Monday :: Sep 11, 2006

The 9/11 Oil War Situation Report

by pessimist

Despite Disney's partisan propaganda, the Bu$hCo Oil War isn't going well. For one thing, people are beginning to ask unfortunate questions:

Where Is Osama Bin Laden?
Sept. 8, 2006

Five Years After the 9/11 Attacks, There Are Few Explanations About Why He Has Not Been Caught

On the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the resounding question: Where is Osama bin Laden? Just as urgent is another question: Why has U.S. intelligence failed to find him?

A decade into a manhunt that is surely the most costly and complex in history, senior U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials can only give you "guesstimates" when you ask about bin Laden's location. Pressed harder, U.S. officials will sometimes reveal a discomforting fact: Other than that, they can't tell you much more.

For all the millions of dollars spent on spy satellites and phone tapping, for all the agents scouring the globe, and for all the millions in offered rewards, there has been no real-time information on the whereabouts of bin Laden since he slipped away from Tora Bora in December 2001, reportedly on the back of a donkey. Current estimates put bin Laden in the northern districts of the tribal belt, close to the border with volatile Kunar province in Afghanistan. The border area is certainly lush with places to hide, and Pakistan's volatile tribal belt offers the added benefit of being off limits to American troops and intelligence agents.

"He is a crazed murderer, but he is a symbol of resistance for Muslims," said former CIA agent and author Robert Baer. "And while he remains a symbol, people are not going to want to turn him in."
Finally, bin Laden seems to be blessed with remarkable luck. Botched attempts to catch him date back to the Clinton administration — remember the cruise missiles that struck his camp in Khost in 1998 — and each time he has made a remarkable getaway. For his supporters, each great escape only heightens his David-vs.-Goliath status.

For those stalking him, it only reinforces their confidence that his luck is running out. "I always come back to is this," said a senior U.S. official. "Bin Laden has to be right and get lucky every day. We just have to do it once."

One reader thinks that Bu$hCo has already gotten lucky - and that luck will constitute the rumored October Surprise.

Bin Laden captured? In U.S. custody? I think this is the October surprise for the following reasons:

* 1) Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld closed down the "bin Laden unit" tasked with finding and capturing/killing bin Laden.

* 2) The Pakistan government has reached an accord with the Taliban-controlled tribal regions along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border essentially saying that the government will leave them alone if they'll leave the government. Why is this significant? The Pakistani government has been under intense pressure from the Bush administration to find Osama bin Laden, who was thought to be hiding in this Taliban-controlled tribal region. Obviously, the U.S. pressure has lessened. One possible reason? Bin Laden has been captured and is in U.S. custody.

* 3) The U.S. government has had in it's possession a video shot after 9/11 that shows Osama bin Laden fleeing from Tora Bora and heading to Pakistan. A U.S. bomb explodes in the background as bin Laden instructs those with him on digging holes to escape detection at night. Was this video in bin Laden's possession when he was captured?

* 4) Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld just ordered the "flooding" of certain regions in eastern Afghanistan with U.S. special forces units ordered to "capture" Osama bin Laden. I know that this seems to contradict my theory, but think of it as a misdirection ploy. Especially since the "leaked" announcement of this latest plan to capture Osama bin Laden came out at the same time the furor erupted over the airing of the fact-challenged ABC miniseries "The Path to 9/11" in which the partisan producers stress the failure of the Clinton adminstration in the 1990s to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, while exonerating George W. Bush of the same charge.

These "dots" indicate to me that Osama bin Laden has been captured by the Pakistani government or at the least, somebody wanting the reward money turned over bin Laden to the Pakistanis who then turned him over to the U.S. authorities. After the transfer, the U.S. probably flew bin Laden to the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia (a great place to disappear anyone) and are holding him until the appropriate moment October 2006 just before the mid-term elections in November.

Just a thought.

Paul Sorrells
USAFSS (1971-1975)
Austin TX

It would explain why Bu$hCo seems to have lost interest in Osama Been Forgotten:

[Via See Bush spin by Lee, September 06, 2006]

Bush Quotes about Bin Laden
November 13, 2002.

