Archive for December, 2007

Bhutto did die of gunshots

Monday, December 31st, 2007

Doug Ross has the photos; Ed Morrissey has the video:

As Ed explains

Musharraf has a huge credibility problem, and this video makes it crystal clear. Until now, Musharraf has resisted calls for an international investigation into the assassination. Today, CNN reports that the Pakistani government could reconsider that decision. If they do, the family of Bhutto could then agree to an exhumation and an autopsy by an independent coroner which will confirm the cause of death.

That will open up a lot of questions about the official government story and what prompted it. With so many eyewitnesses to the murder, why float such a ridiculous theory about a sunroof handle? What were they trying to cover up? The video also shows the vehicle surrounded by people; where was a security cordon? How could the police, seen standing around the vehicle, allow a gunman to get within a few feet of Bhutto?

I certainly hope the FBI stays away from any kind of investigation.

Bhutto’s son named as successor in what amounts to a feudal succession.

Tariq Ali says that Pakistan deserves better than this grotesque feudal charade. Unfortunately he can’t think of anyone.

Meanwhile here in the USA, since the front-page spotlight’s not shining on her, Hillary’s saying she risked her life on White House trips in yet another lie, after claiming she was pals with Benezir Bhutto. Siggy, however, has better memory than Hillaray and asks

One has to wonder why Senator Clinton would be so close to someone who referred to her supporters as ‘chumps and loonies.’

Your guess is as good as mine.

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Lawyer keys Marine’s car, tries to get away with it

Monday, December 31st, 2007

Via Kat, Anti-Military Lawyer Damages Marine’s Car on Eve of Deployment

While saying goodbye, at about 11am, he noticed a man leaning up against his car. Mike left his friend’s apartment and caught the man keying his car on multiple sides.

After caught in the process, the man told Mike, “you think you can do whatever you want with Department of Defense license plates and tags”. (In Illinois you can purchase veteran, Marine, or medal plates. Mike has Illinois Marine Corps license plates.) During the exchange, he made additional anti-military comments.

Mike called the Chicago police and had the man arrested. A citation against the man was issued for misdemeanor criminal damage to private property.

As it turns out, the man is Chicago lawyer Jay R. Grodner, who owns a law firm in the city and has offices in the suburbs.

A vandal in the legal profession, no less.

Volokh asks:

BlackFive carries a report of an alleged anti-military hate crime (vandalism). I can’t speak to the facts, having seen just this one account; but I am curious about one legal question: When a complainant in a criminal case — or some other kind of witness, in a criminal or civil case — is about to become unavailable because he is being recalled to active duty, how does the legal system treat the matter?

Note, incidentally, that I label this incident an alleged hate crime because, if the facts are as alleged, it is a hate crime, and because that’s a clear quick way of describing the matter. I am not urging any specially heightened penalties for such crimes, nor to my knowledge is the complainant.

It is a hate crime.

The question remains, what can the Marine legally do?

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The New Year’s Eve Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, December 31st, 2007

Welcome to the New Year’s Eve Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean. If you would like your post to be included in next week’s Carnival, please email me: faustaw “at” yahoo “dot” com.

This week’s big story-in-the-works is the purported release of three Colombian hostages, which has been delayed:

An operation by Venezuelan helicopters to collect three hostages due to be released in Colombia by the Farc rebel group has been delayed for a third day.
Venezuelan officials said the group had not provided the co-ordinates for the handover and that there was not enough time to complete the mission on Sunday.

The rebels have promised to release the hostages as a humanitarian gesture to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Mr Chavez said on Saturday that he hoped they would be released by Monday.

Or whenever.

To a cynic like myself, it appears that Hugo’s not willing to share the limelight with anyone so don’t expect the hostages release to take place until the Bhutto story (and much else, for that matter) is not in the headlines. I hope I’m wrong, but my cynicism is greatly boosted by the fact that Oliver Stone’s at the location to film the release. For now, the FARCical mission has been put on hold.

