Sunday, July 29, 2007

Getting Out of Iraq - What is it Going to Take?

In today's NY Times, Bill Marsh presents a look at just what it's going to take to get us out of Iraq. I am among those who want the US out NOW. But as Marsh points out, even if we made that decision tomorrow, getting out is going to take a lot of time, a lot of money, and probably cost a lot of lives. Marsh asks five questions:

1. How fast can the troops leave?
2. Can departing soldiers be shielded from attack?
3. Who stays behind?
4. What to take, leave, destroy?
5. How long to repair and ship vital equipment?

We can only hope that somewhere in the Pentagon these questions are being asked and answered. And I say the Pentagon, because I trust the military to look after the future & lives of their troops and equipment. And I trust the Bush/Cheney administration to ignore not only those lives and questions, but designate as traitor anyone who would dare ask them.

Private Soldiers

A big reason why Bush managed to have the support for the Iraqi war as long and deep as he did in the US was due, in no small part, to the lack of a military draft. The downside of that has been the administration's determination to fight a war without enough troops. So in come the contractors, over 25,000 of them.

Today's WaPo has a large article on one of those private security companies, the Crescent Security Group (which is no longer in operation in Iraq, but which has four employees still in insurgent hands). Dozens of similar companies have operated and are still operating in Iraq. Blackwater became one of the better known when four employees were killed and publically hung in 2004. Millions of our tax dollars are passing through these companies' hands, with little to no watch dog over how they operate. The difference between this and the Iraqi's government inability to maintain operations over projects that millions of US dollars went into is -- IMHO -- minimal. How much for the contracts? Who knows, the Pentagon won't say. Once and a while some information slips out, such as the $293 million awarded to AEGIS Specialist Risk Management, a British company.

For those "on the ground" most are in it for the money - making more in a year than they could in a few months at home. But that money is gained at the risk of their lives, with some reports suggesting that contractors have higher mortality percentage rates than the US troops, but there are no official totals compiled or revealed.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of men and women working as mercenaries in Iraq, paid for by US money, are part of a system that continues to fly under the radar. The WaPo story shines some light on Crescent Security Group - the tales told no doubt similar in may of the other companies. But we won't know, because no one is looking.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Next to abortion, few words in American debate can cause as much body shaking, spittle-flying, righteous indignity as the word "guns."

[Personal background: I grew up in an area where guns were common accessories. Although my family didn't have any hunters, friends' parents did. I especially remember one father who had nothing but disdain for gun hunters (but only because he hunted with bow & arrow). Guns aren't a great and scary unknown to me. And in spite of the copious tears I shed while watching truck after truck go by with deers strapped to the hood after seeing Bambi for the first time, I respect hunters who know what their doing. (The idiots who shoot anything that moves and end up bagging cows and mailboxes are another story altogether.)]

I've long been bewildered by the fear of gun control. The whole "prying out of my cold dead hands" idea. Why do registration & control laws have these gun-owning manly men shaking in their boots? But because otherwise sensible people fear registration & control means "I can't keep my rifle," the US has little oversight over guns. But wait, you say, what about registration? Surely that keeps the guns away from bad people! Well, it depends on where criminal X buys his guns. Did he buy it from a gun store? Or from a guy who sets up a table at a show? Or a pawn shop? And even if he bought it from a store - was it a store like R&B in Hampton, Virginia? R&B is no longer in operation because the store was closed down in 2001 after its owner, Richard Norad, was arrested for violating firearms laws. What kinds of violations? Well, according to a recent investigation, "Records kept by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives show that R&B Guns was once among the country's leading sellers of guns later used by criminals."

And R&B is not alone. Read more here (a Houston Chronicle article), or a similar story in USA Today, which reports on how guns can be traced to their sellers. Business Week ran a story earlier this month on similar problems in gun stores across the country. And as the article in Business Week points out - the nation's miserably weak gun laws are so ineffectual that criminals don't need to try and buy guns illegally. "The data shows that a majority of guns used by criminals are not stolen or smuggled in to the country. They are bought at federally licensed gun stores, often by "straw purchasers," people acting on behalf of others who cannot buy a weapon legally because of a criminal record."

