Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Maybe now the Bushies will talk to them
Iranian television shows the test firing of a Shahab 3 missile. Source: New York Times

Iran tests new long range missiles that can reach Tel Aviv, not to mention U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Isn't that the kind of thing that got the Bushies to the table with North Korea? Just sayin...
(BBC) Iran has test-fired nine missiles, including a new version of the Shahab-3, which is capable of reaching its main regional enemy Israel.

The Shahab-3, with a range of 2,000km (1,240 miles), was armed with a conventional warhead, state media said. Iran has tested the missile before, but the latest launch comes amid rising tensions with the US and Israel over the country's nuclear programme.

The early morning launch at a remote desert site sent oil prices climbing.
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe called on Iran to "refrain from further missile tests if they truly seek to gain the trust of the world".

Two other types of missile with shorter ranges were also fired as part of the Great Prophet III war games being staged by Iran's military.
And from the New York Times:
PARIS — One day after threatening to strike Tel Aviv and United States interests if attacked, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were reported on Wednesday to have test-fired nine missiles, including one which the government in Tehran says has the range to reach Israel.

State-run media said the missiles were long- and medium-range weapons, among them a new version of the Shahab-3, which Tehran maintains is able to hit targets 1,250 miles away from its firing position. Parts of western Iran are within 650 miles of Tel Aviv.

The reported tests coincide with increasingly tense negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program, which Iran says is for civilian purposes but which many Western governments suspect is aimed at building nuclear weapons. At the same time, United States and British warships have been conducting naval maneuvers in the Persian Gulf — apparently within range of the launching site of the missiles tested on Wednesday. Israel insisted it did not want war with Iran.

“Israel has no desire for conflict or hostilities with Iran,” Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said. “But the Iranian nuclear program and the Iranian ballistic missile program must be of grave concern to the entire international community.”

The missile tests drew a sharp response from the United States. Gordon D. Johndroe, the deputy White House press secretary, said in a statement at the Group of 8 meeting in Japan that Iran’s development of ballistic missiles was a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

“The Iranian regime only furthers the isolation of the Iranian people from the international community when it engages in this sort of activity,” Mr. Johndroe said.

He urged Iran to “refrain from further missile tests if they truly seek to gain the trust of the world. The Iranians should stop the development of ballistic missiles which could be used as a delivery vehicle for a potential nuclear weapon immediately.”

Iran's Shahab 3 missile range. Source: The Guardian

As you might expect, the news shot the price of oil up, yet again.

The tests appear to be a reaction to Israel's "dress rehearsals" last month for an attack on ... somebody ... which coincide with increased diplomacy by Israel with enemies like Hezbollah and Hamas, which some Mideast analysts see as a way to soften the blow in the Arab world should the Jewish state attack Iran.

The news drew quick reactions from the U.S. presidential candidates:
... "Working with our European and regional allies is the best way to meet the threat posed by Iran, not unilateral concessions that undermine multilateral diplomacy," McCain said in a statement.

Obama has been criticized by Republicans for being too eager to engage enemies of the U.S. in talks. Asked how he would respond to the missile tests if he were president, Obama said he would confer with his national security team to find out whether "this indicates any new capabilities on Iran's part."

"At this point, the report is unclear, it's still early," Obama said on "The Early Show" on CBS. "What this underscores is the need for ... a clear policy that is putting the burden on Iran to change behavior. And frankly, we just have not been able to do that the last several years, partly because we're not engaged in direct diplomacy."

Obama said he continued to favor an incentive package that is aimed at getting Iran to drop its nuclear ambitions.
And:
McCain said Iran's missile tests "demonstrate again the dangers it poses to its neighbors and to the wider region, especially Israel."

"Ballistic missile testing coupled with Iran's continued refusal to cease its nuclear activities should unite the international community in efforts to counter Iran's dangerous ambitions," McCain said.

Obama, while calling Iran a threat, criticized the Bush administration for using bellicose language against the Iranian government while increasing exports to the country.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that U.S. exports to Iran grew more than tenfold under President Bush in spite of his criticism of its government as a sponsor of terrorism and warnings against any efforts to develop a nuclear weapon.

"It's that kind of mixed signal that has led to the kind of situation that we're in right now," Obama said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
More on Bush's checkbook diplomacy, from Newsweek:
(WASHINGTON) Nuclear weapons? No way. But there are plenty of items on Iran's shopping list the United States is more than happy to supply: cigarettes, brassieres, bull semen and more.

U.S. exports to Iran grew more than tenfold during President Bush's years in office even as he accused it of nuclear ambitions and sponsoring terrorists. America sent more cigarettes to Iran — at least $158 million worth under Bush — than any other product.

Other surprising shipments during the Bush administration: fur clothing, sculptures, perfume, musical instruments and military apparel. Top states shipping goods to Iran include California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of seven years of U.S. governmenttrade data.

Despite increasingly tough rhetoric toward Iran, which Bush has called part of an "axis of evil," U.S. trade in a range of goods survives on-again, off-again sanctions originally imposed nearly three decades ago. The rules allow sales of agricultural commodities, medicine and a few other categories of goods. The exemptions are designed to help Iranian families even as the United States pressures Iran's leaders.

"I understand that these exports have increased. However, we believe that they are increasing to a segment of the population that we want to reach out to, we want to know and understand that the U.S. government, the U.S. people want to be friends with them, want to work with them to integrate them into the world economy and become partners in the future," Gonzalo Gallegos, a State Department spokesman, said Tuesday when asked by reporters about AP's findings.
So ... we want them to get hooked on our cigarettes and be our friends before we ... blow them away...? And remember, while we're increasing exports to Iran (and don't think Dick Cheney's Halliburton isn't still doing business there, too...) we're also conducting covert operations which may be designed to provoke Iran into a war...

The Guardian drills deeper into the candidate reactions, and finds Barack Obama talking tough diplomacy (he also gets the headline, while Mac gets the mid-article crumbs...) and McCain sealing himself into the Bush glass coffin once again with a call for a halo of missile defense over Europe:
"Iran is a great threat. We have to make sure we are working with our allies to apply tightened pressure on Iran," the Illinois senator said.

Iran demonstrated its military force with the test-flight of nine long and medium-range missiles in the strategic Strait of Hormouz, through which 40% of the world's oil passes.

Tehran said the exercise was in retaliation to threats from the US and Israel over its disputed nuclear projects, which it claims are civilian.

Obama said if he were to be elected president, he would combine more direct diplomacy with the threat of much tougher economic sanctions.

