October 2006 Archives

October 30, 2006

Will Madrassa Slaughter Lead To Another Attempt To Kill Musharraf?

Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asian Times Online's Karachi-based Pakistan bureau chief, reported October 31, 2006, that "Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf (in photo at left) wanted to draw a line in the sand in his struggle for the spiritual soul of the country by early next month, ramming through parliament a controversial bill regarding women's rights that is seen as a move to purge Islamic laws from the constitution."

"Instead," Mr. Shahzad writes, "helicopter gunships raining death on a village in the remote Bajour agency tribal area on Monday morning [October 30, 2006] significantly escalated Musharraf's battle with militant Islamic forces fiercely opposed to any softening of the state's Islamic legislation." See "Another deadly blow for Pakistan."

He noted that, "A pre-dawn attack on a madrassa (Islamic seminary) in a village in the Bajour tribal district in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) claimed the lives of scores of people." The Christian Science Monitor called the attacks "a setback to border peace," while TIME magazine reported October 30, 2006, that Pakistan is bracing for a Backlash.

On that note, don't be surprised if another effort to assassinate or oust Mr. Musharraf in a coup occurs following this attack. See Mr. Shahzad's October 14, 2006, report headlined "Pakistan foils coup plot" for an analysis of the last attempt to oust the general.

Meanwhile, The News of Pakistan quotes "military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan" as saying "We had information that the madrassa was a militant training camp."  See "Up to 80 killed in Bajaur operation: Shaukat Sultan."

General Sultan added, according to The News: "We have not carried out a body count, but information we have received from certain local sources and intelligence sources suggests that there may be up to 80 dead." 

"He said that some foreign nationals were also killed in Bajaur operation but denied presence of Al Qaeda or Taliban elements among them," The News reported. Also see Pak Tribune.com's No Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants among the 80 dead: Sultan

The News said, "Muttahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) President Qazi Hussain Ahmed accused the United States (US) forces of bombing Zia-ul-Aloom Taleemul Quran Madrassa in Bajour Agency in which 80 people were killed."

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack was asked about the charge during his October 30, 2006. press briefing in Washington, DC:

QUESTION: On Pakistan. Do you have any -- what's the latest information on the air strikes that the embassy is getting maybe? And also, a leading Islamist figure is saying that the U.S. is responsible for this. He told a press conference that, apparently. So do you have any reaction to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen the press conference. We -- we're still going to get in contact with the Government of Pakistan to find out a little bit more about this action. So I don't have anything to offer you right now.

According to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), "Siraj-ul Haq, senior minister of North West Frontier Province and Haroon-ur Rashid, member of the National Assembly, resigned in protest against the attack." See "Pak minister, MP resign over religious school bombing." 

By the way, on October 10, 2006, Amir Mir, Correspondent for gulfnews.com, reported that "The Bush Administration asked Pakistan to expel more than 1,000 foreign students in 500 religious seminaries in line with General Musharraf's declaration in the aftermath of the 7/7 suicide attacks in London to oust all non-Pakistanis students from the Islamic schools." See "Madrassas still host 1,000 foreigners."

To see pictures of the death and destruction caused by the madrassa raid, see the BBC report headlined "In pictures: Madrassa air strike.

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The al-Maliki Spin

Back on October 26, 2006, the Bush Administration issued "Setting the Record Straight: Mainstream Media Reports Inaccurate; Distort Prime Minister Maliki's Press Conference."  

I didn't find this White House attempt to convince the public that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is pleased to tow the Bush Administration's line on Iraq that convincing. However, he did play along with the administration's attempt to save face. He went along with a  joint statement issued in Baghdad after he "contradicted Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad's assertion on Tuesday [October 24, 2006] that the al-Maliki government had already agreed to set timelines for curbing violence and solving Iraq's other problems." (The AP)

The statement said, "The government of Iraq is committed to a good and strong relationship with the U.S. government to work together toward a democratic, stable Iraq, and to confront the terrorist challenges in light of the strategic alliance between the two countries."

Here is U.S. President George W. Bush and Mr. al-Maliki's Joint Statement on Iraq issued October 28, 2006 after their video conference. The conference took place following "the fourth time in a week that al-Maliki challenged the U.S. handling of the war." See the Associated Press article "Aide: Iraqi leader playing on U.S. angst."

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Should Iraq's Nouri al-Maliki Watch His Back?

I agree with Just World News proprietor Helena Cobban's opinion that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has been defying the Bush Administration lately over face-saving directives issued to its caretaker government in Baghdad, should start worrying about his personal safety. See "Maliki pushes back; power shift in the relationship? Also see US, Iraq at odds over strategy, troop withdrawal and US says gulf with Iraqi leader making goals harder to reach.

Ms. Cobban noted in an October 28, 2006, post:

There have, of course, been many reports in the past month or so that the Bushites are getting so "tired" of Maliki, or are so "dissatisfied" with him for one reason or another, that they have fairly inelegantly been threatening him that they'd overthrow him in a coup if he didn't behave."

"Well, who'd do that? The Bushites and whose army?

For his part, Maliki now seems to be acting as if he finds such threats and reports inherently non-credible. And maybe at this point, he's right?"

On the other hand, if I were him I'd be very, very careful regarding all aspects of personal security in the days ahead.

A FEW RELATED LINKS

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad --- New Blaze, USA

U.S. envoy, Iraqi PM issue rare joint statement, cite need for timeline --- USA Today, Virginia, USA

 

Nouri al-Maliki is not 'America's man in Iraq', says Bush ---- US UnCut, USA

Nouri al-Maliki: The Wrong Man For The Job --- Decision '08, USA

I'm not America's man, says Iraqi PM --- Ireland Online, Ireland 

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Has "Pinocchio Syndrome" --- Spiderweb, USA 

Al-Maliki, Bush agree to expedite Baghdad's full control over Iraqi forces... --- International Herald Tribune, Paris

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Professor Juan Cole: 'I Don't Take Pleasure In Being Right About Iraq...'

Juan Cole (below), a University of Michigan professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History and proprietor of the influential Informed Comment blog, says he doesn't "take any pleasure in having been right about Iraq" when some of his most caustic critics were wrong. He writes in a highly recommended, October 30, 2006, article headlined "Goldberg and Jarvis Fold; And, The Real Meaning of 'Fools Rush In'":

I don't take any pleasure in having been right about Iraq when they were wrong, or that they are they now are admitting it. I wish we could have avoided so much bloodshed and horror in Iraq, for our own troops and for the Iraqis. But I knew they weren't right, three years ago.

Mr. Cole adds: "I wish the Bush administration had paid more attention to the costs of the war it planned in 2002, costs that I foresaw."

The Goldberg Mr. Cole refers to is columnist Jonah Goldberg, who writes at the National Review, and for other publications. See his October 19, 2006 column headlined "Jonah Goldberg: Iraq Was a Worthy Mistake."

Jarvis is Jeff Jarvis, proprietor of the media blog BuzzMachine. He has been one of Mr. Cole's most caustic critics. For his most recent views on the war, see his October 22, 2006, post headlined "The Iraq war and me."

Note: The photo above is taken from Mr. Cole's website.

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SIGIR's 537-Page Report On U.S. Spending And Waste In Iraq

This should come as no surprise. "The U.S. military does not have a full accounting for the 278,000 weapons "purchased to arm some 325,500 Iraqi Security Forces by December 2006," according to a report released  by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Reuters and other news outlets have reported. See "US can't account for some weapons for Iraqi army."

Many of the weapons are probably in the hands of the Iraqi resistance.

To read more on how taxpayer money is being spent and misused in Iraq, see SIGIR's 537-page report dated October 30, 2006. Here are the appendices.

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Did Failure to Heed Warning Lead To U.S. Soldier's Kidnapping In Iraq?

Ahmed Qais al-Taayie, the "U.S. soldier kidnapped last week in Baghdad was married" to Israa Abdul-Satar,26, a physics student "in her final year Baghdad’s al-Mustansariyah University," The Associated Press (AP) reported October 30, 2006. See "Missing U.S. soldier was secretly married to college student from Baghdad."

The AP said the solider, an Arabic translator with the U.S. occupation force in Iraq, was with his wife, Israa Abdul-Satar, "and her family when hooded gunmen dragged him out of a house" in "the central Baghdad’s Karadah district." They "bound his hands and threw him in the back seat of a white Mercedes, a woman who identified herself as his mother-in-law said today," the AP noted. See "US soldier kidnapped on family visit in Baghdad."

Published reports says U.S. forces took the soldier's wife to safety in the Green Zone, where U.S. occupation force leaders and Iraqi politicians live.

I'd say he took a big chance in the name of love. He will likely catch hell from the U.S. military if he is found alive. U.S. forces occupying or fighting in a country are forbidden to marry locals. One can see the security implications in permitting it.

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October 28, 2006

Mohammed, Sooner or Later, All Occupiers Go Home

Mohammed over at Iraq the Model asked in an October 26, 2006, post headlined "The Amara lesson:

What will happen if the MNF (Multinational Force) are withdrawn prematurely [from Iraq) before the job is done?

"Perhaps the lesson from the recent troubles in Amara when militias took over large parts of the city gives a clear answer and offers Iraqis and the allies a forecast of what the future holds for us should we make the wrong decisions.

The wrong decision was made on March 20, 2003, when the U.S. invaded Iraq. Many Americans were deceived into supporting the invasion. However, now that the extent of the deception and wrongness of the war is evident, many will not tolerate their sons and daughters dying year-after-year in Iraq.

And since all occupiers leave sooner of later, now is a good time for the U.S. to leave. So, whether Mohammed likes it or not, he and other Iraqis will be on their own and at the mercy of the forces from hell unleashed by Operation Iraqi Freedom. Iraqis had only one power to fear when Saddam Hussein was in power. Now, they don't know if they will be killed by Iraqi insurgents, militiamen, criminals, Al-Qaeda or the Americans. Regardless of who kills them, they're just as dead.

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Today In Iraq's War News For October 28, 2006

Today in Iraq's war news for October 28, 2006, is the usual grim stuff. It reminds me of war news from Vietnam during the late 1960s and early to mid 1970s.

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Healing Iraq: Baghdad Rife With Coup Rumors

The Healing Iraq blog reported October 28, 2006 that, "Baghdad is rife with the strangest rumors again chiefly as a result of the latest deployment of American troops around major Shi’ite districts in Baghdad, signaling a movement against Shi’ite militias.:

Zeyad, the proprietor of Healing Iraq, said, "The rumors also seem to have penetrated the concrete barriers of the Green Zone where anxious Iraqi governmental officials are whispering about an impending American “coup,” and according to some well-connected Iraqis inside the Green Zone, several officials have made travel arrangements."

To read more, please see "More 'Coup' Rumors in Baghdad." It's a fascinating analysis.

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Iraq and the November 7, 2006 Elections in the U.S.

The Toronto (Canada) Daily News reports that, "Iraq is an important issue for voters in November congressional elections in the USA." If you're interested, see "U.S. Voters Angry of Iraq War.

RELATED LINKS

Iraq bleeds away Bush support --- Sunday Business Post, Ireland 

US evangelical support for Iraq war slipping --- Reuters AlertNet, UK 

US Senate candidate says Iraq turnaround depends on Democratic Take Over in Congress --- International Herald Tribune, Paris

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October 27, 2006

Looking Back At President Bush's October 25 News Conference On Iraq

U.S. President George W. Bush, in photo below, still can't bring himself to admit that he was wrong to invade and occupy Iraq, which at the time of the March 20, 2003, invasion was a nation weakened by 12-years of devastating sanctions President George W. Bush discusses Iraq with reporters during a press conference in the East Room Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2006. "I will send more troops to Iraq if General Casey says, I need more troops in Iraq to achieve victory," said President Bush in response to a reporter's question about the troops serving in Iraq. White House photo by Paul Morseand absolutely no threat to the U.S. or U.S. interest in the Middle East.

The invasion resulted in the overthrow of then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. But Instead of receiving hugs-and-kisses from the majority of the Iraqi population for overthrowing him, as some U.S. officials foolishly expected, it created conditions for the emergence of lawlessness and a potent insurgency fueled by nationalism and a hatred for foreign invaders. The invasion is responsible for the presence of al-Qaeda in Iraq, something that didn't happen under Mr. Hussein. It has proven resilient and an attraction for Jihadists.

The war has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Iraqis, which does not resonate much in the U.S. But the deaths of over 2,800 U.S. soldiers, for reasons many Americans no longer accept, is resonating among a population disenchanted with a war they were tricked into supporting. See "Growing doubts in U.S. about military strategy." Sadly, the crippled, maimed, brain damaged and psychologically wounded for life are off the public radar.

Horrific events on the ground in Iraq and domestic political considerations have forced Mr. Bush to acknowledge that his current Iraqi strategy is not working, and that U.S. has to adapt to meet current conditions. The strongest admission to date occurred during his October 25, 2006, White House press conference. The admission was done for domestic political reasons. He is trying to ensure that he does not lose his majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate on election day, November 7, 2006. As of today, things don't look good for his party, the Republican.

 Finally, Mr. Bush seems determined to blame the Iraqi government for not being able to do what even the U.S. can do. That is crush the insurgency, end the civil war that Mr. Bush won't even admit exists, and provide peace and security of Iraqis.

Below is a White House transcript of Mr. Bush's October 25, 2006, press conference. The Diplomatic Times Review cannot guarantee that the transcript has not been altered.

MR. BUSH'S OPENING COMMENTS 

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. I'm going to spend a little more time on my opening comments than I usually do, but I'll save plenty of time for questions.

Over the past three years I have often addressed the American people to explain developments in Iraq. Some of these developments were encouraging, such as the capture of Saddam Hussein, the elections in which 12 million Iraqis defied the terrorists and voted for a free future, and the demise of the brutal terrorist [Abu Musab al-] Zarqawi. Other developments were not encouraging, such as the bombing of the U.N. Headquarters in Baghdad [on August 19, 2003], the fact that we did not find stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and the continued loss of some of America's finest sons and daughters.

 Recently, American and Iraqi forces have launched some of the most aggressive operations on enemy forces in Baghdad since the war began. They've cleared neighborhoods of terrorists and death squads, and uncovered large caches of weapons, including sniper scopes and mortars and powerful bombs. There has been heavy fighting. Many enemy fighters have been killed or captured, and we've suffered casualties of our own. This month we've lost 93 American service members in Iraq, the most since October of 2005. During roughly the same period, more than 300 Iraqi security personnel have given their lives in battle. Iraqi civilians have suffered unspeakable violence at the hands of the terrorists, insurgents, illegal militias, armed groups, and criminals.

SECURITY AT HOME DEPENDS ON ENSURING IRAQ IS AN ALLY...

The events of the past month have been a serious concern to me, and a serious concern to the American people. Today I will explain how we're adapting our tactics to help the Iraqi government gain control of the security situation. I'll also explain why, despite the difficulties and bloodshed, it remains critical that America defeat the enemy in Iraq by helping the Iraqis build a free nation that can sustain itself and defend itself.

Our security at home depends on ensuring that Iraq is an ally in the war on terror and does not become a terrorist haven like Afghanistan under the Taliban. The enemy we face in Iraq has evolved over the past three years. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, a sophisticated and a violent insurgency took root. Early on this insurgency was made up of remnants of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, as well as criminals released by the regime. The insurgency was fueled by al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists, who focused most of their attention on high-profile attacks against coalition forces and international institutions.

KEY LESSONS FROM THE WAR

We learned some key lessons from that early phase in the war. We saw how quickly al Qaeda and other extremist groups would come to Iraq to fight and try to drive us out. We overestimated the capability of the civil service in Iraq to continue to provide essential services to the Iraqi people. We did not expect the Iraqi army, including the Republican Guard, to melt away in the way that it did in the phase of advancing coalition forces.

 Despite these early setbacks, some very important progress was made, in the midst of an incredibly violent period. Iraqis formed an interim government that assumed sovereignty. The Iraqi people elected a transitional government, drafted and adopted the most progressive democratic constitution in the Arab world, braved the car bombs and assassins to choose a permanent government under that constitution, and slowly began to build a capable national army.

Al Qaeda and insurgents were unable to stop this progress. They tried to stand up to our forces in places like Fallujah, and they were routed. So they changed their tactics. In an intercepted letter to Osama bin Laden, the terrorist Zarqawi laid out his strategy to drag Iraq's Shia population into a sectarian war. To the credit of the Shia population, they resisted responding to the horrific violence against them for a long time.

Yet the persistent attacks, particularly last February's bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of Shia Islam's most holy shrines, eventually resulted in sectarian reprisals. The cycle of violence, in which al Qaeda insurgents attacked Shia civilians and Shia death squads retaliated against Sunnis, has sharply increased in recent months, particularly in Baghdad.

SHIFTING TACTICS

As the enemy shifts tactics, we are shifting our tactics, as well. Americans have no intention of taking sides in a sectarian struggle or standing in the crossfire between rival factions. Our mission is to help the elected government in Iraq defeat common enemies, to bring peace and stability to Iraq, and make our nation more secure. Our goals are unchanging. We are flexible in our methods to achieving those goals.

On the military side, our commanders on the ground are constantly adjusting our tactics to stay ahead of our enemies. We are refining our training strategy for the Iraqi security forces so we can help more of those forces take the lead in the fight, and provide them better equipment and fire power to be successful. We've increased the number of coalition advisors in the Iraqi Ministries of Defense and Interior so they can better plan and execute security operations against the enemy.

We have changed our force structure so we can better respond to the conditions on the ground. For example, during the Iraqi elections, we increased our force levels to more than 150,000 troops to ensure people could vote. Most recently, we have moved additional coalition and Iraqi forces into Baghdad so they can help secure the city and reduce sectarian violence.

 After some initial successes, our operations to secure Baghdad have encountered greater resistance. Some of the Iraqi security forces have performed below expectations. Many have performed well and are fighting bravely in some of Baghdad's toughest neighborhoods. Once again, American troops are performing superbly under very difficult conditions. Together, with the Iraqis, they've conducted hundreds of missions throughout Baghdad. They've rounded up or killed key insurgents and death squad leaders.

As we fight this enemy, we're working with the Iraqi government to perform the performance -- to improve the performance of their security forces, so they can regain control of the nation's capital, and eventually resume primary responsibility for their country's security.

A MILITARY SOLUTION WON'T STOP VIOLENCE IN IRAQ

A military solution alone will not stop violence. In the end, the Iraqi people and their government will have to make the difficult decisions necessary to solve these problems. So, in addition to refining our military tactics to defeat the enemy, we're also working to help the Iraqi government achieve a political solution that brings together Shia and Sunnis and Kurds and other ethnic and religious groups.

Yesterday, our Ambassador to Iraq, Zal Khalilzad laid out a three-step approach. First, we're working with political and religious leaders across Iraq, urging them to take steps to restrain their followers and stop sectarian violence.

Second, we're helping Iraqi leaders to complete work on a national compact to resolve the most difficult issues dividing their country. The new Iraqi government has condemned violence from all quarters and agreed to a schedule for resolving issues, such as disarming illegal militias and death squads, sharing oil revenues, amending the Iraqi constitution, and reforming the de-Baathification process.

REACH OUT TO ARAB STATES

Third, we're reaching out to Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan, and asking them to support the Iraqi government's efforts to persuade Sunni insurgents to lay down their arms and accept national reconciliation. The international community is also supporting the international compact that outlines the support that will be provided to Iraq as it moves forward with its own program of reform.

These are difficult tasks for any government. It is important for Americans to recognize that Prime Minister Maliki's unity government has been in office for just over five months. Think about that. This young government has to solve a host of problems created by decades of tyrannical rule. And they have to do it in the midst of raging conflict, against extremists from outside and inside the country who are doing everything they can to stop this government from succeeding.

