Friday, March 28, 2003

THE WAR THEY MADE -- Columnist Harold Meyerson turns his gaze to the neocons who run U.S. foreign policy and correctly lays the Iraq War at their feet. The war would be a cakewalk, we've been told. The Iraqi army would defect. Even the Republican Guard would give up and walk home rather than fight for Saddam Hussein. The road to Baghdad would be strewn with rose petals tossed by grateful Iraqi women and children. Things, as we have seen, have not gone according to the plan.

"When your liberator rolls down your block with guns blazing, that can tend to cool your ardor toward him, however well-intentioned his intrusion may have been. To be sure, it’s Saddam who has chosen to fight inside the cities. But then, it’s Bush who has chosen to fight inside Iraq.

"The effects that images from such a battle will have on the world are sure to be wildly inflammatory. Already, a wave of pan-Arab nationalism is sweeping the Arab world; footage of U.S. forces shooting their way through Baghdad can only increase the anti-American sentiment in the region (and, for that matter, the world). It will embolden the region’s democrats, which is a good thing, but it will also embolden the region’s anti-Western, anti-democratic Islamic theocrats, who outnumber and intimidate the democrats throughout most of the Middle East."
HONESTLY, IT'S THIS BIG!


by Steve Bell of The Guardian.
DEAN BREAKS THE PEACE -- Democratic presidential aspirants have concentrated their fire on Mr Bush, but former Vermont Governor Howard Dean has criticized John Kerry for voting for a war authorization last year, but condemning Mr Bush's handling of diplomacy and war with Iraq.

Chicago-based Democratic analyst David Axelrod said Dean has not always been clear about his own position, pointing to his refusal to say whether the troops should be pulled out of Iraq at a Wednesday night appearance in Boston. Last week, Dean told reporters in Washington the troops must stay and finish the fight now that they are on the ground.

"He's criticizing Kerry for his inconsistency, but he could get hoisted on his own petard," says Mr Axelrod.

Thus far, Senator Kerry has refused to respond forcefully to Governor Dean's attacks. I think that's a good thing. Democrats need to focus on the real enemy: George W. Bush and his incompetent administration. I understand Governor Dean is in a close race for the New Hampshire primary with front-runner Senator Kerry, but holding your fire against Mr Bush during the war, while happily attacking Senator Kerry during the same war doesn't make much sense to me.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

DO AS WE SAY...OR ELSE -- Harold Meyerson aptly sums up the Bush admin's failure to build international support for the invasion of Iraq:

"The administration sought to win nations to our cause by the color of our money -- not the content of our arguments. When the money didn't suffice, threats followed. Dick Cheney delivered a series of pre-war ultimatums to the Turkish government that predictably boomeranged. Apparently, treating the elected leaders of nations like so many underperforming Halliburton sales reps was not a great way to build the coalition of the willing."
LET THEM EAT CAKEWALK! -- For about a year we've been treated to confident assurances from armchair generals in and allied with the Bush admin that the Iraqis would not fight for Saddam Hussein. What seems to have escaped their attention is that Iraqis would fight to defend their country from invading armies. Now, "some senior U.S. military officers are now convinced that the war is likely to last months and will require considerably more combat power than is now on hand there and in Kuwait, senior defense officials said yesterday."

Pardon? I thought Rummy and Wolfie were certain a mere 40,000 to 50,000 troops could handle the problem of these pesky Iraqis. Now we're being told that 250,000 will not be enough to conquer and pacify Iraq? What's going on here? Is this more evidence that war-making should not be left to armchair generals?
LIARS, LIARS EVERYWHERE -- 'Defence Department officials reported on Friday that they had won the surrender of the entire 51st Division, a regular Iraqi army unit deployed in southern Iraq to defend Basra, the nation's second largest city. The US military has been forced to admit the 8,000 Iraqi soldiers they claimed to have captured last week are now battling British forces.On Saturday, officials backtracked, saying they had only taken a couple of commanders and the rest of the men had "melted away" - a term used for those who laid down their arms and returned home.

