Thursday, December 7, 2006

Another Swing at the Baker Report; the Best Article on Iraq; An Important Nugget






Below is another take I did on the Iraq Study Group report, this one for the "Comment Is Free" group blog of The Guardian. But before you get to that, let me point you toward the best piece on Iraq I've read in years. It's by Bill Edmonds, a major in the US Army Special Forces who has served in Iraq, and the article appears on the website of The Nation magazine, my home base. Regular readers know that I don't often heap praise, and I am unfamiliar with the author. I will not spoil the reading experience by summarizing Edmonds' article. Just take my word and click here.

Also, tip of the virtual hat to my acquaintance, Jonathan Landay, a reporter for McClatchy Newspapers and one of the best national security journalists in Washington. He picked up on an important nugget in the Iraq Study Group report (one I wish I had spotted first):

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration routinely has underreported the level of violence in Iraq in order to disguise its policy failings, the Iraq Study Group report said Wednesday.

The bipartisan group called on the Pentagon and the director of the U.S. intelligence community to immediately institute a new reporting system that provides "a more accurate picture of events on the ground."

The finding bolsters allegations by Democratic lawmakers and other critics that the Bush administration has withheld or misconstrued intelligence that conflicted with its Iraq policy while promoting data and claims that supported its positions.

Those allegations date back to President Bush's contention before the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion that Saddam Hussein was hiding illegal nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. His claim proved to be unfounded.

Bush and his top officials have denied the allegations and accused the news media of exaggerating the violence between Iraqi Shiite and Sunni Muslims, minority Kurds and other groups.

The office of National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, who oversees all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, declined comment, saying it was studying the report.

On page 94 of its report, the Iraq Study Group found that there had been "significant under-reporting of the violence in Iraq." The reason, the group said, was because the tracking system was designed in a way that minimized the deaths of Iraqis.

"The standard for recording attacks acts a filter to keep events out of reports and databases," the report said. "A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack. If we cannot determine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn't hurt U.S. personnel doesn't count."

"Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals," the report continued.

The finding confirmed a Sept. 8 McClatchy Newspapers report that U.S. officials excluded scores of people killed in car bombings and mortar attacks from tabulations measuring the results of a drive to reduce violence in Baghdad.

By excluding that data, U.S. officials were able to boast that deaths from sectarian violence in the Iraqi capital had declined by more than 52 percent between July and August, McClatchy newspapers reported.

The ISG report said that U.S. officials reported 93 attacks or significant acts of violence on one day in July. "Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light more than 1,100 acts of violence," it said.


Read the rest here. Now on to my throat-clearing for The Guardian:

Yesterday morning, as I drove through Washington traffic toward Capitol Hill, I composed a list of questions to pose to former secretary of state James Baker at the press conference at which he and other members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group would be releasing their much-anticipated report.

* After reviewing the Iraq war for nine months, Mr. Secretary can you state that President Bush - the man you helped reach the White House - has prosecuted this war wisely and competently as commander-in-chief?

* Why should American troops be asked to put their lives on the line to assist an Iraqi government that includes factions that either run or protect death squads?

* Can you envision President Bush, whom you know well, ever reaching the conclusion - even if the horrific situation in Iraq worsens - that he has created an insoluble problem, that the war cannot be won in any conventional sense, and that he is sending Americans to their deaths without achieving progress?

At the press conference, I was one of scores of reporters who raised a hand trying to attract Baker's attention and the chance to present a query, but I never caught the man's eye. After taking about a dozen questions, Baker and his commission colleagues ended the session and quickly departed the room.

But Baker and the ISG, in a way, answered my first query - while leaving the other two unaddressed. One of the money quotes from the report is this grim but unsurprising assessment: "The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating." And the commission notes that a "new approach" and "different policies" are needed. It does not require advanced mathematics to equate these two propositions with an obvious message: Bush has messed up. After all, Baker and his band are saying that Bush's policies have not succeeded and ought to be supplanted by the plan concocted by the commission.

That plan calls for a slow withdrawal of combat troops as part of a shift in mission from combat operations to training and support activities aimed at bolstering Iraqi security forces. It also urges the Bush administration to press the Iraqi government to attain certain benchmarks-or face the loss of US support. And it calls on the president to initiate a robust diplomatic campaign to bring Iraq's neighbors, including Syria and Iran, into an effort to stabilize Iraq. The 79 recommendations of the report can be questioned on policy grounds. (I did some of that here.) And Baker and co-chairman Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman, were quite careful to point out they cannot guarantee their proposals, if adopted, will lead to success. (Baker said the commission had deliberately chosen not to use the word "victory" in its report.) But the punch of the report was its obvious - though implied - criticism of Bush. It essentially says that he has led the US into what may be an unfixable mess and that Bush cannot extricate the country from this disaster on his own. It was akin to a no-confidence vote in Bush from leading members of the Republican elite.