We're pressing Iraq's leaders to take bold measures to save their country. We're making it clear that America's patient [sic] is not unlimited. Yet we also understand the difficult challenges Iraq's leaders face, and we will not put more pressure on the Iraqi government than it can bear. The way to succeed in Iraq is to help Iraq's government grow in strength and assume more control over its country as quickly as possible.

THE AMERICAN PEOPLE UNDERSTAND STAKES IN IRAQ

I know the American people understand the stakes in Iraq. They want to win. They will support the war as long as they see a path to victory. Americans can have confidence that we will prevail because thousands of smart, dedicated military and civilian personnel are risking their lives and are working around the clock to ensure our success. A distinguished independent panel of Republicans and Democrats, led by former Secretary of State Jim Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, is taking a fresh look at the situation in Iraq and will make recommendations to help achieve our goals. I welcome all these efforts. My administration will carefully consider any proposal that will help us achieve victory.

It's my responsibility to provide the American people with a candid assessment on the way forward. There is tough fighting ahead. The road to victory will not be easy. We should not expect a simple solution. The fact that the fighting is tough does not mean our efforts in Iraq are not worth it. To the contrary; the consequences in Iraq will have a decisive impact on the security of our country, because defeating the terrorists in Iraq is essential to turning back the cause of extremism in the Middle East. If we do not defeat the terrorists or extremists in Iraq, they will gain access to vast oil reserves, and use Iraq as a base to overthrow moderate governments across the broader Middle East. They will launch new attacks on America from this new safe haven. They will pursue their goal of a radical Islamic empire that stretches from Spain to Indonesia.

MANY AMERICANS NOT SATISFIED

I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq. I'm not satisfied, either. And that is why we're taking new steps to help secure Baghdad, and constantly adjusting our tactics across the country to meet the changing threat. But we cannot allow our dissatisfaction to turn into disillusionment about our purpose in this war. We must not look at every success of the enemy as a mistake on our part, cause for an investigation, or a reason to call for our troops to come home. We must not fall prey to the sophisticated propaganda by the enemy, who is trying to undermine our confidence and make us believe that our presence in Iraq is the cause of all its problems

If I did not think our mission in Iraq was vital to America's security, I'd bring our troops home tomorrow. I met too many wives and husbands who have lost their partners in life, too many children who won't ever see their mom and dad again. I owe it to them and to the families who still have loved ones in harm's way to ensure that their sacrifices are not in vain.

Our country has faced adversity before during times of war. In past wars, we've lost young Americans who gave everything to protect our freedom and way of life. In this war, we've lost good men and women who've given their lives for a cause that is necessary and it is just. We mourn every loss, and we must gird ourselves for the sacrifices that are yet to come. America's men and women in uniform are the finest in the world. I'm awed by their strength and their character. As General Casey reported yesterday in Iraq, "the men and women of the Armed Forces... have never lost a battle in over three years in the war." Every American can take pride in our troops, and the vital work they are doing to protect us.

A WAR TO SET COURSE FOR NEW CENTURY

Our troops are fighting a war that will set the course for this new century. The outcome will determine the destiny of millions across the world. Defeating the terrorists and extremists is the challenge of our time and the calling of this generation. I'm confident this generation will answer that call and defeat an ideology that is bent on destroying America and all that we stand for.

And now I'll be glad to answer some of your questions. Terry.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS AT WHITE HOUSE PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Mr. President, the war in Iraq has lasted almost as long as World War II for the United States. And as you mentioned, October was the deadliest month for American forces this year -- in a year. Do you think we're winning, and why?

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, this is a different kind of war than a war against the fascists in World War II. We were facing a nation state -- two nation states -- three nation states in World War II. We were able to find an enemy by locating its ships, or aircraft, or soldiers on the ground. This is a war against extremists and radicals who kill innocent people to achieve political objectives. It has a multiple of fronts.

Afghanistan was a front in this war against the terrorists. Iraq is now the central front in the war against the terrorists. This war is more than just finding people and bringing them to justice; this war is an ideological conflict between a radical ideology that can't stand freedom, and moderate, reasonable people that hope to live in a peaceful society.

And so it's going to take a long time, Terry. I am confident we will succeed. I am confident we'll succeed in Iraq. And the reason I'm confident we'll succeed in Iraq is because the Iraqis want to succeed in Iraq. The ultimate victory in Iraq, which is a government that can sustain itself, govern itself, and defend itself, depends upon the Iraqi citizens and the Iraqi government doing the hard work necessary to protect their country. And our job is to help them achieve that objective. As a matter of fact, my view is the only way we lose in Iraq is if we leave before the job is done.

And I'm confident we can succeed in the broader war on terror, this ideological conflict. I'm confident because I believe the power of liberty will defeat the ideology of hate every time, if given a chance. I believe that the radicals represent the few in the Middle East. I believe the majority of people want to live in a peaceful world. That's what I believe.

And I know it's incumbent upon our government and others who enjoy the blessings of liberty to help those moderates succeed because, otherwise, we're looking at the potential of this kind of world: a world in which radical forms of Islam compete for power; a world in which moderate governments get toppled by people willing to murder the innocent; a world in which oil reserves are controlled by radicals in order to extract blackmail from the West; a world in which Iran has a nuclear weapon. And if that were to occur, people would look back at this day and age and say, what happened to those people in 2006? How come they couldn't see the threat to a future generation of people?

Defeat will only come if the United States becomes isolationist and refuses to, one, protect ourselves, and, two, help those who desire to become -- to live in a moderate, peaceful world. And it's a hard struggle, no question about it. And it's a different struggle.

Q: Are we winning?

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely, we're winning. Al Qaeda is on the run. As a matter of fact, the mastermind, or the people who they think is the mastermind of the September the 11th attacks is in our custody. We've now got a procedure for this person to go on trial, to be held for his account. Most of al Qaeda that planned the attacks on September the 11th have been brought to justice.

Extremists have now played their hand; the world can clearly see their ambitions. You know, when a Palestinian state began to show progress, extremists attacked Israel to stop the advance of a Palestinian state. They can't stand democracies. Extremists and radicals want to undermine fragile democracy because it's a defeat for their way of life, their ideology.

People now understand the stakes. We're winning, and we will win, unless we leave before the job is done. And the crucial battle right now is Iraq. And as I said in my statement, I understand how tough it is, really tough. It's tough for a reason; because people understand the stakes of success in Iraq. And my point to the American people is, is that we're constantly adjusting our tactics to achieve victory.

Steve.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Are you considering sending more U.S. troops to Iraq? What would be the justification for it? And how reliable is this new timetable of 12 to 18 months?

THE PRESIDENT: I will send more troops to Iraq if General Casey says, I need more troops in Iraq to achieve victory. And that's the way I've been running this war. I have great faith in General Casey. I have great faith in Ambassador Khalilzad. I trust our commanders on the ground to give the best advice about how to achieve victory. I want to remind you, victory is a government that can sustain itself, govern itself -- a country that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself, and serves as an ally in the war on terror -- which stands in stark contrast to a government that would be chaotic, that would be a safe haven for the enemy to launch attacks on us.

One way for the American people to understand what Iraq could look like is what Afghanistan looked like under the Taliban, a place where there was no freedom; a place where women were taken to the public square and beaten if they did not adhere to the strict, intolerant guidelines of the Taliban; a place where thousands trained to attack America and our allies. Afghanistan doesn't have nearly the resources that Iraq has. Imagine a safe haven for an enemy that ended up with the resources that it had.

It is -- and so this is a war where I say to our generals, do you have what it takes to win. Now, General Casey talked about part of our strategy, and part of the strategy is to give the Iraq government the tools necessary to protect itself, to defend itself. If you're able to defend yourself, you're more likely to be able to govern yourself, as well. But politics -- the political way forward and the military way forward must go hand in hand.

And what the General was saying yesterday is that there is a three-step process to enable the Iraqi forces to be able to help this government bring security. One was to train and equip. The goal is 325,000 troops; 137,000 military and the balance, police.

Second was to put the Iraqi security forces in the lead. Six of ten divisions now are in the lead in helping this government defend itself. The strategy has been to embed U.S. personnel, officers and non-com officers, into these forces to help them gain the confidence and the capacity to be effective when they're in the lead.

And the third step is for the Iraqi security forces to be able to operate independently. And this, perhaps, is going to be one of the most difficult aspects of having the Iraqis ready to go, because that means they have to be able to drive themselves, maintain their vehicles, provide logistics, have combat service support. And that's what General Casey was describing.

The key is that our commanders feel that there -- they have got enough flexibility to design the program to meet the conditions on the ground. You know, last spring, I thought for a period of time we'd be able to reduce our troop presence early next year. That's what I felt. But because we didn't have a fixed timetable, and because General Casey and General Abizaid and the other generals there understand that the way we're running this war is to give them flexibility, have the confidence necessary to come and make the right recommendations here in Washington, D.C., they decided that that wasn't going to happen. And so what he was describing to you was the way forward to make sure that the Iraqis are fully prepared to defend themselves.

Q: What about the 12 to 18 month estimate?

THE PRESIDENT: It's a condition, a base estimate. And that's important for the American people to know. This notion about, you know, fixed timetable of withdrawal, in my judgment, is a -- means defeat. You can't leave until the job is done. Our mission is to get the job done as quickly as possible.

Let's see here -- David.

Q: Mr. President, for several years you have been saying that America will stay the course in Iraq; you were committed to the policy. And now you say that, no, you're not saying, stay the course, that you're adapting to win, that you're showing flexibility. And as you mentioned, out of Baghdad we're now hearing about benchmarks and timetables from the Iraqi government, as relayed by American officials, to stop the sectarian violence.

In the past, Democrats and other critics of the war who talked about benchmarks and timetables were labeled as defeatists, defeat-o-crats, or people who wanted to cut and run. So why shouldn't the American people conclude that this is nothing from you other than semantic, rhetorical games and all politics two weeks before an election?

THE PRESIDENT: David, there is a significant difference between benchmarks for a government to achieve and a timetable for withdrawal. You're talking about -- when you're talking about the benchmarks, he's talking about the fact that we're working with the Iraqi government to have certain benchmarks to meet as a way to determine whether or not they're making the hard decisions necessary to achieve peace. I believe that's what you're referring to. And we're working with the Iraqi government to come up with benchmarks.

Listen, this is a sovereign government. It was elected by the people of Iraq. What we're asking them to do is to say, when do you think you're going to get this done, when can you get this done, so the people themselves in Iraq can see that the government is moving forward with a reconciliation plan and plans necessary to unify this government.

That is substantially different, David, from people saying, we want a time certain to get out of Iraq. As a matter of fact, the benchmarks will make it more likely we win. Withdrawing on an artificial timetable means we lose.

Now, I'm giving the speech -- you're asking me why I'm giving this speech today -- because there's -- I think I owe an explanation to the American people, and will continue to make explanations. The people need to know that we have a plan for victory. Like I said in my opening comments, I fully understand if the people think we don't have a plan for victory, they're not going to support the effort. And so I'll continue to speak out about our way forward.

Jessica.

Q: Sir, you've called Iran part of the "axis of evil" and Syria a "state sponsor of terrorism." You said earlier today that your administration will consider any proposal that will help us achieve victory. So I'm wondering, if it's determined that Iran and Syria could help you achieve victory in Iraq, would you be willing to work with them?

THE PRESIDENT: Iran and Syria understand full well that the world expects them to help Iraq. We've made that very clear to them.

Let me talk about the Iranian issue. We've got a lot of issues with Iran. First is whether or not they will help this young democracy succeed. The second issue, of course, is whether or not they will help the Lebanese democracy succeed -- the Siniora government, which is -- a priority of this government is to help that Siniora government. The big issue right now is whether or not Iran will end up with a nuclear weapon. And so our issues with Iran are many. And our position is very clear to the Iranians: There is a better way forward for the government and the people than to be isolated.

And we will continue to work to make it clear to the Iranian government that all three accounts and the sponsor of terrorists will cause more isolation. We've got a very active diplomatic effort taking place. The Iranians know our position on Iraq, and they know it clearly. More importantly, they know the Iraqis' position relative to Iran. We're helping a sovereign government succeed. And the Iraqis have sent messages to the Iranians: To help us succeed, don't interfere in the internal affairs.

As to Syria, our message to Syria is consistent: Do not undermine the Siniora government in Lebanon; help us get back the -- help Israel get back the prisoner that was captured by Hamas; don't allow Hamas and Hezbollah to plot attacks against democracies in the Middle East; help inside of Iraq. They know our position, as well, Jessica.

Q: May I just follow? James Baker has, himself, said that he believes the U.S. should work with Iran. So would you be willing to work with Iran in a way that allows some sort of negotiations in Iraq, even if they don't come to the table in the P-3 and P-5 negotiations?

THE PRESIDENT: Jessica, Iran has a chance to come to the table with the United States to discuss a variety of issues. And the way forward is one that I had made clear at previous press conferences, and that is, if they would verifiably stop their enrichment, the United States will be at the table with them. In the meantime, they understand our position, and they understand, more importantly, the Iraqi position about their interference inside their country.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Prime Minister Maliki apparently gave his own news conference this morning, where he seemed to be referring to Ambassador Khalilzad and General Casey yesterday, when he said, nobody has the right to set any timetables in Iraq -- and also, seemed to be upset about the raid in Sadr City, saying he wasn't consulted. And I believe the quote was, "It will not be repeated." Do you still have full, complete and total confidence in Prime Minister Maliki as a partner in Iraq? And what can you tell the American people about his ability to rein in the militias since he seems to derive much of his power from them?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. First, this is back to the question that David asked about benchmarks. You called it "timetables."

Q: He did, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, he called it "timetables," excuse me. I think he was referring to the benchmarks that we're developing that show a way forward to the Iraqi people, and the American people for that matter, about how this unity government is going to solve problems and bring the people together. And if his point is, is that those benchmarks, or the way forward can't be imposed upon Iraq by an outside force, he's right. This is a sovereign government. But we're working closely with the government to be able to say, here's what's going to happen then, here's what we expect to happen now, here's what should be expected in the future.

Second part of your question?

Q: I was wondering, first of all, he seemed to be pushing back with --

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, on the sectarian -- on the militias. I heard that, and I asked to see his complete transcript of this press conference, where he made it very clear that militias harm the stability of his country. Militias -- people out -- who operate outside the law will be dealt with. That's what the Prime Minister said in his press conference. The idea that we need to coordinate with him is a -- makes sense to me. And there's a lot of operations taking place, which means that sometimes communications may not be as good as they should be. And we'll continue to work very closely with the government to make sure that the communications are solid.

I do believe Prime Minister Maliki is the right man to achieve the goal in Iraq. He's got a hard job. He's been there for five months, a little over five months, and there's a lot of pressure on him, pressure from inside his country. He's got to deal with sectarian violence; he's got to deal with criminals; he's got to deal with al Qaeda -- all of whom are lethal. These are people that will kill. And he wants to achieve the same objective I want to achieve, and he's making tough decisions.

I'm impressed, for example, by the way he has got religious leaders, both Sunni and Shia, to start working together. I appreciate the fact that he has made a very clear statement on militias. And, by the way, death squad members are being brought to justice in this -- during these operations in Baghdad.

I speak to him quite frequently, and I remind him we're with him, so long as he continues to make tough decisions. That's what we expect. We expect that the Iraqi government will make the hard decisions necessary to unite the country and listen to the will of the 12 million people.

Let's see here. Yes, sir, Bret.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. North Korean leaders apparently today warned South Korea against joining international sanctions, saying South Korea would pay a high price if they did so. Are you still confident that South Korea and China will implement the full force of the U.N.-passed sanctions? And what happens if North Korea continues to thumb its nose at the world?

THE PRESIDENT: I believe that -- first of all, I've been briefed on this subject recently by the Secretary of State, who just came back from the Far East. She met with the Japanese, the South Koreans, the Chinese and the Russians. Her report is that all countries understand we must work closely together to solve this problem peacefully. And that means adhering to the latest United Nations Security Council resolution that was passed.

The leader of North Korea likes to threaten. In my judgment, what he's doing is just testing the will of the five countries that are working together to convince him there is a better way forward for his people. I don't know the exact words he used, but he is -- this is not the first time that he's issued threats. And our goal is to continue to remind our partners that when we work together, we're more likely to be able to achieve the objective, which is to solve this problem diplomatically. And so I would report to you the coalition remains firm, and we will continue to work to see to it that it does remain firm.

Baker.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for taking questions today.

THE PRESIDENT: What was that?

Q: Thank you for taking questions today.

THE PRESIDENT: Baker, I'm just happy to be able to do so, brother. (Laughter.) I can't tell you how joyful it is. (Laughter.)

Q: When you first ran for President, sir, you talked about the importance of accountability. We learned from Bob Woodward's recent book that Secretary Card, on two occasions, suggested that you replace Secretary Rumsfeld, and both times you said, no. Given that the war in Iraq is not going as well as you want, and given that you're not satisfied as you just told us today, why hasn't anybody been held accountable? Should somebody be held accountable?

THE PRESIDENT: Peter, you're asking me why I believe Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a good job, I think, if I might decipher through the Washington code.

Q: -- or someone else --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let's start with Rumsfeld, Secretary Rumsfeld. I've asked him to do some difficult tasks as the Secretary of Defense -- one, wage war in two different theaters of this war on terror, Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the same time, asked him to transform our military posture around the world and our military readiness here at home. In other words, the transformation effort into itself is a big project for any Secretary to handle. But to compound the job he has, he's got to do that and, at the same time, wage war. And I'm satisfied of how he's done all his jobs.

He is a smart, tough, capable administrator. As importantly, he understands that the best way to fight this war, whether it be in Iraq or anywhere else around the world, is to make sure our troops are ready, that morale is high, that we transform the nature of our military to meet the threats, and that we give our commanders on the ground the flexibility necessary to make the tactical changes to achieve victory.

This is a tough war in Iraq. I mean, it's a hard fight, no question about it. All you've got to do is turn on your TV. But I believe that the military strategy we have is going to work. That's what I believe, Peter. And so we've made changes throughout the war, we'll continue to make changes throughout the war. But the important thing is whether or not we have the right strategy and the tactics necessary to achieve that goal. And I believe we do.

Dick.

Q: And from the --

THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute, let me say -- the ultimate accountability, Peter, rests with me. That's the ultimate -- you're asking about accountability, that's -- rests right here. It's what the 2004 campaign was about. If people want to -- if people are unhappy about it, look right to the President. I believe our generals are doing the job I asked them to do. They're competent, smart, capable men and women. And this country owes them a lot of gratitude and support.

Yes, now Dick, sorry.

Q: Mr. President --

THE PRESIDENT: It was a clever little follow-up you slipped in there. Sorry, Gregory. I mean, look -- Gregory is still mad he didn't get the follow-up, but it's okay.

Q: You've said, Mr. President, several times here this morning that the definition of failure in Iraq would be to leave before the job was done. But you also said that you have no intention of seeing our troops standing in the crossfire of a sectarian war within that country. With many observers on the ground saying that civil war in Iraq is as close as it's ever been, how do you reconcile those two statements? And what happens if a full-fledged civil war breaks out?

THE PRESIDENT: Dick, our job is to prevent the full-scale civil war from happening in the first place. It's one of the missions, is to work with the Maliki government to make sure that there is a political way forward that says to the people of Iraq, it's not worth it. Civil war is not worth the effort -- by them. That's the whole objective, is to help this government be able to defend itself and sustain itself, so that the 12 million people that voted -- they didn't vote for civil war, they voted to live under a constitution that was passed. And so we will work to prevent that from happening. I --

Q: What about --

THE PRESIDENT: Let me finish. I view that this is a struggle between radicals and extremists who are trying to prevent there to be a democracy, for a variety of reasons. And it's in our interest that the forces of moderation prevail in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. A defeat there -- in other words, if we were to withdraw before the job is done, it would embolden extremists. They would say, you know, we were right about America in the first place, that America did not have the will necessary to do the hard work. That's precisely what Osama bin Laden has said, for example. A defeat there would make it easier for people to be able to recruit extremists and kids, to be able to use their tactics to destroy innocent life. A defeat there would dispirit people throughout the Middle East who wonder whether America is genuine in our commitment to moderation and democracy.

