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IRAQ: Update On Plan A

There is no Plan B in Iraq, according to a group of governors who met with Joint Chiefs chairman Peter Pace to discuss options if the escalation fails.

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GOOD NEWS

“In what could be the largest environmentally friendly corporate project in history, Bank of America Corp. will unveil a $20-billion initiative today to help fertilize green business practices.”


STATE WATCH

ILLINOIS: Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) is planning to subsidize universal health care in Illinois with a new payroll tax.

MINNESOTA: The city of St. Paul will ask the state legislature to provide equal benefits to partners of gay city employees.

WASHINGTON: State sues the federal government for making it tougher to get medical coverage for the infants of undocumented immigrants.


BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: Flashback: Pentagon official said veterans benefits were “hurtful” to national security.

DANGER ROOM: One doctor for every 18,000 patients in the military medical system.

CARPET BAGGER REPORT
: Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) proud to be called “dumb, crazy man, science abuser, Holocaust denier, villain of the month, [and] hate-filled.”

CREW BLOG: CREW files ethics complaint against Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM).


DAILY GRILL

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “spoke optimistically about the surge of U.S. troops, saying ‘early indications are that it’s working.’ ‘Overall, I think there’s a good chance of getting a capital city quieted down enough to where they can function,’ he said.”
— Associated Press, 3/5/07

VERSUS

“‘I would say, just looking at the reports from the people on the ground … I think their assessment would be, “It’s too early to draw any conclusions,” because this is still in the early stages,’ Pentagon number two Gordon England said.”
— Agence France-Presse, 3/1/07


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 March 6, 2007
Update On Plan A
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Update On Plan A

There is no Plan B in Iraq, according to a group of governors who last week met with Joint Chiefs chairman Peter Pace to discuss the options if President Bush’s escalation plan fails. “I’m a Marine,” Pace reportedly said, “and Marines don’t talk about failure.” “Plan B was to make Plan A work,” Gov. Phil Bredesen (D-TN) recalled Pace telling the group. And yet, the military does not appear to have an abundance of confidence in Plan A. (See the Center for American Progress’s plan here.) Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) said recently that Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, told him that there is only “a one in four chance that Bush’s plan will work.” Early returns from the escalation strategy that went into effect last month indicate that the increased troop presence is altering the tempo in violence. Many have noted a slight dropoff in the daily carnage, in part due to the negotiated advance of U.S. forces into Sadr City. The military reported that “there had been no resistance, no violence, no illegal weapons found, and no arrests” in the operation. Yet “mass bomb attacks, which the U.S. views as largely the work of Sunni insurgents, continue to occur almost daily, and thus far the enhanced forces have been largely powerless to stop them.” The Pentagon has cautioned against drawing any early conclusions from the escalation plan. Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England said, “It’s too early to draw any conclusions, because this is still in the early stages.” Yet that admonition didn’t stop Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) from speaking euphorically about the escalation, saying “early indications are that it’s working.” McConnell’s assessment came on the same day that Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly called “very traumatic” for U.S. troops in Iraq, noting that nine soldiers were killed in two separate IED (improvised explosive devices) attacks.

VIOLENCE IN THE HEART OF BAGHDAD: At least 38 people died and 105 were injured yesterday after a suicide car bomber “turned a venerable book market into a deadly inferno.” The bomb “shattered an area once known for liberal ideas, an intellectual haven that in the heady days after the U.S.-led invasion pulsed with the promise of freedom.” But yesterday, it was the scene of the “bloodiest day in more than a week.” The Washington Post reported, “For many victims, the attack brought questions about the effectiveness of a new security crackdown that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has already declared a success.” “What security plan? There is no security plan,” said one Iraqi witness to the violence. “In the latest of a string of sectarian attacks against pilgrims of the Shi’ite majority by suspected Sunni Arab insurgents, eight pilgrims were killed and 23 wounded in three separate car bombs in Baghdad, police said.”

JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS: There has been an eagerness of some in the media to declare instant success from sporadic reporting, despite the fact that the militants’ capacity and desire for large-scale attacks continues. Reporting from Iraq, NBC’s Brian Williams noted signs of success from the escalation, calling Ramadi an area that has become “more peaceful.” But just last weekend, “a car bomb apparently targeting an Iraqi police checkpoint exploded about noon near Anbar University” in Ramadi. At least 12 people were killed, including two police officers, and 15 were injured, police said. In a sign of much-needed good news for troops on the ground, recent reports have noted greater lulls between violence and decreases in individual acts of terrorism. Yet the security situation cannot and should not be oversold. Two car bombings on Feb. 18 killed at least 60 people in a crowded market in Baghdad. The next day, insurgents “staged a brazen assault on an American military outpost, killing three U.S. soldiers and injuring 29.” In response to the escalation, insurgents have employed “a variety of tactics — from an unprecedented string of helicopter shoot-downs to unusual chlorine bomb attacks and direct assaults on U.S. military bases — that American commanders say are intended to create chaos and undermine the U.S. and Iraqi military push to quell violence in Baghdad.”

NO RESISTANCE: U.S. forces swept through Shiite stronghold of Sadr City with “barely a sign of opposition.” The Mahdi Army militia, blamed for much of the sectarian killing in the Iraqi capital, is based in the area. The U.S. expansion into Sadr City came following negotiations with political leaders in the neighborhood. On Sunday, ABC News reported that “some had thought that Sadr’s men would fight the Americans, but it now appears the militias have been told to lie low during the American surge.” The Mahdi Army has been “operating under strict orders to remain low profile,” said loyalists of Moqtada al-Sadr. Underneath the peaceful current occupation of Sadr City is cause for longer term concern. One representative for al-Sadr said, “We hope there is a day when Iraqis are the master and not under the American shoes.” Meanwhile, on the U.S. side, there has been talk of establishing “a permanent presence.” Al-Sadr has rejected U.S. statements “that negotiations had cleared the way for the establishment of the joint security station in Sadr City.” Echoing the concerns about a long-term U.S. presence, resident Sattar Jabbar Sharhan asked, “Why Americans? Even if they are with Iraqi troops, why? What is the reason?”

Under the Radar

IRAN — ATTACK WOULD SPEED UP IRAN’S NUCLEAR PRODUCTION: Conservatives such as the American Enterprise Institute’s Joshua Muravchik have argued that a targeted air strike “would not end Iran’s weapons program, but it would certainly delay it.” Similarly, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton promoted the concept of air strikes, saying, “I don’t think the military option, with respect to the Iranian nuclear program, would involve forces on the ground. I think it would involve the destruction of the nuclear facilities. And that can be done in a variety of other ways.” In a new study, the British-based Oxford Research Group reports that military strikes on Iran “could accelerate rather than halt Tehran’s production of atomic weapons.” A key portion of the report concludes, “If Iran’s nuclear facilities were severely damaged during an attack, it is possible that Iran could embark on a crash programme to make one nuclear weapon. In the aftermath of a military strike, if Iran devoted maximum effort and resources to building one nuclear bomb, it could achieve this in a relatively short amount of time: some months rather than years.” The Center for American Progress’s Iran strategy, “Contain and Engage,” also notes, “After a U.S. military strike some countries might even decide that it is in their interests to help Iran acquire nuclear weapons. Russia, for instance, might regard U.S. military action in Iran as destabilizing and damaging to its national security and seek to counter U.S. power in the region by strengthening its relationship with Iran.” The Washington Post reported last year that the administration was “studying options for military strikes against Iran.” Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace “categorically” denied that the United States is planning for such operations. But media reports have indicated preparations for an air strike against Iran are reportedly “at an advanced stage, in spite of repeated public denials by the Bush administration.”

