted to take away the last two safe havens remaining for Iraqis- Damascus and Amman. The talk began in late August and was only talk until recently- early October. Iraqis entering Syria now need a visa from the Syrian consulate or embassy in the country they are currently in. In the case of Iraqis still in Iraq, it is said that an approval from the Ministry of Interior is also required (which kind of makes it difficult for people running away from militias OF the Ministry of Interior…). Today, there’s talk of a possible fifty dollar visa at the border.
She describes the return to the Iraqi/Syrian border for new Visas and concludes with this.
By the time we had reentered the Syrian border and were headed back to the cab ready to take us into Kameshli, I had resigned myself to the fact that we were refugees. I read about refugees on the Internet daily… in the newspapers… hear about them on TV. I hear about the estimated 1.5 million plus Iraqi refugees in Syria and shake my head, never really considering myself or my family as one of them. After all, refugees are people who sleep in tents and have no potable water or plumbing, right? Refugees carry their belongings in bags instead of suitcases and they don’t have cell phones or Internet access, right? Grasping my passport in my hand like my life depended on it, with two extra months in Syria stamped inside, it hit me how wrong I was. We were all refugees. I was suddenly a number. No matter how wealthy or educated or comfortable, a refugee is a refugee. A refugee is someone who isn’t really welcome in any country- including their own... especially their own.

We live in an apartment building where two other Iraqis are renting. The people in the floor above us are a Christian family from northern Iraq who got chased out of their village by Peshmerga and the family on our floor is a Kurdish family who lost their home in Baghdad to militias and were waiting for immigration to Sweden or Switzerland or some such European refugee haven.

The first evening we arrived, exhausted, dragging suitcases behind us, morale a little bit bruised, the Kurdish family sent over their representative – a 9 year old boy missing two front teeth, holding a lopsided cake, “We’re Abu Mohammed’s house- across from you- mama says if you need anything, just ask- this is our number. Abu Dalia’s family live upstairs, this is their number. We’re all Iraqi too... Welcome to the building.”

I cried that night because for the first time in a long time, so far away from home, I felt the unity that had been stolen from us in 2003.
This is what George W. Bush's war for greed and oil has done. Is it any wonder that 75% of the Iraqis think it's OK to kill Americans?

There's more: "Red Zone Blues" >>

The Fascism Is Coming Out In The Open

The September 2007 issue of Homeland Defense Journal includes an article by “Prof. Dr. John L. Clarke”, a Professor of Leadership, Management and Defense Planning College of International and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall Center. As soon as I saw him listed as “Professor Doctor,” I was wary – this “stacking” of titles is prevalent in authoritarian societies such as Nazi Germany and the old Soviet Union.

Clarke writes:

In addition, an unknown number – at least to the public – of attacks have been prevented, through the undeniable disruption of terrorist networks and through increased security measures. Of perhaps even greater importance, high-quality intelligence work has resulted in the prevention and, indeed, preemption, of a number of potential attacks.

Of course, these successes have come at some price to the individual liberties treasured on both sides of the Atlantic. But it should be noted that the public, thus far, has been very accepting of the additional burdens placed on their societies. It seems fair to say that the balance between liberty and security has become more stable in recent years. But the fact remains that the greatest threat to those freedoms is the next terrorist attack. If that attack involves large numbers of casualties, or the use of WMD, then the public will demand, and governments will supply, security measures which may have a significant impact on liberty.

That said, much remains to be done…. [Emphasis added]
“Professor Doctor” Clarke – or should it be “Herr Professor Doktor”? – has taken his talking points straight from the bush/Cheney cabal:
  • “… [An] unknown number… of attacks have been prevented….” One of the primary “justifications” for administration secrecy is the “war on terror”, accompanied by claims – never documented – of tremendous strides in combating the evildoers. We are supposed to take the busheviks at their word that they are providing a suitable level of protection for Americans, a claim that may be debunked simply by looking at New Orleans.
  • “ [U]ndeniable disruption of terrorist networks…” Again, we are supposed to believe the men who said our soldiers would be greeted with flowers, and that the war would last three to six months. There have been no trials (other than Richard Reid) of those terrorists whose attacks have allegedly been prevented, and obviously, no convictions.
  • “[P]revention and preemption of attacks…” Another “fact” offered without any semblance of proof. If this administration had in fact prevented or preempted an attack, they would have been screaming it from the treetops. And claiming the need for “confidentiality to protect sources and methods” won’t wash, folks… remember, this is the same bunch that outed a covert CIA operative in retaliation for her husband’s criticism of the bushevik’s claims.
  • “[T]he public has been very accepting….” This is said almost as if we had any say in the matter. The administration has made it abundantly clear that they, and only they, have any discretion in granting or limiting freedoms. And since individual freedom is anathema to this Fascist regime, our freedoms are becoming more and more limited.
  • “[T]he public will demand, and governments will supply, security measures…” This is, of course, one of the main “points” repeated advanced by the busheviks – that if we do not surrender our liberty now, the “terrists” will have won.

