2005 - %3, April

An Army of Not Enough

| Fri Apr. 1, 2005 5:47 PM EST

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Army missed its March recruiting goal by 32 percent, and the Marine Corps also came up short, officials said on Friday, as the Iraq war undermined the all-volunteer U.S. military's ability to sign up new troops. ...

The active-duty Army, in danger of missing its first annual recruiting goal since 1999, netted 4,650 recruits in March, far below its goal of 6,800 for the month, Army Recruiting Command spokesman Douglas Smith said. ...

The situation was worse in the part-time Army Reserve and Army National Guard, with the Pentagon relying heavily on reservists to maintain troop levels in Iraq.

The Army Reserve missed its March recruiting goal by 46 percent -- getting 861 recruits with a goal of 1,600 -- and was now nearly 18 percent behind its year-to-date goal.

Pity the poor recruiters.

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The gang's all here...

Fri Apr. 1, 2005 5:26 PM EST

Here's a bad idea: get a group of thrill-seeking armed volunteers to scour the Arizona-Mexico border for illegal immigrants. That's the premise behind the "Minuteman Project." You have to admit, they have a killer slogan: "Americans doing the jobs Congress won't do." But for some reason the concept doesn't seem to be sitting well with too many people.

Mexican President Vicente Fox as well as President Bush have already condemned the vigilantes, the ACLU has volunteers out monitoring the project, and the press is on the watch for a showdown. The New York Times writes of one Minuteman volunteer: "People like Mr. McCarty, the retired marine, say they are here for the distraction, and the thrill. 'I'm restless,' Mr. McCarty said, leaning against an adobe fence in the midday sun. 'I needed something to do before I drove my wife crazy.'"

The situation might seem funny until one considers the potential for ugliness. The founder of the Minuteman Project insists that the volunteers will simply "inform" border patrol officials if they find an illegal immigrant, and not handle the immigrants themselves. However, the fact that many of the volunteers will be carrying concealed firearms is cause for alarm. Human rights groups have also expressed concern that some white supremacist groups have endorsed the Minuteman Project. Even more troubling is the fact that the volunteers have come from all across the country and may be unfamiliar with the Arizona border. The areas they plan to patrol have large Hispanic populations, leading some to worry that the wrong people will be targeted as "illegals."

Meanwhile, the "minutemen" may get a visit from members of the violent Central American-based gang, Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13. One of the organizers of the Minuteman Project has been told that California and Texas leaders of MS-13 "have issued orders to teach 'a lesson' to the Minutemen volunteers." According to the organizer, James Gilchrist, he's "not worried because half of our recruits are retired trained combat soldiers and those guys are just a bunch of punks."

DLC on Sudan

| Fri Apr. 1, 2005 5:03 PM EST

Shortly after I wrote the Sudan post below, the Democratic Leadership Council's "New Dem Dispatch" on Darfur showed up in my inbox, hitting many of the exact same notes and calling for robust intervention. Kudos to them. The DLC also writes: "But if the United Nations cannot act, NATO should." Indeed, I've heard rumors that NATO headquarters are a lot more gung-ho about getting involved in the Sudan than they were during, say, Bosnia, so that's certainly a good sign, but absent the necessary political will on the part of the U.S. and Europe, these initiatives aren't going to get very far.

Still a shameful response to Sudan

| Fri Apr. 1, 2005 4:41 PM EST

Ah, so I had a post on the current Sudan crisis all ready to go, railing on the current UN resolutions and noting that yesterday's bickering over the ICC completely misses the point. The point, of course, is that the genocide and the starvation and the humanitarian crisis going on right now need to be stopped, and the only way to stop it is to send in an intervention force. But after reading this article by Eric Reeves, I sort of realized that my rant was a bit inadequate. So please read his.

At the moment, it doesn't appear that either the U.S. or Europe will take any sort of serious action to halt the violence in Darfur. Reeves suggests this might partly be out of fear of jeopardizing the recently-signed peace treaty halting Sudan's other civil war between north and south, separate from Darfur, that raged on for the past 20 years or so. (Without insinuating too much, that civil war involved Christians in Sudan's south, and hence attracted a lot more attention.) Nevertheless, the present UN measures against the Khartoum government, and the janjawid warriors carrying out the mass slaughter, has been shamefully, shamefully inadequate.

Some observers have suggested strengthening the African Union (AU) forces in Sudan to enforce the ceasefire. But even if the AU force was upped to 6,000 or so, and even if it was given a mandate to actually protect civilians in Darfur, the AU would still be inadequate for the region's security needs. At the very least, the UN Security Council needs to enforce no-fly zones across the region, using United States airpower, so that Khartoum can't use its planes to bomb and strafe Darfur villages. More realistically, ground forces will need to disable or destroy Khartoum's air force. Meanwhile, UN security forces will need to be sent in to protect refugees, secure humanitarian corridors, and forcibly disarm the janjawid.