But neither Baker, his fellow commissioners, nor the report confront the implications of this charge: whether Bush is capable of absorbing the proposals of the Iraq Study Group or any ideas beyond a stay-the-course strategy. And neither do the commissioners provide answers to the other questions in the abovementioned list. They note that Iraq is a broken society, riven with sectarian conflict, and that the Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds have reached a violent standoff. In such circumstances, where - and how - can US military power be applied to good end? The commissioners fixate on the training of Iraqi forces, a failed enterprise to date. But they do not advocate withdrawing combat forces until early 2008 and then only "subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground." What's the mission for the combat troops until then? Who's the enemy? Who are they fighting? The commission offers no insight on this crucial front.

The commissioners also do not grapple with the tough matter of when it might become no longer morally defensible to ask an American soldier to die for Bush's project in Iraq (if that point hasn't already been reached). At the press conference, Hamilton said, "We believe that the situation in Iraq today is very, very serious. We do not know if it can be turned around. But we think we have an obligation to try."

The report is imbued with this one-last-chance tone. But who decides when that chance is gone - if it remains? Over the past three years, pundits, politicians and experts have at various times declared that the Bush administration possessed one final opportunity and that the next few months would be crucial. Yet Iraq has not turned around; it only becomes a more hellish place and presents a more vexing dilemma. Baker's Iraq Study Group, which will now disband, is not willing to say Iraq is lost. But it tells us - between the lines - that the man in charge has created a problem for which there may be no answer. It is hard to imagine Bush adopting the group's main proposals, since he has previously dismissed them (including withdrawing troops to pressure the Iraqi government and talking to the Iranians and Syrians about Iraq). So it is hard to fathom this report making a last-chance difference, whether or not the recommendations have any merit. It's far easier to imagine the need for another Iraq Study Group six months down the line.

Posted by David Corn at December 7, 2006 02:45 PM

85 comments:

O'Reilly said...

Welcome Political Cover
Published: December 7, 2006

When President Bush insisted that the Iraq Study Group would not provide cover for the White House to chart a “graceful exit” of American troops, he was missing the whole point. The much-anticipated report from the bipartisan panel is precisely about political cover. That is a good thing, if only Mr. Bush has the sense to embrace it.

Iraq is so far gone that nobody expected the panel to come up with a breakthrough solution. As the co-chairmen — former Secretary of State James Baker and former Representative Lee Hamilton — began their letter accompanying yesterday’s report, “there is no magic formula to solve the problems of Iraq.” And the study was never going to change the basic facts: there is no victory to be had in Iraq, and however American troops withdraw, they will leave behind a deadly mess.

Its real mission was to avert the worst scenario, in which a stubborn George W. Bush spends the next two years blindly insisting he will accept nothing short of victory, while Iraq keeps spiraling out of control and the Iraqis get no closer to being able to contain the chaos after the Americans leave.

That is a recipe for years more of savagery, a spillover of terrorism and instability across the Middle East, more sacrifice of American soldiers and more cynicism and division among the American people. Avoiding it is not the same as winning the war, but it is a way to cut one’s losses.

If Mr. Bush has the capacity to seriously reassess his Iraq strategy, he will need exactly the kind of political cover that the Baker-Hamilton group was meant to provide. The central point of the group’s 79 unanimous recommendations is that Washington should focus far more aggressively on training Iraqi forces and prepare for a withdrawal of American troops. The report says all combat brigades could be out by early 2008, but that would still leave tens of thousands of soldiers behind to hold the Iraqi Army together.

That is to be combined with a lot more pressure on the Iraqis to make political compromises and take responsibility for their own security (the report lays out clear milestones and says the United States should reduce its military and economic support if the Iraqis resist) and more aggressive regional diplomacy, including talks with Iran and Syria that Mr. Bush has ruled out.

Make no mistake, the report is a stunning indictment of Mr. Bush’s failure — in Iraq and no less in Washington. But its recommendations are still couched in language vague enough to allow the president to pretend it is the “new way forward” his aides are now talking up, rather than a timetable for withdrawal, which is on Mr. Bush’s no-go list. Predictably, the first reaction of Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, was to insist that “there is nothing in here about pulling back militarily.”

