Thursday, January 11, 2007

Morning News Roundup (11 January)

The Escalating Surge
  • US President George Bush is to send thousands more troops to Iraq to help secure Baghdad's streets as part of a new strategy to tackle the conflict. The key measures announced by Mr Bush include:
    • Raising troop numbers by more than 20,000
    • Improving Iraqi security forces' capacity to protect the civilian population
    • Setting political benchmarks for the Iraqi government
    • Funding a $1bn (£517m) aid and reconstruction programme to economically develop Iraq
    • Taking a tough stance towards Iran and Syria, whom Mr Bush accuses of destabilising its neighbour

    The Democrats have promised a non-binding vote in both houses of Congress on the strategy. [BBC]

  • Only months after he declared that the US could win the war in Iraq, Mr Bush, appearing somewhat chastened, admitted that the US strategy had failed, and that the administration had not anticipated the eruption of sectarian violence that now posed the gravest danger to Iraq.

    In a rare admission for a president famously averse to expressing regret, he fully accepted responsibility for that failure.

    "The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people - and it is unacceptable to me," he said in a prime-time address from the White House. "Where mistakes have been made the responsibility rests with me." [The Guardian]

  • A new Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted following the President's speech finds broad and strong opposition to his call to send about 21,500 more troops to Iraq: 61 percent oppose the force increase, with 52 percent "strongly" opposing the build-up. Thirty-six percent support the additional troops; only one-quarter of the public is strongly supportive. [WaPo]

  • The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has not publicly opposed the American troop increase, but aides to Mr. Maliki have been saying for weeks that the government is wary of the proposal. They fear that an increased American troop presence, particularly in Baghdad, will be accompanied by a more assertive American role that will conflict with the Shiite government’s haste to cut back on American authority and run the war the way it wants. American troops, Shiite leaders say, should stay out of Shiite neighborhoods and focus on fighting Sunni insurgents.

    “The government believes there is no need for extra troops from the American side,” Haidar al-Abadi, a Parliament member and close associate of Mr. Maliki, said Wednesday. “The existing troops can do the job.” [NYTimes]

  • Standing in the White House library--because his PR guides wanted him to seem "conservational"--the president delivered a long-in-the-hyping speech on Iraq on Wednesday night, and he conceded what the American people have already figured out: his war is not faring well. Shortly before the November elections, Bush declared, "we're winning" in Iraq. With public opinion polls showing that close to three-quarters of the nation disapprove of his handling of the war, Bush wanted to demonstrate that he, too, is aware that Iraq is a mess. So he said, "The situation in Iraq is...unacceptable to me....Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me." But here's the obvious question: given the president's history of false and misleading statements about the war and his record of poor decision-making related to the war, why should anyone accept anything he says or proposes now? He has no credibility--and far too long of a resume of failure. One speech--standing or sitting--will not make a difference in how Americans regard Bush and the war. [David Corn at The Nation]

  • If there's anything in the President Bush's remarks tonight that we didn't already know or didn't anticipate him saying militarily about Iraq, it is his evident willingness to go to war with Syria and Iran to seek peace.

    Speaking about the two countries tonight, the president said that the United States wiill "seek out and destroy" those who are providing material support to our enemies.

    It is only a threat. But it is a far cry from the diplomatic proposals floated just last month for making Syria and Iran part of the solution. Can the president really be saying that we are willing to risk war with the two countries, and even attack elements inside them, to achieve peace in Iraq? [William Arkin's Early Warning blog at the WaPo]

  • We have 140,000 troops (soon to be 20,000 more) sitting in a country that borders Iran and where Iran is operating, with an announced military build-up in the Persian Gulf imminent, increased war rhetoric from all sides, the beginning of actual skirmishes already, a reduction (if not elimination) on the existing constraints with which our military operates in Iraq, and a declaration by the President that Iran is our enemy in the current war.

    That makes unplanned -- or seemingly unplanned -- confrontations highly likely, whether through miscalculation, miscommunication, misperception, or affirmative deceit. Whatever else is true, given the stakes involved -- the unimaginable, impossible-to-overstate stakes -- and the fact that we are unquestionably moving forward on this confrontational path quite deliberately, this issue is receiving nowhere near the attention in our political discussions and media reports that it so urgently demands. [Glenn Greenwald]

Iraq's (Decidedly Uncivil) Civil War
  • Suicide bombers, planted explosives and mortar rounds killed at least 99 Iraqis and wounded 26 across the country Wednesday. The U.S. military said three American troops had been killed in Al Anbar province the day before.

    In downtown Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi troops continued to search for suspected guerrillas in the largely Sunni Arab Haifa Street neighborhood, making 15 arrests on the second day of an offensive, Iraqi officials said. The assault was launched Tuesday on fighters who had taken control of the three-mile stretch near the heavily fortified Green Zone, home to the Iraqi government and the U.S. Embassy. [LATimes]

BushCo's Wars
  • Tony Blair will announce within the next fortnight that almost 3,000 troops are to be cut from the current total of 7,200, allowing the military to recover from four years of battle that have left it severely overstretched.

    In what will be the first substantial cut of British troops serving in southern Iraq, their number will drop to 4,500 on May 31. The announcement will be made by the Prime Minister before he steps down from office as an intended signal of the achievements the British have made in Iraq -- albeit at the cost of 128 dead. [London Telegraph]

Climate Crisis
  • California will create the world's first global warming pollution standard for transportation fuels, ratcheting down fuel carbon content 10 percent by 2020 under a plan put forward by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Tuesday in his State of the State address.

    The new standard could have implications for the auto industry and change the way gasoline is produced around the globe. Environmentalists hailed it as a way to reduce one of the state's chief sources of greenhouse gas emissions and kick-start fledgling alternative fuel technologies. [SFChronic]

  • The European commission will call for "a new industrial revolution", promoting renewable energy and nuclear power to replace dwindling fossil fuels and combat climate change. With the commission setting a minimum target of a 20% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020, nuclear power is seen in yesterday's research as providing 30% of Europe's energy demand by 2050. Renewables such as wind power would provide slightly more than a fifth. But, in a low-carbon scenario, these two would fuel three-quarters of power generation, with half of the rest coming from plants with CO2 capture and storage. [The Guardian]

  • After a parent who supports the teaching of creationism and opposes sex education complained about the film, An Inconvenient Truth, the Federal Way School Board on Tuesday placed what it labeled a moratorium on showing the film. "Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He's not a schoolteacher," said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old. "The information that's being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. ... The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD." [Seattle P-I via my Hugg]

  • By the end of tomorrow the average Briton will have caused as much global warning as the typical Kenyan will over the whole of this year, according to a report. The World Development Movement (WDM), a poverty campaign group, has drawn up a "climate calendar" showing the dates when the UK will have emitted as much CO2 gas as other countries will in a year. Unsurprisingly, the poorest counties such as Chad, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo produce virtually no carbon emissions. Even populous countries such as India will be overtaken in its emissions by the UK in a month's time. [The Independent via my Hugg]


carbon_emission.jpg

Domestic Potpourri
  • In a report that may give the Republican Party pause, the Pew Research Center for People & the Press says its survey of young adults finds that fewer of them identify themselves as Republican or Republican-leaning than at any time since 1987. The non-partisan Pew study says 35% of people between ages 18 and 25–a group labeled Generation Next–identified or voted Republican in 2006, down from 38% in 2000 and a high of 55% in 1991. Nearly half identified more with the Democratic Party. [WSJ's Washington Wire]


And one more thing... the latest Sutton Impact:

Sutton Impact @ Village Voice

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