For your amusement and future reference, here's what Bush has said about bin Laden at various points in time, depending on how he was trying to spin things:

"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him." - G.W. Bush, 9/13/01

"I want justice...There's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive,'" - G.W. Bush, 9/17/01, UPI

"...Secondly, he is not escaping us. This is a guy, who, three months ago, was in control of a county [sic]. Now he's maybe in control of a cave. He's on the run. Listen, a while ago I said to the American people, our objective is more than bin Laden. But one of the things for certain is we're going to get him running and keep him running, and bring him to justice. And that's what's happening. He's on the run, if he's running at all. So we don't know whether he's in cave with the door shut, or a cave with the door open -- we just don't know...." - Bush, in remarks in a Press Availablity with the Press Travel Pool, The Prairie Chapel Ranch, Crawford TX, 12/28/01, as reported on official White House site

"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority." - G.W. Bush, 3/13/02

"I am truly not that concerned about him." - G.W. Bush, repsonding to a question about bin Laden's whereabouts, 3/13/02 (The New American, 4/8/02)

But then again, who would worry about the guy who Bu$hCo allowed to initiate the active phase of the Oil Terror when the Oil War is being lost if George doesn't? He does have bigger problems to deal with than one rich, wild, and crazy Saudi kid, after all!

Despite the installation of the puppet Karzai government, the Afghan people don't seem to understand that Bu$hCo presented them with the gift of American-imposed freedom and liberty:

Afghan Governor’s Funeral Attacked
September 11, 2006

A suicide bomber struck Monday at a funeral for a provincial governor [Abdul Hakim Taniwal] assassinated by the Taliban a day earlier, and four senior members of the government at the service escaped unhurt, officials and witnesses said. At least six people were killed and dozens were wounded.

President Hamid Karzai, who counted Taniwal, a former minister of mines, as a close associate, condemned the bombing.

Mohammed Hanif, who claims to speak for the Taliban, had claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack and threatened more. But he denied the militia's involvement in Monday's attack, saying it was against their policy 'to bomb public and especially religious gatherings.'

Even here, there is debate over how well the Oil War is faring:

The attack came amid a surge in violence that has left hundreds dead across Afghanistan in recent months, the bloodiest period since the Taliban's ouster. The alliance reported Monday that a 10-day offensive airstrikes and artillery near the main southern city of Kandahar have killed another 92 suspected Taliban fighters, pushing its toll of militant dead past 510.

There has been no independent confirmation of the casualty numbers from Operation Medusa, which began Sept. 2. Hostilities have prevented journalists from reaching the battlefield. Taliban spokesmen have disputed the high figures and said the alliance should display bodies as proof.

The latest deaths came when insurgents staged a counterattack in Kandahar province on Sunday, the statement said. It added that the casualties in the province's Panjwayi and Zhari districts were in addition to 94 militants it had already reported as dying in a clash earlier that day.

This next piece of evidence indicates that the Taliban version might well be closer to the truth:

Also Monday, Afghan security forces supported by NATO regained control of a remote southern town [Garmser, in volatile Helmand province] after six-day occupation by Taliban militants, police said. Taliban militants had seized the district headquarters Sept. 6 after an attack that forced police to flee for the second time in two months.

Considering the stated Bu$hCo intentions toward Afghanistan, one has to wonder whose side King George is really on:

U.S. strategy may be helping Taliban, expert says
by Andrew Maykuth, The Philadelphia Inquirer
September 10, 2006

A leading Afghanistan scholar says that America's military counterterrorism strategy has failed to eliminate the Taliban - and may actually be contributing to the growth of the insurgent Islamist group.

Barnett R. Rubin, director of studies and senior fellow at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, said in a recent interview that a strategy devoted to destroying Taliban remnants has diverted resources from developing a strong central government in Kabul.

Five years after the fall of the Taliban, President Hamid Karzai's government is hampered by rampant corruption, growing insecurity, runaway opium production and widespread discontent over the slow arrival of prosperity. Rubin said, "Kabul city now has less electricity than it did during Soviet occupation. And no more really than it did when the U.S. came in there."