For more on the hostages, please read the links under Colombia and Venezuela.

WEBSITE OF THE WEEK: HACER’s YouTube channel

LATIN AMERICA
Liberty Theology

Latin American economy improving but lagging

An Andean media circus

US ties to Latin America: Cool or cordial?

ARGENTINA
Argentina’s mirage

And one more for the road

BOLIVIA
Bolivian Breakup?

Bolivia Amends New Constitution and Faces Mutiny from Within

¿Hacia donde va Bolivia? – Maletagate I (cont.) y Maletagate II (dual language post)

Bolivia’s Morales faces divided nation

VIDEO: Class struggle in Bolivia

CHILE
Violent Games Get Chilly Reception in Chilean Parliament

COLOMBIA
Chavez Is FARC’ed Over… Hostage Release Party Pushed Back Again

Failed rocket attack adds tension to Chavez’s hostage recovery mission in Colombia

Chavez’s Bid to Free Colombia Hostages Faces Deadline
At the IBD blog

The drug-financed FARC terrorists of the Colombian jungle, after offering up three hostages as a ‘Christmas present’ to Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, have thus far stood him up, along with some 15 international observers from that many countries, an ex-presidente of Argentina among them and film director Oliver Stone. It’s like rain is coming down on their media circus and they’re starting to look less like clowns than fools.

Spare a thought for them as they cool their heels in the hot fetid Colombian swamp jungle near Villavicencio with nothing to do but talk to each other. The Brazilian among them is starting to complain about missing his New Year’s holiday, and they probably all are, wondering how the heck they got in that no-man’s land, waiting for a bunch of jungle terrorists who are now snickering up their sleeves at the suckers for fooling them again.

It doesn’t get more ridiculous than this. FARC, for the second time in about a month, has lied to Hugo Chavez and Hugo will go right on believing in them, worshipping them, trying to get their autograph, until they suckerpunch him again. After all, they know that Chavez’s keister is in the wringer and he’s just coddling them to try to win back his tattered international reputation. FARC doesn’t care about international reputations, FARC kidnaps innocents, blows up villages, lays land mines, employs child soldiers and controls the cocaine trade for a living. It gave up international reputations a long long time ago. But Chavez still wants his and FARC is pulling the rug out from under him. Chavez must feel like mierda right now. Snort!

Colombian government sets deadline for hostage release by rebels

Chavez’s $500million hostage deal in the works. Venezuelan helicopters to pick up Colombian hostages: the three-ring circus rolls right along

Una ingenuidad criminal.

CUBA
The Cuba Archive has launched a Database of Documented Deaths believed to have resulted from the Cuban Revolution. This is an invaluable resource.

At Man’s Expense

Viva Cuba: Propaganda for children

Castro is losing his last fight

Fidel’s running? Yeah, right, whatever…
Raul Castro Seeks Support for Fidel Bid
Castro ‘well enough for election’

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Getting Down and Dirty in the Bushes

ECUADOR
A Quechua Christmas Carol

Ecuadorean Tax Plan Deceptively Couches Cuban Style Income Redistribution. For more Ecuador blogging, go to ECrisis and scroll down.

HAITI
A drug route grows through Haiti

NICARAGUA
Nica expats voice their opinion. A colombo-americana’s perspective has plenty more on Nicaragua and Latin America, and it’s a must-read blog.

In Spanish: Presidente de Nicaragua llama “hermano” al Jefe de las FARC

PUERTO RICO
What a terrible loss to the world is Bhutto’s killing

VENEZUELA
Mammoth post at Caracas Chronicles’ 2007 Year in review

Chavez: Romancing the Stone

The Chavez hostage road show

The FARC Farce: Starring Hugo Chavez, Directed by Oliver Stone

Hollywood’s new favorite dictator

Chavez vows to put “revolution” back on track

Of Puppets, Puppeteers, Hostages and Politicians

Chavez Faces Challenge From Former Comrade

Venezuela’s Political Disaster – December 28, 2007

Chavez, Oliver Stone Launch Hostage Rescue

HUMOR
Via Larwyn, not quite suitable for work, but funny, Spicoli Divorcing, Announces Engagement to Chavez.

