Earlier today, ThinkProgress noted that the Republican lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers was plotting to replace Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki with former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. CNN reports that a senior Bush administration official acknowledged the White House is aware of the lobbying campaign because the firm is “blasting e-mails all over town” criticizing Maliki and promoting Allawi. “But the administration official insisted that White House officials are not privately involved or blessing the lobbying campaign to undermine al-Maliki.”
UPDATE: Salon’s Joan Walsh notes that a White House spokesperson addressed the Allawi issue in a press briefing today. She adds, “Iraqi democracy wasn’t good to Allawi, whose leadership didn’t survive elections. But the CIA-connected leader is a right-wing favorite.”
When Congress returns, the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees labor issues will hold hearings on the collapse in a Utah mine that caused six coal miners to go missing. The committee wants mine co-owner Bob Murray to answer questions about the safety of the mine and “whether mining should have been conducted at Crandall Canyon at all because of the potential for collapses.”
UPDATE: Huffington Post notes that, after 17 days of silence, CNN finally offered a critical look into Murray’s record.
“Army Secretary Pete Geren on Thursday ruled out extending troop deployments beyond the current 15 months, saying that longer tours in Iraq put stress on soldiers and their families, and have contributed to an increase in suicides.“
Today, MySpace and MTV announced that users will be able to submit questions real-time to presidential candidates during Internet and tv broadcasts:
The two companies described the events as “dialogues” between major Republican and Democratic candidates and MySpace and MTV devotees. Users can participate via MySpace instant messaging, mobile devices and e-mail. The dialogues will take place on college campuses nationwide and air on the MTV and mtvU cable stations, and will be webcast live on MTV.com and MySpaceTV.
Online viewer reaction to the discussions will be captured through live polling on MTV.com and MySpace.com.
The first dialogue will feature former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) on Sept. 27. Eleven other presidential candidates — including Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Gov. Bill Richardson and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — have all agreed to participate in events to be held between September and December.
Sen. John Warner (R-VA), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, recently returned from a visit to Iraq. Today, he held a press conference to discuss his impressions from that trip.
Frustrated with the lack of political progress in Iraq, Warner said it is time to put some “meaningful teeth” into Bush’s claim that the U.S. commitment to Iraq “is not open-ended.” Warner said he is calling on President Bush to announce on Sept. 15 that he will “initiate the first step in a withdrawal”:
I say to the President, respectfully, pick whatever number you wish. You do not want to lose the momentum. But certainly, in the 160,000 plus — say 5,000 — could begin to redeploy and be home to their families and loved ones no later than Christmas of this year.
While Warner called for a timetable, he argued it was not the role of Congress to mandate it. “Let the President establish the timetable of withdrawal, not the Congress,” he said. Bush need not lay out the “totality of the timetable,” Warner argued. But he must announce at least “a single redeployment of some several thousand” soldiers.
Watch it:var flvwarnerwithdraw32024015700 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/08/warnerwithdraw.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvwarnerwithdraw32024015700', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvwarnerwithdraw32024015700.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvwarnerwithdraw32024015700.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvwarnerwithdraw32024015700.write('flvwarnerwithdraw32024015700');
After the first redeployment from Iraq, Warner said a second contingent should be withdrawn at a later date “at the President’s discretion.” Such a move, Warner argued, “would get everyone’s attention.”
“We simply cannot as a nation stand and continue to put our troops at continuous risk of loss of life and limb without beginning to take some decisive action,” he said.
UPDATE: CNN reports that Warner met with White House “war czar” Gen. Doug Lute today at the White House to convey his recommendations.
UPDATE II: Asked to respond to Warner earlier today, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, “I think it’s inappropriate for me to say from here right now what the president will or will not consider.” A reporter followed up:
QUESTION: The president has frequently said a timetable would be a disastrous course of action.
JOHNDROE: Yes, and I don’t think that the president feels any differently about setting a specific timetable for withdrawl.
UPDATE III: Brad Woodhouse, President of Americans United for Change: “His call for withdrawing a mere 5,000 troops by Christmas just to send a message to the Iraqi’s just doesn’t cut it — it doesn’t meet the standard of safely ending the war or responsibly redeploying our troops out of harm’s way. The time for ’sending messages’ has passed. The time for folks like Senator Warner, who criticize the conduct of the war and the failure of the surge, to take a stand and vote to safely end the war has arrived.”