To me, however, the most terrifying part is where Herr Professor Doktor Clarke says, “That said, much remains to be done.” In using this phrase – “that said” – Clarke condescendingly reveals his arrogance and disdain for the freedoms he professes to support. “That said” is simply a polite way of saying, “Now that I’ve covered the politically correct bullshit, here is what we really need.” Don’t believe me? Listen carefully the next time you hear that phrase… I can guarantee you that whatever follows will effective negate whatever preceded it.

Clarke then lays out ‘what we really need’: “…a ministry of the interior, a domestic intelligence service and a national police force.” [page 24]. In mentioning a “ministry of the interior,” Clarke does not mean reconstituting the existing Department of the Interior, responsible for national parks, environmental issues, and the like. No, what Clarke wants is a “ministry” similar to those found in authoritarian states like the Soviet Union, mainland China, and North Korea, a ministry that inevitably houses a secret police or political police organization.

Additionally, the United States already possesses a “domestic intelligence service”; it’s called the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI has been tasked with domestic counterintelligence responsibilities since at least the 1940’s. Clarke’s objection to the FBI seems to lie in that agency’s commitment (even these days) to individual rights. Clarke also glosses over the fact that, in the free European nations, the national counterintelligence agencies do not have law enforcement powers; Britain’s intelligence agencies, such as MI-5, must request assistance from local police agencies or Scotland Yard to make arrests. It is the authoritarian nations – China, the Soviet Union, and North Korea – where the counterintelligence agencies have full police powers.

We also have a “national police force” that manages to function within the confines of the Constitution, the United States Marshal Service; other Federal agencies have law enforcement responsibilities within the scope of their respective duties. Obviously, the “national police force” that Clarke envisions would be based on the KGB, “the sword and shield of the party.”

Clarke also says:

Moreover, given the potential for catastrophic terrorism, every effort must be made to prevent and preempt terrorist attacks before they occur – even if this means the employment of armed force…. [page 24]

Again, Clarke is parroting the bushevik line – you must give us unlimited power to battle the terrorists. While I am in full agreement with the necessity of preventing and preempting terrorist activity, I do not agree that unfettered power for the government is the way to achieve that goal. The administration has already shown its willingness to use military force in the pursuit of its goals… regardless of the actual necessity of using that force. Giving government the green light to wage unprovoked, aggressive warfare, against “enemies” who have not been conclusively proven to pose a threat to the national security, is one more step down the slippery slope to fascism.

We have already seen many examples of the creeping fascism of the current administration: the virtual abolition of habeus corpus, simply by declaring someone an “enemy combatant;” the revocation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures through the use of “national security letters;” the limitations on freedom of speech and assembly (bush’s so-called ‘free-speech’ zones, where protestors are kept far away from Dear Leader). Telecommunications companies have been co-opted by the government, ordered to release confidential business records, with no notice to the citizens involved, and no accountability for the companies. In fact, they have recently been granted retroactive immunity for their trespasses.

“Big Brother” has demanded unparalleled powers in the “war on terror,” powers which have been granted by politicians and others desperate to be on the “inside,” to be close to the seat of power. This uninhibited raping of the Constitution has been carefully overlooked by those in power, leaving those of us on the outside – the poor, the weak – to raise the alarm. Those who can act to protect our Constitution, refuse to do so.

The Framers of the Constitution were well aware of the perils of a unitary executive; they had fled England for that very reason. The three branches of government were carefully crafted to prevent such abuses of power in this new nation. Unfortunately, the legislative branch – the Senate and the House of Representatives – have proven incapable of pushing back against the administration, while the judicial branch – the Supreme Court – has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican Party since the days of George H. W. Bush (remember, Junior “won” the presidency in 2000 by a single vote, thereby negating the power of the polls). With the two “competing” branches completely enthralled by the Executive, there is no effective means of stopping the busheviks. Civil disobedience obviously would serve no useful purpose, in that we have witnessed “legal” authorities trampling the rights of individuals to protect those in power.

The lack of a common perception of the threat across the Atlantic represents the biggest problem in transatlantic homeland security. Alliances are predicated on a shared sense of risk. Will the terrorists succeed where the Soviet Union failed, in convincing Europeans and Americans to abandon their solidarity and seek that separate peace? Therein lies the greatest danger of all.

Given the fascist tone of the rest of Clarke’s article, this final paragraph is especially chilling. Not content with the unitary executive power currently wielded by bush, Cheney, and the rest, Clarke apparently wants to expand their power to global hegemony. By rattling the saber of the Soviet Union – a nation that effectively ceased to exist more than twenty years ago – Clarke is using the old concept of the “Godless Russky commies” to instill fear in the hearts and minds of Americans, in an effort to force us to surrender those freedoms held nearest and dearest, in the interest of “national security.”

