Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category

Parsing the President

I just though I’d give you some of my asides to yesterday’s Presidential speech. People will probably latch on to the Vietnam references, but to be honest the entire thing was a train wreck, start to finish.

Bush’s attempt to link Iraq with WWII, Korea and Vietnam fall short of everything related to reality. And he starts off by distorting reality once again. Remember. Bush is speaking in front of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, an organisation he would have a little difficultly getting in to.

I stand before you as a wartime President. I wish I didn’t have to say that, but an enemy that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001, declared war on the United States of America. And war is what we’re engaged in.

This is true, because he can’t stand in front of them and tell them he is proud to count himself among their ranks, the people who fought “in places from Normandy to Iwo Jima, to Pusan, to Khe Sahn, to Kuwait, to Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq.“ At the same time, his war in Iraq wasn’t waged against the people who attacked America on September 11th. It wasn’t true then; his repeating it doesn’t make it any truer now.

For those of you who wear the uniform, nothing makes me more proud to say that I am your Commander-in-Chief. Thank you for volunteering in the service of the United States of America. (Applause.)

Of course he conveniently forgets that many of the people who fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam were drafted and didn’t volunteer. He does realise that was the reason he joined the National Guard, right?

But here’s what we do agree on: We agree our veterans deserve the full support of the United States government. (Applause.) That’s why in this budget I submitted there’s $87 billion for the veterans; it’s the highest level of support ever for the veterans in American history. (Applause.) We agree that health care for our veterans is a top priority, and that’s why we’ve increased health care spending for our veterans by 83 percent since I was sworn in as your President. (Applause.) We agree that a troop coming out of Iraq or Afghanistan deserves the best health care not only as an active duty citizen, but as a military guy, but also as a veteran — and you’re going to get the best health care we can possibly provide. (Applause.) We agree our homeless vets ought to have shelter, and that’s what we’re providing.

Well. If Bush hadn’t have invaded Iraq, he probably wouldn’t need that huge budget. Where is that money coming from – subprime lending?

And wait a minute! Bush has increased health care spending by a total of 83% since he became president!? Sir, might I remind you, when you became president, the U.S. wasn’t at war? Wouldn’t being at war sort of demand that spending go up not just a little, but drastically? Is 83% even close to being enough to cover the huge expenses now being encountered?

Finally, Bush wants to help homeless vets. Let’s see. Why do they become homeless? Financial stress because the guard pays less than civilian jobs? No. Losing your hands in the war and then going broke because the military misplaced paperwork and wrongly issued payment? Nah! Post traumatic stress disorder? No, no, no. Subprime loans!? Yeah, that’s it! Not war related at all. Good out! (Of course Bush really only wants to supply shelter through faith-base organisations. One has to wonder if Iraq isn’t just a weird way to convert America?)

The enemy who attacked us despises freedom, and harbors resentment at the slights he believes America and Western nations have inflicted on his people. He fights to establish his rule over an entire region. And over time, he turns to a strategy of suicide attacks destined to create so much carnage that the American people will tire of the violence and give up the fight.

If this story sounds familiar, it is — except for one thing. The enemy I have just described is not al Qaeda, and the attack is not 9/11, and the empire is not the radical caliphate envisioned by Osama bin Laden. Instead, what I’ve described is the war machine of Imperial Japan in the 1940s, its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and its attempt to impose its empire throughout East Asia.

So “they” still despise us? Are the Japanese are still our enemies? (Bush used the present tense when he said “the enemy who attacked us despises freedom.” Oops.)

He still doesn’t get it though. Pearl Harbor had nothing to do with Iraq, it had to do with oil embargos and global militarisation in a completely different age. Viewed through contemporary Japanese eyes, it was arguably an unavoidable conflict. It also wasn’t designed to be a complete surprise, the Japanese just couldn’t type fast enough to get the Declaration of War to the State Department in time. (Of course the State Department already knew what was coming because it had already been intercepted, decrypted and distributed.)

When did Sadaam or Bin Laden send their declarations of war?

There are many differences between the wars we fought in the Far East and the war on terror we’re fighting today. But one important similarity is at their core they’re ideological struggles.

WWII was as much economic as ideological. Korea was a power struggle between China and the U.S. for supremacy in S.E. Asia. Vietnam was the paniced reaction of right wing American hawks looking for a place to fight communism.

Afghanistan, while it might have something to do with 9/11, is largely an international effort to attempt to bring a stable government into a region historically ruled by local tribes and warlords. Whether the American effort will be any more effective than the Soviet attempt or the 3 prior British tries remains to be seen. It has as much to do with ideology as the current boom in Afghan opium planting has to do with traditional agriculture.

Iraq was and is completely unrelated to the events in 2001 and to any ideological reasoning. Can Bush point to a single speech he gave in 2002 saying America had to invade Iraq for ideological reasons? A single speech. A single bullet point?. He knew that then, he knows that now. But he’d like to use rhetorical tricks to obfuscate the issue. Intermingling WWII; Korea, Vietnam and 9/11 and convincing everyone they are the same kind of conflict; a verbal bait and switch.

And does Bin Laden really despise American freedoms? No more than Bush does. (Then again both have different definitions of the word freedom.)

Bush really needs to spend more time reading Al Quada speeches instead of listening to his own propaganda. You see, even Bin Laden says things like “Security is an important pillar of human life. Free people do not relinquish their security. This is contrary to Bush’s claim that we hate freedom. Let him tell us why we did not strike Sweden, for example.“ Despises American freedom? *sigh*

The militarists of Japan and the communists in Korea and Vietnam were driven by a merciless vision for the proper ordering of humanity.

Not like the Christian Identity folks in America, right?

Like our enemies in the past, they kill Americans because we stand in their way of imposing this ideology across a vital region of the world. This enemy is dangerous; this enemy is determined; and this enemy will be defeated.

But aren’t we trying kill them to impose our ideology across a vital region of the world? Isn’t that the point?

At the outset of World War II there were only two democracies in the Far East – Australia and New Zealand.

Which is interesting seeing that much of Asia, including India, Cambodia and Vietnam, was under European colonial control in 1939. Korea had been a Japanese colony since 1876. And then there were the Philippines, an American colony/territory/protectorate. Don’t blame the lack of democracy on the wrong people Mr. Bush. It was the collapse of the colonial system in the 1950’s that brought democracy, not the Japanese surrender.

In the aftermath of Japan’s surrender, many thought it naive to help the Japanese transform themselves into a democracy. Then as now, the critics argued that some people were simply not fit for freedom.

These were the same people putting Japanese-Americans in prison camps without a trial, but I won’t go there.

Others critics said that Americans were imposing their ideals on the Japanese. For example, Japan’s Vice Prime Minister asserted that allowing Japanese women to vote would “retard the progress of Japanese politics.”

It’s interesting what General MacArthur wrote in his memoirs [This is the guy who wanted to use nukes in Korea, right?] He wrote, “There was much criticism of my support for the enfranchisement of women. Many Americans, as well as many other so-called experts, expressed the view that Japanese women were too steeped in the tradition of subservience to their husbands to act with any degree of political independence.”

Is he honestly trying to compare the suffrage of Japanese women to the spreading of American ideals? He does realise that women could vote in those Asian democracies, Australia (1902) and New Zealand (1893) long before America chose to take that step in 1920? American ideals, Mr. President?

His misrepresentation of the Shinto religion is foolish. He does realize that one of the main requirements for allowing the Japanese Emperor to stay in power was his renouncing his godhood? It would be a little like Islam taking over America and saying that Jesus fellow just isn’t all that important.

Shinto got changed not abandoned because it wasn’t compatible with democratic values. That’s why people said it wouldn’t work. The Americans didn’t abolish the imperial throne, they changed the religion. Perhaps that’s that what Bush has planned for Islam: banning Mohamed.

And the result of all these steps was that every Japanese citizen gained freedom of religion, and the Emperor remained on his throne and Japanese democracy grew stronger because it embraced a cherished part of Japanese culture.

No. The requirement that Japanese attend Shinto shrines as a patriotic duty was dropped. Freedom of religion was incorporated in Japan in the middle of the 19th century. Under the patriotic fever of the militant 1930’s, it became very unpopular to be anything but Shinto in Japan. Currently there are people in America who think that it is a patriotic duty to be a Christian – some of these people are Republicans. Do you think it is easy to be an open Muslim in America, President Bush?

You know, the experts sometimes get it wrong.

Like the clowns who told you that there were WMD’s in Iraq?

Instead, I think it’s important to look at what happened.

Yeah. So do I.

After the North Koreans crossed the 38th Parallel in 1950, President Harry Truman came to the defense of the South — and found himself attacked from all sides. From the left, I.F. Stone wrote a book suggesting that the South Koreans were the real aggressors and that we had entered the war on a false pretext. From the right, Republicans vacillated. Initially, the leader of the Republican Party in the Senate endorsed Harry Truman’s action, saying, “I welcome the indication of a more definite policy” — he went on to say, “I strongly hope that having adopted it, the President may maintain it intact,” then later said “it was a mistake originally to go into Korea because it meant a land war.”

Wasn’t the whole 38th parallel thing an American idea, drawn by the Dean Rusk (the guy who helped start Vietnam) and Charles Bonesteel just 4 days before Korea was completely liberated. An artificial border drawn simply because there wasn’t any way to get American troops any farther north before the Soviets occupied half of the former Japanese colony? And wasn’t the North Korean invasion more or less pre-emptive? (You know, like Iraq) Didn’t the American Congress drag their heels on arming South Korea because the then “democratic” president, Syngman Rhee, kept instigating a war with the North? Otherwise wouldn’t it have been better to arm South Korea to avoid a conflict altogether?

Finally, there’s Vietnam. This is a complex and painful subject for many Americans. The tragedy of Vietnam is too large to be contained in one speech. So I’m going to limit myself to one argument that has particular significance today. Then as now, people argued the real problem was America’s presence and that if we would just withdraw, the killing would end.

You’ll limit yourself to one argument because that’s just about the only analogy you can find that works. The killing did end Mr. Bush. Of course to claim that people thought peace would immediately reign is a bit of a canard really. Could you give a quote there? You know as well as I do that the civil war could only end when America left, when America stopped propping up a dictatorship. (It certainly wasn’t a democracy.) Americans (and the rest of the world) wanted America out of Vietnam because America shouldn’t have been there in the first place, not because most thought the killing would immediately stop.

There was another price to our withdrawal from Vietnam, and we can hear it in the words of the enemy we face in today’s struggle — those who came to our soil and killed thousands of citizens on September the 11th, 2001. In an interview with a Pakistani newspaper after the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden declared that “the American people had risen against their government’s war in Vietnam. And they must do the same today.”

His number two man, Zawahiri, has also invoked Vietnam. In a letter to al Qaeda’s chief of operations in Iraq, Zawahiri pointed to “the aftermath of the collapse of the American power in Vietnam and how they ran and left their agents.”

His comments about Bin Laden and Zawahiri are telling. Both seem to understand history far better than Bush does. Bin Laden and Zawahiri understand why America pulled out of Vietnam. Bush, or his speech writers, apparently don’t.

It wasn’t the price for withdrawing from Vietnam that was high in international standing, it was the belated costs of going in in the first place.

Remember Mr. President. Bin Laden and Zawahiri can only invoke Vietnam/Iraq comparisons because you ordered the unnecessary invasion of Iraq. Let me repeat that last, you ordered the unnecessary, pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. There will likely be hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq when America leaves and that will be a tragedy. But those are on your conscience Mr. Bush; not that of the American people you duped into believing your hawkish propaganda.

If we were to abandon the Iraqi people, the terrorists would be emboldened, and use their victory to gain new recruits. As we saw on September the 11th, a terrorist safe haven on the other side of the world can bring death and destruction to the streets of our own cities. Unlike in Vietnam, if we withdraw before the job is done, this enemy will follow us home. And that is why, for the security of the United States of America, we must defeat them overseas so we do not face them in the United States of America.

Let’s turn this around, shall we. Isn’t Iraq the number one recruiting tool for Iraq and wannabe terrorists right now? Did America increase the size of it’s armed forces after World War II and we were emboldened by the victory over Germany and Japan. Didn’t “victory” end the war and disarmament start almost immediately? Didn’t the same thing happen after the end of the Korean war. And did the domino theory actually pan out after Vietnam? Did Central Asia completely fall into communist hands? Did America start fighting on the streets of Peking or Moskow? Did Vietnamese students start infiltrating college campuses in America and changing the bell curve in their favor?

Why exactly would Iraqi’s want to follow the Americans home? Don’t get me wrong, there are hundreds or maybe thousands of committed terrorists who would be willing to come to America and create mayhem and chaos. But that is not the war being fought in Iraq. Al Qaeda is only a small portion of the fighting there; most Iraqis are fighting for control of Iraq.

