Saturday, July 14, 2007

Taking a step to right a wrong

There is a travesty occurring in our midst, and my Senators are doing something about it.

Yesterday, Missouri Senators Christopher (Kit) Bond and Claire McCaskill joined forces to sponsor an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008 that would temporarily suspend the Pentagon’s use of Regulation 635-200, Chapter 5-13: “Separation Because of Personality Disorder” discharge for combat veterans, pending a thorough and comprehensive review of the current procedures and the establishment of an independent discharge review board. They were joined by additional co-sponsors Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray.

Senator Bond was the only Republican to sign on, and this Missourian gives him a standing ovation for putting sound policy and the welfare of those who step up to serve ahead of politics.

"Abuse of personality disorder discharges is inexcusable. This amendment will put a stop to these discharges until we can fix the system," said Senator Bond. "The men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedom have earned a debt of gratitude from all Americans that we will never be able to pay in full. The very least we can do is take care of their battle wounds, whether physical or mental, and ensure they receive the treatment and benefits they deserve."

The abuse of the 5-13 is especially insidious, because it is being used to deny combat veterans the benefits and care we owe them. A Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine discharged under Regulation 635-200, Chapter 5-13 stands to lose all benefits. They can not collect disability pay; even for life-altering injuries sustained in combat; nor are they entitled to medical care through the VA for those very combat injuries.

In a prepared statement, Senator McCaskill said “We have no greater obligation to those who serve our country in the Armed Services than to ensure they get the care they’ve been promised. We cannot stand tall and proud as Americans if we allow one single service member to go without the benefits they deserve due to a misdiagnosis. Far too many combat troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are returning with mental health injuries that bear the potential for misdiagnosis, and we need to do all we can to prevent that from occurring.”

(Click to enlarge)

The use of the 5-13 has skyrocketed in recent years, rising precipitously as the occupation of Iraq takes its toll. G.I.’s who are seriously affected by PTSD and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) the signature injury of this conflict, have been discharged from service under the 5-13, which implies a pre-existing condition – even when they have received service commendations, been allowed to reenlist, and received reenlistment bonuses – only to find out when they are out-processing that they will have to repay thousands of dollars of their reenlistment bonuses. The bonuses carry with them a commitment to serve the entire enlistment. If it is not served, they leave with no benefits, no care for their injuries, and in debt for the portion of their bonus that the military paid and did not get service for.

I could go on for pages. I really could. I have. (See here, here, here, here, and here) But if a picture is worth a thousand words, the video of those who have been screwed over by this sickening scam should be worth a thousand calls to the Senate switchboard. Here is the number (202) 225-3121.

After serving honorably and going to war, they are simply thrown away.

Makes you proud to be an American, doesn’t it?

There's more: "Taking a step to right a wrong" >>

Inside The Surge

Hat Tip to MilitaryTracy commenting at TalkLeft for this one.

Video: Inside the surge

The Guardian's award-winning photographer and filmmaker Sean Smith spent two months embedded with US troops in Baghdad and Anbar province. His harrowing documentary exposes the exhaustion and disillusionment of the soldiers.

These thousands of patrols regularly turn into thousands of Iraqi deaths because these patrols are not the "walk in the sun" that they appear to be in our mind's eye. Actually, as independent journalist Nir Rosen described vividly and agonizingly in his indispensable book, In the Belly of the Green Bird, they involve a kind of energetic brutality that is only occasionally reported by an embedded American mainstream journalist.

This brutality is all very logical, once we understand the purpose and process of these patrols. American soldiers and marines are sent into hostile communities where virtually the entire population is supports the insurgency. They often have a list of suspects' addresses; and their job is to interrorgate or arrest or kill the suspect; and search the house for incriminating evidence, particularly arms and ammunition, but also literature, video equipment, and other items that the insurgency depends upon for its political and military activities. When they don't have lists of suspects, they conduct "house-to-house" searches, looking for suspicious behavior, individuals or evidence.

