Here we go againBush seems likely to try the "surge" tactic in Iraq of putting in substantially more troops, perhaps 20,000, in an attempt to take Baghdad and clear it of 'terrorists.' Hope springs eternal in the human breast, which is the only explanation for adopting this stupid idea. The Iraqi masses are now politically mobilized, and they are well armed. There are 27 million Iraqis, and some 6 million of them in the Sunni Arab areas. 20,000 US troops is a drop in the bucket. Some are saying the US should try to destroy the (Shiite) Mahdi Army. The Mahdi Army is an urban social movement, and cannot be destroyed by conventional military forces. Bush is about to take us on another destructive wild goose chase.
And again....Bush will come to Congress for another $100 bn. for Iraq and Afghanistan (it mostly goes to Iraq). Bush puts this money "off budget" and then reporters don't count it as part of the budget deficit!
Last minute gift of GOP to BIg InsuranceLast-Minute Inserts Offer Benefits in Medicare Bill "By slipping four sentences into a big bill passed last week, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert secured a major change in Medicare policy avidly sought by a few health insurers, in particular a multinational company with headquarters in his home state, Illinois.... "These examples illustrate how power is exercised in the final, chaotic hours before Congress adjourns. Obscure provisions of interest to just a few lawmakers were quietly stuffed into a grab bag of legislation, with no indication of their parentage or purpose." (NYT)
See? They're not all the sameDem Leaders Propose Ban On Gifts, Meal From Lobbyists"Democratic leaders are proposing new House rules that prohibit members from accepting gifts or meals from lobbyists and place new restrictions on trips paid for by outside groups." (The Hill)
See? They're not all the same. Part IIHouse Considers Independent Ethics Panel "House leaders are creating a bipartisan task force on whether to establish an independent ethics panel to police the House, Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi said Thursday. "Pelosi, D-Calif., said Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio has agreed to the idea. The task force has not been set up yet, but it will be expected to report back in March, she said. Pelosi offered no details on what the outside ethics group might look like, saying that would be up to the task force. ''There is no question that the ethics process in the last couple of years has lost the confidence of the American people,' Pelosi told a news conference. 'I'm hopeful that it's possible that we can have an outside entity that will restore that confidence.'" (AP)
"There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there's only one way to leave Iraq: Load up and head for the border. Now." -- Joe Galloway, Link
A lying sack of crap In Tuesday’s press briefing, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Tony Snow whether he believes the American public would support President Bush’s potential plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq. Snow said that Bush’s “way forward” will “address a lot of the concerns that the American public have,” and called on Congress to endorse whatever it will be:
The other thing is that there is an opportunity here, also, for Democrats and Republicans to work together; whatever the discontent may be with the President, the level of confidence in Congress is even lower. And what you have is a sense of crisis of confidence in government. And this is an opportunity for…the legislative branch and executive branch to work together
– 57 percent trust the incoming Congress “to do a better job coping with the main problems the nation faces.” Just 31 percent trust Bush.
– 56 percent trust the incoming Congress to better deal with the situation in Iraq, compared to just 32 percent for Bush.
– 50 percent trust the incoming Congress to better fight the war on terrorism, compared to just 41 percent for Bush.
Snow is right that the legislative and executive branches have an opportunity to work together. But it the public’s confidence is much more with the Congress than the President.
Give this a close read. It's from the Wall Street Journal ...
The Bush administration is leaning toward temporarily sending as many as 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, even as the Democrats taking charge of Congress demand a drawdown of forces.
U.S. officials say the increase is needed to make a new push to stabilize Baghdad and to bolster efforts to train the Iraqi army. The emerging plan is facing opposition from Iraqi officials adamant that more U.S. forces aren't the answer. U.S. military commanders in Baghdad have drawn up plans for the country that don't require any new personnel. The debate over whether to send additional U.S. forces to Iraq is the most visible manifestation of the high-level tumult roiling the Bush administration as it works to find a way forward there ahead of a presidential address to the nation early next year.
