Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Memo

In an effort to downplay the political ramifications concerning his national security advisor's leaked memo expressing doubt over the Iraqi government's ability to stabilize its country, President George W. Bush endorsed Iraq's Prime MInister, Nouri al-Maliki, and rejected calls for a troop withdrawal.

National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley said the prime minister's "intentions seem good when he talks to Americans" but "the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggest Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action."

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President George W. Bush cancelled their open meeting on Wednesday after the memo was leaked and Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc of political supporteders began their boycott of their governmental duties. The popular anti-American cleric has called for us to withdraw American troops from Iraq and opposed al-Maliki's meeting with the U.S. president.

In his memo, Mr. Hadley says al-Maliki must distance himself from Moqtada al-Sadr and his militia's activities by calling upon his ministers to renounce violence, appoint some "non-sectarian technocrats" to key positions, prosecute those who engage in sectarian violence, suspend the de-Baathification process until fair judicial proceedings are implemented, expand the Iraqi army, embed American and "coalition of the willing" troops in police units that need retraining, and suspend Iraqi police units infiltrated by Shi'ite militiamen.

These recommendations were suggested before but al-Maliki, fearing a standoff with the 10,000 + strong Mahdi army, did not act upon them. However, the Democratic Party's successes in November's midterm elections forced Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki and U.S. President Bush to confront to reconsider. Pressure to withdraw American forces has increased. The Iraqi Study Group co-chaired by former Secretary of State Howard Baker and former Representative Lee Hamilton (D-Indiana) are completing their report which will call for more political negotiations between the parties, the United States, and Iraq's neighbors while substantially decreasing the troop level within a year. Iraq's Shi'ite population can not rely upon American forces much longer.

Mr. Hadley fortunately offers the Iraqi prime minister and the United States a potential way out of their conundrum should he take it. Bush's national security advisor would have the prime minister support steps that would lead Iraq's opposing factions to back Maliki should his current political coalition falter. To win the Sunnis over, Iraq's prime minister would direct rebuilding efforts in Sunni populated areas, depoliticize the hospitals that are now servicing the Shi'ites and turning away wounded Sunnis, renegotiate Iraq's national constitution, and offer to the Sunni neighborhoods the basic financial and health services now provided to Shi'ite neighborhoods.

Prime Minister al-Maliki would in all likelihood retain the Islamist Dawa Party's support. The Dawa Party by itself could not govern but he can rely upon or bribe into his coalition the support of those groups which would prefer him over Moqtada al-Sadr. The Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan, would back him if he promises to respect the Kurds' right to an autonomous region in the north. He may need to strike a deal with the Kurds over the Kirkuk oil fields but they might meet him haflway if only to marginalize the radical cleric who opposed the constitution legalizing their autonomy.

Al-Maliki could also win the Sunni-dominated Iraqi Accord's endorsement with his promise to protect them from the Moqtada al-Sadr's death squads, a share in the oil revenue, and the promise to enact some of the provisions mentioned above. The secularlist-dominated Iraqi National list voters, which abhors Sadr' death squads and al-Sadr's rival Islamists could back him as well but key backing would need to come from the Shi'ite dominated pro-Iranian Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution of Iraq which has its own militia but maintains one of the the largest bloc of votes within the United Iraqi Alliance that now governs a plurality in Iraq's National Assembly. Winning its support may require the political concessions with the Iranians we can ill afford.

The prime minister won't be able to govern with this coalition of diverse political agendas but it would function as a caretaker which would deliver social selfare services to the Sunnis, protect ethnic and religious minorities preside over a fair distribution of his country's oil revenue.

Mr. Hadley correctly ties Iraq's stabilization to a political agreement that marginalizes Moqtada al-Sadr. The Shi'ite cleric has the backing of the largest of Iraq's militias though he might not control some splinter groups that operate under the Mahdi name.

Should al-Maliki refuse to distance himself from Sadr's forces and build a new coalition with his opponents, President Bush could threaten to pull its support for the Iraqi government and switch sides and back the Sunnis to alter the balance of power in the Sunnis' favor. Iraq's Sunnis do not look to Iran for support, making them the group that could check Iran's growing influence in Iraq if we do not want to forment Kurdish revolutionaries in Turkey, Iran and Syria. The Sunni insurgents are too powerful for Maliki to control at this time and too weak to regain what they lost after Saddam Hussein was deposed.

American-led forces would shift their focus to the hunt for Sadr's forces. The prime minister's government, fearing a collapse in the government, would either expel us from Iraq and confront the Sunni insurrectionists and Moqtada al-Sadr's forces, join us and seek a form a new coalition without Sadr, or turn his attention to the Sunni insurgents and winning the Sunni population over to his side without picking sides in the new American-Sadr battle or issuing half-hearted protests against the new American campaign while letting us, it is hoped, vanquish or seriously weaken, Sadr's forces.

If the prime minister expels American troops from Iraq, the United States could arm the Sunni population on the way out and force Iraq's still untrained army and the Sadr forces into an even more brutal conflict that will stop when both sides recognize they cannot win through military means alone.

National Security Advisor's Memo

National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley published the following memo just reprinted in The New York Times as well as by now, other newspapers.

"We returned from Iraq convinced we need to determine if Prime Minister Maliki is both willing and able to rise above the sectarian agendas being promoted by others. Do we and Prime Minister Maliki share the same vision for Iraq? If so, is he able to curb those who seek Shia hegemony or the reassertion of Sunni power? The answers to these questions are key in determining whether we have the right strategy in Iraq.

Maliki reiterated a vision of Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish partnership, and in my one-on-one meeting with him, he impressed me as a leader who wanted to be strong but was having difficulty figuring out how to do so. Maliki pointed to incidents, such as the use of Iraqi forces in Shia Karbala, to demonstrate his even hand. Perhaps because he is frustrated over his limited ability to command Iraqi forces against terrorists and insurgents, Maliki has been trying to show strength by standing up to the coalition. Hence the public spats with us over benchmarks and the Sadr City roadblocks.

Despite Maliki’s reassuring words, repeated reports from our commanders on the ground contributed to our concerns about Maliki’s government. Reports of nondelivery of services to Sunni areas, intervention by the prime minister’s office to stop military action against Shia targets and to encourage them against Sunni ones, removal of Iraq’s most effective commanders on a sectarian basis and efforts to ensure Shia majorities in all ministries — when combined with the escalation of Jaish al-Mahdi’s (JAM) [the Arabic name for the Mahdi Army] killings — all suggest a campaign to consolidate Shia power in Baghdad.

While there does seem to be an aggressive push to consolidate Shia power and influence, it is less clear whether Maliki is a witting participant. The information he receives is undoubtedly skewed by his small circle of Dawa advisers, coloring his actions and interpretation of reality. His intentions seem good when he talks with Americans, and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the Shia hierarchy and force positive change. But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action.

Steps Maliki Could Take

There is a range of actions that Maliki could take to improve the information he receives, demonstrate his intentions to build an Iraq for all Iraqis and increase his capabilities. The actions listed below are in order of escalating difficulty and, at some point, may require additional political and security resources to execute, as described on Page 3 of this memo. Maliki should:

¶Compel his ministers to take small steps — such as providing health services and opening bank branches in Sunni neighborhoods — to demonstrate that his government serves all ethnic communities;

¶Bring his political strategy with Moktada al-Sadr to closure and bring to justice any JAM actors that do not eschew violence;

¶Shake up his cabinet by appointing nonsectarian, capable technocrats in key service (and security) ministries;

¶Announce an overhaul of his own personal staff so that “it reflects the face of Iraq”;

¶Demand that all government workers (in ministries, the Council of Representatives and his own offices) publicly renounce all violence for the pursuit of political goals as a condition for keeping their positions;

¶Declare that Iraq will support the renewal of the U.N. mandate for multinational forces and will seek, as appropriate, to address bilateral issues with the United States through a SOFA [status of forces agreement] to be negotiated over the next year;

¶Take one or more immediate steps to inject momentum back into the reconciliation process, such as a suspension of de-Baathification measures and the submission to the Parliament or “Council of Representatives” of a draft piece of legislation for a more judicial approach;

¶Announce plans to expand the Iraqi Army over the next nine months; and

¶Declare the immediate suspension of suspect Iraqi police units and a robust program of embedding coalition forces into MOI [Ministry of the Interior] units while the MOI is revetted and retrained.

