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I moderate the alumni email list for my highschool graduating class (Bronx Science, 1984). This morning, a message came through from a former classmate stationed in Iraq. The top was date-stamped:

February 17, 2007 * 1914 local time

…and I thought to myself, July, or August?

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I’m willing to believe that Iranian munitions are finding their way into the hands of insurgents in Iraq. It’s entirely plausible. I’m even willing to believe that the Iranian government might be deliberately arming Iraqi insurgents. Despite that, I think expanding the war into Iran would be an even bigger disaster than it is in Iraq.

But look, Telegraph, if you’re going to run an article about allegedly Iranian munitions found in Iraq, well, first it would help if the anonymous American “senior defense department officials” making this claim were actually personally stand by their claims. Second, you might want to accompany the article with a photo of an actual Iranian mortar round, and not one from Pakistan. Here’s a hint: Iranian munitions are labeled in Farsi, complete with Farsi numerals.

Same for you, Washington Post, and you, LA Times.

Update: Don’t take this one to the bank. Turns out that maybe some Iranian munitions manufacturers do use western writing on their bombs. (That’s from a .IR domain, so it probably really is Iranian, though note that in the image the text is in a different font and different location on the mortar than in the US-released photo. Also, the Iranian image has obviously been Photoshopped.)

The anonymous American “explosives expert” said that the mortar’s tail fin was distinctively Iranian. Said tail fin is not visible in the released photos.

Also, General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he was not aware of the briefing, and is not standing by the claim that the Iranian government is supplying Iraqis with weapons.

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Wikipedia’s entry on Ahmed Chalabi tells you his Erdös number.
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‘The Salvador Option’:
What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The Pentagon’s latest approach is being called "the Salvador option"—and the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. "What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are," one senior military officer told NEWSWEEK. "We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing." Last November’s operation in Fallujah, most analysts agree, succeeded less in breaking "the back" of the insurgency—as Marine Gen. John Sattler optimistically declared at the time—than in spreading it out.

Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success—despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras.)

Following that model, one Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with the discussions. It remains unclear, however, whether this would be a policy of assassination or so-called "snatch" operations, in which the targets are sent to secret facilities for interrogation. The current thinking is that while U.S. Special Forces would lead operations in, say, Syria, activities inside Iraq itself would be carried out by Iraqi paramilitaries, officials tell NEWSWEEK.

(via The Poor Man)
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The Central Intelligence Agency has announced the impending publication of Alternate Iraqs, an anthology of alternate history stories based around the Middle Eastern nation. Among the stories confirmed for inclusion are Harry Turtledove’s “Points of Light”, in which aliens invade during the Gulf War of 1991, SM Sterling’s “A Highway Worse than Death”, about a serf rebellion in the Mesopotamian region of the Draka Dominion, and Ken MacLeod’s “The Fortified Castle”, about a search for illegal smart-mass weapons.
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Jason Burke of The Guardian interviewed an Iraqi who holds down a day job in one of the ministries while he moonlights as a resistance fighter. Here’s why he fights:
Abu Mujahed, worryingly for the analysts, fits into none of these easy categories. For a start, he was pro-American before the invasion. 'The only way to breathe under the old regime was to watch American films and listen to their music,' he said. He had been a Bon Jovi fan.

'It gave me a glimpse of a better life. When I heard that the Americans were coming to liberate Iraq I was very happy. I felt that I would be able to live well, travel and have freedom. I wanted to do more sport, get new appliances and a new car and develop my life. I thought the US would come here and our lives would be changed through 180 degrees.'

He spoke of how his faith in the US was shaken when, via a friend's illicitly imported satellite TV system, he saw 'barbaric, savage' pictures of civilian casualties of the fighting and bombing. The next blow came in the conflict's immediate aftermath, as looters ran unchecked through Baghdad.

'When I saw the American soldiers watching and doing nothing as people took everything, I began to suspect the US was not here to help us but to destroy us,' he said.

Abu Mujahed, whose real name is not known by The Observer, said: 'I thought it might be just the chaos of war but it got worse, not better.'