Apparently guns DON'T have to be criminalized for criminals to have guns. So let's have a nice round of applause for the NRA and its toadies (past & present) in Congress for doing their best to make sure the nation's criminal element has quick and easy access to guns.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

"Can't we all get along" in Iraq?! NO!

As the White House sounds more and more shrill each day, trying to justify the ongoing futility in Iraq, you keep hearing that we need to stay there, need to preserve the "surge" to "buy time" for the Iraqi government, such as it is, to initiate national reconciliation. Now, we've said many times before that national reconciliation is a pipe dream in a shattered fake/multiethnic state where one group was favored and the not-so-benevolent leader brutally repressed and persecuted all the others. But I don't think we have ever come across more stark evidence mitigating against any sort of agreement than that offered by Peter Galbraith in this week's New York Review. Galbraith takes as an example the proposed legislation pushed by the Bush administration allowing former members of Saddam's group, the Baath party, back into national life, making them eligible for local office, jobs, etc. This is clearly intended to bring the Sunni minority back to the fold and kill off the Sunni insurgency. Well, that might be a bit of a tough nut, to judge by the following circumstances:

"Abdul Aziz al-Hakim leads the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC, previously known as SCIRI), which is Iraq's leading Shiite party and a critical component of Prime Minister al-Maliki's coalition. He is the sole survivor of eight brothers. During Saddam's rule Baathists executed six of them. On August 29, 2003, a suicide bomber, possibly linked to the Baathists, blew up his last surviving brother, and predecessor as SCIRI leader, at the shrine of Ali in Najaf. Moqtada al-Sadr, Hakim's main rival, comes from Iraq's other prominent Shiite religious family. Saddam's Baath regime murdered his father and two brothers in 1999. Earlier, in April 1980, the regime had arrested Moqtada's father-in-law and the father-in-law's sister—the Grand Ayatollah Baqir al-Sadr and Bint al-Huda. While the ayatollah watched, the Baath security men raped and killed his sister. They then set fire to the ayatollah's beard before driving nails into his head. De-Baathification is an intensely personal issue for Iraq's two most powerful Shiite political leaders, as it is to hundreds of thousands of their followers who suffered similar atrocities."

I'm no expert in human relations or Iraq policy, but doesn't this raise just the tiniest doubt about the long-term prospects of the united Iraq for which our soldiers continue to fight, bleed, suffer grevious injuries and DIE?!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

MUST SEE Documentary of the Summer

And it's not Sicko (although it is certainly worth viewing).

No, the MUST SEE documentary is "No End in Sight," Charles Ferguson's examination of the blunders, errors, goofs and IMHO, criminal, acts of the Bush administration leading up to & following the invasion of Iraq. You can learn more about it & see a trailer here, the movie's official site. You may have seen a trailer already, YouTube has a few running. The movie opens tomorrow (Friday 7/27) in selected theaters (as they always say).

Ferguson presents interviews from those in the know who reveal mis-step after mis-step, the ignored intelligence, the neo-con-driven tunnel-vision focus on a goal that had nothing to do with hunting down terrorists or the war on terror. It's not a film that falls into the easy category of anti-war film, which I hope will open up the audience range for it - and I can only hope that those who make up the pitiful 25-30% of Bush supporters take a long, hard look at this administration and what it has done, and is doing, to this nation, our troops, and Iraq.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Report from New York

I'm back from a brief sojourn in New York, where you barely have time and energy to keep yourself together, let alone keep up with things in general. Even there, though, the Iraq war manages to make headlines daily. I was struck by the story of Jonathan Aponte of the Bronx, who had finished one tour as an infantryman in Iraq and was headed for another. He didn't want to go back, because he said he was horrified by the scenes of carnage and devastation he had had to endure, along with the terrifying ordeal of a hit-and-run conflict with insurgents on the insurgents' home turf. Unlike a lot of people, who accept the second tour without protest, Aponte decided he couldn't face it.