Yesterday, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Bob Corker (R-TN) returned from a brief trip to Iraq, proclaiming that they saw “clear success” on the ground. But their definitive claims of witnessing success were seriously undermined by their traveling partner, Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), who admitted to reporters that the senators had only spent 10-14 hours in total in Iraq.
Now Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), the fourth member of the delegation, is taking his turn at making sweeping pronouncements of success in Iraq while downplaying the superficial nature of his trip:
Vitter said the surge is working.
The United States has made significant strikes against Al Qaida terrorist forces and reduced sectarian violence in the nation, he said.
Vitter said he met with the chief military commander in Iraq, U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, for about 90 minutes.
“My bottom line conclusion is that the surge is working very, very well,” said Vitter, who returned to the U.S. late Tuesday night.
Vitter, who was recently embarrassed in a prostitution scandal, is hoping that “the trip will help him play a more hands-on role in the upcoming Senate debate” over Iraq. “It was very, very helpful to see things on the ground,” he said.
He is also seemingly hoping that the publicity for the trip will help redeem his presently tattered image, as evidenced by his unusual pre-trip media blitz. Despite a request by the military that the trip not be announced until it was over, Vitter “sent an announcement to his home state media late last week”:
Voinovich, who headed for a Florida vacation today, announced the Iraq trip through his office, but only when he was leaving Baghdad late yesterday. The whole thing was characterized by his staff as extremely hush-hush until wheels-up.
Why, then, was his Louisiana colleague shouting it from the rooftops in advance?
Vitter, in fact, sent an announcement to his home state media late last week. In a statement that ran in Louisiana newspapers over the weekend, Vitter said: “With an upcoming congressional debate in September over the impact of the surge, I believe it is vitally important to see the situation firsthand. Our policy should be formed by the real general and soldiers on the ground, not the politicians - arm chair generals - in Washington.”
Vitter included the identities of the other travelers, including Ohio’s senior senator.
As former Washington Post Baghdad correspondent Jonathan Finer has noted, “those who pass quickly through the war zone should stop ascribing their epiphanies to what are largely ceremonial visits.”
In an interview with the Fort Collins Coloradoan’s editorial board yesterday, Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO), an ardent supporter of Bush’s Iraq policy, said she was “discouraged” by developments in Iraq. “I do hope we will hear good things from Gen. (David) Petraeus about the troop surge and what it has done,” said Musgrave. “But I am discouraged.” The Coloradoan described Musgrave’s remarks as “her most pessimistic comments about Iraq to date.”
Fox News and the CBC Institute have decided to postpone their planned Sept. 23 Democratic presidential debate in Detroit. The CBC Institute explained in a statement that the “overwhelming number of party presidential debates has created a scheduling challenge.” Protesting the involvement of Fox News, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama have stated that they will not be participating.
Yesterday, Ret. Gen. Jack Keane, who was vice chief of staff during the 2003 Iraq invasion and remains a key adviser to the Bush administration, went on BBC radio and sharply criticized the UK for planning withdrawal from Iraq. He argued that they should instead add more troops, similar to President Bush’s escalation in Baghdad.
“They have never had enough forces to truly protect the people, a mission similar to what the coalition forces are taking on in Baghdad, but I think there is a general disengagement from what the key issues are around Basra,” said Keane.
Listen to a portion of the interview here:var flvkeane123204015676 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/08/keane12.320.40.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvkeane123204015676', '320', '60', '6', '#ffffff'); flvkeane123204015676.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvkeane123204015676.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvkeane123204015676.write('flvkeane123204015676');
Keane’s comments echo those of another U.S. officer close to Gen. David Petraeus, who recently said of the British: “Quite frankly what they’re doing right now is not any value-added. … The situation there gets worse by the day. Americans are disappointed because, in their minds, this thing is still winnable. They don’t intend to cut and run.”
These statements blame the British for not reducing violence in Basra, a task that the United States has also been unable to achieve in the rest of Iraq. Another surge is not the answer. Since Bush announced his escalation plan in January, the situation in Iraq has continued to deteriorate:
– Attacks in June “reached their highest daily average since May 2003, showing a surge in violence as President George W. Bush completed a buildup of U.S. troops.”
– The “number of unidentified bodies in the capital has risen again to pre-surge levels over the last two months,” concluded a report by IraqSlogger.
– Today’s National Intelligence Estimate concludes that “the level of overall violence, including attacks on and casualties among civilians, remains high; Iraq’s sectarian groups remain unreconciled; AQI retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks; and to date, Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively.”
