Mojo - August 2007

Alleged White House-Petraeus Arm Wrestling Over September Report a Ruse?

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 8:34 AM PDT

Add me to the list of the puzzled. Many signs are from those advising Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus that he and his advisors think they have a strategy that they say is somewhat succeeding and don't want Congress to pull the plug. In other words, Petraeus and the White House are ostensibly pretty close in advocating a continued large scale US presence in Iraq for as long as possible.

So it's bizarre that the White House is apparently indicating that it wants to preempt his findings and hijack the Petraeus report from Petraeus, and confine Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker to testifying before Congress in closed session.

So puzzling that one is suspicious: is the White House ultimately going to "give in" to Congressional pressure and "let" Petraeus testify, only to have it revealed, that, what do you know, it turns out that the good general too thinks the surge has done wonders and, with time, might reduce violence to a degree that greater political reconciliation takes hold. He even forecasts that over the next year, he might be able to move troops out of the areas where violence has gone down, hinting at a lower US troop presence by next year, without offering too many specifics.

Of any reported White House effort to silence or sideline Petraeus, one of the general's close associates emails me, "I do not believe it."

I am not sure I do either. The only explanation that makes sense to me is that the White House is seeking to control the optics with Congressional Republican leaders anxious about how basically continuing a maximal US presence in Iraq will affect their '08 reelection prospects.

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The Suppression of David Petraeus Continues

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 8:05 AM PDT

You know how Gen. David Petraeus was supposed to write that all-important September report, but won't? He's also the one who is supposed to present it to Congress and the public. But looks like he won't. Military officials are said to be "puzzled" that Condi Rice and Robert Gates will present the report, and that Gen. Petraeus won't be allowed to appear in public at all.

For a guy that the administration has endlessly hyped, he sure doesn't get much of a chance to show his talents to the world.

Update: The White House is now saying Petraeus will testify.

Iraqi Government Shake-Up to Pass US-Demanded Legislation

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 7:33 AM PDT

Yesterday, a report in Dubai-based Gulfnews forecast a Baghdad govenrment "shake-up":

Under pressure from the Congress, Arab states and Sunni Iraqi leaders, the US administration on Tuesday set the stage for "major" political changes in Iraq.
The changes will be in "the structure, nature and direction of the Iraqi state," a senior American official in Baghdad was quoted by AP as saying.
He did not give out details, but the plan is expected to be high on the agenda of a 'crisis summit' which would be attended by key Iraqi leaders who seek to save the crumbling national unity government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki.

A Different Casualty of War: Army Suicide Rate Skyrockets

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 12:06 AM PDT

The Associated Press got a hold of new Pentagon report out tomorrow detailing the latest stats on suicides within the already-beleaguered Army. Last year 99 soldiers committed suicide, up from 88 the year before, and the rate of 17.3 troops per 100,000 taking their own lives is the highest in 26 years (and nearly double the all-time low of 9.1 per 100,000 in 2001). The 99 suicides included 28 soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and 71 who were out-of-theater, the report says. And about twice as many women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan committed suicide as did women not sent to war.

Not included in any of these Pentagon tallies, I am almost sure, are the suicides (and attempts) of troops home, out of the army, reservists, guardsmen and women, all dealing with PTSD, job losses and the like. Suicides, depression, rage, PTSD, the range of mental health issues is already exacting a heavy, if relatively silent, toll. Expect it to only get worse, a lot worse.

Headless Walruses Appear in Droves on Alaskan Shores

| Wed Aug. 15, 2007 6:58 PM PDT

Dozens of decapitated walruses have washed up on the beaches of western Alaska this summer, but a particular surge in Norton Sound, a bay of the Bering Sea, has called for a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigation. To hear why this is happening, continue reading this post on our science and health blog, The Blue Marble.

Chevron to Stand Trial in San Francisco for Human Rights Abuses in Nigeria

| Wed Aug. 15, 2007 5:30 PM PDT

After nearly ten years of legal wrangling, a group of nine Nigerians from the impoverished Niger Delta has been given the green light by a federal judge in San Francisco to go to trial against Chevron. Attorneys for the plaintiffs allege that Nigerian police, paid by Chevron and using Chevron helicopters and boats, tortured and shot people and destroyed two villages that were allegedly opposed to Chevron's oil Delta oil developments. A jury trial in the case is expected within the year.

Another case involving Chevron and human rights abuses was, the last time I checked, also winding its way through the San Francisco federal courts. But that case, involving four aggrieved women from the Ecuadorian rain forest, was actually welcomed by Chevron. Or at least Chevron did nothing to encourage it to be remanded to Ecuador. Why the different approach? Ecuador has been cracking down on oil company abuses while Nigeria is happy to pocket their money. In between these global poles of quasi-socialism and kleptocracy lies San Francisco. Looks like we'll soon find out whether Chevron finds a jury of its Bay Area peers to be a favorable middle ground.

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U.S. to Use Spy Satellites for Domestic Surveillance

| Wed Aug. 15, 2007 1:04 PM PDT

Frightening, as per the usual:

The United States is moving to expand the use of spy satellites for domestic surveillance, turning its "eyes in sky" inward to counter terrorism and eventually for law enforcement, a US official said Wednesday.
The director of national intelligence, Michael McConnell, expanded the range of federal and local agencies that can tap into imagery from spy satellites...

White House to Write Petraeus' Report on Success/Failure of Surge

| Wed Aug. 15, 2007 12:23 PM PDT

So these past several months when President Bush has deflected questions about progress in Iraq with statements like, "I'm going to wait for... David Petraeus to come back and give us the report on what he sees," he's been bluffing us. David Petraeus isn't writing any reports — the much-ballyhooed September report that will give America an update on the situation on the ground in Iraq will be written by propoganda artists sitting in offices in Washington DC, likely in the White House itself.

Should this bother us? I know, telling the public one thing and doing the other is standard fare for this administration, but now that we know this is the procedure, I wonder if all important reports about Iraq have been written from the White House, regardless of their official offices of origin. It feels so cynical to say, "Of course!" But it feels that with the Bushies, the most cynical answer is almost always the right one.

Rumsfeld Resigned Before the Elections

| Wed Aug. 15, 2007 10:49 AM PDT

Check this out, from Reuters.

Rove Love Hits Rhetorical Peak

| Wed Aug. 15, 2007 8:32 AM PDT

Lots of Rove coverage on MoJoBlog the last few days, I know. But this had to be pointed out.

Laura blogged yesterday about Jay Rosen's very good and very complex take on why the national press slobbers over Karl Rove. Sometimes, though, it's simple: the writer is a party hack, Rove is the great god of party hacks, enough said. For the best example we're going to get in this post-resignation bubble, check out this take from Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard (via The Plank):

Rove is the greatest political mind of his generation and probably of any generation.

That sounds about right, Freddy boy. In reverse order, here are my top ten. See if you agree.

10. St. Thomas Aquinas
9. Karl Marx
8. Thomas Hobbes
7. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
6. Plato
5. Machiavelli
4. Thomas Jefferson
3. John Locke
2. Aristotle
1. Karl Rove

Not making the list: John Rawls, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and Confucius.

But Karl Rove, definitely number one.