Saturday, May 19, 2007

British Troops Going Home, Why Not U.S.?

The Sunday Telegraph is reporting that White House officials have briefed President Bush to expect an announcement on British troop withdrawals when Gordon Brown becomes prime minister.

The President recently discussed with a senior White House adviser how to handle the fallout from the expected loss of Washington's main ally in Iraq, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.

Details of the talks came as a close ally of Mr Brown called for a quicker withdrawal of British troops. Nigel Griffiths, a former minister, said: "We should get out of Iraq as soon as is practicable. We should consult the Iraqi government - but they cannot have a veto. This cannot be delayed."

Mr Griffiths, who resigned as deputy leader of the Commons this year over the decision to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system, spoke out as reports suggested that Mr Brown would use an early trip to Iraq to reassess Britain's role and accelerate the withdrawal. Revelation of the US fears will reinforce expectations in Westminster that Mr Brown will make a decisive break with Mr Blair's support for the war.
The paper also reports that officials in the National Security Council, the Pentagon and the State Department in Washington have expressed fears about Brown, believing he will not be as strong an ally as Tony Blair.
Nor is Mr Brown seen as a reliable ally in resisting Iranian attempts to acquire nuclear weapons. "If they decided to strike Iran's military facilities and Brown didn't allow the use of British bases, this is an issue that could divide the alliance," a source with security connections said.
Meanwhile, the outgoing defence attaché at the British Embassy in Baghdad says the U.S. surge isn't working.
Speaking on the record last week to a public audience at Chatham House, the London-based foreign-policy research institute, he said: "The evidence does not suggest that the surge is actually working, if reduction in casualties is a criterion. The figures in April were not encouraging."

In unusually candid comments, Mr Campbell also disclosed that American commanders had decided that the criteria for the "success" of the troop surge would be nothing more than a reduction in violence to the level prior to last year's al-Qaeda bombing of the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, which destroyed its golden dome.

The destruction of the shrine, one of the most important Shia sites in the world, led to a dramatic escalation in sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia factions, peaking at 3,500 deaths in September last year. Casualty figures had been running at 800 a month before that, a level that few would regard as anything approaching peace.
According the Bush administration, "success" in Iraq now means reducing the number of murders to fewer than 800 per month.

How many more Americans must die to achieve that "success?"

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Instead of a pay raise. . .

how about a pie in the face?

AP Photo/Gerald Herber

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3,408 Killed in Iraq

Support our troops. Bring them home.

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Why the heck do we need a “war czar” anyway?

Especially if new “czar” Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute’s battles are supposed to be primarily bureaucratic, anyway?

Isn’t that what this little institution called the Joint Chiefs of Staff is supposed to do?

Well, it was, until the JCS got emasculated in favor of field commands such as Centcom about a dozen years ago, then increased its level of political ass-kissing to ever-higher levels.

Cross-posted from SocraticGadfly.

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A New Deck Chair For the Titanic

I can’t help it. It’s the poet in me. While I no longer write poetry and verse, the old instincts remain intact and I’m still sensitive to rhymes. And I could make a case that George W. Bush is just courting satire from other rhyme-sensitive wags by nominating as our first war czar a guy whose name rhymes with “dug loot.”

It’s a phrase that, in light of the revelations in Life in the Emerald City, flawlessly captures the overarching and ultimate rationale for invading and endlessly occupying Iraq.

But that would be a cheap pun on which to base an entire post, something that would be momentarily amusing but a joke that would quickly overstay its welcome. We could also focus on the three star general’s name bringing to classically-trained minds the favored instrument of Pan, the man-goat god of shepherds and flocks.

However, Bush is hardly known for his competence in presiding over the safe passage of shepherds and flocks, isn’t known (thankfully) for his sensuality and, while he’s infamous for arousing panic with his magic lute, isn’t exactly renowned for also inspiring lust or inspiration. And how could Pan/Bush be the man-goat when the lute, General Lute, that is, is really the intended pet goat?

So let’s focus instead on the literal significance of Bush’s nomination:

Substitute the word “profit” for “power” and Bierce’s wonderful definition for “corporation” becomes the perfect descriptor of our current neoconservative government.

Whereas the buck famously stopped at Harry Truman’s desk, responsibility is diffused in our outsized federal government. The buck’s passed around so many times it eventually disintegrates. Iraq, Walter Reed and the post-Katrina Gulf coast have shown us but mere glimpses of the ugliest side of privatization and the complete lack of accountability upon which all parties depend.

