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CATEGORY: War on Terror

This story has been given the predictable spin by the Washington Post; that Bush and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are at odds over the strategy of putting up to 30,000 more troops in Iraq.

But if you read the entire article, you realize that, in fact, the Chiefs are worried about how to define the mission as well as placing a time limit on their deployment – not on whether or not the troops should be dispatched:

But the Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives, despite warnings about the potential disadvantages for the military, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House review is not public.

The chiefs have taken a firm stand, the sources say, because they believe the strategy review will be the most important decision on Iraq to be made since the March 2003 invasion.

At regular interagency meetings and in briefing President Bush last week, the Pentagon has warned that any short-term mission may only set up the United States for bigger problems when it ends. The service chiefs have warned that a short-term mission could give an enormous edge to virtually all the armed factions in Iraq—including al-Qaeda’s foreign fighters, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias—without giving an enduring boost to the U.S military mission or to the Iraqi army, the officials said.

The Pentagon has cautioned that a modest surge could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to flock to Iraq to attack U.S. troops, the officials said.

These are certainly fair questions and realistic concerns. And it is important to see any surge in troops as an adjunct to the absolutely necessary political progress that must take place in Iraq if our efforts there are to have any impact whatsoever.

Is there anyone in Iraq who can bring all the factions together to hammer out the numerous issues that stand in the way of a peaceful, viable, Iraqi state? There seems to be some progress on the problem with finding an equitable way to share oil revenue But other issues like federalism and autonomy, amnesty for insurgents, justice for the victims of Saddam’s tyranny, as well as how and when US troops will disengage from the country are proving far beyond the ability of the empty suit of a Prime Minister who currently inhabits that office to even begin to deal with.

Nouri al-Maliki has got to go. His craven kowtowing to Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army has made the security situation in Baghdad worse by preventing American forces from fully engaging the Mahdis when they catch them stirring the sectarian pot. The Iraq Crisis Group – a European-based informal think tank – has pointed out correctly that Maliki is part of the security problem and not the man we want helping us to get control of the capitol:

“What is needed today is a clean break both in the way the U.S. and other international actors deal with the Iraqi government, and in the way the U.S. deals with the region.”

The Iraqi government and military should not be treated as “privileged allies” because they are not partners in efforts to stem the violence but rather parties to the conflict, it says. Trying to strengthen the fragile government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will not contribute to Iraq’s stability, it adds. Iraq’s escalating crisis cannot be resolved militarily, the report says, and can be solved only with a major political effort.

The report also offers some interesting solutions, all of which are probably non-starters with the Administration but nevertheless represent some original thinking about the political problems in Iraq:

The International Crisis Group proposes three broad steps: First, it calls for creation of an international support group, including the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Iraq’s six neighbors, to press Iraq’s constituents to accept political compromise.

Second, it urges a conference of all Iraqi players, including militias and insurgent groups, with support from the international community, to forge a political compact on controversial issues such as federalism, distribution of oil revenue, an amnesty, the status of Baath Party members and a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. Finally, it suggests a new regional strategy that would include engagement with Syria and Iran and jump-starting the moribund Arab-Israeli peace process.

Why the foreign policy elites of the world are so enamored of the Palestinian-Israeli “peace process” and believe that any progress (or lack thereof) in that arena will affect what happens in Iraq is beyond me. It’s almost as if both the Iraq Study Group and now the Iraq Crisis Group have included that recommendation to satisfy the internal biases of specific members of their respective groups, bartering its inclusion in both final reports in order to achieve consensus on other matters contained in the documents. That seemed to be the internal dynamic of the Baker Commission and I have little doubt that something similar occurred in the European group.

But the idea of a “Grand Conference” – if it was possible – is intriguing on a variety of levels. Getting the rest of the region as well as the the Security Council involved in what is happening in Iraq in a more direct way may prove to be the best way to deal with both the insurgency and the scourge of sectarian violence at the same time.

If such a conference could take place in the 18 months or so that many analysts are saying that we can safely commit our extra troops; and if the political situation in Iraq can be improved by booting Maliki and replacing him with someone who wants to confront the security and political problems in the country and not run away from them or seek to finesse them; then there is hope that our increased commitment of men will contribute to stability.

The White House sees the Chief’s questions as the normal give and take in any policy discussion of this magnitude, which is the correct way to view the criticism. I would be a helluva lot more worried if the Chiefs didn’t seek to clarify this commitment and pin the politicians down by clearly defining what the mission of these extra troops would be:

A senior administration official said it is “too simplistic” to say the surge question has broken down into a fight between the White House and the Pentagon, but the official acknowledged that the military has questioned the option. “Of course, military leadership is going to be focused on the mission—what you’re trying to accomplish, the ramifications it would have on broader issues in terms of manpower and strength and all that,” the official said.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said military officers have not directly opposed a surge option. “I’ve never heard them be depicted that way to the president,” the official said. “Because they ask questions about what the mission would be doesn’t mean they don’t support it. Those are the kinds of questions the president wants his military planners to be asking.”

The concerns raised by the military are sometimes offset by concerns on the other side. For instance, those who warn that a short-term surge would harm longer-term deployments are met with the argument that the situation is urgent now, the official said. “Advocates would say: ‘Can you afford to wait? Can you afford to plan in the long term? What’s the tipping point in that country? Do you have time to wait?’ “

I would say that given the state of the insurgency and the growing influence of the militias, there simply isn’t time; we must act now:

The Pentagon said yesterday that violence in Iraq soared this fall to its highest level on record and acknowledged that anti-U.S. fighters have achieved a “strategic success” by unleashing a spiral of sectarian killings by Sunni and Shiite death squads that threatens Iraq’s political institutions.

In its most pessimistic report yet on progress in Iraq, the Pentagon described a nation listing toward civil war, with violence at record highs of 959 attacks per week, declining public confidence in government and “little progress” toward political reconciliation.

“The violence has escalated at an unbelievably rapid pace,” said Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, director of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who briefed journalists on the report. “We have to get ahead of that violent cycle, break that continuous chain of sectarian violence. . . . That is the premier challenge facing us now.”

This report is from our own military. It is not generated by the media. It is not compiled by a left wing think tank. It is not a figment of someone’s imagination.

We are losing the war – on the ground. Not in a tactical sense, of course. We win every engagement in which we are involved. But our efforts are not making the government stronger or the Iraqi people safer.

Driven by sectarian fighting, and a Ramadan surge, attack levels in Iraq hit record highs in all categories nationwide as the number of U.S. and coalition casualties surged 32 percent from mid-August to mid-November, compared with the previous three months, the report said. Over the same period, the number of attacks per week rose 22 percent, from 784 to 959.

Iraqi civilian casualties also increased, “almost entirely the result of murders and executions,” the report said. Since January, before the mosque bombing, ethno-sectarian executions rose from 180 to 1,028 in October; ethno-sectarian incidents rose from 63 to 996 over the same period.

And what of problems with the Iraqi Army and Police? Again – this is from our own military:

The report noted problems with Iraqi forces, however, saying the number of soldiers and police actually “present for duty” is far lower than the number trained and equipped.

Subtracting those Iraqi forces killed and wounded, and those who have quit the force, only 280,000 are “available for duty,” Sattler said. About 30 percent of that number are “on leave” at a time, he said, leaving fewer than 196,000 on the job.

