Saturday, June 9, 2007

inaction alert!! no more $$ for dems!!


cross-posted at skippy and a veritable cornucopia of other community blogs.

steven d, writing over at booman last week, expressed some sentiments that have been roiling in our minds as of late:

half my spam these days comes from democratic politicians requesting my credit card number, or my check, preferably in an amount larger than $100. true, it does get worse during an election year, but since 2008 is the "big one" with the presidency up for grabs, the calls for cash have started earlier and earlier…

no, we are the free money people. our emails receive automated replies, not personal ones. our phone calls get stuck in easily deleted voice mail caches, or if we're lucky, half listened to by some young staffer who probably thinks what we have to say is a big fat waste of his or her time. and the reason is because we can't contribute enough money in our pay to play political system to earn us any real access…

the single biggest reason democrats won control of the house and senate was their pledge to change the direction of the war in iraq. well, they didn't change it, bush did with his "surge" plan which is now killing more american soldiers each month even as there is no let up (so far as we can tell from censored media reports) in the levels of death and destruction which the iraqi people are continuing to endure.

the democrats gleefully took our money. they gladly accepted our volunteer efforts. and they rejoiced in our votes which gave them control of both houses of congress for the first time in over a decade. then they slapped us in the face, told us to shut up, and tried to make lemonade out of the bags of stale urine they dumped on our heads after they voted to give bush every damn thing he wanted without a single relevant concession on his part.

okay, that's fine. nobody said politics wasn't a dirty game. but no one said we have to keep paying for being mistreated and abused by the party that putatively represents our interests, either. so here's my recommendation to you:

stop sending dems your money!

i mean it. stop all contributions. and after you do, send them emails or call them on the phone and tell them you will no longer contribute to any democrat or democratic organization or political action committee, ad nauseam, until they stop funding the iraq war. that's what i am going to do with respect to the democratic national committee, the only democratic organization i contribute to on a regular (i.e., monthly basis). i send them a monthly amount via my credit card every month. but no more.

look, i understand that democrats can't get much of their agenda, if anything, passed so long as george bush can veto their legislation. they can't pas universal health care, for example, or a bill to start limiting our use of fossil fuels by putting caps on carbon emissions. they don't have the votes to override a veto by bush. so i won't hold them accountable for not passing much needed progressive legislation.

but funding the iraq war doesn't require passing legislation. all it requires is not passing a bill to fund the war in iraq. or keep sending the same bill back to bush which mandates a withdrawal of us troops and make him blink first. but they couldn't do that, despite the fact that 70% of americans disapprove of both bush and his handling of the iraq war.

so let them drink tea and eat cake without my hard earned dollars paying for their privileges. and without yours, and yours, and yours ... etc. because maybe then they'll finally take us seriously and pay attention when we tell them to:

support the troops -- bring them home. now!
period. end of discussion.
we totally agree. and we have already begun to implement this policy.

both mr. and mrs. skippy have donated extensively (at least, for middle class people) to various dem candidates and organizations in the past. they have donated enough to be on several lists of suckers that give money which other organizations use to call and solicit funds.

just yesterday skippy received a call from the "democratic finance committee." once the caller identified whom he was representing, skippy told him in no uncertain terms, "you guys really screwed up on the iraq funding withdrawl vote. i'm not giving you guys another cent until you get that right."

and he hung up.

we strongly urge everyone to do the same. not only stop giving money to dem pols, like so many enablers spotting the drunk on the corner a dollar for "food," but also let the candidates and organizations know exactly why the teat of free currency has dried up.

who's with us?

ps. if you'd like the nifty "no $$ for dems" logo for your own blog, email skippy and he'll send you the code!

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A Machiavellian Prince

An example of some of the fine liberating done on behalf of the Iraqi people of Fallujah.

When it had come out some time ago that the Department of Defense had begun chasing wounded Iraq war veterans with bill collectors because they’d left equipment on the battlefield, that we’d been shortchanging guardsmen on their back pay and that doctors at Fort Carson were screwing other wounded veterans out of their hard-earned disability benefits by classifying their war injuries “pre-existing conditions”, large patches of the blogosphere were enraged.

But imagine losing a loved one in Iraq, asking the Department of Defense for answers that could explain these deaths and then being slapped with a $10,000,000 suit by the DoD. That would be even more outrageous, wouldn’t it, an outrage that should inflame the entire blogosphere on both sides and be picked up by the MSM?

Well, the DoD isn’t suing families seeking the truth (Yet, although, as with the case of LaVena Johnson’s family and so many others, they’re outright lying and stonewalling about the shady circumstances of their deaths) but Blackwater USA, the notorious “security contractor” that’d essentially sabotaged our efforts in Iraq by slaughtering civilians with complete impunity and rallying the insurgency against us, is suing families of loved ones lost in Iraq for ten million dollars.

So how come the corporate mainstream media isn’t covering this outrage? Well, because they’re the corporate mainstream media and are too busy chasing Paris Hilton.