He didn't declare himself a conscientious objector, didn't get a lawyer, didn't just refuse to report back to his unit--he hit upon a familiar solution for some quarters of New York. He and his wife secured the services of a contract killer, whom they paid $500 to shoot Aponte in the leg, just enough to render him hors de combat without permanent injuries. The hitman carried out his mission, but somehow authorities discovered the relationship between the two and Aponte was busted. The last I heard, he was headed back to Texas to face the music before his unit and commanders.

This episode demonstrated two things: one, how dreadful it must be for people having to staff President Bush's obsession, and two, how many people sided with Aponte rather than the authorities or the army or the "good" soldiers in his unit. Not one letter to the Daily News condemned him; most people emphasized with him or at least understood his reasoning. I didn't read the Post, of course, because that is Fox News in print, but Daily News readers aren't reliably one thing or the other, so I thought the reaction was striking.

It gets clearer and clearer from every angle--this war is a loser. So who is going to stop it?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Communists, Schmomunists, They've Got Money!

And we want it. So hey, what's a little poisoned food here or there, or the odd toxic chemical showing up in toothpaste. The Chinese government is now our friend, so we're willing to overlook a whole lot to work with them. Which is good, because apparently the Chinese government is willing to overlook a whole lot to make a good impression on the rest of the world in time for the Olympic games (and for all those lucrative foreign trade contracts).

The government has announced that it is indefinitely postponing the release of an environmental report on the costs of the nation's economic development. Apparently the Chinese government is hoping that the rest of the world isn't going to notice that they're the fastest growing threat to the planet's environment. Last month the Chinese government managed to remove the statistics that about 760,000 people were dying prematurely from air & water pollution EACH YEAR in an upcoming World Bank report (and you thought the World Bank couldn't be bought).

Who'd have thought that a right-wing conservative US government & the Communist Chinese government would have so much in common.

Helping Those Who Helped Us

Most of you aren't old enough to remember the images of America pulling out of Saigon and desperate South Vietnamese clinging to helicopters trying to leave as well. But if you've seen the footage, you know what I'm talking about. And you know then why one issue that has my goat these days is the government's bureaucratic slow-mo status on bringing Iraqis into the US who are under death threats for helping US troops. Denmark, a member of the nations of the willing, aren't so willing anymore. And with their pull out of Iraq, they're bringing those who have helped them home with them. The number's not high, about 200, but the principle is one our government could take to heart. Military spokesman Lt. Cdr. Nils Markussen said, "the signal we want to send is that we of course take care of our employees if the business they have been doing for us is putting them into danger."

And the US? Apparently the Bush administration cares for its Iraqi employees with all the loving care often shown by US corporations. None whatsoever.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Thoughts on Iraq, Islam and the World

Today's WaPo Outlook section is devoted to a series of articles on Islam and Iraq. Perspectives that may be new to some, and worth a look to all of us.

Mohsin Hamid, who admits to feeling a little like "us" as well as like "them" tries to answer the question, Why Do They Hate Us?

Akbar Ahmed's look at our Commander in Chief, Bush Still Doesn't Get It begins by saying that Bush "actually has some rather sound instincts about the Muslim world" and goes on to show just how pitiful he's been at listening to those instincts over the neo-con screams in his head & and puppet master Cheney's.

In Losing My Jihadism, Mansour al-Nogaidan argues that Saudi Islam needs a Martin Luther-like Reformation. The ex-Jihadist reveals his own spiritual journey.

Finally, Mohja Kahf's essay on Islam and women's issues, As American as You Are, looks at her own life experiences. Agree or disagree with her conclusions, the essay is worth a read.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I'd Mock Putin for This - but . . .