Iraqi police forces in particular are increasingly corrupt, according to the report, which says that some police in Baghdad have supported Shiite death squads. The police “facilitated freedom of movement and provided advance warning of upcoming operations,” it said. “This is a major reason for the increased levels of murders and executions.”

As a result of mass defections or police units being pulled off duty, the number of Iraqi police battalions rated as having “lead responsibility” in their areas fell from six to two, the report said, although officials said that number has since increased.

The Iraqi army has steadily increased the number of its battalions in the lead, from 57 in May to 91 in November, although some units have experienced high attrition when ordered to deploy to different regions of Iraq, such as Baghdad and Anbar.

“High attrition” is an understatement. Most units, according to the Iraqi government itself, refuse to go to either Anbar or Baghdad. Some units simply vote not to deploy – in other words, mutiny. Other units suffer 70% of its soldiers going AWOL and are unable to go.

The point is simple: There is no purely military solution – either American or Iraqi – to the security problems in Iraq.

Sattler implied that no number of U.S. or Iraqi troops would be great enough to quash the revenge killings. “I don’t know how many forces you could push into a country, either U.S. or coalition or Iraqi forces, that could cover the entire country, where these death squads wouldn’t find somebody,” he said.

Indeed, the report documented that major U.S. and Iraqi military operations in the fall did not quell sectarian violence in Baghdad. Attacks dipped in August, but rebounded strongly in September after death squads adapted to the increased U.S. and Iraqi presence.

Any actions we take to increase our troop strength must be taken in concert with political moves by the Iraqi government and – if it can be done – with other countries in the region who have either an involvement in the conflict or a stake in the outcome. I am not overly optimistic about a regional conference to help resolve the problems. But there is simply no alternative to working with the Iraqis on the political problems that fuel the insurgency and the sectarian violence. If the Iraqis refuse to help themselves by trying to heal the numerous cracks in their fractured body politic, I fear that any additional American troops would simply add to the problems and not accomplish much of anything.

By: Rick Moran at 6:28 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (15)

The Political Pit Bull linked with A Rift Between the White House and the Joint Chiefs Over Sending More Troops to Iraq?
Rightwing Guy linked with More Troops In Iraq Seems To Be The Plan
The Moderate Voice linked with Joint Chiefs of Staff vs. Bush
PoliZoo linked with Iraq

Looks like the self-styled “Mullah of the People,” President Ahmadinejad, may be in political hot water. Not with the Iranian people so much. They have about as much say in who governs them as sheep do in deciding who can shear them. The “electoral” process in Iran is not only rigged to prevent even a hint of secularism to intrude on the ruling holy men’s Islamic paradise but time honored electoral shenanigans such as stuffing ballot boxes, intimidating voters (200,000 Revolutionary Guards can be wonderful persuaders for the regime), and out and out dishonest counting assures the ruling elites of continued iron fist control over the country.

But judging by recent events, it appears that the messianic Golden Boy who the hardliners in the Assembly of Experts thought would lead them to a religious revival at home and regional dominance abroad may have over played his hand.

The Iranians may be poised to dominate the region as they have not done since the fall of the Shah but they are unloved by their neighbors, isolated internationally, and the regime itself is in mortal danger as a result of their dalliance with nuclear weapons. Other countries in the region view with alarm the idea of Iranian ascendancy, seeing an aggressive Shia state with nuclear weapons an intolerable situation. And the prospect of sanctions – however weak, limited, and watered down they might be – has the ruling elites nervous and wondering if more biting measures might be on the way.

But it is the threat of American and Israeli military action against Iranian nuclear facilities (and perhaps against the elites themselves) that worries Ahmadinejad’s opponents the most. The mullahs are not stupid. They’ve seen what the modern air forces of Israel and America can do to a nation’s infrastructure.

Make no mistake. Ahmadinejad’s enemies are not our “friends” by any stretch of the imagination. They hate America and the West as much as he does. But the confrontational approach taken by the Iranian President has served to unite most of the Europeans with the Americans in recognizing the danger of the Islamic regime while even their friends Russia and China are reluctantly coming around to the notion that some sort of sanctions regime is necessary. And the President’s bombastic, apocalyptic rhetoric about the holocaust, about the inevitability of Islam’s world dominance, and about the destruction of the regime’s foes has placed the ruling mullahs in the awkward position of being exposed for the truly aggressive nation they are. The pragmatists would much prefer to pretend being the peace loving, spiritual and moral leader of the region rather than the threatening, nuclear armed troublemaker that they wish to be.

All of this has led to an attempt to cut Ahmadinejad down to size, to embarrass him, and to reduce his influence. The President in Iran is actually subservient to the wishes of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. And his actions are overseen by the powerful Assembly of Experts whose internal political dynamic may be changing as a result of elections held on Friday. While most of the analysis I’ve read has been cautious, one thing is clear; the hardliners incurred a setback. Several candidates supported by Ahmadinejad have apparently either gone down to defeat or received far fewer votes than was anticipated.

In the Tehran district, the election for the Experts of the Assembly saw Ahmadinejad’s most frequent and outspoken critic, former President Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani receive a huge majority – 500,000 votes more than Ahmadinejad’s candidate. If Rafsanjani can gain control of the Assembly, he can block some of Ahmadinejad’s more radical internal policies such as his purging of the ministries and replacing long time bureaucrats with inexperienced and fanatical true believers.

And Rafsanjani, along with another former President Mohammad Khatami have both made it clear that Ahmadinejad’s confrontational approach must be moderated before serious damage is done:

Mesbah Yazdi, the ultra-conservative cleric who is a close ally of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s new president, thinks that his government is God’s gift to enact Islamic values. This while three prominent and veteran Iranian politicians, former president Mohammad Khatami, former president Hashemi Rafsanjani and former chief of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rouhani believe that Ahmadinejad’s presidency is an era filled with dangers that will deeply hurt the country and the Islamic Republic.

In an unprecedented move, Rafsanjani, the powerful man leading the regime’s Expediency Council that oversees the performance of the three branches of government, talks about the dangers that threaten the nation, and implicitly criticizes Ahmadinejad’s aggressive behavior and his unqualified, undeserving and incapable administration.

All of this manuevering has led to two interesting developments recently. First, the Iranian Parliament or Majlis has just recently slapped the President down by shortening his term in office, ostensibly under the guise of standardizing the election cycles for all elected offices. This will mean that Ahmadinejad will have to “face the voters” about a year and a half earlier than he anticipated which means he can be tossed out if the regime’s electoral machinery is used against him.

And that machinery gave Ahmadinejad a taste of what might be in store for him as local and regional elections held in conjunction with the Experts in Assembly show a move toward what the western press is terming “moderate” candidates but who are actually anti-Ahmadinejad pragmatists:

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, faced electoral embarrassment today after the apparent failure of his supporters to win control of key local councils and block the political comeback of his most powerful opponent.

Early results from last Friday’s election suggested that his Sweet Scent of Service coalition had won just three out of 15 seats on the symbolically important Tehran city council, foiling Mr Ahmadinejad’s plan to oust the mayor and replace him with an ally.

