Saturday, September 22, 2007

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The Arms Control Otaku - FCS Follies, Part 1

The Arms Control Otaku: FCS Follies, Part 1: "In a fit of boredom a few months ago, I wrote a briefing paper outlining what I saw as handful of critical issues related to network-centric warfare that need to reconciled before the Army starts fielding Future Combat Systems. I was planning to hold it until right before I left for the State Department, mostly to avoid becoming persona non grata at PM FCS."

One of my coworkers stumbled upon my two-pager back in May and unbeknownst to me, passed it up to the FCS folks with his name on it. After straightening out the plagiarism issue, FCS sent me a polite, but dismissive 'mind your own business' e-mail. Needless to say, I think I was taken off their Christmas card list.

During this whole affair, my boss was sent a copy of the paper and his reaction was much more positive. He suggested expanding the paper by including some solutions to these issues. I've decided to test each of these expanded ideas on my readers. Here is part 1:

"Lit up like Christmas Trees"

Soon after the summer 2006 skirmish between Israel and Hezbollah concluded, claims surfaced that Hezbollah managed to hack into the IDF's U.S.-made SINCGARS radios. It turned out that Hezbollah hadn't actually hacked the radios, but instead used a bank of modified radio scanners to track the electromagnetic emissions of IDF units.

This example points to a key vulnerability of the network-centric model, namely its vulnerability to electronic warfare support. In order to provide the kind of real-time data exchange and blue force tracking capabilities envisioned in FCS, the density of wireless communication will have to expand manifold.

Individual units and soldiers will not only be swapping a wider variety of tactical information, they will also be giving off a constant amount of positional data. They will be lit up like Christmas trees adorned in intense, but invisible lights. Each tank, truck and soldier will be a beacon of electromagnetic radiation that can be intercepted, triangulated and tracked.

Since it was playing defense on familiar territory, Hezbollah didn't need to crack the IDF's radios to carry out effective operations. They knew where their resources and units were located, so it was only a matter of triangulating IDF locations and feeding the information to nearby assets.

A future reduction in the cost and complexity of compact anti-radiation guidance packages for indirect-fire munitions would pose an even bigger threat to a network-centric force. If a simply seeker package just doubled the accuracy of the simple artillery rockets and mortars favored by insurgents, it could lead to serious casualties. Tactical network hubs will be easy targets at the very least.

There is no easy solution to this problem because it exploits the most indispensable part of network-centric warfare, the network itself. Lasers are the only wireless media that do not 'leak' a traceable amount of electromagnetic radiation, but it requires line of sight. DARPA has been contemplating a laser-based work-around for blue-force tracking called 'Dynamic Optical Tags' or DOTS for short.

In the DOTS system, each vehicle and soldier would be equipped with a tag that functions as a passive light modulator. When the tag's receiver is struck by an encoded laser signal, it modulates the beam to pack it with new information and reflects it back at the point of transmission. A powered version of this process could be used as a two-way interface between the tag and the light source.

This system would still be limited to line of sight and would have to mounted to an UAV (a blimp maybe?), but it would very difficult to intercept and track.

Israel, U.S. Shared Data On Suspected Nuclear Site -

Israel, U.S. Shared Data On Suspected Nuclear Site - "Israel's decision to attack Syria on Sept. 6, bombing a suspected nuclear site set up in apparent collaboration with North Korea, came after Israel shared intelligence with President Bush this summer indicating that North Korean nuclear personnel were in Syria, U.S. government sources said. "

The Bush administration has not commented on the Israeli raid or the underlying intelligence. Although the administration was deeply troubled by Israel's assertion that North Korea was assisting the nuclear ambitions of a country closely linked with Iran, sources said, the White House opted against an immediate response because of concerns it would undermine long-running negotiations aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

Ultimately, however, the United States is believed to have provided Israel with some corroboration of the original intelligence before Israel proceeded with the raid, which hit the Syrian facility in the dead of night to minimize possible casualties, the sources said.

The target of Israel's attack was said to be in northern Syria, near the Turkish border. A Middle East expert who interviewed one of the pilots involved said they operated under such strict operational security that the airmen flying air cover for the attack aircraft did not know the details of the mission. The pilots who conducted the attack were briefed only after they were in the air, he said. Syrian authorities said there were no casualties.

U.S. sources would discuss the Israeli intelligence, which included satellite imagery, only on condition of anonymity, and many details about the North Korean-Syrian connection remain unknown. The quality of the Israeli intelligence, the extent of North Korean assistance and the seriousness of the Syrian effort are uncertain, raising the possibility that North Korea was merely unloading items it no longer needed. Syria has actively pursued chemical weapons in the past but not nuclear arms -- leaving some proliferation experts skeptical of the intelligence that prompted Israel's attack.

Syria and North Korea both denied this week that they were cooperating on a nuclear program. Bush refused to comment yesterday on the attack, but he issued a blunt warning to North Korea that "the exportation of information and/or materials" would affect negotiations under which North Korea would give up its nuclear programs in exchanges for energy aid and diplomatic recognition.

"To the extent that they are proliferating, we expect them to stop that proliferation, if they want the six-party talks to be successful," he said at a news conference, referring to negotiations that also include China, Japan, South Korea and Russia.

Unlike its destruction of an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, Israel made no announcement of the recent raid and imposed strict censorship on reporting by the Israeli media. Syria made only muted protests, and Arab leaders have remained silent. As a result, a daring and apparently successful attack to eliminate a potential nuclear threat has been shrouded in mystery.

"There is no question it was a major raid. It was an extremely important target," said Bruce Riedel, a former intelligence officer at Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy. "It came at a time the Israelis were very concerned about war with Syria and wanted to dampen down the prospects of war. The decision was taken despite their concerns it could produce a war. That decision reflects how important this target was to Israeli military planners."

Israel has long known about Syria's interest in chemical and even biological weapons, but "if Syria decided to go beyond that, Israel would think that was a real red line," Riedel said.

Edward Djerejian, a former U.S. ambassador to Syria and founding director of Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, said that when he was in Israel this summer he noticed "a great deal of concern in official Israeli circles about the situation in the north," in particular whether Syria's young ruler, Bashar al-Assad, "had the same sensitivity to red lines that his father had." Bashar succeeded his Hafez al-Assad as president of Syria in 2000.

The Israeli attack came just three days after a North Korean ship docked at the Syrian port of Tartus, carrying a cargo that was officially listed as cement.

The ship's role remains obscure. Israeli sources have suggested it carried nuclear equipment. Others have maintained that it contained only missile parts, and some have said the ship's arrival and the attack are merely coincidental. One source suggested that Israel's attack was prompted by a fear of media leaks on the intelligence.

The Bush administration's wariness when presented with the Israeli intelligence contrasts with its reaction in 2002, when U.S. officials believed they had caught North Korea building a clandestine nuclear program in violation of a nuclear-freeze deal arranged by the Clinton administration.

After the Bush administration's accusation, the Clinton deal collapsed and North Korea restarted a nuclear reactor, stockpiled plutonium and eventually conducted a nuclear test. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice convinced Bush this year to accept a deal with North Korea to shut down the reactor, infuriating conservatives inside and outside the administration.

But for years, Bush has also warned North Korea against engaging in nuclear proliferation, specifically making that a red line that could not be crossed after North Korea tested a nuclear device last year. The Israeli intelligence therefore suggested North Korea was both undermining the agreement and crossing that line.

Conservative critics of the administration's recent diplomacy with North Korea have seized on reports of the Israeli intelligence as evidence that the White House is misguided if it thinks it can ever strike a lasting deal with Pyongyang. "However bad it might be for the six-party talks, U.S. security requires taking this sort of thing seriously," said John R. Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who was a top arms control official in Bush's first term.

But advocates of engagement have accused critics of trying to sabotage the talks. China on Monday abruptly postponed a round of six-party talks scheduled to begin this week, but U.S. officials now say the talks should start again Thursday.

Some North Korean experts said they are puzzled why, if the reports are true, Pyongyang would jeopardize the hard-won deal with the United States and the other four countries. "It does not make any sense at all in the context of the last nine months," said Charles "Jack" Pritchard, a former U.S. negotiator with North Korea and now president of the Korea Economic Institute.

"friday-lunch-club": "CIA analysts: Syrian-North Korean connection was based entirely on chemical and missile supply and was in the process of being wound down"

"friday-lunch-club": "CIA analysts: Syrian-North Korean connection was based entirely on chemical and missile supply and was in the process of being wound down": "Excerpts from the Middle East Policy Survey: 'key members of the US intelligence community, often skeptical of Israeli fears of their neighbors' military"

prowess, down played the possibility that North Korea was engaged in a serious effort to help Syria develop a nuclear capability. According to reliable sources, as recently as the beginning of September, CIA analysts were arguing that the Syrian-North Korean connection was based entirely on chemical and missile supply and, in fact, was in the process of being wound down. "We were told that there had been a falling out between North Korea and Syria just days before the Israeli raid," said one well-informed source..."

"...There have been reports that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had to be talked out of attempting to retaliate militarily. And earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minster Olmert pointedly talked about his willingness once again to begin peace negotiations with Syria..."

