Rumsfeld Seeks Broad Review of Iraq Policy,” by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, New York Times,, 6 January 2005 (from Drudge Report).

A retired U.S. Army general is heading to Iraq

The extraordinary leeway given to the highly regarded officer, Gen. Gary E. Luck, a former head of American forces in South Korea and currently a senior adviser to the military’s Joint Forces Command, underscores the deep concern by senior Pentagon officials and top American commanders over the direction that the operation in Iraq is taking, and its broad ramifications for the military, said some members of Congress and military analysts.

My first thoughts reading this were “Iraqification.” South Korea has famously complained by American troops on the DMZ and in Seoul, and we have obliged them by pulling back. Allies need to be able to defend themselves, otherwise we get situations like France or Saudi Arabia. A quote further on seems to confirm this view

General Luck, who was a senior adviser to Gen. Tommy R. Franks at his war-time headquarters in Qatar during the Iraq campaign in 2003 and knows the operation in Iraq well, will lead a small team of military specialists. A principal focus will be to address one of the biggest problems facing the military in Iraq today: how to train Iraqi soldiers and police officers to replace the American troops now securing the country. Commanders have expressed disappointment in the performance of many of the Iraqi forces.

Iraq is in a civil war. The Shia are an overwhelming majority, and have a very large friend next door in Iran. It’s important we train Shia troops, whether regular Iraqi Army or SCIRI/Dawa-affiliated groups, to defend themselves against the Sunni Ba’athi/Salafist terrorists.

If General Luck can further show the need for this and open the last chapter in the Iraq War, so much the better.


Gay Students Being Left Behind Study Shows ,” by Doreen Brandt,, Washington Bureau,, 6 January 2005 (from Democratic Underground).

Sometimes, a post should be written specifically to irritate Rob.

Good news

(Washington) A national study of schools shows that 95 percent have little or no gay, lesbian or bisexual resources in their counseling services and only one percent have transgender resource.

Better news

The results, released Thursday, show schools are not responding to the needs of gay students.

Best news

Seventy percent of the school had no training for educators/staff on how to stop GLBT bullying and 92 percent had no programs to train students how to stop GLBT bullying.

Nearly two thirds of the schools did not include gay, lesbian or bisexual students in their harassment/non-discrimination policies, and 84 percent had little or no resources for parents about GLBT issues.

“Natural” human behavior covers a wide range of activities. Certainly more than are appropriate for polite conversation. But not every “natural” act is naturally tolerated, or naturally normal. If homosexualists argue that their behavior is natural, then so is the deviation and stigmatization that behavior implies.

Chinese Pilgrims

PM Sharon met with Chinese Deputy Prime Minister,” Prime Minister’s Office,, 28 December 2004.

China ready to take on more active role in Mideast politics,” by Mahmoud Al Abed , Jordan Times,, 7 January 2005 (from Democratic Underground).

At the beginning of the meting, which was held in an excellent atmosphere, the Chinese Deputy Prime Minister invited Prime Minister Sharon to visit China in order to further improve bilateral relations. He said that bilateral relations have greatly improved since Prime Minister Sharon took office.


AMMAN — China is ready to take on a more active role in Middle East politics and enhance partnership with the region, including Jordan, Chinese Ambassador to Amman Luo Xingwu announced on Thursday.

At a press conference yesterday, the envoy said Beijing has put forward four-point initiative for peace in the Middle East.

The move was taken after Chinese Deputy Prime Minister and State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan’s Dec.26-29 visit to Palestine and Israel, where he met senior officials from both sides.

In the initiative, China urges trust-building measures between the Palestinians and the Israelis, a halt to attacks against Israeli civilians, facilitation of smooth Palestinian elections and respect for the ensuing Palestinian government, the resumption of peace talks, and an improvement in the living conditions of the Palestinian people.

Excellent. China needs stable economies to trade with. China needs oil, but it also needs stable Middle East allies. Increasing the connectivity between Israel and China helps both nations, and encourages other governments on the road to progress.

It encourages the Arab states in other ways too. The Chinese have little compunction about killing Muslims when the times call for it.

Welcome, friends.