What We Can Do to Help Maliki

If Maliki is willing to move decisively on the actions above, we can help him in a variety of ways. We should be willing to:

¶Continue to target Al Qaeda and insurgent strongholds in Baghdad to demonstrate the Shia do not need the JAM to protect their families — and that we are a reliable partner;

¶Encourage Zal [Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador] to move into the background and let Maliki take more credit for positive developments. (We want Maliki to exert his authority — and demonstrate to Iraqis that he is a strong leader — by taking action against extremists, not by pushing back on the United States and the Coalition.);

¶Continue our diplomatic efforts to keep the Sunnis in the political process by pushing for the negotiation of a national compact and by talking up provincial council elections next spring/summer as a mechanism for Sunni empowerment;

¶Support his announcement to expand the Iraqi Army and reform the MOI more aggressively;

¶Seek ways to strengthen Maliki immediately by giving him additional control over Iraqi forces, although we must recognize that in the immediate time frame, we would likely be able to give him more authority over existing forces, not more forces;

¶Continue to pressure Iran and Syria to end their interference in Iraq, in part by hitting back at Iranian proxies in Iraq and by Secretary Rice holding an Iraq-plus-neighbors meeting in the region in early December; and

¶Step up our efforts to get Saudi Arabia to take a leadership role in supporting Iraq by using its influence to move Sunni populations in Iraq out of violence into politics, to cut off any public or private funding provided to the insurgents or death squads from the region and to lean on Syria to terminate its support for Baathists and insurgent leaders.

Augmenting Maliki’s Political and Security Capabilities

The above approach may prove difficult to execute even if Maliki has the right intentions. He may simply not have the political or security capabilities to take such steps, which risk alienating his narrow Sadrist political base and require a greater number of more reliable forces. Pushing Maliki to take these steps without augmenting his capabilities could force him to failure — if the Parliament removes him from office with a majority vote or if action against the Mahdi militia (JAM) causes elements of the Iraqi Security Forces to fracture and leads to major Shia disturbances in southern Iraq. We must also be mindful of Maliki’s personal history as a figure in the Dawa Party — an underground conspiratorial movement — during Saddam’s rule. Maliki and those around him are naturally inclined to distrust new actors, and it may take strong assurances from the United States ultimately to convince him to expand his circle of advisers or take action against the interests of his own Shia coalition and for the benefit of Iraq as a whole.

If it is Maliki’s assessment that he does not have the capability — politically or militarily — to take the steps outlined above, we will need to work with him to augment his capabilities. We could do so in two ways. First, we could help him form a new political base among moderate politicians from Sunni, Shia, Kurdish and other communities. Ideally, this base would constitute a new parliamentary bloc that would free Maliki from his current narrow reliance on Shia actors. (This bloc would not require a new election, but would rather involve a realignment of political actors within the Parliament). In its creation, Maliki would need to be willing to risk alienating some of his Shia political base and may need to get the approval of Ayatollah Sistani for actions that could split the Shia politically. Second, we need to provide Maliki with additional forces of some kind.

This approach would require that we take steps beyond those laid out above, to include:

¶Actively support Maliki in helping him develop an alternative political base. We would likely need to use our own political capital to press moderates to align themselves with Maliki’s new political bloc;

¶Consider monetary support to moderate groups that have been seeking to break with larger, more sectarian parties, as well as to support Maliki himself as he declares himself the leader of his bloc and risks his position within Dawa and the Sadrists; and

¶Provide Maliki with more resources to help build a nonsectarian national movement.

• If we expect him to adopt a nonsectarian security agenda, we must ensure he has reasonably nonsectarian security institutions to execute it — such as through a more robust embedding program.

• We might also need to fill the current four-brigade gap in Baghdad with coalition forces if reliable Iraqi forces are not identified.

Moving Ahead

We should waste no time in our efforts to determine Maliki’s intentions and, if necessary, to augment his capabilities. We might take the following steps immediately:

¶Convince Maliki to deliver on key actions that might reassure Sunnis (open banks and direct electricity rebuilding in Sunni areas, depoliticize hospitals);

¶Tell Maliki that we understand that he is working his own strategy for dealing with the Sadrists and that:

• you have asked General Casey to support Maliki in this effort

• it is important that we see some tangible results in this strategy soon;

¶Send your personal representative to Baghdad to discuss this strategy with Maliki and to press other leaders to work with him, especially if he determines that he must build an alternative political base;

¶Ask Casey to develop a plan to empower Maliki, including:

• Formation of National Strike Forces

• Dramatic increase in National Police embedding

• More forces under Maliki command and control

¶Ask Secretary of Defense and General Casey to make a recommendation about whether more forces are need in Baghdad;

¶Ask Secretary of Defense and General Casey to devise a more robust embedding plan and a plan to resource it;

¶Direct your cabinet to begin an intensive press on Saudi Arabia to play a leadership role on Iraq, connecting this role with other areas in which Saudi Arabia wants to see U.S. action;

¶If Maliki seeks to build an alternative political base:

• Press Sunni and other Iraqi leaders (especially Hakim) [Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Maliki rival] to support Maliki

• Engage Sistani to reassure and seek his support for a new nonsectarian political movement."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Anbar Report

"Devlin suggested that without the deployment of an additional U.S. military division -- 15,000 to 20,000 troops -- plus billions of dollars in aid to the province, "there is nothing" U.S. troops "can do to influence" the insurgency.

He described al-Qaeda in Iraq as the "dominate organization of influence in al-Anbar," surpassing all other groups, the Iraqi government and U.S. troops "in its ability to control the day-to-day life of the average Sunni."
- from The Washington Post

15,000 to 20,0000 troops for one province if this assessment if we are to

Hizbullah's Protests May Start Tomorrow

Hizbullah threatened to start its "surprising and random" actions tomorrow which may include "street protests, civil disobedience, sit-ins and union actions."

As the PoliticalHeretic had said before, we shouldn't get involved. Siniora's administration had done nothing to make a senseless fight over a lost cause worth it, especially if it further strains our relationship with the Syrians may need to court to help stabilize Iraq.

Quotes from the former National Security Advisors

"What I said, precisely, was a military victory that establishes a government whose writ runs all over the country and which can end both sectarian conflict and the insurrection, it's possible within a time frame that the American public will support.

I believe that it's not possible, in such a time frame, to prevent the sectarian violence, verging on civil war, that is going on, and at the same time fight the insurrection."
Dr. Henry Kissinger, former national security advisor and Secretary of State in the Nixon and Ford administrations, on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" this Sunday.

What he suggests - don't pick a side in Iraq's civil war. Focus on the al Qaeda militants now operating out of Iraq:

"I believe we should redesign our military strategy so that we are -- we get out of -- between the sectarian conflict and concentrate our military strategy on fighting the al Qaida forces that are there and the insurrection forces. In the course of...

BLITZER: So in other words -- excuse me for interrupting, Dr. Kissinger -- if the U.S. military were to see Shia militia fighting Sunni militia, the U.S. should stay out of that fight, per se, is that what you're saying?

KISSINGER: Unless it assumes genocidal proportions (INAUDIBLE)."

He says we must strike the right balance. Siding with either side may not be doable, given the public's weakened resolve and withdrawing now may give Iran a puppet state of their own in the Shi'ite region.

Interesting analysis but I don't see how an effort to crush the al Qaeda forces and do nothing about the militias will help us stop the Iranians from winning Iraq.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor under Carter's administration, offers a different opinion:

But the point is, the longer we delay, the worse it's going to be because the more fractionated the Iraqis are becoming. If we had done this earlier, we still would have had some core of coherence in Iraq. But if you read the reports these days, even Muqtada al-Sadr is now beginning to lose control over his own militia.

BLITZER: He's the radical Shiite cleric.

"Exactly. And the fact is, if we pull out, the power will have to be based on the courts and on the Shiite militias, and perhaps with an authority like Sistani providing an overall political theocratic umbrella.

But the longer we stay, the more fragmented this will be because it is a civil war already. And in the meantime, and this is a key point, American position in the Middle East is being dramatically undermined."

Monday, November 27, 2006

Iraq's National Security Advisor

Note these comments made by Iraq's national security advisor, Moffawak al-Rubaie, "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on CNN yesterday. Posted here, are some comments made towards the end of his interview with the talk show host.

BLITZER: U.S. Senator John McCain, who's been outspoken on the Iraq issue, very supportive of the war, he's warning -- he's suggesting that Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric, clearly influential with the government, should be removed from power.

"If we don't get this guy, al-Sadr, out of the picture, if we don't get the Mahdi Army under control, we are going to have very serious difficulties."

