2007-08-29

Morning Report: August 29, 2007

What's changed in Anbar - and why. Plus some thoughts on the Iranian connection.

US arrests, releases eight Iranians in Iraq; IRI regime in a huff. Bloomberg: 'U.S. forces released eight Iranians in Baghdad after searching their hotel rooms and questioning them at a coalition base, the military said. Those detained are officials working on Iraqi electricity projects, Iran said. The Iranians were with seven Iraqis when their four vehicles were stopped at a checkpoint near the capital's Sheraton Hotel yesterday, the U.S. military said today in an e-mailed statement. The military didn't say why the group was detained. An AK-47 rifle and two pistols were taken from the Iraqis, who were ``serving as a protective detail,'' the military said.' CNN: 'Yassin Majid, an aide to Iraq's prime minister, said the Iranians who were detained were employed by Tehran's power ministry and were invited by Iraqi government officials to the capital to sign an electricity supply contract. They were released Wednesday morning, he said. The U.S. military said the delegation was released "to Iraqi officials" following "consultation with the government of Iraq." According to Iran's ambassador in Baghdad, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, U.S. military forces escorted the Iranians to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office after their release at 7 a.m. (11 p.m. ET Tuesday), Iran's official news agency IRNA reported Wednesday.' AP: ' Iran on Wednesday summoned a Swiss diplomat who represents American interests here to protest the U.S. forces' detention of eight Iranians, including two diplomats, in Baghdad, the Foreign Ministry said.'

ITM: Crossing Anbar. Omar at Iraq the Model:
The several hundred kilometer western section of the international highway is technically Iraq's second "port" in a way as it connects Iraq with Syria and Jordan and was for years the only window to the world when all airports and the southern ports in Basra were closed to traffic in the 1990s.

For most of the time between 2004 and 2007 taking this road was considered suicidal behavior as the chance someone would be robbed or killed was too high. But with the tribal awakening in Anbar that cleared large parts of the province from al-Qaeda the highway is expected to be safer, but how much safer?

My family returned yesterday from a vacation in Syria and they have used this road twice in six weeks. I had tried hard to convince them not to do that and take a flight instead but now after hearing their story I'm convinced that my fear was not justified; the road is safe…

This is good not only for Iraq's economy and traveling but also for the American troops who can use this road as an alternative supply route in case the British troops withdraw and leave the strategic southern highway between Kuwait and Baghdad unguarded.


Taheri on IRGC. Amir Taheri:
... IRGC is more of a franchise chain than a corporation controlled by a board of directors. This is why a more sophisticated approach may be needed in dealing with it.

The IRGC is divided into five commands, each of which has a direct line to the "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi, a mid-ranking mullah, himself one of the earliest members of the force in 1980.

To minimise the risk of coup d'etat, IRGC's senior officers of are not allowed to engage in "sustained communication" with one another on "sensitive subjects."

Of the five commands in question, two could be regarded as"terrorist" according to the US State Department's definition that, needless to say, is rejected by the Islamic Republic.

One, which includes the so-called Jerusalem (Quds) Corps, is in charge of exporting the revolution. Apart from Hezballah and Hamas it runs a number of radical groups across the globe.

The second command that could be targeted deals with internal repression. It operates through several auxiliary forces, including the notorious Karbala brigades charged with crushing popular revolts in Tehran. Many Iranians see these as instruments of terror.

The IRGC's officers' corps, including those in retirement, numbers around 55,000 and is as divided on domestic and foreign policies as the rest of the society.


Michael Yon on Anbar. Michael Yon:
... Any premature history of this war will be as simplistic as a woven carpet, but some patterns are clear
even today: crushing Fallujah backfired. If only because the timing assured a near total Sunni boycott of the first and most important national election, the start of nation-building politics, the same process that is now so widely acknowledged as the only path to a secure and self-sufficient Iraq.

... Al Qaeda has a management style—doing drugs, laying up sloppy drunk, raping women and boys, and cutting off heads, all while imposing strict morality laws on the locals—that makes it clear that they have one set of principles for themselves, and another for everyone else.

In that kind of scheme, it didn’t take long before people in Anbar realized that any benefits from al Qaeda having control would not be distributed equally. Once that realization spread, the tribal sheiks—almost all Sunni—had to consider the alternatives.

The sheiks of Anbar turned against al Qaeda because the sheiks are businessmen, and al Qaeda is bad for business. But they didn’t suddenly trust Americans just because they no longer trusted al Qaeda. They are not suddenly blood allies. This is business, and that’s fine, because if there is one thing America is good at, it’s business.

Reframed thus from a position of strength, this stage of the Anbar-war is more a sort of business transaction, where alliances beneficial to all sides—except al Qaeda—are formed. From this perspective, there is now a moment of genuine ground-floor opportunity in Anbar, if the people here can see that by doing business with the Coalition, everyone benefits—except al Qaeda, an exclusion that most can live with.

Go read the whole thing, and pay attention to the captions on the very powerful photo-essay. Key concept: Self-sacrifice or self-interest - which is the more reliable motivator of people?

Commentary. This morning, Omar's post has described just how much Anbar has changed, and Michael Yon has explained how it got that way - however tenuous that progress may still be, at this early stage. But Omar also wrote that while western Iraq has improved, the south has gotten worse:
Back in 2004 when taking the Anbar highway was out of question for me, the Sunni dentist, I made the trip back and fourth between Baghdad and Basra countless times without any fear. Now, I'm ready to try the trip through the west, but going south through the militia infested land is something I'd never dare do at this stage.

We'll need to keep watching.

By the way, you can download that Counterinsurgency Field Manual (pdf) at the link.

2007-08-28

Morning Report: August 28, 2007

Plus ca change ... Another Bush Administration shakeup, another "pro-family" politician in the slammer for indecency. In Iraq, building a police force proves a daunting task, while Democrats in the US ponder their next move.