The world has watched as Mr. Bush painted himself into a corner and then insisted it was a strategic decision. Even the Iraqis are trying to provide cover to for him to come tiptoeing back to the real world. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s call for a regional conference on Iraq would allow the administration to get past its refusal to talk to Tehran and Damascus, by saying that ban was never meant to include Iraqi initiatives.

The Iraq report is a deeply diplomatic document, stuffed with “coulds” and “mights.” It is, all in all, exactly the kind of shades-of-gray thinking that Mr. Bush despises, and exactly what he needs to get the country out of the hole he has dug.

capt said...

Mr. David Corn,

"Yet Iraq has not turned around; it only becomes a more hellish place and presents a more vexing dilemma."

Sadly we can expect more of the same.

Excellent post!

Kirk

capt said...

O'Reilly,

"if only Mr. Bush has the sense to embrace it."

If only . . .

Your post gets an A+ too!

Well said.



capt

capt said...

Seems the ISG is looking for solutions for the WH while completely ignoring the solutions needed for the Iraqi people.

I also note that nobody has even mentioned PEACE for Iraq and the Iraqi people.

I posted last year that the mess in Iraq would eventually be blamed on the Iraqi people.

The ISG avoided the word victory and occupation. I don't see the report as being completely honest.


UGH!


capt

Carey said...

O'Reilly,

Ah, the semantics of diplomacy. Targeted to Bush as in "Get off your ass, ass." Excellent essay.

For Kathleen,

Carter Book On Israeli "Apartheid" Sparks Bitter Debate

David B. Benson said...

David Corn --- Support the troops by bringing them home, NOW!

(Glad you agree with me about Major Edmonds' piece...)

Carey said...

Support birth control: Sign our stop Keroack petition now please.

PETITION

David B. Benson said...

"The day that will live in infamy" With the Iraq Study Group report and today's press conference, the above phrase takes on an additional meaning...

capt said...

Enough to drive him back to the bottle



WASHINGTON: Minutes after the Iraq Study Group placed a grenade beneath the Bush Administration's Iraq policy on Wednesday, a panel member, Lawrence Eagleburger, was asked how the President reacted.

"His reaction was, 'Where's my drink?"' the former secretary of state cracked. He did not mean the teetotaller US leader had fallen off the wagon. But if any event would call for a stiff one, this was it.

A bipartisan group of elder statesmen - some of them friends of Mr Bush's father - had just concluded that the Iraq war was a disaster with no easy way out.

The words at the news conference were bleak. "Grave and deteriorating," the co-chairman Lee Hamilton said. Reciting a list of woes - more than 2900 Americans dead, $US400 billion ($507 billion) gone and "great hardship" for Iraqis - the former congressman became dramatic: "Our ship of state has hit rough waters." The other co-chairman, James Baker, got Mr Bush through the Florida presidential election recount of 2000 but was of no help on Wednesday. "Struggling in a world of fear, the Iraqis themselves dare not dream," George Bush snr's secretary of state said, using the words "no longer viable" to describe the Iraq policy and "brutal violence" to describe Iraq.

Thanks to prolific leaking, there were few surprises in the report. But they had some harsh assessments of Mr Bush.

Asked what they would do to get him to embrace their findings, the former Republican senator Alan Simpson condemned the "100 per centers in America" who refuse to compromise. "A 100 per center is a person you don't want to be around. They have gas, ulcers, heartburn and B.O.," he said.

Mr Baker bristled when reporters questioned the group's credibility. When one said that only one of its 10 members left the green zone in Baghdad, Mr Baker looked down the row of commissioners with a smile and shot back: "This report by this bunch of has beens up here is the only bipartisan report that's out there."

Whatever else the "has-beens" accomplished, they made sure that any credibility questions will be directed at Mr Bush. Even the loyal Mr Baker had to advise his friend's son that "it is time to find a new way forward". At least he did not say Mr Bush has B.O.


More HERE

*****end of clip*****

I don't think Bush returned to the bottle, he never really left. Addiction pathology is not that simple, not even for a neoconsuperfratboy.



capt

capt said...

Oil for Sale: Iraq Study Group Recommends Privatization



The Iraq Study Group may not have a solution for how to end the war, but it does have a way for its corporate friends to make money.


In its heavily anticipated report released on Wednesday, the Iraq Study Group made at least four truly radical proposals.

The report calls for the United States to assist in privatizing Iraq's national oil industry, opening Iraq to private foreign oil and energy companies, providing direct technical assistance for the "drafting" of a new national oil law for Iraq, and assuring that all of Iraq's oil revenues accrue to the central government.

