Just Jihad: June 2006: Archives

June 29, 2006

Supreme Court: Military Tribunals Not Acceptable genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Bush administration may not use military tribunals to try detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. Chief Justice John Roberts recused himself from the case as he previously ruled in favor of the administration in a lower court decision. Read the full article here.

The 5-3 ruling means officials will have to come up with a new policy to prosecute at least 10 so-called "enemy combatants" awaiting trial -- it does not dispute the government's right to detain suspects.

The enemy combatant designation, according to the Bush administration, means the suspect can be held without charges in a military prison without the protections of the U.S. criminal justice system, such as the right to counsel --a status the court rejected.

The case was a major test of President Bush's authority as commander in chief in during war. Bush has aggressively asserted the power of the government to capture, detain, and prosecute suspected terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

"The military commission at issue is not expressly authorized by any congressional act," said Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority. The tribunals, he said, "must be understood to incorporate at least the barest of those trial protections that have been recognized by customary international law."

Clearly, the Court felt the President had exceeded his authority in determining how to treat enemy combatants as a part of the administration's "war on terror". The 5-3 ruling points out the importance of any future Supreme Court appointments. There is little doubt that President Bush would like to make an additional appointment that would likely create a 5-4 conservative majority that could jeopardize a number of prior rulings including Roe v. Wade. Since the Bush administration will be in a position to make appointments for the next two years, the outcome of the November midterm elections may well decide if the President will have the necessary votes to get another conservative appointment approved.

Daniel DiRito | June 29, 2006 | 8:40 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 22, 2006

The Makings Of An October Surprise? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Today's remarks by General Casey, that seem to indicate some troop reduction in Iraq by years end, coupled with yesterdays Associated Press article outlining a significant reduction in military equipment in the troubled country may be the makings of an October surprise. What I find particularly curious is that while we are seeing signs of a pending military reduction, we see the Republican Party spinning calls by Democrats to begin the process of transitioning security and military oversight to the Iraqi's as a "cut and run" strategy.

As I view the facts, it appears to me that the realities on the ground may in fact come close to matching the objective outlined in one of the Democratic proposals...and yet if we listen to the rhetoric on the floor of the Senate, one would be apt to conclude that the difference between the Republican and Democratic strategies is significant and tangible. My cynical and suspicious mind tells me the administration may be splitting hairs in order to garner political advantage.

BALAD, Iraq -- The U.S. military has begun sending thousands of battered Humvees and other war-torn equipment home as more Iraqi units join the fight against insurgents and American units scheduled for Iraq duty have their orders canceled.

In the last four months, the Army has tagged 7,000 Humvees and 17,000 other pieces of equipment to be shipped to the United States to be rebuilt. They then will be distributed among active and reserve units at home, or possibly returned to equip Iraqi security forces.

"This is all a byproduct of Iraqi forces accepting battle space and U.S. forces being displaced, which has allowed our government to decide not to send more forces," said Col. Jack O'Connor, commander of the U.S. Army Materiel Command's sustainment brigade in Iraq.

While I'm certainly not a military strategist, logic tells me that one doesn't remove equipment from the battlefield unless troops are going to follow. What troubles me is that the Bush administration has long argued that establishing any time line for troop withdrawal would be tipping off insurgents...a move that might allow those who are intent on defeating the efforts to establish a democratic society in Iraq a strategic advantage. While removing equipment isn't the same as establishing a hard and fast withdrawal date, it certainly provides some clear insight into the U.S. intentions. In addition to giving the insurgents some sense of timing, it also begins to give the Iraqi's notice that they must begin the process of assuming responsibility for their own security...something many Democrats have been suggesting needed to happen for some time now.

"It is much harder to move equipment than it is to move people," said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute. "So if the Army is increasing its movement of equipment out of the country, that may signal that it expects fewer soldiers in Iraq six or 12 months from now."

In most cases, a unit returning home from Iraq has left its equipment behind for the unit sent to replace them. But as more units rotate home between June and September, fewer U.S. units will be sent in behind them, O'Connor said.

The brigade from Materiel Command oversees and anticipates equipment needs of incoming and outgoing military units, O'Connor said. As more units stay home and Iraqis take control of larger areas, O'Connor said there will be a push in the months ahead to "clean up the battlefield" by removing equipment that is no longer needed.

Under a plan announced by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi security forces will take responsibility for security in all of the country's 18 provinces within 18 months.

Getting equipment home after more than three years in Iraq is among the military's most cumbersome tasks ahead, O'Connor said.

Following the Gulf War in 1991, for example, it took two years for the military to recover its equipment -- after a six-month deployment and a ground campaign lasting roughly 100 hours.