Afghanistan, where the brain of Al Qaeda is located, is starting to fall back into Taliban and extremist hands specifically because our resources are stretched too far. You remember Afghanistan? That’s where Bin Laden is supposed to be.

Here’s what they said: “Defeat would produce an explosion of euphoria among all the forces of Islamist extremism, throwing the entire Middle East into even greater upheaval. The likely human and strategic costs are appalling to contemplate. Perhaps that is why so much of the current debate seeks to ignore these consequences.” I believe these men are right.

Shawcross and Rodman!? Excuse me? Let me give you a couple of more quotes from these two “experts.”

Peter Rodman

[The future of the United States] will be forced more and more to choose between its convictions on what is essential to spare the Middle East from weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein, on the one hand, and deference to the more assertive resistance of other major powers that either do not share the U.S. alarm or are driven by other motives.

…the key to multilateralism is not what one thinks of the United Nations but what one thinks of the United States. Those who believe the United States guilty of too many sins in the past—and these include some Americans—will be eager to see restraints on American unilateral action. Those who believe that global freedom and peace and the cause of human rights have more often than not been advanced if not sustained by the United States, acting out of some combination of its own self-interest and a general interest, will find multilateralism a potential source of paralysis. (1999)

William Shawcross

Tony Blair’s enemies have behaved in a shocking manner over the liberation of Iraq and its elusive weapons of mass destruction. Opponents of the war predicted all manner of disasters – millions of refugees, famine, thousands of deaths in battle, and revolution on “the Arab street” throughout the region. None of these horrors happened. Instead, it is obvious that the coalition has indeed freed Iraqis from a monster and created a new reality in the Middle East – one which just might offer the region hope. (2003)

Hmmm. I wonder if I would trust these guys to park my car? They sure don’t seem to be able to predict the future very well. Why should we listen to them now? Oh. They’re experts. (See above)

But then Bush manages his coup de grace.

The American military graveyards across Europe attest to the terrible human cost in the fight against Nazism. They also attest to the triumph of a continent that today is whole, free, and at peace. The advance of freedom in these lands should give us confidence that the hard work we are doing in the Middle East can have the same results we’ve seen in Asia and elsewhere — if we show the same perseverance and the same sense of purpose.

Bush should stop trying to conflate stateless terrorism with terrorist states. Nazi German created far more graveyards that can attest to the horrible human cost of a regime willing to invade other countries, to ignore human rights, to torture prisoners, to set up lawless prison camps out of the country. He shouldn’t talk about Nazi Germany while making tenuous links to the deaths following the American withdrawal from Vietnam .

There is one group of people who understand the stakes, understand as well as any expert, anybody in America — those are the men and women in uniform. Through nearly six years of war, they have performed magnificently. (Applause.) Day after day, hour after hour, they keep the pressure on the enemy that would do our citizens harm. They’ve overthrown two of the most brutal tyrannies of the world, and liberated more than 50 million citizens.

But the stakes those people see aren’t the stakes Bush is fighting for. They reenlist because they honor the uniform. They reenlist and keep fighting because there is a fight going on and you don’t desert comrades in arms. They keep trying to perform even though the substance, both human and material, is wearing out and breaking. But they don’t reenlist because the Bush policies are working.

Our troops have killed or captured an average of more than 1,500 al Qaeda terrorists and other extremists every month since January of this year.

I thought we didn’t “do” body counts anymore. I thought we gave that up because it was an ineffective measure of success in Vietnam. I guess he didn’t learn that lesson. Oh. Right. He wasn’t there.

Prime Minister Maliki is a good guy, a good man with a difficult job, and I support him. And it’s not up to politicians in Washington, D.C. to say whether he will remain in his position — that is up to the Iraqi people who now live in a democracy, and not a dictatorship.

Wow. With the exception of the comment about Maliki being a good guy (How can he be? He’s a politician.), I actually agree with that statement. Levin’s brain-dead comments after returning from Iraq were the most irresponsible comments in the summer slump.

But a free Iraq will be a massive defeat for al Qaeda,

A free and peaceful Afghanistan first would have been even better.

Prevailing in this struggle is essential to our future as a nation. And the question now that comes before us is this: Will today’s generation of Americans resist the allure of retreat, and will we do in the Middle East what the veterans in this room did in Asia?

I quote a Salon article written by Jessica Kowal in November 2003

The United States volunteered to fight the Vietnam War, too, in the context of a global war against an evil enemy, communism. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon told Americans that a small country halfway around the world was essential to American security. U.S. leaders ignored that region’s long opposition to occupying forces. They lied to get troops into the war, and lied throughout the war. Defying reality, they insisted the U.S. was making “progress” as the situation deteriorated, and blamed critics for encouraging “the enemy.”

Hmmm.

Bush ends his speech on an interesting note.

The greatest weapon in the arsenal of democracy is the desire for liberty written into the human heart by our Creator. So long as we remain true to our ideals, we will defeat the extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will help those countries’ peoples stand up functioning democracies in the heart of the broader Middle East. And when that hard work is done and the critics of today recede from memory, the cause of freedom will be stronger, a vital region will be brighter, and the American people will be safer.

If your ideals don’t include Creators – then I guess there is no belief in liberty, correct? But wait. Al Qaeda wants a theocracy! That means a Creator – liberty! Hey. Mr. President. They’re on your side!

Seriously, no president in recent history has done more to erode the ideals of America with the suspension of Habeas Corpus, secret prisons, torture and the pre-emptive invasion Bush so sadly keeps trying to defend. Bush was the one to invade Iraq before the job in Afghanistan was finished.

To assume that America will be really safer as long as there is a reason to hate, as long as people can find an excuse to wage war and as long as there are presidents willing to provide extremists with a reason to hate America?

Mr President sir, you are more deluded than I thought.

Petraeus Report to be Written in WH

The Scream by Edward MunchYes, I’m still alive. I’m just not writing because everything is just so mind numbingly depressing.

Karl Rove leaves the White House to go pre-buff Bush’s post-presidential legacy and then move on to use whatever dirty tricks he can find to discredit the Democratic party during the 2008 elections. I suspect he is leaving government service not because he thinks it is time but because the kind of partisan activities he has in mind would be so immensely illegal from a White House position that even Rove got cold feet. (Maybe he just misses his RNC e-mail account.)

Then there is the whole FISA/Wiretapping thing with the Democratic congress happily feeding constitutional rights to Barney, rolling over and going woof every single time anyone in the White House says boo before skittering off into a summer news vaccuum.

The increased sound of war drums being pounded in the direction of Iraq is becoming deafening. It looks like the U.S. is planning once again to make a feign to the U.N. before invading. That is why they are planning to release the plans about declaring the Revolutionary Guard to be a terrorist organisation during the U.N General Assemby next month.

Then we find out that, as opposed to being under fire and in retreat, Alberto Gonzales is planning to “fast track” the death penalty in California and other states. Perhaps because we need to make room on death row for all those terrorists who have been arrested thanks to the TSP and other “undisclosed monitoring activities?” You know, those pesky terrorists we can’t try in criminal courts because we tortured them in violation of their constitutional rights and can’t try in military courts because we tortured them in violation of the Geneva convention? Those folks like Jose Padilla now being convicted of “having engaged in a criminal conspiracy to be nothing so much as an ‘unlawful enemy combatant.'”

There is the media offensive underway by the “journalists” and “experts” that went on their eight vacation daysight seeing tour inspection of Iraq Baghdad with day trips to see “the troops” or perhaps better “military commanders” out in the field. That trip being plastered across the media starting with the NYT Op-Ed by “war critics” Ken Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon (so absolutely debunked by Glen Greenwald) to yesterday’s William Kristol appearance on the Daily Show. (Neat how all those folks were on the same “fact finding junket”, huh?) The spin machine is cranking out positive stories about the Iraq situation well in advance of the September 15 deadline for the Petraeus report.

And then. this morning, I find out, buried in the LA Times article about the Iraq status report, that it will be written, not by Petraeus, or even in the DoD – but in the White House.

Administration and military officials acknowledge that the September report will not show any significant progress on the political benchmarks laid out by Congress. How to deal in the report with the lack of national reconciliation between Iraq’s warring sects has created some tension with in the White House.

Despite Bush’s repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it actually will be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.

And while Petraeus and Crocker will present their recommendations on Capitol Hill, legislation passed by Congress leaves it to the president to decide how to interpret the report’s data. The senior administration official said the process has created “uncomfortable positions” for the White House because of debates over what constitutes “satisfactory progress.”

The spin goes on. (Oh Karl, we miss you already. Thank God, he and George Bush exchanged telephone numbers.)

Mind-numbingly depressing. No?

‘Mericans Don’t Torture…

No. They murder.

From the AP Wire story that probably got dropped or buried in most American newspapers, (Fox News Version)

A Marine Corps squad leader was convicted Thursday of murdering an Iraqi man during a frustrated search for an insurgent.

Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, 23, also was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, making a false official statement and larceny. He was acquitted of kidnapping, assault and housebreaking.

Hutchins, of Plymouth, Mass., could be sentenced to life in prison without parole. He had been charged with premeditated murder but the military jury struck the premeditation element from the verdict. Sentencing deliberations for Hutchins were set to begin Friday morning.

Hutchins stood rigidly and stared straight ahead in the silent courtroom as the verdict was read. A few minutes later he answered a procedural question with a loud and clear, “Yes, sir.”

His wife, sitting in the public area behind Hutchins, sobbed silently with her head bowed.

A second soldier was also found guilty, not of murder but of larceny and housebreaking. From the same source,

Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, 24, of Manteca, faced up to life in prison. He was also found guilty of larceny and housebreaking, and cleared of making a false official statement.

Magincalda was not accused of firing any shots, but was charged with murder for participating in the plot.

A military psychiatrist testified Magincalda developed post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression as a result of combat.

“He was essentially a broken shell,” Dr. Jennifer Morse said. “This was a young man who was gone, who was clearly haunted by his memories.”

This is the legacy of the Bush administration.

I’m sure the administration will play this down as an isolated incident, a single squad that got out of control.

WHAM. Winning hearts and minds. That was the phrase used in Vietnam. These kinds of things also happened in Vietnam. Even today we know they were also isolated insidents; not indicative of the larger American/Vietnamese interaction but highly indicative of the moral of the American soldiers; the amount of frustration at not being able to win or even play the game.

WHAM. Winning hearts and minds. This was the number three story on Al Jazeera this morning. I doubt the same will be true in America. Somehow, I suspect the Arab world is listening. Is America listening? Whose hearts and minds got just a little more jaded today?

George W. Bush told a presidential scholar clearly and definitely that “Americans don’t torture.” I would argue that might be a debateable point.

But the fact is Mr. Bush; Americans do murder. Sleep well at night?

Why Do The Insurgents Need Iran?

OK. The Iran rhetoric as cooled off for a couple of days but like a case of herpes, I’m sure it will return.

The question is, why is the US government so sure that the Iraqi insurgents even need Iran to support them? The US is doing fine all by itself.

From a new GAO report,

Although the former MNSTC-I commander reported that about 185,000 AK-47 rifles, 170,000 pistols, 215,000 items of body armor, and 140,000 helmets were issued to Iraqi security forces as of September 2005,18 the MNSTC-I property books contain records for only about 75,000 AK-47 rifles, 90,000 pistols, 80,000 items of body armor, and 25,000 helmets.19 Thus, DOD [Department of Defense] and MNF-I [Multi-National Forces – Iraq] cannot fully account for about 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armor, and 115,000 helmets reported as issued to Iraqi forces as of September 22, 2005. [my emphasis]

And then there were all those billions in cash that went – um – missing.

But hey! What’s 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, etc. among friends!? Really.

As David Oliver, the former Director of Management and Budget of the CPA put it. “Billions of dollars of their money disappeared, yes I understand, I’m saying what difference does it make?”

I mean, as the French say. C’est la vie guerre.

(Hat Tip: Noah Schachtmann/Danger Room)

Angry

Although Bush’s poll numbers seem to have stopped or at least slowed on the way to the pit of political desparation, the latest Washington-Post/ABC poll still won’t give him much joy.

The war has been the single biggest drag on the president’s approval ratings.

Thirty-one percent give him positive marks on handling the situation in Iraq, which is near his career low on the issue. The last time a majority approved of the president’s handling of the war was in January 2004.

Even among those Americans who said they had served or had a close friend or relative who served in Iraq, 38 percent approve of Bush’s handling of the conflict.

Read that last paragraph again.

Now I’ll quote from a Minnesota National Guardsman serving in Iraq, nearing the very end of his 22 month (yes, you read that right) deployment,

The word around the campfire is that our replacements were told to ‘give us a wide birth’ because we are ‘angry’. I don’t know if this rumor is true, but I know that at this point I don’t have the energy to be angry.

The new Marines are the same guys that were supposed to relieve us four months ago. I can think of several people that would be much better off if they had, but it was not up to our replacements. That decision was made by fat men in white suits.