President Bush hired an employee from the U.S. consultancy firm Bearing Point Inc. over a year ago to advise the Iraq Oil Ministry on the drafting and passage of a new national oil law. As previously drafted, the law opens Iraq's nationalized oil sector to private foreign corporate investment, but stops short of full privatization. The ISG report, however, goes further, stating that "the United States should assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise." In addition, the current Constitution of Iraq is ambiguous as to whether control over Iraq's oil should be shared among its regional provinces or held under the central government. The report specifically recommends the latter: "Oil revenues should accrue to the central government and be shared on the basis of population." If these proposals are followed, Iraq's national oil industry will be privatized and opened to foreign firms, and in control of all of Iraq's oil wealth.

The proposals should come as little surprise given that two authors of the report, James A. Baker III and Lawrence Eagleburger, have each spent much of their political and corporate careers in pursuit of greater access to Iraq's oil and wealth.

More HERE

*****end of clip*****

This piece reminds me that when the "shock and awe" started and our troops rolled into Baghdad they left Al Qaqaa to be pilfered, let museums be looted but we secured the Iraqi Oil ministry. Priorities, eh?

H/t Carey


capt

rbs62 said...

Take our Progressive Survey...Russ Feingold

****************************

From Today's Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: The Iraq Study Group also recommended for Iraq to privatize its oil industry and to open it up to international companies. The author and activist, Antonia Juhasz, has been closely watching this aspect of the Iraq reconstruction process. She’s author of The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time. Antonia Juhasz, thanks for joining us in studio in San Francisco. Your response to the report, not talked about almost at all, the issue of privatization?

ANTONIA JUHASZ: Yeah, absolutely. And good morning, Amy. It’s a completely radical proposal made straightforward in the Iraq Study Group report that the Iraqi national oil industry should be reorganized as a commercial enterprise. The proposal also says that, as you say, Iraq’s oil should be opened up to private foreign energy and companies. Also, another radical proposal: that all of Iraq’s oil revenues should be centralized in the central government. And the report calls for a US advisor to ensure that a new national oil law is passed in Iraq to make all of this possible and that the constitution of Iraq is amended to ensure that the central government gains control of Iraq’s oil revenues.

All told, the report calls for privatization of Iraq’s oil, turning it over to private foreign corporate hands, putting all of the oil in the hands of the central government, and essentially, I would argue, extending the war in Iraq to ensure that US oil companies get what the Bush administration went in there for: control and greater access to Iraq's oil.

More.

Saladin said...

Democratic Party Denies Democracy “We will not cut off funding for the troops”

Ben Frank.net

It is generally understood that the recent overthrow of Republican control of congress was a direct result of the war in Iraq. As if taking Impeachment off the table wasn’t enough, now Democratic ‘leaders’ are promising to stay the course in Iraq. Americans are tired of destroying an innocent nation, killing hundreds of thousands and poisoning possibly millions with Depleted Uranium just so Halliburton can continue it’s looting.

The problem however, is that the Democratic leadership doesn’t feel the same way about humanity as the rest of us. They think that We the People put them in power so that they could get more corporate donations than the Republicans.

Congressman Kucinich has been leading the effort to educate Americans as well as his fellow Congressmen, that Congress has no power over Bush’s war but to cut off his allowance…

Congress can debate and pass legislation for redeployment, phased redeployment, or an over the horizon presence. Congress can vote for a resolution to end the war and a resolution to bring the troops home. However, none of this will have any legal effect. Each appropriations approval was a vote to continue the Iraq war.

Instead of taking a hint after the recent election, Bush has instead asked for even more money for Iraq than last year…

In the spring of 2007 a new Supplemental Appropriations bill, estimated in published reports at $130 billion will be brought to Congress. Added to the $70 billion bridge fund, this equals $200 billion for Iraq in FY2007 alone. Compare this with $117.6 Billion for all missions in FY06.

and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are prepared to give him anything he asks for…

“We’re not going to do anything to limit funding or cut off funds,” says Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

“We will not cut off funding for the troops,” Pelosi said. “Absolutely not,” she said.

and this is Nancy Pelosi’s reasoning??!!

“Let me remove all doubt in anyone’s mind; as long as our troops are in harm’s way, Democrats will be there to support them”

As Congressman Kucinich states

Well, we have abandoned the troops in the field already. We have abandoned them to lies about why the war was being fought. We have abandoned them to getting shot from all sides. We have left them in a type of hell while we profess a strange love for them by keeping them there.

