Saturday, July 28, 2007

so yer dog pisses on the rug, eh?

Never, never, never, would i recommend to anyone, even to somebody i despise(like the president) a pet like mine. My pet is nothing but trouble- she yowls, howls, growls, screeches, throws a fit at the slightest discomfort. My pet is quite large. She has to stay out back, which she protests constantly, as the rainy season is upon us. (I have a titanium chain i found on e-bay) And her stools are prodigious, worse than a squadron of baboons could ever manifest.
The absolutely most deleterious trait of said pet is its diet. I found Noam's culinary preferences curious, even entertaining at first... You see, my pet does not masticate kibble or grass or even the occasional rodent. Noam eats books.
Apparently, prose = flavor to Noam. And she is voracious; seemingly insatiable. This used to be a house packed to the rafters with volumes of philosophical tomes. But since i took in this wayward creature, we are reduced to a smattering of Ursala LeGuin, Judy Bloom and Stephen King . Thus, a pall of gloom has descended upon this humble cottage.
So when my pet sensed her food was becoming scarce, she became a royal pain in the ass. "WAAAAAAAGGHHH!" Neighbors started abandoning their homes. But it gets worse.
I guess it's all my fault, ultimately. I should have known better. Did I mention that my pet has absolutely astonishing olfactory capability? Noam can sniff out a Bertrand Russel essay a mile away.
Howtaputit? I, as well, have a literary appetite, though of a different propensity than Noam's, and one day, after having surveyed the selection of our sacked shelves, decided to go to Barnes n Nobles to purchase something to read.
Me got back to the house with satisfying booty of Orwell, Nabakov, Dillard , T.C. Boyle, cartography by Gerardus Mercator. I hadn't thought to bring anything back for my pet. Vaccuous, i be. Cuz when i went out back to check on Noam, coo and reassure the stupid beast, she smelled where i had been without her.
Not only did my bane of a pet ascertain that i had books- the equivalent of a tsar's five course meal, to her palate- she figured out; sniffed out, the source.
That goddamn titanium chain is worthless. Woulda done as well with a leash of twisty ties, given the antedeluvian wrath that insued!
Oh by the way, Noam looks kind of like the photo prefacing this posting, when she's ornery. I feel so so terrible for all those folks at Barnes n Noble, innocently shopping , to have to go through Noam barging in like that... The doors were too small for her. She stomped, wild-eyed, jaws dripping tendrils of frenzied froth, to the philosophy section. Barnes n Noble no longer has a philosophy section.
And me? Me gots a very hungover pet dinosaur in my backyard. Looking remorseful, guilty, miserable, puking tons of cenozoic bile and confetti.

Selling Arms

Yesterday's post about the confusion in Iraq and administration anger at Saudi Arabia is complemented by todays news that we're going to sell them $20 billion worth of arms.
Another brilliant plan.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Stuck in the middle with who

OK, it was a cheesy song, but we really are stuck in the middle:
Now, Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia’s counterproductive role in the Iraq war. They say that beyond regarding Mr. Maliki as an Iranian agent, the Saudis have offered financial support to Sunni groups in Iraq. Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis have not done enough to stem the flow.

One senior administration official says he has seen evidence that Saudi Arabia is providing financial support to opponents of Mr. Maliki. He declined to say whether that support was going to Sunni insurgents because, he said, "That would get into disagreements over who is an insurgent and who is not."It would be comic, but for the tragedy:

And the Iranians?
The second and longer meeting with Iran and the U.S. over Iraq ended with a public
of dissatisfaction on the part of Ryan Crocker, the American ambassador to Iraq, about Iran’s support for the Iraqi Shiite militia. Meanwhile his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, has been a lot more discrete about the meeting. Talking to the Iranian press he said he was satisfied with the American “acknowledgment in the meeting that they had made many mistakes in Iraq.” He was also satisfied with the American agreement to set up a joint “security committee” to help quell the insurgency in Iraq. This was a proposal made by Qazemi Qomi to Crocker in the meeting that was held between the two in late May. Crocker, awaiting instructions from Washington, did not respond then. After two months, there seems to be a grudging acceptance that cooperation with Iran may have to be in the cards. As Juan Cole points out, this is a significant development that needs to be watched.