Several iconic images have come out of our four plus year-long misadventure in Iraq. There was the carefully choreographed taking down of Saddam’s statue as if it was on a par with the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and then, less flatteringly, there came the image of four murdered and hideously mutilated Blackwater contractors hung from a bridge over the Euphrates river in April of 2004.

Our government was fostering the misperception that this was another Mogadishu. But far from being that, what happened as a result was more like My Lai than Mogadishu, which involved the slaughter and parading of the bodies of actual American servicemen. Blackwater, as we all now know, rushed into Fallujah, guns blazing, essentially mowing down men, women and children in a murderous frenzy of retribution while US Marines let them take point.

The wholesale slaughter that involved at the very least several hundred civilian fatalities, helped rally a still-unformed insurgency and an occupied nation’s people against its own liberators and, perhaps more than any single act by or on behalf of our government, is what had been the biggest reason why the terrorists flocked to Iraq like the swallows at Capistrano, turning terrorism into something of a cottage industry.

The families, when they began asking Blackwater for answers, were not only met with stony silence, Prince’s goons flatly and arrogantly refused to pay the grieving families a wooden nickel for the loss of their loved ones. When they hired lawyers and persisted in learning about the circumstances surrounding the death of these four men, Blackwater then, amazingly, slapped a $10,000,000 countersuit on them.

How and why could they get away with this?

Well, here’s one possible reason for the stonewalling and countersuit:
The original contract between Blackwater/Regency and ESS, obtained by The Nation, recognized that "the current threat in the Iraqi theater of operations" would remain "consistent and dangerous," and called for a minimum of three men in each vehicle on security missions "with a minimum of two armored vehicles to support ESS movements." [Emphasis added to the original Nation article by LiberalLucy at Daily Kos.]

But on March 12, 2004, Blackwater and Regency signed a subcontract, which specified security provisions identical to the original except for one word: "armored." Blackwater deleted it from the contract.

"When they took that word 'armored' out, Blackwater was able to save $1.5 million in not buying armored vehicles, which they could then put in their pocket," says attorney Miles. "These men were told that they'd be operating in armored vehicles. Had they been, I sincerely believe that they'd be alive today. They were killed by insurgents literally walking up and shooting them with small-arms fire. This was not a roadside bomb, it was not any other explosive device. It was merely small-arms fire, which could have been repelled by armored vehicles."

In other words, they were not only cutting corners, they were literally making a killing (four of them, in fact) using the sleaziest of tactics that are part and parcel to running a business or a government.

This probably is the biggest yet perhaps not the only reason why Blackwater is playing the tried-and-true blame the victim game that we saw all too often in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Ann Coulter’s despicable jihad against the Jersey Girls, the 9/11 widows also seeking answers.

As we all know, this band of thugs is run by a Republican scumbag named Erik Prince, who came into his fortune when his father, a wealthy Holland, Michigan industrialist, died of heart failure. Blackwater is run by a parent company run out of McLean, Virginia named the Prince Group, whose motto is dedicated to protecting the interests of "Christians who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ".

Take another gander at that statement and then tell me that a chill doesn’t crawl up your spine when you recall that George W. Bush told Pope Benedict XVI just today that Iraqi Christians would be protected in the months and years to come of our occupation, courtesy of their wonderful new constitution. “I assured him we were working hard to make sure that people lived up to the constitution -- that modern constitution voted on by the people from different walks of life and different attitudes.”

What Bush didn’t go on to tell the Pontiff, I’m sure, was how we’d go about doing that, which would be through a shadow mercenary military known as the Knights of Malta that had been the Praetorian Guard of Paul Bremer back when he was completely fucking up Iraq from the Emerald City.

According to back in April of 2004:
With a now public profile, and growing congressional scrutiny, Blackwater reportedly hired Alexander Strategy Group, one of the more influential lobbying firms, just days after the contractors' deaths. Alexander is run by Tom DeLay's former chief of staff, Ed Buckham, and also employed DeLay's wife, Christine.

The people on Prince’s payroll reads like a Who’s Who of Republican operatives most comfortable in the generous shadows provided by our lazy mainstream media: Like Cofer Black, for instance, former chief of CIA counterterrorism. And if anyone presents a danger to them, such as Joseph Schmitz—the former Pentagon Inspector General whose job it was to investigate outfits like Blackwater USA, they buy them off by giving them lucrative positions in the private sector.

Erik Prince is, simply put, one of the most dangerous men in this country and ought to be given at least half the media scrutiny that we’ve seen just in the past two days given to his fellow heir Paris Hilton, someone who only endangered people, not slaughtered hundreds. We have a stake in exposing this madman for what he is because, through George Bush’s no-bid largesse, is being enriched and empowered through your tax dollars.

There's more: "A Machiavellian Prince" >>

Friday, June 8, 2007

A Radical Notion Worth Considering...

Dr. Steven Metz, Chairman of the Regional Strategy and Planning Department and Research Professor of National Security Affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute has a radical idea on how we can deal with the Iraqi insurgency that is claiming ~30 American GI’s per week. Stop fighting insurgents and propping up an inherently weak government; and instead concentrate on peacekeeping and neutral mediation.

