Syndicate content
Updated: 1 hour 36 min ago

Despite escalation, Iraqi deaths double.

Sat, 2007-08-25 12:48

The Iraqi death toll “from sectarian attacks around the country is running nearly double the pace from a year ago.” Compared to an average daily death toll of 33 in 2006, this year’s numbers indicate approximately 62 Iraqis have died war-related deaths each day this year. The AP reports that the recent bloodshed indicates the insurgency has drifted into northern parts of Iraq as a result of the escalation in Baghdad.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Brookings analyst Michael O’Hanlon writes today, “the trends [of Iraqi deaths] are moving significantly in the right direction, and the military is now doing a better job of measuring actual casualty levels.” The AP states the military has “offered no statistics to back” its claim that violence levels are down.

UPDATE II: Matthew Yglesias has more. And Kevin Drum.

U.S. soldiers disdainful of WH ‘happy talk’ on Iraq.

Sat, 2007-08-25 10:33

Soldiers in Iraq “are increasingly disdainful of the happy talk that they say commanders on the ground and White House officials are using in their discussions about the war” and “becoming vocal about their frustration over longer deployments and a taxing mission.” The LA Times writes:

Some say two wars are being fought here: the one the enlisted men see, and the one that senior officers and politicians want the world to see.

“I don’t see any progress. Just us getting killed,” said Spc. Yvenson Tertulien, one of those in the dining hall in Yousifiya, 10 miles south of Baghdad, as Bush’s speech aired last month. “I don’t want to be here anymore.” […]

The signs of frustration and of flagging morale are unmistakable, including blunt comments, online rants and the findings of surveys on military morale and suicides.

Sometimes the signs are to be found even in latrines. In the stalls at Baghdad’s Camp Liberty, someone had posted Army help cards listing “nine signs of suicide.” On one card, seven of the boxes had been checked.

‘Spectacular attack’ expected in Iraq in coming weeks.

Sat, 2007-08-25 09:14

Today, the Washington Post reports that despite political pressure, the Bush administration “hopes to keep in place its existing military strategy and troop levels there after the mid-September report” by the White House. Several administration officials said that they “expect the insurgents to attempt a spectacular attack in the next several weeks.”

UPDATE: The NY Times reports, however, “administration officials said Mr. Bush was acutely aware that some reduction next year would be required, and they said he planned to use next month’s debate to outline a plan for gradual troop reductions.”

Pentagon launching Iraq ‘war room.’

Fri, 2007-08-24 19:57

In advance of the September White House report, the Pentagon is launching “a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week Iraq Communications Desk that will pump out data from Baghdad — serving as what could be considered a campaign war room.” “I would not characterize it as a war room,” Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said. “It’s far less sinister than that. It’s more like a library.”

The ethics of Philip Zelikow (updated).

Fri, 2007-08-24 19:14

Blogger Glenn Greenwald noted that Republican lobbyist Philip Zelikow had been making TV appearances calling for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s ouster without disclosing the fact that he was being paid by Iyad Allawi to lobby for Maliki’s removal. Today, ABC News released a statement stating the Zelikow had not informed them of his conflict of interest. ABC acknowledged that Zelikow’s appearances were “sullied by the fact that he did not disclose his relationship with Barbour Griffith & Rogers.”

UPDATE: Greenwald also notes that Zelikow has been retained to do consulting work for the Bush administration specifically on Iraq policy.

UPDATE II: Laura Rozen, who studied under Zelikow, contacted him and received this assurance: “Zelikow, a former counselor to Secretary of State Rice, says he did not know about the Allawi contract with BGR at the time of the ABC interview, and did not learn of it until he started getting called by the media about it two days afterwards.”

Right-Wing Launches Assault Against Warner, Claims He ‘Hurts The Cause Of Freedom’

Fri, 2007-08-24 16:48

Yesterday, Sen. John Warner (R-VA), a senior and respected member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called on President Bush to begin a troop withdrawal from Iraq. Warner said Bush should announce in September that a few thousand U.S. troops will return home by the end of the year.

