Saturday Blog Tour

Arthur Silber paraphrases notable warbots Bill O’Reilly, John Derbyshire, and VD Hanson. Sample: O’Reilly, “If the United States is going to defeat the terrorists, we need to have a total commitment to crushing the bastards. My study of history indicates that the role model we ought to adopt is that provided by one of the most noted liberators of the oppressed and a noble exemplar of freedom and individual rights. I speak, of course, of Genghis Khan.”

Tim Swanson on Minnesota’s crackdown on low gas prices, “Whew, I’m so glad cheapskates like Murphy Oil are being fined and punished, after all, if other companies use this evil business strategy, prices of goods and services would decline en masse, saving individuals and families so much money that they would probably start funding terrorism just so they wouldn’t feel guilty about having so much more wealth laying around.”

Laura Rozen is doing a good job keeping up with the Washington neocons and the unfolding Chalabi mess.

Steve Gilliard says Allawi is a Dead Man Walking. Josh Marshall and Spencer Ackerman also have good info up on, as Ackerman calls it, The Zipless Coup.

Bush Announces Twelve Step Plan For Iraq

The Libertarian Jackass outs himself in The American Conservative, and Stephen Carson at LRC blog helpfully links him up for all of us who don’t get TAC on dead tree. You’d think an article about blogs would be webbed.

Reggie Rivers writes an article in the Denver Post equating military service with slavery, pointing out that you aren’t a volunteer anymore if you can’t quit. Jonah Goldberg can’t figure out why he disagrees with this argument (“Unless I’m in the dark about why this isn’t moronic, I’ll just let it speak for itself.” Then he doesn’t.) but he’s so on Jingo Autopilot that he can’t let anyone advance even this argument without breaking out his little plastic patriot flag and he condescendingly accuses Reggie of implying all soldiers are “buffoons.” “Shame on you, Reggie,” says Jonah in his kindergarten teacher voice. Goldberg, ” But if for some reason people think this guy’s onto something we can have a nice long conversation in here about why joining the army of your own free will in order to serve your country in exchange for A) money B) education C) experience D) training E) a lifetime of benefits and the respect of your country is ever-so-slightly different than slavery.” You’d almost think Jonah is saying that slavery would be OK if you could get a good education, money and benefits as a slave. He makes it sound so good that it’s even more of a mystery than ever why Jonah isn’t wearing his master’s uniform.

WHY THE HELL ARE YOU STILL READING US? DOES JUDITH MILLER HAVE TO KILL YOU HERSELF? Thanks to michael at Reading A1 for the toon.

Attack in Saudi Arabia – ongoing hostage situation

5 expat housing compounds have been attacked in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. At least 6 people are known to have been killed, among them one Brit and one American. An unknown number of hostages are being held. At least one body has been dragged through the streets. Situation developing. From Dow Jones Newswire:

The attackers also shot dead U.K. national Michael Hamilton, the company’s senior manager for trade and project finance, as he arrived at the office, said western officials and a company executive. British diplomats are en route to Al- Khobar.

The gunmen, dressed in security forces’ uniforms, had also opened fire on a school bus, killing the young son of an Egyptian Apicorp employee, said the company executive.

The western official and other sources said the gunmen – in two vehicles – fled the office and residential complex of Apicorp, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries’ investment arm.

South Rub al-Khali Gas Co., a natural gas exploration joint venture between Royal Dutch/Shell (RD,SC), state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co (SOI.YY) and Total SA (TOT), also has its offices in the Apicorp building. None of the company’s staff were harmed, said Shell spokesman Simon Buerk.

At around 0730hrs, gunmen attacked the nearby Petroleum Center offices, killing three people, sources said. Two Filipinos and a westerner, either a South African or U.S. national, died at the Petroleum Center, said the sources.

It’s unclear whether this attack was carried out by the same assailants who carried out the strike on Apicorp. Shots were also heard outside the Panda Mall, near the Petroleum Center.

Gunmen then holed themselves up in the nearby Oasis residential compound, where they have taken hostages and are surrounded by security forces, said one western official. Another source said the attackers had taken hostage a woman with joint U.S.-Lebanese nationality and her child in the compound’s Sohar high- rise apartment block. The Lebanese ambassador to Saudi Arabia later confirmed that five Lebanese nationals had been released, though an unspecified number of hostages are believed to still be held.

“The incident is still happening, and they’ve taken hostages in the Oasis compound,” said the western official.

Another source said a second group of gunmen had managed to escape using a police car and were now surrounded in Home Store, a household furnishings store in the city.


UPDATE: Saudi security forces seeking to kill or capture the militants stormed the waterfront Oasis complex, where a housing manager said 50 hostages were still being held including Americans, Italians and Arabs.

Some reporting is indicating that the “militants” are checking State IDs for religion.: An employee at the Oasis compound said the militants, wearing military uniforms, had asked residents to show their identity cards to find out their religions.

Najaf – an al Sadr victory?

According to this article in Salon, here’s what the “peace deal” in Najaf looks like:

On Friday morning, the number of armed men on the streets of Najaf did not seem to have diminished, and in places it seemed to have increased. And as of late Friday afternoon, Mahdi army volunteers were still streaming into Najaf, responding to Muqtada’s call for assistance, some coming from other countries. The numbers of militiamen were growing significantly. Pickup trucks full of men with heavy weapons were parked on the street leading to the medina, or old town. Many of the fighters were from out of town. The trucks had been quickly painted over, and the faint image of the blue Iraqi police lettering was still visible.

With the pressure from the United States abated, the Mahdi fighters spent Friday acting as if they had just won a great victory.

Sounds like Fallujah déjà vu.