As I piece this information together with the current activity in the Senate, it becomes increasingly obvious to me that the Republicans have a clear strategy that may be leading Democrats into a trap of their own making. There have been some clues that haven't received much attention. Prior to the current debate on Iraq, many speculated that once the Democratic proposals were defeated, the Republicans would offer their own administration affirming measure. It now appears that they will do no such thing. The question is why not?

I have a theory. Democrats are addressing voter sentiment as it exists today...particularly the vocal anti-war netroot Democrats who are insisting the Party demand a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. While it may seem appropriate to address those concerns today, it may prove to be a strategic mistake come fall. Despite the polling that indicates most Americans believe the Iraq invasion was a mistake and a that they would like to see a plan that includes a timeframe for troop withdrawal, one must always remember that a poll is only a snapshot of current circumstances and sentiment and is not necessarily a predictor of the future.

Let me change the subject to demonstrate what I mean before coming back to the Iraq situation. I've previously written about the risks of supporting Ned Lamont against Joe Lieberman and I've cited some polling to make my point (Lieberman had a significant lead over Lamont in April and polling showed Lieberman would defeat Lamont even if he ran as an independent). Some who have responded to my thoughts argued that despite the polling, the "prevailing sentiment" was a better indication of what was going to happen in the August primary and the subsequent November election. I appreciate the perspective of those individuals as there is some likely truth in their observations. In fact, more recent polling has shown Lamont to be gaining ground.

Coming back to the Iraq situation, one can draw some important parallels. The Iraq war isn't popular today and the news has offered little to encourage or to change people’s minds. However, if the voting public sees a troop reduction by October, there is a reasonable likelihood that many voters who are unhappy with the war, but are also hesitant to see the U.S. quit (or be perceived to lose), will decide that the administration's plan is working and that the Democrats haven't the conviction to make the hard military and security choices that are often necessary. Despite the fact that such a shift would be frustrating and would justify an assertion that voters are fickle, it may also spell defeat for Democrats come November.

There is an important difference between my Lamont example and the Iraq situation. The Republican administration is in a position to determine what happens in October and that has the likelihood of impacting voter sentiment ahead of the November election...whereas Lamont must rely upon more intangible factors.

In my theory, Republicans have determined that they are best to allow the Democrats to stake a claim to the position that seeks an "arbitrary" withdrawal approach. At the same time, if the Republicans were to offer up a bill and a vote to support the administration's more or less open-ended position, they would make campaigning between now and October more difficult and give Democrats something concrete to point to when arguing that Republicans are out of touch with voter sentiment. I believe this also indicates that the Republicans have determined that the debate and the issues in October will have changed and that they are laying the groundwork for that portion of their campaign. The use of the oft heard "cut and run" accusation being made by Republicans is the opening salvo in an elaborate strategy.

Let me jump forward to explain my argument. If one believes that a meaningful number of troops will be withdrawn before the November election, then one can adopt a strategy that plans for that eventuality and also begin to focus on the realities it will create when it occurs. In my opinion, that is the Republican plan. If there is any doubt, look no further than the recent remarks by Karl Rove in which he has invoked the issues of terror and security and laid the groundwork for asking voters in November to decide if they can hand the reigns of America's safety over to the Democrats. Given what Republicans will have cultivated as the propensity of Democrats to quit before the job is finished, that answer may well be no.

Simultaneously, Democrats have become enamored with the success that opposing the Iraq war has provided. The problem I see is that they haven't thought far enough ahead to a situation where troops may be coming home in the fall and where voter sentiment begins to conclude that the Iraq mission was one that was misguided, one that was mismanaged...but also one that is going to succeed because the Republicans "stayed the course". While voters, at this moment, see staying in Iraq as the more tenuous plan, at the point in the future that I am defining; they may well see an arbitrary withdrawal plan as the more tenuous approach.

If anyone doubts the willingness of the American voter to change their thinking and give politicians the benefit of the doubt as soon as they can see daylight (a tenable outcome), they should take a look at the Clinton presidency. As soon as Clinton admitted his errors, the public was ready to move on while the Republicans were still waging a war based upon the prior voter doubt and sentiment that they had been able to use to their advantage.

While some may see my theory as speculation, I point back to the facts contained in the article I am citing. Is it possible that we are removing equipment from Iraq without any firm intention of removing troops? Sure it is possible but it would be a very costly move should it have to be reversed. Could one argue that it might simply be another administration miscalculation? Sure, but it wouldn't explain some of the counterintuitive moves now being made by Republicans. I've previously argued that Karl Rove's strategies are often counterintuitive. This may well be another example.

Daniel DiRito | June 22, 2006 | 9:28 AM | link
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June 20, 2006

U.S. Considers Shooting Down N. Korea Missile genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

The Associated Press reports that the United States is considering the possibility of shooting down the missile to be launched in tests being conducted by North Korea.

