Colin Powell is probably the most articulate current voice of the small, sane wing of the Republican Party. And he has successfully put distance between himself and the Bush administration in terms of the public's esteem, even managing to maintain the respect of those of us who deeply disagreed with him on Iraq. But there are some things he just can't seem to do. Involving himself in the question of torture for war is apparently one of them. From journalist Sam Husseini:
Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, recently wrote:
“What I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 — well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion — its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa’ida.
But Powell isn't ready to go there:
Sam Husseini: General, can you talk about the al-Libi case and the link between torture and the production of tortured evidence for war?
SH: Can you tell us when you learned that some of the evidence that you used in front of the UN was based on torture? When did you learn that?
CP: I don’t know that. I don’t know what information you’re referring to. So I can’t answer.
SH: Your chief of staff, Wilkerson, has written about this.
CP: So what? [inaudible]
SH: So you’d think you’d know about it.
CP: The information I presented to the UN was vetted by the CIA. Every word came from the CIA and they stood behind all that information. I don’t know that any of them believe that torture was involved. I don’t know that in fact. A lot of speculation, particularly by people who never attended any of these meetings, but I’m not aware of it.
Powell seems to be somehow at odds with himself over his involvement in the former administration's policies: sorry he made the case for war at the U.N. without better facts, but somewhat defensive on the idea that he tried to make sure the facts were good before he made it. Perhaps the old soldier in him just can't go where Wilkerson is able to. Maybe he really does believe that the Iraq war was the right thing to do. Or maybe he's learning, along with the rest of us, the lengths his former colleague Dick Cheney and his band of neocons were willing to go to (including expending Powell's reputation for their cause) in order to have their war. Either that, or he's in deep denial.
Has CNN adopted an editorial policy of ignoring altogether, the finding reported last week by McClatchy, that the serial torture of "high value detainees" Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and Abu Zubaydah was done not to prevent another terrorist attack, but rather to try and extract false confessions that would tie Saddam Hussain to 9/11?
John King this morning (Sunday) had on Diane Feinstein, Lindsey Graham and the treacherous Mr. Lieberman to discuss, among other things, the release of the torture memos. Lieberman and Graham were allowed, unimpeded by King, to repeat the meme that "enhanced interrogation techniques" (torture) was used, in Graham's words, "not to commit a crime against individual people, but to save us all from another attack."
He interjected no such thing. In fact, I don't recall hearing the McClatchy story repeated on CNN in any daypart since the news broke last week. Has anyone else noticed what seems like an editorial decision to stick to the official (Bush-Cheney) narrative about torture being necessary to prevent another attack? Perhaps CNN simply doesn't believe McClatchy's sources, or maybe they don't want to open up this line of inquiry against the prior administration for reasons unknown.
(Not that NBC has been exactly aggressive, other than Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow's shows about making this point, either, but CNN seems to be particularly determined to hew to the Cheney line.)
The debate over the Bush administration's torture policies just got ratcheted up about 1,000 notches yesterday, when reporters, digging through the incredibly important Levin Report, discovered the following bombshell: the torture program may not have been about preventing another terror attack at all. It may, in the end, have been about trying to elicit false confessions from high value detainees that would produce "evidence" of a (non-existent) link between al-Qaida and Iraq. From McClatchy:
A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that [Dick] Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.
"There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used," the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.
"The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there."
It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.
"There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people to push harder," he continued.
"Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn't any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies."
Senior administration officials, however, "blew that off and kept insisting that we'd overlooked something, that the interrogators weren't pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information," he said.
The Red Chinese-style push (the Chinese used waterboarding to elicit false confessions from American G.I.'s during the Korean war, and then we adapted their techniques, using the military program that trained our soldiers to resist the communist interrogators) to get confessions out of Zubaida and Khalid Sheikh Muhammad was approved not just by Cheney and Rumsfeld, but also by Condoleezza Rice, then Bush's National Security Advisor. From NBC News:
Rice gave a key early green light when, as President George W. Bush's national security adviser, she met on July 17, 2002, with the CIA's then-director, George J. Tenet, and "advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation of Abu Zubaida," subject to approval by the Justice Department, according to the timeline.
Still don't believe that we were using torture the same way the Maoists did? Salon reports:
Top Rumsfeld aides were already laying the groundwork for torture barely two months after the 9/11 attacks, and just weeks into the war in Afghanistan. The Pentagon's general counsel's office contacted the military agency that runs the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape programs -- schools where U.S. personnel and contractors are taught how to resist abuses that prisoners of war have been through before -- in December 2001 to find out how the SERE training could help interrogators break al-Qaida suspects. Military officials at the time told top Pentagon aides that the SERE techniques produced "less reliable" information.
By the spring of 2002, Cabinet-level Bush aides -- including Rumsfeld, then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, then-CIA Director George Tenet and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft -- began evaluating the CIA's plans to set up an interrogation program at Guantánamo using tactics developed by the SERE schools. The Justice Department's memos giving legal cover for the techniques were written that summer. In October 2002, military commanders at Guantánamo asked the Pentagon to okay the techniques. Uniformed military lawyers had decided they needed approval from Rumsfeld, because otherwise what was being proposed would be illegal. "It would be advisable to have permission or immunity in advance" before carrying out the interrogations, wrote a staff lawyer at the Guantánamo base, Lt. Col. Diane Beaver. Her analysis found the tactics would constitute a "per se violation" of military law, the report says.
Meanwhile, the SERE trainers who taught the CIA how to torture people (when they themselves had no experience in interrogation -- only in training soldiers to resist interrogation) wound up as contractors in Iraq, making money on the Iraq war that they were essentially hired to foment:
On April 16, 2003, Rumsfeld authorized 24 techniques at Guantánamo including sleep deprivation, messing with detainees' diets and pretending the interrogators were from a different country -- one where torture was even more acceptable -- in order to scare them into cooperating. And he told commanders to ask him for permission to use additional techniques.
From there, it was only a matter of time before the tactics spread. "The techniques -- and the fact that the Secretary had authorized them -- became known to interlocutors in Afghanistan," the Senate report says. Rumsfeld's memos authorizing dogs in Guantánamo quickly arrived at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. SERE school trainers, who had developed the interrogation techniques at Gitmo, started showing up in Afghanistan and Iraq. The techniques became standard operating procedure.
Meanwhile, we now have definitive proof that the grunts from West Virginia weren't "bad apples" who cooked up the dog leash and naked stacking policies on their own:
The report, the executive summary of which was released in November, found that Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and other former senior Bush administration officials were responsible for the abusive interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo and in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld approved extreme interrogation techniques for Guantanamo in December 2002. He withdrew his authorization the following month amid protests by senior military lawyers that some techniques could amount to torture, violating U.S. and international laws.
Military interrogators, however, continued employing some techniques in Afghanistan and later in Iraq.
You begin to see why President Obama reversed course, surely knowing that now, he cannot just "look forward."
BTW, there's also a question of whether the SERE training was given to foreign nationals. A Spokane, Washington blogger who ordinarily focuses on crime posted this, back in 2007:
Fairchild AFB is home to a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Program. SERE Programs train soldiers, seaman, airmen, CIA operatives, and others–including foreign nationals–in resistance techniques. However, they also provide military and other government torturers, trainers, foreign nationals, contractors (aka US government mercenaries employed by corporations such as Blackwater, CACI International, Titan Corp, and SAIC) and psychologists, among others, the opportunity to develop, refine, practice and polish their torture techniques.
In their must-read June 29, 2007 Spokesman-Review article, reporters Karen Dorn Steele and Bill Morlin reveal that “the SERE program is used by the Army at Fort Bragg, where Green Berets train, and at the U.S. Air Force Survival School near Spokane, where thousands of other trainees are instructed annually.” Using first-hand reporting and research as well as reporting from sources such as the New Yorker and Salon.com, Dorn Steele and Morlin reveal the role of Spokane area psychologists and businesses in the U.S. government’s reverse-engineering of torture resistance training.
These techniques of torture–witnessed at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other U.S. facilities around the world–have been employed by the U.S. government, military, intelligence agencies, contractors and foreign agents with the express purpose of breaking human beings as part of the global U.S. “war on terror”. That so-called “war on terror” has produced worldwide denunciations of U.S. preemptive attacks, massacres of civilians, torture, disappearances, use of “depleted” uranium, and other actions which are illegal under international standards and laws.
As the memo shows, foreign government representatives from the U.S. government’s Iraq “coalition” partners participated in the two conferences as did three representatives from each of the FBI, DEA, and CIA. In point of fact, the facility has all the markings of a CIA facility such as those at Warrenton, VA and other locations in the U.S. (compare the similarity between the facility maps by clicking the respective links above).
On September 16, 2002, a prior SERE Psychologist Conference was hosted by the Army Special Operations Command and the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency at Fort Bragg for JTF-170 (the military component responsible for interrogations at Guantanamo) interrogation personnel. The Army’s Behavioral Science Consultation Team from Guantanamo Bay also attended the conference. Joint Personnel Recovery Agency personnel briefed JTF-170 representatives on the exploitation and methods used in resistance (to interrogation) training at SERE schools. The purpose was the reverse engineering of interrogation resistance to design more “effective” torture techniques. (See “Shrinks and the SERE Techniques at Guantanamo“)
The torture program was not about terrorism. It was about invading Iraq. This relentless neocon and Cheney/Halliburton obsession with toppling (and bumping off) former CIA asset Saddam Hussein, and turning his country into a cash cow.
The cost of 'liberation': about 1 million Iraqis dead
George W. Bush will probably go to his grave spouting neocon claptrap about being the great liberator of Iraq -- about the more than 4,000 dead from American forces alone (more than were killed in the World Trade Center and Pentagon, plus United 93 combined, on 9/11...) was well worth it because we, the Americans, "liberated" Iraq from Saddam Hussein. Well, I wonder how the Iraqis feel about their "liberation." And how will they feel as the death toll is counted?
The numbers are shocking, though not unexpected. Alternet reports that in counting the war's human costs:
We have a better grasp of the human costs of the war. For example, the United Nations estimates that there are about 4.5 million displaced Iraqis -- more than half of them refugees -- or about one in every six citizens. Only 5 percent have chosen to return to their homes over the past year, a period of reduced violence from the high levels of 2005-07. The availability of healthcare, clean water, functioning schools, jobs and so forth remains elusive. According to Unicef, many provinces report that less than 40 percent of households have access to clean water. More than 40 percent of children in Basra, and more than 70 percent in Baghdad, cannot attend school.
The mortality caused by the war is also high. Several household surveys were conducted between 2004 and 2007. While there are differences among them, the range suggests a congruence of estimates. But none have been conducted for eighteen months, and the two most reliable surveys were completed in mid-2006. The higher of those found 650,000 "excess deaths" (mortality attributable to war); the other yielded 400,000. The war remained ferocious for twelve to fifteen months after those surveys were finished and then began to subside. Iraq Body Count, a London NGO that uses English-language press reports from Iraq to count civilian deaths, provides a means to update the 2006 estimates. While it is known to be an undercount, because press reports are incomplete and Baghdad-centric, IBC nonetheless provides useful trends, which are striking. Its estimates are nearing 100,000, more than double its June 2006 figure of 45,000. (It does not count nonviolent excess deaths -- from health emergencies, for example -- or insurgent deaths.) If this is an acceptable marker, a plausible estimate of total deaths can be calculated by doubling the totals of the 2006 household surveys, which used a much more reliable and sophisticated method for estimates that draws on long experience in epidemiology. So we have, at present, between 800,000 and 1.3 million "excess deaths" as we approach the six-year anniversary of this war.
This gruesome figure makes sense when reading of claims by Iraqi officials that there are 1-2 million war widows and 5 million orphans. This constitutes direct empirical evidence of total excess mortality and indirect, though confirming, evidence of the displaced and the bereaved and of general insecurity. The overall figures are stunning: 4.5 million displaced, 1-2 million widows, 5 million orphans, about 1 million dead -- in one way or another, affecting nearly one in two Iraqis.
Meanwhile, the Iraqis are becoming more like us every day. Turnout in the recent national elections was only about 50 percent. According to AfterDowningStreet, the coming victory of Nuri al-Maliki's Dawa Party is seen by Iraqis as the best option to end the American occupation. But the turnout also reflected a dispirited nation:
Interviews suggest that the low voter turnout also is an indication of Iraqi disenchantment with a democracy that, so far, has brought them very little.
Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and the fall of a brutal dictator, Iraqis witnessed unprecedented violence in their nation and what they believe is humiliation under a foreign occupation. Even on Saturday, U.S. tanks could be spotted across Baghdad on largely empty roads.
Following elections in 2005 Iraq spiraled into a sectarian war. People cowered in their homes while others literally killed each other in the streets. Many here feel the people they elected were party to or were at least complicit in the violence. The security forces too were feared as sectarian death squads and Iraqis also believed that American raids or passing U.S. tanks sometimes resulted in innocent civilian deaths.
Many blame the U.S. presence in Iraq for sowing the seeds of sectarianism by bringing back exiles to rule them.
And still more evidence of the Bush-Americanization of Iraq:
Beyond the disillusionment, thousands of potential voters were unable to cast ballots Saturday because official voter lists did not contain their names. Street protests resulted.
Has anybody seen Karl Rove, and does he have an alibi...?
Throw a shoe at Dubya, get a parade. Well maybe not exactly a parade, but lots of support for sure, even from our supposed friends in the Middle East...
Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to demand the release of a reporter who threw his shoes at President George Bush during a press conference.
Protesters hailed the journalist as a hero and praised his insult as a proper send-off to the US president.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who was kidnapped by Shiite militants last year, was being held by Iraqi security and interrogated about whether anybody paid him to throw his shoes at Bush during Sunday's press conference in Baghdad, said an Iraqi official. He was also being tested for alcohol and drugs, and his shoes were being held as evidence, said the official.
Showing the sole of your shoe to someone in the Arab world is a sign of extreme disrespect, and throwing your shoes is even worse.
Newspapers across the Arab world printed front-page photos of Bush ducking the flying shoes, and satellite TV stations repeatedly aired the incident, which provided fodder for jokes and was hailed by the president's many critics in the region.
"Iraq considers Sunday as the international day for shoes," said a joking text message circulating around the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Palestinian journalists in the West Bank town of Ramallah joked about who would be brave enough to toss their shoes at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, another US official widely disliked in the region.
Many users of the popular internet networking site Facebook posted the video of the incident to their profile pages, showing al-Zeidi leap from his chair as Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki were about to shake hands and hurl his shoes at the president, who was about 20 feet away. Bush ducked the airborne footwear and was not injured in the incident.
"This is a farewell kiss, you dog," al-Zeidi yelled in Arabic as he threw his shoes. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."
Sorry, but that "airborne footwear" bit is priceless. And I thought the Saudis were our pals! (eyes rolling...)
... from the New York Daily News. Not to be outdone by their bonus online headline: "Shoe-icide attack." How droll.
And now, seven of the top ten reasons the shoe in the face incident was "totally awesome"
1. Because before the shoe was even thrown by Iraqi reporter Muntadar al-Zaidi, George Bush went in for a straight-on fraternity-style handshake with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. 2. Because shoe-throwing (along with calling someone a dog, which al-Zaidi also did) is one of the most offensive insults an Iraqi Arab can hurl. After the fall of Baghdad, the United States government made much ado about those seemingly trumped-up videos of children throwing shoes at the fallen statue of Saddam Hussein. It's not awesome to see our president attacked, but it does neatly complete the circle, doesn't it? 3. Because al-Maliki totally tried to deflect the second shoe. 4. But he didn't try that hard. 5. Because George Bush was kind of laughing throughout the whole thing. 6. Because the other Iraqi reporters immediately jumped in to stop the shoe attacks. 7. But the Secret Service took their sweet, sweet time to take the guy down.
Read the other three reasons for yourself, right here on the New Yorker website.
Meanwhile, if Mr. Al-Zeidi, who is now a bonafide celebrity in the Muslim world, is harshly punished ... say, tortured... by Iraqi security forces, does that mean we really didn't change much in Iraq?
How much does it suck being George W. Bush right now?
You make a surprise trip to Baghdad to burnish your "legacy" and some Iraqi guy throws a shoe (or two) at you:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A man identified as an Iraqi journalist threw shoes at -- but missed -- President Bush during a news conference Sunday evening in Baghdad, where Bush was making a farewell visit.
Bush ducked, and the shoes, flung one at a time, sailed past his head during the news conference with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in his palace in the heavily fortified Green Zone.
The shoe-thrower -- identified as Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist with Egypt-based al-Baghdadia television network -- could be heard yelling in Arabic: "This is a farewell ... you dog!"
While pinned on the ground by security personnel, he screamed: "You killed the Iraqis!"
Al-Zaidi was dragged away. While al-Zaidi was still screaming in another room,Bush said: "That was a size 10 shoe he threw at me, you may want to know."
Hurling shoes at someone, or sitting so that the bottom of a shoe faces another person, is considered an insult among Muslims.
Yeah, I think it's pretty much an insult in any religious tradition... Now of course, it wouldn't be a proper CNN scoop without 4 minutes of commentary by our favorite Aussie, Michael Ware (he broke the story on CNN). And catch George W. Bush's explanation of the incident (spoiler alert! He says "so what if somebody threw a shoe at me???" Hilarious!) Watch:
You really can't make this stuff up!
Oh, and I wonder why an Arab journalist would have a problem with Dubya ... hm... could it be ... Abu Ghraib? up to 1 million Iraqis killed in the war? The illegality of the war itself? The suffering the Iraqi people continue to endure in the advent of war? 2 million Iraqi refugees? Torture at Guantanamo? Need I go on?
Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, the top cadre in GWB's "coalition of the willing," Great Britain, is left to exit the country in a lump. Or as the Times of London puts it:
Britain faces humiliating Iraq withdrawal
British Forces will leave Iraq by the end of next July under a humiliating proposal that lumps the once-valued deployment with five smaller contingents, including those of Romania, El Salvador and Estonia.
Even as President Bush paid a surprise farewell visit to Baghdad yesterday to celebrate the passage of a bilateral accord with Iraq, Britain faced being only a part of a shared military pact after negotiators ran out of time to seal country-specific deals.
Under the US-Iraq status of forces agreement, drawn up after nine months of heated negotiation, US forces will leave within three years. The deal for Britain and the others was described by Muwafaq al-Rubaie, Iraq’s National Security Adviser, as a “mini-agreement for the six entities”.
The proposed legislation states that all duties performed by the contingents, which include 42 Australian officers and 200 troops from 15 Nato countries, as well as the larger British presence, must stop by the end of May. “There will be two months’ grace for the forces to leave Iraq by July 31,” Fawzi Hariri, the Iraqi Industry Minister, said. “There was no way we could have done a security agreement to the same level of detail that we had with the Americans in such a short period.”
... Grouping Britain with contingents such as Estonia, which has only 36 soldiers in Iraq, and El Salvador, with a mere 200, is a far cry from the start of the invasion when British Forces were second in importance only to those of the US.
Meanwhile, British forces suffered a loss as a 13-year-old Iraqi child blew himself up, killing four British troops in Afghanistan.
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the Bush administration "conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees," claims a Senate Armed Services Committee report issued Thursday.
According to the committee, prisoners were tortured in the Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib, the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other US military installations. Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) were responsible for the content of the Senate's findings.
The report determined that placing the blame on "a few bad apples," as Bush administration officials attempted to do in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib scandal, is inappropriate.
The policies were adopted after government assessments determined waterboarding and other torture techniques were "100 percent effective" at breaking the wills of US officers who underwent the military's Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape program.
General Richard Myers, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is also singled out for approving inhumane interrogation techniques, which the former general counsel of the navy, Alberto Mora, said had led to attacks on US troops in Iraq.
"There are serving US flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of US combat deaths in Iraq — as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat — are, respectively, the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo," Mr Mora said.
The report, which took 18 months to compile, was issued jointly by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the Democratic chairman of the panel, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican.
It said the techniques used were "based, in part, on Chinese communist techniques used during the Korean War to elicit false confessions" from captured US prisoners.
Instructors from the Pentagon agency that trains soldiers in resisting such treatment were sent to Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq to assist in adapting the methods, it said. The report said senior Defence Department officials approached that agency about techniques as early as December 2001. The head of the agency responded that his officials "stand ready to assist" Pentagon efforts at prisoner "exploitation".
See, we do get too much stuff from China. So when do the trials start?
To all our fighting men and women, who've served in wars present and past, in combat and not ... thank you for your service and heroism, and my God bless you and your families.
Whether or not you agree with the Iraq war, and I believe it should not have been waged, there is no disagreement that our armed forces are populated by heroes, whose bravery is unchecked by danger, or by politics. They are the best of what this country has, and we should honor them, not just today, but every day.
U.S. Army soldiers conducting a joint patrol with Iraqi Army soldiers in a predominantly Sunni neighbourhood in southern Baghdad, Iraq, March 23, 2007. David Furst—AFP/Getty Images
They continue to believe, even after giving more than they should have been required to, and they continue to fight, even after the suits have lost the war, not because they don't know any better, but because they do it for each other.
There's a certain romantacism that develops in the civilian population about war, when in fact, war is brutal, and ugly, and disastrous, for the population living with it, and for the troops who fight it. The troops don't have the luxury of romanticism.
As for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are on so many minds today, it is clear that in ways large and small, their leaders, and their country, have failed the military men and women of this country -- by not providing proper equipment, by giving them inadequate medical and other assistance when they come home (not to mention by sending them on a questionable mission in Iraq.) Those are some of the deficits that must be fixed over the next few years. And while we cannot change the past, the least we can do is not fail to give them a little bit of gratitude, and respect.
The U.S. has agreed to withdraw its combat forces from Iraq by 2011, roughly the timetable laid out by Barack Obama. The Washington Post reports:
Iraqi and U.S. officials said several difficult issues remain, including whether U.S. troops will be subject to Iraqi law if accused of committing crimes. But the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were unauthorized to discuss the agreement publicly, said key elements of a timetable for troop withdrawal once resisted by President Bush had been reached.
"We have a text," Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said after a day-long visit Thursday by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Rice and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spent nearly three hours here discussing key undecided issues. The accord must be completed and approved by both governments before a United Nations mandate expires at the end of the year.
The question of immunity for U.S. troops and Defense Department personnel from Iraqi legal jurisdiction -- demanded by Washington and rejected by Baghdad -- remained unresolved. Troop immunity, one U.S. official said, "is the red line for us." Officials said they were still discussing language that would make the distinction between on- and off-duty activities, with provisions allowing for some measure of Iraqi legal jurisdiction over soldiers accused of committing crimes while off-duty.
But negotiators made progress on a specific timetable outlining the departure of U.S. forces from Iraq, something Maliki is under considerable domestic political pressure to secure. In the past, Rice and other U.S. officials have spoken of an "aspirational time horizon" that would make withdrawals contingent on the continuation of improved security conditions and the capabilities of Iraqi security forces.
Officials on both sides have said they hope to split the difference, setting next year as the goal for Iraqi forces to take the lead in security operations in all 18 provinces, including Baghdad.
U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have now also agreed to a conditions-based withdrawal of U.S. combat troops by the end of 2011, a date further in the future than the Iraqis initially wanted. The deal would leave tens of thousands of U.S. troops inside Iraq in supporting roles, such as military trainers, for an unspecified time. According to the U.S. military, there are 144,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, most of whom are playing a combat role.
The U.S. has lost 4,137 troops in Iraq, and 573 in Afghanistan. Another 32,940 have been wounded in action.
Okay, maybe I'm making the number of impeachable offenses up, but this? This you can't make up:
President Bush committed an impeachable offense by ordering the CIA to to manufacture a false pretense for the Iraq war in the form of a backdated, handwritten document linking Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, an explosive new book claims.
The charge is made in “The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind, released today.
Suskind says he spoke on the record with U.S. intelligence officials who stated that Bush was informed unequivocally in January 2003 that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. Nonetheless, his book relates, Bush decided to invade Iraq three months later — with the forged letter from the head of Iraqi intelligence to Saddam bolstering the U.S. rationale to go into war.