"...However, among those who deal with a wide range of issues, there is wide spread agreement that Israel's military operation was designed to accomplish more than merely undermining any nascent Syrian nuclear program. Since its spotty performance in the conflict last summer with Hezbollah, top Israeli military and civilian officials have been concerned about damage suffered to its deterrent image. They believe that the Syrians have concluded that they, too, could wage a successful "low intensity" conflict with Israel. "This was a much needed demonstration of strength," concluded one sympathetic US official..."

".. While the Israeli concern about Syria's role in Lebanon hasbeen mostly confined to its support of Hezbollah, senior Israeli officials fear that, as one expert put it this week, "We willwake up one morning and find [the current pro-western LebanesePrime Minister Fouad) Siniora gone." It is a fear also shared in Washington, as this week yet another pro-government legislatorwas assassinated in Beirut..."

"... President Bush, together with French President Sarkozy, is expected to issue a statement next week calling on all parties involved to allow free and fair elections, without intimidation and foreign interference, the latter, a code word for Syrian intervention.."

Iraqi forces take lead in only 8 percent of Baghdad: US general

The Raw Story | Iraqi forces take lead in only 8 percent of Baghdad: US general: "Iraqi forces have taken the lead for security in only about eight percent of Baghdad's neighborhoods more than eight months after the start of the US troop surge, a senior US commander said Friday."

Major General Joseph Fil said violence has declined sharply in the city and more than half of its 474 neighborhoods, or "mahalas," are under the joint control of US and Iraqi forces, up from about 19 percent in June.

But the percentage of neighborhoods that have moved to what the military terms the "retain" phase of the security operation, in which Iraqi forces are in the lead and US troops are on standby, has remained stubbornly small.

"This is dynamic, and 8.2 percent is where we stand today," said Fil, who commands the US-led Multi-National Division in Baghdad. That compared to seven percent in June.

"These numbers will change as we go through the fall and winter here," he assured reporters here in a video conference from Baghdad.

But the general acknowledged that the Iraqi security forces currently are insufficient "to truly protect the city."

The Iraqi government is trying to increase the size of its forces and over time 12,000 police will be added in Baghdad, he said.

But in the meantime US forces have recruited and are training 8,000 "volunteers" to protect their own neighborhoods, the general said, making clear that US plans on securing the city hinge on them.

The shortfall in Iraqi security forces made the local reconciliation initiatives "so very important," he said.

Fil said he was confident that Iraqi security forces would strengthen sufficiently by the expected end of the surge in July 2008, when two and half US brigades will have been withdrawn from Baghdad.

The plan for restoring order in Baghdad follows a sequence of operations that are supposed to ultimately transfer responsibility for security to Iraq security forces.

In the first phase, combat operations are launched to "disrupt" militia and insurgent strongholds. Then US and Iraqi forces "clear" neighborhoods of armed resistance.

Once a neighborhood is clear, US and Iraqi security forces establish a physical presence to "control" them. In the final "retain" phase, Iraqi security forces are in the lead but US forces remain in position to respond if needed.

Fil said 16 percent of Baghdad's neighborhoods are still in the "disrupt" phase, and 30 percent are in the "clear" phase.

He said tough fighting is still underway in districts of southern and northern Baghdad, and US and Iraqi forces have not yet entered into the predominantly Shiite district of Sadr City.

Iranian-backed militias continue to attack US forces in the city despite a pledge by radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to halt them.

"I do expect ... by the time the surge starts to be reduced, that we'll still have some areas of Baghdad that are probably still under 'clear', and there may even be some that are under 'disrupt,'" Fil said.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Pentagon doubles requirement for mine-proof armored vehicles

AFP: Pentagon doubles requirement for mine-proof armored vehicles: "WASHINGTON (AFP) — The Pentagon said Thursday it needs more than 15,000 mine resistant armored vehicles for its troops in Iraq and elsewhere, doubling its previous requirement."

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates will seek funding for the vehicles next week when he goes to Congress to request additional war funding, said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.

"And if events on the ground change such that we need fewer of them, we can always off-ramp this and end up buying fewer," he said. "But we want to make sure we have enough to meet the needs of the force, to best protect them."

The Bush administration has come under fire repeatedly over the course of the war in Iraq for moving too slowly to provide troops with life-saving equipment from body armor to armored vehicles.

But Gates has made fielding of the mine resistant armor protected vehicles, or MRAPs, a priority since learning that no US troop has died in one as a result of a roadside explosion.

The Pentagon hopes to have 1,500 of the vehicles in Iraq by the end of the year.

Unlike the armored Humvee which is vulnerable to explosions underneath the vehicle, MRAPs have a V-shaped hull that deflects the blast of a roadside bomb outwards.

A Pentagon council that reviews military requirements has concluded that the services need 15,724 of the vehicles, up from 7,774, Morrell said.

The army alone needs 10,000 MRAPs, he said.

Homemade EFPs

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Fear Drives Baghdad's Housing Bust

Fear Drives Baghdad's Housing Bust - "BAGHDAD -- Esad Ismael broke the most important promise he ever made. "

As his father lay on his deathbed two years ago, Ismael, 43, vowed never to sell his family's home. His father and grandfather had spent all their savings to build the sprawling two-story house in Baghdad's wealthy Mansour district 70 years ago. Family memories were tucked between every tile on the floor.

But Ismael, a Sunni clothing merchant, was living in an area that was falling under the control of the Mahdi Army, Iraq's largest Shiite militia. Mindful of his promise to his dying father, he refused to move even after he began finding death threats pasted to his front door. After his brother was murdered, he gave up.

"It's bad that I sold our home, but what is worse is that I sold it for only 145 million dinars," Ismael said, naming a price equivalent to about $118,000 -- less than half the house's appraised value in late 2003. "It's an insult to my father to sell it so low. But what choice did I have? They would have killed us."

With hundreds of thousands of Baghdad residents having fled their homes for the relative safety of segregated neighborhoods or foreign countries, a clandestine system of buying and selling property off the books has supplanted more traditional real estate practices. If families being pushed out are lucky, they are able to sell their homes for some small price, as Ismael did. Wait too long, and their houses might be seized at gunpoint.

Real estate agent Mahir al-Sultani said business has all but dried up -- ironic, he admits, considering how many people are moving in and out. Without exception, half a dozen real estate agents said that houses are still being bought and sold, but that licensed agents have been largely cut out of the equation.

"It all happens so quickly and in secret," Sultani said. "What if the real estate agent is a militia member, and then you trust him with your money? Nobody trusts anybody, of course, so they don't want a man in the middle."

Sultani has sold three houses this year, each of which had been on the market for more than six months and sold for about half of its 2003 value. Meanwhile, residents in Karrada, the affluent district where he lives and works, say that at least a half-dozen properties have sold off the books within a few days of their owners deciding to flee.

Immediately after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, home prices in Baghdad skyrocketed, fueled by widespread expectations that the war would end quickly and foreign corporations would pour money into Iraq's economy. Rich families who had left the country under the rule of Saddam Hussein returned, buying extravagant homes in upscale neighborhoods such as Karrada, Kadhimiyah and Mansour. Scores of new real estate companies opened across Baghdad.

"All my friends were asking me how to become a real estate agent. Some weeks, I was selling a home every day to people as investment properties," said Jawad al-Maliki, who operates a real estate company in Kadhimiyah, in western Baghdad. "They thought when all the foreign investments came Baghdad would be the new Dubai."

But as the war dragged on and insurgent groups gained power, property values began a free fall that real estate agents say has not yet hit bottom. The wealthy families who had returned to fancy homes in Baghdad left again for the stability of Jordan or Syria, in many cases leaving their houses empty. Lower- and middle-class people, desperate to afford the high cost of emigrating, rushed to sell their homes for any price. Altogether, nearly a million people have been displaced from Baghdad, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent Society.

"The neighbors told us how much we could get for it based on how much the militia would pay," said Sabah Nouri Motlaq, a Sunni who helped sell his brother's house in Sadr City, an overwhelmingly Shiite slum controlled by the Mahdi Army in eastern Baghdad. "They didn't have any choice, and if we had said no, they would have pushed us out for no money or killed us."

Under pressure from the Mahdi Army, Motlaq's brother earlier this year accepted 10 million dinars for his home -- about $8,000, compared with its $28,000 value in 2003. By the time he had moved his family out of Baghdad and found a new job, the money was gone.

Several people who sold their houses to escape campaigns of ethnic cleansing -- generally by the Mahdi Army in Shiite neighborhoods and, less frequently, the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq in Sunni areas -- said they first received letters ordering them to leave their neighborhoods. Subsequent letters brought more-dire threats, the sellers said, recounting similar experiences.

The Mahdi Army often uses Shiite neighbors who are friendly with Sunni families to encourage the latter to sell. If the family refuses, its members become targets for violence and the offer price for the home drops. When they agree to sell, they are paid in cash and ordered to leave immediately so that militia members can move in.

"At first I hid the letters from my family and didn't listen," Ismael said, crying as he described his experience during a telephone conversation from his home in Damascus, Syria. "But when they killed my brother, I had to protect my wife and family and leave. If I had done it earlier I might have gotten more."

The $118,000 that Ismael did collect through his neighbor is not enough to buy a house in Damascus, where he moved, nor in Amman, Jordan, or Beirut, where the population boom from Iraqi refugees is driving up real estate prices. Now he lives with seven other family members in a rented one-bedroom apartment, for which he pays $600 a month.

