Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Tabloid Report

As usual, I have made my weekly survey of news from the tabloids, and the results are in:

The Weekly World News reports that we now have the first human ever hatched from an egg. Details are sketchy, but this development is rumored to come from the Andes somewhere. Also, Nature, Mother Nature, has been diagnosed as bipolar by a plurality of scientists. I wonder whether she will now need meds...and Princess Diana is set to host "The View," presumably from a remote location, after the coming Rosie-Babawawa implosion. I guess this represents progress of a sort...

In other news, probably from the Sun, Prince William has eloped. I am thrilled to the marrow.

That is all.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Quote of the day

Via Dan Froomkin in the Post and Editor and Publisher:

"Is it just me, or is Vice President Cheney, in his latest statements, starting once again to sound like another balding, rose-colored-glasses wearing war spokesman, Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, better known as 'Baghdad Bob'?"

No further comment required...

Make that two good days(!)

It even was a good day in the Emerald Isle, long known for gloom and conflict in winter.

Thirty-five years ago Tuesday, l4 Irish Catholics lost their lives in the so-called Bloody Sunday massacre in Londonderry, northern Ireland. Their deaths came at the hands of the British army, called in to "keep order" after the implosion of the overwhelmingly Protestant police force in l969. No self-respecting Irish Catholic had any respect for, or trust in, the police service in those days because they served the interests of Protestants, who denied Catholics the basic civil rights every other resident of the United Kingdom enjoyed.

Today, just l4 years after the l993 cease-fire, Sinn Fein--the political arm of the Irish Republican Army-- expressed its overwhelming approval of northern Ireland's police force, which is now integrated and functioning in the post-Good Friday peace agreement regime. This represents maybe the most important step towards a full power-sharing agreement between Catholics and Protestants there, which is the only solution that will satisfy all interested parties.

Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness said that he wavered on the police agreement briefly when families of IRA volunteers killed by police read a statement of protest and walked out of one of the preliminary meetings. "My heart left the room with them," McGuinness admitted, but "my head stayed in the room." That quote says a lot about the entire peace process there.

Blessed are the peacemakers. Peace IS possible anywhere if it is becoming a reality in the land that introduced car bombs to the world.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Good Day

It was exhilarating to be out among tens of thousands of people who are doing what they can to get the troops out of Iraq. Trying to get this administration to abandon its bone-headed policy of creating democracy by destroying a country. Many are staying through Monday when they will go to lobby their members of Congress. (I would, but as a DC resident, my member of Congress doesn't have any voting rights, so it would be useless.)

Help those out who have come to DC to lobby against this insanity by contacting your members of Congress and reminding them of the lesson they should have learned in November. We want the war over - we want our troops out - and we want Congress to stand up to Bush/Cheney. After all, if we have to rely on W & the Veep to get us out of this, it will never happen. Cheney's still wandering around the place saying that things are going well in Iraq. It's absolutely unbelievable how divorced those people are from reality.

So bring reality to them!

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Big Day in the City Today

One thing about living in DC, you're never lonely. As my aunt always says, if you live in DC, sooner or later everyone you know comes to visit. United for Peace and Justice's anti-war march today should bring in several thousand people I'd be proud to know. It's sunny out now, around 9am this morning, cold, but sunny. It looks like it's going to be a very good day for the people to look this government in the face and say -- NO MORE!

Check here for UP&J-sponsored events in your area. Don't sit at home and mutter - get out and make sure your voice is heard.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

The hysteria over Hillary

Mrs. Clinton is running for President as the first serious female candidate in American history. I don't think this is unexpected or outrageous, given the number of women running for elective office at all. Moreover, I'm told that every Senator looks in the mirror and sees a potential President. Nothing alarming or unusual there. So why is Mrs. Clinton alone repeatedly vilified as the Antichrist of our time in some corners? The London Times American editor, Gerard Baker, has an extraordinarily nasty and vituperative column about Mrs. Clinton today in which he calls her America's "Lady MacBeth"--a pretty serious charge. He cites as evidence

a) that Mrs. Clinton has moderated "radical" views over the years to conceal them from us

b) that she parlayed her husband's infidelity into a successful Senatorial campaign(I guess you are not supposed to take any advantage whatsoever of favorable circumstances)

c) that she cheered the President on in the runup to the Iraq war, then(gasp)CHANGED HER MIND(!)about the wisdom of the war

d) that she is nothing but a creature of dark, boundless ambition who would doubtless run over her grandmother, a la Chuck Colson, to become President.