So why are we there?

Sawt al-Iraq reports that member of the Kurdistan parliament, Nuri Talabani, insists that US economic interests are driving its heavy-handed push to make sure the Iraqi parliament signs a petroleum law in short order. He said that the US government wants special deals for US petroleum corporations in developing, producing and
distributing Iraqi petroleum, and that is why it is in such a hurry. Since the US and its Iraqi allies have been involved in heavy negotiations with the Kurdistan Regional Government over the exact provisions of a petroleum law, it is plausible that Talabani has special knowledge of US goals.

Brilliant plan, brilliant, with only a few minor flaws. The Saudi's are backing the Sunni's in order to protect their security, the Iranian's are backing the Shia in order to protect their security, and the Turk's are battling the Kurd's for their own security reasons. The Iraqi's are smack dab in the middle of a proxy war. And our shrub, being the decider, has chosen to arm all sides while antagonizing all sides and keeping our soldiers in the middle as targets.
Seems to me that if you must provoke a proxy war, simultaneously aggravating and asking for help from all sides might not be an effective strategy.

Drunken Astronauts

With all the other (more important) news today, I'm perfectly happy to waste time on this:

A panel reviewing astronaut health issues in the wake of the Lisa Nowak arrest has found that on at least two occasions astronauts were allowed to fly after flight surgeons and other astronauts warned they were so intoxicated that they posed a flight-safety risk.

The panel, also reported "heavy use of alcohol" by astronauts before launch, within the standard 12-hour "bottle to throttle" rule applied to NASA flight crew members.

I'm with Fixer on this:

Listen to me. You want me to strap my ass to a roman candle and ride it into space, you damn straight I'm gonna have a belt or two before I go.

At the very least, I'd be puffin' up a fattie. Ain't like it's a commercial flight.

It's Boobie Time

A lovely pair.

Voter Caging

Here's what motivated the DOJ attorney firings: They were rigging the 2004 election.

Previously undisclosed documents detail how Republican operatives, with the knowledge of several White House officials, engaged in an illegal, racially-motivated effort to suppress tens of
thousands of votes during the 2004 presidential campaign in a state where George W. Bush was trailing his Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry.

The documents also contain details describing how Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign officials, and at
least one individual who worked for White House political adviser Karl Rove, planned to stop minorities residing in Cuyahoga County from voting on election day.

The efforts to purge voters from registration rolls was spearheaded by Tim Griffin, a former
Republican National Committee opposition researcher. Griffin recently resigned from his post as interim US attorney for Little Rock Arkansas. His predecessor, Bud Cummins, was forced out to make way for Griffin.

This is another reason to impeach.

Another set of documents, 43 pages of emails, provided to Truthout by the PBS news program "NOW," contains blueprints for a massive effort undertaken by RNC operatives in 2004, to challenge the eligibility of voters expected to support Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in states such as Nevada, New Mexico, Florida and Pennsylvania.

One email, dated September 30, 2004, and sent to a dozen or so staffers on the Bush-Cheney
campaign and the RNC, under the subject line "voter fraud strategy conference call," describes how campaign staffers planned to challenge the veracity of votes in a handful of battleground states in the event of a Democratic victory.

Furthermore, the emails show the Bush-Cheney campaign and RNC staffers compiled
voter-challenge lists that targeted probable Democratic voters in at least five states: New Mexico, Ohio, Florida, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Voting rights lawyers have made allegations of so called "vote caging," against Republicans previously. These emails provide more evidence. One Republican operative involved in the planning wrote "we can do this in NV, FL, PA and NM because we have a list to run against the Absentee Ballot requests, and should."

