Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Saturday, November 25th, 2006.

Fanning the Flames

Bush Administration, Iraq War

[Updated below]

John Burns and Kirk Semple report for the New York Times:

The insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining financially, raising tens of millions of dollars a year from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, connivance by corrupt Islamic charities and other crimes that the Iraqi government and its American patrons have been largely unable to prevent, a classified United States government report has concluded.

The report, obtained by The New York Times, estimates that groups responsible for many insurgent and terrorist attacks are raising $70 million to $200 million a year from illegal activities. It says $25 million to $100 million of that comes from oil smuggling and other criminal activity involving the state-owned oil industry, aided by “corrupt and complicit” Iraqi officials.

As much as $36 million a year comes from ransoms paid for hundreds of kidnap victims, the report says. It estimates that unnamed foreign governments — previously identified by American officials as including France and Italy — paid $30 million in ransom last year.

A copy of the seven-page report was made available to The Times by American officials who said the findings could improve understanding of the challenges the United States faces in Iraq.

Here’s the critical part:

The report offers little hope that much can be done, at least soon, to choke off insurgent revenues. For one thing, it acknowledges how little the American authorities in Iraq know — three and a half years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein — about crucial aspects of insurgent operations. For another, it paints an almost
despairing picture of the Iraqi government’s ability, or willingness, to take steps to tamp down the insurgency’s financing.

Iraq government officials are probably in on it. Why would they want to stop it?

“If accurate,” the report says, its estimates indicate that these “sources of terrorist and insurgent finance within Iraq — independent of foreign sources — are currently sufficient to sustain the groups’ existence and operation.” To this, it adds what may be its most surprising conclusion: “In fact, if recent revenue and expense estimates are correct, terrorist and insurgent groups in Iraq may have surplus funds with which to support other terrorist organizations outside of Iraq.”

Some terrorism experts who saw the report are skeptical of its findings, and say that data and conclusions both seem speculative. The report was compiled by an interagency working group headed by Juan Zarate, deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism.

American, Iraqi and other coalition forces are fighting an array of shadowy Sunni and Shiite groups that can draw on huge armories left over from Mr. Hussein’s days, and benefit from the willingness of many insurgents to fight with little or no pay. If the $200 million a year estimate is close to the mark, it amounts to less than what it costs the Pentagon, with an $8 billion monthly budget for Iraq, to sustain the American war effort here for a single day.

Seems to me this indicates that the longer our troops stay in Iraq, the more likely the insurgency will grow into something bigger and more widespread.

Prediction: Tomorrow rightie blogs will complain that the New York Times is aiding the enemy by reporting this stuff, even though its stuff the bleeping enemy already knows.

Update: My prediction comes true. Rightie #1:

The leakers also broke federal law by providing classified information and reports to reporters. Such leaks, regardless of the purpose or intent of the leakers, is a criminal act. … the leakers may have provided critical details of the surveillance of the insurgency, but the report indicates just how little the intel services actually know about what is going on. Wonderful.

The New York Times article clearly says that the 7-page document they obtained provided no “documentation of how authors had arrived at their estimates. … such data may have been omitted to protect the group’s clandestine sources and methods.” I read the article and saw nothing that came even close to “critical details of the surveillance of the insurgency” other than there doesn’t seem to be much effective surveillance. There’s nothing in this document that the insurgents in Iraq don’t already know. The only people in the dark are American citizens.

Rightie #2:

When will this kind of baloney stop? Does classified even mean anything anymore to our MSM?

Ok, stupid questions. Of course they care little about the security of our intelligence nor our country. As long as they can keep towing the liberal line and promote their ideals then hey, everything is up for grabs.

Consequences be damned.

The “consequences,” of course, is that the American people might find out how badly our government is botching the War in Iraq. The “enemy,” I suspect, already knows what it’s up to.

Righties, translated: Please keep us ignorant! Any effort to shatter our delusions is treason!

From the Left — Chris at AMERICAblog:

So I’m guessing that many on the right will now use this as a new chance to flog the anti-France sentiment again but we already know that our own accountants have identified an $800M gap in the books and we know that US taxpayer money, weapons and equipment goes in the front door and out the back door to help crooked individuals as well as the insurgents. How is it even possible to be in this war for so long and yet know so little? Who in the hell is putting blinders on? It’s no wonder the war is going so poorly when the US leadership knows so little.

So when Cheney said the US would be greeted with flowers, was this was he was talking about? Is “flower” a code name for “self financed insurgency?” He’s such a clever guy, isn’t he?

David Kurtz

The overwhelming impression I’m left with from the piece is that more than three and half years after ostensibly seizing control of Iraq, the U.S. government is still largely ignorant of the armed groups arrayed against its efforts there.


It would seem the primary thing that has emboldened the terrorists–and strengthened their hand–since 9/11 has been the disastrous incompetence and adventurism of the Bush administration.

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Sen. Chuck Hagel

Bush Administration, Congress, Democratic Party, Iraq War, Republican Party

Yesterday I wrote that Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel would make a palatable presidential candidate in the 2008 election. He has an op-ed in Sunday’s Washington Post that illustrates what I’m talking about.

There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq. These terms do not reflect the reality of what is going to happen there. The future of Iraq was always going to be determined by the Iraqis — not the Americans.

Iraq is not a prize to be won or lost. It is part of the ongoing global struggle against instability, brutality, intolerance, extremism and terrorism. There will be no military victory or military solution for Iraq. Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger made this point last weekend.

The time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed. We do not have more troops to send and, even if we did, they would not bring a resolution to Iraq. Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs: America cannot impose a democracy on any nation — regardless of our noble purpose.

We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. They will decide their fate and form of government.

You can quibble about the “honorable intentions” part, but otherwise — he’s got it.

Sen. Hagel goes on to call for a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq. He ends this way:

It is not too late. The United States can still extricate itself honorably from an impending disaster in Iraq. The Baker-Hamilton commission gives the president a new opportunity to form a bipartisan consensus to get out of Iraq. If the president fails to build a bipartisan foundation for an exit strategy, America will pay a high price for this blunder — one that we will have difficulty recovering from in the years ahead.

To squander this moment would be to squander future possibilities for the Middle East and the world. That is what is at stake over the next few months.

For the past several days Chris Matthews and his surrogates have complained that the Dems plan to “hide behind” the Baker commission. He is of course ignoring the fact that (a) the Dems can’t actually do anything about Iraq until January, and (b) even then they won’t have a veto-proof majority. It really would be better for everybody if there can be some bipartisan consensus in Congress on how to leave Iraq, and it makes sense to see if the Baker Commission comes up with something that a majority of both parties can get behind.

That said, I very much doubt the Baker Commission will deliver. As I wrote here, it appears the White House already may have co-opted the Iraq Study Group to force them to crank out more “strategy for victory” crapola. I do not believe for one minute that President Bush will accept any recommendations that involve withdrawal from Iraq before his term is up. And Bush can no more “build a bipartisan consensus” than he can fly. So the fight will be on, no matter what.

But it would be to everyone’s advantage if at least some Republicans in Congress join the fight on our side, and Senator Hagel’s op ed gives me some hope that can happen.

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God Nazis

conservatism, Religion, science

Two stories being linked to on the Right Blogosphere:

Tricia Bishop writes for the Chicago Sun that retailers have already surrendered in the Christmas Wars.

Christmas is back at Wal-Mart – not that it really ever left.

After testing out a generic, yet all-inclusive, “happy holidays” theme last year, the nation’s largest retailer announced this month that Christmas will dominate its seasonal marketing in the U.S.

“We’ve learned our lesson,” said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Marisa Bluestone. “This year, we’re not afraid to say, ‘Merry Christmas.'”

Neither are Walgreens, Target, Macy’s, Kmart and Kohl’s, among others. In interviews this week, spokesmen from those major retailers said that their stores acknowledge the Christmas holiday, hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s backlash led by conservative Christian groups. …

… “Clearly, retailers have learned that they can still be inclusive of all religions while wishing their customers a ‘merry Christmas,'” she said.

Sure, they have.

Some said Wal-Mart might actually be asking for trouble with its new policy. Employees were encouraged to mix it up this year and toss out a “Happy Hanukkah” and “Kwanzaa” among their “Season’s Greetings,” or maybe even a “Feliz Navidad” if the mood strikes.

Wal-Mart workers are supposed to “use their best judgment” to figure out what’s appropriate for whom, spokeswoman Bluestone said.

“How can they tell? They’re going to look at people and [guess]?” asked Amna Kirmani, a professor of marketing at the Robert H. Smith School of Business.

At the Wal-Mart on Port Covington Drive this week, aisles were stocked with Christmas items and their generic, wintry counterparts – such as decorative snowmen and sleds – but nary a menorah to be found. A manager said the store doesn’t stock many Hanukkah items, and what it had this year was already purchased.

This rightie blogger is glad Wal-Mart has “seen the light,” but I’m not persuaded that all the God Nazis will be appeased. When people want to take offense, they nearly always find something that offends them.

The other story is from Australia, where Scholastic Australia has killed publication of a book because it might offend Muslims.

A LEADING children’s publisher has dumped a novel because of political sensitivity over Islamic issues.

Scholastic Australia pulled the plug on the Army of the Pure after booksellers and librarians said they would not stock the adventure thriller for younger readers because the “baddie” was a Muslim terrorist

You need to read the whole story for the context in which this decision was made, but it is a shame, when people allow themselves to be intimidated into self-censorship.

The arbiters of righteousness at Little Green Footballs are outraged. (Linking to LGF violates Mahablog policy; I trust you can find the post if you really want to.)

The Australian branch of a multinational publisher of children’s books has canceled their publication of an adventure thriller by an award-winning novelist—because the bad guys are Islamic terrorists: Islamic fears kill off children’s thriller. (Hat tip: Andrew Bolt.)

But get a load of what they are willing to publish.

The article describes a couple of other books, recently published in Australia, that allegedly make excuses for Islamic terrorism. However, the article doesn’t say that Scholastic Australia published those books. I checked Scholastic Australia’s web site and couldn’t find them; I suspect another publisher brought them out.

Once again: Righties can’t read.

But the moral is, intimidation by Muslims is bad; intimidation by Christians is good.

One more example of God Nazis — I don’t have time this morning to do this subject justice, but I call your attention to this article by Deepak Chopra at Huffington Post. I agree with Chopra’s basic premise — that religion and science are not mutually exclusive — but then he goes off on some mushy New Age tangent about consciousness that destroys his own premise. (I added a comment to the article, but my comment hasn’t been published yet. It may show up later today.) Chopra has established himself as some kind of spirituality guide, but after reading this I question if he has ever gone beneath the surface himself. For another take on spirituality and consciousness, try this.

However, I am not calling Chopra a God Nazi. I may disagree with him, but he’s not marching around trying to intimidate people into thinking the way he does. Some of the commenters, on the other hand, want to stamp out Chopra. Some put him in the same box as James Dobson; hardly. In this case, the militant atheists are the God Nazis.

Update: Glenn Greenwald points to righties who are upset by the word Christianist but who themselves use the word Islamist.

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Saturday Cartoons

Bush Administration

Here are the cartoons. And don’t miss The Midterm’s Greatest Hits.

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