Saturday, May 01, 2004

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Abu Ghraib Prison Atrocities
Failing 3 Different Ways

I've waited a couple of days before writing my thoughts about the atrocities that were committed by the U.S. Army troops at the Abu Ghraib Prison and have only recently come to light. I felt the need to sort through the available information. At this point I'm sure that trials will be conducted and soldiers will be punished.

Certainly CENTCOM and the Pentagon would like the issue to just go away. That won't happen. I suspect Abu Ghraib is going to stay in the collective psyche, much the way that My Lai has. I believe that is a good thing. Atrocities should not be easy to forget. And the lessons learned from them should drive the way America trains her military well into the future.

That's why it's important for the Army pay attention to Abu Ghraib. When the systems that train soldiers and assign them missions break down this badly, there needs to be an immediate focus on what went wrong at every level. And that process needs to start now.

From my perspective, there are three problems that need to me addressed. The first is at the command level. At the time the atrocities took place, Abu Ghraib was being run by the 800th Military Police Brigade. This is an Army Reserve Brigade. That should not make any difference. The standards for the individuals soldiers, and the units that make up the 800th are the same as those of a regular army Military Police units.

There is a system in place within the Reserve Components that determines whether or not a unit is sufficiently trained, staffed, and equipped for deployment. I have seen reports in which some of the soldiers from the 800th said that they had not been trained in what was required of them under the Geneva Convention. If that is true, they did not have sufficient training for the mission they were given and should never have been deployed to Iraq in the first place. So either somebody sent a unit (actually a collection of units that made up the brigade) that should not have deployed, or the units' training records were falsified, indicating a higher level of readiness than was actually true. In either case, someone needs to be called to account.

The second problem is one of leadership at every level, both within the 800th, and with others, particularly the interrogators, who worked at Abu Ghraib.

From the brigadier general who commanded the prison, down through battalion and company commanders and staff, to the non-commissioned officers who oversaw the day-to-day operations, every leader who was aware of the abuses and didn't take action to bring them to an end failed in their duty as an army leader.

I am reminded of the helicopter pilot, an Army Chief Warrant Officer, who flew into My Lai and saw the massacre as it was taking place. He ordered Lt. Calley's troops to hold their fire, then to make his point, he ordered his door gunner to open up on anyone who disobeyed his order. That single act of courage is what ended the massacre. It is the sort of leadership that is expected in the U.S. Army of every commissioned and non-commissioned officer.

As near as I can tell, not a single officer in the 800th MP Brigade was willing to take that kind of stand. To me that speaks to a failure to train and mentor leaders. Someone needs to take a serious look at that and not just try to put a bandaid on it.

The third problem is that our soldiers, both regular and reserve components, are drawn from a society that is still infused with a great deal of intolerance and bigotry. Perhaps it surfaces more often when men and women are placed in difficult situations for long periods of time.

Once someone becomes "the enemy," it becomes easier to de-humanize them. In the process, our thin veneer of humanity is swept away before we know it. When that happens, there isn't much left to hold back those "Lord of the Flies" impulses that dwell just below the surface, at least in some people.

You don't have to look far for examples. Go back and read The Burnings Back in WWIII, or the angry, hate-filled comments of those the pseudo-adolescents known to frequent sites like little green footballs. Then picture those young men (and apparently women, too, judging from the photographs) running a prison full of people of a different race and faith who have been identified as "the enemy."

I believe that is what happened at Abu Ghraib. That doesn't excuse it. What those soldiers did is inexcusable. But what is even worse is a command climate that either ignored it or encouraged it. In either case, it represents a serious systemic problem within the military. And it has to be seriously addressed at all levels, from top the senior military leadership, to the troops in the field. That is the only way the U.S. Army can hope to redeem itself from the Abu Ghraib atrocities.