As is my wont, I read the report. The entire thing is worth reading, but it is 77 pages, and realistically, I know most of you won’t download the .pdf, so I have pulled the following passages:

On the nature of insurgency:

If, in fact, insurgency is not simply a variant of war, if the real threat is the deleterious effects of sustained conflict, and if it is part of systemic failure and pathology in which key elites and organizations develop a vested interest in sustaining the conflict, the objective of counterinsurgency support should not be simply strengthening the government so that it can impose its will more effectively on the insurgents, but systemic reengineering. This, in turn, implies that the most effective posture for outsiders is not to be an ally of the government and thus a sustainer of the flawed socio-political-economic system, but to be neutral mediators and peacekeepers (even when the outsiders have much more ideological affinity for the regime than for the insurgents). If this is true, the United States should only undertake counterinsurgency support in the most pressing instances and as part of an equitable, legitimate, and broad-based multinational coalition. (emphasis added) [introduction].

[Insurgency] arises when a group decides that the gap between their political expectations and the opportunities afforded them is unacceptable and can only be remedied by force. Insurgents avoid battlespaces where they are at a disadvantage—often the conventional military sphere—and focus on those where they can attain parity, particularly the psychological and the political. [p.1]

On rethinking the concepts of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency

It is less the chance of an insurgent victory which creates a friendly environment for transnational terrorism than persistent internal conflict shattering control and restraint in a state. During an insurgency, both the insurgents and the government focus on each other, necessarily leaving parts of the country with minimal security and control. Transnational terrorists exploit this. And protracted insurgency creates a general disregard for law and order. Organized crime and corruption blossom. Much of the population loses its natural aversion to violence. Thus a society brutalized and wounded by a protracted insurgency is more likely to spawn a variety of evils, spewing violent individuals into the world long after the conflict ends. [p. 9]


This means insurgency is no longer a “stand alone” conflict; it is “nested” within deeper and broader struggles. It is still about power (as it was during the Cold War), but it is also about economics, services, and social identity. The other dimensions of the conflict and the other participants both effect the insurgency and are affected by it. Simply asking states to exert or re-exert control over increasingly uncontrolled spaces is inadequate. [p.12]

On rethinking power structures

The profusion and diffusion of information alters this (at least to some degree) by amplifying the effects of psychological operations, whether violent or nonviolent, and in part by changing the power asymmetry between insurgencies and the state. When power was strictly a factor of tangible resources like money and troops, the state held a distinct advantage. But as information becomes power (or generates power), the asymmetry between states and other organizations declines. A decentralized, networked structure allows even small insurgencies to accumulate and use information-based power (such as terrorism) and thus remain viable. And with the decline of state sponsorship, violent groups like insurgencies must be self-financing. Globalization and the information revolution provide the means to do so. As Karen Ballentine and Jake Sherman phrase it, “rapid economic globalization and the replacement of state-led economic development by market-driven free trade have created new and abundant opportunities for more systematic forms of combatant self-financing.” A decentralized network is better able to capitalize on shifting economic opportunities than a hierarchical one (although less able to harness the funds accumulated for the attainment of overarching objectives). [p.13]


Decentralized, networked insurgencies without an overt state sponsor have a limited ability to undertake conventional military operations (or other complex activities which require extensive coordination). This is one more factor leading to a greater reliance on terrorism. It is both necessary and effective. Information profusion and the availability of diverse means of communication amplify the psychological effects of terrorism. In terrorism, it matters less how many people were killed than how many people know of and are influenced by the deaths. The terrorism of contemporary insurgents is thus designed to influence both a proximate audience and a distant one. [p.14] (emphasis added)

On Rethinking Social Dynamics of Conflict

That contemporary insurgents emulate corporations in a hyper competitive (and violent) market shapes their operational methods. Specifically, insurgents gravitate toward operational methods which maximize desired effects while minimizing the costs and risks. This, in conjunction with the profusion of information, the absence of state sponsors providing conventional military material, and the transparency of the operating environment, has increased the role terrorism plays for insurgents. Insurgents have always used terrorism. But one of the characteristics of this quintessentially psychological method of violence is that its effect is limited to those who know of it. When, for instance, the Viet Cong killed a local political leader, it might have had the desired psychological effect on people in the region, but did little to shape the beliefs, perceptions, or morale of those living far away. Today, information technology amplifies the psychological effects of a terrorist incident by publicizing it to a much wider audience. This includes both satellite, 24-hour media coverage, and, more importantly, the Internet which, Gordon McCormick and Frank Giordano note, “has made symbolic violence a more powerful instrument of insurgent mobilisation than at any time in the past.” [p.48]

