Saturday, May 30, 2009


It's always hard to interpret the policy implications from speeches given by administration officials, no matter what the administration. Still, the latest offering by SecDef Gates concerning North Korea has left us scratching our heads.

Asserting that the US will 'not accept it as a nuclear weapons state' seems on the surface the usual belligerence that was so common during the Bush administration. But it also has some unstated implications.

Firstly, N. Korea is now a 'nuclear weapons state', whether the US likes it or not. So that ups the stated level of belligerence to something approaching a direct threat.

Next, the statement also can imply that North Korea could be accepted by the US, if they give up their nuclear weapons. Up to now, since the Korean War, the US has never recognized North Korea as a legitimate state, even though for most of that time they had no nuclear weapons program.

But whatever the implications, the US is on the road to increase, rather than decrease tensions. The current South Korean regime has also been moving down that path. Some think that skirmishes might start soon around islands in the Yellow Sea.

We'd like to remind Gates of the words of Caspar Gutman, "That is an attitude, sir, that calls for the most delicate judgment on both sides, because, as you know, sir, men are likely to forget in the heat of action where their best interests lie and let their emotions carry them away."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


DPRK's latest nuke test has all the other actors in the play clucking, and in the case of the US, of course, huffing and puffing.

For whatever reason, the four months of the Obama administration have seen the North Koreans determined to convince all that they have given up on the six-party talks, regard South Korea as being unacceptably aggressive, and no longer see China or Russia as a counterweight to US designs in the region.

The nuclear test, along with the missile tests, are just the latest step in responding to the new situation that basically started when the US added new conditions to moving ahead with negotiations to denuclearize N. Korea. While that started in the dog days of the Bush administration, Obama has had four months to at least try to start anew, but it has instead done nothing. That, to the DPRK, is as good as saying that there is no new policy.

That was confirmed by the UN condemnation after the 'satellite launch'. As with the Iranians, the surrounded nations are asked to first surrender, then talk. As they have seen with Saddam, it doesn't matter how compliant one is, each surrender is always match by moving the goalposts for the next round. Iran, so far, has kept cool, but the N. Koreans seem to be trying another strategy, escalate before the other guy can. From their point of view, it makes sense.

For all of Obama's pre-election talk about diplomacy, there is little evidence that the administration sees it as anything but a photo-op. Once again, we see Bush policies painted over with a smiley face by President HopeChange. I hope this will change, but don't expect it to.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Joe takes a trip

Shorter Joe Biden:
Lebanon, I just came here to say that democracy means voting for who we want or else. Look at the Palestinians.

Unlucky duckies

US Treasury Secretary Geithner 'vowed' to cut the federal deficit. The target is 'about 3%' from the current 12.9%.

What he didn't say is how the deficit will be cut. Discretionary spending? Well, after defense spending there isn't much there to cut, and to cut defense spending would mean renouncing either giant weapons projects or the excellent wars. Not likely. Tax increases? Don't make me laugh. And that leaves entitlements.

My prediction: Obama is going to go full Bush pretty soon, and the target is going to be social security. He's already succeeded in dividing 'the left' over war, rights, and torture, now he'll try to divide on the need to 'restructure' social security. In this day and age, the trillion dollars stashed away in the social security trust isn't all that much, but every little bit counts to get the deficit down as well as funnel to his bankster buddies.

And for the topper:

Also yesterday, Geithner said the U.S.’s $700 billion financial rescue package can’t be used to aid cities and states facing budget crises.

The law “does not appear to us to provide a viable way of responding to that challenge,” Geithner told a House Appropriations subcommittee in Washington. Among the hurdles: money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program was designed for financial companies, he said.

Too bad, states and cities, you unlucky duckies, no TARP money for you! Banksters get it all, despite Geithner's best efforts, ha, ha!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Escalation times six

Tom Engelhardt at TomDispatch does his usual excellent job in describing Obama's six-fold escalation in the AfPak war.

But I think his best point is the following:
For those old enough to remember, we've been here before. Administrations that start down a path of expansion in such a war find themselves strangely locked in -- psychically, if nothing else -- if things don't work out as expected and the situation continues to deteriorate. In Vietnam, the result was escalation without end. President Obama and his foreign policy team now seem locked into an expanding war. Despite the fact that the application of force has not only failed for years, but actually fed that expansion, they also seem to be locked into a policy of applying ever greater force, with the goal of, as the Post's Ignatius puts it, cracking the "Taliban coalition" and bringing elements of it to the bargaining table.
From being the backwater in the ex-GWOT, and now the forefront of the OCO, AfPak has all the elements of a really long war. US troop levels for Afghanistan are going to hit 68,000 this year, and you can bet the generals are planning a another increase even as we blog. The new Camp Leatherneck is said to be for at least 8,000 troops in the aptly named 'Desert of Death'. Expect it to grow. From there its only a hop, skip and a jump to Quetta, in Pakistan, where Mullah Omar is said to hang out.

