Sunday, August 31, 2008

Listening to the men in uniform*

Perhaps getting less attention in all the Gustav and convention coverage is a long New York Times article about the origins of the surge of US troops into Iraq in early 2007. George Bush has frequently offered statements like this in explaining the surge --

Early last year, after consultations with our commanders -- and the Commander-in-Chief must always listen to the commanders and not the latest opinion poll -- (applause) -- I ordered a surge of forces into Iraq.

The NYT article shows that for all practical purposes, he's lying. First, alternatives to the "stay the course" strategy in 2006 were being considered precisely because of public opinion --

At a Nov. 22 White House meeting, top aides outlined an “emerging consensus” on the way ahead. There was wide agreement that a successful outcome in Iraq was vital for the Bush administration’s “war on terror” and a candid assessment of the difficulties.

A document prepared for the review stated: “Our center of gravity — public support — is in jeopardy because of doubts that our Iraq efforts are on a trajectory leading to success.”

Second, in all the internal debate, the constituency most opposed was the Pentagon. The idea originated from the National Security Council and had elements of what the State Department wanted to do, but owed its momentum even more strongly to the support of the American Enterprise Institute and Dick Cheney's office. Those men in uniform wear the standard Washington uniform: the suit.

Happy in their own way

Here's Sarah Palin and her 4 daughters at the Philadelphia Zoo last month. Her baby daughter Trig is in the sling. Does this look like a family that has decided to fake Mrs Palin as the mother of her granddaughter, 16-year old Bristol's daughter?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

He can multi-task

The eagerness of the White House to show that Gustav is not Katrina extends to showing us George Bush using what looks like a pretty clunky phone to call the governors of Gulf states to assure them he's on top of it. Note the flaunting of a big red CLASSIFIED folder (or perhaps unclassified). Hopefully none of those important papers fell out.

UPDATE: Paul Krugman ponders the significance of the folder.

Remember, he's one of the "smart" ones

National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru, going into Huckabee territory on pro-Palin talking points --

According to the Latest Census Figures [Ramesh Ponnuru]

Wassila turns out to have more people than Delaware—and it has been growing fast. (I can't get the links to work right now but it's easy to look up.)

It is easy to look up. Wasilla, spell it right, The 2007 population estimate for Wasilla city, Alaska is 9,780. The 2007 population estimate for Delaware is 864,764.

How could you have any sense of what the US looks like and get such basic things wrong?

UPDATE: He corrected the post.

Short handed on the home front

One wonders if John McCain is capable of absorbing the sheer stupidity of his pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate. In his entire lifetime of experience, of which he rarely fails to remind people, the person he thinks most qualified to act in his stead wasn't even in her current job when he began his campaign.

Anyway, one of the overlooked people was Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. Assuming the Republicans actually go ahead with their Minneapolis convention next week, the TVs will be showing many images of Hurricane Gustav hitting Louisiana (if it stays on its current track) and Jindal managing to look "presidential" -- which won't be a high bar given the atrocious standard of 2005. While conservatives hail their mooseburger-eating vice presidential pick.

Anyway, Jindal is already busy --

As 1,500 National Guard members arrived in New Orleans yesterday to support the city’s police department and assist in executing civil support missions, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced the activation of all available remaining Louisiana National Guard forces to assist with emergency operations in preparation for Hurricane Gustav.

With the newly activated troops coming on board today, the total of Louisiana Guard members activated reaches 7,000.

The full strength of the Louisiana national guard seems to be 11,000. So where are the other 4,000? Need you ask. Other guards are trying to help --

Headquarters 1-114th Aviation Battalion of North Little Rock, Ark., is sending 44 personnel to Esler Field in Pineville, La., to fill in for Louisiana’s 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion of the 204th Theater Airfield Operations Group, currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Maybe the commander-in-chief of the Alaska National Guard will be able to look presidential by offering to send forces.

She's run the biggest land mass state in the country

Mike Huckabee, (go to about 1 minute left in this Hannity and Colmes segment), with his case for Sarah Palin as the person best qualified to get the keys to the country from John McCain.

All welcome the latest colour revolution

It's the yellow revolution in Thailand. Strangely, it has yet to attract the interest of the White House and the neocon marketing machine despite the wild success of earlier colour revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, Lebanon etc.