The Pro-Democracy Faction

25 Insurgents Are Killed During Attack on U.S. Base in Mosul,” by Richard A. Oppel, Jr., and Khalid al-Ansary, New York Times,, 30 December 2004.

Ally of Militant Cleric Is on the Stump in Sadr City,” by Erik Eckholm, New York Times,, 5 January 2005.

Neither the supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr nor the Sunni terrorists particularly want us in Iraq. But the contract between them is striking…

From speeches ripped out of Daschle v. Thune

“You need to elect someone from your own city, someone who understands your problems,” the candidate shouted. “You need someone who suffered the way you did.”

To triangulation worthy of Bill Clinton

Mr. Sadr is not taking part in the elections, and at least one of his close aides has called for a boycott. But he clearly represents a significant constituency, mainly younger, disaffected Shiites, and people who have been watching the campaign here say he is hedging his bets.

He quietly approved the inclusion of about 20 supporters, insiders say, on the mainstream Shiite religious ticket, the United Iraqi Alliance, which has the implicit backing of the revered Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and is expected to be the major winner in the elections.

Mr. Sheik’s ticket, Independent National Leaders, is fielding 180 candidates for the national assembly and 42 for the Baghdad city council. Here in Sadr City, where a Shiite population of two million includes both militant devotees of Mr. Sadr and those who call him a reckless upstart, the slate faces a head-on contest with the nationally dominant United Iraqi Alliance.

to the most absurd forms of interest-group politics

“You need backpacks and new books and pens,” he said to the children. “So will you make sure that your parents vote?”

Muqtada al-Sadr is acting like a politician. Maybe he’ll win.

However, those of the Sunni Arab persuasion are trying a different tact

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 29 – American troops and warplanes killed at least 25 insurgents who used car bombs and rocket-propelled grenades in a brazen but failed effort to overrun an American combat outpost in Mosul this afternoon, the fiercest fighting the restive northern city has seen in weeks. Fifteen American soldiers were wounded, military officials said.

The two-hour battle in Mosul followed an ambush on Tuesday night in Baghdad in which insurgents tricked Iraqi police into raiding a booby-trapped home and then detonated a massive bomb that killed at least 7 police officers and 25 others, Iraqi officials said today. Most of the civilian victims were residents of three nearby homes flattened by the blast, the officials said.

There, the troops were attacked by a coordinated force of about 50 insurgents who fired rocket-propelled grenades and semi-automatic weapons. At that point, two F-18 and two F-14 military jets swooped down on strafing runs and firing Maverick missiles, wiping out much of the insurgent force. “That’s when the close-air support came in and did a job on them,” he said.

Revolutionary Forces

Downsides of Partioning Iraq,” by Juan Cole, Informed Consent,, 4 January 2005 (from Andrew Sullivan).

Dr. Juan Cole argues against partioning Iraq. While partitioning as such might not be the best idea (a federal structure with Reconstruction for the Sunni lands makes a lot more sense) his reasoning is wrong, wrong wrong.

Then, how do you split up the resources? If the Sunni Arabs don’t get Kirkuk, then they will be poorer than Jordan. Don’t you think they will fight for it? The Kurds would fight to the last man for the oil-rich city of Kirkuk if it was a matter of determining in which country it ended up.

If the Kurds got Kirkuk and the Sunni Arabs became a poor cousin to Jordan, the Sunni Arabs would almost certainly turn to al-Qaeda in large numbers. Some Iraqi guerrillas are already talking about hitting back at the US mainland. And, Fallujah is not that far from Saudi Arabia, which Bin Laden wants to hit, as well, especially at the oil. Fallujah Salafis would hook up with those in Jordan and Gaza to establish a radical Sunni arc that would destabilize the entire region.

I think they’re already fighting. A civil war has already begun. If pro-Democracy Kurds become rich and pro-Totalitarian Sunnis become “poorer than Jordon,” good. Jordon has very limited ability to cause trouble. We do not want to arm our ideological enemies with oil wealth. We have let the Saudis keep their oil wells for fifty years, and it has not been working that well.

Al Qaeda in Iraq (former Monotheism and Jihad) is a leading terrorist organization there now. It is to late to keep them out. Tolerated by the Sunni-Ba’athis under Saddam Hussein, they are organized, motivated, and murderous.