Despite the fact that Warner’s call for withdrawal was very tepid, the Senator came under heavy assault today from the right. The White House, concerned that the media was reporting that Warner had broken with Bush, “reached out to Warner’s staff and asked him” to back away from his position. But Warner would do no such thing:

Warner said Friday he stands by his remarks and that he took no issue with how his views have been characterized.

“I’m not going to issue any clarification,” Warner, R-Va., said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I don’t think any clarification is needed. […]

When asked whether he had indeed split with Bush on Iraq, he declined to say and noted his remarks speak for themselves.

“You have to surmise that on your own,” he said.

Freedom’s Watch — a new White House front group whose mission is to maintain the escalation — attacked Warner. Appearing on PBS Newshour, Freedom’s Watch spokesman Brad Blakeman claimed Warner’s call for redeployment “hurts the cause of freedom.” (Blakeman refused to appear on the program with MoveOn’s Tom Matzzie and was called out for it by host Judy Woodruff. Blakeman comically suggested MoveOn was “not a credible group” like Freedom’s Watch.) Watch it:

Even colleagues of Warner’s took a shot at him. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said efforts to pre-empt the September White House report were ”premature and irresponsible.” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said, ”It’s a little curious to me that people are proposing a change in strategy when in fact the current strategy appears now to be working.”

Additionally, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said that embracing Warner’s call of a redeployment before the end of the year would be “a giant step backward.”

UPDATE: Online Newshour has the full transcript.

UPDATE II: This morning on NBC’s Today Show, Bill Kristol said of Warner’s call: “I don’t think that’s based on serious military analysis. “

Foley likely to face no charges.

Fri, 2007-08-24 15:37

Scripps Howard News Service reports that former congressman Mark Foley “is unlikely to face criminal charges for sending sexually explicit e-mails to teenage boys. … That could change if new evidence surfaces in the next week that proved Foley, 52, sent online messages to male teenagers with the intent to ’seduce, solicit, lure, entice, or attempt to seduce a child,’ a third-degree felony under Florida law.” The House has refused to let Florida investigators examine Foley’s congressional computers, stating that they are “congressional work papers” and only Foley can release them.

Putnam’s office deletes embarassing Wikipedia info.

Fri, 2007-08-24 14:40

On June 26, someone in Rep. Adam Putnam’s (R-FL) office edited the congressman’s Wikipedia entry, removing information about financial contributions he received from disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL). The person also deleted a comment Putnam made after the 2006 elections, in which he claimed “white rednecks” lost control of Congress for the GOP. Using the new Wikiscanner tool, bloggers at the Putnam Report discovered the edit.

Is The Prospect Of Withdrawal Responsible For The Modest Security Gains In Iraq?

Fri, 2007-08-24 13:44

Yesterday, the National Intelligence Estimate reported “measurable but uneven improvements” in the security situation in Iraq. While the White House has rushed to suggest that the modest gains were the result of escalation, the improvement can more plausibly be the product of Iraqi expectations of a U.S. withdrawal. (Some gains have also resulted because large numbers of Iraqis have fled their homes and ethnic cleansing has taken place.)

Much of the touted security gains have come in the Anbar province, a region that was not the target of Bush’s escalation. In fact, progress in Anbar pre-dated the surge and occurred while troop numbers were being reduced in the region.

The NIE states that local security arrangements such as those in Anbar province are being formed in response to imminent U.S. withdrawal, and that these “bottom up” security initiatives “represent the best prospect for improved security over the next six to 12 months”:

“[F]earing a Coalition withdrawal, some tribal elements and Sunni groups probably will continue to seek accommodation with the Coalition to strengthen themselves for a post- Coalition security environment” […]

“The IC assesses that the emergence of ‘bottom-up’ security initiatives, principally among Sunni Arabs and focused on combating AQI, represent the best prospect for improved security over the next six to 12 months, but we judge these initiatives will only translate into widespread political accommodation and enduring stability if the Iraqi Government accepts and supports them.”

