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December 29, 2004

Gee, now where would they have gotten 1,700 to 1,800 pounds of explosives?

And when exactly do we kick off the impeachment hearings?

Insurgents lured police to a house in west Baghdad with an anonymous tip about a rebel hideout, then set off explosives, killing at least 29 people and wounding 18 in the latest in a series of deadly strikes against Iraqi security forces, police said Wednesday.

The explosion late Tuesday erupted from inside the house in the capital's Ghazaliya district as officers were about to enter, a local police official said. Six neighboring houses collapsed from the blast and several residents were believed trapped underneath the rubble. Seven policemen were among the 29 dead.

The police official said the attack was "evidently an ambush" and that "massive amounts of explosives" were used. He said the explosion was apparently triggered by remote control.

The U.S. military said in a statement Wednesday that 1,700 to 1,800 pounds of explosives appear to have been used in the attack.

Link: CBS News | House Blast In Baghdad Kills 29 | December 29, 2004�20:31:52.

December 29, 2004 at 06:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I swear I'm not making this stuff up

Iraq's trade ministry has transferred hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for the country's food rations into two Lebanese banks, raising concern about lack of transparency. “The ministry of trade is trying to revive [the] system as under Saddam Hussein, with the same people, the same banks and the same companies,” said a senior Iraqi finance official who asked not to be named. ...

Mohammed Jibouri, Iraq's trade minister, said he had transferred “nearly $400m” to the Lebanese banks, bypassing the Trade Bank, the state-controlled bank established by the US-led administration last year. He said the Trade Bank was taking too long to issue letters of credit for food purchases before the holy month of Ramadan.

The trade ministry deposited the funds with Fransabank, chaired by Lebanon's economy minister, Adnan Kassar, and al-Mawarid. They had both been used during the UN's oil-for-food programme, said Iraqi finance officials. ...

Two UN officials in close contact with the food procurement programme said that more than a month after Ramadan, the food purchased by the trade ministry had yet to arrive. “The Trade Bank has an internal auditor [who] investigates to make sure there are no kickbacks,” said the senior Iraqi official. “Now the transparency has gone.” ...

Mohammed Jibouri, trade minister, headed the State Oil Market Organisation (Somo), which sold Iraq's oil and distributed coupons for oil sales prior to the war. His deputy, Fakhridin Rashan, was a senior official in the trade ministry. Both were suspended after the war following investigations into contracts they had pursued, but were reinstated after the transition to Ayad Allawi's interim government in June.

Mr Jibouri said the claims of lack of transparency were a smear campaign...

Link: FT.com / News in depth / Iraq - Iraqi food funds sent to Lebanese banks.

December 29, 2004 at 06:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 28, 2004

How's that tipping point coming?

Insurgents continued their relentless assault on Iraq's fledgling security forces today, killing at least 23 police and national guard officers in multiple attacks mainly across the Sunni-dominated zone to the north of Baghdad.

Link: The New York Times > International > Middle East > Insurgents Kill at Least 23 Iraqi Security Officers.

December 28, 2004 at 02:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 27, 2004

The human condition in a nutshell

AP Top Stories:

  • # Climbing Asian Death Toll Passes 22,500 - 49 minutes ago
  • # Asia Considers Disaster-Warning System - 47 minutes ago

December 27, 2004 at 09:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 26, 2004

What's the point of having Republicans running everything...

...if they're going to have economics policies like this?

I'm so glad my federal taxes are going to subsidize this nonsense in the red states.

The roadside sign welcoming people into this state reads: "Nebraska, the Good Life." And for farmers closing out their books at the end of a year when they earned more money than at any time in the history of American agriculture, it certainly looks like happy days.

...Despite the fact that farm income has doubled in two years, federal subsidies have also gone up nearly 40 percent over the same period - projected at $15.7 billion this year, and $130 billion over the last nine years. And that bounty is drawing fire from people who say that at this moment of farm prosperity, the nation's subsidy system has never made less sense.

Even those deeply steeped in the system acknowledge it seems counterintuitive. "I struggle with the same question: how the hell can you have such high government payments if farmers had such a great year?" said Keith Collins, the chief economist for the Agriculture Department.

The answer lies in the quirks of the federal farm subsidy system as well as in the way savvy farmers sell their crops. Mr. Collins said farmers use the peculiar world of agriculture market timing to get both high commodity prices and high subsidies.