And I told you what the scenario, Dick, could look like, 20 or 30 years from now, if we leave before the job is done. It's a serious business. And that's why I say it's the call of this generation. And I understand how tough it is, see, but I also said in my remarks, just because the enemy has been able to make some progress doesn't mean we should leave. Quite the contrary; we ought to do everything we can to help prevent them from making progress. And that is what our strategy is.

Elaine.

Q: What if there is a civil war?

THE PRESIDENT: You're asking me hypotheticals. Our job is to make sure there's not one, see. You been around here five-and-a-half years, you know I won't answer hypotheticals. Occasionally slip up, but --

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. You talk about the U.S. government and the Iraqi government working closely together on benchmarks. I'm wondering, sir, why was Prime Minister Maliki not at the news conference yesterday with General Casey and Ambassador Khalilzad? Would that not have sent a strong message about there being a very close level of cooperation between the two governments?

THE PRESIDENT: Elaine, I have no idea why he wasn't there.

Q: Was he invited, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: I have no idea. I'm not the scheduler of news conferences. I do know they work very closely together, and they've got a very close working relationship, and that's important.

Q: May I ask you, sir, following up, when you say that you're not satisfied with the way things are going in Iraq, why should that not be interpreted by some to mean that you are dissatisfied with Prime Minister Maliki's performance?

THE PRESIDENT: Because I know Prime Minister Maliki, I know how hard his job is, and I understand that he is working to make the decisions necessary to bring this country together. And he's -- look, we'll push him, but we're not going to push him to the point where he can't achieve the objective. And we'll continue to work with him. He represents a government formed by the people of Iraq. It's a -- and he's got a tough job. I mean, think about what his job is like. He's got to deal with political factions. He's got to deal with the hatred that is left over from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.

There's a lot of people still furious about what happened to them during Saddam Hussein's period. You can imagine that. What happens if your brother or sister had been assassinated by Saddam Hussein and his political party? You'd be -- you wouldn't be happy about it. Reconciliation is difficult in a society that had been divided and tortured by a tyrant.

And Prime Minister Maliki has got the difficult job of reconciling these grievances, and different political parties on top of that, plus dealing with violence. I've talked to him a lot. I like his spirit, I like his attitude. He's confident we can achieve the mission. He's not -- he's realistic about how difficult it is in Iraq.

It's in our government's interest that we help him succeed because he wants a unified country. And I believe we will succeed. I know we're not going to succeed, however, if we set artificial timetables for withdrawal, or we get out of there, or we say to the enemy, just keep fighting, we'll leave soon. That's not going to work. What will work is a strategy that's constantly -- tactics that constantly change to meet the enemy. And that's what I was describing in my speech, we're constantly adjusting. As the enemy changes, we change. War is not a -- this war, and other wars, they're not static. They're dynamic events. And we must adjust to meet those events, and we are.

Jim.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Does the United States want to maintain permanent bases in Iraq? And I would follow that by asking, are you willing to renounce a claim on permanent bases in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: Jim, any decisions about permanency in Iraq will be made by the Iraqi government. And, frankly, it's not in much of a position to be thinking about what the world is going to look like five or 10 years from now. They are working to make sure that we succeed in the short-term. And they need our help. And that's where our focus is.

But remember, when you're talking about bases and troops, we're dealing with a sovereign government. Now, we entered into an agreement with the Karzai government. They weren't called permanent bases, but they were called arrangements that will help this government understand that there will be a U.S. presence so long as they want them there. And at the appropriate time, I'm confident we'll be willing to sit down and discuss the long-term security of Iraq. But right now we're discussing how to bring security to Baghdad, and what do we do in al Anbar province, where al Qaeda still uses violent methods to achieve political objectives.

You know, it's interesting, if you -- I'm sure people who watch your TV screens think the entire country is embroiled in sectarian conflict and that there's constant killing everywhere in Iraq. Well, if you listened to General Casey yesterday, 90 percent of the action takes place in five of the 18 provinces. And around Baghdad, it's limited to a 30-mile area. And the reason I bring that up is that while it seems to our American citizens that nothing normal is taking place -- and I can understand why, it's a brutal environment there, particularly that which is on our TV screens -- that there is farmers farming, there are small businesses growing, there's a currency that's relatively stable, there's an entrepreneurial class, there's commerce. General Abizaid was describing to me what it was like to go to Baghdad markets.

There's a lot of work to be done, don't get me wrong, but it is -- there are people living relatively normal lives who I believe -- strongly believe that they want to continue that normalcy, and it's up to Prime Minister Maliki to do everything he can to make the situation as secure as possible.

Ann. Sorry, Rutenberg, you're through.

Q: Thank you, sir. Is the coming election a referendum on Iraq? Should it be?

THE PRESIDENT: I think the coming election is a referendum on these two things: which party has got the plan that will enable our economy continue -- to continue to grow, and which party has a plan to protect the American people. And Iraq is part of the security of the United States. If we succeed -- and when we succeed in Iraq, our country will be more secure. If we don't succeed in Iraq, the country is less secure.

The security of this country -- and look, I understand here in Washington, some people say we're not at war. I know that. They're just wrong in my opinion.

The enemy still wants to strike us. The enemy still wants to achieve safe haven from which to plot and plan. The enemy would like to have weapons of mass destruction in order to attack us. These are lethal, cold-blooded killers. And we must do everything we can to protect the American people, including questioning detainees, or listening to their phone calls from outside the country to inside the country. And there was -- as you know, there was some recent votes on that issue. And the Democrats voted against giving our professionals the skill -- the tools necessary to protect the American people.

I will repeat, like I've said to you often, I do not question their patriotism; I question whether or not they understand how dangerous this world is. And this is a big issue in the campaign. Security of the country is an issue, just like taxes are an issue. If you raise taxes, it will hurt the economy. If you don't extend the tax cuts, if you don't make them -- in other words, if you let the tax cuts expire, it will be a tax increase on the American people.

Take the child tax credit; if it is not made permanent, in other words, if it expires, and you got a family of four sitting around the breakfast table, the taxpayers can be sure that their taxes will go up by $2,000 -- $500 for that child, $500 for the one right there, $500 for this one, and $500 for that one. That is a tax increase. And taking $2,000 out of the pockets of the working people will make it harder to sustain economic growth.

So the two issues I see in the campaign can be boiled down to who best to protect this country, and who best to keep taxes low. That's what the referendum is about.

Let's see here -- David. Hold on for a minute. David.

Q: Thank you, sir. You've long talked about the importance when the federal government is involved in an effort, spending money and resources, of measuring success, accountability, as Peter said. Now you've set some benchmarks on the Maliki government. You've said that you're expecting him to make tough decisions. Can you tell the American people how you plan to measure his success in reaching those benchmarks, and what happens if he doesn't hit those benchmarks?

THE PRESIDENT: David, the first objective is to develop benchmarks that the government agrees with and that we think are important. You can't -- it's really important for the American people to understand that to say, okay, these are the benchmarks you must live with, is not going to work nearly as effectively as if we have -- when we have buy-in from the government itself, the sovereign government of Iraq.

And so the step is to say to the Maliki government, which we're doing, let us work in concert to develop a series of benchmarks to achieve different objectives. And the purpose of that is to assure the Iraqi people that this unity government is going to work to -- for the improvement of the Iraqi people. In other words, it will be beneficial for the government to say to the Iraqi people, here is what we intend to do and here's when we intend to do it.

It will also be beneficial for the American people to be able to see that this Iraqi government is going to make the difficult decisions necessary to move forward, to achieve the goal. And that's what we're talking about when it comes to benchmarks. It's -- again, I repeat: One should not expect our government to impose these benchmarks on a sovereign government. You'd expect us to work closely with that government to come up with a way forward that the government feels comfortable with. And there's probably going to be some bones of contention during these discussions, but, nevertheless, we'll respect the fact that the Iraq government is sovereign, and they must respect the fact that we've got patience, but not unlimited patience.

Q: What happens if that patience runs out?

THE PRESIDENT: See, that's that hypothetical Keil is trying to get me to answer. Why do we work to see to it that it doesn't work out -- run out? That's the whole objective. That's what positive people do. They say, we're going to put something in place and we'll work to achieve it.

Let's see here. Steven.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. With a Republican Congress, you failed to achieve three major goals of your second term: Social Security reform, a tax code overhaul, and a comprehensive immigration bill. Why shouldn't Americans give Democrats a chance to work with you on those issues, especially when divided government seemed to work in the late 1990s on the budget?

THE PRESIDENT: That's a tricky little question there. (Laughter.) First, I haven't given up on any of those issues. I've got two years left to achieve them. And I firmly believe it is more likely to achieve those three objectives with a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican-controlled Senate. And I believe I'll be working with a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican-controlled Senate.

I understand here in Washington people have already determined the outcome of the election, like it's over even before the people actually start heading -- voting. But that's not what I see when I'm on the campaign trail. Yes, we've got some people dancing in the end zone here in Washington, D.C.; they've got them measuring their drapes; they're going over to the Capitol, and saying, my new office looks beautiful, I think I'm going to have this size drape there, or this color. But the American people are going to decide, and they're going to decide this race based upon who best to protect the American people and who best to keep the taxes low.

Secondly, I'll tell you what I see -- you didn't ask, but I'm going to tell you anyway. I see there's a lot of enthusiasm amongst the grassroots activists. Our people are going out there to man the phones and to put up the yard signs. You know, they're showing up when it comes time to -- these absentee votes. We're organized. We've got a fantastic grassroots organization to turn out the vote. This campaign has obviously got national implications to it, no question about it -- the Iraq war, the security of the country, economic vitality and growth. But each of these elections turn out to be local in their scope and in their character.

And we've got good candidates running hard. And we're going to win. Now, I know that defies conventional wisdom here. I'm not suggesting anybody in this august crowd has determined the outcome of the election already, but they're running profiles on who this person is going to be running this office, or this one that's going to be -- magazines have got all kinds of new stars emerging when they haven't won the votes yet.

And anyway, thanks for asking about the campaign. I'm enjoying it out there. I like campaigning. It's what guys like me do in order to get here. We campaign. We shake the hands, you know, and give the speeches. And Laura is campaigning, too. From my perspective, our people are ready to go out there and vote for -- vote our candidates back into power.

Let me see here, Michael Allen.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Your comment earlier that last spring you believed that troops would be able to come home early next year --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q: -- I wonder if you could talk to us about how you came to believe that, and over what period of time, or whether it was a single development because you realized that wasn't feasible.

THE PRESIDENT: No, no, no, look, Mike, here's the way it works. I meet with our -- or talk to our generals all the time. And the security situation looked like at that point in time that beginning next year, we could reduce our troop presence. That's what we felt -- until the conditions on the ground changed. And when they changed, our generals changed their attitude. And when their attitude changed, my attitude changed.

Look, I want to get our troops home as fast as we can. But I do not want to leave before we achieve victory. And the best way to do that is to make sure we have a strategy that works, tactics that adjust to the enemy, and commanders that feel confident making recommendations to the Secretary and to the Commander-in-Chief. And that's how that happened. In other words, they're saying it looks like things are positive, things are stepping up. The security situation is -- looks like it could be this way. And then when it change, we changed. And that's important for the American people to know, that we're constantly changing tactics to meet the situation on the ground.

Knoller.

Q: Excuse me --

THE PRESIDENT: No.

Q: May I follow up?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you're taking Wolffe's time. Is this your question, Wolffe?

Q: No, sir, it's not.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, okay.

Q: But I yield.

THE PRESIDENT: Then it's your question.

Q: Only for a moment.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay.

Q: I just wanted to ask you quickly, sir, if you believe that Iraq will be able to defend, sustain and govern itself by the time you leave office?

THE PRESIDENT: Mike, I believe Iraq will be able to defend, govern and sustain itself; otherwise, I'd pull our troops out. See, you all got to understand that. And the parents of our troops must understand, that if I didn't believe we could succeed, and didn't believe it was necessary for the security of this country to succeed, I wouldn't have your loved ones there. That's what I want these parents to hear.

And that's a backhanded way of getting me to put a timetable. My answer is, we'll work as fast as we can get the job done.

Mark and then Richard.

Q: Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: That way it will give you time to --

Q: I understand why you would claim or assert that the Republicans will win the midterm elections. But if in your heart of hearts you really didn't think that, would you tell us so? (Laughter.) And are you resentful that some Republican candidates seem to be distancing themselves from you?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, no, I'm not resentful, nor am I resentful that a lot of Democrats are using my picture. All I ask is that they pick out a good one. (Laughter.) Make me look good, at least, on the picture.

Mark, the first part of your question, the serious part, if I thought we were going to lose, would I tell you -- we're not going to lose, in my heart of hearts. (Laughter.) No, again, I understand how -- look, I read the -- look at the newspapers around here. I can see why you would think that I'm concealing something in my heart of hearts. The race is over as far as a lot of the punditry goes. They've got it all figured out. And they just -- as I said, they're dancing in the end zone. They just haven't scored the touchdown, Mark, you know, there's a lot of time left. And these candidates are working hard out there. And my message to them is, keep talking about the security of the United States and keeping taxes low, and you'll come back here.

Last question, Richard.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Back in 2000, you campaigned around the country saying you wanted to usher in the responsibility era, to end the days when people said, if it feels good, do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else.

THE PRESIDENT: Right.

Q: Yet over the last several months, we've seen many members of your own party in Congress embroiled in one scandal or another and all too ready to blame somebody else, whether prosecutors, or Democrats, or even the media. So I'm wondering, why do you think it is so many people in your own party have failed to live up to the standards of the responsibility era?

THE PRESIDENT: If any person in any party fails to live up to high standards, they ought to be held to account, Richard. It's important for there to be trust in the halls of Congress and in the White House, and throughout government. People got to trust elected leaders in order for democracy to work to its fullest extent. And I fully expect people to be held to account if there's wrongdoing, just like I expect corporate executives to be held to account for wrongdoing; just like I expect people throughout our society to be held to account for wrongdoing.

People do have to take responsibility for the decisions they make in life. I take responsibility for the decisions I make. I also understand that those of us in positions of responsibility have the duty to bring honor to the offices we hold. People don't have to agree with somebody's opinion, there's all kinds of opinions here. But in order to make this country work, and to make democracy succeed, there's got to be high standards, and people must be held to account to achieve those standards.

I thank you for your time. See you on the campaign trail.

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October 25, 2006

A Critique Of Michael Rubin's Views On The Baker-Hamilton Commission

Attorney and blogger Gregory Djerejian opined in an October 22, 2006, post at The Belgravia Dispatch, a highly informative  international affairs and diplomacy blog:

I’ve been noticing Michael Rubin [a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and former  "political adviser for the Coalition Provisional Authority (Baghdad), 2003-2004," according to Source Watch] more and more these days, increasingly taking pen to paper to issue pitiable little epingles in the direction of those horrible realists, in neo-con cadre party outlets like the WSJ (Wall Street Journal) editorial page and the Weekly Standard. His latest is a preemptive attack on the Baker-Hamilton commission. It’s a classic Rubin type piece, full of wooly-headed intimations that we must expand the war theater to new Middle Eastern fronts, that the realists are but Neville-like appeasers tiresomely recycling old ideas, stabbing us in the back really, so as to preclude the glorious, total victory that would be ours but for a lack of resolve crippling the cocktail-swilling Foggy Bottom set, or those horrid leakers at Langley, or whatever other bogeyman du jour

Mr. Djerejian said, Basically the usual fare that his ilk of weenie clowns (still, for reasons I cannot quite fathom, feted amidst the provincial echo chambers of varied Washington “think-tanks”) feed the remaining gaggles of true believers who still get all excited amidst the navel-gazing (is there still hope we might persuade Bush to summon the courage to go on to Teheran!?!). But this piece stood out, in its cheapness and shamelessness and solipsism, so I’ve decided to address his “arguments” in these cyber-pages."

To read more of Djerejian's critique, please see "Rubin's Distortions of the Baker-Hamilton Commission.

Note: The Michael Rubin link; the Coalition Provisional Authority link and the American Enterprise Institute link are not in Mr. Djerejian original post. They were added for background purposes.

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Syed Saleem Shahzad Analyzes 'Osama's Answer to Iraq's Violence'

Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief, has an informed analysis on the sectarian strife in Iraq and on how Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden "kept himself away from any sectarian confrontations" despite his rejection of "Shi'ite philosophies."

To read Mr. Shahzad's timely, October 26, 2006, analysis, please see "Osama's answer to Iraq's violence.

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Somalia's Islamic Courts Union Preparing For War With Ethiopia

"The Islamic Courts Union in Somalia [in the Horn of Africa] has begun recruiting thousands of people in response to alleged military action by neighboring Ethiopia, amid fears of all-out war across the country," Aljazeera reported October 25, 2006.

To read more, please see "Somalis sign up to fight Ethiopia.

A FEW RELATED LINKS

War is close, Ethiopia tells Somali rebels --- Globe and Mail, Canada

Somalia: Fresh Islamic Militias Given Army Training in Dhobley ... - AllAfrica.com, Washington

Why Islamic Courts can't win war against govt - East African, Kenya

The Islamic Courts Union Readies a Final Push Into Baidoa --- Counterterrorism Blog, USA

Somalia: Islamist Fighters Not About to Attack Baidoa, Aweys Says --- AllAfrica.com, Washington

Editorial: No basis for Zenawi's Tattletales about Somalia --- SomaliNet, Somalia

Ethiopia 'technically' at war with IUC in Somalia --- Spero News

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Tunisia Learns That Aljazeera Is More Important That Its Hurt Feelings

Aljazeera reported October 25, 2006, that "Tunisia has closed its embassy in Qatar in protest against what it described as a hostile campaign by Aljazeera."

"A Qatari diplomat said on Wednesday [October 25, 2006] that all Tunisian embassy staff left the country last Thursday," October 19, 2006.

To read more, see "Tunisia closes embassy over Aljazeera."

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The Guardian's Interview With Sudan's Omar Hassan al-Bashir

The Guardian of London has published the "full transcript of Jonathan Steele's interview" with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. The first question was on the conflict in Darfur, which some observers suggest is genocide underway.

Q: Can you confirm recent reports that Sudan has rejected an Arab League suggestion for Arab and Muslim countries from outside Africa to send peacekeepers to help the African Union mission in Darfur?

A: Secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Musa, visited Sudan several times and discussed a number of ideas, but this particular suggestion was not on his agenda. It is to be noted, however, that, among the African Union (AU) members, there are Muslim and Arab countries. If the AU retains the mandate to oversee the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), as the agreement itself says, we will be ready to discuss the kind of support African Union mission (Amis) can receive from non-African sources."

To read the entire interview, please see "Interview with the Sudanese president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir."

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Chadian Foreign Minister Says Sudan Is Behind UFDD Attacks

Chadian Foreign Minister Ahmat Allami  told journalist on October 25, 2006, that Sudan is  supporting "the recently formed Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD)" rebel group, which has "resumed military operations in the east of the country, citing as proof the firing of a ground-to-air missile at a French military plane," reports Agence France Presse (AFP) and other news outlets. He said:

These rebels entered Chad from Sudan and they could only have procured this type of military equipment within the sight of and with the knowledge of the Sudanese authorities. Sudan cannot deny it. Sudan is behind the rebels. This [missile] firing constitutes an unfriendly gesture against Chad and France, and which we firmly condemn.

"There is no mystery. This equipment was delivered under the benevolent gaze of the Sudanese authorities or by Sudan itself.