Suskind talked to CIA agents who agree that former CIA director George "Slam Dunk" Tenet was in on the scam:
“It was a dark day for the CIA,” Suskind told TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira on Tuesday. “It was the kind of thing where [the CIA] said, ‘Look, this is not our charge. We’re not here to carry forth a political mandate — which is clearly what this was — to solve a political problem in America.’ And it was a cause of great grievance inside of the agency.”
The author writes that Bush’s action is “one of the greatest lies in modern American political history” and suggests it is a crime of greater impact than Watergate. But the White House is denying the allegations, calling the book “absurd” and charging that Suskind practices “gutter journalism.”
Former CIA director George Tenet also released a statement in which he ridicules the credibility of Suskind’s sources and calls the White House’s supposed directive to forge the document as “a complete fabrication.”
But Suskind stands by his work. “It’s not off the record,” he says. “It’s on the record. It’s in the book and people can read it for themselves.”
A bit more from the interview:
Suskind reports that the head of Iraqi intelligence, Tahir Jalil Habbush, met secretly with British intelligence in Jordan in the early days of 2003. In weekly meetings with Michael Shipster, the British director of Iraqi operations, Habbush conveyed that Iraq had no active nuclear, chemical or biological weapons programs and no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
When Tenet was informed of the findings in early February, he said, “They’re not going to like this downtown,” Suskind wrote, meaning the White House. Suskind says that Bush’s reaction to the report was: “Why don’t they ask him to give us something we can use to help make our case?”
Suskind quotes Rob Richer, the CIA’s Near East division head, as saying that the White House simply ignored the Habbush report and informed British intelligence that they no longer wanted Habbush as an informant.
“Bush wanted to go to war in Iraq from the very first days he was in office. Nothing was going to stop that,” Richer is quoted in the book.
Suskind also writes that Habbush was “resettled” in Jordan with help from the CIA and was paid $5 million in hush money.
Suskind is a more than credible journalist, including his possession of Pullitzer prize. If he is correct, than Bush and Tenet committed a crime equivalent to mass homicide, committing more than 4,000 American lives to a task based on lies to Congress and the American people, and killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (and forcing more than 2 million into refugee status.) By the way, the charges in Suskind's book are of a piece with those in other books, including Vincent Bugliosi's "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder" (which I'm reading now.)
This case is becoming harder and harder to disprove, and it makes Nancy Pelosi and company's refusal to act on the evidence before them all the more ahameful.
Check out this "secret history of the war over oil in Iraq." It's a fascinating presentation of the tug of war between the neocons who used to run George W. Bush's government, and the James Baker-led "realists" who literally represented the interests of Big Oil in U.S. foreign policy, and who attended those secret energy policy meetings organized by Dick Cheney (who apparently has favored both sides at different points in history, according to the author, investigative journalist Greg Palast.)
The bottom line: the Bush administration sought the invasion of Iraq from the time they stepped into office, and initially drafted a plan, in secret meetings with oil industry giants, and including "the late" Ken Lay, which included staging a coup to replace the inconvenient dictator of Iraq with an oil industry favorite, and maintaining the nationalized Iraqi oil industry under the control of U.S. and European firms. After 9/11, the neocons rolled out their own, alternative plan: to privatize Iraqi oil and use direct control over oil output to cut the throat of OPEC. The "secret history" outlines how the "realists" eventually came roaring back, scuttling the neocons plans and maintaining Iraq's state-run oil system, under American control, of course, including direct viceroyship by former U.S. oil executives, who were tapped to run Iraq's oil ministries, and boosting oil prices through the roof in the process. In the end, the U.S. sided with OPEC, including the Saudis and the Iranians, to let everyone get fat off U.S. leverage over Iraqi oil.
In a hotel room in Brussels, the chief executives of the world’s top oil companies unrolled a huge map of the Middle East, drew a fat, red line around Iraq and signed their names to it.
The map, the red line, the secret signatures. It explains this war. It explains this week’s rocketing of the price of oil to $134 a barrel.
It happened on July 31, 1928, but the bill came due now.
Barack Obama knows this. Or, just as important, those crafting his policies seem to know this. Same for Hillary Clinton’s team. There could be no more vital difference between the Republican and Democratic candidacies. And you won’t learn a thing about it on the news from the Fox-holes.
Let me explain.
In 1928, oil company chieftains (from Anglo-Persian Oil, now British Petroleum, from Standard Oil, now Exxon, and their Continental counterparts) were faced with a crisis: falling prices due to rising supplies of oil; the same crisis faced by their successors during the Clinton years, when oil traded at $22 a barrel.
The solution then, as now: stop the flow of oil, squeeze the market, raise the price. The method: put a red line around Iraq and declare that virtually all the oil under its sands would remain there, untapped. Their plan: choke supply, raise prices rise, boost profits. That was the program for 1928. For 2003. For 2008.
Again and again, year after year, the world price of oil has been boosted artificially by keeping a tight limit on Iraq’s oil output. Methods varied. The 1928 “Redline” agreement held, in various forms, for over three decades. It was replaced in 1959 by quotas imposed by President Eisenhower. Then Saudi Arabia and OPEC kept Iraq, capable of producing over 6 million barrels a day, capped at half that, given an export quota equal to Iran’s lower output.
In 1991, output was again limited, this time by a new red line: B-52 bombings by Bush Senior’s air force. Then came the Oil Embargo followed by the “Food for Oil” program. Not much food for them, not much oil for us.
In 2002, after Bush Junior took power, the top ten oil companies took in a nice $31 billion in profits. But then, a miracle fell from the sky. Or, more precisely, the 101st Airborne landed. Bush declared, “Bring’m on!” and, as the dogs of war chewed up the world’s second largest source of oil, crude doubled in two years to an astonishing $40 a barrel and those same oil companies saw their profits triple to $87 billion.
In response, Senators Obama and Clinton propose something wrongly called a “windfall” profits tax on oil. But oil industry profits didn’t blow in on a breeze. It is war, not wind, that fills their coffers. The beastly leap in prices is nothing but war profiteering, hiking prices to take cruel advantage of oil fields shut by bullets and blood.
I wish to hell the Democrats would call their plan what it is: A war profiteering tax. War is profitable business – if you’re an oil man. But somehow, the public pays the price, at the pump and at the funerals, and the oil companies reap the benefits.
Indeed, the recent engorgement in oil prices and profits goes right back to the Bush-McCain “surge.” The Iraq government attack on a Basra militia was really nothing more than Baghdad’s leaping into a gang war over control of Iraq’s Southern oil fields and oil-loading docks. Moqtada al-Sadr’s gangsters and the government-sponsored greedsters of SCIRI (the Supreme Council For Islamic Revolution In Iraq) are battling over an estimated $5 billion a year in oil shipment kickbacks, theft and protection fees.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the surge-backed civil warring has cut Iraq’s exports by up to a million barrels a day. And that translates to slashing OPEC excess crude capacity by nearly half.
Result: ka-BOOM in oil prices and ka-ZOOM in oil profits. For 2007, Exxon recorded the highest annual profit, $40.6 billion, of any enterprise since the building of the pyramids. And that was BEFORE the war surge and price surge to over $100 a barrel.
Actually, during the second quarter of 2008, the profits swelled to an even higher $51,5 billion for the six biggest OilCos -- the highest EVER. Meanwhile, John McCain's flip-flop on oil drilling, and his almost obsessive promotion of "the surge," which again, is keeping oil profits high, has paid huge dividends for him:
Campaign contributions from oil industry executives to Sen. John McCain rose dramatically in the last half of June, after the senator from Arizona made a high-profile split with environmentalists and reversed his position on the federal ban on offshore drilling.
Oil and gas industry executives and employees donated $1.1 million to McCain last month - three-quarters of which came after his June 16 speech calling for an end to the ban - compared with $116,000 in March, $283,000 in April and $208,000 in May.
McCain delivered the speech before heading to Texas for a series of fund-raisers with energy industry executives, and the day after the speech he raised $1.3 million at a private luncheon and reception at the San Antonio Country Club, according to local news accounts.
"The timing was significant," said David Donnelly, the national campaigns director of the Public Campaign Action Fund, a nonpartisan campaign finance reform group that conducted the analysis of McCain's oil industry contributions. "This is a case study of how a candidate can change a policy position in the interest of raising money."
What's interesting, is that McCain has surrounded himself with the neocons, including Joe Lieberman, whose oil policy lost out in Bush and Cheney's Iraq. Does that mean that as president, he would return to their "Plan A" for the country: privatizing its oil fields and attempting to cut OPEC out of the picture? With McCain's belligerence toward OPEC-member Iran, and the neocons' hatred for all things Arab, it's an important question, which the media unfortunately will never ask.
SIDEBAR: I think it's clear to most people who are not aparatchiks of the GOP that what we're seeing in Iraq is the future of global resource wars -- a push for direct corporate control over entire governments, whether it's Dole in Latin America or Big Oil in LatAm, Africa and the Middle East, complete with private or government armies to maintain corporate interests. It may sound far fetched, but that's what's happening today, in Iraq, Colombia and elsewhere (the Bushies tried to make it happen in Venezuela, too, and would love to do so in Iran.) Americans aren't vigilant enough to ask questions, and the national security state is growing so quickly here, without much opposition from a public that's become accustomed to the existence of cameras and "reality show" surreal lives, that perhaps in the near future, many, if not most, will be unable -- or afraid -- to do so. (Those who do pay attention are frequently written off as paranoids or kooks, or even "un-American" by those on the right.) |
Richard Perle, the "Dr. Evil" of neoconservatism, is now an official war profiteer
"No new group of war millionaires shall come into being in this nation as a result of the struggles abroad. The American people will not relish the idea of any American citizen growing rich and fat in an emergency of blood and slaughter and human suffering." -- President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, May 26, 1940
What's a neocon to do after invading Iraq turns out to be an f**ing stupid idea, your presidupe is almost out of office, your Darth Vader veep can't run because, well, he scares people, and most of the world has figured out that entire belief system is idiotic and dangerous?
(Wall Street Journal) Influential former Pentagon official Richard Perle has been exploring going into the oil business in Iraq and Kazakhstan, according to people with knowledge of the matter and documents outlining possible deals.
Mr. Perle, one of a group of security experts who began pushing the case for toppling Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein about a decade ago, has been discussing a possible deal with officials of northern Iraq's Kurdistan regional government, including its Washington envoy, according to these people and the documents.
It would involve a tract called K18, near the Kurdish city of Erbil, according to documents describing the plan.
In March 2003, weeks after the invasion of Iraq, war architect Richard Perle resigned from his position on the Defense Policy Board in an attempt to “defuse a controversy over charges he stood to profit from the war in Iraq.” But that hasn’t stopped Perle from continuing to seek profit from the war. Citing documents and people close to the negotiations, the Wall Street Journal reports today that Perle “has been exploring going into the oil business in Iraq and Kazakhstan. One of the oil tracts, near the Kurdish city of Erbil, “is estimated to hold 150 million or more barrels of oil, would potentially be operated by Houston-based Endeavour International”
Perle also “has explored obtaining an oil concession in Kazakhstan in tandem with a northern Iraq deal,” the Journal adds. Perle denied the reports, stating, “I am not involved in any consortium…nor am I ‘framing plans for a consortium.’” But a spokesman for Qubat Talabani, the Kurdish government’s delegate in the U.S. who deals with “investment information,” “confirmed that the envoy had been approached by Mr. Perle.”
Well good for you, Evil One. And here's a peek at Endeavor's board. (According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Board Chairman Bill Transier and his wife are recent donors to Oil Gal Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Vice Chairman John Seitz has given quite a bit of money to Andarko Petroleum's PAC, and also in the past to Phil Gramm and big contributions to the RNC, not surprising given their industry and location... )
Meanwhile, other neocons have found employment with their old friend John McCain, an early backer of Ahmad Chalabi, and with Joe Lieberman, an advocate, dating back to the 1990s, of invading Iraq. One of them is Randy Scheunemann, who TPM Muckraker describes this way:
Over the weekend, The New York Timesnoted that some of John McCain's foreign policy advisers from the "realist" camp are uneasy with the amount of influence enjoyed by neoconservatives like Randy Scheunemann, who's been serving as McCain's chief foreign policy aide and spokesman.
And what has he gotten so wrong? (Shortened. Read the full post at the TPMM site)
As a top aide to then-Senate GOP leader Trent Lott, Scheunemann helped draft -- and acted as a driving force behind -- the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act (ILA), which essentially made "regime change" the official Iraq policy of the US. ...
Scheunemann was a board member of Bill Kristol's Project for a New American Century, which played a major role in agitating for the war. Scheunemann signed Kristol's influential letter to President Bush, sent nine days after 9/11, which asserted that failing to respond to the Al Qaeda attack by going after Saddam would "constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism." Scheunemann also served as a "consultant" to Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon while it was planning the war. And in late 2002, Scheunemann, with administration approval, founded the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI), an advocacy group with the explicit goal of whipping up pro-war sentiment across the country.
Scheunemann also played a key role in lining up support for the invasion from the "Vilnius Ten," a group of former Soviet bloc countries seeking to gain entry to NATO, some of whom Scheunemann has worked as a paid lobbyist on behalf of. With his partner Bruce Jackson, a Lockheed Martin executive, Scheunemann reportedly gave assurances to the Ten that backing the invasion would help their chances for NATO membership. ...
In the invasion's aftermath, Scheunemann's judgment proved no more effective. He argued vociferously against giving the UN a significant role in stabilizing Iraq. ...
Still other neocons, like Charles Krauthammer, continue to find refuge on the op-ed pages of the New York Times and on Fox News, where their desperate ravings about Barack Obama can be read and heard by millions.
Curious about what's going on with the other neocons who conned Dubya into invading Iraq? ThinkP has you covered here.
From David Kilcullen, a "former Australian Army officer who is now an adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice," and the guy who helped design the current U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq with David Petraeus:
Kilcullen, who helped Petraeus design his 2007 counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, called the decision to invade Iraq "stupid" -- in fact, he said "fucking stupid" -- and suggested that if policy-makers apply the manual's lessons, similar wars can be avoided in the future.
"The biggest stupid idea," Kilcullen said, "was to invade Iraq in the first place."
I guess he cares more about pointing out stupidity than he does about the security of the American people... right John McCain? Sadly, Kilcullen's assessment is far from a unique one:
David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official and now with the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, said: "Declaring this to be a success based on recent improvements is like saying that a person badly disabled by gunshots has seen his wounds heal. The damage has been done.
"Bush's foreign policy has been a failure and it will be judged on Iraq. He will bear responsibility for an unnecessary and costly war that violated international law, alienated allies and distracted us from the core issues of terrorism, Afghanistan and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.
"This has to be the worst managed foreign policy of any president since the Second World War. Even if in the medium term Iraq becomes comparatively peaceful, would it be worth the cost? I do not think so."
As for America's standing around the world, the war alienated some major American allies, France and Germany most notably. Others did send troops after the invasion - Spain and Italy among them - but then left as public opinions at home turned hostile.
On the other hand, a number of smaller countries, many of them from the former Soviet block, saw an opportunity to show their loyalty to the US and sent contingents - the Czech Republic, Poland, Georgia and others. For them, a strong and active United States bodes well for their future security.
In turn, Britain's support for the United States has led to further divisions within Europe. These had an impact in the Lisbon treaty talks about a future foreign policy for the EU, strengthening the British determination to keep it firmly in the hands of individual governments.
The invasion of Iraq also caused alarm bells to ring in Russia. There, a new mood of hostility to the West has developed and the Russians have become wary of American power.
Nor has Iraq sparked the democratic revolution in the Middle East that Mr Bush hoped for. And the Israeli/Palestinian conflict remains unresolved.
Ironically it is Iran, with which the US shares a mutual hostility, that has emerged with greater strength, to the concern of the Gulf Arab states.
How long has John McCain wanted, promoted and supported the invasion of Iraq? For ever, and ever, and ever, as the Jed Report helpfully reminds, in a video that's sure to become the basis of a Democratic campaign commercial or two (at least I hope so.) The video includes McCain statements on Iraq dating back to 2002, that the Iraqis would be grateful, that the war would be quick and easy, and that he was pleased with the Bush administration's execution of it. Watch:
My only criticism of the Jed video, which is excellent and comprehensive, by the by, is that it starts at 2002, rather than 1998, when McCain, along with Joe Lieberman, first began publicly spoiling for war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, beginning a long, slow decline into almost Nixonian intransigence on the issue of ever, ever, leaving the battlefield. As the book, "The Man Who Pushed America to War," which chronicles the history and machinations of Iraqi con man Ahmad Chalabi points out:
- One of his key backers has been John McCain, who was one of the first patrons of Chalabi’s grand-sounding International Committee for a Free Iraq when it was founded in 1991. McCain was Chalabi’s favored candidate in the 2000 election since Chalabi knew that he would be able to free up the $97 million in military aid plus millions pushed through in Congress and earmarked for Chalabi’s exile group, the Iraqi National Congress, but held up by the Clinton State Department.
And hopefully, before election time, more Americans will get to know John McCain's "war cabinet," which consists of all the Iraq-Iran obsessed neocons formerly tossed onto the scrap heap of history, but scraped from the pavement by Team McCain.
President Bush and Iraq's prime minister have agreed to set a "time horizon" for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq as security conditions in the war-ravaged nation continue to improve, White House officials said here Friday.
The agreement, reached during a video conference Thursday between Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, marks a dramatic shift for the Bush administration, which for years has condemned any talk of timetables for withdrawal.
But Maliki and other Iraqi leaders in recent weeks have begun demanding firm withdrawal deadlines from the United States. Bush said earlier this week that he opposes "arbitrary" timetables but was open to setting an "aspirational goal" for moving U.S. troops to a support role.
Aspirational my foot. That's a timetable! Cue the dissembling White House statement:
"In the area of security cooperation, the president and the prime minister agreed that improving conditions should allow for the agreements now under negotiation to include a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals," the statement said. It said those goals include turning over more control to Iraqi security forces and "the further reduction of U.S. combat forces from Iraq."
The statement continued: "The president and prime minister agreed that the goals would be based on continued improving conditions on the ground and not an arbitrary date for withdrawal."
Blah blah blah blah TIMETABLE!
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel denied that the agreement with Maliki represents a concession by the Bush administration.
"I think it's important to remember that the discussions about timeline issues previously were from Democrats in Congress who wanted to arbitrarily retreat from Iraq -- without consideration for conditions on the ground," Stanzel told reporters in Tucson.
"These are aspirational goals, not arbitrary timetables based on political expediency," Stanzel said.
Uh huh ... Just like how I've set a non-arbitrary, aspirational goal of leaving my house in 15 minutes to take my kids to a 3:30 movie, and will move depending on conditions on the ground, such as what time "Kung Fu Panda" starts, and how long it takes to get to Muvico by .... 3:30.
I literally cannot wait to hear the McCain response to this one. My god, what next? A Bush book on the audacity of hope? (It would, of course, have to be a children's book...) Perhaps we could call it, "The Audacity of Aspirational Goals"...
WE know what a criminal White House looks like from “The Final Days,” Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s classic account of Richard Nixon’s unraveling. The cauldron of lies, paranoia and illegal surveillance boiled over, until it was finally every man for himself as desperate courtiers scrambled to save their reputations and, in a few patriotic instances, their country.
“The Final Days” was published in 1976, two years after Nixon abdicated in disgrace. With the Bush presidency, no journalist (or turncoat White House memoirist) is waiting for the corpse to be carted away. The latest and perhaps most chilling example arrives this week from Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, long a relentless journalist on the war-on-terror torture beat. Her book “The Dark Side” connects the dots of her own past reporting and that of her top-tier colleagues (including James Risen and Scott Shane of The New York Times) to portray a White House that, like its prototype, savaged its enemies within almost as ferociously as it did the Constitution.
Some of “The Dark Side” seems right out of “The Final Days,” minus Nixon’s operatic boozing and weeping. We learn, for instance, that in 2004 two conservative Republican Justice Department officials had become “so paranoid” that “they actually thought they might be in physical danger.” The fear of being wiretapped by their own peers drove them to speak in code.
The men were John Ashcroft’s deputy attorney general, James Comey, and an assistant attorney general, Jack Goldsmith. Their sin was to challenge the White House’s don, Dick Cheney, and his consigliere, his chief of staff David Addington, when they circumvented the Geneva Conventions to make torture the covert law of the land. Mr. Comey and Mr. Goldsmith failed to stop the “torture memos” and are long gone from the White House. But Vice President Cheney and Mr. Addington remain enabled by a president, attorney general (Michael Mukasey) and C.I.A. director (Michael Hayden) who won’t shut the door firmly on torture even now.
Nixon parallels take us only so far, however. “The Dark Side” is scarier than “The Final Days” because these final days aren’t over yet and because the stakes are much higher. Watergate was all about a paranoid president’s narcissistic determination to cling to power at any cost. In Ms. Mayer’s portrayal of the Bush White House, the president is a secondary, even passive, figure, and the motives invoked by Mr. Cheney to restore Nixon-style executive powers are theoretically selfless. Possessed by the ticking-bomb scenarios of television’s “24,” all they want to do is protect America from further terrorist strikes.
Meanwhile, members of the administration appear not to be completely oblivious to the perils they find themselves in. Former U.N. ambassadorial temp John Bolton got a nice scare in Europe this spring, when a citizen attempted to arrest him for war crimes. Baron von Rumsfeld has had to be fleet footed in France after narrowly escaping a war crimes indictment (Bush has even sought to immunize his defense team from indictment in the International Criminal Court. No consciousness of guilt there... and failing to get blanket immunity, has forced bilateral agreements on about 100 countries to ensure that U.S. officials won't be handed over.) And no less an insider than retired Gen. Antonio Taguba, who probed the infamous abuses at abu-Ghraib, has definitively stated that key members of the Bush administration committed war crimes by ordering and devising the torture of detainees
The remarks by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who's now retired, came in a new report that found that U.S. personnel tortured and abused detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, using beatings, electrical shocks, sexual humiliation and other cruel practices.
"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes," Taguba wrote. "The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."
(The Red Cross, the lead organization in such matters, concurs.) And ccording to Rich:
Top Bush hands are starting to get sweaty about where they left their fingerprints. Scapegoating the rotten apples at the bottom of the military’s barrel may not be a slam-dunk escape route from accountability anymore.
No wonder the former Rumsfeld capo, Douglas Feith, is trying to discredit a damaging interview he gave to the British lawyer Philippe Sands for another recent and essential book on what happened, “Torture Team.” After Mr. Sands previewed his findings in the May issue of Vanity Fair, Mr. Feith protested he had been misquoted — apparently forgetting that Mr. Sands had taped the interview. Mr. Feith and Mr. Sands are scheduled to square off in a House hearing this Tuesday.
So hot is the speculation that war-crimes trials will eventually follow in foreign or international courts that Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, has publicly advised Mr. Feith, Mr. Addington and Alberto Gonzales, among others, to “never travel outside the U.S., except perhaps to Saudi Arabia and Israel.” But while we wait for the wheels of justice to grind slowly, there are immediate fears to tend. Ms. Mayer’s book helps cement the case that America’s use of torture has betrayed not just American values but our national security, right to the present day.
Worse, the Mayer book makes it clear that for all the descent into Communist Chinese military tactics, the Cheney-led torture mania hasn't helped U.S. national security. Instead, the lies that torture has elicited have been principle causes leading us into the Iraq quagmire:
In her telling, a major incentive for Mr. Cheney’s descent into the dark side was to cover up for the Bush White House’s failure to heed the Qaeda threat in 2001. Jack Cloonan, a special agent for the F.B.I.’s Osama bin Laden unit until 2002, told Ms. Mayer that Sept. 11 was “all preventable.” By March 2000, according to the C.I.A.’s inspector general, “50 or 60 individuals” in the agency knew that two Al Qaeda suspects — soon to be hijackers — were in America. But there was no urgency at the top. Thomas Pickard, the acting F.B.I. director that summer, told Ms. Mayer that when he expressed his fears about the Qaeda threat to Mr. Ashcroft, the attorney general snapped, “I don’t want to hear about that anymore!”
After 9/11, our government emphasized “interrogation over due process,” Ms. Mayer writes, “to pre-empt future attacks before they materialized.” But in reality torture may well be enabling future attacks. This is not just because Abu Ghraib snapshots have been used as recruitment tools by jihadists. No less destructive are the false confessions inevitably elicited from tortured detainees. The avalanche of misinformation since 9/11 has compromised prosecutions, allowed other culprits to escape and sent the American military on wild-goose chases. The coerced “confession” to the murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to take one horrific example, may have been invented to protect the real murderer.