George W. Bush claims to support the troops. William Kristol claims that George W. Bush supports the troops. The only people who still believe that mantra seem to be those who only vote Republican.

And the troops coming home. I guess they are “angry.” How do you spin anger?

No Sleeping Says Prince Charming

“The monster”

Ah. Thank goodness!

After a couple of weeks where the Bush administration had things come out on a Wednesday or a Thursday, I was starting to think they had lost their touch. Maybe they found out I cared.

In an executive order issued Friday, Bush again reiterated the US stance on torture,

Bush’s order requires that CIA detainees “receive the basic necessities of life, including adequate food and water, shelter from the elements, necessary clothing, protection from extremes of heat and cold, and essential medical care.”

A senior intelligence official would not comment directly when asked if waterboarding would be allowed under the new order and under related _ but classified _ legal documents drafted by the Justice Department.

However, the official said, “It would be wrong to assume the program of the past transfers to the future.”

A second senior administration official acknowledged sleep is not among the basic necessities outlined in the order.

Remember. This executive order comes out about three weeks after Mr. Bush assured high Presidential Scholars that “America doesn’t torture people.” From the Boston Globe,

Before the scholars posed for a photo with Bush on Monday, she handed him the letter. He put it in his pocket and took it out after the photo shoot. Reading silently to himself, the president looked up quizzically at Oye and said, according to her, “We agree. America doesn’t torture people.”

The scholor who handed the letter to Bush, signed by approximately a third of the students honored, was the daughter of a former detainee; her mother is of Japanese decent, her family interned during the Second World War. One can understand why she cares. (Bush’s grandfather, Prescott, helped fund Hitler which might show why he cares.)

But hey: Let’s give Bush credit. – America doesn’t torture. Um – Right? Let’s see how America used to defined torture. This from an article also in the Washington Post, this time from March 2005

The State Department’s annual human rights report released yesterday criticized countries for a range of interrogation practices it labeled as torture, including sleep deprivation for detainees, confining prisoners in contorted positions, stripping and blindfolding them and threatening them with dogs — methods similar to those approved at times by the Bush administration for use on detainees in U.S. custody.

Look again at the reported language in the new executive order. None of those things are excluded. They just stopped being torture. Because torture is everything the Bush administration decides it won’t do.

According to the definitions in the 2004 State department report – sleep deprivation was still considered “torture”. Under the entry for Saudi Arabia,

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Criminal Procedure section of the Basic law prohibits torture and Shari’a (Islamic law) prohibits any judge from accepting a confession obtained under duress; however, authorities reportedly at times abused detainees, both citizens and foreigners. Ministry of Interior officials were responsible for most incidents of abuse of prisoners, including beatings, whippings, and sleep deprivation. In addition, there were allegations of beatings with sticks and suspension from bars by handcuffs. There were allegations that these practices were used to force confessions from prisoners.

I guess in the last three years, that paragraph wouldn’t be allowed any more.

Once again Prince Charming has decided to spin a fairy tale where sleep is optional and reality is whatever he choses to release to the public. Just don’t let him near Sleeping Beauty – she’ll be looking like a hag in no time.

But at least I can go back to sleeping well. Bush & Co. stayed true to form by releasing the executive order on a Friday afternoon. They aren’t slowing down any; They just have too much democracy to destroy, so little time for destroying

Using His Kristol Ball

He’s at it again.

William Kristol, Fox News überpundit and Weekly Standard editor managed to get an Op-Ed in Sunday’s Washington Post. His point, if you have not already guessed, is to point out just how wonderful a president Bush will considered – in retrospect of course.

With current poll numbers in a Nixonian nosedive, one wonders how Kristol manages to come to this rather reality estranged viewpoint. As mentioned, both in the first sentence of the piece and perhaps the only one in the Op-Ed with any relationship to the laws of reality as we know them, Kristol comments that he will “merely expose myself to harmless ridicule if I make the following assertion: George W. Bush’s presidency will probably be a successful one.”

Why yes, Mr. Kristol, you will; here’s mine.

Kristol starts by looking at the wonderful things that have happened in the years of the Bush presidency. Things like no more terrorist attacks on US soil, a strong economy and * cough * an obviously winning strategy in Iraq.

Let’s take these in order, shall we?

First, the no more terror attacks on US soil. True. The sky also didn’t turn green and the Germans haven’t elected a new Hitler and the 60% of Americans becoming increasingly frustrated with the federal government still haven’t left the country either. Funny that Kristol doesn’t assume these to be accolades of the current administration. Perhaps we only have to give him time.

But what about those pesky little terror attacks. Madrid, London, – London again (sort of), Glasgow (sort of). Kristol is right that the US has largely avoided al Quaeda terror attacks in recent years. Of course the same could have been said of Bill Clinton in 1999. But hey, why go there?

There was the largely forgotten and never explained Anthrax attacks that took place – um –after 9/11?

Then there was that pesky little hurricane thingy that destroyed New Orleans and reshaped the Gulf Coast. Not terror but the federal response, lead and coordinated by Bush, was terrifyingly bad.

We could look at last week’s report by the GAO that a fake firm, basically a mailbox and a telephone number, would have been able to purchase the materials for a dirty bomb. No not an attack, but terrifying.

Perhaps the only reason al Quaeda doesn’t attack is because there isn’t any reason. America is doing a just fine self destructing all by itself, thank you. Perhaps that is why Chertoff has a stomach problem. Maybe he was simply eating salmonella infested spinach picked by “undocumented workers” his department seems unable to keep out of the country.

Which brings me to the economy.

What does Mr. Kristol have to say?

After the bursting of the dot-com bubble, followed by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we’ve had more than five years of steady growth, low unemployment and a stock market recovery. Did this just happen? No. Bush pushed through the tax cuts of 2001 and especially 2003 by arguing that they would produce growth. His opponents predicted dire consequences. But the president was overwhelmingly right. Even the budget deficit, the most universally criticized consequence of the tax cuts, is coming down and is lower than it was when the 2003 supply-side tax cuts were passed.

Bush has also (on the whole) resisted domestic protectionist pressures (remember the Democratic presidential candidates in 2004 complaining about outsourcing?), thereby helping sustain global economic growth.

What do those pesky facts show?

Well, I’ll just ask the U.S. Census Bureau. Since the yearly reports come out in August, (perhaps the reason for Mr. Kristol writing this Op-Ed now) I have to reach back to the Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2005 released in August 2006.

A quick graph of those incomes (adjusted to 2005 dollars) by quintile shows that current income still hasn’t reached the level of 2000. But the rich are still getting richer having increased from a meager 49.8% of the total share of income in the year 2000 to 50.4% by 2005, an all time high. (Click for full size version)

Mean Household Income by Quintiles 1986 - 2005

And a few more tidbits from the report:

  • ”The Gini index, one of the most widely used inequality measures, did not measure a statistically significant change in household income inequality between 2004 and 2005. Over the past 10 years, the Gini index has increased 4.2 percent (from 0.450 to 0.469), although the individual annual differences since then were not statistically significant.” (pg. 8 )
  • After 4 years of consecutive increases, the poverty rate stabilized at 12.6 percent in 2005— higher than the most recent low of 11.3 percent in 2000 and lower than the rate in 1959 (22.4 percent), the first year for which poverty estimates are available. (pg. 13)
  • “The percentage of people without health insurance coverage increased from 15.6 percent in 2004 to 15.9 percent in 2005. [up from 14,5% in 1999]” (pg. 20)
  • The percentage and the number of children (people under 18 years old) without health insurance increased between 2004 and 2005, from 10.8 percent to 11.2 percent and from 7.9 million to 8.3 million, respectively. (pg .21)

Then there is the minor fact that gasoline prices have now almost doubled since George W. Bush took office.

Kristol then comments that even progressives would have to admit that Roberts and Alito are impressive supreme court judges. I’d say no problem Mr. Kristol. I’m sure you would agree that Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chaves are impressive international statesmen. Impressive is such a malleable word, isn’t it? As to making the claim that Roberts and Alito are conservative constitutionalists, I guess I would say that you might think so. Of course, if you assume the constitution is based on enlightenment principles and not on the ten commandments, it could have been worse.

Kristol then moves from domestic fantasies into international ones.

He starts off pointing out that “the war in Afghanistan has gone reasonably well”. I won’t even go there except to reference the attack of the 10 foot tall marijuana plants. Something Mr. Kristol is certainly glad to see based on what he must have been smoking while writing this piece.

He then proceeds to wave his hand at any Pakistani problems and assumes that “Bush will deal with them.” Oh. Great.

Generally, in Mr Kristols world everything else is – well…

As for foreign policy in general, it has mostly been the usual mixed bag. We’ve deepened our friendships with Japan and India; we’ve had better outcomes than expected in the two largest Latin American countries, Mexico and Brazil; and we’ve gotten friendlier governments than expected in France and Germany. China is stable. There has been slippage in Russia. The situation with North Korea is bad but containable.

Hmm. The recent Pew report might present reality a bit differently. Let’s see.

In the current poll, majorities in 25 of the 47 countries surveyed express positive views of the U.S. Since 2002, however, the image of the United States has declined in most parts of the world. Favorable ratings of America are lower in 26 of 33 countries for which trends are available.

The U.S. image remains abysmal in most Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia, and continues to decline among the publics of many of America’s oldest allies. Favorable views of the U.S. are in single digits in Turkey (9%) and have declined to 15% in Pakistan. Currently, just 30% of Germans have a positive view of the U.S. – down from 42% as recently as two years ago – and favorable ratings inch ever lower in Great Britain and Canada.

I’m actually surprised Mr Kristol didn’t make more of Americas improving relationship with “Christian” Africa.

That Russian – slippage? I have to admit, that is a neat turn of a phrase. And it is amazing what happens when the Bush White House basically rolls back to pre-Bush positions in order to “contain” North Korea. You remember, North Korea gets heating oil; they shut down reactors. Rocket Science! (Well, hopefully not.)

And then Kristol get’s to the heart of the matter. That teeny-weeny, eensy-bitsy, tiny detail he’d been avoiding the whole Op-Ed: Iraq. Here Kristol starts harkens back to the days of Ulysses S. Grant and pushes Petraeus into the forefront. Bush is no longer Commander in Chief but the guy who picked the guy who’s going to win in Iraq. Or maybe not.

I’m starting to think that Patraeus will be named Patsy by September and it seems I am not alone.

After Kristol wins Iraq, the path is clear for him to move into the Bush library (has anyone agreed to let it be build near them yet?) and start creating legends. Of course, as opposed to most presidential libraries, the George W. Bush library probably won’t be all that interesting to scholars who go to look at the original documents. Those have all been cleverly moved to RNC e-mail accounts that were unfortunately “de-archived.”

Sorry Mr. Kristol, no happiness there. Oh. But then again maybe facts don’t bother Mr Kristol.

You might notice something about my post. I have links to where I got the information to refute Mr Kristol’s “facts.” His Op-Ed is largely – no – completely link free; just like his reality. There is no reason to back up statements with facts. Facts are just so yesterday.

One can only look forward to the days when the Washington Post finally decides to stop publishing this balderdash.

In the meantime. If Mr. Kristol’s last comments are any indication of his betting ability, I’d love to get in a game of poker with him. His crystal ball seems a bit smudged.

What it comes down to is this: If Petraeus succeeds in Iraq, and a Republican wins in 2008, Bush will be viewed as a successful president.

I like the odds.

Rape as a Weapon

Diane E. King has a very unsettling piece in today’s International Herald Tribute.

As a cultural anthropologist, she comments on the view of rape in patrilineal cultures – cultures like the Shiite and Sunni in Iraq.

Rape is always humiliating, always a violation, always awful. But under patrilineal cultures, it can also be a tool of sectarian discord and even genocide. This is the case in Iraq, where rape is frequently used as a weapon of sectarian conflict. When a Shiite militiaman rapes a Sunni woman, for example, he is seen as potentially implanting a Shiite individual into her womb. He is causing her to suffer dual humiliations: She is sexually violated, with all of the personal implications that that would carry in any culture. But the rape further serves like a Trojan Horse: Thereafter, an offspring bearing the rapist’s identity may well be hidden inside her body, an enemy who will emerge in nine months.

So cross-sectarian rape as a weapon of political conflict hypothetically can force a woman to nurture her own enemy. But in actual practice, this rarely happens. Rather, the tragedy of rape is compounded when a member of that woman’s group eliminates her and any enemy offspring through an “honor killing.” Honor killings are usually carried out by the father or brother of the victim, although they may be committed by others from the group. Alternatively, the woman herself may commit an “honor suicide.”

Honor killings have been on the rise in Iraq. The connection these killings have to a corresponding rise in rapes has not been documented, but there seems to be every reason to assume a connection.

This is the real cost of the American invasion and occupation. The American losses are trivial in this light, no?

