Needlenose Home
Wed, 22nd of March 2006
By fubar
Mar 22 2006 - 6:35pm

Sometimes I'm just a little slow. It took me a day and several readings of the same passage before it hit me that during his press conference George W. Bush just might have handed the Democrats a fantastic 2008 election gift:
Bush said he would call home the 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq if he was not confident about his victory plan. U.S. commanders in Iraq will determine when troop levels can be lowered, he said, suggesting that some will remain beyond January 2009. Asked if a day will come when there are no U.S. troops there, Bush said "that will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq."
What Bush just did was to hand the first person who is willing to stand up and commit to getting U.S. out of the Iraq mess the keys to the oval office, since he obviously believes he isn't the person to do it. Will that person be a Democrat or a Republican in the unenviable position of having to decide between supporting an increasingly unpopular war and President or contradicting him publicly?

Thank you Mr. Bush. You just made life a living hell for the next GOP candidate. Now if we could only find a Democratic candidate willing to stand up.

By Swopa
Mar 22 2006 - 4:12pm

Anyone who's followed my writings on the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA employee is probably aware that I've placed a great deal of weight on the Washington Post's so-called "1 x 2 x 6" story in September 2003:
... a senior administration official said that before [Robert] Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of [Joseph] Wilson's wife.
I've carried this obsession analytical interest far enough to describe a hypothetical series of events on Air Force One on July 12, 2003, that explain how the article came to be.

So you'd presume that I would be disturbed to learn that in a recent court filing, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said that his team only knew of five reporters who had been told about Plame: Bob Woodward, Judith Miller, Bob Novak, Matt Cooper, and Walter Pincus. And yet, in an Fitzgerald August 2004 affadavit (PDF download) seeking to force Miller and Cooper to testify to the grand jury, Fitz wrote favorably of the 1x2x6 scoop:
In deciding whether to issue subpoenas to reporters, I have carefully weighed and balanced the competing interests of the First Amendment and the public interest . . . One key factor in deciding whether to issue a subpoena has been whether the "source" to be identified appears to have leaked to discredit the earlier source (Wilson) as opposed to a leak who revealed information as a "whistleblower" (e.g., the source for the September 28 Washington Post column).
Why would Fitzgerald call the "1" in 1x2x6 a whistleblower if the information he or she gave was wrong? More importantly, how could my own theories survive this apparent inconsistency?

A couple of weeks ago, over dinner with the luminous Jane Hamsher, I revealed for the first time my wishful thinking: Fitzgerald really did take those Justice Department rules about going after reporters seriously, and never did track down all six reporters in the 1x2x6 scoop.

I mention this personal detail as an introduction to this tidbit from Jason Leopold's latest truthout piece on the Plame court proceedings, quoting Fitz:
"... frankly there is a very limited number of reporters that we found out who had known it. I can't represent we know every reporter because we took seriously the attorney general guidelines."
Hopefully, Jane will back me up...

By greenboy
Mar 22 2006 - 12:52pm

Tip of the 'nose to Ann:


1. Conscience! A liberal man knows it’s not all about him. His getting off is contingent on yours. You don’t have to make him pancakes to get him to go down on you.

2. Tears! Liberal men cry— just not during sex. They acknowledge that there are some things worth getting weepy about, such as everything the federal government has done in the past six years.

3. A sense of perspective. A good liberal man realizes that what goes on in politics does have an impact on what goes on in the bedroom. (Even though you don’t have to talk about it in bed.) This is in stark contrast to the Republican man, who can’t understand how his support for anti-choice politicians could possibly impact your sex life. While it may have been fun to sit on a Republican man the night before, it’s his fault you’ll have a hard time getting your Plan B prescription filled the next day.

4. A sense of humor. Republican men may laugh at jokes, but liberal men are better at making jokes. Case in point: Jon Stewart. They didn’t ask a conservative comedian to host the Academy Awards. (Are there any conservative comedians?)

5. Foreplay. Liberal men are so intellectually sexy that everything is foreplay. Republicans might get started in the cab after dinner, but the liberal man’s in-depth knowledge of (and vehement opposition to) various state-level abortion restrictions has got me all hot and bothered before we’ve ordered our entrees.

6. Size. It is absolutely, positively, 100 percent true that Republicans are bigger dicks who trigger the gag reflex.

7. Efficiency. See #5.

8. Largesse. Liberal men will never drag you to a restaurant you don’t like, order your meal for you, and then leave a terrible tip. If they do pay for your dinner, they’ll never demand a blow job in return. (But they were such great conversationalists at dinner, you’ll probably be into fellatio, anyway.)