I'm living in a nation where school districts approve the use of books produced by that devoted band of head-in-sanders known as creationists. So it's only with a small degree of superiority I can join in the mockery of a couple of new text books being pushed in Russian high schools. They are, to say the least, celebrations of the great leadership of Vladimir Putin himself. Sample sentence - from the last chapter of the history text: "We see that practically every significant deed is connected with the name and activity of President V.V. Putin."

What is that vague memory I have of the "cult of personality?"

Ah, I can just see Darth Cheney in his undisclosed location office wringing his hands and giggling with delight at the possibilities for US school districts. Just think. With the right allies on the right school boards, Cheney & Bush's neo-con & psycho right cronies could produce a whole series of text books for American schools. No doubt the first one out will be "International Intervention for Fun and Profit," a lively text that examines the great success of the current Iraq war. What? Do I hear you asking "what great success?" Well obviously you were NOT one of the nine conservative pundits invited to chat with Bush last week at the White House. Where, as a couple of them noted later, the prez was "very energized" "confident and upbeat and ever," "assertive and good-humored."

Of COURSE he's energized, confident and good-humored. HE'S BAT-SHIT INSANE!

Ok, yes, perhaps there is another explanation. I await yours.

Bush Admin. Schools Nixon on Imperial Presidency

When I was a kid under the Nixon administration, we used to mock his imperial presidency concepts and those claims of executive privilege that were really attempts to hide his administration's crimes and corruption. In the light of Congressional investigation and impending impeachment, Nixon resigned. And all was well with the universe.

But we didn't count on an administration directed from Satan's helper himself, Darth Cheney. The Bush administration insists on covering just about anything that would reveal their crimes with executive privilege. Although I should be amazed at the chutzpah and success of this administration, as long as Darth Cheney & his favorite puppet retain their evil grasp of the White House, nothing they do surprises me.

So - now we have the White House stating that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked the magical phrase "executive privilege." Would that more Americans had shown their vote for contempt of these officials in 2004.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Kristol's Balls

You have to hand it to the Weekly Standard's William Kristol. He's not shy about putting it on the line for the SS Sinking Bush. In today's WaPo Outlook section, Kristol lets us know that he believes Bush's presidency will "probably be a successful one."

Yup, you read right. The 3 successes that Kristol thinks Bush will carry are 1) no 2nd 9/11 on US soil; 2) the economy; and 3) Iraq.

And yup, you read right again. Kristol spends a whole lot of energy arguing that our war in Iraq has turned the corner and we're on the cusp of success.

No, really. Read for yourself. And anyone who wants to start a fund for Kristol's therapy sessions, count me in for $10.

The US Congress and How Not to Save the Planet

While I'm not fully back yet from vacation, I have scored some net access and wanted to share a basic good article from the WaPo that looks at what we need to do to save the planet - and how Congress is avoiding it.

The opening paragraphs let you know what is coming. It is worth a read, but be prepared to have something on hand to lift your spirits afterwards, because this is pretty depressing stuff.

Here's the good news about climate change: Energy and climate experts say the world already possesses the technological know-how for trimming greenhouse gas emissions enough to slow the perilous rise in the Earth's temperatures.

Here's the bad news: Because of the enormous cost of addressing global warming, the energy legislation considered by Congress so far will make barely a dent in the problem, while farther-reaching climate proposals stand a remote chance of passage.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Speaking of the surge...

The voices in favor of a US disengagement, or force redeployment, from the killing grounds in Iraq are getting steadily louder. Several additional Republicans have joined Senator Lugar and others in declaring that the US policy in Iraq must change. But the war backers have answered by pointing to what they deem "progress" in the "surge," specifically agreements forged between local sheiks and tribal leaders with the US Army and Marines in some areas. The Iraqis are understandably sick of the violence wrought by Al-Quaeda in Iraq and have decided to help the US combat it. This is certainly a positive development in some respects--score one for the optimists. But there are problems with it, too, as the New York Times senior correspondent John Burns makes clear in a Week in Review piece called Showcase and Chimera in the Desert. For one thing, there is the ethnic composition of the areas in which the deals have been struck:

"Two factors that have led to the astonishing success in Anbar — the Sunnis’ dominance of the province and the nature of their foe here — could have the opposite effect elsewhere, especially in Baghdad. There the population is an explosive mix of sects, rather than largely Sunni. And the Sunnis’ fight — explicitly so, in the case of many of the new volunteers — is not just against Al Qaeda-linked extremists, but ultimately against the American presence here, and beyond the Americans, the new power of the majority Shiites."