AFP noted that EFDD forces  on October 23, 2006, "captured the town of Am Timan and briefly seized the town of Goz Beida near the Sudanese border on Sunday," October 22, 2006.

"The rebels have also admitted firing a ground-to-air missile at a French reconnaissance plane, which was not hit," according to AFP.

To read more, please see "Chad blames Sudan for new rebel assault. Also see "Rebels attack eastern Chad town" and "Sudan 'is arming rebels' in Chad."

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October 24, 2006

Is Nestor Kirchner's 'Combative' Foreign Policy Hurting Argentina?

Reuters correspondent Damian Wroclavsky, writing from Buenos Aires, Argentina, asserts in an October 24, 2006, news analysis that, "Argentinean President Nestor Kirchner's combative foreign policy has won domestic support but antagonized many Latin American countries with spats that could weaken Argentina's regional influence."

To read why, see "Analysis-Argentine diplomacy plays second fiddle to voters."

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Recommended: Kevin Tillman's 'After Pat's Birthday'

Kevin Tillman, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, has a thought-provoking post at Truthdig headlined "After Pat’s Birthday.

It's a powerful tribute to his brother Patrick Daniel Tillman, Jr., a former player for the Arizona Cardinals, who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. The military tried to cover it up by promoting him as a hero killed by Al-Qaeda or Taliban forces.  See "Army Withheld Details About Tillman's Death.  On May 28, 2004, the Pentagon, under pressure, finally told the family the truth. That led to a family demand for an investigation. See "Family Demands The Truth:New inquiry may expose events that led to Pat Tillman’s death.

In his Truthdig article, Kevin Tillman lets the Bush Administration and Congress have it, and noted that "Much has happened since we [The Tillman Brothers] handed over our voice" to the U.S. military in May 2002.

"Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can’t be called a civil war even though it is," he added.  Something like that."

The entire article is just as strong and comes from a man who volunteered to go to hell in Afghanistan and Iraq. It's definitely worth reading. 

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October 22, 2006

Fernandez Recants Assertion Of U.S. Arrogance, Stupidity In Iraq

Alberto Fernandez, "director of public diplomacy in the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs," has recanted his October 21, 2006 assertion in an Al-Jazeera  interview that, "We tried to do our best [in Iraq], but I think there is much room for criticism, because, undoubtedly, there was arrogance and there was stupidity from the United States in Iraq," according to published reports. See "Official sorry for 'stupidity' comment."

As stated in "Alberto Fernandez's Controversial Interview With Al-Jazeera," don't be surprised if the Bush Administration fires the Cuban-born Mr. Fernandez for telling the truth.

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Sudan's NRF Denounces Expulsion Of UN Envoy Jan Pronk From Sudan

National Redemption Front (NRF) of Sudan "strongly denounces the callous decision of the Government of Sudan to expel UN Envoy Jan Pronk from Sudan," says an NRP press statement published in the October 23, 2006, edition of the Sudan Tribune. For background on the expulsion, see "Sudan expels UN envoy who told of army defeats in Darfur and Sudan Denies Its Forces Are Demoralized in Darfur.

According to the statement, "It is not a simple coincidence that this decision has been made at the very moment when the new offensive of the Khartoum regime in Darfur has been launched." The Darfur Conflict is getting major attention in the UN but not enough to compel the world's nations to move militarily against Sudan to prevent genocide in Darfur.

On June 21, 2004, U.N Secretary General Kofi Annan announced that he had appointed Mr. Pronk "his Special Representative for the Sudan and head of the peace support operation that may be authorized following a Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of the Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army."  The appointment was effective as of June 18, 2004.

To read NRF's entire statement, please see "Expelletion (sic) of Jan Pronk Gives Way for Albahsir’s Chemical Warfare in Darfur.

A FEW RELATED LINKS

UN envoy ordered to leave Sudan --- BBC, London

UN’s Pronk heads to New York for consultations with Annan --- Sudan Tribune, Khartoum

US and Arab League discuss UN Darfur force --- Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates 

Egypt's FM says Darfur issue be solved through dialogue --- Xinhua, China 

Sudan, UN positions on Darfur complicated-US envoy --- Kuwait News Agency, Kuwait 

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Alberto Fernandez's Controversial Interview With Al-Jazeera

The Associated Press has transcribed controversial remarks Alberto Fernandez (at left in a State Department photo), "director of public diplomacy in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. State Department and a fluent Arabic speaker," made during an interview that was broadcast on Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based pan-Arab satellite channel that some in the Bush Administration considers to be a propaganda arm of the insurgency in Iraq, because it found a way to circumvent the propaganda put out by the U.S. occupation in Iraq by publishing Iraqi views. According to news reports, U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair even considered bombing Aljazeera's headquarters.

The State Department tried to play-down Mr. Fernandez's assessment. See "US distances itself from diplomat's comments. Here's the the most controversial quote from the interview, which aired October 21, 2006:

We tried to do our best [in Iraq], but I think there is much room for criticism, because, undoubtedly, there was arrogance and there was stupidity from the United States in Iraq.

To read the translation, see "A transcript of remarks by a top U.S. diplomat on America's role in Iraq. Also see Al Jazeera's "Diplomat condemns US 'arrogance.'

By the way, don't be surprised if the Bush Administration fires the Cuban-born Mr. Fernandez.

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October 21, 2006

There's A Revolt In Washington Against Bush's Iraq Policy

Julian Borger, a Washington Correspondent for The Guardian of London reported October 21, 2006, that "A "polite rebellion" is under way among previously loyal allies of President Bush aimed at persuading him to change course in Iraq and quietly abandon the foreign policy doctrine he had hoped would be the centrepiece of his legacy."

Mr. Borger reports that, "Many senior Republicans believe the "Bush Doctrine" has hit a wall in Iraq and lies in ruins. The rebels, including many foreign policy veterans close to the president's father, see it as an obstacle to stabilising Iraq and extricating US forces. But they have decided that earlier, head-on challenges have only deepened the president's resolve, and a less confrontational approach was needed that avoided blame for past mistakes if there was to be any hope of a fundamental rethink."

To read more of this revelation, see "The genteel revolt that is remaking US policy on Iraq."

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Will Adjusting Tactics In Iraq Help U.S. Achieve Objectives?

As Financial Times correspondents Edward Luce and Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington reported in an October 20, 2006, post, that was updated October 21 2006, U.S. President George W. Bush "conceded on Friday [October 20, 2006] that he was increasingly flexible about America’s military strategy."  See "Support ebbing for Bush strategy in Iraq.

"In the past few weeks," they wrote, "he has abandoned talk of achieving “victory” in Iraq – previously a stock-in-trade of presidential announcements."

‘‘We are constantly adjusting tactics so we can achieve our objectives,” they quoted Mr. Bush as saying: “And right now, it’s tough.”

A FEW RELATED LINKS ON THE GROWING DEBATE OVER U.S.TACTICS IN IRAQ

Does losing Tom Friedman mean losing middle america? ---Daniel W. Drezner, USA

US Faces Iraq Crossroads --- The Wall Street Journal, USA

Endgame coming, ready or not --- Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, USA

Major Change Coming in Administration Middle East Policy --- Steve Clemons, The Washington Note, USA

Pressure builds for policy shift, but Bush shows no signs of budging --- San Jose Mercury News, USA

The week the war unravelled: Bush to 'refocus' Iraq strategy --- The Independent, UK

Bush to consult on possible change in tactics in Iraq --- Boston Herald, USA

Politics&Policies: Cheney - War going well --- United Press International, USA

United States numb to Iraq troop deaths: experts --- Yahoo! News, USA

Change in strategy too little, too late --- Gulf News, United Arab Emirates 

Rice says no big push to change Iraq strategy --- Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates

White House nixing Iraqi partition ---- Helena Cobban, Just World News, USA

Tet? Not Yet: Victory by association ---James Robinson, National Review Online, USA 

Iraq Was a Worthy Mistake --- Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online, USA 

US negotiating with Iraqi insurgency --- Abu Aardvark (Marc Lynch), USA

Vietnam, Iraq and the Media --- Marc Schulman, American Future, USA

An Iraqi Dayton Accords --- Gregory Djerejian, The Belgravia Dispatch, USA

Iraq, Vietnam and the Credibility Trap --- Bruce W. Jentleson, America Abroad, USA

Bush Faces a Battery of Ugly Choices on War --- The New York Times, USA

No magic bullets for Iraq, Bush strategist warns --- The Guardian, UK

Iraqi security adviser damns Baghdad security operation --- Radio New Zealand, New Zealand 

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Recommended: 'On The Road To Strategic Defeat In Iraq'

Recommended: Former "Central Intelligence Agency (1985-1989) and the Department of State's Office of the Coordinator for Counter Terrorism (1989-1993)" operative Larry C. Johnson's  thought-provoking post at TPM Cafe headlined "On the Road to Strategic Defeat in Iraq." Mr. Johnson asks:

What is our objective in Iraq? Eliminating weapons of mass destruction?  Promoting democracy?  "Fighting them (the terrorists) there so we don't have to fight them here?" 

"These are not mutually compatible objectives.  It is the lack of a clear answer that accounts for our nation's inability to define victory in Iraq.  Bush, Cheney, and Rummy need to figure out what in the hell we are trying to do.  Once that is clearly defined then we will be in a position to devise tactics that will complement the strategic objective.

Will devising "tactics that will complement the strategic objective" lead to U.S. victory in Iraq? I think not. It could lead to winning battles but not decisive victory. The Bush Administration can win each battles against Iraqi fighters and still lose. Remember the Vietnam War and the Tet offensive of 1968? Victory is winning the hearts and minds of the people, not how many fighters you kill in battles. And given the destruction, sectarian warfare and death that the invasion and occupation of Iraq unleashed, no Iraqi in his her right mind will accept being ruled for long by a foreign power that destroyed their country and caused the deaths of their loved ones, directly or indirectly. See "Lancet Surveys of mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq."

President George W. Bush listens to Bailey Reese, 10, founder of Hero Hugs, which sends care packages to our troops serving overseas, during a meeting with organizations that support the U.S. Military in Iraq and Afghanistan in the Roosevelt Room, Friday, October 20, 2006.  White House photo by Eric Draper"Secondly, if the U.S. did emerge temporarily victorious, it would have to continue the occupation of Iraq. As long as there is an occupation, there will be war. War will attract Mujahideen from other Muslim countries. Women, children and elderly will be killed or continue to suffer in great numbers. 

Does the Bush Administration care? Its actions and words seems to suggest that it doesn't. All that matters is a victory to justify the invasion of Iraq, especially if it results in the imposition of Democracy. Democracy as we know it cannot and will not be imposed on Iraq by force. As U.S. President George W. Bush (seen in an October 20, 2006, White House photo talking to "Bailey Reese, 10, founder of Hero Hugs, which sends care packages" to U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq) told Republican campaign contributors in Washington on October 20, 2006:

We will stay in Iraq, we will fight in Iraq and we will win in Iraq. Our goal hasn't changed, but the tactics are constantly adjusting to an enemy which is brutal and violent. See "Bush Open to Shift in Iraq War 'Tactics.'
A Middle East leader probably would have already being tried for waging aggressive war and crimes against humanity had he invaded and occupied Iraq and caused as much death and destruction as the Bush Administration has. If not, the U.S. would have corralled other nations into militarily ganging up on him. Not only that, it would have forced the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions. This happened when former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who is now on trial in Iraq, for crimes against fellow Iraqis, invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990. The U.S. and Britain's response was "Operation Desert Storm" and 12-years of devastating sanctions that set Iraq up for their virtually uncontested invasion and occupation of Iraq in March 2003. 

One of the benefits of being the leader of the world's most powerful nation in history is that you don't have to give an account for war crimes. Which world leaders would dare to publicly suggest hauling President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials before The World Tribunal on Iraq?  With the exception Nicaragua's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, none would dare do it out of fear of retaliation.

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October 20, 2006

Comparing Fighting In Iraq To The 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam

During his October 19, 2006 press briefing in the White House Conference Center Briefing Room, White House spokesman Tony Snow was asked about U.S. President George W. Bush's concession during  a one-on-one interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman may be right when he wrote in an October 19, 2006, column:

IN the competition for the biggest "October surprise" of the 2006 election cycle, it might seem hard to top North Korea's nuclear test. But I'd suggest that in time we'll come to see the events unfolding - or rather, unraveling - in Iraq today as the real October surprise, because what we're seeing there seems like the jihadist equivalent of the Tet offensive.

For those of you too young to remember, the Tet offensive was the series of attacks undertaken by the Vietcong and North Vietnamese armies between Jan. 30, 1968 - the start of the Lunar New Year - and June 1969. Although the Vietcong and Hanoi were badly mauled during Tet, they delivered, through the media, such a psychological blow to U.S. hopes of "winning" in Vietnam that Tet is widely credited with eroding support for President Johnson and driving him to withdraw as a candidate for re-election.

According to ABC News, Mr. Bush told Mr.Stephanopoulos:
"He could be right. There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we're heading into an election."

"George, my gut tells me that they have all along been trying to inflict enough damage that we'd leave," Bush said. "And the leaders of al Qaeda have made that very clear. Look, here's how I view it. First of all, al Qaeda is still very active in Iraq. They are dangerous. They are lethal. They are trying to not only kill American troops, but they're trying to foment sectarian violence. They believe that if they can create enough chaos, the American people will grow sick and tired of the Iraqi effort and will cause government to withdraw.(Here's Friedman's column)

Below are excerpts from The Snow press briefing. The excerpt is from a White House transcript dated October 19, 2006. The Diplomatic Times Review cannot guarantee that it has not been altered.

Q: Does the President still think that Iraq is a winning issue for Republicans, and can you elaborate on what he was talking about yesterday in the Stephanopoulos interview about linking -- comparing it with the Tet Offensive?

MR. SNOW: Well, let's back up. We'll do the Tet Offensive question first. That comparison was made by Tom Friedman. That was a question about a column that Tom Friedman wrote. And the President was making a point that he's made before, which is that terrorists try to exploit pictures and try to use the media as conduits for influencing public opinion in the United States. And as Lieutenant General Caldwell said today in his briefing in Baghdad, it is possible, although we don't have a clear pathway into the minds of terrorists, it is possible that they are trying to use violence right now as a way of influencing the elections.

First question again?

Q: Well, let's stay on that for a second. The Tet Offensive was successful for the Viet Cong and the Vietnamese in the --

MR. SNOW: It was successful from a propaganda point of view, as history has subsequently demonstrated. The negative reports were wrong --

Q: Right. Do you have any fears that that's going to happen with Iraq?

MR. SNOW: No. The important thing to remember is that the President is determined it's not going to happen with Iraq, because you have a President who is determined to win. And the strategy is a threefold strategy that involves security, economics and political reconciliation, working with the Iraqis. And we'll continue to make adjustments as necessary to pursue victory.

But the one thing that nobody should have any doubt about is that we're going to win.

Q: And the first part of the question was, winning issue.

MR. SNOW: The question Americans are going to have to ask themselves is who is leading on this? You've got any number of Democratic positions: strategic redeployment, partition, get out right now, cut off funding -- it's difficult to divine anybody who is taking a consistent or coherent leadership position, other than complaining about the President.

On the other hand, what the President has is he talks constantly about the importance of victory and the importance of achieving victory. We think that's a -- when people start taking a look at the war on terror and who is not only serious about what's going on today, but also the future, I think that the President has by far the stronger hand and, in addition, talking about a freedom agenda which provides a much larger strategic framework for viewing a world that is filled with challenges.

Q: A couple of things. The President always talks about his confidence that Republicans will retain the House and Senate. Earlier this week, the Vice President, in his interview with Rush Limbaugh, indicated that there was a "good shot" -- interesting choice of words -- a "good shot" with respect to the House. Is there opening a little door there to acknowledge that perhaps things aren't going as well as you --

MR. SNOW: No. No. But that was a good line. Bada-boom, she'll be here all week. (Laughter.)

Q: Also, with the President today appearing with George Allen and Sherwood, candidates who have had some difficulties, controversy surrounding them, is the President at all concerned about being, by association, harmed by those controversies -- the racial insensitivity, the extramarital affairs?

MR. SNOW: No.

Q: No hesitation to campaign for them?

MR. SNOW: He's campaigning for them.

Q: Any downside?

MR. SNOW: I don't think so. When a President goes and campaigns for candidates he's there to help them, and, no, I don't think there's a down side. I'm not going to go any further

Q: Back to the Tet Offensive for a second. I just want to clarify one thing about that, because as it's understood retrospectively, Tet becomes a sort of shorthand for the point at which the Vietnam War changed.

MR. SNOW: And I don't want -- that is not an analogy we're trying to make. Again, this was a comment about a Tom Friedman column. Tom is the guy who introduced Tet. What we have said -- and it's very limited -- is the attempt to use images as a way of influencing public opinion. We do not think that there has been a flip-over point, but more importantly, from the standpoint of the government and the standpoint of this administration, we are going to continue pursuing victory aggressively --

Q: Let me follow on that, because The Washington Times says in a front-page story today that the administration is preparing for a "course correction."

MR. SNOW: That's a bunch of hooey. I mean, it seems to be a collection of actually old hooey brought into a piece of new hooey. (Laughter.) So, I mean, you get -- I don't know where that came from, but it didn't come from the White House.

Q: And just to follow on hooey, the things that are raised in this hooey-filled article, such as the division of Iraq --

MR. SNOW: Yes, partition -- non-starter.

Q: Non-starter? Kay Bailey Hutchison raised it yesterday --

MR. SNOW: Again, as I said, we have, in fact, considered -- we consider lots of things. We've thought about partition, for a series of reasons --

Q: Phased withdrawal?

MR. SNOW: -- again, you don't -- you withdraw when you win. Phased withdrawal is a way of saying, regardless of what the conditions are on the ground, we're going to get out of Dodge.

Q: The 5 percent solution --

MR. SNOW: No.

Q: Non-starter?

MR. SNOW: Non-starter.

Q: Are these ideas that are now becoming sort of leaked throughout Washington about possibilities for the ISG, are they being analyzed or assessed by the White House as they pop up --

MR. SNOW: No, I think what you're seeing here -- I'm not even sure that they're being assessed by the ISG. Again, what's happening is different groups have been tasked -- ISG, Iraq Study Group -- to look in all different ways about Iraq and how we proceed forward.

A couple of points to make: First, they're not reporting to us; they're not pre-clearing things with us. It's very important to realize that, because we understand that the independence of the ISG is an important asset, and we do intend to make use of it because we're interested in seeing what they have to say. The President is always interested in differing points of view, especially from smart and well informed people.

Having said that, the idea of trying to react to leaks of documents that have not been circulated, at least as far as I can tell, among the ISG at this point is way premature. On the other hand, when there are debates and things are offered up by people at the Pentagon or the National Security Council or elsewhere, there are debates about how best to proceed. It happens all the time, because in a time of war you have shifting conditions, and you do have to adjust. That's the only way in which you can continue to pursue victory.

So we certainly are always considering new ideas, and we will reconsider old ideas to see if we think suddenly they have currency. But the ones mentioned in today's Washington Times do not fit that description.

Q: The best intelligence on when you may have something to assess is well after the election?

MR. SNOW: You're going to have to ask -- I think it's best to talk to Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton because they know the timetables on that.

Q: Talk about how this might be released. Can you give us any information on the Baker report and how that might work?

MR. SNOW: I really don't. No, because again they're independent. It's up to them. I think the best thing -- just give Jim and Lee a call because I don't know.

Q: Can we run by you the idea of adding many more troops into Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Again, if -- the President has always said if the commanders on the ground tell them they need -- if they need more, then he will consider it. That has not been a recommendation that he's received.