People who move to safer areas of Iraq often cannot afford housing similar to what they left behind. A recent influx of refugees relocating in Anbar province, a region west of Baghdad where violence has dropped in recent months, has doubled the average home price in Ramadi, the provincial capital. Homes in Iraq's largely peaceful Kurdish region can cost up to three times the price of a similar property in Baghdad.

"This money will never get a house in Ramadi," Motlaq said. "When we received the money, it had no taste because it wasn't even close to the real value. The money is being wasted on a tiny rented house because we can't buy anything."

Some people whose lives are not in immediate danger do list their homes with real estate agents in hopes of getting more money, but they are often frustrated by a dearth of potential buyers. After the initial rush to buy property in 2003, optimism about the future of Iraq dissipated, and now few people are willing to take advantage of low prices in the hope that security improves enough to allow them to move back.

Ali Hamid Naif had not been directly threatened when he decided to leave the Sholeh neighborhood of Baghdad last year, but general fears about his family's safety prompted him to move to Ramadi. His neighbors negotiated an offer for his house, but he scoffed at the low price and enlisted a real estate agent's assistance. His home, which was worth about $120,000 in 2003, has been on the market for 13 months for $72,000.

"Right now I am allowing a friend to live there for free so the militia will not move in," Naif said. "The neighbors are trying to help me, but they are offering 20 million [about $16,000], and I cannot sell it for that little."

Real estate agents said many people are unrealistic in setting asking prices for their homes.

"Real estate depends on security, and right now the only people in Baghdad are the ones who can't afford to go somewhere else," Maliki said. "With the security this bad, the only houses that can sell are very cheap."

The reduced property values mean that Maliki is barely able to scrape by on his commissions. When he does make a sale, he must make special arrangements to prevent a kidnapping or robbery during the exchange of money.

"These operations are always undercover, in secret," he said. "I am always afraid. Nobody brings security in because they want it to be low-profile, but usually everybody carries a pistol to the meetings."

Special correspondent Naseer Nouri contributed to this report.

[bth: this is an absolutely screaming indicator. Security and real estate prices go hand in hand. The forced or willing displacements are fear driven. This belies the comments in Washington by Crocker or Petraeus as to the situation on the ground.

The Shea militias have won the battle of Baghdad. It is that simple. Any thought of a cosmopolitan multi-religious, multi-ethnic city are going, going, gone. We need to just move on. We've now built our Green Zone embassy in a very bad location. I hope it has a big roof suitable for helicopters because when Sadr decides to cut it off, he will cut it off. Blackwater is just the beginning. Wait until our southern supply lines are cut. Then things will get desparate.

The debate in Washington centers presumes
we determine the timing of our withdrawal. That isn't necessarily the case.]

Iranian Missile Range

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Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: Iran- Whose "existential" threat?

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007: Iran- Whose "existential" threat?: "This is the estimated range 'fan' for the Iranian Shihab - 3 missile. pl"


"The scale of the US miscalculation is striking. Before the Iraq war began, its neo-conservative architects argued that conferring power on Iraq's Shi'ites would serve to undermine Iran because Iraq's Shi'ites, controlling the faith's two holiest cities, would, in the words of then deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, be "an independent source of authority for the Shi'ite religion emerging in a country that is democratic and pro-Western". Further, they argued, Iran could never dominate Iraq, because the Iraqi Shi'ites are Arabs and the Iranian Shi'ites Persian. It was a theory that, unfortunately, had no connection to reality.

Iran's bond with the Iraqi Shi'ites goes far beyond the support Iran gave Shi'ite leaders in their struggle with Saddam. Decades of oppression have made their religious identity more important to Iraqi Shi'ites than their Arab ethnic identity. (Also, many Iraqi Shi'ites have Turkoman, Persian or Kurdish ancestors.) While Sunnis identify with the Arab world, Iraqi Shi'ites identify with the Shi'ite world, and for many this means Iran." Peer Galbraith


Galbraith's article on Iran was originally published in the New York Review of Books and then here in the Asia Times. It is so important that it is worth reproducing here for discussion.

There is much that could be argued with in the aricle, but, in the main it seems to capture the situation well.

IMO, the US has refused to accept the idea of sharing power in the Middle East with the Iranians. That lies at the heart of our problem with them. All other issues are more symptom than anything else. As Galbraith observes we have ignored efforts on their part to draw us into a serious discussion of what are really bi-lateral issues.

We talk about Iran being a strategic threat (life-threatening to the nation) to the United States. This is nonsense. Unless the Shihab series of guided missile developments results in an ICBM with a six-thousand mile range fitted with warheads of city destroying yields, Iran will never be an existential threat to the US.

If it were not for the undeniable fact that an Iran equipped with their present Shihab 3 and nuclear warheads would be an existential threat to Israel, our concern over their future nuclear weapons would be no greater than our present concern over Pakistan's weapons. pl

[bth: agree or not, Col. Lang's opinion is always worth review. I've posted the Galbraith article below.]

Asia Times Online ::A real success story in the US's Iraq: Iran by Peter Galbraith

Asia Times Online :: Middle East News, Iraq, Iran current affairs: "(This essay appears in the October 11 issue of the New York Review of Books and is posted with the permission of the editors of that magazine.) "

In his continuing effort to bolster support for the Iraq war, US President George W Bush traveled to Reno, Nevada, on August 28 to speak to the annual convention of the American Legion. He emphatically warned of the Iranian threat should the United States

withdraw from Iraq. Said the president, "For all those who ask whether the fight in Iraq is worth it, imagine an Iraq where militia groups backed by Iran control large parts of the country."

On the same day, in the southern Iraqi city of Karbala, the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, battled government security forces around the shrine of Imam Hussein, one of Shi'ite Islam's holiest places. A million pilgrims were in the city and 51 died.

The United States did not directly intervene, but US jets flew overhead in support of the government security forces. As elsewhere in the south, those Iraqi forces are dominated by the Badr Organization, a militia founded, trained, armed and financed by Iran. When US forces ousted Saddam Hussein's regime from the south in April 2003, the Badr Organization infiltrated from Iran to fill the void left by the Bush administration's failure to plan for security and governance in post-invasion Iraq.

In the months that followed, the US-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) appointed Badr Organization leaders to key positions in Iraq's US-created army and police. At the same time, L Paul Bremer's CPA appointed party officials from the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) to be governors and serve on governorate councils throughout southern Iraq. The SCIRI, recently renamed the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), was founded at ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's direction in Tehran in 1982. The Badr Organization is the militia associated with SCIRI.

In the January 2005 elections, the SCIRI became the most important component of Iraq's ruling Shi'ite coalition. In exchange for not taking the prime minister's slot, the SCIRI won the right to name key ministers, including the minister of the interior. From that ministry, the SCIRI placed Badr militiamen throughout Iraq's national police.

In short, Bush had from the first facilitated the very event he warned would be a disastrous consequence of a US withdrawal from Iraq: the takeover of a large part of the country by an Iranian-backed militia. And while Bush contrasts the promise of democracy in Iraq with the tyranny in Iran, there is now substantially more personal freedom in Iran than in southern Iraq.

Iran's role in Iraq is pervasive, but also subtle. When Iraq drafted its permanent constitution in 2005, the US ambassador energetically engaged in all parts of the process. But behind the scenes, the Iranian ambassador intervened to block provisions that Tehran did not like. As it happened, both the Americans and the Iranians wanted to strengthen Iraq's central government.

While the Bush administration clung to the mirage of a single Iraqi people, Tehran worked to give its proxies, the pro-Iranian Iraqis it supported - by then established as the government of Iraq - as much power as possible. (Thanks to Kurdish obstinacy, neither the US nor Iran succeeded in its goal, but even now both the US and Iran want to see the central government strengthened.)

Since 2005, Iraq's Shi'ite-led government has concluded numerous economic, political and military agreements with Iran. The most important would link the two countries' strategic oil reserves by building a pipeline from southern Iraq to Iran, while another commits Iran to providing extensive military assistance to the Iraqi government.

According to a senior official in Iraq's Oil Ministry, smugglers divert at least 150,000 barrels of Iraq's daily oil exports through Iran, a figure that approaches 10% of Iraq's production. Iran has yet to provide the military support it promised to the Iraqi Army. With the US supplying 160,000 troops and hundreds of billions of dollars to support a pro-Iranian Iraqi government, Iran has no reason to invest its own resources.

Of all the unintended consequences of the Iraq war, Iran's strategic victory is the most far-reaching. In establishing the border between the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Empire in 1639, the Treaty of Qasr-i-Shirin demarcated the boundary between Sunni-ruled lands and Shi'ite-ruled lands. For eight years of brutal warfare in the 1980s, Iran tried to breach that line but could not. (At the time, the administration of US president Ronald Reagan supported Saddam Hussein precisely because it feared the strategic consequences of an Iraq dominated by Iran's allies.)

The 2003 US invasion of Iraq accomplished what Khomeini's army could not. Today, the Shi'ite-controlled lands extend to the borders of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Bahrain, a Persian Gulf kingdom with a Shi'ite majority and a Sunni monarch, is most affected by these developments; but so is Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, which is home to most of the kingdom's Shi'ites. (They may even be a majority in the province, but this is unknown as Saudi Arabia has not dared to conduct a census.) The US Navy has its most important Persian Gulf base in Bahrain, while most of Saudi Arabia's oil is under the Eastern Province.