Photo:AP/Vincent Yu

Friday, August 29, 2008

Exclusive picture of Sarah Palin


Also interesting that the supposed national security ticket will have someone who says "Eye-ran" for Iran.

UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson embraces the Marge Gunderson comparison.


One thought on Sarah Palin on the McCain ticket -- how exactly will she be running as a reformer of Alaskan politics with an indicted and unrepentant Senator Ted Stevens on the same ballot in November?

The common element

Mysterious "Senior Administration Official" briefing the press about Dick Cheney's visit to the Caucasus and Italy next week --

The centerpiece of the visit to Baku on Wednesday will be a meeting and dinner with President Aliyev and his team. As I indicated earlier, the Vice President has known President Aliyev for quite some time. And he met the current President Aliyev when he was, again, I think, Azerbaijan's Minister of Oil.

The current President Aliyev has had quite an interesting career and one wonders how much of it Dick Cheney was around for, especially back in his Halliburton days. But anyway, the unnamed official wanted to encourage us all --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, let me tell you, the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney, showing up in places he hasn't been before I think is a reassuring step.

Be very afraid.

It's also near the Pentagon

National Review's Kathleen Parker with the lamest defence of John "7 pads" McCain --

I've never seen McCain's Washington digs, but I know he has an apartment at Pentagon City (PC). If you're not familiar with DC geography, that may sound uptown. It's not. "Uptown" is Georgetown, where people like Teresa Kerry and Hillary Clinton own very expensive homes. PC is a modern and uncharming commuter hub of high-rise apartment buildings conveniently located next to mega-stores such as Pier I, Best Buy, Harris Teeter — as well as Reagan International Airport.

Here's a description of the Pentagon City Mall. Parker only mentions the big box Shops at Pentagon City which is next to it. There is also a Ritz Carlton where few Americans who might like to have a beer with McCain would normally stay at. But it is the famous Ritz Carlton where Linda Tripp met Monica Lewinsky, and thus launched Jonah Goldberg's career in "journalism".

By the way, the airport's name is Reagan National Airport, .

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Terrorists just want to have fun

Multi-National Forces Iraq press release --

BAGHDAD – Coalition forces captured a suspected senior Special Groups leader Wednesday morning during an operation at Baghdad International Airport.

Intelligence sources report that the captured man is part of the most senior social and operational circles of Special Groups.

Who knew that the ultra-evil Special Groups had social circles. But there you go. The press release goes on to explain that the person was the planner of a brazen attack on a meeting in June that killed 2 State Department officials as well as 2 US soldiers and 6 Iraqis. The apparent security breach at that meeting coupled with the suspect's ability to come and go from Iraq as he pleased suggests that the Iraqi security forces are still infiltrated at a high level -- 2 years after the Surge began.

UPDATE: Unbelievable. The arrested official is Ali al-Lami, head of the de-Baathification screening commission.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A place where conservatives are stupid

National Review's Jay Nordlinger

One thing I’ve noticed about this [Democratic] convention — it’s impossible not to — is that America is portrayed as a deeply suffering place ...

By the way, you know the story about the man from Calcutta, decades ago, whose greatest desire was to visit America? "Why?" asked his friends. "Because I want to see a place where poor people are fat."

Using The Google quickly reveals this to be a hoary old chestnut, but here's the most concrete recent source: Dinesh D’Souza, also in National Review, before he had a big falling out with his conservative friends over his even more conservative views --

They arrived at the same perception that I witnessed in an acquaintance of mine from Bombay who has been unsuccessfully trying to move to the United States. I asked him, "Why are you so eager to come to America?" He replied, "I really want to live in a country where the poor people are fat."

Notice how the tale has gone from some random person in Calcutta to an actual friend of one particular National Reviewer. This has urban myth written all over it. The quote, that is. As for the claim that poor people are fat, there are many ways to go with that one. Such as by taking it at face value and noting what it says about the price-quality relationship for food and the state of America's healthcare system.

It also has a helicopter pad

The home under construction for JP McManus, the man whose finances the Irish media always seem to struggle with --

The size of the lake for which planning permission has been approved is 5,500sq m, which is just under 1.25 acres ... The house is still under construction but is expected to be completed before the end of the year. The 40,000sq ft property has nine bedrooms and features a 200-seat cinema, gym with 18-metre pool, sauna, steam room and hot tubs, a vast wine cellar and a “panic room”.