And our little, sawed-off god with light responsibilities is setting up a sacrificial goat, a “pet goat”, if you will, by creating a war czar post that traditionally would be held by a “war president” and/or the Secretary of Defense (formerly Secretary of War). Therefore, some questions must be asked by America at large and the Senate Armed Services Committee as they convene to treat this proposed redundant post that was rejected by over a half a dozen generals who had no intention of walking into the lion’s den as if it was sane and rational:

If there must be a war czar, why did Bush have to settle for a three star general? Will he outrank David Petraeus, another three star general who was suddenly lifted up from relative obscurity to be the King of the Green Zone and hastily promoted to four star general?

Doesn’t the Pentagon have any full generals who would be more qualified to hold down and competently carry out the nebular duties of this still-undeveloped position?

Why nominate a guy who’s had one brief command in his life and is basically, like Robert Gates, a career second banana?

And what’s the sense in appointing a war czar who’s going to be directly answerable to a commander in chief who’s pathologically obsessed with not only maintaining the status quo in Iraq but making it even more untenable with his ever larger surge?

Bush, typically, will fall into his usual, “Let’s get this the fuck out of committee ’cuz it’s only a formality, anyway, and rubberstamp this nomination ’cuz I know what’s best” rhetoric. And, being the semi-senators that they are they will of course confirm Lute out of desperation to outsource even more of this war’s responsibilities out of the butter fingers of Daddy who knows best.

Which is why Gates was confirmed by all but two senators. Desperation to dump Rumsfeld.

Conveniently forgotten will be the glaringly obvious fact that if Daddy in fact did know best, we wouldn’t be further bloating the size of government, further diffusing responsibility and further tinkering with a war that has long since given up the ghost and has moved on without us.

Conveniently forgotten, also, will be the massive precedent of the quality of Bush’s other nominees like Miers, Alito and Roberts. Joseph Allbaugh then his college roommate Michael Brown. Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owen. Condi, Rummy and Gonzo, people who’ve given America more buyer’s remorse than tobacco, the Edsel and New Coke combined.

Conveniently lost on the committee, too, as well as on the entire Senate as they will have to act as if this nomination, this manufactured federal war lord post, as if it’s perfectly reasonable, is that this is just another Bush outsourcing- It’s yet another attempt at diffusing responsibility like the stench of a rotting body in the winds of Katrina.
(Crossposted at Big Brass Blog and Welcome to Pottersville.)

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The Blood on Their Hands

George W. Bush has blood on his hands. So does Dick Cheney. So does Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and every other member of the Bush administration who actively or passively guided this nation over a precipice and into an unholy quagmire. They have the blood of 3,400 (and counting) American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians on their callused hands. And the vermilion tide flows unabated, stiffly lapping at their heels.

As public discontent with the Iraq War grows in lockstep with the casualties, and as the debate over here rages along with the conflict over there, the reckless ideologues who caused this conflagration and continue to fan its flames go unpunished. Why? By any reasonable definition, have they not committed war crimes? Ought they not be held accountable for their terrible misdeeds? Aside from being less overtly bloodthirsty and more discriminate about—and removed from—the terror and violence they have wreaked, how are Bush, Cheney, et al. any different than rogues like Osama bin Laden, Abu Ayub al-Masri, or Muqtada al-Sadr? They all have the blood of innocents on their hands. They all rationalize the irrational and employ violence as a means to an end. They all claim that their cause is righteous and take shelter behind a perverted ideology. They all deserve to stand for their crimes.

Unfortunately, such justice will remain as elusive as peace. Bush and Cheney will not be called to account for their crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. They will not be impeached by Congress for high crimes and misdemeanors. In 612 days (and counting), they will walk away from the offices they have sullied and hold their heads unjustifiably high, never once glancing down or back to see the gore that they have tracked everywhere. They will leave the stains for another administration to clean up and go home to write their biographies and rewrite history.

In the end, only history will stand in judgment of these feckless thugs, and they will not be spared. The blood they have washed their hands of will be reapplied by future generations. But that is meager consolation now, when justice and accountability are so lacking. And the wrongs persist. And the innocents crumple. And the streets are spattered in vermilion.

Blood in the streets and on their hands

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Iraq parliament officially wants us out - on timetable, contra Bolton

Bush rejects all compromises.

The White House's chief negotiator, Joshua Bolten, explain[s] why the Dem offer of waivable timetables was rejected: “We consider that to be not a significant distinction. Whether waivable or not, timelines send exactly the wrong signal to our adversaries, our allies ... our troops in the field.”