The biggest torture-fueled wild-goose chase, of course, is the war in Iraq. Exhibit A, revisited in “The Dark Side,” is Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an accused Qaeda commander whose torture was outsourced by the C.I.A. to Egypt. His fabricated tales of Saddam’s biological and chemical W.M.D. — and of nonexistent links between Iraq and Al Qaeda — were cited by President Bush in his fateful Oct. 7, 2002, Cincinnati speech ginning up the war and by Mr. Powell in his subsequent United Nations presentation on Iraqi weaponry. Two F.B.I. officials told Ms. Mayer that Mr. al-Libi later explained his lies by saying: “They were killing me. I had to tell them something.”
That “something” was crucial in sending us into the quagmire that, five years later, has empowered Iran and compromised our ability to counter the very terrorists that torture was supposed to thwart. As The Times reported two weeks ago, Iraq has monopolized our military and intelligence resources to the point where we don’t have enough predator drones or expert C.I.A. field agents to survey the tribal areas where terrorists are amassing in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the threat to America from Al Qaeda is “comparable to what it faced on Sept. 11, 2001,” said Seth Jones, a RAND Corporation terrorism expert and Pentagon consultant. The difference between now and then is simply that the base of operations has moved, “roughly the difference from New York to Philadelphia.”
Meanwhile, in Rich's telling, we're back where we were in the summer before 9/11. Hell, even Chandra Levy is making a comeback, courtesy of a 12-part "investigative" series by the Washington Post... (BTW that summer, Chandra consumed about 90 percent of my time as editor of an NBC News website. Here we go again...)
... Only by redeploying our troops can we press the Iraqis to reach comprehensive political accommodation and achieve a successful transition to Iraqis’ taking responsibility for the security and stability of their country. Instead of seizing the moment and encouraging Iraqis to step up, the Bush administration and Senator McCain are refusing to embrace this transition — despite their previous commitments to respect the will of Iraq’s sovereign government. They call any timetable for the removal of American troops “surrender,” even though we would be turning Iraq over to a sovereign Iraqi government.
But this is not a strategy for success — it is a strategy for staying that runs contrary to the will of the Iraqi people, the American people and the security interests of the United States. That is why, on my first day in office, I would give the military a new mission: ending this war.
As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.
In carrying out this strategy, we would inevitably need to make tactical adjustments. As I have often said, I would consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government to ensure that our troops were redeployed safely, and our interests protected. We would move them from secure areas first and volatile areas later. We would pursue a diplomatic offensive with every nation in the region on behalf of Iraq’s stability, and commit $2 billion to a new international effort to support Iraq’s refugees.
Ending the war is essential to meeting our broader strategic goals, starting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban is resurgent and Al Qaeda has a safe haven. Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been. As Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently pointed out, we won’t have sufficient resources to finish the job in Afghanistan until we reduce our commitment to Iraq.
As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan. We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there. I would not hold our military, our resources and our foreign policy hostage to a misguided desire to maintain permanent bases in Iraq.
In this campaign, there are honest differences over Iraq, and we should discuss them with the thoroughness they deserve. Unlike Senator McCain, I would make it absolutely clear that we seek no presence in Iraq similar to our permanent bases in South Korea, and would redeploy our troops out of Iraq and focus on the broader security challenges that we face. But for far too long, those responsible for the greatest strategic blunder in the recent history of American foreign policy have ignored useful debate in favor of making false charges about flip-flops and surrender.
It’s not going to work this time. It’s time to end this war.
Obama also makes the point that the general the Bush administration put in charge of training Iraq security forces says they'll be ready to assume responsibility for security their country by 2009. If that's true, then why would we remain in Iraq beyond that time, John McCain? Also, the example of Basra is telling: once the Brits withdrew, violence in southern Iraq declined to one-tenth of what it was. |
Don't know if you caught Family Research Council fellow Pete Hegseth of the GOP/McCain surrogate organization Vets for Freedom talk-o-babbling his way through a 'Hardball' interview today opposite John Soltz of VoteVets.org, but he apparently cannot accept the rather plain fact that the prime minister of the supposedly sovereign country of Iraq wants a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces -- that means us -- from their country. Chris Matthews repeatedly tried, and repeatedly failed, to get the V4F guy to explain how we can propose to stay in Iraq for 100 years if they want us out, like, now. To review:
BAGHDAD, July 8 -- Iraq's national security adviser said Tuesday that his government would not sign an agreement governing the future role of U.S. troops in Iraq unless it includes a timetable for their withdrawal.
The statement was the strongest yet by an Iraqi official regarding the politically controversial negotiations between Iraq and the United States over the U.S. military role in Iraq. A United Nations mandate that sanctions the presence of U.S. troops in the country expires in December.
Speaking to reporters in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie declined to provide specific dates, but said his government is "impatiently waiting" for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops.
"There should not be any permanent bases in Iraq unless these bases are under Iraqi control," Rubaie said. "We would not accept any memorandum of understanding with [the U.S.] side that has no obvious and specific dates for the foreign troops' withdrawal from Iraq."
On Monday Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a statement saying his government was inclined to sign a memorandum of understanding with the United States that included a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Rubaie spoke to reporters after briefing Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's top Shiite religious leader.
That last bit is important, because Iraq is now a Shiite-dominated country, much like ... um ... Iran. And Sistani is it's Ayatollah. Sistani is also the guy who has basically kept Shiites from an all-out uprising against American troops, even staying the hand of young firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. I think his "briefing" with Maliki pretty much makes it a done deal. They want us to go.
Meanwhile, in Washington, President Bush and the neocons are pretending they didn't hear a thing:
Asked about the prime minister’s comments today, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman hedged on whether the administration would follow the Iraqi government’s request, criticizing timelines as “artificial“:
WHITMAN: [I]t is dependent on conditions on the ground. … But timelines tend to be artificial in nature. In a situation where things are as dynamic as they are in Iraq, I would just tell you, it’s usually best to look at these things based on conditions on the ground.
The State Department also hedged on whether the Bush administration would listen to Maliki. In a briefing today, spokesperson Sean McCormack said the remark may have been a transcription error:
McCORMACK: Well, that’s really the part — the point at which I would seek greater clarification in terms of remarks. I’ve seen the same press reports that you have, but I haven’t yet had an opportunity to get greater clarify as to exactly to what Mr. Maliki was referring or if, in fact, that’s an accurate reporting of what he said.
Apparently, it all depends on what the meaning of "withdrawal" is.
McCain was silent on the comments Monday. But today, his top foreign policy adviser declined to criticize Maliki or distance McCain from him. And they sought to portray Maliki's comments as consistent with the Republican nominee's long-standing position.
"Senator McCain has always said that conditions on the ground -- including the security threats posed by extremists and terrorists, and the ability of Iraqi forces to meet those threats -- would be key determinants in U.S. force levels," said adviser Randy Scheunemann, who criticized Sen. Barack Obama's "constantly shifting positions" on Iraq.
WaPo's The Swamp and other analysts have pointed out that McCain has had many, many positions on a timetable for withdrawal, and on whether the Iraqi government has some say in the matter. He has been against timetables, slamming Mitt Romney during the campaign and calling even the notion of a timeline "the ultimate act of betrayal" of our troops. But he has also said that he would have all the troops home by the very timetable-esque 2013, and that they would remain in Iraq for 100 years. Poor McCain is becoming the Sybill of foreign policy:
... In speeches, town hall meetings, interviews and campaign commercials, McCain has said a timetable would provide terrorists the knowledge of how long they have to wait until American troops are gone. He has repeatedly said that setting a date for withdrawal would lead to "chaos, genocide and we will be back with greater sacrifice."
His rhetoric has been withering and aimed at both Democrats and Republicans. During the waning days of the GOP primary, he eviscerated former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney for a comment that McCain said amounted to support for a timetable.
Romney disputed that, but the damage to his candidacy was unmistakable. Later, McCain turned his fire on Democrats, including Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, accusing them of endangering Americans by advocating a specific timetable for withdrawal.
"It would be an unconscionable act of betrayal, a stain on our character as a great nation, if we were to walk away from the Iraqi people and consign them to the horrendous violence, ethnic cleansing and possibly genocide that would follow a reckless, irresponsible and premature withdrawal," he said in a California speech.
In that speech, McCain offered his "vision" for 2013, by which time he said most of the troops would be gone from Iraq. That was quickly seen by many observers as a timetable for withdrawal by that date.
But immediately after the speech, McCain disputed the idea that he was setting a firm date for withdrawal of troops from Iraq, telling reporters that he is "promising that we will succeed in Iraq" but not promising that troops will come home if that success has not materialized.
"I'm not putting a date on it. It could be next month. It could be next year," he told reporters on the Straight Talk Express bus. "I said by the end of my first term we will have succeeded in Iraq.... This is what I want to achieve. This is what I believe is achievable."
Four years ago, McCain even said that if the Iraqis asked us to leave, we ought to do just that (during an interview at the Council on Foreign Relations)....
Question: "What would or should we do if, in the post-June 30th period, a so-called sovereign Iraqi government asks us to leave, even if we are unhappy about the security situation there?"
McCain's Answer: "Well, if that scenario evolves than I think it's obvious that we would have to leave because -- if it was an elected government of Iraq, and we've been asked to leave other places in the world. If it were an extremist government then I think we would have other challenges, but I don't see how we could stay when our whole emphasis and policy has been based on turning the Iraqi government over to the Iraqi people."
Is your head spinning yet?
By the way, a quick check of the winger blogs finds no appetite on that side of the aisle to address the issue of the Iraq government's desire for timelines. Their fingers are firmly in their ears, and they've dissolved into an echo-chamber about last week's pretend story about Obama changing his tune on Iraq. I literally could not find a single post on the subject, including on the neocon sites like NRO. Interesting...
The Iraq war soldier made famous by a photograph, and by his compassion for an Iraqi child, dies back home:
The March 2003 image became one of the most iconic of the U.S. invasion of Iraq: that of a bespectacled American soldier carrying an Iraqi child to safety. The photograph of Army Pfc. Joseph Dwyer, who was raised in Mount Sinai, was used by news outlets around the world.
After being lionized by many as the human face of the U.S. effort to rebuild a troubled Iraq, Dwyer brought the battlefield home with him, often grappling violently with delusions that he was being hunted by Iraqi killers.
His internal terror got so bad that, in 2005, he shot up his El Paso, Texas, apartment and held police at bay for three hours with a 9-mm handgun, believing Iraqis were trying to get in.
Last month, on June 28, police in Pinehurst, N.C., who responded to Dwyer's home, said the 31-year-old collapsed and died after abusing a computer cleaner aerosol. Dwyer had moved to North Carolina after living in Texas.
Dwyer, who joined the Army two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and who was assigned to a unit of the 3rd Infantry Division that one officer called "the tip of the tip of the spear" in the first days of the U.S. invasion, had since then battled depression, sleeplessness and other anxieties that military doctors eventually attributed to post-traumatic stress disorder.
The war that made him a hero at 26 haunted him to the last moments of his life.
"He loved the picture, don't get me wrong, but he just couldn't get over the war," his mother, Maureen Dwyer, said by telephone from her home in Sunset Beach, N.C. "He wasn't Joseph anymore. Joseph never came home."
Dwyer's parents said they tried to get help for their son, appealing to Army and Veterans Affairs officials. Although he was treated off and on in VA facilities, he was never able to shake his anxieties.
Dwyer can only be described as the victim of the indifference of the U.S. system to the men and women that we send into harm's way. Once they've been used up in Mr. Bush's war, they are, to coin a Bushian term, on their own. The Newsday story continues:
An April report by the Rand Corp. said serious gaps in treatment exist for the 1 in 5 U.S. troops who exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression following service in Iraq or Afghanistan. Half of those troops who experience the disorder sought help in the past year, the report said, and those who did often got "minimally adequate treatment."
"He went away to inpatient treatments, none of it worked," his father, Patrick Dennis Dwyer, said. "And the problem is there are not adequate resources for post-traumatic stress syndrome."
After a PTSD program in Durham, N.C., turned Dwyer away because of a lack of space, Maureen Dwyer said her son received inpatient care for six months at the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center, beginning last August. After doctors discharged him in March, she said, his anxieties returned with such intensity that Dwyer's wife, Matina, 30, took their daughter Meagan, 2, and moved out five days later.
Dwyer had taken to sleeping in a closet, arming himself with guns and knives, and inhaling aerosol to help him sleep. The most chilling quote in the piece comes from Dwyer's mom:
"Talking to him, he knew he was going to die," Maureen Dwyer said.
Read the entire piece. Every American should.
BTW, Dwyer is not alone. A 2004 Army study found that 1 in 8 returning troops suffered from PTSD. By 2007 the estimate spiked to 1 in 2.
Records show roughly 40,000 troops have been diagnosed with the illness, also known as PTSD, since 2003. Officials believe that many more are likely keeping their illness a secret.
"I don't think right now we ... have good numbers," Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker said...
And not only has the VA failed to provide adequate numbers, and adequate treatment, for vets suffering from PTSD, it appears they've also fudged the numbers, to undercount the number of post-deployment suicides taking place among our returning troops.
(May 6) At a hearing held by the House Veterans' Committee today, chairman Bob Filner, D-Calif., said he thought there was "criminal negligence" and "clear evidence of a bureaucratic coverup" in the VA's handling of mental health findings.
"If you have a thousand, and you said it could be more, of suicide attempts per month, we've got some real difficult issues," Filner said to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James Peake.
But most of the committee's time was spent on a report aired by CBS News last year that said the VA was under-reporting the magnitude of suicides among veterans by manipulating the data.
The Army is facing particular burdens, since it is mostly Army, Army National Guard and Reserve troops who are pulling the 2, 3 and 4 rotations to fight this war (not to leave out the Marines, but the Army is currently the more broken force.) And all of the signs point to the homefront being unequal to the task of handling hundreds of thousands of psychologically (and physically) wounded warriors coming home. Hell, Democratic vets in Congress had to fight the "commander in chief" AND fellow veterans like John McCain just to get a G.I. Bill with decent educational benefits for the troops last month, while the GOP simply fought for more incentives to keep soldiers in, and deployed, indefinitely in Iraq. (Of course, now that it has passed, members of the GOP who opposed the bill, up to and including Bush and McCain, are trying to jump on the GI Bill bandwagon...)
Shame on us for not taking better care of our soldiers when they come home, starting with the Bush administration, but ultimately, including us all.
BAGHDAD, July 6 -- A wave of attacks in Baghdad and areas north of the capital Sunday shattered a relative lull in violence, killing 16 people and injuring 15 a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared that Iraq's government had defeated terrorism.
A nearly 700-page study released Sunday by the Army found that "in the euphoria of early 2003," U.S.-based commanders prematurely believed their goals in Iraq had been reached and did not send enough troops to handle the occupation.
President George W. Bush's statement on May 1, 2003, that major combat operations were over reinforced that view, the study said.
It was written by Donald P. Wright and Col. Timothy R. Reese of the Combat Operations Study Team at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., who said that planners who requested more troops were ignored and that commanders in Baghdad were replaced without enough of a transition and lacked enough staff.
... The report said that the civilian and military planning for a post-Saddam Iraq was inadequate, and that the Army should have pushed the Joint Chiefs of Staff for better planning and preparation. Retired military leaders, members of Congress, think tanks and others have already concluded that the occupation was understaffed.
The U.S. combat death toll so far: 4,113. This story, combined with the New York Times piece on the Bush administration's failures in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, should combine for a powerful critique of the Bush foreign policy doctrine -- one which John McCain is pushing to extend. McCain has surrounded himself with the same neocon advisors who pushed for the Iraq invasion, and who underestimated its difficulty (as did the candidate himself.) Not a good look.
Back to the U.S. military, and its superb penchant for introspection, as pointed out by the Times article. That introspection also extended to the issue of torture, where we pick things up with Salon.com:
The former Air Force general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers, helped quash dissent from across the U.S. military as the Bush administration first set up a brutal interrogation regime for terrorism suspects, according to newly public documents and testimony from an ongoing Senate probe.
In late 2002, documents show, officials from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps all complained that harsh interrogation tactics under consideration for use at the prison in Guantánamo Bay might be against the law. Those military officials called for further legal scrutiny of the tactics. The chief of the Army's international law division, for example, said in a memo that some of the tactics, such as stress positions and sensory deprivation, "cross the line of 'humane treatment'" and "may violate the torture statute."
Myers, however, agreed to scuttle a plan for further legal review of the tactics, in response to pressure from a top Pentagon attorney helping to set up the interrogation program for then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Ah yes, torture. Another thing John McCain used to be against... A bit more on Myers' role:
"He is rarely referenced as one of the usual suspects," noted Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington Law School who is following the continuing Senate investigation. "He did play a much more central role" than previously known, Turley said. "The minute the military lawyers expressed concern, they were shut down."
The chain of events involving Myers began in late 2002. Rumsfeld was considering the approval of three categories of interrogation techniques for use at Guantaánamo. The list included some brutal tactics, including stress positions, exploitation of phobias, forced nudity, hooding, isolation, sensory deprivation, exposure to cold and waterboarding, or simulated drowning.
According to written correspondence that came to light during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing June 17, various military leaders balked at the plans in a series of memos produced during the first week of November 2002. In addition to the criticisms raised by the Army, the Air Force leadership cited "serious concerns regarding the legality" of the list of proposed techniques. The Navy also called for further legal review, and the Marine Corps stated that the techniques "arguably violate federal law."
Dick Myers was already on the line, as far as I'm concerned for his part in transporting torture techniques from Gitmo to Iraq, and retired Gen. Rick Sanchez has previously pointed out the administration's incompetence in a war his book dubs "the strategic blunder of all time." These new accounts just add more texture to the case.
Robert Mugabe retains power, dodges the Hague ... plus other morning news
Swiftboat veterans seek to reclaim the dignity of the name from the sleazeballs who attacked John Kerry's service in Vietnam in 2004. Meanwhile, T. Boone Pickens is a phony and a liar, just like the attack group he funded...
A group of American advisers led by a small State Department team played an integral part in drawing up contracts between the Iraqi government and five major Western oil companies to develop some of the largest fields in Iraq, American officials say.
The disclosure, coming on the eve of the contracts’ announcement, is the first confirmation of direct involvement by the Bush administration in deals to open Iraq’s oil to commercial development and is likely to stoke criticism.
In their role as advisers to the Iraqi Oil Ministry, American government lawyers and private-sector consultants provided template contracts and detailed suggestions on drafting the contracts, advisers and a senior State Department official said.
And why would they do such a thing?
Though enriched by high prices, the companies are starved for new oil fields. The United States government, too, has eagerly encouraged investment anywhere in the world that could provide new oil to alleviate the exceptionally tight global supply, which is a cause of high prices.
Iraq is particularly attractive in that light, because in addition to its vast reserves, it has the potential to bring new sources of oil onto the market relatively cheaply.
As sabotage on oil export pipelines has declined with improved security, this potential is closer to being realized. American military officials say the pipelines now have excess capacity, waiting for output to increase at the fields.
Ah yes, the oil. The oil!
“We pretend it is not a centerpiece of our motivation, yet we keep confirming that it is,” Frederick D. Barton, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in a telephone interview. “And we undermine our own veracity by citing issues like sovereignty, when we have our hands right in the middle of it.”
And the story wouldn't be complete without a completely contradictory comment from Condi Rice:
Criticism like that has prompted objections by the Bush administration and the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, who say the deals are purely commercial matters. Ms. Rice, speaking on Fox News this month, said: “The United States government has stayed out of the matter of awarding the Iraq oil contracts. It’s a private sector matter.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Post has a wrenching, first-person account of treating PTSD among our troops returning from the dual war zones.
The soldier from Ohio studied the wall carefully. It was amazing, he said, how much the layout of those picture frames resembled the layout of the street in Tikrit that was seared in his memory; the similarity had leapt out at him the first time he came in for a session. He traced the linear space between the frames, showing me where his Humvee had turned and traveled down the block, and where the two Iraqi men had been standing, close -- too close -- to the road.
"I knew immediately something was wrong," he said. The explosion threw him out of the vehicle, with his comrades trapped inside, screaming. Lying on the ground, he returned fire until he drove off the insurgents. His fellow soldiers survived, but nearly four years later, their screams still haunted him. "I couldn't go to them," he told me, overwhelmed with guilt and imagined failure. "I couldn't help them."
That soldier from Ohio is one of the nearly 40,000 U.S. troops diagnosed by the military with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2007; the number of diagnoses increased nearly 50 percent in 2007 over the previous year, the military said this spring. I saw a number of soldiers with war trauma while working as a psychologist for the U.S. Army. In 2006, I went to Fort Dix as a civilian contractor to treat soldiers on their way to and return from those wars. I was drawn by the immediacy of the work and the opportunity to make a difference. What the raw numbers on war trauma can't show is what I saw every day in my office: the individual stories of men and women who have sustained emotional trauma as well as physical injury, people who are still fighting an arduous postwar battle to heal, to understand a mysterious psychological condition and re-enter civilian life. As I think about the soldiers who will be rotating back home from Iraq this summer as part of the "pause" in the "surge," as well as those who will stay behind, I remember some of the people I met on their long journey back from the war. ...
So now we know: Michelle Obama shops at Target, hates pantyhose ("painful") and made the "fist pump" cool.
And Cindy McCain does lots of under-the-radar charity work, favors Oscar de la Renta and has a credit card bill that's been somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000 this year.
But rest assured, America: With a major female presidential candidate no longer in the running, there's plenty more we'll learn about the stylistic, literary, grooming and culinary penchants of the two women who aspire to be first lady of the United States.
Three hours after John McCain’s campaign bus left General Motors’ plant in Lordstown, Ohio, workers started streaming in and out of the factory’s gates for the mid-afternoon shift change.
Only a fraction had caught a glimpse of the Republican presidential candidate when he toured the production line and still fewer attended the meeting he held in an adjacent conference room. “Management invited him,” said 38-year-old Tim Niles. “It had nothing to do with us. We’re with Obama.”
Mr Niles, a white, working-class Democrat who wears a “Bubba’s Army” T-shirt, is exactly the kind of voter Mr McCain was courting on his trip to northern Ohio on Friday. On the day Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton staged their first joint rally, Mr McCain was trying to undermine their reconciliation by wooing Mrs Clinton’s blue-collar base.
His efforts appeared wasted on many. “We’re a working-class factory,” said 49-year-old Greg George. “McCain calls himself moderate, but his party has been a disaster for working people over the past eight years.”
And the U.S. warns that Mexico's battle against powerful drug cartels is threatening to escalate into a crippling, all-out war.
Every day Saddam remains in power with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and the development of nuclear weapons is a day of danger for the United States." -- Joe Lieberman, August, 2002
"[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs." -- From a letter signed by Joe Lieberman, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara A. Milulski, Tom Daschle, & John Kerry among others on October 9, 1998
“The so-called Duelfer Report, which a lot of people read to say there were no weapons of mass destruction - concluded that Saddam continued to have very low level of chemical and biological programs. ... [Saddam] was trying to break out of the U.N. sanctions by going back into rapid redevelopment of chemical and biological and probably nuclear [weapons]. -- Joe Lieberman in interview with ABC Radio host Sean Hannity, November 30, 2005
"I have no regrets [that the U.S. toppled Saddam.] ... I think we can finish are job there, and as part of it - really transform the Arab-Islamic world." -- from the same Hannity interview
Lieberman and McCain have had long friendship with then Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi, who drummed up bogus WMD claims and helped lead the United States into war, going all the way back to 1991.
It’s worth remembering that it was Lieberman, along with Trent Lott, who led the effort in the Senate to fund Chalabi and the Iraq National Congress through passage of the Iraqi Liberation Act in 1998, and it was Lieberman and McCain who served as the two “honorary co-chairmen” of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI), the elite group that was put together by the administration and Chalabi’s pals at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), to lobby for invading Iraq in the fall of 2002.