In this context, any fighting age man is not just a suspect, but a potentially lethal adversary. Our soldiers are told not to take any chances: in many instances, for example, knocking on doors could invite gunshots through the doors. Their instructions are therefore to use the element of surprise whenever the situation appears to be dangerous--to break down doors, shoot at anything suspicious, and throw grenades into rooms or homes where there is any chance of resistance. If they encounter tangible resistance, they can call in artillery and/or air power rather than try to invade a building.
If they encounter no resistance, these patrols can track down 30 or so suspects, or inspect several dozen homes, in a days work. That is, our 1000 or so patrols can invade 30,000 homes in a single day. But if an IED explodes under their Humvee or a sniper shoots at them from nearby, then their job is transformed into finding, capturing, or killing the perpetrator of the attack. Iraqi insurgents often set off IEDs and invite these firefights, in order to stall the patrols prevent the soldiers from forcibly entering 30 or so homes, violently accosting their residents, and perhaps beating, arresting, or simply humiliating the residents.

[Cross-posted at Edgeing]

There's more: "Inside The Surge" >>

Republicans Panicking Because the Greatest Heist the World Has Ever Seen is Failing

It strikes me as I listen to the ongoing debate about Iraq that the Republicans are so split because they are beginning to realize that the Greatest Heist the World has Ever Seen is failing. And it scares them spit-less, as no operation of this size has ever been pulled off, and the American people are unwilling to any longer play the willing sheep to the Big Bad Wolf that is the GOP.

The sheer logistics involved, the numbers of people who had to be either corrupted or shut up, the stealing of billions and billions of dollars from hapless Americans in order to strike the jackpot of the old, "Black gold, Texas tea," and steal from the Middle Eastern countries control of all their oil fields is staggering to the mind.

As I see it (and this is admittedly pure speculation, but speculations drawn from reasonable inferences) the plan went something like this:

From the very moment bush/cheney were put into office by the Supreme Court they began planning to attack Iraq. On an otherwise unmarked map of Iraq, cheney and his consultants on his "Energy" task force literally divided the spoils of the war that was to be and broke up the distribution rights to all that Iraqi oil. The only thing the maladministration lacked was a casus belli to attack Iraq, and we already know that bush was so desperate to get his end of the plan going that he deliberately tried to provoke Iraq into an attack on American or UN resources to justify war.

Then September 11, 2001, happened. 14 Saudi Arabians and a few others hijacked commercial airliners, flew them into the WTC, and, manna from heaven, now bush could obtain virtually any authority to form any response he thought necessary. Did he think it necessary to attack those who attacked us, the Saudis who ostensibly were allies, or, knowing it would be impossible to attack the world's leading gas station, did bush/cheney decide it was more important to manufacture an enemy in closer proximity to the Iraqi oil fields? It had to be an country adjacent to Iraq for logistical purposes, Osama Bin Laden played the convenient villain, and Afghanistan was already such a war-torn, run-down, and easy country to attack that it filled bush/cheney's original purposes perfectly. (They made very sure that all the rest of the Bin Laden family, many of them in business with the Bush family, got out of the country safely when no one else in America could fly anywhere.)

Afghanistan went much too well for bush/cheney, the boogey-man Bin laden became trapped at Tora Bora, and our forces were ordered to allow his escape so the "war on terror" could continue. After all, by then bush had ordered the diversion of funds meant for Afghanistan to the build-up towards the war he really wanted, war with Iraq.

The neocons, including bush, fancied that they could dispense with plans many years in the making by our military experts and believed they could blast in with "shock and awe," install a puppet government and grab command of the oil fields. The puppet government would be required to sign the Profit Sharing Agreements (PSAs) that would give American Big Oil 85%-87% of all oil profits for the next thirty years.

The plan was proceeding brilliantly, handing out no-bid contracts to cronies who in turn kicked back billions to the government "off the books," I would imagine, for how else could anyone steal billions and billions of dollars from the mightiest fighting force in the world without some complicity from those handing out wheelbarrows full of cash? Over ten billion dollars stolen! A very small down payment compared to the trillions of dollars of oil profits to be had.

Then something went seriously wrong. The insurgency wasn't it, because any competent military planner would plan for peace as well as war. Did competent people draw up this plan, ignoring the thousands of years of history, or was it the failure to be able to install an Iraqi-American government favorable to this entire endeavor that caused things to go awry? Or did the government we installed come to the realization of our intent to take their oil and decided to fight even harder against the U.S.? Why should they give away trillions of dollars, not a penny of which would be spent to benefit Iraq?

The only way the Iraqi's can seek to hold onto what rightfully belongs to them is to stall, harass, and harangue and continue their insurgency against the U.S.