Who's for this exactly? That is, beside President Bush, people who work for President Bush and John McCain? The American public seems dead set against it, at least if we're willing to go by numerous national polls and a recent national election. The top brass in the US military seems, at best, highly skeptical -- because it's a textbook example of reckless hope over experience. To the extent there still is such a thing, most of the US foreign policy establishment is against it. Who's on this bandwagon beside the president and the pundits?
A coward with a word processor Best-selling novelist Michael Crichton is a vocal critic of global warming science. His 2004 novel State of Fear depicts global warming as a hoax concocted by environmentalists to raise money. In January 2005, Crichton spent an hour talking with President Bush; the two were “in near-total agreement,” according to Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes. Last March, New Republic senior editor Michael Crowley wrote a cover story called “Jurassic President: Michael Crichton’s Scariest Creation.” It highlighted Crichton’s junk science and the danger posed by President Bush adopting it. Crichton’s response was to smear Crowley in his latest novel, Next, by writing in a character named “Mick Crowley” who rapes a two-year-old boy. The following is a graphic excerpt from Crichton’s novel (reader beware):
Alex Burnet was in the middle of the most difficult trial of her career, a rape case involving the sexual assault of a two-year-old boy in Malibu. The defendant, thirty-year-old Mick Crowley, was a Washington-based political columnist who was visiting his sister-in-law when he experienced an overwhelming urge to have anal sex with her young son, still in diapers. Crowley was a wealthy, spoiled Yale graduate and heir to a pharmaceutical fortune. …It turned out Crowley’s taste in love objects was well known in Washington, but [his lawyer]–as was his custom–tried the case vigorously in the press months before the trial, repeatedly characterizing Alex and the child’s mother as “fantasizing feminist fundamentalists” who had made up the whole thing from “their sick, twisted imaginations.” This, despite a well-documented hospital examination of the child. (Crowley’s penis was small, but he had still caused significant tears to the toddler’s rectum.)
The real-life Michael Crowley is also a Washington journalist and also graduated from Yale. The New York Times reports, “Mr. Crichton could not be reached yesterday for comment, and a publicist at his publisher, HarperCollins, did not return calls.” In an article posted today, Crowley says he is “strangely flattered” by the reference: “If someone offers substantive criticism of an author, and the author responds by hitting below the belt, as it were, then he’s conceding that the critic has won.” In an article posted to the New Republic's Web site today, Crowley responded:
The next page contains fleeting references to Crowley as a "weasel" and a "dickhead," and, later, "that political reporter who likes little boys." But that's it--Crowley comes and goes without affecting the plot. He is not a character so much as a voodoo doll. Knowing that Crichton had used prior books to attack very real-seeming people, I was suspicious. Who was this Mick Crowley? A Google search turned up an Irish Workers Party politician in Knocknaheeny, Ireland. But Crowley's tireless advocacy for County Cork's disabled seemed to make him an unlikely target of Crichton's ire. And that's when it dawned on me: I happen to be a Washington political journalist. And, yes, I did attend Yale University. And, come to think of it, I had recently written a critical 3,700-word cover story about Crichton. In lieu of a letter to the editor, Crichton had fictionalized me as a child rapist. And, perhaps worse, falsely branded me a pharmaceutical-industry profiteer.
Calling Mr. Crichton... “This year is set to be the sixth warmest worldwide since records began, stoked by global warming linked to human activities,” a new report by the British Meteorological Office finds.
Spinning for her hubby On MSNBC this morning, Norah O’Donnell asked Laura Bush about a new poll that found “only 2 in 10 Americans approve of the job that the president is doing on Iraq.” Mrs. Bush placed the blame squarely on the media. She said, “I do know that there are a lot of good things that are happening that aren’t covered. And I think that the drum beat in the country from the media, from the only way people know what is happening…is discouraging.” Mrs. Bush added that she hopes there is “more balanced coverage by the media” in the future. The truth is that the Bush administration is systematically underreporting the amount of violence in Iraq. From the Iraq Study Group report, pg. 94-95:
In addition, there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq. The standard for recording attacks acts as a filter to keep events out of reports and databases…For example, on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence. Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals.