Compounding his setback was the success of Hashemi Rafsanjani, an influential pragmatist and fierce critic of the president’s radical policies. Mr Rafsanjani – whom Mr Ahmadinejad defeated in last year’s presidential election – received the most votes in elections to the experts’ assembly, a clerical body empowered to appoint and remove Iran’s supreme leader. By contrast, Ayatollah Mohammed-Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, Mr Ahmadinejad’s presumed spiritual mentor, came sixth.

Analysts attributed Mr Rafsanjani’s resurgence to his newly-found status as a saviour of the reformists, the liberal movement that shunned him as a hated symbol of the establishment when it held power. Mr Rafsanjani has been increasingly identified with reformers since last year’s presidential election and many voters turned to him to voice anger at Mr Ahmadinejad.

(As an aside, The Guardian referred to Ahmadinejad’s opponents as “moderate fundamentalists.” Huh?

And only the Guardian could refer to a movement of dyed in the wool, Sharia loving, fundamentalist Muslims as “liberal.”)

While the regime manipulates the election, Ahmadinejad is not without his own ability to fiddle with the vote:

Reformists hailed the poll – billed by many as Mr Ahmadinejad’s first electoral test since taking office – as a “major defeat” for the president, but they also warned that the slowness in declaring returns could indicate an underhand attempt to rig the outcome. The interior ministry, which is in the hands of Mr Ahmadinejad’s supporters, oversees the counting of ballots.

“The initial results of elections throughout the country indicate that Mr Ahmadinejad’s list has experienced a decisive defeat nationwide. They were tantamount to a big ‘no’ to the government’s authoritarian and inefficient methods,” a statement from the pro-reform Islamic Iran Participation Front said.

Don’t expect Ahmadinejad to take a back seat to the pragmatists. He burns with the fever of the true believer and can be expected to use whatever power he has to maintain his position. He evidently still enjoys the confidence of Khamenei. And the hardliners are still a powerful force in the ruling Guardian Council which oversees the Parliament and can veto any bill it wishes. The law that would knock time off of Ahmadinejad’s term in office for instance, has yet to be ruled on by the Council. A veto there would shore up his position, at least temporarily.

But the pragmatists seemed poised to either eliminate Ahmadinejad or at least minimize his influence. As for the former, there have been two attempts on the President’s life that we know about with whispered accusations against Rafsanjani being behind the plots. It just goes to show that in Iran, being a true believer is not always a guarantor of longevity.

By: Rick Moran at 5:48 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

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At 6’3” and 300 pounds, Terry “Tank” Johnson is a load. His low center of gravity and massive weight allow him to stand his ground in the interior of the defensive line during run plays thus preventing holes from opening up for the opposing running back. He’s what is known in the business as a “run stuffer.”

He is also an idiot.

No, I really mean it. There is no other way to describe Johnson’s stupidity over the past 18 months, during which time he has had run ins with the law three times – twice, including this latest transgression, over illegal possession of firearms. He also scuffled with a police officer outside a Rush street nightclub and resisted arrest. The other gun charge occurred in November of 2005 when he pled guilty to the illegal possession of a firearm in Cook county – one of the more draconian jurisdictions in America when it comes curtailing 2nd Amendment rights. He received probation for the gun charge and the charges relating to his scuffling with the officer were dropped – at the request of the officer. Somehow, I don’t think if his name had been Jamal Johnson from the ‘hood, the cop would have been so forgiving.

Hey! But Tank’s a good guy. He’s just made some bad choices, that’s all. That’s what Jerry D’Angelo, Bears General Manager said after Johnson held forth for two hours at a press conference, telling everyone how sorry he was, how embarrassed the pictures in the paper of his family had made him. He apologized to his team mates. He apologized to the organization. He apologized to the fans. If the old mascot of the guy in the bear suit had been there, he probably would have apologized to him too.

Fat lot of good it did.

Less than 12 hours after that press conference ended, Johnson was down on Clark street in one of the more notorious haunts in that area, known locally as “The Ice House.” He must have been celebrating putting one over on everyone. Instead, tragedy struck.

Arrested on Wednesday with Tank for the gun related charges, Johnson’s lifelong friend, supposed bodyguard, and ex con William Posey got into a fight over what the Chicago Tribune is reporting was the harassment of his “client.”

Witnesses told police that a man repeatedly bumped into Johnson, said a source familiar with the investigation. Posey intervened, striking the man, and both fell to the floor. When club security pulled them apart, the other man pulled a gun from his pants and shot Posey, the witnesses reported.

Sources said Johnson initially denied being at the bar, but he changed his story as he talked with police at Northwestern Memorial hospital early Saturday and later in the day at his Gurnee home. Police said he was not a suspect.

There are certain kinds of bars in Chicago (and I’m sure in other big cities) where most of the patrons are packing heat. Everyone knows this which makes for an interesting evening. It is a macho world where a lot of middle class and upper middle class whites and blacks try to play gangsta from da hood. They strut and pose, daring someone to call them out. Just last April, another shooting took place at the same bar, probably for the same reason. The smell of testosterone must be palpable in places like the Ice House.

What in God’s name was Tank Johnson doing there? More bad “choices?” Or simply a bad character?

A 15 or 16 year old kid makes “bad choices.” A 25 year old adult who has responsibilities to his family, his team mates, and yes, the fans of my beloved Bears who then ends up thumbing his nose at everyone is simply a loser. Recognizing those responsibilities and then going out and partying (maybe the mother of his two children would like to know who he was dancing with when the killing occurred), bespeaks a man who allows his passions to govern his actions. And knowing what is right, then deliberately doing what is wrong is the sign of a truly weak and ignoble character.

The Bears should simply bid Mr. Johnson farewell and adieu. Clean out his locker for him and ship his effects to whatever NFL team will have him – and considering his talent, there will be a good dozen or so lining up with their tongues hanging out waiting to sign him. Wherever he latches on, a year may pass during which time his stellar play will make people forget why the Bears fired him. He will be praised for “turning his life around” – until the next incident occurs with the next police officer or perhaps some innocent who happens to get in the way. Self destructive types like Johnson rarely reform. And the best thing you can do is to stay as far away from the Johnson’s of the world lest you be close enough to receive shrapnel from his next self inflicted wound.

How this entire affair will effect my beloveds is an unknown. Coach Lovie seems to have molded his charges into a pretty tight knit group. The fact that all the negative publicity is reflecting badly on them may draw them closer together – an “us against the world” mindset that would bring out the best in all of them.

Or, it may destroy their solidarity. The Sun Times summarizes the team’s dilemma:

The Bears have a moral dilemma. With Harris out for the season with a ruptured hamstring and Johnson the best remaining interior pass rusher on the roster, do they stand by Johnson and deflect criticism until making a call on his career after the season? They know they’ll never be able to replace him this late in the season. And refusing to play him will hurt his teammates, too.

Or do they put him on the inactive list, knowing it damages their playoff hopes in a season when virtually all the decision-makers—Smith, Angelo and team president Ted Phillips—are looking for contract extensions themselves. What if they keep him up and go one-and-done in the playoffs anyway?

The question for us fans has to be; is a Super Bowl berth worth allowing an obviously flawed and irresponsible player playing time? What price victory?