On Monday there were reports that one of the "commanders" turned out to be a junior official who misrepresented his rank in hopes of getting better treatment.'
FIRST REAGAN, NOW THIS -- U.S. forces in southern Iraq have informally renamed Tallil Airfield, a key refueling depot, Bush International Airport. Well, that should reassure everyone that our intentions are noble and humble.
BODY DOUBLE BUSH -- There has been a lot of talk recently about the various body doubles Saddam Hussein uses to dodge assassination attempts. The Guardian newspaper wonders if the Mr Bush we see is always the real Mr Bush. There are always little clues:

"Most of those who regularly monitor Mr Bush's speech patterns believe that it was the genuine article who spoke at Central Command HQ in Florida yesterday, pointing to a characteristic tendency toward quasi-biblical phrasing - "There will be a day of reckoning for the Iraqi regime, and that day is drawing in near" - and an almost total absence of words of more than three syllables."
RICHARD PERLE'S LIBEL WATCH -- On the defensive now.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN DIES -- He passed away at the age of seventy-six. Mr Moynihan was that rarest of creatures: A Senator and an intellectual.
PUNDIT ROUNDUP -- Tom Friedman of the NY Times gives us six ways to know if we're winning the Iraq War. They all make sense to me. Number 5 is:

"Has an authentic Iraqi liberal nationalist emerged from the U.S. occupation to lead the country? Some pundits are already nominating their favorite Iraqi opposition figures to be Iraq's next leader. My gut tells me the only person who is going to be able to rule Iraq effectively is someone who has lived through Saddam's reign, not sat it out in London or Washington, and who is ready to say no to both tyranny and foreign control in Iraq. But even if he is an Iraqi exile, the next leader of Iraq has to emerge through some sort of consensual process from within Iraq. If the Bush team intends to force Iraq's next leader to quickly embrace Israel, if it intends to impose someone who has been dining with Richard Perle, such a leader will never take root."

Meanwhile, David Broder notes that the Bush admin has called up hundreds of thousands of reservists who have remained on active duty for a year or more. These reservists are often first responders at home in the fire and rescue services and their absence from those jobs could devastate homeland defense.
THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS PROTEST -- Protests against the Iraq War spread around the world today and turned violent in Australia and Spain. Next up: Britain.
BUSH WANTS $75 BILLION FOR IRAQ WAR -- Trust me, this is only a down payment.
PENTAGON 'UNDERESTIMATED' FEDAYEEN -- A Pentagon official said Wednesday "I think we underestimated" the Saddam Fedayeen, a group of paramilitary fighters said to be loyal to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday. "We did not know they were so well-placed" across southern Iraq, the official said. It is difficult to know how many Fedayeen fighters there are by estimates indicate there may be as many as 30,000 Fedayeen troops.

If this is the case: Why? Our spies and special forces have been crawling all over Iraq for years now. How is that we missed the presence of so many fighters dedicated to dying for the Saddam Hussein regime? And how is it we missed their significance in a war? Good questions. No answers so far.

IRAQ OPPOSITION WARNS OF WAR AGAINST U.S. OCCUPATION -- The leader of Iraq's largest opposition group warned the U.S. and Britain today that they would face an armed revolt if coalition troops stay longer in Iraq than the people of that country deem necessary.

"Coalition forces are welcome in Iraq (news - web sites) as long as they help the Iraqi people get rid of Saddam's dictatorship, but Iraqis will resist if they seek to occupy or colonize our country," said Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, leader of the Tehran-based Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

Such resistance, the Shiite leader told a news conference in Tehran, would include "the use of force and arms."

Almost 60% of all Iraqis are Shiites, though Sunni Muslims have traditionally ruled the country and repressed the Shia majority. The Bush admin regards the Shiites with considerable suspicion due to the influence of Iran, a nation where Shiism is the dominant religious creed.
BLAIR TO PUSH FOR U.N. ROLE IN IRAQ -- U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair is trying to convince a skeptical Bush admin to allow the United Nations to take a leading role in governing Iraq, during meetings with Mr Bush at Camp David today. Many members of the Bush admin are said to favor direct military rule of Iraq through U.S. generals/governors.