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The Up-is-Down Anniversary
of the photo-op of the century

from DemFromCT at Kos:
Today is the 'Mission Accomplished' carrier landing anniversary. Don't look for the Republicans to be the ones playing the video. That says it all right there.
I must have missed the big victory parade.

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This explains a lot of things:
Dick Cheney and Faux News

"It's easy to complain about the press -- I've been doing it for a good part of my career," Cheney said. "It's part of what goes with a free society. What I do is try to focus upon those elements of the press that I think do an effective job and try to be accurate in their portrayal of events. For example, I end up spending a lot of time watching Fox News, because they're more accurate in my experience, in those events that I'm personally involved in, than many of the other outlets."

Maybe that's where he saw all those weapons of mass destruction.


Friday, April 30, 2004

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Bad Religion:

David Neiwert is in rare form this week:
It determines what "the truth" is by a sort of faith-based process that is predicated primarily on whatever political advantage it might gain from policy. Then it pursues only the information that will back up that thesis. And it adheres to it through hell and high water, regardless of the consequences for anyone else -- particularly the nation. Its hallmark is a pronounced tendency to believe its own bullshit.

Note, in fact, its close similarity to religious fundamentalism, which determines the "truth" ahead of time and then seeks anything, even outright falsehoods, to support it.
Makes an aging sci-fi fan want to dig out an ancient copy of Robert Heinlein's Revolt in 2100, just for the fun of reading If This Goes On.


Thursday, April 29, 2004

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Paul Wolfowitz Can't Count the Dead

Via Hoffmania:
The number-two civilian at the Pentagon was asked today how many U-S troops have died in Iraq. And his estimate came up short -- by about 200 soldiers.
I'm sure Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz has more important things to think about than how many young men and women have died in the war that he and his civilian friends wanted so badly. It's just that, at the moment, none of them come to mind.

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General News

First, on the heals of television footage of outrageous abuses of Iraqi prisoners by members of the U.S. Army's 800th MP Brigade at the Abu Ghraib prison, the officer who previously commanded the prison is being investigated. According to Reuters:
The U.S. military is weighing disciplinary action against the Army general who was in charge of a prison on the western outskirts of Baghdad where American troops were accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners, officials said on Thursday.

Brig. Gen. Janice Karpinski, in charge of the prison, could be relieved of her command, blocked from promotion or receive a letter of reprimand after a noncriminal administrative investigation relating to events at Abu Ghraib prison, said Col. Jill Morgenthaler, a military spokeswoman in Baghdad.

Karpinski, who left Iraq earlier this year as part of a scheduled rotation of U.S. forces, "might be determined to be blameless," Morgenthaler added.

"We found it very abhorrent that American soldiers indulged in those acts of humiliation. And second of all, they photographed these acts. It's very shameful," Morgenthaler said.
Shameful in deed. Also a gross violation of the Geneva Convention. I expect to see Phil Carter at Intel Dump address this very soon.

Secondly, Billmon has the key parts of recent interviews with two retired Generals. General Anthony Zinni blasts Bush and the neocons for getting the U.S. into the Iraqi quagmire. And while he'd like to find a good way out of it, and he hates the way that Bush keeps saying "stay the course," in the end he doesn't see a good way for the U.S. to extract itself. And being a good officer who cared about his troops, he has legitimate concerns about the vulnerability of the U.S. forces if they do start to withdraw, especially when the force is down to it's last few thousand.

General William Odom looks at it from the stand point of what is the least worst scenario, and for his money, that means set a date by which the U.S. forces will be gone. Maybe that will force the hand of the NATO allies Bush and Rumsfeld have managed to badly alienate, maybe not. But all Odom sees is more loss of life on both sides the longer the U.S. forces remain in-country.

I'm happy to see retired senior military people begin to address this issue and face the hard realities of the mess the Bush administration has created. Perhaps, as a few more experienced adults weigh in on this discussion, their voices will drown out the ignorant twits who got us into this debacle.