But the UN hasn't shown signs that it is willing to do any such thing, and instead contents itself with passing half-measures like setting up a committee that will dawdle for 90 days (90 days of genocide!) before deciding who the war criminals are and then freezing their assets abroad. Woo-hoo. It's near-impotent, and unfortunately, the National Islamic Front in Khartoum knows full well the West lacks all political will for serious action. Which means that the body count—some 300,000 at this point—will continue to rise. So much for "never again."

Lawsuits over mercury

Fri Apr. 1, 2005 4:20 PM EST

The EPA's new mercury cap-and-trade rule is now officially—and predictably—under legal attack. On March 29th, one day after the rule was published in the Federal Register (PDF), nine states sued the EPA over its decision to take mercury emissions from power plants off the list of air toxins. (They did this so that they could regulate mercury using a cap-and-trade approach, which is forbidden for toxic chemicals under the Clean Air Act.)

Down with the ship!

| Fri Apr. 1, 2005 4:12 PM EST

Now that Tom DeLay's scandal woes are finally hitting the big time, the big question is whether or not the Democrats are actually going to capitalize on all this.

The other day I started fretting that liberal groups were failing to tie DeLay's corruption woes into a larger story about the way the Republican Party in general has conducted itself over the last four years. The new anti-DeLay ads, after all, offer congressional Republicans a chance to "wash their hands" of DeLay. The worry here is that the GOP will just purge the House Majority Leader, carry on with its rule-bending, K Street-cozying business, and life would carry on as ever before. Well, it's probably safe to set those fears aside. First the Washington Post reports that conservative groups are all holding hands and lining up behind their fearless leader. Then, over at TAPPED, Garance Franke-Ruta notes that the GOP is doing everything humanly possible to make DeLayism synonymous with the Republican Party. So I stand corrected! It's not often that the rats actually lash themselves tightly to the sinking ship, but hey, who's going to complain here...

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Invade Syria, Krauthammer edition

| Fri Apr. 1, 2005 3:01 PM EST

I see in the Washington Post today that Charles Krauthammer wants to go to war with Syria. Well, good for him. Not a whole lot to say here, except perhaps this. When the U.S. went to war with Iraq, please remember, policymakers had only the foggiest idea what Iraq's internal structure was like—the social dynamics, the nuances of the Shi'ite community, the intricate tribal structures, the longstanding feuds and rivalries. And, please remember, that ignorance led to a lot of horrific mistakes very early on that left a lot of people dead. But in the case of Iraq, we at least had the exile groups and our Kurdish pals to give us some information about what was going on. In Syria, we don't even have that. Just, you know, throwing that out there.

Meanwhile, Justin Logan notes that, at least according to Gen. John Abizaid, "it's unclear whether or not there's been any Syrian government complicity in [abetting insurgents]." Not that that will stop Krauthammer from getting ready to lock and load on the way to Damascus, but it would be nice if facts played a role here once in a great while...

New jobs any day now...

| Fri Apr. 1, 2005 2:37 PM EST

Kash at Angry Bear dives into the poor job numbers released today and finds: more bad news. Key quote: "The most disappointing part about the US economy's poor job creation right now is that we may well be pretty much at the peak of economic growth for this business cycle." So what do we do once the economy starts to slow over the next two years? Clearly it's time for more tax cuts.

...one other note. The newspapers, while rightly dour, are noting that the employment number bounced up to 5.2 percent, down from 5.7 percent a year ago. That's true, but the employment-to-population ratio, which also counts up all those people too discouraged from even looking for work, is only at 62.4 percent. That's only slightly up from a year ago (62.2 percent) and far lower than the 64.7 percent in 2000. Oh, and wages keep declining.

Update: On the other hand, not everyone's faring so poorly...

Still more torture evidence

Fri Apr. 1, 2005 1:31 PM EST

As noted below, the ACLU has been filing endless Freedom of Information Act requests to get its hands on various torture memos. Nevertheless, as Matt Welch writes in Reason today, we're still a long ways from seeing the full stash of prisoner abuse photos and videos that the Pentagon has in its possession.

Is Sanchez guilty of perjury?

Fri Apr. 1, 2005 1:28 PM EST

The ACLU yesterday made public a September 2003 memo, signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former top military commander in Iraq, authorizing "29 interrogation techniques, including 12 which far exceeded limits established by the Army's own Field Manual."

As numerous bloggers have already pointed out, the memo contradicts Sanchez' earlier Senate testimony on the subject, when he said he "never approved any of those measures." Guilty of perjury? The ACLU has already sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales calling for an investigation. It will be interesting to see if the Bush administration tries to defend Sanchez by claiming that the commander obscured the truth to protect national security interests. After all, the authorization memo above was originally classified for "national security" reasons, and Sanchez might try to claim that he was unable to divulge its existence during his testimony.