Kucinich explains that there is plenty of money to bring the troops home…

The money’s there to bring the troops home and that money is continued in the so-called bridge fund that was passed September 30th, 2006. We have the money to bring the troops home. The idea that the troops will be stranded is false and is being spread by people who want to keep the war and the war spending going.

and I have news for Steny Hoyer…

“None of us want to fail; none of us want to see Iraq as a failure,”

Iraq is a failure. Invading a nation to steal their resources meanwhile killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people is a failure of humanity. Bush being in office, and Democrats continuing his ‘policies’ is a failure of our own Democracy.

It is time for the American people to wake Congress up. Never before has it been so evident that they live in a bubble. They think they can do whatever they want with our once great nation and no one can stop them. It is time to get in Congress’ face.

Find out what your Congressperson is doing for their Christmas break, and make sure they don’t have a Merry Christmas this year. They do not deserve one. Why should they enjoy an extended vacation in their plush homes while Iraqi women and children continue to be murdered?

Take a trip to your local Congressperson’s office and let them know how you feel about allowing this massacre to continue simply so Cheney can have a happy Christmas. Tell them how you feel about allowing war criminals to continue their policies in office when they should have been impeached already and sent to the Hague.

Demand they Impeach Bush and Cheney as soon as they return to DC. Stand outside their office and scream, whatever you can do to let them know that We the People will not be silenced!
==========
YES!!! No more arm waving, no more lies and procrastination. No more Israel first bullshit. If Israel has a problem with their neighbors, let their troops get slaughtered for it! BRING THEM HOME!!! pelosi, you get you ass over there and fight for your beloved Israel, I'm sure they will appreciate it! Put your life where your allegience is, you obviously don't give a fuck about our young men and women. Your support will just get god only knows how many more thousands murdered.

capt said...

"When I tell the truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do." : William Blake

=
"It seems that 'we have never gone to war for conquest, for exploitation, nor for territory'; we have the word of a president [McKinley] for that. Observe, now, how Providence overrules the intentions of the truly good for their advantage. We went to war with Mexico for peace, humanity and honor, yet emerged from the contest with an extension of territory beyond the dreams of political avarice. We went to war with Spain for relief of an oppressed people [the Cubans], and at the close found ourselves in possession of vast and rich insular dependencies [primarily the Philippines] and with a pretty tight grasp upon the country for relief of whose oppressed people we took up arms. We could hardly have profited more had 'territorial aggrandizement' been the spirit of our purpose and heart of our hope. The slightest acquaintance with history shows that powerful republics are the most warlike and unscrupulous of nations." : Ambrose Bierce, Warlike America

=
No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority: Thomas Jefferson: American 3rd US President (1801-09).


===
Read this newsletter online http://tinyurl.com/dy6yy


Thanks ICH Newsletter!

David B. Benson said...

Well, I suppose I should have suspected it. Turns out that Saudi citizens are sending $$ to Anbar Province.

This is a hopeless situation, Mr. Baker, and your report's 'recommendations' fly in the face of the reality. You should have made exactly one recommendation: BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW!

Gerald said...

Entrapment

Gerald said...

National Conscience

Gerald said...

America does not have a money problem - it has a priorities problem. We silently tolerate widespread poverty and blatant inequalities. We give tax cuts to the wealthy, and budget cuts to the poor. We allow forty percent of our fellow citizens to go without health care. We demand lower levels of government spending, thereby allowing higher levels of economic inequality. All this, even though the provision of decent subsistence, shelter, and health care are well within our national capacity to provide.

If, as has been apparent these past few elections, Americans across the political spectrum are to inject religion into the national political conversation, it must first and foremost be done with the common understanding that God is not partisan. Religion is a source of wisdom, strength, and moral clarity, not a source of words to be used to gain political advantage. Religion, if it is to be used politically at all, must be used only to rediscover the sense of the preciousness of every human being, our fundamental connectedness, and the responsibility we all share towards the common good.

Our greatest challenge if we are to remain a great nation is not terrorism, and not Iraq. Our greatest challenge is to recover our national conscience. Many will choose to do this with the help of religion, and some without. But the only way to honor God's blessing of America is to become conquerors of poverty and ignorance, and not remain defenders of greed and arrogance. Only in this way can we actually be as good as we already see ourselves.

capt said...

