Feb 04, 2005

I Thought You Had The Gameplan!


Feb 04, 2005 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jan 31, 2005

The Iraqi Elections: Not A Moment Too Sunni


Talk about getting on the Bush bandwagon! 

In today's NYTimes, the headline and lead story left the impression that Iraqi participation in the election was resoundingly strong across the board. The number they offered (in the third paragraph of the lead column) was that Sunni participation might have reached 40%.  Oh, the pleasures of relying on the wishful thinking of Adnan Pachachi and visual accounts of Western reporters on military patrols through ill-disposed Arab neighborhoods.

Other sources, it seemed, felt compelled to let facts interfere with the euphoria. 

In Anbar Provence, for example, the heart of the Sunni population and the location of both Ramadi and Fallujah, the L.A. Times reported that less than 20,000 out of as many as 250,000 eligible voters actually voted.  According to the Times, voting was "almost nonexistent" in the other Sunni provinces of Salahuddin, Nineveh and Diyala. In Baqubah, which is north of Baghdad and has a population of 300,000, that city counted 17,000 people as voting.

Unofficial tallies indicated that 1,700 people voted in Ramadi, which the LA paper reminded is home to 400,000 residents.  They reported that 8,000 voted in Fallouja, which has (or, at least, had) a population 200,000 people. (Apparently, the voters of Fallujah were not facing much of a security threat either, given that polling places were set up at the large relief centers that now distribute food, water and cash to people whose homes were destroyed in the "liberation" of the city.)

And, what of the northern city of Mosul?  This is where the U.S. military had been conducting intensive raids to help insure a successful election.  (It's also the location of the graffiti wars, the military electioneering and the military "home drop-ins" I've been following.)  In spite of the statement by Army Maj. David Spencer, intelligence officer with the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, that "people were coming out in droves," the LA Times reported that only about 54,000 voters showed up to vote in a city of 1.8 million.  That's about 3%.

If the goal of this exercise was to bring democracy to Iraq through a representative election, why all the celebrating?  Oh yeah.  It's because, after promising the world and the American people a legitimate outcome, the Administration saw it couldn't deliver and  campaigned for lower expectations.

Apparently, they won that initiative too. 

Jan 31, 2005 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Jan 26, 2005

(It's Always Love At The Beginning)


Jan 26, 2005 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Jan 04, 2005

"Family Matters In A Lot Of Places"


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Before concluding the White House has completely succumbed to altruism, consider all the fabulous new material Rove now has to work with.  It looks like one part of the agenda might involve the advance of the Bush dynasty.  Although Governor Bush has said he wasn't considering the top job, the Asian crisis provides the perfect backdrop to showcase the non-candidate.  Certainly, Tuesday's front page story in the NYTimes provided ample assistance. 

More than halfway through the article, you come upon this:

For Jeb Bush, 51, who is a possible contender for the presidency in 2008 or later, the trip is a first major turn on the international stage. The governor, who oversaw Florida's response to four hurricanes in August and September, suggested that his presence on the trip, as not only an American official but also as the president's brother, would send a powerful message of sympathy.

"I think family matters in a lot of places, just as it does in the United States," the governor said. He recalled in 1988 being asked by his father, then the president-elect, to travel to Armenia after an earthquake there cost more than 25,000 lives.

"We went, and it made a big difference that a family member would go - this was on Christmas Eve - go to a far-off place," Mr. Bush said.

(...Somehow, I only counted three references to the word "president.")

Jan 04, 2005 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Dec 01, 2004

Paving the Way

I give a lot of credit to the NYTimes this week. After a story on Tuesday exploring problems with the viability of the Iraqi defense forces, they followed up on Wednesday with an unvarnished account of the destruction in Fallujah, and the obstacles involved in a truly legitimate reconstruction effort.

In contrast to the idealized stories that fill the papers and pc screens these days, both articles were refreshingly pragmatic.


Dec 01, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Oct 27, 2004

Planning Like Mad

The only thing worse than not finding the WMD we thought we knew about ...is losing the only WMD that we actually did know about.

Oct 27, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Oct 14, 2004

Meanwhile, Back In Reality....


Oct 14, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sep 27, 2004

Making Sausage

As a rule, I don't repost other commentary. However, the recent "Talk of the Town" piece in the September 27th New Yorker ("The Political War") by George Packer not only splits wide the administration's fictionalization of the Iraqi campaign, it does so in a way that also implicates the press and Senator Kerry (on behalf of the Senate, as well as himself, I assume) for the lack of sound.