His being a public employee and all... “The Bush administration asked an appeals court Wednesday to overrule a federal judge and allow the White House to keep secret any records of visitors to Vice President Dick Cheney’s residence and office.”
And we thought it was just a painful custom “Two major studies of male circumcision in Africa have found that the simple surgical procedure reduces the risk of HIV infection by half — a hugely important result that is likely to prompt many African nations hard hit by AIDS to promote it as a means to control the epidemic.”
At least he's consistent He's wrong all the time—every time. The old wise men just think he's the coolest. The McCain/Lieberman ticket for '08.
Tony Snow is starting to melt from the pressure under this administration. Didn't he say he'd be in the loop once in a while? (read the transcript via Olbermann) Olbermann: When he first started, he won praise for his candor about not knowing stuff. But he‘s now been there eight months, and sooner or later, “I don‘t know” loses the charm of “Aw, shucks, ma‘am,” and moves closer to “Well, what do you know?” In fact, Dana Milbank, in “The Washington Post” today, counts more than 400 times Mr. Snow has said, “I don‘t know,” from that famous podium. Video-WMP Video-QT Froomkin: Could Snow's honeymoon with the press corps finally be over? Dana Milbank writes in The Washington Post: "When Snow took over as White House press secretary earlier this year, reporters found it refreshing that he was willing to admit when he didn't know something. This has become rather less refreshing as Snow, while claiming access to Bush's sanctum sanctorum, continues to use the phrase — more than 400 times so far in televised briefings and interviews. Sometimes, it seems more of a tic than a response; usually, it's a brushoff. . . . (Read the rest of this story…)
Oh the irony, it's sooooo richNPR : A fence-building company in Southern California agrees to pay nearly $5 million in fines for hiring illegal immigrants. Two executives from the company may also serve jail time. The Golden State Fence Company's work includes some of the border fence between San Diego and Mexico. After an immigration check in 1999 found undocumented workers on its payroll, Golden State promised to clean house. But when followup checks were made in 2004 and 2005, some of those same illegal workers were still on the job. In fact, U-S Attorney Carol Lam says as many as a third of the company's 750 workers may have been in the country illegally. Read on…
Our stupid, stupid media Apparently, when we (bloggers) call for good and honest reporting we're hypocrites because we also praise good and honest reporting. You figure it out. I can't.
So, I have an idea: Since he doesn't want to debate anything except his own brilliance, let's make a bet. I predict that Iraq won't have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it. I'll bet $1,000 (which I can hardly spare right now). This way neither of us can hide behind clever word play or CV reading. If there's another reasonable wager Cole wants to offer which would measure our judgment, I'm all ears. Money where your mouth is, doc. One caveat: Because I don't think it's right to bet on such serious matters for personal gain, if I win, I'll donate the money to the USO. He can give it to the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade or whatever his favorite charity is.
Cole was too smart to get sucked into a stupid bet on such an important issue and was repulsed by Jonah's proposal.
I cannot tell you how this paragraph hit me in the gut. I was nearly immobilized by disgust and grief. This man really does see Iraqis as playthings. He is proposing a wager on the backs of Iraqis…
That being said, will Jonah pay up and donate the 1000.00 bucks for just being a complete wanker? He could always just join the military—oh wait—I forgot—he's a coward too:
As for why my sorry a** isn't in the kill zone, lots of people think this is a searingly pertinent question. No answer I could give — I'm 35 years old, my family couldn't afford the lost income, I have a baby daughter, my a** is, er, sorry, are a few — ever seem to suffice.
By 59% to 21%, Americans say Congress rather than Mr. Bush should take the lead in setting policy for the nation. ....At the same time, items on the Democrats' opening agenda for Congress enjoy strong initial backing. More than seven in 10 Americans support raising the minimum wage — on which Mr. Bush has indicated flexibility — and forcing the federal government to negotiate lower Medicare drug prices with pharmaceuticals companies — which Mr. Bush opposes. The president faces a steeper challenge resisting Democratic initiatives on other economic issues. On energy, 80% favor forcing auto makers to build more fuel-efficient vehicles even if that raises prices; 59% back eliminating tax cuts for oil companies.
