Wednesday, April 30, 2008

At the brink?

I know we've been through these alarms before and nothing has happened. This could just be a bluff, but maybe not:
(CBS) A second American aircraft carrier steamed into the Persian Gulf on Tuesday as the Pentagon ordered military commanders to develop new options for attacking Iran. CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports that the planning is being driven by what one officer called the "increasingly hostile role" Iran is playing in Iraq - smuggling weapons into Iraq for use against American troops.
And this seems to chart out new territory of saber rattling:
Targets would include everything from the plants where weapons are made to the headquarters of the organization known as the Quds Force which directs operations in Iraq. Later this week Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is expected to confront the Iranians with evidence of their meddling and demand a halt.

If that doesn't produce results, the State Department has begun drafting an ultimatum that would tell the Iranians to knock it off - or else.
Maliki confronting Iran will be an interesting exercise in biting the hand that feeds one, but a gun to the back of his head might make Maliki sink in his teeth. As for the ultimatum, if it is issued it will mean we're at the brink.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

We can't have acquittals

One of the mysteries of the Bush kleptocracy has been their knack of keeping almost everyone silent. Those bureaucrats and political appointees that have spoken up (fired US Attorney Iglesias, for example) have created a momentary splash, but while the media has reported their story, there has been little follow-up. Congressional attempts to find out what is going on have been met by the administration's stonewall strategy that Congress lacks the will to challenge.

The latest to speak up, former chief prosecutor for terrorism cases Morris Davis has made even more sensational charges, and under oath:

Davis said he wants to wait until the cases -- and the military commissions system -- have a more solid legal footing. He also said that Defense Department general counsel William J. Haynes II, who announced his retirement in February, once bristled at the suggestion that some defendants could be acquitted, an outcome that Davis said would give the process added legitimacy.

"He said, 'We can't have acquittals,' " Davis said under questioning from Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, the military counsel who represents Hamdan. " 'We've been holding these guys for years. How can we explain acquittals? We have to have convictions.' "

Davis also decried as unethical a decision by top military officials to allow the use of evidence obtained by coercive interrogation techniques. He said Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, the legal adviser to the top military official overseeing the commissions process, was improperly willing to use evidence derived from waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning. "To allow or direct a prosecutor to come into the courtroom and offer evidence they felt was torture, it puts a prosecutor in an ethical bind," Davis testified. But he said Hartmann replied that "everything was fair game -- let the judge sort it out."

He also said Hartmann took "micromanagement" of the prosecution effort to a new level and treated prosecutors with "cruelty and maltreatment." Hartmann, he said, was trying to take over the prosecutor's role, compromising the independence of the Office of Military Commissions, which decides which cases to bring and what evidence to use.

The show trial is nothing new, not even in the good ol' USA, but the mastery of the form as practiced by the Soviet Union, with tortured prisoners reading their confessions to the judges, hasn't been this nation's style. Hopefully, we can thank Col. Davis that it won't be yet. But, if the current crop of kleptocrats is not eradicated root and branch, it is only a matter of time.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Gettin' out of Dodge

Tom Engelhardt takes a long look at one of Blog Simple's favorite subjects, The Greatest General EVAR!, AKA King David, AKA General Petraeus. While marveling at his talent for self-promotion and showing up in the media in his preferred role of savior, the article points out the unspoken facts about GGE!, whenever he moves on, he leaves behind a disaster. Mosul, check, Iraqi Army training, check, and now the biggest escape of all time, out of Iraq as the surge's true outcome is being manifested, open war between the Shiites and the destruction of Sadr City:

The problem is: Putting a face -- that is, a mask -- on something has nothing to do with changing it in any essential way, no matter how you brand it and no matter who's listening to you elsewhere. This August or September, when the general takes over at Centcom, he will leave behind (as he has before) the equivalent of an IED-mined stretch of Iraqi roadside ready to explode, possibly under the coming U.S. presidential election. It remains to be seen whether he will once again have made it out of town in the nick of time and relatively unscathed.

