Saturday, February 21, 2009

Is Obama weakening on Iraq withdrawal timeline?

Tis true that during the general election campaign — though NOT true during Democratic primaries, IIRC — that President Barack Obama always caveated (did I just utter a Haigism?) his Iraq withdrawal timetable by saying it depended on the analysis of the brass hats. (Likewise, Obama uttered his “combat troops only” caveat ONLY after the general election started; he never mentioned that, IIRC, during the primaries.)

Anyway, it sounds like The One might be warming up his caveating vocal chords. Are you really that surprised?

But, given that there just aren’t enough troops to up the numbers in Afghanistan beyond 55,000 AND keep Iraq totals at their current level — and that’s with the Army still worn-out, and Obama no closer to “easing its pain” — B.O. is going to have to either force Centcom head David Petraeus to get Iraq theater commander Ray Odierno and Afghanistan theater head David McKiernan to come to consensus, or else craft one.

At the same time, for Petraeus to move the ball too much further down the road, Obama the C-in-C is going to have to start making some policy decisions.

Besides, if he’s serious about talk of how he plans to plans to halve the deficit in four years, what better place to start than by getting ALL troops out of Iraq?

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Friday, February 20, 2009

First Rule of Neocon Club ... You Do Not Talk About Neocon Club!

The second rule of Neocon Club?

You don't talk about Neocon Club ...

And, that apparently is Richard Perle's story, and he's sticking to it.

Dana Milbank, in the WAPO today, has a fascinating, and hilarious, piece, on one of the Grand Poohbars on the Neocon Society, one of the architects and vociferious advocates of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, dutifully carried out by the Bush Grindhouse.

Here's one, of many, stories, putting Perle at Ground Zero Neoconland, where he infers that Iraq was behind Sept 11th;
Manning already understood that people close to President Bush wanted to go after Iraq, and Tenet of course knew it too. Conspicuous among them, in his mind that night, was the neoconservative agitator and polemicist Richard Perle, an outspoken advocate of removing Saddam Hussein by military force. On the very first page of Tenet's memoir, he tells us that he had run into Perle that very morning -- Sept. 12 -- as Perle was leaving the West Wing of the White House. They knew each other in a passing way, as figures of note on the Washington scene. As Tenet reached the door, Perle turned to him and said, "Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday. They bear responsibility."

Ahh, but on to the hijinks.

Prince of Darkness Denies Own Existence

No, not that "Prince of Darkness", the one that runs over homeless people in his Corvette.
The Prince of Darkness -- so dubbed during his days opposing arms control in the Reagan Pentagon -- was not about to let details get in the way of his argument that "50 million conspiracy theorists have it wrong," as the subtitle of his article for National Interest put it. "I see a number of people here who believe and have expressed themselves abundantly that there is a neoconservative foreign policy and it was the policy that dominated the Bush administration, and they ascribe to it responsibility for the deplorable state of the world," Perle told the foreign policy luminaries at yesterday's lunch. "None of that is true, of course."

As you can see, Perle is adhering, not to the letter, the rules of Neocon Club.
In real life, Perle was the ideological architect of the Iraq war and of the Bush doctrine of preemptive attack. But at yesterday's forum of foreign policy intellectuals, he created a fantastic world in which:

1. Perle is not a neoconservative.

2. Neoconservatives do not exist.

3. Even if neoconservatives did exist, they certainly couldn't be blamed for the disasters of the past eight years.

"There is no such thing as a neoconservative foreign policy," Perle informed the gathering, hosted by National Interest magazine. "It is a left critique of what is believed by the commentator to be a right-wing policy."

Even when he was pressed;

Richard Burt, who clashed with Perle in the Reagan administration, took issue with "this argument that neoconservatism maybe actually doesn't exist." He reminded Perle of the longtime rift between foreign policy realists and neoconservative interventionists. "You've got to kind of acknowledge there is a neoconservative school of thought," Burt challenged.

"I don't accept the approach, not at all," the Prince of Darkness replied.