America's Iraq quagmire has given new life to Iran's Syrian ally, Bashir al-Assad. In 2003, the Syrian Ba'athist regime seemed an anachronism unable to survive the region's political and economic changes. Today, Assad appears firmly in control, having even recovered from the opprobrium of seemingly having his regime caught red-handed in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. In Lebanon, Hezbollah enjoys greatly enhanced stature for having held off the Israelis in the 2006 war. As Hezbollah's sponsor and source of arms, Iran now has an influence both in the Levant and in the Arab-Israeli conflict that it never before had.

The scale of the US miscalculation is striking. Before the Iraq war began, its neo-conservative architects argued that conferring power on Iraq's Shi'ites would serve to undermine Iran because Iraq's Shi'ites, controlling the faith's two holiest cities, would, in the words of then deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, be "an independent source of authority for the Shi'ite religion emerging in a country that is democratic and pro-Western". Further, they argued, Iran could never dominate Iraq, because the Iraqi Shi'ites are Arabs and the Iranian Shi'ites Persian. It was a theory that, unfortunately, had no connection to reality.

Iran's bond with the Iraqi Shi'ites goes far beyond the support Iran gave Shi'ite leaders in their struggle with Saddam. Decades of oppression have made their religious identity more important to Iraqi Shi'ites than their Arab ethnic identity. (Also, many Iraqi Shi'ites have Turkoman, Persian or Kurdish ancestors.) While Sunnis identify with the Arab world, Iraqi Shi'ites identify with the Shi'ite world, and for many this means Iran.

There is also the legacy of February 15, 1991, when US president George H W Bush called on the Iraqi people to rise up against Saddam. Two weeks later, the Shi'ites in southern Iraq did just that. When Saddam's Republican Guards moved south to crush the rebellion, Bush went fishing and no help was given. Only Iran showed sympathy. Hundreds of thousands died, and no Iraqi Shi'ite I know thinks this failure of US support was anything but intentional.

In assessing the loyalty of the Iraqi Shi'ites before the war, the war's architects often stressed how Iraqi Shi'ite conscripts fought loyally for Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War. They never mentioned the 1991 betrayal. This was understandable: at the end of the 1991 war, Wolfowitz was the No 3 man at the Pentagon, current Vice President Dick Cheney was the defense secretary, and, of course, George W Bush's father was the president.

Iran and its Iraqi allies control, respectively, the Middle East's third- and second-largest oil reserves. Iran's influence now extends to the borders of the Saudi province that holds the world's largest oil reserves. Bush has responded to these strategic changes wrought by his own policies by strongly supporting a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad and by arming and training the most pro-Iranian elements in the Iraqi military and police.

Beginning with his 2002 State of the Union speech, Bush has articulated two main US goals for Iran: (1) the replacement of Iran's theocratic regime with a liberal democracy, and (2) preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Since events in Iraq took a bad turn, he has added a third objective: gaining Iranian cooperation in Iraq.

The Bush administration's track record is not impressive. The prospects for liberal democracy in Iran took a severe blow when reform-minded president Mohammad Khatami was replaced by the hardline - and somewhat erratic - Mahmud Ahmadinejad in August 2005. (Khatami had won two landslide elections that were a vote to soften the ruling theocracy; he was then prevented by the conservative clerics from accomplishing much.)

At the time Bush first proclaimed his intention to keep nuclear weapons out of Iranian hands, Iran had no means of making fissile material. Since then, however, Iran has defied the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Security Council to assemble and use the centrifuges needed to enrich uranium. In Iraq, the Bush administration accuses Iran of supplying particularly potent roadside bombs to Shi'ite militias and Sunni insurgents.

To coerce Iran into ceasing its uranium-enrichment program, the Bush administration has relied on UN sanctions, the efforts of a European negotiating team, and stern presidential warnings. The mismanaged Iraq war has undercut all these efforts. After seeing the US go to the UN with allegedly irrefutable evidence that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons and had a covert nuclear program, foreign governments and publics are understandably skeptical about the veracity of Bush administration statements on Iran. The Iraq experience makes many countries reluctant to support meaningful sanctions not only because they doubt administration statements but because they are afraid Bush will interpret any Security Council resolution condemning Iran as an authorization for war.

With so much of the US military tied up in Iraq, the Iranians do not believe the US has the resources to attack them and then deal with the consequences. They know that a US attack on Iran would have little support in the US - it is doubtful that Congress would authorize it - and none internationally. Not even the British would go along with a military strike on Iran. Bush's warnings count for little with Tehran because he now has a long record of tough language unmatched by action. As long as the Iranians believe the US has no military option, they have limited incentives to reach an agreement, especially with the Europeans.

The administration's efforts to change Iran's regime have been feeble or feckless. Bush's freedom rhetoric is supported by Radio Farda, a US-sponsored Persian-language radio station, and a US$75 million appropriation to finance Iranian opposition activities including satellite broadcasts by Los Angeles-based exiles. If only regime change were so easily accomplished!

The identity of Iranian recipients of US funding is secret, but the administration's neo-conservative allies have loudly promoted US military and financial support for Iranian opposition groups as diverse as the son of the late shah, Iranian Kurdish separatists, and the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), which is on the US State Department's list of terrorist organizations.

Some of the Los Angeles exiles now being funded are associated with the son of the shah, but it is unlikely that either the MEK or the Kurdish separatists would receive any of the $75 million. US secrecy - and that the administration treats the MEK differently from other terrorist organizations - has roused Iranian suspicions that the US is supporting these groups either through the democracy program or a separate covert action.

None of these groups is a plausible agent for regime change. The shah's son represents a discredited monarchy and corrupt family. Iranian Kurdistan is seething with discontent, and Iranian security forces have suppressed large anti-regime demonstrations there. Kurdish nationalism on the margins of Iran, however, does not weaken the Iranian regime at the center. While the US State Department has placed the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK - a Kurdish rebel movement in Turkey) - on its list of terrorist organizations, Pejak, the PKK's Iranian branch, is not on the list and its leaders even visit the US.

The MEK is one of the oldest - and nastiest - of the Iranian opposition groups. After originally supporting the Iranian revolution in 1979, the MEK broke with Khomeini and relocated to Iraq in the early stages of the Iran-Iraq War. It was so closely connected to Saddam that MEK fighters not only assisted the Iraqis in the Iran-Iraq War but also helped Saddam put down the 1991 Kurdish uprising. While claiming to be democratic and pro-Western, the MEK closely resembles a cult.

In April 2003, when I visited Camp Ashraf, its main base northeast of Baghdad, I found robotlike hero worship of the MEK's leaders, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi; the fighters I met parroted a revolutionary party line, and there were transparently crude efforts at propaganda. To emphasize it being a modern organization as distinct from the Tehran theocrats, the MEK appointed a woman as Camp Ashraf's nominal commander and maintained a women's tank battalion. The commander was clearly not in command and the female mechanics supposedly working on tank engines all had spotless uniforms.

Both the US State Department and Iran view the MEK as a terrorist group. The US government, however, does not always act as if the MEK were one. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the US military dropped a single bomb on Camp Ashraf. It struck the women's barracks at a time of day when the soldiers were not there. When I visited two weeks later with an American Broadcasting Co camera crew, we filmed the MEK bringing a scavenged Iraqi tank into their base. US forces drove in and out of Camp Ashraf, making no effort to detain the supposed terrorists or to stop them from collecting Iraqi heavy weapons.

Since Iran had its agents in Iraq from the time Saddam fell (and may have been doing its own scavenging of weapons), one can presume that this behavior did not go unnoticed. Subsequently, the US military did disarm the MEK, but in spite of hostility from both the Shi'ites and Kurds who now jointly dominate Iraq's government, its fighters are still at Camp Ashraf. Rightly or wrongly, many Iranians conclude from this that the US is supporting a terrorist organization that is fomenting violence inside Iran.

In fact, halting Iran's nuclear program and changing its regime areincompatible objectives. Iran is highly unlikely to agree to a negotiated solution with the US (or the Europeans) while the US is trying to overthrow its government. Air strikes may destroy Iran's nuclear facilities, but they will rally popular support for the regime and give it a further pretext to crack down on the opposition.

From the perspective of US national-security strategy, the choice should be easy. Iran's most prominent democrats have stated publicly that they do not want US support. In a recent open letter to be sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji criticizes both the Iranian regime and US hypocrisy. "Far from helping the development of democracy," he writes, "US policy over the past 50 years has consistently been to the detriment of the proponents of freedom and democracy in Iran ... The Bush administration, for its part, by approving a fund for democracy assistance in Iran, which is in fact being largely spent on official institutions and media affiliated with the US government, has made it easy for the Iranian regime to describe its opponents as mercenaries of the US and to crush them with impunity."

Even though they can't accomplish it, the Bush administration's leaders have been unwilling to abandon regime change as a goal. Its advocates compare their efforts to the support the US gave democrats behind the Iron Curtain over many decades. But there is a crucial difference. The Soviet and Eastern European dissidents wanted US support, which was sometimes personally costly but politically welcome. But this is immaterial to Bush administration ideologues. They are, to borrow former US ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick's phrase, deeply committed to policies that feel good rather than do good. If Congress wants to help the Iranian opposition, it should cut off funding for Iranian democracy programs.