The Bush administration is weighing responses to a possible North Korean missile test that include attempting to shoot it down in flight over the Pacific, defense officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Because North Korea is secretive about its missile operations, U.S. officials say they must consider the possibility that an anticipated test would turn out to be something else, such as a space launch or even an attack. Thus, the Pentagon is considering the possibility of attempting an interception, two defense officials said, even though it would be unprecedented and is not considered the likeliest scenario.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said he could not say whether the unproven multibillion-dollar U.S. anti-missile defense system might be used in the event of a North Korean missile launch.

Robert Einhorn, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said a U.S. shootdown of a North Korean missile on a test flight or a space launch would draw "very strong international reaction" against the United States. He saw only a small chance that the U.S. would attempt a shootdown.

The last time the Pentagon registered a successful test in intercepting a mock warhead in flight was in October 2002. Since then, there have been three unsuccessful attempted intercepts, most recently in February 2005.

The Washington Times reported Tuesday that the Pentagon has placed its missile defense system in an active status for potential use.

The situation adds weight to concerns that the invasion of Iraq may have been an unnecessary distraction that has now placed some potential limitations on the latitude the international community might be inclined to support with regard to aggressive U.S. efforts to impact activities by rogue nations like North Korea and Iran. Both countries have become increasingly adversarial towards the U.S. since being designated by the Bush administration as part of an axis of evil and in light of the strategy of preemptive invasion carried out in Iraq.

Daniel DiRito | June 20, 2006 | 9:10 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 14, 2006

The Daily Show On Zarqawi Death genre: Just Jihad & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | June 14, 2006 | 8:33 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 8, 2006

Ahmadinejad: Iran Ready For Nuclear Talks genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, announced that his country was prepared to discuss concerns about the country's nuclear program. Read the full article here.

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that Iran was ready to discuss “mutual concerns" over his country’s nuclear program, but he refused to first suspend uranium enrichment.

His comments came a day after world powers backed off a demand that Iran commit to a prolonged moratorium on uranium enrichment, asking only for a suspension during talks on its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad did not say whether he accepted the proposal, part of a package of incentives in exchange for Iran suspending enrichment.

Last week, the United States agreed last week to join France, Britain and Germany in talks with Iran. If the talks occur, it would be the first major public negotiations between Washington and Tehran in more than 25 years.

However, Ahmadinejad insisted that Iran would never give up its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to produce nuclear fuel.

The move by the United States to join talks is a change in the administration's prior strategy. The decision to join the talks is consistent with the shift to an approach that is focused on "containment" as previously reported by Thought Theater here.

Daniel DiRito | June 8, 2006 | 9:55 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Al-Zarqawi Dead genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

al-Zarqawi

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a leading al-Qaida insurgency leader in Iraq was killed in an air strike on Wednesday near the city of Baqouba. Read the full story here.

Al-Zarqawi and seven aides, including spiritual adviser Sheik Abdul Rahman, were killed Wednesday evening in a remote area 30 miles northeast of Baghdad in the volatile province of Diyala, just east of the provincial capital of Baqouba, officials said.

“Al-Zarqawi was terminated," Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told reporters.

It was not clear to American authorities who would succeed al-Zarqawi as the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. The official noted that a number of al-Zarqawi’s deputies have been taken out in recent months, which could cause chaos among the group’s top tier.

The death of al-Zarqawi is an important event in the effort to undermine the foreign insurgency and may also provide some relief in the heightening sectarian strife. While Zarqawi was an al-Qaida operative, he has been fomenting the sectarian violence, having just released a tape a week ago calling for Sunnis to battle Shiites. See the prior Thought Theater posting here. It will be interesting to see how this key death will play out in the ongoing battle to bring stability to Iraq.

Daniel DiRito | June 8, 2006 | 8:19 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 6, 2006

Somalia: Warlords Fall To Islamist Rebels genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

In another sign of increasing Islamist influence in Africa, U.S. backed warlords were reported to have fled the capital city of Mogadishu as Islamist rebels claimed to have taken control of the city. The New York Times has the full article here.
Thought Theater has written about the growing Islamist influence here and the shifting position of the Bush administration to one of containment here.

The battle for Mogadishu has been a proxy war, of sorts, in the Bush administration's campaign against terrorism, with the warlords echoing Washington's goal of rooting out radical Islam and the presence of Al Qaeda in the region.

But as the warlords who have ruled over Mogadishu for the last 15 years went on the run on Monday, it appeared that Washington had backed the losing side, presenting the administration with a major setback at a time of continued sectarian violence in Iraq and the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The spokesman for the State Department, Sean McCormack, appeared to repeat those concerns at a news briefing on Monday when asked about the takeover in Mogadishu. "We don't want to see Somalia turn into a safe haven for foreign terrorists," he said. "We do have very real concerns about that."