The house, which resembles the stately homes built in the 17th and 18th centuries, is about 27 times the size of an average modern home.

That's quite a comprehensive living space for someone who for tax purposes, does not live in Ireland. He even bought out the local GAA club's original site, which had a prime view of the property. Again a strange concern for someone who apparently can only be there less than half the days of the year. Perhaps the locals will help the Revenue keep track of the number of daily sightings.

Yes, it's low hanging fruit

But this ridiculous. National Review's The Corner has given a blogging slot to Pete Hegseth from the group Veterans for Bush --

For the first time in 44 years, the Democratic ticket for President will not include a veteran of America's Armed Services. Neither Senator Obama nor Senator Biden have spent one day in military uniform.

And by my calculations, it's been 76 years (Hoover-Curtis ticket in 1932) since the Republicans nominated a duo without any military experience.

That involves counting George Bush's highly convenient time in the Air National Guard protecting the Gulf of Mexico -- when the USA was at war in Vietnam -- as military service. And of course it requires ignoring Dick Cheney's 5 deferments from Vietnam.

But if you're in a front group for Republican operatives, as Hegseth is, that's the kind of thinking that gets you ahead.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Another day in US diplomacy

Leading neocon Zalmay Khalilzad has been running back-channel diplomacy in support of the former Mr Ten Percent and Bhutto widower Asif Ali Zardari to be president of Pakistan. In the meantime, Zardari's own legal depositions show that he may be mentally unstable.

And a day after George Bush calls on the Kremlin not to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the Kremlin just does that.

Has anyone seen those "grown-ups" that were promised in 2000?

At least the earaches were free

It's amazing that Ryanair manage to sound like weasels even when they were apparently very close to a catastrophic accident --

The "de-pressurization incident" caused the oxygen masks on board to deploy, a Ryanair statement said.

French officials said 26 people were hospitalized and suffered mostly from chest, nose and ear pain. Ryanair's statement said 16 people "complaining of ear ache" were taken to hospital.

Monday, August 25, 2008

This stuff gets you on TV

Matter-of-fact Wall Street Journal news reporting --

The financial sector continued to be the broader market's Achilles heel on Monday, leading a sharp decline in the wake of disappointing housing data, downbeat analyst comments, and worries about the health of bellwether American International Group.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 241.73 points, or 2.1%, to 11386.33. All 30 of its components ended lower, led by a 5.5% slide in AIG shares. Weighing on the insurer's shares were a warning of a possible downgrade in its credit rating by Fitch due to uncertainties about AIG's business review, and a prediction by Credit Suisse that AIG would post a third-quarter loss.

Facts-be-damned opinionating from National Review's Larry Kudlow (also seen on CNBC) --

Are the Denver Dems downing the stock market today? The Dow is off 230 points, starting right from the get-go. So-called market analysts are blaming financials and the credit crunch as they always do. But there’s more ... With the Denver Dems strutting their stuff, this could be a bumpy week for stocks. Did anyone say free-market capitalism is the best path to prosperity?

Apart from anything else, is that a bet on the performance of the stock market during next week's Republican convention?

There's one more on the list

Max Boot, in the Wall Street Journal --

Small states have often shown the ability to humble great powers. In 1920, under the inspired leadership of Marshal Josef Pilsudski, the Poles staged a brilliant counterattack to save Warsaw and drive the Red Army off their soil. In the winter war of 1939-1940 the plucky Finns held off Soviet invaders, forcing the Kremlin to settle for a slice of its territory rather than all of it. More recently, the Afghan mujahedeen drove the Red Army out of their country altogether, thereby helping to bring down the Soviet Union.

It's a nice switch from talking about states to include the Mujahedeen -- but given that leap, even more impressive to omit how the Iraqi insurgency humiliated George Bush in 2005-06.

Later --

They should double their military spending to make themselves into porcupine states that even the Russian bear can't swallow.

Again with the porcupine-bear metaphor. But anyway, it's strange that Boot again chooses to look past the Iraq example. Great powers can defeat local insurgencies with the right tactics. No wonder the Russians feel emboldened.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Creating our men in Baghdad

Multi-National Force Iraq press release --

Kirkuk, Iraq – As Iraq continues to emerge as a free and democratic country, its security forces must be prepared to maintain stability and keep the land in order.