Gonzales resigns. US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has resigned. 'Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ resignation Monday after months of draining controversy drew expressions of relief from Republicans and a vow from Democrats to pursue their investigation into fired federal prosecutors. President Bush, Gonzales’ most dogged defender, told reporters he had accepted the resignation reluctantly. “His good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons,” Bush said. The president named Paul Clement, the solicitor general, as a temporary replacement. ...' GayPatriot comments: 'AG Gonzo never impressed me much. I just hate that the Democrats invented the “US Attorneys Scandal” which was a lot of wailing about nothing.' Tammy Bruce: 'Good riddance. This will be my segment topic this morning for my usual Fox appearance at 10:20am ET. While the attorney firings which preceded this were completely legal, the handling of the entire episode was inept. The Iraq situation is somewhat parallel to this scenario--going in was the right thing to do, but the aftermath has been handled with rank incompetence. What are the chances the president will take Gonzales lead and resign.'

Idaho's Senator Larry Craig arrested. Senator Larry Craig (R - ID) was arrested following complaints of lewd conduct, and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct. 'Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, who has voted against gay marriage and opposes extending special protections to gay and lesbian crime victims, finds his political future in doubt after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from complaints of lewd conduct in a men's room.'

Standard: China hacks Berlin. Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard: 'Spiegel reports that Chinese hackers have targeted computer networks operated by the German government. "German security officials managed to stop the theft of 160 gigabytes of data which were in the process of being siphoned off German government computers," the magazine reports. And Chancellor Merkel, who is currently in China, apparently raised the issue with Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao. ... Earlier this year, military officials at the Naval Network Warfare Command told reporters that Chinese hackers "will exploit anything and everything" and that the nature of the attacks makes it "hard to believe it’s not government-driven.” It seems German officials have come to the same conclusion.'

Michael Totten: The future of Iraq. Michael Totten: 'Mushadah is a bad area with bad police and a bad police station. The building itself is filthy and ramshackle. The stairs to the second floor are murderously uneven, not because they’ve been damaged but because they were built by incompetents. I’ve seen dodgy construction in Iraq – even at Saddam’s palaces, believe it or not – but this station was the worst. I’ll spare you a description of the bathroom.' Read the article to find out how corruption and Sunni-Shi'a tensions complicate the mission, why tempers flare when three fuel cans go AWOL, and how life as a US Army officer in an Iraqi police station compares with a career as an investment banker.

Helicopters on the roof. Neo-neocon:
But something funny happened on the way to General Petraeus’s September 2007 report to Congress: the surge began to work.

And now the Democrats face a different prospect if the trend continues: they may have to acknowledge that they were wrong in opposing the surge (in certain cases, in writing it off before it truly began). They might even lose the 2008 election as a result. Or, if victorious, they would have to make tough decisions about how to prosecute the rest of the war. If the latter occurs they will, ironically, find themselves in what might be called “the Nixon position”—that is, they’ll have to decide how to finish a difficult war that another party’s administration began.

Iraq has been rife with Vietnam analogies from the start, and Congress’s evaluation of the surge’s chances is no exception. A key image from Vietnam was that of the famous helicopters on the roof, a scene representing the chaotic and shameful abandonment of our allies there.

That memory was invoked early on in Iraq by none other than Saddam Hussein who, according to this article by Melvin Laird, played the images over and over on Iraqi television during the buildup to the Iraq war in order to remind his population not to trust a United States that had a history of abandoning those whom it sought to liberate.

The same image was recalled by Sen. Joseph Biden when the surge was being proposed in January of 2007. Biden was adamantly against the troop increase, stating his concern that the Bush administration’s motive for the change in policy was to postpone the bitter end in Iraq so that the next President (presumably a Democrat?) would “be the guy landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof.”
Now that the Democrats—including the Presidential candidates—are beginning to realize that the war is probably going to last until at least the January 2009 inauguration to which they’ve been counting down so vigorously and so hopefully, it behooves them to consider how they will handle the situation if they are in charge of Congress and/or the Presidency at that time.


Commentary. I'm going to come back to Michael's post, which he titles simply "The Future of Iraq." One of the themes that keeps coming through is that while individual assessments of the overall situation vary, those people with the most "boots-on-the-ground" experience seem to be the most upbeat.
“I am optimistic,” [Col. Steele] said. “But only for one single reason. Because I talk to the average Joe in Iraq. I meet the children and parents. Iraqi parents love their children as much as I love mine.”

I knew what he meant. Counterintuitive and contradictory as it may seem, I never felt more optimistic in Iraq than I did when I walked the streets and interacted with average Iraqis. Iraq looks more doomed from inside the base than it does outside on the street, and it looks more doomed from across the Atlantic than it does from inside the base.

And:
“Are you optimistic about [the Iraqi Police]?” I said.

“Oh, absolutely,” [an International Police Advisor] said. “The Iraqi Police are like sponges. It’s all new to them.”

“Lots of American soldiers I’ve talked to about the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police don’t think very highly of them,” I said.

“Look,” he said. “The other contractors I know who train the police are also optimistic. Many file extensions to stay longer because they feel like they’re making a difference. I never hear anything negative from any of them. We watch the Iraqis progress over time because we work with them daily. Most American soldiers don’t see the progress because they observe the Iraqis from more of a distance. You yourself are only seeing a snapshot in time. If you think it looks bad now, you should have been here two months ago.”

2007-08-27

Neocon thugs for war!

You might wonder whether the title of Scott Horton's piece in Harper's, Those Thuggish Neocons, is a parody. Actually no; neocons who have the insolence to question the veracity of sages like Scott Thomas Beauchamp are, by definition, thugs. And the liberal press has long since passed the outermost orbit of parody, and is hurtling deeper and deeper into the interstellar depths of psychosis.