The U.S. strategy to initially rely upon unpopular warlords whom the Taliban ousted and to pursue a sometimes heavy-handed military strategy is wearing thin, said Rubin.
"The longer that goes on, the more people will tend to feel under occupation, even though they did initially welcome the military operation to rid them of the Taliban and to deter their neighbors from tearing their country apart further."
Rubin, author of the 1995 book The Fragmentation of Afghanistan who has made more than 20 trips to Afghanistan since 2001, placed much of the blame on the Bush administration's focus on destroying terrorists rather than addressing the conditions under which terrorists thrive.
"It's one of the poorest countries in the world - literally
it's one of the four or five poorest countries in the world."

Why doesn't Karzai emulate his master and cut taxes? Aren't the Afghan farmers producing a bumper crop of opium? Are not the streets flooded with heroin? In Cincinnati, heroin overdoses are up sharply! The Afghan farmers should be rolling in dollars!

Maybe not:

After initially ignoring the resurgence of poppy production among Afghan's poor farmers, the U.S. responded this year by sponsoring an eradication program in southern Helmand province - source of about half the world's opium supply - without first developing infrastructure or plausible alternative opportunities for farmers.
"Putting the enforcement first rather than the development first,
we have actually turned farmers in some areas against us
and driven them into the arms of terrorists,"
said Rubin.

When any group, whose profitable income potential is threatened, someone rises to their defense whether they deserve it or not. In America, it was Bu$hco with their foolish tax 'relief' protecting the Havemores from having to pay their share of the economic support of their nation.

In Afghanistan, a similar champion [not albert!] has arisen to protect the people from losing their income:

Following the eradication program, the Taliban distributed notes to mosques in Helmand promising to defend the farmers. "So naturally the farmers look to the Taliban as their protectors, and of course the drug dealers contributed money to the Taliban as well," said Rubin.

And the result inside King George's First Successfully Rebuilt Nation?

This summer Helmand has seen some of the heaviest fighting in Afghanistan since 2001.

Things are getting so bad in Afghanistan that professional soldiers have had enough trying to enforce Bu$hCo 'democracy':

Top soldier quits as blundering campaign turns into 'pointless' war
Christina Lamb, The Sunday Times
September 10, 2006

THE former aide-de-camp to the commander of the British taskforce in southern Afghanistan has described the campaign in Helmand province as “a textbook case of how to screw up a counter-insurgency”.

“Having a big old fight is pointless and just making things worse,” said Captain Leo Docherty, of the Scots Guards, who became so disillusioned that he quit the army last month. “We’ve been grotesquely clumsy — we’ve said 'we’ll be different [than] the Americans who were bombing and strafing villages', then behaved exactly like them.”

“All those people whose homes have been destroyed and sons killed are going to turn against the British,” he said. “It’s a pretty clear equation — if people are losing homes and poppy fields, they will go and fight.

"I certainly would."
Docherty traces the start of the problems to the British capture of Sangin on May 25, in which he took part. He says troops were sent to seize this notorious centre of Taliban and narcotics activity without night-vision goggles and with so few vehicles they had to borrow a pick-up truck.

Lack of supplies - sadly, an all-too-common complaint concerning the stingy Bu$hCo war supply chain mismanagement - weren't the only problems Docherty remembers:

“The window was briefly open for our message to be spread, for the civilian population to be informed of our intent and realise that we weren’t there simply to destroy the poppy fields and their livelihoods. I felt at this stage that the Taliban were sitting back and observing us, deciding in their own time how to most effectively hit us.”

That time arrived:

[T]he Taliban attacked on June 11, when Captain Jim Philippson became the first British soldier to be killed in Helmand. British troops have since been holed up in their compound with attacks coming at least once a day. Seven British soldiers have died in the Sangin area.

“Now the ground [gained during the operation] has been lost and all we’re doing in places like Sangin is surviving,” said Docherty. “It’s completely barking mad.

“We’re now scattered in a shallow meaningless way across northern towns where the only way for the troops to survive is to increase the level of violence so more people get killed.

"It’s pretty shocking and not something I want to be part of.”

