An Empty Nest
Posted by Lurch on November 29, 2006 • Comments (2)Permalink

Mr Bu$h instructed Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to meet him in Amman, Jordan in order to give him some of that world-renowned “look into the eyes” counseling. Muqtada al-Sadr told Mr Maliki, who derives much of his political support from al-Sadr, not to go there.

Mr Maliki went to Amman.

Via AMERICAblog, we learn that the AP is reporting Mr Maliki will return to a much smaller base of support:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Lawmakers and Cabinet ministers loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said Wednesday they have carried out their threat to suspend participation in Parliament and the government to protest Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's summit with U.S. President George W. Bush.

The 30 lawmakers and five Cabinet ministers said their action was necessary because the meeting in Jordan constituted a "provocation to the feelings of the Iraqi people and a violation of their constitutional rights." Their statement did not explain that claim.

"We are sticking to our position. ... The boycott is still valid," Falih Hassan, a Sadrist legislator, said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Bush is a criminal who killed a lot of Iraqis and we do not want him to interfere in Iraq's affairs. The Iraqi government should negotiate with the U.N. Security Council, not with the leader of the country that is occupying Iraq."

This ought to give them something interesting to talk about in Amman.

The Wealthy Successful Insurgency
Posted by Lurch on November 26, 2006 • Comments (4)Permalink

Today’s NY Times has a report about “insurgent” financing in Iraq that is difficult to parse, yet rather dark and melancholy in its tone. It says the “insurgency” is doing just fine, thank you.

The very first thing to note is that this report is classified “Secret – NoForn” and was made available to The Times by the usual unnamed Government sources, so we shouldn’t hear any screams of outrage from the VRWC about revealing secrets. Perhaps those sources really believe foreigners don’t read the US papers?

While such data may have been omitted to protect the group’s clandestine sources and methods — the document has a bold heading on the front page saying “secret” and a warning that it is not to be shared with foreign governments — several security and intelligence consultants said in telephone interviews that the vagueness of the estimates reflected how little American intelligence agencies knew about the opaque and complex world of Iraq’s militant groups.

When analyzing any such “Government” report there are three things to look for: what the report says, what agency produced the report, and who (or which faction) within that agency produced the report. Establishing these three criteria usually tell a reader what the report is aimed at.

Completed in June, the report was compiled by an interagency working group investigating the financing of militant groups in Iraq.

A Bush administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the group’s existence. He said it was led by Juan Zarate, deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism, and was made up of about a dozen people, drawn from the C.I.A., the F.B.I., the Defense Intelligence Agency, the State Department, the Treasury Department and the United States Central Command.

Any reader experienced in the ins and outs of the Bu$h malAdministration should ask for the provenance of these people. It’s wise to understand that in the past reports from Bu$hCo have tended to be self-serving and not designed to further the knowledge of the general public. Were the members drawn from the CIA, DIA, and State career professionals or political appointees installed during the purges conducted under the auspices of Messers Goss, Rumsfeld and Ms Rice?

BAGHDAD, Nov. 25 — The insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining financially, raising tens of millions of dollars a year from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, connivance by corrupt Islamic charities and other crimes that the Iraqi government and its American patrons have been largely unable to prevent, a classified United States government report has concluded.

The report, obtained by The New York Times, estimates that groups responsible for many insurgent and terrorist attacks are raising $70 million to $200 million a year from illegal activities. It says $25 million to $100 million of that comes from oil smuggling and other criminal activity involving the state-owned oil industry, aided by “corrupt and complicit” Iraqi officials.

Oil smuggling is of course a key element in this report because oil is The Prize in Iraq as Mr Bu$h recently stated inadvertently. Oil production in Iraq is sketchy at best and in fact Iraq seems to import more oil than it exports, although some of this may simply be facilitation of Bu$hCo political campaign donors. Since for the first year or more oil exported successfully from Iraq was not metered, it’s difficult to determine just how much oil was going out, where it was going to, and who made money from it, but it’s a safe guess that the hands controlling the flow didn’t suffer too much. And, of course, oil production in Iraq hasn’t been to reliable since blowing up pipelines is a important part of “insurgency.” And let’s also remember that Executive Order 13303 pretty well set the gate for Iraq’s oil: the sky’s the limit and there are no controls.

The document tracing the money flows acknowledges that investigators have had limited success in penetrating or choking off terrorist financing networks. The report says American efforts to follow the financing trails have been hamstrung by several factors. They include a weak Iraqi government and its nascent intelligence agencies; a lack of communication between American agencies, and between the Americans and the Iraqis; and the nature of the insurgent economy itself, primarily sustained by couriers carrying cash rather than more easily traceable means involving banks and the hawala money transfer networks traditional in the Middle East.

COL W. Pat Lang, a retired US Army specialist in Middle Eastern affairs commented on this report:

They’re just guessing…“They really have no idea.” He added, “They’ve been very unsuccessful in penetrating these organizations.” He said he was equally skeptical about the report’s assertion that the insurgent and militant groups may have surpluses to finance terrorism outside Iraq. “That’s another guess,” he said.

“A judgment like that, coming from an N.S.C.-generated document,” he said, is not an analytical assessment as much as it is a political statement to support the administration’s contention that Iraq is a central front in the war on terrorism. “It’s a statement put in there to support a policy judgment,” he said.

The report is primarily about financing and makes some fairly remarkable and completely unsubstantiated claims, among them the fact that the “insurgency” is making much more from criminal activities than it needs to sustain itself, and the supposition is that they are exporting money to other countries to sustain other groups, or to foster new enterprises. If Bu$hCo really believes this, they’re admitting that they have been fought to a standstill in Iraq, and are in fact beaten. The premise implies the “insurgents” don’t need to spend all their funds domestically. Time to quit, Mr Bu$h.

A New DoD Policy?
Posted by Lurch on November 10, 2006 • Comments (0)Permalink

Much has been written about America’s dreadful dearth of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. A reasonable rotation policy has been shortened by the missing companies and battalions – troops America wishes it had yet cannot afford. Units serve their tours of 7 or 12 months, rotate back to the US for some much needed rest and reconstitution, and all too soon they’re back in the sandbox, risking their lives in Mr Bu$h’s personal war of choice.

Mr Rumsfeld brought some unique ideas to the office of Defense Secretary. Some were intellectually and doctrinally challenging, such as the concept of changing the tactical face of the Army and making large cumbersome divisions designed for fighting WWII-style battles on the plains of Europe into smaller, lighter, more maneuverable units that were better adapted to the concept of expeditionary warfare. The digital electronification of equipment became a force multiplier by increasing communication channels, giving more ‘real time’ control and allowing forces to be concentrated more quickly,

Better communication is an important part of modern, 21st century warfare, and Mr Rumsfeld saw himself as a pioneer in the process. He considered the effects of “cyber warfare” to be exceptionally useful. He also made a special effort to improve military communication to civilian communities, investing heavily in programs to bring “good news” to Iraqis, often through direct payments to newspapers and radio and television distributors. Some quibblers might call these direct payments “bribes” but it was a results-driven process, disregarding the morality or ethics of such tactics.

Mr Rumsfeld also took advantage of the ease of communications within the US, opening offices to transmit information with a positive image directly to the citizenry. We wrote about these efforts at news management several times.

There is a large office in Baghdad devoted to managing the news, and several larger offices in the US, more or less one for each branch of service, and at least two for the Defense Department. Each of these offices studies daily combat reports and area activity reports to create positive information releases for the news media. They also scan daily newspapers and radio and television transmissions seeking what they consider improperly reported news, leaping into immediate action by contacting news managers, editors, and reporters to carefully and diplomatically explain how the cited news article was in error or not in compliance with Defense Department policy and asking for printed corrections.

Now that Mr Rumsfeld is leaving the office he has inhabited for so long we can expect changes from the new occupant, Mr Gates. Such changes are an automatic part of the bureaucratic process. Even if changes are not really needed they occur, as much to transmit the existence of a new sheriff as anything else. It is as easily predicted as the change of seasons.

This might be a good time to suggest that one change Mr Gates might consider is the elimination of the propaganda brigades. This would surely free up another battalion or two, at the minimum. How about it, Mr Gates? Would you consider doing this for the good of the troops? Think of this as a more useful force multiplier.

Posted by Lurch on October 19, 2006 • Comments (1)Permalink

Wandering around the internet tubes I happened upon a fine essay over at our friend, rangeragainstwar.

[T]his isn't exactly a travelog. It's a gloss on the principles of war and how these are necessary to win, and how we have ignored them in Iraq and Afghan[i]stan. Following are a few examples of the failure that can result by straying from these principles.

Go forth and read, learn, and propagate. If every leftie, Liberal or Progressive, read once piece like this every day, and encouraged one friend or acquaintance to read it and discuss it, we’d be a free country in no time at all.

Posted by Lurch on October 13, 2006 • Comments (0)Permalink

General Sir Richard Dannat, Chief of the British Army, is the focus of a news story in this morning’s Guardian.

Army chief: British troops must pull out of Iraq soon

General attacks government policy that has 'exacerbated' security risks

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the army, dropped a political bombshell last night by saying that Britain must withdraw from Iraq "soon" or risk serious consequences for Iraqi and British society.

In a blistering attack on Tony Blair's foreign policy, Gen Dannatt said the continuing military presence in Iraq was jeopardising British security and interests around the world.

"I don't say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq, but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them," he said in comments that met with admiration from anti-war campaigners and disbelief in some parts of Westminster.

One of the reasons I have always respected the British Army is the sense of responsibility and honor that is hammered into cadets at Sandhurst, the British West Point. Officers are taught the basic nuts and bolts of military tactics, strategy, and logistical planning, but they also taught what leadership means, and how the proper application of that guiding principle will cause men to do some fairly scary things. I‘m not sure the subject is carefully covered at West Point, where saving a career seems to be more important than saving an army.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Gen Dannatt, who became chief of the general staff in August, said we should "get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems".

It seems Bu$hism hasn’t completely infected the Ministry of Defence, at least not on the uniformed side of the building. General Dannat is exercising good leadership, trying to extricate his army from a bad situation before the force is destroyed. It’s unfortunate that Generals Pace, Abizaid, and Casey don’t have the same sense of loyalty to their troops.

"Whatever consent we may have had in the first place, may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance." He added that planning for the postwar phase was "poor" and the aim of imposing a liberal democracy in Iraq had been over-ambitious. He was more optimistic that "we can get it right in Afghanistan."

This is a highly unusual opinion to be voiced by a serving General. In the US Army a man has to retire before he can say things like this. Maybe the British Army functions under a democratic form of government.

I suppose we should carefully watch to see whether he is forced to recant his remarks, or whether he is suddenly dismissed from his post. I’m sure he means what he says, and is expressing his belief, but if he isn’t called to account for this, it may be that he’s opening the door for the present Government to start sidling towards the door, leaving us and the remaining coalition troops to stand alone, until the Iraqis stand up. A report yesterday indicated that US troops will remain in Iraq, at the present levels of 140,000 troops, until at least 2010, so I suppose no one is expecting the Iraqis to stand up very quickly.