Things are so bad for Bush that 59% of the country would be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate if he or she had merely served in Bush's cabinet. I hope Condi is serious when she says she doesn't plan to run for president.
What liberal media?This New York Times article quotes no one at all in support of Carter's position, only critics. Since when does the Times write in its news pages about controversies entirely from one side of the controversy, particularly when it's about someone who was president of the United States? I'll tell you since when. It's since he criticizes Israel ...
What liberal media? Part IINPR handed over about 8 minutes to Fred Kagan this evening, without any opposing view hinted at or expressed, to advocate for a position that only 8-16% of the population support and which not even the president has yet advocated. Still, the Pundit Class knows it must continue, that Saint McCain, who last year boldly predicted that by now things would be oh so better, surely must Be Wise when he suggests it and that no matter how strong of a majority they represent, the dirty fucking hippies must not be given access to the airwaves to express their highly popular viewpoint.
Oops, did we say that out loud?'04 Pentagon Report Cited Detention Concerns"A previously undisclosed Pentagon report concluded that the three terrorism suspects held at a brig in South Carolina were subjected to months of isolation, and it warned that their "unique" solitary confinement could be viewed as violating U.S. detention standards." (WaPo) One of the detainees was this guy: Federal Judge Asked to Decide if Padilla Is Competent for Trial "Saying that he was mentally damaged as a result of his three years and eight months in a naval brig in South Carolina, lawyers for Jose Padilla asked a federal judge in Miami yesterday to determine his competency to stand trial on terrorism conspiracy charges." (NYTimes)
DHS leaves kids wandering the street Another story of kids left behind by the DHS raids (earlier stories here and here). From today's Worthington (Minn.) Daily Globe:
Jesus Alcantar, a Swift employee and union representative, said through an interpreter that he had found four children knocking on doors looking for their mother. “I took them by the hand and started knocking on doors, looking for family members who would take them in,” he said. “I saw a little girl on the street. I saw someone take her, but I don’t know who that was.”
More on the DHS raids In Iowa, governor and presidential hopeful Tom Vilsack (D) expressed displeasure with the Department of Homeland Security, which has opted to bar access to detainees by family members or lawyers. DHS is changing its policy, Vilsack's spokeswoman said.
The operation -- which was the largest federal immigration raid in U.S. history -- may not have gotten much play in the national media, but made a profound impression on the communities which lost hundreds of members overnight. "The sight of federal agents raiding the local packinghouse is nothing new. In fact, it's happened several times over the past 15 years," reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune of the Worthington, Minn. raid. "But never quite like this. . . .
"Never before had so many workers -- 230 -- been detained or arrested. Never before had the fallout of the raid created so much fear and distrust among so many."
In Iowa, one Latina teen said she thought the raids had an effect on her community as profound as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "When 9/11 came along, everyone remembered it," said Isis Diaz, a 14-year-old freshman. "I think everyone will remember this."
DHS insists it hasn't arrested a single person who was working legally in the U.S. But we've been hearing otherwise. A memo yesterday prepared by one Minnesota lawyer following the Worthington raid said at least one U.S. citizen had been swept up and was being detained. And Priscilla Falcon, a professor at the University of Northern Colorado, told me yesterday afternoon that she knew of students whose parents were legal U.S. residents, but were nonetheless detained after the Greeley, Colo. raid, which netted over 260 arrests total.