Where does this animosity come from? On what grounds does her Presidential run make Mrs. Clinton Lady MacBeth? Can anyone explain how and why so many otherwise rational people seem to believe that she is the Antichrist? I agree there are problems with a Clinton candidacy, not least the role of the tall man who lives in the same household with her, but I can't see that she is any more radical, or ambitious, or ruthless than any other politician. She won 78% of the vote in New York State last time, an impossible task for a radiclib harridan. So why all the bile?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

What He Said!

Harold Meyerson is a left-of-center columnist for the Washington Post who has no particular portfolio. Even so, he delivered yesterday one of the most insightful, dispassionate analyses of our flawed policy in Iraq. His term for that policy is "world class incoherence." Read on--if you want the entire article, it is "Our Delusional Hedgehog," from yesterday's WAPO:

"In the war itself, meanwhile, our current policy has achieved new depths of senselessness. The administration is lining up support from our longtime Sunni allies in the region -- Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt in particular -- as a buffer against the spreading influence of Shiite Iran within Iraq and across the Middle East. Inside Iraq, meanwhile, we have cast our lot with the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a sectarian Shiite with long-standing ties to Iran, and hedged our bet by cultivating the support of another Shiite leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who is even closer to Iran.

Hakim heads the Iranian-backed Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). His deputy, Adel Abdul Mahdi, was in the running to become prime minister until the head of SCIRI's rival Shiite party, Moqtada al-Sadr, threw his support to Maliki. According to a New York Times report on Sunday, some administration officials are discussing quietly shifting our backing to Hakim's party. Others oppose this, pointing out that the raid in which U.S. forces seized Iranian operatives in Baghdad last month took place within Hakim's own compound.

More broadly, our plan for stability in Iraq is to bolster whichever Shiite administration governs the country, no matter its closeness to Iran, in the groundless hope that it will establish nonsectarian order. Our plan for stability in the region is to enlist Sunni states to contain Iran. These plans cancel each other out.

This isn't an example of Kissingerian subtlety -- waging the Cold War, for instance, by tilting toward China over the Soviet Union. This is an example of world-class incoherence, entirely of our own making. We charged into Iraq with some dim sense that Hussein's successor government would be headed by representatives of the long-persecuted Shiite majority, but we assumed that comity would prevail between the Shiites and the displaced Sunnis. Then we rendered that dicey proposition all but impossible by sacking the Iraqi army and most of the civil service -- in effect, plunging the Sunni population into mass unemployment with no prospect of reemployment. We fed the Sunni resistance, which fed the Shiite retaliation.

Now, we are stuck backing an Iran-friendly Shiite sectarian regime in Iraq, even as we plan to spend hundreds of millions in aid to the Lebanese army to fend off the Shiite sectarian forces of Hezbollah, and even as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice scuttles from one Sunni state to the next in an attempt to build a firewall around Iran. This is foreign policy as nonsense, as the American people have apparently figured out."

Here we are, standing in the middle of a civil war largely of our own making, backing BOTH SIDES simultaneously in various ways. WTF??!!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Comedy Stylings of George W. Bush

Aka, the funniest lines of his most recent speech. The nice thing about not watching it, but reading it in the paper the next day is you can imagine lines that must have had the gallery almost peeing their pants with laughter. Bush got off some great zingers last night. For instance -

Some in this chamber are new to the House and the Senate, and I congratulate the Democrat majority.


Our citizens don't much care which side of the aisle we sit on, as long as we are willing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done.

or these two (iraq spending, what iraq spending laugh lines)
We set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009 and met that goal three years ahead of schedule.
Together, we can restrain the spending appetite of the federal government and we can balance the federal budget.