Is it possible, is it desirable for the government to arrest Muqtada al-Sadr?

AL-RUBAIE: John McCain is a very experienced politician and he has -- well, he's supported Iraq, and he's still a very strong supporter of Iraq. And he understands Iraq very well and he has visited us here. And I respect his view, and I believe we need to control all the elements of Jaish al-Mahdi.

There are people who are working under that banner. We need to control them, and we need to be very decisive about it. And we have made a very unpopular decision, in this government, to take on anyone who is showing arms or going to the streets with his arms.

BLITZER: But the notion of arresting or executing Muqtada al- Sadr --is that something on the agenda?

AL-RUBAIE: This is for the judicial system to do or to -- Muqtada al-Sadr, now, until this moment of time, is part of the political process. He has 30-plus members in the council of representatives. He has six ministers in the government.

He is working within the government. And he's part of the largest parliamentary bloc, which is the United Iraqi Alliance.

So we have no quibble with any parliamentary bloc. And what we have decided to do is to take on, through our Iraqi security forces, any of his rogue elements, or those who are criminals.

And by the way, he has renounced violence. He has renounced those elements who are either being supported by some of our neighbors, or they are taking the law into their hands against his own will.

BLITZER: What does it say, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, about the security situation in Iraq right now, that your prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has to go to a third country, namely Jordan, to meet with President Bush, that it's so, apparently, unsafe right now for an American president to go to Baghdad that he has to meet with the Iraqi prime minister in Jordan, 3 1/2 years after your country was liberated from Saddam Hussein?

What does that say about the current situation in Iraq right now?

AL-RUBAIE: Well, I don't know. I'm not aware of the reason why President Bush is not coming to meet Prime Minister Maliki in Baghdad.

But what I understand is that there is also a trilateral meeting there that is the -- President Bush has visited Iraq probably three times since liberation.

So I'm not aware of the reason why he is not visiting.
He must have some other schedule and some other business to do somewhere else in the world.

BLITZER: Mowaffak al-Rubaie, unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. Good luck to you. We'll stay in touch. Thanks very for joining us.

Why did Al-Rubaie deny any knowledge concerning the reasoning our president employed to hold his upcoming meeting with Iraq's Prime Minister in Jordan? Iraq's national security advisor no doubt wants to downplay any assertion that Mr. Bush would not be safe in Iraq or any claim that Iraq's government cannot protect him from the Baathist insurgents, al Qaeda terrorists, or Shi'ite militias but Al-Rubaie could told Mr. Blitzer that Jordan's king invited them to his country. Does he fear that any public acknowledgement and support for holding these politically sensitive discussions in Sunni-dominated Jordan hurt his government's standing with the Mahdi Army?

Speaking of which, note Al-Rubaeie's comments concerning Shi'ite cleric al-Sadr. He is described as the leader of a powerful and legitimate political coalition whose ties to the militias has not been proven. Iraq's government for now would lead us to believe alll-Sadr is innocent of all charges and search for rogue Mahdi elements that act out on their own without his blessing. The United States would have to bring their charges in court or hope for better election results before Iraq's government would disown him and remove him from the coalition.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Weekend Preview


1. "Meet The Press" on NBC (10:30 AM ET): (a) California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-California) on how he managed to win his re-election in the middle of an anti-Republican midterm election. (b) a panel discussion on the Iraq war and the three options layed out by the Pentagon with Representatives Duncan Hunter (R-California) and Ike Skelton (D-Missouri) of the Armed Services Committee, Former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Special Operations Command, Gen. Wayne Downing (RET.) and Former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Southern Command, Gen. Barry McCaffrey (RET.). Host is Tim Russert.

2. "FOX News Sunday" on FOX (10:00 AM ET): (a) The Democratic Party's agenda on social security, taxes, gas prices and presription drugs. Guests to include three incoming chairmen - Representative Charlie Rangel (D-New York) of the House Ways and Means Committee, Representative John Dingell (D-Michigan) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Representative Barney Frank D-Massachussetts) of of the House Financial Servies CommitteeCheck back tomorrow. (b) Incoming Senate Minority Whip Senator Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) on the Republicans' effort to make a comback. (c) FOX News Panel - an analysis on the latest news in Iraq with FOX News Managing Editor Brit Hume, The Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, NPR Senior National Correspondent Juan Williams, and NPR National Political Correspondent Mara Liasson. (d) Power Player of the Week - businessman and philanthropist Joe Robert of "Fight Night." Hist is Chris Wallace.

3. "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on CNN (11:00 AM ET): weighing our options in Iraq with Iraq's National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie and former U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Dr. Henry Kissinger. Check back tomorrow for posting of any other guests. Host is Wolf Blitzer. Other guests include Senator Jon Cornyn (D-Texas) of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) of the Armed Services Committee, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Retired Brigadier General David Grange, Retired Lietenant General Michael Delong of the U.S. Marine Corps, Lietenant Governor Michael Steele (R-Maryland) and Democratic Strategist Donna Brazile.

4. "This Week" on ABC (10:00 AM ET): (a) Sunday Exclusive - jordanian King Abdullah II on what could be done to bring stability to Iraq. (b) Sunday Exclusive - Senators Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) on the escalating violence in Iraq and genocide in Darfur, Surdan. (c) Voices - Model and activist Maggie Rizer on her father's death from AIDS and her own efforts to raise AIDS aweareness and prevention. (d) Roundtable - George F. Will, Donna Brazile, Torie Clark, and E.J. Dionne on this week's politics. Host is George Stephanopoulos.

5. "Face The Nation" on CBS (10:30 AM ET):
the new Senate's agenda. Guests to include Senator-Elect Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), Senator-Elect Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), Senator-Elect Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).


1. "Beltway Boys" on FOX News (Saturday at 6:00 PM ET): Check back tomorrow. Co-hosts are Morton Kondracke and Fred Barnes.

2. FOX News Watch (Saturday at 6:30 PM ET): the biggest turkeys' awards.

3. "Reliable Sources" on CNN (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET): CNN doesn't offer any previews of this show but the PoliticalHeretic still posts this on his web site to remind viewers of when it is on. Host is Howard Kurtz.

4. "The Chris Matthews Show" on NBC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
Nothing posted for this weekend's show. Host is Chris Matthews.


1. "Big Story Weekend" on FOX News (Saturday and Sunday at 5:00 PM ET): Check back tomorrow. Host is Julia Banderas.

2. "Heartland" on FOX News (Saturday at 8:00 PM ET):
(a) Football defensive lineman Rosey Grier and former Robert Kennedy bodyguard looks back to his role during the Robert Kennedy assassination. (b) whether prayer makes a difference. (c) a potential Iran/Iraq partnership and what it means for the United States.

3. "CNN Presents" on CNN (Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 PM ET):
"We Were Warned" - the vulnerabiity of the world's oil supply and the potential for alternative fuels.


1. "20/20" on ABC (Friday at 10:00 PM ET):
Second Acts - life after drugs, eating disorders, sin, the NFL, etc. (a) Mayim Bialik move from "Blossom" to science and Danica McKellar move from "The Wonder Years" to mathematics. (b)supermodel Crystal Renn and former Olympic hopeful Ashley Dalton battles with anorexia. (c) Jodie Sweetin of "Full House" on her drinking, pot smoking and chrystal meth use. (d) Former Los Vegas stripper Heather Veitch buying lap dances to speak about God. (e) Football lead rusher Emmitt Smith on "Dancing With The Stars."

2. "48 Hours" on CBS (Saturday at 10:00 PM ET): "Decade of Mystery" - John Ramsey speaks for the first time after his wife's death and the arrest of John Mark Karr aobut the JonBenet murder case.

3. "CBS Sunday Morning" on CBS (Sunday at 9:00 AM ET):
(a) Cover Story - "The Good News" on a coal plant now putting out clean energy, a group of retired old men eating out and sharing in friendship, and a school that has turned itself around for the better. (b) Almanac - The Rosemary Woods/Nixon tapes. (c) Silhouettes. (d) David Edelstein - Catherine O’Hara and Oscar nod for “For Your Consideration.” (e) Sunday Journal - how President George W. Bush is received when he travels. (f)Audrey Hepburn - report on her. (g) Sunday Profile - Bette Midler. (h)Ben Stein Commentary - friendly America. (i) Plymouth - the first Thanksgiving. (j)Nature - turkey in Connecticut.