As Milbank aptly notes, "there was a sense of falling down the rabbit hole", but this wasn't merely a stumble, this was a head-first, deep-as-the-core-of-the-earth, plunge down that rabbit hole.

The Bush Grindhouse, in a equally-bald-face, twisted employment of the lexicon, gave us the "Clear Skies Act".

Perle, taking his cue, is trying to sell his "Clear Conscious" act.

Which is as about as credible as the mushroom clouds and WMD's Perle and his Neocon Nitwits tried to palm off on us.

And, when you look at where we are now, after eight-years of this kind of horse-shit, Perle and Co. followed the script perfectly.

After establishing the Neocon Club, they immediately put into action Project Mayhem.

Bonus Neocon Club Riffs

Washington Sketch: Richard Perle in Wonderland (Video)

Christy Hardin Smith - Richard Perle: Rebranding Himself, The Neocons And Other Con Jobs


Spencer Ackerman: Just Ignore Everything Richard Perle Says for the Rest of His Life

Alan Colmes: Neocon Says There’s No Such Thing As A Neocon


Garlic Poll Results ...Most People Think The PNAC Is ...

Where's Ernest Borgnine when you need him?

Neocon Dolphins? ... Say It Ain't So, Flipper!

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Congress members: Lobby us to get out of Iraq

This is not exactly a man-bites-dog story, but at least three members of Congress have expressed their support for a campaign to contact members of Congress and urge them to end the occupation of Iraq.

And a fourth has joined protesters at their regular vigil.

Representatives Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, and George Miller -- all California Democrats -- have written the Raise Hell for Molly Ivins campaign to encourage it to continue raising hell. Meanwhile, Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, joined a vigil in Wyandotte, MI. (He's at left in photo)

The Ivins campaign has been urging people to use the Third Friday of every month -- Iraq Moratorium day -- to contact Congresspeople in their home offices and ask them to get US troops out of Iraq. Friday, Feb. 20, is Iraq Moratorium #18.

"Please keep fighting," wrote Lee, a longtime opponent of the Iraq war.

Late last fall, Woolsey, Lee and Maxine Waters organized 92 members of Congress to sign a letter putting then-President Bush on notice that "we will only authorize funding for Iraq that is used for the safe and orderly redeployment of our troops and military contractors," Woolsey said. "We will have many serious issues to deal with in the coming months under a new President, but I will not forget that ending this occupation must be a priority for this Congress and for this nation," her letter said.

Miller cited President Obama's promise to bring the troops home from Iraq in 16 months, and said he and others will be working to accomplish that. He also "heartily endorsed" the Ivins efforts.

Miller, however, did not sign the Woolsey letter, which had its critics, too, including David Swanson of AfterDowningStreet.

The proof, of course, will be in the pudding. Letters and statements from members of Congress are encouraging, but actions speak louder. All three have a track record of opposition to the war.

Miller voted against the war to begin with, and said this in 2006:

Mr. Speaker, there is no more pressing issue in our country today than bringing an end to the war in Iraq as quickly as possible.

But Miller's recent letter to the Ivins campaign reads more like a polite acknowledgement of contact from a constituent, blames everything on Bush and says Obama will change things.

So, don't set aside your skepticism, or even your cynicism.

But do try to meet with, talk with, and confront your member of Congress personally when they are back in the district. And ask them for a commitment to end the war and occupation. Not a statement saying how much they admire what you do -- a commitment about what they will do.

Friday, Feb. 20, marks the 18th monthly observance of the Iraq Moratorium, a grassroots movement uniting people and groups who act to call for an end to the war and occupation of Iraq.

Many activities, individual and collective, large and small, are planned. The Iraq Moratorium website includes a listing as well as ideas for individual actions.

If your plans aren't listed there, please submit them here.

Afterward, please send a brief report of what you did, with photos or videos if they're available. Here's the easy form to do that: Form. It only takes a minute, and sharing your experiences can inspire others to act.