Source Is Everything

Iraq? What Iraq?

While General Petraeus is starting to lay the framework for the Administration to claim that the surge needs more time, Fox News is giving its viewers a new reality. One which creates a feeling that the Iraq War isn’t really happening.

How? They’ve stopped covering it.

According to a report by The Project for Excellence in Journalism, an organization following the coverage of issues in the American media (and who have a really cool graphic once a week showing the top 5 news stories for the week), Fox News has reduced it’s coverage of the Iraq War in the first three months of 2007.

Looking more closely at the cable universe itself—among the three channels as well as across day parts—PEJ found distinct differences between the three channels, far more than discerned between the three commercial network channels or newspapers.As an example, we found that coverage of the three biggest stories of the quarter—Iraq policy debate, the 2008 campaign and Anna Nicole Smith differed greatly across the three channels and day parts.

Overall, MSNBC and CNN were much more consumed with the war in Iraq than was Fox. MSNBC, for instance, devoted nearly a third of the time studied to the war (26% on the policy debate, 3% on events on the ground and 2% the homefront). Fox, by contrast, spent less than half that much time on the war—15% in all, (10% on the policy debate, 3% on events in Iraq and 1% on the homefront).

On CNN, Iraq coverage totaled 25%, again mostly focused on policy debate (14%). Events on the ground received 7% of the coverage (coming in second overall) while the homefront trailed at 3%.

At 15% Fox News coverage is below average for any media including print (18%) and even the Network Morning shows (also 18%). On the up side, they might have beat out Oprah.

Since Fox News is seen by a segment of American society as the balance to the rest of the fairness in media, it should come as no surprise when polls in September start pointing to a lowered interest in the Iraq policy debate in certain circles. Give the surge a chance; there is so much less bad news coming out of Iraq now. The reality hasn’t changed, the reporting has.

Now, if Rupert Murdoch could just get the Conservative Blogosphere to stop blogging about Iraq and finally swallow the WSJ with one of his multimedial pseudopods, I’m sure the Iraq Occupation will end.

At least half the American public will stop hearing about it.

(Hat Tip: Joe Gandelman/The Moderate Voice)

A Soldier’s Guide

An epic BBC series on the First World War produced in the 1960’s had one episode featuring the proverb, purported to be Arab, that “Allah created hell and it wasn’t bad enough; so He created Mesopotamia and added flies.” This was the kind of knowledge being given solders headed to Iraq during WWI and that arose from an officer corps dredged largely from the classically trained aristocracy. (Lawrence of Arabia anyone?)

By the WWII, the handbooks had become more prosaic, offering such gems of wisdom like “If you see grown men walking hand in hand, ignore it. They are not queer” and “Iraq Is Hot! … Probably you will feel Iraq first-and that means heat.” There is also a wonderful warning to avoid the holy cities of Kerbala, Najaf, samarra, and Kadhiman. (Who’d ‘ve known?!)

Now Sharon I don’t do UFOs Weinberger and Noah Shachtman have uncovered parts of the equally entertaining “Soldier’s Guide to the Republic of Iraq,” issued to US soldiers on the eve of war in 2003. (What are you still doing here? Go read their stuff! They are real journalists with books, sources and stuff.)

Still here? Hmm..

Among the quotes they found:

  • There is little virtue in a frank exchange. Getting down to business may always occur at a later meeting or a more informal setting such as dinner.
  • Arabs, by American standards, are reluctant to accept responsibility… if responsibility is accepted and something goes wrong, the Arab is dishonored.
  • Arabs operate by personal relations more than by time constraints.
  • Arabs, by American standards, are reluctant to accept responsibility.
  • Arabs do not believe in upward mobility or social status; they gain status by being born in the right family.
  • Arabs do not shake hands firmly. If an Arab does not touch you, it usually means that he does not like you.
  • It is said that the Arab likes to feel your breath in their face. As you back away, the Arab will continue to shuffle forward. This is known as the “diplomatic shuffle.”

So, while American soldiers were wondering what music to play while dancing the “diplomatic shuffle,” the administration figured the soldiers would be in and out so fast it wouldn’t matter what had been published.

Except it didn’t work out quite that way. Now a couple of the above sentences look rather suspicious in light of the “We stand down as they stand up” course the Bush administration stayed so long. You see, at least the soldiers were being told that “…if responsibility is accepted and something goes wrong, the Arab is dishonored.”

I wonder if Bush didn’t get the memo.

Cheney Wants War With Iran – Might Get One With Turkey

In what seems to me to be a strangely underreported story, US – Turkish tensions on the northern Iraqi border are rapidly breaking down.

Speigel-Online is reporting that the situation seems to be escalating.

The signs have become increasingly ominous. For weeks, Turkey has been building up its military presence on its south-eastern border with Iraq in response to cross-border raids by Kurdish rebels. Potentially more concerning, Ankara has been openly considering an incursion into Kurdish-dominated northern Iraq in an attempt to root out members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) based there.

On Sunday, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates saw the situation as sufficiently heated to issue a warning to Ankara. “We hope there would not be a unilateral military action across the border into Iraq,” Gates told reporters on Sunday.

Speaking after meeting with Asian government officials in Singapore, Gates said he sympathized with the Turkish frustration over the raids launched by Kurdish rebels from across the border. “The Turks have a genuine concern with Kurdish terrorism that takes place on Turkish soil,” he said. “So one can understand their frustration and unhappiness over this.”

But Ankara is unlikely to be placated by US sympathy. Indeed, the Turkish military shelled Kurdish positions on the Iraqi side of the border on both Sunday and Monday, according to the Belgium-based Firat news agency. Furthermore, the Dogan news agency reported that a suicide bombing had killed three soldiers at a military outpost in south-eastern Turkey on Monday.

At the same time, all my normal news channels (and most of my morning reading) was taken up by the Rice attempt to disarm or at least de-tooth (de-pacemaker?) Cheney with respect to Iran.

I wonder why this story is getting so little play in American and English media? Perhaps because neither the Democrats nor the Republicans want an escalation on that front giving no reason for beltway journalists to cover it?

Look at the motivations of the various factions.

Rice is trying to lower all tensions in the Middle East; the last thing she needs is a new crisis. Dick Cheney is concentrating on implicating Iran not only with arm shipments into Iraq but into Afghanistan thus bringing about the next stage in whatever nefarious plan he acutally has. (I wonder if the evidence for Afghanistan is any better than the “Iranian” EFP shipments presented in February?)

The Democratic leadership would really prefer to keep this situation under wraps because an escalation on Iraq’s northern border would give the President a reason for a continued troop presence in Iraq; something approaching a dose of political polonium. Finally Rapture enraptured President Bush doesn’t need a Turkish-Kurdish war because that wouldn’t involve Israel thus bringing about “Americas Destiny.”

Perhaps that’s why there is so little reporting on the issue.

As far as I can tell, for US politicians, it’s a lose-lose situation best kept under wraps. I just wonder if anyone can convince the Turkish politicians of the same thing?

Trickle Up Reality – A Difference of Opinion

Noah Shachtman, at Danger Room and my go-to guy for inside information about Pentagon shenanigans, has a post up praising an article in The Washington Monthly by Spencer Ackermann. Entitled The Bitter End and with the tagline “Democrats are right to push for an end to the Iraq war. But don’t expect the troops to be grateful,“ one can see where he is going.

Haunted by Vietnam, Democrats are determined to express support for the troops. This is admirable. The truth of the matter, however, is this: many troops in Iraq, perhaps even most of them, want to stay and fight. That doesn’t mean that we should stay in Iraq any longer. It does mean, however, that if Democrats want to bridge the divide between themselves and the military—an effort further complicated by their opposition to the war—they’re going to have to recognize that arguing in the name of the troops isn’t going to work.

If you spend as much time reading about Iraq as I do, you tend to get a very distorted image of reality (if there is such a thing).

At one level, there is the extreme devotion to duty, honor and team that is shown at the personal level. (This is very apparent if you read military blogs written by the people fighting every day. Read them now before they disappear. ) On another level, you see officers, military advisors and pundits pointing to the successes, incremental improvements across many ‘measurables.’

But you also get a sense of a football team in the last quarter, physically at the end of their chain but still willing to keep trying;. even if the game is obviously lost. (But then again the troops in the field didn’t even all know who Rumsfield is/was.)

Interestingly, most of the people quoted in Ackerman’s article are also officers. The only enlisted man seems more interested in being redeployed to Hawaii than staying in Iraq. (At least there are bikinis to go along with the sand.)

I’d contrast the view presented by Ackermann with two different viewpoints, also published in the last few days.

From a the international Herald Tribute story, With allies in enemy ranks, GIs in Iraq are no longer true believers,

But now on his third deployment in Iraq, he is no longer a believer in the mission. The pivotal moment came, he says, this past February when soldiers killed a man setting a roadside bomb. When they searched the bomber’s body, they found identification showing him to be a sergeant in the Iraqi Army.

“I thought, ‘What are we doing here? Why are we still here?’ ” said Safstrom, a member of Delta Company of the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. “We’re helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us.”

His views are echoed by most of his fellow soldiers in Delta Company, renowned for its aggressiveness.

A small minority of Delta Company soldiers – the younger, more recent enlistees in particular – seem to still wholeheartedly support the war. Others are ambivalent, torn between fear of losing more friends in battle, longing for their families and a desire to complete their mission.

The focus of this story is on the erosion of ‘mission feeling’ when the mission is defined to be stand up until the Iraqi’s take over. Unfortunately, the lower level troops are increasingly discovering that the guys taking over are also the guys who shoot at Americans on their days off. They came with a sense of mission, but like a puddle under the Iraqi sun, that is slowly evaporating.

The other side of this is the cost on the home front. This comes from the front page feature at the Washington Post highlighting the plight of the families of the Minnesota National Guard troops attached to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th division.

Some 2,600 members of the Minnesota Guard are serving in Iraq, attached to the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division. Most of the Minnesotans from the rural northern part of the state around Crookston are in Bravo Company, whose 141 men range in age from 20 to 47 and represent a cross section of the small-town Midwest. One in seven has a college degree. One in three is married.

The citizen-soldiers of Bravo Company, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry, had been home 18 months from a tour in Bosnia and Kosovo when they mustered for war in October 2005. Reinforcing an active-duty Army stretched taut by a war longer and more ferocious than the White House expected, the Guard members checked out of their roles as students, farmers and workers.

Once deployed, they supported active-duty troops, largely in violent Anbar province, where the unit lost three soldiers to enemy explosives. After being granted two weeks’ leave and plane tickets home last year, Bravo’s soldiers returned to Iraq with the end of their mission in sight.

But shortly after Christmas, as friends and families counted the days until the planned March 28 homecoming, word came that the tour would be extended four months to support the effort to fortify Baghdad, a strategy designed to tip the balance against the insurgency.

News of the extension, which the families first heard about on television, was a rough blow. One wife likened it to nearing the end of a marathon and learning she would have to run eight more miles uphill. Another forgot that she had set her cellphone to ring on March 28, a cheerful reminder that her husband was homeward bound. When the alarm sounded, she called a friend and cursed: “Damn alarms.”

This is especially interesting because the MNG will probably become the longest serving unit in Iraq, reserve or active.

And what do these guys say about the war?

Days turn into weeks, weeks melt into months, and the months turn into a year and I am still in Iraq.

I have not yet reached a true state of apathy, but as the days pass I come closer and closer. I do my duty every day without complaint but I don’t give a damn anymore. I no longer care about the mission and I no longer care about the people I am supposed to be here to help.

I no longer give a fuck.

The above quote comes from Sixty-Six.org a milblog from an infantry man on his second deployment who was, in another world, a graduate student in Psychology. “I will not allow myself to have an opinion on the war. I have a job to do, and that job is not to agree or disagree with the politics of war. My job is to fight the war and come back to tell the story. ”

Interestingly, Ackerman even quotes a journalist who had been embedded with the Minnesota National Guard, NPR’s John McChesney.

Of course, military opinion varies greatly, and the mindset of the 57th could be atypical. But other journalists have picked up similar sentiments. In early April, National Public Radio’s John McChesney visited National Guard troops in Arkansas and found that, “to a man, they were gung-ho for the mission.” One specialist told McChesney, “I am looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great opportunity for me.” And news accounts regularly carry reports of soldiers who are eager to go to Iraq, whether out of a sense of duty or a sense of adventure. (More grimly, many obituaries also mention such eagerness.)

This was something I could fact check. Was Ackermann cherry- picking? Let’s take a look the original story,

Under new policy, the 39th’s second deployment would be limited to 12 months, according to Maj. Gen. Bill Wofford, who is the adjutant general of the Arkansas Guard. That would include training time in the States, so it’s possible the soldiers could be in Iraq for less than a year.

But Wofford acknowledged that they could be extended, like what recently happened to the Minnesota National Guard. “That would be up to the Department of Defense and what’s going on in theater at that time,” he said.