And then there is the matter of whether the Anbar success can be replicated elsewhere...

...The question is," Burns continues, "whether the Anbar experience can be “exported” to other combat zones,by arming tribally based local security forces and recruiting thousands of young Sunnis, including former members of Baathist insurgent groups, into Iraq’s army and police force. Or is what has happened here possible only because of Anbar’s demographics? Were local sheiks able to rally against the extremist groups because Anbar’s population of 1.3 million is almost entirely Sunni — a population that does not have to guard Sunni unity in the face of the Shiite militias and death squads that have sprung up in Baghdad and other provinces in response to Sunni extremist attacks?"

I'm not exactly an expert in Iraqi affairs, but I'm inclined towards the latter view. In ethnically mixed places like Baghdad, people do not have the luxury of concentrating on foreign fighters, because they do have more to fear from their Shiite neighbors. Besides, every Sunni knows the US put Shiites in power by offing Saddam. And don't forget, there is no underlying political consensus between Sunni and Shiia, the sine qua non of any kind of functioning, united Iraqi state.

So while there is some progress to report, it is confined to one area, one nationality and one conflict among many in this war. We are still trying to referee a civil war in a broken state, and I don't think we could change that dynamic with several million troops, let alone 120,000.

Count me surge-proofed.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Now, how about governing?

Hamas--remember them, the people we warned the Palestinians NOT to elect in the elections we insisted that they hold last year?--is really on a roll in Gaza since their takeover a few weeks ago. They are two of two in solving prominent kidnappings, one involving the BBC reporter Alan Johnston, and the other involving the Gaza Zoo's lion, snatched by a drug gang who was holding her as a kind of cash cow. They would charge passersby $1/head to pose with the lion for a cute photo. Read about the rescue operation here. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been hell on animals, as you can imagine.

The question is, can they govern? Will they govern? I'd like to see some of that efficiency applied to the task of coming to some kind of agreement with Israel. Despite all the acrimony and injustice that has characterized this conflict, Israel is not going to be run into the sea, and it is in everyone's interest that the two sides forge a two-state arrangement. Fatah is toast...they do not enjoy people's trust, they are ineffectual, they can't be a partner. It seems that Hamas CAN be.

But WILL they? The question just kind of hangs in the air...

A telling juxtaposition

Looking at the online edition of today's Boston Globe, there are two headlines about Iraq, one beneath the other, as follows:

"Iraqis told to arm themelves"


"Iraq may not meet goals set by Bush."

The United States broke the state of Iraq and confidently expected cheers and gratitude from the Iraqi people. President Bush believed that there were hidden(very well hidden!)democratic antecedents there that would miraculously emerge with the offing of Saddam. When the components of the artificial Iraqi state went to their sectarian corners and began fighting themselves and the occupiers, the US decreed that there should be elections and that Iraq should be administered by carefully chosen Iraqis. When neither those carefully chosen Iraqis nor the US military could stop the sectarian violence in the country, President Bush put them on notice that dire consequences would ensue if the Iraqis failed to meet benchmarks set by him. Now, after the most recent spike in the unceasing fratricidal warfare, against which those very same well-chosen politicians are now advising people to ARM THEMSELVES, it seems that...those benchmarks might NOT be met(!)