Voting with one's feet just might become the way the US handles the cock-up that is the other theater of the Oil War To End All Oil Wars. I'll bet the Marines stationed in Anbar have it cross their minds often, just as it did with Captain Docherty in Helmond:

Situation Called Dire in West Iraq
By Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post Staff Writer
September 11, 2006

Anbar Is Lost Politically, Marine Analyst Says

The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq [Col. Pete Devlin] recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.
The report comes at an awkward time politically, just as a midterm election campaign gets underway that promises to be in part a referendum on the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war.
One Army officer summarized it as arguing that in Anbar province, "We haven't been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically -- and that's where wars are won and lost."
Anbar is a key province; it encompasses Ramadi and Fallujah, which with Baghdad pose the greatest challenge U.S. forces have faced in Iraq. It accounts for 30 percent of Iraq's land mass, encompassing the vast area from the capital to the borders of Syria and Jordan, including much of the area that has come to be known as the Sunni Triangle.
Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province's most significant political force, said the Army officer who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.

Was this realization behind the recent testimony of Abizaid?

Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, told the Senate Armed Services Committee early last month that "it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war."

But George and Unka Dickie keep telling us that we have to remain in Iraq lest those nasty Als achieve victory! What does the study see that George and Dickie won't?

Devlin offers a series of reasons for the situation, including a lack of U.S. and Iraqi troops, a problem that has dogged commanders since the fall of Baghdad more than three years ago, said people who have read it. These people said he reported that not only are military operations facing a stalemate, unable to extend and sustain security beyond the perimeters of their bases, but also local governments in the province have collapsed and the weak central government has almost no presence.

But George and Unka Dickie keep telling us that those who don't listen to them don't know what they are talking about; that only they know the truth, and that only they can be trusted. Just who is this godless commie liberal tree-hugging pinko fag Democrat Devlin, anyway?

Devlin, as part of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) headquarters in Iraq, has been stationed there since February, so his report isn't being dismissed as the stunned assessment of a newly arrived officer. In addition, he has the reputation of being one of the Marine Corps' best intelligence officers, with a tendency to be careful and straightforward, said another Marine intelligence officer.
Hence, the report is being taken seriously
as it is examined inside the military establishment
and also by some CIA officials.
"I don't know if it is a shock wave, but it's made people uncomfortable," said a Defense Department official who has read the report. Like others interviewed about the report, he spoke on the condition that he not be identified by name because of the document's sensitivity.
No one interviewed would quote from the report, citing its classification, and The Washington Post was not shown a copy of it. But over the past three weeks, Devlin's paper has been widely disseminated in military and intelligence circles.

It is provoking intense debate over the key finding that in Anbar,
the U.S. effort to clear and hold major cities
and the upper Euphrates valley
has failed.

What is a wannabee world dictator to do?

U.S. officials are wary of simply abandoning the Sunni parts of Iraq, for fear that they could become havens for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Devlin's report is a work of intelligence analysis, not of policy prescription, so it does not try to suggest what, if anything, can be done to fix the situation.
One possible solution would be to try to turn over the province to Iraqi forces, but that could increase the risk of a full-blown civil war. Shiite-dominated forces might begin slaughtering Sunnis, while Sunni-dominated units might simply begin acting independently of the central government.
That cain't be good!
"It's hard to be optimistic right now," said one Army general who has served in Iraq. "There's a sort of critical mass of tough news," he said, with intensifying violence from the insurgency and between Sunnis and Shiites, a lack of effective Iraqi government and a growing concern that Iraq may be falling apart.

Like this?

In Iraq, Tension Over Charter
September 11, 2006

Ali Adeeb, Omar al-Neami and Hosham Hussein contributed reporting.

An agreement struck 11 months ago by Shiite and Kurdish leaders to win Sunni Arab support for a new constitution is fraying, causing concern among some political leaders that it could jeopardize Iraq’s fragile governing coalition.

A faction of Shiites led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a powerful party with close ties to Iran, wants legislation to establish a mechanism for provinces to start the process of creating semi-independent states.

The new regions would have wide powers to control their own security and petroleum resources.
Over the weekend, Mr. Hakim renewed his call for a large autonomous region in southern Iraq that would encompass much of the country’s Shiite population and oil wealth.
Kurds in the northeast already have a semi-autonomous region.
The Sunnis fear that approval of such legislation would strip them of their rightful share of the country’s petroleum revenue, as western and north-central Iraq [where Anbar Province is located - ed.], where the Sunnis dominate, have little oil.
That cain't be good!!

Is there no hope?