9. Wooing techniques. Liberal men do indeed send emails and text messages that say things like "I can’t wait to eat your pussy." Unlike Republicans, they actually mean it.

10. Nightstand reading. You will never find a Republican reading She Comes First. Liberal men understand you want to be with someone who knows how to find your clit.

By fubar
Mar 22 2006 - 10:42am

I know Swopa put one up already... but this one practically writes itself.

By Swopa
Mar 22 2006 - 8:19am

Two words: President Queeg.

By fubar
Mar 21 2006 - 4:12pm

White House Fact Sheet - March 20, 2006:
Strategy for Victory: Clear, Hold, and Build

Today, President Bush Discussed The Strategy For Victory In Iraq And Profiled The Northern Iraqi Town Of Tal Afar. Once a key base of operations for Al-Qaida, Tal Afar is a concrete example of progress in Iraq.
In Response To Experiences In Tal Afar And Elsewhere, The Coalition Adopted A New Approach - Clear, Hold, And Build...
This new Clear, Hold, and Build strategy sounded awfully familiar. A little trip on the wayback machine was all it took. Ah yes, October 19, 2005:
Secretary Condoleezza Rice - Opening Remarks Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Thank you. I would like to deliver this in full. It's my first opportunity to talk to you specifically about Iraq. I've spoken many times about why we are there, but I would like to talk about how we assure victory.

In short, with the Iraqi Government, our political-military strategy has to be to clear, hold, and build: to clear areas from insurgent control, to hold them securely, and to build durable, national Iraqi institutions.
But wait, wasn't there an article about an even earlier use of this tactic? Yes, yes, it's coming back now:
It's a telling fact that the hot book among Iraq strategists this season is "A Better War," an upbeat account of American counterinsurgency policy in the last years of the Vietnam conflict. I noticed that the head of Central Command, Gen. John Abizaid, was reading it when I traveled with him in September. The influential State Department counselor Philip Zelikow read the book earlier this year. And I'm told it can be found on the bookshelves of senior military officers in Baghdad.

Perhaps it's a measure of just how badly things are going in Iraq that the strategists are looking to Vietnam for models of success. But it's interesting that the Iraq team, like its predecessors in Vietnam 35 years ago, is getting serious about counterinsurgency doctrine after making costly initial mistakes.

"A Better War" was published in 1999. The author, Lewis Sorley, a former military and intelligence officer, drew on an extensive collection of documents and tape recordings from legendary Army warrior Gen. Creighton Abrams, who commanded U.S. forces in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972. The book's contrarian argument is that after Abrams replaced Gen. William Westmoreland -- and scuttled his "search and destroy" tactics in favor of a pacification strategy of "clear and hold" -- the Vietnam War began to go right.

Indeed, Sorley argues that by early 1972 the United States had effectively won the war and could turn the fighting over to its South Vietnamese allies.
Riiight... If it wasn't for lack of support back home and wobbly politicians, Vietnam was a surefire win. Good thing the situation is so different this time around. Wait, oops.

Lawrence Kaplan, quoting General Westmoreland, points out the problem with this cockamamie strategy:
Then, too, if already overstretched U.S. and Iraqi forces remain in place to hold one area, what happens to the areas they're not holding? In fact, Westmoreland's Vietnam-era complaint about clear-and-hold remains just as valid today: "[T]he practice left the enemy free to come and go as he pleased throughout the bulk of the region." He also pointed out that, in Vietnam, there were "simply not enough numbers to put a squad of Americans in every village and hamlet."
There's an old Arab proverb: Now that the pumpkin is large and round, it has forgotten about its past. So what happens if the Clear, Hold, Build plan doesn't work?

Good thing the Green Zone has a big wall around it.

By Swopa
Mar 21 2006 - 2:36pm

From Busy, Busy, Busy, on Dubya's remark yesterday that "I was very careful never to say that Saddam Hussein ordered the attacks on America":
Which brings to mind other typical uses of this particular semantic construct...

* ... I was very careful never to say you couldn't lose money.

* ... I was very careful never to say I love you.

* ... I was very careful never to say I was still on the pill.

* ... I was very careful never to say I've been tested recently.