Despite Mr Blair's hopes, British officials privately admit that many in the US administration have no stomach left for a UN role beyond providing humanitarian aid. "There is a ferocious debate going on inside the administration about all this," said one British official. "Things may not be moving in the direction that we would wish. The prime minister must get Bush to buy into into this idea of a UN role and fight for it."

QUESTION: Why does Tony Blair do this to himself?
ANGUISH ALONG THE EUPHRATES -- U.S. and British soldiers in southern Iraq are increasingly bitter about the lack of support and gratitude from Iraqi nationals, while many Iraqis view the invaders with suspicion and outright hostility. Fear of a long occupation appears to concern many Iraqis, including those who loathe the regime of Saddam Hussein. Tensions are rising between civilians and coalition soldiers in southern Iraq as the war grinds on

A surgical assistant at the Saddam hospital in Nassiriya, interviewed at a marine check point outside the city, said that on Sunday, half an hour after two dead marines were brought into the hospital, US aircraft dropped what he described as three or four cluster bombs on civilian areas, killing 10 and wounding 200.

Mustafa Mohammed Ali said he understood US forces going straight to Baghdad to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but was outraged that they had attacked his city and killed civilians. "I don't want forces to come into the city. They have an objective, they go straight to the target," he said. "There's no room in the Saddam hospital because of the wounded. It's the only hospital in town. When I saw the dead Americans I cheered in my heart.

"They started bombing Nassiriya on Friday but they didn't bomb civilian areas until yesterday, when these American dead bodies were brought in...

The marines are aggrieved: aggrieved that the Iraqis aren't more grateful, aggrieved that the Iraqis are shooting at them, aggrieved that the US army's spearhead 3rd Infantry Division tore through Nassiriya earlier in the invasion without making it safe...

And the Iraqis are aggrieved at the marines. A 50-year-old businessman and farmer, Said Yahir, was driving up to the main body of the reconnaissance unit, stationed under the bridge. He wanted to know why the marines had come to his house and taken his son Nathen, his Kalashnikov rifle, and his 3m dinars (about £500).

"What did I do?" he said. "This is your freedom that you're talking about? This is my life savings."

In 1991, in the wake of Iraq's defeat in the first Gulf war, Mr Yahir was one of those who joined the rebellion against Saddam Hussein. His house was shelled by the dictator's artillery. The US refused to intervene and the rebellion was crushed.

"Saddam would have fallen if they had supported us," Mr Yahir said. "I've been so humiliated."

Under the bridge, Sergeant Michael Sprague was unrepentant. The money, the marines said, was probably destined for terrorist activities - buying a suicide bomber, for instance. "The same people we determined were safe yesterday were found with weapons today," he said...

Could he understand the locals' distrust of the US after what happened in 1991?

"If it weren't for the liberal press, we might have taken Baghdad last time," said the sergeant.
IS BUSH LEADING U.S. INTO DECLINE? -- Independent Strategy, an international, but UK-based investment advice firm looks at the economic and political situation in the United States and the world and concludes that America under Mr Bush is a colossus with feet of clay. Some of us have believed for a while that Mr Bush is leading the U.S. into a decline that will be profoundly damaging to America and the world and Independent Strategy has come to this conclusion, as well.

>>Independent Strategy believes that the US shows many symptoms of an empire that is cresting. First, it sees deepening mistrust of the US and predicts a rise in terrorism in reaction to US unilateralism.

That is certainly the case with the Bush administration, which has made a habit of tearing up international treaties from Kyoto to the anti-ballistic missile treaty. Iraq is the culmination of the Bush administration's unilateralist streak, as the White House plunges into an unpopular war in disregard of the UN security council.

Second, Independent Strategy sees trouble ahead for US economic policy. It notes that Mr Bush has boosted discretionary government spending more than at any time since the Vietnam war. Inheriting big budgetary surpluses from the Clinton administration, the Bush White House is heading for record deficits.

True, budget deficits were probably unavoidable as a 10-year economic expansion ran out of steam. But Mr Bush is not helping matters with a $726bn (£462bn) tax cut that, even though reduced by the senate to $350bn, benefits mostly the rich and a war that will add at least $74bn to the books, and probably considerably more.