If I can be excused the liberty (surely, no challenge to Dangermouse), I have "mixed in" a couple of BAGnews editions I created following 9/11 in which I sought (in my humble way) to point out the scorpions.


Earlier this year, the United States Agency for International Development, or U.S.A.I.D. hired a team of independent experts to go to Iraq and evaluate the agency’s programs there The experts came back with a mixed review that included plenty of reason for worry: the reconstruction of Iraq was taking place in an ad-hoc fashion, without a consistent strategy, without the meaningful participation or advice of Iraqis, within paralyzing security constraints and amid unrealistic claims of success. But something happened to the report on the way to publication. U.S.A.I.D. kept sending parts of it back for revision, draft after draft, weeding out criticism, until the agency finally approved a version for internal use which one member of the team called “a whitewash” of his findings Another expert said, “It’s so political everything going on out there. They just didn’t want to hear any bad news.” Pointing out that some of the numbers posted on the agency’ Web site were overly optimistic, he concluded, “They like to make their sausage their way.

(Making Sausage 1/29/03)

This would be a minor footnote in the history of the Iraq war, if only the entire story didn’t read the same. President Bush has been making the sausage his way from the beginning, and his way is to politicize. He forced a congressional vote on the war just before the 2002 midterm elections. He trumpeted selective and misleading intelligence. He displayed intense devotion to classifying government documents, except when there was political advantage in declassifying them. He fired or sidelined government officials and military officers who told the American public what the Administration didn’t want it to hear. He released forecasts of the war’s cost that quickly became obsolete, and then he ignored the need for massive expenditures until a crucial half year in Iraq had been lost. His communications office in Baghdad issued frequently incredible accounts of the progress of the war and the reconstruction. He staffed the occupation with large numbers of political loyalists who turned out to be incompetent. According to Marine officers and American officials in Iraq, he ordered and then called off critical military operations in Falluja against the wishes of his commanders, with no apparent strategic plan. He made sure that blame for the abuses at Abu Ghraib settled almost entirely on the shoulders of low-ranking troops. And then, in the middle of the election campaign, he changed the subject.

(Congress Hanging 3/16/03)

No one can now doubt the effectiveness of the President’s political operation. Here’s one measure: between May and September, the number of Iraq stories that made page 1 of the Times and the Washington Post dropped by more than a third. During the same period, the percentage of Americans who support the President’s handling of the war increased. It’s the mark of a truly brilliant reëlection campaign that these trends at home are occurring against a background of ever-increasing violence and despair in Iraq. The latest reports from mainstream think tanks, such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies, show every indicator of progress moving in the wrong direction. In July, the National Intelligence Council issued a classified and quite gloomy analysis of Iraq which had no effect on the President’s rhetoric or on his policy. After a year and a half of improvising and muddling through, there seems to be no clear way forward and no good way out. But because the President—as his chief of staff, Andrew Card, recently said—regards Americans as ten-year-old children, don’t expect to hear an honest discussion about any of this from the White House. (The President’s party, however, is trying to force congress to vote, just before the election, on a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning—no doubt to bring the country a little closer to victory in Iraq.)

(Press Hanging 3/15/03)

The problem with making sausage the President’s way—other than the fact that it deceives the public, precludes a serious debate, bitterly divides the body politic when war requires unity, exposes American soldiers to greater risk, substitutes half measures for thoroughgoing efforts, and insures that no one will be held accountable for mistakes that will never be corrected—is that it doesn’t work. What determines success in this war is what happens in Iraq and how Iraqis perceive it. If U.S.A.I.D. releases a report that prettifies the truth, officials here might breathe easier for a while, but it won’t speed up the reconstruction of Iraq. Covering up failures only widens the gap in perception between Washington and Baghdad—which, in turn, makes Washington less capable of grasping the reality of Iraq and responding to it. Eventually, the failures announce themselves anyway—in a series of suicide bombings, a slow attrition of Iraqi confidence, a sudden insurrection. War, unlike budget forecasts and campaign coverage, is quite merciless with falsehood.

In refusing to look at Iraq honestly, President Bush has made defeat there more likely. This failing is only the most important repetition of a recurring theme in the war against radical Islam: the distance between Bush’s soaring, often inspiring language and the insufficiency of his actions. When he speaks, as he did at the Republican Convention, about the power of freedom to change the world, he is sounding deep notes in the American political psyche. His opponent comes nowhere close to making such music. But if Iraq looks nothing like the President’s vision—if Iraq is visibly deteriorating, and no one in authority will admit it—the speeches can produce only illusion or cynicism. In what may be an extended case of overcompensation, so much of the President’s conduct in the war has become an assertion of personal will. Bush’s wartime hero, Winston Churchill, offered his countrymen nothing but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. Bush offers optimistic forecasts, permanent tax cuts, and his own stirring resolve.