Rethinking Counterinsurgency

At the strategic level, the risk to the United States is not that insurgents will “win” in the traditional sense, take over their country, and shift it from a partner to an enemy. It is that complex internal conflicts, especially ones involving insurgency, will generate other adverse effects: the destabilization of regions, resource flows, and markets; the blossoming of transnational crime; humanitarian disasters; transnational terrorism; and so forth. Given this, the U.S. goal should not automatically be the defeat of the insurgents by the regime (which may be impossible, particularly when the partner regime is only half-heartedly committed to it), but the rapid resolution of the conflict. In other words, a quick and sustainable outcome which integrates most of the insurgents into the national power structure is less damaging to U.S. national interests than a protracted conflict which leads to the complete destruction of the insurgents. Protracted conflict, not insurgent victory, is the threat. [p.50]


In cases where a serious insurgency cannot be managed, the state and its supporters might consider an approach designed to deliberately encourage the insurgency to mutate into something less dangerous such as an organized criminal organization. This is never desirable, but there may be rare instances where organized crime is less of a threat than sustained insurgency. Call this strategic methadone. [p.52]

What Dr. Metz proposes is a radical new approach to the way we think about counterinsurgency. Nothing like this is found anywhere in the current doctrine. However, the defense community must apply some new thinking to the problems at hand. No one ever got out of a jam by applying more of the same thinking that got you in trouble in the first damned place. Stubbornly continuing to fight the last war, even though it is obvious that it isn’t working, is not the kind of thinking we need right now.

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

There's more: "A Radical Notion Worth Considering..." >>

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Coming up: One Iraqi parliament binding resolution to get us out

Prime Minister Maliki could be a dead man - literally, not figuratively - if he vetoes this.

While most observers are focused on the U.S. Congress as it continues to issue new rubber stamps to legitimize Bush's permanent designs on Iraq, nationalists in the Iraqi parliament - now representing a majority of the body - continue to make progress toward bringing an end to their country's occupation.

The parliament today [June 5] passed a binding resolution that will guarantee lawmakers an opportunity to block the extension of the U.N. mandate under which coalition troops now remain in Iraq when it comes up for renewal in December. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose cabinet is dominated by Iraqi separatists, may veto the measure.

The law requires the parliament's approval of any future extensions of the mandate, which have previously been made by Iraq's prime minister. It is an enormous development; lawmakers reached in Baghdad today said that they do in fact plan on blocking the extension of the coalition's mandate when it comes up for renewal six months from now.

Reached today by phone in Baghdad, Nassar al Rubaie, the head of Al-Sadr bloc in Iraq's Council of Representatives, said, “This new binding resolution will prevent the government from renewing the U.N. mandate without the parliament's permission. They'll need to come back to us by the end of the year, and we will definitely refuse to extend the U.N. mandate without conditions.” Rubaie added: “There will be no such a thing as a blank check for renewing the U.N. mandate anymore, any renewal will be attached to a timetable for a complete withdrawal.”

Without the cover of the U.N. mandate, the continued presence of coalition troops in Iraq would become, in law as in fact, an armed occupation, at which point it would no longer be politically tenable to support it. While polls show that most Iraqis consider U.S. forces to be occupiers rather than liberators or peacekeepers - 92 percent of respondents said as much in a 2004 survey by the Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies - the U.N. mandate confers an aura of legitimacy on the continuing presence of foreign troops on Iraq's streets, even four years after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

It's more than about time. Now, how will Bush react? What lies and even self-deceptions will he spin?

I'm sure we'll see plenty of something.

And, what about Maliki? The article notes that parliament feels compelled to do this because the last time it came up for renewal, he sidestepped parliament and directly called the UN for reauthorization.

Cross-posted at Socratic Gadfly.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Iraqis Have A Word: "Sahel"

Excerpts from:
Iraq’s Curse: A Thirst for Final, Crushing Victory
By Edward Wong, NYT, June 03, 2007

PERHAPS no fact is more revealing about Iraq’s history than this: The Iraqis have a word that means to utterly defeat and humiliate someone by dragging his corpse through the streets.
Listen to Iraqis engaged in the fight, and you realize they are far from exhausted by the war. Many say this is only the beginning.
It was at the site of that ancient bloodletting, Karbala, that I twice witnessed the intense Shiite ache for righteousness and triumph. In early 2004, thousands of young fighters in the Mahdi Army, the militia of the nationalist Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, fought and died in a fevered uprising against the Americans. Last March, the same zealotry showed in a different way, as millions of Shiite pilgrims marched to Karbala's shrines to commemorate the death of Hussein. They went despite relentless attacks by Sunni Arab suicide bombers. To them, it was all part of the unending war.

"No country in the world is fighting such terrorism," said Adel Abdul Mehdi, an Iraqi vice president and leader in the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, a powerful Shiite party, on the day he made his pilgrimage. "Every time we give more martyrs, we are more determined. This is a big battle, there is no such battle in the world."

The Shiites have waited centuries for their moment on the throne, and the war is something they are willing to tolerate as the price for taking power, said the Iraqi leader who had invited me to dinner in the Green Zone. "The Shia say this is not exceptional for them, this is normal," he said.