Special thanks to Siggy, Maggie, Eneas, Kate, Monica, and Obi’s Sister for their support in 2007.

For more Carnival fun, don’t miss SheBlogs #10 hosted by Sex and the South.

Wishing all of you a joyful 2008 filled with blessings, Happy New Year!

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Sunday morning cornbread

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

I just made these:

Parmesan cornbread:
Preheat oven to 425F

Sift together:
1 cup coarse-ground cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Add:
1 cup whole milk
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, softened

Stir together with a fork for 1 minute.

To bake in cast-iron cornbread pan like the above, pour 1/2 teaspoon canola oil to each section making sure it coats it, before adding the batter.

Bake for 20 minutes. Serve hot.

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The MSM channels Mad Magazine on Fred, and Sunday’s items

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

When I was a kid I loved Mad Magazine. One of my favorite features was how they used to truncate really bad reviews of movies and books to make them sound glorious. Well, Fred’s getting the same treatment from the MSM, only in reverse.

CNN and USA Today are taking a few select words from Fred:

“I’m not particularly interested in running for president,” the former senator said at a campaign event in Burlington when challenged by a voter over his desire to be commander-in-chief.

“But I think I’d make a good president,” Thompson continued. “I have the background, capability, and concern to do this and I’m doing it for the right reasons.”

Here’s the full transcript of what Fred actually said, which his people posted at Fred file:

[THIS IS A BEST-EFFORT TRANSCRIPT OF THE SPECIFIC QUESTION AND ANSWER]
Q: My only problem with you and why I haven’t thrown all my support behind you is that I don’t know if you have the desire to be President. If I caucus for you next week, are you still going to be there two months from now?

…In the first place I got in the race about the time people normally get into it historically. The fact of the matter is that others started the process a lot earlier this time than they normally do. I think it was for some of them when they were juniors in high school.

APPLAUSE

That is a very good question, not because it’s difficult to answer, because, but I’m gonna answer it in a little different way than what you might expect.

In the first place, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. I wouldn’t be doing this if i didn’t. I grew up very modest circumstances. I left government, I and my family have made sacrifices for me to be sitting here today. I haven’t had any income for a long time because I’m doing this. I figure that to be clean you’ve got to cut everything off. And I was doing speaking engagements and I had a contract to do a tv show, I had a contract with abc radio like I was talking about earlier and so forth. I guess a man would have to be a total fool to do all those things and to be leaving his family which is not a joyful thing at all if he didn’t want to do it.

But I am not consumed by personal ambition. I will not be devastated if I don’t do it. I want the people to have the best president that they can have.

When this talk first started, it didn’t originate with me. There were a lot of people around the country both directly and through polls, liked the idea of me stepping up. And of course, you always look better at a distance, I guess.

But most of those people are still there and think its a good idea. But I approached it from the standpoint of a deal. A kind of a marriage. If one side of a marriage has to be really talked into the marriage, it probably ain’t going to be a very good deal for either one of them. But if you mutually think that this is a good thing. In this case, if you think this is a good thing for the country, then you have an opportunity to do some wonderful things together.

I’m offering myself up. I’m saying that I have the background, the capability, and the concern to do this and I’m doing it for the right reasons. But I’m not particularly interested in running for president, but I think I’d make a good president.

Nowadays, the process has become much more important than it used to be.