4. "60 Minutes" on CBS (Sunday at 7:00 PM ET): (a) General Abizaid offers his ideas on how we can stabilize Iraq. (b) The memory Pill - a pill that might dull the memories of those who had traumatic experiences. (c) Blue Jay - Jay Greenberg, a musical prodigy who composed 5 symphonies by the age of 13, now has a contract with the London Symphony.

5. "Dateline" on NBC (Saturday at 8:00 PM ET):
Michael Peterson's wife is found dead at the bottom of a flight of chairs. He says she fell but the police suspect it is murder even though they can find no eyewitness or murder weapon to confirm their suspicions until they find information that leads them to believe he did this before.


1. "The Family Man" on NBC (Friday at 8:00 PM ET):
Nicholas Cage stars in this movie about a career driven workaholic who is given a chance to reconnect with the sweetheart he chose to forsake for his career.

2. "Law and Order" (Friday at 10:00 PM ET) - a new episode is not shown tonight. The regular stars include Sam Waterston as Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy, Alana De La Garza as Connie Rubirosa, Jessie L. Martin as Detective Ed Green, Milena Govich as Nina Cassidy, S. Epatha Merkerson as the politce chief and, Fred Thompson as the district attorney.

3. "Saturday Night Live" on NBC (Saturday at 11:29 PM ET):
Guest Host Hugh Laurie with musical guest Beck.

The other regular shows have been pre-empted by a drama.

4. "Candles on Bay Street" on CBS (9:00 PM ET):
mother and son return to small town after 13 year absence while an old-smitten friend is forced to confront her emotions upon that mother's return.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Turmoil in Lebanon

Assassins gunned down Pierre Gemayel, Lebanon's industry leader and a prominent leader of the Christian-dominated Phalange Party, in Jdeideh, last week amid rising political tensions between Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's fragile government and Hizbollah.

The prime minister's administration was undermined by Israel's aerial bombardment and ground offensive. Mr. Siniora condemned Israel for launching its retaliatory strikes but failed to respond in kind, giving Hizbollah the chance to claim for itself the role of Lebanon's protector.

Hizbollah was capitalizing on its political victory before Mr. Gemayel was shot. Hizbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian sect that did not align itself with Mr. Siniora's government, have threatened to hold a massive demonstration if Mr. Siniora did not back down and grant them a enough seats to veto any coalition-sponsored legislation in a national unity government. Mr. Siniora has offered Hizbollah 9 seats, two short of the the 1/3 needed to veto legislation sponsored in the proposed 30 seat government.

World leaders condemned those responsible for the political assasination. French President Jacques Chirac said this should only heighten the resolve of those who are seeking an investigation into the 2005 murder of former Prime Minister and anti-Syrian nationalist Rafik Hariri. U.S. President George W. Bush, alone, however blamed Iran and Syria for this political assasination, a charge governments in both regional powers adamantly denied.

Mr. Gemayel's assassination purportedly brings Hizballah one step closer towards its goal of denying Siniora's administration the quorum it needs to govern. The five Amal and Hizbollah cabinet members resigned on Novemember 11. Environment Minister Yaacoub Sarraf resigned two days later, so the assassination leaves Hizbollah two members short of denying Mr. Siniora his quorum.

The act was perpetrated at a time when the Siniora government and the Hizbollah-Free Patriotic Movement are negotiating over a new government of national unity that could undermine the investigation into Hariri's death. The Syrians, Iranians, and Hizbollah oppose any investigation that could point the blame in their direction.

President George W. Bush, however, should refrain from making any further public accusations against Syria. Success in Iraq may depend upon Syria's cooperation, and of the two countries we are expected to negotiate with before we extricate our troops from Iraq, Syria by far would be the least demanding. The United States won't have to recognize a nuclear-driven Syrian state or deal with a country sponsoring Islamic revolutions abroad. We probably will have to side with any demands they have for the Golan Heights but the Israelis have already offered them the Golan Heights in return for peace.

Lebanon's pro-western Siniora government may have to go but the administration is too weak for us to miss it. Prime Minister Siniora failed to contain Hizballah or stand up to Israel's provoked attacks. Syria might deliver what it had failed to give Israel if the right deal is made.

The Syrians probably can not help us stabilize Iraq but a promise to cut war supplies moving between Syria and Iraq may allow us to divert our troops to the Iraqi-Iranian border to cut off supplies reaching the Shi'ite militias and force them back to the political negotiating table.

In the meantime, the Siniora government's collapse might actually help us split the Syrians and the Iranians apart or, in the alternative, strengthen the Lebanese moderates in the long term. Should the Amalist Free Patriotic Union - Hizballah agreement alliance break apart, the Syrians would be forced to side with Hizballah at the Amalist Party's and consequently strengthen a rejuvinated pro-western anti-Syrian Lebanese alliance or it could side with the Amalists and undermine its alliance with Iran.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Terrorism or Free Speech

Two men - one from Matawan, New Jersey and the other from Staten Island, New YOrk - have been arraigned on charges that they are supporting a terrorist organization. Specifically, the two - Saleh Elahwal and Javed Iqbal - broadcast Hezbollah's television station via satellite for those who wanted it in the New York City area in exchange for payments that totaled $112,000.

But were they really supporting a terrorist organization or were they merely airing a news or opinions from another, unpopular perspective? These two may have a very strong First Amendment case from which to challenge their arraignment.

Sam Brownback

Then again, Christian conservatives might warm to Senator Sam Brownback.

Mitt Romney

Yes, Governor Mitt Romney of Massachussetts is courting his party's religiously conservative primary voters.

The governor has done everything by the book to win the Republican primary voters' support so far. Senator John McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani have a long way to go before they can win substantial support for that party's voting base. If they want to get Republican support, Senator John McCain will have to reverse course on the marriage amendment and the filibuster while former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani will have to sell his gay friends down the river. Gaybashing goes a along way within the Republican Party.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Henry Kissinger on Iraq

According to the Associated Press, Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor for Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald Ford, says we cannot win through military force.

Plans for Iraq

Option A. Crush the Sunni Insurgents, then Mahdi (Senator John McCain's Solution offered last Sunday on "Meet The Press")

MR. RUSSERT: Here’s Prime Minister Maliki. In the past three weeks, he has “rejected the notion of an American ‘timeline’ for action on urgent Iraqi political issues; ordered American commanders to lift checkpoints they had set up around the Shiite district of Sadr City to hunt for a kidnapped American soldier and a fugitive Shiite death squad leader; blamed the Americans for the deteriorating security situation in Iraq; and demanded speeded-up Iraqi control of its own military.” This is the prime minister of Iraq, who is supposed to be our ally, taking positions that are very much, it appears, against American interests.

SEN. McCAIN: The prime minister has to understand that we need to put down Sadr, and we need to take care of the Mahdi Army, and we need to stop the sectarian violence that is on the increase in an unacceptable level. And I think that the best way to assure that is for him to know that we will do what’s necessary to bolster the—train and equip the Iraqi army, etc. If we send the signal that we are leaving, of course he’s going to try to make accommodations with others, because he knows that—what is going to be the inevitable result. So most politicians in that part of the world are interested in survival, so I, I can understand why he took the position that he did, but I certainly disagree with it strongly.

MR. RUSSERT: This is what he said. “Last week, al-Maliki rejected a demand by a visiting administration official that he move to disband Shia militias by year’s end, saying it would be suicidal for him to move against the heavily armed militias.”

SEN. McCAIN: That’s because he doesn’t think he can do it. And that’s because we’re not able to bring them under control. If we do what’s necessary to try to bring them under control—and I would advocate, first, going in the Sunni areas and getting that area under control, so that we can show them that—the Shia—that they don’t need the Mahdi Army in order to protect themselves from Sunni attacks, that that’s probably the best tactical move that we could make. The present situation is unacceptable.

Americans are frustrated, we understand that. And again, I want to tell you, I’m not interested in telling some young person’s loved ones that we’re sending them over there in order to delay what may be an inevitable defeat.

MR. RUSSERT: Who should tell Maliki to get rid of the death squads, the militias? The president?

SEN. McCAIN: The president, and everybody else. But Maliki is going to go where he thinks his interests lie. And the best way to reassure him is to tell him we’re going to do what is necessary.

Option B. Buy Syrian and Iranian Support for a Comprehensive Political Settlement, Then Withdraw (Senato-elect Jim Webb (D-Virginia) and Senate Elect Jon Tester (D-Montana) from this Sunday's "Meet The Press"

MR. RUSSERT: Jim Webb, let me show you and our viewers what you said during the campaign about Iraq. “If we want a new direction in Iraq, we need a new team in Congress. A Democratic Congress will demand from day one that the President find a real way forward in Iraq.” What’s “a real way forward”?