Gee, ya think? Nothing gets by some of these newspaper reporters.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Wisdom from without

I was just reading the Saturday London Independent, always something to look forward to, when I came across a meditation on the annual Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Extravaganza, just completed on July 4. I saw the words "freak show" in one of the opening paragraphs and was tempted to turn away, because the Dog contest IS a little on the freakish side, maybe not the Nation's Finest Hour. But I'm glad I continued, because the writer went on to deliver himself of this:

"And then there's that ultimate truth about the US that makes the place so fascinating and unpredictable: its ability simultaneously to display everything and the opposite of everything. For every puritan there's a hedonist; for every warmonger there's a peacenik - and for all the system's economic incentives to have the population wolf down junk food even as continents starve, there are those seeking equally vigorously to reshape those incentives, to have us eat less, and eat the right things."

I think there's a lot of perspective in this little riff. This society and culture remain impossible to characterize definitively...they keep slipping through your fingers, keep right on transforming. They are a dynamic entity, capable of delivering surprises even now, when we can't bear to watch the US leadership on television or read its statements in the newspaper.

I'm oddly buoyed, even in this most dispiriting time.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Revisiting the Decider's modern history

Leave it to the letter-writers of New York Timesville to keep us on our toes. In tonight's collection, a reader comments on the President's West Virginia speech and some not-so-subtle comparisons he was trying to make between the Iraq debacle and the American revolutionary war:

"George W. Bush’s use of the American Revolution as a model for Iraq is disturbing, especially when he seems to have forgotten that it was the insurgents who won the American Revolution."

What he said! I guess we've become so jaded, listening to "Iraq is Korea/World War II/American Civil War/American revolutionary war" talk, that we've forgotten this most fundamental fact.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Who's Reading Your Fingertips?

Apparently the government has been secretly taking fingerprints from "places where potential terrorists have been hanging out" - and hopefully match the prints from one of those spots with somebody trying to get into the country. The database they're working on has more than 60 million to choose from. ABC says that so far 1300 people have been arrested using the system. Ok, sounds like a great idea. I'm all for it.

Although I do wonder what the government is considering a potential terrorist hangout. Hopefully it's not the Busboys & Poets bar down on U street where I spend some happy hours. Or the train station. Or ... well you get the idea.

Yup, here we are with what sounds like a program that could achieve some good goals (capture terrorists) - and it leaves me wondering just how it's going to be used to screw over the majority of us who are neither terrorists, nor thinking of being one.

Domenici Steps Off the Bush Bus

It looks like somebody let Pete out of the basement for a bit, where he finally noticed that we're up to our %#@$ in @%#$ in Iraq. So the NM senator has decided to push for getting most of the troops back home by March. You know that saying, "better late, than never?"

That saying doesn't work for me. For those folks slowly stepping out of Bush bus and into the sunlight, think of this. How many people have died in Iraq in the time it took you to make up your mind about this war? And how many wouldn't have died if you'd stood up with the small but right group in the beginning?

Ok, you'll have to forgive me. I'm getting ready to head out for vacation, and I'm just not in a kind and forgiving mood. I promise I'll be much more understanding of slow learning curves when I get back, swathed in my vacation aura. A good week to all of you!

Caught flat-footed...again!

In one of his weekly commentaries for the Jim Lehrer news hour, Mark Shields once said that the current administration campaigned on a platform that government is bad, that government doesn't work--and then went on to give startlingly effective evidence of the truth in that platform. That's one way to describe the series of bad decisions the Bush people have taken in recent years...but even the least ideological of observers would admit that the administration has great difficulty with coordination, anticipation and advance planning, kind of a serious drawback in the most powerful nation on the planet.

--In Iraq, they assured us that the US military would be greeted as liberators, with cake, flowers and the delirious happiness of the newly-freed citizenry. When it turned out that the part of the citizenry who had been deposed as the ruling group did not wish to accept this arrangement, well, there was no plan for combating an insurgency. No plan B for Iraq, which accounts for a lot of the security lapses, difficulties in rebuilding and, um, most of the Iraqi and American deaths to date. No armored humvees, not enough body armor, endless tours and then frequent remember the litany.