Doug Henderson, a former minister for the armed forces and ally of Gordon Brown, questioned why the general had made his thoughts public.

"One can only assume that Sir Richard has made his views known privately and that they've been ignored," he told BBC2's Newsnight programme. He said soldiers expected to have the support of the chief of the general staff, adding: "The soldiers on the frontline must be wondering why they are there now."

Now that’s interesting. The British media paying attention to the views and opinions of the opposition party. I guess it really is a democracy over there.

UPDATE: Billmon has revealed:

Another conspirator -- this one a mole planted deep inside the U.S. "advisory" mission in Iraq:

Violence in Iraq forces the interior ministry to budget a loss of 25 police officers each day to death or permanent injury . . . Gerald Burke, National Security Advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior said.

Burke described the appalling conditions facing police whom he helped train, to a meeting of the Democratic Policy Committee, which includes Democratic legislators.

He blamed much of the current bloodshed on the U.S. government's "failure to recognize the importance of security in the immediate post-conflict environment, in particular our failure to support the rule of law."

And who -- as the Wall Street Journal editorial page might ask -- is Gerald Burke?

An army veteran with more than 25 years' experience in law enforcement, Burke was one of six specialists sent to Iraq in May 2003 by the US Department of Justice to conduct an assessment of the Iraqi criminal justice system.

China Stretches Her, Legs Part I
Posted by Lurch on October 06, 2006 • Comments (0)Permalink
'China and Iran Strengthen their Bilateral Relationship"

China's decision to send 1,000 soldiers to south Lebanon with the U.N.I.F.I.L. mission is the latest example of Beijing's increased involvement in the Middle East. The overall importance of the broader Middle East for China's geostrategy is growing. China is searching for new regional allies because it wants to pursue strategic aims such as gaining privileged access to crude oil reserves, finding new markets for its products and technology, and competing with the United States for supremacy in an area that is a fundamental part of the international system. Iran seems to be the best ally for such an approach, thus the strategic relationship between the two countries has increased strongly during the past few years.

China’s rather surprising participation in the UNIFIL peacekeeping and mine clearing operations in Lebanon are somewhat unsettling. The country has been expansionistic, but primarily within the arena of military assistance. Dr Kissinger’s urging President Nixon to go to China opened that country’s doors to cultural interchange, which brought trade and finally the concept of capitalism as beneficial. As the CPC reluctantly opened those doors, it was inevitable that the rot of Communism would start, and the inexorable economic changes would eventually bring significant alterations to the country’s political tempo.

China’s exploding economic growth has gone hand-in-hand with a mounting US debt. China currently holds about 30% of US foreign (and future) debt, and is seeking more abundant fuel supplies in order to feed its bounding economy.

China has much interest in enlarging its presence in the Middle East. The Middle East is a region with significant geostrategic importance for the entire global political balance. China will play an increasing role on the global scene, and therefore it needs to reinforce its presence in regions that are fundamental for the overall fate of the global political balance. [See: "China Becomes Increasingly Involved in the Middle East"]

On this chessboard, China could have an important role in terms of economic, strategic and ideological influence. Beijing, therefore, is trying to strengthen its ties with those regional powers that represent an opportunity for entering into the regional political balance strongly. Iran is the main target of such a strategy. Iran is a major supplier of oil and gas and it could represent a fundamental source of energy for the development and modernization of China, which is increasingly reliant upon oil imports.

Moreover, China wants to reinforce its relations with Iran and to deepen its presence in Central Asia with the goal of reaching Caspian energy; tapping Caspian energy would help China lessen its dependence on maritime oil imports coming from the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, thus better securing the uninterrupted flow of oil.

Transporting oil and gas by pipeline is less expensive, and more secure than using maritime shipping, as long as the origin terminal and transshipment countries are politically secure. We reported a Juan Cole article in which he quoted a man he identifies as [JFR] discussing an energy presentation in Portugal here.

He started his presentation with the growing need for oil in China and India. He stressed that China wants to become the 'workshop' of the world and India the 'office' of the world. both economies contributed combined some 44% to world economy growth during 2001-2004. He compared the USA, Japan, India and China to giant whales constantly eating fish. They had no fish near them so they started to move. He explained that the Persian Gulf is the 'fish ground', the 'gas station' of the world.

Later on he explained the . . . hypothesis . . . that says demand for oil will continue to grow. also for natural gas, which is even better than oil. Sadly the existing production is getting smaller, these fields are getting emptied. [One oil major] seems to believe that the gap between demand and existing production will become so large by 2015 that economic growth cannot continue. Yet there is hope on the horizon.

JFR explained to the astonished audience that Iran was the most valuable country on the planet. They have one of the biggest holdings of gas and oil reserves in the world. second in gas, second in oil. On top of that they have direct access to the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Caspian Sea what makes them a potential platform for the distribution of oil and gas to South Asia, Europe and East Asia. JRF called Iran 'the prize' . .

More to follow in Part II

China Stretches Her Legs, Part II
Posted by Lurch on October 06, 2006 • Comments (0)Permalink

In Part I of this series we took a quick look at what China has done as an economic power, where she has been casting her eyes for increased power supplies, and why.

Continuing to examine why China is pushing into Central Asia, let’s return to the excellent paper we were reading before.

China has also been exploiting opportunities in countries where the presence of major powers is weak. Clear examples of this are the moves China has made in Sudan, Angola and Syria. As part of this strategy, Tehran is an ideal partner for Beijing, both for its natural resources and for its geopolitical influence. Iranian crude oil and gas reserves are largely untapped because the country has suffered the ostracism of Western countries, leaving a large part of its petroleum fields unexplored since Tehran does not have adequate technology to increase its refined oil-production. China proposes itself as the country that can help Iran in the way of modernizing its petroleum industry and the wider Iranian economy with industrial technology, capital, engineering services and nuclear technology.

The Sino-Iranian economic relationship extends beyond the oil and gas spheres. Beijing is not only interested in the exploitation of Iran's oil reserves. China, for example, wants to deepen the presence of its firms in the Iranian market, which could be a good outlet for Chinese exports. The development of a strong economy is fundamental for China's external projection of power. Economic concerns, however, are only part of China's strategy toward Iran.

China has carefully watched the US over the last six years. While westerners are often considered “puzzling” or “inscrutable” to mainland Chinese, the last 30 years of cultural and economic exchange has given them a very good insight into the West, and the US in particular. They have carefully noted the basic dishonesty and corruption of the Bu$h malAdministration, and its inept and ineffectual management of everything other than cleaning out our Treasury. They have seen how the Army and Marine Corps has been debilitated and melted down to a skeleton of their former selves. It’s quite likely they do not fear a land confrontation with us. They fear the US nuclear umbrella, but most likely have sufficient nuclear weapons of their own, which brings us right back to the familiar Mutually Assured Destruction so familiar to those of us who were adults in the 1960s and 70s. They will carefully keep the conflict on the economic level. After all, they could cripple us with a sell-off of our T-Bills.

China has sold a lot of weaponry to Iran, and Iran has signed on as an observer in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional intergovernmental group primarily concerned with security issues in response to the threats of terrorism, separatism and extremism. The present members of the SCO are Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Krygyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. One of the goals of Russia and China of course, is the containment of the US military thrust into Central Asia.

With Bu$hCo’s nonstop propaganda assaults against Iran it’s hardly surprising the country has sought stronger ties to a powerful neighbor.

China needs new allies and privileged access to the oil reserves in the Middle East. Iran appears to be the best target for such an approach. The importance of energy reserves for China rests on the country's desire to develop its economy, which is the foundation of its attempts to play a stronger role in the international system. Also, Tehran's position in the Middle East is stronger than before, thus it can help Beijing in the fight against unrivaled U.S. influence.

For Iran, it needs a powerful ally to help it develop its economy, especially its oil industry. Moreover, it wants to improve its diplomatic and military status in the Middle East. Its nuclear program is a clear example of this. Iran needs civil and military technology and Beijing could be a good partner in these fields.

Finally, both countries are struggling against the supremacy of the United States in the world system, even though publicly Tehran is more aggressive toward this end than Beijing. The improving relationship between Iran and China does not mean that their long term interests are the same, but it does mean that in the medium term the two states share common aims in the economic and geopolitical spheres.

It’s ironic that we spent the 50s, 60, 70s and 80s in a Cold War, containing the threat of Russian and Chinese expansion by treaties with regional allies, and now we find them working with regional allies to contain us.

New Voice
Posted by Lurch on October 03, 2006 • Comments (2)Permalink

We’d like to introduce rangeragainstwar. Nam vet, US Army retired:

President Bush is the master of fuzzy logic.

"It is naive and a mistake to think that the war with Iraq has worsened terrorism," said Bush recently. So that's it--now we're at war "with Iraq"? This is not so; the U.S. is not fighting a war with Iraq. Remember "mission complete"? That war ended when Top Flight Bush landed on the aircraft carrier.

The U.S. is funding, equipping, and training a national police and army within Iraq, and using the U.S. military to subdue the Iraqi people. If the U.S. were at war with Iraq, as the President stated, then we would be at war with ourselves, since the new People's Democratic Republic of Iraq is a U.S. client state apparatus. I do not believe President Bush intended to say that our army was fighting against itself. If he did, then we have effectively become cannibals of our own troops.

The article title, King of Wishful Thinking is so accurate.

Zawahiri Speaks
Posted by Lurch on September 30, 2006 • Comments (0)Permalink

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian leader said to be a “lieutenant” of Osama bi-Laden, has released another video, which has been published on a number of Islamist sites. Abu Aardvark has the details:

It's a quite interesting video, or "videos" to be more accurate since the production includes two very different segments: one with Zawahiri in an office, with English subtitles, bashing Bush; and one with Zawahiri against a blank background, with no English subtitles, delivering an extended analysis of how the Pope's statements, America's war on terror, various French and other European actions, and Darfur fit together into a coherent and clear Crusader war against Islam.

I take it as significant that the second part of the video is not translated or subtitled - the message is for other Muslims, not for Americans - and that Zawahiri adopts simple white robes when addressing other Muslims.

Subtitles, eh? I suppose al-Zawahiri has figured out that not all of us have been studying Arabic. I wonder if he knows that the Department of Defense has been cutting off its own nose by firing qualified translators because their lifestyles might offend some knuckle-dragging fundies of our own? Probably so, all things considered they seem a bit wilier than Bu$hCo, don’t they?

But that’s one of the major problems with Bu$hCo and the fantasist wingnuts trying desperately to burn our Constitution and drag us back to the 10th century. Ideology always trumps common sense and intelligence.

Zawahiri lacks bin Laden's charisma, but at times - as in this video - he can actually [use] his lesser stature to his advantage. The first half of the video kind of reminds me of Eminem's rap battles at the end of 8 Mile, with Zawahiri going directly after Bush's perceived strengths (the war on terror, Iraq) with what is at least meant to be devastating mockery. Zawahiri addresses Bush directly as a peer, by implication elevating bin Laden above Bush's level. His critique of Bush is punctuated with refrains of "Bush, you lying charlatan", "Bush, can you be brave for once in your life", and so forth. [emph added] The English subtitles mean that when this part of the video is aired on CNN or Fox, the translators can't distort the message.

