Saturday, January 13, 2007


By Heraclitus

...a picture is worth a thousand words.

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Winging it, as usual

By Creature

"I'm not coming with a proposal, I'm not coming with a plan," - Secretary of State Rice regarding her latest Middle East junket.

Pretty much sums up the entire Bush presidency.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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The surge is on

By Capt. Fogg


a. A political order whose head of state is not a monarch and in modern times is usually a president.
b. A nation that has such a political order.

a. A political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them.
b. A nation that has such a political order.

What is the difference between a monarch and a president? That’s a question you have to answer before deciding where the USA is in the scheme of things. A monarch in the European tradition, has been described as being so Dei gratia, or by the will of God. In other words, he listens to a “higher father” and takes the will of the people into account only if he feels like it. A president, on the other hand, will have a constitution and body of laws he not only shares the obligation to obey with the people but is often sworn to uphold and protect against attempts to ignore or override.

In a republic, as the supreme power is vested in the people, it would therefore be contrary to the usual model for a president to persist in stifling and ignoring the will of the people and not only failing to protect the constitution but weakening it by fiat.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to call the United States of America a republic. Our current president has asserted that although the power to declare war is vested in the congress alone, he will conduct and continue to conduct wars when and where and for as long as he wishes despite what the will of the people as expressed through that congress might be. It is becoming difficult to call George W. Bush a president.

In a clip uploaded to the CBS News web site Friday night of a 60 Minutes interview which will air tomorrow, Bush is asked whether he has the right to ignore Congress if it forbids him to escalate troop levels in Iraq.

"I think I've got, in this situation, I do, yeah. Now I fully understand they will, they could try to stop me from doing it, but, uh, I've made my decision and we're going forward."

Thus proclaims the monarch of America.


To charge (a public official) with improper conduct in office before a proper tribunal.

(Cross-posted at Human Voices.)

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Burns and Hagel on the surge

By Heraclitus

Am I the only one who thinks that "surge" sounds like a new kind of Gatorade, and who suspects that this is intentional, a way to make Bush's latest folly sound harmless and sporty (and, of course, macho -- the sexual overtones are obvious enough). Anyway, in case you missed it, here's an excellent segment from Charlie Rose dealing with Bush's speech. John Burns, the senior NYTimes correspondent in Iraq, discusses the details of Iraqi politics and who is likely to challenge Maliki for power (with the US's support). Chuck Hagel delivers what is probably the most devastating criticism of Bush's Iraq policy I've yet heard. I won't even try to outline all the points he makes. I didn't bother watching the third guest, a Bush flak, but the first two are very interesting and worth your time.

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Bush's war on Iran

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From the Times:

A recent series of American raids against Iranians in Iraq was authorized under an order that President Bush decided to issue several months ago to undertake a broad military offensive against Iranian operatives in the country, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday.

To be fair -- and I suppose one ought to try to be fair even in criticism of this horrible president -- it may be that Iran has already begun to wage war, of a kind, against the United States. Whether or not the U.S. ought to be in Iraq, or ought to remain in Iraq, the fact is that the U.S. is in Iraq. U.S. troops are in Iraq. And it's not the fault of the men and women of the military that their incompetent, irresponsible, and hubristic civilian leadership has put them there to wage a losing war and now to police a civil war that grows out of deep and profound sectarianism. They shouldn't be there at all, certainly not now, but while they're there they're targets from many sides, their lives are at risk, their blood is being spilled. And Iran, it seems, is partly responsible for the violence, for it seems to be Iran that is making and supplying the "sophisticated" IEDs (improvised explosive devices) that are "being used against American troops". Which is to say, Iran is killing Americans.

But enough fairness.

As the Times points out, "[t]he White House decision to authorize the aggressive steps against Iranians in Iraq appears to formalize the American effort to contain Iran’s ambitions as a new front in the Iraq war". But is it possible to wage war against Iran, justified or not, while simultaneously continuing to wage a losing (if not already lost) war against a nebulous multiplicity of Iraqi foes? The U.S. hasn't even been able to pacify Baghdad -- and won't be able to, despite the surge. The sectarian violence has only gotten worse, the government seems incapable of actually governing any sort of united Iraq, the insurgents and militias wreak havoc on Iraqi society, the police force is essentially an extension of the militias, particularly Sadr's Shiite militias, and even with embedded U.S. forces the Iraqi military is nowhere near the proficiency required to provide internal security. And, overall, the situation in Iraq is one of civil war, not peripheral sectarian strife.

So much has gone wrong.

And now Bush wants to open a "new front" against Iran? Is the U.S. ready for war against Iran? Is it ready for Bush to lead the country into yet another war, a potentially far more disastrous war?

For this could be the thin end of the wedge. What may seem like engaging Iran, or Iranian elements, in Iraq -- and what may seem to be justifiable given Iran's likely support for anti-American elements in Iraq -- could just be a prelude to a wider war that draws the U.S. into a far worse war than the one in Iraq. Bush and the warmongers, and particularly the neocons, have long promoted war against Iran. But just imagine. Iran is far stronger than Iraq. Where Saddam was largely isolated in the Middle East, Iran has powerful supporters, both states and terrorist organizations. And what form would the war take? Would it be an air campaign supported by special forces units on the ground? Would there be any international support? If so, from where? Saudi Arabia may have an interest in defending Iraq's Sunnis, but it doesn't seem to me that there would be much support for yet another U.S. war against a Muslim country, this time against an influential one, one with a lot of oil, one that could involve Israel.

The surge may fail, the Iraqis may be blamed, and the U.S. may begin redeployment -- or, this wedge could expand U.S. military engagement in the Middle East beyond Iraq. Or perhaps both. What is clear is that Bush and the warmongers do not want this war to end. Even if there is significant redeployment, the U.S. will maintain a large footprint in Iraq at the very least. And, under Bush, it may also launch new wars against Iran and Syria.

Perhaps Iraq was just the beginning. It's hard to believe, but the worst by far may be yet to come.