I don’t know that they ever asked George Washington a question like this. I don’t know that they ever asked Dwight D. Eisenhower a question like this. But nowadays, it’s all about fire in the belly. I’m not sure in the world we live in today it’s a terribly good thing if a president has too much fire in the belly. I approach life differently than a lot of people. People, I guess, wonder how I’ve been as successful as I’ve been in everything I’ve done. I won two races in TN by 20 point margins, a state that Bill Clinton carried twice. I’d never run for office before. I’ve never had an acting lesson and I guess that’s obvious by people who’ve watched me. But when they made a movie about a case that I had when I took on a corrupt state administration as a lawyer and beat them before a jury. They made a movie about it and I wound up playing myself in the movie and yeah I can do that.

And when I did it, I did it. Wasn’t just a lark. Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing well. But I’ve always been a little bit more laid back than most. I like to say that I’m only consumed by very, very few things and politics is not one of them. The welfare of our country and our kids and grandkids is one of them.

If people really want in their president a super type-a personality, someone who has gotten up every morning and gone to bed every night and been thinking about for years how they could achieve the Presidency of the United States, someone who can look you straight in the eye and say they enjoy every minute of campaigning, I ain’t that guy. So I hope I’ve discussed that and hope I haven’t talked you out of anything. I honestly want – I can’t imagine a worse set of circumstances than achieving the presidency under false pretenses. I go out of my way to be myself because I do’t want anybody to think they are getting something they are not getting. I’m not consumed by this process I’m not consumed with the notion of being President. I’m simply saying I’m willing to do what’s necessary to achieve it if I’m in sync with the people and if the people want me or somebody like me. I’ll do what I’ve always done in the rest of my life and I will take it on and do a good job and you’ll have the disadvantage of having someone who probably can’t jump up and click their heels three times but will tell you the truth and you’ll know where the President stands at all times.

Maybe once USA Today and CNN graduate from Mad Magazine Journalism School they’ll start reporting on candidates who actually answer questions, instead of those who don’t take any questions at all.

That is, if their reporters actually get to the venue where the words were spoken. As Fred noticed,

Incidentally, the audience in Burlington broke into applause in the middle of my answer. The reporter wouldn’t know that because she wasn’t even there.

BTW, I’m undecided on which candidate to support.

UPDATE
The Mad Magaizine School Of Journalism

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This week’s WSJ’s Five best: “Cold War classics for an age of a resurgent Russia” chosen by Ernest Lefever:


and “The True Believer” by Erich Hoffer (Harper & Row, 1951).

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Today’s shoes:
Steve Madden Women’s Deedrah D’Orsay Pump in silver, to ring in the New Year:

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Pat’s got Carnival of the Insanities.

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The Bhutto assasination aftermath

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

UPDATED

Two interesting articles at American Thinker (h/t Larwyn):

First, Andrew Walden writes, The Bhutto Assassination and Islam’s War on Pakistan

she was grasping and self-interested, a beneficiary of Saddam’s Oil for Food scam. Parade, in the kind of unvarnished look only possible before the assassination quotes Bhutto’s own niece saying, “She has no legacy of her own except for corruption and violence.”

Her deal with Pakistani President Musharraf to take the Prime Ministerial position for herself in the January 8 Pakistani elections would have broadened the regime’s base of support by allowing many thousands more snouts from her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) into the trough. That was enough to make her a threat to the Islamists. Prophetically, Parade quotes a Musharraf insider saying, “She’s the No. 1 target of the terrorists right now.”

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto deals a blow to the hope for taking on the militants in the Pakistani sanctuary. It is also another sharp blow to the idea that political means can primarily or alone defeat Islamist terrorism.

With Musharraf out as Army Chief, his ability to manipulate promotions and bonuses in order to defend himself against further al-Qaeda assassination attempts is weakened. And without the cooperation of Bhutto his chance to widen the patronage-based political support of the regime is threatened.

In spite of all the blither about democracy in Pakistan, and the beatification of Bhutto by pundits and politicians eager to bask in her reflected false glory, the reality is that in the midst of the on-going carnage the so-called democratic forces are motivated by a desire for a piece of the action.

Read all of it.