The miracle, of course, was that, so late in the game, the American media swallowed the President's (and the general's) propaganda on the surge campaign which, on the face of it, was ludicrous. Stranger still, they did so for almost a year before the situation started to fray visibly enough for our TV networks and major papers to take notice. For that year, most of them thought they saw a brass band playing fabulously when there was hardly a snare drum in sight.

That result may be a public-relations man's dream, but it was thanks to a con man's art. The question is: Can the President make it back to Texas before the bottom falls out in Iraq? And will the general continue to fall ominously upward?

But it really wasn't a miracle at all. The American media has been swallowing and liking Republican propaganda since the days of Reagan. It got a lot worse under Clinton, and since 9/11 it has been in virtual lock step with all of the insane policies, lies, blunders, crimes and corruption of our 'leaders'.

They're now lining up with McCain, who espouses the same policies as Bush, and competes with him at the level of intellectual vacuity and good ol' boy idiocy. We had thought that Fred Thompson was the born successor to Bush, but McCain is even less engaged than Thompson, no naturally he got the nod.

For the media, Petraeus is perfect. He fulfills his role in the delusion machine to a tee, the media keeps moving with him, always with their eyes (and yours) locked ahead so you don't notice the pile of bodies in the backwash of events.

Friday, April 25, 2008

It's a fake!

b of Moon of Alabama analyzes the video presentation of Syrian/North Korea perfidiousness and finds some hankypanky going on.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Condi, Condi, Condi

One looks with amazement at the latest adventures in clownishness from the Secretary of State.

Arab conference - she goes there and asks for debt forgiveness (for Iraq, maybe next time it'll be for the US) and opening embassies in Iraq. "Nope", is the embarrassed reply.

Carter - she accuses Carter of ignoring the advice of the State Department. Carter says he never got that advice, so she calls him a liar, not nicely. Carter calls her a liar, nicely.

A day after the Bush administration urged India to step up pressure on Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on his coming visit to New Delhi, India tartly said it did not need “any guidance on the future conduct of bilateral relations,” making it plain that no saber rattling from its friends in Washington would impair its relationship with a vital energy supplier. “India and Iran are ancient civilizations whose relations span centuries,” the Indian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. “Both nations are perfectly capable of managing all aspects of their relationship with the appropriate degree of care and attention.” Mr. Ahmadinejad is to make a brief stop in New Delhi next Tuesday. India and Iran are in talks over a pipeline that would ferry natural gas through Pakistan to the Indian border. An Indian cabinet member is in Pakistan this week for negotiations over pricing. The United States has not favored the pipeline. On Monday, a State Department spokesman, Tom Casey, said India should use the visit to urge Iran to stop nuclear enrichment.
This is after the US demanded that the Swiss show them a gas contract signed with Iraq. I think this type of bullying is tiring out allies, friends, and neutrals. What's the point, except to flaunt your aggressive stupidity?

Wherever she goes, she leaves trail of people wide-eyed and slapping their foreheads in amazement. It would be funny, but it ain't.


Color me unsurprised that Petraeus (AKA the Greatest General EVAR!, or GGE! is going to move up to be the commander of CENTCOM. After all, look at his qualifications:
  1. His last commander, Fallon, considered him to be "an ass-kissing little chickenshit". That's like music to the ears of Cheney and Feckless Leader.
  2. He was in charge of training and equipping Iraq's military, just humiliated by Sadr's ragtag bunch.
  3. He was accusing of at least turning a blind eye to rampant corruption in training and equipping the Iraqi army by Col. Westhusing, who then proceeded to blow his brains out, or at least to have his brains blown out.
  4. He 'wrote the book' on counterinsurgency, which turned out to be largely plagiarized.
  5. Best of all, he gets credit for everything that goes right, or can be spun as going right, and no blame for the continuing clusterfuck.
With this strategically timed exit, he gets to observe the wind down from the surge at a distance. As he must know, Iraq could easily get much worse than it has ever been for the US (it will get worse for the Iraqis, partially thanks to the surge). Odierno has great qualifications to be either the fall guy or follow GGE! up the ladder of success. There are a lot of fall guys out there. The important thing is to be nimble!