I find it hard to believe that Fox or CNN would deliberately supply a false translation, don’t you? I have a suspicion that the subtitles can be unmasked electronically before playing on US television, but then – what’s the point when the world knows there was a translation supplied? So I guess we won’t be hearing much about this from American media outlets.

Two important notes here. First, on Iraq, which will probably be misunderstood: when Zawahiri mocks Bush for withdrawing from Iraq, this probably does not mean that he actually wants Bush to withdraw from Iraq - the mockery is no doubt intended to infuriate Bush and goad him into keeping the troops in Iraq, right where al-Qaeda wants them. Those who conclude that Zawahiri's comments mean that we must remain in Iraq to deny al-Qaeda its victory are playing right into his hands. Second, Zawahiri is clearly trying to paint a sweeping portrait (as did bin Laden in January) of al-Qaeda on the march, scoring gains on all fronts. This is more bravado than reality - there's little sign that the increasingly radicalized and angry mainstream Arab and Muslim public is turning to al-Qaeda for leadership or inspiration - but the construction of this narrative of al-Qaeda's relentless ascension should be seen nevertheless as a core of al-Qaeda's current strategy. That, by the way, is also how I read the tape released on the internet last week by Muhajir, the new al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, which claimed a figure for jihadi deaths (6000) significantly higher than any reputable estimate: it's a boast, not a complaint; not a confession of weakness or struggles, but an attempt to magnify the role and importance of al-Qaeda in the Iraqi insurgency. If and when the US does actually withdraw from Iraq, al-Qaeda will no doubt try to claim victory; the American goal should be to deny it that ability, by minimizing al-Qaeda's role in the Iraqi arena rather than exaggerating it and lending credence to its claims.

There’s no question that it is in the interest of the Islamic fundamentalists to keep us engaged with the Iraqi tar baby. Each day we struggle harder and bleed a little more. And while they are taking greater casualties than we are, they have less to lose, because Mr Bu$h’s short-sighted, immature personality chose a war of aggression in order to appease his own psychological demons and not for sound reasons of foreign policy. As Abu Aardvark states, goading Mr Bu$h is guaranteed to enrage him, and reinforce his stubbornness and desire to stay where we are. Maybe that tar baby is inside a briar patch, in fact.

I’d comment on Mr Bu$h hearing about this video and rolling on the floor, chewing on the carpet in his rage, but of course, that’s a technical violation of Godwin’s law.

There’s quite a bit more in the translation and review, and you’d be well-advised to read it all and take it to heart because you won’t hear an honest interpretation of it from our side of the divide. I can’t vouch for the translation, of course, and I wouldn’t vouch for an “official” “corrected” translation from Bu$hCo, if only because they never get anything right.

The Red-Line Theory of Naval Warfare
Posted by Lurch on September 24, 2006 • Comments (4)Permalink

Idiosynchronic – who posts at some of the most interesting places - has a short piece up at Progressive Historians.

What's a Redline Event and Will It Be Justification?

For those with limited imagination, a “red-line event” is a case of having the “double dog dare ya to step over that line” challenge met.

. . all the military analysis I've read indicates that Iran has a fair number of cruise missiles salted away in a fairly wide-ranging tunnel/cave system along their coast.

These papers also imply that Iran's stock of missiles is fairly effective vs. current defensive systems. It seems like they could release a sufficient quantity of munitions to damage, possibly even sink a carrier.

My recollection is fuzzy, but isn't sinking a carrier one of our redlines for nuclear release?

You should probably go read Idiosynchronic’s discussion of this possibility.

Posted by Lurch on September 21, 2006 • Comments (3)Permalink

Billmon, presenting COL Sam Gardiner:

When I discuss the possibility of an American military strike on Iran with my European friends, they invariably point out that an armed confrontation does not make sense -- that it would be unlikely to yield any of the results that American policymakers do want, and that it would be highly likely to yield results that they do not. I tell them they cannot understand U.S. policy if they insist on passing options through that filter. The "making sense" filter was not applied over the past four years for Iraq, and it is unlikely to be applied in evaluating whether to attack Iran

COL Gardiner's essay, "Summer Diplomacy" is available as a .pdf document through the Billmon link.

War With Iran
Posted by Lurch on September 19, 2006 • Comments (3)Permalink

The Time magazine issue of September 17th features a long explanatory piece about Mr Bu$h’s insane need to start another war in the Middle East. Contrary to American journalism’s habit of lazy he-said, she-said writing, Michael Duffy’s cover story actually examines the issue logically, with no flag-waving idiocy from Likudnik neocons. It’s available here, free after watching a short advertisement.

A flurry of military maneuvers in the Middle East increases speculation that conflict with Iran is no longer quite so unthinkable. Here's how the U.S. would fight such a war--and the huge price it would have to pay to win it.

The first message was routine enough: a "Prepare to Deploy" order sent through naval communications channels to a submarine, an Aegis-class cruiser, two minesweepers and two mine hunters. The orders didn't actually command the ships out of port; they just said to be ready to move by Oct. 1

The orders for units tasked to mine warfare is significant because that is one of the greatest dangers in conflict with Iran. In such a conflict, Iran’s most potent weapon is not military, but rather economic. A large portion of the world’s oil moves through the Straits of Hormuz and they are just too easy to shut down with mines.

The Persian Gulf, a traffic jam on good days, would become a parking lot. Iran could plant mines and launch dozens of armed boats into the bottleneck, choking off the shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz and causing a massive disruption of oil-tanker traffic. A low-key Iranian mining operation in 1987 forced the U.S. to reflag Kuwaiti oil tankers and escort them, in slow-moving files of one and two, up and down the Persian Gulf. A more intense operation would probably send oil prices soaring above $100 per bbl.--which may explain why the Navy wants to be sure its small fleet of minesweepers is ready to go into action at a moment's notice. It is unlikely that Iran would turn off its own oil spigot or halt its exports through pipelines overland, but it could direct its proxies in Iraq and Saudi Arabia to attack pipelines, wells and shipment points inside those countries, further choking supply and driving up prices.

All of this is caused by the fact that Iran has a lot of oil, and controls the primary export route out of the Middle East. A secondary goad is the fact that the hard-liner fantasists on the right are deeply troubled by the fact that the US has never “gotten even” with Iran over the 1979 seizure of the US Embassy.

One of Iran’s potential weapons in a military clash with the US is its allies and friends among the terrorist community. When Hezbollah initiated this summer’s war in Lebanon the world was stunned as it watched Israel fought to a standstill by what is essentially a guerrilla movement, albeit a well-supplied and very competently led one. Israel’s stunning loss in Lebanon has turned the “Spartans of the Middle East” into just another high-tech Western power befuddled by Islamic and nationalistic ideology married to the resistance tactics espoused by Sandino, Mao and Guevara.

Retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner, who taught strategy at the National War College, has been conducting a mock U.S.-Iran war game for American policymakers for the past five years. Virtually every time he runs the game, Gardiner says, a similar nightmare scenario unfolds: the U.S. attack, no matter how successful, spawns a variety of asymmetrical retaliations by Tehran. First comes terrorism: Iran's initial reaction to air strikes might be to authorize a Hizballah attack on Israel, in order to draw Israel into the war and rally public support at home.

Next, Iran might try to foment as much mayhem as possible inside the two nations on its flanks, Afghanistan and Iraq, where more than 160,000 U.S. troops hold a tenuous grip on local populations. Iran has already dabbled in partnership with warlords in western Afghanistan, where U.S. military authority has never been strong; it would be a small step to lend aid to Taliban forces gaining strength in the south. Meanwhile, Tehran has links to the main factions in Iraq, which would welcome a boost in money and weapons, if just to strengthen their hand against rivals. Analysts generally believe that Iran could in a short time orchestrate a dramatic increase in the number and severity of attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq. As Syed Ayad, a secular Shi'ite cleric and Iraqi Member of Parliament says, "America owns the sky of Iraq with their Apaches, but Iran owns the ground."


[Retired General Anthony] Zinni, for one, believes an attack on Iran could eventually lead to U.S. troops on the ground. "You've got to be careful with your assumptions," he says. "In Iraq, the assumption was that it would be a liberation, not an occupation. You've got to be prepared for the worst case, and the worst case involving Iran takes you down to boots on the ground." All that, he says, makes an attack on Iran a "dumb idea."

A superpower led by men who demand the right to control all the oil in the Middle East opposed by people who believe they have a strong strategic and tactical advantage in the Islamic world by virtue of their oil wealth and Islamic fundamentalism are going to go to war over their beliefs.

This will not end well.

Fighting Insurgencies
Posted by Lurch on September 09, 2006 • Comments (3)Permalink

A commenter on a previous thread asked about military campaigns that succeeded against insurgencies. One of the campaigns I mentioned was the 1956 British campaign against Communist-inspired Malayan insurgents.

From a History of Malaysia:

In early January 1946, the English Government unveiled plans for a "Malayan Union" which involved the joining of the pre-war Federated Malay States, Unfederated Malay States as well as Penang and Melaka under a single administrative body and under the direct control of a duly selected Governor. Singapore was exempt from this plan due to its strategic importance in the region and was to remain a British Colony. Unfortunately the plan would also completely undermine what little authority remained with the Malay royalty. Though an envoy had been sent to gain the approval of the Malay Sultans, the assignment was carried out in a heavy handed and abrupt manner, the Sultans may have agreed but their subjects certainly did not.

Throughout South East and South Asia, the flame of independence burned brightly in formerly colonial lands after WWII. The local populaces had seen an Asian nation defeat the formerly-invincible Western European occupiers. Because the locals were harshly treated under Japanese occupation and suffered greatly, they welcomed the return of the Western landlords. But once they were liberated they were quite prepared to bid good-bye to their European colonialists and strike out as independent nations.

Because of organized political opposition, the proposed “Malayan Union” plans were scrapped and it their place the British proposed a Federation of Malaya Agreement in 1948. This plan was generally acceptable to the Malayan royalty and all political parties other than the Communist Party, which had been a cornerstone of the anti-Japanese resistance.

Beginning March 1948, Malayan communists began a campaign of unrest and dismay throughout the country. Armed revolt and escalating violence forced the government into action and a "State of Emergency" was declared on June 18th 1948. Death and destruction at the hands of the communist guerrillas escalated further with the massacre at the Bukit Kepong police station in Johor in 1950 and the assassination of the British High Commissioner Sir Henry Gurney in 1951. Devised by General Harold Briggs, a "Briggs Plan" was implemented. The plan involved the relocation of isolated villages and communities into designated areas called "New Villages" where their residents could be more easily protected and also where communist sympathizers would be isolated and be unable to provide provisions, weapons or information to the rebels in the countryside. Areas formerly populated by these civilians became free-fire zones where government troops would be able to engage the enemy more effectively.