While the administration has repeated the oft heard statement that we are safer since the fall of Sadaam Hussein, the outcome in Somalia adds to a growing body of evidence that Islamist extremists continue to assert greater influence in more regions of the world. Their influence and the prevailing beleif that Islamism is under attack from the West has provided an atmosphere for radicalism and the recruitment of followers intent on battling the influence of Western civilization.

Many in Mogadishu said the common belief that the United States was taking sides only strengthened the Islamists, who accused the warlords of being puppets of Washington.

Now that the Islamists have taken over, it remains to be seen how they will choose to govern and whether infighting among them may send the city back into the chaos it has long known.

An American-led relief effort in 1993, which metamorphosed into a hunt for one of the warlords whose fighting with one another interfered with food distribution, ended tragically after 18 American soldiers were killed in a battle made famous by the film "Black Hawk Down."

The United States has largely kept the country at diplomatic arm's length ever since, viewing with skepticism the 14 failed rounds of peace negotiations over the years. The latest one produced an interim government carefully balanced by clan representation, which has been urging Washington to back it more vigorously.

Daniel DiRito | June 6, 2006 | 8:15 AM | link | Comments (1)
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June 3, 2006

Daily Show: Victory Over Phrase "War On Terror" genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | June 3, 2006 | 10:43 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Clift: Haditha Could Hurt GOP In November genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Eleanor Clift reflects on the possibility that the alleged murder of innocent Iraqis in Haditha may have an impact on the Republican Party in the upcoming midterm elections. Read the full Newsweek article here.

The administration has a stake in convincing the public that what happened in Haditha was an isolated incident and that it does not reflect a broader message about a war gone bad—or a war that should never have been waged in the first place. It will be an important turning point if Marines are actually indicted, and if it is found that there was complicity within the Marine Corps. It makes it harder to look at this war as a moral enterprise.

Whether the Haditha rampage is an understandable occurrence in war, however horrific, or whether the administration bears some blame in overstressing the troops will be debated. The Third Battalion, First Marine Division was on its third tour in Iraq and had lost 30 members in the battle of Fallujah.

As part of the military’s damage control, Army Gen. George W. Casey, the top commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, ordered Thursday that all troops would undergo a round of sensitivity training called “core values" to remind them how to treat civilians in a battle zone.

The single biggest factor in how well the president’s party does in the midterm elections is the popularity of the chief executive. It’s been a year since Vice President Dick Cheney said the insurgency was in its last throes. A Pentagon report released this week says the insurgency is likely to remain strong through at least ’06. It’s said that Karen Hughes is such a good spinner that she can sell sand in the Sahara. Policies built on sand are a harder sell.

It seems to me that the biggest hurdle faced by this administration is the steady stream of bad news from Iraq. Despite occasional positive events like the recent formation of a new government, the prevailing tone of the news continues to be negative. For the administration to expect the American public to focus on the good news is no longer realistic and may be a direct result of countless misstatements and miscalculations that included the initial reason for invading Iraq, the subsequent difficulties with securing the country, the numerous assertions that we have turned the corner, and the continued deaths of American soldiers. The American public may have simply reached a point of no return.

Daniel DiRito | June 3, 2006 | 7:51 AM | link | Comments (0)
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June 2, 2006

New al-Zarqawi Tape Promotes Civil War genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

In a tape recording released Friday, that claims to be the voice of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, he calls on Sunnis to battle Shiites in what appears to be a strategy to foment civil war in a country already struggling with sectarian conflict. Read the full article here.

The tape follows a video released in late April and comes at a point in time when the Bush administration has signaled a desire to reduce troop levels. Unfortunately, the need for additional troops led in the city of Ramadi led the military to send additional troops previously starioned in Kuwait. See the details here and here.

CAIRO, Egypt -- The leader of al-Qaida in Iraq urged Sunnis to confront Shiites and ignore calls for reconciliation in a new audiotape posted Friday on the Web, saying Shiite militias are killing and raping the Sunni Arab minority.

The tape was a four-hour sermon by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi against Shiites, denouncing their top cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani as an "atheist," and saying the community had collaborated with invaders throughout Iraq's history.

"Oh Sunni people, wake up, pay attention and prepare to confront the poisons of the Shiite snakes who are afflicting you with all agonies since the invasion of Iraq until our day. Forget about those advocating the end of sectarianism and calling for national unity," al-Zarqawi said.

Much of Friday's tape was aimed at rallying Sunnis - who make up the majority of Muslims in the Arab world but are a minority in Iraq - against Shiites across the Mideast and Iran, which many Sunni Iraqis deeply mistrust for its influence with the Shiite parties that now dominate Iraq's government.

"There is no difference between Shiites of Iran and the Shiites in the rest of the Arab world either in Iraq, Lebanon. their beliefs are the same .. their hatred of Sunnis is the same," he said, adding, "The roots of Jews and the Shiites are the same."

Daniel DiRito | June 2, 2006 | 8:11 AM | link | Comments (0)
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