I suppose the cynical among us will answer that question with some snide comment about pro sports in general being a safe harbor for all sorts of criminals and thugs so why make a big deal of of this one. Perhaps because if that’s what you want professional sports to be like in America, fine. But if you want to change the culture, alter the notion that pro athletes play by different rules and are responsible to nothing and no one save their own hedonistic and base instincts, then Tank Johnson has got to go – not just from the Bears but from the league. One arrest is bad enough. Two is an outrage. Three arrests in 18 months should finish this man as a professional football player in America. Let him play in Canada or Europe if they want him.

I suspect given the media pressure, the Bears will not play Johnson the rest of the way and release him after the season. And I’m also sure that he will have no trouble signing a huge contract with some other team who are willing to cross their fingers that he will be able to stay out of trouble for a few years to justify their gamble to the fans.

Prior to the betting scandal that nearly ruined baseball in 1919, gambling and gamblers were as much a part of the game as the infield fly rule. The riff raff who associated with ballplayers not to mention the whispers about fixing the games gave baseball a decidedly negative image.

Along came Kennesaw Mountain Landis, the new Commissioner of baseball, who shockingly banned 8 Chicago White Sox players from baseball for life after it was discovered that some of them, in league with big time gambler Arnold Rothstein, threw the World Series the previous fall against Cincinnati. Landis had the right idea:

Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked players and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball

The point was made. Bad behavior was severely punished. Even the appearance of bad behavior and a player risked all.

Could professional sports act so responsibly today? Judging by the Tank Johnson episode, it’s highly doubtful.

By: Rick Moran at 10:36 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)


She lies underneath the skylight for hours during the day now, basking in the warmth of the sun, allowing the heat to warm her old bones because her failing body can’t do it for her. When she rouses herself to eat or drink or, if she’s in the mood, make it to the litter box, she rises slowly, painfully to her feet and waddles in a very uncatlike manner the few feet to her destination.

It is very hard to watch a good friend and companion grow old and die. It reminds us of our own mortality and how there is more of life to be seen in the rear view mirror than there is looking down the open road ahead. I believe it is hard for cats as well. You will forgive my anthropomorphic take on this but after having spent a good deal of my life in the presence of these creatures, the one universal truth that can be ascribed to cats is that there is nothing else like them in the animal kingdom. Domestic or feral, big or small, cats are different because, at bottom, their mammalian brains work disturbingly much like ours.

So little research has been done into the nature of cat intelligence compared to dog intelligence that it makes one wonder whether or not there is an academic bias against kitties. I think the truth is a little more prosaic. Cats are basically unreachable. Their behavior is such a troubling mix of instinct and intelligence that delving into the mysteries of what they think, how they think, do they think seems an almost impossible job. Once you think you have them pegged, they go and do something so outrageously original and different that you have to rewrite the book.

Much more than dogs, cats have learned to manipulate their human keepers until they know exactly which buttons of ours to push in order to get what they want. They do it so effortlessly that we hardly notice our enslavement to their wishes. For example, a cat will learn exactly what pitch their meow needs to be in order to tug at the heartstrings of their human companions and get them to pay attention. You can hear this phenomena in growing cats. Like feline scientists, they experiment until they find the perfect combination of demanding arrogance and vulnerable pleading.

All of this, of course, is completely unscientific and admittedly, a little fanciful. But after watching my Ebony for going on 14 years (and having been kept by cats for my entire adult life) one cannot escape the conclusion that our feline companions and their wild cousins are indeed otherworldly.

I get the distinct feeling that she knows the end is near. Her personality has undergone a dramatic change these last few months. She seeks out my company and affection almost every waking moment. She lays quietly at my feet while I write or read and gladly cuddles at night in the crook of my arm while I sleep. There are times when I catch her looking at me – as if trying to say something. You don’t need to be an animal behaviorist to understand what passes between us when we look at each other. If I begin to speak, her face gets a familiar squint as she closes her eyes and pulls her ears forward, connecting with the sounds on what seems to be a spiritual level. Her name, repeated endlessly and endearingly, causes her to purr loudly.

She looks at me now with no art or artifice in her heart; just the pleasure of being together suffices. She doesn’t seem demanding at all. In fact, she’ll let our other two cats Aramas and Snowball do all the manipulating for food, for treats, for love. For now, she seems beyond it all and we simply bask in each other’s company.

She is in no pain as far as I can tell. Her stiffness after lying down a while has robbed her of the extraordinary grace and athleticism she had as a youngster. She used to love the snow. Following a big accumulation, the parking lot behind my apartment would be cleared and all the snow piled into a gigantic hill of frozen fun. What an incredible sight it was to see her climb nimbly to the top of that hill and slide down on her black belly, picking up speed and then tumbling and rolling over and over when she got to the bottom.

Shaking herself off, she’d run around to the side of the hill and once again leap from snow ledge to snow ledge, effortlessly traversing the white mountain side like an expert climber until she found herself once again poised on the precipice. And then down she’d slide, again and again, until exhausted and soaking wet, she would come in to eat, take a long leisurely bath, and then lie down next to the heating vent. perhaps to dream of other mountains to conquer.

Sue and I have decided to take her to the vet after the New Year to make sure that she’s not in any pain and to see if there’s anything we can do about her litterbox habits which have become more and more erratic. But as I sit here writing and looking at her, I get the distinct feeling that she knows something that I don’t about how much longer she has on this planet before she’s called back to commune with the superior beings from which her kind sprang.

It is good we have this time together. But it is oh so sad to know that every stroke of my hand over her head – a gesture she returns by arching her neck to greet the caress – takes us both closer to a goodbye that neither of us wants but both of us realize is now inevitable.

By: Rick Moran at 2:37 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (19)

Andrew Olmsted dot com linked with Council Nominations
The Glittering Eye linked with Eye on the Watcher’s Council
Watcher of Weasels linked with Submitted for Your Approval
CATEGORY: War on Terror

I can’t tell you the number of slings and arrows that have been flung my way for advocating dialogue with Syria and Iran in the context of a regional conference on Iraq. When I give the reason for my advocacy – a burgeoning refugee problem that threatens to overwhelm those two Iraqi neighbors which might make them more amendable to helping us stem the violence – I have been pilloried as a tool of the enemy or worse, a closet lefty.

For those who don’t think that there’s trouble a’brewing in both Iran and Syria as a result of the uncontrolled flight of Shias and Sunnis from Iraq due to the violence,think again. Here is a map published in the New York Times based on figures compiled by the UN:

Image Hosted by (HT: American Footprints)

Talking to both Iran and Syria the same way we dealt with North Korea in the 6 party negotiations would be different than carrying on bi-lateral discussions – something I vigorously oppose. The violence in Iraq is causing enormous problems for Syria and soon will become a very big problem for Iran. Neither wants a failed state on their borders where the refugee problem – already at crisis levels – would spiral out of control and begin to affect the internal politics of both countries.

This has been the basis for my advocacy of dealing with Iran and Syria in the multi-party context of regional security and stability. And Syria especially, may be willing to discuss measures to assist in tamping down the violence in Iraq:

[Syria] can’t maintain its open-door policy without international support. Refugees already strain social services. Yet, the international response to the Iraqi refugee crisis has been dismal. Despite numbers that rival the displacement in Darfur, there has been scant media attention and even less political concern. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees is doing little.