"I think what this underscores is the need for us to create a kind of policy that is putting the burden on Iran to change behaviour, and frankly we just have not been able to do that over the last several years," Obama said.

He cited reports that US exports to Iran have increased under George Bush, even as the administration has toughened its rhetoric.

Earlier, the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said the "war games" justified America's defence plans with bases in eastern Europe. She said the tests were "evidence that the missile threat is not an imaginary one."

"Those who say there is no Iranian missile threat against which we should build a missile defence system perhaps ought to talk to the Iranians about their claims."

Her comments were backed by the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain. He said the tests "demonstrate the need for effective missile defence now and in the future, and this includes missile defence in Europe as is planned with the Czech Republic and Poland". These plans are strongly opposed by Russia.
Four more years ... indeed ...

The Iran news comes on the same day as word of an attack that killed three policemen near the U.S. embassy in Istanbul, Turkey. The Washington Post has details:
Gunmen attacked a police guard post this morning outside the heavily fortified U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, killing three Turkish police officers in what Ambassador Ross Wilson called "an obvious act of terrorism."

Three of the assailants were shot to death during the gun battle, authorities said, and a fourth person was taken into custody a short time later, according to Turkey's Dogan News Agency.

No Americans or consular employees were injured.

"This was an attack on the American diplomatic establishment here," Wilson said in an appearance before reporters in Ankara, the Turkish capital. " . . . Our countries will stand together and confront this, as we have in the past."

Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Istanbul Gov. Muammer Guler also labeled the incident a terrorist attack. Gul referred to the slain police officers as martyrs and said Turkey "will fight against those who masterminded such acts and the mentality behind it till the end."
The world just 



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posted by JReid @ 10:18 AM  
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Gone
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.

For information on what you can do to help returning veterans, go to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America website. And Godspeed to Pfc Dwyer's grieving family.

Related: Visit the site for HBO's new miniseries "Generation Kill" here.

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posted by JReid @ 7:39 AM  
Monday, November 05, 2007
JAGs make it plain
Four retired military generals write to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy to put some clarity to an issue that should have long been clear. From Leahy's website:
The letter was written by Brigadier General David M. Brahms, United States Marine Corps (Ret.); Major General John L. Fugh, United States Army (Ret.); Rear Admiral Donald J. Guter, United States Navy (Ret.); and Rear Admiral John. D. Hutson, United States Navy (Ret.). Admiral Hutson testified before the Judiciary Committee Oct. 18 as part of the Mukasey confirmation hearings.

“In the course of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s consideration of President Bush’s nominee for the post of Attorney General, there has been much discussion, but little clarity, about the legality of ‘waterboarding’ under United States and international law,” the generals wrote. “We write because this issue above all demands clarity: Waterboarding is inhumane, it is torture, and it is illegal.”
The full letter is available here.

The most important part of the letter reads as follows (it's the part you won't likely see teletyped on your favorite cable news show):
This is a critically important issue -- but it is not, and never has been, a complex issue, and even to suggest otherwise does a terrible disservice to this nation. All U.S. Government agencies and personnel, and not just America's military forces, must abide by both the spirit and letter of the controlling provisions of international law. Cruelty and torture -- no less than wanton killing -- is neither justified nor legal in any circumstance. It is essential to be clear, specific and unambiguous about this fact -- as in fact we have been throughout America's history, at least until the last few years. Abu Ghraib and other notorious examples of detainee abuse have been the product, at least in part, of a self-serving and destructive disregard for the well-established legal priciples applicable to this issue. This must end.

The Rule of Law is fundamental to our existence as a civilized nation. The Rule of Law is not a goal which we merely aspire to achieve; it is the floor below which we must not sink. For the Rule of Law to function effectively, however, it must provide actual rules that can be followed.
Never better said.

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posted by JReid @ 5:09 PM  
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Worth a look
With thanks to Jeff. Check out the Wounded Warrior Project.

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posted by JReid @ 9:03 AM  
Thursday, August 23, 2007
What's in a name?
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.

The full list is available at the link.

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posted by JReid @ 7:06 PM  
Friday, August 10, 2007
War czar on draft: could be a keeper!
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...

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posted by JReid @ 10:45 PM  
Friday, June 08, 2007
Adios, Pedro Pace
I guess that letter recommending leniency for Scooter Libby wasn't worth so much after all. I mean, who needs a recommendation from an unemployed guy?

WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary Robert Gates announced on Friday he was replacing General Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to avoid a divisive showdown in Congress focusing on the Iraq war.

“I am disappointed that circumstances make this kind of a decision necessary,” Gates said of the loss of Pace, who has held the country’s top military post since September 2005.

Gates said he had intended to name Pace to a second two-year term as chairman in September, but changed his mind after consulting members of Congress, who also already have an eye on the 2008 presidential polls.

“I have decided that at this moment in our history, the nation, our men and women in uniform and General Pace himself would not be well served by a divisive ordeal in selecting the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” he told reporters.
In other words, who wants to go through the trouble of defending the conduct of the war before the Congress? Anyway, Pace will be sorely missed, particularly by the secretly gay guys in the military. He really championed them... Oh, and I'll bet the Iraqis will miss him, too.

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posted by JReid @ 9:53 PM  
Monday, June 04, 2007
What are we fighting for?
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.

Update: Sgt. Kokesh has already rejected a Pentagon-offered plea bargain. And CBS News asks, is Adam Kokesh the new Cindy Sheehan? I'd like to see the wingers attack him, given that he is a Marine and a veteran of the Iraq war...

Update 2: NewsBusters gives it a whirl.

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posted by JReid @ 7:25 AM  
Sunday, June 03, 2007
14 more into the ether
The Pentagon announces another 14 U.S. troops killed in Iraq during Bush's "surge."


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.

View the full U.S. casualty count here.

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posted by JReid @ 5:02 PM  
Thursday, May 17, 2007
White House to troops: 'eat cake'
If President Bush and the GOP are the ones who support the troops, why do they oppose paying them a wage equivalent to what civilians earn? The Army Times reports:
Troops don’t need bigger pay raises, White House budget officials said Wednesday in a statement of administration policy laying out objections to the House version of the 2008 defense authorization bill.

The Bush administration had asked for a 3 percent military raise for Jan. 1, 2008, enough to match last year’s average pay increase in the private sector. The House Armed Services Committee recommends a 3.5 percent pay increase for 2008, and increases in 2009 through 2012 that also are 0.5 percentage point greater than private-sector pay raises.