It’s not surprising that Keane’s solution is another surge. He was one of the architects of Bush’s escalation plan, pushing to send 40,000 more troops to Iraq. He also blasted the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations for redeployment, giving the report an “F.” “I think it is wholly inadequate,” said Keane of the report. “It’s a cover story to accept defeat.”
The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait takes on the “decrepit intellectual state of neoconservatism,” and its intellectual driver, Bill Kristol. Chait claims there was a time when “there was something inspiring” about the neoconservative vision, but no longer:
As the Iraq war has curdled, the idealism and liberalism have drained out of the neoconservative vision. What remains is a noxious residue of bullying militarism. Kristol’s arguments are merely the same pro-war arguments that have been used historically by right-wing parties throughout the world: Complexity is weakness, dissent is treason, willpower determines all.
Kristol’s good standing in the Washington establishment depends on the wink-and-nod awareness that he’s too smart to believe his own agitprop. Perhaps so. But, in the end, a fake thug is not much better than the real thing.
(Via Andrew Sullivan)
DNO, a small Norwegian oil company that controls oil assets in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, announced that a large western oil company has offered $700 million for control over the oil. “DNO refused to name the company, but industry executives speculated that Royal Dutch Shell was a possible bidder. Shell on Wednesday refused to comment. DNO said it had received an ‘unsolicited expression of interest from a reputable financial adviser on behalf of a large international oil company’, but had rejected the offer.”
Today, the Bush administration released an update to the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), entitled, “Prospects for Iraq’s Stability: Some Security Progress but Political Reconciliation Elusive.” The NIE — which offers the coordinated judgments of the Intelligence Community — observed some “measurable but uneven improvements” in Iraq’s security situation, but cautioned that there remains a lack of political progress in Iraq and a failure of the escalation to successfully provide sufficient security for Iraqis.
Read the key judgments of the NIE here. Below, some important findings:
Decrease in Baghdad violence due to sectarian cleansing:
The polarization of communities is most evident in Baghdad, where the Shia are a clear majority in more than half of all neighborhoods and Sunni areas have become surrounded by predominately Shia districts. Where population displacements have led to significant sectarian separation, conflict levels have diminished to some extent because warring communities find it more difficult to penetrate communal enclaves.
Violence to remain high over next six to 12 months:
[L]evels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high [over next six to 12 months] and the Iraqi Government will continue to struggle to achieve national-level political reconciliation and improved governance.
National government to become more “precarious” over next six to 12 months:
The Iraqi Government will become more precarious over the next six to 12 months because of criticism by other members of the major Shia coalition, Grand Ayatollah Sistani, and other Sunni and Kurdish parties. … The strains of the security situation and absence of key leaders have stalled internal political debates, slowed national decisionmaking, and increased Maliki’s vulnerability to alternative coalitions
Refugee crisis will continue to spill over during “next six to 12 months”:
Population displacement resulting from sectarian violence continues, imposing burdens on provincial governments and some neighboring states and increasing the danger of destabilizing influences spreading across Iraq’s borders over the next six to 12 months.
In his new movie Shoot ‘Em Up,” Oscar-nominee Paul Giamatti plays a “determined criminal” who leads “a gang of assassins” hunting after a newborn baby. According to Shoot ‘Em Up director Michael Davis, Giamatti based his character on a surprising source — Karl Rove:
I meet Paul Giamatti in [the New York neighborhood] SoHo on the hottest day of the summer…He says he’d like his character to be based on Karl Rove — a seemingly bookish guy who exercises power behind the scenes. I like it. His character turns out to be way more flamboyant than Rove … but I like how our free-flowing conversation started making the character better than what is on the page.
The powerful Republican lobbying group of Barbour Griffith & Rogers is plotting an effort to displace Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and supplant him with former interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. IraqSlogger reported:
BGR’s work for Allawi includes the August 17 purchase of the Web site domain Allawi-for-Iraq.com.
In recent days, BGR sent hundreds of e-mail messages in Allawi’s name from the e-mail address [email protected]
BGR’s staff is stacked with conservative operatives with extremely close ties to the White House. Its president is Bush’s former envoy to Iraq, Ambassador Robert Blackwill. Philip Zelikow, a former Counselor to Condoleezza Rice, serves as a senior adviser to the firm. Lanny Griffith, chief executive officer, is a Bush Ranger having raised at least $200,000 for Bush in the 2004 presidential election. And Ed Rogers, chairman and founder of the firm, has been a reliable political ally for the Bush White House.