The No Child Left Behind Act has worked for America's children

these two must have had them falling into the aisle in laughter
And these past five years have given us a much clearer view of the nature of this enemy.
We're carrying out a new strategy in Iraq

We will . . . continue to awaken the conscience of the world to save the people of Darfur.
[wait, when did he start?]

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

No, it's not the tabloid report again, although the tabs are almost irresistible. The other day, the Weekly World News reported that Mrs. Clinton has chosen Bigfoot as her running mate. What inquiring minds, or at least this one, want to know today concerns the WaPo's op-ed from Liz Cheney, the Vice President's daughter, in today's edition. Ms. Cheney informs us that there is no substitute for victory in Iraq and that we must see this through, stay the course if you will. Soldiers must have their fetters removed and be allowed to fight and win, we are fighting "terrorists" there in iraq, undifferentiated, and we must defeat all of them lest moderate forces elsewhere lose heart and momentum. Which both astonishes me and leads me to ask,

Why did the Washington Post, a serious newspaper, see fit to publish this nonsense, which is the same nonsense that was peddled at the beginning of this war? There is overwhelming evidence that these lines of reasoning are bankrupt. Why is this being offered to the public AGAIN?

How did Liz Cheney qualify to be a deputy assistant Secretary of State for Near East affairs? She's a garden-variety international lawyer, to judge from her bios. Her background indicates no particular expertise in history, culture or politics of the region, and i seriously doubt she has any of the relevant languages. Is the Department of State now a completely political department?

How is it that these people are saying the same inane things now as then? It's perfectly clear to everyone else that Iraq is in the grips of violent sectarian war, that there are about five different conflicts wracking the country, that it is just nonsensical to assert that this is some kind of apocalyptic democracy vs. dictatorship, goodies vs. baddies struggle? Are they living in a parallel universe, or have they been smoking controlled substances?

Can you impeach government officials for stupidity and wilfull imperviousness to facts?

Inquiring minds want to know. They also think we are all in a lot of trouble if the people in the White House share this "viewpoint."

Saturday, January 20, 2007

But it's a Solid 24%

Latest Newsweek poll shows that only 24% of the citizenry agree with Bush that his latest excuse for an Iraq policy will work. Ok, so probaly most of those in that 24% came from mental homes or the Bush family friends, but hey, that's still 24% of the American population who for some unbelievable reason thinks that Bush's policy has a shot.

The rest of the numbers?

45% “strongly oppose” the plan -- how do those people break down politically?
92% Dems
70% Independents
31% Republicans disapprove (wow! That's a majority of the Republican party who still has their heads up their butts!)

53% of the people doubt the surge proposal will reduce violence in Baghdad
59% think that surge won't buy enough time for sectarian groups to agree on a settlement
67% think it is either “very” or “somewhat” likely to lead to more U.S. casualties in Iraq without getting the U.S. closer to its goals.

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Why the Bushies Are Glad They Lost in November

No, really. Sure the American public kicked them in the teeth. And sure, the Republicans and Bush administration have finally convinced a majority of Americans that they can't be trusted with handling policy matters above city dog catcher.

So you would think that the Bushies really mean it when they look sad about November's election and the loss of the House and Senate to the Democrats. But as Fareed Zakaria points out in his last Newsweek column, having Democrats in Congressional control is something they can use in Iraq. How you ask? Easy. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been content to sit back and watch the US flail around while pushing a pro-Shiite agenda. And why not? Bush isn't about to pull the troops out of Iraq or change policy, Maliki has no reason not to keep going the way he has been.

From Zakaria's column,
"The Maliki government, and the Shiite leadership more generally, understand that they must crack down on militias and compromise with the Sunnis. Why? In the words of one senior U.S. official—under instructions to stay anonymous—because Shiite political leaders understand they no longer have 'unquestioning American support anymore, especially from Capitol Hill.' This suggests that the administration finally understands that Bush's blank-check policy for the Iraqi government has proved totally counterproductive. The one action that might be forcing the Iraqi leadership to make some compromises has been the threat that Congress would force a withdrawal of American support. One month ago, the White House was criticizing Congress as being borderline treasonous for suggesting such a thing. Today its strategy in Iraq rests on the fruits of that assertiveness."