No, Herr Professor Doktor Clarke, that is the greatest danger of all.

There's more: "The Fascism Is Coming Out In The Open" >>

The Myth of AQI

[Republished with permission from The Washington Monthly]

The Myth of AQI

Fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq is the last big argument for keeping U.S. troops in the country. But the military's estimation of the threat is alarmingly wrong.

By Andrew Tilghman

In March 2007, a pair of truck bombs tore through the Shiite marketplace in the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar, killing more than 150 people. The blast reduced the ancient city center to rubble, leaving body parts and charred vegetables scattered amid pools of blood. It was among the most lethal attacks to date in the five-year-old Iraq War. Within hours, Iraqi officials in Baghdad had pinned the bombing on al-Qaeda, and news reports from Reuters, the BBC, MSNBC, and others carried those remarks around the world. An Internet posting by the terrorist group known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) took credit for the destruction. Within a few days, U.S. Army General David Petraeus publicly blamed AQI for the carnage, accusing the group of trying to foment sectarian violence and ignite a civil war. Back in Washington, pundits latched on to the attack with special interest, as President Bush had previously touted a period of calm in Tal Afar as evidence that the military's retooled counterinsurgency doctrine was working. For days, reporters and bloggers debated whether the attacks signaled a "resurgence" of al-Qaeda in the city.

Yet there's reason to doubt that AQI had any role in the bombing. In the weeks before the attack, sectarian tensions had been simmering after a local Sunni woman told Al Jazeera television that she had been gang-raped by a group of Shiite Iraqi army soldiers. Multiple insurgent groups called for violence to avenge the woman's honor. Immediately after the blast, some in uniform expressed doubts about al-Qaeda's alleged role and suggested that homegrown sectarian strife was more likely at work. "It's really not al-Qaeda who has infiltrated so much as the fact [of] what happened in 2003," said Ahmed Hashim, a professor at the Naval War College who served as an Army political adviser to the 3rd Cavalry Regiment in Tal Afar until shortly before the bombing. "The formerly dominant Sunni Turkmen majority there," he told PBS's NewsHour With Jim Lehrer soon after the bombing, "suddenly ... felt themselves having been thrown out of power. And this is essentially their revenge."

A week later, Iraqi security forces raided a home outside Tal Afar andarrested two men suspected of orchestrating the bombing. Yet when the U.S. military issued a press release about the arrests, there was no mention of an al-Qaeda connection. The suspects were never formally charged, and nearly six months later neither the U.S. military nor Iraqi police are certain of the source of the attacks. In recent public statements, the military has backed off its former allegations that al-Qaeda was responsible, instead asserting, as Lieutenant Colonel Michael Donnelly wrote in response to an inquiry from the Washington Monthly, that "the tactics used in this attack are consistent with al-Qaeda."

This scenario has become common. After a strike, the military rushes to point the finger at al-Qaeda, even when the actual evidence remains hazy and an alternative explanation—raw hatred between local Sunnis and Shiites—might fit the circumstances just as well. The press blasts such dubious conclusions back to American citizens and policy makers in Washington, and the incidents get tallied and quantified in official reports, cited by the military in briefings in Baghdad. The White House then takes the reports and crafts sound bites depicting AQI as the number one threat to peace and stability in Iraq. (In July, for instance, at Charleston Air Force Base, the president gave a speech about Iraq that mentioned al-Qaeda ninety-five times.)

By now, many in Washington have learned to discount the president's rhetorical excesses when it comes to the war. But even some of his harshest critics take at face value the estimates provided by the military about AQI's presence. Politicians of both parties point to such figures when forming their positions on the war. All of the top three Democratic presidential candidates have argued for keeping some American forces in Iraq or the region, citing among other reasons the continued threat from al-Qaeda.

But what if official military estimates about the size and impact of al-Qaeda in Iraq are simply wrong? Indeed, interviews with numerous military and intelligence analysts, both inside and outside of government, suggest that the number of strikes the group has directed represent only a fraction of what official estimates claim. Further, al-Qaeda's presumed role in leading the violence through uniquely devastating attacks that catalyze further unrest may also be overstated.

Having been led astray by flawed prewar intelligence about WMDs, official Washington wants to believe it takes a more skeptical view of the administration's information now. Yet Beltway insiders seem to be making almost precisely the same mistakes in sizing up al-Qaeda in Iraq.

[keep reading...]

Despite President Bush's near-singular focus on al-Qaeda in Iraq, most in Washington understand that instability on the ground stems from multiple sources. Numerous attacks on both U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians have been the handiwork of Shiite militants, often connected to, or even part of, the Iraqi government. Opportunistic criminal gangs engage in some of the same heinous tactics.