This strategy actually worked, unlike in Viet Nam, in part because the Communist Party was not deeply entrenched among the people, and it lacked an effective outside source of logistical supply the way the VC was supplied by North Viet Nam when the US tried the strategic relocation system in the mid to late 60s.

During the Spring of 2006 the US Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, PA, published a monograph about the successful British strategy. (Markel, “Draining the Swamp” – available in .pdf form here.)

Markel attributes the British success to “the British Army’s superior organizational adaptability and flexibility, strategic patience, their predilection for using the minimum force necessary, the relative ease with which they integrated civil and military aspects of national power, and the apparent facility with which they adapted their strategies to local circumstances of geography and culture.”

Credit is also given to what Markel terms the “key element” – “the
effective internment of the Chinese “squatter” population, the segment of Malayan society from which the insurgents almost entirely drew their strength.”

By interning the “squatters” in fortified “New Villages,” the British and their Malayan allies were able to deny the communist insurgents access to recruits, food, and military supplies. It also allowed them to narrow the scope of their intelligence efforts, as the insurgents had to maintain contact with their base under the very noses of the Anglo-Malayan government.

One important item to note is that this strategy works well with small numbers of inhabitants, and with a military occupying force commensurately strong enough to overawe the populace. When an occupier is significantly out-numbered by the locals, adequate military and civil control is impossible.

It’s worth reading through this monograph, because it illustrates how this strategy worked in Malaya, and failed in Kenya and Viet Nam. It also makes plain why this system would not work in Iraq.

Combat Compliance
Posted by Lurch on August 31, 2006 • Comments (0)Permalink

USMCCowboy has a diary entry up on Daily Kos. There's too much to extract, or even comment on, other than it's interesting and I think John Keegan and the Cowboy could have an interesting discussion about why men fight.

Paper Soldiers
Posted by Lurch on August 30, 2006 • Comments (13)Permalink

The Boston Globe had a compelling story about one way the Maine Army National Guard is trying to support the families of members serving overseas.

Guard families cope in two dimensions
`Flat Daddy' cutouts ease longing

By Brian MacQuarrie, Globe Staff | August 30, 2006

Maine National Guard members in Iraq and Afghanistan are never far from the thoughts of their loved ones.

Welcome to the "Flat Daddy" and "Flat Mommy" phenomenon, in which life-size cutouts of deployed service members are given by the Maine National Guard to spouses, children, and relatives back home.

The Flat Daddies ride in cars, sit at the dinner table, visit the dentist, and even are brought to confession, according to their significant others on the home front.

"I prop him up in a chair, or sometimes put him on the couch and cover him up with a blanket," said Kay Judkins of Caribou, whose husband, Jim, is a minesweeper mechanic in Afghanistan. "The cat will curl up on the blanket, and it looks kind of weird. I've tricked several people by that. They think he's home again."

At the request of relatives, about 200 Flat Daddy and Flat Mommy photos have been enlarged and printed at the state National Guard headquarters in Augusta. The families cut out the photos, which show the Guard members from the waist up, and glue them to a $2 piece of foam board.

Sergeant First Class Barbara Claudel, the state family-support director who began the program, said the response from Guard families has been giddily enthusiastic.

"If there's something we can do to make it a little easier on the families, then that's our job and our responsibility. It brings them a little bit closer and might help them somewhere down the line," Claudel said yesterday.

"You know, this is my motto: `Deployment isn't a big thing, it's a million little things.' These families go through a lot."

While most families stay in touch with their guardsmen by e-mail, snapshots, and videophone, the cutouts are unusual.

"It's a novel approach," said John Goheen, spokesman for the National Guard Association of the United States, a Washington-based lobbying group. "It's to remind the kids that this guy and this woman is still part of your life, that this is what they look like, and this is how big they are."

Claudel said she heard about the Flat Daddy idea while attending a national conference for the Guard. In Maine, the initiative began about eight months ago when Flat Daddies were offered as part of the deployment of B Company, Third Battalion, 172d Mountain Infantry, which is based in Brewer.

Now, when units are mobilized, the Guard organizes Flat Daddy parties, in which families can meet one another while receiving instructions on assembling the photos.

Judkins said the cutout has been a comfort since her husband was deployed in January.

"He goes everywhere with me. Every day he comes to work with me," said Judkins, who works in a dentist's office. "I just bought a new table from the Amish community, and he sits at the head of the table. Yes, he does."

In the car, her husband's image sits behind the driver's seat so Judkins can keep an eye on him. A third-grade class writes to him as their "adopted" guardsman. And Judkins even brought her husband's cutout -- which she calls Slim Jim, because he's not -- to confession at the local church.

When asked what her husband had to confess, Judkins laughed. "That's private," she said.

Jim Judkins had at least one precarious moment as a cutout. When cousins tried to stuff him into a suitcase to take on a cruise, they broke his neck. But instead of expensive surgery, all the cutout needed was a little duct tape, Judkins said.

Cindy Branscom of Hallowell, whose husband, Colonel John Branscom, is in Afghanistan, said spouses of service members in the 240th Engineer Group often bring their Flat Daddies to monthly support meetings and group barbecues. She said one spouse, Mary Holbrook of Hermon, has been seen in the company of her cutout husband, Lieutenant Colonel Randall Holbrook.

"Mary has taken Randy to different events," Branscom said.

But then again, that's almost expected.

"I think it's wonderful," Branscom said. "My Flat Daddy sits in my dining room all the time. He even went to Easter dinner with us at my family's house."

You’re not “supposed” to reproduce an entire article because there’s this copyright thing, but I thought you should read all of it. If the Boston Globe has a problem, they can contact me.

As far as I can remember this is the first positive thing I’ve ever seen the Army do to support the families of members fighting this crappy war Mr Bu$h and Mr Cheney forced on the world.

Kudos to SFC CLaudel. As far as I’m concerned she’s more than earned her promotion to MSG by giving family members something tangible to remember their loved ones.

I hope and pray all of them come home safe and healthy and they never have to deploy again.

Lebanon as Testing Laboratory
Posted by Lurch on August 13, 2006 • Comments (12)Permalink

If I were a hypothetical madman determined to own or control all the Middle East mineral wealth, including the oil, and wanted to keep it for my best friends in the price-gouging oil industry, or at least keep the Russians, Chinese and Indians from getting at the oil I’d want to control Iran. If I had the advice of some folks who’ve spent most of their adult lives planning how to overturn all the Middle East Arab and Muslim governments and make them tame, so as not to threaten Israel, I’d want to pick out the most central and weakest country in that region and take it on first. I wouldn’t necessarily have to have it humming like a top; there is a theory in political science that internal chaos would keep such a country fractured, weak, unable to stop a strong armed force from maintaining a meaningful military presence there in order to forestall opportunistic neighbors. Or as a springboard for further regional attacks.

The biggest unfriendly country in the region is Iran. There is some evidence that Iran has been supporting the Shiites in their ongoing civil war against the Sunnis in Iraq. Both groups, being opportunistic, take a quick shot at Americans when they get a chance, too. (Or is it the unreconstructed Baathists and members of the foolishly spurned Army that do that?) From a local standpoint does it matter? The chaos exists.

Laura Rozen, writing in today’s Boston Globe, makes a good point about Hezbollah:

President Bush has declared the current conflict in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah to be part of the US-led global war on terror. ``The current crisis is part of a larger struggle between the forces of freedom and the forces of terror in the Middle East," Bush said in Miami last month. But there are practical reasons not to collapse Al Qaeda and Hezbollah into the same mold. Although Hezbollah has the capability and a history of killing Americans, that group is not currently trying to kill Americans. Al Qaeda and its imitators are -- as is evident from the exposure Thursday of a London-based conspiracy, possibly linked to Al Qaeda, to blow up transatlantic jetliners.

Al Quaeda has an ideological allegiance to two concepts: anti-Western and specifically anti-American influences, and the idea of Pan-Islamic unity. Osama bin-Laden, the guiding spirit of al Quaeda, envisions an Islamic crescent, from the eastern end of North Africa, right through the Middle East and via the Islamic republics that were once part of the USSR, to Pakistan, and Kashmir, bypassing India (for now) out to the Islamic countries on the southern Pacific Rim. The capital of this crescent would be Saudi Arabia, of course, because Mecca, Holiest of all Muslim shrines, is in that country. The House of Saud would have to go away because they are tainted by their business dealings with the West, especially the Bush family, (the ruling clan of the West in Islamic terms.)

Al Quaeda doesn’t really have a strong position on the Sunni/Shiite conflict as far as I’ve been able to learn. They think brothers should unite to fight the Great Satan, and the Lesser Satan.

Since the mid 80s, Hezbollah, supplied and guided by Iran hasn’t been trying to kill Americans, much more content to strike at the Lesser Satan, just across the border from southern Lebanon. And they’ve been doing a good job, not just maintaining a strong guerrilla army assailing Israel at every opportunity, but also creating a very active infrastructure in Lebanon, supplying social services that the central government on Beirut is too weak to handle.

Recent US intelligence community analyses raise the question: What would change Hezbollah's current posture of standing on the sidelines and not actively targeting Americans? In April , the community produced a National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism, which, according to people who have read it , says that Hezbollah is the only major terrorist group with global reach currently not trying to kill Americans. The document also raised the intelligence community's concern that, if the United States were to attack Iran over its nuclear program, Iran might use Hezbollah to strike US targets once again.

So, if I were that hypothetical madman, it would make sense for me to encourage a regional partner to attack (or counter-attack) Hezbollah so that they could attrite the HA and make it just weak enough that it would be unable to mount a serious counter-attack against the US when it was decided to attack Iran. From a military standpoint, rehearsals are always preferred before a major operation. They used to be done on sand tables. Now the computer provides real time wargaming possibilities. But you don’t usually get a chance to have a dress rehearsal, even if a junior partner is conducting it.

According to former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Bob Graham, Hezbollah has a larger presence in the United States than Al Qaeda does. Nevertheless, experts say the group will continue to exercise restraint against Americans. ``I don't see much prospect of Hezbollah attacking US targets," [counterterrorism expert Neil] Koch says . ``They've got their hands full with the war against Israel, and this is their winner."

When the current Lebanese unpleasantness finally ends, whether it’s tomorrow as per the UN resolution brokered by the US and France, or at some later date, both Israel and Hezbollah will have to catch their breath, and re-arm for the next round. If Hezbollah is not sufficiently shattered as a functional organization, an attack on Iran by our hypothetical madman will produce a lot of casualties here in the US.

I’d feel a lot safer if our hypothetical madman had shown more interest in saving American lives over the last few years.

Hattip to Laura's teaser at War and Piece for leading me to her most engaging analysis.