Now time is running out with the American people, who have grown weary watching their loved ones die to satisfy bush's imperial goal of giving all that oil to American Big Oil. bush now regularly states that the oil agreement is the single-most important thing for Iraq to do. Now the parliament won't meet, vacations while our troops die, can't form a quorum, and failed to meet bush's deadline of June 30th for signing of the oil agreements.

This means that bush/cheney must get a new, more pliable government in place before the American public really rises up and forces troop withdrawal.

Then the failed plan will come to light. The greatest theft of money from our country in history so far, but a theft that will seem miniscule in comparison if bush/cheney manages to steal all that oil.

Until very recently bush never consulted the Democratic members of congress at all, so there is a good chance SOME congresspersons are not party to this grandiose scheme, but Republicans have been briefed every step of the way and I believe large numbers of the Republicans know exactly why we are in Iraq and support this theft on a global scale. That's why so many of them are running scared and trying to distance themselves from the Greatest Failed Robbery in History, for if my speculations here are true, there will be lots and lots of heads rolling for attempting the theft at all, plus tremendous public outrage at finding that this war was not for noble purposes, but was strictly a plan to steal what does not belong to us, killing many thousands of Americans and committing genocide against the Iraqi people in violation of everything for which America used to stand.

It's stealing. It's dying for stealing. It's killing in untold numbers to steal. It's causing incalculable damage to the world in general, and Iraq specifically, just to steal oil.

And meanwhile, China is circling the globe quietly purchasing every oil contract they can snap up, for a fraction of the cost in lives and treasure that the Greatest Attempted Heist in History will cost America.

Watch the Republicans squeal, twist, turn, and scream like a stuck pig as their continuing perfidy becomes clear to the world, they start turning on bush/cheney, and attempting to deny the role of the GOP and their own support for this failed theft.

Cross-posted from VidiotSpeak

There's more: "Republicans Panicking Because the Greatest Heist the World Has Ever Seen is Failing" >>

All-Righty Then

Sweet, I suppose our work there is done:

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Saturday that the Iraqi army and police are capable of keeping security in the country when American troops leave "any time they want," though he acknowledged the forces need further weapons and training.

Great, I guess we'll see withdrawal commence. Otherwise, Bush is a liar:

"[W]e'll keep our commitment" not to withdraw troops from the country until the new government is capable of defending itself.

Obviously, that time has come. Otherwise, al-Maliki is a liar. And if both Bush and al-Maliki are liars, then my whole world-view is trashed.

There's more: "All-Righty Then" >>

Friday, July 13, 2007

Keith Olbermann: All Hail the Prophetic Gut!

All Hail the Prophetic Gut!
Keith Olbermann, MSNBC Countdown, Thursday 12 July 2007 (via t r u t h o u t)

[Cross-posted @ Edgeing]

Explaining Michael Chertoff's counterterrorism stomach.

You have by now heard the remark - instantly added to our through-the-looking-glass lexicon of the 21st century, a time when we suddenly started referring to this country as "the homeland," as if anybody here has used that term since Charles Lindbergh or the German-American Bund in 1940.

Michael Chertoff's "gut feeling."

Which, he took pains to emphasize, was based on no specific nor even vague intelligence that we are entering a period of increased risk of terrorism here.

He got as specific as saying that al-Qaida seems to like the summer, but as to the rest of it, he is perfectly content to let us sit and wait and worry - and to contemplate his gut.

His gut!

We used to have John Ashcroft's major announcements.

We used to have David Paulison's breathless advisories about how to use duct tape against radiation attacks.

We used to have Tom Ridge's color-coded threat levels.

Now we have Michael Chertoff's gut!

Once, we thought we were tiptoeing along a Grand Canyon of possible and actual freedoms and civil liberties destroyed, as part of some kind of nauseating but ultimately necessary and intricately designed plan to stop future 9/11s or even future Glasgow car bombers who wind up having to get out and push their failed weapons.

Now it turns out we are risking all of our rights and protections - and risking the anger and hatred of the rest of the world - for the sake of Michael Chertoff's gut...>>

I have pondered this supreme expression of diminished expectations for parts of three days now. I have concluded that there are only five possible explanations for Mr. Chertoff's remarkable revelations about his transcendently important counterterrorism stomach.

Firstly, Mr. Chertoff, you are, as Richard Wolffe said here the other night, actually referencing not your gut but your backside - as in, "covering it." CYA.

Not only has there not been a terrorist attack stopped in this country, but your good old Homeland Security hasn't even unraveled a plausible terrorist plan.

