Now What?

With George Bush delivering only the second veto of his presidency, the question of funding the mission in Iraq became even more acute. Eighty-six days after the start of the 110th Congress, the military still has not received funding for operations in Iraq this year, and the process has to start from Square One while the Pentagon has to start juggling the books:

President Bush vetoed a $124 billion measure yesterday that would have funded overseas military operations but required him to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq as early as July, escalating the most serious confrontation between the White House and Congress over war policy in a generation.
Bush carried through on his veto threat just after the legislation arrived at the White House, calling the timetable a “prescription for chaos and confusion” that would undercut generals. “Setting a deadline for withdrawal would demoralize the Iraqi people, would encourage killers across the broader Middle East and send a signal that America will not keep its commitments,” he said last night. “Setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a date for failure.”
Democratic congressional leaders cast the veto as willful defiance of the American people. “The president wants a blank check,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said just minutes after Bush’s statement. “The Congress is not going to give it to him.” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) said that “if the president thinks that by vetoing this bill he will stop us from trying to change the direction of this war, he is mistaken.”

At some point, a compromise has to be reached — but it cannot take the form of mandated timetables for withdrawal. The British did that in Basra, and the result has been the formation of militias and internecine fighting in a region homogenous to Shi’ites. Imagine what would happen in the melting pot of Baghdad, let alone the al-Qaeda theater of operations in Baghdad. Announcing withdrawal dates only emboldens those who oppose the democratically-elected government of Iraq and encourages the rest to choose the least-egregious warlord to obey.
One point raised in the Washington Post article that might provide an opening is the question of aid to the Iraqi government. That aid which works for issues other than security could get suspended if the National Assembly doesn’t get busy passing the necessary reforms in oil revenue and de/re-Baathification. That would allow us to continue pressing forward on our security strategies while holding Baghdad accountable for lack of progress on political reform. In the past three years, we have spent more that $5 billion in non-military aid in Iraq. That kind of money should give us some leverage with the politicians.
Pressuring the Iraqi government makes sense. It forces them to focus on the tasks at hand and pushes them towards reconciliation amongst the ethicities, rather than triumphalism and vengeance. An approach which does that without hampering our ability to stabilize Baghdad and kill al-Qaeda terrorists in Anbar and Diyala should be strongly considered.
But we cannot allow Congress to dictate the terms of surrender to the American armed forces engaged with the enemy. We cannot withdraw from Iraq — again — only to be forced to return later to finish what we started in 1991. We cannot allow al-Qaeda and its affiliates to create a base of operations in Iraq the way they did in Afghanistan, unless we want a repeat of 9/11. Bush has to remain strong on those principles while finding ways to pressure the Iraqi government for reform in the manner Democrats want. That should be the basis of any compromise on the issue.

Immigration Protests Fail To Impress

Last year, millions of people marched in the streets to push for comprehensive immigration reform. Holding signs that demanded open borders, telling Southwestern cities that the land underneath them was really Mexican, and flying Mexican flags, the demonstrations had the short term effect of publicizing their agendas — which had the long-term effect of strengthening anti-immigration hardliners. Congress never passed the comprehensive reform they demanded, and instead passed a border fence intended to restrict illegal immigration.
Not surprisingly, the immigration rallies this year did not come close to the scale seen last year:

Waving U.S. flags and demanding citizenship for undocumented immigrants, tens of thousands of jubilant protesters marched through the streets of Los Angeles on Tuesday during a mostly peaceful day that ended with clashes between police and demonstrators in MacArthur Park.
Fifteen police officers were among those hurt. About 10 people were taken from MacArthur Park by ambulance to hospitals for treatment, said d’Lisa Davies, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Fire Department. She said the injuries mainly were cuts, including head and neck wounds. None of the injuries were believed to be serious. Police reported that one demonstrator was arrested.
About 35,000 people turned out at two Los Angeles rallies, far fewer than the combined 115,000 that organizers had anticipated and greatly fewer than the roughly 650,000 who turned out at rallies last year.
Turnouts were light across the country compared to last year, when millions of marchers in 150 cities took to the streets.