... all of which share the characteristic of being an after-the-fact technical exculpation of a conscious attempt to mislead. You only have to be very careful to avoid making a provably false statement when you are knowingly trying to disseminate the corresponding false impression while retaining plausible deniability.
The entirely unfunny punch line, as a commenter reminded me a while back, came in a Zogby poll of 944 soldiers in Iraq, reported at the end of February:
. . . 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks."
Sorry 'bout that, guys. But Dubya was careful never to say your mission was accomplished....

By Swopa
Mar 21 2006 - 10:53am

There's no way I can pass this one up...

Have at it.

By Swopa
Mar 21 2006 - 8:05am

From the Washington Post this morning:
How many contractors does it take to haul a pile of tree branches? If it's government work, at least four: a contractor, his subcontractor, the subcontractor's subcontractor, and finally, the local man with a truck and chainsaw.

If the job is patching a leaking roof, the answer may be five contractors, or even six. At the bottom tier is a Spanish-speaking crew earning less than 10 cents for every square foot of blue tarp installed. At the top, the prime contractor bills the government 15 times as much for the same job.

. . . Four large companies won Army Corps contracts to cover damaged roofs with blue plastic tarp, under a program known as "Operation Blue Roof." The rate paid to the prime contractors ranged from $1.50 to $1.75 per square foot of tarp installed, documents show.

The prime contractors' rate is nearly as much as local roofers charge to install a roof of asphalt shingles, according to two roofing executives who requested anonymity because they feared losing their contracts. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the contractor heap, four to five rungs lower, some crews are being paid less than 10 cents per square foot, the officials said.
What's the excuse for this ripoff scheme?
Defenders of the multi-tiered system say it is a normal and even necessary part of doing business in the aftermath of a major disaster. The prime contracts are usually awarded by FEMA or other government agencies well in advance, so relief services can be brought in quickly after the crisis eases. These companies often must expand rapidly to meet the need, and they do so by subcontracting work to other firms
Unfortunately, here's the expertise and rapid-response capability we're paying for:
. . . one company hired as an ice vendor owns no ice-making equipment. Landstar Systems Inc., a $2 billion Florida company placed in charge of the bus evacuation of New Orleans, is a transportation broker that specializes in trucking and has no buses of its own. . . .

Thousands of New Orleanians had been stranded in the Superdome for more than 48 hours by the time FEMA issued the first order for a bus evacuation early on the morning of Aug. 31. . . . Landstar hired Carey International Inc., of Washington, which then hired the BusBank, of Chicago, and Transportation Management Systems of Columbia, Md. Bus Bank and TMS called private charter-bus companies -- some from as far away as California and Washington state -- asking them to send buses and drivers to New Orleans.

More than 1,100 buses eventually responded, some arriving four days later, after traveling hundreds of miles. Daily earnings averaged about $700 per bus, according to bus company owners. Landstar's daily earnings were nearly $1,200 per bus, government records show.

. . . Several bus company owners said they were still owed tens of thousands of dollars for work they did in the fall. For some, the delays have been ruinous.

Thomas Paige, owner of Coast to Coast Bus Line of Dillon, S.C., laid off staff, and two of his four buses were repossessed by creditors after payment for his New Orleans work fell behind by three months.
Another snapshot of your American kleptocracy in action, betraying the fundamental trust of average citizens and getting rich(er) in the process.

By Swopa
Mar 20 2006 - 7:57pm

From the New York Times website this evening:
"Grim but optimistic." Okaaaayy...

Update: A bonus from the Department of Overly Literal Captions at Yahoo News...

By fubar
Mar 20 2006 - 2:08pm

On March 16, 1968 the angry and frustrated men of Charlie Company, 11th Brigade, Americal Division entered the Vietnamese village of My Lai. "This is what you've been waiting for -- search and destroy -- and you've got it," said their superior officers. A short time later the killing began. When news of the atrocities surfaced, it sent shockwaves through the U.S. political establishment, the military's chain of command, and an already divided American public.
A bloody videotape shot by a local Iraqi journalism student has prompted the Pentagon to launch a criminal investigation into an incident that left at least 15 Iraqi civilians dead in the city of Haditha.
It all started when a roadside bomb hit a convoy of 12 Marines in Haditha, killing 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas.

The official press release said simply: "A U.S. Marine and 15 Iraqi civilians were killed yesterday from the blast of a roadside bomb."