I'm really angry about this. I work as an Inspector during every election, doing my very best to make sure that all votes are accurately counted and that all eligible voters get to vote. I may be totally partisan the rest of the year but on election day I am completely unbiased.
Vote caging is an illegal tactic to suppress minorities from voting by having their names purged from voter rolls when they fail to respond to registered mail sent to their homes. The Republican National
Committee signed a consent decree in 1986 stating they would not engage in the practice after they were caught suppressing votes in 1981 and 1986

And while I rarely turn on my TV, I'm going to watch this one:
A full examination of this issue will be the topic for this week's program, "Voter Caging" on "NOW" airing Friday, July 27 on PBS (Check local listings at


I swear, some days I really wonder why I crawl out of my cave. NPR is reporting "Do your friends make you fat?" at me. I'm sure that's the most important question in the news today.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


This graphic is an example of how our shrub cares about the Iraqi people:

Given that our invasion has created over 2 million refugees, you think we'd be able to help a few more. Shameful.

More Scandals

Another day, another scandal:

U.S. construction giant Bechtel National Inc. arrived in Iraq in 2003, on the heels of U.S. troops, with a fat contract awarded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to rebuild the country.

Then in 2004 the company won a second contract, worth a potential $1.8 billion. Wearing white construction helmets labeled "Bechtel," the company's construction supervisors oversaw work on hospitals, schools and bridges, and tried to get the water flowing and the electricity turned on.

A new federal audit released Wednesday, however, found that a big chunk of Bechtel's reconstruction work for USAID, the federal agency that issued the contract, was never achieved on the second contract. Auditors checked the 24 jobs Bechtel was supposed to complete.

It's hard to keep up with all the failures in Iraq. But I'm sure Bechtel will be held accountable, right?

"Ten did not achieve their original objectives," the auditors found. In another three projects, "we were either unable to determine what the original objectives were or the achievements were unclear."

The cost to American taxpayers for unfinished efforts was high: the U.S. government approved a total of $180 million dollars in payments for Bechtel’s ten allegedly unfinished projects. They include a $24 million water treatment plant in Baghdad's impoverished Sadr City, a $26 million children's hospital in Basra and a $4 million Baghdad landfill that was never built

"The Bechtel audit is emblematic of the reconstruction problems in Iraq," said Stuart Bowen, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, whose office conducted the audit.

One of the many things that I saw as a really stupid plan for Iraq was the bringing in of American companies to rebuild Iraq. There were plenty of Iraqi construction companies capable of reconstruction, and if we had have employed Iraqi's to rebuild Iraq we might be facing less resistance today. I'm not sure if the American people realize that, prior to our invasion, Iraq was a modern industrialized nation. Yes, years of war and sanctions had weakened their infrastructure, but they still had one of the highest per capita education levels in the region. Now most of the highly educated population has fled the country.

It is a Constitutional Crisis

OK, I'm beyond being shocked by anything from our shrub's mis-administration. But we're now at a point where congress must stand up or become irrelevant.

Alberto On Thin Ice

Democratic Representative Jane Harman, formerly the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee and Jay Rockefeller, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee contradicted Alberto Gonzales’ testimony Tuesday about a congressional briefing in 2004 regarding the Terrorists Surveillance Program. Then Wednesday night, Gonzales was busted by the Associated Press and tagged for perjuring himself at Tuesday’s testimony. Arlen Specter has already warned Gonzales against perjuring himself. And Pat Leahy has now threatened a perjury probe.

When the head of our law enforcement decides that he is above the law he must be removed.

Otherwise there is NO LAW.

Nowhere is the Republican ability to lie, cheat and use dirty tricks to get what
it wants more obvious than in the person of Alberto Gonzales, Attorney General
and longtime Bush-pal. He's in the position of an inveterate liar who can't recall all the lies he's told anymore. So he's dropped the ball on the existance of more secret warrantless spying programs that even the last AG thought were illegal, pretended to be dumbfounded by unprecedented authority over the DoJ by administration officials when he signed the order for it, and generally left himself in a position where impeachment looks like the best option.

Meanwhile, back at the White House, the Cheney advisor who was doing Fourth Branch's dirty work in bacckstabbing Condi Rice and convincing people to talk Bush into attacking Iran is resigning - and finding it difficult to get a new job.

The pattern of arrogance has been expanding over recent months. The administration has thumbed it's nose at congress for way too long.