One more thing: The Iraq Moratorium, an all-volunteer operation, is a low budget organization. But it can't operate as a no-budget organization. If you can, please make a donation of whatever you can spare, knowing that we will put it to immediate and effective use in the cause of peace. Here's the link.

Thanks for all that you do, on Friday and every day, to help bring peace.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009




(click to enlarge maps)
Former Soviet Republics Bordering Afghanistan


Swat Valley

Meanwhile, Back In Babylon, Things Fall Apart; And In Pakistan, A Fundamental Deal

The first Marines went over the wall, parlez-vous. Hm. Where have we heard that before? Oh, yeah, in the "War To End All Wars," almost a hundred years ago. Think how many died believing their sacrifice might end war forever. Makes you wonder if we're not always delusional, going into a war.

You'd think, after seven years in Iraq, the scales would have fallen from our eyes. Anyone who believes that we can ever leave there without sizable portions of whatever is left of it falling into chaos, civil war and terrorism is plainly delusional. And now we're going to do the same thing in Afghanistan. Why? Because the very same generals who managed the mess in Mesopotamia are insisting upon it. And if they don't get their way, again, they're going to try to overthrow Obama in the corporate media. So, what choice does Obama have but to do their bidding? Grow a pair?



He's pretty much doing what the new Pakistani PM is doing: Giving in to the other side. Yousuf Raza Gilani just did a deal with the Pakistan version of the Taliban to give them official control of their breakaway region on the border of Afghanistan, Shariah Law and all. (Not exactly Ladies Night in Pakistan tonight.) This region is next door to the home base of Al Qaida and much of the Afghan Taliban. So, here we are reliving the Cold War, where the worst people on both "sides" of an imaginary conflict pretty much ran the show. That put us all under "nuclear umbrellas" for almost fifty years, until the financial weight of it brought down both sides. Hmmmm.

Of course, both sides are already down, financially, in this new "drole de guerre." So, what, exactly, is going to bring about glasnost and perestroika this time? You could try asking Vladimir Putin, the ex(?)-KGB agent & FSB chief in Soviet Russia. He recently outmaneuvered the U.S. in Kyrgyzstan, bribed them to kick us out, then offered to let us use Russian territory as our sole northern access to the territory of his old buddies, the Afghans. They're probably thrilled. But why would the Rooskies want to help us build a natural gas pipeline to compete with their European lines? Are they trying to sabotage the pipe, or are we going to end up finishing the Russians' drive for a warm-water port in the Indian Ocean or the Arabian Sea for them? Cuz, you know, I think our troops deserve to know which country they're going to die for. I'm just sayin'.





"Dozens of Shiite pilgrims die in resurgent violence in Iraq"
"The Surge is working! The Surge is working! The Surge is BOOOM!!!

' More than three dozen Shiite Muslim pilgrims were killed Friday when a suicide bomber blew herself up at a crowded roadside tent in central Iraq , marking the first time in more than a month that a suicide bomber carried out such a deadly attack. The blast — the third straight day of intense violence — threatens to set back the security gains Iraq has made in recent months as Washington prepares to draw down U.S. troop levels. In the past three days, car bombings, political assassinations and suicide attacks — including Friday's — have claimed the lives of at least 72 people. The climb in violence comes after a stretch of relative calm following five years of sectarian warfare. Much to the relief of many Iraqis, the Jan. 31 election passed without major violence. However, the vote's pending outcome — results should be released next week — could be exacerbating tensions among rival sects and politicians. Despite a heightened security presence in Karbala and beyond, attacks on Shiite Muslim pilgrims have persisted. The attacks targeting Shiite Muslim pilgrims coincide with a spate of attacks directed at Sunni politicians and others in the north. In Mosul , a volatile city to the north where Iraqi security forces have yet to secure control, sectarian tensions between Sunni Arabs and Sunni Kurds have intensified. In the past few days, Mosul has seen a mounting death toll. Among the dead: Four policemen, one Sunni politician, one civilian, and an Iraqi soldier. And on Monday, four American soldiers and their interpreter were killed at a checkpoint when a vehicle with a makeshift explosive blew up nearby. '