The slightly bigger military raises are intended to reduce the gap between military and civilian pay that stands at about 3.9 percent today. Under the bill, HR 1585, the pay gap would be reduced to 1.4 percent after the Jan. 1, 2012, pay increase.

Bush budget officials said the administration “strongly opposes” both the 3.5 percent raise for 2008 and the follow-on increases, calling extra pay increases “unnecessary.”
Hoo-rah...

Bush has even threatened a veto if Congress sends him a bill with the higher pay hike, plus a minuscule $40 per month increase in benefits for military widows and price controls for presciption drugs bought through the military healthcare program. I guess the widows of our fallen and troops who need prescription medications really don't need the extra money, either.

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posted by JReid @ 6:32 PM  
Friday, April 27, 2007
Bodyslammed
An active duty soldier blasts the generals for their conduct of the Iraq war:

For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war.

These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America's general officer corps. America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America's generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress. ...
And that's just the opening. Read the rest here.

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posted by JReid @ 3:58 PM  
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Vetoing the generals
Guess who supports the Iraq Accountability Act?

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posted by JReid @ 10:21 AM  
Friday, March 30, 2007
The great Tillman lie
The Bush administration has told so many lies, and twisted so much of government and military pursuit and well, everything, to cynical political ends, that it's almost hard to be shocked anymore. But the Pat Tillman cover up stands out, both because of its cynicism -- the administration used Tillman's service, and his death in Afghanistan, to promote the utterly corrupted war in Iraq -- and its brazenness. Now, it turns out President Bush was probably briefed about the true cause of the former NFL star's death, at least a month before the Pentagon admitted the truth about his friendly fire death to his family. Do these people have ANY shame? From the AP:
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Just seven days after Pat Tillman's death, a top general warned there were strong indications that it was friendly fire and President Bush might embarrass himself if he said the NFL star-turned-soldier died in an ambush, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press. ...

...In a memo sent to a four-star general a week after Tillman's April 22, 2004, death, then-Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned that it was "highly possible" the Army Ranger was killed by friendly fire. McChrystal made it clear his warning should be conveyed to the president.

"I felt that it was essential that you received this information as soon as we detected it in order to preclude any unknowing statements by our country's leaders which might cause public embarrassment if the circumstances of Cpl. Tillman's death become public," McChrystal wrote on April 29, 2004, to Gen. John Abizaid, head of Central Command.

White House spokesman Blain Rethmeier said Friday that a review of records turned up no indication that the president had received McChrystal's warning. Bush made no reference to the way Tillman died in a speech delivered two days after the memo was written. But Rethmeier emphasized that the president often pays tribute to fallen soldiers without mentioning the exact circumstances of their deaths.

The family was not told until May 29, 2004, what really happened. In the intervening weeks, the military continued to say Tillman died under enemy fire, and even awarded him the Silver Star, which is given for heroic battlefield action.
Ultimately, Pat Tillman was valued by the Bush administration more for his propaganda value than for his service. The same could be said for Jessica Lynch, whose falsified tale of heroism was also used to bolster the war.

What a sad commentary on the party that supposedly cares so much for the men and women of the armed forces, but which apparently only really cares about exploiting and misusing them.

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posted by JReid @ 8:59 PM  
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Four years on...
(Photo from grunt.com)


Tomorrow, March 19, 2007, will mark the four-year anniversary of the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Four years ago tomorrow, I was sitting in a newsroom at an NBC affiliate in South Florida cringing, as some of the people around me cheered the commencement of "shock and awe." The atmosphere at that time, was "we're gonna get the sonofabitches that got us on 9/11" ... that and the resplendant graphics and potential ratings coup for the network that was gonna keep the tube sizzling for months! This was a television war -- complete with dramatic images (Saddam's statue being toppled by around 100 Iraqis, whom we later learned were itinerant young men gathered in Firdos Square by American troops, while less than a mile away, their fellow Iraqis were fighting a guerilla war against coalition soldiers and taking bombardment by U.S. airstrikes... Jessica Lynch bravely emptying her rifle as she and her fellow support troops were captured by the enemy ... of course, that turned out not to be true either ... and of course, that "shock and awe" that was supposed to take out Saddam Hussein and his sons on the first day of the conflict, and by such drama, ending it. Well, we all know how that turned out...)

Four years later, what we're left with are the deaths, of Americans and Iraqis, the mistakes, the bungling, the tawdry execution of Saddam, the protests, the politics, and the excuses, which continue to be marketed on behalf of the Bush administration by such reputable characters as Tom Delay, who along with Richard "there's be a boulevard in Baghdad named for George W. Bush" Perle was demolished this morning on Meet the Press -- despite the best efforts of Tim "Scooter's Alibi" Russert to save them -- by retired Navy Admiral and current U.S. Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) and Win Without War director Tom Andrews on the subject of whether the Iraq war made sense in 2003, and whether our remainig there makes sense now. (Best like of the morning came from Andrews, who said he'd much rather take military advice from Admiral Sestak than from Delay...)

Which brings us back to the body count. So far, The Pentagon has confirmed the deaths of 3,204 American servicemen and women as of March 17th. Add to that the 14 pending confirmation which were reported over the last several days, and you're left with a U.S. military death toll of 3,218. On the Iraqi side, estimates range from around 60,000, to 600,000, depending on which study you believe, plus some 2 million refugees (remember when Don Rumsfeld congratulated himself on there not being a refugee crisis? Those were the days...)

If you map out the U.S. casualty count, you find the numbers are heaviest in the blue states, with the exception of Texas. The highest rate of death among American servicemen to date has been in California, where 334 Americans have died in service during the war, followed by Texas (289), Pennsylvania (156), New York (145), Ohio (142), Florida (130), Michigan (125) and Illinois (119). These are the "red states" of the casualty count map -- those with 100 fatalities or more. The states with the lowest numbers happen to be in the middle part of the country -- the politically red part of the map (the deep and middle South included), where political support for the war remains strongest. In fact, the lowest body count of all is in Washington D.C., where so far 3 brave troops have been lost -- one less than in the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, and two less than American Samoa.

Perhaps it's a crass way of looking at it, but one wonders if Joe Lieberman is able to be as enthusiastic about the war as he is because his state has lost 24 troops as opposed to 240, while places like Barack Obama's Illinois and Hillary Clinton's New York have borne a much heavier burden (keeping in mind that even one serviceman or woman is too much to lose, for that person's family, and for the country.)