Also at American Thinker, Walid Phares’s 2007: A Global Assessment of the Confrontation

Pakistan

Finally, General Musharaf’s government widened its military offensives during 2007 in the neo-Taliban zones, prompting terror counter strikes in various cities and a major Jihadi uprising in Islamabad. The escalation opened a window among political opposition to make gains against Musharaf. By the year’s end, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif came back to the country and were leading the opposition in the next elections. The assassination of Bhutto was a setback to the political process. Musharraf and the secular forces need to coalesce around a platform of national security and democracy and move forward with elections and anti-Terror campaign in 2008. But for international security, the priority is to preserve Pakistan’s nuclear assets and keep the Jihadists at bay. Will secular opposition and the President understand this higher national priority in 2008?

The Economist on the Bhutto assasination: An assassin strikes

Even before Miss Bhutto’s murder, the election campaign had been bedevilled by political conflict and terrorism. The role of each of its main actors—including Miss Bhutto and Mr Musharraf—has been contested in the courts and on the streets, against a backdrop of worsening insurgency and Islamist terrorism.

Masses Mourn Bhutto as Unrest Spreads

Musharraf’s Moment
Pakistan needs firm and impartial leadership to surmount the present crisis

Who ordered the killing?

After Bhutto

Others posting:
Bhutto’s Assassination Is a Political and Cultural Honor Killing vs Pakistan’s ‘perfect storm’ a history test for policymakers, with a flashback to last October’s Bhutto’s vanity, NATO’s test and Pakistan’s future.

The Bhutto assassination and polarization in the wider war

In the Aftermath: Riots, Dumb Western Columnists

“With Bhutto Gone” – al Qaeda Remains Important

The pundits on the political ramifications of the Bhutto assasination

Unfortunate Allies
We are still paying the price for Soviet aggression
.

UPDATE
Bhutto exhumation okay, Pakistan official says

The Pakistani government has no problem with officials from Benazir Bhutto’s political party exhuming the slain opposition leader’s body if they see a need to do so, an Interior Ministry spokesman said Saturday.

Ed Morrissey: Musharraf calls the bluff

People have plenty of rational reasons to mistrust Musharraf, but it’s difficult to see how he prospers with Bhutto’s assassination. Between her and Nawaz Sharif, Musharraf would most want to deal with Bhutto. He also needed the elections to go as scheduled for political cover abroad, and Bhutto had all but guaranteed that they would proceed without having to reshuffle the judiciary again. Killing both — Sharif got attacked as well — would only send the nation into a chaotic tailspin that Musharraf can’t afford with the insurgencies already active in the nation.

Prior posts:
Afternoon Bhutto roundup
The head Ronulan has spoken: It’s all our fault
Benazir Bhutto assassinated

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NewsBusted, news flash from Osama,and more news

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

And, at NewsBusters, Wash. Monthly Blog Shows for Left, Name Calling = Political Analysis by another Clinton intern.

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News flash for Osama bin Laden, who’s still calling for “guerrilla forces in Mesopotamia.” to kill themselves for him.

Obviously Osama’s not happy over the fact that by now even Associated Press (that arm of the vast right-wing conspiracy) is reporting that Iraq: al-Qaida 75 Percent Gone

Too bad Osama didn’t know about the Terrifying new video from previously unknown terror group

What? Subtitles?

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GM Roper endorses a presidential candidate.

I’m still undecided.

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Louisiana Conservative looks forward to 2008.
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Neither Frank Gaffney, nor John Bolton, nor Tom Friedman are Huckabee advisors.

Obviously.

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Via Larwyn, not quite suitable for work, but funny, Spicoli Divorcing, Announces Engagement to Chavez.

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Afternoon Bhutto roundup:

Friday, December 28th, 2007

Aftermath roundup continued on Saturday, December 29

Background On Pakistan: “Why Bhutto and the Elites Hate Musharaf”
1. As prime minister of Pakistan, Ms. Bhutto proved to be one of the most incompetent leaders in the history of South Asia and was dismissed in November 1996 by Pakistan’s president for what he called her regime’s “nepotism, corruption” and “mismanagement.” During her chaotic administration in the mid-1990s scores of people were being murdered in the streets of Karachi every day.

2. Her return to power, or that of her Pakistani People’s Party, would almost certainly trigger a return to anarchy and open the door to a Taliban-style fundamentalist coup. Ms. Bhutto dismisses this possibility as “nonsense,” asserting that “more than two-thirds of Pakistanis are distinctly moderate” in their religious views.

THE BHUTTO ASSASSINATION: NOT WHAT SHE SEEMED TO BE

Bhutto embodied the flaws in Pakistan’s political system, not its potential salvation.

Bhutto: Professional assasination?

Qaeda Eyed in Slaying of Bhutto
Assassination Is Laid to Team of Precision Snipers

The attack yesterday at Rawalpindi bore the hallmarks of a sophisticated military operation. At first, Bhutto’s rally was hit by a suicide bomb that turned out to be a decoy. According to press reports and a situation report of the incident relayed to The New York Sun by an American intelligence officer, Bhutto’s armored limousine was shot by multiple snipers whose armor-piercing bullets penetrated the vehicle, hitting the former premier five times in the head, chest, and neck. Two of the snipers then detonated themselves shortly after the shooting, according to the situation report, while being pursued by local police.

A separate attack was thwarted at the local hospital where Bhutto possibly would have been revived had she survived the initial shooting. Also attacked yesterday was a rival politician, Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister who took power after Bhutto lost power in 1996.

Benazir Bhutto: Trail of corruption and kickback charges still in wings for opposition leader, via Sigmund, Carl and Alfred

British Islamists Celebrate Bhutto Murder

Ali Eteraz writes on Pakistan Renewal in the Wake of Bhutto Killing

The techniques of terrorism: no holds barred

Al Qaeda Opens a New Front

American, Pakistan Officials Probe Possibility of ISI Assistance AQ In Assassination; Bhutto Shot By Five Snipers?

More on Bhutto this morning.

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Links for a Friday afternoon, and General Petraeus’s letter

Friday, December 28th, 2007

Snapped Shot introduced Rageman yesterday, and today, ready for New Year’s Eve weekend, he’s got (drumroll, please!) the Rageman parody roundup and photoshop contest.

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I’m undecided on any candidates, but Beth, Rick, Jay, Kevin and others are holding the Fred blogburst.
Here’s Fred’s new ad

Fred thanks the bloggers

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Just so Pat Hynes doesn’t get mad at me, here’s McCain’s latest ad,

Will the Fred people and the McCain people get mad at me nowfor carrying both ads?
Let’s hope not!

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Cinnamon posts Of Tigers, Zoos, and Captivity
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Last, but not least,
General David Petraeus’s End Of Year Letter To The Troops

“A Great Deal Has Been Achieved In 2007″


28 December 2007

Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and Civilians of Multi-National Force-Iraq:

As 2007 draws to a close, you should look back with pride on what you, your fellow troopers, our Iraqi partners, and Iraqi Coalition civilians have achieved in 2007. A year ago, Iraq was racked by horrific violence and on the brink of civil war. Now, levels of violence and civilians and military casualties are significantly reduced and hope has been rekindled in many Iraqi communities. To be sure, the progress is reversible and there is much more to be done. Nonetheless, the hard-fought accomplishments of 2007 have been substantial, and I want to thank each of you for the contributions you made to them.

In response to the challenges that faced Iraq a year ago, we and our Iraqi partners adopted a new approach. We increased our focus on securing the Iraqi people and, in some cases, delayed transition of tasks to Iraqi forces. Additional U.S. and Georgian forces were deployed to theater, the tours of U.S. unites were extended, and Iraqi forces conducted a surge of their own, generating well over 100,000 more Iraqi police and soldiers during the year so that they, too, had additional forces to execute the new approach. In places like Ramadi, Baqubah, Arab Jabour, and Baghdad, you and our Iraqi brothers fought—often house by house, block by block, and neighborhood by neighborhood—to wrest sanctuaries away from Al Qaeda-Iraq, to disrupt extremist militia elements, and to rid the streets of mafia-like criminals. Having cleared areas, you worked with Iraqis to retain them—establishing outposts in the areas we were securing, developing Iraqi Security Forces, and empowering locals to help our efforts. This approach has not been easy. It has required steadfastness in the conduct of tough offensive operations, creative solutions to the myriad problems on the ground, and persistence over the course of many months and during countless trying situations. Through it all, you have proven equal to every task, continually demonstrating an impressive ability to conduct combat and stability operations in an exceedingly complex environment.

Your accomplishments have given the Iraqi people new confidence and prompted many citizens to reject terror and confront those who practice it. As the months passed in 2007, in fact, the tribal awakening that began in Al Anbar Province spread to other parts of the country. Emboldened by improving security and tired of indiscriminate violence, extremist ideology, oppressive practices, and criminal activity, Iraqis increasingly rejected Al Qaeda-Iraq and rogue militia elements. Over time, the desire of Iraqis to contribute to their own security has manifested itself in citizens volunteering for the police, the Army, and concerned local citizen programs. It has been reflected in citizens providing information that has helped us find far more than double the number of arms and weapons caches we found last year. And it has been apparent in Iraqi communities now supporting their local security forces.

As a result of your hard work and that of our Iraqi comrades-in-arms—and with the support of the local populace in many areas—we have seen significant improvements in the security situation. The number of attacks per week is down some 60 percent from a peak in June of this year to a level last seen consistently in the early summer of 2005. With fewer attacks, we are also seeing significantly reduced loss of life. The number of civilian deaths is down by some 75 percent since its height a year ago, dropping to a level not seen since the beginning of 2006. And the number of Coalition losses is down substantially as well. We remain mindful that the past year’s progress has been purchased through the sacrifice and selfless service of all those involved and that the new Iraq must still contend with innumerable enemies and obstacles. Al Qaeda-Iraq has been significantly degraded, but it remains capable of horrific bombings. Militia extremists have been disrupted, but they retain influence in many areas. Criminals have been apprehended, but far too many still roam Iraqi streets and intimidate local citizens and Iraqi officials. We and our Iraqi partners will have to deal with each of these challenges in the New Year to keep the situation headed in the right direction.

While the progress in a number of areas is fragile, the security improvements have significantly changed the situation in many parts of Iraq. It is now imperative that we take advantage of these improvements by looking beyond the security arena and helping Iraqi military and political leaders as they develop solutions in other areas as well, solutions they can sustain over time. At the tactical level, this means an increasing focus on helping not just Iraqi Security Forces—with whom we must partner in all that we do—but also helping Iraqi governmental organizations as they endeavor to restore basic services, to create employment opportunities, to revitalize local markets, to refurbish schools, to spur local economic activity, and to keep locals involved in contributing to local security. We will have to do all of this, of course, while continuing to draw down our forces, thinning our presence, and gradually handing over responsibilities to our Iraqi partners. Meanwhile, at the national level, we will focus on helping the Iraqi Government integrate local volunteers into the Iraqi Security Forces and other employment, develop greater ministerial capacity and capability, aid displaced persons as they return, and, most importantly, take the all-important political and economic actions needed to exploit the opportunity provided by the gains in the security arena.

The pace of progress on important political actions to this point has been slower than Iraqi leaders had hoped. Still, there have been some important steps taken in recent months. Iraq’s leaders reached agreement on the Declaration of Principles for Friendship and Cooperation with the United States, which lays the groundwork for an enduring relationship between our nations. The United Nations Security Council approved Iraq’s request for a final renewal of the resolution that authorizes the Coalition to operate in Iraq. Iraq’s leaders passed an important Pension Law that not only extends retirement benefits to Iraqis previously left out but also represents the first of what we hope will be additional measures fostering national reconciliation. And Iraq’s leaders have debated at length a second reconciliation-related measure, the Accountability and Justice Bill (the de-Ba’athification Reform Law), as well as the 2008 National Budget, both which likely will be brought up for a vote in early 2008. Even so, all Iraqi participants recognize that much more must be done politically to put their country on an irreversible trajectory to national reconciliation and sustainable economic development. We will, needless to say, work closely with our Embassy teammates to support the Iraq Government as it strives to take advantage of the improved security environment by pursing political and economic progress.

The New Year will bring many changes. Substantial force rotations and adjustments already underway will continue. One Army brigade combat team and a Marine Expeditionary Unit have already redeployed without replacement. In the coming months, four additional brigades and two Marine battalions will follow suit. Throughout that time, we will continue to adapt to the security situation as it evolves. And in the midst of all the changes, we and our Iraqi partners will strive to maintain the momentum, to press the fight, and to pursue Iraq’s enemies relentlessly. Solutions to many of the tough problems will continue to be found at your level, together with local Iraqi leaders and with your Iraqi Security Force partners, in company and battalion areas of operation and in individual neighborhoods an towns. As you and your Iraqi partners turn concepts into reality, additional progress will emerge slowly and fitfully. Over time, we will gradually see fewer bad days and accumulate more good days, good weeks, and good months.

The way ahead will not be easy. Inevitably, there will be more tough days and tough weeks. Unforeseen challenges will emerge. And success will require continued hard work, commitment, and initiative from all involved. As we look to the future, however, we should remember how far we have come in the past year. Thanks to the tireless efforts and courageous actions of the Iraqi people, Iraq’s political and military leaders, the Iraqi Security Forces, and each of you, a great deal has been achieved in 2007. Thus, as we enter a new year, we and our Iraqi partners will have important accomplishments and a newfound sense of hope on which we can build.

As always, all or your leaders, our fellow citizens back home, and I deeply appreciate the dedication, professionalism, commitment, and courage you display on a daily basis. It remains the greatest of honors to serve with each of you in this critical endeavor.

Sincerely,
David H. Petraeus
General, United State Army
Commanding

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Hillary’s idea of a conversation: no questions allowed

Friday, December 28th, 2007

When Hillary Clinton launched her campaign she was saying that she was starting “a conversation.” Well, like everything else Clinton, it all depends on what “conversation” means.

Clinton’s “don’t ask” policy

As she races through Iowa in the days before next week’s caucuses, Hillary Clinton is taking few chances. She tells crowds that it’s their turn to “pick a president,” but over the last two days she has not invited them to ask her any questions.

Before the brief Christmas break, the New York senator had been setting aside time after campaign speeches to hear from the audience. Now when she’s done speaking, her theme songs blare from loudspeakers, preventing any kind of public Q&A.

The no-questions-allowed extends to the most obvious questions; for instance,

She was no more inviting when a television reporter approached her after a rally on Thursday and asked if she was “moved” by Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. Clinton turned away without answering.

Considering that her campaign release actually said that Hillary had known Bhutto “over many years”, the least Hillary could have done was to express some sympathy.

Unless she feared being caught in a lie, again. Sweetness and Light points out that all the contact Hillary had with Benezir came down to “an official luncheon and a little ‘private conversation’ afterwards”.

Iowans certainly should ask themselves why Hillary feels she cannot handle extemporaneous questions — especially after the revelations of planted questions at earlier events.

A moratorium on questions certainly won’t dispel her image as

haughty, arrogant, and ill-tempered. And a liar, too boot.

UPDATE
Via Gateway Pundit,

Now imagine if Laura Bush had been the one coming up with the lies…

UPDATE, Monday 31 December:
When it comes to Chelsea, Mum’s the word on Mom.

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