Saturday, August 11, 2007


Bush War Adviser Says Draft Worth a Look

August 10, 2007 07:06 PM EST | AP

WASHINGTON — Frequent tours for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have stressed the all-volunteer force and made it worth considering a return to a military draft, President Bush's new war adviser said Friday.

"I think it makes sense to certainly consider it," Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said in an interview with National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."

"And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table. But ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation's security by one means or another," Lute added in his first interview since he was confirmed by the Senate in June.

President Nixon abolished the draft in 1973. Restoring it, Lute said, would be a "major policy shift" and Bush has made it clear that he doesn't think it's necessary.

"The president's position is that the all volunteer military meets the needs of the country and there is no discussion of a draft. General Lute made that point as well," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

In the interview, Lute also said that "Today, the current means of the all-volunteer force is serving us exceptionally well."

Still, he said the repeated deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan affect not only the troops but their families, who can influence whether a service member decides to stay in the military.

"There's both a personal dimension of this, where this kind of stress plays out across dinner tables and in living room conversations within these families," he said. "And ultimately, the health of the all-volunteer force is going to rest on those sorts of personal family decisions."

The military conducted a draft during the Civil War and both world wars and between 1948 and 1973. The Selective Service System, re-established in 1980, maintains a registry of 18-year-old men.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., has called for reinstating the draft as a way to end the Iraq war.

Bush picked Lute in mid-May as a deputy national security adviser with responsibility for ensuring efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are coordinated with policymakers in Washington. Lute, an active-duty general, was chosen after several retired generals turned down the job.


between the lines Joseph Farah
WND Exclusive Commentary
No nukes is good nukes?

Posted: August 11, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

How do I put this delicately?

Barack Obama is a blithering idiot, a politician so bereft of experience and wisdom as to be an embarrassment to the entire process of selecting an American president.

That about does it.

I refer specifically, but not exclusively, to Obama's comments to this effect: "I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance – involving civilians." He then added as an afterthought: "Let me scratch that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table."

As if the Democratic Party had not yet done enough on behalf of our enemies around the world, Obama just tipped them that his presidency would virtually rule out use of nukes.

Does this make America more secure?

Of course not. The deterrence effect of nuclear weapons has managed to keep the peace between nuclear powers for 62 years.

Does it make America's enemies more secure?

It gives them a false sense of security, because, no matter what Barack Obama tells our enemies, they will be nuked with enough provocation.

For instance, if a nuclear weapon should ever be detonated on American soil by anyone, the U.S. will be actively searching for someone to get targeted by a nuclear retaliatory strike. This isn't conjecture. This is fact.

So, does it serve any good purpose to rule out the use of nuclear weapons knowing full well it is a lie?

No, it is, in fact, counterproductive – possibly persuading America's enemies that it has become a toothless tiger and will absorb any and all attacks without a nuclear response.

None of this is rocket science, of course. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. Nothing here should be news to a person seeking the lofty position of president of the United States. But clearly Obama is in need of some remedial education on foreign affairs.

I admit, the idea of a President Hillary Rodham Clinton scares the Belial out of me. I've been there. I remember the first Clinton regime. One was enough for me. I haven't been audited since, thank you. My office hasn't been broken into either. But, nevertheless, Clinton surrounded himself with enough foreign policy specialists to avoid these kinds of embarrassing remarks – statements that make America look foolish, not just the candidate responsible.

I'd like to see Hillary get a good run for her money, too. That doesn't seem likely when her closest contender is someone who wouldn't know a nuclear warhead from a hole in the ground.

Here's a guy who wants the U.S. out of Iraq now but is ready to declare war on Pakistan!

Is his job to make Hillary look smart by comparison?

"Presidents should be very careful at all times in discussing the use or non-use of nuclear weapons," said a sober-sounding Hillary in response. "Presidents since the Cold War have used nuclear deterrence to keep the peace. And I don't believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or non-use of nuclear weapons."

Is his job to make John Edwards seem sincere and reasonable by comparison?

This guy is quickly ruining his chances to be vice president.

"I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance – involving civilians. Let me scratch that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table."

That's what he said. Is that what he meant? Who knows.

By the way, have you noticed Obama likes to use these words: "I think it would be a profound mistake… " Check it out. He says that often.

You know what I think would be a profound mistake?

If Americans ever elected a know-nothing like this to be president of the United States.