Under the guidance of the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division’s Emergency Services Unit of northeastern Iraq’s Kirkuk Province recently conducted training on how to effectively control and eventually dissolve citizen riots and protests, Aug. 20.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


The Caucus blog (NYT) observes a couple of the misstatements on the podium in Springfield Ill. as Joe Biden and Barack Obama spoke --

As he wrapped up his podium-pounding peroration, Mr. Obama turned and said, “So let me introduce to you, the next president, the next vice president of the United States of America - Joe Biden.”

Mr. Biden returned the favor near the end of his own remarks. He paid tribute to “the next president of the United States - Barack America!”

But think about it: "Barack America" is a good one. It sort of sounds like Obama, which of course is why Biden's wires crossed when he was saying it, but it's way better than Barack Osama, and it neutralizes the stylized fact that no American president's surname has ended in a vowel. If the country's name ends in a vowel, why can't the president's?

Cindy McCain, small business owner

From the extensive New York Times account of Mrs McCain's finances --

How much she receives in profits is not a matter of public record. Distributions to other shareholders, who discussed them only anonymously, suggest she receives hundreds of thousands of dollars several times a year. Mrs. McCain has released only a two-page Form 1040 from her 2006 return. It listed $4.5 million in income from S corporations (like Hensley), partnerships, rental real estate and other categories; capital gains of $743,000, and dividends of $283,000.

A S Corporation is a corporate entity that passes through profits to its shareholders without any corporate income taxation. Thus it avoids the so-called double taxation of corporate income at both the company and owner level.

A S corporation is also George Bush's favourite rationale for his tax cuts for the rich --

What I don't think a lot of people in Washington fully understand is that small business owners are going to bear a heavy burden if the tax rates go back up. And the reason why is, is that most small businesses owners are Subchapter-S corporations, or partnerships, or LLCs, that pay their business taxes at individual rates. So if the individual rates go up, it directly affects millions of small businesses in America.

There are many problems with this logic, not least how poorly targeted his tax cuts are at actual small businesses. But Cindy McCain makes a nice counterexample, paying lower taxes on money she gets as a passive owner of an inherited business (a transfer that survived the USA's Communist estate taxes) and then spends on accumulating so many houses her husband can't remember how many there are.

It wasn't on the agenda

Another Multi-National Force Iraq press release refers to a Lebanese-backed insurgent group --

In their continued degradation of the Kata’ib Hezbollah criminal network, Coalition forces picked up two suspected associates during operations Friday morning in New Baghdad ... While Kata’ib Hezbollah is not part of Special Groups, it is similar in that it’s reported they receive support from Iran in the way of funding, logistics, and weapons such as improvised rocket assisted mortars. They are also believed to receive guidance or direction from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps – Quds Force.

The only difference between the two groups is that the Hezbollah group, allegedly, receives Iranian support via Lebanon.

While the US military seems concerned about this group, it doesn't seem to have disrupted the rapport between Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki and Lebanese PM Fouad Siniora, the latter visiting the former a couple of days ago. He's in a coalition government with Hezbollah.

UPDATE 27 SEPTEMBER: Another press release referring to the group --

Kata'ib Hezbollah is assessed to be a proxy of Iran, and its members are believed to employ improvised rocket assisted mortars as well as explosively formed penetrators in civilian areas.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

No more Mr Maverick

John McCain in New Mexico, responding to Barack Obama's criticism of his VFW speech on Monday --

Let me be very clear, I am not questioning his patriotism, I am questioning his judgement.

Here is
the history of this particular attack line all the way back to 1970. Given its heavy use in 2004, there is no doubt that it's Team Rove giving the line another go-round this time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Moscow weeps

Condi Rice, during a tendentious interview with Lara Logan of CBS in which Condi had a single talking point -- this isn't 1968 --

QUESTION: What does it mean, business is – it won’t be business as usual? What does that actually --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think the [NATO] Secretary General said it. He said that he can’t imagine, and I certainly can’t imagine the NATO-Russia Council meeting under these circumstances [non-withdrawal from Georgia].

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you very much.

And that's it. Russia gets barred from meetings with an organisation of which it's not a member.

