Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Afghan Suicide Bomber Misses Cheney

The Veep's office notes that his trip was unplanned and it was only a coincidence. But sadly a suicide bomber did kill 23 people in Afghanistan near where Cheney was inside a US air base. More on the story here.

Since this administration is fond of playing "The Good War" card with WWII - the first thing that came to my mind was how a failed attempt on Hitler helped him redirect and refocus energies on enemies (real and imagined). Will we see similar efforts coming out of our own Veep Vader?

A Few Recent Poll Numbers

ABC News/Washington Post 2/22-25/2007 - "Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bush is handling the situation in Iraq?"
31% approve (who ARE these people)
67% disapprove
1% are unsure

Same poll "All in all, considering the costs to the US versus the benefits do you think the war with Iraq was worth fighting or not?
34% worth fighting
64% not worth fighting
2% unsure

"Do you think the United States should keep its military forces in Iraq until civil order is restored there, even if that means continued U.S. military casualties; or do you think the United States should withdraw its military forces from Iraq in order to avoid further U.S. military casualties, even if that means civil order is not restored there?"
42% keep forces in Iraq
56% withdraw forces
2% unsure

"Do you support or oppose Bush's proposal to send approximately 22,000 more military forces to Iraq?"
32% support
67% oppose
1% unsure

Bush's disapproval rating is anywhere from 51% (FOX, go figure) to 65% (at least four different polls)

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Audience Participation - Impeach Bush for . . .

I'll go on record as saying that I am NOT for impeaching Bush as long as Cheney is Veep. Replacing shrub with Lord Vader is not a good move IMHO. But there's no denying that if Congress found its spine, it could go to town with charges.

So to the readers. What would be YOUR #1 reason to impeach Bush? One of these listed alphabetically below? Or tell us yours.

Authorized illegal wiretaps.
Authorized the torture of prisoners.
Conducted illegal wiretaps of American citizens.
Held prisoners without formal charges and without legal representation.
Illegally used government funds for domestic political propaganda, paying commentator Armstrong Williams, etc.
Lied to Congress and the American public about the reasons for invading Iraq.
Misled Congress and the public about Iraq.
Negligent in his response to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Shows contempt toward our Constitution and our democratic ideals.
Used uniformed military personnel for Republican party political purposes.
Violated International Law by invading a sovereign country for illegal purposes.
Violated the Geneva Convention by torturing prisoners of war.


Focus on a Linked Site - Fight to Survive

You'll find the link to Fight to Survive on the right-hand list under The War. The blog has been in operation for a number of years now and is, as stated on its front page, "designed to provide personal information, views and commentary about the authors experiences in Iraq and elsewhere. "

The bloggers post irregularly, but the power of these posts is undeniable. I want to draw your attention to the November 13, 2006 blog, "The Day that Haunts Me." The piece begins, "'Hellblazer' is an Iraq war veteran and served in the US army as a Specialist Scout. The following, is his account of a battle that took place in Ba'Quba, Iraq in November 2004."

It's a post worth reading, and a blog worth returning to from time to time.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Troop Morale - Reality vs. Republican Wish-Think

In today's WaPo, Tom Rick, military correspondent, asked an officer with 2 combat tours in Iraq about morale. As Republicans keep shouting at us, by trying to pull the guys out and end the war, we're ruining their moral. Then again, none of the old troika (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld) actually served in a war, let alone many of those Republican mouthpieces.

From someone who served in Iraq - what is or isn't a morale builder:

Ten Worst
1. getting blown up
2. buddies getting blown up
3. re-securing a town we secured year before last
4. "Taps"
5. the "catch and release" detainee program
6. colostomy bags
7. civilian young men who won't look me in the eye when I'm in uniform
8. any scene from any shopping mall anywhere in America
9. editorials pointing out that casualties are "light by historical standards"
10. lies