Al Qaeda has already attacked us in our homeland. Sunni Iraqis have already “hook[ed] up with” those in other nations. The first world trade center bombing, for example, was masterminded by an Iraqi. Refusing to recognize that we are at war now and a “radical Sunni arc” is destabilizing the region now is foolishness.

Divorced from the Sunnis, the Shiites of the south would no longer have any counterweight to religious currents like al-Dawa, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and the Sadrists.

The Dawa Party has endorsed the elections. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolutionin Iraq has endorsed the election. Supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr are running in the elections. These are the democratic forces in Iraq. Why should they be “counterweighted” by Sunni thugs?

The rump Shiite state would be rich, with the Rumayla and other fields, and might well declare a Shiite Islamic republic.

The fact is the Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the most progressive forces in the region. It has an educated and secular population that operates unders a constitutional republic. Iran has our enemies — they have always opposed the Taliban and the Ba’athi reign of Saddam Hussein. Iran is friends with many of our friends, including Russia and China. Iran has an ability to trascend ideology in its foreign policy (say supporting the Christian Republic of Armenia in its struggles against Azerbaijan, or its support for the “infidel” Alawite Ba’ath Party in Syria) lightyears ahead of Saudi Arabia.

Reality determines policy. Events have conspired to give us and Iran very similar interests. There is no reason to throw that away.

It is being coupled with the Sunnis that mainly keeps them from going down that road. A Shiite South Iraq might make a claim on Shiite Eastern Arabia in Saudi Arabia, or stir up trouble there. The Eastern Province can pump as much as 11% of the world’s petroleum.

So Americans would like this scenario why?

This is a reason to support Shia power. By their continued support for repression, terrorism, and hatred, the Saudis have stabbed us in the back. Their interests are not our interests. Spreading a democratic Shia revolution along the Persian Gulf would at worst check Saudi ambitions and at best create a order for that region.

There is more to life than cheap oil. Such as ending the regimes that support terrorism.

The true downside of isolating the Iraqi Sunni remnant is that it would cement the disconnectedness of that region. Before Saddam the Sunnis were the most connected, the most “Core” of Mesopotamia. It is an irony of history that with the liberation, the formerly isolated Kurds and Shia are embracing the world while the formerly secular Sunnis are turning inward.

Disconnnectedness breeds terrorism. Have freed the majority of Iraq’s people and wealth, we may have to be content with 4/5ths victory. 4/5ths of the people free. 4/5ths of the wealth out of the hands of outlaws. 1/5th sullent, hateful, and backwards.

If the Palestinian election creates an administration capable of peace, from the Israeli administration to independence will have taken a little less than two generations. Taking freedom’s wins in Iraq now, we may have to wait until 2044 to join the world. In the meantime it will continue to be a danger. And if we do leave al-Anbar Province, we will be back.

Stolen Election

Gregoire certified as next governor,” by Chriss McGann, Seattle Post-Intelligencer,, 31 December 2004.

Why bother winning, when you can just cheat?

OLYMPIA — Democrat Christine Gregoire was declared Washington’s next governor yesterday, but Republican Dino Rossi refused to quit the race and cited thousands of “mystery voters” in King County as ample ammunition for continuing the fight.

The state Republican Party obtained a list of the people who voted in King County as part of a larger request for information designed to show systemic problems with the election.

The data showed that 895,660 people voted in the state’s largest county. That’s a problem, Republicans said, because King County tallied 899,199 votes — 3,539 more votes than there were voters.

They stole the 1960 Presidential election, tried to steal the 2000 Presidential election, and now are stealing the 2004 Washington Gubernatorial election. God bless the Democratic Party.

Insurance and Retirement

Social Security Formula Weighed: Bush Plan Likely to Cut Initial Benefits,” by Jonathan Weisman and Mike Allen,
Washington Post,, 4 January 2005.

Currently, the social security system combines two philosophically different programs — an insurance program to guard against poverty in old age, and a retirement program to allow retirees to live comfortably. They are seperate because higher wage-earners are better treated by the retirement program (rich people are paid richly to not work under SS), but anyone who has worked 40 quarters gets the minimum insurance benefit.