Yup, those traitorous folk are apparently the ones who the Bush administration may be relying on to pull their balls out of the fire. I wonder when we get our thank you notes?

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Site o' the day

You will be depriving yourself of some great stuff if you don't visit buffalobeast.com and read through their list of the "50 most loathsome people in America." I am not going to give away "most loathsome," but I can tell you that a certain cigar-chomping, Parkinson's-mocking radio host appears prominently on the list, described by the authors as a "repulsive s--- fountain." Not to worry, the list is bipartisan and unsparing in its skewering...it's not to be missed.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Some Abramoff-Related Justice

Ohio's ex-congressman Bob Ney is off to jail - 30 months in prison for his wheeling and dealing with Jack. In what can only be seen as a good sign for future prosecutions, the judge actually gave Ney MORE time in jail than the prosecution asked for. The prosecutors had asked for the lower end of 27-33 month range because Ney had cooperated with the investigation. But the judge apprently considered that his abuse of the public trust earned him the higher end of the range. And let's face it, Ney's cooperation only came after he was hunted down through months and months of denial of any wrong doing.

Ney also gets 2 years of probation, 200 hours of community service and a $6,000 fine. I would have made the fine a whole lot stiffer, but the 30 months in prison is a fairly good trade off I guess.

Bye bye Ney who -- by the way, blames everything on an addiction.

What on earth did scummy crooks blame things on before addiction became popular?

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Calling on Henry the K

Balance, people, balance! Henry Kissinger has weighed in on the surge with the print media--go find his op-ed in the International Herald Tribune, where you don't have to bother with registration. The piece is called "Withdrawal is not an option."

Those of you who know his work on Vietnam will realize that this guy is nothing if not consistent!

Bush library agonistes

There has been quite a bit of evidence emerging this week that the Bush 43 Library project at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, has run into big trouble. To wit:

Certain of the faculty object to honoring the architect of a discretionary, damaging war and a foreign policy worthy of Kaiser Wilhelm II

Other faculty members are queasy about giving hacks like Karl Rove academic cover and respectability

Trustees worry about SMU becoming Terrorist Target Number One, a huge bullseye painted over the territory of the University.

Residents point out that Dallas is already notorious in Presidential history for the assassination of John F. Kennedy. They don't necessarily want more infamy coming their way...

Maybe the planners should pack it up and put in for some space in the biggest embassy in the world--the US embassy-to-be in Baghdad. That would be an appropriate location, n'est-ce pas, since Iraq will be the cornerstone of the Bush legacy...

Quote of the day

Art Buchwald died yesterday in Washington, at least a year after he refused kidney dialysis and had a sentence of immediate death passed on him. He was reminiscing with the Jim Lehrer news hour about the people who had given him the most and best material and identified the current occupant of the White House and Richard M. Nixon as two of his favorites in that regard. Buchwald started laughing and declared, "Richard Nixon! I worshiped the quicksand he walked on!"

Doesn't that conjure up Milhous for you?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

That's One Long, Slow, Learning Curve

Last Sunday on Bush cable news, Dick Cheney had this to say about Iraq.

"Well, I think if you look at what's transpired in Iraq, we have, in fact, made enormous progress."

I don't think anyone had the heart to ask Dick just how he defines the term "progress." The mindset of this administration, that we're just moving right along on our way to some sort of cathartic victory, is just unfathamable to me. And I thought I had lost all hope of actually understanding anything anyone in that administration was saying.

But then, Dick said this - “The threat that Iran represents is growing, it’s multi-dimensional, and it is, in fact, of concern to everybody in the region.”

And you know what? He's right. Of course he neglected to point out that the growing multi-dimensional threat is there thanks to our utterly lame-brained mangling.