It will be interesting to see if this will be the climax of his military career. Whether or not this means that there will be an attack on Iran in the upcoming months, Petraeus is obviously being groomed for civilian office. First SecDef maybe, and then, the highest office in the land, THE VICE PRESIDENCY! With a half-wit like McCain as president, with Petraeus as VP it would be like deja vu all over again.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Have fun, you happy people

Ella, Angel Eyes

Wolfie's world

Bloomberg tells the tale of the current food crisis (mainly rice) in the Philippines. As a country dependent upon imports for much of its rice, and with a growing poor population, the Philippines are particularly vulnerable to the current price hikes.

They're even more vulnerable because of the advice they received from the World Bank:

The Philippine government shouldn't have followed a World Bank recommendation to stop stockpiling grain in favor of buying it on the world market, said Raj Patel, a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of ``Stuffed & Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System'' (Melville House, 398 pages, $19.95).

A June 2007 World Bank report said the Philippines should reduce grain stocks and use them for ``disaster mitigation and safety net programs'' instead of ``price stabilization.''

``The Philippines' government had been strong-armed in various ways into adopting the kinds of policies that militated against its being able to stockpile grain,'' Patel said.

June 2007 was also when Paul Wolfowitz left his post as head of the World Bank, due to personal corruption involving him and his squeeze, Shaha Riza, rather than the more mundane crime of fucking the world's poor, which at the World Bank is not a crime, it's a feature. As with the Defense Department, leaving behind a trail of ruin and death is Mr. Wolfowitz's legacy once again.

With all his qualifications, maybe he can get a job in the new administration.

Why now?

That's the question that sprang into my mind when I saw this story:

U.S. arrests American over suspected nuclear espionage for Israel

This guy hasn't been active for over twenty years, he was run by the same spy that Pollard was handled by, Yosef Yagur.

Also from Haaretz today:

Jordan's King to ask Bush to defer or cancel trip to Israel

Israel's main defense in the Pollard case was that it was a one-time thing, not an organized espionage strategy against the US. That defense just got shot down, and it leads to the interesting question, how many other spies of this type (Americans spying for Israel inside the US defense establishment) were/are there?

So, is the timing of this story part of a more general push to embarrass the Israelis (and Bush) when Bush is going to Israel for the 60th anniversay? Are there still 'arabist' in the US government?

Or, while I haven't heard of any new push to get Pollard released, if so this would be a way to shut that door. Maybe Feckless Leader was going to give Olmert a Happy Birthday present (Pollard). If so, he better start shopping for something else.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Where's my crack pipe?

This is just incredibly irresponsible:
Clinton warns Iran of U.S. nuclear response
Senator: ‘Massive retaliation’ for attack on Israel would likely include NATO

It's 3 AM!!!! Attack#Z@!!!

No way back

Perhaps we should just genuflect and cry hosanna when a Wall Street Journal editorial doesn't reflect the most mind numbing reactionary drivel available. Since Blog Simple is far too busy to contend with the aforementioned drivel, why, you may ask, are we about to contend with a fairly reasonable and lucid editorial, that by Thomas Frank?

Well, that's just the way we are around here. Why fight against the lunatic drivel that infests cable news, network news, the editorial pages across this great nation, not to mention the right wing echo chamber in blogland? It's a waste of time, we think, so most of our media criticism goes after the reporters at the New York Times and the Washington Post. They're the truly dangerous ones.

Mr. Frank's closes the editorial with this:
If Barack Obama or anyone else really cares to know what I think, I will simplify it all down to this. The landmark political fact of our time is the replacement of our middle-class republic by a plutocracy. If some candidate has a scheme to reverse this trend, they've got my vote, whether they prefer Courvoisier or beer bongs spiked with cough syrup. I don't care whether they enjoy my books, or would rather have every scrap of paper bearing my writing loaded into a C-47 and dumped into Lake Michigan. If it will help restore the land of relative equality I was born in, I'll fly the plane myself.
God know why the WSJ would print something that rejects what they have been cheerleading for over the last thirty years. A momentary raptus, perhaps. But in it, none the less, Mr. Frank makes a basic error, what he wants to go back to is a plutocracy. The plutocracy enabled a middle-class republic after World War II in its struggle to defeat communism, it always maintained control, that is up until now. What we have now is a kleptocracy, unleashed from the bounds of anti-communism, contemptuous of the law, seeing the bureaucracy as a ripe field for their depredations and the military as their private toy.

