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How does $8.8 billion disappear without much of a clue of where it went? Well... it's complicated.

A preview of Paul Bremer's testimony tomorrow morning, from Mike Allen of The Politico:

L. Paul Bremer III, former administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, plans to point to unexpectedly chaotic conditions in post-Saddam Baghdad as he defends his record at a hearing on Iraq spending before House Democrats on Tuesday, according to sources familiar with his testimony...

Bremer, the civilian in charge of all of Iraq from May 2003 to June 2004, told Politico he looks forward to committee members' questions, but also plans to give them a 5,000- to 6,000-word treatise in addition to his five-minute opening statement....

Bremer calls his longer, written statement "a more extensive explanation of the circumstances we faced on the ground and how we tried to deal with those circumstances - how they complicated everything we did."


If Bremer's got nothing more than that up his sleeve, it's going to be a long, long hearing for him.

Also testifying will be Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (Bremer's nemesis), and David Oliver, the Former Director of Management and Budget from the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Let the media frenzy begin:

The federal judge presiding over the trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby ruled this morning that the public is entitled to hear audiotapes of Libby's testimony before the grand jury that investigated the 2003 leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity....

Defense attorney William H. Jeffress Jr. argued this morning that access to Libby's grand jury testimony by the public and the press should be restricted to written transcripts, not the tapes themselves.

"It is great stuff, and all of the radio stations and television stations will be broadcasting soundbites," Jeffress said. "There will be commentary."

Jeffress noted that the judge has warned jurors to avoid all news during the trial. Still, Jeffress said, the news generated by the tapes -- and the public buzz about them -- could be so extreme that there was a risk jurors could accidentally encounter it, perhaps while riding buses or the Metro.

While the Senate roils over the Levin-Warner kinda-sorta-anti-surge resolution today, one of the most important elements of the White House's Iraq plan remains unclear: the dual chain of command in place for U.S. and Iraqi soldiers.

President Bush announced on January 10 that the Iraqis would appoint an overall Baghdad commander and two subordinate commanders for Iraqi units across the nine Baghdad districts. Those commanders would be responsible for the expected 18 Army and Police brigades to be deployed throughout the capital -- who would work alongside the surged U.S. forces under the command of General David Petraeus.

Not many observers understood how this would actually work, but practically all worried about violating unity of command -- a military necessity for any successful operation. The Army's Operations Field Manual, 100-5, states clearly:

At all levels of war, employment of military forces in a manner that masses combat power toward a common objective requires unity of command and unity of effort. Unity of command means that all the forces are under one responsible commander. It requires a single commander with the requisite authority to direct all forces in pursuit of a unified purpose.


As it stands now, however, the surge possesses no such harmony. Even one of its intellectual architects, retired Army General Jack Keane, testified on January 25 that "it makes no sense to you, it makes no sense to me, but that's exactly what we're going to do, and that'll be a problem for Petraeus and his commanders to sort out."

And for his part, during his January 23 confirmation hearing, Petraeus promised to work with his subordinate commander, Lt. General Ray Odierno, to figure out how to harmonize the command structure. Sen. John Warner (R-VA), bluntly told the incoming Central Command chief, Admiral William Fallon, that unity of command "has to be clarified."

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...to such a sweet parking spot. From Roll Call's Heard on the Hill column (sub. req.):

As an incredulous HOH tipster put it — under the subject line “WTF?” — “Katherine Harris still parks her $100,000 BMW convertible in the Cannon HOB parking garage.”

HOH believes the value of Harris’ lovely BMW 645ci convertible coupe is probably more like $70,000, but he can confirm that the ex-lawmaker has indeed been parking it regularly in the Cannon House Office Building since she lost her day job. The car was there Friday evening, in the same spot where she always parked when she actually worked in that building.

Is that kosher? The car still had a medallion hanging in it from the 109th Congress, and a House Administration aide said Friday that House officials were still in the process of distributing parking permits for the 110th Congress. So for now, cars with permits from the 109th are being allowed in the garages. After that, Harris may have to find somewhere else to park the car when she’s visiting her old digs. HOH misses her already.


Harris was, of course, last spotted handing out business cards before the State of The Union address. Business cards for what, however, we don't know, since our determined efforts to procure one came up empty. So if anyone happened to get one....

Senators Still Unclear on Arar Rendition After a top-secret meeting, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) said they still have more questions than answers about why Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen whom U.S. authorities rendered to Syria, where he says he was tortured, is still on the no-fly list. (Globe and Mail)

Continue below for the rest of the day's muck...

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It's that most wonderful time of the year: budget roll-out day. This year's massive budget is the first in which spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- $100 billion through September; and then $145 billion through 2008 -- is embedded into the total defense appropriation, as opposed to masking the price through so-called "supplemental" funding later in the year.

But don't expect an end to appropriations-based chicanery. Even though the new Democratic Congress is sure to embed any number of restrictions on the war into the language of the next defense bill, President Bush has an important arrow in his quiver for doing what he wants outside of the budget process: signing statements, his constitutionally-murky declarations of how he intends to implement a law. And if last year's defense bill is any indication, he's set to use them.

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Since there were two pieces today that just have to be read side by side, today's must read is a twofer.

First up, The Washington Post on Gen. David H. Petraeus' circle of war doctors, a brilliant, independent-minded bunch of PhDs whom he's brought together to steer U.S. strategy in Iraq. "Essentially, the Army is turning the war over to its dissidents," Thomas Ricks writes, "who have criticized the way the service has operated there the past three years, and is letting them try to wage the war their way."