Well done Dick.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A long, strange trip

I was just watching Secretary of State Rice last night, selling, er, testifying about the President's new surge policy in Iraq. She made yet another in a series of historical analogies involving the Iraq war. This conflict, she said, resembles the darkest hour of the Cold War, after which there was a brilliant dawn and the oppressors of the captive nations were consigned to the dustbin of history. All we have to do is remain steadfast, follow the President and we will see the same miraculous conclusion to this war!

This dubious comparison joins Iraq as World War II(we stayed the course there!), Iraq as the Spanish Civil War(good people vs. horrid fascists), Iraq as America immediately after the revolution(all kinds of conflict between parties!), even America during the Civil War(we had the same kind of conflict here and we came through it! patience required!). President Bush and his friendly minions in the media have had their part to play in this, too, with Bush alternately striking Ronald Reaganesque poses, comparing himself or being compared to Harry Truman and/or FDR, or talking about Presidents Lincoln and Ford being unafraid of unpopular decisions, secure in the knowledge that they were right long-term. The comparison there was implicit rather than explicit, but we all got the idea.

This is all nonsense, of course. We made history in Iraq, the kind of history no one is going to want to own in the future: we launched the first pre-emptive war in American history, against a people who had done nothing to us, and now stand in the middle of murder and mayhem that we unleashed. The President and the Secretary of State have taken us on a long, strange trip through their version of history, but we always come back to the same unflattering reality. It's going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to revise it.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The time is nigh

The always-informative Sun tabloid reports that Armageddon will begin in Iraq, sometime around Valentine's Day and after a particularly bloody massacre in Baghdad.

Just thought you'd like to know...always sur le qui vive, the Sun.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Not "what," but "how."

I think that maybe asking "what" McCain is thinking is the wrong question. It might be better to ask "how" McCain is thinking if we want to know how he can embrace the parallel-reality position he now holds on the escalation of the Iraq War. The distinguished foreign affairs correspondent Robert Kaiser has an answer in today's WaPo:

"For a gray-haired journalist whose career included 18 months covering the Vietnam War for The Washington Post, it is a source of amazement to realize that my country has done this again. We twice took a huge risk in the hope that we could predict and dominate events in a nation whose history we did not know, whose language few of us spoke, whose rivalries we didn't understand, whose expectations for life, politics and economics were all foreign to many Americans.

Both times, we put our fate in the hands of local politicians who would not follow U.S. orders, who did not see their country's fate the way we did, and who could not muster the support of enough of their countrymen to produce the outcome Washington wanted. In Vietnam as in Iraq, U.S. military power alone proved unable to achieve the desired political objectives.

How did this happen again? After all, we're Americans -- practical, common-sense people who know how to get things done. Or so we'd like to think. In truth, we are ethnocentric to a fault, certain of our own superiority, convinced that others see us as we do, blithely indifferent to cultural, religious, political and historical realities far different from our own. These failings -- more than any tactical or strategic errors -- help explain the U.S. catastrophes in Vietnam and Iraq."

Simply put, McCain is thinking like most Americans: we can succeed where others fail, our military can impose our will on any situation, we are winners and winners win, etc, etc, ad nauseum. That kind of exceptionalism is responsible for Vietnam, and it is again at work in Iraq. Kaiser says by way of conclusion that a little humility might go a long way to improve the fortunes of this country in international relations.

How 'bout we try that? .

What is McCain Thinking?

Just listening to him on Face the Nation this morning. His defense of his position on Iraq including the idea that more troops on the ground will help turn things around because we've got such great and enthusiastic fighting men and women.

Ok, well, they were probably even more enthusiastic in the beginning. And what happened? Nothing good. We're bogged down and it doesn't matter if every single member of our military is the world's best, what is killing them and has killed our chances of any success is the brain-dead tunnel-visioned actions of the administration and Pentagon. Rambo himself couldn't fight his way out of the mess we're determined to keep our gals and guys in. If the policy is bankrupt, nothing is going to keep us from failure.

And our policies in Iraq have been bankrupt from the start.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Apparently Finding More Troops is Not a Problem

Let's here it for The Onion, always on top of the satire mountain with it's latest.