Taking a closer look at Florida (home to the sixth largest casualty count), since that's where I live, the deaths traverse the state, from Apopka to Daytona to Carol City, Gainesville and Hialeah, but the largest numbers have been troops from Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando and Tampa (the latter being a big military town).

Breaking down the deaths by ethnicity, you find that just over 74 percent of the American dead were white, another 11 percent Latino, 9.7 percent Black, and 1-2 percent apiece were Native American, Asian or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (another 2 percent undetermined). Black enlistment has plunged over the last five years, as distrust of the Bush administration has kept many young Blacks from enlisting, even after the initial enlistment rush across all ethnicities after 9/11. (Fatalities by sex are more outsized -- women make up just 2.2 percent of the dead, though that translates to 72 American women, plus four women from other countries.)

What's even more outsized, when you look at the statistics, is the toll the war has taken on the United States Army and Marines, which have borne the brunt of this war, losing 1,681 and 788 members respectively, thus far. That's not unusual because this has been a ground war, but what's also disturbing about the numbers, is the heavy toll on the Army National Guard (412 deaths), Army Reserve (106) and Marine Reserve (118), which are so critical to our security here at home. It should not be ignored, of course, that the Navy (58 - including several Navy Seabees from here in Florida), Naval Reserve (13), Coast Guard (1), Air Force and Air National Guard (2) have also taken losses in the war, and their sacrifices are just as important, and just as painful for their families.

And then there is what you might call the "mercenary war." Don Rumsfeld as head of the DoD presided not just over the inexplicable "light force" approach to waging a ground war, but also the Bush administration obsession of privatization, which included the deployment of private contractors to do many of the jobs that used to be done by members of the military. As such, 389 civilian contractors (some former military, some just entrepreneurs or truckers) have lost their lives in Iraq, some in dramatic fashion, like the four contractors who were murdered, burned and then hung in Fallujah, or those beheaded by insurgents, but most without much fanfare in the U.S., and with only their families to mourn. Many would argue that most died unnecessarily, mostly at the hands of roadside bombs, but increasingly, due to small arms fire, or more disturbingly, helicopter shoot-downs by insurgents.

If you really want to be disturbed, look at a chart of fatalities caused by IEDs month to month, and watch how they've skyrocketed since the supposed end of the war when Bush declared "mission accomplished" on May 1st, 2003 aboard the Naval carrier the USS Abraham Lincoln. There have been 37 such attacks so far in March, more than took place in any month in the first year and a half of the conflict.



Meanwhile, this from the National Security Network:
Washington, DC-Six senior retired military officers today sent a letter to Capitol Hill expressing support for immediate action to protect our troops in an effort supported by the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the National Security Network.

Text of the letter:

Dear Members of the 110th Congress,

We are writing to urge you to take immediate action to protect our troops.

We are concerned that the plan to deploy additional troops to Iraq, coupled with the serious readiness deficiencies, have left our armed forces in a state of emergency.

The situation in Iraq, grave and deteriorating, is troubling to us both as former military commanders and as American citizens. Top military officials have consistently acknowledged that the repeated and lengthy deployments are straining the Army, Marine Corps and Reserve and National Guard forces, and are taking a heavy toll on critical warfighting equipment.

We urge you to put pressure on the Iraqi government to take control of their own country and relieve the burden from American troops by setting a clear and definite timeline for a phased and deliberate redeployment of American combat forces from Iraq by no later than August 2008. We urge you to ensure that our troops meet the readiness standards required to protect Americans both at home and abroad. We urge you to ensure that those who serve in the name of this country receive the health care and support they need when they return to us.

Thank you for your consideration of our views. We look forward to working with you.

Sincerely,

Lieutenant General Robert G. Gard, Jr. (USA, Ret.)
Former President of the National Defense University

Brigadier General John Johns (USA, Ret.), PhD
Former Combat Arms Officer; Professor, national security strategy, National Defense University

Colonel Richard L. Klass (USAF, Ret.)

Captain Lawrence Korb (USNR, Ret.)
Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations and Logistics), 1981-1985

Major General Mel Montano (USANG, Ret.)
Former Adjutant General of New Mexico

Lieutenant General William E. Odom (USA, Ret.)
Former Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence of the Army, and former Military Assistant to the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs, 1977-1981
We'll have Dr. Korb on the morning show tomorrow to discuss the state of the war, along with James Paul of the Global Policy Forum, which is issuing a damning report on the state of the war to date, as well as D.C. businessman Yasir Shalal, a board member of the Iraqi American Alliance, who has family still in Iraq, as well as family who has fled the country to neighboring Jordan or elsewhere to escape the chaos the war has caused.

And last but not least, the latest poll numbers, starting with CNN:
The CNN poll of 1,027 adults was conducted March 9-11 by Opinion Research Corp. The sampling error for the poll is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

According to the results, 35 percent of Americans are confident about the war, the poll said. When the war began, 83 percent of Americans expressed confidence in the campaign.

Similarly, 30 percent of those polled this month said they were proud of the war, as opposed to 65 percent who expressed that sentiment in 2003.

The poll also showed that 33 percent of Americans are afraid of the war and 55 percent are worried by it. Those percentages are roughly the same as they were four years ago.

Sunday's results came on the heels of a Saturday release indicating that years of war had whittled away at Americans' support for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When the Iraq war began, 68 percent of Americans said they felt the situation in the country was worth fighting over. Now, 61 percent of those surveyed say it was not worth invading Iraq, according to the poll.

That survey of 1,027 adults by Opinion Research Corp. was conducted by telephone March 9-11 as well. It has a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The poll showed that support for the Iraq war had dwindled to 35 percent. In 2004, support for the war was about 56 percent. Last year, the number dipped to 37 percent, and today about 35 percent of Americans say they support the war, according to the poll.

Support for the war in Afghanistan also has seen a considerable decline as 88 percent of those polled in 2001 said they were behind the conflict. This month's poll indicates that support lingers around 53 percent.

Also, according to the poll, about 55 percent of Americans feel the war in Afghanistan is "going badly," according to the poll.
BTW, the CNN poll also found that a majority of Americans favor Congress, not the president, setting Iraq policy at this stage. Other poll results on support for the war:

- NBC News/WSJ (3/2-5, A/D) 27/67
- Newsweek (2/28-3/1) - 27/67
- CBS/NYT (2/23-27) - 23/71

So is there any good news for the Bush administration and their shills friends in Congress? Well there's this: the war is almost as toxic for Democrats as it is for them.