Ten Best
1. Iraqis willing to fight for their country
2. good sergeants
3. clean, dry socks and T-shirts
4. cigarettes and chai without body armor
5. the USO at the DFW airport
6. meeting an Iraqi leader from my last tour who's still alive
7. "nothing significant to report"
8. sleep and KBR macadamia nut cookies (tie)
9. dead generals (this one is hypothetical, at least for the past six years, but Ridgeway said "It's good for the troops' morale to see a dead general every once in a while.")
10. truth

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Must Read - Rummy's "Legacy"

Andrew Cockburn's book on Donald Rumsfeld will be published this week by Scribner. The book, titled "Rumsfled: His Rise, Fall and Catastrophic Legacy" is something many of us have been waiting for. A straight forward look at the horrifying reign of Rummy at the Defense Department. The story of the man that Richard Nixon, (RICHARD NIXON!!!) called a ruthless little bastard from the early days of his career to his utter failure as Secretary of Defense for the current administration. It is a must read for anyone who wants to see behind the curtain of the rush to war and the criminal mismanagement of that conflict by Rumsfeld and the administration.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

"Progress" signaled by British troop withdrawals?!

President Bush lost no time in portraying Tony Blair's decision to begin a phased withdrawal of British troops from Basra as a "sign of progress" in Iraq. But people in the know across the pond have quite a different interpretation. Jonathan Steele comments in yesterday's Guardian,

"The task is made harder in Basra by the fact that the two main militias, the Badr organisation and the Mahdi army, are linked to different Islamist political parties that are vying for supremacy. The governor of Basra and the chairman of the provincial council have ties to one side, and the police chief to the other, while the police force beneath him is packed with men from both. They are engaged in a kind of civic civil war, a local struggle over who controls revenues, both legal and illegal - the most lucrative of which is the siphoning-off of Basra's oil."

What in the world can British troops do to influence events in this den of vipers? As another British journalist noted on yesterday's NPR "Talk of the Nation:" They can declare victory and get the heck out of there!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Oops, Who's Your Go-To Guy in UK Now, George?

It's always good to know that at least one world leader is listening to his people. Prime Minister Blair is going to announce tomorrow that the British troops will have a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq. Of the 7,000 British troops in Iraq now, 1,500 will go home over the next several weeks. The rest under the new timetable, with 3,000 home by the end of 2007.

Remember George's thoughts on timetables? Encourage the enemy, they will. Because in George's world, the enemy is apparently not encouraged enough these days. No George, it's our presence in Iraq that is encouraging more and more attacks.

This just in...

The AP is reporting this morning that:

"President Bush instructed the nation's new spy chief to focus on finding more recruits with the language skills and cultural background to collect information on al-Qaida and other terrorist groups."

Gee, nothing gets by this guy! It's only taken five years for him to figure out that this might be a useful step to take. Capable linguists in the single digits among the staffers in Iran, no reliable translators in the field in Iraq or Afghanistan...hey, he really might be onto something here! Maybe we should really think about this, training more people with language skills!!"

Now why didn't WE come up with this?! We've really been asleep at the wheel vis-a-vis the man in the White House.

Godspeed, Captain Allen

We have to keep before us the faces and stories of the people who have died tragically in this misbegotten war. I include today excerpts from the obituary of Captain Jennifer Harris of Massachusetts, a victim of one of the recent helicopter crashes in Iraq. She was only 28 years old.

"Captain Jennifer Jean Harris was one of the first pilots to reach her helicopter and lift off when the emergency call came into the ready room on the day that she died. Though the 28-year-old Marine was just days from leaving Iraq, Harris was still focused on ferrying injured Marines to safety, said her former commander, Colonel Michael Hudson . Before the CH-46 troop transport she was piloting crashed this month, he said, Harris and her six crew members saved the life of one more Marine.

Yesterday, more than 1,000 mourners crowded into St. John the Evangelist Church to say a final goodbye to Harris, watching as a Marine honor guard carried her flag-draped coffin into the seaside church where she was baptized. Harris, the first Massachusetts servicewoman killed in the Iraq war, never rested on her laurels, her former Naval Academy roommate said, beating the odds to become a female pilot in the Marine Corps' renowned Purple Foxes. But Harris's former commander said her true legacy may be measured in funerals never held.