So, here is Scott Horton at Harper's:
Over the last two weeks there was a flap over a piece published in The New Republic by an American soldier in Iraq named Scott Beauchamp. He described a number of gruesome scenes, some of which did not portray his fellow soldiers in the best of light. The piece drew ferocious blow-back from the Neocon war party, whose hallmark is complete control over the news on the ground and from the front ranks in Iraq. They viewed the report as a violation of their sacred monopoly and were determined to destroy Beauchamp and to lash out at The New Republic.

I have no idea whether Beauchamp’s story was accurate. ...

But that's not going to deter Scott Horton from telling a war story of his own:
But at this point I have seen enough of the Neocon corner’s war fables to immediately discount anything that emerges from it. One example: back last spring, when I was living in Baghdad, on Haifa Street, I sat in the evening reading a report by one of the core Neocon pack. He was reporting from Baghdad, and recounted a day he had spent out on a patrol with U.S. troops on Haifa Street. He described a peaceful, pleasant, upscale community. Children were out playing on the street. Men and women were out going about their daily business. Well, in fact I had been forced to spend the day “in the submarine,” as they say, missing appointments I had in town. Why? This bucolic, marvelous Haifa Street that he described had erupted in gun battles the entire day. In the view of my security guards, with which I readily concurred, it was too unsafe. And yes, I could hear the gunfire and watch some of the exchanges from my position. No American patrol had passed by and there were certainly no children playing in the street. This was the point when I realized that many of these accounts were pure fabrications.

Well, who was this disgraceful excuse for a journalist? A lot of us would like to know, just as we'd have liked to know more about Beauchamp's accomplices in the morally depraved acts he boasted of committing. (You know, the fellows who made fun of that burned woman soldier - or was she a contractor? - in Iraq ... or was it Kuwait? And why have we never heard from the burned woman herself?)

Pro-war or anti-war, liberal or neocon, a journalist who falsely reports on a war does our whole Nation a disservice. As Confederate Yankee says,
We need a thorough investigation, and if the charges are accurate, this liar should be purged from his news organization and the profession altogether.

But first, we need information. ...

Strangely enough, though, Scott Horton seems to be rather quiet when asked for any identifying details that might bring this neocon fabulist to justice. Odd, that.

Bookworm Room observes
a few striking things about Horton’s red hot attack on the conservative media and on the US military. The most obvious thing is how he glosses over the core fact, which is that Beauchamp lied. Beauchamp, perhaps with help from his wife (shades of Wilson/Plame here), got himself a huge forum in a nationally respected magazine to tell lies about the American troops. There was no witch hunt here, which implies that the person being hunted is innocent. Instead, what happened was that the new media instantly exposed a con man, a scam artist, someone who in the old days would probably have been derided and shunned for what he did. ...

And all this righteous rage on Horton's part, BR says,
is manufactured. What he can’t admit apparently, even to himself, is that someone told a lie that he hoped was the truth, and that this lie was then exposed. All he can do, therefore, is create a swirling sea of anger about everything but the initial lie, in the hopes of obscuring the truth at the core of it all — Beauchamp fabricated just about everything.

Go read the full post at the link.

My own thoughts: The liberal press is trashing the military again; the phrase "like it was going out of style" springs to mind. They're going down, and they know it; the Beauchamp affair stings because it's another nail in the coffin of liberal establishment journalism. And also, at some level, I think the press realize that the public does not have an endless appetite (or even tolerance) for military-bashing and America-bashing. The shtick is getting old. So, they are getting their last licks in while they can.

I'll be sure to update if - err, I mean, when - Scott Horton comes through with the name of this journalistic malpractitioner. But for now, I'll let George Roper have the last word:
Horton obviously wants us to believe, though he doesn't say, that both his experience and the "neo-con" report occurred on the same day, on the same street during the same time frame. That may or may not have been the case for I've heard many stories about peaceful scenes that were later pictures of hell. Mr. Horton, does the difference between 8:00:00 AM and 8:46:41 AM on September 11, 2001 on a certain densly populated island in New York ring a bell? If he is accurate, and the two "images" are the same at the same time on the same day in the same place then certainly the author of the "bucolic" scene deserves condemnation of the worst kind. But, notice that Mr. Horton does not name the day of the so called fictious story or the author of the false scene. Why would that be Mr. Horton? If you know of it, and don't reveal it one has to wonder why. Maybe you just didn't think it important? This could be your chance at immortality Mr. Horton... go on, tell us who, when, and what exactly happened and I'll be one of the very first to condem the scoundrel.

Senator Larry Craig (R - Idaho) Busted for Lewd Conduct

MSNBC:
Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho pleaded guilty this month to misdemeanor disorderly conduct after being arrested at the Minneapolis airport.

A Hennepin County court docket showed Craig pleading guilty to the disorderly conduct charge Aug. 8, with the court dismissing a charge of gross misdemeanor interference to privacy.

... Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, which first reported the case, said on its Web site Monday that Craig was arrested June 11 by a plainclothes officer investigating complaints of lewd conduct in a men’s restroom at the airport.


Gay Patriot:
I join Hugh Hewitt in saying that Idaho’s Senior Senator, Larry Craig, should resign.

I first read about this earlier this afternoon (Pacific Time) on Townhall’s blog. When I first saw the headline, I thought it was a reference to old unsubstantiated reports about the Senator seeking sexual liaisons in public restrooms.

Given those reports (which now apparently have more substance than I once believed), this man should have been understood that people were aware of his unsavory behavior. That he continued (despite the reports) suggests a terrible lapse in judgment.


Tammy Bruce:
The hypocritical Republican meltdown continues. This time it's the revelation that Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) was arrested on a lewd conduct charge in an airport bathroom.