The Sunni resistance is also comprised of multiple groups. The first consists of so-called "former regime elements." These include thousands of ex-officers from Saddam's old intelligence agency, the Mukabarat, and from the elite paramilitary unit Saddam Fedayeen. Their primary goal is to drive out the U.S. occupation and install a Sunni-led government hostile to Iranian influence. Some within this broad group support reconciliation with the current government or negotiations with the United States, under the condition that American forces set a timetable for a troop withdrawal.

The second category consists of homegrown Iraqi Sunni religious groups, such as the Mujahadeen Army of Iraq. These are native Iraqis who aim to install a religious-based government in Baghdad, similar to the regime in Tehran. These groups use religious rhetoric and terrorist tactics but are essentially nationalistic in their aims.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq comprises the third group. The terrorist network was founded in 2003 by the now-dead Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. (The extent of the group's organizational ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda is hotly debated, but the organizations share a worldview and set of objectives.) AQI is believed to have the most non-Iraqis in its ranks, particularly among its leadership. However, most recent assessments say the rank and file are mostly radicalized Iraqis. AQI, which calls itself the "Islamic State of Iraq," espouses the most radical form of Islam and calls for the imposition of strict sharia, or Islamic law. The group has no plans for a future Iraqi government and instead hopes to create a new Islamic caliphate with borders reaching far beyond Mesopotamia.

The essential questions are: How large is the presence of AQI, in terms of manpower and attacks instigated, and what role does the group play in catalyzing further violence? For the first question, the military has produced an estimate. In a background briefing this July in Baghdad, military officials said that during the first half of this year AQI accounted for 15 percent of attacks in Iraq. That figure was also cited in the military intelligence report during final preparations for a National Intelligence Estimate in July.

This is the number on which many military experts inside the Beltway rely. Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution who attended the Baghdad background briefing, explained that he thought the estimate derived from a comprehensive analysis by teams of local intelligence agents who examine the type and location of daily attacks, and their intended targets, and crosscheck that with reports from Iraqi informants and other data, such as intercepted phone calls. "It's a fairly detailed kind of assessment," O'Hanlon said. "Obviously you can't always know who is behind an attack, but there is a fairly systematic way of looking at the attacks where they can begin to make a pretty informed guess."

Yet those who have worked on estimates inside the system take a more circumspect view. Alex Rossmiller, who worked in Iraq as an intelligence officer for the Department of Defense, says that real uncertainties exist in assigning responsibility for attacks. "It was kind of a running joke in our office," he recalls. "We would sarcastically refer to everybody as al-Qaeda."

To describe AQI's presence, intelligence experts cite a spectrum of estimates, ranging from 8 percent to 15 percent. The fact that such "a big window" exists, says Vincent Cannistraro, former chief of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, indicates that "[those experts] really don't have a very good perception of what is going on."

It's notable that military intelligence reports have opted to cite a figure at the very top of that range. But even the low estimate of 8 percent may be an overstatement, if you consider some of the government's own statistics.

The first instructive set of data comes from the U.S.-sponsored Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In March, the organization analyzed the online postings of eleven prominent Sunni insurgent groups, including AQI, tallying how many attacks each group claimed. AQI took credit for 10 percent of attacks on Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias (forty-three out of 439 attacks), and less than 4 percent of attacks on U.S. troops (seventeen out of 357). Although these Internet postings should not be taken as proof positive of the culprits, it's instructive to remember that PR-conscious al-Qaeda operatives are far more likely to overstate than understate their role.

When turning to the question of manpower, military officials told the New York Times in August that of the roughly 24,500 prisoners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq (nearly all of whom are Sunni), just 1,800—about 7 percent—claim allegiance to al-Qaeda in Iraq. Moreover, the composition of inmates does not support the assumption that large numbers of foreign terrorists, long believed to be the leaders and most hard-core elements of AQI, are operating inside Iraq. In August, American forces held in custody 280 foreign nationals—slightly more than 1 percent of total inmates.

The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), which arguably has the best track record for producing accurate intelligence assessments, last year estimated that AQI's membership was in a range of "more than 1,000." When compared with the military's estimate for the total size of the insurgency—between 20,000 and 30,000 full-time fighters—this figure puts AQI forces at around 5 percent. When compared with Iraqi intelligence's much larger estimates of the insurgency—200,000 fighters—INR's estimate would put AQI forces at less than 1 percent. This year, the State Department dropped even its base-level estimate, because, as an official explained, "the information is too disparate to come up with a consensus number."

How big, then, is AQI? The most persuasive estimate I've heard comes from Malcolm Nance, the author of The Terrorists of Iraq and a twenty-year intelligence veteran and Arabic speaker who has worked with military and intelligence units tracking al-Qaeda inside Iraq. He believes AQI includes about 850 full-time fighters, comprising 2 percent to 5 percent of the Sunni insurgency. "Al-Qaeda in Iraq," according to Nance, "is a microscopic terrorist organization."