And you and your folks there have a different kind of stomach pain, knowing that with a track record that consists largely of two accomplishments - inconveniencing people at airports and scaring them everywhere else - your department doesn't know what the hell it's doing, and even you, Mr. Chertoff, know it.

Secondly, of course, there is the explanation of choice for those millions of us who have heard the shrill and curiously timed cries of "wolf" over the past six years - what we've called here "the Nexus of Politics and Terror" - that there isn't anything cooking, and your "gut feeling" was actually that you'd better throw up a diversion soon on Mr. Bush's behalf or something real - like the Republicans' revolt about Iraq, and the nauseating "gut feeling" that we have gotten 3,611 Americans killed there for no reason - was actually going to seep into the American headlines and consciousness.

It's impossible to prove a negative, to guarantee that you and your predecessors deliberately scared the American public just for the political hell of it - even though your predecessor, Mr. Ridge, admitted he had his suspicions about exactly that.

Suffice to say, Mr. Chertoff: If it ever can be proved, there will be a lot of people from Homeland Security and other outposts of this remarkably corrupt administration who will be going to prison.

Thirdly - and most charitably, I guess, Mr. Chertoff - is the possibility that you have made some credible inference that we are really at greater risk right now but that any detail might blow some sort of attempt at interruption. There is some silver lining in this one.

But the silver lining would have been a greater one if this National Counter Terrorism Center Report hadn't leaked out the day after you introduced us to your gut, a report suggesting al-Qaida had re-built its operational capacity to pre-9/11 levels.

Not only did this latest hair-on-fire missive remind us that al-Qaida's re-growth has been along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border; not only did it remind us that your boss let this happen by shifting his resources out of Afghanistan to Iraq for his own vain and foolish purposes, to say nothing of ignoring Pakistan; not only did it underscore the ominous truth that if this country is victimized again by al-Qaida, the personal responsibility for the failure of our misplaced defenses would belong to President Bush and President Bush alone, but on top of all of it, Mr. Chertoff, it revealed you for the phony expert you are - the kid who hears in confidence something smart from somebody smart and then makes his prediction that what the smart kid said confidentially is about to happen.

It reads just as you revised the "gut" remark this morning, sir - the "informed opinion." The kid telling stories out of school.

The fourth possibility is a simple reversal of the third, Mr. Chertoff.

You shot off your bazoo, and then this National Counter Terrorism Center report was rushed out - even created - to cover you, to give you credibility, to cloud the reality that you actually intoned to the Chicago Tribune, the 21st-century equivalent of "by the pricking of my thumb, something wicked this way comes."

But the fifth possible explanation of your gut, Mr. Chertoff, is the real nightmare scenario.

And it is simple.

That you, the man who famously told us "Louisiana is a city that is largely under water," meant this literally.

That we really have been reduced to listening to see if your gut will growl.

That your intestines are our best defense.

That your bowels are our listening devices, your digestive tract is full of augurs, your colon produces the results that the torture at Gitmo does not.

All hail the prophetic gut!

So there are your choices: bureaucratic self-protection, political manipulation of the worst kind, the dropping of opaque hints, a gaffe backfilled by an "instant report," or the complete disintegration of our counterterror effort.

Even if there really is never another terror attempt in this country, we have already lost too much in these last six years to now have to listen to Michael Chertoff's gut, no matter what its motivation.

We cannot and will not turn this country into a police state.

But even those of us who say that most loudly and insistently acknowledge that some stricter measures, under the still-stricter supervision of as many watchdogs as we can summon, are appropriate.

But you're not even going to wring any of that from us, Mr. Chertoff, if we're going to hear remarks about your "gut feelings."

You have reduced yourself to the status of a hunch-driven clown, and it's probably time you turned your task over to somebody who represents the brain and not the gut, certainly to somebody who does not, as you do now, represent that other part of the anatomy - the one through which the body disposes of what the stomach doesn't want.