Craig is a 62-year-old married man and allegedly, despite efforts to keep the arrest report secret, indicated in code to another man (a policeman--dontcha just hate it when that happens?) in the next stall that he wanted to engage in "lewd conduct." Craig, a senator with a 100% favorable rating from the Christian Coalition, quietly plead guilty. ...


CNN: Craig resigns from Romney campaign post.

Hugh Hewitt: Senator Craig should resign.

2007-08-20

Morning Report: August 20, 2007

In the news, an American ally ponders a new level of defensive weapons.

Israel Air Force may buy new Patriot system. Jerusalem Post: 'The Israel Air Force is deliberating whether to buy an improved model of the US-made Patriot missile defense system. Lockheed Martin offered the system, know as the PAC-3, to the IDF for the relatively low price of under $50 million, defense industry sources said. ...' Full article at the link.

And your humble blogger was there. Pajamas Media links to some of the bloggers who attended Blog Fest West here in San Francisco Saturday night. Cinnamon Stillwell posts a complete blogroster. Cinnamon adds: 'Billed as "The Right Side of the Left Coast," the event was an opportunity for those with right-leaning politics here in California to enjoy some likeminded company for a change. Even so, I'd have to say that it was a pretty eclectic crowd. No political litmus tests for us.' Roger Simon was there, and so was Jeremayakovka, who wrote: 'The affable event afforded a few dozen of California's more linearly critical thinkers an occasion to match a face to a url, to swap stories old and new, and to float ideas and visions. The fleshy forms of over 20 web sites attended, with all told over 40 attendees. True to form, when bloggers gathered in person, despite the tasty food and tempting drink appetite for conversation proved the strongest.'

Briefly noted. Or Does It Explode remembers the Yezidi victims of the recent terrorist bombing in Iraq.

Commentary. We've got some first-rate analysis on the feed reader this morning. There's an Iraq SitRep at The Middle Ground, with several items sharing the common theme of increasing cooperation and effectiveness of Iraqi and Coalition forces. Kat then provides a view of the French officials' visit to Iraq:
Chirac had been attempting to position France as a leader among the European Union nations and create a separate economic and strategic sphere from the US. Multiple problems arose to challenge his plans including French unemployment and economic stagnations as well as the other European nations not being too keen on France being the center of the European universe. Another flag appeared last winter when the Russian's flexed their muscle, cutting off natural gas to the Ukraine, thus, European nations. It became very obvious that, despite the end of the Cold War, Russia was not adverse to making its power in Europe known. The Europeans could do nothing about it except complain mightily.

With France being dependent on Russian and Iranian oil and natural gas, Iraq becomes a pivotal point where Sarkozy believes that they need to become more active to insure Iraq is stabilized. Particularly as Iran continues to meddle there and the US rhetoric is ratcheting up step by step proving the Iranians have been attacking US forces. If this continues, France may well lose its influence in Iran and be totally shut out if the US decides that war is necessary.

Also, insights on Baghdad-Tehran relations and Sadr's latest maneuvers. Don't forget to bookmark The Middle Ground on your browser.

Ocean Guy offers some insights into the value of studying military history, especially in light of the infantile anti-war slogan that "war never solved anything".
Appeasement leads to more violent wars, it does not prevent them… it never has, it never will. Appeasement leads either to war or to surrender and defeat of the appeaser. We learn that through history. Those who ignore military history learn that violence is bad… always bad… and that mutual understanding is paramount. Those who ignore history will lead us into another war, and the longer they put it off the more violent and deadly it will be.


The Belmont Club cites articles by Peter Leeson at Cato Unbound and Mark Lilla at the New York Times. Leeson's contention, in a nutshell:
Given a choice between a bad State and a state of nature, go with nature.

Lilla's article discusses the legacy of Thomas Hobbes' 1651 work Leviathan which set forth a new way of looking at religion and the state - one that, in Lilla's words,
would set its sights lower than Christian political theology had, but secure what mattered most, which was peace.

But this created new problems. As Fernandez explains,
The shadow of separation from God -- the Hobbes problem, as Lilla puts it -- haunted Rosseau who felt that while it was necessary to banish God from political life it was simultaneously necessary not to completely forget Him.

... At first humanity's traditional habituation to God provided assurance that man would never be left wholly alone with his inner temptations. Some guideposts would surely remain. "Religion is simply too entwined with our moral experience ever to be disentangled from it, and morality is inseparable from politics." But that underrated the ambition of the ideologues. Once God had left the room the stakes went too high: and God's vacant throne glittered irresistibly before them. The natural impulse of demagogues was not, as Rousseau might have thought, to retain God as an absent, but beneficent Constitutional Monarch in whose extended absence Parliament ruled. For ambitious men the goal was to supplant the Creator altogether the better to rule on earth as gods. God's death not only became politically expedient, but necessary for the attainment of unlimited power -- the ground on which the 20th century unfolded as it did.

And so we got
faiths whose missionaries would proselytize everywhere and make converts as far afield as Vietnam and China. Faiths under whose banners structures greater than cathedrals would be filled with chanting adherents; faiths whose patriarchs greater than Popes would rule; pitiless religions where not thousands, but hundreds of millions would be burned at the proverbial stake.

Which brings us to where we are now:
In the end, Europe emerged exhausted from the carnage wrought by her intellectual products; faithless, and incredulous to see Islam glaring at it from the Other Shore; full of the very certitudes they had recently forsaken. Lilla says Westerners do not understand Muslims; but only because they have forgotten what it is like to be them: to slay or be slain for one's belief.