Q: What if Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton make that recommendation?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, it's something that we will study. But let me -- the point I made before --

Q: So you're not saying that one is out? While you're saying these others are out, it's a possibility that you could --

MR. SNOW: Well, I don't know --

Q: --- add a massive influx of --

MR. SNOW: What you're asking me -- what you're asking me about is just hypotheticals in the future. Why don't we wait to see what the group has to say? Maybe they're sending you documents, but we're not seeing them, Martha.

And I think rather than trying to sort of handicap what may or may not pass muster -- as you know, there have been suggestions in the past about more troops. And the President said to General Casey, do you need more? And he says, no. And that is -- that's the point he's making --

Q: No, but I just think that you're quickly dismissing several ideas here that were on the front page, but you're not dismissing this idea and what should we do --

MR. SNOW: Well, because what you should take from it is, for instance, ideas like partition had been studied. What you're talking now about are tactical adjustments that may be made along the way. And I'm not saying yes and I'm not saying no because I don't know. What you end up doing, again, is you respond to the people on the ground. You give them what they need and what they think they need. Ultimately, as you know, the most important thing is to have Iraqi troops who are able to accomplish the mission. But that's taking time and we're working on it.

Q: Can you define again today what a win in Iraq is?

MR. SNOW: An Iraq that can defend, sustain and govern itself.

Q: And U.S. troops will be there, you said they won't withdraw until you win?

MR. SNOW: Until we have reached the conclusion that the mission has been accomplished, and that is that you're going to have Iraqi security forces and police forces that are up to the job; that you are going to have the democracy that is able to sustain, govern and defend itself; and the Iraqis will have stood up.

But if you're asking for precise metrics on that, they don't exist, as you know.

Q: Can I just do one more quick on Iraqi and a couple of statements from an interview that Diane Sawyer did in North Korea?

MR. SNOW: Okay, well let's -- all right.

Q: Okay, can I just finish on Iraq then?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q: Yesterday, Maliki asked that an aide to al Sadr, who once had a murder warrant, be released. And the U.S. apparently released him, even though they detained him, thinking he was causing sectarian violence. Is that the kind of justice you're looking for?

MR. SNOW: No, I think also if you take a look at the conversations, as you know, Prime Minister Maliki met yesterday with Muqtada al Sadr and with Ali al Sistani, and one of the things that they have been talking about is, in fact, suppressing violence. You've seen the Prime Minister taking action; he's moved some people around at the ministry of the interior, they've demobilized a police unit. I think it's pretty clear that Prime Minister Maliki is moving aggressively to go after sectarian violence.

I'm not in any position to judge the release of the cleric.

Q But by having al Sadr say, release this guy --

MR. SNOW: I'm not sure -- you know, there may be a lot more that's gone on and I just don't know. I'm not going to render judgment because I'm not competent to.

Q: How seriously are you going to take this report from Baker?

MR. SNOW: We're going to take it seriously. But, once again, it's an advisory report. But you absolutely take it seriously. Why don't we wait to see what comes out of this? I mean, I think there is hot speculation, and, obviously, a lot of times in Washington it's like you hand something off to a commission and then you follow exactly what the commission does. The President is going to do what he thinks is going to help us move toward and ultimately achieve victory in Iraq and in the war on terror.

And the other important thing is -- and this is a real service I think that this commission provides -- is an opportunity for real bipartisan work on it, because there have been too many times where it's been dug in. And so we look forward to seeing what's going on. You've heard Lee Hamilton say, I'm doing this not as a Democrat, and you've heard Jim Baker say, I'm doing this not as a Republican. These are very serious people, and I think it's worth taking a look at their work product and find out what they develop.

The other thing to note is that, also, the key recommendations, they are going to be consensual, everybody is going to be voting for them. So I think it will be the case that they have worked hard to try to build a consensus across party and ideological lines on ways to proceed. And I think, especially for that reason, it deserves real strong consideration.

Q: Tony, what does it say about the trouble that the Republican Party is in right now that the President is having to go out and campaign today in what should have been two safe Republican races?

MR. SNOW: This is a close election contest. On the other hand, what does it say, you've got Bill Clinton running around and campaigning for people. Does that mean Democrats are suddenly worried? I think it's important that you have a President going out and engaging. I'll tell you why we're confident about what's coming up. We think we've got better candidates, we got better issues, we got better solutions to the problems that face Americans. On a tactical level, Ken Mehlman says he's got 55 million bucks more than the Democrats have in get-out-the-vote measures. And just from my fractional experience out there, every time people read these stories that almost look like suppression efforts to bring down Republican morale, the Republicans say, man, I'm ready, I'm going to get out there and do it.

So I think it's going to be interesting to see. I think you've got a lot of reasons for people on both sides to be motivated. But for those who are trying to make up their minds right now, we're just asking, you ask yourself the question, who is really talking about a sensible way to make the economy even bigger and stronger than it is, and who do you think actually has a coherent plan for winning a war on terror and doing it in a way that not only addresses Iraq, not only addresses Afghanistan, but also creates a framework for thinking about making the world safer through a freedom agenda.

Q: Also on the two candidates today, does the President personally, morally, have any concerns about the controversies swirling around both men right now?

MR. SNOW: I'm just not going to comment on it.

Q: As you did in the gaggle the other day, you made some comments.

MR. SNOW: Well, I just -- I think the President understands that it's important to set high standards. But the other thing the President is doing is he's going out and -- let the candidates speak for themselves on this. The President will have his say, as well.

Q: Tony, could I come back to the -- answered Terry by saying, yes, you're convinced the war on terror is a winning issue for Republicans. Is Iraq, by itself?

MR. SNOW: Yes, because I think what's happened is, the idea of trying to take out Iraq, and say, we're going to leave there, but we're going to win the war on terror; we're going to strategically withdraw, but we're doing to win; we are against a terrorist surveillance program, but we're going to win; we are opposed to the detention act, the military commissions, but we're going to win.

Q: You're still tying other things in there.

MR. SNOW: That's because, I hate to tell you, but Iraq is not a standalone issue. As bin Laden has said, it's the semper fi in the war on terror. And the idea, somehow, the you could separate them from what's going on is to take a naive look at a world in which people have satellite communications, and the rest of the world watches what happens. So if, in fact, people were to draw the conclusion that the United States is going to cut and run from Iraq, don't you think Iran or --(interruption in briefing) -- let me continue. I was in the midst, before we did the planes, trains and automobiles.

So the fact is, that what goes on on the ground, and how the United States deals with these challenges has impact throughout the world, and also throughout the terror networks. So lots of luck in trying to sort of pluck that out and treat it as an isolated issue. It's not, and it's not in the words of the people who are right at the heart of the issue.

Q: If that's the case, Tony, how do you ever debate the war? We hear all this "put up a solid front." How do you debate the war at all if all opposition to any component, any aspect of the war --

MR. SNOW: I didn't say that.

Q: That's the suggestion.

MR. SNOW: No, the suggestion was to treat the war in isolation from the war on terror. That's different.

Q: But there are people who don't believe it is a part of the war on terror. You know what --

MR. SNOW: We'll be happy to engage in the debate. I think I've laid out a lot of the arguments.

Q: Two months ago when the President and Prime Minister Maliki announced the Baghdad security plan, one of the trade-offs that commanders acknowledged was more U.S. troops on the street of Baghdad would mean more U.S. casualties --

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q: -- with the idea being they would eventually bring down violence in Baghdad. Two months later, U.S. casualties are very high; levels of violence in Baghdad and elsewhere in the country are just as high, if not higher. This morning, General Caldwell said that it might be time, in his words, to refocus the strategy in Baghdad. Does the White House share the assessment that it's not working?

MR. SNOW: Actually, that's -- I talked to Major General Caldwell before we came in here because his comments have been misquoted. What he said is that, the levels of violence had not been lowered in a way that met our expectations, and so what we're doing is we're adjusting to bring them down, which is what you would expect.

I mean that is a classic example of what we've been trying to talk about over and over, which is that in a time of war, you constantly reassess what you're doing, and you constantly do what you can and use your ingenuity and your flexibility to be more effective in your aims. And what you have seen is going into Baghdad, into a lot of these areas -- and it's also worth noting that it is not simply the case that our forces are the only -- are kind of sitting ducks, and they're the only ones who are taking a hit. This -- there have been a number of very effective actions against terror fighters in Baghdad and elsewhere. There have been seizures of arm caches and that sort of stuff, and that gets reported regularly.

But it is something that we anticipated going into Ramadan, but it is not something that we want to have continue forever. What we want to do is to continue to have -- to build military tactics that go after the bad guys, and at the same time, work on the political strategy.

This is why we not only had meetings yesterday with Prime Minister Maliki, Muqtada al Sadr, and Ali al Sistani, you also had the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Hashimi, who has lost three family members to violence, also working with Sunni forces.

So what you end up having within Iraq is not only attempts to continue to adjust the security tactics so that you can meet the ongoing challenges in Baghdad and elsewhere, but also the political conditions that are going to persuade some of the people who may have been contributing to the violence to stop committing acts of violence, to join the political process, and to build the economic opportunities that are going to let some of those who might otherwise be inclined to join terror to choose a more peaceful path.

Q: But do you think that plan as it is currently constituted, the idea of having higher U.S. troop levels in Baghdad, is still a smart, tenable plan? Or does it need to be dropped or changed?

MR. SNOW: Again, I would direct tactical questions to the generals there because they're the ones that --

Q: People did, and that's what led to this question. I wanted to know if the White House shared the assessment of --

MR. SNOW: The White House -- yes, the White House listens to the generals. But I would caution you against saying it's not working because that's not their view. Because what has happened is again a single line out of a briefing that ran -- let's see -- it's big print, but it was 14 pages -- in addition to probably a dozen pages of slides -- that indicated in many ways precise neighborhoods they were going into, precise actions that they had taken, successes they had had, the apprehension of members of al Qaeda and all that sort of stuff was in there.

So what our view is, we continue to support the generals in any we can, and in any way they find fitting. And we also understand that based on changing conditions in Baghdad and elsewhere, they may be asking for different things at different times and we're going to supply them; we're going to support them fully.

Q: I just have one quick follow up to something you had said earlier. When you were asked about Tet, you said that the difference now was the President was determined to win. Presumably, Lyndon Johnson was just as determined to win. Obviously, the President has a lot of control, but can't control the view of an entire country and can't control all the events on the ground. Do you accept that as true, that a President can be determined to win and can still lose, all the same?

MR. SNOW: We're not going to lose. And this is a President who is going to -- is determined to see through the promise of Iraqi democracy. And I'll tell you why. The price of failure -- and you hear many Democrats say this; they understand the premise -- it is absolutely catastrophic. Because if you create a hollowed-out or unstable Iraq that will provide the -- that can provide a launching pad, a failed state that can provide a launching pad for a terror network, that also has the second largest reserve of oil on the face of the earth, you have an opportunity to create unbelievable chaos within the Middle East and elsewhere; economic pressure on the industrialized world, and at the same time fomenting terror throughout the Middle East, going after states that are beginning in their own ways to create fledgling democratic movements, stomping those out; the notion of establishing a caliphate suddenly is going to seem a lot more credible.

So there is no option here and, therefore, we will entertain no option other than to succeed and finish the job.

Q: Can I just follow on that for a second? Because the last two times there have been press accounts of a general suggesting that either strategy needed to be refocused or Major Dannett saying you needed to pull the British troops out, things will appear in the paper and a couple of words, it will sound like they're suggesting some alternative strategy. And then upon further consultation, we're told they were either taken out of context --

MR. SNOW: No, no, this is our -- let me just read to you the passage here, all right, because maybe that will help. I'll just put it right in -- he says -- he's speaking of Ramadan. He says, "Violence and progress do coexist in Iraq. You can be making progress and have violence. The violence continues against security forces and innocent Iraqis during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Traditionally a time of great celebration, it has instead been a period of increased violence, not just this year, but during the past two years, as well. The violence is, indeed, disheartening. In Baghdad alone we've seen a 22-percent increase in attacks during the first three weeks of Ramadan, compared to the three weeks preceding in the preceding Ramadan. And Baghdad Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas, but has not met our overall expectations of sustaining a reduction in the levels of violence. We are working very closely with the government of Iraq to determine how best to refocus our efforts."

Now, that is a far different thing than giving the impression it's a failure, we've got to throw it all out. What he's saying is, you have seen in the focus areas they've had success, but there is violence elsewhere; you need to figure out how to deal with that. And so you work with the Iraqi government and work with the Iraqi military to address it.

Q: Has any American commander ever suggested to the President that a change in tactics, if not strategy, was necessary?

MR. SNOW: Because we keep getting into this confusion, let me try to separate. Overall goals to win: The strategy is to involve three different areas, working with the Iraqis -- that would be security, economics and politics. Tactics change all the time. Generals talk about changing tactics all the time. It happens regularly. It is nothing new in a time of war. As a matter of fact, it would be a dereliction of duty if generals did not constantly adjust to the changing conditions and tactics on the ground. So that has been going on from the early days when you had a change in the way in which IEDs were employed, to the present day where you have shifting coalitions of terror activities and you also have real concern by the Iraqis of influx of foreign capital and foreign fighters. So naturally, you adjust all the time.

So the answer to your question is, Jim, it not only happens all the time, it's been going on for a very long time.

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October 19, 2006

The North Korea Nuclear Test: Winners And Losers

"At present, it looks as if North Korea has been pushed into a corner by the international community" reacting to its nuclear weapon test on October 9, 2006. "However, in fact, it is North Korea that takes the greatest advantages from its nuclear test," contends Kim Tae-kyung in an October 19, 2006 news analysis in South Korea's OhmyNews.

Kim Tae-kyung said, "The U.S., which had looked as if it was preparing immediate military attacks against North Korea, reduced the punishments to the level of economic sanctions because of the opposition of China and Russia. It seems that the U.S. already took account of their opposition before proposing sanctions to the United Nations," the writer asserts.

To read more, see "N.K. Nuclear Test: Winners and Losers."

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Yalu River Separates North Korea And Economic Disaster

The Chinese border city of Dandong, separated from North Korea by the Yalu River bridge, is "the primary gateway for trade" between the Peoples Republic of China and North Korea. It "is where the reality of international sanctions imposed after North Korea's nuclear test will play out," reports Los Angeles Times correspondents Robin Fields and Mark Magnier in an October 19, 2006 dispatch from the city.

For more, please see "N. Korea Sanctions Hang on Bridge Across the Yalu. Also see the Asia Times Online articles on North Korea headlined ' Part 1: Soldiers head for the frontier and Part 2: All quiet on the Dandong front.

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Japan, U.S. Confirm Bilateral Cooperation Against North Korea

"Japan and the United States Thursday [October 19, 2006] confirmed bilateral cooperation toward swift implementation of a U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear test," Mainichi Daily News of Japan reported today.

To read more, see "Japan, U.S. confirm cooperation in enforcing N. Korea sanctions.

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October 18, 2006

War News in Iraq For October 18, 2006

Today in Iraq's roundup of "war news" for October 18, 2006, is quite grim. But it's that way everyday. If a death or battle happened in Iraq most likely this blog has a report on it. Today's lead is about the deaths of more  U.S. Soldiers in Iraq.

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Riverbend Comments On 'The Lancet Study'

Riverbend at Baghdad Burning is back. Her last post on life in Iraq was August 5, 2006. Why so long between posts?

This has been the longest time I have been away from blogging," "There were several reasons for my disappearance the major one being the fact that every time I felt the urge to write about Iraq, about the situation, I'd be filled with a certain hopelessness that can't be put into words and that I suspect other Iraqis feel also." It's very difficult at this point to connect to the Internet and try to read the articles written by so-called specialists and analysts and politicians. They write about and discuss Iraq as I might write about the Ivory Coast or Cambodia- with a detachment and lack of sentiment that- I suppose- is meant to be impartial. Hearing American politicians is even worse. They fall between idiots like Bush- constantly and totally in denial, and opportunists who want to use the war and ensuing chaos to promote themselves.
To read River's October 18, 2006, post, see "The Lancet Study..."  It's a powerful piece.
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October 16, 2006

Will Venezuela Or Guatemala Get Security Council Seat? Who Knows?

Spain's eitb24, which bills itself as the "Basque News and Information Channel," reported October 16, 2006, that, "Venezuelan diplomats blamed heavy-handed U.S. lobbying after their country failed to muster enough votes to win a UN Security Council seat in four rounds of voting on Monday," October 16, 2006."

The news outlet said, "Guatemala topped Venezuela in the first four rounds of voting Monday [October 16, 2006] for a UN Security Council seat, but it failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority to win a two-year term on the powerful United Nations body." See "Tiny Guatemala leads Venezuela in UN Council vote.

"That result opened the door for others to join the race, in what could be a blow to both countries' chances for a seat," eitb24 said.

Surely Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who frequently defies the U.S. and is leading a movement to lessen U.S. influence in Latin American, didn't think the U.S. would let him easily obtain a seat on the Security Council. One can imagine the threats and promises of aid received by some of those voting against Venezuela. 

To read why the Venezuelans are complaining, see "Guatemala tops Venezuela, Chavez's diplomats blame US lobbying."

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The Japan Times: Security Council Sends 'A Clear Message To Pyongyang'

According to an October 17, 2006, editorial in The Japan Times, "The sanctions imposed [October 14, 2006] by the United Nations Security Council against North Korea represent a unified message from the U.N. member countries reprimanding the North for its underground nuclear test on Oct. 9, [2006].

"The unanimous adoption of a resolution imposing the sanctions less than a week after the test testifies to the grave concern of the international community and how united it is in its determination to resolve the issue," The Times said. "The resolution is far more severe than the one the UNSC adopted following Pyongyang's July 5, [2006], test-firing of seven ballistic missiles. This is the first time that the U.N. has adopted sanctions against Pyongyang since it joined the world body in 1991."

To read the entire editorial, see "A clear message to Pyongyang."

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Questions Linger After U.N. Imposes Sanctions ON North Korea

Carin Zissis notes in the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations' daily analysis for October 16, 2006, that "The UN Security Council passed a unanimous resolution imposing sanctions against North Korea for its October 9 [2006] nuclear test, but the document's vague wording raises questions on how it will be enforced."

"It remains unclear, for example, whether economic activity between North Korea and its main trading partners—namely China and South Korea—would be affected (LAT)," Ms. Zissis writes, adding: "Both countries indicated their intention to continue cross-border trade and carry out a number of economic projects already in the works (NYT). Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice travels to the region this week in an effort to press these countries to carry out the sanctions regime (CSMonitor), Ms. Zissis noted.

To read more of her analysis, see "Questions Linger After Sanctions."

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October 15, 2006

Is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's Influence In Iraq Waning?

Associated Press writer Hamza Hendawi reports that, "Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani once wielded so much influence he seemed to single-handedly chart the post-Saddam Hussein political future in Iraq. Now, the country's top Shiite cleric appears powerless as Iraq edges toward civil war."

Hendawi said, "With dozens of Iraqis dying daily from Sunni-Shiite reprisal killings, the failures of al-Sistani's pleas for peace underline a major power shift in the Shiite establishment."

To understand how that shift is taking place, see "Al-Sistani's Influence Declining in Iraq

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Shmuel Rosner: First Muslim In Congress To Go To Israel, Or So They Say

Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz.com's chief U.S. correspondent, reported at Rosner's blog on October 15, 2006, that, "Keith Ellison, a candidate for Minnesota's Fifth District congressional seat, is best known as the probable "first Muslim in Congress." Right after winning, he intends to travel to Israel (or so they say)."

To read more on the "42-year-old criminal defense lawyer's" alleged plans, see "First Muslim in Congress goes to Israel.

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Are Palestinians In Gaza Being Starved Into Submission?

Israeli writer and peace activist Uri Avnery  asks in a perceptive  and disturbing article in the October 14-15, 2006, edition of the political newsletter CounterPunch whether it's "possible to force a whole people to submit to foreign occupation by starving it?" In response to question, he writes:

That is, certainly, an interesting question. So interesting, indeed, that the governments of Israel and the United States, in close cooperation with Europe, are now engaged in a rigorous scientific experiment in order to obtain a definitive answer.