There are three steps for the House to bringing contempt charges against an
individual: committee approval, a floor vote in the House, and a referral to the
U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

The House passed step one

Impeachment is the only means left to save our constitution.

Added: The senate has taken the first steps:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats called for a special counsel to investigate whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lied under oath and subpoenaed top presidential aide Karl Rove Thursday in a widening probe into the dismissal of federal prosecutors.

"It has become apparent that the attorney general has provided at a minimum half-truths and misleading statements," four members of the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote in a letter to Solicitor General Paul Clement.

They dispatched the letter shortly before Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., announced the subpoena of Rove, the president's top political strategist.

"We have now reached a point where the accumulated evidence shows that political considerations factored into the unprecedented firing of at least nine United States Attorneys last year," said Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.;_ylt=AuU6KPTF.HIrjf5.8iOgl4OMwfIE

Blaming Iran

Is there anything they can't blame on Iran?
The U.S. military has noted a "significant improvement" in the aim of attackers
firing rockets and mortars into the heavily fortified Green Zone in the past three months that it has linked to training in Iran, a top commander said Thursday.;_ylt=Ajq5FtMwD4zmEKEiVVXHCOQUewgF

The increase in accuracy couldn't be because they've had lot's of practice. It couldn't be the result of having spotters inside the green zone. No, only the Iranians know how to accurately target mortar and rockets.
Also, the Iranians are responsible for my internet running slowly today and some of my bread went moldy before I got to eat it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


In my talks with Zymurgian about Iraq, and the history of Mesopotamia, this made sense. I had to post this:
Victory, DefeatIraq makes it to the Asian Cup finals for the first time ever:
Iraq reached their first Asian Cup final on Wednesday night, beating South Korea 4-3 on penalties after an action-packed semi-final had ended goalless after extra time.

But the celebrations in Baghdad didn't go so well:
Two suicide car bombings struck soccer fans in Baghdad as they were celebrating Iraq's victory in the Asian Cup semifinal on Wednesday, killing at least 27 people and wounding more
than 100, officials said.

The victims were among the thousands of revelers who took to the streets of the capital after the country's national soccer team beat South Korea to reach the tournament's final against Saudi Arabia on Sunday in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Thanks, rorschach.


Via the BBC, we get a reminder of the family history of our shrub:

Yes the coup is old news... so old, in fact, that most people have never heard of it (making it actually new again). But the new news here is grandpa Bush's role in the coup (unless this latest horror is old news as well that I somehow missed while watching the current fiasco unfold - see above update).

And since grandson Bush is the current President of the United States and has
implemented what can reasonably be called a fascist agenda of state and corporate interests united... then such news would be even more important for the American public. One would think...No?

"The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression."

You can listen to the radio report on the FDR coup HERE.

Fascists to the core, 'ol Prescott was good at war profiteering:

I mean it is known that Prescott Bush funded the Hitler regime (unless you did not know this, then it is new news to you):

"George Bush's grandfather, the late US senator Prescott Bush, was a director and shareholder of companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany.

The Guardian has obtained confirmation from newly discovered files in the US National Archives that a firm of which Prescott Bush was a director was involved with the financial architects of Nazism.

His business dealings, which continued until his company's assets were seized in 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act, has led more than 60 years later to a civil action for damages being brought in Germany against the Bush family by two former slave labourers at Auschwitz and to a hum of pre-election controversy."

But now we find out that Prescott Bush was involved in the FDR coup as well?
At least we now know that fascism appears to be genetic.

While our shrub may be different from his gramps, he sure seems to share his ethics.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

happy tortoise tuesday!!!