"Troop Increase in Afghanistan Differs from Iraq Surge "
Permanent "surge"?
' When discussing an increased troop commitment in Afghanistan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff cautions that it won't be a carbon copy of the troop surge that proved so successful in Iraq. "I actually don't use the term 'surge,' and I don't think it's right, because the 'surge' term has an implication that it is going to go up, then come down," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told reporters returning with him today after a two-day trip to Fort Drum, N.Y., and Ottawa. That's what happened during the troop surge in Iraq, when 33,000 additional troops began deploying in early 2007 to boost security in Baghdad and Anbar province. Violence quickly decreased, and the last of the five original surge brigades redeployed in July 2008 after a 13-month deployment. But Mullen has made no secret of the fact that he considers Afghanistan a tougher mission than the one in Iraq, and the challenges more daunting. As a result, he said there's no set timetable anticipated for the additional 20,000 to 30,000 troops Army Gen. David D. McKiernan, commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has requested to improve security there, Mullen said. "I don't know how long it is the troops will be there," Mullen said. "I think we will keep troops there long enough to provide the security and sustain it at a time when we will continue to build the Afghan security forces." '

"First wave of U.S. troops in Afghan surge engages in combat"
Giving in to the bad guys I.
' LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Close to 3,000 American soldiers who recently arrived in Afghanistan to secure two violent provinces near Kabul have begun operations in the field and already are seeing combat, the unit's spokesman said Monday. The new troops are the first wave of an expected surge of reinforcements this year. The process began to take shape under President George Bush but has been given impetus by President Barack Obama's call for an increased focus on Afghanistan. U.S. commanders have been contemplating sending up to 30,000 more soldiers to bolster the 33,000 already here, but the new administration is expected to initially approve only a portion of that amount. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday the president would decide soon. Militant activity has spiked in Logar and Wardak over the last year as the resurgent Taliban has spread north toward Kabul from its traditional southern power base. Residents say insurgents roam wide swaths of Wardak, a mountainous province whose capital is about 35 miles from Kabul. Haight said he believes the increase of militant activity in the two provinces is not ideologically based but stems from poor Afghans being enticed into fighting by their need for money. Quoting the governor of Logar, the colonel called it an "economic war." Logar Gov. Atiqullah Ludin said at a news conference alongside Haight that U.S. troops will need to improve both security and the economic situation. "There is a gap between the people and the government," Ludin said. "Assistance in Logar is very weak, and the life of the common man has not improved." Ludin also urged that U.S. forces be careful and not act on bad intelligence to launch night raids on Afghans who turn out to be innocent. It is a common complaint from Afghan leaders. President Hamid Karzai has long pleaded with U.S. forces not to kill innocent Afghans during military operations and says he hopes to see night raids curtailed. Pointing to the value of such operations, the U.S. military said Monday that a raid in northwest Badghis province killed a feared militant leader named Ghulam Dastagir and eight other fighters. Other raids, though, have killed innocent Afghans who were only defending their village against a nighttime incursion by forces they didn't know, officials say. Haight cautioned last week that civilian casualties could increase with the presence of his 2,700 soldiers. "We understand the probability of increased civilian casualties is there because of increased U.S. forces," said the colonel, who has also commanded Special Operations task forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. '