The laboratory for the experiment is the Gaza Strip, and the guinea pigs are the million and a quarter Palestinians living there.

In order to meet the required scientific standards, it was necessary first of all to prepare the laboratory.

Mr. Avnery said, "That was done in the following way: First, Ariel Sharon uprooted the Israeli settlements that were stuck there. After all, you can't conduct a proper experiment with pets roaming around the laboratory. It was done with "determination and sensitivity", tears flowed like water, the soldiers kissed and embraced the evicted settlers, and again it was shown that the Israeli army is the most-most in the world."

To read more about the methodology, see "Gaza as Laboratory: The Great Experiment."

RELATED ARTICLES ON GAZA

U.S., Israel, and Abbas Shamefully Subvert Palestinian Democracy For Their Own Ends --- BlogCritics.org, USA

Israel threatens to step up deadly Gaza offensive --- Middle East Online, London

Death toll passes 23 as Israel hunts down Gaza rocket launchers --- The Independent, London

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Israel's President Will Know Within A Month If He'll Be Tried For Rape

Ynetnews.com's Aviram Zino reported October 16, 2006, that, "Following the submission of [Israeli] President Moshe Katsav's complete investigation file to the State Prosecutor's Office and the police's recommendation that he be charged with rape, sex offenses and other offenses, sources in the Justice Ministry said Sunday evening [October 15, 2006] that a decision on the case is expected to be made within a month."

To read more, see "Decision on Katsav case within a month.  

A FEW RELATED LINKS

Police to recommend charges against President in sexual harassment ... Israel Insider, Israel

Israel's president 'should face rape charge' --- Aljazeera.net, Qatar 

Senior legal source: Katsav must suspend himself --- Ynetnews, Israel

Katsav's brother: Police didn’t look for the truth --- Ynetnews, Israel

Police recommend: Put Katsav on trial --- Israel Insider, Israel 

MQG Turns to High Court to Compel President to Step Down --- Arutz Sheva, Israel 

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October 14, 2006

Pervez Musharraf Escapes Again As Coup Attempt Is Foiled

Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief, reported October 14, 2006, that "A plot to stage a coup against Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf (in Wikipedia photo below) soon after his recent return from the U.S. has been uncovered, resulting in the arrest of more than 40 people."Pervez Musharraf

Mr. Shahzad said, "Most of those arrested are middle-ranking Pakistani Air Force officers, while civilian arrests include a son of a serving brigadier in the army. All of those arrested are Islamists, contacts in Rawalpindi, where the military is based, divulged to Asia Times Online."

"The conspiracy was discovered through the naivety of an air force officer who this month used a cell phone to activate a high-tech rocket aimed at the president's residence in Rawalpindi," Mr. Shahzad reported, adding: "The rocket was recovered, and its activating mechanism revealed the officer's telephone number. His arrest led to the other arrests."

As Wikipedia notes, Mr. Musharraf "took power on October 12, 1999 after a coup d'état and assumed the title of President of Pakistan on June 20, 2001."

To read more on the most recent attempt to oust him, see "Pakistan foils coup plot."

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Sunday Observer's Mary Riddell: 'It's Time To Say Sorry For Iraq's Agony'

The Sunday Observer's Mary Riddell, in examining the intense political debate prompted by Sir Richard Dannatt's bold, October 12, 2006, call for Britain to get out of Iraq soon, observes in an October 15, 2006, analysis replete with historical references that:

History will forgive the war on Iraq. Or so [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair told the US Congress in July 2003, as the first cold shadows fell on the invasion. The Prime Minister also warned of 'many further struggles ahead'. He cannot have imagined that these would include being gunned down by the head of the British army. By calling for a pull-out from Iraq, General Sir Richard Dannatt has reversed the view of the French wartime leader, Georges Clemenceau, that 'war is too serious a matter to entrust to military men'. In Dannatt's view, it is too vital to be left to the sofa warriors of Downing Street. His men have had enough, and he has said so.

The military can barely hide their glee. The previous head, Sir Michael Jackson, was seen by soldiers as Blair's puppet. Now they have a leader who puts the army first. Dannatt may not share this jubilation. Naivety, or every general's tendency to rank himself just below God in the cosmic line management structure, led him into an unintended row.

Ms. Riddell said, "As he must know, Iraq is rarely kind to generals. In April 1915, General Sir Charles Townshend had a nervous breakdown on the road from Basra, shortly before his troops were decimated. His successor, General Sir Stanley Maude, died of cholera. Almost a century after the last, doomed British invasion, another general decides that the game is almost up."

Will active U.S. generals boldly take a position on the futile U.S. war effort in Iraq and tell President George W. Bush that it's time to get out?

Yes, if they are willing to risk their careers and endure criticism from ultra-conservative bloggers and pundits. No, if they are not. If they don't speak-up, American should prepare to endure four more years of agony and terrorism unless the next president is willing U.S. troops home.

Fore more of Ms. Riddell's analysis, see "It's time to say sorry for Iraq's agony." What about paying reparations? 

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U.N. Secretary-general Designate Ban Ki-moon: I'm No Pushover'

Ban Ki MoonReuters' United Nations correspondents, Paul Holmes and Evelyn Leopold, obtained an "exclusive" interview with "The next secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon (at left) of South Korea," who pledged on Friday [October 13, 2006] to be a decisive leader and cautioned those who call him low-key not to mistake him for a pushover." 

"I may look low-key or (be) soft-spoken but that does not mean that I lack leadership or commitment," Ban told Reuters in his first formal interview since his appointment by acclamation by the 192-member General Assembly" on October 13, 2006. To read the interview, see "EXCLUSIVE - I'm no pushover, says next U.N. chief

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Two Former British Defense Ministers Take Issue With General Dannatt

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the Conservative Party defense secretary from 1992 to 1995, under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Michael Portillo who succeeded him and served as defense minister from 1995-1997, under Prime Minister John Major, "questioned whether General Sir Richard Dannatt could remain in his post as head of the army after publicly questioning government policy," according to an October 14, 2006, report at Scotsman.com, the online presence of The Scotsman, Scotland's national newspaper.

Their comments are relevant to debate that has ensued as a result of Sir Richard's October 12, 2006, call for Britain to get out of Iraq soon.

To read Mr. Rifkind and Mr. Portillo's views, see "Ex-ministers hit out at Dannatt."

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Scotsman.com: British Military Backs Dannatt's Call To Leave Iraq

According to James Kirkup of Scotsman.com, the online presence of The Scotsman, Scotland's national newspaper, the British military, for the most part, solidly supports Sir Richard Dannatt's October 12, 2006, call for Britain to get out of Iraq soon. He wrote in an October 14, 2006, report:

From the squaddies on the front line to the retired generals in their armchairs, the British military yesterday [October 13, 2006] united in support of General Sir Richard Dannatt, the British Army chief, and his devastating analysis of the government's defence and foreign policies.
Mr. Kirkup said "General Dannatt, the Chief of General Staff, has rocked Downing Street by publicly warning that unless Britain begins a major withdrawal from Iraq within the year, the overstretched British Army could end up "broken".

To read more, see "Military lines up to back general on Iraq." Also see the comments from readers.

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Is Sir Richard Dannatt Retreating In Call For British Troops To Leave Iraq?

John Ingham and Gabriel Milland of the London-based Daily Express reported October 14, 2006, that Sir Richard Dannatt, "Britain's top soldier appeared to climb down yesterday {October 14, 2006]  over his call for the Army to get out of Iraq "sometime soon".

"But General Sir Richard Dannatt gave [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair a stark new warning: – Don’t "break" the Army over Iraq."

The Express said, "General Dannatt had stunned Westminster on Thursday [October 12, 2006] by declaring that we should "get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problem".
And he signalled that Britain’s presence in Iraq is fuelling terrorism."

So, both U.S. President George W. Bush and Mr. Blair have been told their invasion and occupation of Iraq has fueled terrorism. See "Declassified Key Judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate: Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States" dated April 2006."  But instead of leaving Iraq, the Bush Administration announced that the U.S. will remain there for four more years. See "Army makes plans to keep current troop levels in Iraq through 2010.

To read more of The Express article, see "About turn! Army chief changes his mind on Iraq

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October 13, 2006

'Sir Richard Has Performed A Great Service'

The Sunday Times of London asserts in its October 14, 2006, lead article headlined "Collateral damage" that, "The General Sir Richard Dannattrelationships between politicians and senior military figures have often involved creative tension, adding:

An exasperated Winston Churchill declared of General [Richard] Montgomery {in photo at left] that he was “in defeat unbeatable, in victory unbear-able”. Those comments were not, however, made to the country at large during the very heat of battle. General Sir Richard Dannatt’s interview, by contrast, was on the record and offered, despite the apparent unease of ministers, as British troops are engaged in conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been hailed, not least by those against all involvement in Iraq, for his candour. His judgment is less certain than his wisdom on this occasion.

Nevertheless, Mr. Dannatt's October 12, 2006, interview in the The Daily Mail, a British tabloid, set off a much-needed debate in Britain and the United States about the March 20, 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. See "Sir Richard Dannatt : A very honest General."

According to the publication, "Sir Richard's lead in shining a light on the Armed Forces extends to the mission in Iraq. He says with great clarity and honesty that "our presence exacerbates the security problems," adding:

I think history will show that the planning for what happened after the initial successful war-fighting phase was poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning.

"History will show that a vacuum was created and into the vacuum malign elements moved. The hope that we might have been able to get out of Iraq in 12, 18, 24 months after the initial start in 2003 has proved fallacious. Now hostile elements have got a hold it has made our life much more difficult in Baghdad and in Basra.

"The original intention was that we put in place a liberal democracy that was an exemplar for the region, was pro-West and might have a beneficial effect on the balance within the Middle East.

"That was the hope. Whether that was a sensible or naïve hope, history will judge. I don't think we are going to do that. I think we should aim for a lower ambition.

Daily Mail reporter Sarah Sands continues: Sir Richard adds, strongly, that we should "get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems". "We are in a Muslim country and Muslims' views of foreigners in their country are quite clear. "As a foreigner, you can be welcomed by being invited into a country, but we weren't invited, certainly by those in Iraq at the time. Let's face it, the military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in.

"That is a fact. I don't say that the difficulties we are experiencing around the world are caused by our presence in Iraq, but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them."

A FEW RELATED LINKS

British Army chief: Military presence in Iraq 'exacerbates security problem' ---The Christian Science Monitor, USA

Britain's Army Chief Clarifies Remarks on Troop Withdrawal --- The Washington Post, USA

Blair devastated as Army chief savages his approach to Iraq --- The Independent, UK

Blair forced to claim Dannatt's criticisms are 'absolutely right' --- The Daily Mail, UK

Straight-talking, and more to come --- The Guardian, UK

Sir Richard has performed a service --- Telegraph.co.uk., UK

Commentary: Dannatt bypassed spin machine to tell the truth  ---Michael Evans, Times Online, UK

US asks for explanation on UK general’s remarks ---, Dawn, Pakistan

I agree with every word that Dannatt said. But he has got to be sacked --- Matthew Parris, Times Online, UK

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October 12, 2006

The Herald: 'U.S. Spies Were Wrong About Korea"

Ian Bruce, Defense correspondent for The Herald of Britain, reports in the October 13, 2006, edition that, "U.S. spymasters told the White House that North Korea did not possess nuclear weapons and was "probably bluffing" about carrying out an underground test, according to state department officials."

Mr. Bruce said, "The briefings which cast doubt on Pyongyang's capabilities were filtered from data obtained by all U.S. clandestine agencies and turned into a background memo in the office of John Negroponte, director of national intelligence."

To read more, please see "U.S. spies were wrong about Korea."

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How Failed Diplomacy Led To Impasse Over Troop Deployment To Darfur

The Brussels, Belgium-based International Crisis Group says in a report released October 12, 2006, that:

The impasse over deploying a major UN peacekeeping force to Darfur results directly from the international community’s three-year failure to apply effective diplomatic and economic pressure on Sudan’s government and its senior officials. Unless concerted action is taken against the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), Khartoum will continue its military campaign, with deadly consequences for civilians, while paying only lip service to its many promises to disarm its Janjaweed militias and otherwise cooperate. No one can guarantee what will work with a regime as tough-minded and inscrutable as Sudan’s, but patient diplomacy and trust in Khartoum’s good faith has been a patent failure. The international community has accepted the responsibility to protect civilians from atrocity crimes when their own government is unable or unwilling to do so. This now requires tough new measures to concentrate minds and change policies in Khartoum.
To read an overview of the report, see "Getting the UN into Darfur.   This is the press release about the report. Here is the entire report.
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October 11, 2006

The AP: 'Activists, Reporters Imperiled in Russia'

"Internet postings are calling on Russian nationalists to kill government critics--death lists that underscore the dangers journalists and rights activists face in Russia," Maria Danilova of The Associated Press reported October 11, 2006.

To read more, see "Activists, Reporters Imperiled in Russia.".

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A Transcript President Bush's October 11, 2006 Press Conference

Here is a White House transcript of U.S. President George W. Bush's October 12, 2006 "press conference, at which he discussed the economy, the war in Iraq and "the unfolding situation in North Korea," among other things.

I heard the press conference on the radio. My sense was that Mr. Bush knows the war in Iraq is unwinnable, but he just can't bring himself to admit it. Another thought was that if another country did what the U.S. is doing in Iraq the U.S. would want to haul them before a war crimes tribunal. Being an imperial power is grand. You don't have to worry about world leaders, the U.N. General Assembly or the Security Council calling for your arrest for waging aggressive war and crimes against humanity.

By the way, The Diplomatic Times Review cannot guarantee that the transcript mentioned above has not been altered.

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News Analysis: Failed Atomic Diplomacy

The New York Times' David E. Sanger said in an October 10, 2006, news analysis that, "North Korea may be a starving, friendless, authoritarian nation of 23 million people, but its apparently successful explosion of a small nuclear device in the mountains above the town of Kilju marks a defiant bid for survival and respect. For Washington and its allies, it marks a failure of nearly two decades of atomic diplomacy.:

Mr. Sanger added: "North Korea is more than just another nation joining the nuclear club. It has never developed a weapons system it did not ultimately sell on the world market, and it has periodically threatened to sell its nuclear technology. So the end of ambiguity about its nuclear capacity foreshadows a very different era, in which the concern may be not where a nation's warheads are aimed, but in whose hands its weapons and know-how end up."

To read more of Mr. Sanger's analysis, see "News Analysis: For White House, a failure of two decades of atomic diplomacy.

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Sydney Morning Herald: How To Reign In North Korea

The Sydney Morning Herald of Australia has an October 12, 2006, editorial  on "How to rein in North Korea." It's worth reading.

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Russia, China Block 'Act Of War' Searches After North Korea's 'Nuke Test'

The Times of London's James Bone in New York and Richard Lloyd Parry in Seoul report in an October 12, 2006, dispatch that, "Russia and China are blocking an American plan to mount international inspections of all cargoes entering and leaving North Korea for fear of provoking a military showdown."

To read their report, see "Neighbours block 'act of war' searches after test."

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Azzam al-Amriki or Azzam the American Charged With Treason

Azzam al-Amriki or Azzam the American, formerly Adam Gadahn, "a 28-year-old California man who has appeared in five al-Qaeda propaganda videos was charged with treason Wednesday," October 11, 2006, according to the Chicago Tribune and other news outlets. The Tribune said he's "the first U.S. citizen charged with the offense since World War II." See "Californian who appeared in al-Qaida videos charged with treason."

If Azzam is ever brought to trial, it should be broadcast on Court-TV and not be held in secret reminiscent of the old Soviet Union.

By the way, the first time I saw a video of Azzam I wondered whether he was a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asset. I found it curious that an American convert had managed to get inside the al-Qaeda's inner circle.

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Is Dan Senor's Criticism Of 'Imperial Life in the Emerald City' Valid?

On August 10, 2006, Dan Senor, who served in Baghdad from April 2003 to June 2004, as a senior adviser to the Bush Administration's so-called Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority, challenged what he called Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Rajiv Chandrasekaran's thesis that "young and inexperienced neoconservative political hacks and Bush loyalists ran and ruined the occupation of Iraq." See "The Realities Of Trying to Rebuild Iraq."

Senor said, "In pinning the shortcomings of the reconstruction effort on the mishaps of a handful of low-level political appointees, he virtually ignores the fact that the senior tiers of the CPA were populated with a bipartisan and generally nonpolitical corps of experts."

Chandrasekaran, who had an excerpt from his book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City" published in The Post on September 17, 2006, ---That's what Senor responded to --- said in an October 12, 2006, post that can be found Professor Juan Cole's controversial Informed Comment's blog:

"While I don’t want to be drawn into a back-and-forth debate on the pages of The Post or in cyberspace, there are some significant misrepresentations and inaccuracies in his piece that need to be corrected for the record."

Those corrections can be in "Rajiv Chandrasekaran Replies to Dan Senor. 

By the way, I hope the men do go back-and-forth. It probably would result in a great debate. Now, if L. Paul Bremer, who replaced Jay Garner as the ruler of Iraq after Saddam Hussein was overthrown, would just join the debate. He chronicles his time in Iraq in a book titled "My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope."

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October 10, 2006

Kommersant: 'Politkovskaya's Murderers Divided into Three' Parties

Murdered Russian journalist and author Anna Politkovskaya was buried October 10, 2006 in Troekurovskoe Cemetery in Moscow, according to Kommersant, one of Russia's online dailies. The  Novaya gazeta reporter was murdered on October 7, 2006.

Kommersant said, "The investigation of her killing has not gotten far in the two days since then," and that. "Investigators are using three main theories:

that her killing was the revenge of police who were imprisoned as a result of her investigations, or a conspiracy among the opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, or the revenge of Chechen rebels who went over to the federal side.

Kommersant also reported that, "A meeting was held at the Prosecutor General's Office last night [October 9, 2006] for investigators to brief Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin on their progress in the... murder case. So far, they have not even been able to create a clear composite sketch of the murderer."

The daily said, "The description of the killer and his possible accomplice received from witnesses is at variance with the image seen in video recordings made at the entrance to Politkovskaya's apartment building on Lesnaya St.," in Moscow, "where she was killed, or at Ramstore, where she made her last purchases."

"The records of her recent phone calls did not yield any information on the killer either," Kommersant said, adding;" Investigators suggest that there were two groups involved in her killing, with one group following her car and informing the murderer of her arrival home. The murderer allowed her to enter the elevator in her building ahead of him, then shot her in the back and head. He left the weapon at the scene and fled. Experts have been unable to recreate the serial number filed off the pistol, so its origin remains unknown."

Ms. Politkovskaya's most recent book is Putin's Russia. She also wrote books and articles on the war in Chechnya, of which she was highly critical.

For more, please see "Politkovskaya's Murderers Divided into Three.

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October 9, 2006

Who Killed Anna Politkovskaya?

"Who Killed Anna Politkovskaya? " asks Charles Ganske in an October 9, 2006, post at the Russia blog, which "presents up-to-date news, facts and commentary on the state of events in Russia and the former Soviet Union."

Mr. Ganske said, "An article today on the Gazeta.ru news site offers three theories why Politovskaya was killed. The first is the theory most widely accepted in the Western media, that her personal criticism of Putin and coverage of Russian human rights abuses in Chechnya made her a target. The second is that Politovskaya offended a powerful businessman, or that friends of a former officer in the security forces now on trial for war crimes in Chechnya in part due to Politovskaya's reporting, ordered the hit. The last possibility the Gazeta article raises is that someone wanted to embarrass Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov and the Kremlin by blaming them for her death."