The belief of the Shiites that they must consolidate power through force of arms is tethered to ever-present suspicions of an impending betrayal by the Americans. Though the Americans have helped institute the representative system of government that the Shiites now dominate, they have failed to eliminate memories of how the first President Bush allowed Saddam Hussein to slaughter rebelling Shiites in 1991. Shiite leaders are all too aware, as well, of America's hostility toward Iran, the seat of Shiite power, and of its close alliances with Sunni Arab nations, especially Saudi Arabia.
"No country in the world is fighting such terrorism," - Mehdi is not talking here about what Bush would refer to as terrorists.

He is talking about Americans and Sunnis.

There's more: "The Iraqis Have A Word: "Sahel"" >>

A War Worth Killing For. A Dream Worth Others Dying For.

OK, OK, scootch on over and sit around Uncle JP’s feet because he’s about to admit something that he’s perhaps never confessed to in his two decades of life. (I’ve never confessed, even, to occasionally lying about my age.) I can never see The Horsemen without thinking of the terrorist bomb threat I’d egged my friend to make that cleared an entire military base.

It’s one of John Frankenheimer’s lesser-known efforts that starred Omar Sharif, Leigh Taylor-Young and the late Jack Palance although it’ll prove to be timely and remarkably prescient if you stay with me. But back to our terrorist plot.

Back in 1971, my friend Ganz and I must’ve been really bored so Ganz thought it would be really cool if we phoned in a bomb threat to Headquarters of San Vito Air Base in Italy. Lesson #1: If you ever feel compelled to do this in the future, make sure that you don’t actually do it from the base itself, as we did.

Well, despite the fact that neither of our voices had broken, yet (we were 11-12), Ganz must’ve done a creditable job of sounding like an adult while he said, “There’s a bomb on base” before hanging up. Far from trying to talk him out of it, I was just as curious as he was what the result would be.

Well, alarms and sirens didn’t exactly go off immediately, so I suggested going to the movie theater next door (which, on reflection, would’ve been a far better way to amuse ourselves than our original idea). So Ganz hung up the phone and we sauntered on over to the theater.

Well, we got through about half of The Horsemen when the AP’s (Air Police) walked in with flashlights and immediately made us. As they were asking us to come with them, it amazed me that they were somehow able to connect the phone call with us, especially since we were a whole fifty yards or so from the pay phone at the cafeteria next door.

It never occurred to us that they then had the technology to trace the crank call back to the very pay phone used to make it, that they could canvas the immediate area, get descriptions of the two little boys who were last seen using this very public pay phone and even that the helpful citizens would point the way to where they were last seen going. “Yes, sir. One was black and heavy-set, the other was white and they’re probably sitting together in the single theater even as we speak.”

Likewise, it had never occurred to either of us that the entire base would be in lockdown because they had to take even this amateurish threat seriously, that there would be men with automatic weapons sweeping across the base, that Headquarters would be evacuated and that my Dad, who worked there, would’ve been one of the last people out since it was his job to see to a safe evacuation.

All over one little phone call. Fancy that.

So they brought us back to what passed for police headquarters and grilled us in separate rooms. They tried every dirty trick in the book. Good cop/Bad cop. They tried pitting us against one another and even plying us with ice cream, those bastards. They just wanted to know one thing: Did you help him or did you make the call?

“What made you think I had anything to do with it?” I asked in my most choirly voice. Well, you’re here, aren’t you? You were seen with this boy while the call was being made. So, were you helping him?

“Me? Pshaw! Balderdash,” I said, “I… I was trying to talk him out of it.”

And I clung to that fucking story like a Republican to a hedge fund because Lesson #2, as Jean Shepherd tells us in A Christmas Story, just because grownups tell you that honesty is the best policy don’t make it so. Every kid since the Iron Age knows that not owning up to a fuckup, especially since your admission is the only way they could pin it on you, is always the actual best policy.

“Well, Ganz is saying that you were trying to help him by giving him the right number.”

That fat little bastard! Rolling over on me, eh? “No, no, I was trying to talk him out of it.” Actually, the only smart thing I did was to make sure my voice wasn’t recorded while Ganz was making his boneheaded threat.

In the end, they had no choice but to let me go. Ganz remained behind. I can only imagine the hiding Ganz got from his old man later on that night (think of Schwartz getting it from his old lady for teaching poor innocent Ralphie the “F” word). In fact, come to think of it, I don’t recall seeing Ganz at school the next day. Perhaps it was due to his sudden inability to sit.

Anyway, that’s not the end of the story: There’s the audacious postscript:

After I left Air Police headquarters, I marched straight to the movie theater, walked up to the window and actually said to the guy behind the glass (No shit, I'm not making this up), “Hey, you remember the bomb threat earlier today? Well, I was a witness to it and I had to leave in the middle of the movie to help the police. So can you see your way clear to letting me in so I can see it again?”

Yes, I loved movies that much and still do. In the space of a couple of hours, I had gone from terrorist accomplice and perpetrator to victim to hero without skipping a beat.

Sort of like the way George Bush made the identical transformation with astonishing rapidity from September 11th on. It had never occurred to me that not only did I not have the right to see the movie again, I also forfeited the right to have skin remaining on my young behind for being complicit in a prank that diverted precious resources, needlessly scared the bejeebers out of perhaps thousands, including the base commander himself. But, oh, I didn’t actually make the phone call, I didn’t intend on creating so much havoc. Oh, and can you throw in a free popcorn with that?