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posted by JReid @ 1:41 PM  
Saturday, March 10, 2007
The downside of plunder
The real estate market is in a world of hurt, as the free borrowing that fueled the supposed Bush real estate boom is looking more like the dot com bubble of old. It's being felt in the private housing market, but also in the high end real estate market, with a Nicki Hilton controversy thrown in to boot. Not a good look.

Meanwhile, the Walter Reed privatization scandal expands, as it becomes increasingly clear that the rush to privatize military veteran care nearly destroyed the jewel in the Army's crown, and even led to the kind of bribery and contract grubbing that you saw with the CIA and Department of Defense in the Dusty Foggo scandal, which of course, also involved members of Congress. From the Boston Globe:
GREENBELT, Md. --A man has pleaded guilty in federal court to participating in a kickback scheme involving contracts at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

According to the plea agreement, from June 1999 to March 2002, Krachyna and an unnamed accomplice conspired to give kickbacks to a civilian contract specialist employed by the Army Medical Command. The unnamed official was responsible for procurement for the medical center.

The official helped Krachyna and his business partner secure government contracts worth as much as $1.4 million in exchange for a 10 percent cut, according to the plea agreement. Krachyna admitted paying the public official $10,000 to $30,000, according to the document.
So the contract to IAG Worldwide, a company whose directors include former KBR executives and former Treasury Secretary John Snow, meant that cleaning and facilities maintenance went to toadies who couldn't do the job, and other contractors came running for some of the gristle from the Bush table.

Way to spur an economic boom: plunder, theft, bribery and fraud, plus irrational exuberance and questionable lending processes. Only under Republicans.

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posted by JReid @ 7:17 PM  
Monday, March 05, 2007
How privatization ruined Walter Reed
Since the Washington Post broke the Walter Reed hospital scandal last week, journalists, politicians and regular Joes have been scratching their heads trying to figure out how on earth the military's premier medical facility -- the jewel in the crown for the care of our uniformed military (before Rummy slated it for closure a couple of years ago...) came to be symbolic of America's failure to take care of our wounded troops (here's CNN's coverage of today's hearings on Capitol Hill). Well, maybe it's time to stop scratching, because an old, familiar tune is starting to sound throughout Washington. It's called, the "f***d by privatization" rag. From the March 3rd edition of the Army Times:
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has subpoenaed Maj. Gen. George Weightman, who was fired as head of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, after Army officials refused to allow him to testify before the committee Monday.

... Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and subcommittee Chairman John Tierney asked Weightman to testify about an internal memo that showed privatization of services at Walter Reed could put “patient care services… at risk of mission failure.”

But Army officials refused to allow Weightman to appear before the committee after he was relieved of command.

“The Army was unable to provide a satisfactory explanation for the decision to prevent General Weightman from testifying,” committee members said in a statement today.

The committee wants to learn more about a letter written in September by Garrison Commander Peter Garibaldi to Weightman.

The memorandum “describes how the Army’s decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was causing an exodus of ‘highly skilled and experienced personnel,’” the committee’s letter states. “According to multiple sources, the decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed led to a precipitous drop in support personnel at Walter Reed.”

The letter said Walter Reed also awarded a five-year, $120-million contract to IAP Worldwide Services, which is run by Al Neffgen, a former senior Halliburton official.

They also found that more than 300 federal employees providing facilities management services at Walter Reed had drooped to fewer than 60 by Feb. 3, 2007, the day before IAP took over facilities management. IAP replaced the remaining 60 employees with only 50 private workers.
What's more:
The letter said the Defense Department “systemically” tried to replace federal workers at Walter Reed with private companies for facilities management, patient care and guard duty – a process that began in 2000.

“But the push to privatize support services there accelerated under President Bush’s ‘competitive sourcing’ initiative, which was launched in 2002,” the letter states.

During the year between awarding the contract to IAP and when the company started, “skilled government workers apparently began leaving Walter Reed in droves,” the letter states. “The memorandum also indicates that officials at the highest levels of Walter Reed and the U.S. Army Medical Command were informed about the dangers of privatization, but appeared to do little to prevent them.”

The memo signed by Garibaldi requests more federal employees because the hospital mission had grown “significantly” during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It states that medical command did not concur with their request for more people.

“Without favorable consideration of these requests,” Garibaldi wrote, “[Walter Reed Army Medical Center] Base Operations and patient care services are at risk of mission failure.”
Mission failure, achieved.

So was Walter Reed done in by privatization? The DNC has already smelled blood in the water, particularly as the VA scandal begins to widen. Here's what Camp Dean had to say today:
“It’s an unconscionable disgrace that after serving so bravely in Iraq our troops would be subjected to these abysmal conditions and treated so callously when they needed care. The President's stubborn commitment to a failed strategy in Iraq has sent troops into battle without proper lifesaving equipment or training, and the incompetent mismanagement has put their lives and well being at risk when they come home. The Administration's outsourcing agenda has disgracefully put politics ahead of quality care for our troops and veterans. Democrats are committed to getting to the bottom of this tragedy and will make sure our troops have every resource available from deployment to when they return.”
Oh, no, not that ... I mean the good stuff:
IAP Involved in Katrina Ice Fiasco. Separately, the Pentagon's inspector general is auditing an Army Corps of Engineers contract used to provide ice after Hurricane Katrina and is examining another to install temporary roofs on homes after the disaster. The ice contract with IAP Worldwide Services Inc., based in Cape Canaveral, Fla., came under scrutiny after reports emerged that the Corps of Engineers ordered twice as much ice as it needed in the days after the disaster. Millions of pounds of ice were sent to storage, some as far away as Maine. [Washington Post, 11/17/2005]

IAP Run by Former Halliburton Executives. IAP, which is based in Cape Canaveral, Fla., has more than $1 billion a year in revenue and more than 5,000 employees around the world, according to the company's Web site. It is owned by Cerberus Capital Management LP, a private asset management firm. The firm has grown exponentially in recent years in part because of contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq. It recently recruited high-ranking Halliburton Co. official Al Neffgen to be its chief executive. IAP's President is Dave Swindle. Prior to IAP, Swindle was Vice President, Business Acquisition and National Security Programs and an Officer for Kellogg Brown and Root. In this capacity, he was responsible for the Government and Infrastructure Division's Business Development Operations for KBR Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe-Africa, and the Middle East. [IAP Website, Accessed 3/5/2007; Washington Post, 10/20/2005]

IAS Chief Executive Defended Iraq Gas Price Gouging. According to Rep. Waxman's Letter, IAS "is led by Al Neffgen, a former senior Halliburton official who testified before our Committee in July 2004 in defense of Halliburton's exorbitant charges for fuel delivery and troop support in Iraq." [Waxman Letter to Maj. Gen. George Weightman, 3/2/2007
yeah, that, straight from the DNC daily press missive today. And wouldn't you know there'd be a Florida connection? IAS' web-site boasts of its contracts with federal and state government agencies, principally the Pentagon.