So how did the military come up with an estimate of 15 percent, when government data and many of the intelligence community's own analysts point to estimates a fraction of that size? The problem begins at the top. When the White House singles out al-Qaeda in Iraq for special attention, the bureaucracy responds by creating procedures that hunt down more evidence of the organization. The more manpower assigned to focus on the group, the more evidence is uncovered that points to it lurking in every shadow. "When you have something that is really hot, the leaders start tasking everyone to look into that," explains W. Patrick Lang, a retired U.S. Army colonel and former head of Middle East intelligence analysis for the Department of Defense. "Whoever is at the top of the pyramid says, 'Make me a briefing showing what al-Qaeda in Iraq is doing,' and then the decision maker says, 'Aha, I knew I was right.'"

With disproportionate resources dedicated to tracking AQI, the search has become a self-reinforcing loop. The Army has a Special Operations task force solely dedicated to tracking al-Qaeda in Iraq. The Defense Intelligence Agency tracks AQI through its Iraq office and its counterterrorism office. The result is more information culled, more PowerPoint slides created, and, ultimately, more attention drawn to AQI, which amplifies its significance in the minds of military and intelligence officers. "Once people look at everything through that lens, al-Qaeda is all they see," said Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer who also worked at the U.S. State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. "It sort of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Ground-level analysts in the field, facing pressures from superiors to document AQI's handiwork, might be able to question such assumptions if they had strong intelligence networks on the ground. Unfortunately, that's rarely the case. The intelligence community's efforts are hobbled by too few Arabic speakers in their ranks and too many unreliable informants in Iraqi communities, rendering a hazy picture that is open to interpretations.

Because uncertainty exists, the bar for labeling an attack the work of al-Qaeda can be very low. The fact that a detainee possesses al-Qaeda pamphlets or a laptop computer with cached jihadist Web sites, for example, is at times enough for analysts to link a detainee to al-Qaeda. "Sometimes it's as simple as an anonymous tip that al-Qaeda is active in a certain village, so they will go out on an operation and whoever they roll up, we call them al-Qaeda," says Alex Rossmiller. "People can get labeled al-Qaeda anywhere along in the chain of events, and it's really hard to unlabel them." Even when the military backs off explicit statements that AQI is responsible, as with the Tal Afar truck bombings, the perception that an attack is the work of al-Qaeda is rarely corrected.

The result can be baffling for the troops working on the ground, who hear the leadership characterizing the conflict in Iraq in ways that do not necessarily match what they see in the dusty and danger-laden villages. Michael Zacchea, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Reserves who was deployed to Iraq, said he was sometimes skeptical of upper-level analysis emphasizing al-Qaeda in Iraq rather than the insurgency's local roots. "It's very, very frustrating for everyone involved who is trying to do the right thing," he said. "That's not how anyone learned to play the game when we were officers coming up the ranks, and we were taught to provide clear battlefield analysis."

Even if the manpower and number of attacks attributed to AQI have been exaggerated—and they have—many observers maintain that what is uniquely dangerous about the group is not its numbers, but the spectacular nature of its strikes. While homegrown Sunni and Shiite militias engage for the most part in tit-for-tat violence to forward sectarian ends, AQI's methods are presumed to be different—more dramatic, more inflammatory, and having a greater ripple effect on the country's fragile political environment. "The effect of al-Qaeda has been far beyond the numbers that they field," explains Thomas Donnelly, resident fellow for defense and national security at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. "The question is, What attacks are likely to have the most destabilizing political and strategic affects?" He points, as do many inside the administration, to the February 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samara, a revered Shiite shrine, as a paramount example of AQI's outsize influence. President Bush has laid unqualified blame for the Samara bombing on al-Qaeda, and described the infamous incident—and ensuing sectarian violence—as a fatal tipping point toward the current unrest.

But is this view of AQI's vanguard role in destabilizing Iraq really true? There are three reasons to question that belief.

First, although spectacular attacks were a distinctive AQI hallmark early in the war, the group has since lost its monopoly on bloody fireworks. After five years of shifting alliances, cross-pollination of tactics, and copycat attacks, other insurgent groups now launch equally dramatic and politically charged attacks. For example, a second explosion at the Samara mosque in June 2007, which destroyed the shrine's minarets and sparked a wave of revenge attacks on Sunni mosques nationwide, may have been an inside job. U.S. military officials said fifteen uniformed men from the Shiite-run Iraqi Security Forces were arrested for suspected involvement in the attack.