SEN.-ELECT WEBB: Well, first of all, I, I was saying even before we went in that there were three major issues in the Middle East that had to be addressed. One was the Israeli/Arab situation, the other was terrorism, and the third was, was Iraq, and that if we lumped them together that we risked in—having a problem with all three of them. That has happened.

So in the—in looking at Iraq, you need a larger scope than simply what’s going on with—with the government, with the troops inside, which people keep talking about. And I’m looking forward to hearing what the Baker commission comes forward with, the Iraq Study Group. But what we need—and I’ve been saying this for more than two years—is a diplomatic approach that will bring the countries in the region to the table so that we can have ownership, some ownership, diplomatic ownership from the countries that have long-term cultural and historical ties with Iraq. And from that umbrella, then we can address the issue of moving our combat troops out and still affecting the war against international terrorism. I think that’s doable. It’s a leadership question rather than simply an issues question, and that’s what I’m looking forward to trying to bring to the table.

MR. RUSSERT: You’re talking about Iran and Syria.

SEN.-ELECT WEBB: We need to talk to Iran and Syria. I think it was a great mistake not to as this moves forward, and that’s one thing that I’ve been encouraged to hear from former Secretary of State Baker that, you know, you need to talk to your, your enemies as well as your friends. You don’t have to give up anything in terms of, you know, national concerns to be talking to them, but it’s impossible to resolve the situation now without talking to them.

MR. RUSSERT: Jon Tester, during the campaign this is what your Web site said: “An open-ended occupation is not in the best interest of the United States, the Iraqi people, or the Middle East. The time has come to support our troops by laying out a plan to bring them home.” Realistically, what kind of plan would you lay out to bring the troops home?

SEN.-ELECT TESTER: Well, I think many of the things that, that Senator-elect Webb talked about would be part of the plan. But I will tell you, we, we need to work with our allies within—in the region. We also need to talk to our enemies and put diplomatic pressure on them. But we also need to visit with our allies around the world to, to develop a plan to, to make, to make this war come to some sort of conclusion and get our troops home. Right now, as it was—been for, you know, since I got into this race in May of ‘05, there is no plan, and, and there’s no end in sight to this. And, and we really need to focus on, on the war on terror and national security issues. And I think that this war has taken our focus off of that.

That being said, we’re there. And as some folks told me on the campaign route, there’s really no easy solution here. Getting out tomorrow isn’t, isn’t probably the right thing to do; staying and getting out later’s probably not the right thing to do, and that’s why we do need to have a plan.

C. Webb on a Troop Withdrawal Announcement - Seems to Oppose Any Announcement Before Political Settlement is Reached

MR. RUSSERT: Jim Webb, John Abizaid, the military commander for the Middle East, came to Congress, and this is what he testified to on Wednesday, “that to begin a significant troop withdrawal from Iraq over the next six months would lead to an increase in sectarian killings and hamper efforts to persuade the Iraqi government to make the difficult decisions needed to secure the country.” Your reaction?

SEN.-ELECT WEBB: Well, I can, I can understand why the military people would have concerns about the notion of beginning this process with the announcement of troop withdrawals. It’s, it’s almost backwards from the way that we should be solving it. There’s a tremendous amount of sectarian violence either way and there’s, and there’s going to be. There are limits to what our military can do. And what I’ve been proposing and which—something I think that General Abizaid might, might have a different feeling about if he were testifying, I would think, is that we need a diplomatic approach that creates some stability, some agreement among the players in the region. They all have long-term interests, obviously, in, in the stability of, of Iraq, and from that approach then you begin troop withdrawals and—of combat troops, and still be able to affect the issue of international terrorism. That is a workable formula, I think, and it goes a long way toward addressing the situation that he was talking about.

Senator John McCain believes we could win this war through military force. If we crush the Sunni insurgents, he says, the Mahdi Army will lose its base of support and then we can turn around and crush them. Senator-elect Webb appears more skeptical and suggests a buyout with Syria and Iran that would help the factions they would normally sponsor make a political settlement they could not refuse, then withdraw.

The senator from Arizaon offers us a stronger commitment in manpower we definitely will need to win the peace in Iraq but the PoliticalHeretic lacks his confidence that a purely military operation will succeed for long. Crushing the Sunni insurgency may help alleviate one problem but it will also upset the political balance of power that Iranian-backed Shi'ites may then exploit. To date, the Sunni insurgents that we hate and the Kurds which threaten NATO ally Turkey alone can challenge any Iranian exansionist ambitions should any exist.

Mr. Webb correctly identifies the polical nature of this problem but he would rely upon the goodwill of the Syrians and Iranians even though their price may be too high for us to accept their help. The president's administration can and should negotiate with the Iranians and Syrians but he cannot rely upon them to enforce any political settlement. Like it or not, American, European, or NATO led troops will have to enforce any political agreement made by the Shi'ites, Sunnis, and Kurds until the trust building mechanisms and a fully trained, integrated and diversified Iraqi military force which incorporates personnel from all major political factions can take over.

Senator Joseph Biden would have the Iraqi state divided into three autonomous regions - one for the Iraqi Kurds, another for the Iraqi Shi'ites, and the third for the Iraqi Sunnis - that would be responsible for their own domestic affairs. Iraq's Sunnis, however, will not agree to a political solution that cuts them off from the oil revenues Iraq's other two major political factions would control. Iraq's Kurds and Shi'ites will fight for control over Kirkuk's oil fields until the Shi'ites, facing a potential two front war as they battle with the Sunnis for control over Iraq's oil fields in the south, make a deal in return for their help in a war with the Sunnis.

No political settlement will last if one or more of the three competing factions is deprived access to Iraq's oil revenue. Management over the country's oil fields would have to be nationalized while the revenue split three ways to each group's satisfaction.

This settment, fragile as it would be, could easily be undermined by Iraq's neighbors or by one of the three distrusting parties so American troops would have to stay, if only to patrol Iraq's national assets, any mutually agreed-upon demilitarized zones, and borders until Iraq's army is strong enough to defend Iraq on its own.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Evidence from North Korea that Pat Robertson and Reverend Jerry Falwell could use for their war on gays.

Incoming Speaker's Choice of Words

"Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with us. Let the healing begin." - Representative and incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, after Representative Steny Hoyer, a rival of hers, was voted in as House Majority Leader.

Speaker-elect Nancy Pelos should choose her words more carefully. The above-posted quote, though not made in reference to the Democratic Party's national security and foreign policy agenda, will only reinforce its weak image on these topics.

Don't be surprised if, two years from now, we are bombarded with a split screen political commercial with the Speaker on the left being quoted and a successful North Korean missile launch being shown on the right.

South Korea's Appeasement Continues

"His views on history were also considered controversial. When lawmaker Chung asked him which side caused the Korean War, the North or the South, the minister-designate said it was “improper” to offer a definite opinion. The lawmaker came back, “Are you trying to avoid making a historical judgment on the Korean War, which cost the lives of millions of Koreans?” Lee said, “No, I don’t deny the fact that the North invaded the South.”

When Grand National Party lawmaker Ko Heung-kil asked Lee how he evaluates the late North Korean leader Kim Il-sung, he replied, “History will be the judge. Much truth has yet to be found about the leader. At present, I can just offer a general evaluation by historians.” Asked his opinion about the country’s current leader, Kim Jong-il, he said a public setting was “the wrong place” to evaluate the leader of another country. ...

... When asked why some 63 percent of North Korean defectors believe the government’s aid to the North does not really benefit its people, Lee said it was because the aid is “not enough to benefit all North Koreans.” Hearing the answer, GNP lawmaker Kim Moo-sung asked, “You mean we should provide more aid to North Korea?” “Yes,” Lee said."

South Korea's negotiating tactic in a nutshell - speak softly and act like a wimp.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Political Cartoons

"The Bad Reporter", as usual, deserves a special place - first that is - in the political cartoon roundup. So, without further ado - waterboarding basketball players, a singray's book on murder, Senator John Kerry's windsurfing, and talking Jesus doll sparks outrage when it endorses a Democrat.


1. Walt Handelsman's "The Iraq Didn't Study Group" in Newsday.

2. In The Salt Lake Tribune, Pat Bagley has Bush stearing the presidency into a foreign policy debacle while under the influence. (Warning - potential eye strain as you try to read).