In April, Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged, “The debate in Congress…has been helpful in demonstrating to the Iraqis that American patience is limited.” It appears that the Iraqi expectation of a U.S. troop reduction has actually produced tangible progress.

The New York Times reported that Sunnis’ perception of an impending withdrawal changed their attitudes. “Many Sunnis, for their part, are less inclined to see the soldiers as occupiers now that it is clear that American troop reductions are all but inevitable, and they are more concerned with strengthening their ability to fend off threats from Sunni jihadists and Shiite militias,” the Times wrote in July. In fact, leading Sunnis continue to demand a timetable for withdrawal.

Gareth Porter, writing for Inter Press Service, reported recently, “The apparent success of Petraeus’s shift from relying on U.S. military force to relying on Sunni troops to take care of al Qaeda could be used as an argument against continuation of the U.S. military presence in Anbar.” He added:

Recognition that there is a far more effective alternative to U.S. military operations to reduce al Qaeda’s influence would be a major blow to George W. Bush’s argument against a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops, which has relied increasingly on the threat of an al Qaeda haven in Iraq.

Congress cancels $63 million plane that couldn’t fly.

Fri, 2007-08-24 12:21

For the past 20 years, Congress has dumped $63 million into a military plane that the Pentagon “repeatedly rejected, and which never had a successful flight.” Instead, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) allocated earmarks for the plane project, which was created by one of his campaign donors. ABC’s The Blotter reports that the 2008 defense spending bill does not include an earmark for the program, effectively killing it. Hunter had wanted to direct $6 million toward the plane’s development.

White House Moving The Goal Posts On Escalation, Drops Demands For Iraqi Political Reconciliation

Fri, 2007-08-24 11:39

When President Bush announced the escalation on January 10, 2007, he claimed the purpose of adding more troops into Iraq’s civil war was to enable political reconciliation:

When this happens, daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders, and the government will have the breathing space it needs to make progress in other critical areas. Most of Iraq’s Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace — and reducing the violence in Baghdad will help make reconciliation possible.

More than seven months later, the Bush’s predictions have flopped. Political reconciliation has not occurred, and its prospects look bleak. As a result, the White House is now in the process of moving the goal posts, dropping its prior demands that Iraqi leaders meet certain political benchmarks in order to sustain the escalation.

In a press briefing today, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe disingenuously claimed that the purpose of the surge was simply “to help bring security to Iraq”:

QUESTION: Is it still administration policy that the U.S. commitment in Iraq is not open-ended?

JOHNDROE: I think the president has made it clear that he would eventually like to see the United States in a different configuration in Iraq. There’s no doubt about that. The surge was designed, as we have said repeatedly, to help bring security to Iraq.

That’s not what the White House was saying back in January. Tony Snow, discussing the purpose of the escalation, said it was to achieve the “important business of political reconciliation“:

Surge is not a term I’ve ever used. But the point is you’re trying to add strength to the forces in Iraq so that they’re going to be successful in taking out sectarian violence and also al Qaeda violence, so that you have the conditions under which people can pursue the important business of political reconciliation and economic development.

As old justifications for staying in Iraq are tossed aside and new ones are proffered, the White House reveals its motives for what they truly are — a desire to establish a long-term occupation of Iraq.

UPDATE: D-Day has more.

Statistics show the downside of the ’surge.’

Fri, 2007-08-24 11:18

In an effort to figure out whether the “surge” is working, the Washington Monthly’s Kevin Drum put together charts comparing violence and infrastructure trends in Iraq for June/July 2006 and June/July 2007. Using data from the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index, Drum concludes that “the news sure doesn’t look very good.” View his charts here.

Shays Lashes Out: Congress Has ‘A Harder Time Getting Along Than Sunnis And Shiites’

Fri, 2007-08-24 09:50

The Washington Post reported recently that between April 2006 and election day, Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) announced at least 25 new federal grants or projects totaling more than $46 million. Seven Bush administration officials visited Shays’ district during that time.

Soon after the Post report, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, announced he was initiating an investigation into whether the White House made improper use of federal resources in the 2006 elections to boost Republicans, including Shays, who narrowly won a tough re-election fight.