Olmert Must Bite the Bullet
Posted by Lurch on August 12, 2006 • Comments (2)Permalink

Ha’aretz is reporting an article by Ari Shavit timed at 1931 hrs (1731 GMT) today that says Israeli PM Ehud Olmert is standing on a banana peel:

Ehud Olmert may decide to accept the French proposal for a cease-fire and unconditional surrender to Hezbollah. That is his privilege. Olmert is a prime minister whom journalists invented, journalists protected, and whose rule journalists preserved. Now the journalists are saying run away. That's legitimate. Unwise, but legitimate.

However, one thing should be clear: If Olmert runs away now from the war he initiated, he will not be able to remain prime minister for even one more day. Chutzpah has its limits. You cannot lead an entire nation to war promising victory, produce humiliating defeat and remain in power. You cannot bury 120 Israelis in cemeteries, keep a million Israelis in shelters for a month, wear down deterrent power, bring the next war very close, and then say - oops, I made a mistake. That was not the intention. Pass me a cigar, please.

There is no mistake Ehud Olmert did not make this past month. He went to war hastily, without properly gauging the outcome. He blindly followed the military without asking the necessary questions. He mistakenly gambled on air operations, was strangely late with the ground operation, and failed to implement the army's original plan, much more daring and sophisticated than that which was implemented. And after arrogantly and hastily bursting into war, Olmert managed it hesitantly, unfocused and limp. He neglected the home front and abandoned the residents of the north. He also failed shamefully on the diplomatic front.

Still, if Olmert had come to his senses as Golda Meir did during the Yom Kippur War, if he had become a leader, established a war cabinet and called the nation to a supreme effort that would change the face of the battle, a penetrating discussion of his failures could be postponed. But in blinking first over the past 24 hours, he has become an incorrigible political personality. Therefore, the day Nasrallah comes out of his bunker and declares victory to the whole world, Olmert must not be in the prime minister's office. Post-war battered and bleeding Israel needs a new start and a new leader. It needs a real prime minister.

I don’t know much about Shavit other than that he’s a fairly skilled reporter and writer. He’s had works published in a number of English language publications, and he appears to bring a gun to a knife fight most times. Whether that would make him a neocon (neo-Zionist in Israeli terms) is probably a subjective judgment made by the reader. However this article is pure opinion and he’s breathing fire. Interestingly, published readers’ responses agree with him, and quite a few believe the entire Kadima government must go, too. More on this later in this piece.

Before today I wasn’t aware that Olmert had had military experience and in fact had been badly wounded in the 1967 war. In earlier pieces I had ascribed his woolly-headedness to a lack of military experience. I was wrong as it turns out, but it appears that Olmert has been listening to the wrong advisers. Earlier today I wrote:

Since the Israeli onslaught developed from a plan finalized over a year ago in consultation with the US Defense Department, it’s a good bet that the killings and captures occurred in south Lebanon.

Unspoken in that paragraph is the presumption that the Israeli plan was “tweaked” by someone (cough, cough) at the Defense Department. If you think that someone wears a uniform you’re wrong. There are a lot of knowables when discussing Israel, and quite a few unknowables, as well as a host of unknown unknowables, if you get my drift and I bet you do.

Let’s unwrap that quote from earlier today and go to the source, a fascinating article at SFGate, the webpage for the San Francisco Chronicle. The writer, Matt Kalman, gets a lot of good information because he’s proven he understands the complexities of international diplomacy and politics, and most of all keeps his word. (Note to Messers Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld: when you tell the truth, and keep your word, people start to trust you. Before you know it, they confide in you.)

Briefly, Kalman’s article points out that a “senior Israeli Army officer" started handing around a Power Point presentation about their plans to deal with Hezbollah “…on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks…” Kalman doesn’t mention the fact that the plan was first presented to Messersr Rumsfeld, Cheney, Libby and Hadley, then at the NSC. The fact is that Mr Rumsfeld adores Power Point, and no briefer who ever expects to get promoted would use any other format.

Since Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld effectively think they’re paying the bill personally, they added certain flourishes to the plan because this was to be only one step in the “transformation of the Middle East” to a region of “emerging democracies.” Messers Rumsfeld and Cheney, of course, are paying the bill with your grandchildren’s college education, but after six years association with Mr Bush, you can understand why they think of the US Government and Treasury as “cosa nostra” – “our thing.”

As we have seen the tweaks were failures. Too much air power, too little ground forces, and too late at that. Now Mr Olmert and his Kadima party must pay got another of Mr Rumsfeld’s follies.

Next up at bat: Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, one of the original neocons, or neo-Zionists as they’re thought of in Eretz Israel. William Kristol will be insufferable tomorrow on the talking head shows. He’ll be smiling and drooling all over the place as he contemplates the mushroom clouds over Iran and Syria. Maybe someone should warn Mrs Kristol that she should take some Xanax because she’s in for a rough couple of days until the aphrodisiac of irradiated Muslims wears off.

Israel is a parliamentary democracy, a system like Great Britain has. I’ve always admired that form of government, because it’s so easy to turn out an incompetent government.

What's It All About, Ehud?
Posted by Lurch on August 12, 2006 • Comments (4)Permalink

The latest Israeli military adventure is beginning to resemble an Agatha Christie mystery, with many false leads, dead-end conclusions, and an underlying sense of great menace for the reader. The UN Security Council has finally arrived at a peace resolution to bring about a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah. It’s quite remarkable in a way because Hezbollah, a “non-state actor,” has no standing before the UN.

Notwithstanding, the Security Council adopted a unanimous resolution to stop the fighting. It isn’t quite a peace treaty, or agreement (Hezbollah being a non-state actor and all) but a rose by any other name, etc. It seems the French and New Zealand have agreed in principle to join the new UN peace-keeping force.

Billmon has been on top if this mishegos from the get-go, and is still the go-to source for good interpretation of the Levant Lolapalooza:

Ehud Olmert's office said late Friday that the expanded incursion into Lebanon would continue "for the time being," despite agreeing to a cease-fire resolution drafted by the United Nations Security Council. Senior Israel Defense Forces officers said that the IDF is "continuing forward at full power. . . "

This, of course, is 100% kosher bullshit -- nobody in their right mind would start a major offensive at "full power" knowing full well it will all have to be shut down within 48 or at most 72 hours. So it looks like the big push was just a big fraud all along -- a desperate attempt by Olmert and his bedraggled colleagues to try to kick a little dust in the eyes of their domestic constituents. But the message -- "Yeah, boy, if they had'na stopped me I would have kicked Hizbullah's ass but good -- isn't very original or at this point even slightly believable.

The ludicrousness of Israel’s position will not serve her well in the Middle East. By over-reacting to a Hezbollah provocation – the capture of two soldiers and the killing of 6 (or eight) others. No one seems to quite know whether this happened in Israel of Lebanon. There’s a lot of uncertainty about all this because, just like their Big Brother sponsors the US, public reporting by the government is chaotic, contradictory, and most likely based on the same level of fact as Bu$hCo announcements.

Since the Israeli onslaught developed from a plan finalized over a year ago in consultation with the US Defense Department, it’s a good bet that the killings and captures occurred in south Lebanon

One of the causes of this lack of, shall we say, reality stems from the infusion of neocon evil that permeates both governments. When you have a group of advisors who produce a policy of naked military aggression against unarmed nations, you’re dealing with evil. And when those same advisors produce a policy of unlimited bombing of civilians it’s the same evil. People who advocate unrestricted bombing of civilian populations (Guernica, Ramadi, Falluja, Lebanon) are monsters. I can’t think of a stronger term within the bounds of civility.

David Rifkin and Lee Casey, writing in Saturday’s Ha’aretz:

Israel has been cautious in Lebanon, fearing not only for the lives of its soldiers, but also that an overly aggressive military campaign will alienate world opinion and force its hand diplomatically at the UN. However, Israeli leaders ought to worry more about a different scenario, one in which American policymakers, analyzing the Israel Defense Forces' failure to defeat Hezbollah after 30 days effort, lose their faith in Israel's ability to "get the job done" on issues of shared strategic interest.

Should the IDF lose its aura of invincibility in American eyes, Israel's perceived value as an ally could decline sharply. This reassessment in Washington, when combined with a continuing and even heightened determination by Arab states and jihadists to destroy Israel, would be catastrophic for its security.

America’s fascist neocons despise a loser (unless that loser is Joe SORELOSERman, George Bush, or the Republican Party.) If the IDF can’t destroy Hezbollah, then what are their chances against an announced enemy like Iran, who’s equipped with a full suite of anti-air weaponry, unlike Hezbollah? Because of political opposition, Mr Bush can’t start another illegal war, this time against Iran, without a very strong excuse. Even if one has to be invented, like in Iraq. But backing up Israel would have been a concept that might have been accepted by the 67% of Americans who now apparently can’t wait to see Mr Bush’s back end board Air Force 1 for the last, final flight to Crawford.

The long knives are out -- for Olmert, for Peretz (the ward boss and ex-"peace" activist turned defense minister) for Halutz and the commander of the Northern Front (who was effectively sacked in the middle of the war) and for that matter probably half of entire IDF general staff -- if they don't sink daggers into each other's backs first. Losing is never pretty, and the post-war settling of accounts after this loss is going to be even less so.

We’ve discussed Olmert’s vulnerability before:

Since Olmert is the first Israeli PM to have grown up in a “safe” country, with no practical military experience (as far as I know he never served on active duty in the military,) he might well have felt the need to prove his chops, and was just waiting for an excuse to over-react to a provocation by someone.
As a side note, Olmert did in fact serve in the Israeli army, apparently in the 1967 war and in fact was severely wounded. We regret the previous error and, unlike the Fascist Party, are happy to correct the record.

Olmert is a member of the Kadima political party, and is on public record for advocating the creation of a Palestinian state, and relinquishing control of parts of the West Bank. In Israeli politics as practiced in the Knesset this would be like Mr Bush announcing he was in favor or repealing all the tax cuts he insisted upon. Kadima hold less than 25% of seats in the Knesset, which shows how weak it could be in the face of determined opposition from the Labour (19 seats) Likud (12 seats) and Shas (12 seats) parties.

Coalition politics is always a chancy matter and a perceived failure in Lebanon could well cause a Knesset revolt against Kadima and bring a very hardliner like Benjamin Netanyahu to head a new government. That, in turn would most likely overthrow Israel’s acceptance of this UN cease-fire resolution.

(The title with many apologies to Hal Davis who partnered with Burt Bacharach to create the song that defined the 70s)

Same Fertilizer, Different Barn.
Posted by Lurch on August 10, 2006 • Comments (5)Permalink

You’re not going to believe it, but they’re trying the same BS all over again, although, to be fair, Karl Rove knows you use the same lie over and over again until it falls flat.

Mixed with timely but unrelated references to the Hiroshima bomb and sleepercells who might attack British nuclear plants, the London Sunday Times reports on an alleged smuggling of Uranium ore from Congo via Tanzania to Iran.

IRAN is seeking to import large consignments of bomb-making uranium from the African mining area that produced the Hiroshima bomb, an investigation has revealed.

A United Nations report, dated July 18, said there was “no doubt” that a huge shipment of smuggled uranium 238, uncovered by customs officials in Tanzania, was transported from the Lubumbashi mines in the Congo.