Fernandez concludes:
America has wisely learned that some debates are better left unresolved; that imperfection is sometimes a virtue; and that all faith is dangerous unless accompanied by a large bucket of fried chicken and six-pack of beer; and the tabloid the necessary antidote to the intellectual political journal.
One of the great founding principles of America was that nobody had the answers; that a frontier was needful as a place where you could hide both from the busybodies in town and from the idea of God Himself; because too perfect an order was a dangerous thing: a touch of anarchy as the Will of God because it is freedom by another name.

Read. The. Whole. Thing.

A couple of years ago I wrote an paper for an undergraduate course in American Literature, in which I observed of Frederick Douglass' Narrative:
One of the most striking features about Douglass’s narrative is the regularity with which his insights into the nature of oppression and freedom are followed by moments of spiritual enlightenment, expressed in spiritual language.

In another essay, I wrote:
But if, as Jonathan Edwards believed, we are all in imminent danger of destruction, then our exile in the wilderness also gives us the liberty to find the spiritual materials of our own salvation. We must do this for ourselves; it will not be handed to us. Every one of us, from the moment we're thrust screaming into this world until the moment we're taken from it, faces this same exile. And every one of us faces the same task.

Why should man respect nature, if nature will not respect man? Ask instead how humankind may best show respect for the Power that lies beyond nature, and that lies inside each of us as well. ...

As The Belmont Club so ably demonstrates, and events in the Middle East attest, the ugly fact of human oppression drives us to continue seeking new answers; but this motion is not, as was once believed, a linear movement away from the church and all it represents. Rather, it is a cyclical process of growth, in which we can - if we will it - come to ever deeper understandings of human nature, which is the reflection of Divine nature.

2007-08-17

Morning Report: August 17, 2007

Desperate terrorists murder hundreds, a jury gives a verdict, terrorist ties are investigated, and a foreign organization gets a label.

Iraq bomb attacks kill hundreds. Reuters via Yahoo: 'Angry members of a minority sect in Iraq said on Thursday they feared annihilation after scores were killed in possibly the worst suicide bomb attack of the four-year conflict. Frail clay houses in the centre of Kahtaniya, one of two villages targeted on Tuesday [August 14, 2007] by garbage trucks packed with explosives, were flattened for several blocks. Chunks of concrete and twisted aluminum lay in the street beside the destroyed homes of hundreds of Yazidis, a minority sect regarded by Sunni militants as infidels. Estimates of the death toll varied from 175 to 500.' Neo:
As this Ralph Peters column entitled “Killing for Congress” points out (I had titled my post before I saw his; the similarity in titles is a coincidence), the terrorist group was well aware that its former targeting of fellow-Muslims in Iraq has caused it to become hated there.

So al Qaeda was faced with a dilemma: how to generate enough gore to deflate recent reports (see this) that the surge is going rather well, without causing the Iraqi population to turn even further against it. An inventive answer was found: attack a group too marginal and powerless to matter much in terms of backlash, and kill enough of them to cause maximum consternation in Congress and American public opinion. Thus, the Yazidis, the perfect victims.

General Petraeus is not the only one with a timetable; al Qaeda has one, too—although if Petraeus fails by September he may not get a second chance; al Qaeda will always have another chance despite some losses, because its task is far easier (”we have to get lucky all the time, but the terrorists only have to get lucky once”).

However, US success in Iraq by September would be more terrible news for al Qaeda than it would even be for Representative Boyda; in terms of its reputation, its manpower, and its ability to recruit fresh blood. And so the stakes are rather high.

Michael Totten visited the Yezidi homeland in 2006; go to the post for more information about the Yezidis.

Padilla convicted. Bill West at Counterterrorism Blog: 'Jose Padilla and his two co-defendants in their Miami Federal terror trial have been convicted of all counts by a trial jury in US District Court today. After several months of trial, the US Government proved its case against the defendants beyond a reasonable doubt. The hard working prosecutors and investigators responsible for bringing this case to a successful conclusion should be congratulated. The jury of American citizens who did their duty and fairly heard the evidence and rendered the verdicts should be thanked by all Americans who value our system of justice. This long, complex and difficult case demonstrates how that criminal justice system can and does work.' West thinks there's reason to hope that one or more of the defendants will provide useful information. Go read the whole post at the link. Tammy Bruce: 'I would hope Supermax Prison is in their future, so they can experience that living hell for the rest of their pathetic lives. I was nervous about this verdict, considering juries can be known for having arrived on the short bus, but in this instance, they arrived at the right verdict in just a day and a half. Good for them and good for us. Now getting some big fish would be nice.'

HLF - HAMAS ties disclosed. IPT at CTB:
The terror support trial of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) continued this morning [August 16] with direct examination of the Legal Advisor for the Counterterrorism Division of the Israeli Security Agency (ISA), who testified under the pseudonym “Avi.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth J. Shapiro resumed her questioning by walking the jury through an extensive list of Zakat (Charity) Committees throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip that were controlled by HAMAS and received contributions from the global HAMAS charitable network - which included the Richardson, Texas-based HLF.

Posters, videos, key chains, postcards, documents, and other evidence was collected by the Israeli Defense Forces during Operation Defensive Shield in April of 2002. The operation, initiated in response to a series of terrorist attacks in March 2002 that resulted in the deaths of more than 100 Israeli civilians, revealed a cache of HAMAS propaganda stored in the offices and subsidiaries of these supposed charitable societies. “Avi” testified that the seized materials were used to glorify martyrdom and indoctrinate children. ...

Full post at the link. More here:
As the terror-support trial of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) continued today, FBI agent Lara Burns testified that a phonebook found at the home of Ismail Elbarrasse - un-indicted co-conspirator and former assistant to HAMAS leader Musa Abu Marzook - listed the names and numbers of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership in the United States. On the first page of the phonebook under the title “Members of the Board of Directors” were fifteen names. Among those names are Ahmad Elkadi, Jamal Badawi, and Omar Soubani: the founding incorporators of the Muslim American Society (MAS).