Puppet Council picks a PM for Iraq

What’s this game the UN’s Brahimi is playing with the Iraqi Puppet Council? Apparently the Council has “nominated” one of their own, Iyad Allawi, for PM and now reports are coming out that Brahimi “respects” their choice. Reuters has gone out and interviewed some random Iraqis who scoff at the Puppet Council and Allawi.

“What is his political experience? I know nothing about him. He lived abroad as an exile. We need someone who lived here who can pull Iraq out of a crisis,” said a hotel manager who declined to give his name.

“Iraq is the same as it was in the time of Saddam Hussein except now I am afraid of militiamen so I can’t say my name.”
[..]
“I heard he used to play sports. I think he should really go back to playing sports,” said Seif Gharib, a 20-year-old security guard at Iraq’s Ministry of Defense. “Who is Iyad Allawi?

Hassan Ali, a policeman, was also dismissive.

“I reject him,” he said. “Where was he when we suffered under Saddam? Besides I do not recognize the Governing Council.”

Isn’t this exactly what they were supposed to avoid by not involving the Puppets? What happened to Brahimi’s idea of selecting “technocrats?”

Another Reuters story is even more bizarre:

It was unclear how far U.S. officials or Brahimi influenced the choice of a long-time exile known to few Iraqis and whom people in Baghdad said was an outsider they could not trust.

Brahimi and Iraq’s U.S. governor Paul Bremer endorsed the nomination, Governing Council member Mahmoud Othman said: “We had a meeting with Bremer and Brahimi and they both agreed and congratulated him and were happy about it,” Othman told Reuters.

WTF? I thought this was supposed to be Brahimi’s choice. Was Brahimi unable to find anyone but Puppets who would take the job, especially after yesterday’s Hussain Shahristani debacle?

Iraqis escape from Abu Ghraib convoy

This is a weird story. First, in an article by the Canadian Press mostly about the IGC Puppets “nominating” Iyad Allawi for Prime Minister of Iraq (who asked them what they thought, anyway?) we have a couple of grafs thrown in, separated by other reports on various events in Iraq:

Meanwhile, U.S. soldiers escorting a convoy of buses filled with Abu Ghraib prison inmates on their way to be released came under attack Friday, but there were no reports of casualties. In Kufa, explosions were heard one day after an agreement to end fighting between U.S. forces and Shiite insurgents.

The prisoners had just left the Abu Ghraib facility – the centre of a scandal involving abuse of detainees by American soldiers – when shots were fired from buildings near the freeway. The soldiers hunkered down and the convoy of at least 13 buses stopped. The shooting ended quickly.
[…]
In the attack on the prisoner buses, hundreds of relatives who had been following the convoy also stopped and then swarmed around the vehicles after the shots were fired. Prisoners then got off the buses and went home with their families.

The Guardian just came out with the same story with a bit more detail:

US soldiers escorting a convoy of prisoners released from the Abu Ghraib prison exchanged fire with unknown assailants today after they stopped on a highway outside Baghdad.

More than a dozen buses had just left Abu Ghraib – the prison at the centre of a scandal involving abuse of detainees by American soldiers – when shots were fired from buildings near the freeway, apparently at the convoy.

The US soldiers assumed defensive positions and returned fired. Several tanks arrived after the shooting and monitored the area for an hour, but there was no more fighting. A reporter at the scene did not see casualties.

Before the exchange, US forces in Bradley fighting vehicles had halted the convoy of buses for an unknown reason. Hundreds of relatives parked their cars, blocking traffic in both directions, and rushed to the buses in search of family members.

Many relatives ignored warnings from the US troops, who pointed their rifles and yelled at them to stay back. In previous releases, detainees were escorted all the way to their home towns.

Today, those detainees headed for Baghdad got out of the bus and transferred to the hundreds of cars that had raced after the buses when they left the prison gates.

OK, so a bunch of busses full of people being released from Abu Ghraib got stopped (mysteriously? Right…), came under fire and then “hundreds” of cars that had been following the busses parked willy-nilly all over the highway in both directions, while prisoners swarmed off the busses and into the waiting cars and took off. Both of these articles make a nod to what I think is American BS about how they were taking people to their “hometowns.” If you believe that, consider this other report on how the Americans release people from Abu Ghraib: Iraqis released from Abu Ghraib taken on a bizarre journey and dumped. That convoy of busses took these people to an old quarry 70 miles north of Baghdad and dumped them out.

Why are “hundreds” of cars following these bus convoys? Because they know the US is likely to just dump them out somewhere in the middle of nowhere, that’s why. Take the story of Tu’amaa Mola Hassan Sabeeh, a 67 year-old man with Alzheimer’s reported by Dahr Jamail:

Yet another horrible story is that of Tu’amaa Mola Hassan Sabeeh, a 67 year-old man with Alzheimer’s, who had wandered from his home in Baghdad on June 29, 2003, and has been missing ever since.

His son, Rassem, standing in front of the checkpoint of Abu Ghraib, said, “We searched all of Iraq for him and couldn’t find him. Then three weeks ago someone who was released told us he was here.”

Now the family members take turns coming out and waiting for his release. “We have not been allowed to see him, and if he is released, he can’t remember where to go, so we need to come here everyday to wait for him in case he is released.”

He said the entire family is affected, as the time away from their jobs is draining them financially. He added, “We’re all crying now. All our time is spent waiting. We don’t know his number, since they use numbers instead of names in there. So we know he’s there, but we cannot contact him. Where is the justice?”

How would this man find his way home after the US dumped him in a quarry, far from home? How would they even know where to take him if he can’t tell them where he lives?

I would like somebody in charge of these convoys to explain why the families can’t just pick their loved ones up at the gates of Abu Ghraib. Why can’t the US do one decent thing and just let these people go with dignity?