Help us puzzle this one out: In the name of fighting identity theft, hundreds of Homeland Security agents rounded up 1,300 people in raids Tuesday, nearly all illegal immigrants. Only a few dozen of those arrested had any tie to identity thefts, it turned out. Too bad: nearly all of them will be deported for standard immigration violations. The deported workers will be forced to leave behind an uncounted number of children, including infants. This practice isn't new, but the scale of the raids -- the largest such operation in U.S. history -- makes the number of forcibly abandoned children likely to be unusually high. DHS arrested workers who came from stable, working-class neighborhoods. Their kids were enrolled in schools. The communities are reported to be ripped apart by the raids; in some, the local authorities refused to help the feds. In some cases state authorities intervened to demand DHS behave better. What's the monetary cost of mounting the biggest raid on immigrants in U.S. history? What's going to be the cost to the communities affected? What is the cost that will be borne by state and local governments? And most importantly, who is served by raids that by any measure failed to achieve their stated goal, and at such great expense?
So the question remains: what was the purpose of the raids? The Denver Postsays they were a way for the Bush administration to pressure Congress to act on immigration -- the Congress which is in recess for several weeks, but has already said immigration is a top issue for next session. The Chicago Tribunequotes one Beltway cynic who thinks the raids are just a harsh cover for the White House to push amnesty for illegals next year. And of course we've talked to one lobbyist who says she has no earthly idea why DHS took action when it did.
And why the fake justification? The administration claims its "Operation Wagon Train" targeted "hundreds" of aliens using stolen identity papers belonging to U.S. citizens. But Tuesday's raids only netted a handful of arrests on identity crimes. So why the misleading rhetoric?
What liberal media? Part III and Remember this in 08
Summary: The media largely ignored the hiring of Terry Nelson to serve as campaign manager for John McCain's presumed bid for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, and with few exceptions, those that did report on Nelson's hiring have largely overlooked Nelson's connections to various Republican scandals.
In mid-March, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) hired Republican operative Terry Nelson as a senior adviser to his political action committee. More recently, McCain aides disclosed on December 7 that he had tapped Nelson to serve as his campaign manager for his presumed bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008.
But not only have the media largely ignored this recent development, those who reported on it have largely overlooked Nelson's connections to various Republican scandals. Most recently, Nelson was responsible for a television advertisement attacking Senate candidate Rep. Harold Ford Jr. that many criticized as racist. Last year, the indictments of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) on campaign finance-related charges alleged that Nelson was the conduit for money transferred through the Republican National Committee (RNC) between DeLay's political action committee and Republican Texas House of Representatives candidates. Questions have also been raised regarding his knowledge of the 2004 New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal. Moreover, Nelson's consulting firm employs a former adviser to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, whose 2004 campaign tactics McCain himself called "dishonest and dishonorable."
Both CNN's The Situation Room and MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann briefly reported Nelson's hiring on December 7, as did weblogs at The Washington Post and ABC News. Further, articles on McCain in the December 11 issue of Roll Call [subscription required] and the December 18 issue of Time noted that McCain had tapped Nelson as his campaign manager. And in his December 12 "Media Notes" column, Post columnist Howard Kurtz excerpted a December 7 blog post by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Dick Polman on Nelson's hiring. But of the few mentions in the media of this development, a Media Matters for America search through December 12 found only three -- Time staff writer Karen Tumulty, Countdown host Keith Olbermann, and Kurtz -- who have made any reference to his controversial past.
Approved attack ad on Harold Ford criticized as racist
As head of the RNC's independent expenditure unit in 2006, Nelson approved a controversial advertisement attacking Senate candidate Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN). The ad featured a scantily clad white woman posing as someone who "met" Ford "at the Playboy party." As the ad concluded, she looked into the camera, purporting to address Ford, an African-American, and asked him to "call" her.
As the Los Angeles Timesnoted, "Critics said the ad ... plays on fears of interracial relationships to scare some white voters in rural Tennessee." An October 26 New York Timesarticle quoted Vanderbilt University professor and political advertising expert John Geer saying that the spot that it "is playing to a lot of fears" and "frankly makes the Willie Horton ad look like child's play." Former Republican senator and Secretary of Defense William Cohen, on the October 23 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, said the ad made "a very serious appeal to a racist sentiment," and NAACP Washington Bureau director Hilary O. Shelton also denounced the advertisement.