Third, what was known as the Washington consensus - free market economics and deregulation - has broken down. As Bob McKee, chief economist with Independent Strategy, notes, a populist reaction has taken hold in Latin America, while in Asia, Malaysia has gone its own way economically. Moreover, South Korea and Taiwan never really bought into supply side reform.

"Empires work best when they project power through the successful export of a social model or ideology," argues Independent Strategy. "The rot started when the US failed to project its economic ideology and social model globally. Japan and Europe have long rejected both, at least implicitly, as inimical to their culture and alien to their social contract."

Independent Strategy sees the weakening dollar as the fourth strand in the decline of empire.

"The dollar will go on down because the good empire has the same faultlines as many other empires: unsustainable living standards at the core depend on flows of wealth from the periphery," says Independent Strategy in terms that would not be out of a place in a Marxist textbook. "The US no longer earns the return needed to sustain these flows. The costs of war and unilateralism will increase the thirst for capital, but reduce the return earned by it."

In plain English, America relies on the rest of the world to finance its deficits. The rest of the world was happy to do so when the US economy was strong and returns were high, but investors will put their cash elsewhere if America looks weak economically. America borrows hundreds of millions of dollars from the rest of the world each day to cover its savings gap and, under George Bush, US dependence on foreign capital is set to increase.<<

Somehow, I suspect this report will not be widely disseminated in the U.S. media.
THAT OTHER ROGUE NATION -- You have heard of North Korea, right? It's that other rogue nation. The one that actually possesses nuclear weapons, as well as chemical and biological weapons. The one that has been spreading dangerous missile technology all over the Middle East and South Asia. Well, the latest from Korea's jolly outpost of Stalinism is that the North has cut off the only regular military contact with the U.S.-led command that monitors the Korean War armistice. The move increases tensions on the Korean peninsula, as U.S. and North Korean military officials have met regularly since the end of the Korean War almost 50 years ago.
HOW TO TURN THE RIGHT WING AGAINST THE WAR -- President Clinton says we should support the troops and Mr Bush right now. I'll give you one out of two, Mr President.
PUBLIC EXECUTION OF US TROOPS? -- There is an unconfirmed report that Iraqi forces publicly executed captured American soldiers. If so, this is a brutal and unforgiveable war crime. Those responsible must be caught and punished to the full extent of the law, if this atrocity did take place.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

PIT BULLS FOR CLINTON, POODLES FOR BUSH -- Salon writer Eric Boehlert notices the difference in how the media reports war for Mr Bush and how they reported it for President Clinton:

"It's sure interesting that so many media players stayed away from the
images of POW's in Iraq, out of sensitivity to their families. While
noble, where was that hand-holding approach when the Black Hawks went
down in Mogadishu? Virtually all those same news outlets ran pictures of
a bloated U.S. G.I. corpse being dragged through the streets. And no,
his family had not yet been notified. My hunch is if the Clinton
administration had urged the press to stay away from a news image, the
way Rumsfeld did on Sunday, journalists would have laughed. Wonder
what's changed."
COALITION OF THE FILLING -- The Bush admin is now boasting a total of 46 members in the Coalition of the Willing. How did they arrive at such a number? Ask and ye shall be enlightened. My congratulations to the republic of Palau, which has never before received such attention.
US PRODUCTS A CASUALTY OF IRAQ WAR -- An international boycott of U.S. good was forming over our policy towards Israel and the Palestinians, but it is now growing and expanding to new areas, chiefly because of the Iraq War.

One of the most active areas for boycotts of American goods is in Germany, where Consumers Against the War is urging people to protest U.S. foreign policy by not buying American products. Another international boycott of U.S. products, this one organized by Adbusters.org seeks to punish the U.S. by punishing American companies.

Consumer fury seems to be on the rise. Demonstrators in Paris smashed the windows of a McDonald's restaurant last week, forcing police in riot gear to move in to protect staff and customers of the American fast-food outlet. The attackers sprayed obscenities and "boycott" on the windows.