He was not alone and swiftly found that many in the Adhamiya neighbourhood of Baghdad shared his anger and disappointment. The time had come. 'We realised. We had to act.'
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James Risen, writing for the NY Times, on 28 April 2004:
The CIA and other intelligence agencies found little evidence to support the Pentagon's view of an increasingly unified terrorist threat or links between Saddam and Osama bin Laden, and still largely dismiss those ideas. [...] But, [Douglas J. Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy] said in an interview, terrorism and Iraq’s weapons became linked in the minds of top Bush administration officials. After Sept. 11 and the anthrax attacks that followed it, he said, the administration “focused on the danger that Iraq could provide the fruits of its WMD programs to terrorists.”

James Risen, writing for the NY Times, today:
While the Senate panel has concluded that C.I.A. analysts and other intelligence officials overstated the case that Iraq had illicit weapons, the committee has not found any evidence that the analysts changed their reports as a result of political pressure from the White House, according to officials familiar with the report.
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From the Borowitz Report (via Unqualified Offerings):
In a nationally televised address, President George W. Bush revealed that the blame for the Iraqi prison abuse scandal would be transferred from the U.S. to the new Iraqi government on June 30.

“Accepting blame for the prison abuse scandal is an important step in Iraq’s evolution towards democracy,” Mr. Bush said, adding that accountability for the scandal must go to the highest levels of Iraq’s yet-to-be-appointed government.

[...] Prior to the president’s announcement, Mr. Rumsfeld had been bracing himself for the release of the Abu Ghraib Golden Edition DVD, including never-before-seen footage and special tormenters’ narration.
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Reason #865 why Jim Henley is one of my favorite bloggers:
AFP reports that a column of Sunni and Shia Iraqis bulled through a Fallujah checkpoint to bring relief supplies to the embattled town. It's like the classic Silver Surfer comics from the 1960s, when the Surfer, appalled by humanity's fractiousness, launched demonstration attacks in hopes that he would inspire Earth to unite against him. Cool, we're the Silver Surfer! But I guess now we know what the government spokesmen meant when they said we were committed to the territorial integrity of Iraq.
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Bush Loyalists Pack Iraq Press Office:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — Inside the marble-floored palace hall that serves as the press office of the U.S.-led coalition, Republican Party operatives lead a team of Americans who promote mostly good news about Iraq.

Dan Senor, a former press secretary for Spencer Abraham, the Michigan Republican who's now Energy Secretary, heads the office packed with former Bush campaign workers, political appointees and ex-Capitol Hill staffers. [...] Earlier in his career, after Hebrew University and Harvard Business School, Senor was with the Carlyle Group, an investment firm with Bush family ties and big defense industry holdings.
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Via Calpundit, here’s the evolution of Iraq’s WMD capabilities:

March 2003: Weapons of mass destruction.
June 2003: Weapons of mass destruction programs.
October 2003: Weapons of mass destruction-related programs.
January 2004: Weapons of mass destruction-related program activities.
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Hey, they finally caught Bad Santa!
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What Bush said in London:

Peoples of the Middle East share a high civilization, a religion of personal responsibility, and a need for freedom as deep as our own. It is not realism to suppose that one-fifth of humanity is unsuited to liberty; it is pessimism and condescension, and we should have none of it.

What US soldiers are saying in Iraq:

"You have to understand the Arab mind," Capt. Todd Brown, a company commander with the Fourth Infantry Division, said as he stood outside the gates of Abu Hishma. "The only thing they understand is force — force, pride and saving face." [...]
"With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them," [Lt. Col. Nathan ] Sassaman said.
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This relates to some stuff that came up recently in [livejournal.com profile] lyonesse’s journal:

Anti-Iraq war veterans pulled from parade

TALLAHASSEE — A group of 30 military veterans critical of the war in Iraq hoped to use Tuesday's Veterans Day parade to call attention to the increasingly deadly conflict but instead found themselves fighting for something much more fundamental.

Members of Veterans For Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War were yanked off a downtown Tallahassee street, directly in front of the Old Capitol, while marching in the holiday parade they had legitimately registered in.


"We don't care where they are, as long as they're somewhere else," said Charles LeCroy, an Air Force personnel superintendent in Vietnam and second vice commander of American Legion Post 13 in Tallahassee. "It's disrespectful, that's what it is, and I just can't stomach or tolerate or conceive of it."

And here (emphasis added by me) is the US Department of Veterans Affairs, on the origin of Veterans Day (originally Armistice Day):

An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, and the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday — a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.”

Patrick points out another recent related irony.

April 2017



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