Archive for December 7th, 2006

Thursday’s front page of the New York Post depicts the two chairman of the Iraq Study Group as “surrender monkeys,” suggesting that the bipartisan independent panel has urged the U.S. to “give up” and admit defeat in the war in Iraq.

The faces of James Baker, a former chief of staff for President Reagan who led President Bush’s recount fight in Florida six years ago, and former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton, who also served as Vice Chair for the 9/11 Commission, were photoshopped on to the bodies of monkeys.

This isn’t the first time that the Post has “monkeyed around” with nature to make a political statement on behalf of the Bush Administration.

In February of 2003, just weeks before the invasion of Iraq, the New York City based tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox empire depicted the French and German representatives at the United Nations as half men and weasels. That front page came one month after outgoing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld apologized to the two countries for referring to them as the “Axis of Weasels” because of their staunch opposition to the war, at the time.

“The Iraq Study Group report delivered to President Bush yesterday contains 79 separate recommendations – but not one that explains how American forces can defeat the terrorist insurgents, only ways to bring the troops home,” Niles Latham writes in the Post’s cover story.

“Declaring the situation ‘grave and deteriorating,’ the high-powered commission proposed the United States talk directly to terror abettors Iran and Syria to get their cooperation, and commit to removing U.S. combat troops in early 2008,” the article continues.

The paper’s editorial page also accused the Iraq Study Group of recommending surrender, though “not in so many words, of course.”

According to the paper, the ISG “counsels cowardice – and, ultimately, a shameful defeat.”

Blogosphere reactions

On a thread at the Free Republic Web site, most commenters seemed to enjoy the Post’s cover.

“I was walking by the Newspaper stand in Manhattan this morning on my way to work and I did a doubletake!” Freeper “areafiftyone” writes. “I thought the guys from the NY Post had been reading Free Republic!”

Another user thanked the fact that neither Iraq Study Group chairman was African-American.

“I am just glad neither one of them is black,” wrote “Long Island Pete.” “Al Sharpton would have a field day.”

“Mark was here” joked, “Obviously a doctored photo, monkeys dont wear glasses.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, Daily Kos diarist “allmost liberal european” writes that this “ugly picture that really tells you all you need to know” about the right wing.

According to the diarist, the outrage from the right directed at the Group’s report is all about “fear.”

“There has been lot of criticism of the ISG proposal but the right is scared,” writes the Daily Kos diarist. “Anything but a total war is unacceptable for them and they know that they are not going to get it (no, they are not going to fight in that war, but cheering).”


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James Baker’s New Test In Diplomacy

Co-Chair Of Iraq Study Group Has Been A Political Operative And Statesman, Often To The 1st President Bush

(CBS) For more than 30 years, James Baker has been both a behind-the-scenes political operator and a very public statesman — much of it in the service of his close friend, the first President Bush.

Baker now co-chairs the panel that will suggest a change of strategy in Iraq, CBS News White House correspondent Bill Plante reports. So here’s the question: Is Baker acting as a friend of the family, trying to help his friend’s son out of a tight spot —or is there more to it than that? “

Jim Baker is always an honest broker,” says former White House Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein. “If he can help the family and help other families, I think he really strikes a twofer.”

It isn’t the first time Baker has extended his hand to this president. Six years ago in Florida, he managed the legal strategy that delivered the White House for George W. Bush.

Baker has been White House Chief of Staff for two presidents, as well as Treasury Secretary and Secretary of State. He helped put together the coalition that joined the U.S. in the Gulf War — and knew enough then to anticipate the dangers of marching to Baghdad and overthrowing Saddam Hussein. “

Jim Baker is one of these rare people that comes along once in a while who’s smart — smart not only intellectually and from experience, but street smart,” says former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Michael Deaver.

Back in 1990, Baker convinced Syria to join the Gulf War coalition against Saddam Hussein. Now, he wants this George Bush to talk to Syria … and Iran, too.

“It has to be hard-nosed, it has to be determined,” Baker said in a television interview in October. “You don’t give away anything, but in my view, it’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies.”

But this president may not be in much of a hurry to accept Baker’s ideas about that — or much else. Asked if Baker would help implement the report, a spokesman for Mr. Bush said, “Jim Baker can go back to his day job.”


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Bush, Blair hold talks following Iraq report

WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Bush met with his most important ally in the Iraq war Thursday, a day after the White House said it may be able to “announce a new way forward” by year’s end.