In Indonesia, Iraq war opponents have pasted signs on McDonald's and other American food outlets, trying to force them shut by "sealing them" and urging Indonesians to avoid them.

In the Swiss city of Basel, 50 students recently staged a sit-down strike in front of a McDonald's to block customers' entry, waved peace signs and urged people to eat pretzels instead of hamburgers.

Anti-American sentiment has even reached provinces in Russia, where some rural eateries put up signs telling Americans they were unwelcome, according to an Izvestia newspaper report.

A German bicycle manufacturer, Riese und Mueller GmbH, canceled all business deals with its American suppliers.

"Americans only pay attention when money is on the line," director Heiko Mueller told Reuters, whose firm buys $300,000 worth of supplies from half a dozen American firms each year.

It is unclear right now if this will have a measureable impact on the bottom line of American multinationals, let alone U.S. foreign and defense policy. It is worth pointing out that boycotts of companies like McDonalds and Coca-Cola often do more to hurt local suppliers and owners, rather than evil imperialistic Americans cackling over their 'freedom fries' back in the United States.


DOLPHIN WARRIORS -- The U.S. Navy is using Atlantic Bottle-Nosed Dolphins to detect aquatic mines in southern Iraq. The dolphins have been trained to help U.S. divers ensure that waters have been cleared of mines so that humanitarian shipments can be moved into southern Iraq using the country's meager coastline. My question: Can they be trained to perform similar tasks in Iraq's vast internal waterways? If so, have they been trained to do so? Should they?

Three or four dolphins will use their advanced sonar to augment the divers' mine detection equipment. Several mines were found last week off the Faw peninsula, but none have been discovered since. According to the U.S. Navy the dolphins are trained not to swim up to mines, but to leave markers nearby so humans can clear the identified mines using more traditional methods. The U.S. Navy also assures us that the dolphins are being treated well and eating "restaurant-quality" food. I hope that is true, but it is rather ironic that these dolphins will be eating better than most Iraqi citizens for a while.
PENTAGON OFFENDED BY FALSE SURRENDERS -- Apparently, the Iraqi tendency to surrender and then take it back is bothering our military leadership. Really? What do they expect the Iraqis to do? An army that is completely overmatched in every way will pull out all the tricks from its bag in order to compete on the battlefield. Fake surrenders--that's child's play. It can, and might, get a lot worse than that. How? Read some American history about the colonials v. the British.

Monday, March 24, 2003

BRIT TROOPS: 'THIS IS MORE LIKE NORTHERN IRELAND' -- The Iraq War is now characterized by army checkpoints along roads and city squares, with soldiers moving around constantly for fear of becoming sitting ducks. This may be new to American troops, but British soldiers say they've had this feeling before.

>>"Unfortunately, we've got many years of experience in Belfast," (Captain James Bowen) added. "This has taken on more of a counterinsurgency feel, with vehicle checkpoints."

Another British fusilier, stationed on the road to Basra stopping Iraqi civilian vehicles wanting to enter the besieged city, had a similar comment: "This is more like Northern Ireland," he said...<<

Well, that's just great.

>>Journalists traveling independently of U.S. forces gathered today at a British communications post on Highway 8 looking for a safe place to set up camp and spend the night. They were informed that there were no such "safe areas," even as Franks was telling reporters "there are a great many areas under coalition control" in southern Iraq. Most of the journalists left for Kuwait because they could not find any areas under such control.<<

Whether it the piles of chemical weapons we were supposed to have stumbled upon by now or the claims of mastery over certain areas that turn out to be not quite so safe, the coalition spokespersons are getting a reputation for not telling it like it is all the time. That's a reputation the Iraqi side has already earned, but one lesson the public should have learned from this war so far is that our own government is not necessarily inclined to tell the truth about what is happening.

Shocking, isn't it?
HOUSE TO HOUSE BEGINS -- The battle for Nasiriya is turning out to be nastier than anyone expected--for all concerned. Rather than be easy targets for superior American artillery and air power, Iraqi troops have melted into the city and begun a campaign of urban guerrilla warfare, leading to increased civilian casualties and leaving American troops unsure as to who are civilians and who are enemy combatants.