Right now, the US is in the worst possible position. It is identified with the most discredited part of the Iranian opposition and unwanted by the reformers who have the most appeal to Iranians. Many Iranians believe that the US is fomenting violence inside their country, and this becomes a pretext for attacks on US troops in Iraq. And for its pains, the US accomplishes nothing.

For 18 years, Iran had a secret program aimed at acquiring the technology that could make nuclear weapons. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the supposedly rogue head of Pakistan's nuclear program, provided centrifuges to enrich uranium and bomb designs. When the Khan network was exposed, Iran declared in October 2003 its enrichment program to the IAEA, provided an accounting (perhaps not complete) of its nuclear activities, and agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment.

After the election of Ahmadinejad as president in 2005, Iran announced it would resume its uranium-enrichment activities. During the past two years, it has assembled cascades of centrifuges and apparently enriched a small amount of uranium to the 5% level required for certain types of nuclear power reactors (weapons require 80-90% enrichment, but this is not technically very difficult once the initial enrichment processes are mastered).

The United States has two options for dealing with Iran's nuclear facilities: military strikes to destroy them or negotiations to neutralize them. The first is risky and the second may not produce results. So far, the Bush administration has not pursued either option, preferring UN sanctions (which, so far, have been more symbolic than punitive) and relying on the Europeans to take the lead in negotiations. But neither sanctions nor the European initiative is likely to work. As long as Iran's primary concern is the US, it is unlikely to settle for a deal that involves only Europe.

Sustained air strikes probably could halt Iran's nuclear program. While some Iranian facilities may be hidden and others protected deep underground, the locations of major facilities are known. Even if it is not possible to destroy all the facilities, Iran's scientists, engineers and construction crews are unlikely to show up for work at places that are subject to ongoing bombing.

But the risks from air strikes are great. Many of the potential targets are in populated places, endangering civilians both from errant bombs and the possible dispersal of radioactive material. The rest of the world would condemn the attacks and there would likely be a virulent anti-US reaction in the Islamic world. In retaliation, Iran could wreak havoc on the world economy (and its own) by withholding oil from the global market and by military action to close Persian Gulf shipping lanes.

The main risk to the US comes in Iraq. Faced with choosing between the US and Iran, Iraq's government may not choose its liberator. And even if the Iraqi government did not openly cooperate with the Iranians, pro-Iranian elements in the US-armed military and police almost certainly would facilitate attacks on US troops by pro-Iranian Iraqi militia or by Iranian forces infiltrated across Iraq's porous border.

A few days after Bush's August 28 speech, Iranian General Rahim Yahya Safavi underscored Iran's ability to retaliate, saying of US troops in the region: "We have accurately identified all their camps." Unless he chooses to act with reckless disregard for the safety of US troops in Iraq, Bush has in effect denied himself a military option for dealing with the Iranian nuclear program.

A diplomatic solution to the crisis created by Iran's nuclear program is clearly preferable, but not necessarily achievable. Broadly speaking, states want nuclear weapons for two reasons: security and prestige. Under the shah, Iran had a nuclear program, but Khomeini disbanded it after the revolution on the grounds that nuclear weapons were un-Islamic. When the program resumed covertly in the mid-1980s, Iran's primary security concern was Iraq. At that time, Iraq had its own covert nuclear program; more immediately, it had threatened Iran with chemical-weapons attacks on its cities. An Iranian nuclear weapon could serve as a deterrent to both Iraqi chemical and nuclear weapons.

With Iraq's defeat in the first Gulf War, the Iraqi threat greatly diminished. And of course it vanished after Iran's allies took power in Baghdad after the 2003 invasion. Today, Iran sees the United States as the main threat to its security. US military forces surround Iran - in Afghanistan, Iraq, Central Asia and the Persian Gulf. Bush and his top aides repeatedly express solidarity with the Iranian people against their government while the US finances programs aimed at the government's ouster. The US and international press are full of speculation that Cheney wants Bush to attack Iran before his term ends. From an Iranian perspective, all this smoke could indicate a fire.

In 2003, as Trita Parsi's Treacherous Alliance shows, there was enough common ground for a deal. (For a review of the book, see That '800-pound gorilla' ..., Asia Times Online, September 15.) In May 2003, the Iranian authorities sent a proposal through the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, Tim Guldimann, for negotiations on a package deal in which Iran would freeze its nuclear program in exchange for an end to US hostility. The Iranian paper offered "full transparency for security that there are no Iranian endeavors to develop or possess WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and full cooperation with the IAEA based on Iranian adoption of all relevant instruments".

The Iranians also offered support for "the establishment ofdemocratic institutions and a non-religious government" in Iraq; full cooperation against terrorists (including "above all, al-Qaeda"); and an end to material support to Palestinian groups such as Hamas. In return, the Iranians asked that their country not be on the terrorism list or designated part of the "axis of evil"; that all sanctions end; that the US support Iran's claims for reparations for the Iran-Iraq War as part of the overall settlement of the Iraqi debt; that they have access to peaceful nuclear technology; and that the US pursue anti-Iranian terrorists, including "above all" the MEK. MEK members should, the Iranians said, be repatriated to Iran.

Basking in the glory of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq, the Bush administration dismissed the Iranian offer and criticized Guldimann for even presenting it. Several years later, the Bush administration's abrupt rejection of the Iranian offer began to look blatantly foolish and the administration moved to suppress the story. Flynt Leverett, who had handled Iran in 2003 for the National Security Council, tried to write about it in the New York Times and found his article crudely censored by the National Security Council, which had to clear it. Guldimann, however, had given the Iranian paper to Republican congressman Bob Ney, now remembered both for renaming House of Representatives cafeteria food and for larceny. (As chairman of the House Administration Committee he renamed french fries "freedom fries" and is now in federal prison for bribery.)

I was surprised to learn that Ney had a serious side. He had lived in Iran before the revolution, spoke Farsi, and wanted better relations between the two countries. Parsi, Ney's staffer in 2003, describes in detail the Iranian offer and the Bush administration's high-handed rejection of it in his wonderfully informative account of the triangular relationship among the US, Iran and Israel.

Four years later, Iran holds a much stronger hand while the mismanagement of the Iraq occupation has made the US position incomparably weaker. While the 2003 proposal could not have been presented without support from the clerics who really run Iran, Iran's current president, Ahmadinejad, has made uranium enrichment the centerpiece of his administration and the embodiment of Iranian nationalism. Even though Ahmadinejad does not make decisions about Iran's nuclear program (and his finger would never be on the button if Iran had a bomb), he has made it politically very difficult for the clerics to come back to the 2003 paper.

Nonetheless, the 2003 Iranian paper could provide a starting point for a US-Iran deal. In recent years, various ideas have emerged that could accommodate both Iran's insistence on its right to nuclear technology and the international community's desire for iron-clad assurances that Iran will not divert the technology into weapons. These include a Russian proposal that Iran enrich uranium on Russian territory and also an idea floated by US and Iranian experts to have a European consortium conduct the enrichment in Iran under international supervision.

Iran rejected the Russian proposal, but if hostility between Iran and the US were to be reduced, it might be revived. (The consortium idea has no official standing at this point.) While there are good reasons to doubt Iranian statements that its program is entirely peaceful, Iran remains a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its leaders, including Ahmadinejad, insist it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons. As long as this is the case, Iran could make a deal to limit its nuclear program without losing face.

From the inception of Iran's nuclear program under the shah, prestige and the desire for recognition have been motivating factors. Iranians want the world, and especially the US, to see Iran as they do themselves - as a populous, powerful and responsible country that is heir to a great empire and home to a 2,500-year-old civilization.

In Iranian eyes, the US has behaved in a way that continually diminishes their country. Many Iranians still seethe over the US involvement in the 1953 coup that overthrew the government of democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh and reinstated the shah. Being designated a terrorist state and part of an "axis of evil" grates on the Iranians in the same way.

In some ways, the 1979-81 US Embassy hostage crisis in Tehran and Iran's nuclear program were different strategies to compel US respect for Iran. A diplomatic overture toward Iran might include ways to show respect for Iranian civilization (which is different from approval of its leaders) and could include an open apology for the US role in the 1953 coup, which, as it turned out, was a horrible mistake for US interests.

While Bush insists that time is not on the United States' side, the process of negotiation - and even an interim agreement - might provide time for more moderate Iranians to assert themselves. So far as Iran's security is concerned, possession of nuclear weapons is more a liability than an asset. Iran's size - and the certainty of strong resistance - is sufficient deterrent to any US invasion, which, even at the height of the administration's post-Saddam euphoria, was never seriously considered. Developing nuclear weapons would provide Iran with no additional deterrent to a US invasion but could invite an attack.

Should al-Qaeda or another terrorist organization succeed in detonating a nuclear weapon in a US city, any US president will look to the country that supplied the weapon as a place to retaliate. If the origin of the bomb were unknown, a nuclear Iran - a designated state sponsor of terrorism - would find itself a likely target, even though it is extremely unlikely to supply such a weapon to al-Qaeda, a Sunni fundamentalist organization.