Boy, is Bolton behind the curve.

A majority of the Iraqi parliament is on record as wanting our troops out — and on a specific timetable.
On Tuesday, without note in the U.S. media, more than half of the members of Iraq's parliament rejected the continuing occupation of their country. 144 lawmakers [out of 275] signed onto a legislative petition calling on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal, according to Nassar Al-Rubaie, a spokesman for the Al Sadr movement, the nationalist Shia group that sponsored the petition.

It’s about time for war opponents to be shouting this in Bush’s face until his — and Cheney’s — eardrums rupture.

So why is this not getting more mention by leading Democrats? Enabling? Timidity? Cowardice, even?

“Muddling” is not acceptable.

Also posted at SocraticGadfly.

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A Sickeningly Immoral Charade

Top down authoritarian rule is what the Republicans offer. The DLC is not encouraging diversity of ideas, or anything different from what the Republicans are offering, when it comes to the Iraq occupation.

They are offering a democratic version of the war, with a makeup job to make it look and smell good. New and improved! Better than the Rethug version! Just look at this baby!

Like dressing up a rusted out old car with nothing more then a cheap paint job and some shiny hubcaps, they are selling the same old deathtrap underneath the glossy shine.

The Democratic leadership thinks they can win by funding the occupation so that it will still be going on next year for them to run against. They cynically want and need the occupation to continue for what they think will be their own political gain.

To do that they have to pay for it. With American lives. And Iraqi lives.

As soon as they do the electorate will blame the occupation on the Democrats.

The Republicans are a top down authoritarian organized machine. Not many will flip to oppose Bush as the DLC hopes they will in the fantasies they are selling to people of building a veto proof majority to someday legislate an end to the occupation. They are laughing at the Democrats fighting amongst and dividing themselves.

The DLC, when they lose next year, will blame their loss on people who advocated defunding and ending the occupation by saying that there was no unity behind continuing to fund death to run against.

Wonderful scenario.

The only way out of it is by the Democratic Leadership defunding the occupation. By doing that they will cut the feet off the Republicans.

It's the only way that makes any sense.

The Bush Veto, the Democrats' Response, and Why Millions Must Break with the Politics of Empire:

Despite protestations by leading Democrats like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (who claims, "make no mistake: Democrats are committed to ending this war"), the bill they sent to Bush and their response to his veto illustrate that their position on the war is a thoroughly imperialist one, making them unwilling and unable to really end the war.

First, the appropriations bill they drafted never called for a complete withdrawal from Iraq--much less the Middle East. It called for a phased withdrawal of most combat forces, but envisioned leaving thousands of soldiers in Iraq indefinitely to fight "terrorists," protect U.S. installations, and train Iraqi forces. And U.S. forces redeployed to other countries in the region would be available to re-invade Iraq and/or be used to attack other countries in the region. It is also very exposing that the Democrats refused to include language in the bill requiring Bush to consult Congress before attacking Iran .

Second, the logic of the bill was to threaten troop withdrawals to force the Iraqi government to meet U.S. "benchmarks" such as passing an oil bill, building their armed forces, disarming militias, and curbing the civil war/sectarian violence dynamic now gripping Iraq. These are the same goals Bush spelled out in his January 10 address to the nation, aimed at creating a stable, pro-U.S. government in Iraq. The Democrats also want to cut U.S. losses, preserve the military, and regroup to defend broader U.S. regional interests.

When Bush vetoed the bill, and the Democrats failed to override it, they immediately began talking about concessions: giving Bush the money he wanted and removing any timetables for troop withdrawals. Simply refusing to fund the war (including by filibustering) wasn't considered.
Theater of Death:
...for our ruling elites, the suffering and death of innocent people, American, Iraqi or of any other nationality, are not of primary importance. In the perverse scheme of their priorities, such matters appear well down on the list. Their major and often sole concern is political power: its acquisition, its maintenance and its expansion. Tactics of only one kind are their concern: the means by which their own power is maintained and enhanced.

It is deeply regrettable, and also inevitable - since the world of political blogs cannot be other than a reflection of the larger culture - that this same indifference to human pain and suffering infects the approach of the great majority of political bloggers. For all their ferocious opposition to the Bush administration and to Republicans generally, [some] liberal and progressive bloggers act as if they are largely indifferent to bringing about a quick end to the incomprehensibly deadly Iraq occupation. They certainly demonstrate no sustained, serious effort to pressure Congressional Democrats into defunding the war - or into acting to oppose an attack on Iran in every way possible. The concerns of these bloggers and the Washington Democrats are perfectly coextensive: they will condemn the Iraq war and act to block an attack on Iran only to the degree such actions will not endanger their perceived political opportunities in 2008.