It wasn’t light enough to keep the Los Angeles event from turning into a small riot. It’s unclear how it started, but protestors began throwing bottles and other items at police. The police responded by attempting to clear the park, and then escalating to foam bullets and gas. After the Rodney King riots, the LAPD has a strong inclination to respond early and in force when it sees a demonstration getting out of hand, and Chief William Bratton now has to see whether they acted too quickly and with too much force.
People had a number of theories for the lack of turnout yesterday. Two of the more hilarious explanations were that (1) people feared deportation, and (2) there were too many events and they diluted the response. The first is patently absurd; nothing has changed in the year since the huge rallies, except that amnesty-favoring Democrats control Congress. They were more at risk for arrest and deportation last year than this year, and even then it was highly remote, as events proved. As for the number of events, there may possibly have been more yesterday, but millions of people didn’t show up for them.
The best explanation is probably that Congress hasn’t tackled illegal immigration yet. In fact, they haven’t tackled much of anything so far, preferring to posture for almost three months on funding the troops in Iraq. John McCain has dropped out of leadership on this issue, and Republicans look less inclined to support normalization before border security than they were last year. Without a bill pending in Congress, they have no inspiration for massive protests.
And, just perhaps, illegal immigrants may have realized that they did themselves no favors with their arrogant demonstrations last year. The McCain-Kennedy bill may have passed if they hadn’t shouted their reconquista slogans on every news channel in America. That display cost them the moderates, and the immigration bill they wanted died on the vine of the pushback from hardliners. This year, they may have just decided that quiet lobbying works a lot better for their aims.

Iran Arrests Former Nuclear Negotiator

Iranian security officials arrested former nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian, a political ally of former president Hashemi Rafsanjani. Replaced by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mousavian had extensive contacts in Europe while fending off any attempts to put an end to Iran’s nuclear program:

A top Iranian former nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian has been detained, according to sources in Iran who did not want to be named.
It is not clear why Mr Mousavian, who has also served as Iran’s ambassador to Germany, was arrested.
Eight security officials reportedly took him from his house on Monday.

The inner workings of the Iranian political elite are as murky as ever, and this is no exception. Mousavian apparently works at a government-run think tank, so he had not fallen from favor. Despite his electoral defeat two years ago, Rafsanjani had remained influential; he’s one of the richest men in Iran.
Those riches could be part of the problem. Rafsanjani’s son Mehdi Hashemi faces charges that he accepted $80 million in bribes from the French oil company Total. The CEO of Total faces a French investigation into the bribery, and it’s possible that Rafsanjani’s protege became involved during his years in Europe. The timing of the bribe corresponds to Rafsanjani’s tenure as president (1997). No one expects Mehdi Hashemi to face charges — he’s too well connected — but Mousavian could be the patsy.
Or it’s possible that the arrest is completely unrelated to Rafsanjani. The Iranians thus far have not even announced his arrest. The one safe conclusion is that Mousavian or his patron has done something significant to anger the ruling mullahcracy, and that’s enough to have eight men break into an Iranian’s house and haul him off.

Hamas Official: Kill All Americans

Pam at Atlas Shrugged had this earlier, but the Jerusalem Post has a fresh report on the latest threat from Palestinians against the West. The Speaker of the Palestinian Authority parliament has called Palestinians to the task of murdering all Americans, in addition to the mission of wiping Jews off the face of the Earth:

Sheik Ahmad Bahr, acting Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, declared during a Friday sermon at a Sudan mosque that America and Israel will be annihilated and called upon Allah to kill Jews and Americans “to the very Last One”. Following are excerpts from the sermon that took place last month, courtesy of MEMRI.
Ahmad Bahr began: “You will be victorious” on the face of this planet. You are the masters of the world on the face of this planet. Yes, [the Koran says that] “you will be victorious,” but only “if you are believers.” Allah willing, “you will be victorious,” while America and Israel will be annihilated. I guarantee you that the power of belief and faith is greater than the power of America and Israel. They are cowards, who are eager for life, while we are eager for death for the sake of Allah. That is why America’s nose was rubbed in the mud in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Somalia, and everywhere.
Bahr continued and said that America will be annihilated, while Islam will remain. The Muslims “will be victorious, if you are believers.” Oh Muslims, I guarantee you that the power of Allah is greater than America, by whom many are blinded today. Some people are blinded by the power of America. We say to them that with the might of Allah, with the might of His Messenger, and with the power of Allah, we are stronger than America and Israel.
The Hamas spokesperson concluded with a prayer, saying: “Oh Allah, vanquish the Jews and their supporters. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them all, down to the very last one. Oh Allah, show them a day of darkness. Oh Allah, who sent down His Book, the mover of the clouds, who defeated the enemies of the Prophet defeat the Jews and the Americans, and bring us victory over them.”