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The Thin Purple Line &
the 4 percent solution

Of the 189 electoral votes both candidates are targeting in the so-called Battleground States, a quarter of them are in three industrial states: Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Those three states elected Democrats as their governors in 2002. David Broder talked with all three of them. It looks, at the moment, that they're all too close to call.

Kevin Drum takes a look at the numbers. When you consider what percent of voters actually go to the polls, how many of them live in the battleground states, and how many of them remain undecided, in reality the two candidates are focusing their efforts on 4 percent of the electorate. He says we need to get to work on that 4 percent.

I'm down for that.

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Support for Bush is Slipping
and falling on its ass

I've had a couple of interesting conversations recently. They were with guys with whom I don't usually talk politics. Maybe this year everybody is talking politics.

The first was with a veteran. I'll call him Bob. He's a retired Huey pilot who has been working in the defense industry for several years. We had a cup of coffee together, as we do every now and then. There was a newspaper on the table with headlines about the war in Iraq. He said something like, "Things aren't going so well over there, I guess." That comment didn't surprise me much. Anybody who has been even partially conscious during the past month would have a hard time denying that. But then Bob said something that really surprised me: "Might not be a bad idea to replace Bush with Kerry." Bob knows me as a fellow veteran, not as a gonzo left-wing blogger. I tried to be cool and not blow my cover. I told him that I thought he was probably right.

The second conversation was with a guy I've known for more than 20 years. Let's call him Al. He's a successful insurance agent, and basically pretty conservative. When I saw Al the other day he told me that he had just changed his voter registration from Republican to Democrat. Now, voting one way sometimes and another way other times is not all that unusual for a certain segment of the American demographic, especially among college educated white males like Al. But going to the trouble of changing your registration from one party to another, that's actually saying something.

Despite my normal optimism, I was ready to write both of these conversations off as just anecdotal evidence of a shift in voter preference, not necessarily supported by any other empirical data. Then yesterday I read a few things that are making me think that Bob and Al are not just isolated cases.

First, Kevin Drum shared a story not real dissimilar to my two above:
I had lunch today with a longtime friend. He's a Bush supporter and strongly favored invading Iraq.

At least he used to. Today, though, before I could even get a few words out of my mouth, he started shaking his head. There's nothing more we can do in Iraq, he said. Bush's planning was hopelessly bungled. It's a complete mess. We should have finished off Afghanistan first. The Iraqis haven't shown a bit of gratitude for all the aid we've given them. We're screwed if we attack Najaf, we're screwed if we don't. We just need to leave and let them sort it out for themselves. If it turns into an Islamic theocracy — well, that's the way it goes.

Wow. And did he think this would affect Bush?

Well, he said, you can't change horses in midstream. He should be reelected.

Even though you think he's bungled the war completely? Why not vote for Kerry?

Oh no, there was no way he could do that. Maybe he wouldn't vote for either one of them. You know, cast a protest vote or something, maybe for whoever the Libertarian candidate is. But Kerry? No way.
Now I've heard stories like this before. My old friend Del, after returning from a year in Iraq, said that he couldn't bring himself to vote for Kerry, even though he would never vote for Bush again. Still, it was hard to say if this was some kind of a trend, or just some random conversations that don't really add up to much in terms of popular opinion. Then Atrios pointed to the latest CBSNYT poll numbers. They make a pretty strong case that support for Bush is definately slipping.
The struggles in Iraq appear to have hurt assessments of the President. His overall approval rating (46 percent), his rating on handling Iraq (41 percent), and his rating on handling foreign policy (40 percent) are at the lowest points ever in this Administration. In each case, more disapprove than approve. 53 percent of voters are uneasy about Bush’s handling of international crisis, figures unmatched since before 9/11.
David Neiwert looks at those numbers, too. He sees Bush as weak and vulnerable on national security, and thinks that Kerry should start pounding him with it.
It's obvious Bush was asleep at the wheel on Sept. 11. It happened on his watch, and his malfeasance cost us 3,000 American lives.