The uproar surrounding the ad ultimately led Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to fire Nelson. Wal-Mart had hired Nelson's consulting firm, Crosslink Strategy Group, in 2005 "to help burnish its image after a wave of attacks from organized labor and liberal groups," according to The New York Times. As Media Matters for Americanoted at the time, The New York Times reported that Nelson "has worked for various Republican leaders, including President Bush and Senator John McCain of Arizona"; in reporting that Nelson "has worked" for McCain, the Times obscured the fact that Nelson still worked for McCain.
Implicated in DeLay scandal
In September 2005, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) was indicted on charges of conspiracy involving alleged illegal corporate contributions into the Texas state elections. Specifically, the indictments accused DeLay of, in 2002, conspiring with two aides, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, to arrange large corporate contributions to the RNC that would then be sent back to various candidates for the Texas legislature.
While Nelson has not been charged, both the conspiracy and money-laundering indictments allege that, as deputy chief of staff of the RNC at the time, Nelson received a $190,000 check from Colyandro in September 2002, along with a request that the RNC fund seven particular candidates for the Texas House of Representatives. The RNC subsequently carried out this request, issuing $190,000 to the seven candidates on October 4, 2002. From the money-laundering indictment:
(4) on or about the eleventh day of September 2002, in Washington, D.C. the defendant, James Walter Ellis, did communicate with Terry Nelson, deputy chief of staff of the Republican National Committee, and did request and propose that, in exchange for their receipt of a contribution of a certain sum of money from Texans for a Republican Majority PAC, the Republican National Committee and the Republican National State Elections Committee ... make political contributions to several candidates for the Texas House of Representatives that were supported by Texans for a Republican Majority PAC;
(5) on or about the thirteenth day of September, 2002, in Washington, D.C., the defendant, James Walter Ellis, did tender and deliver aforesaid check and did cause the aforesaid check to be tendered and delivered, to Terry Nelson and the Republican National Committee;
(6) on or about the thirteenth day of September, 2002, in Washington, D.C., the defendant, James Walter Ellis, did provide the said Terry Nelson with a document that contained the names of several candidates for the Texas House of Representatives that were supported by Texans for a Republican Majority PAC ... to whom the defendant, James Walter Ellis, requested and proposed that the Republican National Committee and the Republican National State Elections Committee make political contributions in exchange for the committee's receipt of the proceeds from the aforesaid check, and that contained amounts that defendant, James Walter Ellis, and Texans for a Republican Majority PAC suggested be contributed to each of the said candidates.
Implicated in NH phone-jamming scandal
During Nelson's tenure as RNC deputy chief of staff, one of his subordinates, RNC New Hampshire political director James Tobin, conspired with several GOP operatives to obstruct the Democrats' get-out-the-vote effort in the state by jamming the phone lines they used on Election Day, November 5, 2002. On December 15, 2005, Tobin was convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit the commission of interstate telephone harassment and one count of aiding and abetting the commission of interstate telephone harassment. He later received a sentence of 10 months in prison, two years of probation, and a $10,000 fine.
While the degree to which Nelson was aware of Tobin's scheme is unknown, his name did appear on the government's witness list during the Tobin trial, as the weblog Talking Points Memo documented.
Bush Weighing Deeper Commitment in Iraq, Officials say
"President Bush is weighing whether to make a deeper American commitment in Iraq despite growing public unhappiness with the war, according to senior U.S. officials and former officials familiar with Bush's high-level review.
"The proposed changes, with a few exceptions, conflict with the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which warned earlier this month against an open-ended commitment to Iraq and said American combat brigades could be out of Iraq by early 2008....
"While some key decisions haven't been made yet, the senior officials said the emerging strategy includes:
"-A shift in the primary U.S. military mission in Iraq from combat to training an expanded Iraqi army, generally in line with the Iraq Study Group's recommendations.
"-A possible short-term surge of as many as 40,000 more American troops to try to secure Baghdad, along with a permanent increase in the size of the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps, which are badly strained by deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan....