President Bush must be stopped.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Lieberman loves Bush

Guest post by Libby Spencer

The hat tip Bush gave to his new best little buddy has so far been little remarked on in the aftermath of Bush's address:

On Wednesday night, Bush conspicuously cited Lieberman’s advice as being the inspiration for creating a new "bipartisan working group" on Capitol Hill that he said will "help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror."

Apparently good old "independent" Joe is also going to prove very useful in helping his new best friend avoid any unpleasant accountability for other past screw ups like, say, Katrina. Betraying his campaign promises to call for accountability, Lieberman now feels it's unnecessary to push the White House to produce damning documents that would prove how dismally the administration failed the American people in its response to the disaster.

Add to this the relentless praise Joe is heaping on his presidential pal and one has to ask, shouldn't Lieberman be calling himself "co-dependent?" Independence just doesn't seem to fit the bill on this odd couple.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Friday afternoon poem

By Heraclitus

This poem is by Galway Kinnell, one of my favorite poets.

"The Cellist"

At intermission I find her backstage
still practicing the piece coming up next.
She calls it the "solo in high dreary."
Her bow niggles at the string like a hand
stroking skin it never wanted to touch.
Probably under her scorn she is sick
that she can't do better by it. As I am,
at the dreary in me, such as the disparity
between all the tenderness I've received
and the amount I've given, and the way
I used to shrug off the imbalance
simply as how things are, as if the male
were constituted like those coffeemakers
that produce less black bitter than the quantity
of sweet clear you poured in--forgetting about
how much I spilled through unsteady walking,
and that lot I threw on the ground
in suspicion, and for fear I wasn't worthy,
and all I poured out for reasons I don't understand yet.
"Break a leg!" somebody tells her.
Back in my seat, I can see she is nervous
when she comes out; her hand shakes as she
re-dog-ears the top corners of the big pages
that look about to flop over on their own.
Now she raises the bow--its flat bundle of hair
harvested from the rear ends of horses--like a whetted
scimitar she is about to draw across a throat,
and attacks. In a back alley a cat opens
her pink-ceilinged mouth, gets netted
in full yowl, clubbed, bagged, bicycled off, haggled open,
gutted, the gut squeezed down to its highest pitch,
washed, sliced into cello strings, which bring
an ancient screaming into this duet of hair and gut.
Now she is flying--tossing back the goblets
of Saint-Amour standing empty,
half-empty, or full on the tablecloth-
like sheet music. Her knees tighten
and loosen around the big-hipped creature
wailing and groaning between them
as if in elemental amplexus.
The music seems to rise from the crater left
when heaven was torn up and taken off the earth;
more likely it comes up through her priest's dress,
up from that clump of hair which by now
may be so wet with its waters, like the waters
the fishes multiplied in at Galilee, that
each wick draws a portion all the way out
to its tip and fattens a droplet on the bush
of half notes now glittering in that dark.
At last she lifts off the bow and sits back.
Her face shines with the unselfconsciousness of a cat
screaming at night and the teary radiance of one
who gives everything no matter what has been given.

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A Congressional Hearing Moment

By Creature

Sen. Webb: Are you crazy fucks going to start a war with Iran without congressional authority?

Secy. Rice: I can't answer that question until I get a carefully crafted legal opinion that will confirm what we already believe. That is, Senator, we can do whatever the hell we want, whenever the hell we want.

This has been a Congressional Hearing Moment brought to you by your civics-minded friends here at The Reaction.

Note: TPM has the "other" version.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Fun with BAGeL Radio

By Creature

It's time to shake, rattle (no sabers, please), and roll, with State of the Day co-blogger and DJ extraordinaire, Ted. It's time for "480 Minutes" of live IndieRockNoisePop. Ted's show starts at 9:00 AM Pacific, 12:00 PM for us East Coasters -- every Friday. Tune in (iTunes under Alt/Modern Rock and Live365), visit the BAGeL blog, say hello, and make a request.

And, to get you started, here is a fantastic BAGeL Radio featured band: Birdmonster. Enjoy!

Listen more, because you can't always talk about politics.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)


Creature's right. It's a great show. Highly recommended. -- MJWS

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The growing rift between Bush and Maliki

By Heraclitus

Not to trump Michael's "must-read of the day" or anything (immediately below this post), but have a butcher's hook at this article in The New York Times. It argues that Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, the current Iraqi PM, can't possibly deliver everything that Bush has asked of him with his "new" policy. In particular, Maliki can't and won't help the Americans hunt down death squad leaders in Baghdad. Some political observers in Iraq are convinced that this is intentional, that this is the first step in a move to push Maliki out of power, via a parliamentary coup. Maliki, for his part, shows little interest in cooperating with Bush, as evidenced by his not bothering to show up for the press conference he had called to respond to Bush's speech.

Oh, and meanwhile, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte has warned that al-Qaeda is rebuilding in Pakistan and southern Afghanistan.

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The fatal flaw

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Our must-read of the day is Zbigniew Brzezinski's "Five Flaws in the President's Plan" at WaPo. These lines stand out:

-- "Its language was less Islamophobic than has been customary with President Bush's rhetoric since Sept. 11, though the president still could not resist the temptation to engage in a demagogic oversimplification of the challenge the United States faces in Iraq..."

-- "The commitment of 21,500 more troops is a political gimmick of limited tactical significance and of no strategic benefit. It is insufficient to win the war militarily."

-- "The speech did not explore even the possibility of developing a framework for an eventual political solution."

-- "The speech reflects a profound misunderstanding of our era. America is acting like a colonial power in Iraq. But the age of colonialism is over. Waging a colonial war in the post-colonial age is self-defeating. That is the fatal flaw of Bush's policy."

Indeed it is. Read the whole piece.

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By Michael J.W. Stickings

So I've been tagged. By Tim F. of Balloon Juice -- see here. Here are the questions, here are my answers:

1) Name a book that you want to share so much that you keep giving away copies.