Tanzanian customs officials told The Sunday Times it was destined for the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, and was stopped on October 22 last year during a routine check.


A senior Tanzanian customs official said the illicit uranium shipment was found hidden in a consignment of coltan, a rare mineral used to make chips in mobile telephones. The shipment was destined for smelting in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, delivered via Bandar Abbas, Iran’s biggest port.

This is a puzzling story, since the FAS has reported that Iran opened 10 uranium mines in 1996, and it’s proven reserves are more than 5,000 tons.

Why would they need to import African uranium? For that matter, the suspect shipment was to be transshipped through Iran to Kazakstan, which is the world’s third largest uranium producer. The reason for this, of course, is that Bandar Abbas is (allegedly) the nearest open port available to Kazakhstan, which is a landlocked country.

When a story is slowly, gently released into the atmosphere, and the basics are completely illogical a cynical man would immediately think: “Time for a different war.”

It so happens that Bernard, from Moon Over Alabama, saw the same story and also dug into it, from a different direction:

[I]t [London Times] puts three of its best authors on the small fact available and blows that up. All three well known veterans of the scare business.

Jon Swan reported in March 2003 that Iraq tried to order drones and spray kits. We know where that one went. David Leppard, publishing through the well know neocon marketing outlet Benador Associates, writes general scare pieces like TERROR PLOT TO ATTACK US WITH BA and Brian Johnson-Thomas finds Radiation rockets on sale to ‘terrorists’ in an unsuccessful scam to buy some old Russian meteorological research rockets.

Actually, I suppose it isn’t too surprising that they’d use the same lies a second time. After all, the Lapdog Press in America will print anything the Bu$h malAdministration reads off to them, as long as they dictate it slowly so it can be easily written down. And, let’s face it: a populace too stupid to remember what year 9/11 happened in will believe anything.

I just hope they don’t go for the trifecta insult and use the same Italians to counterfeit the official documents again.

The “War President” Dreams His Dreams
Posted by Lurch on July 23, 2006 • Comments (3)Permalink

This is a very opportune war for Mr Bush. It gives him so many possible variants: support Israel logistically and let them attrite Hezbollah for a couple of weeks, and give them all the weaponry they need to do it. Use the slaughter of Southern Lebanese “collateral damage” as a moral standpoint to broker a cease-fire (favorable to Israel of course.) Therefore, he’s sending Ms Rice (heh!) our Russian expert to tell everyone to just stop and act like adults.

As we saw during Mr Bush’s buttered roll faux pas at the G8 meeting, while speaking with Prime Minster Blair, he thought that Syria unleashed Hezbollah to stir up some trouble.

BUSH to Blair: "I think Condi is going to go (to the Middle East) pretty soon."

BLAIR: "Right, that's all that matters, it will take some time to get that together . . . See, if she goes out she's got to succeed as it were, where as I can just go out and talk."

BUSH: "See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hizbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over."

BLAIR: "Who, Syria?"

BUSH: "Right . . . What about Kofi? That seems odd. I don't like the sequence of it. His attitude is basically ceasefire and everything else happens."

BLAIR: "I think the thing that is really difficult is you can't stop this unless you get this international presence agreed." . . .

BUSH: "I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen. We're not blaming Israel. We're not blaming the Lebanese government."

We’ve seen this played out before. Israel will stop this warfare when it achieves its goal, an no sooner. It’s been revealed this morning that this plan of attack has been on paper for more than a year. Israel was just waiting for the excuse. It was careless of Hezbollah to seize the opportunity of a quick cross-border raid to kill a few soldiers, although the unexpected capture of two of them was a bonus, in their eyes, as they thought the military prisoners would be pawns in a general prisoner exchange they wanted to bring about. Israel has traded like this in the past.

The always instructive Professor Juan Cole explains why Mr Bush shouldn’t talk (or think) with his mouth full, (or open.)

That this war was pre-planned was obvious to me from the moment it began. The Israeli military proceeded methodically and systematically to destroy Lebanon's infrastructure, and clearly had been casing targets for some time. The vast majority of these targets were unrelated to Hizbullah. But since the northern Sunni port of Tripoli could theoretically be used by Syria or Iran to offload replacement rockets that could be transported by truck down south to Hizbullah, the Israelis hit it. And then they hit some trucks to let truck drivers know to stay home for a while.

That is why I was so shaken by George W. Bush's overheard conversation with Tony Blair about the war. He clearly thought that it broke out because Syria used Hizbullah to create a provocation. The President of the United States did not know that this war was a long-planned Israeli war of choice.

Why is that scary? Because the Israeli planning had to have been done in conjunction with Donald Rumsfeld at the US Department of Defense. The US Department of Defense is committed to rapidly re-arming Israel and providing it precision laser-guided weaponry, and to giving it time to substantially degrade Hizbullah's missile capabilities. The two are partners in the war effort.

The War President dreams his dreams, and his minions make their own plans.

Mr Kristol and Israel Make Mistakes
Posted by Lurch on July 23, 2006 • Comments (3)Permalink

Everyone’s talking about Lebanon and Israel, which is to say, everyone’s talking about Iran (the next enemy) and the US. We’ve seen how the Likud operatives, both paid and ideological volunteers, within the US foreign think-tank apparatus of the Fascist American ultra-right wing have been advocating all out war with Iran. For them and their employers, it’s quite logical: let the Americans destroy Israel’s enemies. It worked with Iraq, so obviously it will work with Iran, and later, Syria, Jordan and (probably) Egypt, and eventually the Great Prize: Saudi Arabia, cultural and ideological home of the Wahabist cult.

In the last 3 weeks, William Kristol has been all over the airwaves and in the print media explaining how this is a golden opportunity for the US to further the advance of democracy throughout the Middle East at the point of the gun:

It's Our War

WHY IS THIS ARAB-ISRAELI WAR different from all other Arab-Israeli wars? Because it's not an Arab-Israeli war. Most of Israel's traditional Arab enemies have checked out of the current conflict. The governments of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia are, to say the least, indifferent to the fate of Hamas and Hezbollah. The Palestine Liberation Organization (Fatah) isn't a player. The prime mover behind the terrorist groups who have started this war is a non-Arab state, Iran, which wasn't involved in any of Israel's previous wars.

It most certainly is an Arab-Israeli war. Kristol, who never speaks the truth even when telling you how many fingers he has on each hand, is casually ignoring the fact that governments all over the world regularly mask their true intentions with pious sounding public pronouncements.

The Arabic and Islamist governments cited by Mr Kristol are not quite indifferent to the fate of Hezbollah. They have a vested interest in supporting Hezbollah (and Hamas) because as long as Israel is occupied dealing with the near threat of violence on its borders it can’t be attacking its enemies further afield.

What's happening in the Middle East, then, isn't just another chapter in the Arab-Israeli conflict. What's happening is an Islamist-Israeli war. You might even say this is part of the Islamist war on the West--but is India part of the West? Better to say that what's under attack is liberal democratic civilization, whose leading representative right now happens to be the United States.

Ah! The real enemy in Mr Kristol’s heart. It’s Islamic revanchism! Shades of Salah al D’in!! He’s the one!! If it hadn’t been for him the Jews might have remained in Jerusalem for the last 950 years, and would still be a Great People, a powerful nation and decision maker in the cockpit of the Mediterranean. But the Jews were unable to stay at home. Western European Christianity and the militarized societies of the Middle Ages were unable to put aside their own local squabbles and conflicts of interest long enough to defeat the more fully integrated Muslim society of the day, and the Crusades failed.

It’s the Clash of Civilizations, Part I that Mr Kristol is mourning, but now he’s found a front group stupid enough and greedy enough to carry out his plan for a Greater Israel. And let’s face it: the perceived need to maintain a death grip on domestic political power is a far stronger impulse than helping the Jews live free and untrammeled lives. Hence the eager ear that the Bu$hCo malAdministration and the neocons have lent to Mr Kristol's sociopathic maunderings and desire for a regional war.

Bernard has published part of an interview of Rami Khouri, editor-at-large of Lebanon’s Daily Star:

CHARLIE ROSE: I have two big questions. Number one, do you think the Israelis, if they continue these attacks will be successful in doing great damage if not destroying the capabilities of Hezbollah?

RAMI KHOURI: I am pretty certain that they will fail in doing that, and the reason I say that is because they`ve tried this three or four times with various groups in Lebanon and failed.

And the reason it has failed is that you cannot provide a military solution to a political problem. And you cannot win with overwhelming military force against a determined guerrilla group fighting for its national sovereignty and its human dignity. [...]

It’s been tried before. It didn’t work then. Why should it work now? Mr Khouri understands, as do all Lebanese, I’ll bet. Something about seeing your home blown up again and again, and one generation after the other shattered and killed in border battles make you sadder but wiser. If the Israeli’s weren’t so well-armed by the US, they’d possibly see the wisdom too.

CHARLIE ROSE: Why do you think the Israelis have not learned the lesson you think they should have?

RAMI KHOURI: I think Israel fundamentally as a nation has never been able to come to grips with two central notions in its modern history. One is the idea of a viable legitimate Palestinian state, and the other one is with the nature and the identity of Arab national identity, which also includes national identity in Lebanon for the country of Lebanon itself. The Israelis have been so obsessed with the idea of their own security and certainly, you know, rightly so, given their modern and ancient history of being persecuted and subjected to pogroms and holocausts. But they have allowed their over-focus on their security to blind them to the fact that they can never have security if their neighbors don`t have it.

It’s surprising that the simple fact of national, religious and cultural identity so easily escapes Israel because it’s been a central point in their history as a nation. Any Jew from anywhere in the world is (technically) eligible for Israeli citizenship. Just go there and ask for it. Yet they seem to be blind to the reality of Arabic and Islamic identity.

Toxic Truth
Posted by Lurch on July 21, 2006 • Comments (8)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Feeling better this morning, I rubbed anti-flash cream over exposed skin, struggled into my Class 3 Hazmat suit and waded through the quicksand over at WorldNutDaily.

Pat Buchanan hangs out over there, carefully locked away in a vault with 7 foot thick reinforced concrete walls and a 9 inch thick high carbon steel door with a time lock. Every now and then one can hear a loud blaring klaxon, and red lights set in the ceiling begin to flash a warning as the door unlocks and slowly swings open. Mr Buchanan is about to issue another pronunciamento, telling the world where it went wrong, way back in the 10th century.

In the interests of full disclosure: I don’t like Mr Buchanan. As a human being I am appalled by him. As a lapsed Catholic I am ashamed of him. As a Mosaic Jew I fear him. And as an American I am in despair every time he opens his mouth.

But he finally got something right, and honesty requires me to tell you so.