There's more: "Keith Olbermann: All Hail the Prophetic Gut!" >>


“It may be that US administrations would have been no less willing to release their bombs and missiles on white noncombatant populations (as was the case with Germany in World War II); but it can at least be said that, for the past half-century-plus, air power has functionally acted as an armed form of racism, that the sense of "their lives" as cheaper, even if seldom spoken aloud, has made it easier to use the helicopter, the bomber, the Hellfire-missile-armed Predator drone. The fact is that air war always cheapens human life. After all, from the heights, if seen at all, people must have something of the appearance of scurrying insects.” Tom Engelhardt

As you can see from the chart posted here – the number of US bombing runs are increasing in Iraq, and I can assure you, in Afghanistan too. This is causing a huge uproar in Afghanistan, particularly since the US and NATO bombing runs have killed more civilians than the Taliban have. That is murder, pure and simple. It is murder in Iraq also. It is amazing how, year after year, we keep hearing that the Iraqi forces are not able to “stand up” and protect their own country, yet the insurgents attacks continue and grow ever bolder. Those insurgents are Iraqis. They are defending their country.

I have often thought about what air strikes will do, beyond kill and injure people and destroy homes and businesses in the immediate area. I wonder about the underground water pipes and sewer pipes. It seems to me that these would be heavily damaged by bombing, and this would have an impact on areas far beyond the bombing range. This would result in serious public health issues also.

I just cannot imagine sitting in your home and hearing airplanes or drones dropping bombs around you. I think I would die from the stress and the fear, even if nothing hit me or my home. I cannot imagine digging through the rubble to see if anyone is still alive. I would like to be able to film the bombing raids and broadcast them to the world. I would like to make each and every person who ordered the bombing raid to sit and watch the aftermath of their work.

Some people here in the US think the insurgents and al Qaeda are BARBARIC because they will behead people and film it while they do their evil bloody deeds. And this is barbaric. But *IF I HAD A CHOICE* between being beheaded or having a bomb dropped on my neighborhood, I would choose the beheading. It would be less painful and frightening for me – and it damn sure would be better for the neighborhood.

The media here in the US, during the Iraq war and Afghanistan war, have long ignored the after effects of US bombings. This is not true of other media in other countries. They will often get film of the after effects of the bombings we have done and show them repeatedly. This is a huge moral and journalistic failure on the part of the US media not to show these events. It allows Americans to remain ignorant of the evil and the murder they are supporting. It allows Americans to somehow think they are less barbaric than other people, when the truth is exactly the opposite.

The so-called terrorists of this world have killed tens of thousands by now. But in Iraq alone, we have killed a million or more. We, of course, had help from the al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists and help from all the sectarian violence that we helped get started (on purpose, too, I might add). However, since we are the occupying power, we are the ones responsible for protecting the civilian population, so we are the ones responsible for all those deaths. So, the end result is this – we are the biggest terrorists in the world. We will end up having killed more Iraqis than Saddam did, and it is quite possible we will have killed more people than he did too.

Here is an article on Iraqi deaths since the US invasion:

Is the U.S. Responsible for the Death of Nearly a Million Iraqis?

In a scientific study published last fall in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, researchers from Johns Hopkins estimated that 650,000 Iraqis had died because of the US invasion and occupation of their country. The survey that produced that estimate was completed in July, 2006. Unfortunately, despite the calls of the Lancet authors for other studies, there has been no systematic effort to update these results. Just Foreign Policy has attempted to update the Lancet estimate in the best way we know. We have extrapolated from the Lancet estimate, using the trend provided by the tally of Iraqi deaths reported in Western media compiled by Iraq Body Count. Our current estimate is that 974,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S. invasion.

……The exact toll will never be known. But this is no reason not to attempt to know what the best estimate is. We also don't know many other key facts with certainty. We don't know how many people live in the U.S. The census department creates an estimate, and this estimate is the basis of policy. The Johns Hopkins researchers used the methods accepted all over the world to estimate deaths in the wake of war and natural disasters. The United Nations, for example, uses them to plan famine relief. Even the Bush administration relies on them when it accuses Sudan of genocide in Darfur. At present, this represents the best information we have.

Here is one “fact” we know for sure, thanks to research by McClatchy Newspapers – US troops have shot 429 civilians at checkpoints (or near patrols and convoys) during the past year. This is per statistics compiled by the US military. And, as our troops surged into Iraq, the number of shootings surged also.

And we have growing evidence of what has happened to Iraqis not only from their own blogs, but from the stories of the Iraq war veterans.

The number of Iraqis killed will never be known for sure, but from all my reading and blogging on Iraq, it seems quite likely that we have passed the million dead mark. On top of that, there are about 2 million refugees outside the country of Iraq – those who have voted with their feet to leave the hell-hole the bush/cheney administration and the rest of the US government has created there. And, there are an estimated two million internally displaced persons also. These are – again – people who fled their homes and communities in order to survive. Health care is in shambles in Iraq, electricity and drinkable water is in very short supply, children are dying in massive numbers from birth defects, diarrhea, and pneumonia. Unemployment is estimated to be 60 to 70%. The country has been destroyed, and the population is being subjected to genocide.