There is a temptation, given my Straussian background, to mention Plato's Republic and Machiavelli's The Prince here. (Yes, I just gave in to said temptation.) At least I didn't mention Natural Right and History. (Damn.) But I'll stick to fiction: Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Skvorecky's The Engineer of Human Souls, Kawabata's Snow Country, anything and everything by these authors, as well as by Calvino, Garcia Marquez, Bulgakov, Capek, Grass, Tanizaki, Machado de Assis, Eco, and Le Carré, among others.

2) Name a piece of music that changed the way you listen to music.

Everything by Pink Floyd, particularly Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall, as well as "Echoes" on Meddle. "Comfortably Numb" has been my favourite song since I was in high school. Pulse is an incredible two-disc live album that's now also available on DVD. I'd also add Sgt. Pepper's by The Beatles, as well as many individual songs.

3) Name a film you can watch again and again without fatigue.

These aren't necessarily the best films -- I'd probably put Kurosawa's Seven Samurai and Kieslowski's The Decalogue at or very near the top -- but movies I can watch again and again purely for the sake of entertainment include Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ghostbusters, The Back to the Future trilogy, Ocean's 11 and 12, American Pie, Rear Window, Waiting for Guffman, What's Up, Doc?, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Bad Santa (preferably the badder version), All the President's Men, and various Woody Allens, including Annie Hall, Love and Death, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, and Radio Days.

4) Name a performer for whom you suspend all disbelief.

Not sure. George Clooney comes to mind. One of the only true movie stars of our time. Maybe Bette Davis in All About Eve, one of the great performances of all time. Humphrey Bogart. Woody Allen in his prime. Pacino at his best. Toshiro Mifune in Kurosawa's classics. Actually, though, I'll go with Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara, the stars of most of Ozu's great films (Tokyo Story, Late Spring, etc.) -- truly beautiful performances each and every time.

5) Name a work of art you’d like to live with.

It's tempting to go big. I'd love to have the Mona Lisa in my living room. And Michelangelo's David. And Picasso's Guernica. And so on. I'd like a selection of works by Constable and Turner, too. But two of my main artistic passions are Japanese art and expressionism. And specifically Hiroshige and Munch. And so it's a tie between two series of works. I'd like to live with Hiroshige's 100 Famous Views of Edo and Munch's The Frieze of Life.

6) Name a work of fiction which has penetrated your real life.

Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Skvorecky's The Engineer of Human Souls, and Kawabata's Snow Country. Does cinema count? If so, I'll add the complete works of Kieslowski and Ozu. Maybe also Crowe's wonderful Almost Famous.

7) Name a punch line that always makes you laugh.

So much in Seinfeld makes me laugh. I watch it over and over and over again. The precise moment at which the Gene Wilder character falls in love with the sheep in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex -- the look on his face is unfathomably brilliant. So much in The Simpsons. I'll single out one episode in which Homer, vocabulary expanded, refers to Bart's "Machiavellian countenance". Which brings us full circle. It's been fun.

And now I'd like to tag ALL of my wonderful co-bloggers and guest bloggers. Also Joe Gandelman and Michael van der Galien of The Moderate Voice. Go for it.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Escalation: The surge in Iraq and the possibility of war with Iran and Syria

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A new poll shows that "70 percent of Americans oppose sending more troops" to Iraq. That is, they oppose the surge, the escalation, Bush's "new" strategy.

Bush hasn't just lost the Iraq War. He's lost the American people.


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the most partisan of a hyper-partisan caucus of Republicans, has announced that he will filibuster any legislative attempt by Democrats to block the surge.

And he may have Joe Lieberman's support.

Like Bush, McConnell thinks it's important "to stay on offence and to finish the job". But what does that even mean? Being on offence hasn't worked, and 21,500 more troops won't make much of a difference, if any. And the "job"? Is that establishing a peaceful, free, and democratic Iraq? Hardly. Is it having the Iraqis stand up on their own? Maybe, but how will the Iraqis conduct themselves once the U.S. leaves, once those additional U.S. troops are no longer embedded among them? Is it pacifying Baghdad? Maybe, but is that even possible? The sectarianism is there to stay. Any pacification would only be short-term.

The partisans are as misguided as their great leader.

But at least they're not all crazy in that august Madisonian body:

President Bush’s decision to deploy 21,500 additional troops to Iraq drew fierce opposition Thursday from congressional Democrats and some Republicans — among them Sen. Chuck Hagel, who called it "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam."

I'll take Hagel over Lieberman any day. Do you think they could work out a trade?


I argued yesterday -- both during and after the speech -- that Bush's plan amounts to little more than hedging his bets. There will be a focused troop increase, but there are also those "benchmarks" that the Iraqis must meet. If they don't -- when they don't -- the U.S. will pull back. In other words, this temporary surge is a cover for likely, if not inevitable, withdrawal. But Bush won't call it defeat. He'll blame the Iraqis -- and the Democrats, of course -- for failing to do what they needed to do.

Bush launched a reckless war that was grossly mismanaged. The Iraqis are not blameless, to be sure. The Sunni insurgents and the Shiite militias are ripping the country apart. But it's simply wrong of Bush, if not downright repugnant, to put the majority of Iraqis in this position. Is it their fault that Bush botched the war and occupation? Is it their fault that so much has gone wrong? They are in no position to stand up on their own, neither the government nor the army nor the police. There may be a number of different reasons for that, including the culture of irresponsibility fostered under Saddam, but Bush and his warmongers deserve much of the blame for the fact that Iraqis are in this position of incapacity.

And yet failure will be their fault, not Bush's. So much for Colin Powell's Pottery Barn rule. The U.S. broke it, but the Iraqis will be left to fix it on their own.


But what else is going on here? As the war in Iraq begins to escalate, will there be war with Iran and Syria? That seems to be what Bush was saying:

These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

And there may be more. Steve Clemons asks: "Did the president declare 'secret war' against Syria and Iran?" It seems that Bush may have recently "sent a secret Executive Order to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director of the CIA to launch military operations against Syria and Iran. The President may have started a new secret, informal war against Syria and Iran without the consent of Congress or any broad discussion with the country." In other words: "Bush may really have pushed the escalation pedal more than any of us realize."