Hi- it's Zymurgian. After having been way outta town for a week, I is so damn glad me live in a quirky isolated mountain town, among damn cool folks and evenings and pine trees and such. Still America, still insane, but much of this nation is (too humid) really really insane. One may most perspicaciously glean this in airports, methinks. Especially airports.
The code was orange. I guess that means we should all be more scared than we usually are, but not neccesarily terrified. I was standing in a security checkpoint line that stretched from the flight gates to Aldeberaan. The only person about who was not glued to a cellphone, blackberry, i-pod, or corporate fast food or their own self importance, was a little girl about five or so. She had no qualms whatsoever about engaging me in conversation, which i found delightful. We talked about pirates and Harry Potter.
"We all have to wait in line to take off our shoes because of nine eleven," She explains to me.
When the indomitably cute child exclaims "I Hate Nine Eleven!" - the line is long and patience is a long way off for her, folks in line shift their weight... cross their arms, stare out the windows at the depressed, paranoid, apathetic, ocher haze of the Nation.


Without comment.

At The Bar

Best line at the brewery tonight:
"Christians:2, Lions:0
we need more Lions"
from Ducky, who more than deserves his own blog.

Iceberg Tips

This one is no surprise. In fact, I'm pretty sure that this guy was a small timer:

An Army major has been arrested on charges that he took $9.6 million in kickbacks and anticipated receiving $5.4 million more for rigging military supply contracts.

Federal authorities arrested Maj. John Cockerham, a contracting and procurement officer, and his wife, Melissa, on Monday as they returned from Louisiana to Fort Sam Houston.

The two are charged with accepting bribes, defrauding the United States, money laundering and conspiracy.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Pamela Mathy ordered them held without bail pending a bond hearing scheduled for Wednesday. The couple asked for court-appointed lawyers, which Mathy granted.

John Cockerham, 41, is assigned to a division within U.S. Army South, which is headquartered at Fort Sam Houston. Melissa Cockerham, 40, is accused of accepting bribe payments for her husband and helping conceal them, according to criminal complaint affidavits unsealed Monday.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Sierra confirmed the arrests but declined to comment beyond the affidavits.

The case broke open in December, when agents seized a ledger at the couple's home on Fort Sam Houston, the affidavits said.

Investigators with the Army's Criminal Investigations Division and the Defense Department's Criminal Investigative Service, as well as the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other agencies, are examining all contracts handled by John Cockerham. They're trying to determine the companies he allegedly took bribes from, according to court records.

According to the affidavits, the bribe payments included hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash delivered to Melissa Cockerham and others in bags and briefcases. Investigators say many of the payments occurred in 2005, and the money was deposited in banks in the Middle East and then moved to banks in the Caribbean.

"In total, the ledger records that J. Cockerham received $9.6 million in bribe payments from at least eight contractors and anticipated receiving $5.4 million more," the affidavits said.;_ylt=AmAbHqoqk0BkQUkSnnl1LzZH2ocA

On the heels of this guy:

Standing bolt upright in federal court in Austin on Monday, his cleanly shaved head shining above a charcoal gray suit, retired Army Maj. John Allen Rivard pleaded guilty to bribery and other charges for receiving kickbacks on contracts he administered while serving in Iraq.


In all, court documents say, Rivard received $238,000 in cash bribes during an 11-month deployment as a top contracting official at Camp Anaconda, near Balad in northern Iraq.


The administration of Defense Department contracts has been a key contributor
to fraud, waste and abuse in the Iraq war effort, Comptroller General David Walker testified to a congressional subcommittee in April.

Walker said that though the United States "relies heavily" on contractors in Iraq, the Defense Department cannot quantify the use of contractors or explain how much they are needed to sustain military operations.

Walker also said military commanders do not receive sufficient training in how to effectively manage contracts and contractors in Iraq.

It is unclear what training Rivard received before he was named acting chief of contracting at Camp Anaconda.

Before being activated for deployment in Iraq, Rivard worked painting
ornamental iron fencing in Georgetown, according to his roommate at the time, Pete Walker

I'm willing to bet that a lot more corruption cases will be coming out over time. Any takers?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Call Your Congress Critter

The call for impeachment just got louder:

Bree Walker told me, on the air, that Conyers said that all he needs is three more Congress Members backing impeachment, and he’ll move on it, even without Pelosi. I asked whether that meant specifically moving from 14 cosponsors of H Res 333 to 17, or adding 3 to the larger number of Congress Members who have spoken favorably of impeachment but not all signed onto bills. Bree said she didn’t know and that Conyers had declined to take any questions.