"The biggest reason is with record crops, prices have fallen," he said. "And farmers are taking advantage of that."

A farmer can sell his crop early at a high price, say, in a futures contract, and still collect a subsidy check after the harvest from the government if prices are down over all. The money is not tied to what the farmer actually received for his crop. The farmer does not even have to sell the crop to get the check, only prove that the market has dropped below a certain set rate.

"For those who can milk the system, it's been a great year," said Kent Miller, whose German great-grandparents were pioneers near this tiny town. ...

... Nearly 70 percent of the subsidies go to the top 10 percent of agricultural producers...

Link: The New York Times > National > Big Farms Reap Two Harvests With Subsidies a Bumper Crop.

December 26, 2004 at 06:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Words fail me

And you know that doesn't happen very often.

The Bush administration is talking to Iraqi leaders about guaranteeing Sunni Arabs a certain number of ministries or high-level jobs in the future Iraqi government if, as is widely predicted, Sunni candidates fail to do well in Iraq's elections.

An even more radical step, one that a Western diplomat said was raised already with an aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric, is the possibility of adding some of the top vote-getters among the Sunni candidates to the 275-member legislature, even if they lose to non-Sunni candidates. ...

"There's some flexibility in approaching this problem," said an administration official. "There's a willingness to play with the end result - not changing the numbers, but maybe guaranteeing that a certain number of seats go to Sunni areas even if their candidates did not receive a certain percentage of the vote."

I swear I'm not making this stuff up.

OK, let's see.

  • Good to see the Bush administration is now a strong supporter of affirmative action and quotas.
  • When can we expect to see a representative sampling of Democrats appointed to the federal judiciary and key cabinet positions?
  • "There's a willingness to play with the end result"... Florida, 2000.
  • Do you suppose that this will in any way impair the legitimacy of Iraqi elections?
Link: The New York Times > International > Middle East > Elections: U.S. Is Suggesting Guaranteed Role for Iraq's Sunnis.

December 26, 2004 at 03:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 25, 2004

The big question is, why do they even bother having judges in Alabama

A judge refused to delay a trial Tuesday when an attorney objected to his wearing a judicial robe with the Ten Commandments embroidered on the front in gold.

Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan showed up Monday at his Covington County courtroom in southern Alabama wearing the robe. Attorneys who try cases at the courthouse said they had not seen him wearing it before. The commandments were described as being big enough to read by anyone near the judge.

Attorney Riley Powell, defending a client charged with DUI, filed a motion objecting to the robe and asking that the case be continued. He said McKathan denied both motions.

"I feel this creates a distraction that affects my client," Powell said.

McKathan told The Associated Press that he believes the Ten Commandments represent the truth "and you can't divorce the law from the truth. ... The Ten Commandments can help a judge know the difference between right and wrong."

He said he doesn't believe the commandments on his robe would have an adverse effect on jurors.

"I had a choice of several sizes of letters. I purposely chose a size that would not be in anybody's face," he said.

Link: Yahoo! News - Ala. Judge Wears Ten Commandments on Robe.

December 25, 2004 at 02:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Merry !@#$% Christmas

Iraqi insurgents and their informants have been infiltrating US and coalition organizations, Iraqi security units, and political parties in growing numbers, posing a daunting challenge to efforts to defeat the guerrillas and create a stable Iraqi state, according to US military officials, Iraq specialists, and a new study of Iraqi security forces.

...The apparent suicide attack that killed 21 people inside a US Army base in northern Iraq this week brought home what US officials have quietly been warning for months: insurgents in Iraq, including Iraqis and foreign fighters, are increasingly operating within their midst.

And in many cases, they appear to be gathering better intelligence on US military movements and the activities of the new Iraqi government than coalition forces are gathering on guerrilla plans.

''Penetration of Iraqi security and military forces may be the rule, not the exception," according to a draft version of a study of Iraqi security forces by a senior Pentagon consultant.

Military analysts concur that such infiltration is a worsening threat that is undermining US and Iraqi efforts to stand up viable security forces and to protect coalition troops from increasingly deadly attacks.

''There are more and more infiltrators out there," said Army Colonel Paul Hughes, who served as a political adviser to US occupation authorities in Iraq. ''It is the nature of an insurgent." ...