An increase in resources for UNHCR could make a huge difference. As winter approaches, the need is growing for portable heaters, warm clothing and help in paying electric bills and warm clothing. Mental health services for traumatized Iraqis are equally needed. And legal and financial help to maintain their visa status would prevent deportations back to a precarious life in Iraq.

One thing these refugees bring to the countries where they flee is instability. And authoritarian regimes like Syria and Iran detest instability. The question is do they fear it enough to stop stirring the pot in Iraq?

Obviously we won’t find out unless we join with other countries affected like Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt to find solutions. And that can only be accomplished via some kind of regional dialogue.

And what of the tens of thousands of Iraqi “collaborators” who have so bravely assisted us for the last 4 years? Are we to abandon them to the tender mercies of whatever forces emerge in the wake of our withdrawal as we did our South Vietnamese allies 30 years ago?

We should start issuing visas in Baghdad, as well as in the regional embassies in Mosul, Kirkuk, Hilla, and Basra. We should issue them liberally, which means that we should vastly increase our quota for Iraqi refugees. (Last year, it was fewer than 200.) We should prepare contingency plans for massive airlifts and ground escorts. We should be ready for desperate and angry crowds at the gates of the Green Zone and U.S. bases. We should not allow wishful thinking to put off these decisions until it’s too late. We should not compound our betrayals of Iraqis who put their hopes in our hands.

I honestly don’t think that kind of effort will be necessary – at least I hope not. If it is then it will mean that we’re being run out of Iraq on a rail – something I doubt will materialize. We will not abandon our embassy regardless of when our troops leave. And I suspect that no matter who is in power in Iraq, we will maintain relations with them.

But it does open the question of not abandoning those who might suffer in a post-occupation Iraq as a result of their cooperation with us. The idea that we are only allowing 200 Iraqis a year to enter the US is absurd. It should be at least 10 times that number. The author of that article has the right idea; no betrayals of those who risked their lives to help us.

Those refugee numbers will only start to get worse as Sunnis continue to leave Iraq for good. An estimated 15% have left in the last 3 years alone. And with so many internally displaced by the violence directed against them, it may be only a matter of time before they leave the country for good.

The refugee problem in Iraq is a symptom. And since it involves all of Iraq’s neighbors, a regional solution would logically seem to be the answer. That, and a brake on Iran and Syria’s efforts to keep the violence at a high level.

Whatever we do, we better start doing it sooner rather than later.

By: Rick Moran at 9:19 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)

Doug Ross @ Journal linked with Silvestre Reyes: your next House Intel Chairman!?!
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CATEGORY: Media, War on Terror

Iraq needs a Pinochet” is the name of a column written by one of the supposed leading lights of the conservative movement, Jonah Goldberg. The sub-head is even better: The general was no saint, but he’s a better model to follow than Castro.

Saying that Pinochet was “no saint” is something akin to to saying that Genghis Khan had an anger management problem. There are more than 3,000 families in Chile whose loved ones were “disappeared” (a Pinochet gift of nomenclature to the English language) who might take issue with Goldberg’s milquetoast denunciation of truly one of the more brutal dictators of the late 20th century. And then there were the tens of thousands who were jailed and tortured – most of whom committed no crime save that they were to the left of Mr. Pinochet on the political spectrum. Considering that your average Short Haired Marmoset in Chile was to the left of Pinochet, it’s amazing that most of the country didn’t end up in one of the dictator’s torturing hospitality suites during his ignominious rein.

Here’s the gist of Goldberg’s argument regarding Pinochet being preferable to the soon to be mummified Castro:


THINK ALL intelligent, patriotic and informed people can agree: It would be great if the U.S. could find an Iraqi Augusto Pinochet. In fact, an Iraqi Pinochet would be even better than an Iraqi Castro.

Both propositions strike me as so self-evident as to require no explanation. But as I have discovered in recent days, many otherwise rational people can’t think straight when the names Fidel Castro and Augusto Pinochet come up.

Let’s put aside, at least for a moment, the question of which man was (or is) “worse.” Suffice it to say, both have more blood on their hands than a decent conscience should be able to bear. Still, if all you want to do is keep score, then Castro almost surely has many more bodies on his rap sheet. The Cuba Archive estimates that Castro is responsible for the deaths of at least 9,240 people, though the real number could be many times that, particularly if you include the estimate of nearly 77,000 men, women and children who have died trying to flee the “socialist

Frankly, I think that all “intelligent, patriotic and informed people” should throw a metaphorical pie in Goldberg’s face. This cutesy argument about body counts is meaningless – unless you’re a Cuban or a left wing Chilean who lived during the time of Pinochet’s tyrannical regime. On the International Thuggery Scale, both men rate around a 4 or 5 on a 10 point scale. Castro would be ranked slightly higher for being stupid enough to believe that not only Communism works, but that he should export that ideology to his reluctant neighbors.

Neither brute enters the truly sublime territory occupied by Mao, Stalin, Kruschev, or Pol Pot (in that order). But while we’re at it, why not make the argument that what Iraq really needs is a Mao? Now there was a guy who knew how to put down an insurgency! If a peasant from some village casts a sideways glance at the authority of the Chinese government, don’t bother with the dissident or his family. Wipe out the whole village and raze it to the ground.

Of course, Goldberg isn’t advocating that, is he?

But on the plus side, Pinochet’s abuses helped create a civil society. Once the initial bloodshed subsided, Chile was no prison. Pinochet built up democratic institutions and infrastructure. And by implementing free-market reforms, he lifted the Chilean people out of poverty. In 1988, he held a referendum and stepped down when the people voted him out. Yes, he feathered his nest from the treasury and took measures to protect himself from his enemies. His list of sins — both venal and moral — is long. But today Chile is a thriving, healthy democracy. Its economy is the envy of Latin America, and its literacy and infant mortality rates are impressive.

I ask you: Which model do you think the average Iraqi would prefer? Which model, if implemented, would result in future generations calling Iraq a success? An Iraqi Pinochet would provide order and put the country on the path toward liberalism, democracy and the rule of law. (If only Ahmad Chalabi had been such a man.)

On the plus side, Goldberg only writes columns for the LA Times once a week. Otherwise, we’d be forced to endure this kind of sophistry far more often. And yeah, Pinochet made the trains run on time and infant mortality went down, and his “free market” reforms (short hand in Latin America for enabling crony capitalism and other kleptocrats) created some trickle down wealth – after he left. And while I understand the realpolitik reasons for the US supporting this thug, I think to wish his kind of rule on anyone – especially an ally – is the height of idiocy.

First of all, to even think that a secular anything will emerge from the current chaos in Iraq is loony. Whatever kind of government shakes out will almost certainly be dominated by fundamentalist Shias allied to either Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) or Mookie al-Sadr and his merry band of cutthroats. Those two will eventually fight it out; hopefully in the halls of government rather than in the streets but don’t count the latter out.