White House spokesman Tony Snow told CNN’s “Larry King Live” Wednesday that Bush would need to compare the newly released Iraq Study Group report with pending studies by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Security Council before any policy changes are announced.

“We’re hoping to have all that pulled together so that maybe by the end of the year, the president can announce a new way forward,” Snow told King. (Watch how Bush’s approach may change )

Bush met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday as the president faces pressure to change course in Iraq. The bipartisan report said Bush’s war policies could lead to chaos and “time is running out.” (Full story)

Bush and Blair’s Oval Office meeting was preceded by an unscheduled breakfast. No details of the meeting were announced.

The two leaders are set to hold a joint news conference at 10:55 a.m. ET.

In presenting the group’s report Wednesday, co-chairman James Baker said that because “events in Iraq could overtake what we recommend,” members of the group “believe that decisions should be made by our national leaders with some urgency.” (Full story)

Calling the situation “grave and deteriorating,” the report urges that military brigades be pulled back by early 2008 and the U.S. troops evolve into a support role for the Iraqi Army.

Eleven U.S. troops have died in Iraq during the past 24 hours, according to the Pentagon, bringing the total U.S. military personnel killed in the war to 2,920 — 30 in the month of December.

The report also calls for a “renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.” (Watch report’s co-chairs explain why linking Iraq to Israeli-Arab conflict adds “legitimacy” )

“The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional instability,” the report says.

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert balked at the link drawn between the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the war in Iraq.

“The attempt to create linkage between the Iraqi issue and the Mideast issue … we have a different view,” Olmert said, according to a translation by The Associated Press. (Full story)

A day after the report recommended launching a “New Diplomatic Offensive to deal with the problems of Iraq and of the region” by December 31, Iraq announced two regional conferences to address the nation’s violence and instability.

Within the next four months, a a conference on security and other issues will be held in Baghdad, Iraq’s Interior Ministry said. Countries in the region and the Arab League and the United Nations will participate.

Iraqi officials will also meet with representatives of Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey early next year.

Bush: Proposals will be taken seriously
Bush first received the report from panel members Wednesday at the White House. The president told group members that “we will take every proposal seriously, and we will act in a timely fashion.” But he did not indicate when he might announce any changes in his Iraq policy.

The group’s co-chairmen said Wednesday that they believe their recommendations could also be a “tough sell” given the variety of views circulating about the war.

“We think we have put forward recommendations that are achievable in the political environment in Washington and the political environment in Iraq,” said Iraq Study Group’s co-chairman Lee Hamilton, a Democrat and former Indiana congressman.

“Of course it’s a tough sell,” Hamilton said. “You’ve got a lot of people, good people, in this country thinking about it from all perspectives.” Both chairmen answered questions about the report Thursday on Capitol Hill before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Baker said he and Hamilton had been “pleasantly surprised” by Bush’s reaction when they presented the report to him at the White House. (Watch Bush’s reaction to Iraq report )

He said Bush told them that the report “might very well present us with a common way of moving forward.”

Hamilton said their conversation about the report with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki also “went very well.”

“He obviously has concerns about any policy recommendation that deeply affects his country. But I believe overall, they will see it positively,” Hamilton told King.

“They’re very sensitive about their own sovereignty, so when we recommend a new regional framework for diplomacy, they want to be very careful that Iraq is, in fact, in control of that, or at least very prominent.

“And they certainly resist any idea that the United States or anybody else is imposing something on them,” Hamilton said.

The 10 members of the Iraq Study Group — evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats — spent nearly nine months gathering information and talking to many experts about possible strategies for Iraq.


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10 GIs, 8 civilians killed in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Ten U.S. troops were killed in Iraq on Wednesday, a major blow on the same day a high-level panel in Washington recommended gradually shifting U.S. forces from a combat to a training role.

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group released recommendations for changing course in the country, saying President Bush’s policy in Iraq “is not working.” The Iraqi government said the U.S. report did “not come as a surprise,” and it agreed that Iraq must take the lead in its own security.

“The situation is grave, very grave in fact, and cannot be tolerated,” Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh said on the pan-Arab satellite TV channel AlArabiya. “Absolute dependence on foreign troops is not possible. The focus must be on boosting the Iraqi security forces.”

The U.S. military said in a statement that 10 Americans had died in four separate incidents but gave no further details, pending notification of relatives. In addition to the 10 casualties, the U.S. command said two U.S. soldiers were killed Sunday in Baghdad and a Navy sailor were killed in Anbar province on Monday.