Want more? Here's video from late last week from CNN, courtesy of C&L.

And here's the Army Times' Walter Reed scandal coverage roundup.

Also, the NYT tracks the blog coverage. Here's a sample:
Some conservative blogs expressed no surprise at the report today about problems at both military- and Veterans Administration-run facilities. After all, they’re run by the government, they argue. David Bernstein writes in The Volokh Conspiracy, “If private companies had mismanaged outpatient care for veterans the way the V.A. system has, there would be strong calls from all the usual quarters for a government takeover, and proclamations of how we can’t trust ‘greedy’ for-profit companies to take care of veterans.”
er... Mr. Volokh... Walter Reed's outpatient care was privatized, and people ARE saying that its mismanagement proves you can't trust greedy, for-profit companies to take care of veterans ... moving on!
But the liberal blogosphere, fueled by research in the blog Raw Story and an opinion column today by The Times’s Paul Krugman, flipped the argument on its head, at least when it comes to Walter Reed (which, again, is not run by the V.A.). [Emphasis added] Apparently, a company called IAP Worldwide Services had a large contract to help run the Washington military hospital.

“Chalk the declining conditions at the military hospitals up as another victory in the GOP passion for contracting out government services,” writes Matthew Yglesias in his blog.
Sorry righties, on this one, you lose.

Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin manages to miss the story, too. La Malkin asks:
Will the Bush-bashers join with free-market critics to effect real change and help the troops who need and deserve better care?
Again, my dear, Walter Reed was a textbook example of the kind of free market privatization you prefer in action ... and earth to Malkin: it sucks.

Note: tomorrow, we're going to have Sgt. 1st Class Drew Brown of IAVA on the radio show to talk about the woes of VA healthcare, which, by the way, apparently sucks too. And more on how contracting allows the government -- and both political parties -- to reward former Pentagon alumni here. Read all the way to the bottom for a special appearance by one Robert Gates.

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posted by JReid @ 6:34 PM  
Friday, March 02, 2007
Let them eat Starbucks
The two star general in charge of Walter Reed has been relieved of duty.

Meanwhile, the Army is denying reports in the Army Times that it is gagging soldiers and preventing the media from entering its facilities. Army spokesman Paul Boyce had a creative answer to a query by ThinkP:

In an interview with ThinkProgress, Army spokesman Paul Boyce insisted that the Army Times report is inaccurate, and that injured vets are “free to exercise their First Amendment right” and speak with the media. But upon further questioning, Boyce acknowledged that if patients at Walter Reed wanted to speak to reporters inside the hospital, they must first receive approval from the hospital’s press relations office.

What if reporters want to speak to a reporter without getting approval from a PR office? “They can go to Starbucks,” Boyce said. Asked whether this was a reasonable solution for patients recuperating from physical and mental trauma, Boyce said yes. “It’s just a short trip, and many of them want to get out [of the hospital] anyway.”
Well, the cinnamon lattes ARE outstanding...

Boyce repeatedly justified the restrictions on patients’ activities by citing the fact that Walter Reed hospital is a “government building.” ThinkProgress contacted several legal analysts and none of them could explain why this would justify media restrictions.
Well you know ... roaches and mold don't make good P.R.

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posted by JReid @ 7:04 AM  
Thursday, March 01, 2007
They knew


The WashPost leads with this sobering story about who knew what, and when, about the mistreatment of injured U.S. troops at Walter Reed medical center:

Top officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, including the Army's surgeon general, have heard complaints about outpatient neglect from family members, veterans groups and members of Congress for more than three years.

A procession of Pentagon and Walter Reed officials expressed surprise last week about the living conditions and bureaucratic nightmares faced by wounded soldiers staying at the D.C. medical facility. But as far back as 2003, the commander of Walter Reed, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, who is now the Army's top medical officer, was told that soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were languishing and lost on the grounds, according to interviews.

Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs at Veterans for America, said he ran into Kiley in the foyer of the command headquarters at Walter Reed shortly after the Iraq war began and told him that "there are people in the barracks who are drinking themselves to death and people who are sharing drugs and people not getting the care they need."

"I met guys who weren't going to appointments because the hospital didn't even know they were there," Robinson said. Kiley told him to speak to a sergeant major, a top enlisted officer.
And there's this:

Kiley lives across the street from Building 18. From his quarters, he can see the scrappy building and busy traffic the soldiers must cross to get to the 113-acre post. At a news conference last week, Kiley, who declined several requests for interviews for this article, said that the problems of Building 18 "weren't serious and there weren't a lot of them." He also said they were not "emblematic of a process of Walter Reed that has abandoned soldiers and their families."

But according to interviews, Kiley, his successive commanders at Walter Reed and various top noncommissioned officers in charge of soldiers' lives have heard a stream of complaints about outpatient treatment over the past several years. The complaints have surfaced at town hall meetings for staff and soldiers, at commanders' "sensing sessions" in which soldiers or officers are encouraged to speak freely, and in several inspector general's reports detailing building conditions, safety issues and other matters.

Retired Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Farmer Jr., who commanded Walter Reed for two years until last August, said that he was aware of outpatient problems and that there were "ongoing reviews and discussions" about how to fix them when he left. He said he shared many of those issues with Kiley, his immediate commander. Last summer when he turned over command to Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, Farmer said, "there were a variety of things we identified as opportunities for continued improvement."

Retired Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Farmer Jr., who commanded Walter Reed for two years until last August, said that he was aware of outpatient problems and that there were "ongoing reviews and discussions" about how to fix them when he left. He said he shared many of those issues with Kiley, his immediate commander. Last summer when he turned over command to Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, Farmer said, "there were a variety of things we identified as opportunities for continued improvement."

In 2004, Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and his wife stopped visiting the wounded at Walter Reed out of frustration. Young said he voiced concerns to commanders over troubling incidents he witnessed but was rebuffed or ignored. "When Bev or I would bring problems to the attention of authorities of Walter Reed, we were made to feel very uncomfortable," said Young, who began visiting the wounded recuperating at other facilities.