With the Iraq War lost, are Americans ready for new wars with Syria and Iran? If these wars do begin, if they have not already begun, there will be no other recourse to stop the madness but impeachment.

The U.S. raid of the Iranian consulate in Irbil today may be a sign of much bigger things to come. For more, see here.


The presidency of George W. Bush has been a disaster, one of the worst in history. And it may soon be about to get even worse.

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A surge against Iran

By Creature

[Creature's note: Last night at State of the Day my initial reaction to the president's speech went something like this: "It is now clear that staying-the-course in Iraq is meant to be a pathway to Iran. This war is getting bigger. The door has been opened. We should be very afraid." Today I continued that thought after reading this bit of escalation news.]

Welcome to the "new way forward":

U.S. forces raided the Iranian consulate office in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil on Thursday and arrested five employees, the official Iranian news agency IRNA said.

There was no immediate comment by the U.S. military on the raid which came hours after President George W. Bush vowed in a speech to interrupt what he called the "flow of support" from Iran and Syria for insurgent attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.

The US will goad Iran, the rhetoric will increase, the bombs will drop. It's only a matter of time and Bush, Cheney et al. are just looking for an excuse. While I'm sure Iran is helping to destabilize Iraq--though they couldn't destabilize it more than the US has--this is not about Iraq. It's about starting a regional war. A war the neo-cons have dreamed about for years. Bush believes history will remember him as a hero. Iran is the next step toward cementing that legacy in his demented mind.

Update: I'm not alone in thinking last night's "surge" speech was more about Iran than Iraq. Glenn Greenwald helps fill in the details.

Update II: The Washington Post has more on the Iranian consulate raid.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007


By Michael J.W. Stickings

(Surge Speech 1 is here.)

You can find the text of Bush's speech here. Here's a relevant passage:

The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people.

But, again, Iraq was not a haven for terrorists before the war. The fact that it is now, at least to some degree, is testament to what a failure the war has been.

What's more, Bush defends the surge by once again, as he always does, connecting the war in Iraq to the war on terror, that is, to 9/11, and fearmongering. Indeed, the passage quoted above is followed immediately by a reference to 9/11: "On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities. For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq." But "the other side of the world" wasn't Iraq. It was Afghanistan. And the terrorists, or most of them, were Saudi, not Iraqi.

But this is Bush's deception. And the reasoning is, as usual, specious: We must win in Iraq because the terrorists are there because of the war in Iraq. But they wouldn't be there if the war was never waged. Or they wouldn't be there to the extent they are now if the war had been waged properly. Another way to put it is like this: We fucked up, but, well, that's behind us now. Let's try to make up for fucking up. But the surge won't work. It's far too little and far too late.

An increase of somewhat more than 20,000 troops in Baghdad and the Anbar province won't put an end to the civil war that now rages in Iraq. It will only prolong the suffering and put off the inevitable.


There's more on Bush's speech at The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, and the BBC. And elsewhere, of course.


Bush's "New Iraq Strategy," or "The New Way Forward in Iraq" is outlined at the White House website. There are "six fundamental elements". Where was this in 2003? (Read Woodward.)

Once again, though, there are those dubious connections between the war in Iraq to the war on terror: "Iraq Could Not Be Graver -- The War On Terror Cannot Be Won If We Fail In Iraq. Our enemies throughout the Middle East are trying to defeat us in Iraq. If we step back now, the problems in Iraq will become more lethal, and make our troops fight an uglier battle than we are seeing today."

But fighting a lost war in Iraq only distracts from the real war on terror being fought elsewhere. Bush's war has strengthened and emboldened the terrorists, and it will only continue to do so.

And it is both disingenuous and despicable to argue that an escalation of the war will make it easier on the troops. How does Bush know that? And how does that justify the spilling of yet more blood?


As ABC News is reporting, "the troop surge in Iraq is already under way". It's a done deal. Which only goes to show that Bush has never had any real interest in working with Congress or otherwise seeking compromise and building consensus.

Newsweek is reporting that "the president’s approach will be... cautious". This has to do with the "benchmarks" that must be met by Iraqis that Bush mentioned in his speech. But this is just Bush hedging his bets and looking for a way out if and when his "new" strategy goes the way of all the old ones. Which is to say, when it fails to meet its objectives.


We'll have more on THE SURGE going forward.

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By Michael J.W. Stickings


(Surge Speech 2 is here.)

The president is going live at 9 pm ET this evening -- eight minutes from now, as I begin this post. But we already know what he's going to say and how he's going to say it. What will be presented as "new" won't be new at all. Whatever the spin, what the "new" strategy amounts to is a last-ditch escalation of the Iraq War, a desperate effort to pacify Baghdad just enough to provide Bush with the necessary cover for withdrawal. The effort to pacify may take many months -- and it will certainly take many lives -- but there is no avoiding the inevitable. Not with all the incompetence, bungling, and gross mismanagement that has come before it. Not with the fact that the Iraq War has been a disaster, that it has already been lost. Iraq is now in a state of civil war. The surge may temporarily lessen the sectarian violence, but there is no way the U.S. will be able to reverse the trend towards chaos, the forces of self-destruction that Bush unleashed when he and the warmongers launched their Mesapotamian misadventure back in 2003.

The speech is about to begin. The "new" strategy is about to be outlined.

I'll have more to come. Stay tuned.


9:06 pm: Bush admits that there have been mistakes. Not enough troops in Baghdad. But it's too late now. As expected, there will be a troop increase, but the American commitment is not "open-ended" -- read: a way out when things go wrong. How will the Iraqis respond to yet more American troops on their streets? Do they really want American forces to have a "green light" to enter their neighbourhoods?