Catastrophe Still Awaits


"The real difficulty in changing any enterprise lies not in developing new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones."
- John Maynard Keynes


[…]

Many Americans have the absurd notion that the only limit to U.S. power is the will to use it. This absurd idea provides the Israel Lobby with a vocal American minority that is easy to exploit in behalf of "standing tough" in the Middle East. The main reason that neither Republicans nor Democrats can come to their senses about Iraq and America's disastrous Middle East policy is that the Israel Lobby will not let them.

Right-wing Israeli governments suffer the same delusion as neoconservatives about limitless U.S. power. They believe that the power of their lobby can ensure that American power will be used to destroy all of Israel's enemies.

The U.S. is likely to remain mired in Iraq until Israelis cast out this delusion. No amount of U.S. power can make it possible for Israel to both steal Palestine from Palestinians and have peace. No number of U.S. invasions of Islamic countries can win "the war on terror." As long as right-wing extremism prevails in Israel and as long as the U.S. interferes in the internal affairs of Muslin countries, the formula for calamity remains in place.

More HERE

Carey said...

Let me make it clear. The article about attempts to privatize Iraqi oil and the links with the Iraq Study Group I got from Den on his blog, Dancing With Fools. I cannot take credit for that. He did massive homework.

I'm glad it brought up discussion.

Once again, I'm going to take a dive and say, please send me your mailing addresses. Here's the dive: careyhickman95@yahoo.com. I get very serious about celebrating the holidays and consider all of you friends, so you have to go along!

Saladin said...

Come on everyone, it's Christmas card time! One of the few fun things left to us that does not cost an arm and a leg! Carey, mine to you is on the way.

erling krange said...

Was there a small chill in the space between the two leaders?
By Rupert Cornwell
Published: 08 December 2006 The Independent UK
Maybe it was the imagination - but was there a small chill in the air yesterday between George Bush and his most faithful ally in the unfolding disaster that is Iraq?
In the now substantial history of joint press conferences between the US President and Tony Blair, there was no banter, no jokes about the Prime Minister's impending departure - no "Colgate moment" as their first meeting at Camp David, when it emerged that both of them used the same toothpaste. Whether that remains the case was hard to tell, because there were precious few toothy grins on view - and even less to grin about. This was a summit overshadowed by a book - the withering report by the Iraq Study Group on the situation in that wretched country. As usual, Blair was the more eloquent of the two. He was readier, too, to admit the dimensions of the mess, and to embrace the wise men's recommendations. And if Blair looked tired, Bush looked even wearier and even older, as if physically beaten down by the blizzard of criticism blowing about in the past few days. Why, he was asked, had it taken him so long to say out loud that things were going so wrong in Iraq? "It's bad in Iraq - does that help?" he snapped in reply. "I understand it, how tough it is, I talk to the families of people who die, I understand what long deployments mean, I understand how hard our troops are working - and I want our people to understand that a failed policy will hurt generations of Americans." At times, the old Bush (and Bushisms) resurfaced. "Victory" remained the goal, though "I'm disappointed by the pace of success." As for talks with Iran and Syria - "if people come to the table, they must be committed. If not, they shouldn't bother to show up." Turning to al-Qa'ida (still blamed by the President for much of the carnage in Iraq) Mr Bush blamed its terrorists for some "effective and spectacular" bombings, "but we'll chase 'em down". As for the argument, long made by Mr Blair and strongly endorsed by the ISG, that progress on the Arab/Israeli dispute was essential for resolution of the problems in Iraq and elsewhere in the region, he seemed anything but convinced. "What you've got from us today is acceptance that you look at these issues together," the Prime Minister declared. The President listened without emotion, his expression locked in a quizzical, tight lipped semi-smile.

erling krange said...

Bush, Congress Leaders to Meet on Iraq
Friday December 8, 2006 11:31 AM
By TERENCE HUNT
AP White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON (AP) - Searching for a new approach to the unpopular war in Iraq, President Bush is turning to leaders of Congress and awaiting ideas from his national security team before announcing his decisions in a speech expected before Christmas. The president planned to meet on Friday with Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress, part of a parade of senior lawmakers making their way through the West Wing this week.
``I do know that we have not succeeded as fast as wanted to succeed,'' the president said Thursday. ``I do understand that progress is not as rapid as I had hoped.'' Bush, at a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, distanced himself from some main recommendations of the Iraq Study Group's proposals for reshaping his policy. The president objected to talks with Iran and Syria and refused to endorse a major troop withdrawal. Blair wholeheartedly supported Bush's determination to fight to victory in Iraq and spread democracy across the Middle East. ``The vision is absolutely correct,'' Blair said at a news conference where the two leaders agreed, nevertheless, on a need for new approaches in Iraq. When a British reporter suggested Bush was denying even to himself how bad things are, the president tartly replied, ``It's bad in Iraq. That help?'' Under intense pressure to take a new direction, Bush is expected to make a major speech about Iraq before Christmas. He said his decisions will be based on the recommendations of separate studies from the Pentagon, State Department and National Security Council as well as the Iraq Study Group.

erling krange said...