As British Leave, Basra Deteriorates

Violence Rises in Shiite City Once Called a Success Story

By Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, August 7, 2007; A01

As British forces pull back from Basra in southern Iraq, Shiite militias there have escalated a violent battle against each other for political supremacy and control over oil resources, deepening concerns among some U.S. officials in Baghdad that elements of Iraq's Shiite-dominated national government will turn on one another once U.S. troops begin to draw down.

Three major Shiite political groups are locked in a bloody conflict that has left the city in the hands of militias and criminal gangs, whose control extends to municipal offices and neighborhood streets. The city is plagued by "the systematic misuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias that increasingly intermingle with political actors," a recent report by the International Crisis Group said.

After Saddam Hussein was overthrown in April 2003, British forces took control of the region, and the cosmopolitan port city of Basra thrived with trade, arts and universities. As recently as February, Vice President Cheney hailed Basra as a part of Iraq "where things are going pretty well."

But "it's hard now to paint Basra as a success story," said a senior U.S. official in Baghdad with long experience in the south. Instead, it has become a different model, one that U.S. officials with experience in the region are concerned will be replicated throughout the Iraqi Shiite homeland from Baghdad to the Persian Gulf. A recent series of war games commissioned by the Pentagon also warned of civil war among Shiites after a reduction in U.S. forces.

For the past four years, the administration's narrative of the Iraq war has centered on al-Qaeda, Iran and the sectarian violence they have promoted. But in the homogenous south -- where there are virtually no U.S. troops or al-Qaeda fighters, few Sunnis, and by most accounts limited influence by Iran -- Shiite militias fight one another as well as British troops. A British strategy launched last fall to reclaim Basra neighborhoods from violent actors -- similar to the current U.S. strategy in Baghdad -- brought no lasting success.

"The British have basically been defeated in the south," a senior U.S. intelligence official said recently in Baghdad. They are abandoning their former headquarters at Basra Palace, where a recent official visitor from London described them as "surrounded like cowboys and Indians" by militia fighters. An airport base outside the city, where a regional U.S. Embassy office and Britain's remaining 5,500 troops are barricaded behind building-high sandbags, has been attacked with mortars or rockets nearly 600 times over the past four months.

Britain sent about 40,000 troops to Iraq -- the second-largest contingent, after that of the United States, at the time of the March 2003 invasion -- and focused its efforts on the south. With few problems from outside terrorists or sectarian violence, the British began withdrawing, and by early 2005 only 9,000 troops remained. British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced further drawdowns early this year before leaving office.

The administration has been reluctant to publicly criticize the British withdrawal. But a British defense expert serving as a consultant in Baghdad acknowledged in an e-mail that the United States "has been very concerned for some time now about a) the lawless situation in Basra and b) the political and military impact of the British pullback." The expert added that this "has been expressed at the highest levels" by the U.S. government to British authorities.

The government of new Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pointed to the current relative calm in three of the region's four provinces -- barring Basra -- as evidence of success. According to one British official, Brown told President Bush when they met last week at Camp David that Britain hopes to turn Basra over to Iraqi control in the next few months. Although a further drawdown of its forces is likely, Britain will coordinate its remaining presence with Washington after an assessment in September by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq.

As it prepares to take control of Basra, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has dispatched new generals to head the army and police forces there. But the warring militias are part of factions in the government itself, including radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr -- whose Mahdi Army is believed responsible for most of the recent attacks on the airport compound -- as well as the Fadhila, or Islamic Virtue Party, and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the country's largest Shiite party.

In March, Fadhila pulled out of Maliki's ruling alliance of Shiite parties in Baghdad after it lost control of the petroleum ministry to the Supreme Council. Last week, under pressure from the council, Maliki fired the Fadhila governor of Basra. Fadhila has refused to relinquish power over the governate or over Basra's lucrative oil refineries, calling the Maliki government "the new Baath" -- a reference to Hussein's Sunni-led political party -- and appealed the dismissal to Iraq's constitutional court.

Jockeying for political power in Baghdad has long since translated into shooting battles in Basra. The militias have shifted alliances with one another, as well as with the British and with Iran as they fight for control of neighborhoods and resources. With the escalation of street battles and assassinations, much of the population is confined to homes and is fearful of Islamic rules imposed by militias.

Although neighbor Iran's presence is pervasive -- with cultural influence, humanitarian aid, arms and money -- U.S. officials and outside experts think that the Iraqi parties are using Iran more than vice versa. Iraqis in the south have long memories of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, one U.S. official said, and when a southern Shiite "wants to tar someone, they call them an Iranian." He said the United States is "always very concerned about Iranian influence, as well we should be, but there is a difference between influence and control. It would be very difficult for the Iranians to establish control."

The ICG study described Iran, Britain and the United States as equally confused about what is happening in Basra. During a recent visit there, the U.S. official said, he was unable to meet with any local Iraqis outside the airport base or to travel beyond the secured route between the base and the palace. About 200 Americans are in and around the city, including those assigned to the embassy office, some civilian support personnel and contract security guards.

Basra's "security nightmare" has already had devastating effects on Iraq's economy, said Juan Cole, a Middle East specialist at the University of Michigan. Home to two-thirds of Iraq's oil resources, Basra is the country's sole dependable outlet for exporting oil, with a capacity of 1.8 million barrels a day. Much of Basra's violence is "over who gets what cut from Iraq's economic resources," a U.S. Army strategist in Iraq said.

Militias and criminal gangs are financed in part by stolen oil smuggled outside the country, even as Iraq lacks enough energy to provide electricity to many of its people. Both the oil industry and the port facilities -- providing Iraq's only maritime access -- have made Basra "a significant prize for local political actors," the ICG said.

The current U.S. security operation to "clear, hold and build" in Baghdad and its surroundings is almost a replica of Operation Sinbad, which British and Iraqi forces conducted in Basra from September 2006 to March of this year with a mission of "clear, hold and civil reconstruction." Although Operation Sinbad initially succeeded in lowering crime and political assassinations, attacks rose in the spring and British forces withdrew into their compounds.

In the early years of Iraq's occupation, British officials often disdained the U.S. use of armored patrols and heavily protected troops. The British approach of lightly armed foot patrols -- copied from counterinsurgency operations in Northern Ireland -- sought to avoid antagonizing the local population and encourage cooperation. A 2005 report by the defense committee of the House of Commons commended the British army's performance and urged the Ministry of Defense to "use its influence" to get the Americans to take a less aggressive approach.

In a recent BBC interview, Air Chief Marshal Jock Stirrup, chief of the British defense staff, insisted that Basra has been a success. But he acknowledged that judgment depended on "what your interpretation of the mission was in the first place," adding: "I'm afraid people had, in many instances, unrealistic aspirations."

The mission, he said, was simply to "get the place and the people to a state where Iraqis could run this part of the country, if they chose to."

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Late Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat in his Ramallah office in December, 2001. (Archives)

Last update - 10:32 12/08/2007
Arafat's doctor: There was HIV in his blood, but poison killed him

By Danny Rubinstein , Haaretz Correspondent

Late Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat's blood contained the deadly HIV virus, Arafat's personal physician told Jordanian media over the weekend. Dr. Ashraf al-Kurdi stressed, however, that Arafat did not die of AIDS - which is caused by the virus.

Jordanian news site Amman quoted al-Kurdi - a former Jordanian health ministry official - as saying that the virus had been injected into Arafat's bloodstream close to his death, and that the real cause of the chairman's death was poison.

Hours earlier, al-Kurdi was interviewed on television news station Al-Jazeera. However, the network cut short the live interview with al-Kurdi as soon as he mentioned that the former chairman had contracted HIV.


To Amman, al-Kurdi said that Arafat's death was suspicious in several other respects. "I would usually be summoned to attend to Arafat immediately, even when all he had was a simple cold," said al-Kurdi, who served as Arafat's personal physician for 18 years. "But when his medical situation was really deteriorating, they chose not to call me at all."

According to al-Kurdi, Arafat's wife, Suha, refused to allow the doctor to visit Arafat in the private Paris hospital where he was being treated. Al-Kurdi added that he was denied access to Arafat's body after his death. In the Amman interview, he demanded the French government set up a commission of inquiry.

However, al-Kurdi did not explain why he did not come forth sooner and reveal the information. On September 9, 2005, al-Kurdi told Haaretz that "any doctor would tell you that [Arafat's symptoms] are the symptoms of a poisoning."

Arafat was pronounced dead on November 11 at the age of 75. The exact cause of his illness is unknown. Arab journalists and opinion-shapers have repeatedly accused Israel under former prime minister Ariel Sharon of poisoning Arafat.

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