Wednesday, May 10, 2006

NYT: Life in Iraq (Sabrina Tavernise)

It was almost 3 a.m. in Zubaida Square in central Baghdad last week when headlights signaled one flash, then two, then one again.
From the darkness, someone signaled back. The watchers were there.
As evidence mounts that Shiite police commandos are carrying out secret killings, Sunni Arab neighborhoods across Baghdad have begun forming citizen groups to keep the paramilitary forces out of their areas entirely. In large swaths of western Baghdad, and in at least six majority Sunni areas in its center, young men take turns standing in streets after the 11 p.m. curfew, to send out signals by flashlights and cellphones if strangers approach.
In some cases, the Sunnis have set up barricades and have taken up arms against Shiite-led commando raids into their neighborhoods. In other cases, residents have tipped off Sunni insurgents. Watch groups have been assembled in other mixed areas, including Baquba to the north and Mahmudiya to the south, residents and officials said.
Three years after the American invasion, the war has settled here, in the quiet of neighborhoods, streets and Iraqis' backyards. Dozens of bodies surface daily. People are taken from their homes and executed. Assassinations are routine. But instead of looking to the government for protection, ordinary Sunni Arabs are taking up arms against it, perhaps the most vivid illustration of the depth of Sunni mistrust of the American backed, Shiite-led security forces. "There is no bridge of confidence between the government and the Iraqi people," said Tarik al-Hashimy, a vice president of Iraq who is a Sunni Arab.

The above is from Sabrina Tavernise's "Alarmed by Raids, Neighbors Stand Guard in Iraq" in this morning's New York Times. It's reality. Those weened on the "reporting" of Dexy and Burns may be shocked. Whether this signals a shift in the coverage of the paper (towards reality) or is just a momentary hiccup, who knows? (That's not intended as a slight to Oppel or any other reporters who've tried to get reality into the paper. The only intended slight is to Dexy and Burnsie.)

More reality comes via Zach's highlight, Robert Parry's "The CIA, a Bush Family Fiefdom" (Consortium News):

Like a Medieval ruler punishing a rebellious province, Bush sent in loyal henchmen to root out perceived traitors. Bush's attitude toward CIA analysts who disagreed with his pre-war assertions about Iraq’s WMD was much like his anger toward the French for cautioning him about his Iraq invasion plans.
Being right was no protection from Bush’s wrath; indeed, it appeared to make him madder. Though Bush has continued to this day to stress how much he values accurate intelligence as vital for the nation's security, his real record has been one of insisting on getting information that fits his preconceptions.
So, rather than reward the CIA analysts who had resisted White House pressure to cook the WMD intelligence on Iraq, Bush set out to remove them. (He also took aim at the State Department, another bastion of WMD dissent, where he moved to replace the diffident Colin Powell with the enthusiastic loyalist Condoleezza Rice.)
At the CIA, Bush's intelligence purge gained momentum in the weeks after he secured his second term. Bush saw his victory as almost a mystical validation of his view that the "war on terror" was a conflict between good and evil in which people were either with Bush or with the terrorists. Bush called the election his "accountability moment."
CIA intelligence professionals got the message that they could either get behind Bush's policies or get out. The loyalty demands led to an exodus of senior CIA officials, including deputy CIA chief John E. McLaughlin and deputy director of operations Stephen R. Kappes.
In whipping the remaining intelligence analysts into line, Bush was helped by powerful conservative news personalities -- from AM talk radio to Fox News, from right-wing newspaper columnists to Internet bloggers -- who conjured up conspiracy theories about a CIA plot to destroy the President.
Conservative columnist David Brooks was among those pushing the argument that the CIA's only rightful role was to serve the President.
"ow that he’s been returned to office, President Bush is going to have to differentiate between his opponents and his enemies," wrote Brooks in the New York Times. "His opponents are found in the Democratic Party. His enemies are in certain offices of the Central Intelligence Agency."
To Brooks, the justification for Bush going after the CIA was the release of information that made Bush look bad.
"At the height of the campaign, CIA officials, who are supposed to serve the President and stay out of politics and policy, served up leak after leak to discredit the President's Iraq policy," Brooks wrote.
"In mid-September [2004], somebody leaked a CIA report predicting a gloomy or apocalyptic future for the region. Later that month, a senior CIA official, Paul Pillar, reportedly made comments saying he had long felt the decision to go to war would heighten anti-American animosity in the Arab world." [NYT, Nov. 13, 2004]

. . .
[For more on the history of CIA politicization, see's "Why U.S. Intelligence Failed, Redux."]

Two quick points on Parry's article. One, I hope we're all grasping Parry's point about the National Director of Intelligence. This is a post that had to be created for the Bully Boy who, unlike previous Oval Office occupants, needed a Cliffs Notes version of intelligence because he couldn't process the real thing. Second, Hayden or whomever is put in charge of the CIA will continue Bully Boy's efforts to politicize the agency. That's been a goal (as Parry notes) for decades now. The results will be felt for years to come, regardless of who (or which party) holds the presidency.

Rod passes on today's scheduled topic for Democracy Now!:

Democracy Now! broadcasts from Boston, MA. We'll speak with longtime civil rights worker, antiwar activist, and community organizer, James Carroll, about his new book "House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power."

If this or the next entry seem brief, both have been lost this morning this morning and are being recreated. (The second post actually was 'recoverable' somewhat using the "recover post" option that Blogger/Blogspot provides.)

The e-mail address for this site is