Guantanamo Detainees Going to New Prison
Friday December 8, 2006 11:16 AM
By MICHAEL MELIA
Associated Press Writer

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) - The U.S. military transferred the first group of detainees on Thursday to a new maximum-security prison at Guantanamo Bay designed to restrict contact among the prisoners and prevent attacks on guards. More than 40 detainees were brought to the $37 million prison perched on a plateau overlooking the Caribbean Sea from another maximum-security facility at the U.S. naval base in eastern Cuba, said Navy Cmdr. Robert Durand. The 178-cell prison, constructed beside another maximum-security prison built in 2004, will allow the base to phase out an older facility, Durand said.
U.N. human rights investigators and foreign governments have called on the United States to close the entire detention center because of widespread allegations of abuse of detainees by guards. The United States labels Guantanamo detainees ``enemy combatants,'' which accords them fewer rights than other prisoners.

MORE

O'Reilly said...

The latest AP-Ipsos poll, taken as a bipartisan commission was releasing its recommendations for a new course in Iraq, found that just 27 percent of Americans approved of Bush's handling of Iraq, down from his previous low of 31 percent in November.

"Support is continuing to erode and there's no particular reason to think it can be turned back," said John Mueller, an Ohio State University political scientist and author of "War, Presidents and Public Opinion." Mueller said that once people "drop off the bandwagon, it's unlikely they'll say 'I'm for it again.' Once they're off, they're off."

Even so, Americans are not necessarily intent on getting all U.S. troops out right away, the poll indicated. The survey found strong support for a two-year timetable if that's what it took to get U.S. troops out. Seventy-one percent said they would favor a two-year timeline from now until sometime in 2008, but when people are asked instead about a six-month timeline for withdrawal that number drops to 60 percent.

link

O'Reilly said...

As the new chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, Waxman will have free rein to investigate, as he puts it, "everything that the government is involved with." And the funny thing is, Waxman can thank the Republicans for the unique set of levers he will hold. Under a rules change they put through in the days when they used the panel to make Bill Clinton's life miserable, the leader of Government Reform is the only chairman who can issue subpoenas without a committee vote.

[...]

Waxman likes to point out that the House took 140 hours of sworn testimony to get to the bottom of whether Clinton had misused the White House Christmas-card list for political purposes, but only 12 hours on prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.

link

Saladin said...

Send the Neocons to Iraq

Kurt Nimmo
Friday, December 8, 2006

“With the situation in Iraq ‘grave and deteriorating,’ the United States must begin the process of shifting troops out of the country, members of a bipartisan panel said Wednesday. But at the same time, the group recommended, the Bush administration must make sure that it has sufficient civilian personnel in Iraq—if necessary, by ordering some employees to serve there,” reports the National Journal Group.

“The nature of the mission in Iraq is unfamiliar and dangerous, and the United States has had great difficulty filling civilian assignments in Iraq with sufficient numbers of properly trained personnel at the appropriate rank,” wrote the Iraq Study Group. If people can’t be found to fill the position, “directed assignments” should be the result.

Good idea. And I know who should make the short list.

Let’s see… First and foremost, Paul Wolfowitz. He’s behind a desk at the World Bank, so it will be easy to go over and enlist him to serve in Iraq. Now that Donald Rumsfeld is out of a job, we can send him. Of course, then there is the Prince of Darkness, Richard Perle, and Douglas Feith, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. No sense leaving out his co-conspirators, who worked for the Office of Special Plans—the lie factory set-up to push the country into invading Iraq—Abram Shulsky, David Wurmser, the director of Middle East studies for the criminal organization AEI, and we may as well throw in Wurmser’s Israeli wife, Meyrav. Former Perle crony, F. Michael Maloof, should be included, and of course William Luti, a rabid warmonger, perfect for the violent milieu of Baghdad.

No doubt we need to round up the rest of the Straussian, neo-Jacobin crowd: Norman Podhoretz, Elliott Abrams, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Max Boot, William Kristol, Robert Kagan, William Bennett, Charles Krauthammer, James Woolsey, Peter Rodman, and of course we can’t leave out Newt Gingrich, enemy of the Bill of Rights who keeps insisting we are fighting the Third World War. Newt should put his money where his mouth is and hike over to Baghdad.