Original published 05/19/2007 at Edgeing: A Sickeningly Immoral Charade

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Targeting Journalists, Silencing Truth

Alaa Uldeen Aziz, Left & Saif Laith Yousuf, right
This undated handout photo provided by ABC
shows the two Iraqi journalists working for ABC,
who were ambushed and killed
as they drove home from work in Baghdad Thursday.

Two more journalists were senselessly slaughtered in Baghdad on Thursday. They were run down by two carloads of gunmen, forced from their vehicle and gunned down in the street. The murders of cameraman Alaa Uldeen Aziz, 33, and soundman Saif Laith Yousuf, 26 brought to 104 the number of journalists killed while covering the four year old Iraq war. Of that number, 82 have been Iraqis and 61 have been killed covering the violence in Baghdad. In addition to the 104 journalists who have perished, 32 media assistants – locals who serve as drivers, guards, guides and interpreters – have died in the service of reporting the war as well.

"Many places in Baghdad are just too dangerous for foreigners to go now, so we have Iraqi camera crews who very bravely go out, and without them we are blind," ABC Baghdad correspondent Terry McCarthy said.

The loss of any journalist is tragic. The loss of these men to deliberate, cold-blooded murder should hit us all in the gut.

Godspeed, Gentlemen. With reverence.

[Cross-posted from Blue Girl, Red State & Watching Those We Chose]

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Lot's of Damage, but Precious Little Control

As Tony “the Poodle” Blair was jetting off toward Washington for his last official visit and ear scratching, and a billet in the Queen’s Bedroom, the renowned British think-tank Chatham House released a scathing report on the state of Iraq.

I just read Facing Realities in Iraq.

Oy vey. I need a drink. A strong one.

As a WW II British aircraft mechanic famously exclaimed as he assessed a heavily damaged plane that barely made it back after a dogfight – “Fuck! The fucking fucker’s fucked!”

The report is stark and sobering in its assessment and it delivers a stinging indictment of the folly of the Iraq misadventure, stupidly launched on lies by mendacious, warmongering, agenda-driven idiots. Believe it or not – I just toned it down.

It is increasingly likely that a stable, unified Iraq is simply not a possibility. The country has fractured into regional power bases.

  • The three pillars of power – economic, security and political – have devolved into tribal and ethnic factions. The so-called government of Iraq is merely one “state-like actor” and at grave risk of being upstaged. This breaking down along regional and tribal lines is a defining feature of the political structure of Iraq, and recognition of this is mandatory.
  • Iraq is not caught in the grip of a sectarian civil war – it is a seething cauldron of many different civil and sectarian conflicts. These conflicts have become internalized, and the influence of this has weakened the social fabric.
  • The attempt to secure the capital by escalating the number of troops (what they still stupidly and wrongly refer to as a “surge”) is not curbing violence, and security can not be restored in a short period of time, if at all.
  • Destabilizing issues loom on the horizon and will come to the fore in the next year. Issues like oil sharing, control of disputed territories and Federalism will need to be resolved.
  • This need for resolution is complicated by the meddling of the neighbors. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey all have various reasons for perpetuating Iraqi instability, and all use different means to peddle their influence.

It is high time that these realities be acknowledged and accepted if the complete and utter implosion of the state of Iraq is to be averted. A political strategy is needed far more desperately than any ultimately counter-productive military options that can be exercised. Said political solution will require reaching out to organizations that possess popular legitimacy among Iraqis, irregardless of what western powers think about those institutions.

Ultimately, it’s their country, no matter how desperately we lust for their oil.

[Cross-posted from Watching Those We Chose and Blue Girl, Red State; and linked at the Salon Blog Report on Friday 18 May]

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Let's see what happens with this...

Back when the Bloggers Caucus reciprocal blogroll first started, Edger and I talked briefly about perhaps having a central meeting place in Blogtopia (sctp™) where the caucus members can cross-post our relevant musings.

I think the time is ripe, since we are now big enough that I can't check every site every day.

Starting off, I can only think of one rule: The posts have to be related to the war in Iraq and the funding resolutions.

I plan to draft Edger to help administer and maintain this site. And the poor guy - he doesn't even know what I've been up to this evening - let alone that I just drafted him...

--Blue Girl

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We, the People...With MORE People

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The VoteVets Ads

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