I do not have time to research the claims that I will be making in this paragraph – but all these claims have some evidence to support them. We know that historically, the US armed and supported bin Laden and his group when the Russians were occupying Afghanistan. Today, the US is running covert operations to destabilize Iran, this is likely true in Syria and Lebanon also. The US government is arming and funding Fatah in Palestine. After Negroponte showed up in Iraq, the Shi’ite death squads started operating. This was followed by retaliation by Sunni extremists via car bombs. In Basra in 2005, two Brits were detained by the Iraqi police and the police claimed that they had a car full of explosives when they were captured in a gunfight. The British military busted those Brits (in Arab dress) out of the Iraqi prison and confiscated the car. They never allowed anyone to look at the car to determine if there were explosives in the car. It is very likely that the US/UK were behind this car bomb attacks at some point.

So, in summary, there seems to be a lot going on in covert actions that are decidedly promoting violence and instability across the Middle East. They started up a huge game of “Let’s You and Him Fight” – which is, sadly, nothing new for our government. Here is an opinion piece that covers this subject:

Let’s Kill Them All

How many Americans would support our foreign policy if they knew that it was a plan to unleash genocide against civilians (without concern for the consequences to American soldiers)? How many of us would support Bush and Cheney if they knew that the plan was not to "win" the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq, but to prolong and intensify them in order to use those countries as bases for exporting sectarian warfare to all of their oil-bearing neighbors. Instead of simply fighting the small force of a few thousand radical Islamists who actually attacked us on 9/11, the neocon war plan to remake the entire Middle East was enacted. The "mission" was turned into a monstrous plan aimed at all Islamists, even the non-radical ones. Religion was to be used as a weapon, by turning Islam upon itself. Islamic radicals were armed and trained to function as terrorist combat brigades and death squads in neighboring opponent nations. They carried out brutal attacks and political assassinations within civilian areas, as a method for igniting wars within all of Islam.

It is just an opinion that this is what they are doing – but it does seem to be supported, doesn’t it? Just like the claim that bush was lying about WMDs seems to be supported – after all, anyone who tried could have figured out there were no nuclear WMDs in Iraq, and if bush was just really, really dumb and just COULDN’T figure it out – wouldn’t he be angry that he was lied to? Yet, oddly, he did not seem to care that a war was started over a pack of lies and he was the one responsible for starting it. He even gave a medal to one of the main guy who got it wrong!

And while I like to think of Iraq as “George’s Genocide” in actually, all US taxpayers and citizens share some responsibility for this genocide. May mercy come and wash away WHAT WE’VE DONE.

More information on Iraq Today and News about Afghanistan.

It is impossible at this point to help Iraqis inside Iraq, but there are ways to help the Iraqi refugees.

Please help them if you can.

There's more: "WHO ARE THE TERRORISTS?" >>

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bush self-delusionally opted for surge despite CIA pessimism

Last November, CIA Director Michael Hayden threw a bucket of cold-water reality in the face of Bush’s delusional “Churchillian victory” in Iraq. The details:

Early on the morning of Nov. 13, 2006, members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group gathered around a dark wooden conference table in the windowless Roosevelt Room of the White House.

For more than an hour, they listened to President Bush give what one panel member called a “Churchillian” vision of “victory” in Iraq and defend the country's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. “A constitutional order is emerging,” he said.

Later that morning, around the same conference table, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden painted a starkly different picture for members of the study group. Hayden said “the inability of the government to govern seems irreversible,” adding that he could not “point to any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around,” according to written records of his briefing and the recollections of six participants. …

According to the written record and others in the room, Hayden at one point likened the situation in Iraq to a marathon. He said there comes a point in each race when the runner knows he can complete the challenge. But Hayden said he could see no such point in Iraq's future.

To me, this only further underscores the delusionary state of Bush’s mind on Iraq, combined with his dry-drunk stubbornness on the issue. It’s a deplorable combination that has been, and continues to be, deadly.

Cross-posted at Socratic Gadfly and Watching Those We Choose.

There's more: "Bush self-delusionally opted for surge despite CIA pessimism" >>

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Iraq Vets Bear Witness

This is a few clips from an article in The Nation. I recommend reading the entire article.