Shiites led by Mr. Hakim, and joined by Kurds, may have the votes for the simple majority required to pass the bill for autonomous regions. But Sunnis have powerful allies who want to delay this issue, including members of Mr. Allawi’s coalition and some within the Fadhila and Sadr blocs, giving Sunnis hope that they can block the proposal for now.

Sounds like a very tense standoff!

It is:

Shiites Push Laws to Define How to Divide Iraqi Regions
September 7, 2006

Shiite lawmakers are pushing ahead with legislation that would provide a mechanism to carve Iraq into largely autonomous regions, angering some Sunni Arab lawmakers who say Shiites should first follow through on a promise to allow Parliament to re-examine the issue of federalism.

Federalism provisions in the new Constitution, approved by voters last fall, allow such regions to be formed. Sunnis had been reluctant to support the charter, fearing those provisions would leave the country’s oil wealth in the hands of Shiites in the south and Kurds in the north. To win Sunnis over, Shiite representatives changed the charter so Parliament could later decide whether to narrow those provisions.

Now, lawmakers from Mr. Hakim’s party are backing legislation that would define the process for breaking the country into autonomous regions. Mr. Hakim has previously said he has no intention of changing the main federalism provisions. Nevertheless, Ridha Jawad Taki, a senior member of Mr. Hakim’s party, insisted that Shiites were still open to debating the provisions.

A debate is exactly what they are getting:

The new proposal “is an obstacle to the national reconciliation,” said Dhafir al-Ani, a member of the Sunni bloc in Parliament. “This draft could be presented after amending the Constitution.”

Saleh Mutlak, an outspoken Sunni lawmaker, said Shiite lawmakers should instead focus on the country’s fragile economy and security. “These people should take care of these things, not federalism,” he said.

“The government is disintegrating
and there is no other power
except the militias.”

Unlike in the United States, however, Iraq's political majority doesn't march in lockstep:

Other Shiite parties in Parliament say they favor a slower path toward federal territories. Nasir al-Saadi, a member of the bloc loyal to the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr, said he did not object to a mechanism for carving the country into regions. But he said that it would be a long time before the country was ready to do that and that it should not happen until the “occupation” had ended. “This isn’t the time to implement federalism,” he said.

Hassan al-Shimiri, a member of Fadhila, another Shiite party, was also cautious. Within the dominant Shiite governing coalition, he said, “there are many blocs that still have reservations about the activation of federalism.”

But then, there are the (Bu$hCo funded?) Chickenhawk Littles who don't want to allow a proper reading of the legislation lest someone discover that it's the Iraqi version of the Patriot Act:

Some lawmakers worry that there is a limited amount of time to bring Sunni Arab, Shiite and Kurdish politicians together. The speaker of Parliament, Mahmoud Mashhadani, an outspoken and controversial Sunni Arab, warned lawmakers on Wednesday that Iraq’s sectarian factions might have only a few months to do so.

“Let’s start talking the same language,” Mr. Mashhadani told lawmakers, according to Reuters. “We have three to four months to reconcile with each other. If the country doesn’t survive this, it will go under.”

This is a job for Superman! Unfortunately for Iraq, he's unavailable. But according to rumor, Poppy is going to send in the closest thing he has in his arsenal to save Babs' "beautiful mind" from the ravages of knowing her darling scion's disastrous actions:

A Higher Power
By Robert Dreyfuss
September 2006

James Baker puts Bush's Iraq policy into rehab.

Amid the highly charged political infighting in Washington over what to do in Iraq, you might be excused for not noticing that a bipartisan commission quietly started work last spring with a mandate to help the Bush administration rethink its policy toward the war.

Of course, anything labeled "bipartisan commission" seems almost guaranteed to be ignored by a highly partisan White House that is notoriously hostile to outside advice and famously devoted to "staying the course."

But what makes this particular commission hard to dismiss is that it is led by perhaps the one man who might be able to break through the tight phalanx of senior officials who advise the president and filter his information. That person is the former secretary of state, Republican insider, and consigliere of the Bush family, James A. Baker III.

Several of those involved in the task force point out that Baker is perfect for the job. "First of all, he's close to Bush 41," one of them told me. "Second, Bush 43 owes his presidency to Jim Baker because of the skullduggery in Florida in 2000. And Baker is the consummate consigliere. He's utterly ruthless and very effective at what he does.