With its allies now largely running the government in Baghdad, Iran does not need a nuclear weapon to deter a hostile Iraq. An Iranian bomb, however, likely would cause Saudi Arabia to acquire nuclear weapons, thus canceling Iran's considerable manpower advantage over its Gulf rival. More pragmatic leaders, such as former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, may understand this. Rafsanjani, who lost the 2005 presidential elections to Ahmadinejad, is making a comeback, defeating a hardliner to become chairman of Iran's Assembly of Experts for the Leadership (Majles-e Khobrgran Rahbari), which appoints and can dismiss the supreme leader.

At this stage, neither the US nor Iran seems willing to talk directly about bilateral issues apart from Iraq. Even if the two sides did talk, there is no guarantee that an agreement could be reached. And if an agreement were reached, it would certainly be short of what the US might want. But the test of a US-Iran negotiation is not how it measures up against an ideal arrangement but how it measures up against the alternatives of bombing or doing nothing.
US prewar intelligence on Iraq was horrifically wrong on the key question of Iraq's possession of WMD, and Bush ignored the intelligence to assert falsely a connection between Saddam and September 11, 2001. This alone is sufficient reason to be skeptical of the Bush administration's statements on Iran.

Some of the administration's charges against Iran defy common sense. In his Reno speech, Bush accused Iran of arming the Taliban in Afghanistan while his administration has, at various times, accused Iran of giving weapons to both Sunni and Shi'ite insurgents in Iraq. The Taliban are Salafi-jihadis, Sunni fundamentalists who consider Shi'ites apostates deserving of death. In power, the Taliban brutally repressed Afghanistan's Shi'ites and nearly provoked a war with Iran when they murdered Iranian diplomats inside the Iranian consulate in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Iraq's Sunni insurgents are either Salafi-jihadis or Ba'athists, the political party that started the Iran-Iraq War.

The Iranian regime may believe it has a strategic interest in keeping US forces tied down in the Iraqi quagmire since this, in the Iranian view, makes an attack on Iran unlikely. US clashes with the Mahdi Army complicate the US military effort in Iraq and it is plausible that Iran might provide some weapons - including armor-penetrating improvised explosive devices - to the Mahdi Army and its splinter factions. Overall, however, Iran has no interest in the success of the Mahdi Army.

Muqtada has made Iraqi nationalism his political platform. He has attacked the SIIC for its pro-Iranian leanings and challenged Iraq's most important religious figure, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, himself an Iranian citizen. Asked about charges that Iran was organizing Iraqi insurgents, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told The Financial Times on May 10, "The whole idea is unreasonable. Why should we do that? Why should we undermine a government in Iraq that we support more than anybody else?"

The US cannot now undo Bush's strategic gift to Iran. But importantly, the most pro-Iranian Shi'ite political party is the one least hostile to the US. In the battle now under way between the SIIC and Muqtada for control of southern Iraq and of the central government in Baghdad, the US and Iran are on the same side. The US has good reason to worry about Iran's activities in Iraq. But contrary to the Bush administration's allegations - supported by both General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker in their recent congressional testimony - Iran does not oppose Iraq's new political order. In fact, Iran is the major beneficiary of the US-induced changes in Iraq since 2003.

Peter W Galbraith, a former US ambassador to Croatia, is senior diplomatic fellow at the Center for Arms Control and a principal at the Windham Resources Group, a firm that negotiates on behalf of its clients in post-conflict societies, including Iraq. His The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End is now out in paperback.

(This essay appears in the October 11, 2007, issue of the New York Review of Books and is posted with the permission of the editors of that magazine.)

(Copyright 2007 Peter Galbraith.)

(Used by permission Tomdispatch)

[bth: this article is worth reading in full. With so many common interests we could develop with Iran such as the stability of Iraq and crushing al-Qaeda one wonders why we seem to pass on these opportunities and allow our media and our politicians goad us to war. I'm no fan of Iran's disgusting regime, but I am a realist. I also have a visceral negative response to those wishing to push us into war with Iran. The next US administration may have a chance to make progress though by then with either a nuclear Iran or one attacked just as Bush leaves office by the US or Israel. We are not preparing to reduce our presence in Iraq or in the Middle East. Americans need to understand that. Congress is unable and the president is unwilling.]

The Existentialist Cowboy: Petraeus! Everything They've Told You is a Lie!

The Existentialist Cowboy: Petraeus! Everything They've Told You is a Lie!: "The US Senate has gone on record against free speech, condemning the citizen's organization for criticizing Gen. Petraeus who has assumed PR duties for the White House. Petraeus' mission has more to do with papering over both Bush's failed policies and war crimes than prooviding Congress a clear and unbiased assessment. When a General ceases to be a general to become an errand boy for a war criminal, he deserves what he gets. It was not long ago that I wrote that America's future depends upon whether or not the general is an honest man. That issue has been decided! "

As Eleanor Clift points out, the GOP has pulled out and dusted off a typical GOP strategem, a tired tactic that has, nevertheless, worked miracles for them in the past. Bush, says Clift, will keep just enough troops in Iraq " provide a surface illusion of progress." Bush will leave it to the Democrats to pull out and cut off support for whatever regime is in place. It will not matter to the GOP that it will fall because it will never have been legitimate. The GOP will blame "weak-kneed, weak on defense" Democrats for the inevitable fall of an illegitimate puppet regime.
--America's Fate Depends Upon Whether Gen. Petraeus is an Honest Man

How dare the US Senate condemn the for not only stating an opinion to which its members have a right. It's called freedom of speech. Moveon has a right to be wrong --but they also have a right to be right and they most certainly are on this issue. It is the US Senate --Democrats included --who are wrong and dead wrong. The Democratic betrayal on this issue is the unkindest cut!

Everyone voting for this un-American resolution should resign along with the war criminal that dares to continue to occupy the Oval Office. He is, in fact, the very worst "President" in American history and not worthy of the title. How dare the general enter the halls of Congress for the express purpose of supporting Bush's commission of a war crime!

How dare the Senate --elected officials --dare impugn the wishes of a national organization, in fact, a grass roots organization!

What the US Senate ought to learn is that freedom of speech is not granted by government. We have it! Governments serve at our pleasure. At the moment some 80 percent of us are sorely displeased.

Governments are leigimate only to the extent that they recognize our freedom. Instead of passing this stupid, un-American resolution, the Congress should have been taking a strong stand against the usurper on PA avenue! The only job of our elected leaders is the preservation of our freedoms, our Constitutional right and that have utterly failed to do it, kowtowing and kissing up to a woud be dictator at every step of the way.

This Consgress sucks! It has enabled Bush's crimes at every step of the way. This Congress has enabled his every crime, his every lie, his every fraud. If the Congress will not serve the people, if they will not do their ONLY Constitutional duty then its time for them to go. Every Senator voting for this un-American resolution should resign.
The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a measure condemning for a newspaper ad it ran last week attacking Gen. David Petraeus. The move came as President Bush accused Democrats of cowering to the liberal political action group.

The measure passed in a 72-25 vote, with none of the Democratic presidential candidates supporting it. Sponsored by Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, never one to shy away from forcing Democrats to go on record on politically sticky issues, the amendment to the defense authorization bill did win the backing of 23 Democrats.
It is correctly pointed out that Congress has proven itself impotent to pass a resolution condemning our ongoing and heinous war crime in Iraq but had no problem attacking the very freedoms that we are supposed to be defending.

General Petraeus is not above the vicissitudes of public opinion. His is a public job whether he likes it or not. It was Harry Truman who said, "if you can't stand the heat, get out of the Kitchen!" Those would betrayus, those will not tell the truth for political resasons should consider finding another line of work. I suggest he and the members of Congress --Democrats included --who voted for this cowardly cop out hit the road. So long and don't let the door hit you in your sorry asses on your way out.

[bth: the established politicians in Washington had better wake up. People out here in the villages are pissed. They view both parties as part of the problem now. That Democrats didn't force the Republicans to filibuster the Web Amendment is just revolting. That our troops in Iraq would be held hostage by an Administration that couldn't give a damn about them or their families is a crime against them and our country. This has just gone too far. So the resolution they pass is one condemning for it exercise of free speech! This was not a privilege given to Americans, it is a a right that cannot be taken away by a government supposedly sworn to defend that right. ... Enemies foreign and domestic.]

Long-term US Iraq bill to be 25 billion dollars: Congress

The Raw Story | Long-term US Iraq bill to be 25 billion dollars: Congress: "A decades-long US presence in Iraq would cost around 25 billion dollars a year in combat conditions, and up to 10 billion even in more peaceful times, a new congressional report said."

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) tallied up the price-tag for a long stay in Iraq after the White House said in May the half-century US military presence in South Korea could be a model for future Iraq deployments.

Upfront costs for a combat force of 55,000 US troops, modelled on the current US mission in Iraq, would mean a one-time payment of "four to eight billion dollars and annual costs of approximately 25 billion dollars."

Even a US force of the same size in a less exposed non-combat role, would entail up-front costs of eight billion dollars and an annual outlay of up to 10 billion dollars, the report said.

The report by the CBO, which provides non-partisan budget and economic costings for Congress, was commissioned by Democratic Senator Kent Conrad.

"The American people deserve to know that they are going to be handed a multi-trillion dollar bill from this president to cover the cost of his misguided policy in Iraq," Conrad said in a statement.

"The Bush administration has been trying to hide the cost of this war every step of the way."