The right-wing has long had a fascination with Allawi, largely because he has proved to be compliant with the Bush administration’s agenda. Allawi was ceremonially anointed Iraq’s leader in June 2004 by then-Coalition Provisional Authority chief administrator Paul Bremer.
While serving as interim Prime Minister, Allawi repeatedly rejected calls for U.S. troop withdrawals. During the height of the 2004 presidential election campaign, Allawi delivered a strong defense of Bush’s “stay the course” strategy in much-hyped Rose Garden appearance. Later, media reports revealed that Allawi had been “coached” by the administration prior to his appearance:
[A]dministration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the prime minister was coached and aided by the U.S. government, its allies and friends of the administration. Among them was Dan Senor, former spokesman for the CPA who has more recently represented the Bush campaign in media appearances. Senor, who has denied writing the speech, sent Allawi recommended phrases. He also helped Allawi rehearse in New York last week, officials said. Senor declined to comment.
Allawi has been described as “Saddam lite.” In 2004, he handcuffed and blindfolded suspected terrorists and shot them in the head with a pistol. Now, with frustrations mounting against current prime minister Maliki, the administration may be using that as an opportunity to usher in its reliable ally Allawi. In a Washington Post op-ed last week, Allawi wrote a piece that seemed to be an effort to curry favor with the White House.
After long claiming Maliki was “the right guy for Iraq,” Bush this week said, “If the government doesn’t respond to the demands of the people, they will replace the government.” Despite Bush’s assurance that it’s “up to the Iraqis to make that decision, not American politicians,” it appears conservative operatives are plotting to override the will of Iraqis and institute their own.
UPDATE: Spencer Ackerman has more.
Florida’s top police agency said its investigation into former congressman Mark Foley “has been hindered because neither Foley nor the House will let investigators examine his congressional computers.” The House claims the computers are considered “congressional work papers” and that only Foley can release them.
In June, Timothy Hill, the press secretary for Rep. David Davis (R-TN), used his office computer to make a series of edits to his boss’s Wikipedia page, deleting information about political contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. Hill was caught by a Wikipedia administrator who fixed the entries and wrote an article about Hill’s “blanking vandalism.” As punishment, Davis is now requiring Hill to “attend classes on appropriate conduct for congressional staff members.”
On Thursday, the administration is planning to make public parts of a new national intelligence assessment that expresses deep doubts that the Maliki government can overcome sectarian differences. The assessment reportedly says “there’s been little political progress to date, and it’s very gloomy on the chances for political progress in the future.”
The administration argued in court papers this week that the White House Office of Administration is “not subject to the Freedom of Information Act” as part of its effort to refuse the release of internal documents about a large number of e-mails missing from White House servers.” The White House website, however, claims that the office is subject to FOIA.
Executive branch officials “are routinely accepting trips from companies and trade associations with a stake in their agencies’ decisions.” A USA Today investigation found more than 100 trips between April 2006 and March 2007 that “would be out of bounds for members of Congress under the recently passed ethics bill,” yet are allowed for executive officials.
Baghdad’s electricty problems, where residents are struggling with only a few hours of power a day, are being made worse by increasing control of local switching stations by armed militias across Iraq, who “often refuse to share electricity generated locally with Baghdad and other power-starved areas,” said the Iraqi electricity minister yesterday.
The Bush administration “plans to screen thousands of people who work with charities and nonprofit organizations that receive U.S. Agency for International Development funds to ensure they are not connected with individuals or groups associated with terrorism.” But the government “does not intend to tell groups deemed unacceptable Amanda says:
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Last week, Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) announced that he will not seek re-election in 2008. In his e-mail newsletter today, Robert Novak reported that Hastert won’t be finishing out his term and will retire on Nov. 6:
An Illinois Republican source tells us former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) plans to resign November 6 this year instead of finishing out his term. This would create a vacancy and trigger a special election in the 14th District.
Under Illinois statute, the governor, Rod Blagojevich (D), would get to pick the date of both of the special general election and the special primary election (with separate ballots for each party). The general election would have to be within 120 days of the vacancy (meaning by early March, if the November 6 resignation date holds). February 5 is the date for Illinois’s presidential and congressional primaries, and slating the special election — either the primaries or the general — on that date would save state money.