Second, it remains unclear whether the original Samara bombing was itself the work of AQI. The group never took credit for the attack, as it has many other high-profile incidents. The man who the military believe orchestrated the bombing, an Iraqi named Haitham al-Badri, was both a Samara native and a former high-ranking government official under Saddam Hussein. (His right-hand man, Hamed Jumaa Farid al-Saeedi, was also a former military intelligence officer in Saddam Hussein's army.) Key features of the bombing did not conform to the profile of an AQI attack. For example, the bombers did not target civilians, or even kill the Shiite Iraqi army soldiers guarding the mosque, both of which are trademark tactics of AQI. The planners also employed sophisticated explosive devices, suggesting formal military training common among former regime officers, rather than the more bluntly destructive tactics typical of AQI. Finally, Samara was the heart of Saddam's power base, where former regime fighters keep tight control over the insurgency. Frank "Greg" Ford, a retired counterintelligence agent for the Army Reserves, who worked with the Army in Samara before the 2006 bombing, says that the evidence points away from AQI and toward a different conclusion: "The Baathists directed that attack," says Ford.

Third, while some analysts believe that AQI drafts Baathist insurgents to carry out its attacks, other intelligence experts think it is the other way around. In other words, they see evidence of native insurgent forces coopting the steady stream of delusional extremists seeking martyrdom that AQI brings into Iraq. "Al-Qaeda can't operate anywhere in Iraq without kissing the ring of the former regime," says Nance. "They can't move car bombs full of explosives and foreign suicide bombers through a city without everyone knowing who they are. They need to be facilitated." Thus new foreign fighters "come through and some local Iraqis will say, 'Okay, why don't you go down to the Ministry of Defense building downtown.'" AQI recruits often find themselves taking orders from a network of former regime insurgents, who assemble their car bombs and tell them what to blow up. They become, as Nance says, "puppets for the other insurgent groups."

The view that AQI is neither as big nor as lethal as commonly believed is widespread among working-level analysts and troops on the ground. A majority of those interviewed for this article believe that the military's AQI estimates are overblown to varying degrees. If such misgivings are common, why haven't doubts pricked the public debate? The reason is that alternate views are running up against an echo chamber of powerful players all with an interest in hyping AQI's role.

The first group that profits from an outsize focus on AQI are former regime elements, and the tribal chiefs with whom they are often allied. These forces are able to carry out attacks against Shiites and Americans, but also to shift the blame if it suits their purposes. While the U.S. military has recently touted "news" that Sunni insurgents have turned against the al-Qaeda terrorists in Anbar Province, there is little evidence of actual clashes between these two groups. Sunni insurgents in Anbar have largely ceased attacks on Americans, but some observers suggest that this development has less to do with vanquishing AQI than with the fact that U.S. troops now routinely deliver cash-filled duffle bags to tribal sheiks serving as "lead contractors" on "reconstruction projects." The excuse of fighting AQI comes in handy. "Remember, Iraq is an honor society," explains Juan Cole, an Iraq expert and professor of modern Middle Eastern studies at the University of Michigan. "But if you say it wasn't us—it was al-Qaeda—then you don't lose face."

The second benefactor is the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, often the first to blame specific attacks on AQI. Talking about "al-Qaeda" offers the government a politically correct way of talking about Sunni violence without seeming to blame the Sunnis themselves, to whom they are ostensibly trying to reach out in a unity government. On a deeper level, however, the al-Maliki regime has very limited popular support, and the government officials and ruling Islamic Dawa Party feel an imperative to include Iraqi troubles in the broader "global war in terrorism" in order to keep U.S. troops in the country. In June, when faced with increasingly uncomfortable pressure from the Americans for his failure to resolve key political issues, al-Maliki warned that Iraqi intelligence had found evidence of a "widespread and dangerous plan by the terrorist al-Qaeda organization" to mount attacks outside of Iraq.

Elsewhere within the Shiite bloc of Iraqi politics, Moqtada al-Sadr has his own reasons for playing up the idea of AQI. "The Sadrists want to overstate the role of al-Qaeda in a way to emphasize on the 'foreignness' of the current problem in Iraq; and this easily fits their anti-occupation ideology, which seems to gain more popularity among Shia Iraqis on a daily basis," said Babak Rahimi, a professor of Islamic Studies and expert in Shiite politics at the University of California at San Diego.

Bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, remain eager to take credit for the violence in Iraq, despite the bad blood that existed between bin Laden and AQI's slain founder, al-Zarqawi. They've produced a long series of taped statements in recent years taunting U.S. leaders and attempting to conflate their operations with the Sunni resistance in Iraq. "They want to bring this all together as a motivating tool to encourage recruitment," said Farhana Ali, a terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation.

The press has also been complicit in inflating the threat of AQI. Because of the danger on the ground, reporters struggle to do the kind of comprehensive field reporting that's necessary to check facts and question statements from military spokespersons and Iraqi politicians. Today, for example, U.S. reporters rarely travel independently outside central Baghdad. Few, if any, insurgents have ever given interviews to Western reporters. These limitations are understandable, if unfortunate. But news organizations are reluctant to admit their confines in obtaining information. Ambiguities are glossed over; allegations are presented as facts. Besides, it's undeniably in the reporter's own interest to keep "al-Qaeda attacks" in the headline, because it may move their story from A16 to A1.