Yesterday, Shays bitterly attacked Waxman’s inquiry as “a partisan witch hunt.” As proof of this, Shays complained that congressional investigators are only looking into him and “not going back and looking at what might have happened under Bill Clinton.” While every action President Clinton took was thoroughly investigated, Shays has thus far eluded oversight. Now Shays is lashing out:

“It’s the kind of thing that I think might happen in a place like Russia where the party in power goes after the party that they want never to be in power,” Shays said of the investigation. “This kind of stuff just grosses me out.”

Later, speaking about Iraq, Shays argued, “Republicans and Democrats have a harder time getting along than Sunnis and Shiites.” The stress of being placed under the heat of a congressional investigation appears to be getting to Shays. Regardless of whatever ideological differences exist in Congress, they do not translate into sectarian bloodshed on the House floor.

UPDATE: My Left Nutmeg has notes from the Shays press briefing.

UPDATE II: Shays gets livid over the audacity of bloggers to ask him a question at a press conference and tape it. Watch it:

Hoekstra: democracy cannot work in Iraq.

Fri, 2007-08-24 09:32

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), ranking member on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said that “he’s changed his original support for the Bush administration’s stated goal of molding a democratic Iraq as a means to stabilize the Middle East.” “You’ve got a culture where democracy is not part of, ‘Let’s go there,’” Hoekstra said. “It was a stretch.” Nevertheless, “Hoekstra said he opposes setting a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops.”

Kristol: Let’s ‘Stretch Our Army And Marines’ For ‘Another Year Or So’ In Iraq

Fri, 2007-08-24 08:41

On Fox News this morning, Weekly Standard editor William Kristol said that the escalation in Iraq should be extended at least “another six months” or even “another year or so.” “Is the cost of losing in Iraq great enough that we need to stretch our Army and Marines for another year or so,” asked Kristol rhetorically. “I think the President’s gonna make that decision.”

Kristol also attempted to spin the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released yesterday, which described a failure of the escalation to successfully provide sufficient security for Iraqis, heralding it as proof that “the surge clearly is working” and that current troop levels should be maintained for “another six months or so.” Watch it:

var flvKristolAnotherYear32024015711 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=', 'em-flvKristolAnotherYear32024015711', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvKristolAnotherYear32024015711.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvKristolAnotherYear32024015711.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvKristolAnotherYear32024015711.write('flvKristolAnotherYear32024015711');

Kristol’s hawkish desire to “stretch our Army and Marines” for “another year or so” is in direct contradiction to the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff, whose outgoing chairman, Gen. Peter Pace, “is likely to convey concerns by the Joint Chiefs that keeping well in excess of 100,000 troops in Iraq through 2008 will severely strain the military.”

But disregarding the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is nothing new for Kristol. In December 2006, when the Bush administration began arguing for the current troop escalation, the Joint Chiefs unanimously disagreed with the strategy. For his part, Kristol has never served in the military and was one of the most cocksure voices pushing for the current escalation strategy.

Additionally, Kristol’s interpretation of the NIE is dishonest. While the report observed some “measurable but uneven improvements” in Iraq’s security situation, it also cautioned that violence will remain high, the national government will become more “precarious” and the refugee crisis will continue to worsen due to sectarian violence. Hardly a situation that can be deemed as “clearly working.”

Digg It!

Historian quoted by Bush ‘angrily distances’ himself.

Fri, 2007-08-24 08:25

In his speech on Wednesday, President Bush quoted an “interesting observation” by “one historian” on people criticizing U.S. efforts to help Japan rebuild after World War II, as support for his policies in Iraq:

You know, the experts sometimes get it wrong. An interesting observation, one historian put it — he said, “Had these erstwhile experts” — he was talking about people criticizing the efforts to help Japan realize the blessings of a free society — he said, “Had these erstwhile experts had their way, the very notion of inducing a democratic revolution would have died of ridicule at an early stage.”