When they [the Bushes] get into an emergency, they call Baker."
The emergency, in this case, is the collapse of public support for the war in Iraq, the president's catastrophic fall in the polls, the growing calls on the left for a pullout of U.S. forces [and from the right! - ed.], and the concern at the Joint Chiefs of Staff about the Pentagon's inability to sustain the presence of 127,000 U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely.
"The American people will not allow the United States to stay much longer,"
a participant in one of the working groups told me.
"They're going to demand a phased withdrawal."
Besides Baker, the bipartisan task force is co-chaired by former congressman Lee H. Hamilton, the Indiana Democrat and foreign-policy wise man. Baker and Hamilton recruited a star-studded task force, evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.

The Republicans include Robert M. Gates, the former CIA director; Sandra Day O'Connor, the retired Justice; Alan Simpson, the former Wyoming senator; and Edwin Meese III, attorney general under President Reagan. The Democrats are William Perry, President Clinton's secretary of defense; Charles Robb, the former Virginia senator; Leon Panetta, Clinton's chief of staff; and Vernon Jordan, the lawyer and Friend of Bill.

The relentlessly centrist nature of the Iraq Study Group has some,
especially among the neoconservative cheerleaders for the war, worried.
"You'll notice, of course, that there are no neocons on the task force," said a member of one of the working groups. In assembling the task force, Wolf, Baker and Hamilton were careful to avoid the neocons. "If you'd put [Douglas] Feith on it, people would say, 'These are the guys who got us in there in the first place,'" said a Wolf aide.

There is also the disdain from the warmongers:

Thomas Neumann, executive director of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and a neoconservative, is concerned that Baker will steer the group toward an Iraq exit. "Baker's a lawyer," he told me. "He'll probably come up with some sort of position about getting an international consensus on Iraq."

Boo-Freakin'-Hoo! There are much more important things to worry about than interrupting your ill-considered and vicarious military adventures, conman:

But as with all things involving James Baker, there's a deeper political agenda at work as well.

"Baker is primarily motivated by his desire to avoid a war at home--that things will fall apart not on the battlefield but at home. So he wants a ceasefire in American politics," a member of one of the commission's working groups told me.

Payback's a bitch, and the pussies of the GOP know that one hell of a payback is coming. They hope to con the Democrats into 'preferring to do right by the nation' and not issue what retribution and punishment the GOP has earned:

Specifically, he said, if the Democrats win back one or both houses of Congress in November, they would unleash a series of investigative hearings on Iraq, the war on terrorism, and civil liberties that could fatally weaken the administration and remove the last props of political support for the war, setting the stage for a potential Republican electoral disaster in 2008.
"I guess there are people in the [Republican] party,
on the Hill and in the White House,
who see a political train wreck coming,
and they've called in Baker to try to reroute the train."

The Democrats would be fools to go along with such a plan, as you'll see immediately below. The good news is - it isn't a done deal:

If--and it's a very big if--Baker can forge a consensus plan on what to do about Iraq among the bigwigs on his commission, many of them leading foreign-policy figures in the Democratic Party, then the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee--whoever he (or she) is--will have a hard time dismissing the plan. And if the GOP nominee also embraces the plan, then the Iraq war would largely be off the table as a defining issue of the 2008 race--a potentially huge advantage for Republicans.

The fact that Baker has imposed a tight gag order - one which clearly holds the Democrats in thrall ...:

It's hard to know what the commission is really up to because its inner workings are nearly as secretive as those of the White House. Baker has imposed an ironclad gag order on all of its participants. The 60 people involved in the effort have been instructed, in the strongest of terms, not to comment to reporters on the task force's work. Every one of the participants I spoke to flatly refused to comment for the record, and several did not want to talk even off the record. Some were palpably nervous. "We're not allowed to talk about it," said one person involved. "We get about every month a warning: 'Do not discuss in any context the substance of what is happening in this group.' You know how bad it is?

... doesn't bode well that Baker won't succeed:

"Initially they wanted us to end all of our contacts with the media, make no statements, write no op-eds--in other words, become monks. Then they realized, how can you take the entire community of Iraq experts in the United States and have them all stop talking?"

Which means that the Democrats will go along to get along - again. Baker appears to hold that much power to bring such things about:

Few disagree with the idea that if the president's mind can be changed on Iraq, Baker is the one to do it.