Over the past several months The Nation has interviewed fifty combat veterans of the Iraq War from around the United States in an effort to investigate the effects of the four-year-old occupation on average Iraqi civilians. These combat veterans, some of whom bear deep emotional and physical scars, and many of whom have come to oppose the occupation, gave vivid, on-the-record accounts. They described a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts.


Two dozen soldiers interviewed said that this callousness toward Iraqi civilians was particularly evident in the operation of supply convoys--operations in which they participated. These convoys are the arteries that sustain the oc­cupation, ferrying items such as water, mail, maintenance parts, sewage, food and fuel across Iraq. And these strings of tractor-trailers, operated by KBR (formerly Kellogg, Brown & Root) and other private contractors, required daily protection by the US military. Typically, according to these interviewees, supply convoys consisted of twenty to thirty trucks stretching half a mile down the road, with a Humvee military escort in front and back and at least one more in the center. Soldiers and marines also sometimes accompanied the drivers in the cabs of the tractor-trailers. These convoys, ubiquitous in Iraq, were also, to many Iraqis, sources of wanton destruction. According to descriptions culled from interviews with thirty-eight veterans who rode in convoys--guarding such runs as Kuwait to Nasiriya, Nasiriya to Baghdad and Balad to Kirkuk--when these columns of vehicles left their heavily fortified compounds they usually roared down the main supply routes, which often cut through densely populated areas, reaching speeds over sixty miles an hour. Governed by the rule that stagnation increases the likelihood of attack, convoys leapt meridians in traffic jams, ignored traffic signals, swerved without warning onto sidewalks, scattering pedestrians, and slammed into civilian vehicles, shoving them off the road. Iraqi civilians, including children, were frequently run over and killed. Veterans said they sometimes shot drivers of civilian cars that moved into convoy formations or attempted to pass convoys as a warning to other drivers to get out of the way.


Sergeant Flatt recalled an incident in January 2005 when a convoy drove past him on one of the main highways in Mosul. "A car following got too close to their convoy," he said. "Basically, they took shots at the car. Warning shots, I don't know. But they shot the car. Well, one of the bullets happened to just pierce the windshield and went straight into the face of this woman in the car. And she was--well, as far as I know--instantly killed. I didn't pull her out of the car or anything. Her son was driving the car, and she had her--she had three little girls in the back seat. And they came up to us, because we were actually sitting in a defensive position right next to the hospital, the main hospital in Mosul, the civilian hospital. And they drove up and she was obviously dead. And the girls were crying.

There's more: "Iraq Vets Bear Witness" >>

Drip, Drip, Drip

In what is becoming the political equivalent of the Chinese Water Torture (appropriately enough), yet another stalwart for Bush's Iraq War policy has decided that withdrawal is the right course.

Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, saying the political "tide has turned'' on the Iraq War, backed forcing President George W. Bush to withdraw U.S. troops and predicted that more Republicans will abandon his war policy.

Snowe's decision, five days after New Mexico Republican Pete Domenici called for a new U.S. military policy in Iraq, reflects the wavering support for Bush's war policy within the president's own party in the Senate.

Snowe said she is considering lending her support to an amendment, still being drafted by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, which would require troop withdrawals to begin within 120 days.

Unlike Domenici, Snowe is not up for reelection in 2008.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Talk is Cheap

Playing the part of a dissenting senator can get you a few spins in the network news cycle, but until you put up, you may as well shut up (honestly, how hard is it for a GOP senator to come out against policies of a president whose popularity has fallen to 26%?).

Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia is giving the GOP-Iraq doubting troika of Voinovich, Lugar & Domenici a low-cost (in terms of reputation) chance to do their putting up.

Following the three deadliest months of the war, Democrats are forcing President Bush and Iraqis to finally accept some measure of accountability for this war through the Defense Authorization bill this week. Starting off the debate, Webb will introduce an amendment to the bill that requires active-duty troops to have at least the same amount of time at home as the length of their previous tour overseas.

Why is supporting this amendment such a safe move for the troika? Because it is absolutely the least they can do both to demonstrate real support for our troops in harm's way and stick a finger in the eye of the (mis)administration which has so ill-treated our troops.

No mention of withdrawal timetables. Hell, no mention of even providing adequate body armor and properly armored vehicles for troops on patrol in dangerous forward areas. We're simply talking about a chance for returning troops to have an adequate chance to rest, recuperate and get their personal & family affairs in order before being fed back into the meatgrinder.