--In NOLA, 2005, they failed to anticipate the damage a category 5 storm could do to the New Orleans levees, then once the disaster was complete, no action was forthcoming for days, which stranded people on rooftops, sent thousands into the NOLA superdome without much food or water, destroyed whole neighborhoods...this was almost a bigger disaster than Iraq, and its effects are still evident to everyone who visits the area.

--Now, we're faced with "millions of furious complaints from US citizens and calls for investigations from irate lawmakers," because the Bush Homeland Security bureaucracy decreed that everyone going to Mexico or Canada would need a passport rather than just an ID or drivers' license after January 1 to cross the border. The rush from Canada and Mexico-goers to get that first passport completely overwhelmed, even melted down the State Department consular office, which apparently hadn't been consulted or given much warning about the coming tsunami of apps. Secretary of State Rice has had to pull some 350-400 foreign service officers off their current projects for several months of intensive passport-issuing, potentially costing the US taxpayers lots of $$$. Once again, no one thought through the consequences of a big endeavor. What else is new?

I'm beginning to think that the winning campaign slogan for 2008 might come from Martha Stewart Political Consultants, inc: "Competence--it's a Good Thing!" These current guys are a piece of work.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The decider decrees...

that the Iraq war is actually a war between us and Al-Qaeda. I looked in vain in the President's address before the West Virginia National Guard today for mention of Sunnis, Shiia or even slippery Iranians running the borders, but the war has now morphed into a struggle between the US and the people who attacked us on 9-11:

"t's a tough fight, but I wouldn't have asked those troops to go into harm's way if the fight was not essential to the security of the United States of America. (Applause.) Many of the spectacular car bombings and killings you see are as a result of al Qaeda -- the very same folks that attacked us on September the 11th. A major enemy in Iraq is the same enemy that dared attack the United States on that fateful day.

Al Qaeda hasn't given up its objectives inside Iraq. And that is to cause enough chaos and confusion so America would leave, and they would be able to establish their safe haven from which to do two things: to further spread their ideology; and to plan and plot attacks against the United States. If we were to quit Iraq before the job is done, the terrorists we are fighting would not declare victory and lay down their arms -- they would follow us here, home. If we were to allow them to gain control of Iraq, they would have control of a nation with massive oil reserves -- which they could use to fund new attacks and exhort economic blackmail on those who didn't kowtow to their wishes. However difficult the fight is in Iraq, we must win it -- we must succeed for our own sake; for the security of our citizens, we must support our troops, we must support the Iraqi government, and we must defeat al Qaeda in Iraq." (Applause.)

So what happened to the Badr brigade, the Sadr brigade, the Baathists and sundry insurgent groups? If the President is correct, should we maybe be looking for bin-Laden, the puppetmaster, in Baghdad rather than Islamabad?

I'm confused. I'm sure I am not alone.

As Washington, Adams, Jefferson & Monroe Turn in their Graves...

No doubt feeling the warmth from the lobster summit, Vladimir sent George an Independence Day message. Yes, we have a man who pledged to protect and defend the US constitution and has, instead, done his best to rip the document to shreds being congratulated on all that we hold dear and honor on July 4th by a man who has not been shy about using KGB-era tactics to run the "new and improved" Russia.

Try to put this nonsense aside and enjoy the true spirit of the day - one I believe is stronger than anything Bush & Co., can do to it - at least in the long run.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Scooter Scoots

So how does Bush get around the bad press for pardoning Scooter Libby? By issuing a commutation of his sentence instead.

Oh, wait, I guess that's not going to stop the bad press. Well when your approval ratings are in the basement, why not go ahead & take care of your own before leaving town. Lucky Scooter to have Master Darth Cheney looking out for him.

Not going to take it any more?