That post prompted me to do a Google search of "Joe Lieberman, Ahmad Chalabi," which turned up this detailed post on the Cooperative Research History Commons site. We'll pick things up after swindler-turned-liar-turned Iranian spy Ahmad Chalabi's failed 1995 coup attempt, against Saddam Hussein, which was first backed, and then abandoned, by the CIA (a message delivered by now-author Robert Baer.) The scheme was supposed to sweep Chalabi into power in Iraq, his family having been ejected from the country in the late 1950s. A year later, Chalabi moved from sipping tea in London to sipping coffee in D.C., where he made nice with neocon "intellectuals," a live-in lobbyists named Francis Brooke, and members of Congress -- mostly Republicans, including Trent Lott and John McCain, but also some Democrats, including former Sen. Bob Kerrey, and a certain now-former Democrat named Joseph Lieberman.
More from the Commons:
Ahmed Chalabi and Francis Brooke find allies in the US Senate’s Republican leadership. They provide the Republicans with details about the events surrounding the INC-CIA’s 1995 failed plot against Saddam Hussein (see March 1995) and Iraq’s subsequent incursion into Kurdish territory (see August 1996) which the Republican senators use against the Clinton White House and the CIA. “Clinton gave us a huge opportunity,” Brooke later recalls. “We took a Republican Congress and pitted it against a Democratic White House. We really hurt and embarrassed the president.” The Republican leadership in Congress, he acknowledges, “didn’t care that much about the ammunition. They just wanted to beat up the president.” Senior Republican senators, according to Brooke, are “very receptive, right away” to Chalabi and Brooke’s information, and Chalabi is soon on a first-name basis with 30 members of Congress, including senators Trent Lott, Jesse Helms, and Newt Gingrich. [Alternet, 21 May 2004.')" New Yorker, 7 June 2004.)
Then in May, 1998, the Project for a New American Century, which has formed to advance the neoconservative worldview in Washington, sends a letter addressed to Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich, calling on them to pressure the White House to change U.S. policy toward Iraq:
... The letter argues that the Clinton administration has capitulated to Saddam Hussein and calls on the two legislators to lead Congress to “establish and maintain a strong US military presence in the region, and be prepared to use that force to protect [US] vital interests in the Gulf—and, if necessary, to help removed Saddam from power.” [Century, 5/29/1998]
On September 1998, the PNAC got their way in Congress, as the Iraq Liberation Act was introduced, first in the House as HR 4655, and then, on September 29th, in the Senate. The Act clears the way for Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress to receive more than $17 million to gather information about the Saddam Hussein regime (almost all of which will be a) shared with members of the U.S. media including the New York Times' Judith Miller, and b) flat out wrong, made up, or otherwise completely useless.
Those who were surprised by Lieberman's determination to stay in the Senate at all costs, and his zeal to back John McCain, even if it costs him his chairmanship and seniority in the Senate, should take a close look at this history. Joe Lieberman isn't backing John McCain simply because they are friends. He is backing John McCain because the Iraq policy that McCain promises to continue indefinitely isn't just the project of a "new century," it isn't just a project of the neocons (of which Lieberman is clearly one); it isn't even just a policy of the Bush administration. It's a McCain-Lieberman policy, which they helped to craft, to germinate, and to push into both the congressional and executive branches.
In short, John McCain and Joe Lieberman are fighting this election in order to continue their war.
Take action: Visit LiebermanMustGo.com to sign the petition calling on the Senate Democratic leadership to strip Lieberman of his committee chairmanship.
Joe Biden's only good line on "Meet the Press" this morning (have I panned him enough yet?) was when he said that John McCain appears to be running to be commander in chief of Iraq, rather than president of the United States (his point: it's time for an American president to put American interests first.) In his column today, Frank Rich does even greater damage to McCain's "stay if we lose, stay if we win" strategy for creating an eternal U.S. military presence in the Iraq of his dreams:
... Should voters tune in, they’ll also discover that the McCain policy is nonsensical on its face. If “we are winning” and the surge is a “success,” then what is the rationale for keeping American forces bogged down there while the Taliban regroups ominously in Afghanistan? Why, if this is victory, does Mr. McCain keep threatening that “chaos and genocide” will follow our departure? And why should we take the word of a prophet who failed to anticipate the chaos and ethnic cleansing that would greet our occupation?
And exactly how, as Mr. McCain keeps claiming, is an indefinite American occupation akin to our long-term military role in South Korea? The diminution of violence notwithstanding, Iraq is an active war zone. And unlike South Korea, it isn’t asking America to remain to protect it from a threatening neighbor. Iraq’s most malevolent neighbor, Iran, is arguably Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s closest ally. In the most recent survey, in February, only 27 percent of Iraqis said the American presence is improving their country’s security. Far from begging us to stay, some Iraqi politicians, including Mr. Maliki, have been pandering to their own election-year voters by threatening to throw the Yankees out.
Mr. McCain’s sorest Achilles’ heel, of course, is his role in facilitating the fiasco in the first place. Someone in his campaign has figured this out. Go to JohnMcCain.com and, hilariously enough, you’ll find a “McCain on Iraq Timeline” that conveniently begins in August 2003, months after “Mission Accomplished.” Vanished into the memory hole are such earlier examples of the McCain Iraq wisdom as “the end is very much in sight” (April 9, 2003) and “there’s not a history of clashes that are violent between Sunnis and Shiites” (later that same month).
To finesse this embarrassing record, Mr. McCain asks us to believe that the only judgment that matters is who was “right” about the surge, not who was right about our reckless plunge into war. That’s like saying he deserves credit for tossing life preservers to the survivors after encouraging the captain of the Titanic to plow full speed ahead into the iceberg.
Read the entire column here. It ends with a pretty good prescriptiono for curing poor John McCain's Vietnam-inspired obsession with staying in Iraq "until we win" (or to prevent us from losing after we win... or ... oh, never mind, here's the clip:)
Our best hope for a bipartisan resolution of this disaster may be for a President Obama to appoint Mr. McCain as a special envoy to Baghdad, where he can stay for as long as he needs to administer our withdrawal or 100 years, whichever comes first.
Reporters say the media has dropped the ball on the war. Says CNN's best correspondent, Michael Ware (ok, tied for best with Christiane Amanpour):
"This is the Vietnam War of our generation. This conflict is going to have repercussions that far exceed that of an Indo-Chinese, essentially, civil war," he says. "Yet for a litany of reasons, which may or may not be legitimate, from cost to security to audience fatigue, the media has dropped the ball on this conflict. It is a tragic indictment on the Fourth Estate."
Ditto the media's coverage of the Bush administration, which was slavish after 9/11, and only critical after the public figured out the administration was lying anyway.
Dig into the New York Observer's lengthy article on the misreporting of the Iraq war here.
"McCain's statement today that withdrawing troops doesn't matter is a crystal clear indicator that he just doesn't get the grave national-security consequences of staying the course - Osama bin Laden is freely plotting attacks, our efforts in Afghanistan are undermanned, and our military readiness has been dangerously diminished. We need a smart change in strategy to make America more secure, not a commitment to indefinitely keep our troops in an intractable civil war."
http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifThe New York Times, which it should be said, supported, promoted, and through its former reporter, Judith Miller, laid the groundwork for the war in Iraq, delivers a stinging rebuke of President Bush and his opposition to a new G.I. Bill:
President Bush opposes a new G.I. Bill of Rights. He worries that if the traditional path to college for service members since World War II is improved and expanded for the post-9/11 generation, too many people will take it.
He is wrong, but at least he is consistent. Having saddled the military with a botched, unwinnable war, having squandered soldiers’ lives and failed them in so many ways, the commander in chief now resists giving the troops a chance at better futures out of uniform. He does this on the ground that the bill is too generous and may discourage re-enlistment, further weakening the military he has done so much to break.
So lavish with other people’s sacrifices, so reckless in pouring the national treasure into the sandy pit of Iraq, Mr. Bush remains as cheap as ever when it comes to helping people at home.
Thankfully, the new G.I. Bill has strong bipartisan support in Congress. The House passed it by a veto-proof margin this month, and last week the Senate followed suit, approving it as part of a military financing bill for Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Senate version was drafted by two Vietnam veterans, Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, and Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska. They argue that benefits paid under the existing G.I. Bill have fallen far behind the rising costs of college.
Their bill would pay full tuition and other expenses at a four-year public university for veterans who served in the military for at least three years since 9/11.
At that level, the new G.I. Bill would be as generous as the one enacted for the veterans of World War II, which soon became known as one of the most successful benefits programs — one of the soundest investments in human potential — in the nation’s history.
Mr. Bush — and, to his great discredit, Senator John McCain — have argued against a better G.I. Bill, for the worst reasons. They would prefer that college benefits for service members remain just mediocre enough that people in uniform are more likely to stay put.
They have seized on a prediction by the Congressional Budget Office that new, better benefits would decrease re-enlistments by 16 percent, which sounds ominous if you are trying — as Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain are — to defend a never-ending war at a time when extended tours of duty have sapped morale and strained recruiting to the breaking point.
Their reasoning is flawed since the C.B.O. has also predicted that the bill would offset the re-enlistment decline by increasing new recruits — by 16 percent. The chance of a real shot at a college education turns out to be as strong a lure as ever. This is good news for our punishingly overburdened volunteer army, which needs all the smart, ambitious strivers it can get.
This page strongly supports a larger, sturdier military. It opposes throwing ever more money at the Pentagon for defense programs that are wasteful and poorly conceived. But as a long-term investment in human capital, in education and job training, there is no good argument against an expanded, generous G.I. Bill.
By threatening to veto it, Mr. Bush is showing great consistency of misjudgment. Congress should forcefully show how wrong he is by overriding his opposition and spending the money — an estimated $52 billion over 10 years, a tiniest fraction of the ongoing cost of Mr. Bush’s Iraq misadventure.
In today's editorial, "Mr. Bush and the GI Bill", the New York Times irresponsibly distorts President Bush's strong commitment to strengthening and expanding support for America's service members and their families.
This editorial could not be farther from the truth about the President's record of leadership on this issue. In his January 2008 State of the Union Address, while proposing a series of initiatives to support our military families, President Bush specifically called upon Congress to answer service members' request that they be able to transfer their GI Bill benefits to their spouses and children. In April, he sent a legislative package to the Hill that would expand access to childcare, create new authorities to appoint qualified spouses into civil service jobs, provide education opportunities and job training for military spouses, and allow our troops to transfer their unused education benefits to their spouses or children.
As Congress debates the best way to expand the existing GI Bill, Secretary Gates has laid out important guidelines to ensure that legislation meets our service members' needs and rewards military service. First, since our servicemen and women have regularly requested the ability to transfer their GI bill benefits to their family members, legislation should include transferability. Second, legislation should provide greater rewards for continued military service in the all volunteer force.
There are several GI bill proposals under consideration in both the House and Senate. The Department of Defense has specific concerns about legislation sponsored by Senator Webb because it lacks transferability and could negatively impact military retention.
The President specifically supports the GI Bill legislation expansion proposed by Senators Graham, Burr, and McCain because it allows for the transferability of education benefits and calibrates an increase in education benefits to time in the service. ...
To which Jim Webb, Chuck Hagel and the members of the U.S. armed forces should rightly say, "whatever."
Congrats again to Webb, Hagel, the IAVA and others on pushing the G.I. Bill through. And Happy Memorial Day.
Barack Obama flew back to Washington this morning to cast his "aye" vote on the G.I. Bill, which passed today as part of a $165 billion war funding bill that was, against the president's wishes, married to a domestic spending package. (Score one for Jim Webb and IAVA...)
Says the WaPo:
... The 75-22 vote surprised even the measure's advocates and showed clearly the impact of the looming November election on Republican unity. Senate Republicans who face reelection broke first on the amendment, followed by other Republicans who quickly jumped on board.
It was a clear rebuke to Bush, who has promised to veto any measure that adds domestic spending to his $108 billion request to fund the war. The White House opposed the expanded G.I. Bill, concerned that the price tag was too high and the generous benefits could entice soldiers and Marines to leave the overburdened military rather than reenlist.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, who was in Ft. Bragg, N.C. with Bush, said of the vote: "There's a long way to go in this process, and fortunately it takes two houses of Congress to send a bill to the president. Our position hasn't changed: This is the wrong way to consider domestic spending, and Congress should not go down this path."
The Senate measure extends unemployment benefits for 13 weeks, funds levee construction around New Orleans and guarantees that veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will receive education benefits equal to the tuition of the most expensive state universities.
It provides additional funds for the Food and Drug Administration, the 2010 Census, federal prisons, local law enforcement agencies, heating assistance for the poor and many other domestic priorities. It also blocks the administration from implementing regulations that would limit access to the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
Although parts of the amendment have always enjoyed bipartisan support, the measure has taken on the weight of the presidential campaign in recent weeks. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the presumptive GOP nominee, opposed the domestic spending and advocated a slimmed-down version of the G.I. Bill, adopting the administration's argument that the original version -- authored by Sens. James Webb (D-Va.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) -- would deplete the military.
In so doing, McCain went against virtually every veterans organization, from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion to the more partisan VoteVets.org.
McCain did not interrupt his campaign schedule to vote today, but his Democratic rivals, Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), did.
"I respect Senator John McCain's service to our country," Obama said. "But I can't understand why he would line up behind the president in opposition to this G.I. Bill. I can't believe why he believes it is too generous to our veterans."
So who were the 22 Senators who voted against the bill? My money's on Traitor Joe and Miss Lindsey being in that number. Let's take a look-see:
Well I'll be damned! Lieberman surprised me this time, although his favorite little warmonger didn't even bother to show up and vote. Way to show that courage, McCain... And with the other AZ Republican Senator voting down veteran's benefits (the vote you'd have to assume McCain would have cast, had he had the cojones to show up), you've got to wonder what Arizona's veterans and active duty troops think of their present leadership. Could it be time to revive the question, Senator, "when and why did you sell your soul?"
Kids! Grandpa's had another senior moment! At a town hall meeting today, he essentially conceded the point that the Iraq war was over oil. Crooks and Liars has the video, which includes Chris Matthews talking about something other than Jeremiah Wright, and here's the quote:
“My friends, I will have an energy policy which will eliminate our dependence on oil from Middle East that will then prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.”
My friends, I wonder if tomorrow, Grampy might admit that we've become the world's first Western torture democracy?
For now, the Pentagon has shelved its program sending retired generals to the major TV and cable networks as propagandists for the war. Official reason: "internal review." Unoficial reason: New York Times...
Support the troops? Not in the Bush administration...
The Bush administration has a long, sorry history of covering up the costs of the war in Iraq, from their "emergency appropriations" that feed the financial costs piecemeal to the Congress and the American people, to their denial of press coverage of the flag draped coffins of our veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan (or at their funerals), to, apparently, boldfaced attempts to downplay the horrors of war's aftermath for the men and women returning from service.
The latest outrage, which you might have heard on Olbermann's show last week:
WASHINGTON - Two Democratic senators have called for the chief mental health official of the Veterans Affairs Department to resign, saying he tried to cover up the rising number of veteran suicides.
Sens. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Patty Murray of Washington state said Tuesday that Dr. Ira Katz, the VA's mental health director, withheld crucial information on the true suicide risk among veterans.
"Dr. Katz's irresponsible actions have been a disservice to our veterans, and it is time for him to go," said Murray, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. "The No. 1 priority of the VA should be caring for our veterans, not covering up the truth."
So what did Dr. Katz do?
A number of Democratic senators said they were appalled at e-mails showing Katz and other VA officials apparently trying to conceal the number of suicides by veterans. Ahttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifn e-mail message from Katz disclosed this week as part of a lawsuit that went to trial in San Francisco starts with "Shh!" and claims 12,000 veterans a year attempt suicide while under department treatment.
"Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?" the e-mail asks. ...
...Another e-mail said an average of 18 war veterans kill themselves each day — and five of them are under VA care when they commit suicide.
[an estimated] 300,000 U.S. troops — about 20 percent of those deployed — are suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The saddest part is, the Bush administration (and their sycophant followers online and in talk radio, plus their acolytes like Joe Lieberman and John McCain,) are willing to feed our finest young men and women into the grinder, slogging on in a war that was long-since over, but they haven't the slightest interest in what happens to them when, or if, they come home.
The Washington Post takes on the Pentagon's continued policy of hiding the flag draped coffins of Iraq and Afghanistan war casualties from the American people. Here's Dana Milbank:
Lt. Col. Billy Hall, one of the most senior officers to be killed in the Iraq war, was laid to rest yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery. It's hard to escape the conclusion that the Pentagon doesn't want you to know that.
The family of 38-year-old Hall, who leaves behind two young daughters and two stepsons, gave their permission for the media to cover his Arlington burial -- a decision many grieving families make so that the nation will learn about their loved ones' sacrifice. But the military had other ideas, and they arranged the Marine's burial yesterday so that no sound, and few images, would make it into the public domain.
That's a shame, because Hall's story is a moving reminder that the war in Iraq, forgotten by much of the nation, remains real and present for some. Among those unlikely to forget the war: 6-year-old Gladys and 3-year-old Tatianna. The rest of the nation, if it remembers Hall at all, will remember him as the 4,011th American service member to die in Iraq, give or take, and the 419th to be buried at Arlington. Gladys and Tatianna will remember him as Dad.
The two girls were there in Section 60 yesterday beside grave 8,672 -- or at least it appeared that they were from a distance. Journalists were held 50 yards from the service, separated from the mourning party by six or seven rows of graves, and staring into the sun and penned in by a yellow rope. Photographers and reporters pleaded with Arlington officials.
"There will be a yellow rope in the face of the next of kin," protested one photographer with a large telephoto lens.
"This is the best shot you're going to get," a man from the cemetery replied.
"We're not going to be able to hear a thing," a reporter argued.
"Mm-hmm," an Arlington official answered.
The distance made it impossible to hear the words of Chaplain Ron Nordan, who, an official news release said, was leading the service. Even a reporter who stood surreptitiously just behind the mourners could make out only the familiar strains of the Lord's Prayer. Whatever Chaplain Nordan had to say about Hall's valor and sacrifice were lost to the drone of airplanes leaving National Airport.
It had the feel of a throwback to Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon, when the military cracked down on photographs of flag-draped caskets returning home from the war. Rumsfeld himself was exposed for failing to sign by hand the condolence letters he sent to the next of kin. His successor, Robert Gates, has brought some glasnost to the Pentagon, but the military funerals remain tightly controlled. Even when families approve media coverage for a funeral, the journalists are held at a distance for the pageantry -- the caisson, the band, the firing party, "Taps," the presenting of the flag -- then whisked away when the service itself begins.
Nor does the blocking of funeral coverage seem to be the work of overzealous bureaucrats. Gina Gray, Arlington's new public affairs director, pushed vigorously to allow the journalists more access to the service yesterday -- but she was apparently shot down by other cemetery officials.
Media whining? Perhaps. But the de facto ban on media at Arlington funerals fits neatly with an effort by the administration to sanitize the war in Iraq. That, in turn, has contributed to a public boredom with the war. A Pew Research Center poll earlier this month found that 14 percent of Americans considered Iraq the news story of most interest -- less than half the 32 percent hooked on the presidential campaign and barely more than the 11 percent hooked on the raid of a polygamist compound in Texas. ...
George W. Bush continues his pattern of punish the generals, reward the generals. Admiral Fallon was punished for his apostasy on attacking Iran. David Petraeus will not head to Florida as head of CENTCOM, his reward for being the door to door salesman in front of Congress for the Bush/neocon policy in Iraq. Steve Clemons agrees, and breaks a little news on Petraeus' possible future in politics.
I'm not sure how much of a bombshell it is that the military analysts paraded constantly on television in the lead up to, and during, the war in Iraq, were there to promote and propagandize the conflict. As far back as 2003, I had discussed creating an online backgrounder on analysts like Gen. Wayne Downing, who was part of the planning for the war, and other retired generals who a quick Google search would reveal were members of various pro-war think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute (think about that one for a second -- a group pushing for war, devoted to "enterprise" -- not a long leap.)
Still, it's good that the NYT is making the facts plain, for those who didn't Google their analysts, to see. From Sunday's report:
In the summer of 2005, the Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay. The detention center had just been branded “the gulag of our times” by Amnesty International, there were new allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls were mounting for its closure.
The administration’s communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.
To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.
Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.
The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.
Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.
Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.
Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.
In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.
A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.
“It was them saying, ‘We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,’ ” Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst, said.
Kenneth Allard, a former NBC military analyst who has taught information warfare at the National Defense University, said the campaign amounted to a sophisticated information operation. “This was a coherent, active policy,” he said.
As conditions in Iraq deteriorated, Mr. Allard recalled, he saw a yawning gap between what analysts were told in private briefings and what subsequent inquiries and books later revealed.
“Night and day,” Mr. Allard said, “I felt we’d been hosed.”
When I did a Knight journalism fellowship at the University of Maryland in December 2003 for editorial writers, we were given the same sort of treatment. We were given briefings by top Pentagon officials, including Douglas Feith, Stephen Cambone, etc., and those briefings were clearly designed to present the administration's view in a way that might reflect in our editorial writing. For about half of our group, it just made us more cynical, and more skeptical.
Back to the generals. Some of them were obvious plants from the start. Take the late (and legendary) Gen. Wayne Downing, in December, 2001, the Washington post wrote of him:
Wayne Downing is the most famous terrorism fighter you've never heard of. Less than a month after the Sept. 11 attacks, he shelved his semi-retirement to coordinate the nation's far-flung campaign "to detect, disrupt and destroy global terrorist organizations and those who support them," as the White House put it. He has the president's ear -- but whatever he's saying is not for public consumption. Even the size of his staff has been deemed a national security secret.
As a young Ranger, Downing, now 61, learned to stalk the enemy at night and capture rattlesnakes for food. In 34 years he rose through the ranks to command all special operations troops, including the clandestine Delta Force commandos whose close-quarter tactics are vital in places like Afghanistan. Battle-tested in Vietnam, Panama and the Persian Gulf, Downing is revered among the elite soldiers who call themselves "the quiet professionals."
He reports to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. He has more experience with terrorism than either of them. His unwieldy title is national director and deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism. Those who admire Downing would suggest a more concise one: the president's secret weapon.
"They brought him in because he knows how to get things done," says L. Paul Bremer, the State Department's ambassador at large for counterterrorism during the Reagan administration. "The bureaucracy very often needs a very good kick in the pants. He's going to have to crack some heads together."
But for brief periods he has ventured into the limelight, usually to sound the alarm about terrorism. Since leaving the Army in 1996, he has served on task forces investigating how terrorists operate and urging heightened security.
"They and their state sponsors have begun an undeclared war on the United States," he wrote in an August 1996 review of the truck-bombing of the Khobar Towers military housing complex in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 and wounded hundreds more. "They must be seen as 'soldiers' employing different means of achieving their political and military goals. They wear uniforms we cannot recognize and use tactics that we find repugnant and cowardly . . . Fanatics will be prepared to sacrifice their lives to achieve their goals."
Downing also war-gamed a scenario that exposed America's vulnerability to chemical and biological attacks. It foresaw terrorists releasing chemical agents with crop-dusting planes. Carl Stiner, a fellow retired general, recalled that he and Downing delivered their findings to the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 1997.
On Sept. 12, 2001, Downing was on ABC, explaining to viewers of "Nightline" the notion of "asymmetric" warfare: These foes, though small in number, knew exactly how to exploit the weaknesses of the strongest nation on Earth. "The paradigm has changed," he said. "And this isn't going to be over in a month or two months or six months. But this may well take years."
ABC quickly signed him up as an on-air consultant. These days Downing wears his gray hair slightly longer than when he was a West Point plebe; on camera he looked a bit uncomfortable, his neck tightly cinched in a button-down shirt. But his authority was obvious.
"We're going to find out where they are," he said of the perpetrators. "And then we're going to go get them."
It was no saber-rattling act. He made it sound like his destiny.
Downing once was courted for the job of White House drug czar, but friends say he felt that was an unwinnable war. He later vowed he wouldn't return to the government unless there were a national emergency. He preferred to stay in Colorado, enjoying the fishing and skiing, the time with his wife and grandkids. He also had enough land for four hefty Labradors.