This piece of paper

Dick Cheney -- the mystery about his whereabouts this week at least partially solved -- wrote the adjacent message in the condolence book at the Embassy of Georgia in Washington yesterday. It's not clear what his claim of "solidarity" extends to, but probably not to reconsidering the role that his own imperial presidency philosophy has played in weakening the international norms that might have prevented the Russian incursion from happening.

White House photo by David Bohrer

Crooked talk

John McCain spoke to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention yesterday. It was no worse than a speech than George Bush would have given, but by the same token, no better. First, a bit of emotional fakery --

I'm proud to count many of you in this room as personal friends, including my good friend retired Marine Corps Sergeant Major Paul Chevalier of New Hampshire. And there's another gentleman here I know you'll want to welcome. He's as fine a friend as a man could have in a tough spot, Lieutenant Colonel Orson Swindle of the United States Marine Corps.

McCain didn't feel strongly enough about these friends to name them as one of the three wisest people he knows in his chat with Rick Warren -- since he had reserved two of those slots for General David Petraeus and one of his advisers, Meg Whitman. The selection of Petraeus was especially strange: does one tactical success make someone "wise"?

Then on to the classic Bush speech code --

I'm sure many of you will also recall from your experiences in war, as I do from mine, that when you're somewhere on the other side of the world in the service of America you pay attention to the news from back home. It affects morale. And even during this election season, with sharp differences on the wisdom and success of the surge in Iraq, Americans need to speak as one in praise of the men and women who fight our battles.

Thus he sets up the Bush trick of any criticism of the conduct of the war being criticism of the troops -- precisely how Bush deflected the downward spiral of the war in 2005-06.

Finally, McCain again pursued his attack, disavowed by even sympathetic pundits when he previously used it, that Barack Obama would put his electoral prospects before his country --

This [beginning the surge] was back when supporting America's efforts in Iraq entailed serious political risk. It was a clarifying moment. It was a moment when political self-interest and the national interest parted ways. For my part, with so much in the balance, it was an easy call. As I said at the time, I would rather lose an election than lose a war.

Note the Bush phrase "clarifying moment", usually used for whatever is the most recent geopolitical crisis. More seriously, there was nothing about Obama's opposition to the surge that put him outside the range of respectable opinion. For instance, the Baker-Hamilton commission (on which defence secretary Robert Gates served) never advocated a surge.

On a lighter note, McCain seems to be adopting George Bush's verbal tics as well. Several times during the speech he referred to his VFW audience as the VF Dubya, a faux-southern accent that McCain, with a lifetime in the military and government, has no reason to have (e.g. watch for a minute from the 5 minute mark on the C-span video). Soon the transition will be complete.

UPDATE: From a different perspective, National Review's Byron York also suspects some over-engineering in McCain's "wisest persons" answer.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

At the golden door

Condi Rice, during an interview on the semi-official Fox News Agency --

QUESTION: Will the U.S. consider granting Musharraf asylum to help settle the crisis?

SECRETARY RICE: Look, President Musharraf has been a good ally. And I – everyone knows that we disagreed with his decision in terms of the state of emergency that he declared. But he was to – he kept to his word, he took off the uniform, it’s now a democratic government in Pakistan. Pakistan and the United States have a joint interest in fighting terror, because these terrorists are not just after the United States and after Afghanistan. They’re also after Pakistan as demonstrated by the fact that they killed Mrs. Bhutto. That’s what we’re concentrating on, that and helping Pakistan to sustain its economy, to build its schools, its health. We have a broad Pakistan policy.

QUESTION: But Secretary, are you prepared to say whether or not the U.S. would grant Musharraf asylum in this country?

SECRETARY RICE: This is – this is an issue that is not on the table and I’m -- just want to keep our focus on what we must do with the democratic Government of Pakistan.

Condi's vague "not on the table" non-denial is similar in tone to George Bush's infamous no war plans on my desk dodge in 2002. There were in the top drawer.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sabre-rattling needed some 21st century branding

Fred Kagan, taking time out from overseeing US military operations in Iraq, writes the new Weekly Standard editorial --

... Washington should offer a revamped military assistance program to our NATO allies in Eastern Europe, as well as to Ukraine and Georgia. This program should aim to turn each of those states into a daunting porcupine capable of deterring the Russian bear.