Beverly Young said she complained to Kiley several times. She once visited a soldier who was lying in urine on his mattress pad in the hospital. When a nurse ignored her, Young said, "I went flying down to Kevin Kiley's office again, and got nowhere. He has skirted this stuff for five years and blamed everyone else."

Meanwhile, the Army is still clamping down on soldiers' freedom of speech.

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posted by JReid @ 8:02 AM  
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Military intelligence
You kind of figured that a few too many die-hard fans of the show "24" have begun to mistake the fictional Fox show for "war on terror" reality, didn't you? Well, guess what? Thrown into interrogations without any rules or Geneva restrictions, guess what confused, frustrated U.S. troops turned to when trying to extract information from Iraqi and other detainees?

And speaking of the so-called "war on terror," when will it end, daddy? Oh, right around the time of the 2008 election, dear... just in time to help out the ailing GOP...

In the meantime, how do you keep things like bad publicity over piss poor treatment of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans from sinking the GWOT P.R. flotilla? Why, you shut up the soldiers, of course! From the Army Times:
Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.

Soldiers say their sergeant major gathered troops at 6 p.m. Monday to tell them they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters.

They were also told they would be moving out of Building 18 to Building 14 within the next couple of weeks. Building 14 is a barracks that houses the administrative offices for the Medical Hold Unit and was renovated in 2006. It’s also located on the Walter Reed Campus, where reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel. Building 18 is located just off campus and is easy to access.
Also:
The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: “It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place,” referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed.
Not appropriate, indeed.

Anyway, we wouldn't want the press hyping up those tens of thousands of vets who insist on darkening the doors of the VA system for those silly dental problems... now, would we? Oops, did I say "dental problems?" Sorry, I was quoting a disingenuous Bush administration official. What I mean to say was "catastrophic brain injuries..."

So while we're on the subject of the military and war, just how the hell are things going with that "surge" in Iraq, pray tell? Says the Guardian:
An elite team of officers advising US commander General David Petraeus in Baghdad has concluded the US has six months to win the war in Iraq - or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat.
The officers - combat veterans who are leading experts in counter-insurgency - are charged with implementing the "new way forward" strategy announced by president George Bush on January 10. The plan includes a controversial "surge" of 21,500 additional American troops to establish security in the Iraqi capital and Anbar province.

But the team, known as the "Baghdad brains trust" and ensconced in the heavily fortified Green Zone around the US embassy, is struggling to overcome a range of entrenched problems in what has become a race against time, said a former senior administration official familiar with their deliberations. "They know they are operating under a clock. They know they are going to hear a lot more talk in Washington about 'Plan B' by the autumn - meaning withdrawal. They know the next six-month period is their opportunity. And they say it's getting harder every day," the former official said.

By improving security, the plan's short-term aim is to create time and space for the Iraqi government to bring rival Shia, Sunni and Kurd factions together in a process of national reconciliation, us officials say. If that works within the stipulated timeframe, longer-term schemes for rebuilding Iraq under the so-called "go long" strategy will be set in motion. But the next six months are make-or-break for both the US military and the Iraqi government.

The main obstacles confronting Gen Petraeus's team are:
· Insufficent numbers of troops on the ground
· A "disintegrating" international coalition
· An anticipated upsurge in violence in the south as the British leave
· Morale problems as casualties rise
· A failure of political will in Washington and/or Baghdad

"The scene is very tense. They are working round the clock. Endless cups of tea with the Iraqis," the former senior administration official said. "But they're still trying to figure out what's the plan. The president is expecting progress. But they're thinking, what does he mean? The plan is changing every minute, as all plans do."
And why do we STILL not have enough troops in the theater? ThinkP:
Top U.S. intelligence officials yesterday disclosed to the Senate “that the deployment of Iraqi forces into Baghdad under President Bush’s new plan to stabilize Iraq is running behind schedule and that all of the units sent so far have arrived under strength, some by more than half.“
Nice job, Dubya.

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posted by JReid @ 4:00 PM  
Saturday, January 20, 2007
More needless deaths in Iraq
From the AP:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A U.S. military helicopter crashed Saturday northeast of Baghdad, killing all 13 people on board, a new blow to American efforts in Iraq as U.S. and Iraqi forces prepare for a major security operation to pacify the capital and surrounding areas.

The military said the crash was under investigation. The brief U.S. statement lacked the customary comment that the aircraft was not shot down, indicating it may have come under fire by insurgents.

The helicopter was carrying 13 passengers and crew members and all were killed, it said. No further details were released, including the exact location of the crash.

The violent Diyala province sits northeast of Baghdad, and U.S. and Iraqi forces have been battling Sunni insurgents and Shiite militia forces around its main city of Baqouba for months.

Separately, the military also announced the deaths of two American soldiers and a Marine.

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posted by JReid @ 5:08 PM  
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Troops honoring Doctor King
Another reason to love the United States military, courtesy of the Fayetteville Observer:
Soldiers honor Martin Luther King Jr.

By Henry Cuningham
Military editor

Brig. Gen. Karl R. Horst, who grew up in an almost all-white community of 4,000 on the West Coast, got a lesson in diversity in a Philadelphia airport right after enlisting in June 1973.

The first two friends he made in the Army were Joe Gonzales, a Hispanic from New Mexico, and T.C. Collins, a black soldier from East Los Angeles. The three recruits initially were leery of each other.

“Needless to say, the three of us — a Hispanic, a black and a white guy — bonded to share mutual hardship from being soldiers,” Horst said.

Horst spoke to an audience of more than 450 people at the Fort Bragg Non-Commissioned Officers’ Club on Thursday. The occasion was the Martin Luther King Jr. observance entitled “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not a Day Off.”

The 18th Airborne Corps Equal Opportunity/Human Relations Office sponsored the event.

Nowadays, Horst is a one-star general and deputy commanding general of Fort Bragg and the 18th Airborne Corps. He said he still keeps in touch with his two friends.

“I’m proud to tell you the armed services and the United States Army have made great strides in recognizing Doctor King’s vision,” he said. “But we are not there yet.”

Statistics for 2005 show the U.S. armed forces had 39.2 percent minority members, including blacks, Asians, Hispanics, American Indians and Pacific Islanders.

“Yet, we still have a long way to go,” Horst said. “It would give me no greater pleasure to stand here this morning and tell you that we have achieved Doctor King’s vision, we have achieved Doctor King’s goals, that racism and inequality has disappeared.”

Horst urged members of the audience to stay safe as Fort Bragg embarks on a four-day weekend.

“I would ask each of you at some time during this long weekend to stop and reflect what Doctor King’s teaching means in your life,” he said. ...