"There are so many people today who are not gathered in a place like this because Captain Harris flew," intoned Hudson, standing ramrod straight in his dress blue uniform as he spoke from the pulpit...

Coming less than six months after the funeral for another Iraq casualty -- Army Specialist Jared J. Raymond -- in the same church, some mourners had a painful sense of deja vu. In all, 65 Massachusetts service members have died in Iraq, according to an estimate from Senator Edward M. Kennedy's office. Sargent Drew Glazier, a Marine reservist who played taps for Harris yesterday at the cemetery, said he had lost count of the funerals for Iraq casualties at which he had performed.

Harris, the only daughter of a General Electric worker and a schoolteacher, died with all of her crew members when her helicopter crashed 20 miles northwest of Baghdad on Feb. 7. A Sunni group with connections to Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility, but the Marines have not confirmed that. A Marine spokesman has said that the aircraft was in flames as it went down, but there was no sign of enemy fire.

The Rev. Clyde Chetwynde , pastor of St. John, said Harris was shaped by a loving extended family who gave her the courage to dream big, even when she was a young girl. "You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals," Harris wrote in her 1996 high school yearbook. "To that end, each of us must work for our own improvement." That fall, she entered the Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Lieutenant Rose Goscinski , Harris's roommate at Annapolis, recalled that when Harris learned she had been accepted into Marine aviation training, Harris gave all her Navy dress uniforms to the younger, similar-sized Goscinski so that she would not have to purchase more uniforms herself. "You felt guilty complaining to her about some minute thing because, my goodness, she could do it all and do it with grace and style," Goscinski said.

Now, Goscinski said, her "sister in arms" can rest, concluding, "You have fought the good fight. You have finished the race. Lay hold of eternal life." The congregation broke into applause.

"Captain Harris was free when she flew," Hudson said. "She flies now on the wings of angels."

Monday, February 19, 2007

There he goes again!

We've seen Iraq compared to World War II, with President Bush playing the implied role of President FDR. We've seen Iraq become postwar Germany and Japan, presided over by a patient, optimistic Bush-as-President Truman. We've even seen Iraq become the American civil war, with President Bush as this generation's Abraham Lincoln, doing his best to bring together the warring parties in Mesopotamia. Today, we have another vivid analogy. From Mount Vernon this morning, we heard the following from the President:

"Today, we're fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life," said Bush, standing in front of Washington's home and above a mostly frozen Potomac River.

"And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country believed that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone."

Bush went on to say that he and the first President even shared George and W in their names. Onlookers described his tone as "joking," but given the extravagant comparisons made previously, and his own claim that he has liberated more people than any modern President, I'm sure the President was dead serious. George Washington Bush...you can't even swallow after saying that.

Thanks For Your Sacrifice, Now Go Away

The Bush administration and their cronies continue to toss out their full-throated "we support the troops; they don't" distractions to avoid talking about the invalidity of their war. They support them enough to send them off to die without blinking twice, we all know that. And they support them by providing them with little, old, or wrong equipment, just to make it a little more challenging to survive. But what about when the guys come home?

The WaPo is running a series on life at Walter Reed hospital for those who weren't lucky enough to get out of Iraq untouched. While the article focuses on Walter Reed, it's evident that wounded vets receive far less than the administration's "full support" across the country.

You gotta give it to this administration. They're not shy about their flagrant hypocrisies. The link above gets you to the first article in the series. Do your part for the troops today and read the whole series. The outtakes below are just part of the story:

Seventy-five percent of the troops polled by Walter Reed last March said their experience was "stressful." Suicide attempts and unintentional overdoses from prescription drugs and alcohol, which is sold on post, are part of the narrative here.

Life beyond the hospital bed is a frustrating mountain of paperwork. The typical soldier is required to file 22 documents with eight different commands -- most of them off-post -- to enter and exit the medical processing world, according to government investigators. Sixteen different information systems are used to process the forms, but few of them can communicate with one another. The Army's three personnel databases cannot read each other's files and can't interact with the separate pay system or the medical recordkeeping databases.