During the short span of seven years (yes, they got started during Reagan, but they've only taken full control under Bush), they have made a return to a sane plutocracy unachievable, unless Obama really is a miracle worker. There's no reason to believe he is. There's no reason to believe that there is much left to work with in this country's bureaucracy, civilian or military, not to mention its political class. They've remained silent (with a few honorable exceptions) and learned to live with powers that have flaunted their contempt for the solemn oaths to 'support and defend the constitution' as so much bullshit. There ranks are swollen with people whose only loyalty is personal, and to the money they're stealing.

So, Mr. Frank may as well save his papers for posterity. There is no going back. Getting rid of the current kleptocrats will require the use of the powers that they themselves devised, that is, extra-constitutional means. That shouldn't be too hard, this current crop of would be Caesars lack any talent for ruling, they still believe in money, even as they act to remove its legal underpinnings. Their corruption will be their undoing, even if it takes a while.

But there is no going back.
(h/t Sadly, No!)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sadr and Maliki

If the interpretation of events that are discussed in Blog Simple's last post has legs, then the latest news from Iraq needs to be looked at even more carefully.

There are two main developments:
  1. It's reported that the Iraqi army has taken over Basra, encountering some resistance from Sadr's militia, which soon melted away.
  2. Sadr has issued a warning, that if attacks on, and arrests of his followers continue then, "Of course, you know this means war." I suggest you read Missing Links translation from the original Sadr statement.
If Porter's right, and Maliki and Sadr are in cahoots to avoid a joint US/Brit attack on Basra, this is a way to avoid it. Faked action and fake victory. It would also explain the Iranian support for the action, where both of their actors win, and the US has to sit back on the sidelines, with time running out on the Bush administration, perhaps. Expect more to follow soon, the situation is very fluid.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Or at least it would be a bombshell if it was reported in the MSM, in which I do not include the Asia Times.

Gareth Porter is reporting that Maliki's attack on Basra was done to head off a joint US/British attack on the same city.

He also confirms Blog Simple's assertion that Cheney pressured Maliki about the attack:
When Vice President Dick Cheney, who had previously played the "bad cop" in the George W Bush administration's relations with Maliki, visited Baghdad in mid-March, one of his objectives was to get Maliki to go along with the Petraeus plan to eliminate the commanding position of Muqtada's forces in Basra. Maliki has told Iraqi officials that Cheney put pressure on him to go along with the Basra operation, according one Iraqi source.
Now it seems that Maliki, our good bud is being looked at suspiciously by the US:
When the Basra operation became an obvious disaster, however, Washington officials began to question Maliki's motives. On the third day of the operation, as Bush administration officials were reassessing what they described as "a rapidly deteriorating situation in southern Iraq", one official told the Washington Post's Peter Baker they were comparing conspiracy theories about why Maliki had acted so precipitously.

Although that comment was not explained, it clearly implied that Maliki was deliberately undermining the US objective of eliminating the Mahdi Army by using US and British troops.
Stranger and stranger.

He puts it so well

"So long as I'm the president, my measure of success is victory -- and success."
-Feckless Leader
(h/t Dan Froomkin)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Berlusconi bis

A good look at the bad news that the election of Berlusconi means for Italy over at openDemocracy.

Italy's hour of darkness is indeed nigh, if it just lasts an hour, even in a metaphoric sense, would be good news. But like the US, the problems are so ingrained, the politics in play so remote from confronting them (rather making them worse), that things will have to get a lot more uncomfortable to wake people up. In both countries, that process is going to last a lot more than an hour.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Free ride?

In an article that is a masterpiece of historical and strategic obtuseness, AP reporter Anne Flaherty explains that "Iraq's financial free ride" may be ending. That holy grail of politics, bipartisanship, is moving to make Iraq pay to rebuild their devastated country, buy the fuel for the US military in Iraq, fund the so called Awakening militias, and perhaps even pay a share of the colossal corruption that the US taxpayer has been so selflessly financing.