Finally, no one has more incentive to overstate the threat of AQI than President Bush and those in the administration who argue for keeping a substantial military presence in Iraq. Insistent talk about AQI aims to place the Iraq War in the context of the broader war on terrorism. Pointing to al-Qaeda in Iraq helps the administration leverage Americans' fears about terrorism and residual anger over the attacks of September 11. It is perhaps one of the last rhetorical crutches the president has left to lean on.

This is not to say that al-Qaeda in Iraq doesn't pose a real danger, both to stability in Iraq and to security in the United States. Today multiple Iraqi insurgent groups target U.S. forces, with the aim of driving out the occupation. But once our troops withdraw, most Sunni resistance fighters will have no impetus to launch strikes on American soil. In that regard, al-Qaeda—and AQI, to the extent it is affiliated with bin Laden's network—is unique. The group's leadership consists largely of foreign fighters, and its ideology and ambitions are global. Al-Qaeda fighters trained in Baghdad may one day use those skills to plot strikes aimed at Boston.

Yet it's not clear that the best way to counter this threat is with military action in Iraq. AQI's presence is tolerated by the country's Sunni Arabs, historically among the most secular in the Middle East, because they have a common enemy in the United States. Absent this shared cause, it's not clear that native insurgents would still welcome AQI forces working to impose strict sharia. In Baghdad, any near-term functioning government will likely be an alliance of Shiites and Kurds, two groups unlikely to accept organized radical Sunni Arab militants within their borders. Yet while precisely predicting future political dynamics in Iraq is uncertain, one thing is clear now: the continued American occupation of Iraq is al-Qaeda's best recruitment tool, the lure to hook new recruits. As RAND's Ali said, "What inspires jihadis today is Iraq."

Five years ago, the American public was asked to support the invasion of Iraq based on the false claim that Saddam Hussein was somehow linked to al-Qaeda. Today, the erroneous belief that al-Qaeda's franchise in Iraq is a driving force behind the chaos in that country may be setting us up for a similar mistake.

Andrew Tilghman was an Iraq correspondent for the Stars and Stripes newspaper in 2005 and 2006. He can be reached at

There's more: "The Myth of AQI" >>

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dick and the Drums of War

Golly - who ya gonna trust? A five deferment draft-dodger with a war-porn addiction? Or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff?

The Veep went to The Washington Institute yesterday to beat the drum for war with Iran.

The ideological struggle that's playing out in the Middle East today -- the struggle against radical extremists -- is going to concern America certainly for the remainder of our administration, and well into the future. On September 11th, 2001, we suffered a heavy blow, right here at home, at the hands of extremists who plotted the attacks from an outpost thousands of miles from our shores. Since that terrible morning, Americans have properly called this a war. For their part, the terrorists agree. The difference is they began calling it a war a good many years prior to 9/11. And they've been waging that war with clear objectives, aggressive tactics, and a strategy they want to carry out at any cost. [Iran had even less to do with the attacks of September 11 than Iraq! That was primarily a Saudi operation, and we all bloody well know it!]

They've stated their objectives. The terrorists want to end all American and Western influence in the Middle East. Their goal in that region is to seize control of a country so they have a base from which they can launch attacks and wage war against governments that do not meet their demands. Ultimately they seek to establish a totalitarian empire through the Middle East, and outward from there. They want to arm themselves with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons; they want to destroy Israel; they intimidate all Western countries; and to cause mass death here in the United States. [Okay. I have no doubt that a few thousand dedicated extremists can subdue all 300 million of the most obstreperous and heavily armed people on the face of the earth. No trouble at all. Hell, 160 thousand are subduing 25 million and it's a cakewalk! Yep terrorists will just roll right over us, we'll all don Burkas and grow beards and submit to sharia. And I will need medical attention because monkeys will be flying out of my butt...What the fuck, "leaders"? Terrorists win when people get terrified! So why is the Vice Resident whipping up fear and helping the terrorists win? Myself, I will laugh at them and their silly superstitions even as the scimitar separates my head from my torso. I am not going to let the fuckers terrify me, and I have no regard for anyone so silly.]

The tactics, of course, are familiar to all the world: suicide attacks, car bombs, beheadings, messages of violence and hatred on the Internet, and the hijackings of 9/11. And the strategy is clear, as well: Through acts of stealth and murder and spectacular violence, they intend to frighten us and to break our will; to hit us again and again until we run away. It's not easy for a civilized society to comprehend evil like that of Osama bin Laden or Zawahiri. It shocks us to hear such men exhorting other people's sons to "join a caravan" of so-called martyrs, proclaiming that heaven favors the merciless and murder is the path to paradise. [He is just talkin' like it's one big war and Iran and Iraq are the same thing. Interchangeable really. That's why he was talking about Iran and he kept referencing al Qaeda. Duh.]