Yet yesterday, the historian, MIT professor John Dower, called Bush’s use of his work “perverse“:

They [war supporters] keep on doing this. They keep on hitting it and hitting it and hitting it and it’s always more and more implausible, strange and in a fantasy world. They’re desperately groping for a historical analogy, and their uses of history are really perverse. … I have always said as a historian that the use of Japan [in arguing for the likelihood of successfully bringing democracy to Iraq] is a misuse of history.

Is $300K enough to become next Iraqi prime minister?

Fri, 2007-08-24 08:14

IraqSlogger reports that Iyad Allawi, believed to be positioning himself to be Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s successor, “is paying Washington lobbyists with close ties to the White House $300,000 to help with Allawi’s efforts in the U.S. to promote himself and undermine Maliki.” Former intel official Bruce Reidel raised further questions about Allawi’s funding: “He doesn’t have that kind of money. … Somebody’s paying for it, and it’s not him.”

Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA): White House Will ‘Tweak’ The ‘Petraeus Report’

Fri, 2007-08-24 06:46

Last week, the media reported — and the White House confirmed — that the so-called “Petraeus report,” which will document the conditions on the ground in Iraq, will not be authored by Gen. David Petraeus, but rather by the White House.

Yesterday, Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) “bravely agreed to attend a meeting of the antiwar Americans Against Escalation in Iraq.” Davis was asked by Iraq war veteran John Bruhns whether reports of the “Petraeus report” being “filtered through the White House” were true.

Davis responded that he assumed that the White House would “tweak” the report:

I just would assume that if it goes through the White House, they will take it and do what they, you know — I’m sure they will probably tweak it.

Watch it:

var flvtomdavistweak32024015710 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=', 'em-flvtomdavistweak32024015710', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvtomdavistweak32024015710.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvtomdavistweak32024015710.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvtomdavistweak32024015710.write('flvtomdavistweak32024015710');

Davis added that it’s up to lawmakers to “ask the hard questions… notwithstanding what the report says.” He acknowledged that there have been generals in the past who have “come up and taken the party line,” but he said he’s “going to give Gen. Petraeus the benefit of the doubt on that.”

(HT: The Crypt)

ThinkFast: August 24, 2007

Fri, 2007-08-24 06:03

Outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace “is expected to advise President Bush to reduce the U.S. force in Iraq next year by almost half,” citing concerns by the Joint Chiefs that “keeping well in excess of 100,000 troops in Iraq through 2008 will severely strain the military.”

“The United States’ largest and costliest embassy, a heavily fortified compound in Baghdad with its own power plant and lighted softball field, is on track to be completed next month, on time and within budget.”

Escalation doubles number of internally displaced Iraqis. Recent studies “indicate that the total number of internally displaced Iraqis has more than doubled, to 1.1 million from 499,000,” since the escalation started in February.

Wan Kim, the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, announced that he is resigning. “Kim is set to join nearly a dozen other senior Justice Department officials and aides who have resigned this year.” He pursued causes favored by conservatives to the detriment of the Division’s traditional emphasis, such as protecting African-Americans from discrimination.

After long denying retirement rumors, Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) said yesterday he would not seek reelection. “Renzi has been under an ethical cloud ever since a family business was raided earlier this year by the FBI, which is investigating whether he used his federal office for personal gain.” (more…)

Family loses second son in Iraq due to Blackhawk crash.

Thu, 2007-08-23 19:55

The downing of a Blackhawk helicopter in Iraq this week that killed 14 U.S. soldiers was especially devastating for the Hubbard family. The death of Spc. Nathan Hubbard, 21, “was the second tragedy for his family, who lost another son to the war three years ago, family friends said.”

Hubbard’s family was taking his death “very, very hard,” said Clovis police spokeswoman Janet Stoll-Lee, who spoke on behalf of the Hubbards. The soldier’s father, Jeff Hubbard, is a retired 30-year veteran of the police department.

The Hubbards lost Nathan’s older brother, Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Hubbard, to a roadside bomb in downtown Ramadi in 2004. A third brother, Jason, will be returning home from Iraq to be with his family, Stoll-Lee said.

USA Today offers more details on some of the other soldiers.