U.S. troops will be embedded with Iraqi forces. So will the Iraqis be fighting on their own, or as puppets?

Ah, "benchmarks" for the Iraqi government. Bush is clearly hedging his bets. When things go wrong -- and they will -- Bush will hold the Iraqis responsible. As usual, Bush is shunting responsibility onto others. Anyone but him.

A "larger and better equipped" Iraqi army. But how will the Iraqi army conduct itself when the U.S. leaves?

"[W]e will continue to pursue al Qaeda." -- Here's the not-so-subtle (and predictable) link to 9/11. But al Qaeda is only active in Iraq because of Bush's disastrous war. It's all about "the terrorists". As always.


9:13 pm: Iran. Syria. Yadda yadda yadda. At least Bush is talking "diplomacy". But, again, it's too late now. Where was this sort of strategy back in 2003?

Rhetoric: "the hateful ideology of the enemy." Memories of the Second Inaugural. Us versus them. Freedom. Democracy. All so hollow. Iraqis versus "extremists". Bush has no clue. He doesn't understand Iraq. There is no historical or religious context. The sectarianism is so much more complicated than he knows.

He still thinks Iraq will be "a functioning democracy". So delusional.

So: It's either the "new" strategy -- the surge, the escalation, the troop increase -- or the U.S. will be in Iraq even longer. What nonsense. That's hardly a fair option.

And Lieberman makes it into the speech! Of course. Bush says he wants to work with Congress in a bipartisan way. But Joe's the only Democrat who buys this.

"The advance of freedom is the calling of our time." Sounds nice, but come on.

And he ends with the patriotism card. America's "new struggle": "We can and we will prevail."

Thank you and good night. And go to hell.

As I've said before, the blood is on Bush's hands.

And the war is about to get a whole lot bloodier.


9:26: Good, sensible response from Senator Durbin. There is civil war in Iraq. The surge won't work.

"America has paid a heavy price." She has indeed.

It's time to end this madness.

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More strange money news

By Heraclitus

Following on Michael's recent post about Canadian coins containing tiny transmitters used to track the movement of military contractors, here's another odd piece from the BBC. The title? "Cocaine on '100% of Irish euros.'" First invisible espionage gadgets, now cocaine. I know which I'd prefer.

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Fucking FOX

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Pardon the obscenity above, but how else am I to respond to a FOX News anchor, Gretchen Carson, calling Ted Kennedy a "[hostile] enemy right here on the home front" for proposing legislation to prevent Bush's escalation of the Iraq War?

In response, White House counselor Dan Bartlett said that the White House does not view Kennedy as "a hostile enemy". That may or may not be what the White House really thinks of Kennedy, a persistent critic of the Bush and the Iraq War, but at least Bartlett had the good sense to distance himself (and his boss) from yet another flagrant case of partisan stupidity at FOX News.

Think Progress has the video and transcript here.

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John Edwards on the upcoming escalation in Iraq

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Senator Edwards sent this out to his supporters today:

Tonight, President Bush is expected to adopt the McCain Doctrine and announce his plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq. That is a grave mistake.

The President's decision is wrong for Iraq and wrong for America -- and it's time for the new Congress to stop Bush from stubbornly pursuing his failed strategy in Iraq. They should make it clear to the President that he will not get any money to put more of our troops in harm's way until he provides a plan to turn responsibility of Iraq over to the Iraqi people and to ultimately leave Iraq.

Strong words from a strong leader.

You can find more at, including a petition: "I am opposed to President Bush's plan to send additional troops to Iraq. Congress must act now to block funding of Bush's escalation of the war -- and demand that the President provide a plan to leave Iraq."

Say no to the surge.

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Fascist elements in the religious right

By Heraclitus

Two excellent posts from two of my favorite bloggers, Jill Filipovic and Amanda Marcotte, on the resemblance between certain strands of conservative Christianity in the US today and classical fascism. They were prompted by this interview with Chris Hedges, a New York Times war correpsondent and author of a new book, American Fascists. The mention of fascism might seem alarmist or overly polemical to some, even an instance of the justly dreaded reductio ad Hitlerum. But see especially Jill's link-rich post, which is particularly thoughtful and well-informed. And Amanda's post identifies more pervasive, dehumanizing or alienating dynamics in our society which give rise to these problems, in addition to delivering some characteristically penetrating and brilliantly caustic criticisms of the religious right in particular.

But I mention these posts not only to bring them to your attention but to say something about the larger phenomenon or problem they're discussing (my observations here are no doubt unoriginal, but I'm not knowingly stealing them from anyone). I remember years and years ago, it may have been during the 2000 election or its aftermath, reading a guest op-ed piece in The New York Times about Pat Robertson. The author argued, persuasively, I thought, that Robertson's political achievement relied on the almost total ignorance of the American working class on the part of our political elites. Robertson was thus able to convinced politicians and their handlers that factory workers in the Midwest and farmers in the Great Plains cared more about stem cells than about health care. In other words, I want to blame this, as I do everything else, on the lack of a viable, real left-wing in this country.

My point is not just that it's a huge problem that there's no one making as much noise about health care and related issues as Robertson and his ilk make about stem cells and teh gays. My point is that even the politicians who don't court Robertson and company buy what he's selling, a vision of American politics defined and driven by symbolical issues. The primary example of this is, of course, the Clintons, but I think I'll save my thoughts about them for another post. The point here is just that when politicians on the alleged "left" as well as on the right play the game of symbolic politics -- or white, lower middle-class identity politics -- people like Robertson have already won. The political landscape has already become a void into which the more or less fascistic obsessions and impulses Jill lists in her post move and gain increasing traction.