But on Oct. 9, he reenlisted for public service, leaving the army of TV talking heads and giving up his seat on the board of an Australian high-tech weapons firm, Metal Storm, which boasts of inventing a gun that can fire a million rounds a minute. And he put aside another of his passions: serving as military adviser to a group of Iraqi dissidents who have been hoping for years to depose dictator Saddam Hussein.
He was no longer interested in media attention. He spoke for a minute and a half at the news conference announcing his White House post before concluding, "It's going to be a tough fight, but we will prevail. Thank you very much."
Then he exited to the shadows.
Downing, and another MSNBC favorite, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, also sat on the board of an organization called the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which pushed for the invasion of that country prior to the war. Other familiar names from that group: Deocon Richard Woolsey and the Dark Lord himself, Richard Perle, along with two elected officials who served as honorary co-chairs: Joe Lieberman and John McCain...
Back to Sunday's NYT piece:
Five years into the Iraq war, most details of the architecture and execution of the Pentagon’s campaign have never been disclosed. But The Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and Guantánamo and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation.
These records reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.
Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”
Though many analysts are paid network consultants, making $500 to $1,000 per appearance, in Pentagon meetings they sometimes spoke as if they were operating behind enemy lines, interviews and transcripts show. Some offered the Pentagon tips on how to outmaneuver the networks, or as one analyst put it to Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, “the Chris Matthewses and the Wolf Blitzers of the world.” Some warned of planned stories or sent the Pentagon copies of their correspondence with network news executives. Many — although certainly not all — faithfully echoed talking points intended to counter critics.
“Good work,” Thomas G. McInerney, a retired Air Force general, consultant and Fox News analyst, wrote to the Pentagon after receiving fresh talking points in late 2006. “We will use it.”
Again and again, records show, the administration has enlisted analysts as a rapid reaction force to rebut what it viewed as critical news coverage, some of it by the networks’ own Pentagon correspondents. For example, when news articles revealed that troops in Iraq were dying because of inadequate body armor, a senior Pentagon official wrote to his colleagues: “I think our analysts — properly armed — can push back in that arena.”
The documents released by the Pentagon do not show any quid pro quo between commentary and contracts. But some analysts said they had used the special access as a marketing and networking opportunity or as a window into future business possibilities.
John C. Garrett is a retired Army colonel and unpaid analyst for Fox News TV and radio. He is also a lobbyist at Patton Boggs who helps firms win Pentagon contracts, including in Iraq. In promotional materials, he states that as a military analyst he “is privy to weekly access and briefings with the secretary of defense, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other high level policy makers in the administration.” One client told investors that Mr. Garrett’s special access and decades of experience helped him “to know in advance — and in detail — how best to meet the needs” of the Defense Department and other agencies.
In interviews Mr. Garrett said there was an inevitable overlap between his dual roles. He said he had gotten “information you just otherwise would not get,” from the briefings and three Pentagon-sponsored trips to Iraq. He also acknowledged using this access and information to identify opportunities for clients. “You can’t help but look for that,” he said, adding, “If you know a capability that would fill a niche or need, you try to fill it. “That’s good for everybody.”
At the same time, in e-mail messages to the Pentagon, Mr. Garrett displayed an eagerness to be supportive with his television and radio commentary. “Please let me know if you have any specific points you want covered or that you would prefer to downplay,” he wrote in January 2007, before President Bush went on TV to describe the surge strategy in Iraq.
Conversely, the administration has demonstrated that there is a price for sustained criticism, many analysts said. “You’ll lose all access,” Dr. McCausland said.
And the person behind much of the campaign, is none other than Torie Clarke, now a TV analyst in her own right:
By early 2002, detailed planning for a possible Iraq invasion was under way, yet an obstacle loomed. Many Americans, polls showed, were uneasy about invading a country with no clear connection to the Sept. 11 attacks. Pentagon and White House officials believed the military analysts could play a crucial role in helping overcome this resistance.
Torie Clarke, the former public relations executive who oversaw the Pentagon’s dealings with the analysts as assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, had come to her job with distinct ideas about achieving what she called “information dominance.” In a spin-saturated news culture, she argued, opinion is swayed most by voices perceived as authoritative and utterly independent.
And so even before Sept. 11, she built a system within the Pentagon to recruit “key influentials” — movers and shakers from all walks who with the proper ministrations might be counted on to generate support for Mr. Rumsfeld’s priorities.
In the months after Sept. 11, as every network rushed to retain its own all-star squad of retired military officers, Ms. Clarke and her staff sensed a new opportunity. To Ms. Clarke’s team, the military analysts were the ultimate “key influential” — authoritative, most of them decorated war heroes, all reaching mass audiences.
The analysts, they noticed, often got more airtime than network reporters, and they were not merely explaining the capabilities of Apache helicopters. They were framing how viewers ought to interpret events. What is more, while the analysts were in the news media, they were not of the news media. They were military men, many of them ideologically in sync with the administration’s neoconservative brain trust, many of them important players in a military industry anticipating large budget increases to pay for an Iraq war.
Forgive me if I don't get all exercised about President Bush giving his umpteenth speech on Iraq today. The fact of the matter is that mosts Americans, myself included, have long since tuned him out. Nothing he says could move me, or most of you. That said, there are two ways in which Bush's ongoing prattle about Iraq are in fact important:
1. George W. Bush intends to drag the Iraq war into the next president's term, and to achieve that goal, he is willing to destroy the United States military, and the men and women in it, without remorse. For the families of the men and women who will now be assured of yearlong deployments instead of 15 month deployments, implying that this war will drag on, for years, and for the troops themselves, that is disastrous, and more than important. It's everything.
2. Bush used his speech today to imply that before his term ends, he will give in to the ongoing neocon demand that he extend the war into Iran. Cheney clearly wants it, and his would-be successor, John McCain wants it so badly he can probably taste it. The danger is that Bush will make good on that threat, leaving us a nation waging three wars as we head into the November elections. What that will do to the election is anybody's guess. Maybe the American people really are dumb enough to fall for the same trick twice (three times if you count Vietnam.) Or maybe they will pull a Laos on Bush and reject his attempts to use his endless wars for politics, or to twist politics in order to ensure more financially lucrative war.
We need to watch those developments. Trust me when I tell you, the major media will not.
Keith Olbermann explained the speech, and exposed its many lies, much better than I could tonight, since I didn't watch it. When the Youtube is up, I'll post the link.
So you want to be president based mostly on the war...
But you can't sit through an entire hearing on the matter to hear the full questioning of General Petraeus? Surely I'm not the only one who's bothered by the fact that "Baghdad John" McCain ducked out of today's hearing on his signature issue... (well, me and Keith Olbermann...) Talk about your political drive-bys...
Bush and Cheney's "torture trio": Donald Rumsfeld, David Addington and John Yoo.
On "The Chris Matthews Show" this morning, conservative writer Andrew Sullivan (of the Atlantic these days) dropped one hell of a prediction, saying, to paraphrase, that as a result of the latest revelations about what the legal staff of the White House was advising on the potential parameters of the treatment of detainees by the U.S. military, Donald Rumsfeld, former Cheney adviser David Addington and Deputy Assistant Attorney General / serial torture memo author John Yoo "had better not leave the country any time soon. At some point, they will be indicted for war crimes."
That's a hell of a prediction, and it's not at all unlikely. a criminal complaint was filed against Mr. Rumsfeld in Germany in 2004 by a pair of human rights groups, as was reported in Deutsche Welle at the time:
The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Berlin's Republican Lawyers' Association said they and five Iraqi citizens mistreated by US soldiers were seeking a probe by German federal prosecutors of leading US policymakers.
They said they had chosen Germany because of its Code of Crimes Against International Law, introduced in 2002, which grants German courts universal jurisdiction in cases involving war crimes or crimes against humanity.
It also makes military or civilian commanders who fail to prevent their subordinates from committing such acts liable.
... "We filed these cases here because there is simply no other place to go," CCR vice president Peter Weiss said in a statement, adding that the US Congress had "failed" to seriously investigate the abuses. "It is clear that the US government is not willing to open an investigation into these allegations against these officials."
The complaint was prompted by the now infamous abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, for which only low level U.S. servicemen were prosecuted. A Pentagon investigation earlier that year cynically absolved those higher up the chain of command, but the groups named them anyway, including Mr. Rumsfeld, "former CIA director George Tenet, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Steven Cambone, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, Brigadier General Janis L. Karpinski and other military officers who served in Iraq." It was filed on behalf of five former Iraqi prisoners. Yoo wasn't on the list then, but he has certainly moved ahead in line.
In theory, trying former U.S. officials for war crimes is entirely possible, because once they have left office, these officials lose their immunity from such prosecution. Rumsfeld got the message and cancelled a trip to Germany in 2005 as a result.
John Yoo's Memorandum, as intended, directly led to -- caused -- a whole series of war crimes at both Guantanamo and in Iraq. The reason such a relatively low-level DOJ official was able to issue such influential and extraordinary opinions was because he was working directly with, and at the behest of, the two most important legal officials in the administration: George Bush's White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, and Dick Cheney's counsel (and current Chief of Staff) David Addington. Together, they deliberately created and authorized a regime of torture and other brutal interrogation methods that are, by all measures, very serious war crimes.
If writing memoranda authorizing torture -- actions which then directly lead to the systematic commission of torture -- doesn't make one a war criminal in the U.S., what does?
Good question, and it's one the United States Congress will never take up, at least not while there are politicians there -- a point Greenwald picks up nicely:
The political reality is that high government officials in the U.S. are never going to be held accountable for war crimes. In practice, "international law" exists as a justifying instrument for powerful countries to impose their will on those which are less powerful, and war crimes tribunals are almost always a form of victor's justice. So neither John Yoo, David Addington nor Alberto Gonzales, and certainly not their bosses at whose behest they were working, are going to be sitting in a dock charged with war crimes any time soon -- regardless of whether they ought to be.
But those who propound these principles and claim to believe in them ought to apply them consistently. John Yoo is not some misguided conservative legal thinker with whom one should have civil, pleasant, intellectually stimulating debates at law schools and on PBS. Respectfully debating the legality and justification of torture regimes, and treating systematic torture perpetrators like John Yoo with respect, isn't all that far off from what Yoo and his comrades did. It isn't pleasant to think about high government officials in one's own country as war criminals -- that's something that only bad, evil dictatorships have -- but, pleasant or not, it rather indisputably happens to be what we have.
Worse, we have a media establishment that is singularly uninterested in such things as U.S. government complicity in torture, or even in the stunning revelations of the sitting attorney general -- the alternatively ignorant and ignominious Michael Mukasay -- that we had intelligence about phone calls from an Afghan safehouse where terrorism was afoot BEFORE 9/11 but did nothing about it, because the Bush administration hadn't found a legalistic justification to spy on Americans yet. That too, passes into the good night, in favor of endless discussions of the Democratic horse race and Barack Obama's inability to bowl. (Andrew Sullivan channels Greenwald on that subject here.)
U.S. Army Sgt. Keith Matthew Maupin ("Matt" Maupin,) the first American to be listed as MIA in Iraq, has been found. He was captured by Iraqi insurgents on April 9, 2004 and was then seen on a videotape released by a militant group and broadcast on Al Jazeera on April 16 of that year. As we appeared unhurt in that video, he was clearly killed by his captors, as was alleged in a second videotape showing the execution of what appeared to be a U.S. soldier some time later. Maupin was promoted twice in absentia, from Private First Class to Specialist and ultimately to Seargent in April 2005.) His family was told that his remains were identified via DNA.
May God bless and comfort his family in Batavia, Ohio. Two other U.S. troops are currently listed as missing/captured in Iraq:
Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie, a 41-year-old Iraqi-born reserve soldier from Ann Arbor, Mich., was abducted while visiting his Iraqi wife on Oct. 23, 2006, in Baghdad. Capt. Michael Speicher, a Navy pilot, has been missing since the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
They, and the other troops serving in that country and in Afghanistan, should be in everyone's thoughts and prayers.
Iraq is still a hot mess (with another American killed in the "safe" Green Zone today.) Did you get the memo? Apparently John McCain and his good friend George W. Bush did not. And yet, Iraq is a mess, starting with Basra, and moving on to the mess being whipped up by the still strong Moqtada al-Sadr, whose general strike is making Baghdad John's perky pronouncements on Iraq look stupid ... again... Four More Years!!!
The Iraq war reaches a grim milestone for American troops, courtesy of a roadside bomb in Baghdad. An other 29,000 U.S. troops have been injured in the folly to find Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction. More on the progression of the dead:
The 1,000th US soldier to die was in September 2004, in the midst of a presidential election that returned Mr Bush to office for a second term.
The toll climbed to 2,000 in October 2005 as Sunni Arab insurgents battled to oust the Iraqi Government, and 3,000 in December 2006, before the US President unveiled a plan to send 30,000 more troops to Iraq to quell violence that has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and displaced millions more.
And we rarely know their names. The most recent death, so far unofficially reported, was 27 year old David Stelmat, who was in the Army, and who was somebody's beloved son, probably someone's brother, possibly the love of someone's life... He died on March 22nd. His and the other fallen troops are listed here.
Meanwhile, in the even more forgotten war, 488 U.S. troops and 296 coalition troops have been killed in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
And the question of who was killed in the war (or wars) and who was not remains open for some families, who are having to fight the military just to get their loved ones counted. From the Army Times:
WAUSAU, Wis. — Joan McDonald believes her son was a casualty of the war in Iraq, but the Army says that while he did suffer a severe head wound in a bomb blast, the cause of his death is undetermined, keeping him off the casualty list.
She and her family are demanding more answers in the death of Sgt. James W. McDonald.
“I don’t want it to be an undetermined cause of death,” said Joan McDonald. “That is ridiculous.”
McDonald, 26, was injured in a roadside bomb blast in Iraq last May. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment based at Fort Hood, Texas. After treatment in Germany, McDonald returned to Fort Hood and underwent extensive facial surgery in August.
His body was found in his barracks apartment Nov. 12, a Monday. He was last seen alive the previous Friday.
The Army ruled out suicide and accidental factors, but an autopsy could not determine the exact cause of death, in part because of the decomposition of the body, said Col. Diane Battaglia, a base spokeswoman.
As a result, McDonald’s death is considered noncombat-related, with the caveat that medical experts couldn’t rule out that “traumatic brain injury” may have been a factor, Battaglia said.
Joan McDonald, of Neenah, has no doubts about her son’s death.
“If my son was not at the war, he would not be dead, plain and simple,” she said. “He was a strong healthy boy. ... Don’t tell me it was unrelated to the war. I will never accept that.”
Tom Wilborn, a spokesman for Disabled American Veterans in Washington, said the question of whether McDonald was a war casualty is the first that he was aware of from the Iraq war.
“But it happened a lot during Vietnam,” he said. “There’s a long history where guys would be wounded in the jungle and they might live long enough to come home. And then they would pass away and were not counted as a combat casualty.”
According to an Army study in 2007, 1.4 million people in the U.S. suffer traumatic brain injuries each year. Of those, 50,000 die, 235,000 are hospitalized and 1.1 million are evaluated, treated at a hospital emergency department and released.
A Government Accountability Office study found that of soldiers who required a medical evacuation for battle-related injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan, 30 percent suffered a traumatic brain injury. But it was unknown how many soldiers suffered more mild forms of brain injury. ...
The family has turned to Russ Feingold for help. And how do members of the armed services measure the time, and the loss? In friends and marriages lost, and in time, that at times, seems wasted. A couple of posts from the Military Times website:
Robert Delgado, March 21 -
It’s a media hype(The Annivesary), we as soldiers don’t care about the 5 year time span. I served with the 4th Infantry Division Artillery from 2001 till 2004 and recieved the Purple Heart wounds recieved in combat. Most soldiers have done at least two tours in iraq and some more than 4. But what sticks out more than anything is that we are still there. The insurgency is not going anywhere and we have become the police force for the Iraqi nation. As you read this wewill have lost over 4000 soldiers.What were our goverments plans for this war? We know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Forget 5 and down let’s bring our men and women home.
Warrior, March 23 -
5 years, I agree, it is merely a number…I’ve just begun reading the book, ‘The Final Move Beyond Iraq,’ by Mike Evans. I’m so proud of each and every Service Member that is courageously sacrificing their life for the freedom we call home here in America. It’s not about being a republican or democrat, not about the right or the left wing, not about pro or anti-war…but what it is about is taking the enemy down with a unified Army. However, it is maddening and saddening about all the families that have been split up, loves ones lost, and the health affects the war is having on so many troops…one thing to keep in mind is that war has been a part of history before any of us were a mere thought…
Whether you love the war or hate the war, how can you help but love the warriors? God bless each and every one.
On "Morning Joe" this morning, Mika's dad weighed in on Barack Obama, Iraq, and why Mamie Eisenhower wouldn't have made a credible candidate for president, and neither would his travel agent...
Here's the transcript: TUCKER CARLSON: Dr. Brzezinski, it's Tucker Carlson ... I wonder what you make of Hillary Clinton's point, made over and over again that Barack Obama just has no experience, and we've taken this flier on a president eight years ago who had no international experience, no foreign policy experience, and that's been a disaster, and we can't afford to do that again.
DR. BRZEZINSKI: Well I sort of don't take that very seriously. She says she has been to 80 countries on trips. Well, my travel agent has been to over 150 countries on trips. That doesn't qualify her to be president. (laughter) She says she spent 35 years working for the public. Well when you look very closely, that's 35 years she left law school. She spent a lot of time essentially lobbying, dealing, enrich-ming (sic) and public service, it's a combination of all of these, but there's certainly not one that stands out that's decisive. Look; if John Kennedy, who was running for the presidency in 1960 when Eisenhower couldn't run again... if he had been running, not against Nixon, but against Mamie Eisenhower, would someone say that Mamie Eisenhower is better prepared to be president than John Kennedy? I mean, being the wife of a president does not make you ready to be president.
TUCKER: I stand back in awe ... I stand back in awe .. You have just ... you know I wish we had a Clinton surrogate on so we could see the shade of that person's face, it would probably be crimson... that's devastating... (laughter)
JOE SCARBOROUGH: ... travel agents and Mamie Eisenhower .. somewhere Jamie Rubin is in a fetal position...
We all knew that Dick Cheney is an arrogant S.O.B. who waved off military service for himself, while relishing sending other people's sons and daughters into war. But how much of an ass do you have to be to respond to the question of most Americans' opinions on the war with "so?" ... "SO???" ThinkP has the video.
Well we know that Cheney doesn't care, but perhaps you do, about what your fellow Americans think...
I was sitting in the newsroom at the local NBC affiliate on March 19, 2003, the day that "shock and awe" began in the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Like many newsrooms, the cynicism was such that the affiliates of the online news operation ran a pool to see who could come closest to guessing when the bombing would begin. I nearly won -- I guessed the night of March 18, because there was to be a full moon that night, and that presented the U.S. military with the best strategic chance to visualize the targets. I was the second closest guesser.
I found the atmosphere in the newsroom on the day the bombing actually began to be ... well ... disturbing. Some people actually cheered. I had a couple of reporter friends who were (and still are) hardline, pro-Bush Republicans. We had a lot of debates about the war over the next several days. I nearly got fired for an op-ed I wrote for the Miami Herald which the editors titled: "Against a Senseless War" (I had a less controversial title in mind...) I'll never forget Ike Seamans, the elder statesman in the newsroom and a veteran reporter who also wrote a column for the Herald, telling me not to back down; that I had every right to utilize my First Amendment privilege, news job or not. I didn't get fired.
Five years later, I still don't see how the war in Iraq was worth it. Saddam Hussein posed no military threat to the United States. He was contained. Iran was less bold. Al-Qaida was nowhere near Iraq. And Iraq was stable, and producing enough oil to keep price spikes at bay. Now, we have lost 3,990 U.S. troops, and the coalition has lost 4,298 in total. The war hasn't made us any safer. Iran is bolder. Terrorism has seeped into Iraq. The region is more unstable than it has been in my lifetime. And oil is at $108 a barrel (and nearly $5 at the pump.)
There have been winners. The Big Oil companies have reaped record profits, as have crony firms of the vice president, who have gorged themselves on our tax dollars, even as they short change and even poison our troops.
President Bush will give a speech today to argue that the war was not only worth it, it should go on, and on, and on.
I will mark the anniversary by not bothering to listen.
The WaPo posts an article by energy writer Steven Mufson that takes a fresh look at whether the Iraq war, whose fifth anniversary is approaching, was waged primarily to secure U.S. access to oil:
Instead of making Iraq an open economy fueled by a thriving oil sector, the war has failed to boost the flow of oil from Iraq's giant well-mapped reservoirs, which oil experts say could rival Saudi Arabia's and produce 6 million barrels a day, if not more. Thanks to insurgents' sabotage of pipelines and pumping stations, and foreign companies' fears about safety and contract risks in Iraq, the country is still struggling in vain to raise oil output to its prewar levels of about 2.5 million barrels a day.
As it turns out, that has kept oil off the international market at just the moment when the world desperately needs a cushion of supplies to keep prices down. Demand from China is booming, and political strife has limited oil production in Nigeria and Venezuela.
In the absence of Iraqi supplies, prices have soared three-and-a-half-fold since the U.S. invasion on March 20, 2003. (Last week, they shattered all previous records, even after adjusting for inflation.) The profits of the five biggest Western oil companies have jumped from $40 billion to $121 billion over the same period. While the United States has rid itself of Saddam Hussein and whatever threat he might have posed, oil revenues have filled the treasuries of petro-autocrats in Iran, Venezuela and Russia, emboldening those regimes and complicating U.S. diplomacy in new ways.
American consumers are paying for this turmoil at the pump. If the overthrow of Hussein was supposed to be a silver bullet for the American consumer, it turned out to be one that ricocheted and tore a hole through his wallet.
"If we went to war for oil, we did it as clumsily as anyone could do. And we spent more on the war than we could ever conceivably have gotten out of Iraq's oil fields even if we had particular control over them," says Anthony Cordesman, an expert on U.S. strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who rejects the idea that the war was designed on behalf of oil companies.
But that doesn't mean that oil had nothing to do with the invasion. Says Cordesman: "To say that we would have taken the same steps against a dictator in Africa or Burma as we took in Iraq is to ignore the strategic realities that drove American behavior."
A shocking gang rape allegation is the latest twist in the scandal over the privatization of the American military by the Bush administration. From ABC News:
A Houston, Texas woman says she was gang-raped by Halliburton/KBR coworkers in Baghdad, and the company and the U.S. government are covering up the incident.
Jamie Leigh Jones, now 22, says that after she was raped by multiple men at a KBR camp in the Green Zone, the company put her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job.
"Don't plan on working back in Iraq. There won't be a position here, and there won't be a position in Houston," Jones says she was told.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court against Halliburton and its then-subsidiary KBR, Jones says she was held in the shipping container for at least 24 hours without food or water by KBR, which posted armed security guards outside her door, who would not let her leave.
"It felt like prison," says Jones, who told her story to ABC News as part of an upcoming "20/20" investigation. "I was upset; I was curled up in a ball on the bed; I just could not believe what had happened."
Finally, Jones says, she convinced a sympathetic guard to loan her a cell phone so she could call her father in Texas.
"I said, 'Dad, I've been raped. I don't know what to do. I'm in this container, and I'm not able to leave,'" she said. Her father called their congressman, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas.
"We contacted the State Department first," Poe told ABCNews.com, "and told them of the urgency of rescuing an American citizen" -- from her American employer. ...
The full story will be on 20/20 this Friday. Among the allegations are that the young woman's rape kit was handed over, not to authorities, but to security officials within KBR. Not surprisingly, it was never seen again.
Goes to show you the dangers of allowing a private corporation to operate in the name of the United States, completely outside the reach of any law -- in this case, American or Iraqi.
Over two years later, the Justice Department has brought no criminal charges in the matter. In fact, ABC News could not confirm any federal agency was investigating the case.
Legal experts say Jones' alleged assailants will likely never face a judge and jury, due to an enormous loophole that has effectively left contractors in Iraq beyond the reach of United States law.
"It's very troubling," said Dean John Hutson of the Franklin Pierce Law Center. "The way the law presently stands, I would say that they don't have, at least in the criminal system, the opportunity for justice."
That these kinds of things are going on inside America's mercenary army is shocking enough. The fact that no one in our government will likely do much about it is worse. In many ways, large and small, our government (all three branches) almost exists for the protection of private corporations, and for the advancement of their interests.