My country has been "torn to shreds," said Fouad Siniora, the prime minister of Lebanon, as the death toll among his people passed 300 civilian dead, 1,000 wounded, with half a million homeless. Israel must pay for the "barbaric destruction," said Siniora. To the contrary, says columnist Lawrence Kudlow, "Israel is doing the Lord's work." On American TV, former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says the ruination of Lebanon is Hezbollah's doing. But is it Hezbollah that is using U.S.-built F-16s, with precision-guided bombs and 155-mm artillery pieces to wreak death and devastation on Lebanon? No, Israel is doing this, with the blessing and without a peep of protest from President Bush. And we wonder why they hate us.

By now we’ve all seen the photos. Indeed, we didn’t have to see these if we can remember back to 2000, the last time Israel decided to “get some” in Lebanon. It’s always the same; sad clusters of destroyed buildings – mostly homes, photos of old grieving women crying, wrinkled, prematurely-aged hands clasping their heads in shock and terror. Pictures of the innocent children shattered, bloody, bandaged, missing limbs, eyes, noses, eyes staring unblinkingly at the camera, trying to understand why adult hatred has turned their lives upside-down.

I’m not too fond of Crazy Larry Kudlow, either. I kind of think he’s from one of the Tribes, and he should know better than to declare that killing children is “the Lord’s work.” That sort of thinking went out of fashion shortly after Herod killed the children of Israel.

Maybe Crazy Larry Kudlow would benefit from reading the Book of Job:

Men groan from out of the city,, and the soul of the wounded crieth out; yet G_d layeth not folly to them.
They are of those that rebel against the light; they know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof.
The murderer rising with the light killeth the poor and needy, and in the night is as a thief.

"Today, we are all Israelis!" brayed Ken Mehlman of the Republican National Committee to a gathering of Christians United for Israel.
One wonders if these Christians care about what is happening to our Christian brethren in Lebanon and Gaza, who have had all power cut off by Israeli airstrikes, an outlawed form of collective punishment, that has left them with no sanitation, rotting food, impure water and days without light or electricity in the horrible heat of July.
When summer power outrages occur in America, it means a rising rate of death among our sick and elderly, and women and infants. One can only imagine what a hell it must be today in Gaza City and Beirut.

Responding to Ken Mehlman, the notorious closeted heterosexual Bu$hCo apparatchik requires only a derives snort. The man is a soulless, unfeeling automaton. Today he argues to kill all the Ay-rabs, tomorrow it will be death to the Lebanese Orthodox Christians and Maronites. Next week it will be back to death to all Iranians.

But all this carnage and destruction has only piqued the blood lust of the hairy-chested warriors at the Weekly Standard. In a signed editorial, "It's Our War," William Kristol calls for America to play her rightful role in this war by "countering this act of aggression by Iran with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait?" "Why wait?" Well, one reason is that the United States has not been attacked. A second is a small thing called the Constitution. Where does George W. Bush get the authority to launch a war on Iran? When did Congress declare war or authorize a war on Iran? Answer: It never did. But these neoconservatives care no more about the Constitution than they cared about the truth when they lied into war in Iraq.

William Kristol, one of the charter members of the PNAC, reigning ideologue of the neocons, Likudnik mole deep in the heart of the American foreign policy organs, and (like all neocons) at heart a true Trotskyite, wants war. He wants death and destruction. He wants mushroom clouds sprouting up all over the Middle East, until Israel is surrounded by a glassy landscape that glows in the dark. Then Israel will finally be safe from all their enemies.

And he wants America to do it, because the sacred motto of PNAC is that Israel must be defended to the last American.

Sorry, Mr Kristol, it can’t be done. There are 130,000 American hostages in Iraq, a place they never should have been. A place you schemed and lied and cheated to get them into in order to take the first step of multi-nation-target aggressive war in the middle east. These hostages are armed, and dangerous, but also very vulnerable. They are sharks, yes, in a sea of porpoises.

The naturalist Lucius Beebe wrote an essay about how porpoises defend themselves from great white sharks. They surround the predator, working him as a coordinated pack. As he rushes towards one porpoise, those on the side drive in, slamming their beaks and heads against the shark’s gills. And when the shark turns to strike back at these attackers, he is hit from the side by others. The hunt continues until the shark is so damaged, gills structures shattered by the repeated blows, that it wanders off, bleeding, slowly dying of asphyxiation, unless another great white shark appears, attracted by the smell of blood, and finishes the job for the porpoises, who swim away, having successfully defended the pod.

Even someone like Mr Kristol, whose brain is so clouded by dreams of imperial glory that he is incapable or rational debate, should take a lesson from porpoises, mammals who are much smarter than we are.

There’s a lot more thought in Mr Buchanan’s essay and I recommend reading the rest. As much as I disagree with him on so many topics, he’s dead on this time. Just take your antibiotics before venturing over to the WorldNutDaily.

Israel and Lebanon Part Three
Posted by Lurch on July 16, 2006 • Comments (0)Permalink

Josh Marshall has an article up in his TPM Café discussing the recent events in Lebanon, and America’s role in this mess. Briefly, Josh takes the position that, neocon ideological, financial and political loyalty notwithstanding, we’ve got an empty quiver in the Gaza/Levant dogfight. He very briefly refers to the horrendous mess, Israel once again bringing death and destruction on a helpless population of civilians as punishment for the actions of Hezbollah.

Where is America? Whoever you believe is right or wrong in this mess, I doubt very much that the powers directly involved have the will and ability to de-escalate the situation. Some want to. Others don't. But take the region as a whole and the differences between will, desire and ability fade into insignificance.

There’s a degree of impotent rage working here. We have a new Prime Minister, Olmert, in office for only three months, and with the little I know about Israeli internal politics, I’m sure that sessions of the Knesset resemble the US House of Representatives, circa 1994-2000, the period in which Republican reps slavered daily in their lust to injure, and later destroy, Bill Clinton. Such political acrimony takes on a life of its own after a while; the original purpose is forgotten, the bloodlust becoming the goal itself.

Since Olmert is the first Israeli PM to have grown up in a “safe” country, with no practical military experience (as far as I know he never served on active duty in the military,) he might well have felt the need to prove his chops, and was just waiting for an excuse to over-react to a provocation by someone. Waiting for a provocation around there is like waiting for a rainstorm in the tropics – just be patient because it’ll happen any minute now.

Some might say that the Bush administration's silence is acquiescence or approval of the Israeli raids into Lebanon and Gaza. But I think it's more than that. This is silence born of over-extension and policy exhaustion. Thinking back through the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s -- with key crises in each decade -- I don't think there's any example where an American administr[a]tion has so thoroughly marginalized itself or shown such impotence and irrelevance.

I think Josh is partly right. Bu$hCo does appear to be marginalized and politically impotent on the world stage. It’s ironic that Mr Bush, who bragged so volubly about his “political capital” after the 2004 election was so obviously stolen with a “mandate” of less than one percent, has no street cred anywhere outside the US Republican Party and the bought-and-paid-for mainstream media. Speaking with Mr Putin before reporters he got his face slapped publicly when Mr Putin opined that Russia wants no part of the “democracy” that Bu$hCo has brought to Iraq. Sometimes I wonder whether Mr Bush is clueless and really believes the fertilizer his writers produce for him or such an accomplished and brazen liar that he has no shame at all.

More than five years of vainglorious strutting and posturing, dangerously mendacious lying about what is obviously a war of aggression, incredibly juvenile interaction with news people especially in front of other world leaders and the obvious calamity that his and Mr Cheney’s personal greed has created in the US financial future have all managed to make the US into a pariah the adults in the world community handle just they way one deals with a hornet’s nest.

As I’ve stated here, here, and here the US foreign policy apparatus has been highjacked by a small group of ideologues, paid operatives, and fellow-travelers who have only one goal: the military and political destruction of ALL Arab countries surrounding Israel. Now the cause is noble: protection of the citizenry. But the means they are taking to accomplish this end are inherently evil, morally, ethically and legally. Knocking off your neighbors is not the best way to establish peace on the block.

In the Levant tensions are rising daily. Israel’s punishing Lebanese for the actions of Hezbollah is a very risky maneuver. The Lebanese Army and Air Force are no danger. Neither for that matter is the Syrian Air Force, although their army is another matter. Air power is a force multiplier and the IAF is one of the best in the world. The problem arises when one considers that Hezbollah is a special concern. It’s an army without a state. Or a state within a state. In south Lebanon Hezbollah administers all the infrastructure of the state: it operates the schools, power plants, polices the streets, and even collects the garbage. The national government of Lebanon is not strong enough to evict Hezbollah, or co-opt it, even if it wished to.

As Billmon so ably pointed out:

… with the long frustrating years spent waging an endless, thankless fourth generation war in the West Bank and Gaza, and it appears the IDF is just aching to fight a normal, conventional battle in which it can use all those shiny toys the Israeli and U.S. taxpayers have bought for it.
This inability to conceive of guerrilla ambushes or suicide bombings or hit-and-run rocket attacks or the assassination of collaborators as "real war" seems to be one of the chief symptoms of military hubris -- almost as incapacitating as the feverish craving for ever greater doses of air power.

Part of it, perhaps, stems from a sense of offended morality: How can people who send suicide bombers to blow up buses and night clubs possibly be considered "worthy" opponents? The Palestinians and the Lebanese might ask the same question about people who fire missiles at old men in wheel chairs or wreak death and destruction on an entire country because a single Army patrol was ambushed. But that's not the point. Effectiveness in war isn't a moral attribute, and leaders who forget that fact do so at their peril -- or rather, at the peril of their troops.

We’re not going to exert any moderating influence on Israel. I doubt the “Israel lobby” would permit it. Senators and Congressmen break out in a sweat and start wishing they wore Depends when that lobby starts asking them why they did something “treasonous” against Israel. I doubt the Bu$h malAdministration would even think about tugging on Israel’s reins because this thing we’ve got right now that we refer to as a “government” is ideologically dedicated to destroying Syria and Iran for commercial reasons. (It’s the oil, stupid.) If we tried to, we’d quickly learn just how much street cred we’ve got east of the Mediterranean.

Israel and Lebanon - side step
Posted by Lurch on July 14, 2006 • Comments (7)TrackBack (0)Permalink

We plan another updated commentary overnight, after having three questions confirmed. In the meantime, the Christian Death Cult zombies are thrilled as they wait for the mushroom clouds.

UPDATE: Per the Amazing Kreskin's Lambert's request, main link fixed.

Death Cult I:

Death Cult II:

Death Cult Paranoia:

I suppose I'd be suspicious of 10,000 dancing jihadis, too.

Israel and Lebanon Part 2
Posted by Lurch on July 14, 2006 • Comments (9)Permalink

Ian Welsh, a frequent commenter at The Agonist, seems to agree in many respects with what I’ve posted within the last 24 hours regarding Israel’s alignment with Bu$hCo in the race to destroy Iran:

The Neocons have strong Likud ties. Extremely strong. The Neocons want a war with Iran. They always have and they know time is running out or them. They have to create facts on the ground. The Neocons believe that the problem is that the US hasn't really taken the gloves off (ie. they haven't used their full power - like calling in carpet bombing by B52's and other such fun stuff). If Iran reacts to this, the US will be in full overreach - they will have no choice but to go to full air war to protect their troops in Iraq - it is the only way the US will be able to have a chance of winning the ensuing conflict.