"No Iraqi will support what the Americans are doing here," said a man at an American checkpoint at the city limits who gave his name as Nawaf. "If they want to go to Baghdad, that's one thing, but now they have come into our cities, and all Iraqis will fight them."

"Despite the progress, the battle appeared to be shaping up into a messy urban street battle. The Marines estimated that as many as 400 enemy fighters remained in the city, but that figure seemed sketchy at best, with marines complaining that they were having trouble distinguishing between civilians and combatants.

"By deciding to pursue their enemy into the city center, the Americans appeared to have enraged many of the Iraqi civilians who live there, including those who said they were predisposed to support the American effort."

It's a terrible position for our troops to be in. None of them want to mistakenly attack Iraqi civilians--the intended beneficiary of the U.S.-led invasion. Nevertheless, military necessity requires our troops to follow the enemy wherever it goes--even into the heart of populated areas. This is the sort of thing that could easily be forseen, but was dismissed by the neocon fantasists, who predicted the ground of Iraq would be covered with rose petals of welcome by now.
THE ANIMALS WILL DIE, TOO -- During the Persian Gulf War the world was treated to the sight of birds and sea life choking and dying on spilt oil and great plumes of black smoke from warfare and burning oil fields. This war may be no different, says the U.S. Humane Society. The news may be filled with the tragic deaths of coalition soldiers, but the animals of the Gulf will die, too.

"Conservation experts, while not discounting the huge risks assumed by allied troops, agree that animals will also be affected by the second Gulf War. Migratory birds could starve to death if their traditional routes are blocked by field battles. Chickens used by the U.S. Army to detect nerve gases and chemicals could breathe their last breath in the Iraqi desert. And the dugong could face further habitat destruction in the Persian Gulf as ships carrying troops and weapons move in and out of the region.

"What's more, the U.S. Navy has reportedly "deputized" sea lions who will help detect enemy swimmers and underwater mines, while the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) expects to fund more than $1.7 billion in contracts and grants for biodefense and bioterrorism research in fiscal year 2004, much of it involving animal testing."
COALITION CASUALTIES -- Update.
DEMS DIFFER ON CAMPAIGNING DURING WAR -- All the Democratic presidential aspirants must confront the delicate issue of publicly campaigning for high office while our troops are engaged in mortal combat in the sands of Iraq. How the different candidates approach this problem indicates their views on the war. For example...

DENNIS KUCINICH: "Do we give up our democracy in the name of war? Do we sacrifice free speech in the name of war?" Kucinich said. "I disagree with this administration having put our men and women in harm's way, breaking international law, usurping the constitutional authority of Congress and damaging our domestic economy."

HOWARD DEAN: It's a conflict I prefer we not be in. I think we could have contained Saddam Hussein without resorting to a pre-emptive strike...The president has made his choice, and I certainly think we want to be in a position where we don't criticize the soldiers because they are there doing what their duty is under the Constitution."

DICK GEPHARDT: "We'll continue to campaign, but in a more subdued and different way than we have in the past. We're doing the meetings in a more private nature. We're not out doing public events and crowd events."

Congressman Kucinich (D-OH) feels freer to campaign publicly against the war because he is a marginal candidate, at best, and knows his supporters back him almost entirely because of his vocal opposition to the war. Governor Dean has been the most vociferous anti-war major candidate and therefore cannot simply shut up about the issue. However, if he wants to preserve his 'future viability' for public office (as Bill Clinton might say), Dean cannot afford to say anything that might be misinterpreted as insufficiently supportive of our men and women in battle. Congressman Gephardt (D-MO) voted for the war resolution and is one of the leading pro-war Democrats so his position is consistent with his steady and loyal support for Mr Bush. It probably won't help him too much on the stump, though.
WAR REVERSES SEND STOCKS TUMBLING -- Those patriotic boys and girls on Wall Street have responded in typical fashion to a little bad news from the front: Stocks are tumbling and the market is down 261 points--over three percent. The Nasdaq is down almost 43 points and the S&P has declined over 27 points. For all three boards it represents a loss of greater than three percent.