The Iranian regime's efforts to destabilize the Middle East and to gain hegemonic power is a matter of record. And now, of course, we have the inescapable reality of Iran's nuclear program; a program they claim is strictly for energy purposes, but which they have worked hard to conceal; a program carried out in complete defiance of the international community and resolutions of the U.N. Security Council. Iran is pursuing technology that could be used to develop nuclear weapons. The world knows this. The Security Council has twice imposed sanctions on Iran and called on the regime to cease enriching uranium. Yet the regime continues to do so, and continues to practice delay and deception in an obvious attempt to buy time. [Gain hegemonic power? What the fuck? When did Iran start running around willy-nilly and invading the neighbors? They haven't invaded anyone since the 1800's and they are not an Arab nation. They dominant ethnic group is Persian, and Shia. They are surrounded by Arabs, who are majority Sunni, and non-arab Sunnis on pretty much all sides. the merest utterance of the phrase "hegemonic power" with regard to Iran brands the speaker a blithering fucking dipshit.]

[Keep Reading]

Given the nature of Iran's rulers, the declarations of the Iranian President, and the trouble the regime is causing throughout the region -- including direct involvement in the killing of Americans -- our country and the entire international community cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its most aggressive ambitions. (Applause.) [I have heard assertions that they are directly killing Americans - who should not be in proximity anyway - but the people asserting are not providing evidence and have a track record of lying to the point it's pathological. And declarations from Ahmadineajad are laughable. He is the Mullahs response to that Axis of Evil crap, and when the clowns in charge are gone, so is he. Nobody with any sentience of the region assigns him any relevance, save as comic relief. ]

The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences. The United States joins other nations in sending a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. (Applause.) [Way to ramp up the old rhetoric! That is just about a fucking declaration of war! And the Deserter-in-Chief said last week they should be denied the knowledge to make a nuke. Somehow, I think Vladimir Putin will weigh in before too long...Way to go, you warmongering fuckheads. Way to lose the cold war after the fact. Morons.]

The irresponsible conduct of the ruling elite in Tehran is a tragedy for all Iranians. The regime has passed up numerous opportunities to be a positive force in the Middle East. For more than a generation, it had only isolated a great nation, suppressed a great people, and subjected them to economic hardship that gets worse every year. The citizens of Iran deserve none of this. They are the proud heirs of a culture of learning, humanity and beauty that reaches back many centuries. Iranian civilization has produced shining achievements, from the Persian Book of Kings, to the poetry of Rumi and Khayyam, to celebrated achievements in astronomy and mathematics, to art and music admired on every continent. The Iran of today -- a nation of 70 million, a majority of them under the age of 30 -- is a place of unlimited potential. And the Iranian people have every right to be free from oppression, from economic deprivation, and tyranny in their own country. [Oh for fuck's sake. This is about three degrees from "We'll be greeted as liberators!" Would someone impeach these war criminals already??? Then indict, imprison, prosecute, convict...following the sentencing guidelines to the end...If that is the end of a rope, so be it.]


Admiral Mullen, however, is not playing along with the hattrick-of-wars scenario.

The new chairman, [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Adm. Mike Mullen, expressed deep concerns that the long counterinsurgency missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have so consumed the military that the Army and Marine Corps may be unprepared for a high-intensity war against a major adversary.

He rejected the counsel of those who might urge immediate attacks inside Iran to destroy nuclear installations or to stop the flow of explosives that end up as powerful roadside bombs in Iraq or Afghanistan, killing American troops.

With America at war in two Muslim countries, he said, attacking a third Islamic nation in the region “has extraordinary challenges and risks associated with it.” The military option, he said, should be a last resort.

Iran is not a strategic threat to the United States. They have an economy the size of a small European country and the defense spending of a large state's national guard. They are not going to defeat the most powerful Air Force and the largest blue water Navy in the world. We have enough firepower to kill everybody on the planet many times over. Thems the facts.

But here are some more. They could shut down the Straight of Hormuz and they might even manage to sink a tanker or two. What they would be able to do is drive the price of oil to $200 a barrel. That would be a windfall to Putin.

There are voices in Iraq who want democracy and openness. But they will not welcome an American attack to bring 'em Democracy! Who the fuck would? I want change here, too, but I don't want this president hanged by a foreign power who invades my country! If that were to come to pass, I would want it to be because Americans got off their fat asses and got pissed off!

Meantime, I know how to facilitate Democracy for the price of a strafing run. Build internet infrastructure and flood the place with cheap laptops. Superstition dies, and Democracy flows from information access, not from the barrel of a gun, and certainly not from bombs dropped from on high.

There's more: "Dick and the Drums of War" >>