This evidence confirms Counterterrorism Blog contributor Matthew Levitt’s expert testimony that MAS is the representative of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States, and is substantiated by a 2003 Chicago Tribune article that outlined the history of MAS.

CAIR isn't happy about the attention from CTB; CTB says too bad.

US to designate IRGC terrorist organization. Via CTB, again: 'The U.S. government is preparing to designate the IRGC, either as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) or under the authority of Executive Order 13224. This designation is intended in part to counteract the group’s growing involvement in a range of nefarious activities, as well as its increasing industrial and economic prowess. The U.S. government is preparing to designate the IRGC, either as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) or under the authority of Executive Order 13224. This designation is intended in part to counteract the group’s growing involvement in a range of nefarious activities, as well as its increasing industrial and economic prowess.' This also includes the Qods (Jerusalem) Force, which serves as the IRGC's link to Hezbollah. Douglas Farah has more:
While the Guard itself is heavily involved in businesses, internal repression and security, the al Quds (Jeruselem) Force is a much small cadre of senior Guard leaders who can call on special Guard units if it needs boots on the ground activities. ...

The Force seems to be the interlocutor between the Iranian military apparatus and al Qaeda, a relationship that has waxed and waned over time. Despite the strong hatred that often exists between Shi’ite and Sunni groups, they can, on occasion, work together.


Commentary. Notice how the MSM legitimizes the Yezidi bombing: 'Yazidis, a minority sect regarded by Sunni militants as infidels' (my emphasis). This serves to paint the mass murder in sectarian terms - rather than as a political act, which, as Neo argues, is what it really is.

Meanwhile, IraqPundit picks up an angle that doesn't interest the scribblers at Reuters:
Here's a piece of information you probably haven't seen. "The political values of Iraqis are increasingly secular and nationalistic, according to a series of surveys of nationally representative samples of the population from December 2004-March 2007." According to the study, "only 18 percent of those surveyed in October 2006 thought that having an Islamic government where religious authorities have absolute power is 'very good,' compared with 26 percent surveyed in December 2004."

Mansoor Moaddel, a sociologist described as "affiliated with Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research," said that, "So far, the surveys show a decline in popular support for religious government in Iraq and an increase in support for secular political rule." Note that support among Iraqis for a religious state, now declining, was never very great to begin with.

Here's the study:
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The political values of Iraqis are increasingly secular and nationalistic, according to a series of surveys of nationally representative samples of the population from December 2004-March 2007.

Findings from a July 2007 survey are expected to be released before the end of the summer.

So far, the surveys show a decline in popular support for religious government in Iraq and an increase in support for secular political rule, said sociologist Mansoor Moaddel, who is affiliated with Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR).

Go read the whole thing at the link. Money quote:
"The escalating violence in Iraq gives a bleak impression of that country's future," Moaddel said. "Sectarian conflict seems to be increasing on a daily basis, with militias massacring hundreds of Sunnis and Shi'is solely on the basis of their religious identities.

"Yet it would be a mistake to think that this bloodlust represents widespread sentiment among Iraqis as a whole. While neither American nor Iraqi security officials have yet found a way to tame the militias, the Iraqi public is increasingly drawn toward a vision of a democratic, non-sectarian government for the country."

2007-08-14

Morning Report: August 14, 2007

Karl Rove's latest scheme, maneuverings in Pakistan ... and an interview comes at a price for a Middle Eastern newspaper.

Rove to "resign". The architect of the Bush-Cheney-Neocon-Zionist regime, Karl Rove, will "resign". Or so he would have us believe. Anyway, here's Paul Gigot at WSJ:
These are the days of Republican doubt, with President Bush fighting an unpopular war, Congress in opposition hands, and a 2008 presidential field trailing Democrats in nearly every poll. But don't tell that to Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's political alter ego, who even as he prepares to resign from the White House after six and a half years sees recovery ahead.

Sitting in the book-lined living room of his townhome on Saturday afternoon, a relaxed, cheerful and typically rambunctious Mr. Rove hands over two sheets of paper on which he has tapped out a pair of outlines. One says "Up to Now," and summarizes what he thinks are the achievements to date of the Bush presidency. The second, "Months Ahead," lays out an agenda for the next year and a half.

"He will move back up in the polls," says Mr. Rove, who interrupts my reference to Mr. Bush's 30% approval rating by saying it's heading close to "40%," and "higher than Congress."

Looking ahead, he adds, "Iraq will be in a better place" as the surge continues. Come the autumn, too, "we'll see in the battle over FISA"--the wiretapping of foreign terrorists--"a fissure in the Democratic Party."

Tammy Bruce: ' It seems, however, that Rove has been 'gone' from the White House for quite some time. President Bush's chief political strategist is indeed leaving as of August 31st. Rove is described by the president as the architect of his two White House victories, but it's become clear in the last couple of years, as the president's policy and approval ratings have become simply ridiculous.' Byron York at NRO: 'But after reelection, the White House encountered rough going. The Social Security initiative failed, the war effort struggled, Hurricane Katrina hit, and immigration became a nagging problem. There was success with the Roberts and Alito nominations, but it was accompanied by the oddity — to some conservatives, the outrage — of the Miers affair. The White House seemed strangely discombobulated. More than one observer wondered whether Rove was really on his game. He wasn’t. ...' Read the rest at the link to find out why. Read Rich Lowry to find out how Rove was both overestimated and underestimated. Of course, none of this changes the fact that Rove has not really left the political scene; he's just working undercover now, probably engineering hurricanes and earthquakes.