3. Republicans go back to the basics in Wednesday's The Manchester Union editorial cartoon.

4. John Trever on the incoming Speaker's failure to get Representative John P. Murtha a leadership post in a Democratic majority promising ethics reform. Posted in The Albuquerque Journal.

5. Mike Thompson offers us the new look for manufacturing ideal in today's Detroit Free Press.

The Weekend Preview


1. "Meet The Press" on NBC (10:30 AM ET):
(a) the new Democratic Senate and the war in Iraq from two of the body's newest members - Senator elect Jim Webb (D-Virginia) and Jon Tester (D-Montana). (b) special roundtable on Iraq and Iran - Ted Koppel and Robin Wright. Host is Tim Russert.

2. "FOX News Sunday" on FOX (10:00 AM ET): (a) Senator John Kerry (D-Massachussetts), the 2004 Democratic nominee for president, on whether he can launch a comeback after his botched Iraqi War joke got him in trouble. (b) former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) on the potential for a revival of the GOP "revolution" that brought them to power in 1994. (c) FOX panel discussion with the regulars - FOX News Managing Editor Brit Hume, Editor Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, NPR Senior National Correspondent Juan Williams, and NPR Political Correspondent Mara Liasson. Host is Chris Wallace

3. "CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on CNN (11:00 AM ET):
the war in Iraq and an indication of when Iraqi troops will take over. Guests will include Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Kay Baily Hutchison (R-Texas) of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Majority Whip-Elect Representative James Clyburn (D-South Carolina), Minority Whip-Elect Representative Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), former assistant secretary of state Ken Adelman, resident scholar Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute, former presidential speechwriter and conservative author David Frum, and Iraqi Ambassador to the US Samir Sumaidaie. Host is Wolf Blitzer.

4. "This Week" on ABC (10:00 AM ET): (a) Sunday Exclusive - Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) on the war in Iraq, the new Democratic majority in the Senate, and a possible run for the White House. (b) Sunday Exclusive - Representative Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) on his battle with Representative John P. Murtha for a leadership post, his rivalry with incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and the prospect of uniting the Democratic majority together behind a single agenda. (c) Voices - 2006 NASCAR points leader Jimmie Johnson on the drive for blood and marrow donations. (d) Roundtable - George F. Will, Fareed Zakaria, and Robert Reich debate this week's politics. Host is George Stephanopoulos.

5. "Face The Nation" on CBS (10:30 AM ET): Taxes and the war in Iraq. Guests include Representative Charlie Rangel (D-New YOrk) - the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) of the Armed Services Committee. Host is Bob Schieffer.


1. "Beltway Boys" on FOX News (Saturday at 6:00 PM ET):
(a) Democratic Party leadership fight - its effect on the incoming Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-California). (b) Congressional debate - the biggest fights once Congress reconvenes. Co-hosts are Morton Kondracke and Fred Barnes.

2. "FOX News Watch" on FOX News (Saturday at 6:30 PM ET):
Press coverage on the Iraq Study Group Report. (b) coverage on O.J. Simpson's new book and upcoming television interview. Panelists include Cal Thomas, Jim Pinkerton, Neal Gabler, and host Eric Burns.

3. "Reliable Sources" on CNN (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
Host is Howard Kurtz.

4. "The Chris Matthews Show" on NBC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET): (a) Senator John McCain's bid for the White House - the maverick's quest to lead the Republicans will be tested. (b) former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's bid for the White House - electing big city president. Guests to include Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post Writers Group, David Brooks of The New York Times and The News Hour, Gloria Borger of CBS News, and John Heilermann of New York Magazine. Check back here tomorrow. Host is Chris Matthews.


1. "Big Story Weekend" on FOX News (Saturday and Sunday at 5:00 PM ET):
(a) Democratic Congress and foreign policy - how Iraqi war strategy may change. (b) Bipartisanship - the president and Democratic leaders meet but will they work together. Host is Julie Banderas.

2. "Heartland" on FOX News (Saturday at 8:00 PM ET): Pre-empted by a special on the O.J. Simpson murder case. Host for the "Heartland" is John Kasich.

3. "CNN Presents" on CNN (Saturday at 3:00 PM ET): "Combat Hospital" - behind the scenes at the main combat hospital in Iraq wheree US troops, insurgents and children are treated.


1. "20/20" on ABC (Friday at 10:00 PM ET): pre-empted by two specials. (a)Brian Ross Exclusive on the indentured servants working at Dubai Port at 9:00 PM ET and (b)a Barbara Walters' Special on 30 mistakes she made in 30 years at 10:00 PM ET.

2. "48 Hours Mystery" on CBS (Saturday at 10:00 PM ET): "Blood and Money" - Two brothers who made killings financially are are killed while continents apart.

3. "CBS Sunday Morning" on CBS (Sunday at 9:00 AM ET): The Food Issue. (a) Cover Story: "What's For Dinner?" - how the American dinner table has changed over the years. (b) Aprons. (c) A History of the Cookbook. (d) White House Chef - Executive Chef Christeta Comerford takes us behind the scenes as the White House kitchen prepares a formal dinner for the president. (e) Television Chef Part I - Bill Geist enrolls in a San Francisco Cooking for Camera class and "cooks up his version of a Thanksgiving dinner." (f) Presentation - the art of table presentation in Japan. (g) Singing Caterer - Phil Roy. (h)Energy Drinks. (i) Short-Order Cooks - Cynthia Bowers meets two famous short-order cooks. (j) Automat - Charlie Osgood talks about its resurgence in New York. (k) For Stars - celebrity-owned restaurants. (l) Cranberries. (m) Television Chef Part II - Bill Geist provides an update. (n) Desert - Piece of Cake. (o) Nature.

4. "60 Minutes" on CBS (Sunday at 7:00 PM ET):
(a) "Welcome to Hazleton" - the battle over illegal immigration found in America's inner cities and suburbs. (b) "Shooting Tigers" - Poachers dwindle India's 100,000 tigers down to 5,000. (c) "Broadway Joe" - Football Quarterback Joe Namath about his career, famous injuries, life as a pop icon, and drinking problem.

5. "Dateline NBC" on NBC (Saturday at 8:00 PM ET): (a) a repeat "To Catch A Predator" Series - camera on Petuluma, California. (b) a Case Western shootout in 2003 in which 90 people were taken hostage. Interview with the gunman and video footage of the event.


1. "Law and Order" on NbC (Friday at 10:00 PM ET): "Deadlock" - a mass murderer who is serving 7 life sentences escapes from prison, kllling two prison guards in the process and, after escaping, kills two innocent civilians as well. The defendant, in order to delay his transfer to a maximum security prison where he cannot escape, refuses to plead guilty, and the D.A. asks for the death penalty. Craig Walker guest stars as the mass murderer. The regular stars include Sam Waterston as Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy, Alana De La Garza as Connie Rubirosa, Jessie L. Martin as Detective Ed Green, Milena Govich as Nina Cassidy, S. Epatha Merkerson as the politce chief and, Fred Thompson as the district attorney.

2. "Saturday Night Live" on NBC (Saturday at 11:29 PM ET): Host Chris "Ludacris" with musical guest "Bridges"

3. "Cold Case" on CBS (Saturday at 8:00 PM ET):
A young girl says she was contacted by a man who claims to be her father, so the cold case squad re-investigates the murder of a teenager killed on the night of her birth. Stars include Kathryn Morris as Lila Rush, Danny Pilo as Scotty Valens, John Finn as John Stillman, Jeremy Ratchford as Nick Vera, Thom Barry as Willl Jeffries and Tracy Thomas as Kat Miller.

4. "Without a Trace" on CBS (Sunday at 10:00 PM ET):
"Watch Over Me" - a social worker disappears after forcibly removing a child from her violent father and desperate mother. Stars Anthony LaPaglia as Jack Malone, Poppy Montgomery as Samantha Spade, Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Vivian Johnson, Enrique Murciano as Danny Taylor, Eric Close as Martin Fitzgerald, and Roselyn Sanchez as Elena Delgado.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Election 2008 Watch: New Contestants

Democratic Party Contestants: Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, whose "story from the heartland" may be overshadowed by his recent commutation of a second-degree murder sentence. He joins Senator Joseph Biden,who already said he will make a run for it and former Senator John Edwards. We hear too much speculation concerning Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and the inexperienced Senator Barack Obama but not enough from Senator Rusell Feingold who may or may not run.