Privileged Youths Enlist To Fight In Iraq

"WASHINGTON, DC—Citing a desire to finally make a difference in Iraq, in the past two weeks, more than 800,000 young people from upper-middle- and upper-class families have put aside their education, careers, and physical well-being to enlist in the military, new data from the Department Of Defense shows.

"I don't know if it was the safety and comfort of the holidays or what, but I realized that my affluence and ease of living comes at a cost," said Private Jonathan Grace, 18, who was to commence studies at Dartmouth College next fall, but will instead attend 12 weeks of basic training before being deployed to Fallujah with the 1st Army Battalion. "I just looked at my parents in their cashmere sweaters and thought, 'Who am I to go to an elite liberal arts college and spend all my time reading while, in the real world, thousands of kids my age are sacrificing their lives for our country?' It's not right."

Check out the rest at the Onion.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

more surge questions

A propos of Popessa's fine post about the troop surge, and where the surgers are coming from, our new leader-to-be in Iraq is General Dave Petraeus, an accomplished warrior AND scholar(Princeton Ph.D, International Relations) who wrote a praiseworthy tome on counterinsurgency and got good reviews for his hearts-and-minds work in Mosul in the first months of the war. His preferred weapon was the carrot rather than the stick. Now, he faces his toughest challenge in his career, probably, in trying to square the Iraq circle. Here's some of the questions he will have to answer:

General Petraeus wants US surge troops to get out of the green zone and hunt militias and bad guys in the neighborhoods. How are his forces going to be able to tell friend from foe? Shiite from Sunni? Civilian from insurgent/militia member? The only linguistically capable individual in-country was General Abizaid, who just retired. How will he close the language and culture gap in order to convince neighborhood residents to put their faith in US troops rather than sectarian militias?

On a related note, if we go after Shiite militias, how will we avoid alienating the Maliki Shiite majority government? That's a large part of the Maliki constituency, as we saw during the Saddam revenge drama. Won't we will be working against the people whose election we praised? If we target the Sunni insurgents, how will that play among our good friends in the region, who are all...SUNNI Arabs. Saudi Arabia? check. Egypt? check. Jordan? check. Kuwait? check. All Sunni Arab countries.

And just how will our surgers convince the Iraqi army to put their religious and clan identities aside in the interest of the NATION, when it is obvious there IS no Iraqi nation?

I wish General Petraeus well, but putting Humpty Dumpty back together again will likely be beyond even his considerable abilities. I am afraid that a coalition soldier had it absolutely right when he declared, "I think we are all f------- here on every front."

Some Last Bits of Bushian "Wisdom"

For those who haven't had a chance to check it out yet, point your browser to "Notable Quotables," a blog devoted to the witless wisdom of Bush & friends - in their own words. A nice selection of idiotic ramblings by King G have been included in helping to finish off 2006.

Troop Surge - Where Are They Coming From?

One thing that not a lot of people have been talking about lately when discussing Bush's troop "surge" (don't you just love that word? Much more confident than reinforcements). And that is, where are these new troops coming from? The US military is stretched pretty thin already, and there aren't a whole lot of places where troops are hiding.

And then we learned part of the answer. VERY persistent recruiting. A few days after Christmas, the families of 275 officers killed or wounded in action received the ultimate gift from the U.S. army. Letters urging those officers to return to active duty.

Yup, apparently the Army is so desperate for bodies that it actually going to dig them up.

Oh yeah, an Army spokesperson said it was an error and apologized to the families. Personally, I think they've got some Young Frankenstein action going on somewhere and this could be the key!

Friday, January 05, 2007

And now for something completely different!?

After all the lofty words and sober musings this week, how about a lighter touch? This comes from across the pond, courtesy of Monty Python alum Terry Jones, in today's Guardian:

"Early this year the Bush administration is to ask Congress to approve an additional $100bn for the onerous task of making life intolerable for the Iraqis. This will bring the total spent on the White House's current obsession with war to almost $500bn - enough to have given every US citizen $1,600 each. I wonder which the voters would have gone for if given the choice: shall we (a) give every American $1,600 or (b) spend the money on bombing a country in the Middle East that doesn't use lavatory paper?