Immediately following a news conference in Little Rock, Wofford jumped in a Blackhawk helicopter and flew north to Fayetteville. Wofford was going to say goodbye to some men who will be leaving soon for their first deployment to Iraq.

Command gathered a group of them to talk to NPR about the trip. To a man, they were gung ho for the mission.” I am looking forward to it,” said Spec. John Martell. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for me.” He expects to return to be a full-time student at the University of Arkansas. In the meantime, he says, “I’ve always wanted to serve in this way.” [my emphasis]

It would seem Ackermann quoting people who are gung-ho on war. But those are officers, those recently arrived or the one’s who hadn’t gone yet. This let’s me wonder who he listened to in Iraq. Especially off the record Majors commenting in the US Embassy. If I contrast that with the feelings I read about at Sixty-Six, in the WP and the story in the International Herald Tribune, I feel a real reality disconnect here.

So while some might still support the mission. I get the impression, even under the troops who are the last to lose faith, gung ho isn’t the phrase I’d use for those on repeated deployments.

It would seem to me, those in Iraq are no longer fighting an enemy. They are fighting to support each other. They follow orders because that is what orders are for; they do their job with pride: clear an IED, search a house or help in the reconstruction; not to help the Iraqi’s, not because someone in Washington wants them to – but because there are fellow Americans doing the same thing and they need help.

Ackerman points out that the Democrats do themselves a disservice by claiming to help the troops and wanting them to withdraw. His point is that the ‘troops’ don’t want to withdraw. I think the troops want to stay together. No-one wants to be the first to leave or the last to go. But I disagree that there is still a strong feeling of mission.

Returning to the Washington Post feature,

Last winter, with her husband due home in 100 days, Modeen and the kids put 100 M&Ms in a jar. Every day, they took one out; as the pile got smaller, Staff Sgt. Nathan Modeen was closer to coming home. Sam was growing excited. Then came news of the 125-day extension.

Jennifer Modeen could hardly stand it: “We just threw the M&Ms away.”

While Ackerman may be right and the soldiers still haven’t lost hope in the mission, I’d argue that they have lost their M&Ms.

Cheney Predicts, The Lights Go Out and Reality Prevails

MSNBC is reporting that another part of the infamous Senate Intelligence committee’s “Phase II” investigation on Iraq will be released on Friday.

You remember this report right? This was the report that was so important the Democrats staged an orgy turned off the lights forced a closed-door session of the Senate to get the Republicans to finally finish it.

Well they’ve gotten around to looking at the predictions about how things would go after Sadaam hit the road.

According to MSNBC, “people” in the administration (perhaps the unnameable, invisible senior officials at the DOJ?) were informed that things in Iraq might not end up being all that rosy.

In January 2003, two months before the invasion, the intelligence community’s think tank — the National Intelligence Council — issued an assessment warning that after Saddam was toppled, there was “a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other and that rogue Saddam loyalists would wage guerilla warfare either by themselves or in alliance with terrorists.”

It also warned that “many angry young recruits” would fuel the rank of Islamic extremists and “Iraqi political culture is so embued with mores (opposed) to the democratic experience … that it may resist the most rigorous and prolonged democratic tutorials.”

None of those warnings were reflected in the administration’s predictions about the war.

In fact, Vice President Cheney stated the day before the war, “Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.”

Perhaps Cheney did a conference call with Sylvia Brown and she just mischanneled the vibes.

I’m sure the timing here is completely random. It’s obviously merely an attempt remind everyone just how bad a job the Whitehouse has done and not an attempt to distract everyone from just how bad the Democrats are failing at stopping them; remind everyone of the day the Lights Went Out in Georgia the day Democrats actually forced the Republicans to do something.

Nah! I’m sure that’s just me.

(Hat Tip: Laura Rosen/War and Piece)

It’s Not A War

Iraq is one of the major issues in American political discussion today. The problem is that it is still seen and more importantly described as an American war. It isn’t.

That’s why the article in today’s LA Times is so – um – misworded.

In early February, the war in Iraq came home to this small railroad town on the Nebraska prairie where farms begin to give way to high plains.

Seven thousand miles away on a Baghdad street, a bomb exploded beside Army Sgt. Randy J. Matheny’s armored vehicle, killing the 20-year-old McCook High School graduate and stunning his small hometown.

“It caused us all to reexamine what we were thinking,” said Walt Sehnert, who has run a popular bakery on McCook’s main street since 1957. “Those of us who were adamant about the war had to stand back and take a deep breath.”

Across Nebraska, there has been a lot of reexamination lately.

One of the things that needs to be reexaminined isn’t the reality of what is happening, it is how we talk about it. Do you really want to bring the boys and girls back home? (And yes, someone like Pink really needs to cover Vera Lynn – it would do a world of good.)

If you want to extract America from the failed neo-con experiment in the Middle East, there is something very simple. You can do it today, tomorrow, until the boys and girls come home: stop calling it a war!

The ‘war’ in Iraq simply wasn’t. What started as an invasion quickly changed into a messed-up mop-up, a wrecked reconstruction and finally morphed into a moral morass best termed occupation.

Americans are a proud people they don’t like to lose wars. Stop talking about ending the war in Iraq. Stop talking about winning or losing the war in Iraq. Every time you say war, you extend the legitimacy for something that should have stopped a long time ago.

But you don’t win or lose an occupation, you end one. So start calling it what it is… an occupation.

And end the American Occupation of Iraq.

Neo-Hope

Andrew Sullivan posted a reader comment to his blog yesterday. It was a mixture of mea culpa and cheerleading to a football team down 7 to 28 with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The comment started with a standard neo-con statement of fact. A statement of fact that with just a little editing becomes a far left wing call to arms. Let’s see…

The basic liberal premise for going getting the Republicans out of office is to effect democratic political and social change in Washington and in America, where the ruling kleptocracies and totalitarian evangelicals have crushed all hope in the general population and created a rancid environment in which hate and extremism is rampant. This basic premise – that the root of the problem in America lies with its dysfunctional ruling classes – is correct as far as it goes. It of course, needs to be more honest and further note that much of the present structure of Washington is rooted in its historical culture and social development going back literally hundreds of years, and is one in which Christianism and its lack of a church/state divide is a major contributing factor. Nevertheless, the intervention into Washington politics is being made with the prospects of bringing, by demonstrations and by softer means, a change in this governing ethos in America.

Now look at the original.

I’ll make a neo-conservative critique of Iraq that is honest. The basic neo-conservative premise for going into Iraq was to effect democratic political and social change in the Arab world and in the Middle East, where the ruling kleptocracies and totalitarian states have crushed all hope in the general population and created a rancid environment in which hate and extremism is rampant. This basic premise – that the root of the problem in the Middle East lies with its dysfunctional ruling classes – is correct as far as it goes. It of course, needs to be more honest and further note that much of the present structure of the Middle East is rooted in its historical culture and social development going back literally thousands of years, and is one in which Islam and its lack of a chuch/state divide is a major contributing factor. Nevertheless, the intervention into Iraq was made with the prospects of bringing, by force and by softer means, a change in this governing ethos in the Middle East.

Interesting huh? Neo-con blathering – indeed political blathering of any color – is simply a case of effective search and replace with the correct wording. * Sigh * Politics and content –the two shall n’er meet.

But the commenter tries to point out that he while he was a little naïve in thinking that a change in policy would be easy, the basic premise was sound.

The reader argues that there were a couple of factors that created the current quagmire. First, years of dictatorship under Saddam Hussein destroyed any infrastructure and any real opportunity for success. That coupled with failures in the current administration caused the current chaos. It was Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush, their incompetence and lack of realistic post conflict planning that lead the great “Iraq experiment” astray.

A couple of things this reader seems to have completely forgotten.First, calls for a realistic post conflict plan were few and far between, not just from the right but from the left. Any attempt to inject realism into the political process in that pre-election, post 9/11 wave of nationalism, excuse me, patriotism were quickly hushed. The poster comments that General Shinseki, chairman of the JCS, was sacked for giving a realistic estimate of the number of troops (“several hundred thousand”) necessary for rebuilding Iraq. He (she?) forgets that the reluctant comment was only in response to the pointed probing from a single Democratic senator, Carl Levin. The next day Wolfowitz, (neo-con extraordinaire) casually dismissed the idea. None of the neo-con pundits questioned the idea that nation-building would be necessary.

The Free Republic analysed the situation on February 28, 2003 thusly –

All of this points at a core problem. The Bush administration’s desire to make Iraq appear a stand-alone operation, without any strategic purpose behind getting rid of a very bad man, is highly vulnerable to attack from many directions. It’s only virtue is that it keeps the administration from getting involved in complex questions that can complicate the war. It also makes officials look — at one and the same time — simplistic, devious and incompetent. When the deputy secretary of defense and the chief of staff of the Army cannot, within 48 hours of each other, provide Congress with consistent information — and Wolfowitz must cover the strategy by making Shinseki look like he doesn’t know what he is doing — the situation is getting out of hand.

Once the war is concluded, if it is concluded well, these contradictions will be forgotten and the next strategic steps will unfold — or so the administration’s theory goes. That may be correct, and indeed, much of this is simply Washington chatter, of no consequence outside of Washington. Nevertheless, the intense strains of unarticulated strategic plans are showing.

Sullivan’s reader conveniently ignores the classic neo-con plank – that nation-building as such is wrong. That the military should not be used to rebuild democracy. The reader simply forgets those heady days in the 1990’s when democracy would just pop into existence – Poland, Germany, Hungary.

Oh. Yeah. There was that Kosovo thing. From James Baker’s classic “We don’t have a dog in that fight” to Bush “I’m worried about an opponent who uses nation building and the military in the same sentence.” There would never have been support for an ‘Iraq experiment’ if more than a few troops were involved and nation-building a strategic objective.

Hindsight now is like saying that you shouldn’t have been wearing that blindfold while driving. Mea culpa? Yeah right. I just get tired of the same ol’ – same ol’. “Wrong place, wrong time”? No WRONG REALITY! The world doesn’t allow itself to be reduced to a few soundbites, pundits and Power Point presentations. The real world is messy. The ‘experiment’ could never have worked because democracies don’t flower – they evolve.

Why does this person still stake a claim to any hope for the future after having been so blind in the past? The current debate of whether America should leave Iraq is flawed. Iraq is lost. A very few Americans are paying the price for this chaos now. The current moves by Saudi Arabia in recent days show a realistic attempt to keep the region under control while isolating Iraq (and the US) show just how far the situation has deteriorated.

It took Germany many tries, each more bloody and damaging than the previous, to finally reach some measure of Western democracy. The Middle East and Iraq specifically is no different.

It would do the neo-cons or post-cons or mea-cons good to remember that.

(Updated) Spin Cycles and Chlorine

Weird.

Not only are the reports on the newest form of attacks in Iraq, those using chlorine gas, very worrying, the approach being taken by the various national news agencies is bizarrely different.

While the Washington Post runs the story (on page A12) with the headline “3 Killed, 25 Injured In Chlorine Attack,” the actual reporting on the event seems limited to the lead.

A tank truck carrying chlorine exploded in western Baghdad on Wednesday, killing three people and wounding at least 25 in the second such attack in as many days, according to a spokesman for Iraq’s Interior Ministry.

Brig. Gen. Sadoun Abdul Karim said that several people exposed to the fumes were taken to hospitals and that the explosion set vehicles and shops on fire.

The chlorine attacks appear to be among deadly tactics adopted by insurgents in recent weeks as the U.S. military and the Iraqi government launch a security plan that will include the deployment of thousands of soldiers to outposts in Baghdad. Insurgents have also displayed new prowess in shooting down U.S. helicopters.

After that the article moves on to discuss the very confusing case of a Sunni woman who is claiming to have been raped by (Shi’ite) Iraqi security forces. Due to number of claims vs. counter claims in a plethora of sectarian screeching, it is difficult to glean any amount of truth. (At the moment I would assume the claim is true because, in the Iraqi (Sunni) blog Baghdad Burning the point is clearly made that the woman was willing to use her name. This is in Islamic religious countries nothing short of amazing. Thus, I am leaning towards believing the victim right now.) But to be honest this looks like the Washington Post really burying the rape story and downplaying the chlorine story.

The German online news source Spiegel Online takes an entirely different tack. They headline with “Insurgents in Iraq target chemical transports.”

In week after the start of the US offensive in Baghdad, evidence is increasing that insurgents are changing strategies. On Wednesday, for the second time this week, a chorine gas transport has been attacked. In addition the rebels have shot down another US helicopter. On Thursday morning repeated explosions could be heard in Baghdad.