We've all heard people accuse Muslims of "not standing up" to condemn extremism in their midst, especially after the kinds of incidents that took place in the UK this weekend. I think that's an unfair charge, since there is no formal head of the Islamic world and basically anyone can call himself an imam with his own take on the Koran. Plus, there is a heavy intimidation factor...Muslim extremists have a pronounced tendency to shoot the infidels first and ask questions later, if ever. But it looks as if some British Muslims have had enough from their young today's Independent, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown visits with some of her neighbors and finds them angry and very critical of the misdeeds committed by their co-religionists. They're ready to send them back where they came from(!).

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Eye Lock

The world has marched on since that day on the ranch when George W "looked in Putin's eyes and got a sense of his soul." As the pair share Maine lobster and boat rides waving at the press, what will George see in those eyes today? Will he see a man who less than a month ago equated the direction W/America is heading with Nazi Germany (hey, who said that George was the only one who could abuse historical analogies?)? Will Bush see a man who has done what he could to consolidate and strengthen his power? The two have seemingly little to share at this point, and it will be interesting to see if they can achieve anything beyond that spin power quote, "frank discussion" that says nothing - because nothing was said.

Winston Churchill to W - "Stop Using My Name"

Journalist & ex White House corespondent Lynne Olson's latest book, "Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England" has more than an overlong subtitle. It has a fan base that includes Karl Rove. Apparently Bush also read and enjoyed the book. Bush openly admires Churchill, and has on more than a few occasions equated his administration's struggles with those of Churchill's. So no surprise that he would read and probably enjoy the book.

Like many of us, Olson has wondered about Bush's use of Churchill. In today's WaPo, the author sets out those questions in the article, "Why Winston Wouldn't Stand for W." A sample from that piece - speaking of Bush:

He hasn't let me know what he thinks about it, but it's a safe bet that he's identifying with the book's portrayal of Churchill, not Chamberlain. But I think Bush's hero would be bemused, to say the least, by the president's wrapping himself in the Churchillian cloak. Indeed, the more you understand the historical record, the more the parallels leap out -- but they're between Bush and Chamberlain, not Bush and Churchill.

Oops. But Olson, tell us what you really think ;) -- bolding is mine:

Like Bush and unlike Churchill, Chamberlain came to office with almost no understanding of foreign affairs or experience in dealing with international leaders. Nonetheless, he was convinced that he alone could bring Hitler and Benito Mussolini to heel. He surrounded himself with like-minded advisers and refused to heed anyone who told him otherwise.

In the months leading up to World War II, Chamberlain and his men saw little need to build up a strong coalition of European allies with which to confront Nazi Germany -- ignoring appeals from Churchill and others to fashion a "Grand Alliance" of nations to thwart the threat that Hitler posed to the continent.

Unlike Bush and Chamberlain, Churchill was never in favor of his country going it alone. Throughout the 1930s, while urging Britain to rearm, he also strongly supported using the newborn League of Nations -- the forerunner to today's United Nations -- to provide one-for-all-and-all-for-one security to smaller countries. After the League failed to stop fascism's march, Churchill was adamant that, to beat Hitler, Britain must form a true partnership with France and even reach agreement with the despised Soviet Union, neither of which Chamberlain was willing to do.

This piece of interest to those who have just read Buckarooskidoo's latest postings on this site. Olson goes on to admonish Bush's self-delusions, stating:

Like Bush and his aides, Chamberlain badgered and intimidated the press, restricted journalists' access to sources and claimed that anyone who dared criticize the government was guilty of disloyalty and damaging the national interest. Just as Bush has done, Chamberlain authorized the wiretapping of citizens without court authorization; Churchill was among those whose phones were tapped by the prime minister's subordinates.Churchill, by contrast, believed firmly in the sanctity of individual liberties and the need to protect them from government encroachment.

The article raises several points that Bucky has made here in the past on Bush & Co.'s poorly- and ill-informed grasp on history. When trying to use history for your own agenda, it helps to actually understand that history. Of course, well thinking is not something that has been found in abundance in this administration. Sometimes you need more than gut-check time to run a country George, a lesson we all wish you had learned long ago.

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