Meanwhile, the other side of the AfPak war, that is Pakistan, continues to create refugees in the hundreds of thousands. Zardari is taking the new billions he's been promised seriously, and has unleashed the kind of war that reminds one of Gen. Sherman and his march to the sea. So far the Taliban have been taking their lumps and the Pakistani press is all rah-rah. We predict the enlargement of that theater into the heart of Pakistan in the near future. Let's see how rah-rah they are when that happens.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Tomorrow's dueling speeches by Obama and Cheney regarding 'national security' continues the farcical hoopla about Nancy Pelosi's torture record, the danger to America from Gitmo's finest, and Obama's pressure on Israel.

It's the US at its bizarro best, barrels of ink, giant clouds of hot air, and the sanctified halls of Congress echoing the cry, 'we all going to die' in a splendid bipartisan chorus; all serving only to hide Obama's unswerving continuance of Bush/Cheney's policies from the befuddled public.

Sure, Cheney's pissed that he'd be on the front lines of any torture investigation, and Obama's release of the torture memos rubbed that in his face, but he knows that there will be no investigation. He may feel the need to reassure his henchmen still in the bureaucracy that he has their back, but by now they know that Obama has it too.

In a sane world, Cheney, the AEI, Netanyahu, etc. would all be cheering on this administration from the depths of their black little hearts, but in this year 2009 the sane world is, if nothing else, quiet as a mouse. The lunatics have the stage.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Does is get more obvious?

"Got the little single-payer advocates up here."
-Barack Obama

It took Feckless Leader over a year and 9/11 before he started swaggering around the flight deck like John Wayne on steroids. Before that he was a humble little guy reading My Pet Goat for schoolchildren.

Where does our New Leader get off calling anyone little? Do you get to do that after you give trillions of dollars to banksters? Or is after you escalate another idiotic war and blow up 90 or so children?

This act is getting stale, fast.


The more Obama swings to the right, the crazier the right seems to get. One could deduce that they're doing this because the ground is being cut out beneath their feet, that provides an explanation of why they went bonkers with our last right wing Prez, Clinton.

But whatever the motivation, the result is to provide cover for Obama as he morphs into an articulate George W. Bush (still known around here as Feckless Leader). It also provides cover for the Democratic Congress as it continues to genuflect before their masters (those who finance them) while screwing those who voted for them.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Public Service Post

One of the fun things about blogging is looking at where your readership comes from. Since Blog Simple's readership is composed of, let us say charitably, a select few, it's easy and quick. God knows what the big sites do, probably just ignore it.

We've usually got a few folks a week looking (googling) for 'simple blog', and hopefully we are of some service there. For a while there were hits looking for 'big black dick', thankfully those have gone away and won't return, even after this post.

Many, more than the previous two, come from people looking for information on 'selph', 'momon' or 'pressley'. These relate to army corruption cases that have come out of Iraq and Kuwait. Blog Simple wrote a series of posts about them and especially the lack of interest shown by the national press. Though the national press may lack interest, the URLs of our visitors makes it clear that there are many in the military who are interested.

So, as a public service, here is a quick summary of previous posts with a follow up below that reviews the latest news:
  • 9/1/2007 - Skeletons - Levonda Selph worked for Gen. Petraeus.
  • 6/11/2008 - Lt. Co. Levonda Selph - more on Selph and Petraeus.
  • 8/11/2008 - An army of many - WSJ article provided the reporting, unfortunately the article is now behind a paywall. The article speculates that 70 or more officers were involved. Momon is named. This post got a comment from Guillermo Contreras of the San Antonio Express News that pointed to his two articles on the same subject. Unfortunately one of the articles is no longer available.
  • 9/12/2008 - Corruption - covers the two articles by Contreras. They were certainly the most complete look at the whole affair.
Levonda Selph and James Momon have already pleaded guilty to their crimes (Selph's was really quite minor). Lately, a few articles have reported the following:
A 23-count indictment unsealed today alleges that a civilian contractor paid more than $2.8 million in bribes to a U.S. Army contracting official stationed at Camp Arifjan, an Army base in Kuwait, and the official's wife, and that the three individuals committed honest services fraud and money laundering offenses in connection with the same conduct, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division announced.

The indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Alabama, charges Terry Hall, 43, of Snellville, Ga., with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, one substantive bribery count, eight counts of honest services wire fraud, one count of money laundering conspiracy and one count of engaging in monetary transactions in criminal proceeds.

Hall was originally indicted in the District of Columbia on Nov. 20, 2007, and charged with one count of bribery of a U.S. Army contracting official at Camp Arifjan. On Sept. 4, 2008, Hall was charged in a superseding indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, two substantive bribery counts and two honest services wire fraud counts. The government will seek dismissal of the D.C. indictments so that Hall can be tried together with his co-conspirators, named in the Alabama indictment unsealed today.