The disappearance of necessary forms and records is the most common reason soldiers languish at Walter Reed longer than they should, according to soldiers, family members and staffers. Sometimes the Army has no record that a soldier even served in Iraq. A combat medic who did three tours had to bring in letters and photos of herself in Iraq to show she that had been there, after a clerk couldn't find a record of her service.

Oh, and as for hope for the future -- [Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, commander at Walter Reed] said a 21,500-troop increase in Iraq has Walter Reed bracing for "potentially a lot more" casualties.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Historical hysteria

Those Republican representatives were at it again yesterday, playing the "Iraq is World War II" card for about the l0,000th time in recent history. They managed to work Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, the holocaust and maybe even Tojo--I can't remember, exactly--into the debate. These people leave me alternately sputtering and shaking my head, so I am going to leave it to Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe columnist and a much cooler head, to put it all in perspective:

"Top House honors for Best Dramatic Performance for a Deranged Policy went to Sue Myrick of North Carolina. She said, "Iraq is just one battlefield in this multigenerational struggle against radical Islamist jihadists. But it's a very important battlefield. This is the beginning stage of a multigenerational worldwide struggle that will last throughout our lives and likely our children's lives. . . . they will not stop until all lands from India to Morocco and Spain to Russia are governed by radical Islamic law. In 1938 Adolf Hitler told us what he was going to do and we refused to pay attention, and we cannot afford to repeat that historical mistake. . . . We must understand that we are fighting the first battles of a war against radical Islamist ideology that will be waged for the next 50, maybe 100 years."

Is that Armageddon or what?

It has not registered on these folks that we hanged the "Hitler" of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and last year, according to the United Nations, 34,000 Iraqi civilians still died in civil war. They are oblivious to the growing boomerang effect of their rhetoric. They keep invoking comparisons to World War II, but it does not seem to have dawned on their desk calendars that our nearly four-year invasion and occupation of Iraq has already passed the span from Pearl Harbor to Japanese surrender.
But unlike World War II, which had a global coalition of the willing to answer the global cries of the unwilling, the current "world war" has always been a unilateral US affair based on false pretenses with bit parts played by Great Britain and a handful of nations. The State Department Iraq Weekly Report this week lists "25 Countries With Forces in Iraq" to go along without 138,000. But the total forces amount to 15,371. On the face of it, that is an average of only 615 soldiers per country. But with Great Britain accounting for 7,000 of them, the United States ever more stands isolated.

The dwindling nations of the coalition have connected our disconnect. What is the point of this "world war," especially when non fighting Americans (who starkly include the children of the politicians most railing for the war) are more obsessed with Super Bowl commercials, Oscar nominations, and Anna Nicole Smith than the fate of the planet? What is the point of war in oil-rich Iraq when Chrysler was reportedly talking with General Motors to team up for yet another SUV like the Chevrolet Suburban or Tahoe? It was further reported yesterday that DaimlerChrysler is in talks to sell Chrysler outright to GM."

Exactly right. This is World War II, or maybe III, and everyone is slumped in front of his TV set, contemplating the fate of Anna Nicole's daughter and the 5-mile trip downtown in the Hummer or SUV(?!) What planet are these Republicans in Congress living on, anyway, and why do they so love this invasion/occupation, in which we continue to punish people who did nothing to us? Why?!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Talk, Talk, Talk

Today Congress winds up its current debate we wait to learn if Congress will spank Bush hard and take all funding away from the war except that which it takes to pull the troops out.

Oops, I'm sorry, that's the debate in our alternate universe. Here what are we waiting to learn with baited breath? How many Republicans vote with the Dems. And on what? Oh yeah, the non-binding resolution of disapproval for Bush's "surge".

Anybody else out there jumping up and down with excitement over the backbone of our new Congress, having heard the anti-war voice during the elections, standing up to the President and saying that they want to ... disagree with his surge.

Shall we begin a collection to buy Congress a backbone and some guts?