A FEW RELATED LINKS

World’s Press Condemns Murder of Russian Journalist --- World Association of Newspapers

Anna Politkovskaya’s murder: Makarov could be placed stealthily --- Regnum, Russia

A Symbol for Journalists and a Target for a Pistol --- Moscow Times.com, Moscow

Germany says killing of journalist Politkovskaya must not go unpunished --- The Associated Press, Berlin

Europe Outraged About Politkovskaya's Murder --- Voice of America, USA

The hitmen who stalk Russia --- BBC, London

A look at reporters killed in Russia --- International Herald Tribune, France 

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AP: Los Angeles' Koreatown Concerned About North Korea's Nuclear Test

The Associated Press' Peter Prengman reported October 9, 2006 that, "In cafes, restaurants and barbershops across" Los Angeles, California, USA's "vast Koreatown, the conversations Monday [October 9, 2006] centered on one topic - North Korea's claimed nuclear test and what will happen next."

"Reactions in the United States' largest Korean immigrant community ranged from frustration at America's inability to keep the communist regime from going nuclear to worry about what it could mean for relatives back home," Mr. Prengman wrote.

To read more, see "LA's vast Koreatown abuzz with concern over nuclear test."

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Editorials And Op-Ed Articles On North Korea's Nuclear Test

The St. Thomas University School of Law's resource-rich Diplomacy Monitor, which tracks "Internet-based Global Diplomacy," has a list of major documents related to North Korea's October 9, 2006, underground nuclear test, which has been widely condemned, especially in the West.

As might be expected, the test has generated many editorials, Op-Ed articles and informed and uninformed opinion. Below are links to some of that opinion.

Analysis: North Korea's success is diplomacy's failure --- San Jose Mercury News,  USA 

News Analysis: A massive failure of US diplomacy --- International Herald Tribune, France 

Bush's Direct-to-the-People Diplomacy: "We Cut Out the Middleman!" --- Huffington Post, USA

Rebottling North Korea's nuclear genie --- Christian Science Monitor, USA

Editorial: New dawn of a dangerous age --- The Australian, Australia

Robyn Lim: Taking offence --- The Australian, Australia

The end of diplomacy? --- Globe, Israel

Analysis: North Korea test a sign of weakness --- Financial Times, London

Threats, Diplomacy Over N. Korea --- Council on Foreign Relations, New York 

ANALYSIS-N.Korea nuclear threat complicates diplomacy --- Reuters, Washington, D.C

Has North Korea made the world a safer place? ---  The Independent, UK

ANALYSIS: North Korea jolts the world ---Deutsche Presse-Agentur via Bangkok Post

Blast of anger --- The Times of India, India

North Korean nuclear test a small scale affair --- Asian Tribune, Thailand 

Experts: N. Korean Nuclear Test Unlikely to Lead to North Asian Nuclear Arms Race --- Voice of America

How North Korea bungled its nuclear timing --- Asia Times Online, Hong Kong

It's sunset for Seoul's sunshine policy --- Daily News & Analysis, India 

China must restrain Pyongyang --- Guardian Unlimited, UK 

Analysis: North Korea have played the ultimate card ---  Times Online, UK

US: Security Council must respond to N. Korea nuke test --- Ynetnews, Israel

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Where's Riverbend?

Riverbend, the young Iraqi woman who runs the popular Baghdad Burning blog, which was launched August 17, 2003, and became an international hit, hasn't posted anything since Saturday, August 5, 2006. Her last post was "Summer of Goodbyes...," which is about Iraqis fleeing their country to escape the hell President George W. Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq has brought them, in the form of murders, suicide bombings, kidnappings, Shiite-Sunni retaliatory killings and lack of basic services.

She wrote at the end of the article:

I sometimes wonder if we’ll ever know just how many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis left the country this bleak summer. I wonder how many of them will actually return. Where will they go? What will they do with themselves? Is it time to follow? Is it time to wash our hands of the country and try to find a stable life somewhere else?

For her safety, I hope she did just that. Here's an April 9, 2006 interview that Al-Jazeera's Firas Al-Atraqchi did with River.

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October 8, 2006

Security Situation In Kirkuk Said To Be Deteriorating

Inter Press Service's Mohammed A. Salih reports in dispatch from Arbil, Iraq, that "The security situation in the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk has further deteriorated over the past few weeks after the Iraqi government formed a committee assigned to "normalize the situation".

"The creation of that committee under a constitutional provision has led to a rise in ethnic tensions among Kirkuk's Kurdish, Arab and Turkoman populations," he reveals, adding: "Violence has risen with the tensions."

Mr. Salih reports that, "September was one of the bloodiest months for Kirkuk, with an unprecedented number of attacks. For many, the message behind the attacks is to stop implementation of Article 140 of Iraq's constitution, and to inflame sectarian strife in the city."

According to Mr. Salih, "Article 140 sketches a three-step plan to remove traces of the Arabization policy of the regime of former president Saddam Hussein. The constitution now provides for a census followed by a referendum on the fate of the city, after normalizing the situation. The issue is whether Kirkuk should be added to the autonomous Kurdish-run region of northern Iraq."

For more, see Mr. Salih's article headlined "Bloody fight over Kirkuk's future" in the October 7, 2006 Asia Times Online.

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Is The U.S.Preparing To Divide Iraq Into Three Sections?

The Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and former U.S. Representative Lee H. Hamilton, "may recommend carving up Iraq into three highly autonomous regions, according to well informed sources," Times of London correspondent Sarah Baxter reports in an October 8, 2006, dispatch from Washington, D.C. See "America ponders cutting Iraq in three. Also see ABC News' October 8, 2006, report headlined "Baker Looks to Change Course on Iraq Debate."

The ISG was established by the U.S. Congress on May 15, 2006. It was "facilitated by U.S. Institute of Peace and supported by Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Center for the Study of the Presidency (CSP), and the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, according to Wikipedia.

According to Ms. Baxter, ISG "is "preparing to report" after the November 7, 2006, "congressional elections amid signs that sectarian violence and attacks on coalition forces are spiraling out of control. The conflict is claiming the lives of 100 civilians a day and bombings have reached record levels," she wrote.

By the way, President George W. Bush met with the study group back on June 14, 2006. For more information on the group, see the Iraq Study Group Website.

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Washington Post: U.S. Casualties From Iraq War On The Rise

The Bush Administration has done a great job of keeping U.S. citizens from seeing their loved ones, friends and neighbors enter the U.S. through Dover Airforce Base as they return home from Afghanistan and Iraq in caskets, on stretchers and crutches. Of course, all are not physically crippled or maimed.

While we rarely see the amputees, the brain damaged, those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other war-related mental problems, we do see the numbers when someone takes the time to report on them. Like the sight of a soldier with one arm and both legs missing, its not pretty.

What the administration can't hide is the fact that, the numbers tell a grim story as Washington Post staff writer Ann Scott Tyson reports in an October 8, 2006, article headlined "U.S. Casualties in Iraq Rise Sharply." She writes:

The sharp increase in American wounded -- with nearly 300 more in the first week of October -- is a grim measure of the degree to which the U.S. military has been thrust into the lead of the effort to stave off full-scale civil war in Iraq, military officials and experts say. Beyond Baghdad. Marines battling Sunni insurgents in Iraq's western province of Anbar last month also suffered their highest number of wounded in action since late 2004.

Ms. Tyson notes that, "More than 20,000 U.S. troops have been wounded in combat in the Iraq war, and about half have returned to duty. While much media reporting has focused on the more than 2,700 killed, military experts say the number of wounded is a more accurate gauge of the fierceness of fighting because advances in armor and medical care today allow many service members to survive who would have perished in past wars," she reports, adding: "The ratio of wounded to killed among U.S. forces in Iraq is about 8 to 1, compared with 3 to 1 in Vietnam."

I have a niece in Iraq and worry about her everyday. I hope the Bush Administration treats her and other veterans better than previous administrations treated Vietnam War vets and vets from the first Gulf War. For some reason, U.S. administrations are quick to dismiss ailments soldiers say they contracted during deployment overseas. Veterans poisoned by Agent Orange in Vietnam had to organize and flex political muscles before they got the Veterans Administration to take their complaints seriously.

Our leaders should be thankful they live in a nation in which aggrieved soldiers don't take to the street with guns. Instead, many turn to drugs and alcohol and end up homeless or dead. See "Back from Iraq - and suddenly out on the streets."

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Staging a Birthday Rally For Putin In Chechnya

According to The Associated Press,"Several thousand youths clad in T-shirts emblazoned with portraits of Vladimir Putin and waving Russian flags on Saturday [October 7, 2006] rallied in the Chechen capital [Grozny] to celebrate the [Russian] president's 54th birthday."

The AP said, "The activists, mostly high school and college students, also held banners wishing Putin "health, happiness, and success in work" and chanted 'Putin, congratulations!'"

This reads like its describing one of the pro-Kremlin rallies the old Soviet Union was known to stage, to show fake support for whichever regime was in power. As many deaths as Mr. Putin is responsible for in Chechnya, I can't see any right-minded resident of the devastated Muslim enclave celebrating Mr. Putin's birthday. His demise, yes. But not his birthday.

To read more, please see "Several thousand youths rally in Chechnya to celebrate Putin's 54th birthday.

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Anna Politkovskaya's Suspicious Death

The assassination of Anna Politkovskaya, 48,[in Wikipedia photo below] the prominent Russian journalist shot dead on October 7, 2006, in a elevator of her apartment building in Moscow, is the subject of a hard-hitting commentary at Economist.com, that points the finger at the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"She was brave beyond belief, Anna Politkovskaya, reporting a gruesome war and a creeping dictatorship with a sharp pen and steel nerves," the Economist said. "It may be a chilling coincidence that she was murdered on President Vladimir Putin’s birthday, but her friends and supporters are in little doubt that her dogged, gloomy reporting of the sinister turn Russia has taken under what she called his “bloody” leadership was what led to her murder in the lift of her Moscow apartment block."

As Wikipedia notes, "From June 1999 to 2006," Ms. Politkovskaya "wrote columns for the online news publication Novaya Gazeta. She published several award-winning books about Chechnya and President Putin's regime, most recently the book Putin's Russia. In 2001 Politkovskaya was forced to flee to Vienna, following repeated e-mail threats from a police officer whom she had accused of committing crimes against civilians." She was also poisoned.

To read more, please see "A suspicious death in Russia.

A FEW RELATED LINKS

Russian journalist's murder may be linked to work on Chechnya --- National Post, Canada

Kremlin silent, US "shocked" over journalist's murder --- Euronews.net, France 

Russian journalist investigating torture, abductions in Chechnya --- EiTB, Spain 

Russians fear truth targeted in journalist's murder--- Reuters AlertNet, UK 

Russian Prosecutor Takes Control of Politkovskaya Murder Probe --- Bloomberg, USA

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October 7, 2006

Georgia Charges Russia With Ethnic Cleansing

Mark Franchetti of The Sunday Times of London, writing from Tbilisi, said "The tiny former Soviet republic of Georgia accused Russia of ethnic cleansing yesterday [October 6, 2006] after the Kremlin cut trade, transport and postal links and began to investigate children with Georgian names in Moscow schools."

He noted that, "the clampdown came in retaliation for the arrests of four Russian officers in Georgia on spy charges" on September 27, 2006.

To read more, please see "‘This is ethnic cleansing’ – Georgia."

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October 6, 2006

Why Rice Had To Sneak Into Baghdad

Professor Juan Cole at Informed Comment made a valid point October 6 when he commented on why U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and other U.S officials have to sneak into Baghdad these days. Ms. Rice paid a surprise visit on October 5, 2006.

"They all have to be surprise visits because otherwise she would be killed while there," he said.

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October 5, 2006

Why Deteriorating Georgian-Russian Relations May Be A Good Thing

In an October 5, 2006, news analysis headlined "Georgia vs. Russia: divorce is inevitable, but why make it so messy?" RIA Novosti political commentator Yuri Filippov opined:

To a certain extent, it is a good thing that Russian-Georgian relations have reached a critical point. The crisis may help put everything right. As a result, Russia and Georgia will probably even succeed in building completely transparent and rational relations which would be free of political games, blackmail and threats. But before this happens, Georgia will have to go through a very unpleasant period of financial and economic sanctions, which have already been approved by the Russian State Duma.
Mr. Filippov said, "The general freezing of bilateral relations is bound to deal a blow to the Georgian economy and undermine the interests of hundreds of thousands of Georgians who came to Russia to find jobs. All this is now at stake. As a result, Russia and Georgia will enter a new stage in their relations. They will not be able to avoid it."

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M.K. Bhadrakumar: The Russia, Georgia 'Spy Spat Has A Counterpunch'

M. K. Bhadrakumar, who "served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for more than 29 years," provides an informed analysis of the dangerous dispute between Russia and Georgia, that escalated  last week with the arrest of four "Russian spies" in the Georgian capital.

Russia President Vladimir Putin forced their release by tightening economic screws on Georgia and threatening to use military force. On October 6, 2006, Russia, under pressure from abroad, said it would not use force to settle the dispute.

To read Mr. Bhadrakumar's October 6, 2006 analysis in Asia Times Online, please see "Spy spat has a counterpunch.

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Sri Lanka, LTTE Reportedly Will Hold Peace Talks October 28 And 29

The Asian Tribune's Walter Jayawardhana reports in an October 6, 2006 dispatch that, "Dr. Palitha Kohona, head of the Sri Lanka Peace Secretariat, said that the [Sri Lankan] government has agreed with the Norwegian facilitators to have peace talks with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)) on October 28 and 29 in Switzerland but he warned that the government would swiftly react against any kind of provocations by the terrorist group until that period."

Mr. Jayawardhana said "the LTTE’s military spokesman, Rasiah Ilantheriyan," told the BBC’s Sinhala language service "that their group also has agreed to the date and the place with...Norwegian [peace] facilitators." 

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Sri Lankan President Displeased With Some Of His Envoys

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in what Lankaeverything.com calls "a no-holds barred pep talk to the country's overseas envoys, told more than 50 of them on October 5, 2006: "Our government has not sent you and your families to foreign countries only to attend evening parties and provide a good education to your children."

According Lankaeverything.com, he "urged them to treat Sri Lankan migrant workers with compassion and gratitude.There are close to a million Sri Lanka workers, many of them females based in the Middle East. Most of these workers, particularly women, are poorly treated by Sri Lankan embassies abroad."

For more, please see "Sri Lankan President Slams Country's Envoys For Not Doing Enough."

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Ayman El-Amir Looks At 'The Face On The 38th Floor'

The job of Secretary General of the United Nations "has been called the most impossible job in the world for which no one is fully qualified," opines Al-Ahram Weekly's Ayman El-Amir.

"Yet," he adds, "there has been a train of hopeful candidates knocking on the doors of the United Nations Security Council, and of media outlets, each announcing his or her keen interest to become the next secretary-general when the current one, Kofi Annan, steps down at the end of December." 

"There is no job description or benchmarks for performance as the UN Charter provides only a general procedure for selection but no conditions under which the secretary-general may be censured, impeached or fired even for a scandal like the $64 billion oil-for-food outrage, or the genocide in Rwanda and Srebrenica," Mr. El-Amir notes.

To read the entire post, please see "The face on the 38th floor.

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October 4, 2006

Putin Sounds Like A Bully In Threats Against Georgia

The Russian news agency  RIA Novosti reported  October 4, 2006, that Russian President Vladimir Putin (in photo below)said today that Russia will not be blackmailed by anyone.  The news outlet said this is "a clear reference to a diplomatic row with Georgia over spying allegations." For background, see the EurAsia Daily Monitor report headlined Tbilisi Neutralizes Alleged Russian Spy Ring, Gains Political Mileage.

Ria Novosti said Mr. Putin's "statement comes in the wake of a scandal that began when Georgian police detained four Russian officers and charged them with espionage last week. Although the officers were handed over to the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe]  and then Russia Monday [October 2, 2006], diplomatic tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi have persisted." See Euronews.net's October 3, 2006, report headlined Diplomatic row rumbles on between Georgia and Russia

To me, Mr. Putin, playing the aggrieved party, comes off like a bully in Russia's dispute with its smaller neighbor. As the Washington Post said in an October 2, 2006, editorial Enough Bullying."

For more, please see "Putin warns against using language of blackmail with Russia

A FEW RELATED LINKS

Putin accuses Georgia of 'blackmail' --- United Press International, USA

Georgia Urges Russia to Stop --- Kommersant, Russia 

Georgia pledges to continue NATO-membership bid --- Xinhua, China 

Cut off from Russia, Georgians scramble --- International Herald Tribune, France

EU doesn't expect war over Georgia-Russia tensions --- Reuters AlertNet, UK 

Anti-Georgia Campaign Heats Up Across Russia --- MOSNEWS, Russia 

Why the Russia-Georgia Spat Could Become a US Headache --- TIME, USA

US urges Russia, Georgia to tone down rhetoric --- Reuters.uk, UK

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Is Pakistan Behind Taliban's Re-emergence In Afghanistan?

On October 3, 2006, Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief, published a plausible analysis of the role Pakistan is purportedly playing in the Taliban's  re-emergence in Afghanistan.

He said, "The Taliban-led rebellion in April marking the beginning of the spring offensive against Kabul, oriented with Iraq's skillful urban guerrilla war, has been so strong that there is even talk in Kabul of the Taliban returning "any time soon."

"While the Taliban obviously take all the credit for the stiff fight they are giving foreign forces in the country, an underlying feature of the resistance can't be ignored: neighboring countries, especially Pakistan, never have, and never will, sit idly by to allow events to take their natural course," Mr. Shahzad wrote.

He said an Asia Times Online investigations on the ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan reveal that much spade work has already been done to help craft an insurgency that best suits Pakistan's national interests."

To read the analysis, see "Pakistan reaches into Afghanistan .

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Roh, Abe And Hu To Hold Beijing Summit On North Korea

South Korean "President Roh Moo-hyun will hold summits with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and China’s President Hu Jintao next week to discuss the North Korean nuclear threat and other international and bilateral issues, Chong Wa Dae announced" October 3, 2006, according to The Korea Times.

For more information on the summit, see "Roh to Meet Abe, Hu."

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Japan May Impose Sanctions If North Korea Tests Nukes

"Japan will independently impose sanctions on North Korea if the country carries out a nuclear weapons test, government sources said Wednesday," October 4, 2006, according to Japan's Daily Yomiuri Online.

The publication said, "Measures to be taken in such an event include the expansion of the current ban on port calls by the Man Gyong Bong-92, a North Korean passenger-cargo ferry, to include freighters from North Korea and other countries, according to an unofficial decision made that day, the sources said."

To read more, see "Govt eyes tough sanctions on DPRK...

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Abe To Undertake Diplomatic Mission To China, South Korea

Hisane Masaki, "a Tokyo-based commentator and scholar on international politics and economy," predicts in an October 5, 2006, news analysis at OhmyNews that,"A long-awaited thaw in Japan's chilly relations with its important Asian neighbors may come soon."

He noted that, "Japan announced Wednesday [October 4, 2006] that new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make a whirl-wind tour of China and South Korea to repair damaged relations with the two Asian neighbors."

"The fence-mending trip will take Abe to Beijing on Sunday [October 8, 2006] for talks with top Chinese leaders, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, and then to Seoul for talks with President Roh Moo-hyun the following day."

To read more of Mr. Masaki's analysis, see "Abe's Fence-mending Tour of Neighbors."

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October 3, 2006

UPI: 'DOD May Not Publish Woodward Interviews With Rumsfeld'

United Press International (UPI) reported October 2, 2006, that "The Pentagon has not yet decided whether to publish the transcript of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's interviews" with Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward, excerpts of which were used in Mr. Woodward's new book, State of Denial: Bush at War Part III.

The book is causing considerable consternation in the White House, State Department and Pentagon, and widespread debate in the traditional media and the blogosphere.