All of this is also by way of saying something about John Edwards' candidacy. You all probably know that I'm holding out to endorse McCain (I can see the headlines now: "Random commie bastard endorses wise-cracking war hero renting soul to demented godbags"). But this is one obvious and, I think, very important advantage Edwards has. He is discussing economic reality, and I don't think he's going to be bullied into triangulatin'. He has a clear vision of what American politics should look like, and I don't think he's going to allow himself to be derailed by anxieties about whether he's pandering successfully to "Nascar dads." I'm not saying I simply endorse him at this point, because I think Gore would probably be the best candidate (oof--think of what the past six years would have been like with Gore as president), but I think it's very important, and gives Edwards a crucial advantage over candidates like Clinton and those who want to play her brand of symbolic/identity politics.

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America 2.0

By Creature

War to the left of us. War to the right. Here we are, stuck in the middle with this guy:

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Gilmore for president

By Michael J.W. Stickings



But I thought I'd mention it anyway.

Jim Gilmore -- about whom you can learn more here, should you feel the need -- is a former one-term governor of Virginia and chairman of the Republican Party. He is, to put it mildly, a completely undistinguished candidate. Yet he's running for president.

Steve Benen asks the right question: Why? Gilmore "was among the worst governors in modern history": "He ran for office on a pledge to eliminate Virginia’s car tax, and once in office, successfully pushed it through the legislature. The move ruined the state’s finances, prompting Republicans in the legislature to revolt and insist that Gilmore reverse course. The governor refused, sending the state’s political and budgetary system into a tailspin." Overall, he "has an abysmal record and a dull personality."

Sounds perfect.

For now, I support Jim Gilmore to be the Republican nominee for president in 2008.

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Spy money

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Here's an interesting story from The Globe and Mail:

Canadian coins containing tiny transmitters have mysteriously turned up in the pockets of at least three American contractors who visited Canada, says a branch of the U.S. Defense Department.

Security experts believe the miniature devices could be used to track the movements of defence industry personnel dealing in sensitive military technology.

Curious times in the world of espionage.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Surge of surges

By Michael J.W. Stickings

According to a new Gallup poll, Americans oppose Bush's anticipated escalation of the war in Iraq by a wide margin: 61% against, 36% for. Support for the president's "new" strategy may turn out to be "higher than this baseline minimum," but, overall, "the American public in general opposes the concept of an increase in troops in Iraq".

Bush's approval rating is similar: 37%.


With the details of the surge to be announced tomorrow, I recommend this interview of Leon Panetta, Clinton chief of staff and member of the Iraq Study Group, by Newsweek's Michael Hirsh. Panetta says that the surge will "[send] the wrong message to the Iraqis," that military commanders told the ISG that "additional troops" were not needed, that the ISG was told that "while it was questionable a surge could work, it could provide some political cover for withdrawal," and, in conclusion, this:

We had an American general tell us that if the Iraqi government doesn't make political progress then all the troops in the world won't make any difference.

The Iraq War has been a disaster. That isn't about to change no matter what Bush says tomorrow night.

Does anyone actually believe that Bush and the warmongers will get this right after all they have gotten wrong?

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Blair on Saddam

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From the BBC: "Tony Blair has called the manner of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's execution 'completely wrong'." This follows Gordon Brown, who called it "deplorable and unacceptable".

They're both right. One needn't excuse Saddam his many crimes to find his execution an utterly despicable act of vengeance.

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"Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As Creature reported earlier, Senator Ted Kennedy has come out swinging against President Bush and the surge he is expected to announce tomorrow. He has today proposed legislation to stop the escalation of the Iraq War: "The President may deny the plain truth. But the truth speaks loudly and tragically. Congress must no longer follow him deeper into the quagmire in Iraq."

Kennedy later commented on the legislation at The Huffington Post:

Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam, and we cannot allow history to repeat itself any longer. Our troops deserve better. We must act now.

Today, I introduced legislation to reclaim the people's right to a full voice in the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq. My bill will say that no additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation unless and until Congress approves the president's plan.

Congress must exert its constitutional authority and demand a vote before any escalation in Iraq.

And he's absolutely right. Bush has had enough of a chance. And he has failed -- and failed his country -- miserably. In 2002, Congress voted -- in retrospect, stupidly -- to authorize Bush to use force (in essence, to go to war) against Iraq. It must not make the same mistake now. (See also Kennedy's comments at Daily Kos.)

For more, see CNN and, in the blogosphere, The Carpetbagger Report, The Impolitic, The Mahablog, The Democratic Daily, TPMmuckraker, and DownWithTyranny!.

Republican Senator Gordon Smith thinks Kennedy's legislation is "a good idea".


But here's the question. Is it constitutional? Big Tent Democrat of TalkLeft says it isn't, but Marty Lederman of Balkinization (via Glenn Greenwald) argues otherwise:

Even if there were a prohibition in the Constitution against so-called congressional "micromanagement" of a war -- and there's not -- this wouldn't be that. There would be no congressional officials here overseeing the President's discretionary responsibilities; no requirement that the President get approval of one or both Houses before taking certain actions. There would, instead, simply be limitations on a war imposed by statutes passed with the President's signature or by supermajorities of both Houses of Congress over the President's veto.

I am not automatically predisposed to object to presidential war powers, but there must be limits to those powers and Lederman's argument seems reasonable to me. It's crazy to think that the president, once authorized to go to war, could do anything with respect to the conduct of that war. At some point, Congress must be permitted to step in. Now is that point.

Enough is enough.


Here's Kennedy today at the National Press Club:

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Drawing lines

By Creature


Such an escalation would be a policy of desperation built on denial and fantasy. It is “stay the course” under another name. It will not resolve the Iraq war, but it will exact a fearsome new toll in American lives and further weaken our nation. It will make America more hated in the world, and make the war on terrorism even harder to win.

For the sake of our men and women in uniform in Iraq, the President should have heeded these generals, not discarded them and gone shopping for advice that matches his own wishful, flawed thinking. Cooking the intelligence is how we got into this war. Ignoring the sound counsel of our military is no way to end it. [...]

The President may deny the plain truth. But the truth speaks loudly and tragically. Congress must no longer follow him deeper into the quagmire in Iraq.

I recognize the President’s almost certain determination to persist in his failed course. It appears that he will not listen to the views of Congress or of the American people.