Quick, Look Over There

Is this a classic case of mis-direction, or what? Bush is facing a Congressional hand slap (if that, but my rant on Congressional wussiness is another post) on Iraq, so now we have fingers pointing to Iran (again).

Iran is supporting Iraq's insurgents Bush & Co. say. Or are they?

Bush - "I can't say it more plainly." There are weapons in Iraq that are harming US troops because of the Qods force . . . Whether (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad ordered the Qods force to do this, I don't think we know."

So we don't know if the Iranian government is supporting the Qods or not. Except according to the same administration has been pointing fingers at the Iraqi government for ages now (if not nuclear dreams, then insurgent support).

So the Iranian government is supporting the Iraqi insurgency - accept if it isn't.

We haven't had this clear a vision from the administration in ages. Then again, does it matter? Is there anyone outside of Limbaugh world who is going to hear anything other than cry wolf in this?

Are You a Numbers Person?

Well here are some (courtesy of Harper's Index) to give some thought to.

11 years is the average duration of the 130 civil wars fought worldwide since 1945
Iraq's current civil war rates #9 in terms of fatalities per year

An average of 300 tons of live WWI ordinance is dug up in Belgium each year [for those who are counting, that war ended 88 years ago - how long will we be digging the war out of Iraq's ground?]

And on the economic home front

A US worker in 1970 had a 1 in 14 chance in seeing his/her income drop that year by 1/2 or more.
A US worker in 2002 had a 1 in 6 chance.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Speaking the truth

Newly declared Presidential candidate Obama had a moment of candor at a weekend rally in Iowa. Speaking about the Iraq debacle, he told his audience that "We now have spent $400 billion and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted." Today, he is "absolutely apologizing" for asserting that those killed in Iraq died for nothing.

What's to apologize for in that remark? Let's review for a moment (all) the reasons for which these soldiers, sailors and marines were sent to Iraq:

--to find and dispose of Iraq WMD.

--to establish the conditions for a pro-American democratic Iraq.

--to liberate Iraqis from violence and tyranny.

--to draw all the terrorists like a magnet to Iraq so we can kill them all there.

--to knock down a domino of dictatorship that would then sweep away all neighboring despots.

Just how many of these rationales have proved to have any foundation whatsoever? There WERE no WMDs. There were and are no conditions for a pro-American democracy in Iraq. Some Iraqis have been liberated from violence and tyranny, only to turn around and inflict it on others and/or become victims of their murderous sectarian neighbors. In whose universe have all the terrorists been drawn to Iraq and killed? And how many neighboring dictatorships have fallen because we toppled Saddam? Arguably, the most dangerous and hostile dictatorship to the United States--Iran-- has been STRENGTHENED and EMBOLDENED by the Iraq conflict.

So for what good, noble, long-term purpose have our military people died, exactly? They certainly did their duty as best they could, but I don't think there's any question that they died essentially for nothing. In this they join the 58,000 victims of the Vietnam war.

The Senator has nothing to apologize for. He ought to re-direct all indignation aimed at him to the architects of this destructive, useless war.

Monday, February 12, 2007

He Can Shoot a Man in the Face, but

apparently Cheney can't face those who disagree with him. So he's decided to snub the Japanese defense minister during an upcoming visit to Japan. What did the minister say that was so horribly offensive? Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma said that the decision to invade Iraq was a mistake. Yup. Something that just about everyone but Bush & Cheney agree with at this point. But wait, there's more. Kyuma pretty quickly backed up, saying no, what he really meant to say was that the US attack decision "should have been more cautious."

So having backed up and restated his position, and denying the word "mistake" -- has Kyuma bowed and groveled enough that the great Cheney would agree to speak with him?

Are you kidding? This is a guy who is waiting for the world to apologize to him for our doubts over his ability to rule the world. But the diplomats stepped up and noted that really the problem was that the Veep had a very full schedule before hand and there simply isn't any room to meet with the Defense Minister of one of our top allies.