That's gross incompetence, pure and simple. And it continues to this day, particularly in Iraq.

Kerry simply needs to make that case to the American people. And it won't be hard.
I agree. Kerry will have plenty of time to establish what John Kerry is about once he's elected. From now until November, he will get votes by being the anti-Bush.


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

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Married with Children

Too tired tonight to blog coherently. Billmon has described it perfectly:
The problem with borrowing time from the other parts of your life so you can be a compulsive blogger is that eventually you have to pay it back -- usually with interest.
There it is.

I promise to be back at it tomorrow in the a.m. with some thoughts on how Bush's support is slipping away. Hasta.


Tuesday, April 27, 2004

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When You Start Believing Your Own Propaganda,
it's time to get professional help

This from Empire Notes:
U.S. propaganda activities directed at the Iraqis remain laughable. Check this out:

Earlier in the day, U.S. aircraft dropped leaflets in the city of 200,000 people, calling on insurgents to surrender.

"Surrender, you are surrounded," the leaflets said. "If you are a terrorist, beware, because your last day was yesterday. In order to spare your life end your actions and surrender to coalition forces now. We are coming to arrest you."

Well, of course, the vast majority are not terrorists but simply people defending their city from a military assault. But none of them think of themselves as terrorists, any more than George Bush or Ariel Sharon thinks of himself as a war criminal. That's not the way human beings work. It's as if they've kept up their barrage of propaganda so long they can't understand others might see the world a different way.
At the risk of repeating myself, go rent Red Dawn.

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How to Create more Terrorists:
We've got it down to a science

David Neiwert at Orcinus, who knows a thing or two about domestic terrorism, has a really good, if a bit longish, post that considers the current situation in Najaf and compares it with Waco in 1993.
The acknowledged bombing conspirators, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, both referred to Waco as the precipitating event in their decision to take up arms against their own government. McVeigh himself traveled to Waco and talked to federal agents at the scene even before April 19; he later described to the authors of American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing how the events of April 19 completely radicalized him and set him on the path of the mass murderer he became.
Neiwert wonders how many Islamic Timothy McVeighs the U.S. will create by storming Najaf. Good question.

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Where are Grant, Sherman & Sheridan
when we need them?

I'm generally for non-violence, but Virginia needs a good ass-whupping.

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China, Democracy & Wal-Mart

"We have met the enemy and he is us."
-- Pogo by Walt Kelly

Ponder this: China has lots and lots of weapons of mass destruction. They also are the enemies of Democracy. As you might have read yesterday in the New York Times or your local rag:
Beijing on Monday barred popular elections for Hong Kong's chief executive in 2007 and ruled out any expanded voting by the general public for the legislature in 2008, in the latest in a series of moves to restrict democracy here.

The decision angered democracy advocates here, who promised street demonstrations, and drew sharp criticism from the United States and Britain, which said Beijing was eroding the autonomy of Hong Kong that it had pledged to preserve.

Beijing has been intervening increasingly in the territory's political affairs. It has now made clear that it intends to give Hong Kong's people a very junior role in decisions about how to open the electoral system in the future.
Now, the U.S. isn't going to go to war with China over this. You know: land war in Asia -- bad idea and all that. Besides, the U.S. military is occupied elsewhere in Asia at the moment.

But if we wanted to do something -- something very powerful, something that would shake China's totalitarian dictators to their very foundation -- we could.

All we would really have to do is stop buying their stuff. That's right, take a look at the labels of your clothes, your shoes, your kids' toys, your camping equipment, and most of the pieces of your computer. Ever notice where they came from?

It's our dollars that prop up that corrupt regime in Beijing. And do you know why we do it? Two words: lower prices. We're a weak, unprincipled people. So we shop at Wal-Mart.

Allow me to suggest that if we really loved freedom and democracy, we would pay more and shop elsewhere.