So we can dispose of Goldberg’s fantasy that some kind of benevolent tyrant will emerge from the current violence and lead the country to some kind of “liberalism” or “democracy.” As for “the rule of law,” if you’re talking about the application of Sharia law, it’s already happening in the southern part of Iraq, the stronghold of our new buddy al-Hakim who is laboring to form another governing coalition as we speak. In some areas, Islamic courts have been set up to mediate disputes and religious “police” patrol the streets enforcing dress codes.

Finally, Goldberg tries to make the point that because only “bad options” are available in Iraq, what he’s proposing is actually “moral” because it is “less immoral” than other alternatives – like a Castro style government:

Now, you might say: “This is unfair. This is a choice between two bad options.” OK, true enough. But that’s all we face in Iraq: bad options. When presented with such a predicament, the wise man chooses the more moral, or less immoral, path. The conservative defense of Pinochet was that he was the least-bad option; better the path of Pinochet than the path toward Castroism, which is where Chile was heading before the general seized power. Better, that is, for the United States and for Chileans.

I bring all this up because in the wake of Pinochet’s death (and Jeane Kirkpatrick’s), the old debate over conservative indulgence of Pinochet has elicited shrieking from many on the left claiming that any toleration of Pinochet was inherently immoral — their own tolerance of Castro notwithstanding.

This might be termed the “Kirkpatrick Doctrine” – a strict reading of which would put Goldberg’s argument in the garbage where it belongs. Kirkpatrick’s “double standard” was a response to an existential threat to the United States; that not only Castro but Soviet Russia would gain a foothold on the South American continent. Castro has been a burr under our saddle for nearly 50 years but never posed a direct threat to our existence. Salvador Allende on the other hand, made it clear that he would happily take on the mantle of a Soviet client state – a turn of events that the realpolitikers in the Nixon Administration realized would be a strategic setback. Hence, their support (and the support of subsequent administrations) for Pinochet.

How this translates into a more or less moral lesson for Iraq is a little murky. Iraq itself presents no threat to the US anymore. And while there are some scenarios where Iraq could degenerate into a failed state unless order is re-established and become a base for al-Qaeda and perhaps even Shia terrorists, the fact is that Iraq’s neighbors will probably not allow that to happen. Of course, the only way such a scenario could take place is if the US leaves precipitously – something our lefty friends have been agitating for.

There are other options in Iraq that are bad but don’t involve a Pinochet-inspired thug to rise to power. Groveling before Syria and Iran, begging them to help us pull our chestnuts out of the fire is bad but not as bad as siccing a Castro or Pinochet on the Iraqi people. Mookie al-Sadr running things would be almost as bad as a murderous strongman like Pinochet or Castro in charge. The point being, while there may be only bad options left in Iraq, some bad options are worse than others. And Goldberg’s Pinochet fantasy is about as bad as it gets.

Goldberg has now confirmed every nasty thing that the Glenn Greenwalds, Dave Neiwerts, and Jane Hamshers have been saying about the right being in love with authoritarianism and dictators. For that, he should be criticized roundly by all sides of the political spectrum. But let’s also keep in mind that the left’s love affair with the lickspittle Castro has been one of the most astonishingly stupid and ignorant manifestations of moral blindness in the post World War II world. It will be marvelled at by future historians who may very well wonder what magic spell the strutting, arrogant, murderous tyrant in Cuba cast over the western left that caused them to ignore so much suffering and death dealt out by the evil and barbarous men who kept that beautiful island imprisoned for so many years.

By: Rick Moran at 7:26 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (12)

Doug Ross @ Journal linked with Barack Obama vs. Maureen Dowd

The votes are in from this week’s Watchers Council and the winner in the Council category is American Future for “On Negotiating with Iran and Syria—Part II.” Finishing second was The Glittering Eye for “How to Lose Support for a War.”

Leading the pack in the non Council category was Watchers alumni Doc. Sanity for “Come for the Egalitarianism, Stay for the Bestiality and Tyranny.”

If you’d like to participate in the weekly Watchers vote, go here and follow instructions.

By: Rick Moran at 4:04 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

CATEGORY: Blogging

The server used by Blogs About Hosting has been under a severe denial of service attack for a couple of days now. If you’ve experienced slow loading or have been unable to access the site, I apologize.

What has me very concerned is that I think that this has been going on now for a couple of weeks. If you click on my Sitemeter icon, you will note that my average daily visits are down to less than 1600. That number hasn’t been as low for about a year.

Until the end of November, I was averaging around 2200-2400 visitors a day. But in the last two weeks, I seem to have lost about 30% of my readership. I realize some may have been upset over a few of my recent Iraq posts but 30% would be an unprecedented exodus as far as I know.

I was wondering if you have tried to access the site and failed in the last couple of weeks. Or if you’ve had any other problems like not being able to leave comments. If so, please leave a comment to this effect. I have Blogs About looking into this but any help you can give would be most appreciated.

By: Rick Moran at 1:39 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)


This post is a penance of sorts. Consider it an apologia for an overabundance of cynicism on my part about the President’s intentions regarding Iraq. For if reports from the Pentagon and elsewhere in government can be believed, it appears that the President is about to step up to the plate and go for the long ball in this, his last attempt at both defining victory and turning around the situation in Iraq.

The two are interconnected. In order to achieve victory, we must define it in the most realistic terms possible. This will necessitate a total rethinking of our strategy – a process underway as I write this – as well as the realization that what we want to happen in Iraq and what will happen in that country are irreconcilable and that our strategy must change to reflect that fact.

For instance, The goal of bringing “democracy” to Iraq will probably not be up to this generation of Iraqi leaders. Old hatreds, old scores to settle appear to be too much to put aside at the present. The best we can hope for is to stop the slaughter of the Sunnis and prevent a tragedy of historic proportions. We can do this by continuing to fight the insurgency while going after the perpetrators of the Shia on Sunni violence; the militias that are outside of government control and answer only to their warlords. The kind of government that will emerge from this process will not be entirely to our liking. It will be dominated by fundamentalist Shias who will see Iran as a natural ally.

The secular parties in Iraq are too weak, too divided at the moment to fight this trend. The two largest political parties – the United Iraqi Alliance and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) are too well organized and well financed to defeat at the ballot box. We must accept the fact that a united, secular Iraq is a goal for another generation of Iraqis and will not happen while the current crop of leaders govern there.

Where we can succeed is in making Iraq stable. As Tony Blankley so eloquently put it:

If Washington gossip is right, even many of the president’s own advisers in the White House and the key cabinet offices have given up on success. Official Washington, the media and much of the public have fallen under the unconscionable thrall of defeatism. Which is to say that they cannot conceive of a set of policies—for a nation of 300 million with an annual GDP of more than $12 trillion dollars and all the skills and technologies known to man—to subdue the city of Baghdad and environs. Do you think Gen. Patton or Abe Lincoln or Winston Churchill or Joseph Stalin would have thrown their hands up and say “I give up, there’s nothing we can do?”

Absolutely spot on. And that’s what was so extraordinarily disappointing about the ISG’s recommendations. While we may have been expecting too much given the fact that James Baker was in charge, there were other members of that group who should have dug in their heels until “The Way Forward” would have had the addendum “To Victory” attached to it.