"Will Pakistan's Shari'a Pact Calm or Inflame the Tribal Regions?"
Giving in to the bad guys II.
' In a desperate move to deal with an intractable radical insurgency, the Pakistan government says it will impose a form of Islamic law in the area of Swat Valley in the northwestern corner of the country. As a result, Islamabad's faltering military campaign there has been put on hold, and the militants have agreed to a tentative ceasefire. But many observers fear that, far from calming the conflict, the government has capitulated to the Islamist guerrillas and has set a worrying precedent — one that will surely displease some U.S. officials who want the government to take a harder line against militants. It is, however, a highly controversial and risky course. A previous peace deal failed within months, after giving the militants the space to regroup and sweep away earlier military gains. "It is an attempt on the part of the government to win over a section of religious extremists," says Hasan Askari-Rizvi, a military analyst. "The idea is that if they are pulled out of the struggle, they will cooperate with the government and help isolate the militants. It may have been a good idea if the Taliban were on the run, but they're well entrenched." It is unclear what Sufi Mohammed's precise role will be, or how much leverage he has in Swat. The militant leader emerged as a force in the mid-1990s, when his loyalists, sporting black turbans, seized control of buildings and courthouses before the government of then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was able to tame the revolt and sign a truce. In late 2001, Sufi Mohammed led thousands of young men — including Fazlullah — to Afghanistan to fight western forces who had invaded in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Upon their return, he was arrested and imprisoned. His release last year was contingent on his disavowal of militancy and an agreement to cooperate with the government. '

"Is the U.S. repeating Soviet mistakes in Afghanistan?"
Those who do not remember the past...
' Some Afghan experts are worried that the United States and its NATO allies are making some of the same mistakes that helped the Taliban's forerunners defeat the Soviet Union after a decade-long occupation that bled the Kremlin treasury, demoralized Moscow's military and contributed to the Soviet Union's collapse. Among the mistakes, these experts said, are relying too heavily on military force, inflicting too many civilian casualties, concentrating too much power in Kabul and tolerating pervasive government corruption. Violence and ethnic tensions will worsen, they warned, absent a rapid correction in U.S.-led strategy that improves coordination between military operations and stepped up reconstruction, job-training and local good governance programs. "We have not justified democracy. We have not justified human rights. We have not justified liberalism," said Azziz Royesh, a political activist, educator and former anti- Soviet guerrilla. "Afghans don't like the Taliban . But we haven't shown them a better option." "I see a time when again there could be thousands of unorganized insurgencies around the country," he cautioned. "The foreigners are the ones who will be targeted. If we don't bring change here, these kinds of incidents will add to the Taliban insurgency." Previously secret Soviet documents made public in English for the first time on Saturday reveal that Obama is facing some of the same problems that compelled former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to order a withdrawal from Afghanistan. The documents, posted on the George Washington University's National Security Archive Web site, show that Gorbachev decided in 1985 to end the Soviet occupation after realizing that Moscow couldn't win a military victory, a point that Obama and senior U.S. commanders repeatedly stress. '

"Moscow again eyes Afghanistan 20 years after retreat"
They're B-A-A-A-A-A-C-K ! ! !
' "The consensus of Russian experts is that there is no winning strategy for the US and NATO in Afghanistan," says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a top Moscow-based foreign policy journal. "Most believe that, sooner or later, Afghanistan's neighboring countries will face serious challenges from a possible revived Taliban. It means we need to work with the Americans, and find common approaches, but we need to make our own preparations, too." Last week, after receiving a $2.3 billion package of loans and aid from Moscow, Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev ordered the US to vacate Manas, the last of the military bases on former Soviet territory that Russia had acquiesced to following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Also last week, Russia pushed its regional alliance, the six-member Collective Security Treaty Organization, to beef up its joint rapid reaction force to 10,000 men aimed at combating terrorism and drug trafficking. And next month, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional alliance led by Russia and China, will convene a special conference on Afghanistan to explore ways to strengthen the group's relations with Kabul, which could include Russian arms sales and military advice for the first time since the Soviet withdrawal, experts say. Cooperating with the US may, in the future, take a back seat to Moscow's own regional offensive, some say. "Russia urgently needs to create friendly regimes in central Asia and a strong, unified border defense," says Alexei Mukhin, director of the independent Center for Political Information in Moscow. "We're very willing to work together with NATO against our common enemy, the Taliban, but we've seen from past experience that this does not produce positive or lasting results for us. The Kremlin is certain that Russia needs to act decisively on its own" to ensure Russia's security if Afghanistan collapses again, he says. '

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