At that point a lot of people get killed, a hell of a lot, very very fast. That will harden positions on both sides and the Neocons likely hope that it will ensnare the US in a war no matter what anyone in the US wants. And realistically, once US troops come under significant attack, it's a pretty safe bet that everyone will rally around, and Senate backbones will turn back to jelly.

In previous parts of this series, War To Defend Israel? Part One and War To Defend Israel? Part Two, I’ve discussed the infiltration by Likud moles of the American foreign policy community. The country owes its creation and early survival in large part to the courage of President Harry S Truman, who adamantly overrode the objections of his Secretary of State, George C Marshall, and pushed hard for the creation of the country as a point of refuge for the pitiful few survivors of Work War II. The early years of Israel were bloody, and the country probably wouldn’t have survived without the compassion, good will, and financial support of the American people as a whole, and the American Jewish community in particular.

The country has always had a “special relationship” with the US, in somewhat the same way as Great Britain. This sense of compassion, (and possibly even some guilt over the Holocaust) has created a small but very powerful special interest group in the US – let’s call it the “Israel Must Live” community for the moment. This community containing groups like the AIPAC, JINSA, CSIS, and even the Jewish Federation, a noble charity group, can get the ear of any Senator or Congressman at any time they wish.

I don’t ascribe this ability to gain special access to anything other than a knee-jerk reaction to almost 60 years of foreign policy. Indeed, it has been one of the very few constants in US foreign policy. Emphases, alignments, alliances might change, fluctuating from one administration the next, but the special relationship with Israel lives on.

We never even batted a diplomatic eye while the Israelis were murdering unarmed US sailors during the 1967 Six Day War, which by the way, is the seed cause of the crisis the world is facing today. That’s just plain wrong. It was wrong in 1967, and just as wrong in 2006. When someone initiates a military attack on your armed forces, it’s a declaration of war. The fact that the US just swept the whole thing under the rug was shameful, in the least. But that cowardly hiding of the facts of this attack just speaks about the power of the Israel lobby.

Stratfor, a semi-civilian, semi-independent think tank that addresses issues of political, diplomatic, and military consequence, has a good take on what has happened, and what might well happen. [Link not available at this moment of writing. I’ll add it as an update later if/when it becomes available.]

Welsh discusses this Stratfor article:

Finally, as Stratfor notes, Israel doesn't expect any real consequences from the international community. They'll scream, but there will be no trade or arms embargoes or aid cut offs. And odds are they're right about that. They think Rice doesn't have the power to punish them for crossing her and that the US Senate is too scared to cross Israel and that Bolton will protect them in the UN from the Security Council (he will.)

When you write a blank check, at some point the person you write it to will cash it.

We'll see how much Olmert cashes the US's check for.

“Israel Must Live” is a strong emotional cry that obviously influences many in AIPAC and JINSA (unless they’re - you know – paid Likud operatives, which is always possible in Mr Bush’s 21st century America, where everybody seems to be for sale.)

THE PLAN has always been to destroy the political and military dangers surrounding Israel. The “best case” scenario was step-by-step military attack and erection of US/Israel governments fleshed out by mendacious and greedy refugee operators like Ahmed Chalabi, who was supposed to be installed as “_________ of Iraq” (inset whatever title seems appropriate.) You can be certain there is the basis of a “Free Iran” and “Free Syria” puppet governments waiting in the wings for Mr Bush and Mr Cheney to install them. As an added bonus, Mr Cheney’s good friends in the oil industry would get to appropriate a good portion of the region’s mineral wealth for their own profits.

UPDATE: Michael Ledeen, a charter member of the Israel Lobby and one of the principal architects of the "Iraq has WMDs" theory of international thuggery and aggression, reveals more of THE PLAN.

Israel and Lebanon
Posted by Lurch on July 13, 2006 • Comments (1)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Steve Clemmons is reporting tonight in the Washington Note:

Although I do not have independent confirmation, I heard the rumor from a well-placed source that Secretary of State Rice attempted to increase pressure on Israel to stand down and to demonstrate "restraint". The rumor is that she was told flatly by the Prime Minister's office to "back off".

Rice is not one to be told to back off without the other party paying a price. Israel's outrageous, over-the-top military escalations were exactly what the most militarist fanatics of Hamas wanted and exactly what Hezbollah wanted to prompt. Those in the middle of the extremists on all sides are getting crushed.

And it may take this kind of out of control danger that FINALLY wakes up some tough-minded strategists in the White House, Defense Department, and State Department to compel Israel to back off and all other parties to wind down their militant elements.

Note to George W. Bush, please call your father, James Baker and Brent Scowcroft for some advice. Also, get Elliott Abrams to recuse himself NOW from any further counsel on these matters as his perspective is too close to Israel -- and dispassionate counsel is needed.

Condi Rice told to “back off”? She sees herself as the next “Dark Lord” of American power-mongering after Mr Cheney is retired, dead, or incarcerated for war crimes.

George Bush told to talk to call his father for advice to help defuse this crisis? First off, no one tells George Bush to do anything. He’s the decider-in-chief, the 21st century steely-eyed rocketman. Mr Bush thinks he’s doing the lord’s word by crushing all of Israel’s enemies to help bring on the End Times and seizing all the mideast oil for Exxon. It’s 10 PM. He’s probably gone to bed with a woodie.

Elliott Abrams not allowed to involve himself in this? He’s one of the charter members of PNAC, for heaven’s sake! He helped engineer this crisis.

It Needs to be Said
Posted by Lurch on June 19, 2006 • Comments (1)TrackBack (0)Permalink

I don't like to link to the Rude Pundit, even though he often has a fresh look at topics of coversation. Rude is just that - rude- in language. Reading him does cause a titillating bit of laughter, but, let's face it: his writing style is...immature, non-professional, and vivid.

But he's spot on today:

Two Captured American Soldiers and the Implied "What If": Chances are, maybe even by the time you read this, the two American soldiers, captured by the Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq, will be dead, probably in some horrible way, probably with their bodies dumped like all the horribly murdered Iraqis in the blood and gore-strewn landscape that are the markers of Iraqi liberation. The Rude Pundit can't help thinking, though, about the implied "What if" of the capture, on the field of battle, of American soldiers, prisoners of war, if you will.

What if we get pictures of the soldiers, nude, cowering, screaming in a corner, shitting themselves on the filthy floors of a makeshift cell, as their captors hold snarling dogs on leashes just out of bite range of the soldiers?

What if we learn that their captors decide that the soldiers can offer intelligence that can be of use to al-Qaeda and, in order to get that information, the captors put the nude soldiers into rooms that are heated to hellish temperatures, followed by rooms that are impossibly cold with colder water tossed onto them? What if the soldiers are made to stand for days on end? Put into stress positions that fuck up their muscles and limbs? Denied sleep? Had loud music played into their cells? Kept in isolation and fed bread and water for days, weeks on end?

What if they strap one or both of those Americans to a board and hold them underwater until their drowning reflex forces them to panic, thrash, claw desperately for air, only to be brought up to breathe and then placed underwater again? And again? Until the captors get the answers they seek?

What if those captors take the nude, sleep-deprived, shit and piss-covered, nearly drowned and dog-frightened American soldiers and handcuff them to beds with women's panties on their heads, snapping photographs and laughing, talking about publishing the photos so that everyone can see the soldiers with their panty-sniffing heads and terror-shriveled cocks, so that all of al-Qaeda can laugh at what pussies Americans can be made to seem?

What if, and, really, does it need to be said, they are made to stand, hooded, with faux electrodes attached to their nuts and fingers, told that if they don't start answering questions, well, testicles only can take so much electroshock before they just pop like squeezed grapes?

What will our government do? What could it do? Could it condemn the actions as not abiding by the Geneva Conventions? Could it call the actions "torture"? Could it demand accountability? Could it demand that the soldiers be treated as POWs? Could it simply say, "Well, we don't do that shit...anymore"?

And what about the good right-wing punditry? Would Rush Limbaugh look at the photos of the nude, cowering Americans and say it looks like fraternity hazing or some such shit? Would others dismiss it as a media fabrication? Or would they just pathetically overlook everything done in our American names to Iraqis, Afghanis, and others, calling madly for the heads of the captors, not even thinking about the irony of such a statement?

It goes without saying, but, considering the times, perhaps it needs to be said: the Rude Pundit wishes none of this on Privates Thomas Tucker and Kristian Menchaca. He hopes they are found or released safe and sound. But he also wishes none of this on our prisoners, whether in Iraq, at Gitmo, or in secret prisons or countries of rendition where fuck-all can happen with no law, no regulation, no hope to bespeak our putative humanity.

Missing GIs
Posted by Lurch on June 16, 2006 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

This from CNN, through Raw Story:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A U.S. soldier was killed and two were unaccounted for Friday after they came under attack at a traffic checkpoint in Yusufiya, about 20 miles southwest of Baghdad.

A quick reaction team was searching for the missing soldiers early Saturday morning. The team was dispatched to the scene after other troops nearby heard gunfire.

The soldiers were officially listed as "whereabouts unknown," which means they could have been captured or killed or could be hiding out.

This cannot be good. One dead, two more possibly dead. Note they were working a traffic checkpoint, which I discussed here.

Checkpoints, which are static, make excellent bomb targets. Expect an upturn in suicide bombings at checkpoints. There are always a lot of people, driven by patriotism, religious zealotry, or stupidity willing to immolate themselves in the hopes of taking a few enemies with him.

Here's hoping those missing, unaccounted for troops are just hiding out somewhere, waiting for the cavalry. It would not be good for them to turn up as prisoners, because Mr Bush's attitude towards prisoners is so atrocious, it just invites a tit-for-tat response.

Posted by Lurch on May 11, 2006 • Comments (2)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Dropping the ball on 9/11 warnings, ignoring PDBs, fallout from Hurricane Katrina, rumors of stolen elections, Harriett Meirs, John “Anointed with Crisco” Ashcroft, Alberto “Abu” Gonzalez, torture at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, and unnamed points east of the Oder River, thousands upon thousands of dead in a useless war in Iraq, a busted Treasury, massive tax giveaways to millionaires (and most especially to himself,) a doubling of the price of oil in the last 18 months, and now the NSA electronic wiretapping which was set up to “listen in on the bad guys” – all 200-odd million of them living inside the US…...

All these things have consequences, according to Steve Soto at The Left Coast:

With his base in disarray, the market suddenly concerned over inflation and oil prices, and another NSA scandal threatening to undermine his party heading into the 2006 midterms, it must be time to send the aircraft carriers to Iran and hope that no one notices. Except that our friend, retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner, who has already run a simulated Iran war game for the Atlantic magazine back in 2004, has heard the rumblings as have others, and says the pre-positioning of assets for a June attack may have begun.

Time for another distraction, one that will once again put the swagger in Mr Bush’s haggard, timid step and a manly sock-bulge in his trousers as he resumes the mantle of “War President.”

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