"-A revised Iraq political strategy aimed at forging a "moderate center" of Shiite Muslim, Sunni Muslim Arab and Kurdish politicians that would bolster embattled Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. The goal would be to marginalize radical Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents.
"-More money to combat rampant unemployment among Iraqi youths and to advance reconstruction, much of it funneled to groups, areas and leaders who support Maliki and oppose the radicals.
"-Rejection of the study group's call for an urgent, broad new diplomatic initiative in the Middle East to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reach out to Iran and Syria.
"Instead, the administration is considering convening a conference of Iraq and neighboring countries - excluding Iran and Syria - as part of an effort to pressure the two countries to stop interfering in Iraq....
"...Bush appears to have been emboldened by criticism of its proposals as defeatist by members of the Republican Party's conservative wing and their allies on the Internet, the radio and cable TV." (McClatchy)
Army Wants to Reduce Strain on Its Troops...
"The Army, strained by unrelenting violence in Iraq and operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, is considering ways it can speed up the creation of two combat brigades while shifting personnel and equipment from other military units.
Under the plan being developed, the new brigades could be formed next year and be ready to be sent to Iraq in 2008, defense officials told The Associated Press. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans were not final." (AP, LAT)
...But in The Meantime, Might Be Strained Even More
"Senator John McCain said Thursday that American military commanders were discussing the possibility of adding as many as 10 more combat brigades — a maximum of about 35,000 troops — to “bring the situation under control” while Iraq’s divided political leaders seek solutions to the worsening bloodshed here....
“Five to 10 additional brigades is what is being discussed,” Mr. McCain said, outlining an increase that could bring overall American troop strength to the highest levels since the invasion in March 2003. While American combat brigades vary, Pentagon officials say they average about 3,500 soldiers. At present, there are 15 combat brigades in Iraq, amounting to about 50,000 of the total American force of about 140,000." (NYT)
...And That Won't Happen without A Fight
"The Bush administration is leaning toward temporarily sending as many as 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, even as the Democrats taking charge of Congress demand a drawdown of forces.
"U.S. officials say the increase is needed to make a new push to stabilize Baghdad and to bolster efforts to train the Iraqi army. The emerging plan is facing opposition from Iraqi officials adamant that more U.S. forces aren't the answer. U.S. military commanders in Baghdad have drawn up plans for the country that don't require any new personnel." (WSJ)
Meanwhile, back in Dubya's Folly
More than three years ago, Donald Rumsfeld said that: "Well, we don't do body counts on other people."
But two days ago, George Bush declared: "Our commanders report that the enemy has also suffered. Offensive operations by Iraqi and coalition forces against terrorists and insurgents and death squad leaders have yielded positive results. In the months of October, November, and the first week of December, we have killed or captured nearly 5,900 of the enemy."
Are body counts the new metric to measure success in Iraq? When asked that question during yesterday's White House press briefing, Tony Snow said: "-- what I can do is at least offer one possible reason why that's an important data point for Americans, which is there's a lot of concern about U.S. casualties and deaths, as there should be -- 103 deaths in October alone. And there is quite often the impression -- and I've talked about it up here, that our people aren't doing anything, they're just targets. And I think there's a certain amount of unease in the American public because they hear about deaths but they don't hear about what's going on. ...But it probably is worth at least giving a general impression of relative battlefield success..."
This is a part of the new effort at the White House "to talk about both the good news and the bad news" out of Iraq. Of course this new measurement of success only serves to give yet another way to compare Iraq to Vietnam. Because in Vietnam, when we were: "Bogged down in atypical warfare with no tangible measure of progress, U.S. commanders in Vietnam used the body count to show the alleged destruction of enemy forces."
And don't forget that: Gen. William C. Westmoreland, used an increasing body count to suggest that victory might be close at hand in 1967 and 1968. But the 1968 Tet offensive proved him wrong..."That is what set the stage for the 'credibility gap' when the Tet offensive broke out. It put the final lie to all these bogus representations."
The more things change... (Moral question: When did a number of dead people become a measure of success and how sick is that?)