(War as Expression of President's Will -- 13 days after 9/11)

As the campaign moves toward its finish, Senator Kerry seems unable to point any of this out, let alone exploit it. On Iraq, he has said almost everything possible, which makes it difficult for him to say anything. It’s understandable that the war fills him with ambivalence. The President’s actions have led the country into a blind alley; there’s no new strategy for Kerry to propose, and the press should stop insisting that he come up with one when the candidate who started the war feels no such obligation. But the Senator has allowed the public to think that the President, against all the evidence of his record, will fight the war in Iraq and the larger war against radical Islam with more success. If Kerry loses the election, this will be the reason.
— George Packer

Sep 27, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, BAGnews/Politics:General, BAGnews/War On tErrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sep 16, 2004

I Say ______ , And You Say ______ .

(Is the administration's spin on the Iraq war starting to wilt? The Saddam - Osama switcharoo used to be so plump and colorful. Now, not only can't Rummy keep it straight in public (" Friday's mix up"), there's new documentation showing he put the bulls eye on Saddam within minutes of the 9/11 attack.)

Sep 16, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Sep 15, 2004

"Fair Weather Friends" for $200


And The Question Is.....


Even the Russian newspaper Izvestia equated President Putin's consolidation of power this week to the Russian Revolution of 1917. Despite the sudden and radical curtailment of democracy, however, the Bush administration hardly seemed to notice. "These steps do appear to run counter to fundamental principles," a White House aid was quoted in the NYTimes. "But we want to get a better sense of how the Russians think they're going to be implemented."

(The article detailing the U.S. response to this dramatic turn of events appeared on page 12.)

Sep 15, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sep 08, 2004

Latest BAGnews Cartoon: (Reality) Check

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The news that the U.S. and Allawi are not in control of Iraq keeps getting reported over and over again... as if nobody wants to believe it. It sounds, however, like anxiety is setting in among military and government planners that the election, promised for January, might have to exclude many larger Iraqi cities.

Sep 08, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Aug 19, 2004

Foreign Policy Under The Radar


There are a lot of suspicious things going on right now in foreign policy. Behind the cover of the presidential race and the drama surrounding the 9/11 hearings, Bush and Co. are attempting some radical moves.

In an editorial the other day, the NYTimes took on the administration over troop redeployment. Not surprisingly, only the broadest outlines of the scheme have been provided, with the Pentagon and the White House refusing to provide more details. As we've been told, 60,000 to 70,000 troops are to be redeployed from Europe to the United States.

How, the Times asked, could the U.S. unilaterally pull troops off the Korean peninsula in the midst of tense nuke negotiations with N. Korea? (And how, by the way, does such a move jive with Bush's preoccupation with "projecting strength?") Why pull troops out of Germany to save money when the Germans help subsidize those bases? How is it more effective to shift some troops to Eastern Europe for the stated goal of protecting the Middle East and Afghanistan when Germany is actually closer to many of these hot spots? And, why return such a large number of troops to the United States when the experience of living abroad creates a more culturally sensitive, and thus more effective, armed forces?

And, that's not all. If we can rely on Chalmers Johnson, an avowed Asia and US-Asian relations policy expert and founder of the Japan Policy Research Institute, there are also extremely disturbing developments taking place between the U.S. and Japan.

In an interview with "Democracy Now", Chalmers claims the administration is exerting serious pressure on Japan to alter their constitution and abandon their policy of neutrality. Not to overlook the fact the United States authored this policy to send a moral message to the world and rectify the scourge of a world war, Chalmers sees the United States as attempting to turn Japan into an armed client state. As part of the effort, Chalmers cites an effort underway to muscle Japan onto the U.N. Security Council securing a critical new vote for the neocon agenda.

Aug 19, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, Worthy Links: Illustration | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Aug 02, 2004

Latest BAGnews Cartoon: Allawi at High Noon

The story that Iyad Allawi, the newly installed Iraqi Prime Minister, had executed up to six insurgents in cold blood, was first reported around July 16th. The account, written by a respected journalist, Paul McGeough, in the Sydney Morning Herald, was based on information from two independent corroborating witnesses. (The original article is reproduced here at counterpunch.org.)