Either way, this target of three more members seems perfectly doable. It’s safe to assume, I think, that we’re talking about impeaching Cheney first. But, even if Conyers is talking about Bush, the target is perfectly achievable.

Here's the contact info:
Added for fun:
How Our Government Works

There are three branches of government: the Executive, The Legislative, and the Judicial. The Legislative and Judicial branches both report to the Executive (see chart). Underneath are various other parts of the government, like the Department of Justice, the Federal Courts, and
the Republican Party, who all report to the Office of the President, who reports to the Office of the Vice President.

How to Win in Iraq

That's the title of an article in "The American Conservative" magazine by William S. Lind, and he makes a hell of a lot of sense. Much of the article reflects ideas that I've written, but Mr. Lind is much more articulate than I am. So, of course, he'll be ignored.

The starting point, despite the disastrous course of the war to date, is to realize that the only possibilities for victory lie at the strategic level, not the tactical level. In part this is because we have botched the tactical level beyond redemption. While the efforts of General Petraeus and the Marines in Anbar province to apply classic counter-insurgency doctrine and protect the population instead of brutalizing it are laudatory, they come too late.

In larger part, we cannot win at the tactical level because this kind of war is not additive. You cannot win at the strategic level simply by accumulating tactical successes, as our Second-Generation, firepower/attrition-oriented military automatically assumes. The strategic level follows its own logic, and strategic victory requires a sound strategy. When, as is currently the case, we have no strategy, this fact works against us. If, however, we adopt a prudent strategy, it can work for us. Because a higher level of war trumps a lower, we can yet redeem our many tactical failures at the strategic level. In other words, we can still win.

Lind points out that a stable Iraq is possible, but a "pro-American, pro-Isreali" Iraq is not possible.

To devise a successful strategy, we must begin by defining what we mean by winning. The Bush administration, consistent with its record of military incompetence, continues to pursue the folly of maximalist objectives. It still defines victory as it did at the war’s outset: an Iraq that is an American satellite, friendly to Israel, happy to provide the U.S. with a limitless supply of oil and vast military bases from which American forces can dominate the region. None of these objectives are now attainable. None were ever attainable, no matter what our troops did. And as long as those objectives define victory, we are doomed to defeat.

Fortunately, another objective, the one that actually matters most, may, with luck and skill, still be achieved. That objective—restoring a state in what is now the stateless region of Mesopotamia—must become our new definition of victory.

Winning the war in Iraq therefore means seeing the re-creation of an Iraqi state. I say “seeing,” not “re-creating,” because our strategy, if it is to have a chance of success, must proceed from a realistic understanding of the situation in Iraq. We do not now have the power to re-create a state in Iraq, if we ever did. That is due in part to military failure, but it has more to do with a problem of legitimacy. As a foreign, Christian invader and occupier, we cannot create any legitimate institutions in Iraq. Quite the contrary: we have the reverse Midas touch. Any institution we create, or merely approve of and support, loses its legitimacy.

The need for diplomatic engagement with Iran is an important component.

The reason a strategy to win in Iraq must begin with a rapprochement with Iran is that any real Iraqi state is likely to be allied to Iran. Even the quisling al-Maliki government cowering in the Green Zone is close to Iran. A legitimate Iraqi government, which is virtually certain to be dominated by Iraq’s Shiites, will probably be much closer.

A restored Iraqi state that is allied with Iran will quickly roll up al-Qaeda and other non-state forces in Iraq, which is the victory we most require. But the world’s perception will still be that the United States was defeated because its main regional rival, Iran, will emerge much strengthened. If Iran and America are no longer enemies, that issue becomes moot.

A rapprochement with Iran may encourage Tehran to use its influence in Iraq to promote the revival of a state, but that is in Iran’s interest in any case once it is clear American troops are withdrawing. Conversely, until it is clear that America has given up its ambitions for large, permanent military bases in Iraq, Iran must continue to promote instability in its neighbor.

And he sees Moqtada al-Sadr much as I do, as a key to Iraq's future.