In the Alabama indictment, U.S. Army Major Eddie Pressley, 39, and his wife, Eurica Pressley, 37, both of Harvest, Ala., are charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, one substantive count of bribery, eight counts of honest services wire fraud, one count of money laundering conspiracy and eleven counts of engaging in monetary transactions in criminal proceeds.

Pressley, it seems, has branched out into being a developer in Alabama. But why the indictment was issued there is an open question. The first indictments were issued in DC. It's also interesting that apart from Momon, no one but the two Pressleys and Hall are mentioned in the reporting.

We've come along way from the original WSJ article where perhaps 70 officers were involved. There may be, of course, more indictments down the road, but this latest gives us the impression that the DOJ is working hard to keep this out of the limelight and to put a cap on the whole issue. Using the compromised US attorney's office in Alabama adds to our suspicions.

We will post on this again if any more details come out. Don't hold your breath.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Swatting Taliban

Zardari has returned from his meeting with Obama determined to crush the Taliban, we are told. One of the key points is:
No compromise on national sovereignty, no surrender to Taliban
I fear the concept of national sovereignty is not well understood by Zardari and other Pakistanis, perhaps intentionally.

When your actions are dictated by a foreign power you haven't got national sovereignty, you are a client state. Zardari, Kiyani and Gilani are acting in their own interests and that of the US. Their actions in Swat and the surrounding regions will weaken the state, as well as cause much death and misery for their own people.

The peace deal in Swat was a surrender to powers inside the country, this war is a surrender to powers outside the country. Which is worse? Or maybe they're the same.

Insurgents can't function without substantial support from the people. Why would many people in Swat support the Taliban rather than the state? Could it be that they see the state as having no interest in their wellbeing? How can indiscriminate bombing and open warfare convince them that the state cares for their wellbeing, and isn't just acting in the interest of the US?

When military operations end, the Taliban will be stronger than ever in Swat.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Karzai Kapers

What with Karzai and Zardari visiting President Obama today (they get twenty minutes each!), both the WaPo and the NYT serve as mouthpieces for the administration's attempt to pressure them into acquiescing to the still nebulous policies of the administration.

Zardari has already launched an attack on Swat with the potential to create hundreds of thousands of new refugees. But his political strength lies only in being the friend of the US, he has little choice but to follow the dictates of his masters. There's little doubt that his political future in Pakistan is closing, the US has gone as far as to make nice to Sharif, who has always been thought of as Washington's enemy. At this point, it looks like either Sharif or another military dictatorship will soon be in power in Islamabad.

Karzai, on the other hand, though seeming more vulnerable, has been quietly manuveuring to win the upcoming elections and to stay on as mayor of Kabul, while keeping elbow room between him and US policies that continue to slaughter Afghan civilians. Unless Obama is going to pull some rough stuff, it looks like he's going to have to deal with Karzai for the foreseeable future. Maybe he should give him more than twenty minutes?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Push comes to shove

Two of the US's best friends in the world will be visiting DC this week, Afghanistan's Karzai, and Pakistan's Zardari are going to huddle up with Obama, I guess to work on strategy. Obama's ideas on strategy might not coincide with his visitors though.

Karzai has been the object of a press campaign for months now, portraying him as weak, corrupt, and basically unsuitable to be the mayor of Kabul, while Zardari has taken the brunt of the bad press over the Taliban's latest moves in Swat and Bruner. Since most of the bad press is the result of leaking from inside the administration, K and Z might suspect that their reception might be, if not cold, at least on the chilly side. Since the US can do no wrong, it's clear to all that greater effort by our two allies is needed, and quick.

Having the two in the same meeting goes to reinforce the idea that it is now the AfPak war, and the two nations and their leaders are going to be required to sink or sail on together. If they're going to keep steering for shore, it might be necessary to jetison some balast, and I expect it to be made clear to Karzai and Zardari that they will be the first to go overboard.

Though Karzai gets the most of the bad press, it seems that now Zardari is the most vulnerable. Today the Asia Times says that the US wants to bring Sharif on board in a power sharing arraingement, while others are hinting at the need to return to a military dictatorship.

As usual, scan heed is paid to any views that might be held by the Pakistanis or Afghanis. The US, despite its past lessons in Vietnam, Iran, or Iraq stays true to form. It simply cannot learn anything, the necessity to maintain its illusions override everything.

Looked at from that perspective, only the first six years of the Bush administration showed the will to overcome those illusions. They were quickly replaced by others that proved even more damaging, dangerous, and downright depraved, so we had to scurry back to our old ways. Obama is a perfect representative of those old ways, everyone is expected to see things his way, and when they don't, he and the US just can't understand why.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


Wyatt Mason is no longer going to post at Harper's.

Friday, May 01, 2009

International Workers Day

Happy May Day!