Military officials now acknowledge the Iraqis were not killed by the bomb — but, they now say, by crossfire as U.S. Marines stormed the surrounding homes.
"We launched an investigation of our own with the help of a human rights group," said Aparisim Ghosh, a writer for Time. "We spoke to some eyewitnesses. And it turns out all the people killed were killed by the Marines in small arms fire and, in a few instances, by an explosive that was tossed into the home by the Marines themselves."
Those who ignore the lessons of the past...

By Swopa
Mar 20 2006 - 12:41pm

In my very first post at Needlenose more than three years ago, I urged Al Gore -- who had just declared that he wouldn't run for president in 2004 -- to "use his non-candidate status to help win the election":
Since he's not running, he can attack Bush bluntly and loudly without being accused of just wanting George Jr.'s job. . . . he's got a chance to do the country some good by telling the truth that needs to be told, and his party some good by making it publicly acceptable to criticize Big Brother. So he needs to start taking Bush to the woodshed in public, the sooner the better.
More recently, I repeated this belief in a more general way in a comment at Firedoglake:
[Democrats] don't have a proper division of labor -- we don't have designated bomb-throwers/"bad cops" like Newt Gingrich to say rude things so that more moderate folks can play "good cop" and make the same points while seeming more agreeable.
Unlike my 2002 post (which was probably known only to myself and Green Boy), this comment drew concurring analysis from folks like Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald, who noted a problem that undoubtedly would have Howard Dean nodding in recognition:
. . . when there are finally prominent Democrats who do stand up and make strong, definitive statements of principle against George Bush, Democrats become petrified and actually turn on their own in a way that Republicans never would.
And that's the problem in a nutshell – in talking about Dean last year, I said that "Dean has to know how to set up the 'good cops' properly," but at the same time, the would-be good cops among Democrats need to know what to do when they’re set up.

When you see detectives on TV playing good cop-bad cop, both of them know they're working together, and the goal is to get the criminal to confess. If you had Democratic party leaders playing the police, though, the "good cop" would tackle the "bad cop" and keep pummeling him as the criminal gets up and runs away.

That’s what happened when Howard Dean stood up against Dubya in 2003 and 2004, and it’s threatening to happen again with Sen. Russ Feingold’s resolution to censure the president for breaking the law with his warrantless NSA eavesdropping. Last week, E.J. Dionne put it this way:
. . . Democrats, unlike Republicans, have yet to develop a healthy relationship between activists willing to test and expand the conventional limits on political debate and the politicians who have to calculate what works in creating an electoral majority.

For two decades, Republicans have used their idealists, their ideologues and their loudmouths to push the boundaries of discussion to the right. In the best of all worlds, Feingold's strong stand would redefine what's "moderate" and make clear that those challenging the legality of the wiretapping are neither extreme nor soft on terrorism.
All of which brings me to a perfect example of how to play this game the right way – Sen. Dick Durbin's appearance yesterday on Fox News Sunday (via Daily Kos):
WALLACE: ...Democratic Senator Feingold this week called for censuring President Bush for the NSA's warrantless wiretap program. . . . do you flatly disavow the idea of censuring the president?

DURBIN: . . . Let me tell you what I believe led to Senator Feingold's censure resolution, the utter frustration that this Republican Senate refuses to ask the hard questions in oversight of this administration about this war, about the use of warrantless wiretaps, about statements made by the president to the American people that there'll be no wiretapping without court orders.

We know now that in many of these instances, the American people deserve answers. And this Republican Senate has refused to do it. I think that's why Senator Feingold introduced this resolution.
Note that Durbin didn’t say he supported the Feingold resolution – but he didn’t get caught up in denouncing it, either. Instead, he turned the subject right back to something helpful to Democrats (Dubya being out of control, and the Republicans in Congress not doing anything about it) … showing that he shared Feingold’s concerns while sidestepping any possible disagreement over tactics.

That’s the lesson for Democrats who want to appear moderate – let the "bad cops" like Feingold and Dean get attention for your message with blunt remarks and proposals, then reinforce the message while discreetly ignoring any controversial or distracting elements. It’s what Republicans have been doing to you for the past decade; isn’t it about time you learned a thing or two from their success?