While America slept

Neither George Bush or Dick Cheney think that the Russia-Georgia crisis is important enough to interrupt their holidays. Bush will speak to reporters this morning from his holiday home in Texas, having been joined on an earlier teleconference by Dick Cheney speaking from his holiday "home" in Wyoming (he hasn't lived there for years). On the other hand, Cheney told people in Wyoming that he's "unsure" about where he will be next Tuesday, which is odd for such a bureaucratic master. So one possibility is that Bush will be sending him to Tblisi for another flagpin fashion show with Mikhail Saakashvili. But where was Condi's flagpin?

UPDATE 25 AUGUST: Cheney is being sent, albeit a little later than we predicted.

It never gets old

The Wall Street Journal editorial page, arch supporter of the Iraq war --

As it happens, Chapter 1, Article II of the U.N. Charter, signed amid the smashed borders of World War II, forbids Members from the "use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state."

They refer of course to Russia-Georgia.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Just don't call it West Britain

The chief executive of the Dublin Port company, Enda Connellan, explaining its importance to the Irish economy --

"These flowers on the table, these scones and sandwiches, they all crossed the Irish Sea last night and arrived in Marks [&] Spencer this morning," he says from the Port Centre boardroom in East Wall.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Battle flag

Has anyone heard a satisfactory explanation as to why Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili had a European Union flag behind him in one of his broadcasts early in the war with Russia?

AP Photo/ First Channel (Russia)

Less is more

The Wall Street Journal editorial page, aware that John McCain's proposal for war with Russia over Georgia is not really an option, but flailing around for an alternative --

There's one other way the U.S. could hit Russia where it hurts: by strengthening the dollar. The greenback's weakness has contributed greatly to the record oil prices that have in turn made Russia flush with petrodollars and fueled Mr. Putin's expansionist ambitions. Crude prices continued to fall yesterday, below $115 a barrel, and further deflating that bubble would do more to sober up an oil-drunk Kremlin than would any kind of economic sanctions.

Oil is priced in, er, dollars. So if the dollar is stronger, then each dollar buys more non-dollar stuff, which compensates for there being fewer of them per barrel of oil. Indeed it's pretty much this logic which explains the correlation between dollars and oil prices that the sages at the WSJ editorial page have noted.

It's all pretty basic stuff that one would think they know. But they are the people with Dick Cheney's ear.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Media Incongruity

Part of the strange experience of watching a war on cable news is flicking away briefly to a music channel to find The Last Shadow Puppets homage to the icons of Russia in The Age of the Understatement, a title most inapt for the Georgia-Russia war.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Offer not applicable in Middle East

This observation probably belongs as an update to our previous post but anyway: US ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad really said something like "Russia needs to know that the days of changing political leaders by military force are gone". It may be that the neocons have simply no capacity for self-reflection.

Birth pangs of a new Caucasus

An interesting rhetorical experiment would occur if every statement issued by Russia during the war with Georgia was a repeat of statements issued by the USA in support of Israel during the Lebanon war of 2006. Today's statement by the White House calling Russia's actions "disproportionate" is especially ripe for such treatment but other classics such as "clarifying moment" and "permanent ceasefire" could also use another go round.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Double-edged sword

President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili has a point when he complains that the west is not likely to pay attention to his country's near-war with Russia because of August distractions and the Olympics. But shouldn't he have thought of that before launching his own crackdown this week on south Ossetia? Maybe he thought the Russians would also be distracted. And that he would have the USA to back him up if things got out of hand.


It's good that it is only once every 4 years that one is reminded how painfully obvious it is when the sports commentators are working through the country talking points as each team enters the stadium. Then again, at least they are not running a country or something.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

McCain's 100 years = 2 eye blinks

George Bush went to a military base at the Korean Armistice frontier and noted, with a thinly disguised Iraq subtext, the length of time US troops have been there --

Fifty-five years have passed since the guns went quiet and the cease-fire was signed on this peninsula. Now, for some of you, 55 years seems like a long time. (Laughter.) But if you're 62 years old, it's just a snap of the fingers. (Laughter.) It wasn't all that long ago.