Republican Party Contestants:

1. former Wisconsin Governor and United States Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, will launch an exploratory committee next year and decide by the spring, which should give him enough time to fence supermarkets' salad bars and farmland across the nation from the terrorists that, he publicly suggested, might poison our food supply.

2. Senator John McCain's is running to no one's surprise, given his visit to the Bob Jones University he distanced himself from in the last presidential election but he will have some trouble from Governor Mitt Romney, who has done everything he can to court the religious conservatives who vote in the primary while strenthening his centrist credentials by passing a healthcare bill through a Democratic legislature in Massachussetts. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, "America's mayor" will also launch an exploratory committee but the anti-abortion choice, anti-gay, pro-gun rights crowd couldn't live with a president who dresses in drag.Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich may run. Representative Duncan Huntere said he will run and former Representative and entertaining firebrandBob Dornan, unfortunately, might as well (hat tip to the conservatives at "The Corner" for providing the link).

A Parallel Study Group

The president's timing could not have been any worse. Mr. Bush should have conducted this policy review before these midterm elections and before he met with the bipartisan Iraq study group. Many will rightly view this as the president's attempt to marginalize any unfavorable recommendations proposed by Representative Lee H. Hamilton and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III.

Mr. Bush's expected denial of any such claims would have seemed more plausible had he decided against meeting the Baker/Hamilton study group or had he created this parallel study group before meeting Mr. Howard Baker and Mr. Hamilton.

The president should have launched this policy review commission two or three years ago and responded to its recommendations before he lost the voting public's confidence in this increasingly unpopular war. It's too late. He must either make the case for the war now or withdraw. No commission which the public believes is created to rubber stamp his strategy will further the cause in Iraq.

Mr. Abizaid's Words Hurt The President

General John P. Abizaid annoyed members from Iraqi war proponent and opponent alike today when he said we can neither withdraw from nor add to significant troop levels in Iraq. The US commander for the Iraq campaign said a 20,000 troop increase would strain the American army while a decrease would lead Iraq into further sectarian strife.

The general said the Americans may have to bolster their training teams but would have the Iraqis pacify their militias. General Abizaid dismissed the plan offered by Senator Joseph Biden and some foreign policy analysts, which calls for Iraq's partition into three relatively autonomous mini-states. General Abizaid noted such a division could invite Iraq's neighbors into a regional war as each of the three political factions vie for control over Iraq's oil reserves in the north and south.

His recommendation for no additional or removal of American troops is politically unsustainable. The American voting public, as indicated by their vote for a Democratic led Congress, does not believe we can win this war with the troops we have in Iraq. The majority have chosen withdrawal over Mr. Abizaid and President George W. Bush's "stay the course" plan.

Mr. Bush cannot sustain this voting public's commitment to the cause without a major shift in strategy. They ousted the president's supporters, - be they conservatives like Rick Santorum, Jim Talent, and George Allen - or moderates like Representatives Nany Johnson or Jim Leach. They all voted for the now unpopular war and were ousted.

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) would have us commit more troops to the war in Iraq but that alone would not be enough since they would have to fight a two front guerrilla war, one against the Sunni insurgents and one against Shi'ite militias. Additional forces may, however be enough to keep an agreed-to peace envisioned by Senator Joseph Biden or the modified one offered in my prior post.

General Abizaid offered the president's team nothing which it can fall back on. The general said we cannot leave and let the civil strife between the three major political factions vying for power intensify. The voting public clearly rejected that mantra when it was pushed by the president and his chief backers before last week's elections. General Abizaid also said we cannot bolster the American forces to the levels required to suppress Iraq's rival political factions.

The president clearly should not welcome General Abizaid's comments. If they did anything, the general's comments bolstered the support for Representative John P. Murtha's call for an immediate withdrawal. General Abizaid offered the voting public nothing but the "despair" he reportedly told Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) to avoid.

A Revised Iraqi Federation Plan

1. "The war will be over Iraq, over its dead body," - Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group as quoted in The Washington Post.

2. "All indications point to a current state of civil war and the disintegration of the Iraqi state," - Nawaf Obaid of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and advisor to the Saudi regime. (The Sunnis have the most to lose from a partition).

3. "To envision that you can divide Iraq into three parts is to envision ethnic cleansing on a massive scale, sectarian killing on a massive scale," - Prince Turki al-Faisal,'s Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States.

If the Bush administration or any future administration were to pull American forces out of Iraq, Prince Faisal's concerns will probably come to fruition. Ethnic cleaninsing will intensify, as the Sunnis battle Kurd and Shi'ite for oil-rich territory and Shi'ite battles Shi'ite for control ofor control over Shi'ite-run oil fields. NATO ally Turkey may invade northern Iraq to quash any Kurdish push for independence while the Iranians back Iraq'a Shi'ites against the Sunnis while backing Turkey's efforts to silence the Kurds.

But what if the president backed an American-led nenotiating effort with additional troops? These American-led forces would assist ethnic minorities within each region move to friendlier territory, patrol Iraq's borders and keep the peace by patrolling some agreed-upon demilitarized zones separating Iraq's three major political factions until a new, western-trained and multiethnic and forcibly ethnically integrated Iraqi police force will be ready to keep the peace.

Policing within the each region (aside from the agreed upon demilitarized zones) would otherwisebe be left to the militias and the Sunni insurgents who would be deputized.

To assuagd the Sunni Iraqis' fears, the political factions would relinquish control over Iraq's oil fields. Oil production could be nationalized with oversight and distribution (based upon a mutually agreed upon formula) left in the hands of a United Nations' sanctioned international body until trust in the government is restored.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

News Briefs That Did Not Make America's Headlines: North Korea Sanctions

While Japan's leaders bar luxury sales to North Korea, South Korea won't participate in the Proliferation Security Initiative that is designed to stop and search "suspicious" North Korean vessels for nuclear material and weapons. Prime Minister Roh Moo-hyun only looks for the sunshine. Too bad it blinds him from the reality - North Korea won't give up its nuclear weapons until forced to do so.

There is one glimmer of hope. Note this quote from State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack:

"Should South Korea see its way clear to at some point participate in PSI in a more formal manner, then we would welcome that,”

One can only hope that South Korea's leaders are at minimum, complying with the intiative's objective on an informal basis.

News Briefs That Did Not Make the America's Headlines: Middle East Developments

From Haaretz

"The new government has not been asked to recognize the Zionist enemy," - Ismail Radwan, a spokesperson for Hamas, claiming that the four powers now imposing economic sanctions on the Palestinian territories would reverse course so long as a new government including Hamas and Fatah is formed.

"Every time we are on the verge of an agreement, a group in Hamas arises and tries to undermine the agreements," - Maher Makdad, a spokesperson for Fatah who accuses some within Hamas of trying to scuttle a deal without exactly denying what Mr. Radwan said.

Arab leaders, not surprisingly, have promised to ignore the western powers' boycott and blamed the Russians, Europeans, Americans, and United Nations for its "failure" to "advance" the peace process and for siding with Israel. Israelis may seek to thwart these efforts to undermine the boycott by sealing the border between Egypt and the Palestinian territories.

The Arab leaders' offer a one-sided argument that leaves unmentioned (1) the Palestinian leaders' failure (under both, Chairman Yasser Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas) to deliver on their promise to deliver peace and (2) the return of an Israeli soldier Hamas militants took hostage in July.

Also in the news, and in need of watch:

1. Israelis say Hizbollah is violating Resolution 1701 which calls for their withdrawal from southern Lebanon and for Lebanon to secure its borders. UNIFIL won't confirm this accusation and in turn blames Israelis for violating a provision in Resolution 1701 banning fly-overs in Lebanon.

2. Lebanese moderates led by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora have signed onto a a United Nations plan establishing a tribunal that would investigate and try those suspected of killing the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hizbolah is threatening mass boycotts if it does not get effective veto power in Lebanon's cabinet.

Two Quotes - North Korea

One Tactic: Apply Mutually Assured Destruction Theory to North Korea

"Effective deterrence required three components: clarity, capability and credibility. Clarity meant bright lines and unacceptable consequences. Credibility was understood to be in the eye of the beholder. How credible was the threat to trade Boston for Berlin? Never 100 percent. ...