It is disappointing that he seems ready – even eager – to reject the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. Instead of heeding the growing call for genuine change, he has used the time since that report to root out dissent in his own Administration and in our armed forces.

This Congress cannot escape history or its own duty. If we do not learn from the mistakes of the past, we are condemned to repeat them. We must act, and act now, before the President sends more troops to Iraq, or else it will be too late.

The Raw Story has the full text and a summary of the escalation rejection legislation proposed.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Monday, January 08, 2007

A day at the beach

By Creature

A two-year extended vacation on this beach is exactly where President Mcsurgealot belongs.

January 6, 2007 -- Over 1000 people gathered in Nancy Pelosi's district, on Ocean Beach in San Francisco, to spell out the message "IMPEACH!" "America is a great country," said event organizer Brad Newsham, a local cab driver and author. "But President Bush has betrayed our faith. He mislead us into a disastrous war, and is trampling on our Constitution. He has to go. Now. I hope Nancy Pelosi is listening today."

Via the fine folks at Alternate Brain.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Joe Lieberman is a dangerous idiot

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I may have turned on Lieberman later than others, but turned I have. And now the only reason to support him at all, or at least to put up with him, is that narrow 51-49 Democratic majority in the Senate. Otherwise, what's the point? I would like to call myself a Big Tent Democrat, and it's precisely that persuasion that kept me from turning on him when so many others did, but it's now all too clear that he isn't much of a Democrat at all. The majority may still be worth it, but how much more do we have to put up with?

At the AEI with McCain over the weekend to promote the so-called "surge" of troops in Iraq that is expected to be announced on Wednesday, Lieberman referred to Bush, according to Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson, as a "great leader". I'm sure he meant it. Which means there is no reason to take anything he says as anything other than grotesque delusion.

Lieberman also suggested that critics of the surge "ought to at least let us try it". Us. For he is evidently one of them. He, McCain, Bush, and the many neocons who still believe in the madness of the Iraq War. And it doesn't even matter if the surge is a good idea or a bad idea. We should trust them. We should let them give it a go.

What's "the worst that could happen"? For Lieberman, who used those exact words, the worst that could happen is surge-related partisanship in Washington, a claim that is unconscionably stupid and irresponsible. As Dickerson puts it in response: "I believe, senator, that the 'worst that could happen' is that a significant number of the 20,000-30,000 troops we send to police the hornets’ nest of Baghdad could come home in body bags."

But Lieberman has no clue. Bush is a "great leader". And the surge, which he can't even defend, is justified not because it's the right thing to do but because it's something to do. Hey, it might work. And McCain supports it. So it must be a great idea.

What makes Lieberman a dangerous idiot as opposed to any other idiot who thinks Bush is a "great leader" is that he holds so much power in the Senate. He's still a Democrat, but that only means he still has his seniority, the ability to wreak havoc against the interests of his own party. But for how much longer? He'll either continue to cozy up to Bush and the Republicans, perhaps with dreams of a high-ranking post in his desired McCain Administration, or he'll roll over and turn Republican altogether. Then it's 50-50, Cheney comes in with the tiebreaking vote, and the Republican enablers of Bush's misadventure in Iraq return to power. All because Lieberman has lost his moral and political compass in response to one of the great blunders in American history, a war that has become a lost cause, a devastating defeat for American power and credibility around the world.

The upcoming surge -- more accurately, an escalation involving a troop increase -- will only prolong the Iraq War and make it even bloodier than it has been. The blood thus far has largely been on Bush's hands. It still will be on his hands, as well as on those of the war's architects, but the responsibility for the bloodletting that is to come must also be expanded to include both McCain and Lieberman. They've supported the war from the outset, but both have avoided being held responsible in any way for the disaster it has become. They are now two of the leading proponents of escalation. They want it. They want us to allow them to go ahead with it.

The blood -- and there will be a lot of it -- will be on their hands as well as on the hands of their "great leader".

It is truly appalling that this is what their war has come to.

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It's about the oil, stupid!

By Capt. Fogg

The Iraqi government may be ready to pass a new law that would give foreign oil giants such as BP, Shell, Exxon, and Chevron up to 30-year contracts on Iraqi oil. According to
The Independent, the law was drafted with the help of a U.S. consultancy firm, Bearing Point, hired by the U.S. government. Under this system, known as

production-sharing agreements, or PSAs, oil majors such as BP and Shell in Britain, and Exxon and Chevron in the US, would be able to sign deals of up to 30 years to extract Iraq's oil.

The oil companies will be able to keep 70% of the profits until their investments are paid off and 20% thereafter – twice the "going rate".

Allowing foreigners such unprecedented control over the third largest oil reserves in the world will be seen, in my opinion, as nothing more than a declaration of intent by the U.S. to secure a foothold in the middle east – a long-term foothold requiring a continued military presence and continuing Western domination of Iraq.

Perhaps a more cynical writer than I am would postulate that an endless sectarian civil war in Iraq could be seen as a way to keep the Iraqis from uniting against the U.S., but certainly other OPEC nations and indeed Islamic nations will see this as a marking of territory – their territory – and the opening battle in the American quest to control the world's oil.

Remembering Dick Cheney's still secret meetings about energy policy, remembering Wolfowitz's promise that oil profits would pay for this war, can we doubt that the jigsaw puzzle is beginning to show us a picture – a clear picture of why the hell we invaded Iraq and why we won't leave?

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How the Democrats are supporting the troops

By Michael J.W. Stickings

On CBS's Face the Nation yesterday -- from Think Progress (which has the video and transcript) -- Speaker Pelosi argued that President should have to justify any troop increase in Iraq in order to receive any funding for it:

[I]f the president wants to add to this mission, he is going to have to justify it. And this is new for him because up until now the Republican Congress has given him a blank check with no oversight, no standards, no conditions. And we've gone into this situation, which is a war without end, which the American people have rejected.