"Monday marks a time for market reassessment of the situation in Iraq and with weekend news events getting time to sink in," said John Simon, futures analyst at TradeSignals.com. "The outlook for the war is getting murkier by the hour and prices are declining as a result."

"I found the market way too optimistic about the quick and surgical nature of operations and it's coming to the realization that we are going to have a difficult and costly conflict," said James Luke, portfolio manager for BB&T Asset Management. "There is also stuff in the background with the economy being weak, but the real driver is the Iraq war news."
U.S., KURDS ATTACK SADDAM IN THE NORTH -- U.S. Special Forces have arrived in Iraqi Kurdistan to open up a second front in the north.

"The US forces scrambling to open a northern front will take time to arrive. When they do, any invasion force would have to breach a roughly 250-mile-long front line with difficult mountainous terrain, a ridge line that is heavily mined and fortified, and as many as 120,000 Iraqi soldiers based in and around Kirkuk and Mosul from three different army corps. If the difficult advance of American forces in southern Iraq is any indication, resistance in these cities could be much stiffer than expected."
DID ERRANT U.S. MISSILE KILL 5 IN SYRIA? -- That's what the Syrians are claiming in a report by the Syrian official news agency. According to the Syrians, 10 people were also wounded by a U.S. air-to-surface missile that struck a bus on the Iraqi side of the border.
NY TIMES: PERLE MUST RESIGN HIS CONFLICT -- "As chairman of the Defense Policy Board, Richard Perle has been an influential architect of the Bush administration's Iraq policy and war plans. At the same time, it turns out, he has signed on to represent a major telecommunications company that has a strong financial interest in lobbying the Defense Department. This is a conflict pure and simple, and Mr. Perle should immediately drop one of his two roles."

That "major telecommunicatoins company" with a strong interest in lobbying the Defense Department happens to be the corrupt and bankrupt Global Crossing. Mr Perle could make $725,000 from Global Crossing and everyone knows the company is only interested in him because he heads the Defense Policy Board and is an intimate of such Bush admin heavies as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. To all but the Bush admin and its venal lackeys, this is a clearly unethical relationship.

BUSH, GOP GET WARTIME BOOST -- In interviews with 804 registered voters conducted March 18-20, 2003, the Ipsos Public Affairs/Cook Political Report Poll registers a dramatic swing in favor of President George W. Bush and the whole Republican Party.

A majority (53%) of all adults say the country is on the right track, 40% wrong track; that represents a reversal from 37% right track-54% wrong track in interviews conducted February 18-March 6, 2003.

In the most recent poll, 46% of registered voters would definitely vote to re-elect Bush, the highest re-elect number he has seen since the second quarter (April-May-June) 2002.

In the most recent poll, 44% of registered voters would like to see Republicans win control of Congress and 41% would like Democrats to win control.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

SECRET BIDDING REWARDS GOP ALLIES -- You will not be surprisd to learn, no doubt, that the companies winning contracts to rebuild Iraq are financiers of George W. Bush and the Republican party. The bidding is secret and, apparently, winners are drawn from a narrow circle of politically-connected and GOP-friendly companies.

"Normally, USAID puts out contracts on the Internet, and any company can bid. But to move this through quickly, the agency said it went to firms with track records and security clearances. It asked seven — about half the number that normally would have sought the business — to bid.

"Among the companies believed to be bidding are Bechtel, Fluor, Parsons, the Washington Group and Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's old firm.

"All are experienced. But in addition, all are generous political donors — principally to Republicans."

This falls under the "Repulsive, but Predictable" category, I think.
MICHAEL MOORE WINS AN OSCAR -- The right wing won't be pleased that Michael Moore just won for Best Documentary. Mr Moore's anti-Bush and anti-war rant was roundly booed by the audience, despite the fact that his victory was cheered lustily only seconds before. I think the audience didn't appreciate Mr Moore's politicization of the evening and I tend to agree with them. Mr Moore made his political statement in the film--why must he hijack the stage to tell us what he thinks of the Iraq War? I think it was self-indulgent, predictable, and in poor taste. He deserved to get booed.