Among the "Petraeus Guys," as they're called, all "military officers with doctorates from top-flight universities and combat experience in Iraq," there's Petraeus (PhD, Princeton), Col. Michael J. Meese (PhD, Princeton), Australian Army. Lt. Col. David Kilcullen (who holds a PhD in anthropology), Col. Peter R. Mansoor (PhD, Ohio State), Col. H.R. McMaster (PhD, Univ. North Carolina), and other advisors, like Lt. Col. Douglas A. Ollivant (PhD in political science) and Ahmed S. Hashim (PhD, MIT).

Their job: "to reverse the effects of four years of conventional mind-set fighting an unconventional war," as an officer puts it to Ricks.

Meanwhile, in Iraq...

A growing number of Iraqis blamed the United States on Sunday for creating conditions that led to the worst single suicide bombing in the war, which devastated a Shiite market in Baghdad the day before. They argued that the Americans had been slow in completing the vaunted new American security plan, making Shiite neighborhoods much more vulnerable to such horrific attacks....

In advance of the plan, which would flood Baghdad with thousands of new American and Iraqi troops, many Mahdi Army checkpoints were dismantled and its leaders were either in hiding or under arrest, which was one of the plan’s intended goals to reduce sectarian fighting. But with no immediate influx of new security forces to fill the void, Shiites say, Sunni militants and other anti-Shiite forces have been emboldened to plot the type of attack that obliterated the bustling Sadriya market on Saturday, killing at least 135 people and wounding more than 300 from a suicide driver’s truck bomb....

Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the American military spokesman in Iraq, called for patience as the new security plan rolls out. “Give the government and coalition forces a chance to fully implement it,” he said in remarks carried by several news agencies.

His comments, however, came as more than a dozen mortar shells crashed on Adhamiya, a Sunni area of eastern Baghdad, in what appeared to be an act of retaliation by Shiites. At least 15 people were killed and more than 56 wounded, an Interior Ministry official said.

Clashes in western Baghdad between Sunni and Shiite militias left 7 dead and 11 wounded, and the authorities found 35 bodies throughout the city, many showing signs of torture.

From the AP:

The head of meatpacker Swift & Co. said federal officials wanted a high-profile example of an immigration crackdown when they staged raids at its plants in six states, including Minnesota, in an identity theft investigation late last year.

ICE arrested 1,282 workers during raids in Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Iowa and Minnesota. Of those, 246 now face state or federal identity theft charges and the rest face immigration charges.

President and CEO Sam Rovit said the government rejected the company's offer to help in the investigation months before the Dec. 12 raids.

"They were looking for a marquee to show the administration it was tough on immigration,'' he told the Greeley Tribune for a story published Friday.


Here's a reminder of the toll of this demonstration.

The Washington Post reports on the administration's purge of federal prosecutors this morning and finds that the call for the move came, shockingly, from outside the Justice Department:

One administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in discussing personnel issues, said the spate of firings was the result of "pressure from people who make personnel decisions outside of Justice who wanted to make some things happen in these places."


In other words, the pressure to replace the prosecutors did not come from the people who would know about the U.S. Attorneys' job performance (their supervisors at the Justice Department), but rather from power players in the White House or Republican Party. That would explain why the seven federal prosecutors purged in December were not given a reason for their dismissals -- and why justifications for the firings have sounded like lame rationalizations.

This fits, of course, with McClatchy's finding last week that the Bush administration, in a break with the practice of prior administrations, has been placing conservative loyalists in U.S. Attorney spots across the country. Instead of nominating local, qualified attorneys whose philosophy jibes with the administration (as was the traditional practice), the nomination of U.S. Attorneys has been subsumed into the Republican Party's political machine. Apparently the title of U.S. Attorney is just too attractive a resumé-fattener to dole out helter-skelter. And while you're fattening the resumés of possible future stars of the party, it can't hurt to knock out a prosecutor who was doing considerable damage to the party.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will be holding a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue Tuesday called, "Preserving Prosecutorial Independence: Is the Department of Justice Politicizing the Hiring and Firing of U.S. Attorneys?" Let's see if he comes up with an answer.

When decadent neoconservatives lose political battles over the war, the results aren't pretty. The byline here reads Bill Kristol, but the words could very well have come from Shakespeare's Richard III (like, say, Act V, Scene IV):

John Warner of Virginia, Gordon Smith of Oregon, and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine are the four Republican senators (in addition to Nebraska's Chuck Hagel) currently signed on to the Democrats' anti-surge, anti-Petraeus, anti-troops, and anti-victory resolution.


That's right: a nonbinding anti-surge resolution is an act against the troops.

Oh, and there's more. Kristol threatens dire political consequences to all anti-surge GOP senators... challenges from "victory-oriented" Republicans:

In any case, Republican senators up for reelection in 2008 might remember this: The American political system has primaries as well as general elections. In 1978 and 1980, as Reagan conservatives took over the party from détente-establishment types, Reaganite challengers ousted incumbent GOP senators in New Jersey and New York. Surely there are victory-oriented Republicans who might step forward today in Nebraska, Virginia, Oregon, and Maine--and, if necessary, in Tennessee, Minnesota, and New Hampshire--to seek to vindicate the honor, and brighten the future, of the party of Reagan.


Democratic political consultants must be popping champagne corks.

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