And parenthood had taught me the difference between the juvenile mind and the mature one: Juveniles think that punishment ought to be apportioned according to intent rather than on breaking the letter of the law. “Oh, I never intended on using that switchblade and loaded gun that I brought into school so can’t we just forget it ever happened?”

George W. Bush, whose murderously fumbling derring-don’t in Iraq and Afghanistan is perfectly symbolized by the very movie I’d been watching in that theater 36 years ago, proves this with perfect certitude. It doesn’t matter that he got all his facts wrong, that things are going south in both countries, that thousands are dying for his messianic dreams of being the Lawrence of Arabia of the 21st century. He meant well.

Now, every dime store psychologist from Maureen Dowd to liberal bloggers have made inevitable and slam-dunk cases about Georgie’s neverending attempts to cockwand with his father’s failed presidential legacy. The Horsemen, which takes place in Afghanistan (including Bagram and the capital, Kabul), is all about a young man’s attempt to prove himself a better horseman than his father. If you’ve ever seen this movie or Rambo III, you’d be aware of an equestrian game called Buskashi in which men ride around with the headless body of a goat and try to drop it into “the circle of justice.”

Bush not only is failing to live up to even his father’s tepid presidential legacy, his own horsemanship, he seems to be avoiding the circle of justice at all costs. The result is brainless, deranged optimism in the face of incontrovertible facts. Increased anonymous Iraqi corpses dug up? Success with the surge! Escalating troop casualties? We got them right where we want them, which is there and not here (again).

And any and all truly unavoidable failures, like bombs going off in the Iraqi parliament’s cafeteria and mortars landing within a hundred yards of where the Iraqi Prime Minister and the new Secretary General of the UN were meeting is the fault of the Iraqi people themselves.

No, it wasn’t me needlessly ratcheting up the terror level, it was someone else. Gee, I’m sorry that things are less than perfect but that’s someone else’s fault.

I had the best of intentions, after all.

Can you throw in a Good-n-Plenty and an extra hundred billion with no strings attached, while you’re at it?

There's more: "A War Worth Killing For. A Dream Worth Others Dying For." >>

Will Bush Pardon Libby?

Can George W. Bush preemptively pardon himself by pardoning Libby?

It looks like he'll have to. Scooter Libby is one of those guys the old joke "We have to kill him - he knows too much" was the perfect description of. But Libby is too well known. Taking him out would be too obvious. So he has to be taken care of or his former bosses might have a vacation they'd rather not have.

A president who tries to void laws he doesn't like by encumbering them with "signing statements" and who regards the Geneva Conventions as a nonbinding technicality isn't going to start playing by the rules now. His assertion last week that he is "pretty much going to stay out of" the Libby case is as credible as his pre-election vote of confidence in Donald Rumsfeld. The only real question about the pardon is whether Mr. Bush cares enough about his fellow Republicans' political fortunes to delay it until after Election Day 2008.

Either way, the pardon is a must for Mr. Bush. He needs Mr. Libby to keep his mouth shut. Cheney's Cheney knows too much about covert administration schemes far darker than the smearing of Joseph Wilson.
Ever since all the W.M.D. claims proved false, the administration has pleaded that it was duped by the same bad intelligence everyone else saw. But the nuclear card, the most persistent and gripping weapon in the prewar propaganda arsenal, was this White House's own special contrivance. Mr. Libby was present at its creation. He knows what Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney knew about the manufacture of this fiction and when they knew it.

Clearly they knew it early on. The administration’s guilt (or at least embarrassment) about its lies in fomenting the war quickly drove it to hide the human price being paid for those lies.
From Edgeing: Omertà: Taking Care Of Business? Or Burning The Bush?

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Scooter Libby: A Damned Lucky Man

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former White House Aide and Chief of Staff to VP Dick Cheney, has been sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined $250,000 by Judge Walton.

On March 08 William Rivers Pitt of truthout posted the following editorial:

Lucky Libby
By William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t, March 08, 2007

Mr. Libby is a damned lucky man.

The acts he was convicted of - perjury, false statements and obstruction - were crimes in themselves, to be sure, but were crimes committed to cover up, obscure and bury the truly serious crimes that got this ball rolling in the first place. In short, he was convicted for the cover-up of the actual crimes.

In a nation that prides itself on living by the rule of law, Mr. Libby should have been tried for treason.
Mr. Libby - along with Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, Stephen Hadley, Condi Rice and a slew of others - was an instrumental member of the cadre that sold the American people an outrageous raft of lies regarding the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
The lies promulgated by Mr. Libby led directly to the deaths of 3,185 American soldiers and the wounding of between 47,000 and 53,000 more soldiers. This amounts to between a third and a fourth of the entire active combat force of the United States military.