Bush said in a live televised address to Americans last week after testimony to Congress by war commander General David Petraeus, that Iraq required US political, economic, and security engagement "beyond my presidency."

US troop levels in Iraq currently number around 168,000, though Bush said last week a gradual drawdown will start within weeks, which will take levels down to around 130,000 by the middle of next year.

According to a report by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service in July, the United States has already shelled out well over half a trillion dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and running costs have hit 12 billion dollars a month.

The United States has stationed tens of thousands of soldiers in South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War, and currently has 29,500 troops helping the 680,000-strong South Korean military face down North Korea's 1.1-million-strong forces.

Terror Watch: A Secret Lobbying Campaign - Newsweek Terror Watch -

Terror Watch: A Secret Lobbying Campaign - Newsweek Terror Watch - "Sept. 20, 2007 - The nation’s biggest telecommunications companies, working closely with the White House, have mounted a secretive lobbying campaign to get Congress to quickly approve a measure wiping out all private lawsuits against them for assisting the U.S. intelligence community’s warrantless surveillance programs."...

War and Piece: MK Benjamin Netanyahu is dangerous

War and Piece:: "Ha'aretz on an alleged leak:"

The political and defense establishments reacted with fury on Thursday to opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu's apparent confirmation of an Israeli operation in Syria two weeks ago.

In what appears to be the first confirmation by a senior politician of foreign media reports, MK Benjamin Netanyahu told Channel One television that he was party to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision to attack Syria, an operation on which Israeli officials have remained uncharacteristically silent.

Labor Party secretary-general, Eitan Cabel, said to Army Radio that Netanyahu's words were "an outburst that is severe, stupid and irresponsible."

"Bibi [Netanyahu] is the same Bibi. I haven no idea if it is foolishness, stupidity, the desire to jump on the bandwagon, the desire to be a partner, to steal credit - or something else. It is simply very dangerous. The man simply does not deserve to lead," Cabel told Army Radio.

In an interview with Channel One news anchor Haim Yavin, Netanyahu shocked the Prime Minister's Office when he said that he was briefed on Olmert's decision to carry out an operation in Syria, gave him his backing and congratulated him.

"When the prime minister takes action in important and necessary matters, and generally when the government is doing things for the security of Israel, I give it my endorsement," he said. "I was party to this matter, I must say, from the first minute and I gave it my backing, but it is still too early to discuss this subject." ...

In response to the interview, sources close to Olmert said that "Bibi's slip of the tongue borders national irresponsibility."

An official said Tuesday that "once again Netanyahu couldn't restrain himself and he ran to tell the guys." ...

Fox Attacks - Iran

The Existentialist Cowboy

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pentagon Probes $6 Billion in Contracts

Pentagon Probes $6 Billion in Contracts - "WASHINGTON -- Federal investigators are examining allegations of criminal misconduct related to $6 billion worth of contracts for equipment and services needed in Iraq and Afghanistan, a senior Pentagon official said Thursday. "

The financial scope of the inquiries was provided during a congressional hearing at which Defense Department representatives were criticized for moving too slowly to deal with a growing number of cases of contract fraud and abuse.

Following the testimony from Thomas Gimble, the Pentagon's deputy inspector general, members of the House Armed Services Committee questioned whether a "culture of corruption" had consumed the military's system for buying the gear the troops need to fight.

No, said the witnesses. In addition to Gimble, they included Lt. Gen. N. Ross Thompson, a top Army acquisition official, and Shay Assad, director of defense procurement.

They attributed the impropriety to a handful of "bad apples," a lack of stringent accounting controls, too few properly trained contracting personnel and the demands of wartime operations.

"This sickens me, when there is even one case of an officer or a noncommissioned officer who is involved in case of fraud or accepting a bribe," Thompson said. But he said there was no "widespread conspiracy."

Added Assad: "We did not properly train our officers and enlisted (personnel) to work in the environment."

But Gimble's public remarks, which came after committee members received a classified briefing on the investigations, did little to assure the lawmakers that the problems are not deeper.

Gimble said his office has 225 people working on 90 investigations and 29 audits stemming from the hundreds of billions dollars spent on the wars thus far.

About half the investigations are for procurement fraud, a category that includes undelivered or defective products, overcharges and false claims, according to Gimble's testimony.

An additional 26 inquiries involve public corruption, which covers bribery and conflicts of interest, Gimble said. There are 16 linked to the theft of money or property and violations of U.S. export rules.

Just over 50 investigations originated in Iraq and 22 started in Kuwait, the site of an Army contracting office that service officials had previously said was a source of many flawed contracts...

Head of firm paid to track Iraq spending investigated

Head of firm paid to track Iraq spending investigated - "WASHINGTON — Robert Raggio quit his $97,000-per-year government job as a financial manager for the Iraq reconstruction effort in September 2005. He said in his resignation form that he wanted to 'pursue other opportunities.'"

That same day, Raggio's newly formed company, Reviewer Management International (RMI), received a U.S. contract to audit $7.3 billion in Iraqi reconstruction spending, according to Army documents obtained by USA TODAY under the Freedom of Information Act.

The $1.5 million contract was designed to help investigators fight fraud in Iraq. Now, Raggio is under investigation.

Before he quit his government position, Raggio wrote the requirements for the federal contract at the same time he negotiated to obtain it for RMI, according to the documents. The Army's Suspension and Debarment Office suspended Raggio and his consulting firm from getting new government contracts in August amid an ongoing investigation into whether he violated conflict of interest laws.

The laws, which bar government officials from benefiting from their official actions, carry penalties of up to five years in prison. Civil penalties can include fines equal to the amount of the contract, Army documents say.

The suspension and the investigation have not been made public before.

Army contracting officials began looking into the case after the government's Iraq reconstruction watchdog, Stuart Bowen, passed along an anonymous complaint his office received about Raggio, documents show.

Raggio did not respond to repeated telephone messages left at the phone number he listed as RMI's office, which public records show is his brother's home in suburban New York.

RMI was hired to create a database to track the $7.3 billion in Iraqi government money U.S. officials doled out — much of it in $100 bills shipped to the country on pallets — after the 2003 invasion. Federal auditors had uncovered a bribery scheme involving more than $8.6 million from the Development Fund for Iraq and wanted to determine if there was more corruption.

But the Army failed to properly oversee Raggio's contract and after nearly a year of work he delivered a database that was incomplete, unreliable and nearly unusable, according to a January report from Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. The database couldn't meet one of its primary goals: allowing investigators to connect payments to the U.S. officials who made them, Bowen's report said.

RMI told investigators its database included more than 300,000 entries, but Bowen's report described it as "only a collection of records that were not audited or effectively connected to one another."

Army contracting officials didn't monitor the contract or ensure RMI filed required status reports every two months, Bowen's report said. The report faulted the contract's initial requirements, which the Army documents reveal Raggio wrote.

Raggio had incorporated RMI on Aug. 5, 2005 — the day after the Joint Contracting Command-Iraq in Baghdad solicited proposals for auditing the Development Fund for Iraq. At the time, Raggio was the financial manager of the Accelerated Iraq Reconstruction Program, one of the fund's main components, the Army documents say.

RMI was given the contract after the government's aborted attempt to seek competitive bids, Air Force Lt. Col. Joe Mazur of the Joint Contracting Command-Iraq said in an interview in April.

Mazur said an unsigned memo in the contract file showed the competitive bidding process for the contract was cancelled because the process had been "compromised," meaning one or more of the bidders had inside information about the contract. Mazur said another unsigned document indicated RMI got the contract because it was the only firm able to do the work in time to meet a deadline at the end of 2005, which was later extended to the end of 2006.

[bth: in polite company I think this is called bid rigging.]

EFP Cluster


This photo is one cluster of 15 EFPs that were ganged up together. As you can see they are homemade from PVC pipe, copper and explosives. By ganging them up aiming becomes a non-issue and the ability to penetrate extreme armor offered by MRAPs becomes more than possible - its probable.
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SFFT: Tightning the Ol' Sphincters at MARCORSYSCOM, Quantico

: "By Roger Charles For those with strong stomachs, you might want to read some of DefenseWatch's previous postings on this topic, before getting into the latest 'news.'"

03-01-2006 New Growler Causes Grumbling
03-10-2006 Marine Corps' Use of Smoke and Mirrors to Conceal Catto Cart's Failures Won't Work

Due in large part to the continuing fine work of investigative reporter Steve Wilson and television station WXYZ, the senior US Senator from Michigan (and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee) was decided to warn the Marine Corps' acquisition mafia at Quantico that he's had just about all the EFSS and Growler he can take.

What follows are paragraphs from a letter dated September 12, 2007 that Senator Levin sent to Brigadier Michael M. Brogan, the Commanding General of Marine Corps Systems Command at Quantico. (Having spent two years in an acquisition billet at an earlier version of MARCORSYSCOM, I can tell you that such letters are exceedingly rare, and not the kind that program managers are eager to receive.)

Letter's like this one from Levin are not the sign of a healthy, respected program. In fact, it's the opposite. Levin is putting the Marine Corps on notice that this program is in major trouble, although he's too much the smooth politician to put it in such clear and crude terms.

Dear General Brogan:

I understand that the Marine Corps is currently considering whether to authorize full-rate production on the Expeditionary Fire Support System (EFSS) program. I appreciate the hard work you and your staff have done on this program in order to get needed equipment into the hands of our Marines.