Nowadays, the commerce they're protecting includes our military, citizens like Ms. Jones be damned.
Here's the final insult:
Since no criminal charges have been filed, the only other option, according to Hutson, is the civil system, which is the approach that Jones is trying now. But Jones' former employer doesn't want this case to see the inside of a civil courtroom.
KBR has moved for Jones' claim to be heard in private arbitration, instead of a public courtroom. It says her employment contract requires it.
In arbitration, there is no public record nor transcript of the proceedings, meaning that Jones' claims would not be heard before a judge and jury. Rather, a private arbitrator would decide Jones' case. In recent testimony before Congress, employment lawyer Cathy Ventrell-Monsees said that Halliburton won more than 80 percent of arbitration proceedings brought against it.
Watching Senator Jim Webb on Russert's show yesterday, it struck me that Democrats have a hell of a hard time explaining their opposition to the war in Iraq, and their position on national security issues generally. Why, I'm not sure, since Republicans have done nothing but botch both the war and the national security posture of the United States for more than 20 years. Democrats, on the other hand, have a history of facing down tough crises successfully (the Cuban missile crisis), taking responsibility for mistakes (the Bay of Pigs, Rwanda), and winning wars without compromising America's position on the world stage (Bosnia, Herzogovnia).
Anway, Russert was doing his usual schtick, attempting to solicit praise for the Bush administration and the "surge" from Webb, who recently returned from his first trip to Iraq. Webb's answer was a jumble of "yes it seems to be working" and "but that's not enough."
The answer, it seems to me, should have been much simpler and more forceful, and could have gone something like this:
RUSSERT: Doesn't the administration deserve praise for the surge, which the Washington Post says is working?
WEBB: Tim, if the point of your question is to get me to praise George W. Bush, then fine, Bush's surge is having positive results, as far as we can tell. But here's the question: what is the purpose of having a successful military operation in Iraq? If the point is to create success so that we can stay in Iraq forever, then George W. Bush is going to have a problem with the American people, and with the Congress. If the point is to achieve success so that we can withdraw American forces safely from Iraq, and soon, then I can both praise the success, and support the policy.
RUSSERT: But Democrats don't support the administration's policy. Doesn't that leave you in the position of not supporting an American military success?
WEBB: Again, Tim, if your point is to make the administration's political argument, you're not going to get agreement out of me. I'm not here to debate Republican talking points. We were supposed to be in Iraq in order to stand up an elected government. Our military did that. We were supposed to be creating an independent country, not an American client state. The only political purpose for a successful surge, as far as I'm concerned, is to get our troops safely out of Iraq. Period. That's the policy I support. If that's not what George Bush wants to do, then we have a problem.
...wouldn't that have been so much simpler?
Democrats have got to learn how to communicate more forcefully with the media, which is going to coddle the president at every available opportunity. They particularly must learn to handle insider journos like Russert, who are going to wave the WaPo and NYT at them every chance they get, as evidence that "even the liberal media support the surge." Webb, to be fair, did point out that "the Washington Post has editorialized in favor of the Iraq war from the beginning." That's a good start. But he and his fellow Dems have got to have a stronger, more straightforward answer on the surge. That answer is, in a nutshell:
If it's working. Good. So let's use this opportunity to get the hell out of Iraq.
That's what the vast majority of Americans want. And its why we elected Democrats to run Congress in 2006.
Damn, I love Chuck Hagel! My favorite Republican lawmaker (and a man who should be running for president) is at it again, calling out the Bushies in no uncertain terms:
"This is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I've ever seen personally or ever read about," the always blunt and frequently quotable Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said yesterday during an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
"This administration in my opinion has been as unprepared as any administration I'm aware of," Hagel added, "not only the ones that I have been somehow connected to and that's been every administration -- either I've been in Washington or worked within an administration or Congress or some way dealing with them since the first Nixon administration. I would rate this one the lowest in capacity, in capability, in policy, in consensus -- almost every area, I would give it the lowest grade. ...
"And you know, I think of this administration, what they could have done after 9/11, what was within their grasp. Every poll in the world showed 90% of the world for us. Iran had some of the first spontaneous demonstrations on the streets of Tehran supporting America. They squandered a tremendous amount of opportunity."
Hagel, who toyed with the idea of running for president himself, also said:
He would be open to the idea of either working in a Democratic administration or even running as the vice presidential nominee on a Democratic ticket -- though, he conceded, "I probably won't have to worry about it" because he's unlikely to be asked.
"If there was an area that I thought I could make a difference and influence policy, leadership, outcome ... then I would entertain" those possibilities, Hagel said. ...
Don't count on not being asked, Chuck. You're one of the few clear-thinking, independent-minded Republicans in Congress, and one of only a handful of people who truly embody the term "Senator" -- quite the opposite of the kow-towing, royal boot-licking Joe Liebermans around you. If you ran for president, I would seriously consider crossing political lines to support you.
The full transcript of Hagel's remarks can be found on the CFR website.
Another member of the "coalition of the willing" goes down. John Howard follows in the footsteps of Jose Maria Asnar of Spain and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy in defeat, not to mention the ultimately fatally damaged Tony Blair, who went quietly into that good political night after an agonizing near year of promising to finally go. The message: as Jesse Jackson said, "stay out of the Bushes."
The nation's new attorney general gets something right, finally giving up the security clearances needed for the Justice Department to investigate his predecessor's -- and those he was lacky to -- domestic surveillance. We await word on whether the Dems will cave on immunity for the telcos that helped out with the government's giant information shovel.
Bush's GOP lackeys on the Hill (I make the distinction to separate them from the Democrat and Independent lackeys on the Hill) demand that the Dems retract their Iraq war cost report putting the cost at $1.5 billion. After all, that report might turn Americans against the war ... HA!!!
And Kanye West's mother's death following plastic surgery is sad ... and should sober people up about how dangerous plastic surgery can be. Earth to ladies: it's not your mother's Botox brunch. Meanwhile, Kanye issues a statement. ... and the doctor who says he refused to operate on Donda West says she ignored medical advice and that doing so may have led to her death.
The latest estimate of how much we're paying to keep U.S. troops in GWB's private military training grounds in Iraq and Afghanistan: $1.8 trillion. That's TRILLION ... with a T. Dems say the figure includes the cost of veterans' healthcare, increased interest on the U.S. debt and the costs of higher oil and other prices here at home as a result of Bush's wars.
Dubya wants to add another $200 billion to that pricetag, even as he finally finds his veto pen to put the kaibosh on anything that remotely resembles assistance to the people who live in THIS country. That said, the history of this supine Democratic-led Congress (which is still filled with sycophant Republican courtiers -- including Joe Lieberman on the Senate side...) will more than likely back down from their $50 billion showdown try (with withdrawal demands to boot) and give Bush whatever money he wants to continue the wars.
The sad thing is, we've known for more than a year that the Iraq war's real cost would ultimately cost more than $1 trillion. Remember this brief headline? And the Democrats have done nothing -- nothing -- except capitulate and cower at the feet of a president who is at his nadir. It makes no sense, except that I have this sneaking suspicion that the reason the Dems keep caving is that they want the war to be full on, and Bush to be firmly in place -- when votes pull the lever next November 4th. In other words, they'd rather run against him that stop (or impeach) him.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 — President Bush asked Congress on Monday to approve $196 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other national security programs, setting the stage for a new confrontation with Democrats over the administration’s handling of Iraq.
Mr. Bush’s request increased the amount of the proposed spending by $46 billion over the $150 billion already requested this year. Much of the added spending would pay for new armored vehicles designed to withstand attacks by mines and roadside bombs, and a rise in operational costs because of the increase in the force in Iraq, now at more than 160,000 troops.
The spending request — declared an emergency under spending rules, even though the need for the money was never in question — comes in the middle of the White House’s fight with Congress over a series of spending bills for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. None of those bills has been completed so far.
Democrats on Capitol Hill, having failed last week to override Mr. Bush’s veto of an expansion of a children’s health insurance program costing $35 billion, reacted with dismay and anger that reflected a broader frustration over the war in Iraq. They also said they believed that Mr. Bush delayed his formal request to avoid unfavorable comparisons between his veto and the spending on the war.
House and Senate leaders have warned they would not take up the president’s request until they resolve differences in the spending bills that Mr. Bush has vowed to veto. Those differences amount to $22 billion, a fraction of the spending for Iraq and Afghanistan.
They'll weep and gnash their teeth and quietly fume over "more money for war and nothing for the poor..."
...and then they'll cave.
Unfortunately, that's what Democrats do.
Meanwhile, Turkey may pull a GWBush and invade Iraq. This time, the cassus belli is the same one Turkey has threatened to react to before -- to stop the Kurdish militant group, the PKK, from conducting terror activity in northern Iraq and Turkey. Turkey is now putting the pressure on Washington (and the Maliki government in Iraq) to clamp down on the supposedly placid Kurdish territories. Look for Washington to comply.
That, after all, is what the Bushies have to do at this stage.
Now they're gonna have to pass a resolution condemning that conservative magazine Pat Buchanan works for...
In fact, American Conservative magazine, which has been 100 percent right on the war and on George Bush's neocon Mideast policy, is taking aim at General Petraeus, just like MoveOn.org. The title of October's cover says it all:
In common parlance, the phrase “political general” is an epithet, the inverse of the warrior or frontline soldier. In any serious war, with big issues at stake, to assign command to a political general is to court disaster—so at least most Americans believe. But in fact, at the highest levels, successful command requires a sophisticated grasp of politics. At the summit, war and politics merge and become inextricably intertwined. A general in chief not fully attuned to the latter will not master the former.
George Washington, U.S. Grant, and Dwight D. Eisenhower were all “political generals” in the very best sense of the term. Their claims to immortality rest not on their battlefield exploits—Washington actually won few battles, and Grant achieved his victories through brute force rather than finesse, while Ike hardly qualifies as a field commander at all—but on the skill they demonstrated in translating military power into political advantage. Each of these three genuinely great soldiers possessed a sophisticated appreciation for war’s political dimension.
David Petraeus is a political general. Yet in presenting his recent assessment of the Iraq War and in describing the “way forward,” Petraeus demonstrated that he is a political general of the worst kind—one who indulges in the politics of accommodation that is Washington’s bread and butter but has thereby deferred a far more urgent political imperative, namely, bringing our military policies into harmony with our political purposes. ...
...From the very beginning of the Iraq War, such harmony has been absent. The war’s military and political aspects have been badly out of synch. (In this regard, the hackneyed comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam are tragically apt.) The failure to plan for an occupation, the wildly inflated expectations of Iraq’s rapid transformation into a liberal democracy, Donald Rumsfeld’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge the insurgency’s existence until long after it had begun, the deeply flawed kick-down-the-door campaign that ensued once Rumsfeld could no longer deny reality: all of these meant that from the outset, the exertions of U.S. troops, however great, tended to be at odds with our stated political intentions. Our actions were counterproductive.
The Petraeus-Crocker hearings found Petraeus in a position to resolve that problem. Over the previous eight months, a discredited president had effectively abdicated responsibility for managing the war. “I trust David Petraeus” became George W. Bush’s mantra, suggesting an astonishing level of presidential deference. Sometime in early 2007, the task of formulating basic strategy for Iraq had effectively migrated from Washington to Baghdad, passing from the office of the commander in chief to the headquarters of the senior field commander. The president made it clear that he intended to takes his cues from his general. Military judgment would inform, even determine, political decisions. ...
...A political general in the mold of Washington or Grant would have taken a different course, using his moment in the spotlight not to minimize consternation but to stir it up to the maximum extent. He would have capitalized on his status as man of the hour to oblige civilian leaders, both in Congress and in the executive branch, to do what they have not done since the Iraq War began—namely, their jobs. He would have insisted upon the president and the Congress making decisions that wartime summons them—and not military commanders—to make. Instead, Petraeus issued everyone a pass.
The article then goes on to explain that Petraeus' optimism about the progress of the surge makes his recommendation that we draw down troops, rather than lay the pressure on even more ridiculous, concluding that:
If Petraeus actually believes that he can salvage something akin to success in Iraq and if he agrees with President Bush about the consequences of failure —genocidal violence, Iraq becoming a launching pad for terrorist attacks directed against the United States, the Middle East descending into chaos that consumes Israel, the oil-dependent global economy shattered beyond repair, all of this culminating in the emergence of a new Caliphate bent on destroying the West—then surely this moment of (supposed) promise is not a time for scrimping. Rather, now is the time to go all out—to insist upon a maximum effort.
There is only one plausible explanation for Petraeus’s terminating a surge that has (he says) enabled coalition forces, however tentatively, to gain the upper hand. That explanation is politics—of the wrong kind.
Given the current situation as Petraeus describes it, an incremental reduction in U.S. troop strength makes sense only in one regard: it serves to placate each of the various Washington constituencies that Petraeus has a political interest in pleasing
...A modest drawdown responds to the concerns of Petraeus’s fellow four stars, especially the Joint Chiefs, who view the stress being imposed on U.S. forces as intolerable. Ending the surge provides the Army and the Marine Corps with a modicum of relief.
A modest drawdown also comes as welcome news for moderate Republicans in Congress. Nervously eyeing the forthcoming elections, they have wanted to go before the electorate with something to offer other than being identified with Bush’s disastrous war. Now they can point to signs of change—indeed, Petraeus’s proposed withdrawal of one brigade before Christmas coincides precisely with a suggestion made just weeks ago by Sen. John Warner, the influential Republican from Virginia.
Although they won’t say so openly, a modest drawdown comes as good news to Democrats as well. Accused with considerable justification of having done nothing to end the war since taking control of the Congress in January, they can now point to the drawdown as evidence that they are making headway. As Newsweek’s Michael Hirsch observed, Petraeus “delivered an early Christmas present” to congressional Democrats.
Above all, a modest drawdown pleases President Bush. It gives him breathing room to continue the conflict in which he has so much invested. It all but guarantees that Iraq will be the principal gift that Bush bestows upon his successor when he leaves office in January 2009. Bush’s war will outlive Bush: for reasons difficult to fathom, this has become an important goal for the president and his dwindling band of loyalists.
Granted, no one is completely happy. Yet neither does anyone go away empty-handed. The Petraeus plan offers a little something for everyone, not least of all for Petraeus himself, who takes back to Baghdad a smidgen of additional time (his next report is not due for another six months), lots more money (at least $3 billion per week), and assurances that his tenure in command has been extended.
This outcome reflects the handiwork of someone skilled in the ways of Washington. Yet the ultimate result is to allow the contradiction between our military efforts in Iraq and our professed political purposes there to persist.
The article ends with a damning conclusion:
The president has made no serious effort to mobilize the wherewithal that his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan require. The Congress, liberal Democrats voting aye, has made itself complicit in this shameful policy by obligingly appropriating whatever sums of money the president has requested, all, of course, in the name of “supporting the troops.”
Petraeus has now given this charade a further lease on life. In effect, he is allowing the president and the Congress to continue dodging the main issue, which comes down to this: if the civilian leadership wants to wage a global war on terror and if that war entails pacifying Iraq, then let’s get serious about providing what’s needed to complete the mission—starting with lots more soldiers. Rather than curtailing the ostensibly successful surge, Petraeus should broaden and deepen it. That means sending more troops to Iraq, not bringing them home. And that probably implies doubling or tripling the size of the United States Army on a crash basis.
If the civilian leadership is unwilling to provide what’s needed, then all of the talk about waging a global war on terror—talk heard not only from the president but from most of those jockeying to replace him—amounts to so much hot air. Critics who think the concept of the global war on terror is fundamentally flawed will see this as a positive development. Once we recognize the global war on terror for the fraudulent enterprise that it has become, then we can get serious about designing a strategy to address the threat that we actually face, which is not terrorism but violent Islamic radicalism. The antidote to Islamic radicalism, if there is one, won’t involve invading and occupying places like Iraq.
This defines Petraeus’s failure. Instead of obliging the president and the Congress to confront this fundamental contradiction—are we or are we not at war?—he chose instead to let them off the hook.
Of course, if he had done otherwise—if he had asked, say, to expand the surge by adding yet another 50,000 troops—he would have distressed just about everyone back in Washington. He might have paid a considerable price career-wise. Certainly, he would have angered the JCS, antiwar Democrats, and waffling Republicans who want the war to go away. Even the president, Petraeus’s number-one fan, would have been surprised and embarrassed by such a request.
Yet the anger and embarrassment would have been salutary. A great political general doesn’t tell his masters what they want to hear. He tells them what they need to hear, thereby nudging them to make decisions that must be made if the nation’s interests are to be served. In this instance, Petraeus provided cover for them to evade their responsibilities.
Politically, it qualifies as a brilliant maneuver. The general’s relationships with official Washington remain intact. Yet he has broken faith with the soldiers he commands and the Army to which he has devoted his life. He has failed his country. ...
President Bush has a bad habit of using (and using up) the credibility of generals. He did it to Collin Powell, and he is doing it to Petraeus. That these men are willing to be so used is perhaps the saddest thing of all. Petraeus should know from having watched the Bushes use up and wring out formerly solid military men, including Powell, Ricardo Sanchez and Anthony Zinni, that the future for him is either bitterness or infamy. Or both.
Could the Iraq disaster, with its cost careening toward $700 billion, and estimated to ultimately cost U.S. taxpayers $2 trillion ... have been avoided for a measly $1 billion? A newspaper story out of Spain has some revealing allegations:
Saddam Hussein offered to step down and go into exile one month before the invasion of Iraq, it was claimed last night.
Fearing defeat, Saddam was prepared to go peacefully in return for £500million ($1billion).
The extraordinary offer was revealed yesterday in a transcript of talks in February 2003 between George Bush and the then Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar at the President's Texas ranch.
The White House refused to comment on the report last night.
But, if verified, it is certain to raise questions in Washington and London over whether the costly four-year war could have been averted.
Only yesterday, the Bush administration asked Congress for another £100billion to finance the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The total war bill for British taxpayers is expected to reach £7billion by next year.
The newspaper account of the conversation between Mr. Bush and Mr. Asnar, which reportedly took place on February 22, 2003 at Bush's Crawford ranch -- at a time when Bush was publicly telling the American people (and the world) that he was still hoping diplomacy would work to bring Iraq to heel, paints a now familiar portrait of a president who was outright lying -- he had every intention of invading Iraq, no matter what.
Asked by the Spanish premier whether Saddam - who was executed in December last year - could really leave, the President replied: "Yes, that possibility exists. Or he might even be assassinated."
But he added that whatever happened: "We'll be in Baghdad by the end of March."
We invaded Iraq on March 19th. The conversation with Jose Maria Asnar was said to have been recorded by a diplomat who attended the meeting. Other revelations:
Mr Bush was dismissive of the then French President Jacques Chirac, saying he "thinks he's Mr Arab".
Referring to his relationship with Downing Street, he said: "I don't mind being the bad cop if Blair is the good cop."
The President added: "Saddam won't change and he'll keep on playing games.
"The time has come to get rid of him. That's the way it is."
Days before the invasion began on March 22, 2003, the United Arab Emirates proposed to a summit of Arab leaders that Saddam and his henchmen should go into exile.
It was the first time the plan had been officially voiced but it was drowned out in the drumbeat of war.
A spokesman for Mr Aznar's foundation had no comment on its authenticity.
President Bush gave his address to the nation tonight on the subject of his "way forward" in Iraq. My headline:
Bush: Americans can now unite as 3% of troops may come home
Bush's speech tonight was almost surreal. Right off the top, having George W. Bush warn ominously of shadowy people who want to topple the government of Iraq must have elicited a chuckle or two from the shadowy neocons around him. He then went on to argue that a successful Iraq will make America safter because the terrorists we drew therein the first place by toppling the government of Iraq and invading the country will be stopped from toppling the government. But he also admits that the Iraqi government -- which is essentially a front for one of the numerous Shiite militias wrecking the country and which may be a client of Iran -- hasn't even met its own benchmarks, and that the "terrorist" enemy is a grave threat -- one that again, we created by invading Iraq.
He argues that Americans should "come together" to support his strategy on the basis of the apparently wholly owned by David Petraeus plan of reducing U.S. forces in Iraq by some 5,700 troops, when the surge alone added more than 30,000 troops to Baghdad and Anbar Province. So this 3 percent reduction is a reason to unite? Toward the end of his speech, Dubya threw out this gem: "it's not too late to support our troops in a fight they can win." Wow. That's rich. Dear, Americans DO support the troops. It's their mission, which comes from the politician in charge of them, namely YOU, Mr. President, that the majority of Americans do not support.
As Chris Matthews -- who has been a booster of this president in the past -- said tonight, the fact of the troops being in Iraq is not a reason to support the mission in Iraq. The mission comes from the president. It's his policy, not General Petraeus' and not the troops'. They carry out HIS policy, and it's that policy that Bush must defend.
And as for calling for Americans to "come together," Bushie, you're about six years too late.
Bush also mentioned that there are 36 countries fighting with us in Iraq. To quote Chris Matthews again, who are these people? They sure are quiet! Where are their troops? Their patrols?
Bush is clearly living in a world of his own.
But perhaps the most eerie thing about Bush's speech was his explication of the evolving, and apparently eternal -- if George W. Bush has his way -- role of U.S. troops in Iraq. He talked about a mission that would go from fighting, to training, to "overwatching" Iraqi troops, to essentially remaining in Iraq for generations to come -- sort of an overseer of a client nation we will never quite leave alone. But what a client! Iraq isn't even clearly a country capable or interested in being an ally of the United States. The Sunnis, whom we ran out of the Army, only want us there to keep the Shia, whom we put in place, from slaughtering them. But for that, they'd probably just as soon be down with al-Qaida. The Shiites hate us, but they find us occasionally useful for killing Sunni Baathists they don't like. The Kurds just want out of the country.
In George Bush's conception, the troops, not the president, own the war. The reason to remain in Iraq is because the troops are in Iraq. And the American people
I think it's clear that George W. Bush is no longer dealing with reality. He has entered an hermetically sealed bubble from which he will never emerge.
Disentangling the mangled hash that is George W. Bush's brain can't be an easy thing to do, but new information seems to come out every month that attempts to explain what the president was thinking when he made the disastrous decision to put the United States Army and Marines into Iraq.
And depending on who you believe, George Bush either knew that Iraq had no WMD and didn't care, or he still believed Iraq had WMD as late as 2006. At the end of the day, it may not matter, but for the purposes of history, it will be pondered for generations whether this man took his country to war based on deliberate lies, or negligent ones.
Meanwhile, even Wolf Blitzer is now acknowledging the failures of the Iraq campaign, pointing out these unpleasant statistics to one of the Bush faithful during his program on CNN:
Bombings, sectarian slayings and other violence related to the war killed at least 1,773 Iraqi civilians in August, the second month in a row that civilian deaths have risen, according to government figures obtained Friday. In July, the civilian death toll was 1,753, and in June it was 1,227.
Oh and the ethnic cleansing since the surge? It's up.
Iraq remains "unable to govern" itself effectively and hobbled by the absence of strong leadership, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's inability to broker political accord continues to make him vulnerable, according to a new U.S. intelligence report released today.
Seven months after President Bush ordered more U.S. troops to the country, "there have been measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq's security situation," the report concludes. . If U.S. forces continue their current strategy, security "will continue to improve modestly" over the next six to 12 months but violence will remain high and political reconciliation will remain elusive.
The report , determined that while some Iraqi security forces "have performed adequately," overall they "have not improved enough to conduct major operations independent" of U.S. forces in multiple locations on a sustained basis.
If U.S. troops were to downscale their mission to supporting Iraqi security forces and hunting terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda, the report contends that move "would erode security gains achieved thus far."
The British have a new "super weapon" to use to fight the "war on terror" in Afghanistan: an "enhance blast weapon" that kills the enemy by sucking the air out of his lungs and rupturing internal organs.
On the domestic "war on terror" front -- National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell admits what we already knew: that AT&T and other phone companies helped the government to spy on us. Why the admission? Because McConnell would like Congress to exempt the telcos from their customers' lawsuits. Nice.
It looks all bad. Bud don't worry, Dubya! Maybe some silly neocon can get Bushie to launch us another war?