Insurgents blew up a truck loaded with cylinders filled with chlorine gas. According to police reports, at least 5 persons lost their lives; more than 55 people needed to be taken to hospital. One day earlier, in northwest Baghdad, a bomb attack was carried out on a tanker carrying a chlorine substance. [my translation]

The article then goes on to highlight Cheney sniping at the Democratic leadership while visiting Japan with the inevitable return snip by Pelosi. The rape allegations from Sabrine Al Janabi had already been reported on Tuesday, the first day they surfaced.

But the point is that Spiegel, while pointing out that chemicals have been involved in multiple attacks, isn’t highlighting the use as a bomb component, especially in Tuesdays attack/bomb.

Which brings me to the New York Times today; they headline the chlorine story and prominently covered the rape allegations on Tuesday. But the coverage of the chlorine attacks is much different.

A truck bomb that combined explosives with chlorine gas blew up in southern Baghdad on Wednesday, and officials said it might represent a new and deadly tactic by insurgents against Iraqi civilians.
[…]
Insurgents have shifted tactics to focus on helicopters, and on Wednesday one group forced down an American Black Hawk helicopter, the eighth such incident since Jan. 20. Roadside bombs have been adapted to punch through heavily armored Humvees. Attacks on Americans also now include coordinated assaults from multiple locations, with a mix of weapons and in at least one case, counterfeit American uniforms and vehicles.
[…]
The bombing involving chlorine gas on Wednesday followed an explosion on Tuesday north of Baghdad of a tanker filled with chlorine that had been rigged to explode, killing nine people and wounding 148, including 42 women and 52 children. At least one other attack with chlorine took place on Jan. 28, according to the American military’s statements. Sixteen people were killed in that attack, in the Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, when a dump truck with explosives and a chlorine tank blew up in Ramadi.

This is much different, both in tone and substance from the information being produced by Spiegel Online. First, they are highlighting the bombs themselves. This is the top story on today’s front page. Second, Tuesday’s explosion is explicitly being made up to be, not an attack on a chemical transport, but a deliberate, premeditated bomb using a chemical tanker. I would argue, that makes an amazing difference in the feel of panic the story is trying to push.

I am having trouble trying to figure out who is spinning what. Both the WP and Spiegel playing the stories down while the NYT is decrying chaos and mayhem?

Maybe. But I find the difference amazing. Almost like reading about two different weeks.

But the dead and injured won’t get any better, no matter how this gets spun.

Update: Be sure not to miss the take over at Noah Schachtman’s new blog the Danger Room at Wired. Jason Sigger does an excellent job of putting this into perspective. Which is of course what I would have done were I as intelligent, well connected, eloquent (and perhaps, I don’t know, good looking?) Jason Sigger is.

Fight’n Words

Yesterday, in the hour long news conference at the White House, President George W. Bush fought the idea that his administration might spin information. Especially since that information seems to be pushing the casus belli, against Iran.

From the Washington Post,

The president spent much of the hour-long televised session in the East Room addressing skepticism about his government’s assertions regarding Iran and fears of a widening regional conflict. “The idea that somehow we’re manufacturing the idea that the Iranians are providing [explosives] is preposterous,” Bush said. Repeating a reporter’s question, he added: “Does this mean you’re trying to have a pretext for war? No. It means I’m trying to protect our troops.”

That seems to be the key talking point now. “Protect the troops.” But the questions now are first, is the current information is being invented, and second, whether the argument will protect the troops.

For me, the question of whether Iran is supplying arms to militias isn’t all that interesting.

First, from the images I have seen and the backgrounders I’ve read, the issue could flop either way. Iran has more than enough reasons to keep America busy in Iraq. And, arguably, most of the evidence does point to an Iranian connection to weapons and explosives being used.

On the other hand, the material I have seen, especially the improved explosives (EFPs) might not be that impressive. Building a computer operated mill really isn’t rocket science. (Oh, the Iraqies even have rocket scientists? Oh.) That means making parts to a fairly high tolerance might not be out of the reach of garage based militias. They only need the initial plans and the idea can spread like a (computer) virus.

Probably more worrying is the downing of several helicopters in recent weeks. That might point to much more sophisticated weaponry.

But the second question is whether American troops will be safer?

My unequivocal answer is no. Not unless Bush is willing to go to war with Iran.

How exactly can increasing diplomatic pressure on Iran, increasing troop presence, adding a new carrier to the contingent in the gulf possibly ease the situation?

Especially when the American military is already stretched to the breaking point. Iranian leaders aren’t blind. They know the only way the Bush administration can stop them aiding Iraqi militias is by attacking. That would require the reinstatement of the draft. (And even then I would argue it would take up to a year to get American forces ready for another ground war. Where would the necessary hardware come from?)

But I’m afraid the spin will start to rotate out of control. The increasingly shrill tone taken by the administration, even if the administration doesn’t want to go to war, may achieve exactly that. What does Iran have to lose right now?

How exactly can Iran tell the difference between the build up to war with Iraq and the current “Protect the Troops” rhetoric? How can American citizens tell the difference if something happens on the border? What happens if something really ‘unexpected’ happens, perhaps a carrier gets sunk by a mine?

It seems I am not alone in worrying about this kind of issue. From the NYT

Mr. Bush has said that he has no intention of invading Iran and that any suggestion that he was trying to provoke Iran “is just a wrong way to characterize the commander in chief’s decision to do what is necessary to protect our soldiers in harm’s way.” But experts say that the ratcheting up of accusations could provoke a confrontation. Gary Sick, an expert on Iran at Columbia University, said there was a “danger of accidental war.” He said, “If anything goes wrong, if something happens, there’s an unexplained explosion and we kidnap an Iranian, and the Iranians respond to that somehow, this could get out of control.”

But I found a refreshing and intelligent reason for the verbal escalation. From the far left, liberal rag Marine Corps Times,

Judith Yaphe, a Middle East expert at the National Defense University, said the Bush administration is raising these charges now to shore up political support for its decision to send an additional 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq.

“They need to shift the public debate from the issue of the surge and spread the blame” for the spreading chaos, she said.

The article continues with the predictable response from the military.

[Maj. Gen. William] Caldwell[, the U.S. command’s top spokesman,] defended the timing of the briefing. The armor-piercing roadside bombs, called explosively formed penetrators, first surfaced in Iraq in 2004, but he said the problem became acute recently.

Of course, the timing of these kinds of press releases is always political. Does anyone remember what happened when ill-timed information comes out of the DoD? Something that doesn’t fit the administrations current talking points? (General Eric Shinseki, anyone?)

But I think the current spin is perhaps pointed, not at Iran, but at the Republican party and the American public. This leads to the comforting thought that the Bush administration is not trying to start a war.

Perhaps there are realists in the administration who realise starting yet another war would be catastrophic. This would mean that the government is, however, so disengaged from foreign policy to think domestic issues can be solved by verbally attacking Iran. And that is really worrying.

And maybe that is the war America needs to start fighting. The war against rhetoric.

And that’s just fight’n words.

(Hat Tip: David Hambling/DefenseTech for many of the links and the background for this post)

Updated Addendum: Be sure to read Laura Rozen’s take on this.

Fighting The Ghosts

There is an amazing op-ed in the Washington Post today.

If I have ever seen a more pointed reason for why America should not have invaded Iraq, why America should leave and why, if America chooses to stay, ultimately America will fail, it is in this statement.

A man with no face stares at me from the corner of a room. He pleads for help, but I’m afraid to move. He begins to cry. It is a pitiful sound, and it sickens me. He screams, but as I awaken, I realize the screams are mine.
[…]
The lead interrogator at the DIF had given me specific instructions: I was to deprive the detainee of sleep during my 12-hour shift by opening his cell every hour, forcing him to stand in a corner and stripping him of his clothes. Three years later the tables have turned. It is rare that I sleep through the night without a visit from this man. His memory harasses me as I once harassed him.
[…]
We have failed to properly address the abuse of Iraqi detainees. Men like me have refused to tell our stories, and our leaders have refused to own up to the myriad mistakes that have been made. But if we fail to address this problem, there can be no hope of success in Iraq. Regardless of how many young Americans we send to war, or how many militia members we kill, or how many Iraqis we train, or how much money we spend on reconstruction, we will not escape the damage we have done to the people of Iraq in our prisons.

I don’t think he wrote that piece for us. He wrote it for himself. Unfortunately many coming back from Iraq will see themselves in his words.

Go read it now. Blog it, e-mail it. Make sure people are aware of it. It is an important peace of prose.

While you’re at it, remind people of the movie Outlawed about the detention of Khaled El-Masri and Binyam Mohamed. (27 minutes, my original post here.) That is American policy and whether the conservatives say it is OK or not. This is how the world views America. This is the reality that the policies put in place by the Bush administration have created. Congragulations.

But back to Eric Fair.

Sir, you have done wrong. You are being punished for it. While I don’t condone what you have done, I salute you for what you are doing now.

I thank you for fighting your ghosts in public.

This Is Iraq

iraq-january-2006.jpg

(Hat Tip: Laura Rozen:War and Piece)

Even More Iran Chatter

Even after George W. Bush’s ‘reassuring’ interview yesterday, the stakes get higher.

Now the Washington Post is reporting that the traditional Middle East allies are seeking distance to the US.

    Kuwait rarely rebuffs its ally, the United States, partly out of gratitude for the 1991 Persian Gulf War. But in October it reneged on a pledge to send three military observers to an American-led naval exercise in the Gulf, according to U.S. officials and Kuwaiti analysts.

“We understood,” a State Department official said. “The Kuwaitis were being careful not to antagonize the Iranians.”

Four years after the United States invaded Iraq, in part to transform the Middle East, Iran is ascendant, many in the region view the Americans in retreat, and Arab countries, their own feelings of weakness accentuated, are awash in sharpening sectarian currents that many blame the United States for exacerbating.

It is becoming increasingly clear that not only was Iraq a complete failure but that the ramifications of that failure have yet to play out. President Bush continually repeats that losing isn’t an option in Iraq. I would say America has lost Iraq. The regional increase in Iranian power is becoming more and more public. If one adds an American military stretch to if not past the breaking point, one has to wonder, what now?

That’s the question the politicians and strategists in Iran are asking. And increasingly the answer is coming up in favor of expansion and muscle flexing. The Iraqi civil war is quickly becoming irrelevant because the conflict has already spread. It has spread to the streets of Palestine and to the Kuwaiti military. The largely rhetoric filled bluster coming from Washington is as ineffective in the Middle East as it was in New Orleans.

Thanks to the Freedom Fry/Surrender Monkey foreign policy used to get America into Iraq,  the Europeans and the UN aren’t going to be very willing to jump in to the rescue. Russia and China can sit back and watch (or conduct ASAT tests) while watching the former Superpower called America spiral into irrelevance.

What’s next? Will someone start proclaiming the that Kermit the Frog is gay? *Sigh*

Line Item Veto

The banging you may have just heard was my head on my desk.

If I ever needed any evidence that I was masochistic, I just found it. I listened to Bush’s interview with Juan Williams on NPR. What an incredibly stupid thing to do! My blood pressure doubled and I will probably be grumpy for days. But what got me so mad?

One of those little talking points Bush snuck into the interview was the comment on a line item veto. I just thought I’d react in kind. So, Mr. President, my line item veto for some of the more outrageous comments you made. It probably won’t lower my blood pressure or de-flatten my forehead, but I might feel better.

PRESIDENT BUSH: In other words, they’ve got to make it clear to the 12 million people that made a conscious decision to vote and say, we want a unity government, to reach out to disparate elements. They’ve got to make sure that oil revenue, for example, is available to all of the people and not just a faction that may happen to be in power. […]

Let me just get this right. This is George W. Bush arguing for a public distribution of profits made selling oil in Iraq. Um. Sir. Is that really an idea you want the American public to think about? Do you really want to go there?

[…] They’ve got to make sure that those who were involved with the Saddam government in the past, so long as they weren’t killers or terrorists, have a chance, for example, to be reinstated as school teachers.

Oh. So having J. Paul Bremer fire all the school teachers as one of his first actions wasn’t such a good idea? But Rumsfeld said the idea came from the White House and Cheney usually doesn’t talk, he grunts or shoots. Wouldn’t the reverse situation have been marginally more appropriate? You could have kept them as teachers, then you would have known how to find them, you would have known where they worked, remember? But that was a bad idea, an example needed to be made early; a marker needed to be set, like a lion marking it’s territory. Like America urinating on Iraq.

But through the cacophony of voices, ideas and plans President Bush manages to keep his laser sharp decision making skills.

In other words, there’s a lot of things politically that can happen, Juan, and – you know, I made a decision that – and, listen, I listen to a lot of folks here in Washington. I listen to the military people, I listen to people who are critical of the policy, I listen to Republicans, I listen to Democrats, and I listen carefully for which strategy would yield – would most likely yield success, and the one I picked is the one I believe will.