It is indeed "a war without end" and, in November, the American people "rejected" it. Bush and his warmongers, not to mention Republican supporters of the war generally, will no doubt accuse Pelosi and the Democrats of not supporting the troops. That'll be the spin to make Democrats look bad. But here's more of what Pelosi said:

If the president chooses to escalate the war, in his budget request we want to see a distinction between what is there to support the troops who are there now. The American people and the Congress support those troops. We will not abandon them.

The Democrats "support the troops who are there" and also support an overall increase in the size of the military. What they oppose is "a blank check" to let Bush "do whatever he wishes there". And what they're trying to do here is to re-establish a healthy balance of power between Congress and the White House.

And I would add this: How does it show support for the troops to send more of them over to fight in a war that is already lost, a war that has been a disaster and, in my view, a failure? How does it show support for the troops to throw more of them into the middle of a brutal civil war?

It seems to me that showing support for the troops means demanding accountability of those who put them in harm's way, of those who are sending them off to risk their lives for this disaster, this failure, this lost cause.

Yes, supporting the troops now means holding Bush accountable. Here's how Bob Geiger put it: "The days of Bush's absolute rule under a Republican Congress are over."


(For more, see The Carpetbagger Report, The Agonist, CorrenteWire, and The Impolitic.)

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Book 'em Bookman

By Creature

A library cop's work is never done.
Robert Nuranen handed the local librarian a book he'd checked out for a ninth-grade assignment -- along with a check for 47 years' worth of late fees. [...]

"I figured I'd better get it in before we waited another 10 years," he said after turning it in Friday with the $171.32 check. "Fifty-seven years would be embarrassing."

When questioned if he had also failed to return a copy of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, Mr. Nuranen denied any knowledge.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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The Khmer Rouge on trial

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Cambodia has set up a tribunal to examine the genocidal crimes committed by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge three decades ago -- and to judge the perpetrators. There has been criticism of the process, but the government claims it is still committed to going ahead.

I hope so. And I hope that the tribunal is taken seriously and that some measure of justice emerges from it.

In the meantime, I highly recommend this excellent piece by Jürgen Kremb at Der Spiegel. Entitled "The Guardians of Hell: Cambodia Prepares for Khmer Rouge Tribunal," it looks both at the genocide itself and at Pol Pot's rule within the context of Cambodian history. It also includes the story of Nhem Sal, one of only seven survivors of Tuol Sleng, or S-21, the Khmer Rouge's notorious torture camp in Phnom Penh. (An estimated 17-20,000 inmates were held at Tuol Sleng between 1975 and 1979. At least 1.7 million people were killed during Pol Pot's rule, though the actual number may be much higher.)

It's a must-read.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Ignore the man behind the curtain

By Creature

The latest fight for Baghdad has begun, but an al-Sadr militia crackdown is officially not gonna happen on the back-burner. Has Dick Cheney's 80% solution begun?

In the opening battle of a major drive to tame the violent capital, the Iraqi army reported it killed 30 militants Saturday in a firefight in a Sunni insurgent stronghold just north of the heavily fortified Green Zone.

Al-Suneid, who is also a member of parliament, said the new drive would focus initially on Sunni insurgent strongholds in western Baghdad.

Sunnis were likely to object, given that a large measure of today's violence in Baghdad is the work of Shiite militias, loyal to al-Maliki's key political backer, the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. [emphasis me]

The name on the door may say al-Maliki, but the man behind the desk is clearly Muqtada al-Sadr.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Israel, Iran, and the nuclear plan

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From The Sunday Times:

ISRAEL has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons.

Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources.

The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb.

Under the plans, conventional laser-guided bombs would open "tunnels" into the targets. "Mini-nukes" would then immediately be fired into a plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce the risk of radioactive fallout.

"As soon as the green light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear project will be demolished," said one of the sources.

There's already been a good deal of reaction in the blogosphere to what at first glance looks like an imminent Israeli plan to use nuclear weapons against Iran. See, for example, at-Largely, CorrenteWire, Wizbang, Power Line, Brilliant at Breakfast, Blue Crab Boulevard, and The Astute Bloggers.

But is there anything to the story beyond sensationalism? I wonder. After all, one must consider the motivation behind the leak of the existence of such a plan. Who leaked? And why? Furthermore, anyone with a nuclear weapon -- and we know that Israel is a nuclear state -- has a plan, or multiple plans, for its use. That only makes sense. The U.S. surely has detailed plans, many of them, involving its nuclear arsenal.

I wouldn't necessarily put anything past Israel -- given its historical emphasis on offensive self-defence, it may indeed see no other way out of the Iranian nuclear crisis than a nuclear strike that would cripple Iran's nuclear program -- but it would suffer perhaps irreparable damage to its already damaged image and reputation in the international community. And there's no way the international community would support a nuclear strike against Iran. It would even be difficult for Israel's allies -- the U.S., the U.K., Canada, etc. -- to support such a strike. Surely Israel isn't that stupid. For more, see Blogs of War.

As Joe Gandelman puts it at The Moderate Voice, what we have here is a story that isn't deserving of "breathless reporting" and "screeching headlines". But that's what we've got, and the leaker(s) likely leaked in order to send a message both to Iran and to the U.S. And the media are playing along. Israel clearly wants to send a warning to Tehran that a military strike of some kind might be on the way and a warning to Washington that it had better act soon or else Israel itself will take the lead in taking out Iran's nuclear program. Again, Israel isn't stupid. It knows what it's doing. The report in The Sunday Times even notes that "the nuclear-tipped bunker-busters would be used only if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene". But the U.S. may intervene and any intervention will almost certainly be conventional.

I may be overly optimistic in my assessment of this situation, but it seems to me that the nuclear option just isn't a likely option here. The aggressor in any nuclear confrontation, even one directed at a potential nuclear threat like Iran, would face significant and perhaps overwhelming worldwide condemnation. The story of Israel's nuclear plan is sensational, to be sure, and it may get the attention it seeks, but that's likely -- hopefully -- all it is.

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