The lies promulgated by Mr. Libby led directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, the maiming of thousands more, and the creation of a sectarian civil war in that nation whose effects will be generational in impact.
Mr. Libby's lies helped get a lot of people killed, helped undermine our ability to defend ourselves against the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and helped midwife a war that cuts us all to the quick with every passing day. If that isn't treason, then treason simply does not exist as an actionable criminal act.
Thank you, Mr. Pitt. Libby is a damned lucky man, indeed. And his employers are damned men, in my opinion and the opinion of most Americans, and in the opinion of most of the rest of the world.

Cross posted at Edgeing

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No Pleasing Some People

Via Glenn Greenwald, I happened across this interview with Tony Blair which ran in The Sunday Times of London. Like the good neocon, Blair proves very myopic to any problems created by his war.

I was stopped by someone the other week who said it was not surprising there was so much terrorism in the world when we invaded their countries (meaning Afghanistan and Iraq). No wonder Muslims felt angry.

When he had finished, I said to him: tell me exactly what they feel angry about. We remove two utterly brutal and dictatorial regimes; we replace them with a United Nations-supervised democratic process and the Muslims in both countries get the chance to vote, which incidentally they take in very large numbers. And the only reason it is difficult still is because other Muslims are using terrorism to try to destroy the fledgling democracy and, in doing so, are killing fellow Muslims.

What's more, British troops are risking their lives trying to prevent the killing. Why should anyone feel angry about us?

Why indeed, Tony. The Syrian sex industry has much for which to thank us.

Back home in Iraq, Umm Hiba’s daughter was a devout schoolgirl, modest in her dress and serious about her studies. Hiba, who is now 16, wore the hijab, or Islamic head scarf, and rose early each day to say the dawn prayer before classes.

But that was before militias began threatening their Baghdad neighborhood and Umm Hiba and her daughter fled to Syria last spring. There were no jobs, and Umm Hiba’s elderly father developed complications related to his diabetes.

Desperate, Umm Hiba followed the advice of an Iraqi acquaintance and took her daughter to work at a nightclub along a highway known for prostitution. “We Iraqis used to be a proud people,” she said over the frantic blare of the club’s speakers. She pointed out her daughter, dancing among about two dozen other girls on the stage, wearing a pink silk dress with spaghetti straps, her frail shoulders bathed in colored light.

As Umm Hiba watched, a middle-aged man climbed onto the platform and began to dance jerkily, arms flailing, among the girls.

“During the war we lost everything,” she said. “We even lost our honor.” She insisted on being identified by only part of her name — Umm Hiba means mother of Hiba.

Though it is uncommon, especially for a Muslim nation, for a government to acknowledge such problems as rampant illegal prostitution, Syria has opened a dialogue, both to highlight the problem and to gain assistance.

For more than three years after the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iraqi prostitution in Syria, like any prostitution, was a forbidden topic for Syria’s government. Like drug abuse, the sex trade tends to be referred to in the local news media as acts against public decency. But Dietrun Günther, an official at the United Nations refugee agency’s Damascus office, said the government was finally breaking its silence.

“We’re especially concerned that there are young girls involved, and that they’re being forced, even smuggled into Syria in some cases,” Ms. Günther said. “We’ve had special talks with the Syrian government about prostitution.” She called the officials’ new openness “a great step.”

Greenwald admits it “never ceases to amaze how such basic truth eludes people like Blair, who argues, in essence, that Iraqis ought to be grateful for all the opportunities the invasion and occupation has brought them.”

In general, human beings do not appreciate it when foreign armies invade their nation, shatter its infrastructure, drop bombs throughout the country, kill tens of thousands of civilians, unleash anarchy and chaos, and then proceed to occupy the country with a force of 150,000 foreign soldiers. And that is true even if a genuine monster like Saddam Hussein is removed from power and killed in the process.

No matter how well-intentioned the invaders might think they are -- indeed, no matter how well-intentioned the invaders actually might be -- that behavior is going to engender anger and resentment among the invaded populace, not to mention the rest of the world, and that resentment is going to increase as the brutality and duration (and ineptitude) of the occupation increases.

And all of that is to say nothing of the extremely precarious notion that Muslims perceive that the aim of the invasion is to bequeath to the Muslim world what George Bush calls "the Almighty God's gift to every man, woman and child": freedom and democracy. Does Blair think that people in the Muslim world don't see or understand the meaning of images such as [these]:



“Our closest Middle Eastern allies are some of the most repressive tyrants on the planet,” a fact which has not gone unnoticed by the trod-upon Iraqi expats in Syria.

Inexpensive Iraqi prostitutes have helped to make Syria a popular destination for sex tourists from wealthier countries in the Middle East. In the club’s parking lot, nearly half of the cars had Saudi license plates.

From Damascus it is only about six hours by car, passing through Jordan, to the Saudi border. Syria, where it is relatively easy to buy alcohol and dance with women, is popular as a low-cost weekend destination for groups of Saudi men.

“Do you think we’re happy that these men from the gulf are seeing our daughters’ naked bodies?” [said Umm Hiba.]