In a radio interview, Mr. McGeough, himself, predicted little would come of the story. He felt that it required extensive follow-up investigation, and was likely far too sensitive a subject for most media to pursue.

If you do a search on the most obvious attributes of the situation, you'll find most reports coming out of Australia (or the American far left). Of the few mentions I found in the American press, the story was framed in the context of "urban legend," or as a rumor planted by Allawi himself to reinforce his own "no nonsense" reputation.

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Aug 02, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jul 30, 2004

Who Would You Guess is Handling The Bulk of the Catering These Days to the Green Zone?


According to this morning's front page NYT story, the hostage taking strategy in Baghdad has been extremely effective in shutting down commercial trucking. According to the article:

Several companies have pledged to stop working in Iraq, and on Thursday a notice went out in the Green Zone, the heavily fortified main headquarters for American officials in Iraq, saying meal service was being cut back to military rations and cold cuts "due to unforeseen circumstances."

What was that line from Kerry's speech the other night about a promise to the men and women in the armed forces? Something about: never asking them to fight a war without a plan to win the peace?

Jul 30, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, Worthy Links: Illustration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jun 04, 2004

BAGnews Cartoon: Dispensing With Authority

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You have to appreciate Lakhdar Brahimi's undiplomatic candor. (It's the same manner Han Blix displayed in the run-up to the war.) In a political situation characterized by duplicity, here is the (supposedly) key player in the "transfer of power" matter-of-factly referring to Paul Bremer as "the dictator of Iraq."

Here's where to find the audio of Brahimi's NPR interview in which he discusses the Bremer comment, as well as how things played out last week in Baghdad.

Jun 04, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 25, 2004

Tomato Revisited

The only new development in the President's big Iraq speech last night? He finally called it an "occcupation."
...I guess stubbornness can make you a little slow. (The cartoon is from last May.)

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May 25, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, BAGnews/War On tErrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 24, 2004

Straying The Course

On Monday, President Bush begins his first in a series of six weekly speeches on Iraq. According to an aid, he plans to help set "rational expectations for what we'll see over the next weeks and months in Iraq."

...Including much less of us.

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May 24, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 05, 2004

In Bed With Ahmed

When I read the other day that Salem Chalabi, Ahmed's nephew, was put in charge of prosecuting Saddam Hussein, I thought about how the Chalabi family exploits power (while avoiding scandal) as masterfully as the Bush clan does.

In an earlier cartoon, I sung Chalabi praises for his ability to erase history, especially his major embezzlement of the Jordanian government.

As Chalabi positions himself for a leadership position in the emerging (puppet) Iraqi government, I refer you to another great diagram from UggaBugga, charting Mr. Chalabi's path of destruction.

May 05, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, Worthy Links: Charts/Maps/Graphs/Logos Clearinghouse | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The BAGnews Cartoon: Better Democracy Through Illusion

(This cartoon looked a lot more Escher-like before it ended up on the bag.)

That being said, it's getting very tiresome hearing how each occupation-inspired act of abuse, arrogance or cultural indiscretion is somehow an isolated incident. Instead (as has been painfully clear to the Iraqi's for sometime), our fundamental ignorance and insensitivity has been nothing if not remarkably consistent.

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May 05, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mar 23, 2004

George of Jerusalem

While it's clear all roads dealing with Arab extremism run through Jerusalem, whoever drew up the Bush administration's road map swapped-in Baghdad instead. Still, three years after taking office, the stance the Administration has taken on the Arab-Israeli remains firmly planted and clearly spelled out.


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Mar 23, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, BAGnews/Most Recent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mar 19, 2004

Coalition of the Wilting

As it becomes evident that the WMD threat was just trash talk, President Bush's so-called "coalition" (Go get 'em, Honduras! Give 'em hell, El Salvador!) is quickly turning to rot.

Conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill are considering drastic action: No more paella, gazpacho, flan or churros in the Congressional Cafeteria. One portly Senator, who refused to be named, claimed: You'll never see another kielbasa or pierogi here again... at least, as long as we're in charge of reality!"


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Mar 19, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mar 17, 2004

Bush Out Of His League (Or: Terrorism Fight Going From Bat To Worse)

Although originally created to mark the second anniversary of 9/11, our "Bush League" cartoon seem even more appropriate today. Even if we manage to run down Ayman al-Zawahiri, as is currently rumored, al Queda's ability to morph and improvise, combined with our morass in Iraq and our alienation from Europe, indicates that we're more than ready for a line-up change.


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Mar 17, 2004 in BAGnews/Misadventures Abroad, BAGnews/Politics:General | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack