Monday, October 09, 2006

Morning News Roundup (09 October)

Whew... I think Mrs. F and I escaped from our weekend with the kids (M & C) fairly unscathed, but boy do I feel like I got my butt kicked. Hence, a little tardiness with the morning news roundup (which will be a little shortened)

Big Bang
  • Four and a half years ago, George W. Bush used his State of the Union address to warn that North Korea, Iran and Iraq constituted an "axis of evil" that threatened the "peace of the world." The president said then that the United States would "do what is necessary" to ensure global security. "I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer," he said. "The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."

    One of them just did. [Salon's War Room]

    Pyongyang announced that it successfully conducted a nuclear test this morning in the remote province of Hamgyeong. Geologists from South Korea, Russia, and the U.S. recorded earthquake-level tremors in the region. If confirmed, the test would be the first of such kind since 1998, when Pakistan detonated an underground nuke. [Foreign Policy's Passport]

  • A number of senior U.S. officials have said privately that they would welcome a North Korean test, regarding it as a clarifying event that would forever end the debate within the Bush administration about whether to solve the problem through diplomacy or through tough actions designed to destabilize North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's grip on power.

    Now U.S. officials will push for tough sanctions at the U.N. Security Council, and are considering a raft of largely unilateral measures, including stopping and inspecting every ship that goes in and out of North Korea. [WaPo]

  • In State of Denial, Bob Woodward recounts a conversation between then-Gov. George W. Bush and then-Saudi ambassador to the U.S. Prince Bandar, in which Bush wonders why he should care about North Korea. “I get these briefings on all parts of the world,” Bush said, “and everybody is talking to me about North Korea.” [ThinkProgress]

  • As Glenn Kessler writes in the Washington Post this morning, North Korea's latest actions "may well be regarded as a failure of the Bush administration's nuclear nonproliferation policy." That's an understatement, a point Kessler makes plain as he lays out the relevant history:

    "When Bush became president in 2000, Pyongyang's reactor was frozen under a 1994 agreement with the United States. Clinton administration officials thought they were so close to a deal limiting North Korean missiles that in the days before he left office, Bill Clinton seriously considered making the first visit to Pyongyang by a U.S. president. But conservatives had long been deeply skeptical of the deal freezing North Korea's program -- known as the Agreed Framework -- in part because it called for building two light-water nuclear reactors (largely funded by the Japanese and South Koreans). When then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell publicly said in early 2001 that he favored continuing Clinton's approach, Bush rebuked him."

    That's just the beginning of the story; if anyone needs a primer on how we got to where we are today, Kessler's piece is as good as any. The short version of the rest of it: "Bush carried a deep, visceral hatred of Kim [Jong Il] and his dictatorial regime ... missile negotiations ended ... no talks were held between senior U.S. and North Korean officials for nearly two years ... the Bush administration, hampered by internal disputes, struggled to fashion a diplomatic effort ... talks largely stalled ... Bush administration officials ... argued that a confrontational approach would finally bring North Korea to heel."

    It's probably too early to say that the United States is the one that has been brought to heel, but neither can anyone say that George W. Bush is walking Iraq, Iran or North Korea around on the end of his leash just now. Oh, and by the way, has anyone seen Osama bin Laden lately? [more from the above Salon War Room post]

BushCo's Wars
  • Yesterday, James A. Baker, the Republican co-chairman of a bipartisan panel reassessing Iraq strategy for President Bush, said he “absolutely” agrees with Sen. John Warner’s (R-VA) recent remarks on setting a timetable for redeployment from Iraq. “[T]here are alternatives between the stated alternatives... of ’stay the course’ and ‘cut and run,’” said Baker. [ThinkProgress' ThinkFast]

  • U.S. troops engaged in ferocious clashes with militiamen loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in southern Iraq on Sunday, ratcheting up tensions between two of the most powerful forces in the country. "The American forces intend to launch a wide-scale operation against the Mahdi Army and will attempt to enter Sadr City," said Abdul Razaq al-Nadawi, the head of Sadr's office in Diwaniyah, referring to the Shiite Muslim cleric's stronghold in the capital. "This will have a very dangerous impact on security in Iraq." [WaPo]

  • The number of US troops being wounded in Iraq is now at its highest level for two years as American forces are confronted by increasing sectarian violence and a continuing insurgency. Figures released by the Pentagon show that 776 soldiers were wounded in action in Iraq last month.

    The September figure represents the fourth largest casualty rate since the US and UK invasion in the spring of 2003 and the largest since November 2004 when US forces were involved in a major offensive to clear the city of Fallujah. Some experts believe the number of wounded provides a better insight to the nature of the conflict in Iraq than the figure of 2,700 killed because - in relation to previous wars - many more wounded troops survive. [The Independent]

  • Altogether, the US military announced the deaths of 9 US troops over the weekend on Sunday. Four US troops were announced killed by a roadside bomb on Sunday. The NYT says, that in addition, "The military on Sunday announced the deaths of five more American service members. Three marines died Friday from “enemy action” in Anbar Province, in western Iraq. Two soldiers were killed Saturday, one in Mosul by a roadside bomb and the other in Baghdad by small arms fire." [Juan Cole's Informed Comment]

  • Iraqi police have suffered 4,000 killed and 8,000 wounded over the past two years as the fledgling force grapples with wartime problems including corruption and infiltration by sectarian militia, a U.S. commander said yesterday. [WaPo]

The Dark Cloud
  • Vice President Cheney sometimes starts speeches with a Ronald Reagan quotation about a "happy" nation needing "hope and faith." But not much happy talk follows. Not a lot of hope, either. He does, though, talk about the prospect of "mass death in the United States."

    The not-so-happy warrior of the past two campaign cycles is back on the road delivering a grim message about danger, defeatism and the stakes of the coming election. If it is not a joyful exercise, it is at least a relentless one. Even with poll ratings lower than President Bush's, Cheney has become a more ubiquitous presence on the campaign trail than in the last midterm election. [WaPo]

[ posted with ecto ]


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