However, Mr Moore did succeed in making himself the story of the evening--and tomorrow, as well. That, I suspect, was what he was really after anyway.
IRAQ WAR UPDATES -- From the BBC. All times in Greenwich Mean Time.
Monday 24 March

0250: UK Ministry of Defence says two British troops missing in southern Iraq.

0205: A US TV reporter says US helicopters are attacking Iraqi Republican Guard positions near the city of Karbala south of Baghdad.

0120: US military say they are investigating "sites of potential interest" following reports of US troops reaching a chemical plant south of Baghdad.

0005: Huge explosions reported in central Baghdad.

Sunday, 23 March

2355: American B52 bombers take off from Fairford air base in western England.

2230: Kuwaiti Defence Ministry reports Iraqi missile intercepted by Patriot missile over northern Kuwait.

2120: The British Royal Air Force says two crew of the Tornado aircraft accidentally shot down by a US Patriot missile on Sunday morning are dead.

1910: More heavy explosions are heard in Baghdad

1905: US Lt-Gen John Abizaid tells a news briefing at the US military Central Command in Qatar that a US supply convoy has been ambushed by Iraqi troops near Nasiriya, with several US soldiers injured and 12 reported missing.

1900: UK Prime Minister Tony Blair condemns Iraqi television pictures of the US POWs as a "flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention."

1840: Iraq says 25 US soldiers were killed in fighting in and around Nasiriya over the weekend.

1830:The United Nations again appeals to all the military forces involved in the war in Iraq to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties.

1815:Turkish police confirm that a bomb - thought to be from a US fighter plane - has fallen in Turkey's southeastern province near the Syrian border. It says there are no casualties.

1805: US President George W. Bush says "Saddam Hussein is losing control of his country" and the US-led military campaign "is achieving its objectives". Mr Bush says the people who mistreat US prisoners of war will be treated as "war criminals".

1800: Iraqi Defence Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmed tells a news conference that Baghdad will respect the Geneva Convention and will not harm captured US soldiers.

1755: Kurdish commander says the battle near the town of Irbil in northern Iraq was between Iraqi soldiers trying to defect and the loyal army unit. Earlier reports said the fighting was between the Kurdish forces with support of US troops and the Iraqi army.

1710: Explosions are heard near the town of Mosul, close to the front line of the Kurdish-held enclave in northern Iraq.

1700: Missing British TV reporter Terry Lloyd is believed to be dead after apparently coming under friendly fire in southern Iraq, his employers ITN say.
THE OSCARS -- I think "Chicago" is going to win Best Film. It's a deserving movie, I just think "The Two Towers" should take the little statue. I don't expect it to happen, though, because "Chicago" is already piling up the awards and I see a landslide in the making. Besides, my films never win it. Whether it was the pompous and over-long "The English Patient" instead of "Fargo" or "Titanic" rather than "L.A. Confidential," the Academy just doesn't like the same films I do.

One piece of good news: As I type, "The Two Towers" just won for Sound Editing. Didn't even know that was an award, but I haven't heard of half the categories, I suspect.
KILL THE HERO -- Micky Kaus continues his preposterous and mean-spirited campaign against John Kerry. What's going on here? I think the problem is that conservatives like Mr Kaus are fearful of Senator Kerry. As a presidential candidate, Senator Kerry will be formidable. He's is well-spoken, tall, good-looking, and rich. None of those thing should really count, but they do. And as for the things that should count, Senator Kerry holds strong liberal-centrist views, has served as a prosecutor, lieutenant-governor, and senator. And worst of all for Mr Kaus and his compatriots, Senator Kerry is a decorated war hero. One of the biggest fears of conservatives is that the Democrats will nominate a genuine war hero and his record will be contrasted with Mr Bush, who served briefly in the "champagne unit" of the Texas Air National Guard (protecting the Texas skies from vicious Viet Cong intrusion) before going AWOL to serve on Republican campaigns in Alabama.

Clearly, Senator Kerry must be slandered into defeat before he has a chance to trounce Mr Bush in a fair fight. Mr Kaus is doing his part.