Here's wishing a safe and good day to all those in harm's way.

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posted by JReid @ 10:48 PM  
Thursday, January 11, 2007
The stage managing of the president
From an elucidating article from the WaPo:
FORT BENNING, Ga., Jan. 11 -- The pictures were just what the White House wanted: A teary-eyed President Bush presenting the Medal of Honor posthumously to a slain war hero in the East Room, then flying here to join the chow line with camouflage-clad soldiers as some of them prepare to return to Iraq.

There are few places the president could go for an unreservedly enthusiastic reception the day after unveiling his decision to order 21,500 more troops to Iraq. A military base has usually been a reliable backdrop for the White House, and so Bush aides chose this venerable Army installation in western Georgia to promote his revised strategy to the nation while his Cabinet secretaries tried to sell it on Capitol Hill.

Assuring there would be no discordant notes here, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, the base commander, banned the 300 soldiers who had lunch with the president from talking with reporters. If any of them harbored doubts about heading back to Iraq, many for the third time, they were kept silent.

"It's going to require sacrifice, and I appreciate the sacrifices our troops are willing to make," Bush told the troops. "Some units are going to have to deploy earlier than scheduled as a result of the decision I made. Some will remain deployed longer than originally anticipated."

Among those going early will be members of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team from the 3rd Infantry Division based here. Theirs was the division that spearheaded the invasion into Iraq in March 2003 and captured Baghdad. They returned in 2005 and lost 34 troops. Now, instead of heading back in May or June, they will return to Iraq in March.

Soldiers being soldiers, those who met the commander in chief Thursday saluted smartly and applauded politely. But it was hardly the boisterous, rock-star reception Bush typically gets at military bases. During his lunchtime speech, the soldiers were attentive but quiet. Not counting introduction of dignitaries, Bush was interrupted by applause just three times in 30 minutes -- once when he talked about a previous Medal of Honor winner from Fort Benning, again when he pledged to win in Iraq and finally when he repeated his intention to expand the Army.

Bush's speech essentially repeated his address to the nation the night before, and he appeared a little listless as he talked. Aides said he was deliberately low-key to reflect the serious situation. Whether the audience was sobered by the new mission or responding to Bush's subdued tone was unclear, because reporters were ushered out as soon as his talk ended.

White House officials had promised reporters they could talk with soldiers. But that was not good enough for Wojdakowski. "The commanding general said he does not want media talking to soldiers today," spokeswoman Tracy Bailey said. "He wants the focus to be on the president's speech." Only hours later, after reporters complained, did the base offer to make selected soldiers available, but the White House plane was nearing departure. ...
Why the lack of enthusiasm? Try the endless deployments, which just got a bit more endless with Bush's speech, and with this announcement from the Pentagon:
The Pentagon has abandoned its limit on the time a citizen-soldier can be required to serve on active duty, officials said Thursday, a major change that reflects an Army stretched thin by longer-than-expected combat in Iraq.

The day after President Bush announced his plan for a deeper U.S. military commitment in Iraq, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters the change in reserve policy would have been made anyway because active-duty troops already were getting too little time between their combat tours. ...
Meanwhile, Fineman has truly fallen out of love. His online commentary says Bush looked like a scared rabbit during his speechie.



Actually, he looks like he could use a drink...

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posted by JReid @ 9:26 PM  
Saturday, December 30, 2006
U.S. troops continue to sour on the war
From MilitaryCity.com:
The American military — once a staunch supporter of President Bush and the Iraq war — has grown in creasingly pessimistic about chances for victory.

For the first time, more troops disapprove of the president’s han dling of the war than approve of it. Barely one-third of service members approve of the way the president is handling the war, ac cording to the 2006 Military Times Poll.

When the military was feeling most optimistic about the war — in 2004 — 83 percent of poll re spondents thought success in Iraq was likely. This year, that number has shrunk to 50 percent.

Only 35 percent of the military members polled this year said they approve of the way President Bush is handling the war, while 42 percent said they disapproved. The president’s approval rating among the military is only slight ly higher than for the population as a whole. In 2004, when his popularity peaked, 63 percent of the military approved of Bush’s handling of the war. While ap proval of the president’s war lead ership has slumped, his overall approval remains high among the military.

Just as telling, in this year’s poll only 41 percent of the military said the U.S. should have gone to war in Iraq in the first place, down from 65 percent in 2003. That closely reflects the beliefs of the general population today — 45 percent agreed in a recent USA Today/Gallup poll.
Another interesting bit of info from the article, two thirds of those surveyed in the poll have been deployed to Iraq at least once. But in the overall active duty force, an incredible 72 percent of U.S. military personnel have been deployed at least once to Iraq. Bush's approval rating among the military remains relatively high, at 52 percent according to this poll, but that's down sharply from 71 percent in 2004. And then there's this:
While Bush fared well overall, his political party didn’t. In the three previous polls, nearly 60 percent of the respondents identi fied themselves as Republicans, which is about double the popula tion as a whole. But in this year’s poll, only 46 percent of the mili tary respondents said they were Republicans. However, there was not a big gain in those identifying themselves as Democrats — a fig ure that consistently hovers around 16 percent. The big gain came among people who said they were independents.

Similarly, when asked to de scribe their political views on a scale from very conservative to very liberal, there was a slight shift from the conservative end of the spectrum to the middle or moderate range. Liberals within the military are still a rare breed, with less than 10 percent of re spondents describing themselves that way.
Interesting. How did the media fare?
The poll asked, “How do you think each of these groups view the military?” Respondents over whelmingly said civilians have a favorable impression of the mili tary (86 percent). They even thought politicians look favorably on the military (57 percent). But they are convinced the media hate them — only 39 percent of mili tary respondents said they think the media have a favorable view of the troops.
Ouch! And what about the leadership in Washington?
The poll also asked if the senior military leadership, President Bush, civilian military leadership and Congress have their best in terests at heart.

Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of those surveyed said the senior military leadership has the best interests of the troops at heart. And though they don’t think much of the way he’s handling the war, 48 percent said the same about President Bush. But they take a dim view of civilian military lead ership — only 32 percent said they think it has their best inter ests at heart. And only 23 percent think Congress is looking out for them.
Actually, I think the fact that fewer than half of respondents thought the president has their best interests at heart is shocking, while the Congressional number isn't really surprising, given the clear fact that it's the military contractors the 109th Congress showed the greatest concern for over...

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posted by JReid @ 2:34 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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"I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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