I'm not going to get in to the whole debate of Wal-Mart and its devastating impact on the American economy right now. But I will suggest you go over to Nathan Newman's blog. He's starting to cover the whole Wal-Mart debate in detail. Here are a few key graphs:
And it's not that Wal-Mart is a large corporation. If anything, large companies like AT&T and General Motors were a more dominant part of the US economy back in the 1940s and 1950s, yet those were periods when workers made great gains in wages, benefits and work conditions.

And it's not that Wal-Mart offers low prices. Henry Ford was very dedicated to lowering the price of cars to make them affordable. That Wal-Mart similarly uses new technology and a certain kind of standardization to try to keep costs down is hardly a bad thing.

No, what makes Wal-Mart pernicious is that, where Henry Ford saw that paying his workers well meant that they could afford to buy the cars he made (and as importantly, buy other goods that drove growth and higher wages at other companies), Wal-Mart pays wages that leaves their own workers so poor that many of them can't afford even Wal-Mart's low prices or enough to take care of their families, period.
And, or course, Wal-Mart has become the primary funnel for China's products to reach the American consumer. Maybe it's time we looked at the connection between the choices we make and their impact -- on our fellow Americans, and on the aspirations of those who long for freedom abroad.


Monday, April 26, 2004

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Young Women may be the Key
to the swing state votes

One salient observation from the big pro-choice march in Washington was that the women were considerably younger than those who attended similar events in the past. According to Steven Thomma writing in the San Jose Mercury News:
Though the pictures of Sunday's abortion-rights march in Washington focused on the size of the crowd, the truer story of its political impact could be measured by the age of the demonstrators.

More college-age women showed up than usually attend abortion-rights rallies, which tend to be dominated by older women. If that translates to increased voting in November by young women - a group that usually doesn't vote in high numbers - it could help Democrats in a close election.
As I suggested in Gender Canyon, women voters will be the key to this election. The fact that younger women are getting politically active is good news for John Kerry. As a general rule, women tend to be more anti-war than their male counter-parts. The unknown factor in the equation is whether or not they will show up at the polls. The fact that so many showed up for a pro-choice march is an indicator that we may see them again, this time in the voting booths in November. They may very well provide that critical margin of victory needed in those battleground states on which this election hangs.

And then there's the farm vote

Recent data indicates that some rural voters are now turned off by Bush, but haven't warmed up to Kerry. Changing demographics in farm country may alter the rural voting patterns, too. These factors could influence the November outcomes in a few key states from Oregon to Ohio.

Thanks to Sini at Jusiper.

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Karen Hughes Taking Cheap Shots:
Another Bush Camp Slime-o-Rama

You could almost smell the fear in the White House when they asked Karen Hughes to rejoin the team. They wouldn't have pulled her out of her "spend more time with the family in Texas" retirement if they didn't desperately need an experienced had firing the slime gun.

Hughes has been doing her best Ann Coulter imitation. But instead of Max Cleland, she's questioning the military service of John Kerry.

Would someone remind me which branch of service Ms. Hughes was in? Or is she just another right-wing hypocrite, waving the flag for God and a country she never had the time or inclination to actually serve?

Really? I'm so surprised!


Sunday, April 25, 2004

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Decision Time in Iraq
U.S. ponders attacks against
Fallujah and Najaf

With U.S. military forces poised for major air and ground attacks against insurgents in both Fallujah and Najaf, decision makers at Camp David and in Baghdad seemed willing to wait another day or two, hoping for some way out of the two showdowns that might avoid both a loss of face on the part of the Americans and the civilian blood bath that would result from massive urban assaults.

As Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times (registration required):
The sieges of Falluja and Najaf have presented the Bush administration with its worst crisis in Iraq since the toppling of Saddam Hussein last April. Many Iraqis now criticize the Americans for what they say is an excessive use of force, especially in Falluja, where hundreds of families have been forced to flee. People here and in Washington fear uprisings could explode across Iraq if the military were to invade Falluja or Najaf.
According to The Independent, elements of the U.S. 1st Armored Division are poised to moved into Najaf:
American troops will enter parts of the holy city of Najaf to crush the radical Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr but will avoid its sacred sites, a US general said yesterday.

Shia leaders have warned there will be an explosion of anger among the 15 to 16 million Iraqi Shia if US soldiers enter Najaf, where Imam Ali, the founder of their faith, is buried in a golden-domed shrine.

"We're going to drive this guy [Sadr] into the dirt," said Brigadier General Mark Hertling, the deputy commander of the 1st Armoured Division. "Either he tells his militia to put down their arms, form a political party and fight with ideas not guns, or he's going to find a lot of them killed."
Juan Cole quotes the Iranian charge d'affaires to Iraq, Hasan Kazemi-Qomi as reported in the Iranian Students News Agency site via BBC World Monitoring, who explains why that would be a bad idea:
"If the occupying forces disregard the internal political, social and security situation in Iraq and launch military operations in the holy cities, including Najaf, then this will only lead to increasing clashes and the present crisis will only escalate. In fact, this will also lead to the emergence of serious popular resistance and will confront the occupying forces with serious problems. In that case, one can only predict the increasing lack of security in Iraq and the crisis will escalate to all the other parts of Iraq."
According to an Association Press piece that ran in the L.A. Times (registration required):
U.S. troops will begin patrols with Iraqi security forces in Fallouja, the military said Sunday, as the United States backed down from warnings of an all-out assault that could spark new bloodshed and deepen anti-American sentiment.

The patrols are to begin as early as Tuesday, and Fallouja officials will announce in the city that anyone seen carrying a weapon will be considered hostile, the military said.
U.S. Marines have been engaging what they view as hostile targets in Fallujah, despite "cease fire" that has been in effect for several days.

According to Patrick J. McDonnell and Tony Perry writing in the L.A. Times (registration required):
Few doubt the Marines, with their superior firepower and air dominance, could overrun the Sunni Muslim stronghold in 48 hours or so -- just as U.S. forces were able to swiftly overtake the country a year ago.

Despite the sense of a brutal inevitability closing in around Fallouja, U.S. officials remain torn about the possibility of a bloodbath among Iraqi civilians -- and the revulsion among Iraqis at the inevitable images of dead women and children. The great fear is that a swift and decisive victory in Fallouja could make things worse.

The initial Marine assault three weeks ago was a public relations disaster, even though officials said reports of 600 civilian dead were greatly exaggerated. Arabic-language networks broadcast footage of bloodied civilians, which mesmerized and outraged Iraqis.

The attack deepened many Iraqis' hostility toward their U.S. occupiers and probably bolstered enemy recruits. Fallouja became a national rallying cry -- even among Shiite Muslims, long rivals of the Sunnis.

It was the kind of scenario that the 82nd Airborne Division, which ceded control of Fallouja to the Marines a month ago, had tried for months to avoid.

"What you never want to do is create the next terrorist," Lt. Col. Brian Drinkwine, the 82nd Airborne's former commander of Fallouja, said in an interview with The Times this year. "What will happen is that extremists will come in after us and say, 'Look at what the Americans did -- they violated your rights.' And that could very well work against you. I do not want to create excess friction."

Privately, many Marines are critical of the 82nd Airborne's six-month tenure in Fallouja. From the Marines' standpoint, the paratroopers left Fallouja to the insurgents, carrying out a containment strategy and allowing enemy forces to fester and grow.
Rahul Mahajan of Empire Notes, who was in Fallujah during some of the recent violence, isn't optimistic:
Things are looking very bad for Fallujah. The various mujaheddin factions, who may have agreed to a truce just so that the siege of Fallujah would be partially lifted and the road to the hospital opened, obviously had no intention of handing over all their weapons (or even just the "heavy" ones). That demand by the Americans was basically the demand to win the battle without fighting it.