The odd thing about bipartisanship, apart from the cheerleading in the press that greets it, is that the policies it espouses are even more stupid than the partisan policies. It ain't easy, but they do it. The thought of Maliki funding people who would gladly and cheerfully cut his throat sails by without comment or reflection.

Arriving from the moon and reading the article, one would think of Iraq as a prosperous, tranquil country that has been sponging off of the US due to its foolish but incredibly generous nature. About four million refugees, around one million dead, continuous bombing, electricity for few hours a day is just not worthy of comment by our congresscritters, or our reporter. Perhaps they did just arrive from the moon?

Another win

Chalk up another win for the kleptocrats with Berlusconi's victory in the Italian election. Like with Bush, electing him once could be forgiven, the second time shows a profoundly delusional electorate. The big lies, broadcast relentlessly by a press that is owned by the candidate himself (in Berlusconi's case) continue to blind people, not just to some form of justice and the greater good, but to their own self-interest.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Life is good again

Why? Because Fafblog is back!

Rinse, repeat

The latest 'victory' tour by Petraeus and Crocker lacks the luster of their last appearance. The Basra blunder, the vulnerability of the Green Zone as well as the escalating cost of the adventure meant that triumphal statements had to be avoided. The fall back was that always used by this administration, stonewall. If you refuse to talk about something, it doesn't exist.

So, apart from the troop reduction from surge levels (if that really happens), the war will grind on as it has for the last five years. Senseless, expensive destruction is the fact, stability and progress are the facade that is touted. It can only get worse, and after the surge facade is chipped away, it will be necessary to create another.

So it's just about time to drag Fred Kagan and the other AEI clowns out to write Op-Eds in the NYT and WaPo to show that victory really is just around the corner, if we just try... what? More troops seem to be lacking, the US is already bombing everything that moves, so these guys are really going to have to put on their thinking caps, such as they are. Wait, what about Iran?!?!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Tit for tat

Blog Simple commented on the storm of criticism of Switzerland by the US for making a deal to buy Iranian gas. Naturally, the criticism wasn't limited to the US, Israel also pitched in, as well as the World Jewish Congress. Scandalous Swiss!

The Guardian points out a strange but true fact about the US's best every ally:
This righteous indignation was entirely predictable but more than a little odd nevertheless. On March 30, the Swiss newspaper Sonntag retaliated with the revelation that Israel, supposedly observing an ironclad boycott of all things Iranian, has been buying Iranian oil for years.
Do you think the US is going to get all huffy about that, too? Naw, I didn't think so either.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Too bad, Boris

Yesterday I said that Putin was going to address NATO today. Whether he will or not, he will not speak publicly.

Gee, I wonder who insisted on that?

Yoo's memos

Scott Horton's must read article today is You Two. He traces the Yoo torture memos through the DOJ and the Pentagon, and clearly elucidates the crimes that were committed.
He says:
The circumstances under which the memoranda were prepared and issued constitute a joint criminal enterprise involving individual actors; the memos were issued as part of an actual plan to induce individuals to commit criminal acts by ensuring that their crimes would never be investigated or prosecuted. Under the standards of United States v. Altstoetter it was reasonably foreseeable that the issuance of these memoranda would result in serious harm, including assault, torture and death, to protected persons in the custody of the United States. Accordingly, each of the actors, including the memoranda writers, is criminally liable. As a product of a joint criminal enterprise, none of the legal memoranda has any force or effect as a legal opinion. It is particularly noteworthy that the major focus of Yoo Two is the criminal liability of the actors.
What he writes towards the end is the most interesting to me, and the most important. He's speaking about the reaction of others to this story:
On the other hand, I was amazed speaking with colleagues today who expressed their “torture exhaustion.” “But we already knew all this,” one said to me. “But how can you know about it, know that the nightmare still hasn’t stopped, and not be infuriated?” I answered. “Have you abandoned all sense of ownership, or at least of participation, in the American idea?”
The colleague of course is correct. Even without the specific memos, what had happened, what is still happening is clear. The claims of dictatorial powers and the corruption of justice have been resisted by some, mostly in the military justice area. Many have been punished. But the Congress, the bar, and most of the bureaucracy have been mute, or worse. They remain mute.