The new study, by Anthony Cordesman, a Pentagon adviser who interviewed numerous US and Iraqi officials in Iraq, draws worrisome parallels between the Iraq insurgency and the failed US military effort to battle the Communist insurgency in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s.

''Developments in Iraq indicate that the US faces a repetition of its experience in Vietnam in the sense that as various insurgent factions organize, they steadily improve their intelligence and penetration of organizations," according to a draft version of the study, ''Strengthening Iraqi Military and Security Forces," to be published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. The Globe obtained a copy of the draft report.

In Vietnam, US forces suffered dramatic losses at the hands of Vietcong guerrillas who were able to slip spies into areas where US military forces and their South Vietnamese allies were operating, the study notes. Family and other close ties between guerrillas and local civilians combined to give the Vietcong a bird's-eye view of US fire bases and troop movements, allowing them to launch precise and deadly attacks on American infantry units and installations.

''Like Vietnam, Iraq is a warning that hostile [human intelligence] sources are often pushed into providing data because of family ties, a fear of being on the losing side, direct and indirect threats," Cordesman concluded. ''In Iraq's case, it seems likely that family, clan, and ethnic loyalties have made many supposedly loyal Iraqis become at least part-time sources" for the insurgency.

''The end result may be an extremely high degree of transparency on US, Iraqi government, aid, and every other aspect of Iraqi operations," according to the report. ''This enables them to locate soft targets, hit at key points in terms of Iraq's economy and aid projects, and time their attacks to points of exceptional vulnerability."

Link: Boston.com / News / World / Middle East / Insurgents infiltrating coalition, US says.

December 25, 2004 at 02:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 24, 2004

Look out -- he's on a roll!

Courtesy Spencer Ackerman: Donald Rumsfeld on his comeback tour in Iraq with the troops...

[Soldier]: Do you and General Myers think it's unwise or was unwise to put 400-plus servicemen and civilians and others in a huge tent the size of a football field on a base in a combat zone, a base that had been hit by mortars and RPGs? And if you do think it's unwise, are either one of you or both going to sound off to Generals Casey and Ham, or take them to the woodshed?

SEC. RUMSFELD: If you think about it, it's a normal reaction to see something like that and say, "Why wasn't it stopped?" Or a beheading, and say, "Why didn't somebody stop the beheading?" And of course the other way to look at it is, think of the people who did the beheading. Those are the people we're up against.

Someone can say, "Well, people are coming across the border with jihadists from Syria; why aren't they stopped?" The other question is, why doesn't Syria stop the jihadists from coming across the border?

It is a -- it is something that one has to put into context. And I say that in respect for the military commanders on the ground, who have multiple tasks, are challenged constantly. I mean, think of the murders that take place in every major city in the world; one can say, "Well, why aren't they stopped?" Or the fires that take place and things that happen.

Link: DoD News: Defense Department Operational Update Briefing.

December 24, 2004 at 09:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why does US Army Major Isaiah Wilson III, official military historian of the Iraq invasion and chief war planner for the 101st Airborne Division, hate freedom?

The U.S. military invaded Iraq without a formal plan for occupying and stabilizing the country and this high-level failure continues to undercut what has been a "mediocre" Army effort there, an Army historian and strategist has concluded.

"There was no Phase IV plan" for occupying Iraq after the combat phase, writes Maj. Isaiah Wilson III, who served as an official historian of the campaign and later as a war planner in Iraq. While a variety of government offices had considered the possible situations that would follow a U.S. victory, Wilson writes, no one produced an actual document laying out a strategy to consolidate the victory after major combat operations ended.

"While there may have been 'plans' [imagine finger quotes] at the national level, and even within various agencies within the war zone, none of these 'plans' [imagine finger quotes] operationalized the problem beyond regime collapse" -- that is, laid out how U.S. forces would be moved and structured, Wilson writes in an essay that has been delivered at several academic conferences but not published. "There was no adequate operational plan for stability operations and support operations."

Similar criticisms have been made before, but until now they have not been stated so authoritatively and publicly by a military insider positioned to be familiar with top-secret planning. During the period in question, from April to June 2003, Wilson was a researcher for the Army's Operation Iraqi Freedom Study Group. Then, from July 2003 to March 2004, he was the chief war planner for the 101st Airborne Division, which was stationed in northern Iraq.

Link: washingtonpost.com: Army Historian Cites Lack of Postwar Plan.

December 24, 2004 at 08:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack