Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Obama's message to Iran 

Obama's decision to keep 50,000 troops in Iraq pissed me off: it wasn't my impression of what he meant by "end the war".

Top among the reasons I want us completely out of Iraq is that our military presence in oil producing Islamic nations has been correctly interpreted as a means to keep a stable supply of oil. This message takes a completely different tack: welcome these nations instead of coerce them.

If this attitude toward the region comes off as well in Iraq to Iraqi ears as this message to Iran comes off to my ears, the equation of keeping troops in Iraq to prevent a civil war vs withdrawing from a net negative situation may change.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

I can't get enough of the shoe thing 

Also from Rami.

From b3ta board.

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Recent cartoons from the Arabic press 

Thanks to Rami for sending and translating!

Translation: Kiss goodbye

Translation, quoting a famous Arabic song: "If I only knew my ending I wouldn't have started"

Translation: Bush entering history carrying a shoe on his back

Translation: The historical day of December 14th

Translation: We stand on solid ground in Iraq (Interpreting: we stand with our feet solid in Iraq)

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I took my auratus from eggs out of their viv and built a naked pyramid to photograph.

abu ghraib frog pyramid

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

McCain knows what the Iraqi PM really REALLY wants deep down inside 

Iraqis are begging for us to stay, nomatter what they may say. McSame,

"I have been there too many times. I've met too many times with him, and I know what they want."

Full interview (with commentary) is a hoot.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Republican myth vs reality II 

The goal of the "Iraq surge" was to give breathing room to Iraqi political leaders to find political reconciliation. Republicans are not claiming the surge has succeded.

Although violence is down, the mission has failed.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Senile or stupid? 

Your guess as good as any.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Only an idiot 

During the Crocker and Petraeus testimonies earlier this week, McCain asserted that we're "no longer staring into the abyss of defeat" in Iraq.

He's a trainwreck in every sense of the word - I'm embarrassed to watch video clips of him when my girlfriend is within earshot.

I can't imagine Americans are as stupid as McCain assumes. You can go back and back and back and you'll find McCain always saying we're winning (even if it may take another six months for it to really turn around) and never find him anywhere nearly as pessimistic as "staring into the abyss of defeat".

In fact, according to McCain, we're pretty much perpetually coming out of the abyss ... we just need another six months.

Update: check out the second result for "six months":

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Once and always a bad idea 

Charlie Rose conducted an uncomfortable but enlightening interview with two Iraqis on the 5th anniversary of the invasion. The narrative in the US media has been to "Where did it go wrong?". This interview reminded me that 5 years ago, lots of us saw clearly that the whole adventure was a bad idea from the start.

Also here.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Obama on national security 

This is relatively long for a YouTube clip, but I find it nearly spot on and complete:

I disagree that we as a nation should demonstrate such reflexive support of Israel's foreign policy as Obama seems to advocate here, but given the breadth of the speech, I feel comfortable with the foreign policy he outlines.

That said, I've noticed no candidate expressing extended thoughts about the credit failure we've brought on ourselves. America has lived on credit for years, paying debts with refinanced mortgages. One of Bush's 2004 campaign sound-bites was that an unprecedented number of Americans owned their own homes. It was true at the time, but in retrospect a negative, not a positive. People during Bush's first term were able to get mortgages they couldn't afford.

So I'd like a 2008 candidate lay out what we should do about it.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007


As Army captains who served in Baghdad and beyond, we've seen the corruption and the sectarian division. We understand what it's like to be stretched too thin. And we know when it's time to get out.

What does Iraq look like on the ground? It's certainly far from being a modern, self-sustaining country. Many roads, bridges, schools and hospitals are in deplorable condition. Fewer people have access to drinking water or sewage systems than before the war. And Baghdad is averaging less than eight hours of electricity a day.

More ...


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Another Bush lie revealed 

If Iraq is a sovereign state as Bush has been claiming for several years the Blackwater narrative would be entirely different. The very definition of a soverign state requires that its government have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. If this were so, there would be no controversy and negotiations about whether Blackwater will continue to play a role in Iraq. Furthermore, there would be no question at all over whether Blackwater is answerable to Iraq's justice system.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I'm for it 

Who can be against a war tax?

Top House Democrats Tuesday proposed a "war surtax" to pay for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, a plan quickly condemned by Republicans and opposed by the House leadership.

The surtax would be "a percentage of your tax bill," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey, D-Wisconsin. "And if you don't like the cost, then shut down the war."

Why stop at a war tax? I'd love to see my tax contributions fleshed out.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Here lies an employee of the month 

A good portion of the mercenaries we've hired to do Iraq are veterans. We give them the best training, they do their stint in the military and go to work for lavishly compensated private firms such as Blackwater. Lavish in the sense that the DoD is ostensibly not for profit in and of itself. Would it be fitting that the Department of Veterans Affairs would approve another religious symbol to mark theSE brave souls' broken bodies?

Andy Warhol bloody dollar

Dollar Sign by Andy Warhol, 1981, print available from ALLPosters.com.

Nobody keeps an official tally of dead mercenaries from this war that I know of. Dead mercinaries made the ultimate sacrifice carrying out their missions - same as our enlisted troops. Will they be seen as deserving the same solemn remembrance alongside the names of (actual) service members on future war memorials? I can think of no logical and compelling reason not to - their choice of employer doesn't change the fact that they died while willingly putting themselves at risk at our government's calling - but at the same it seems somehow obscene. Would they be listed under the headings Arkansas, Minnesota, Texas or DynCorp International, Blackwater Security, Halliburton?

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Baghdad embassy slop job: way beyond poetic justice 

If only a fraction of this yarn holds weight it is enough to send anyone's head spinning regardless of what they think of the grand Iraq adventure. Allegedly, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, scheduled to be finished next month, has been built in the manner of a soundstage for a B-movie spaghetti western,

Ralph McNamara, the former [U.S. State Department] deputy assistant inspector general for investigations, said in an Associated Press interview Tuesday that he came forward with the allegations against his former boss because he was concerned that State Department employees would be at risk when working in the new embassy.

"A rocket - an unexploded munition - went through a portion of a cement ceiling there, and it was supposed to be an area able to withstand a direct hit from a missile that did explode," said McNamara. He said investigators wanted to look into charges that the walls were not built to the required thickness or concrete consistency, but they were blocked from pursuing it.

And, the story goes, the structure has been built in part by slave labor imported from the Philippines by a contractor, First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Co,

"I was given my flight information to Baghdad. At this time, First Kuwaiti managers asked me to escort 51 Filipino nationals to the Kuwaiti airport and make sure they got on the same flight that I was taking to Baghdad. Many of these Filipinos did not speak any English," [Rory James Mayberry, a former employee of First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Co] told US congressmen. "I wanted to help them make sure they got on their flight OK, just as my managers had asked. We were all employees of the same company after all.

"But when we got to the Kuwait airport, I noticed that all of our tickets said we were going to Dubai. I asked why? The Kuwaiti manager told me that because Filipino passports do not allow Filipinos to fly to Iraq, they must be marked as going to Dubai,"
Mayberry said.

Howard J. Krongard, the State Department's inspector general in charge of investigating the project, said that he conducted a "limited review" on the conditions of foreign laborers at the construction site in Baghdad and did not find reasons to substantiate the claims.

The Filipinos worked at the embassy construction site with laborers from India, Pakistan and Sierra Leone. Mayberry, who read Krongard's report. "It's not worth the paper it’s printed on. This is a cover-up. I'm glad that I have this opportunity to set the record straight," he told the committee. Mayberry said the workers were told they would be working in hotels in Dubai, not in Baghdad. According to him, the First Kuwaiti managers even instructed him specifically not to tell the Filipinos they were being taken to Baghdad. "As I found out later, these men thought they had signed up to work in Dubai hotels. One fellow I met told me in broken English that he was excited to start his new job as a telephone repair man. They had no idea they were being sent to do construction work on the US embassy," Mayberry said.

"Mr. Chairman, when the airplane took off and the captain announced that we were headed for Baghdad, all you-know-what broke lose on that airplane. People started shouting. It wasn't until a security guy working for First Kuwaiti waved an MP-5 in the air that people settled down," he said, addressing Rep. Henry A. Waxman, chairman of the oversight committee.

And what's a scandal these days without a healthy dose of Bush-loyalist political cronyism,

[U.S. State Department Inspector General Howard J.] Krongard looked into it.

Only he had a peculiar method, according to Waxman's investigation. First, he insisted on doing the report entirely by himself and shut out his staff. And instead of seeking out the source of the allegations, he allowed the contractor to choose the employees that he'd interview. He ultimately interviewed six employees.

The result? Krongard declared that he found no evidence of human trafficking.

But when Waxman sought the investigative materials that Krongard had generated in the course of his probing investigation, Krongard only turned over 20 pages total (after a subpoena from Waxman). Of those 20 pages, only six of them were Krongard's own work product -- sketchy handwritten notes from his interviews with the contractor's handpicked witnesses.

The Justice Department has since launched an investigation.

Anticipated wing-nut response: That we didn't build our embassy to last is proof we have no long-term intentions to stay in Iraq.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

The surge bamboozlement 

Video proof from the uniformed military that the White House's Iraq propaganda last week was based on the lie that the planned draw down to pre-surge levels was made possible by the surge's "success". Put together by the incomparable Vericifiers,

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

My criticism of Bush's speech before he makes it 

The main thing I see, W, is that early this year you signed into law 18 benchmarks to be met by this month - benchmarks by which progress could be judged at this time. You gave yourself an F. Does it really matter that you can "see some good" that's happened amongst your overall stellar failure? The only reason I'm even listening at this point is to remind myself that you and you alone own this war and are singularly responsible for the catastrophe.

I can't believe you actually credited the reduction in violence in Anbar to the surge, that's funny. Here, look at your boy Petreaus' bar-chart of attacks in Anbar over time. They peaked in October 2006 and have been falling steadily since. You didn't even announce your "surge" until four months later - and aren't you also , trying to make the case that the "surge" has only been going on at force for a few months?

Besides, all the benchmarks were predicated on the assumption the "surge" would give the room needed for them to happen. Reduced violence wasn't the goal of your surge - you don't get any points for just showing up.

You began telling us, "We're turning the corner" during your 2004 campaign, usually adding something along the lines of "The next few months will be hard but crucial to our success" and "Pulling back now while we're making good progress would be turning victory into defeat." Like an upside-down boy who cried wolf, such claims have long lost credulity.

Why don't I come up with a plan then if I'm so smart? I've had a plan for years. We ought to pull back. We need keep some troops on the borders to ensure Turkey doesn't annex Kurdistan and Iran doesn't annex the southern oil fields. We ought to provide air support to the central government. Since ethnic cleansing began last Fall, we should also be prepared to intervene if it turns into genocide. No more ridiculous missions like "Operation Iron Eggbeater".

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

MoveOn ad more weightly than Petreus' testimony 

Right-wingers get dimmer by the hour

On edit: More weightly than Petraeus' testimony, too

This afternoon, I got an email from RNC Chairman Mike Duncan. Before urgently asking me three times for "$1,000, $500, $100, $50 or $25 [to] get our message past the liberal mainstream media filter, he explained,

The radical liberals have taken over the Democrat Party ... This week [MoveOn.org] ran full page newspaper ads attacking the integrity of our top military commander in Iraq, General Petraeus, as he was testifying before Congress. And, the Democrat leaders have said nothing. Nothing! Are they complicit in these attacks by their silence?

Gee, Mike, I don't know. Is absolute silence in regards to a a $65K bad pun in the face of congressional testimony concerning an unpopular $2 billion a week war that has so far killed or maimed 30,000 Americans such a bad thing? I think not.

The RNC's idea that no Democrat leader has but breathed a whisper about the ad both contradicts its assertion that The radical liberals have taken over the Democrat Party and is, how do I put this ... completely made up by the RNC.

Googling for news items about moveon+ad turns up several salient articles at least a day old at the time the fire-brand GOP Chairman delivered his fatwa, including this,

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday expressed her disapproval of MoveOn.org's ad that referred to Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, as "General Betray Us."

"I would have preferred that they won't do such an ad," Pelosi said. The Speaker said it is not her prerogative "to say how people express themselves" and that the ad is "a demonstration of the frustration that people have about the war."


"It is unfortunate that Republican presidential candidates are focused on generating a political sideshow instead of discussing the president's failed war policy," said a spokesman for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"Sen. Clinton is going to keep her focus where it should be: on ending the war."

Former Sen. John Edwards said he "honors Gen. Petraeus' service and patriotism, but the general is wrong to believe that the American people or Congress should give President Bush's failed Iraq strategy more time," spokesman Eric Schultz said.

"Sen. Obama's question is not about Gen. Petraeus' patriotism. It's about his logic," said Jen Psaki, spokeswoman for Barack Obama.


Chris Dodd, asked about the moveon.org ad: "This is not about the personality of General Petraeus. I have respect for him as a military individual here giving his best assessment. And even his assessments indicate this is not going to be easy at all, even under the best of scenarios they're describing here. So the debate ought not to be about the personalities. The debate is about the policy".


Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, called the ad "over the top."
"I don't like any kind of characterizations in our politics that call into question any active duty, distinguished general who I think under any circumstances serves with the best interests of our country," said Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate and a decorated veteran.

"I think there are a lot of legitimate questions that need to be asked, a lot of probing that ought to take place; there's a lot of legitimate accountability that needs to be achieved. It ought to be done without casting any aspersions on anyone's character or motives," he added.

And this,

"The issue isn't General Petraeus," [Sen. Harry] Reid spokesman Jim Manley told FOX News. "He is a good man and a fine soldier. The problem is that he was brought in to administer a war that had already been badly mismanaged by President Bush."

"Serious questions have been raised, and will continue to be raised, about the veracity of some of the statistics that will be cited by the White House and General Petraeus. As General Petraeus himself said during his confirmation hearing in January, the objective of the surge was to provide Iraq's national government time to reach political reconciliation, and by every independent assessment made so far, that simply hasn't happened," Manley said.

The GOP apparently assumes the dirt they have left to plow consists mostly of incurious bitter partisan nitwits who can even forget what FOX News just told them as soon as a GOPer paints the specter of destruction imaginary liberals will reign down upon all that is Right and Good. In this case, they bring their destruction by being silent.

And guess what? Those who have bucked up throughout the GOP's hard times and stayed the course with their policy-embattled and corruption-encrusted party are justly rewarded: They don't have to think at all about what Petraeus and Crocker said this week! The important thing is that the Democrats dishonored them!

PS. Curiously, but not surprisingly, my favorite bitter-right-winger (who insists she doesn't repeat right-wing talking points yet miraculously comes up with the same twisted un-realities described in RNC propaganda) took the idea and ran with it,

Today we have the most disgusting politicians in the Democratic party that I find it hard to believe they are really fellow Americans ...

What ever happened to the idea of guilty [sic] until proven innocent [sic]? Well Democrats and organizations like MoveOn started a slander case against Gen. Petraeus ... I personally think they should resign!

When pressed in comments to reveal the precise names of the disgusting politicians she was calling on to resign, she burrows deeper into GOP la-la land,

Namely I think Nancy Peolsi and Harry Reid should resign, they were discrediting the General before he even spoke. And no Democrat pubically denounced the MoveOn ad that appeared Monday, also prior to the General's testimony.

Remember, these are her thoughts, not the GOP's. Eerie how similarly wrong they are. Gives me chills!

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GOP House leader on the ultimate sacrifice to one's country: "a small price" 

John Boehner of the Party Who Supports the Troops,

If 3,800 American lives and half a trillion dollars is a "small price", I shudder to think what we would be in for if Boehner was willing to make a modest investment.

Via Greg Sargent

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Richard Lugar (R - Reality) 

From Lugar's opening statement today during Petreus and Crocker's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committe, expressing a thought I tried to articulate a few posts down,

One can debate, as many will do this week, whether progress in Iraq has been sufficient to justify continuing American sacrifices. But the greatest risk for U.S. policy is not that we are incapable of making progress, but that this progress may be largely beside the point given the divisions that now afflict Iraqi society. The risk is that our efforts are comparable to a farmer expending his resources and efforts to plant a crop on a flood plain without factoring in the probability that the waters may rise. In my judgment, some type of success in Iraq is possible, but as policy makers, we should acknowledge that we are facing extraordinarily narrow margins for achieving our goals.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Sixth anniversary 

Given a choice between a world of nations controlled by corporations standing to lose profits from war between their client governments and a world in which nations went to war among one another willy-nilly, I'd in pick the corptocracy.

As far as that scenario provides, I'm in agreement with Bush's foreign policy. And I rather think Bush's War on Terror is driven at least in part by the contrast between those two choices.

However, those aren't the only two choices available and a military struggle between ideologies without territories is futile. By the administration's own admission "the terrorists won't stop with Iraq". Iraq is not an Iwo Jima no matter how much supporters of the war try to make it.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

No more good news about Iraq, please! 

I can't take any more good news about progress in Iraq, I've had quite a bit enough already.

Early on. I recall the heroic effort to save Pvt. Lynch and the fantastic toppling of the statue of Hussein. Both staged propaganda events. Although the follow up act with Bush's flight suit and codpiece didn't pretend to be anything more than a theatrical production marking the end of major combat, any but the most casual observers had enough information to understand the White House and Pentagon's public relations communications had little to do with anything actually happening in Iraq.

Half a year ago there seemed to be wide agreement that September - this month - would be a time to frankly assess what political progress has made by the Iraqi government, with the benefit of three elections under it's belt.

Yet, all signs indicate the discussion is going to be over the bogus statistics describing violence or lack thereof - not the political progress or lack thereof. The statistics that matter are:

I'm sad to say there isn't enough Iraqi will to take advantage of our presence to work toward those types of goals. They don't want our help - in fact, we're an irritant. It's time to reduce our role to keeping Turkey, Iran and Iraq's other neighbors from injecting themselves into the mess militarily and preventing all-out genocide.

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