This speech took place in April. Coincidentally, that was the same month that we sent $59 million in aid — to the same Palestinian Authority in which this lunatic serves as Speaker. The US has provided the Palestinians with more than $1.6 billion in aid since Oslo. This is what our money buys.

Military Already Feels The Consequences Of Delayed Funding

One of the points in dispute about the Iraq war supplemental bill about to get vetoed by the President is whether the delay has affected military operations. Harry Reid said that the current funding will cover operations until mid-July, while the White House insists that it has already begun degrading operations and readiness. A Congressional Research Service analysis supports the Democrats — but only by saying that robbing Peter to pay Paul will still have impact on a broad range of activities (emphases mine):

If the Army temporarily tapped all this transfer authority, it could have a total of $60.1 billion available rather than $52.6 billion. Based on projections of monthly obligations rates, the Army could finance the O&M costs of both its baseline and war program for almost two additional months or through most of July 2007, if it tapped all of this transfer authority (see Table 2). It would be $1.4 billion short of meeting total July obligations. If DOD used only some of its transfer authority, the Army could last through the end of June 2007.
The Army has suggested that these actions would disrupt its programs including facilities repair, depot maintenance, and training. In order to ensure that funding is available for the later months of the year, the Army may very well decide that it must slow down its non-war-related operations before money would run out by, for example, limiting facility maintenance and repairs, delaying equipment overhauls, restricting travel and meetings, and, perhaps, slowing down training. Although it is true that a delay in passage of the FY2007 supplemental could require additional management actions, Congress has given DOD flexibility by providing transfer authority so that funds can be moved to meet more urgent requirements. In this case, because the transfers would presumably be temporary, the disruptions might also be less onerous.

In other words, not passing a serious supplemental and getting the money to the Army by May 1 will cause some disruptions — depending on where the Army wants to have them. This differs from Harry Reid’s assertion that there is no haste in approving the supplemental.
The Senate Republican Policy Committee put out its own analysis today, relying on military officials to state clearly the impact the delay in funding has had:

“At the current moment, because of this lack of funding, MNSTC-I [Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq] is unable to continue at the pace [it had in developing] . . . Iraqi security forces. . . . [This lack of funding] is starting to have some impact today, and will only have more of an impact over time.” — Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, MNF-Iraq
The President requested $1.83 billion for procurement and outfitting of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAP), which the Senate Appropriations Committee fully funded. Senator Biden then took to the floor to provide an additional $1.5 billion to the Procurement chapter of the supplemental bill for the procurement of MRAPs, because, citing military commanders, “MRAP could reduce the casualties in vehicles due to IED [Improvised Explosive Device] attack by as much as 80 percent.” The Amendment was approved by a vote of 98-0.
Now, the failure to provide a war supplemental in a timely manner means that neither funds in the President’s request, nor the plus-up provided by amendment, is currently available for a vehicle pointed out to be “the best available vehicle for force protection.”

The Army has already responded to the notion of reprogramming funding for the war effort, which the SRPC notes:

First and foremost, reprogramming requests are generally inefficient and certainly much less optimal than actually receiving the funds up-front. In a letter signed by the Chief of Staff of each of the Services, the Generals noted that “reprogramming is a short-term, cost-inefficient solution that wastes our limited resources.”
Next, reprogramming is itself not without cost. Since reprogramming is essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul, when the Department takes funds to support one program over another, that action must come at the expense of the program from which the funds are taken. As General Schoomaker notes, “These [reprogramming] actions can disrupt and desynchronize our next-todeploy units as they prepare for war, possibly compromising future readiness and strategic depth.

It should be fairly obvious to anyone who has worked in a large organization — and especially in government and the DoD — that money can’t just be shifted around overnight. It takes a great deal of accounting and oversight to manage the funds, and moving it around requires freezing spening until the money gets transferred to where it is needed. It will cost a fortune to accomplish this, degrading our readiness and halting projects all across the board.
It’s a Mickey Mouse solution to a problem that Congress created, and all the Democrats can do is to tell the Army to blow millions of dollars while it plays politics with the war.
UPDATE: Bush has made his speech, and it wasn’t bad. I wish he had spent more time talking about the pork projects — pick a few to show the ridiculous nature of the way they sold this bill to the one-vote majorities in both chambers. He also kept giving that annoying half-smile of his, a tic that undercuts his credibility. However, other than that, he sounded firm and clear on the reasons for rejecting the timetables, including the way the bill hamstrings commanders in the field.

They Weren’t Paying Attention

Today is the fourth anniversary of George Bush’s speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln — the one Democrats and anti-war activists call the “Mission Accomplished” speech. The crew of the carrier flew the banner because their mission had indeed been accomplished — they had successfully supported the invasion of Iraq and the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government, and were returning to the United States. Instead, everyone has attributed the banner’s message to George Bush.
All that proves is that they didn’t listen to what he had to say four years ago. As A Better Where To Find points out, Bush hardly communicated anything remotely like “the war is over”:

We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We’re bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We’re pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We’ve begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated. We’re helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people.
The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq.

Nowhere in this speech did Bush declare that the war was over, nor that we could leave Iraq. In fact, he made it plain that we would stick by the Iraqi people and remain in place until they could establish a democratic government that could secure the nation.
Not everyone on the Left was fooled by the banner. Hillary Clinton, in a speech that preceded Bush’s, also made it clear that the overall mission was far from over:

Tonight President Bush will address our Nation and will tell the world that Operation Iraqi Freedom’s military action is over, at least insofar as major military engagements may be required. We know we will have continuing problems, like those we have seen in the last few days. But it is true we are now moving toward the second phase, which is the rebuilding of Iraq. So this colloquy we are having today is especially timely because of the President’s announcement this evening.

And that much has been true. We have not had major military operations in the same sense as the invasion. We have been engaged in police actions intended on securing portions of cities against attacks, not major military maneuvers such as the opening days of the conflict. Those police actions are still deadly, but they represent the traditional role of stabilization for an allied government.
This meme has all sorts of holes in it, mostly involving a refusal to engage in an intellectually honest manner about what was said and done four years ago today. The same people who complain that the pre-war intel of two administrations and most of the world’s spy agencies wasn’t perfect seem to have no issue using half-truths and less in a weak attempt to score points four years later.

CQ Radio: Debate Coverage (Updated)

blog radio
In today’s installment of CQ Radio, I will be reviewing a blogger conference call with the White House and Tony Snow. I’ll review the hot stories of day, and announcing the Heading Right debate coverage for Thursday. I may have a couple of surprise guests as well, so tune in! Join the conversation by calling 646-652-4889.
BREAKING: The President will make a statement today at 6:10 PM ET today explaining why he will veto the supplemental. The White House will transmit the veto to Congress tomorrow, and the House will vote to override in the morning. They’ll lose, and the White House will meet the Congressional leadership later that day to determine how to proceed.

Levinson To Be Freed?

Unconfirmed reports from Iran say that the Iranian government has freed former FBI agent Robert Levinson and will deport him to either Frankfurt or Dubai today. Levinson had gone to Iran to conduct a private investigation into the murder of a former Iranian official in Washington:

Friends of the former FBI agent believed to be in custody in Iran, Robert Levinson, say he could be released as early as today based on what they describe as two unconfirmed reports from Tehran.
“We have received a call that he is free, and we have people at airports in Frankfurt and Dubai where we have been told he could show up,” one of Levinson’s friends told The Blotter on
U.S. officials could not confirm the report, but FBI spokesman John Miller said, “We are hearing the same thing, but we have no way to judge the credibility of that information.”
Levinson disappeared almost two months ago after traveling to the Iranian island of Kish to meet with an American fugitive accused of murdering a former Iranian official in suburban Washington in 1980.

The release is apparently timed to coincide with the meeting of foreign ministers regarding the status of Iraq. Both the Iranian FM and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will attend the meeting, and the regional governments have pressured both countries to begin a dialogue at the summit. Levinson’s release seems aimed at smoothing the road to talks between the US and Iran.
Nothing is certain yet, but people are standing by in the airports of both cities to watch for Levinson.

Dude, Where’s My Bill?

Congress passed its Iraq war supplemental bill last week, but the White House still has not received it. The holdup, according to Congressional Quarterly (via National Review), is that Nancy Pelosi has not yet signed the bill. And the reason for the delay? Apparently, Pelosi has no idea what Congress passed:

The conference report on the bill (HR 1591 – H Rept 110-107) was adopted by the House and cleared by the Senate last week, but Pelosi, D-Calif., wanted time to personally read it and sign it before sending it to Pennsylvania Avenue.
“It’s a major piece of legislation and you have to go through it word for word and line by line,” Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said Monday. “She believes this is very important legislation, which she will sign and the president will receive Tuesday.”
The White House had wanted to get the bill and send it back, complete with the president’s veto message, before the weekend.

John Boehner wants everyone to know just how ridiculous this is:

Now we’ve heard everything. The Speaker recommended the conference report on the war funding bill last week, voted for it last week, and could have sent it to the President as early as last Thursday when the Senate passed it (the House was in session). But NOW she wants to read it?? Wow.

Once again, the Democrats want to play political games with the troops while twisting themselves into contortions to deny it. They planned all along to time the arrival of the bill with the anniversary of the so-called “Mission Accomplished” speech on the carrier USS Abraham LIncoln:

Democratic leaders in Congress are planning a special ceremony on Tuesday afternoon to send President Bush a bill that sets timetables for troop withdrawal from Iraq.
The timing is no accident. It comes on the fourth anniversary of the day Mr. Bush stood on an aircraft carrier under the banner “Mission Accomplished” and declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended.
The Democrats’ ceremony, featuring the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is part of the elaborate political theater at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue surrounding the Iraq spending bill, which is destined to produce only the second veto of Mr. Bush’s presidency.
But with Mr. Bush planning to spend Tuesday in Florida talking with military commanders, the White House was being coy on Monday about what kind of theatrics of his own — if any — he might stage. Democrats, however, said they expected the veto to come Wednesday.

I guess Nancy Pelosi would rather be thought idiotic than cynically manipulative.

Newspapers Continue Decline, At Least In Print

Editor & Publisher has released the latest circulation numbers for the newspaper industry — and they show that the decline in hard-copy readership continues. Almost all major metropolitan broadsheets lost significant ground in the last year, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and my local Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Blame the big metro papers — again. The Audit Bureau of Circulations released the spring numbers this morning, revealing more plunges in daily and Sunday circulation.
As in the past, the losses are steep while gains are minimal. This is the fifth consecutive reporting period that overall newspaper circulation experienced big drops, despite easing comparisons. For all papers reporting daily circulation, the Newspaper Association of America said that daily circ fell 2.1% while Sunday tumbled 3.1%.
All daily averages reported are for Monday through Friday. The comparisons are based on the six-month period ending March 2007 and the six-month period ending March 2006.

In a growing economy, entire industries should not show such consistent decline. In the case of newspapers, though, they have never benefitted from the economic boom that started in 2003 and continues to this day. Perhaps that might account for the coverage, or lack thereof, that the expansion has received.
How badly have newspapers declined? The Dallas Morning News suffered a catastrophic collapse, losing more than 14% of its subscribers during the reporting period. The Miami Herald lost 10% of its Sunday subscribers and 5.5% of its daily readers. Its competitor, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Ft. Lauderdale, didn’t fare any better, losing 8.6% of its subscribers. Many newspapers found themselves in the 4-5% loss range, including the LA Times and its chief competitor, the Orange County Register; the Minneapolis Star-Tribune; the San Jose Mercury News; and the Washington Post lost 3.4%.
The big question is why? Many of these newspapers have no real metropolitan competition, but those that did didn’t send readers to the enemy paper. Only the New York Post appears to have fed off the failure of the New York Daily News. The problem appears to be a move away from print versions of the paper, across the board, rather than a decline in interest. In fact, the rise of the blogosphere shows that people have a heightened sense of interest in news and the inclination to use several sources to satisfy their curiosity.
What we need is statistics that include on-line readership and ad revenue. It’s entirely possible that the newspaper business is thriving, and that these numbers shows a paradigm shift on delivery. At the least, the picture given by ABC and E&P is incomplete, and difficult to analyze as a result. And given that so many of us in the New Media rely on traditional media outlets for source material, a decline in fortunes — and therefore eventually investment and product — is nothing to cheer. (via Howard Kurtz)