Of course, there's another thing that George Bush could have done with the money: he could have given every Iraqi $18,700. I imagine that would have reduced the threat of international terrorism somewhat. Call me old-fashioned, but I can't help thinking that giving someone $18,700 brings them round to your side more quickly than bombing the hell out of them. They could certainly buy a lot of lavatory paper with it..."

I've heard worse ideas in four years of watching this stupid war.

The enduring relevance of T.S. Eliot

Since the Bush administration and its supporters have begun making historical analogies again, it is time to bring back T.S. Eliot to have a word with us. In East Coker, one of his "Four Quartets," he meditated on the dangers of leaning too heavily on the past in interpreting the present:

"There is, it seems to us,
At best, only a limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been. We are only undeceived
Of that which, deceiving, could no longer harm.
In the middle, not only in the middle of the way
But all the way, in a dark wood, in a bramble,
On the edge of a grimpen, where is no secure foothold,
And menaced by monsters, fancy lights,
Risking enchantment."

Joe Lieberman told the American Enterprise Institute today that Iraq is to what he expects to be all-out war with "evil" and "terrorism" as the Spanish Civil War was to World War II. He is telling us that in Iraq, Good People are dueling Bad People, and that we, the Good People, must vanquish the Bad People, thus necessitating more US troops. It's Democracy vs. Dictatorship, 2007 version! This is the worst nonsense imaginable--we broke a fake multiethnic state, unleashed a civil war between the two biggest constituent groups, and this is Good vs. Evil, Democracy vs. Dictatorship? It's actually Eliot's dark wood, a bramble, where there is no secure foothold, menaced by monsters. So the only response to this pronouncement is the following:

Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God."

Sometimes you have to summon the poets. Only they are capable of explaining the inexplicable, like the reasoning of the supporters of this misbegotten war.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Well, as Long as Our Money is Going to a Worty Cause

Just when I thought the only thing that would have me madly raving and screaming "Make it Stop! Make it Stop! this year would be Iraq.

So thank you CNN's story on convicted ex-members of the US Congress. It's one of those things that I guess I knew in my heart, but hadn't really thought about. Did you know that every single one of those CONVICTED guys still gets his or her congressional pension? Ok, so this is an issue that's being trumpeted by the National Taxpayers Union (a Grover Norquist-related organization, putting it way over on the far right-o-meter--Norquist is also a good buddy of Jack Abramoff).

The far-right Republican Abramoff-buddy tendencies of the group notwithstanding, and yes, they are using the issue to try and stick it to the newly empowered Democrats. But hey, even a monkey sometimes hits the bullseye, right?

So far-right revenge agenda aside, the fact that we've got convicted MCs (Republican & Democrat) still picking up their Congressional pensions - paid for by us, just sticks in the throat. Pelosi's office said that last year they introduced legislation to strip current MCs from their pensions if convicted. So the Dems have already been moving in the right direction. I say finish the move by taking care of business and taking our money BACK from at least the convicted thieves and liars.

The day we can figure out how to take our money back from the non-convicted thieves and liars who are running the administration - well that would be a very good day, indeed.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The shock of recognition

The grotesque saga of the Saddam execution continues, with the Maliki government's on-again, off-again denials of culpability, cell phone recordings of jeers and taunts, ghoulish video, the works. The whole thing was a Shiite revenge fest--only vengeance, no justice. John Burns of the New York Times told the News Hour tonight that this is graphic, bleak evidence of the kind of people we are empowering there in Iraq and for whom our people keep dying.