The latest deaths raised to at least 30 the number of U.S. troops who have died this month. At least 69 troops were killed in November and 105 soldiers were killed in October — the highest amount for a month since January 2005.

At least 2,918 service members have been killed since the war started in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

In other violence Wednesday, two mortar rounds landed and exploded in a secondhand goods market in a mixed Shiite-Sunni area in central Baghdad, killing at least eight people and wounding dozens, said police officers Ali Mutab and Mohammed Khayoun, who provided the casualty totals.

About 25 minutes later, a suicide bomber on a bus in Sadr City detonated explosives hidden in his clothing, killing two people and wounding 15, police 1st Lt. Thaer Mahmoud said.

It appeared to be the first attack by suspected Sunni Arab insurgents on the large slum since Nov. 23, when a bombing and mortar attack killed 215 people in the deadliest single attack since the Iraq war began more than three years ago.

A total of at least 75 people were killed or found dead across Iraq on Wednesday, including 48 whose bullet-riddled bodies were found in different parts of the capital.

The latest eruptions of Iraq’s unrelenting sectarian violence came hours before the release of a study by the Iraq Study Group, a blue-ribbon panel headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind.

“The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating,” the commission warned in the report.

It recommended the U.S. reduce political, military or economic support for Iraq if the government in Baghdad cannot make substantial progress toward providing for its own security.

On the highly emotional issue of troop withdrawals, the commission warned against either a precipitous pullback or an open-ended commitment to a large deployment.

“Military priorities must change,” the report said, toward a goal of training, equipping and advising Iraqi forces. “We should seek to complete the training and equipping mission by the end of the first quarter of 2008.”

Saleh, the deputy prime minister, said the government agreed with the broad recommendations of the panel but acknowledged “there may be some details on which we differ.” He did not elaborate.

“The recommendations, at least principle, are in agreement with the national Iraqi vision that calls for reinforcing Iraqi capabilities, the handover of the security file to Iraqis and the respect of the Iraqi will,” he told Al-Arabiya.

He also warned that improving the battlefield capabilities of the Iraqi armed forces would not be “the magic wand that brings a solution in one day.”

Some Iraqis, while critical of U.S. strategy in Iraq, said they feared any new policy would lead to more suffering for their country.

“They (U.S officials) are defeated in Iraq. So they are trying to seek for an outlet to get out of their plight in Iraq. And I think the outlet will be at the expense of the Iraqi people,” Maan al-Obeidi, a professor and political analyst at al-Nahrain University in Baghdad, told AP Television News.

Elsewhere in Iraq, gunmen broke into a school in western Baghdad at noon, killing its Sunni headmaster in his office, then instructing teachers not to return, an Iraqi army officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to security concerns.

The attack came a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged university professors and students to ignore a Sunni Arab insurgent group’s warnings to avoid class, calling them “desperate attempts.”

The group had sent e-mails to students and posted signs at schools and mosques saying students should stay away while it cleanses the campuses of Shiite death squads, according to a statement from al-Maliki’s office late Tuesday.

The government also announced the capture of a senior aide to Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who took over as leader of al-Qaida in Iraq after his predecessor Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June.

Mouwafak al-Rubaie, the government’s national security adviser, said U.S. and Iraqi forces captured the aide, though he did not specify where or when. He said 60 percent of al-Qaida in Iraq’s leadership has now been captured or killed.

Coalition forces have also detained several leaders of Ansar al-Sunnah, an insurgent group allied with al-Qaida in Iraq, al-Rubaie added.

“The noose is tightening around Abu Ayyub al-Masri, and I can say with all confidence that al-Qaida in Iraq is undergoing a very real leadership crisis,” al-Rubaie said at a news conference.

U.S. ground and air forces also conducted a raid targeting foreign insurgents near the Iranian border, killing a militant who opened fire on an aircraft, the U.S. command said.

The early morning raid took place near Khanaqin, a remote desert area 85 miles northeast of Baghdad where U.S. forces have helped Iraqi soldiers set up outposts designed to stop foreign insurgents and their weapons supplies from crossing into Iraq.

A coalition aircraft was leaving the raid when it took small arms fire from a vehicle below; it returned fire, destroying the vehicle and killing its armed insurgent, the command said. One suspected militant also was detained in the raid, which resulted in no U.S. casualties, the statement said.


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