I realize I’m raising the hackles of my lefty friends by talking about “victory” in Iraq. You have already decided that because our original criteria for winning the war has been superseded by events – admittedly largely as a result of our own blunders – that there is no honorable strategy that would lead to success. I would answer by saying that while you are technically correct that the kind of victory first envisioned by the Administration is not attainable, the fact is that we can vastly improve the security situation and assist the Iraqi government with training its troops as well as mediating deals on power sharing, reconciliation, and oil revenue – in other words, cobble together a viable Iraqi state. And while you and much of the rest of the world might insist on referring to our “defeat” in Iraq, it won’t matter if we can accomplish those goals in the next few years.

All depends on whether or not the President has it in him to go against the conventional wisdom in Washington as well as a skeptical and even hostile American public and dramatically – dramatically – alter course. Tony Blankley sums up Bush’s dilemma:

For rarely has a president stood more alone at a moment of high crisis than does our president now as he makes his crucial policy decisions on the Iraq War. His political opponents stand triumphant, yet barren of useful guidance. Many—if not most—of his fellow party men and women in Washington are rapidly joining his opponents in a desperate effort to save their political skins in 2008. Commentators who urged the president on in 2002-03, having fallen out of love with their ideas, are quick to quibble with and defame the president.

James Baker, being called out of his business dealings by Congress to advise the president, has delivered a cynical document intended to build a political consensus for “honorable” surrender. Richard Haass (head of the Council on Foreign Relations) spoke approvingly of the Baker report on “Meet the Press,” saying: “It’s incredibly important… that the principle lesson [of our intervention Iraq] not be that the United States is unreliable or we lacked staying power… to me it is essentially important for the future of this country that Iraq be seen, if you will, as Iraq’s failure, not as America’s failure.”

That such transparent sophism from the leader of the American foreign policy establishment is dignified with the title of realism, only further exemplifies the loneliness of the president in his quest for a workable solution to the current danger.

The elites have abandoned Iraq. Democrats want to but don’t want it to look as if they countenance defeat. Republicans are scrambling for cover. The rank and file of his party have all but given up. As Blankley so eloquently points out, the President is quite alone.

Or is he?

Apparently, the President still has the support for victory among the soldiers:

As President Bush weighs new policy options for Iraq, strong support has coalesced in the Pentagon behind a military plan to “double down” in the country with a substantial buildup in American troops, an increase in industrial aid and a major combat offensive against Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shiite leader impeding development of the Iraqi government.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff will present their assessment and recommendations to Bush at the Pentagon today. Military officials, including some advising the chiefs, have argued that an intensified effort may be the only way to get the counterinsurgency strategy right and provide a chance for victory.

The approach overlaps somewhat a course promoted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz). But the Pentagon proposals add several features, including the confrontation with Sadr, a possible renewed offensive in the Sunni stronghold of Al Anbar province, a large Iraqi jobs program and a proposal for a long-term increase in the size of the military.

Such an option would appear to satisfy Bush’s demand for a strategy focused on victory rather than disengagement. It would disregard key recommendations and warnings of the Iraq Study Group, however, and provide little comfort for those fearful of a long, open-ended U.S. commitment in the country. Only 12% of Americans support a troop increase, whereas 52% prefer a fixed timetable for withdrawal, a Los Angeles Times/ Bloomberg poll has found.

“I think it is worth trying,” a defense official said. “But you can’t have the rhetoric without the resources. This is a double down” — the gambling term for upping a bet.

This is most welcome news. And before someone in the comments suggests that there are no troops to send, you are incorrect. There are tens of thousands of National Guardsmen and reserve troops who could be deployed in Iraq within 6 months. The problem is that the political pain involved in dipping even more into the National Guard units and Reserves for forced call ups could very well start a mass anti-war movement that would would be reminiscent of the Viet Nam era. There is also the chance that denuding the United States of these troops, we would be vulnerable if another conflict broke out in the world where American troops would be necessary. And there’s always the chance that the Democrats and some Republicans would cut war appropriations if such a plan were proposed.

But if Bush is willing to give it a shot, I’ll be with him. The military realizes that there’s still a chance for success in Iraq if we gamble that increasing troop strength by 30% will allow us to fight the insurgency as well as keep the peace in Baghdad. We will have increased casualties. And I have no doubt that the insurgents will see to it that civilian casualties skyrocket by hiding amongst them whenever they get the chance and daring us to ferret them out. But if the military can do its job and the bureaucrats can do theirs, there is a chance – just a chance – that we might succeed.

Much will depend on the new Iraqi government that we are organizing – one that will not include Prime Minister Maliki or his puppetmaster Muqtada al-Sadr. And if the Iraqis can put someone in charge that will allow us to go after Sadr and his militia, I would up our chances for success greatly. It will then be up to the Iraqi government to convince the people that they are serious about governing the country for all Iraqis – not just the Shias. For this, national reconciliation is absolutely essential. This would mean bringing to justice some of the worst of the Saddam era gangsters as well as hunting down some of the more recent Shia death squad leaders who have taken such a fearful toll on Sunnis.

This is not impossible. It can be done. But it starts with security for the people. And until the insurgency is cut down to size and the militias and death squads put out of business, the rest won’t mean a thing.

And the only way to better security is by substantially upping our commitment of troops. Argue that they should have been there all along if you want to. All it proves is that you are looking at Pearl Harbor while the rest of us are looking at V-J Day, to use a WW II analogy. And given all that has gone before – the mistakes, the waste, the miscalculations, and yes, the lies told by our government to downplay the seriousness of the situation there – I will support moving forward dealing with the situation we have now rather than criticizing or bemoaning how we got ourselves into this serious crisis.

There’s nothing we can do about what’s gone on the last three years. What is important is what we do now. And in that, I will support the President as long as he is committed to really changing the situation in Iraq for the better and not just fiddling with his policy around the edges.

Boldness will win the day in Iraq. Let’s hope the President, lonely as he might be, has it in him to see this venture through to success.


Justin Logan at Cato at Liberty disputes the idea that any number of troops (save a massive commitment) would make any difference in counterinsurgency efforts.

His reasoning is probably sound but I don’t think mere numbers can tell the story here. Can a 40-50,000 increase in troops for Baghdad improve the security situation enough that more Iraqi troops would be able to do some good there?

This NY Times article would seem to indicate that much of Logan’s numbers deficit might be made up by Iraqi troops. And as far as “defeating” the insurgency, there are other aspects to the “neo con” plan such as the jobs program and a stronger government that might affect his conclusions there as well.

All things considered, don’t give me a “mulligan” as Logan sneeringly refers to this final effort but rather one more round before throwing in the towel. What Logan doesn’t allude to are the consequences of total failure – a place that he believes we’ve already arrived at. I reject that idea completely. Vast improvements can be made if we make the effort and if the Iraqis do their part. And that is definitely worth it.


Nikolay correctly points out in the comments that the SCIRI and the UIA are the same party.

Technically, the UIA is the governing coalition made up mostly of Shia parties – including SCIRI - as well as Chalabi’s secular Iraqi National Congress, al-Maliki’s Dawa party, and a smattering of smaller Shia and Sunni parties. Al-Sadr’s influence arises from a party that he does not officially endorse but that is made up largely of his militia, the National Independent Cadres and Elites. The hidden hand behind the UIA was at one time the Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani. But jostling for power by the likes of al-Sadr soured the old man on politics and he supposedly “retired” from the fray last summer.