I've been a little skeptical of all the Iraq-is-Vietnam comparisons, mainly because in Vietnam, it was clear that most people wanted what the Communists offered, and almost no one wanted what we insisted that they should have. In Iraq, there is a minority fighting against an empowered and vengeful majority. What we want, or are selling, is unclear and seems to me to be increasingly irrelevant. But I saw today a degree of symmetry that was frightening. The Saddam execution drama reminds me so much of the reaction of the Diem government in Vietnam to the Buddhist demonstrations in l963. Diem and his brother, who led the Diem government secret police hit squads, openly discriminated against the Buddhist minority because they were not Catholic, the religion Diem felt everyone should embrace. Some Buddhists found their treatment so unacceptable that they resorted to self-immolation on the streets of south Vietnamese cities. It was a terrible human tragedy, but President Diem--whom Vice President Johnson deemed the "George Washington of south Vietnam," ouch--saw it differently. His sister-in-law, the inimitable Madame Nu, the woman with a Hitler youth organization for girls, opined that this was just a provocation, that no one should pay attention to the "monk barbecue show" on the streets. Insofar as she noticed at all, she said, she might just send them matches and mustard to help them along(!). These were the kind of people we put forth as "our men" in south Vietnam, the exemplars of "our values." The world began to know us by the company we kept there, and it was horrified by what it saw.

If the Maliki government is the "company we keep" in Iraq, we should absolutely pack up our soldiers and GET OUT of there, NOW, before any further damage is done. An Iraq led by their like is not worth the life of one more American.

Another posthumous gift from President Ford

Watching the Ford funeral rites over the past two days, I remembered with thanks his meditations on the folly that is the war in Iraq and the sharp turn of his Republican Party towards extremism and meanness. The TV commentators shared part of a conversation with Ford's Episcopal pastor yesterday that will hopefully give some people pause.

The Episcopal church has recently gone through several years of acrimonious debates about the ordination of gay and lesbian priests, the place of women in the liturgy and other "violations" of tradition. This year, several Episcopal parishes threatened, and may in fact carry through, a separation from the worldwide Episcopal communion over the decision to ordain Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, an admitted homosexual. Those Virginia parishioners voted, in effect, to reserve for themselves the right to deny homosexuals the right to ordination, and perhaps even the right to worhip among them. Not exactly a shining hour in the history of Christianity, whose first commandment is, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," and whose unofficial second commandment is, "judge not, lest ye be judged."

President Ford expressed to his pastor his dismay over this move towards schism. He said that he saw no reason for divisiveness, not if everyone remembered to love God, and treat all his neighbors as children of God, or as he would himself. Among his other virtues, President Ford was a true Christian who embraced and lived the golden rule, and hoped that everyone would do the same. To their credit, all the commentators made a point of mentioning that. Maybe it will change a heart or two.

Rest in peace, Mr. President. You have left us a lot to think about, all of it useful.

Why the rush on Saddam? Here's why!

A few days ago, I wondered aloud in this space why the rush to off Saddam, when it is so crucial that the extent of his criminal activity be made clear to everyone in Iraq? Peter Galbraith, who investigated one of the most heinous of Saddam's crimes, gives us one very good reason in today's Boston Globe. If Saddam were to stand trial for the massacre of the Kurds, things could get uncomfortable for some of the architects of the Iraq war. Galbraith explains:

"The Kurdish trial also promised to shed light on a deeply amoral period in western diplomacy where the major powers, including the United States, chose to overlook genocide for strategic and economic reasons. According to his former foreign minister, Tariq Azziz, Saddam apparently intended to make an issue of western support in his trial. This could also have been awkward for some in the current administration. While serving in the Reagan or Bush administrations, some of the principals of the current war -- including Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell -- played down the significance of Iraq's use of poison gas, including, in the case of Powell, against the Kurds. And months after the 1988 gas attacks on the Kurds, the current president's father -- with the apparent support of his defense secretary, Richard Cheney -- doubled US financial assistance to Iraq."

I don't think the American public knows nearly enough about the extent to which their tax dollars supported Saddam back in the day. Without Saddam, it will be much harder for them to find out. I think I'm on the verge of an epiphany here...

Monday, January 01, 2007

Beyond the 3000

A final blow to the misery of 2006 was the death of our 3000th service member in Iraq.

Look at a recent poll of military members in Iraq that found 42% of them disagree with the way Bush is conducting the war; 41% think we should never have gone over in the first place; both numbers way down, and opposite supporting numbers in the 30s. The people who are doing the fighting on the ground know as well sa the rest of us do - this is, and was, a huge mistake.

The only ones left on the planet who haven't figured it out seem to be Bush & a few of his neo-con buddies.

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