If these three GOP senators cannot do at least this much for our fighting men & women, then I sure as hell don't expect to see their fatuous faces on my Sunday talk shows again anytime soon.

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Monday, July 9, 2007

Report: Wars Costing $12 Billion a Month

From AP:
The boost in troop levels in Iraq has increased the cost of war there and in Afghanistan to $12 billion a month, and the total for Iraq alone is nearing a half-trillion dollars, congressional analysts say.

All told, Congress has appropriated $610 billion in war-related money since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror assaults, roughly the same as the war in Vietnam. Iraq alone has cost $450 billion.

The figures come from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which provides research and analysis to lawmakers.

For the 2007 budget year, CRS says, the $166 billion appropriated to the Pentagon represents a 40 percent increase over 2006.

The Vietnam War, after accounting for inflation, cost taxpayers $650 billion, according to separate CRS estimates.

The $12 billion a month "burn rate" includes $10 billion for Iraq and almost $2 billion for Afghanistan, plus other minor costs. That's higher than Pentagon estimates earlier this year of $10 billion a month for both operations. Two years ago, the average monthly cost was about $8 billion.

Among the reasons for the higher costs is the cost of repairing and replacing equipment worn out in harsh conditions or destroyed in combat.

But the estimates call into question the Pentagon's estimate that the increase in troop strength and intensifying pace of operations in Baghdad and Anbar province would cost only $5.6 billion through the end of September.

If Congress approves President Bush's pending request for another $147 billion for the budget year starting Oct. 1, the total bill for the war on terror since Sept. 11 would reach more than three-fourths of a trillion dollars, with appropriations for Iraq reaching $567 billion.

Also, if the increase in war tempo continues beyond September, the Pentagon's request "would presumably be inadequate," CRS said.

The latest estimates come as support for the war in Iraq among Bush's GOP allies in Congress is beginning to erode. Senior Republicans such as Pete Domenici of New Mexico and Richard Lugar of Indiana have called for a shift in strategy in Iraq and a battle over funding the war will resume in September, when Democrats in Congress begin work on a funding bill for the war.

Congress approved $99 billion in war funding in May after a protracted battle and a Bush veto of an earlier measure over Democrats' attempt to set a timeline for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq.

The report faults the Pentagon for using the Iraq war as a pretext for boosting the Pentagon's non-war budget by costs such as procurement, increasing the size of the military and procurement of replacement aircraft as war-related items.

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Sunday, July 8, 2007

Bagh"Dads" Gonna Kill Me-A video

The music is from Richard Thompson. I created this shortly after he released the song.


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The NYT finally comes out against the Iraq War

The NYT, leader in the least as far as the leader of the asshats that drummed all of BushCo's bullshit into our heads in the runup to the war has finally written an Editorial condemning the War in Iraq and the need to GET THE FUCK OUT NOW!

Sorry, I do get emotional discussing the Iraq war and the asshole that put us there. Here is a little taste of how hard they bitchslap The Shrub:

Like many Americans, we have put off that conclusion, waiting for a sign that President Bush was seriously trying to dig the United States out of the disaster he created by invading Iraq without sufficient cause, in the face of global opposition, and without a plan to stabilize the country afterward.

At first, we believed that after destroying Iraq’s government, army, police and economic structures, the United States was obliged to try to accomplish some of the goals Mr. Bush claimed to be pursuing, chiefly building a stable, unified Iraq. When it became clear that the president had neither the vision nor the means to do that, we argued against setting a withdrawal date while there was still some chance to mitigate the chaos that would most likely follow.

Oh yes, they still do the heavy lifting for BushCo, but they decided since over 70% of the population is down on this war, they needed to jump on the bandwagon too. Latecomers but there they are none the less.

I would like to give the NYT editorial staff a big, hearty FUCK YOU FELLAS! Your bullshit pandering to the most corrupt administration ever to hold office in our once-great country put us INTO this shit..and now you have the balls to weakly attempt to cover your fucking ass by explaining why you thought it was a grand idea but now you just can't seem to find your way to support it any longer? Your a day late and a dollar short as my dear old dad used to say..and he is a staunch republican that came OUT AGAINST THE WAR over 2 friggin years ago!

Bastards and charlatans at the helm of what used to be a great newspaper.

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Crossposted at LeftwingNutJob

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