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Sunday, February 11, 2007

A life in dissent

Since we are swimming against the tide this morning with General Odom and Barack Obama, let us pause to celebrate the life of someone who spent most of her life in active opposition to war, injustice, intolerance and the complacency that made them possible: Cynthia Foster, who died this week in Massachusetts. The Boston Globe has her obituary today, from which comes the following excerpt:

"In the 1940s, Foster "picketed segregated dime stores, department stores, and lunch counters in Washington, demonstrated at bus stations and at a segregated YMCA until the management flooded the ventilating system with ammonia fumes to drive her out. In 1963, she was among the 250,000 who marched on Washington for equal rights [the Rev. Martin Luther King 'I Have a Dream' march]. In 1971, she led 3,000 people to a demonstration on Boston City Hall Plaza to protest the Vietnam War."

At the time of her death this week at age 99, she was still waging a decades-long fight with the IRS over the use of her federal taxes for military spending. Her family says the scheduling of her memorial service for April l5, the annual filing deadline, is purely incidental. I wonder about that...


I'll admit, I feel a bit of shame in my support of Obama this early in the race. Have I become one of those like the media mocked by Steven Colbert when he said they spend their time writing, "Mrs. Barack Obama over and over again" in their notebooks? Have I fallen for his canidacy as much for what I think he can become as what he is? Probably. Nevertheless, as someone who wouldn't think of voting for Hillary, but whose other choice (Dennis Kucinich), is only a step away from tossing the vote into a puddle (sorry Kucinich fans), Obama is my guy.

So I was glad to see today's WaPo selected Obama (oh come on, of COURSE the Post writers have pages of "Mrs. Barack Obama" scribblings in their note pads) for the first of their portraits of political candidates through the words of people who know them. Click here to read the Obama portraits.

Victory is Not an Option

Retired Army Lt. Gen. William E. Odom's front page in today's WaPo Outlook section, "Victory is Not an Option," shares some realitites about Iraq that Gen. Odom believes Congress is ignoring:

1) We must continue the war to prevent the terrible aftermath that will occur if our forces are withdrawn soon. Reflect on the double-think of this formulation. We are now fighting to prevent what our invasion made inevitable! Undoubtedly we will leave a mess -- the mess we created, which has become worse each year we have remained.

2) We must continue the war to prevent Iran's influence from growing in Iraq. This is another absurd notion. One of the president's initial war aims, the creation of a democracy in Iraq, ensured increased Iranian influence, both in Iraq and the region. Electoral democracy, predictably, would put Shiite groups in power -- groups supported by Iran since Saddam Hussein repressed them in 1991.

3) We must prevent the emergence of a new haven for al-Qaeda in Iraq. But it was the U.S. invasion that opened Iraq's doors to al-Qaeda. The longer U.S. forces have remained there, the stronger al-Qaeda has become.

4) We must continue to fight in order to "support the troops." This argument effectively paralyzes almost all members of Congress. Lawmakers proclaim in grave tones a litany of problems in Iraq sufficient to justify a rapid pullout. Then they reject that logical conclusion, insisting we cannot do so because we must support the troops. Has anybody asked the troops?

Follow the link to this article to read it in full. If only the Bush/Cheney war machine would.

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Translating Info-Speak

Today's WaPo features a guide to reading a National Intelligence Estimate. In particular, the recent NIE on Iraq. Editors asked Mark Lowenthal, a professional NIE evaluator, to translate intelligence-speak for the lay audience. It is worth exploring. Unfortunately for bloggers, it isn't available on the Post website. We'll share some for those who don't get the Post at their front door.

NIE: Iraqi society's growing polorization, the persistent weakness of the security forces and the state in general, and all sides' ready recourse to violence are collectively . . .
NIE Translated: There's no single issue to be addressed to solve the Iraqi problem.

NIE: . . . Unless effots to reverse these conditions show measurable progress during the term of this Estimate, the coming 12 to 18 months . . .
NIE Translated: No measurements are offered; in other words, there has to be a great deal of progress, so much that it's incontrovertible.