Lightning Hammer pursues Al-Qaeda. MNF-Iraq: 'Operation Lightning Hammer, involving approximately 16,000 Iraqi Security and Coalition Forces, began Aug. 13 with a large-scale offensive to defeat al-Qaeda and other terrorist cells seeking safe haven throughout the Diyala
River Valley. This operation is a key part of Multinational Corps-Iraq’s overall operation, Phantom Strike. Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, partnered with members of the 5th Iraqi Army Division, initiated the operation with a late-night air assault into targeted locations to capture or kill al-Qaeda responsible for the violence against Iraqi civilians.'

Pakistan update. ThreatsWatch: 'While Pakistan’s Prime Minister has not ruled out an imposition of a state of emergency, the Taliban and al-Qaeda appear to not simply have abandoned the 28 Waziristan training camps, but instead have apparently executed and offensive redeployment from their central strongholds to beyond the edges of already-controlled Pakistani territory. The move appears an attempt to challenge the deployed Pakistani army in areas beyond its strongholds rather than within. It could be an attempted expansion or simply an attempt to divert the Pakistani military from encroaching full-force into its stronghold areas.' Steve Schippert: 'Adding fuel to the fires of concern, Syed Saleem Shahzad reported in his latest from the region, ‘Taliban a step ahead of US assault’, that the United States supplied Musharraf’s government with detailed and specific intelligence on 29 al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorist training camps operating in the provinces of North Waziristan and South Waziristan. Not long after that transfer of intelligence, all but one of the terror camps went cold. They were abandoned completely “or are being operated by skeleton crews,” according to a senior US military intelligence official who spoke to The Fourth Rail.' So, what happened?
When intelligence is shared with another actor, it is driven by varying degrees of trust and necessity. Unlike evidence procedure in a criminal case, there is no ‘chain of custody’ for intelligence information once it is shared beyond the originating agency’s control. This is especially evident in the sharing between US Intelligence agencies and Musharraf’s Pakistani government and military, both in a general sense and especially in the matter of the information on the al-Qaeda camps in the Waziristan provinces.

It should be noted that the distrust factor is not necessarily between American intelligence services and the secular Musharraf, personally. Rather, the genesis of mistrust arises from Islamist elements within Pakistani military and intelligence ranks. For this reason, there is always a level of apprehension among the American intelligence community regarding Pakistani counterparts.

Now, in all likelihood, Pakistani intelligence already knew where those camps were - and the al-Qaeda folks knew that they knew. So, what was the point of the exercise? Read the rest at the link. Key concept: 'At the very least, gone is [Musharraf's] defense that he cannot attack [al-Qaeda] due to a lack of actionable American intelligence. That al-Qaeda obtained and reacted to the intelligence is secondary to the fact that it was delivered to Musharraf.'

Iran regime bans paper for interviewing lesbian. Via Or Does It Explode, Khaleej Times:
Iran on Monday shut down a leading moderate daily for the second time in less than a year after the paper published an interview with a woman accused of being a ”counter-revolutionary” homosexual.

The ban on Shargh (East), the favourite newspaper of Iranian liberals, comes amid growing pressure on the press in Iran and follows the closure of fellow moderate daily Ham Mihan last month.

“The main reason for the ban was an interview with a counter-revolutionary who promotes immorality,” Alireza Malekian, the director of press in the culture ministry, told the state-run IRNA news agency.

Shargh on Saturday published a full-page interview with Saghi Ghahreman, an expatriate Iranian poet who lives in Canada, under the headline “Feminine Language.”

“We had an article which was an interview with an expatriate writer. They said she had moral problems, they say she is homosexual and promotes that in her weblog,” Mehdi Rahmanian, Shargh’s licence holder and managing director, told AFP. “But we talked to her as a poet,” he added.

Malekian said it was now up to the judiciary to decide in court whether the ban should be permanent and take any other necessary decisions.


Briefly noted. Across the Bay eyes the role of Sy Hersh as the New York Times' propagandist for the Syrian regime.

Commentary. Conterterrorism Blog takes a look at recent events here in the Bay Area:
If there was such a distinction as a Mainstream Journalism Award for Understatement, my nominee for 2007 would go to the Washington Post. On Friday, August 10, 2007, it published a front-page article by Karl Vick, entitled “For Some in Oakland, Editor’s Death Shows Subversion of Black Activism,” about the recent murder of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey. Bailey’s alleged killer is Devaughndre Broussard, a 19-year old foot soldier in a local institution known as Your Black Muslim Bakery, who pegged Bailey with a shotgun and then proceeded to pump a second blast into his face.

The Washington Post suggested that the murder symbolizes that Oakland’s radical black movement “had over the years gone awry, and that the violence that infused parts of that tradition had been tolerated too long.”

Gosh, do you really think so? For some, it did not take the murder of a prominent black journalist in 2007 to realize this point

Oakland was, after all, the birth place of the Black Panthers. According to a recent book Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party (University of Arkansas Press 2006), by University of Southern Mississippi historian Curtis J. Austin, the Panthers’ decision to embrace violence assured its destruction. ...

It's a long and detailed article and cannot possibly be summarized, so go read it at the link.

2007-08-03

Scott Thomas Beauchamp and Source Biases

Except for linking to Greyhawk's post, I've put off commenting on the business of Scott Thomas Beauchamp's article "Shock Troops" at The New Republic, because I wanted to wait until I had a good clear picture of the incident. Now that TNR has issued its response to the various questions raised about the article, I think it's time to offer a few thoughts of my own.

1. How do you determine a source's biases? That's the topic of a popular post that appeared here at DiL last year. I think the Scott Thomas Beauchamp affair is a good opportunity to review some of the ideas I presented there.

First, there's the business of anonymous (or in the case of "Scott Thomas", pseudonymous) sources. Neo cited a 2003 Poynter report - written by 18 prominent journalists in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal - offering some suggestions for improving credibility when citing anonymous sources. Here are the Poynter report's recommendations on "attribution and sourcing", in the report's own words:
Our responsibility to the reader is to make clear where we got our information.