Lawrence Korb, a former Pentagon official, is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, where he co-authored "Strategic Redeployment: A Progressive Plan for Iraq," a paper that calls for the near-total withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2007. Korb's plan might attract centrist Democrats and some Republicans who see it as a more diplomatically worded version of Rep. John Murtha's out-now position, and although Korb doesn't know if Baker will gravitate toward something like his redeployment plan, he says that at least Baker is the right person. "If anyone can do it, Baker can," he told me. "I think that Baker has the wherewithal to talk to the president." And tell him what? "The present course is unsustainable."

Unsustainable, yes. But does that mean getting out?

It might - and it was a Republican who got the ball rolling:

Baker's commission--officially called the Iraq Study Group--was created in March by Congress at the instigation of Rep. Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican. Wolf's motivation in creating the Iraq Study Group seems to be genuine concern that the war isn't going well and that public support for it is evaporating. After his third trip to Iraq last year, Wolf started contacting members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, urging the creation of a high-powered, private task force to take a fresh look at the mess in Iraq. According to participants in the task force, a key silent partner with Wolf in putting it together was his Virginia Republican colleague, Sen. John Warner, the chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services committee.

Maybe a reason why Warner - along with McCain and Lindsey Graham - is about to be attacked by Bu$hCo? that doesn't seem wise, as the instigators appear to favor staying the course:

Wolf, for one, insists that the war in Iraq is winnable, and that the costs to the United States of failure in Iraq would be enormous. In a Washington Post op-ed last September, Wolf referred to the "potentially cataclysmic consequences of walking away from Iraq before the job is done." And in his remarks at the news conference at the task force's creation, Wolf added: "Failure in Iraq would have devastating regional consequences, a direct impact on American national security, and perpetuation of the perception among reformers in the region that America is a fair-weather friend, not to be depended on."

Like we don't have that reputation already?

But the choice facing the task force--and, of course, the administration as well--is nonetheless bleak:

No team of experts, even those on the Iraq Study Group, is likely to come up with a silver bullet that can defeat the Sunni insurgents, get the religious Shiites to disarm the militia forces, block the Kurds from trying to seize Kirkuk and Iraq's northern oil fields, rebuild Iraq's shattered infrastructure, and prevent civil war.

In the end, the choices are: Either we stay and fight, whatever the cost in lives and in money--or we set a date for withdrawal, start an orderly redeployment, and do what we can to encourage Iraq, its neighbors, the Arab League, and the United Nations to step in.

"The object of our policy has to be to get our little white asses out of there as soon as possible," another working-group participant told me. To do that, he said, Baker must confront the president "like the way a family confronts an alcoholic. You bring everyone in, and you say, 'Look, my friend, it's time to change.'"

But the politics of the situation still dominates:

In any case, the Iraq Study Group won't issue its report until some time early in 2007. In a recent speech, according to a member of the task force, Baker said that to do something before the November 2006 elections would inevitably politicize the report, something that Baker desperately wants to avoid.

But even without exposing the lies that are the Oil War, Baker is seen by some as finding a way to safe GOP face while bringing about and end to the fiasco:

To some, it's unlikely that Baker will adopt anything resembling a plan that embodies a wholesale rejection of the Bush administration's policy, though it isn't impossible. Still, there is an outside chance, say observers of the task force, that Baker will come up with a report that uses diplomatic weasel-words, giving lip service to the idea of an American "victory" in Iraq but endorsing redeployment.
"If Baker comes out with a report that basically says, if you read between the lines, we need to get out, that buys into the fundamental presumption of the redeployment crowd--the redeployment crowd is basically saying that staying there is worse than getting out--if he comes up in that consensus, that would be remarkable," says Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution.

"It would be earth-shattering."
But with each passing day, the country is closer to the train wreck that Baker and others are said to fear.

In the end, avoiding it might ride on the ability of Jim Baker to persuade the president that it's time to declare victory and exit.

Poppy better hope so! Babs will kill him if Baker fails - and her son ends up sittin' in the dock in the Hague!

[Robert Dreyfuss covers national security for Rolling Stone and is the author of Devil's Game: How the U.S. Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam.]

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pessimist :: 8:51 PM :: Digg It!