Since Fallujah will not capitulate, apparently, Bush and his advisers decide this weekend whether to bombard the hell out of it. Here's a fascinating quote from the Times article:
"It's clear you can't leave a few thousand insurgents there to terrorize the city and shoot at us," one senior official involved in the discussions said in an interview on Saturday. "The question now is whether there is a way to go in with the most minimal casualties possible."
It should be clear to anyone with basic knowledge of the situation and with no ideological axe to grind who the few thousand people terrorizing the city are. They're the ones that have assaulted it with tanks, AC-130 gunships, F-16's, and snipers, not the ones who have been defending it from assault.

Based on everything that's happened so far, the mindless desire for revenge and for showing military supremacy will triumph and the attack will be launched. As Bush said, "America will never be run out of Iraq by a bunch of thugs and killers." This is the kind of nonsense every colonial army has put out against its opponents -- as Henry Liu points out in the Asia Times, the British general at the battle of Bunker Hill, Thomas Cage, called the American rebels thugs and tax evaders.

Sheikh Ahmed Abdel Ghafur Samarra'i, during Friday prayers at a prominent Baghdad mosque, said, "We will not allow the shedding of Iraqi blood. If you strike again, the whole of Iraq, from north to south, from east to west, will become Fallujah," a sentiment virtually every Iraqi I've spoken with would agree with.

A bad moon is rising. Since Bush is so fond of the Bible (it was apparently his favorite book as a child), he should read that part about sowing the wind.
There is, of course, the possibility of diffusing both the situation in Fallujah and the one in Najaf. As Edward Wong writes:
In Washington, officials said the extension of the cease-fire -- one that most administration officials have described as a cease-fire in name but not in fact -- was the recommendation of L. Paul Bremer III, the top civilian administrator in Iraq, and American military commanders here. They saw little risk in agreeing to it, because if an invasion of the city proved necessary in coming days or weeks, the extension would allow President Bush and other officials to say that they gave negotiation every chance. "No one is eager for the military alternatives," said one senior official. "There's not much risk in giving this more time, except that the humanitarian situation in Falluja worsens each day."
That humanitarian crisis, is the result of the U.S. siege of Fallujah, not the presence of insurgents in the city.

Since everyone agrees that waiting a few more days is not a problem, why not stretch that out to a week, two weeks, several weeks. The positives of avoiding massive civilian casualties, and fueling additional uprisings throughout Iraq would seem to outweigh any loss of face for the American forces.

But one other factor rings true in this situation: The insurgents in Najaf and Fallujah are two of the elements that the U.S. will have to negotiate with in order to bring about some kind of brokered peace in Iraq. Why not start talking now instead of after more death and destruction make those negotiations much more difficult.

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Tip Jar
"It isn't for the money
and it's only for a while
you stalk about the rooms
while you roll away the miles
gamblers in the neon
clinging to guitars
you're right about the moon
but you're wrong about the stars..."

-- from The Road by Danny O'Keefe
Mentioning the tip jar thing took me back to my days as a struggling musician, (barely) surviving on tips and the meal that came with the gig. The Road has always captured the spirit of those times for me as well as any song I know.

With that said, I'll just mention that I've been getting some pressure on the home front to either cut back the time I devote to writing this blog (and the research that goes into it -- even more time consuming on most days), or show some positive gain.

In particular, the potential cost of doing the blogging from the Democratic National Convention, where the price of a hotel room will approach the NASA budget, is beginning to freak out the other adult in my family.

So for the sake of the future of this blog and my domestic tranquility, I'd be grateful if you would grace the tip jar (it's to the left, same as my politics) with some spare change. I'm not asking for big donations (not turning them down, either). Just need a little something to show the missus that all this blogging is really a good thing for our family's finances.

And as always, we are grateful for your support.


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