We focused on two areas: anonymous sources and attribution in narrative reconstructions.

The use of anonymous sources should be a last resort when the story is of compelling public interest and the information is not available any other way. A supervising editor must know the source’s identity.

We also agreed that:

• Anonymous sources should be encouraged to go on the record.

• We should weigh the source’s reliability and disclose to readers the source’s potential biases.

• The more specific we can be in describing the source in the story, the better.

• Anonymous sources should not be used for personal attacks, accusations of illegal activity, or merely to add color.

• The source must have first-hand knowledge.

• Journalists should not lie in a story to protect a source.

Journalists may not be able to avoid the use of anonymous sources in such places as Washington, D.C., but they should constantly challenge their use. The use of anonymous sources should never be routine.

News wire services should share their standards for the use of anonymous sources and aspire to the ones articulated above.

Narratives are a form of vicarious experience and put readers at the scene. We admire the power of this technique but remain concerned about making clear to the reader where the information comes from. Use deft textual attribution, detailed editor’s notes, or the newspaper equivalent of "footnotes."

The attribution in the narrative should ensure the reader knows the information is verifiable.

Well, I don't think there's really anything for me to add here, do you? In my post on source biases, I went on to suggest some factors to consider; these included:
- the source's ideological orientation
- the source's financial interests
- debts and favors
- role of the publisher or broadcaster
- the source's experiences and perceptions
- psychological factors


I also listed some factors that I think are important in determining the reliability of a piece of information:
- internal consistency
- external consistency
- insider details
- dialog and dissent
- nuance
- the human voice

For full explanations of what I mean by these terms, please go to How can you determine a source's biases? And keep them in mind as you read the rest of this post, and as you continue following the Scott Thomas Beauchamp / TNR affair.

2. Beauchamp wasn't twisted by war - he was twisted to begin with. We've already established that Scott Thomas Beauchamp is an asshole. In fact, he should probably be listed in the Wikipedia article on "asshole" ("this article may require cleanup"), but that's outside the scope of this discussion.

What is important, though, is TNR's admission that the famous (or infamous) story of Beauchamp mocking the burned and disfigured woman - with which Beauchamp begins his article - did not take place in Iraq, but in Kuwait:
The recollections of these three soldiers differ from Beauchamp's on one significant detail (the only fact in the piece that we have determined to be inaccurate): They say the conversation occurred at Camp Buehring, in Kuwait, prior to the unit's arrival in Iraq. When presented with this important discrepancy, Beauchamp acknowledged his error. We sincerely regret this mistake.

So "Beauchamp acknowledged his error," did he? Well that was mighty damn brave of him. "When presented with this important discrepancy, Beauchamp acknowledged his error." Those ten little words just tell such a story, don't they? Oh, but I'm ranting. Let's move on.

The point is, this isn't a minor detail, it's the focal point of the article. Here, I'll let TNR tell it:
Beauchamp's latest, a Diarist headlined "Shock Troops," was about the morally and emotionally distorting effects of war.

And again, that's right out of the magazine's own statement on the controversy. But the incident with the burned woman in the mess hall didn't have anything to do with "the morally and emotionally distorting effects of war", did it? Because no such "effects" could be present in someone who had not, as yet, been exposed to war.

Here's Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard:
So just to be clear, the first line of the original piece stated that Beauchamp "saw her nearly every time I went to dinner in the chow hall at my base in Iraq." That turns out now to be a blatant lie--and one that Beauchamp stuck with after THE WEEKLY STANDARD first asked Foer to reveal the base at which this incident occurred. Further, TNR says in this new statement that "Shock Troops" "was about the morally and emotionally distorting effects of war." But now we find out that Beauchamp hadn't even gotten to Iraq when this incident allegedly took place. He was, in fact, a morally stunted sadist before he ever set foot in Iraq.


None of this would have come to light, of course, without the pressure and scrutiny of the military blogging community. This post at the Standard has a roundup of some of the important ones. Better yet, just go to Michael Goldfarb's main page (or his July 2007 archives) for links to the milbloggers. Kudos to Goldfarb for the hard work he's been putting into this - and of course, kudos to the milblogging community for knowing what questions to ask.

And it was the milbloggers who pinned down STB and TNR on the disfigured woman in the messhall incident. When presented with this important discrepancy, TNR acknowledged its error.

UPDATE: Right now there are a couple of new threads emerging which - if they pan out - look very bad for STB and TNR. But I haven't got anything I consider solid enough to post about yet. I'll write a new post when I've got something.

Military Progress Unwelcome at Yearly Kos

Ezra Klein at The American Prospect blog:
AN ODD CLOSE. As the Military and Progressives panel came to an end, a young man in uniform stood up to argue that the surge was working, and cutting down on Iraqi casualties. The moderator largely freaked out. When other members of the panel tried to answer his question, he demanded they "stand down." He demanded the questioner give his name, the name of his commander, and the name of his unit. And then he closed the panel, no answer offered or allowed, and stalked off the stage,

Wes Clark took the mic and tried to explain what had just occurred: The argument appears to be that you're not allowed to participate in politics while wearing a uniform, or at least that you shouldn't, and that the questioner was engaging in a sort of moral blackmail, not to mention a violation of the rules, by doing so. Knowing fairly little about the army, I can't speak to any of that. But it was an uncomfortable few moments, and seemed fairly contrary to the spirit of the panel to roar down the member of the military who tried to speak with a contrary voice.

In the Comments, a response to JoeCHI produces this memorable quote:
"Since when is it a progressive principle to act as the "thought police"?"

Shut up, troll. you have become tiresome.