UPI noted that "State of Denial" "alleges there was an effort inside the White House led by Chief of Staff Andy Card and supported by First Lady Laura Bush and soon-to-be Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to force Rumsfeld to resign." See "Bush chief of staff urged Rumsfeld be fired: book. Also see "Andrew Card Responds to Bob Woodward's Claim of Confused, Divided Bush Administration."

To read more of the UPI article, see "DOD may not publish Woodward interviews.

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Records Refresh Rice's Memory About July 10, 2001 Tenet Meeting

John Whiteside at Blue Bayou, "a reader blog about politics and current events" published by the Houston Chronicle but not edited or reviewed by its editors before posts go online, has prompted a spirited debate between readers with a provocative and informative, October 3, 2006, post headlined "Rice plays the indignation card again (and again and again)." He writes:

What's worse than someone who responds to all criticism with indignation that verges on a tantrum? Someone who does that and gets her facts wrong. That's our secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. I wrote recently about how she sees herself as a "true believer." Unfortunately, what we could have used over the last five years was a true thinker as national security adviser and in her current position.

Mr. Whiteside's criticism was prompted by Ms. Rice's initial response to Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward's contention in State of Denial: Bush at War Part III  that during a July 10, 2001 meeting between the CIA Director George Tenet  and fellow spook Cofer Black about an impending attack on the United States by al-Qaeda, they

felt they were not getting through to Rice. She was polite, but they felt the brush-off. President Bush had said he didn't want to swat at flies. [See Two months Before 9/11, an Urgent Warning to Rice]

Mr. Woodward further contends:

Afterward, Tenet looked back on the meeting with Rice as a tremendous lost opportunity to prevent or disrupt the Sept. 11 attacks. Rice could have gotten through to Bush on the threat, but she just didn't get it in time, Tenet thought. He felt that he had done his job and had been very direct about the threat, but that Rice had not moved quickly. He felt she was not organized and did not push people, as he tried to do at the CIA.

Black later said, "The only thing we didn't do was pull the trigger to the gun we were holding to her head.

Ms. Rice, [seen in the October 3, 2006, State Department photo with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit] said she didn't recall the meeting and and denied that she gave Mr. Tenet the brush-off. See "Rice Denies Book's Assertion She Brushed Off CIA Terror Warning." The State Department has confirmed the Rice-Tenet meeting in question. Ms. Rice addressed the issue October 1, 2006,  white En Route to Shannon, Ireland. According to a State Department transcript, "a reporter aboard her plan asked:Secretary Rice holds joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit. Cairo, Egypt, October 3, 2006. State Department photo by Josie Duckett.

QUESTION: A bit off topic, but in the Bob Woodward book there is a meeting detailed in July of 2001 at which you and then CIA chief Tenet were present. Did that meeting happen the way he describes it? Did Tenet at that point express to you a real feeling that there was an attack coming, and if so what did you do about it?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'll have to -- we'll have to go back to the records to see if there was a meeting on July 10th. I met with George Tenet repeatedly, including every morning during that period of time. What I am quite certain of, however, is that I would remember if I was told, as this account apparently says, that there was about to be an attack in the United States; and the idea that I would somehow have ignored that I find incomprehensible, especially given that in July when we were getting a very steady stream of quite alarmist reports of potential attacks -- by the way, all of the information was about potential attacks abroad. There was supposed to be -- the countries that were assumed to be targets -- Saudi Arabia, Yemen, I think there was one about Israel, maybe Jordan. Nothing about the United States. And we were in very active disruption operations abroad, including redoubling efforts to try to capture Abu Zubaida, who people thought might know something about this.

We were in -- George Tenet was working with the security officials from 20 countries. The Vice President called the Saudis to enlist their help. We were taking protective measures abroad; for instance, the Fifth Fleet was redeployed out of harm's way, military forces were put on alert in half a dozen countries, travel alerts were issued for Americans traveling abroad.

It was an extremely active period in terms of responding to what was a steady stream of chatter about potential attacks. And we were getting briefed on them every morning with the President's daily briefing and I was indeed talking to George about them all the time. So it comes as no surprise that in fact the threat level, or the level of threat reporting, was very high during this period.

Now, there was nothing that related to an attack in the United States. Nonetheless, because no one could rule out the potential of an attack in the United States, we took several measures in the United States to protect the United States as well. For instance, the counterterrorism strategy group which was meeting every day during this period of time -- that's the kind of nerve center; it still is, by the way; now it’s reformulated into the NCTC (National Counterterrorism Center).

But the counterterrorism strategy group that was meeting every day, Dick Clarke was reporting on what they were doing. And I believe the date is July 5th when, because I was concerned that even though there was no threat reporting about the United States we couldn't rule out an attack, I called Andy Card and asked him to join me with Dick Clarke because I didn't have authority over the domestic agencies, I thought having the Chief of Staff there might give us some potency if we needed that with the domestic agencies, and asked Dick to convene a meeting, which he did, with agencies like the FAA and other domestic agencies.

I understand too that the CIA briefing was then given to security officials from domestic agencies. I also asked that John Ashcroft be shown the threat reporting because the Attorney General of course oversees the FBI. The FBI held several briefings, including with their special agents-in-charge, one of which they told their special agents-in-charge that even though there was no credible threat reporting about the United States, that could not be ruled out.

So this was an extremely active period of time in terms of responding to what were admittedly vague but repeated and indeed steady reports of impending attack. So I just don't know how -- first of all, I don't know that this meeting took place, but what I really don't know, what I'm quite certain of, is that it was not a meeting in which I was told that there was an impending attack and I refused to respond.

NOTE: After discussing Iran in response to a reporter's question, Ms. Rice returned to July meeting:

SECRETARY RICE: I think we have to wait and see what we -- where we are in the next couple of days.

If I could just add one final thing on Anne's question, I think if you look at the 9/11 Commission report you will not see anything that characterizes a meeting and response of the kind that is described.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, one more thing about that. The Woodward book says there was something quite unusual about this meeting; it was arranged abruptly, that Tenet called from his car to arrange the meeting with the idea, he says, of shaking you to act; and that it was you and Tenet and Cofer Black. Does any of that ring a bell?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, I saw George Tenet a lot. I also saw Cofer Black on occasion. The idea of a kind of emergency meeting in which there was a need to shock me that there were lots of threats out there and lots of threat reporting, given that every day we were sitting in the Oval Office going over the threat reporting, every day Dick Clarke was meeting with the CSG to go over the threat reporting and reporting back to me, five days before this supposed meeting I had asked that the domestic agencies be called together because we couldn't rule out an attack in the United States, we were running disruption operations abroad at a very high level, I really just don't understand the context here. It just doesn't make sense to me.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SECRETARY RICE: I don't remember a so-called emergency meeting. Look, it was not unusual that George and I would meet, in a sense, unscheduled, you know, after a meeting in the Oval or whatever. But we turned over to -- we made available to the 9/11 Commission all the documentary records of my meetings with George Tenet on this subject and -- on this subject and on terrorism more broadly.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SECRETARY RICE: George was -- I remember that George was very worried and he expressed that. We were all very worried because the threat reporting was quite intense. The problem was that it was also very nebulous, and I think that's the word that's used in the 9/11 report. And so when you're dealing with nebulous information that doesn't really direct you toward a particular attack at a particular place at a particular time, you have to try broad efforts to deal with the threat reporting. That's why disruption operations abroad were very important. That's why people were trying to capture Abu Zubaida, figuring that perhaps he could tell us more. That's why we were alerting the FBI and they were alerting their agents.

But we were all very concerned that the threat reporting was -- levels were very high. There was also some threat reporting relating to the Genoa G-8 summit and there was a great deal of worry about that, and in fact we changed a number of the security arrangements concerning the G-8.

So my point to you is this is an extremely intense period in which we're getting the threat reporting, we're constantly acting on the threat reporting, we're having -- Dick's having these meetings every day, and you know, it just kind of doesn't ring true that you'd have to shock me into something that I was very involved in.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SECRETARY RICE: I don't.

NOTE: At this point, a reporter asked about the Middle East. This was followed by:

QUESTION: Back on the Woodward book. There are reports in this book that you had trouble getting return calls from the Secretary of Defense. There were sort of reports also that you supported possibly replacing him with James Baker or someone else. Is any of that true?

And secondly, is Phil Zelikow on the trip? Is he back in the U.S. dealing with this issue, trying to reconstruct what happened?

SECRETARY RICE: Phil is not on the trip and I think that he does want to be able to help reconstruct from the commission side what happened. So yes, he's not on the trip.

But --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SECRETARY RICE: Well, for a lot of reasons. There are other things that Philip is dealing with as well. But you may see him later. Let me just put it that way.

First of all, Secretary Rumsfeld has never refused to return my phone calls. This is ludicrous. Not to mention that I talked to him on principals calls for a while every day and then we went to three days a week. So the idea that he wasn't returning my phone calls is simply ludicrous.

I also did not try to get the President to somehow change his Secretary of Defense. I did tell the President at one point that I thought maybe all of us should go because we'd fought two wars and we had fought the -- we had the largest terrorist attack in American history. And when he asked me to be Secretary of State, I said I think maybe you need new people. So I don't know if that somehow was interpreted, but I was actually talking about me."

Meanwhile, Christopher Beam at Slate has a good roundup of blog commentary on Ms. Rice headlined "Rice Cooker

Note: This article is also published at The Editorial Observer and The Weblog Gazette.

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Venezuela's Diplomacy: An Analysis

Reyes Theis at El Universal contends that, "President Hugo Chávez's continuous traveling, execution of different agreements and a hectic agenda are the most outstanding features in Venezuelan foreign policy. However," he adds, "the country has been involved in diplomatic impasses with several nations."

For backround on that impasse, see Theis' "Venezuelan diplomacy: between interference and anti-imperialism.

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Walter Russell Mead: U.S. Foreign Policy Influenced By Religion

"Religion has always been a major force in U.S. politics, policy, identity, and culture," asserts Walter Russell Mead,  "Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, in a thought-provoking article in the  September/October 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Mead said, "Religion shapes the nation's character, helps form Americans' ideas about the world, and influences the ways Americans respond to events beyond their borders. Religion explains both Americans' sense of themselves as a chosen people and their belief that they have a duty to spread their values throughout the world, he added.

"Of course," he acknowledged, "not all Americans believe such things -- and those who do often bitterly disagree over exactly what they mean. But enough believe them that the ideas exercise profound influence over the country's behavior abroad and at home."

To read more, see "God's Country?" The ideas in it are worth pondering.

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Is Canada Cheapening Its Diplomacy?

Lee Berthiaume, writing September 27, 2006, in Embassy, "Canada's foreign policy newsweekly," reported that Canada's "Conservative government will be holding back on new diplomatic posting overseas and consolidating some missions abroad as part of its announced $2 billion in federal spending cuts." The Canadian's announced the move September 25, 2006. To read more, please see "Cheapening Diplomacy.

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Abe To Follow Murayma's View Of Japan's 'Wartime History'

Xinhua's China View reported October 2, 2006, that "Japan's new prime minister Shinzo Abe said Monday [October 2, 2006] that on the view of Japan's wartime history, he will follow the [August 15] 1995 statement made  by the then premier Tomiichi Murayama who apologized and expressed remorse for Japan's colonial rule and atrocities before and during the [second world] war."

 "Abe made the remark in response to a question from opposition Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama in a parliament's lower house session," according to China View.

To read more, please see "Abe says he follows Murayama's statement on view of wartime history."

To read Mr. Murayma apology, see "Statement by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama "On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the war's end."

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Will Abe Attempt Bilateral Talks With China, South Korea?

Japan's Mainichi Daily News says, "While a host of diplomatic challenges await the just-launched administration of new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the main focus for now is whether Japan can resume bilateral summit talks with China and South Korea."

"An annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Hanoi in November [2006] is seen as an opportunity for such talks," the publication said in a September 27, 2006, report headlined "Summit with China, ROK focus in Abe's diplomacy."

On September 26, 2006, Mr. Abe said he wants "to pursue an assertive diplomacy. I want to make Japan a beautiful country that is trusted and respected by the countries of the world and in which children can be proud of being born," he added. See "New Japan PM Abe vows muscular diplomacy, reform."

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South Korea To Increase Resource Diplomacy

"The government of South Korea said it would increase diplomatic efforts to acquire oil fields in Central Asia and Africa as imports by China reduce supplies available for neighboring Asian nations," according to an October 1, 2006, report by Bloomberg News reporters Sangim Han and Seyoon Kim.

To read more, please see "South Korea practices 'resource diplomacy'." 

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October 2, 2006

McClatchy: CIA Briefed 9/11 Commission On Al-Qaida Attack Warning

Jonathan S. Landay, a reporter in McClatchy Newspapers' highly regarded Washington Bureau, reported October 2, 2006, that, "The independent Sept. 11, 2001, commission was given the same “scary” briefing about an imminent al Qaida attack on a U.S. target that was presented to the White House two months before the attacks, but failed to disclose the warning in its 428-page report."

Mr. Landay said, "Former CIA Director George Tenet presented the briefing to commission member Richard Ben Veniste and executive director Philip Zelikow in secret testimony at CIA headquarters on Jan. 28, 2004, said three former senior agency officials."

For more, please see "9/11 Commission failed to disclose 'scary' briefing also given to White House.

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Will South Korea's Foreign Minister Be Next U.N. Secretary General?

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, "The diplomat in the lead to head the UN (United Nations) for the next decade is skilled in compromise - exhibiting a deliberately bland style that was expected to stand him in good stead during a UN Security Council poll Monday [October 2, 2006] over a successor to Secretary-General Kofi Annan," according to Christian Science Monitor correspondent Donald Kirk.

Mr. Kirk said Mr. Ban's candidacy "hinges on the five permanent members: the US, Britain, France, China, and Russia. While the outcome is still uncertain," he contends, "the soft-spoken career diplomat is the only one of the current candidates who has the minimum of nine positive votes."

To read more, please see "The quiet diplomat who may lead the UN."

Related Links

Ban Finishes 1st in UN Straw Poll with No Objection --- Chosun Ilbo, South Korea 

South Korea's Career Diplomat Set to Be Next UN Chief --- Voice of America, USA

Council Backs South Korean for UN Secretary General --- The New York Times, USA 

UN's big five line up behind South Korean for Annan's job --- Guardian Unlimited, UK 

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October 1, 2006

WSJ Online Analyzes 'Donald Rumsfeld's Continuing Fights'

"For months, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been cast by Democrats and even some Republicans as the face of an unpopular war," The Wall Street Journal Online's Greg Jaffe and Yochi J. Dreazen note in an October 2, 2006, article headlined "Donald Rumsfeld's Continuing Fights."

"Now a new book, which paints Mr. Rumsfeld as isolated from his Bush administration colleagues and at odds with some of his generals, is providing fodder for more questions about his leadership," they contend.

Mr. Jaffe and Mr. Dreazen says, "The heightened focus on the defense chief -- sparked in part by publication of "State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III" by Washington Post editor Bob Woodward -- is complicating White House efforts to keep November's midterm elections from becoming a referendum on the war. Just as significantly, Mr. Rumsfeld's apparent increasing political isolation is affecting how he runs the Defense Department and oversees the war."

A Few Related Links

Bush Retains 'Full Confidence' in Embattled Rumsfeld --- Los Angeles Times, USA

Rumsfeld: I'm not thinking of resigning --- Houston Chronicle, USA

White House backs Rumsfeld, denies charges on Iraq --- Reuters AlertNet, UK 

Book Details Attempts to Oust Rumsfeld --- Los Angeles Times, USA

Anti-Rumsfeld Effort Detailed In Book Denied by White House --- Washington Post, USA

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Newsweek: The White House Knew What Was Coming In 'State Of Denial'

Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe report in the issue of Newsweek dated Oct. 9, 2006, that "The White House had more than an inkling of what was coming" in Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward's book "State of Denial, which has created a sensation in Washington political circles, the traditional media and the blogosphere.

They noted that "this was "Woodward's third book about the Bush administration since 9/11, and it was sure to be less friendly than the first two."

"In scores of interviews over many months," they write, "Woodward's questions to senior officials had been more aggressive, more hostile. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seemed to be a particular target of the veteran Washington Post reporter, who remains, three decades after his Watergate debut, the best excavator of inside stories in the nation's capital."

Thomas and Wolffe said, " White House aides did recommend that the president and the vice president not grant interviews, but it was obvious that Woodward could, and would, get just about everyone else in positions of authority to talk."

To read more, see "The Woodward War.

A Few Related Links

Secrets, and the obvious, revealed --- Los Angeles Times, USA

White House Lists Book's 'Five Key Myths' --- The Washington Post, USA

White House Accuses Woodward of Bias ---ABC News, USA

White House Aides Take to Talk Shows to Dispute Book --- The Washington Post, USA

9/11 Panel Members Upset They Weren’t Told of Meeting --- The New York Times, USA 

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New Facts About Iraq Continues To Emerge

U.S. News & World Report's Kenneth T. Walsh asserts in an October 1, 2006, article that "The fiery debate [in the United States] over Iraq is turning absolutely sulfurous."

"With the November 7 congressional elections just around the corner, two new developments are stoking a surge of second-guessing about President Bush's conduct of the war and raising new concerns about how Washington can extricate itself from what most Americans now see as a deadly, baffling mess," he notes. "One was last week's partial release of a secret National Intelligence Estimate that pokes big holes in Bush's rationale for the conflict by concluding that it is fueling, not curtailing, support for the global jihadist movement.

"The second is a new book by investigative reporter Bob Woodward asserting that the administration is putting a deliberately misleading spin on how the war is going."

I think it's going to get worse for the Republicans before the November 2006 elections. However, TIME magazine reporters Mike Allen and James Carney say the Republicans aren't worried. See "The G.O.P.'s Secret Weapon"

 For more of Walsh's critical analysis,  see "New Facts About Iraq.

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Eric Margolis: How Pakistan Became A U.S. Ally

Eric Margolis' October 1, 2006, column headlined How Pakistan became an ally" in the so-called War on Terror offers a glimpse into an aspect of international affairs that the average American wouldn't believe the U.S. government engages in.

According to Mr. Margolis, "ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] sources say the Bush administration threatened to bomb faithful old ally Pakistan, cut off its oil, collapse its banking system and call in its loans." if it didn't help destroy the Taliban and Al-Qaeda following the latter's September 1, 2006 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

"More frightening," Mr. Margolis writes, "Washington also threatened to “unleash” India against Pakistan, either by allowing India to take the Pakistani-held portion of disputed Kashmir, or giving Delhi a green light to invade all of Pakistan, possibly with American assistance."

By the way, Margolis is well-versed in Pakistani politics. It's evident in his book "War at The Top of The World." 

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Coming Next: Colin Powell's 'Soldier: The Life Of Colin Powell'

Former Secretary of State Colin's Powell's book "Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell" is scheduled to hit the book stores October 10, 2006. I can imagine Bush Administration officials waiting nervously to see how the public will react to any revelations he might make about the lead-up to, and prosecution of, the war on Iraq.

This week, the release of Bob Woodward'sState of Denial,’ put an unwanted focus on the war just as President George W. Bush sought to ensure Americans that it was going well, and that the sacrifice of U.S. troops is worth it.

For more, see the New York Daily News article headlined "Incoming! Bookstores lay am-Bush of war books."

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Newsweek's 'Exclusive Excerpt' From Bob Woodward's 'State of Denial'

Newsweek online has put up what it calls an "exclusive excerpt" from Bob Woodward'sState of Denial,’ part three of his 'Bush at War' series. The tome is getting widespread attention in traditional media and the blogosphere.

Regarding the Iraq war, Mr. Woodward says, "It was Bush’s decision. But [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld drove the dynamic on Iraq." The excerpt purports to tell how Rumsfeld "blew it."

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