... the president can take a page from President John F. Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis. In 1962, as the Soviet Union was emplacing nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba, some worried that these weapons could be transferred to a young revolutionary named Fidel Castro. Kennedy issued an unambiguous warning to Nikita Khrushchev. "It shall be the policy of this nation," he announced, "to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union." Khrushchev knew that meant a nuclear war."
- Graham Allison, a former assistant Secretary of Defense under the Clinton administration and current director at Belfer Center of Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

2. Second Tactic: Force Kim's Henchmen into Poverty And Consequently Overthrow Him

"Most of its citizens scratch out a meager subsistence. Yet Kim and those around him enjoy a life of comfort, driving powerful foreign cars, drinking expensive imported whiskey, watching bootlegged DVDs and treating their ailments with the best Western medicines.

The hard currency needed to pay for these luxuries, as well as imports essential to the North's programs for weapons of mass destruction, is generated through a variety of illicit activities: counterfeiting U.S. and other currencies, manufacturing and exporting narcotics and phony name-brand cigarettes, and selling weapons from small arms to ballistic missiles to any customer with cash.

Choking off the flow of dollars to Pyongyang would do more than cramp Kim's lavish lifestyle; it would threaten his grip on power. Like other crime bosses, Kim rewards his underlings and ensures their loyalty by letting them share the loot. Kim's extended family, the top echelons of the Communist Party, and the upper ranks of the military and security services all benefit from this arrangement."
- Aaron L. Friedberg, a professor at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School and former Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs under Vice President Richard Cheney

My thought: We should opt for the second strategy for the time being. North Korea's nuclear test was on the whole a failure because given the size of the explosion, as was its launch of the Taepodong missile earlier this year. Since North Korea's threat is minimal at this point, we can defer to our regional allies and hold off on any plans for regime change. The Chinese, Japanese, and in particular, the South Koreans, have more to lose from North Korea's defiance at this point than we do.

The case for option one increases substantially as time goes by and North Korea's capacity to threaten us with nuclear weapons (and market profitability for selling their weapons increases once their nuclear technology improves) increases.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Last week, President George W. Bush forced Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld into retirement, winning him some measure of goodwill and points from mainstream media reporters who described Mr. Bush as a humbled president who gets it. He risked that goodwill, however, by having the lame-duck Republican Senate ratify Mr. Rumsfeld's replacement.

Today, the Democrats have returned the favor. The incoming Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-California) promised no impeachment hearings and a chance to forge a bipartisans solution to the war in Iraq but she risked that bipartisanship by supporing epresentative John P. Murtha's (D-PA) bid to become the next House Majority Leader. The current ranking member of the House Appropriations Sub-Committee on Defense has been by far the more outspoken of the two candidates (the other being Steven Hoyer) on the war in Iraq. Representative Murtha voted for the resolution authorizing us to go to war in 2002 and argued against a timetable for a troop withdrawal as late as November, 2005 when he reversed course and urged for an "immediate" troop "redeployment" out of Iraq.

The Congressman from Pennsylvania proposed a resolution calling for such a withdrawal without proposing a "redeployment" date but that went down in defeat.

Representative Steny H. Hoyer (D-Maryland), like Murtha, voted for the resolution authorizing the United States to go to war against Iraqa and like his chief competitor, expressed regret for that vote. He is, however, has not signed on to the an immediate withdrawal resolution.

Murtha's plan for an immediate troop withdrawal should disqualify him for the job of House Majority Leader. Mr. Murtha would have the American troops withdraw from Iraq, whether that leads to a Iraq's partition and regional war and/or a terrorist safe haven or not. His rise to the Majority Leader leadership post will also deprive those working for a bipartisan plan to win the war in Iraq of an important negotiating partner in the Democratic leadership.

Hoyer's selection as Majority Leader is preferred.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Closet Lie Hurts All

But many people are not as fortunate. They, and our society at large, miss out on the fullness of life that is tragically denied to so many because the rest of us don't want to deal fairly and fully with such a difficult and embarrassing subject. Families are torn apart, careers ruined, gifts and graces underutilized, and lives destroyed. Thus, ironically, the anguish that gays and lesbians suffer because of their rejection isn't visited just upon them, as horrible as that is. It affects us all. - Eamkou Roller in The Washington Post

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Critique of Foreign Policy Debate in the Senate

"What we have is a pseudo-debate on foreign policy. Even by the standards of past U.S. elections—and our campaigns have often been characterized by sloganeering rather than sober analysis (remember the “missile gap”?)—the absence of a serious national conversation is striking.

This is my problem. When Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean says, “The President’s freedom agenda has been replaced by the era of incompetence”—he doesn’t enlighten me as to whether the freedom agenda itself is flawed as a foreign policy strategy, or whether it is a good and sound approach that has just been poorly executed by Republicans. That’s a major difference—with major implications for the direction of U.S. policy—and it is not being discussed. Republicans may deserve to lose, but why should Democrats deserve to win?"
- Nikolas K. Gvosdev

Mr. Gvosdev's observation cannot be dismissed. You won't for example, find any Congressman or Senator challenge the president on his support for NATO expansion in the former Soviet Republics for instance, as done here.

We watched as the Senate voted on a resolution calling on the president to submit a timetable for a troop withdrawal without actually proposing one themselves. We watched as Democrat after Democrat said we need to "engage our allies" or "talk with the North Koreans without offering the parameters for those "talks" and "engagements." Talk with the North Koreans is nice but what do we talk about. What concessions are the senator willing to offer and what should enforcement mechanismss should we demand from North Korea in turn to ensure their compliance in upholding their part of the bargain? Has any Democrat offered a solution? Has any Republican suggested what we should do if the current policy of six-nation talks fails to win a nuclear-free Korean peninsula? No.

What of Iran? What do we in turn do if China and Russia refuse to go along with economic sanctions? What if these sanctions, with Chinese and Russian compliance finally obtained, do not work? To date I have heard from only one senator on this one - outgoing Senator Rick Santorum (one of those rare moments when he broke from the party line to offer a controversial theory, albeit a hawkish one many would not like).

And Iraq? Does anyone offer us viable alternative to the "stay the course" policy offered by the president and the "redeployment" option offered by Representative John Murtha and the others calling for a troop pullout or withdrawal? I have heard from only one - Senator Joseph Biden, who, along with Leslie Gelb, calls on Mr. Bush to pressure Iraq's political factions to negotiate for a loosely federated state.

Defining Victory in Iraq

With an argument as twisted as this (Tommy Frank's argument) writing it's no wonder Iraq is a mess.

If there was one quote I could give it would be on this page but I cannot remove one excerpt without providing the context. You just have to read it but here is his argument in a nutshell.

1. We are victorious if our primary objective is satisfied. There may be secondary objectives which are satisfied or not but victory requires the success of the objective that first led us into the war.

2. In Iraq and Afghanistan, that primary objectives were very simple. In Afghanistan it was the removal of a regime that provided terrorists with a safe haven. In Iraq it was the removal of a hostile regime.

3. In both cases, we succeeded. The Taliban was removed from Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein was removed in Iraq.

4. Now, the secondary objectives included (a) democratization (okay, I could see why this would be secondary) and (b)insuring there would be no relapse to the situation that first led us to to go to war (huh?)

How, in god's name is secondary objective b secondary when that was what led us to remove the Afghani and Iraqi regimes then in place? If the primary objective in Iraq is to remove a hostile regime so as to protect us from terrorist safe havens, how can the denial of future terrorist safe havens in those countries be any less important? And what if the success we have in achieving our primary objective leads to an even makes the conditions which caused us to go there in the first place even worse?

Mr. Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations offers a more logical framework from which to assess the situation in Iraq.

"The challenge here is not to avert civil war, however. Iraq is already in a civil war—and has been for a long time. It is too late for prevention. The real challenge now is termination. ...

... This means we need to shift from a strategy designed for classical counter-insurgency to one designed for terminating an ongoing civil war.
By contrast, the standard approach for terminating a communal civil war is to negotiate a power-sharing deal, then to enforce this deal with neutral peacekeepers drawn from outside. The state military cannot serve this purpose, certainly not alone. The whole problem in communal civil war is that the parties do not trust one another; a large, unchecked indigenous army will look to the minority like a threat to their survival. A power-sharing deal is just a scrap of paper if the real power—the military—could fall under the sway of communal rivals. Hence the need for outsiders: Without a reasonably neutral force to police a deal, no deal can be stable and the prospects for settlement are slim. ...

... Rather than Iraqi battalions trained or hours of electricity in Baghdad, the real measures of success and failure in Iraq are threefold. First, how close are the parties to achieving a power sharing deal and associated ceasefire? Second, how willing is the American public to accept a sustained peacekeeping role sufficient to police any deal the parties may reach? And third, how rapidly is the sectarian death toll rising?"