By Swopa
Mar 20 2006 - 12:55am

Backsliding from his latest hiatus -- with his third post in a week, and second in two days -- Billmon tells us he's been reading George Packer's The Assassin's Gate:
Just now I came across this passage, describing the furious hotel-room struggle waged at a pre-war meeting of Iraqi exiles in London:
Chalabi was flying in from Tehran after cutting a deal with the Kurdish and Shiite parties to form a provisional government in spite of the Americans. Then the Sunni delegates revolted over their scant numbers. Khalizad, an Afghan-American who understood the bazaar nature of regional politics, brokered the horse trading. Sunnis and independents were added, watering down the Shiite numbers.
You could easily have ripped that passage from a New York Times article on the latest political negotiations in Baghdad. Same faces, same factions, same issues, same conspiracies, same cynical manuevers, same tired lies.
Billmon is so right, you'd almost swear someone slipped him an advance copy of tonight's New York Times:
Iraqi officials announced Sunday that they had agreed to form a council of the country's top politicians to make policy on security and economic issues in the new government. The council, which will include the prime minister and president, is an attempt to include all the country's major factions in decision making at a time of rising sectarian tensions.

. . . The main Shiite political bloc, which is expected to hold the most executive power in the new government, had opposed formation of the council, while the Kurds, Sunni Arabs, secular politicians and the Americans had pushed for it.

Because of the way the council will be set up, the Shiites, who constitute the largest political bloc in Parliament, will have an effective veto over council decisions.

Furthermore, the prime minister or president will be able to override any decisions they disagree with if the decisions conflict with the executives' constitutional authority, Iraqi officials said.
The Financial Times gets a quote that shows how Team Shiite thinks things turned out:
What has been decided was exactly the same proposal that the UIA put forward from the very beginning... The decisions are not binding... [rather] recommendations,” Shia negotiator Hussein al-Shahristani told the FT.
In other words, in order for them to get an agreement at all, the religious Shiites got the other factions to accept a mere fig leaf instead of real power-sharing -- just as in the Packer excerpt cited by Billmon, and in the forming of the appointed puppet interim governments, and in the writing of a constitution, etc., etc.

The result never changes because of the relative clout Iraq's demographics give each group. It's like they're playing the same hand of poker over and over, with each side always holding the same cards as the time before.

By Swopa
Mar 19 2006 - 8:00pm

I sensed political motivations a few days ago when Iraq's minister in charge of death squads internal police claimed that his department had broken up a supposedly massive al-Qaeda plot to attack Americans inside their highly protected "Green Zone" in Baghdad. Allow me to apply the same suspicions to this report from Knight Ridder today:
Iraqi police have accused American troops of executing 11 people, including a 75-year-old woman and a 6-month-old infant, in the aftermath of a raid last Wednesday on a house about 60 miles north of Baghdad.

The villagers were killed after American troops herded them into a single room of the house, according to a police document obtained by Knight Ridder Newspapers. The soldiers also burned three vehicles, killed the villagers' animals and blew up the house, the document said.

A U.S. military spokesman, Major Tim Keefe, said that the U.S. military has no information to support the allegations and that he had not heard of them before a reporter brought them to his attention Sunday.

. . . Accusations that U.S. troops have killed civilians are commonplace in Iraq. . . . But the report of the killings in the Abu Sifa area of Ishaqi, eight miles north of the city of Balad, is unusual because it originated with Iraqi police and because Iraqi police were willing to attach their names to it.
Unusual? Perhaps not any more, given this passage from the Washington Post tonight:
Clashes between U.S. forces and suspected insurgents, and fresh allegations of American troops killing noncombatants, marked the third anniversary Sunday of the start of the American-led invasion of Iraq.

In Duluiyah, a stretch of farms along the Tigris River about 45 miles north of Baghdad, soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team battled insurgents, the U.S. military said in a statement.

. . . A top police official, as well as a resident who claimed he saw the fighting, said U.S. troops also shot and killed a family of three during house-to-house searches after the firefight.

"I saw corpses on the ground that I believe were of armed men who had clashed with the American forces" and with the Iraqi army, said Ahmad Hashem, the resident. "Then the American soldiers appeared and started searching homes. They raided a house which was close to my home and killed a man named Ahmad Khalaf Hussein, his wife and his 10-year-old son."
I won't even begin to guess whether these allegations are true, exaggerated, or entirely false -- as I said yesterday, I consider official U.S. and Iraqi government statements to be equally unreliable.

But I think it's safe to say that the sudden bull market in such accusations against U.S. troops isn't because they just started slaughtering civilians recently. Instead, it's far more likely that the Team Shiite-governed Iraqi police -- faced with political pressure as evidence of their death-squad activities grows -- have suddenly found it convenient to start blaming the Americans for doing the same thing.