The problems with this are obvious. Why should poor current wage-earners disproportionately pay for rich retirees to earn more in retirement than they can earn working? Why are we going bankrupt as a nation to support the idle class?

President Bush sees this problem, and intends to fix it

The Bush administration has signaled that it will propose changing the formula that sets initial Social Security benefit levels, cutting promised benefits by nearly a third in the coming decades, according to several Republicans close to the White House.

Under the proposal, the first-year benefits for retirees would be calculated using inflation rates rather than the rise in wages over a worker’s lifetime. Because wages tend to rise considerably faster than inflation, the new formula would stunt the growth of benefits, slowly at first but more quickly by the middle of the century. The White House hopes that some, if not all, of those benefit cuts would be made up by gains in newly created personal investment accounts that would harness returns on stocks and bonds.

But by embracing “price indexing,” the president would for the first time detail the painful costs involved in closing the gap between the Social Security benefits promised to future retirees and the taxes available to fund them. In late February or March, the administration plans to produce its proposed overhaul of the system, including creation of personal investment accounts and the new benefit calculation.

Brilliant. Benefits continue to rise in nominal dollars, and the difference between nominal and real is felt by the richest Americans. While all Americans will have the right to individuall invest, it is the wealthiest (and hence the suavest) who will depend on private accounts the most.

Bravo Mr. President!

Hi, I’m Richard Gere, and I’m speaking for the entire world

Richard Gere Speaks ‘For Entire World’ To Palestinians: Actor Urging People To Vote In Sunday Election,”Associated Press,, 4 January 2005 (from Drudge Report).

I have never blogged a Drudge Report story yet, but this is too bizarre

JERUSALEM — Actor Richard Gere has recorded a TV commercial urging Palestinians to vote in their election Sunday.

In a transcript obtained by The Associated Press, he said: “Hi, I’m Richard Gere, and I’m speaking for the entire world. We’re with you during this election time. It’s really important: Get out and vote.”

Appearing with Gere in the spot are the head of the Islamic court in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem.

The spot is apparently an attempt to use both glamour and religion to get Palestinians to the polls. It will air soon. It’s unclear what kind of sway Gere may have with Palestinians. One man who appeared with him in the spot said he’d never heard of Gere.

The ad will be aired on Palestinian TV and Arabic satellite channels in the next few days.

Catholic Student Movement

Statement of Solidarity for the Acehnese,” IMCS Asia Pacific et al,, 30 October 2004.

I haven’t blogged on the terrible tsunami, because so many can express the tragedy so much better.

One of the things that made it so much worse is the unrest that already existed. Aceh, Indonesia was very, very badly hit. Entire villiages have been swept away. It’s also been struggling for its independence for many years.

Browing the web I found the following statement. It is worth a read. I’ll let it speak for itself — no further comment.

Statement of Solidarity for the Acehnese

We, the International Movement of Catholic Students Asia Pasific (IMCS Asia Pacific), composed by Catholic student movement of Asia, acknowledges and respect the self-determination rights of Acehnese people. We oppose the Martial Law, which led the inhumane actions taken by Indonesia Military (TNI) towards the children, students and senior citizens in Aceh. The Acehnese people should protected by international human right laws and democratic referendum on their independence or autonomy is needed.

We call on the governments to recognize the status of Acehnese as asylum seekers who fled to other countries. They are political refugees admitted by UNHCR Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and their safety and life should be protected by government authorities. We also urge the countries that have not signed ratified the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees to do so.

Penang, 30 October 2004.

In Solidarity,

IMCS Asia Pacific
IMCS International Team
All India Catholic University Federation
Bangladesh Catholic Student Society
Catholic Association UMac (Macau)
Catholic Student Groups in Japan
Catholic Undergraduate Centre of Thailand
Eindoven Student Church (Holland)
Hanoi Catholic Student Movement (Vietnam)
Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students
IMCS Pakistan
Malaysia Catholic Student’s Council
Myanmar Young Catholic Student (Bangkok)
Sri Lanka Catholic University Student Movement
Student Christian Movement Philippines
Union of All Catholic Student of Republic of Indonesia (PMKRI)

The tDAxp eXPerience