As you know, I have asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the current status of the EFSS program. Based on my staff's discussion with GAO tome on their work done to date, I have a concern that the program may be proceeding into full-rate production prematurely. In particular, it appears that some key information may not be available at this time that would seem to be basic to committing the Government to full-rate production of any weapon system. For example, I understand that the full-rate production decision will be made before any low-rate initial production units are delivered or tested. I also understand that there are some open issues resulting from recent testing that will require additional testing after the decision. The GAO team informs me that they have already expressed these concerns directly to Marine Corps officials.

I do not know at this point whether there are serious problems with the program. Rather, my concern is whether there is sufficient knowledge to make such a significant acquisition decision at this time. If design changes are found to be necessary after full-rate production has begun, their correction is likely to be far more costly to the Government. I am sensitive to the potential repercussions attendant to a delay in any program, but in this case, such repercussions are not apparent, as I understand that planned production rates will not exceed the current low rate of production until fiscal year 2009.

Unless there are compelling reasons to proceed with full-rate production at this time, I ask that you delay your decision to begin full-rate production on EFSS until 30 days after GAO has provided me with its final report, which I expect in the coming months. If you decide it is necessary to proceed with full-rate production at this time, I ask that you inform me of the basis for that decision.[Emphasis added.]

Wow... First, this very public, and hard spanking, of a general officer, and a Marine at that!

Levin has told Brogan that the GAO has already determined that "some key information may not be available at this time that would seem basic" to any major decisions about production.

Translated into real-speak, the Chairman of the SASC has pointed out to Brogan that in just a couple of months since GAO started this inquiry, they'll found enough "problems"-- at a minimum -- to convince Levin to tell the Marine Corps, you are not going to make any major production decisions until I say so.

Stay tuned... I expect we'll see blood on the deck before the Growler/Catto Cart issue is settled.

Semper fidelis,

Rog Charles

[bth: this program is an overpriced, piece of crap. It is unarmored and couldn't be driven outside a base gate in Iraq or Afghanistan under current circumstances. Further, it costs $125K per vehicle which is more than an unarmored humvee and is about 4 times more costly than countries like Costa Rica whoc are buying this crap are paying. It was picked over more superior designs because the colonel that runs the contractor was buds with the marine officers in charge of the project. I would encourage you to look at the referenced articles in the original link. Steve Wilson is a true old line investigative reporter of first rate order. Not only does this program divert money from more important programs, its just flat a bad program. Its original justification was that two could be flown in an Osprey but the Osprey is so costly and dangerous that it isn't even allowed to flyin combat zones. This is a bad program and I applaud Sen. Levin for asking the GAO to investigate and putting the temporary brakes on this program.]

No More Mister Nice Blog - Game Over - Selecting a VP Running Mate

No More Mister Nice Blog: "Well, there's your Democratic ticket:

Wesley Clark, the retired four star general who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, announced his endorsement of Senator Hillary Clinton on Saturday.

"I'm very pleased today to announce my endorsement of Senator Clinton to be our next President of the United States," Clark said on a conference call with reporters. "She'll be a great leader for the United States of America, and I think she'll be a great commander in chief for the men and women in the armed forces."

..."I want to thank General Clark. He and I have been friends for twenty five years," Senator Clinton said on the call after Clark made his announcement....

I've said this before, but she won't pick Obama -- she's too timid; she'll think a ticket with no white males would make people too nervous.

And she may well think that, given the recent "Betray Us" kerfuffle, the ground rules now require kid gloves in the handling of generals. I hope I'm wrong about that, because if she believes that -- i.e., if she believes that that will apply to a general who's a Democrat -- she's incredibly naive.

(However, the rule will apply if, as has been rumored, the Republican VP choice is either Petraeus of General Tommy Franks, though I can't imagine a turnaround in Iraq significant enough to make the GOP nominee take such a risk.)

[bth: so the author of the post above believes Thompson-Petraeus will face Clinton-Clark. I think that is a real possibility. I'd also say I suspect if Clark isn't VP then he will be Sec. of State. He probably would make a superb Sec. of State. When Alma and I met him in New Hampshire last spring I must say I was very impressed with him.]

Political Insider: A General For Veep?

Political Insider: A General For Veep?: "Last Friday, The Washington Times reported that "three of the eight announced 2008 Republican presidential campaigns are considering retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks as their pick for vice presidential candidate." The Times did not say which three campaigns these were, but it is hard to imagine that lower-tier candidates, like Duncan Hunter and Ron Paul, are making up vice presidential short lists at this point. If three active candidates have Franks on their radar, there is a strong chance that top contenders like Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee are among them. Fred Thompson, when he announces, could make a fourth.

Some Republicans, however, have a different soldier in mind for the vice presidency. Last spring, The Weekly Standard's William Kristol told a group of college students, in an off-the-record meeting of the Harvard Republican Club, that a ticket of Fred Thompson and David Petraeus might be able to avert electoral disaster for the GOP next year. If Petraeus proves successful as a military commander in Iraq, Kristol said, he could be a potent running mate for the former senator from Tennessee. Kristol also mentioned that he was not the only conservative insider thinking along these lines.

It is striking that Kristol would tout General Petraeus's potential as an electoral asset while the man is still working to stabilize Iraq - a job that should be entirely nonpartisan. If Petraeus is half the soldier he's been made out to be, it would be unthinkable for him to abandon his military mission to join a political campaign. No less notable than Kristol's speculation, though, is the fact that both Franks and Petraeus might be considered desirable vice presidential prospects, even as public enthusiasm for the war remains weak. With Iraq shaping up to be one of the defining issues of 2008, leading Republicans are not running away from the war. Many are actually running toward it.

-- Alexander Burns

[bth: Petraeus is a real possibility. I fully believe that he has decided to run for national office.]

Main and Central: I'm Sorry, Brothers

Main and Central: I'm Sorry, Brothers: "We know many of you have a sense of belief in what you’re doing over there in what I’ve called “Mr Bu$h’s ego-war.” Some of you probably feel that it is the United States’ world-wide responsibility to step in and overthrow murderous dictators. Part of me agrees with you. I’d like to see the murderous dictators in lots of other countries overthrown, too. (I’m sure it’s only coincidence there’s no oil in those countries.) You deserve my respect for backing your beliefs with your lives, even if I disagree with you."

Some of you seem to believe that Saddam Hussein personally and individually went out and rounded up a bunch of lunatics, financed them, trained them, and sent them off to attack innocent Americans on September 11th. You might be right. But we haven’t found any evidence for that. But did you know that 15 of the 19 people who killed Americans on 9/11 were Saudis? I can’t help wondering why he didn’t recruit Iraqis, or alternatively, who did recruit the Saudis? In any case, I still respect you, even if your beliefs are illogical.

Some of you just love your country and are willing to back that love. Or maybe you’re just trying to get enough money in the bank to go to college. You have my respect.

A lot of you are tired. You’re on your second, third and fourth tours – now extended to 15 months, with a really good chance of them being extended again to 18 months - and your wives are dispirited, jumping every time the doorbell rings, and your kids cry at night, wondering where their Daddy is.

I’m sorry.

I know some of you stick it out because of pride in yourselves and your brothers. I know how that is because I remember how it was for me, too.

I wish you were allowed to read this because I wanted you to know we’re trying everything we possibly can to get you guys some slack. Jim Webb, a veteran and Senator from Virginia, has been trying to get an amendment passed to get you guys more slack. His plan is simple: for every month over there you get a month here in the States. Guaranteed. Time to relax a bit. Time to remind your wives that you love them. Time for your kids to relearn how their Daddy loves them.

We thought we had it nailed, this time. It looked like the Webb Amendment would pass yesterday. Even John Warner, a Republican Senator from Virginia, promised to support the amendment.

When the final vote count was revealed we could only marshal 56 of the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture and get the bill onto the Senate floor for a public vote. I know this will surprise you, but it was the Republican Party that didn’t want you to get treated humanely.

John Warner, who’d promised Jim Webb he would support the amendment, lied like a cheap Persian rug in a third rate Algerian bordello. He voted against the Webb amendment, even though he voted for it the last time. That sack of crap said, “I’m 80 years old, I’m going to retire, and I’m more afraid of George Bu$h and Dick Cheney than I am of the troops and the voters.” Or words to that effect. Fuck him twice.

Mel Martinez, one of my own particular bits of shame, said

“I think we would demean their service if we were to say to them that there had to be a parity between the time in service out of the country and the time at home.”

So Senator Martinez, who’s never had to put on a uniform, stand guard, hear the bee-buzz of bullets over his head, watch a buddy’s head explode into catsup, or hold someone tight as he bleeds out, asking for his mother, figures you’d just be “demeaned” if you caught a break.

Fuck him three times.

I’ll till you who voted against the amendment: 43 Republican Senators. You know, the assholes who keep crowing how much they support the troops.

Fuck them all, four times.

Oh, and Joe Lieberman, the Republican from Tel Aviv who pretends he’s an Independent from Connecticut, who wants all your asses over there until each and every one of Israel’s enemies is destroyed,

Fuck him until the cows come home.

Sorry, brothers, we tried. We’ll try again, and keep trying until we get you treated like human beings.

[bth: amen brother amen]