Blair suffers from the same delusions as Bush, Cheney and so many of the necons who were the architects of this war. Blowback simply is not a concept to which they subscribe, no matter how many times they are proven wrong. We continue to sow seeds of future hatred, thanks to the neocons war, which has been anything but “God’s gift” to Iraq.

Cross posted at Welcome to the Revolution & Watching Those We Chose

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Monday, June 4, 2007

Iraq: The Handwriting On The Wall - Whose Surge?

On Sunday June 03 the NYT reported that:

Three months after the start of the Baghdad security plan that has added thousands of American and Iraqi troops to the capital, they control fewer than one-third of the city’s neighborhoods, far short of the initial goal for the operation, according to some commanders and an internal military assessment.

. . . In an interview, [General Vincent Brooks] said that while military planners had expected to make greater gains by now, that has not been possible in large part because Iraqi police and army units, which were expected to handle basic security tasks, like manning checkpoints and conducting patrols, have not provided all the forces promised, and in some cases have performed poorly.
This morning, Monday June 04 The Herald reported that:
The toll from the booby-trap devices rose from 35% of all American fatalities in January to 80% last month, despite an outlay of more than £2.5bn on countermeasures since 2003.

Now commanders are questioning the effectiveness of spending huge sums on electronic jammers, extra vehicle armour and research teams while their soldiers continue to die in ever larger numbers.

A total of 127 died in May, the third worst total for US forces since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The previous most lethal months were April and November, 2004, when 135 and 137 soldiers died in large-scale offensives in Falluja.

One officer told the Herald: "The instinctive US response is always to look for a technological solution. The only things which will solve this are better intelligence targeting the guys who design and lay the bombs and winning the support of the locals to undermine the insurgents' power base."

The Pentagon, which admits that "improvised explosive devices" - IEDs - are its single biggest problem, said it intended to spend another £2bn this year to fund experimental countermeasures.
Rescue missions by road and helicopter to bomb attack sites are themselves coming under carefully-planned attacks.

The tactics mimic those used by the IRA against British troops in Northern Ireland, where a second booby-trap was often laid after a first had gone off to catch troops sealing off the area in what became known as a "come-on" ambush.
In Iraq:
...(80%) say they want foreign forces to leave within a year (72% of Shias in the rest of the country), according to a poll conducted by World Public Opinion in September. None of the Shias polled in Baghdad want U.S.-led troops to be reduced only "as the security situation improves," a sharp decline from January, when 57 percent of the Shias polled by WPO in the capital city preferred an open-ended U.S presence.

This brings Baghdad Shias in line with the rest of the country. Seven out of ten Iraqis overall--including both the Shia majority (74%) and the Sunni minority (91%)--say they want the United States to leave within a year.
"What's most troubling is that the United States is not only seen in a negative light but as an enemy," ... "When asked to name the two countries that pose the greatest threat, the vast majority, about 80 percent, name the United States and Israel."
The WPO Poll was taken in September 2006. The situation has only deteriorated since.

Who, exactly, is doing the 'surging'?

On April 08, 2007:
[Iraqi cleric] Muqtada al-Sadr urged the Iraqi army and police to stop cooperating with the United States and told his guerrilla fighters to concentrate on pushing American forces out of the country, according to a statement issued Sunday. The statement, stamped with al-Sadr's official seal, was distributed in the Shiite holy city of Najaf on Sunday -- a day before a large demonstration there, called for by al-Sadr, to mark the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. "You, the Iraqi army and police forces, don't walk alongside the occupiers, because they are your archenemy," the statement said.
Up till April this year al-Sadr had been telling his people to restrain from open battle with US Troops.

Iraqis will never quit. Iraqis want exactly what most Americans want... they want their own country - without a foreign occupying army. They don't want 'help' from US Troops - they want them gone, or dead.

They also want the Iraq puppet government gone, or dead:
"More than half the MPs, ministers and senior officials are on vacation, sick leave or on official assignment abroad (at any given time)," a government official told IPS on condition of anonymity. "It is common practice now that they spend more time abroad than in their offices. The main reason is their fear of being targeted inside the country "... Over the past year, an increasing number of Iraqis have begun to see the Iraqi government as no more than pawns of the United States: International Press Service

Let's get something straight ~ there is no effective Iraqi government. Most of its leaders, including President Talabani, have garnered their loot and are heading for far away places knowing that they are marked men outside the protection of the infamous Green Zone ~ which is becoming increasingly vulnerable.

With up to 20 to 30 Rocket attacks daily in the Green Zone ~ the handwriting is on the wall ~ despite Bush's face saving Surge, the country is doomed and " Iraq appears to have gone back to a time when tribal leaders and clerics were the only powers that could solve some of their problems."
No one, no one, is pleased that people, US troops and Iraqis, are dying because George Bush is homicidal enough to try to buy himself enough time to end his term without facing reality.

It is time for the Democratic Leadership to stand up, show that they have some principles, and time for them to do what they were elected last November to do.

It is time for the Democratic Leadership to stop funding George W. Bush's Iraq and Mid-East Debacle, return control of Iraq to Iraqis, and bring US Troops home, alive, to their families.

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