NIE: . . . overall security situation will continue to deteriorate at rates comparable to the latter part of 2006. . . .
NIE Translated: That is, the worst insurgency period.

NIE: . . . Many Sunni Arabs remain unwilling to accept their minority status . . .
NIE Translated: How many? Some, most, almost all? An estimative generality that tends to frustrate policy makers. How severe is this problem?

NIE: . . . The absence of unifying leaders among the Arab Sunni or Shia . . .
NIE Translated: More NIE-speak indirection; as opposed to the more direction, There are no.

NIE: . . . for what has become a self-sustaining inter-sectarian struggle between Shia and Sunnis.
NIE Translated: This "self-sustaining...struggle" is a major judgment, but it is buried this deep. In other words, the violence is now feeding on itself, which suggests that there is very little that outsiders can do about it.

NIE: . . . the term "civil war" does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq.
NIE Translated: It's worse than a civil war; it's close to anarchy.

In other words - things are worse than they think. Something that is of no surprise to most of us.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

The Petraeus Ph.Ds

Thomas Ricks has another excellent article on the evolving strategy for success in Iraq. It seems that General David Petraeus, who holds a Ph.D in International Relations from Princeton, has gathered around him a group of officers whose brainpower and experience are equal to his. All of them have extensive combat experience and doctorates in political science, anthropology and history.

More heads are better than fewer, i guess, but I'm skeptical that anyone can succeed in creating what Iraq does not have and MUST have if there is to be a united, functioning state: an Iraqi nationality, a sense of common destiny, of shared purpose. Peoples thrown together involuntarily in fake states always lack this, and no one to date has been able to create a national identity. Multiethnic America has one, of course, but the crucial difference between it and Iraq is that people have come here voluntarily.

I'm afraid these guys might end up Piling. Higher. and deeper., unfortunately--the most dreaded fate for any Ph.D.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Putin lovefest

Vladimir Putin has deigned to hold his annual press conference in Moscow. It wasn't exactly adversarial--one journalist asked whether it was too late to wish Vladimir Vladimirovich a Happy New Year--but it makes amusing reading. That is, if you can ignore the giant sucking(up)sound coming from the audience...

People Who Make Sense

Longtime readers know of my admiration for all things Molly - who was the very first person I listed on my links of "People Who Make Sense." Molly always made a whole lot of sense, and she did it by making people laugh and think at the same time. An honorable skill and ability that has always put her far and away above the miserable scabs of the Bush administration and their lackies.

NPR has a page devoted to Molly, and includes links to some of her past interviews. It's a must listen for all who will miss this wonderful and witty woman's rants against the machine.

An American original

Everyone is justly paying tribute today to Molly Ivins, who died yesterday of cancer. She was only 62 and had a lot of writing left in her, as she demonstrated in dictating her last columns from her hospital bed.

There's a lot I will miss about Molly--her skewering of President GW "Shrub" Bush, her consistent opposition to the Iraq war, her hilarious observations on the Texas Legislature. What I liked most about her, though, is that she was always true to herself, even when she had the most prestigious job in journalism--a bureau chief for the New York Times. She had an unusual, often brilliant way of looking at things and a wicked way with words, which didn't play too well with the Grey Lady. Regular readers know that the Times has its own standardized, understated style, which Molly tended to ignore. She once described a local chicken-killing festival as a "gang pluck," which offended her editor, the august A.M. Rosenthal. And then there was the time she described a corpulent individual as someone with a "beer gut worthy of the Smithsonian," a characterization which subsequently appeared in the Times as a "protuberant abdomen." She could not be herself there, would not continue to have her prose "flattened and defoliated," as someone wrote today. So she walked away from the Times--an unthinkable act for a serious journalist. But that was the greatest thing about Molly. She refused to adapt to the world--she made the world adapt to her, and she kept right on writing as she saw fit. I think that's what made her the vivid, compelling, hilarious writer she was.

We'll all miss her. We should honor her memory by "raising more hell," as she always advised her readers, and taking care to laugh a lot, too.

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