He also tried a new formulation of his sneering at a "law enforcement" approach to terrorism --

Hopefully the September the 11th, 2001 lesson will teach us all that it's important to prevent the crime from happening in the first place;

By which he means wars, but it's a strange thing to say for someone who, like every August of his Presidency, is taking August off.

America First

Self-styled liberal hawks/Lombardis Stephen Biddle, Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack state an important reason why US troops need to stay in Iraq at least until the end of 2009 --

American combat troops are needed to protect polling places from terrorism, and even more important, from voter intimidation, fraud and the perception that the results were rigged.

Where were these troops in November 2000 in Florida?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

No shame

George Bush, during a political speech at an Air Force base refuelling stop in Alaska --

The United States military has had no better supporter and stronger friend than Senator Ted Stevens. Thank you for coming, Senator. (Applause.)

Ted Stevens is under a 7 count indictment for lying on his Senate disclosure forms, and has rivals even within his own party for the nomination to run for Senate again in November. They didn't get a look-in edgeways.

UPDATE 29 AUGUST: Sarah Palin attended this event. No wonder on any objection to the shout-out for Ted Stevens.

Monday, August 04, 2008

It's nitpicking, but anyway

When George Bush met Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum for a suspiciously low-profile meeting at Camp David yesterday, why wasn't the flag of Dubai -- where MBR is ruler -- flying along with that of the UAE? More seriously, isn't such a meeting another reason to worry that something is up with Iran policy?


Perhaps disasters have a way of finding those least able to cope with them. As the New York Times The Lede blog notes, Irish media coverage for the last week has been dominated by the fate of Gerard McDonnell, the first Irish climber to scale K2 but who died in the hellish every-man-for-himself descent.

But from the perspective of Pakistan, the K2 deaths put its military in the position of -- in addition to fighting a hot border war on its Afghan frontier and a simmering bordering war on its Indian frontier -- sending highly dangerous helicopter flights to rescue surviving climbers (successfully so for Dutch climber Wilco van Rooijen, above) on the same day that it was running a massive flood relief operation in Peshawar (above left). Hopefully they didn't have to choose between the two.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Gladstone vs Disraeli it ain't

National Review's The Corner reports on what is viewed as a heroic display from House of Representatives Republicans yesterday --

As I was making my way over to the House chamber, I could hear the crowds inside chanting, "Drill! Drill! Drill!"

This would be the advocacy for immediate drilling in the outer waters of the USA, an enterprise which its proponents apparently think is a matter of just shifting some oil well rigs from Texas to deep water.

Even stranger is that Kim Kagan found time out of her war studies to plead --

re: Drill Here. Drill now. [Kimberly Kagan]

Please, Senator McCain, do not let Obama get to the right of you on drilling. Please.

This being a reference to a news report that Obama would consider allowing more offshore oil drilling as part of a comprehensive energy plan. What is it about the current state of conservative thought which has both support of an open-ended war in Iraq and unconditional oil drilling as dogma?

Friday, August 01, 2008


The Wall Street Journal editorial page one month ago --

The FBI's mad scientist [anthrax] theory also fit the agenda of the political left, which didn't want the trail of evidence to prove state-sponsorship of terror – particularly by Iraq ... But the possibility of a foreign source should never have been downplayed. Saddam Hussein had deployed chemical attacks in the Iran-Iraq war and against the Kurds. In 1995, Iraq admitted to U.N. weapons inspectors that it had added thousands of liters of anthrax and other toxins to its biological arsenal.

... So the FBI needed to cast a wider net all along – which still remains urgent. In 2007, 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told a military tribunal he was "directly in charge" of "managing and following up on the Cell for the Production of Biological Weapons, such as anthrax and others." The 9/11 Commission reported that al Qaeda has had an "ambitious" bioweapons program. Though there's no evidence that al Qaeda operatives succeeded in manufacturing weapons-grade agents, the anthrax case proves that such high-level production isn't necessary for an attack. And there's no telling what's floating around out there.

But if anything, this fiasco shows the limits of bureaucratic law enforcement in fighting terror ...

What it actually shows is how law enforcement can get contanimated by geopolitical agendas. Someday we'll find out how much pressure the FBI was under to find a link to Saddam. In the meantime, Bruce Ivins escaped attention.

UPDATE 4 AUGUST: The WSJ editorial taking note of the Ivins development never mentions their earlier advocacy of an Iraq theory of anthrax.