Horton concludes:
Silence will buy us a continuation of this corruption of our nation. But isn’t it worth raising your voice and articulating your anger to get our country back? It should start with insisting that Congress use the tools it has–oversight and the budget–to force changes. Say “no” to torture; it’s an easy first step on the road back to decency.
But without impeachment on the table, Congress will face the same stonewalling that has impeded them in the past. This latest Congress, controlled by the Democrats, is the accomplice of the administration unless they use their powers to oppose it. They continue to show no sign that they are willing to do this.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Basra redux

The new line from the Times' cadre of stenographers has been polished up and has now been presented for your edification.

Pretending that Maliki acted on his own in attacking Basra just couldn't wash, so the new story is that everything was super well planned, but Maliki took the bit between his teeth, attacked too fast, and screwed everything up. The main facts of the story are related by Governor Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

In Baghdad, Mr. Crocker lobbied senior officials in the Iraqi government, who complained that they had been excluded from Mr. Maliki’s decision-making on Basra, to back the prime minister’s effort there.

“I stressed the point that this was a moment of national crisis, and they had to think nationally,” Mr. Crocker said. “Because nobody should think that failure in Basra is going to benefit any element of the Iraqi community. The response was good. I have not found any element of the Iraqi government that will admit to being consulted.”

Crocker words, for the three intrepid reporters at least, are as truthful as scripture, though the fact that the account is different from that given earlier by Feckless Leader and others previously quoted by the NYT is never mentioned.

Essentially, the story is a whitewash of the roles of Crocker and Petraeus in the whole disaster, supported by the testimony of Crocker and unnamed officials. That is its goal. Pathetic is too kind.

NATO says niet

As anticipated, NATO did not accept the applications by the Ukraine and Georgia for pre-membership. France and Germany had already made their positions clear, so why Feckless Leader decided to make an ass of himself once again is anyone's guess. Greece, angry that Macedonia is called 'Macedonia', blocked the application of the home of the fruit salad.

Nothing yet about US requests for more troops for the excellent adventure in Afghanistan. Expect some face saving measures.

Putin addresses NATO tomorrow. That should be interesting.


Here are some impressions about what is going on in Iraq.
  • As M K Bhadrakumar says at the Asia Times, the US (Cheney) pushed Maliki to attack Basra. Without control over Basra, the oil companies cannot come in. The attack was planned before Cheney's visit, but he probably gave the reluctant Maliki a 'my way or the highway' ultimatum. The 'the highway' being a euphemism for 'dead'.
  • The strategy obviously failed (another sign of Cheney's involvement).
  • The US, faced with the failure, made up the big lie that it was all Maliki's idea, and they didn't even know it was going to happen. Straight shooter John McCainiac was the chief beneficiary of the lie.
  • Once more via Bhadrakumar, the Iranians were able to sit down with Sadr, the Badr boys and Maliki, and get a ceasefire within 48 hours with a shooting war in progress. Pretty damn impressive.
  • The ceasefire doesn't include the Green Zone, where people are getting antsy under the bombardments. There's talk of a lot of people moving to the ironically named Camp Victory, which has the benefit of being at the airport.
  • As usual, the obedient press pretends that with the ceasefire in Basra, we've returned to the normalcy that the surge is working, nothing more to report, especially not the Green Zone bombardments.
  • The real question about the surge is if the facade can be maintained up to the elections.
  • It won't be easy.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Happy Days

The markets euphoria over the UBS and Deutsche Bank write-downs seemed a bit odd, but perhaps the rally was more over the release of Paulson's letter:
"I support this action as appropriate and in the government's interest, and acknowledge that if any loss arises out of the special facility extended by the (New York Fed) to (JP Morgan), the loss will be treated by the (New York Fed) as an expense that may reduce the net earnings transferred by the (New York Fed) to the Treasury general fund," Paulson wrote to New York Fed President Timothy Geithner.
There's nothing like the scent of free money from the government to bring out the bulls. Just as in the Savings and Loan fiasco, it will be the Treasury to pay for all the bad bets by investment bankers (in this case). Only we can expect this bailout to be a lot more expensive.