At the moment, there is no serious rival to the SCIRI although al-Sadr weilds influence in several of the minor Shia parties as well as the Cadres and Elites party. Whether he can emerge as a true electoral rival to the SCIRI remains to be seen.

Thanks to Nikolay for correcting the error.

By: Rick Moran at 12:46 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (15)


My 30 day countdown post to the season premier of 24, as much a holiday tradition here at The House as roasting liberals over an open fire, has always started the juices flowing, building excitement for the shows opening two night, 4 hour extravaganza (January 14-15 at 7:00 PM Central). This year, judging by the preview clip released by Fox in October, it appears we’re in for another edge of your seat thrill ride as the best dramatic production team in television pulls out all the stops to entertain us, amaze us, and maybe even scare us a little.

As I have done for the past two years, I will post a summary and analysis every Tuesday morning following the previous evening’s show filled with snark, speculation, and my much copied but never equalled body count. Last year, the Official Body Count for Jack Bauer was 35 confirmed kills with the shows total at 201. As I’ve explained, the number of deaths for the entire show is almost certainly much higher but I only count deaths that can be confirmed on camera. The same goes for Jack’s number, although it is much easier to keep track of his kills since he literally kills almost everything he shoots at. Jack Bauer is the most efficient killer in TV history. An analysis of his body count to ammo expended would be pretty close to 1:1.

If you haven’t seen the trailer, click on the link above and then come back. Or if you want to be totally surprised on opening night, stop reading. This is a spoiler free site but since the trailer has been out there for two months, I’m not going to be commenting on anything that most of you haven’t already seen.

As I see it, the show this year is entering very dangerous territory for a long running drama; how do you top what you did the previous year? For 24, the answer last year was to shrink Jack’s universe by killing off his closest friends, making his quest to bring down the bad guys almost a personal vendetta. I commented last year at the cold blooded way he killed Palmer’s assassin as well as his execution of Henderson and thought that this marked a divergence for the character:

The shooting of the actual assassin of David Palmer in cold blood was shocking to me. If he had done anything similar in past years, it didn’t register. There was no reluctance, no hesitation. He could have been putting a bullet in an injured buck for all the emotion he showed in killing him. I got a similar reaction to his execution of Henderson, although admittedly, the feeling that old Buckaroo had it coming to him was also present. But it seemed that with those two murders – and there is no getting around it, that’s what they were – Jack has crossed a line and there’s no turning back. Can he really be any use to CTU and the United States in any official capacity any longer? My prediction is that Jack is going black from here on out and that any help he gets from the government will be off the books.

It’s hard to tell from the preview clip precisely what Jack’s relationship with CTU is going to be but it would not surprise me if he ends up at odds with the entire government and only his personal friends at CTU on his side. This would be in keeping with the shows shift last year to a darker, more troubled Jack Bauer whose personal life is so crummy that there are times that it almost appears he would welcome death. From the clip, it looks like Jack will be asked to sacrifice his life to save the country from a wave of terrorist attacks carried out by (go to hell, CAIR) Muslim terrorists. In fact, the car and truck bombings in several cities simultaneously are probably more realistic as far as what we might expect from the next attacks on US soil rather than a bio/chem or nuke attack as the show has dealt with the last 5 seasons.

Actually, it makes sense from the shows standpoint. About the only way you could top a nuclear or biological threat on American soil would be to write in a rogue asteroid about to hit the earth; exciting but unrealistic. And not much that Jack Bauer could do to stop it either.

The preview clip (and others I won’t link to because they give too much away) reveal a much more fatalistic Jack, a man resigned to the fact that his life is really not his anymore, that whatever happens to him is secondary to giving his life meaning. If that can be done by dying, Jack will embrace death willingly. In this sense, he becomes an even more vulnerable character – one that we are compelled to protect and keep safe. I predict our emotional attachment to Jack will be even more powerful which is surely what the writers intend.

As for other characters, here are a few that have been written about in various entertainment media so there’s no real surprise if we look at them.


Old Friends:

Mary Lynn Rajskub as our favorite bitch with a heart of gold Chloe O’Brian

D.B. Woodside as Wayne Palmer. Wayne played a minor role in last year’s investigation into the death of his brother, the ex-President. This year, he rides a sympathy vote all the way to the White House and plays the President.

James Morrison as “By the Book” Bill Buchanan returns as CTU chief.

Jayne Atkinson as Karen Hayes. Karen moves to National Security Adviser to the President.

Carlo Rota as Morris O’Brian. Chloe went out for pizza with Morris, her ex husband, at the conclusion of last year’s show. Could this be the restart of a beautiful friendship?

Eric Balfour as Milo Pressman. Milo, last seen 5 years ago working on a CTU key card, will be a regular for season 6.

Gregory Itzin as Charles Logan. Why isn’t this guy in jail for the rest of his natural life? His will be a “reoccurring role” which probably means he gets a very satisfying bullet sometime during the course of the show.

Jean Smart as Martha Logan. Not still together I hope. Still, an interesting character with a lot of moxie. With her connections, she could be useful to a man on the run from the government.

Glenn Morshower as Aaron Pierce. Probably still protecting Martha. The straightest arrow on the show.

Kim Raver as Audrey Raines. Forget Jack and find someone else, Audrey.

Roger Cross as Curtis Manning. The only man to partner with Jack Bauer and live more than an hour.

Paul McCrane as Graham. The shadowy bad guy from last year and head of the so called “Blue Tooth” mafia – named after the Blue Tooth cell phones used by all the bad guys.

Tzi Ma as Cheng Zhi. The Chinese consular official who captured and tortured Jack.

William Devane as James Heller. Another straight arrow but someone unlikely to be very helpful to Jack.

New Characters:

James Cromwell as Phillip Bauer, Jack’s father. One more potential hostage for Jack to worry about.

Peter MacNicol as Thomas Lennox. Karen Hayes and Lennox will be the ying and yang of the liberty vs. security debate in the White House.

Powers Booth as Vice President Daniels. Booth is a versatile actor, having played Jim Jones as well as good guys in the past. Should be interesting to see how they use him.

Rick Schroeder as CTU Agent Doyle. I liked him in NYPD Blue. But is he tough enough to team up with Curtis and Jack?

There are also scads of Middle Eastern bad guys – a welcome sign that perhaps this year Fox will embrace the concept that while Chechens and South American drug czars are also terrorists, that the existential threat to America comes from Muslim extremists. Expect howls of outrage from both CAIR and the politically correct left. But if Fox doesn’t back down and carries through with the plot, it will be a welcome change from the milquetoast portrayals of terrorists in the past on this and other dramas.

Only the brilliant Marwan from Season 4 (who was aided by rogue American intelligence operatives) gave us a glimpse into the mind of our major enemy. Let’s hope that they do half as well this year.

From what I’ve seen on the preview clips, this may be a season with just as much suspense as in the past but perhaps less bloody and more of a chess match between Jack and our enemies. Whatever happens, I’m sure the writers will not disappoint us too much – as long as we are willing to suspend belief, don’t take the show literally, and simply enjoy being drawn in and captured by the characters as we live their lives vicariously one pulse pounding hour at a time.

By: Rick Moran at 8:34 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)

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