This I almost buy. I do believe that Bush listens. He has an amazing ability to hear but not process information. That is sooo cool. I wish I could spend as little time reflecting on what I hear as Mr Bush; deciding what’s right and not choosing an appropriate course The problem is I suspect the voice Bush really listens to wasn’t mentioned in the above passage. It’s the little red guy with horns white-robed guy with a halo sitting on his shoulder.

I won’t even go into the whole joined-at-the-hip Cheney/Bush lovefest thing. Cheney sees the world through the sights – um – eyes of a soon-to-be-grandfather of a child born of love in a lesbian relationship. A child, like many children, loved by Dick, hated by the religious right.

In response to Juan Williams’ plea that President Bush give some reason the public might find to support his policies in Iraq, Bush dumped a bag of dominos in his lap.

See, the difference, Juan, between other conflicts in the past and this one is that failure would endanger the homeland. In other words, the enemy isn’t going to be just contained in the Middle East if they succeed in driving us out or succeed in wrecking the Iraqi democracy. The enemy would be likely to follow us here. And that’s why I tried in my State of the Union speech, why I reminded people that September the – the lessons of September the 11th need to be remembered. It is a – and look, September the 11th changed my attitude about a lot of things. It really did. And I recognize that the world we live in is one where America cannot be isolated from the ills in other parts of the world. As a matter of fact, those ills can come home to haunt us.

As a response here, I’ll just present another presidential interview, a few years ago, back on April 7, 1954 with Eisenhower.

Q. Robert Richards, Copley Press:

Mr. President, would you mind commenting on the strategic importance of Indochina to the free world? I think there has been, across the country, some lack of understanding on just what it means to us.

The President.

You have, of course, both the specific and the general when you talk about such things.

First of all, you have the specific value of a locality in its production of materials that the world needs.

Then you have the possibility that many human beings pass under a dictatorship that is inimical to the free world.

Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the “falling domino” principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences.
[…]
So, the possible consequences of the loss are just incalculable to the free world.

Oh, well, that strategy worked out just fine. I’m glad we haven’t learned anything about foreign policy since 1954. Thumbs up Mr. President. But remember he’s understands (sharp, focused),

[…] It is a – I’m optimistic, I’m realistic, I understand how tough the fight is, but I also understand the stakes, and it’s very important for our citizens to understand that a Middle East could evolve in which rival forms of extremists compete with each other, you know, nuclear weapons become developed, safe havens are in place, oil would be used as an economic weapon against the West. […]

Let’s see. Where to start. How about stakes, sacrifice; like the answer during the Tom Lehrer Interview on PBS? “Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night.” While it is unclear whether the nuclear ambitions being followed in Iran could have or can be controlled using diplomatic measures, the nuclear weapon produced in North Korea was built on your watch Mr. President, your diplomatic fallout – um – failure. And the fact that just about every Islamic religious faction is pissed off at the US just happens to be the maraschino for Sunday.

In response to one solder’s question, Bush felt the need to do the obligatory obsequious grovel to those actually doing the work, people like National Guard Specialist Ryan Schmidt (sp) from Forest Lake, Minnesota.

And let me also say to Ryan, thanks for serving. I mean, one of the amazing things about our country is that we have people who volunteer to go. And one of the things I look for is whether or not we’re able to recruit and retain, and we are. And it’s a remarkable country, Juan, where people are saying I want to serve. And I appreciate that soldier, and I hope this message gets to him that not only do I appreciate him, but a lot of Americans appreciate him.

Now I have a feeling he is probably with 1/34th BCT. Perhaps Mr Bush would like to spend some time reading about how they feel about spending more time in Iraq? Or about becoming the longest serving military unit in Iraq? Bla, back-up plans are like badges and we don’ need no stinkin’ badges!

Then the sabre rattling got under way. Yesterday the Iranian Ambassador gave an interview with the NYT. Bush retaliates in kind.

If Iran escalates its military action in Iraq to the detriment of our troops and/or innocent Iraqi people, we will respond firmly. We – it makes common sense for the commander-in-chief to say to our troops and the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government that we will help you defend yourself from people that want to sow discord and harm. And so we will do what it takes to protect our troops.

One of the things that is very important in discussing Iran is not to mix issues. Our relationship with Iran is based upon a lot of different issues. One is what is happening in Iraq. Another is their ambitions to have a nuclear weapon. And we’re dealing with this issue diplomatically, and I think this can be solved diplomatically. And the message that we are working to send to the Iranian regime and the Iranian people is that you will become increasingly isolated if you continue to pursue a nuclear weapon.

Go back and read that again. The part about helping Iraq but we will do what it take to protect our troops. But President Bush goes on, one sentence later to tell us that we can’t mix issues. Has he been hitting the bottle again? I mean let’s at least remain on talking point for at least two paragraphs! I’m still trying to figure out where he is going to get the troops to fight Iran.

Asked about the minor oversight in the SOTU address, President Bush moved on into his alternate reality.

If there’s bureaucratic slowdowns in Washington, we’ve got a man named Don Powell who is working to address them. But no, our response to the Katrina recovery has been very robust. And I appreciate the taxpayers of the United States helping the folks down there in Mississippi and Louisiana.

This robust response is why Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco has been blasting Washington in her campaign. Why the democrats are promising to ‘fix disaster recovery’ and why one can find quotes like this in yesterday’s Times-Picayune.

Fed up with waiting for federal help, a coalition of neighborhood groups is pushing to establish a new taxing district that could generate millions of dollars to improve drainage in flood-prone sections of Old Metairie and Old Jefferson.

Remaining in alternate realities, why don’t we just move over to parallel dimensions. After fighting the fact that global warming was an issue or even a reality, President Bush has finally caved in to the science monkeys only to drift off into what can only be a science fiction space opera.

And what kind of technologies? Well, if you’re really interested in global warming and climate change, then it seems like to me that we ought to promote technologies to advance the development of safe nuclear power. It’s a renewable source of energy, and at the same time has no emissions to it. But also, we’re advancing clean-coal technologies. The goal is to have a zero-emission coal-fired plant. And then, in the State of the Union, I talked about another aspect of economic security and environmental quality, and that is changing the habits – or changing how we power our cars. [my emphasis]

Just a couple of questions sir. What exactly is renewable on nuclear energy? Uranium and plutonium just grows on trees? Oh – stars. Just have to figure out how to harvest it with out getting our buns burned? Got it. And emission free? What do you call that pesky radioactive waste. Grapefruit? We could declare it to be the Iraqi national currency, make coins out of it and ship it overseas. Solve two problems at one fell swoop! Give a whole new meaning to the abbriveation COIN.

But at least we got a Bushism!

I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I’m sorry it’s the case, and I’ll work hard to try to elevate it

But it’s not his legacy Bush is worried about, it’s his mirror image .

And so, the other thing is, is that, I think it’s very important for people – for a president to make decisions based upon principles. You know, you can be popular, but you may be wrong. And I would rather, when it’s all said and done, get back home and look in the mirror and say, I didn’t compromise the principles that are etched into my soul in order to be a popular guy. What I want to do is solve problems for the American people and yield the peace that we all want.

I’m reminded of the Star Trek episode Mirror/Mirror. The only problem I have is figuring out which Bush we are talking to. Of course with faux klingons vulcans in the White House, what should I expect?

In a way, Bush has done something for the American people. Remember all the problems facing America in the year 2000. Yeah Neither do I. Nice job George.

This is your unprincipled flat-foreheaded surrender monkey signing off.

Cobwebs of thought (Updated)

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently, reading not about the present situation in Iraq, but how the American government, the media and the American public came to think that an invasion might be a good idea.

Hopefully, I will be able to pull all that information into a couple of posts giving the perspective of someone outside the loop (or the beltway for that matter).

But that isn’t what’s bothering me today. The number of comments and discussions on Iran in the political/military/media blogs I read have skyrocketed in recent months. It should be noted, that although I don’t read the hardcore right-wing American-hegemony/empire-building-is-a-good-thing blogs, I do try to keep up on what realistic threats there are.

That’s why the recent spike in Iran chatter is starting to worry me.

I think one of the reasons for invading Iraq was a ‘heads-up forward-looking smack them before they smack us groupthink.

Largely generated and supported by people who developed worldviews and thought processes during the surrogate conflicts during the cold war, the idea of an international anti-American movement not being directly supported by a nation was inconceivable. Some country must be behind the attacks and after the fall of Afghanistan the only countries actively providing anti-American rhetoric were Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Thus, an example must be made, fear sown in the hearts of those who would hurt us.

The choice to attack Iraq was bolstered by the thought that we had been there and done that and that Iraq was widely perceived to be a disruptive influence in the area and, of course, Iraq was the weakest target. But I think perhaps the most important feeling being acted upon was one of pre-emptive protection.

Today, my morning blog reading presented me with the following stories,

Iran’s “Sat Launch” No Sure Thing
Iran and IAEA Cooperation
Two Can Play at This Game
What the Iranians detained in Hakim’s compound last month were doing

These are all fairly ‘liberal’ if realistically militaristic sources.

I wonder where the extra 250,000 thousand troops for the invasion of Iran will come from? This is starting to look like major sabre rattling on both sides of the border. Iran feels America isn’t strong enough to stop Iranian expansion and is pushing. The American government is starting to push back. But as we know the current American government isn’t really reality good at appropriately applying pressure, too much (Iraq) or not at all (North Korea).

It doesn’t matter whether the threat is real or whether the proposed solution has a realistic chance of success, a solution must be found and implemented. Once implemented, the soulution was, is, and will be correct. Period (or Full Stop). But don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Iran isn’t pushing, I think Iran might becoming a threat to regional and international stablitiy; it is simply unclear what the world can realistically do about it. What can be done without making the situation worse and not better.

I also think we need to keep an eye on the hawks in the Democratic party. What kind of anti-Iranian information will start to appear through those channels?

This was a fairly rambling post. I’m not even sure I believe what I am writing and perhaps I am only putting these words to keyboard to clear the ideas from my mind.

Like cobwebs, these thoughts are annoying – but there. I just wanted to clear them out for a couple of days.

Update:

I’d just like to point out that I wrote this without having read this morning’s NYT headline.

Iranian Reveals Plan to Expand Role in Iraq

Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad outlined an ambitious plan on Sunday to greatly expand its economic and military ties with Iraq — including an Iranian national bank branch in the heart of the capital — just as the Bush administration has been warning the Iranians to stop meddling in Iraqi affairs.

Iran’s plan, as outlined by the ambassador, carries the potential to bring Iran into further conflict here with the United States, which has detained a number of Iranian operatives in recent weeks and says it has proof of Iranian complicity in attacks on American and Iraqi forces.

The ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qumi, said Iran was prepared to offer Iraq government forces training, equipment and advisers for what he called “the security fight.” In the economic area, Mr. Qumi said, Iran was ready to assume major responsibility for Iraq reconstruction, an area of failure on the part of the United States since American-led forces overthrew Saddam Hussein nearly four years ago.

You rattle our cage, we’ll rattle back. *sigh*

The Little President that Could

Just to preface this, where does the word “surge” come from? If it were ever a part of the speech, it seems to have been judiciously cut before last nights rendition. Considering how the President screwed up Katrina rebuilding efforts, does anyone else find the use of the word “surge“ by the media, bloggers and pundits slightly inappropriate? Is that just me?

And now to my (probably obligatory) post on George W. Bush’s he-does-have-a-plan-to-win-even-if-no-one-believes-him-any-more strategy speech.

The coverage of this is, of course, huge. You might listen the pre-speech Back Story at the New York Times. Of the overviews I read, I found the best to be from the Washington Post. I grabbed the text of the speech over at the LA Times because they had the coolest disclaimer. And back to the New York Times for the handy-dandy graphic.

While many may make much of George Bush’s minor mea culpa on Iraq, I find it less than convincing. He is taking responsibility in the same manner that Katrina’s buck stopped there. He’ll probably have to fire another FEMA chief. Bush will do the occasional sad looking photo-op and that will be that. At least that is the official Bush. I do think the war is taking a personal toll. Bob Woodward in State of Denial mentions several times that the husband and wife team George and Condi have spent a lot of non-reported private time in veterans hospitals. Bush is very aware of the pain American soldiers are going through. Whether he feels the pain of Iraqi mothers seeing their children die or the sadness of Iraqi fathers watching the country disintegrate is another story.

The most important part of the speech is the increase in troops. The analysis I have read up to now say that most generals think 20,000 soldiers are either not enough or not sustainable for any period of time. There are only two courses, out or reinstate the draft. One is diplomatic/geo-political suicide the other inner-political suicide. Bush, typically, chooses not to choose. He carefully explains that 20,000 troops spread over the country will actually accomplish something new. He hopes people will believe this. Since he is the decider and has decided, we will simply have to wait until this time in 2008 to watch the next cycle of spin.