At present, the United States works to suppress any elements that challenge the al-Maliki government. We teeter on the verge of open war with the most prominent of those elements, Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army. On the ground, al-Sadr is the leader most likely to restore an Iraqi state, and thanks to his steadfast opposition to the American occupation, he has legitimacy. While he may not have the support of a majority of Iraq’s Shiites, majorities do not make history. He is the leader of the Shiites who count, which is to say the young men willing to fight. Nor is al-Sadr merely a Shiite leader; he has kept open channels of communication to at least some of the Sunni insurgent groups—and perhaps channels not of communication only. Some of the Sunni insurgents clearly have benefited from Iranian support, which may have come through al-Sadr. Of late, al-Sadr has taken care to restrain his followers
from revenge attacks against Sunnis, stressing Shiite-Sunni unity against the foreign occupier. He has had his eye on the brass ring, the supreme leadership position in a restored Iraqi state, from the beginning. Now he may see it as within reach.

Our new strategy would let him grab it. Under his leadership, or that of anyone else in Iraq with a shred of legitimacy, a restored Iraqi state will not be a friend of America. Given what we have done to that country, we can hardly expect it to be. But our new strategy has no such unattainable objective. Its objective is solely the restoration of a real state, and that al-Sadr may be able to accomplish. If he can, we will have little to complain about in terms of his toleration of al-Qaeda or other Fourth Generation elements. Nor will his close relationship with Iran be a problem, given that we will no longer regard Iran as an enemy.

Also, the need to withdraw American troops as quickly as is safely possible.

The third and final element of a strategy for winning in Iraq is to withdraw all American forces as rapidly as possible, which means within 12-18 months. That is the only way we can create the space necessary for al-Sadr or someone else to re-create an Iraqi state. If we remain and work against him, a dicey task becomes that much harder, undermining both him and our strategic goal. And if we work for him, he loses legitimacy, the sine qua non for re-creating a state in Iraq.

In this strategy, our withdrawal is not that of a defeated army. It is a strategic withdrawal—a necessary part of our strategy. That distinction is a critical for our prestige in the world, for the future health of America’s Armed Forces, and for our domestic politics, which could be roiled beyond what any conservative would desire by a vast military defeat.

If our new strategy works and our withdrawal is followed by the restoration of a real Iraqi state, we will have learned our lesson about wars of choice, but avoided a catastrophe. If it fails and Mesopotamia remains a stateless region, Iraq is no worse off than it is now, and our troops will be safely out of the mess.

It's rare that I find a conservative that I agree with, but Mr. Lind is such a rarity. Of course, he's not optimistic.
There is no chance the Bush administration, locked in a Totentanz with its dreams of world empire, will adopt this strategy. But the presidential debate season has already begun, and a bevy of candidates in both parties are looking around for something, anything that might get us out of the Iraqi morass without accepting defeat. If just one of them picks up on it, those yawningly dull debates might get a lot more

Well worth reading, even though it's not what is going to happen.
Added: I've read several other blogs deriding Lind's article because 1. he's right-wing and 2. it's not going to happen. Both are true, but I don't think it refutes the basic common sense that Mr. Lind expresses.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A new book

This one's gonna be a "must have":
I just received an advance copy of my new book, Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East. I'm a proud parent and breaking out the virtual cigars. I think Palgrave Macmillan did a stellar job with the editing and production. The actual publication date is August 7.

This episode, all too little known, was the first instance of a modern European country attempting to invade, occupy and "liberate" an Arab, Muslim Middle Eastern region.

I have started a historical blog on the book as a place to put up some materials that
might interest readers of the book, as a sort of supplement. If I get time I may do some translating or posting of translated texts.

The first posting is of the relevant portion of a PBS documentary on Bonaparte, which covers the Egyptian expedition.


I love reading Middle East history, and I love reading Juan Cole, so I'm sold. I've been trying to reduce my book hoarding (you should see my house-filled bookshelves on every available wall), but sometimes you have to indulge those guilty pleasures.
And, yes, you should read Juan Cole EVERY DAY.

Thought for the day

Q. How many members of the administration does it take to change a light bulb?
A. We're not going to tell you. Executive privilege.