Ari Fleischer has a new job! He's the spokesman for a group launching a $15 million ad campaign in support of Bush's Iraq surge. Ari appeared on "Hardball" yesterday with Mike Barnacle sitting in for Chris Matthews, and Barnacle scored two major slapshots: first, asking Ari to name the soldier featuerd in the ad (Ari couldn't recall) ... and second, after what sounded like a slathering set-up, asking "so Ari, how many Iraqis were on those planes that flew into the World Trade Center?" Watch:
As for who's funding the campaign, NBC's First Read has the rundown:
The donors who are financing the new multi-million-dollar TV ad campaign arguing against a withdrawal from Iraq include a Who's Who of former Bush Administration ambassadors (to plum assignments like France, Italy, and Malta); a least one of Bush's original Pioneers; the man ranked by Forbes (in 2006) as the third-richest American; and, of course, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.
Brad Blakeman, the president of Freedom's Watch, which is running these ads, released the following names as donors to his group. Blakeman told NBC that the rest of the donors are choosing to be anonymous. Freedom's Watch is a 501(c)4 organization, which can collect unlimited contributions and doesn't have to disclose its donors.
Iraqification: Cheney's words come back to haunt us
With Iraqi Sunnis now begging their Arab brethren for help to stop what that country's most senior politician is calling a genocide by ruling Shia, backed by Iran, which lawmaker Adnan al-Dulaimi says could spread to other Arab regimes, there are new wrinkles in George W. Bush's Iraq miracle:
A plot to ship 150,000 rifles from Italy to the Iraqi interior ministry -- the same ministry feared by many Sunnis inside Iraq as something of an Office of Ethnic Cleansing, was uncovered, with the Italian Mafia apparently behind the deal. The Guardian reports:
An Iraqi interior ministry official insisted the weapons were mostly for Iraqi police in Anbar province. But, given the close relationship between the Shia-led government and Shia militias and the irregular nature of the arms order, the disclosure prompted suspicion that the eventual destination could have been the militias, or police units close to them.
The aborted shipment comes only a week after a congressional investigation team found that the Pentagon could not account for 190,000 US-supplied weapons that had gone missing in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. It would have been another spectacular lapse to add to a growing list that began immediately after the invasion when the US failed to protect Iraqi army weapons dumps from looting and disbanded the Iraqi army complete with weapons.
The anti-Mafia investigators stumbled on the deal, which had not been authorised by the Italian government, while shadowing a group of suspected Italian drug traffickers. Expecting to find drugs during a covert search of the luggage of a suspect boarding a flight to Libya early last year, police instead found helmets, bullet-proof vests and a weapons catalogue. ...
Meanwhile, we step into the wayback machine to listen to a former U.S. Secretary of Defense explain to us why invading and occupying Iraq as the climax of the 1991 Gulf War would be such a bone-headed idea. Let's head back to 1994. Our epxert: one Richard Bruce Cheney. Bruce ... take it away...
Q: Do you think the U.S., or U.N. forces, should have moved into Baghdad?
Q: Why not?
A: Because if we'd gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn't have been anybody else with us. There would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq.
Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place? That's a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of it -- eastern Iraq -- the Iranians would like to claim, they fought over it for eight years. In the north you've got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey.
It's a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq.
The other thing was casualties. Everyone was impressed with the fact we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had. But for the 146 Americans killed in action, and for their families -- it wasn't a cheap war. And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad, took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth?
Our judgment was, not very many, and I think we got it right.
Righto. Meanwhile, on this side of the ledger, the U.S. lost five more troops today.
Sleep well, Dick. And your little pal George, too...
General Lute, the only guy willing to take that god-awful war czar job (read "latest Bush fall guy for pending Iraq failure") says it might be worth looking into a military draft. Got to feed the beast, you know. The money uote from White House deputy national security adviser Lieut. General Douglas Lute:
"I think it makes sense to certainly consider it 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."
A refreshing bit of honesty. And you know what? I'm for it. Open the draft rolls. Suck in every child of every chickenhawk neocon, starting with anyone related to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Bill Kristol, then work your way down from there. Every keyboard thumping "war blogger" who has never even considered going to war personally, and then we can get to the rest of us. Short war, then...
Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution has gotten a lot of mileage out of playing indignant over charges that he has been a booster of the Iraq war, and the current surge strategy of George W. Bush. This following his and fellow think tanker Ken Pollack's rosy-ish op-ed in the New York Times on how we just might be winning the war (a view that has won them praise from the neocon faithful.) Now, the third man on that recent Brookings trip to Iraq has what you might call a difference of opinion with O'Hanlon and Pollack on how things are going:
It is scarcely surprising that my perceptions of a recent trip to Iraq are different from that of two of my traveling companions and those of several other recent think tank travelers to the country.
From my perspective, the US now has only uncertain, high risk options in Iraq. It cannot dictate Iraq’s future, only influence it, and this presents serious problems at a time when the Iraqi political process has failed to move forward in reaching either a new consensus or some form of peaceful coexistence. It is Iraqis that will shape Iraq’s ability or inability to rise above its current sectarian and ethnic conflicts, to redefine Iraq’s politics and methods of governance, establish some level of stability and security, and move towards a path of economic recovery and development.
The full report is here. And Cordesman's analysis of why anything at all might be going better in Iraq? Luck.
Soccer (that's football, to you) may not be able to save Iraq, but for a few brief hours this weekend, it did bring that broken country together. What a great story -- despite the revelers throwing their Kalashnakovs in the air and waving them like they just don't care, resulting in at least four accidental deaths, not to mention the bombers who were determined to turn the festivity into tragedy, the way a bomber did after Iraq clinched the semifinals. The Iraqi team, known as the "Lions of Mesopotamia," is comprised of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, who played together as Iraqis, though they had to practice as Jordanians, since it's too dangerous for them to practice at home on one of those soccer fields our troops are risking their lives to construct. And they are an example of what Iraq can be -- plural, unified, and nationalistic beyond the constrictive bounds of sect.
But wait, it gets better...
The guy who scored the winning goal to clinch the 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia? He told the press afterward that U.S. troops should get out of Iraq. Like, yesterday.
BAGHDAD, July 23 — While Washington is mired in political debate over the future of Iraq, the American command here has prepared a detailed plan that foresees a significant American role for the next two years.
The classified plan, which represents the coordinated strategy of the top American commander and the American ambassador, calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the summer of 2008. “Sustainable security” is to be established on a nationwide basis by the summer of 2009, according to American officials familiar with the document.
The detailed document, known as the Joint Campaign Plan, is an elaboration of the new strategy President Bush signaled in January when he decided to send five additional American combat brigades and other units to Iraq. That signaled a shift from the previous strategy, which emphasized transferring to Iraqis the responsibility for safeguarding their security.
That new approach put a premium on protecting the Iraqi population in Baghdad, on the theory that improved security would provide Iraqi political leaders with the breathing space they needed to try political reconciliation.
The latest plan, which covers a two-year period, does not explicitly address troop levels or withdrawal schedules. It anticipates a decline in American forces as the “surge” in troops runs its course later this year or in early 2008. But it nonetheless assumes continued American involvement to train soldiers, act as partners with Iraqi forces and fight terrorist groups in Iraq, American officials said.
The goals in the document appear ambitious, given the immensity of the challenge of dealing with die-hard Sunni insurgents, renegade Shiite militias, Iraqi leaders who have made only fitful progress toward political reconciliation, as well as Iranian and Syrian neighbors who have not hesitated to interfere in Iraq’s affairs. And the White House’s interim assessment of progress, issued n July 12, is mixed.
But at a time when critics at home are defining patience in terms of weeks, the strategy may run into the expectations of many lawmakers for an early end to the American mission here.
The plan, developed by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior American commander, and Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador, has been briefed to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. William J. Fallon, the head of the Central Command. It is expected to be formally issued to officials here this week. ...
So when are we getting out of Iraq? President Bush has said that "future presidents..." plural ... will decide that. And Hillary got a smart-ass answer from the Pentagon when she asked about withdrawal plans. Now we're starting to see the bigger picture.
The Pentagon's Eric Edelman, one of those notorious neoocn undersecretaries, tossed Hillary a big, juicy softball with his ridiculous "aiding the enemy" letter in response to her letter, via the Senate Arms Services Committee, on which she serves to oversee the Pentagon ... duh ... and in which she asked for any Pentagon plans for an orderly eventual withdrawal from Iraq. Here's the background, in case you missed it:
On May 23, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates urging him to “prepare plans for the phased redeployment of U.S. forces.”
Given the express will of the Congress to implement a phased eplroyment of United States forces from Iraq and the importance of proper contingency planning to achieve that goal, I write to request that you provide the appropriate oversight committees in Congress - including the Senate Armed Services Committee - with briefings on what current contingency plans exist for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Alternatively, if no such plans exist, please provide an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning.
Clinton said she conveyed similar concerns in a private meeting with Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace, and has publicly warned the administration that redeployment is “complicated” and “If they’re not planning for it, it will be difficult to execute it in a safe and efficacious way.”
Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia. … [S]uch talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks.
Tough talk, and I'm sure Mr. Edelman thought that as in the past, such talk would shut down any talk about withdrawal, timetables, or opposition to the president's policy in Iraq. But this is not 2004, and Hillary Clinton is not John Kerry. In fact, as The Politico's Ben Smith points out, Edelman's broadside was probably the best thing to happen to Hillary all week:
Defense Undersecretary Eric Edelman, a former Cheney aide, really handed Hillary an enormous gift with his letter warning that "premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda."
That may have worked in 2004. Now it's just a gift to Hillary. Her staff would not, of course, say whether they knew how the AP had "obtained" Edelman's letter. But it was an incredible gift to her, and her aides promptly hit it out of the park, right there in the first version of the story.
Her Senate spokesman, Philippe Reines, demanded that the administration provide a withdrawal plan rather than "a political plan to attack those who question them."
He also called the comments "outrageous and dangerous" and, to boot, warned against "redeploying out of Iraq with the same combination of arrogance and incompetence with which the Bush administration deployed our young men and women into Iraq."
Is there still any danger here for Clinton, any chance that voters — Democratic primary voters?! — consider criticism of the war effort and discussion of withdrawal disloyal? Edelman seems to have thought so -- that excerpt reads as a shot across the bows. But it's a bit too late in the day for that, isn't it? When you've everyone from Richard Lugar to a front-page blogger on Kos getting your back, it's a pretty good day.
Indeed. Hillary, who is clearly thinking about her administration, rather than her nomination, is simply smoking the Bush administration out on its continued lack of planning in Iraq. The fact that the undersecretary would throw elbows in such a retro, 2004 manner might leave one to conclude that, just as they failed to plan properly for the occupation of Iraq, the Pentagon has made no plans for withdrawal from Iraq. And Hillary is on firm ground in asking the questions, first, since its her job as a member of the Armed Services Committee, and because the American people are demanding withdrawal by 70 percent majorities, and it would help to know if the civilian morons running the Pentagon have any clue how to get it done.
Hillary gets to try out her Dojo Bill immediate slap-back style, plus she gets some love from the left end of the base, and she plumps up her credentials as a pragrmatic, thorough and forward thinking commander in chief. Nice work if you can get it. More on Clinton's response, including her letter to Edelman's boss:
Saying that other members of the Bush administration had not resorted to political attacks when asked about contingency plans or the possibility of a phased withdrawal, Senator Clinton, a member of the Armed Services Committee wrote:
Rather than offer to brief the congressional oversight committees on this critical issue, Under Secretary Edelman – writing on your behalf – instead claims that congressional oversight emboldens our enemies. Under Secretary Edelman has his priorities backward. Open and honest debate and congressional oversight strengthens our nation and supports our military.
His suggestion to the contrary is outrageous and dangerous. Indeed, you acknowledged the importance of Congress in our Iraq policy at a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee in March, when you stated, “I believe that the debate here on the Hill and the issues that have been raised have been helpful in bringing pressure to bear on the Maliki government and on the Iraqis in knowing that there is a very real limit to American patience in this entire enterprise.”
I renew my request for a briefing, classified if necessary, on current plans for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq or an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning. I also renew my concern that our troops will be placed in unnecessary danger if the Bush Administration fails to plan for the withdrawal of U.S. Forces. Finally, I request that you describe whether Under Secretary Edelman’s letter accurately characterizes your views as Secretary of Defense.
I would appreciate the courtesy of a prompt response directly from you.
Take that in our backside. (Full letter via ThinkP here)
Meanwhile, the headline I get out of the New York Times/CBS poll is that Americans of both sexes are united in finding Hil to be a credible CIC, and that she's holding all the cards when it comes to the women's vote, with the exception of the throwback '50s housefrau vote. ...
Update: Bob Gates apparently is saying he will get back to Mrs. Clinton shortly. Meanwhile, the headlines have been gonzo for her:
The Republican leadership in the Senate has done it again.
After an all-night session called by Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in which the Iraq war was, at long last, debated as to its continued viability, Republicans led by Mitch McConnell, John McCain, and phony Independent Joe Lieberman, blocked attempts to pass the Levin-Reed (Jack Reed of RI, not Harry) amendment, which would have finally begun the process of bringing this disastrous war to an end. The Republicans are feeling quite proud of themselves tonight, having voted to protect the president, rather than American troops, once again. Apparently, support the troops, for Republicans, means supporting only their commander in chief, and to hell with those who are actually fighting and dying for his catastrophic mistake. (Note that the latest NIE indicates that Bush insistence on switching our focus from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2002 hurt the war on terror, by taking our eye off the ball in the Afghan-Pakistan border region, where al-Qaida is actually based, as opposed to Iraq, where only name-only offshoots dwell... for Michael Ware's spot-on take, click here.)
Reid has responded by pulling the entire Defense Authorization Bill from the floor, leading Republicans, in an incredible display of chutzpah, to blame Democrats for not supporting the troops. John McCain's melodramatic press conference performance, gilded by his pathetic attempts to get back into the good graces of the hard core fools who now constitute the Republican Qaida, was actually embarassing.
So now, Republicans, you must take complete ownership of this war. The Democrats are now four square against its continuation, as are seven in ten Americans. That leaves you alone as the defenders of the president an his Mesopotamian adventure. You own it, with all its consequences.
The tally in today's 52-47 vote: only four of the seven or so Republicans who have now publicly expressed opposition to the current war strategy had the courage to vote their convictions. They were: Chuch Hagel of Nebraska, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Susan Collins, also of Maine. Others, like Virginia's John Warner, tucked their pride and manhood into their pockets and voted with the president. Shame on them.
And to those who are still clinging to this war, and to this president, apparently without regard to the carnage its creating, both against Iraqis, and against our troops, shame on you.
President Bush is trying desperately to hang on to his Iraq war policy, as Republicans jump ship left and right (figuratively). Bush was practically begging Ohioans yesterday to support the war, and to give General Petreus a chance to report some "good news" in September. Meanwhile, Michael Moore points out the crying shame that Democrats -- who were swept into power in 2006 for one reason: to end the war (okay, too, the second being to end the rampant cronyism and corruption of the GOP) --haven't been able to find the stones to get the job done, or at least to keep pushing their position and forcing the Republicans to defend the president at their own risk. The sad truth is, it's going to take Republicans to bring this war to a close. They'll push to do it, because they fear for their own reelections, and they fear the loss of the White House in 2008. The problem, both for them and for the Democrats, is that we have a president who is determined to pass the Saigon moment of the Iraq war's eventual end on to the next president.
Related: Gordon Smith takes Iraq from the criminal to the insane.
Update: The Senate's Republican leadership successfully blocked an amendment to H.R. 1585 (the 2008 Defense authorization bill) put forward by Virginia Dem Jim Webb to limit troops combat tours to allow them adequate time to rest. Cynically, the GOP blocked that opportunity for our troops, with Joe Lieberman siding with them. In the end, only seven Republicans -- most up for reelection or otherwise politically inclined to walk away from the president (with a few principled ones like Chuck Hagel and Gordon Smith) -- voted with the unanimous Democrats, leaving the measure four votes shy of the needed 60-vote margin. To read all of the proposed amendments, click here. By the way, the goodly Senator Brownback declined to cast any vote at all... what a punk...
Update 2: with the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars now reaching $12 billion a month and $600 billion overall -- the cost of the Vietnam war -- the country now solidly against the war, and even election-minded Republicans starting to walk away from the policy, US News reports that White House West Wingers are starting to panic. I don't know that it would matter if they were, since I continue to believe that this president wants to wage this war until his last day in office, pushing off any total collapse of Iraq until the next administration -- particularly if it is a Democratic one -- takes over. Then the Republicans can blame Iraq's descent into utter chaos on the opposing party, rather than taking responsibility for their war. The Dems have finally caught on to this, and are preparing, in their weak little Democratic way, to fight back.
He didn't listen to Collin Powell before the invasion of Iraq, when the decorated military man spent a whole 2 and a half hours trying to talk him out of the war. Two and a half hours? Wow. Now that's a statesman! Yeesh...
He just might be possibly thinking about bringing the Iraq war to a close ... not!
And apparently, while he is a wide open book to the creators of Lil' Bush, he remains a singular mystery to the people who work with him:
"Top administration officials are aware that the strategy's stated goal -- using U.S. forces to create breathing space for Iraqi political reconciliation -- will not be met by September, said one person fresh from a White House meeting," Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks wrote for the Post. "But though some, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have indicated flexibility toward other options, including early troop redeployments, Bush has made no decisions on a possible new course."
The official told the paper, "The heart of darkness is the president. Nobody knows what he thinks, even the people who work for him."
Wow. "Hardball" stand-in David Shuster just bitch slapped Iraq war-o-phile and Scooter Libby defender Fouad Ajami over the latter's ridiculous comparison of Scootie-pie to the U.S. troops fighting, dying, bleeding, losing limbs and coming home permantly disabled from the war in Iraq. It was a thing of beauty, as Shuster cut up every lame argument Adjani tried to make, then brought in Paul Reikhoff to tag team the squirmy little weasel from the troops' point of view. After that, Shuster utterly dismantled that kook Dan Burton who tried so hard to take down President Clinton, but apparently hasn't learned the difference between an acquittal on perjury and obstruction and a conviction. The poor old cooter seems to still be salivating for the blood of Bill, but he can't wrap his addled mind around Libby's having been found guilty, but not punished for his criminal behavior. What a show. What a couple of maroons! Damn. Chris Matthews had better watch his back. There's a new big dog at MSNBC.... The video is here or get the link here. I'll post the transcript as soon as it's available. It's a thing of beauty...
For more classic Shuster smack-down, check out Youtube... first victim: Libby pal Tucker Carlson.
By the way, to understand why so many people are outraged by Ajami's idiocy, here's the crux of what he wrote in the Wall Street Journal last month:
In "The Soldier's Creed," there is a particularly compelling principle: "I will never leave a fallen comrade." This is a cherished belief, and it has been so since soldiers and chroniclers and philosophers thought about wars and great, common endeavors. Across time and space, cultures, each in its own way, have given voice to this most basic of beliefs. They have done it, we know, to give heart to those who embark on a common mission, to give them confidence that they will not be given up under duress. A process that yields up Scooter Libby to a zealous prosecutor is justice gone awry.
So Scooter is akin to our troops fighting in Iraq? Really? I hope Mr. Ajami doesn't really believe that, because such a belief is an insult not only to the troops in Iraq, but to anyone who has ever worn the uniform, which, by the way, includes neither Libby nor the boss he nearly went to prison to protect. Just thought I'd mention that. Oh, and by the by, in addition to being a recalcitrant and rather delusional neocon, Ajami is a Lebanese Shiite, which would make him likely quite pleased with the new government of Iraq, such as it is.
Ajami also wrote this:
This case has been, from the start, about the Iraq war and its legitimacy. Judge Walton came to it late; before him were laid bare the technical and narrowly legalistic matters of it. But you possess a greater knowledge of this case, a keen sense of the man caught up in this storm, and of the great contest and tensions that swirl around the Iraq war. To Scooter's detractors, and yours, it was the "sin" of that devoted public servant that he believed in the nobility of this war, that he did not trim his sails, and that he didn't duck when the war lost its luster.
Funny ... I thought it was about the outing of a covert CIA operative by her own government. Funny, that.
Another Republican (Pete Domenici) begins to back away from the war, suddenly voicing support for redeployment. Don't get it twisted. These guys could give a damn about the troops (in my opinion). They care about their reelections, and in 2008, they don't want to have to run on the war. Domenici is up for reelection in 2008, along with several other GOP Senators who are now "evolving on Iraq." The list (with the newly doubtful highlighted):
What a strange thing it is to have a day off in the middle of the week ... it's enough to make Thursday feel like a Monday. Oh well ... here's what-a-gwan:
Al Gore to Tipper: "Well, at least the boy was in a Prius..." (after his son gets pinched for possession of marijuana, Xanax, Adderol, Soma and more. And just days before daddy's 7-7-07 global warming concert? Duuuude...
A man is arrested outside Barack Obama's hotel in Iowa holding an eight-inch knife. Scary, with shades of Bobby Kennedy, or a security detail overacting? I hope for the latter but fear the former is more on the money.
The British government says the idea that the eight doctors and others who were arrested in the recent attempts at creating 'splosions at Glasgow and London airports were al-Qaida isn't quite accurate... now THIS is al-Qaida, if you still believe they are the boogeyman the administration wants you to believe they are...
On his first ever meeting with Rummy on May 6, 2004, the day before the Defense chief's testimony to Contress on Abu Ghraib (Taguba had issued his report a full three months earlier):
Taguba was met at the door of the conference room by an old friend, Lieutenant General Bantz J. Craddock, who was Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant. Craddock’s daughter had been a babysitter for Taguba’s two children when the officers served together years earlier at Fort Stewart, Georgia. But that afternoon, Taguba recalled, “Craddock just said, very coldly, ‘Wait here.’ ” In a series of interviews early this year, the first he has given, Taguba told me that he understood when he began the inquiry that it could damage his career; early on, a senior general in Iraq had pointed out to him that the abused detainees were “only Iraqis.” Even so, he was not prepared for the greeting he received when he was finally ushered in.
“Here . . . comes . . . that famous General Taguba—of the Taguba report!” Rumsfeld declared, in a mocking voice. The meeting was attended by Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld’s deputy; Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (J.C.S.); and General Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, along with Craddock and other officials. Taguba, describing the moment nearly three years later, said, sadly, “I thought they wanted to know. I assumed they wanted to know. I was ignorant of the setting.”
In the meeting, the officials professed ignorance about Abu Ghraib. “Could you tell us what happened?” Wolfowitz asked. Someone else asked, “Is it abuse or torture?” At that point, Taguba recalled, “I described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum, and said, ‘That’s not abuse. That’s torture.’ There was quiet.”
On Don Rumsfeld's "memory problems":
Rumsfeld told the legislators that, when stories about the Taguba report appeared, “it was not yet in the Pentagon, to my knowledge.” As for the photographs, Rumsfeld told the senators, “I say no one in the Pentagon had seen them”; at the House hearing, he said, “I didn’t see them until last night at 7:30.” Asked specifically when he had been made aware of the photographs, Rumsfeld said:
There were rumors of photographs in a criminal prosecution chain back sometime after January 13th . . . I don’t remember precisely when, but sometime in that period of January, February, March. . . . The legal part of it was proceeding along fine. What wasn’t proceeding along fine is the fact that the President didn’t know, and you didn’t know, and I didn’t know.
“And, as a result, somebody just sent a secret report to the press, and there they are,” Rumsfeld said.
Taguba, watching the hearings, was appalled. He believed that Rumsfeld’s testimony was simply not true. “The photographs were available to him—if he wanted to see them,” Taguba said. Rumsfeld’s lack of knowledge was hard to credit. Taguba later wondered if perhaps Cambone had the photographs and kept them from Rumsfeld because he was reluctant to give his notoriously difficult boss bad news. But Taguba also recalled thinking, “Rumsfeld is very perceptive and has a mind like a steel trap. There’s no way he’s suffering from C.R.S.—Can’t Remember Shit. He’s trying to acquit himself, and a lot of people are lying to protect themselves.” It distressed Taguba that Rumsfeld was accompanied in his Senate and House appearances by senior military officers who concurred with his denials.