Perhaps the most interesting facet of this ‘surge’ idea isn’t that George Bush is pushing it, but that John McCain is vocally supporting it. He seems to think it will help his 2008 Presidential hopes. But what is the political (we won’t even touch the human) cost of this kind of policy? What if, like those Cassandras in the Pentagon seem to think, it goes wrong? Senator McCain has that covered and can point to his soundbite “until we can get the situation under control, or until it becomes clear that we can’t.” Oh. We could also pound our collective heads against a wall until everyone agrees it’s a bad idea. But, um , WHY?

Phil Carter at Slate will greet the news of an increase in embedded advisors. From the speech

America will change our approach to help the Iraqi government as it works to meet these benchmarks. In keeping with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, we will increase the embedding of American advisers in Iraqi Army units, and partner a coalition brigade with every Iraqi Army division. We will help the Iraqis build a larger and better-equipped army, and we will accelerate the training of Iraqi forces, which remains the essential U.S. security mission in Iraq. We will give our commanders and civilians greater flexibility to spend funds for economic assistance. We will double the number of provincial reconstruction teams. These teams bring together military and civilian experts to help local Iraqi communities pursue reconciliation, strengthen the moderates, and speed the transition to Iraqi self-reliance. And Secretary Rice will soon appoint a reconstruction coordinator in Baghdad to ensure better results for economic assistance being spent in Iraq.

The second biggie is of course money. The Washington Post also give us a nice run-down on how some of the US funds will be distributed.

The United States will allocate more than $1 billion for three programs to create jobs and help reconstruction in neighborhoods secured by Iraqi and U.S. forces. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have been particularly concerned that any new deployment not happen in an economic and political vacuum.
[…]
The United States will also provide $400 million in quick-response funding to address urgent civilian problems, and add $350 million to the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, which allows local field commanders to have discretionary money to help improve the lives of Iraqis.

The U.S. effort is designed to supplement a $10 billion reconstruction and infrastructure program, finally channeling an oil-revenue surplus into rebuilding areas. The administration has long pressed Baghdad to use its own resources, particularly in Sunni areas to prove that the Shiite-dominated government is sincere in wanting to take care of the country’s Sunni minority. Offering the Sunnis hope and inclusion is considered critical to helping defuse the insurgency and winning over loyalists to Saddam Hussein.

Paul Wolfowitz famously predicted that Iraqi oil sales would completely pay for the reconstruction. You remember Paul? He’s the financial genius who now runs the World Bank. Funny how these things work out, isn’t it? If only the Iraqis can produce enough oil. Paul would be vindicated and money no problem. The Middle East Times reported in December

Beyond those doors, beyond the walls of what is known as the Green Zone, a protected area in Baghdad and the only safe location aside from the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in the north, about 1.9 million barrels of Iraqi oil is pumped daily.

This is below the 2.6 million barrels before the war; it is a tally only steady in that it can never be gauged or predicted.

We’re where we were two years ago as far as production goes,” said Erik Kreil, an analyst with the Energy Information Administration, the data arm of the US Energy Department.

Oil production [in 2006] really went up negligibly,” he said. “A whole year has gone by and production went up approximately on average 100,000 barrels a day.”

Oh. So that’s solved then.

While Bush agreed with the Iraq Study Group on embedding, the ISG stressed increased cooperation or at least diplomacy with Iran and Syria. This was criticised for being unrealistic and vague. The Bush administration has been using the stick on Iran and Syria for years. (I haven’t read whether the import of chocolate and iPods is illegal like North Korea, probably missed the article.) There really aren’t any carrots available. The biggest carrot available is Iraq and Iran is trying to get that on its own Thank-You-Very-Much.

Bush managed to completely reject any possibility of diplomacy with either Iran or Syria. Everything I have read does point to an increased use of Iranian made IEDs with up to four time the power of Iraqi jury rigged bombs. I personally find Bushes language on this point reminiscent of the “Axis of Evil” language.

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We’ll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

And perhaps what I consider the most ill advised sentence in the speech. “Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship.” No, There won’t be. Mr Bush tried something similar on the deck of an aircraft carrier with a huge “Mission Accomplished” banner behind him. It wasn’t – otherwise that last nights speech wouldn’t have been necessary.

I can’t help myself thinking that the administration is stuck in a bizarre children’s tale. Not the one about goats; I’m thinking of the “Little Engine That Could.” Somehow Mr. Bush has confused “I think I can,” with “We go forward with trust that the Author of Liberty* will guide us through these trying hours.” Since America “can not fail in Iraq,” Bush will never admit to a losing policy. He will continue to push this because he can not fail. But if the little Engine had tried to cross Mount Everest, all the platitudes and good wishes wouldn’t have gotten him over the mountain. Bush wil not win Iraq.
Thus I present a new children’s rhyme for George Bush.

Roses are Red,
Violets are Blue,
Please leave office,
And I’ll pray for you.

* Note the clever godless God reference? “Our fathers’ God to Thee, Author of Liberty, To thee we sing, Long may our land be bright With Freedom’s holy light, Protect us by thy might Great God, our King.” America by Samuel F. Smith. David Quo would be proud.

The Gray Line of Terrorism

Over ten years ago the news-services were full of stories about the American teenager Michael Fay, sentenced to be caned in Singapore for spray-painting cars. In the American and European media the outrage was huge, “too severe”, “barbaric”, “uncivilized” were some of the adjectives used. Now, in a brave new post-9/11 world, it is not the Singapore government that supports extreme justice but the American government using extreme rendition not to punish but to extract information.

The Chicago Times had a story yesterday about the start of the Italian trial over the rendition, or to stop using newspeak, kidnapping, of Abu Omar, an Egyptian-born Islamic cleric with Italian citizenship.

In a kidnapping case against 26 Americans and five Italian intelligence operatives, including the one-time CIA chief in Rome and Italy’s former top spymaster, Nasr, better known as Abu Omar, will speak to the court through his letter, telling his story for the first time in his own words.

According to Abu Omar’s written account, obtained by the Tribune, he was walking to his mosque in Milan on Feb. 17, 2003, when he was stopped on the street by a man who identified himself as a police officer. The cleric wrote that he was pulled into a van, beaten and taken by plane to Egypt.

This is an interesting case for many reasons. First, no one really disputes the fact that the Islamic cleric Abu Omar is an extremist. He was trying to get people to go to Iraq to fight, what was then, the immanent American invasion. He is self admittedly no friend of either America nor Israel seeing both as a threat to his culture. It still is unclear whether his actions in trying to recruit “foreign fighters” at that time violated Italian anti-terrorism laws.

But that isn’t the point. It has long been established in western cultures that breaking the law to catch criminals isn’t halal – um… kosher – um… legal. But that is what is on trial here. In what the Chicago Times considers to be surprising, the prosecution has produced a 6500 word letter from Abu Omar detailing his kidnapping and imprisonment in Egypt. Before he describes what happened, he feels he must describe his situation,

I record my testimony from within my tomb and gravesite: and my body has weakened and my mind has become distracted and my illnesses have increased and the signs of my death and termination have appeared.

I record my testimony from within my tomb and gravesite: and my facial features have been altered by the screams of the tortured and the sounds of the whips and the hell of the jail cells.

I record my testimony from within my tomb and gravesite: and I am powerless to do anything other than give the highest thanks and loyalty and appreciation to all who have lit a candle light of hope on the road leading to the uncovering of the mystery of my kidnapping from Italy and my imprisonment and torture in Egypt.

He goes on to detail his kidnapping, imprisonment and torture. Among the things he endured were being hung upside down, beatings, electric shocks and rape. This was all done with after an American kidnapping. George W. Bush has so famously claimed, “We do not condone torture, I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture. The values of this country are such that torture is not a part of our soul and our being.” Attorney General Gonzales later clarified the American position. He explained that the condition for refusing rendition was not absolute but whether the suspect was “more likely than not” to be tortured.

None of those involved have accepted responsibility for what has been done. According to one of Abu Omars wives, she has been offered $2 million to let the story drop. All that was necessary was to claim that the kidnapping never took place. He had gone for a walk and *poof* landed in an Egyptian cell of his own free will. At least she should make a story sound something like that. Oddly she demurred.

One of the more interesting ramifications of the case for the 26 Americans likely to be tried in absentia is international travel, at least in Europe. Should these gentlemen be convicted, European law would require them to be arrested and deported to Italy should they arrive at any EU airport. No vacations in the south of France for them!

More seriously, this does have ramifications on how the world, not just the Islamic world, views the American conflict and the American techniques. The tolerance level that was so high following 9/11 has been reduced to zero. There is no more slack; the get out of jail free card has been played; even in former members of the Iraqi collation.

For Michael Fay, he was found guilty, the sentence was eventually reduced from 6 lashes to 4 partially due to American pressure and, on May 5, 1994, he was caned. He later returned to the US to live a rather unlucky life and caning became a staple in World Wide Wrestling matches. There was little doubt that Fay had committed the vandalism he was convicted of, it was the sentence that western pundits found objectionable – too brutal, uncivilized. His mother claimed it was torture.

In the case of Abu Omar, it is likely he would have tried to help fight any American intervention in Iraq. He might have even cheered the day the Twin Towers fell. The later, while scandalous, is not illegal. The former, while possibly illegal, has never been clearly proven. There is no question of the fact that Abu Omar has been tortured, he however has never been found legally guilty. Omar is still in custody.

The scandal is the American involvement in his torture; America the country that cries foul when other countries enforce their laws.

Just plain tired

Riverbend of BagdadBurning has a couple of new posts up and, as always, they are worth reading. One is more of a summary of the year the second deals with Saddam’s execution and CNN’s misreporting. But Especially chilling is her description of the past year,

2006 has been, decidedly, the worst year yet. No- really. The magnitude of this war and occupation is only now hitting the country full force. It’s like having a big piece of hard, dry earth you are determined to break apart. You drive in the first stake in the form of an infrastructure damaged with missiles and the newest in arms technology, the first cracks begin to form. Several smaller stakes come in the form of politicians like Chalabi, Al Hakim, Talbani, Pachachi, Allawi and Maliki. The cracks slowly begin to multiply and stretch across the once solid piece of earth, reaching out towards its edges like so many skeletal hands. And you apply pressure. You surround it from all sides and push and pull. Slowly, but surely, it begins coming apart- a chip here, a chunk there.

That is Iraq right now. The Americans have done a fine job of working to break it apart. This last year has nearly everyone convinced that that was the plan right from the start. There were too many blunders for them to actually have been, simply, blunders. The ‘mistakes’ were too catastrophic. The people the Bush administration chose to support and promote were openly and publicly terrible- from the conman and embezzler Chalabi, to the terrorist Jaffari, to the militia man Maliki. The decisions, like disbanding the Iraqi army, abolishing the original constitution, and allowing militias to take over Iraqi security were too damaging to be anything but intentional.

The question now is, but why? I really have been asking myself that these last few days. What does America possibly gain by damaging Iraq to this extent? I’m certain only raving idiots still believe this war and occupation were about WMD or an actual fear of Saddam.

Al Qaeda? That’s laughable. Bush has effectively created more terrorists in Iraq these last 4 years than Osama could have created in 10 different terrorist camps in the distant hills of Afghanistan. Our children now play games of ‘sniper’ and ‘jihadi’, pretending that one hit an American soldier between the eyes and this one overturned a Humvee.

I really do understand the sentiment. But I would still beg to disagree.

No, I don’t believe that George W. Bush and his cohorts actually planned this. Madness and mayhem are hard to plan. It was a stubborn insistence that things weren’t out of control coupled with a complete lack of realistic information, a plan or perhaps even a grasp on reality.

Not that Bush couldn’t have gotten the information but that he chose not seek it. He makes it a point to make sure people around him are on his side. By doing that he makes sure that any information reaching him is filtered, subtly or otherwise. Stupid? Yes. Criminally negligent? Yes. Planned? I doubt it.

But in looking for possible reasons for the invasion Riverbend hits two very important points. Something that is key to remember. First, although by all accounts I have read, Al Qaeda wasn’t anywhere near Iraq before the war, the conflict has spawned a completely new generation of terrorists. Those that hate America and those that choose to use the war against America to foment other aims. The second important point is that she sees an entire generation of children growing up learning, viscerally, that America is the enemy. This has nothing to do with global politics. It’s just people trying to live their lives day in and day out and kids seeing who the bad guy is. The bad guy is the one who makes mother cry.

Riverbend sounds tired, I’m sure the whole country is tired. More tired than any American with the exception of the troops she would so like to see leave and especially more tired than any American talk show pundit, right or left. The Iraqi people just want the violence and the killing to stop. They’d like to get off George Bush’s carousel but they can’t stop it. They certainly didn’t start it.

Perhaps most depressing is the contrast between how she wrote a couple of years ago and the tone of the posts now. The difference just makes me sad. My heart goes out to her. Spend sometime on her page and think about the mistakes the administration is making. Rumsfeld has been sent into retirement – the people whose land he destroyed are just plain tired and many will never live that long.