Surrounding the Project for the New American Century building, maybe flushing it out with CS gas or rat poison, would net Bruce Jackson, Mark Gerson, Gary Schmitt, Thomas Donnelly, Timothy Lehmann, Michael Goldfarb, and a few other “fellows,” all who should be put on a plane and shipped to the Green Zone immediately. Then there’s Joshua Muravchik, Michael Rubin, David Frum, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and most importantly Samuel “clash of civilizations” Huntington over at the American Enterprise Institute, where Bush gets his criminal and psychopathic minds.

It will be a crowded flight.
==========
I cheerfully second that motion! Can we get a vote?

Saladin said...

The Great Baker-Hamilton
Report: Classic Bullshit


...when faced with an unsolvable or seemingly unsolvable political conundrum, most politicians feel there's only one thing to do. You appear onstage with your rival party's leader, embrace him, announce that you're going to find a "bipartisan" solution together, and then nominate a panel of rotting political corpses who will spend 18 months, a few dozen million dollars, many thousands of taxpayer-funded air miles, and about 130,000 pages of impossibly verbose text finding a way for both parties to successfully take the fork in the road and blow off the entire issue, whatever it was.

It's important, when you nominate your panel, to dig up the oldest, saggiest, rubberiest, most used-up political whores on the Eastern seaboard to take up your cause. That way, you can be sure that the panel will know its place and not address any extraneous issues in its inquiry -- like, for instance, whose fault a certain war is, or whether the whole idea of a "War on Terrorism" needs to be rethought, or whether the idea of preemptive defense as a general strategy is viable at all, or whether previously unthinkable solutions may now have to be countenanced, or whether there is anyone currently in a position of responsibility who perhaps should immediately be removed from office and hung by his balls. Your panel should contain people who are not experts or interested parties in the relevant field (since experts or interested parties might be tempted to come up with real, i.e. politically dangerous solutions), but it should contain people who are recognizable political celebrities whose names will lend weight to your whole enterprise, although not for any logical reason.

Baker-Hamilton was a classic whore-panel in every sense. None were Middle East experts. None had logged serious time in Iraq, before or after the invasion. All of them had influential friends on both sides of the aisle all over Washington, parties in the future they wanted to keep getting invites to, ambitions yet to be realized. You could assign Jim Baker, Lee Hamilton, Sandra Day O'Connor and Vernon Jordan, Jr. to take on virtually any problem and feel very confident that between the four of them, they would find a way to avoid the ugly heart of any serious political dilemma. If the missiles were on the way, and nuclear Armageddon was just seconds off, those four fossils would find a way to issue a recommendation whose headline talking points would be something like "heightened caution," dialogue with Sweden, and a 14 percent increase in future funding for the Air Force...
==========
This essay pretty much nails it, bullshit.

Saladin said...

Meese of Arabia and the Baker Group's Grab for Black Gold
by Chris Floyd


The reaction from actual Iraqis on the just-released report by the "Iraq Study Group"? They don't like it; it won't work; it's largely a tissue of fantasies and shows no grasp of the true situation in Iraq; it has nothing to do with solving Iraq's problems but everything to do with the American Establishment's desperate attempt to save face, no matter how many people must be slaughtered in the process.

But why should we listen to these wretched malcontents in Iraq? How the hell could they know more about the reality of their lives than Jim "Bagman" Baker and Lee "Whitewash for Hire" Hamilton and Harriet "Here's the PB&J, George" Miers and Ed Meese? I mean, come on: who on God's green earth knows more about the political, social, ethnic, historical, religious and military complexities of Iraq than Ed Meese? The Heritage Foundation's Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow in Public Policy? Man, he's the go-to guy for all things Iraqi! There's no freaking, frigging way that any Hakim or Abdul or Nouri or Motqada or Mahmoud is gonna have any greater insight on Iraq than Ed Meese. Are you kidding me?

Listen, if you start listening to actual Iraqis, you might as well hang it up right now. Because poll after poll shows that actual Iraqis overwhelmingly favor a single option for the U.S. military forces in their country: cut and run, the sooner the better. That's what they want; but of course, they're just like children, aren't they, the precious little primitive critters. And everybody knows you can't give children everything they want. It's not good for them. So we have to hold the Iraqis' hands until they can toddle on their own – and we have to slap their hands if they don't do what we know is best for them...
=========
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