“The whole idea that Rumsfeld projects—‘We’re here to protect the nation from terrorism’—is an oxymoron,” Taguba said. “He and his aides have abused their offices and have no idea of the values and high standards that are expected of them. And they’ve dragged a lot of officers with them.”
On the response to his investigation:
At the time, Taguba was working for Major General Mike Myatt, a marine who was the officer in charge of strategic talks with the South Koreans, on behalf of the American military. “I needed an executive assistant with brains and integrity,” Myatt, who is now retired and living in San Francisco, told me. After interviewing a number of young officers, he chose Taguba. “He was ethical and he knew his stuff,” Myatt said. “We really became close, and I’d trust him with my life. We talked about military strategy and policy, and the moral aspect of war—the importance of not losing the moral high ground.” Myatt followed Taguba’s involvement in the Abu Ghraib inquiry, and said, “I was so proud of him. I told him, ‘Tony, you’ve maintained yourself, and your integrity.’ ”
Taguba got a different message, however, from other officers, among them General John Abizaid, then the head of Central Command. A few weeks after his report became public, Taguba, who was still in Kuwait, was in the back seat of a Mercedes sedan with Abizaid. Abizaid’s driver and his interpreter, who also served as a bodyguard, were in front. Abizaid turned to Taguba and issued a quiet warning: “You and your report will be investigated.”
“I wasn’t angry about what he said but disappointed that he would say that to me,” Taguba said. “I’d been in the Army thirty-two years by then, and it was the first time that I thought I was in the Mafia.”
On the investigation itself:
Taguba’s assignment was limited to investigating the 800th M.P.s, but he quickly found signs of the involvement of military intelligence—both the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, commanded by Colonel Thomas Pappas, which worked closely with the M.P.s, and what were called “other government agencies,” or O.G.A.s, a euphemism for the C.I.A. and special-operations units operating undercover in Iraq. Some of the earliest evidence involved Lieutenant Colonel Steven L. Jordan, whose name was mentioned in interviews with several M.P.s. For the first three weeks of the investigation, Jordan was nowhere to be found, despite repeated requests. When the investigators finally located him, he asked whether he needed to shave his beard before being interviewed—Taguba suspected that he had been dressing as a civilian. “When I asked him about his assignment, he says, ‘I’m a liaison officer for intelligence from Army headquarters in Iraq.’ ” But in the course of three or four interviews with Jordan, Taguba said, he began to suspect that the lieutenant colonel had been more intimately involved in the interrogation process—some of it brutal—for “high value” detainees.
“Jordan denied everything, and yet he had the authority to enter the prison’s ‘hard site’ ”—where the most important detainees were held—“carrying a carbine and an M9 pistol, which is against regulations,” Taguba said. Jordan had also led a squad of military policemen in a shoot-out inside the hard site with a detainee from Syria who had managed to obtain a gun. (A lawyer for Jordan disputed these allegations; in the shoot-out, he said, Jordan was “just another gun on the extraction team” and not the leader. He noted that Jordan was not a trained interrogator.)
Taguba said that Jordan’s “record reflected an extensive intelligence background.” He also had reason to believe that Jordan was not reporting through the chain of command. But Taguba’s narrowly focussed mission constrained the questions he could ask. “I suspected that somebody was giving them guidance, but I could not print that,” Taguba said. ...
...“After all Jordan’s evasiveness and misleading responses, his rights were read to him,” Taguba went on. Jordan subsequently became the only officer facing trial on criminal charges in connection with Abu Ghraib and is scheduled to be court-martialled in late August. (Seven M.P.s were convicted of charges that included dereliction of duty, maltreatment, and assault; one defendant, Specialist Charles Graner, was sentenced to ten years in prison.) Last month, a military judge ruled that Jordan, who is still assigned to the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, had not been appropriately advised of his rights during his interviews with Taguba, undermining the Army’s allegation that he lied during the Taguba inquiry. Six other charges remain, including failure to obey an order or regulation; cruelty and maltreatment; and false swearing and obstruction of justice. (His lawyer said, “The evidence clearly shows that he is innocent.”)
And finally, on then Iraq commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez:
Taguba came to believe that Lieutenant General Sanchez, the Army commander in Iraq, and some of the generals assigned to the military headquarters in Baghdad had extensive knowledge of the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib even before Joseph Darby came forward with the CD. Taguba was aware that in the fall of 2003—when much of the abuse took place—Sanchez routinely visited the prison, and witnessed at least one interrogation. According to Taguba, “Sanchez knew exactly what was going on.”
Other outrageous findings: Hersh says the Major Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the man sent from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib in 2003 to "Gitmoize" the place, later got that assignment -- after Taguba's report -- to clean the place up! Miller got his new assignment just one month after the Taguba report became public. And as for a Congressional investigation? No serious one took place, all though this famous scene did involve a Congressman from Miami:
At the House Committee hearing on May 7, 2004, a freshman Democratic congressman, Kendrick Meek, of Florida, asked Rumsfeld if it was time for him to resign. Rumsfeld replied, “I would resign in a minute if I thought that I couldn’t be effective. . . . I have to wrestle with that.” But, he added, “I’m certainly not going to resign because some people are trying to make a political issue out of it.” (Rumsfeld stayed in office for the next two and a half years, until the day after the 2006 congressional elections.) When I spoke to Meek recently, he said, “There was no way Rumsfeld didn’t know what was going on. He’s a guy who wants to know everything, and what he was giving us was hard to believe.”
At least someone was paying attention... Previous:
Seymour Hersh has a new report out about our debacle in Iraq, including a chilling interview with Major General Antonio Taguba, author of the now famous "Taguba Report" on the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Herse did an interview with Wolf Blitzer as well as one on "Hardball" tonight, in which he detailed three key points:
The abuses at Abu Ghraib weren't initiated by the West Virginia grunts, they came from much higher up...
President Bush and then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld knew about the abuses, no matter what they told Congress or their handlers told the press, months before the pictures came out, and as Hersh told Chris Matthews tonight, "what did the president do about it? Nothing."
Blitzer asks Hersh about a quote given by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba said in a May 6, 2004 meeting with Rumsfeld, then-Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and top brass at the Pentagon.
"I described the naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum and said, 'That's not abuse, that's torture,'" Taguba said. "There was quiet."
The following day, May 7, Rumsfeld testified before the House Armed Services Committee.
"It breaks our hearts that in fact someone didn't say wait, look, this is terrible," Rumsfeld said. "We need to do something to manage -- the legal part of these proceeding along fine. What wasn't proceeding along fine was that the president didn't know, and you didn't know and I didn't know and as a result, somebody leaked a secret report to the press and there they are."
Hersh scoffs at Rumsfeld's response.
"It's sort of ridiculous. Everybody at the top, by the middle of January, knew," Hersh said. "The only question I raise at the end of the article, is what the president know, when?"
... "It's not when they saw the photographs," Hersh stresses. "It's when they learned how serious it was. They were told in memos what the photographs showed... They showed other, more sexual abuse than we knew, sodomy of women prisons by American soldiers, a father and his son forced to do acts together. There was more stuff [than] was made public. You didn't need a photograph if you had a verbal description of it.
Update: Of the countries that changed for the worse last year, three were in Africa: Somalia, Equatorial Guinea (surprise, surprise) and Niger. But lebanon changed for the worst -- down nearly 12 percent from the index last year. And among those that got better, there were some that were more or less expected -- Bosnia and Indonesia have made significant strides, and Liberia, with its new, female president, Ms. Johnson Sirleaf, appears to be on an up-trend. But surprisingly, "me dad's" country, the DRC, also took a turn for the better. Well, I guess when things can't get much worse...
Not-to-be renominated and bad -- but not as bad as Dick Myers -- Joint Chiefs Chair Peter Pace says he's not leaving his job voluntarily. I guess it's too bad he's not an old Bush crony from Texas -- if that were the case, he'd still have his job. As it is, Pace is left with the memory of being called an incompetent yes-man by Harry Reid...
Can these idiots do anything right??? Whether it's the war on terror or Iraq, the Bush administration appears to be operating on all cylinders -- assuming it's the job of those cylinders to screw things up...
A Gitmo detainee who was locked up in the Cuba gulag when he was 15 can't be tried under Bush's military tribunal system because he was designated an "enemy combatant" and not an "unlawful enemy combatant." Now, some are saying the mistake could jeopardize the whole, un-American system of Bushian justice.
Meanwhile, insurgents have posted video purporting to prove that they killed three U.S. troops still missing in Iraq.
And CNN reports that a senior U.S. general says that so far, the surge is a bust. Still waiting for the website to post the report, but Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr just reported it during Lou Dobbs' show.
Update: Hell, even the torture general, Ricardo Sanchez, thinks the war has gone to hell. Sanchez said in a recent speech in San Antonio:
“I think if we do the right things politically and economically with the right Iraqi leadership we could still salvage at least a stalemate, if you will — not a stalemate but at least stave off defeat,” Sanchez told the San Antonio Express-News. “It’s also kind of important for us to answer the question, ‘What is victory?’, and at this point I’m not sure America really knows what victory is.” […]
“I am absolutely convinced that America has a crisis in leadership at this time and we’ve got to do whatever we can to help the next generation of leaders do better than we have done over the past five years,” Sanchez said, “better than what this cohort of political and military leaders have done.”
Why so bleak?
The U.S. has lost 16 troops in just the first four days of June. This coming right after May having been the deadliest month of the year to date. And even with all the carnage on both sides, U.S. troops still do not control all of Baghdad -- forget Iraq -- we're just talking Baghdad! Add to that the psychological burdens being placed on our forces, half of whom are facing psych issues, according to a recent study.
For God's sake, how much failure can one country take? Or rather, two???
Why is the military going after Adam Kokesh? From RawStory:
A veteran of the Iraq war is accusing the military of trying to stifle the freedom of speech he volunteered to fight to protect.
After serving his country in Iraq, former Marine Sgt. Adam Kokesh grew disillusioned with US involvement there and became an anti-war activist. He participated in demonstrations around Washington, including Operation First Casualty, which was organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War in March.
Kokesh's anti-war activity and his correspondence with Marine investigators has rankled the military enough that it is working to revoke the veteran's "honorable discharge" designation. Kokesh will appear before a military hearing in Kansas City, Mo., Monday to fight the military's attempt to change his discharge status to "other than honorable."
As Kokesh explained on CNN last Thursday:
"This was a very unique demonstration. It was called Operation First Casualty. And it's called that because the first casualty of war is the truth. And the purpose of this was to bring a small part of the truth of the occupation of Iraq home to the American people. And we did that by simulating a combat patrol through the streets of Washington, D.C. We did it again just this past weekend in New York City. And we had civilians who were playing occupied people. ... We treat them as a combat patrol in Iraq might treat Iraqi civilians."
But the military objected to the protesters, including Kokesh, wearing their real uniforms. More on the protest here. Kokesh's blog is here.
Is it just me, or aren't we supposed to be fighting for "freedom" in Iraq, and doesn't the military defend our freedoms at home, including the right to protest? Hm???
The VFW has now weighed in on Kokesh's plight. From ThinkP:
“The nation’s largest combat veterans group on Friday urged the military to ‘exercise a little common sense’ and call off its investigation of Iraq war veterans who wore their uniforms during war protests. ‘Trying to hush up and punish fellow Americans for exercising the same democratic right we’re trying to instill in Iraq is not what we’re all about,’ said Gary Kurpius, national commander of the 2.4-million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars.”
I'm going to reach out to Kokesh this afternoon, and hopefully have him on the radio show this week. I believe there are hearings scheduled in his case today.
The Dems are debating in New Hampshire. First thing I noticed, the CNN stage managers were careful to place the top three candidates -- Edwards, Clinton and Obama, in the center, flanked by Bill Richardson and Joe Biden, to make a tight three-shot, a wider four-shot, or a b-list excising five-shot possible for the morning papers. (Dodd is on the other edge.) And right at the ends are Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. Now if I was being mean, I'd say the stage was like an inside out candy bar, with the nuts on the outside. But that wouldn't be Christian...
(Don't send me angry emails. It was a JOKE...)
Second: tonight's debate is going to be heavy on Iraq. Edwards' plan is to put distance between himself and what he sees as the wafflings of Hillary and Barack on their votes to end funding, without making lots of noise about it. That led to the best line of the night so far, from Barack, addressing Edwards' charge that he and Hillary failed to make clear how they were going to vote on funding, implying that they slunk into the chamber to cast their ballots. Edwards snipe: it's the difference between following and leading. Obama's retort:
"I opposed this war from the beginning, John, so you're about four years behind on leadership on this."
Update: Joe Biden reminds me of my high school English/literature teacher Mr. Sims. He's blunt, he's loud, he's wordy, and he makes it plain. As his fellow contestants bickered over whose fault it is that we're in Iraq -- George W. Bush's or the Democrats who voted to authorize the war, and over who can, cannot, will or will not vote to "end the war," Biden had a mini-meltdown that went something like this:
"Look, man! ... We've had so many lies over the last five years, it's time somebody told you the real deal! We've got 50 votes, people. FI'TTY. You wanna vote to cut off funds? You need ten more! The only way this war is gonna end is to get a Democrat into the White House, capice? Do I need to do this again in Pig Latin???"
Other notes. Hillary's play clearly is to reduce the divide between the candidates on Iraq. Edwards' is to increase it. So far, I think it's a draw.
Rorschach test: raise your hands if you think english should be the official language of the U.S. Only Mike Gravel raised his hand. Barack is taking a shot at cleaning it up for the other seven now, saying that the question is intended to divide. Gravel got a smattering of applause, Barack got much more. Hillary is taking her swing, saying that the Congress dealt with this before, and said that the problem is, if it becomes official as opposed to our agreed upon national language, you couldn't print ballots and other documents in other languages to help people with poor english skills. In other words, it's a technicality. Dodd is taking his crack at it now.
Update: Another Rorschach question. A New Hampshire teacher asked what would be the candidates' priorities for their first 100 days. John Edwards gave a rambling answer about traveling the world to restore America's alliances and global leadership. In other words, he'd get the hell out of here and go on a European vacation? John-Boy, your consituency as president would be the American people, not the people of Europe or the world. Hillary gave the right answer: end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home. Simple and correct. Obama couldn't really do much beyond saying ditto to Hil, so he threw in "tackle healthcare, because I think that's something that we could get done." Yeah, right... Kucinich threw one in from LaLa land, and it had something to do with peace, and maybe moving everyone onto a Kibbutz... Gravel did the bug-eyed, all these people are nuts, thing.
A final note: was this not the whitest audience you've ever seen in your life? I actually think Barack Obama was the only Black person in the room (and Richardson was the only Hispanic.) Michelle Obama wasn't there, so Barack might be the only Black person in New Hampshire tonight... jeez...
All in all, I'd say Hillary won this debate hands down. She came off as the most experienced, the most composed, the most rational, and the most responsible. Barack was solid but didn't wow me. I always love listening to Joe Biden, because he's entertaining and informative. I thought Edwards came off as combative and a bit desperate. I don't think his answers were very well thought out, and he still strikes me as a candidate more about style than substance. He took several swings at Hillary and Barack, but I don't think he landed any punches.
Everyone else could have just as easily stayed home, although I would give Bill Richardson a serious look as secretary of state during the next Clinton administration.
BAGHDAD - Fourteen American soldiers were killed in three deadly days in Iraq, the U.S. military said Sunday, including four in a single roadside bombing and one who was struck by a suicide bomber while on a foot patrol southwest of the capital.
The blast that killed the four soldiers occurred Sunday as the troops were conducting a cordon and search operation northwest of the Iraqi capital, according to a statement. Two other soldiers from Multi-National Division — Baghdad were killed and five were wounded along with an Iraqi interpreter in two separate roadside bombings on Sunday, the military said.
One soldier was killed Friday after the patrol approached two suspicious men for questioning near a mosque, and one of the suspects blew himself up, according to a statement. The military did not provide more details.
Seven other troops were killed in a series of attacks across Iraq on Saturday.
The deaths raised to at least 3,493 members of the U.S. military who have died since the war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
U.S. commanders concede that the surge strategy, which takes U.S. troops out of barracks and heavily armed vehicles and splits them into smaller units who are mixed in with the Iraqi military units and pushed out into the Iraqi body politic, has resulted in more casualties. And expect it to only get worse as the summer drags on. Meanwhile, Moqtada al-Sadr, with whom the U.S. is seeking talks apparently, talks to the UK Independent. According to the paper:
The Shia cleric told The Independent on Sunday in an exclusive interview: "The Americans have tried to kill me in the past, but have failed... It is certain that the Americans still want me dead and are still trying to assassinate me.
"I am an Iraqi, I am a Muslim, I am free and I reject all forms of occupation. I want to help the Iraqi people. This is everything the Americans hate."
Mr Sadr, revered by millions of Iraqi Shias, spoke after leading Friday prayers in the Grand Mosque at Kufa, just over 100 miles south of Baghdad. It is one of the four Iraqi cities considered holy in Shia Islam. He always wears a black turban, the traditional symbol of a Shia cleric who can trace his ancestry to the Prophet Mohamed. But for the second time in two weeks, he also wore a white shroud - a symbol of his willingness to be martyred, and his belief that death is close at hand.
As for talking to the Americans:
"There is nothing to talk about," he said angrily. "The Americans are occupiers and thieves, and they must set a timetable to leave this country. We must know that they are leaving, and we must know when." He has reason to be wary of US offers to negotiate. As revealed by The Independent last month, respected Iraqi political figures believe the US army tried to kill or capture Mr Sadr after luring him to peace talks in Najaf in 2004.
"We are fighting the enemy that is greater in strength, but we are in the right," he said. "Even if that means our deaths, we will not stand idly by and suffer from this occupation. Islam exhorts us to die with dignity rather than live in shame."
Cue the wingers associating al-Sadr with the Democrats ... see that! The key word is "timetable"! That's what the terr'rists want!!! Actually, that's what the Iraqis want -- and al-Sadr is an Iraqi. It's also what 70 percent of the American people want. And I'll bet, it's what the majority of American troops in Iraq want.
Too bad we don't have a government in Washington capable of implementing the will of the American people.
Back to al-Sadr: his rise to power and influence coincides with a greater Shia movement throughout the Middle East that has strong ties to Hezbollah, and therefore, in standard issue GWOT parlance, to Iran:
Mr Sadr, whose rise to become one of the most influential figures in Iraq coincided with the US overthrow of Saddam, said his movement sought to follow the example of Hizbollah, the Shia armed resistance movement in Lebanon. "Hizbollah and the Mahdi Army are two sides of the same coin," he said. "We are together in the same trench against the forces of evil."
Al-Sadr denies that he is favorably disposed toward increased Iranian influence in Iraq, and in most analysts' opinion, he is first and foremost an Iraqi nationalist. According to the same article, his Mahdi Army has even met with Sunni militias who are fighting al-Qaida and the occupation at the same time, ostensibly because they share common goals (to expel both foreign fighters and foreign troops from the country.) But the notion that al-Sadr would make common cause with Hezbollah, which receives both funding and inspiration from the Mullahs in Iran is worrying for the Bushies, who have inadvertently become the chief enablers of both Hezbollah and Iran. But here's the rub -- those Shia movements are primarily anti-Israel, and their ire is directed there, and only secondarily at the U.S., because of our unwavering support for the Likuud government in Israel and their expansionist politices in the West Bank. Conversely, the al-Qaida, Sunni movement, is more directly aimed at us, and at the Sunni dictators and monarchs we prop up (in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.) Together, they form not a single "axis" of terror, but a multi-headed hydra of anti-Western militancy, which the Bush administration has neither the wisdom nor the competence (nor the strong alliances for that matter,) to confront.
And because of that, these movements -- and general anti-Western militancy untethered to any group or movement) are spreading, in Europe, in Africa, in Latin America, in the Caribbean ... and to some extent, inside the U.S. Is it a mortal threat to you and me? Not really. Most of us will never be confronted by a terror attack. Are we under constant threat, as the Republicans would have us believe? I would guess not. No need to hide under the bed. But these developments have serious long term implications for Western society writ large, as they aggravate socioeconomic fissures that over time, could undermine the social fabric that holds us together. In other words: Bush's war has made us less safe for a longer time.
And the worst thing is, he doesn't seem to know what he has done, let alone what to do about it, and neither do the insane neoliberal so called "neocons" around him. Their madness has undone George W. Bush's presidency, undermined our democracy, and weakened our nation, our security, and our national honor. So what are they doing ? Why, praying for another war, of course.
Shame on all of them. The blood of our fallen servicemen and women -- who hail from the half of our uniformed military who are bearing the full brunt of Bush's war all alone -- are on all their hands.
A federal judge yesterday ordered the military to temporarily refrain from awarding the largest security contract in Iraq. The order followed an unusual series of events set off when a U.S. Army veteran filed a protest against the government practice of hiring what he calls mercenaries, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The contract, worth about $475 million, calls for a private company to provide intelligence services to the U.S. Army and security for the Army Corps of Engineers on reconstruction work in Iraq. The case, which is being heard by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, puts on trial one of the most controversial and least understood aspects of the Iraq war: the outsourcing of military security to an estimated 20,000 armed contractors who operate with little oversight.
Brian X. Scott, a 53-year-old Colorado man, filed the complaint in early April. He argues that the military's use of private security contractors is "against America's core values" and violates an 1893 law that prohibits the government from hiring quasi-military forces.
Scott's challenge set off a domino effect, prompting the Government Accountability Office to dismiss protests brought by two major private security contractors the Army had removed as potential bidders -- Erinys Iraq, a British firm, and Blackwater USA of North Carolina.
Michael Golden, the GAO's managing associate general counsel for procurement law, said the agency dropped the matter because Scott's court complaint may force the Army to revise the lucrative contract. ...
In a kind of re-run of Sen. John McCain's visit to Baghdad last month, Sen. Joe Lieberman, another well-known hawk on the war, made a surprise visit to Iraq today, complete with market stroll dressed in helmet and flak jacket and surrounded by troops.
When it was over, like McCain, he declared the escalation off to a promising start.
But Leila Fadel, a longtime McClatchy reporter there, found many soldiers with a somewhat more pessimistic view. Here is the opening of her report today.
Spc. David Williams, 22, of Boston, Mass., had two note cards in his pocket Wednesday afternoon as he waited for Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Williams serves in the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., the first of the five "surge" brigades to arrive in Iraq, and he was chosen to join the Independent from Connecticut for lunch at a U.S. field base in Baghdad.
The night before, 30 other soldiers crowded around him with questions for the senator.
He wrote them all down. At the top of his note card was the question he got from nearly every one of his fellow soldiers:
"When are we going to get out of here?"
All in all, though, Joe really dug the nifty sunglasses he bought from a not-yet blown up Iraqi vendor...
BAGHDAD - Eight American soldiers were killed in roadside bombings and a helicopter crash in a restive province north of Baghdad, the military reported Tuesday, making May the deadliest month of the year for U.S. troops in Iraq.
In other violence, three German computer consultants were kidnapped Tuesday from an Iraqi Finance Ministry office in Baghdad, an Iraqi government official said, and two car bombings killed 40 people in the capital, police said.
The Americans — all from Task Force Lightning — were killed Monday in Diyala as the U.S. commemorated Memorial Day, bringing the number of U.S. forces killed this month to at least 110.
"When you take a look at the life of a nation and all that's required to keep us free, we had more than 3,000 Americans murdered on 11 September, 2001. The number who have died, sacrificed themselves since that time is approaching that number," General Pace told CBS Early Show's Harry Smith. "And we should pay great respect and thanks to them for allowing us to live free."
Huh? Approaching??? How many ways can this guy be off base? Let RawStory count them:
First, the website Iraq Coalition Casualty Count puts the number of US service-members killed since the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003 at 3,455. The Pentagon only lists it as 3,441, with 14 deaths not yet being confirmed by the Pentagon. With either number, the total number of fatalities long passed the count of victims who died on 9/11.
Second, the General overestimated the number of deaths on 9/11. The website September 11, 2001 Victims states that 2,996 died in the attacks, rather than "more than 3,000 murdered" that Pace cites.
Finally, many of the victims who died on 9/11 were not American citizens. The aforementioned website lists 209 of the victims as foreign nationals.
Is this guy on mind-altering drugs? I liked Pace better when he was telling Americans the truth about the Bushies' bogus stories of Iranian arms smuggling to Iran.