RADICAL RIGHT — COULTER’S ANTI-GAY REMARK CONDEMNED ACROSS POLITICAL SPECTRUM: At last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Ann Coulter commented that she would have liked to talk about presidential candidate John Edwards, “but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word faggot.” Coulter’s remarks have drawn criticism from individuals and organizations across the political spectrum, including John Edwards himself. The Human Rights Campaign has demanded “that every single Presidential candidate in attendance at this conference, along with Vice President Cheney stand up and publicly condemn this type of gutter-style politics.” Republican candidates Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Rudy Giuliani have all “sharply denounced” the remarks as inappropriate. Despite such public repudiation, Coulter has stood by her remarks, saying on her website, “I’m so ashamed, I can’t stop laughing.” Last night on Fox’s Hannity and Colmes, Coulter said her comments were nothing more than a “school yard taunt.” Thanks to an initiative started by the liberal blog DailyKos, CNN is reporting today that Coulter’s remarks have resulted in “at least three major companies” withdrawing advertising support for her website. In addition, a group of nearly a dozen “credentialed” bloggers from CPAC 2007 have condemned Coulter’s “vicious word choice” and have demanded that CPAC not invite Coulter to any future events. In response, David Keene — chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU) and sponsor of CPAC — called Coulter’s comments “provocative,” but refused to condemn her use of “hate-speech” and would not address whether or not Coulter would be invited to future ACU or CPAC events. Coulter’s distributor, Universal Press syndicate, also refused to condemn her comments, saying only, “To date, we have not heard from any of her client newspapers about the verbal remark.”

CIVIL LIBERTIES — WHITE HOUSE PRIVACY PANEL RUBBERSTAMPS BUSH SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM: “A White House privacy board has determined that two of the Bush administration’s controversial surveillance programs — electronic eavesdropping and financial tracking — do not violate citizen’s liberties.”  The five-member panel, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, is preparing to issue a report to Congress next week defending the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program and the Treasury department’s monitoring of international banking transactions, calling the programs “properly protective and attentive to civil liberties.” The independence of the panel, which is directly tied to the White House and has operated in secret for almost a year, is under question by civil liberties advocates, who assert that the organization is merely a rubberstamp for the Bush administration’s domestic agenda. Privacy Board members “serve at the pleasure of Bush, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has final say over whether officials must comply with the board’s recommendations.” Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) “called it absurd that the board effectively gave the eavesdropping program its stamp of approval even before the administration was forced to backtrack and submit it to court oversight.” Rotenberg added that most of the Privacy Board members are not subject to Senate approval, a provision that both the House and Senate are trying to change by subjecting the board to increased Congressional oversight.


Think Fast

Another purged prosecutor. Former federal prosecutor Thomas DiBiagio said yesterday that “he was forced out in early 2005 because of political pressure stemming from public corruption investigations involving associates” of Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R-MD). “There was direct pressure not to pursue these investigations,” DiBiagio said.

The White House plans to ask Congress for $2 billion more for President Bush’s escalation plan, an “embarrassing” move for the White House and the Pentagon, “which earlier dismissed criticism from lawmakers that the original $5.6 billion estimate for the troop buildup was too low.”

Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) admitted yesterday that she contacted former U.S. attorney David Iglesias “to complain about the pace of his public corruption investigations.” Iglesias has said that he was fired because he resisted pressure from Wilson and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) to speed up an investigation against Democrats before the 2006 elections.

Nine American soldiers died in explosions north of Baghdad, the U.S. military announced today after the deadliest single day for U.S. troops in Iraq in nearly a month.”

51 percent: Number of people in the world who believe the United States has a “mainly negative” influence in the world. The United States ranks third, behind Israel and Iran, and is followed by North Korea.

As the U.N. drug agency predicted a “cancer of insurgency” in Afghanistan could “drive the 2007 opium poppy harvest to record levels,” NATO troops “troops launched their largest offensive yet against Taliban militants, focusing on the same southern region where U.S.-led forces carried out an even bigger operation less than a year ago.”

30 percent: President Bush’s job approval in a new Zogby poll, “once again hitting the all-time low-water mark of his presidency.”

Analysts say that Diebold Inc. “may be angling for ways to dump its e-voting subsidiary that’s widely seen as tarnishing the company’s reputation.”

And finally: Al Gore’s wax head goes the way of Jimmy Hoffa. The Washington Post’s Reliable Source reports, “In 2000, designers in the London headquarters of Madame Tussauds started crafting figures of the former veep and his then-opponent George W. Bush, with plans to put the eventual winner on display. ‘We started both heads,’ said N.Y.C. and D.C. branch General Manager Janine DiGioacchino . But production stopped when lawyers started debating hanging chads. Eventually Bush was finished, while Gore was put in cold storage…well, uh, somewhere. ‘We stored Gore’s head in our London studio,’ she said, ‘and now we’re trying to find him.’”