Friday, August 10, 2007

Iraq Timeline: The Broken Record on "the Next Few Months"

Iraq Timeline: The Broken Record on "the Next Few Months"
Center for American Progress, 08 August 2007

The Bush administration as well as supporters and some critics of the Bush Iraq strategy have told Americans time and again during the past four years that the "next few months" in Iraq will be the "decisive, critical period" of the war—the one in which Iraq's warring factions will compromise to share power; in which the bloody civil war among sectarian groups will ease into peace; and in which Iraq's brutal violence will decline.

The implication has always been that U.S. military forces just need to hold on a little while longer for things to get better. They've been holding on a little while longer for more than four years—longer than it took the United States to win World War II.

The timeline below catalogues the broken record we've been hearing from our leaders.

Use the scroll bar at the bottom of the timeline to scan backwards in time all the way to the beginning of the war in spring 2003.
Click on the photos accompanying the quotes for more information on the speaker and his or her statement.

The United States has no good options given the strategic and tactical mistakes made in Iraq since 2002, but simply staying the course with an indefinite military presence is not advancing U.S. interests. Instead, the United States must reset its strategy by looking beyond the deteriorating situation in Iraq in order to counter the threat from global terrorist groups and ensure stability in the entire Middle East and Gulf region.

For more on this topic:

  • Read "Strategic Reset," the Center for American Progress's plan for reclaiming control of U.S. security in the Middle East.
  • To learn about "Friedman Units," the concept on which this timeline was based, click here.

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Thursday, August 9, 2007

It's happened

The newest addition to the right hand column at Lotus, added a week or two ago, is the running total of "Iraqi Deaths Due to U.S. Invasion" provided by Just Foreign Policy. As a base, the counter total used last year's study published in The Lancet that said there had been about 650,000 "excess deaths" in Iraq as a result of invasion, of which 601,000 were due to violence. It then uses the Iraq Body Count's tabulation of civilian deaths to estimate the rate at which those excess deaths by violence are increasing and updates the number displayed accordingly. The entire methodology is explained in more detail here.

Just a little while ago, sometime this afternoon, it ticked over to 1,000,985.

Over one million.

One million.

One million dead because of our hubris, our stupidity, our greed, our murderous violence. One million. One million.

Amid all our talk of "surges" and "schedules" and "drawdowns" and "deadlines," this is what it actually means: One. Million. Dead. One million people who would have been alive today had some among us not decided to act out their imperialist fantasies and the rest of us had not allowed ourselves to be stampeded with lies and fear-mongering. After this, I do not want to hear any shit from anyone about Saddam Hussein. Not one freaking word.

Yes, it's an estimate. Yes, it's a calculation. Yes, the number could be lower - which also means it could be higher. I don't care. It's the best guess we have now. And it's over one million.

There's more: "It's happened" >>

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Kill or Convert, Brought To You By The Pentagon

Kill or Convert, Brought to You by the Pentagon
By Max Blumenthal, The Nation, Tuesday 07 August 2007 (via truthout)

Actor Stephen Baldwin, the youngest member of the famous Baldwin brothers, is no longer playing Pauly Shore's sidekick in comedy masterpieces like Biodome. He has a much more serious calling these days.

Baldwin became a right-wing, born-again Christian after the 9/11 attacks, and now is the star of Operation Straight Up (OSU), an evangelical entertainment troupe that actively proselytizes among active-duty members of the US military. As an official arm of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, OSU plans to mail copies of the controversial apocalyptic video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces to soldiers serving in Iraq. OSU is also scheduled to embark on a "Military Crusade in Iraq" in the near future.

"We feel the forces of heaven have encouraged us to perform multiple crusades that will sweep through this war torn region," OSU declares on its website about its planned trip to Iraq. "We'll hold the only religious crusade of its size in the dangerous land of Iraq."

The Defense Department's Chaplain's Office, which oversees OSU's activities, has not responded to calls seeking comment.

"The constitution has been assaulted and brutalized," Mikey Weinstein, former Reagan Administration White House counsel, ex-Air Force judge advocate (JAG), and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, told me. "Thanks to the influence of extreme Christian fundamentalism, the wall separating church and state is nothing but smoke and debris. And OSU is the IED that exploded the wall separating church and state in the Pentagon and throughout our military." Weinstein continued: "The fact that they would even consider taking their crusade to a Muslim country shows the threat to our national security and to the constitution and everyone that loves it."

On the surface, OSU appears as a traditional entertainment troupe that brings cheer to American troops around the globe. Founded by champion kickboxer Jonathan Spinks, OSU performs comedy, acrobatic stunts and strongman displays. Its roster of entertainers includes a former WNBA star, the Flying Wallendas, a ventriloquist, and former boxing champ Evander Holyfield. "We make no bones about the fact that we are speaking directly to the soldiers of the greatest fighting force of in the world," OSU proclaims. "No ‘mamsie pamsie' stuff here!"

But behind OSU's anodyne promises of wholesome fun for military families, the organization promotes an apocalyptic brand of evangelical Christianity to active duty US soldiers serving in Muslim-dominated regions of the Middle East. Displayed prominently on the "What We Believe" section of OSU's website is a passage from the Book of Revelations (Revelation 19:20; 20:10-15) that has become the bedrock of the Christian right's End Times theology: "The devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, and whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, shall be consigned to everlasting punishment in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

With the endorsement of the Defense Department, OSU is mailing "Freedom Packages" to soldiers serving in Iraq. These are not your grandfather's care packages, however. Besides pairs of white socks and boxes of baby wipes (included at the apparent suggestion of Iran-Contra felon Oliver North, according to OSU) OSU's care packages contain the controversial Left Behind: Eternal Forces video game. The game is inspired by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' bestselling pulp fiction series about a blood-soaked Battle of Armageddon pitting born-again Christians against anybody who does not adhere to their particular theology. In LaHaye's and Jenkins' books, the non-believers are ultimately condemned to "everlasting punishment" while the evangelicals are "raptured" up to heaven.

The Left Behind videogame is a real-time strategy game that makes players commanders of a virtual evangelical army in a post-apocalyptic landscape that looks strikingly like New York City after 9/11. With tanks, helicopters and a fearsome arsenal of automatic weapons at their disposal, Left Behind players wage a violent war against United Nations-like peacekeepers who, according to LaHaye's interpretation of Revelation, represent the armies of the Antichrist. Each time a Left Behind player kills a UN soldier, their virtual character exclaims, "Praise the Lord!" To win the game, players must kill or convert all the non-believers left behind after the rapture. They also have the option of reversing roles and commanding the forces of the Antichrist.


Producers of the Left Behind videogame were faced with a storm of controversy after Christian blogger Jonathan Hutson exposed its eliminationist overtones in a series of posts on the website Talk2Action. Statements by the Anti-Defamation League, the Conference on American Islamic Relations, the Christian Alliance for Progress, and others condemned the game and demanded that Walmart pull it from its shelves. Even Marvin Olasky, the evangelical publisher, intellectual author of "compassionate conservatism," and a force behind the George W. Bush Administration's White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives," denounced the Left Behind videogame. In a blog post on the website of his World Magazine, Olasky described the game's content as akin to "the way homicidal Muslims think." As a result of the fallout, Left Behind Games fired its senior VP and released three board members.

This controversy has not deterred OSU from encouraging US troops to play virtual rounds of kill or convert after a hard day of house-to-house searches and counterinsurgency warfare against Iraqi insurgents. What's more, OSU's "Freedom Packages" include a copy of evangelical pastor Jonathan McDowell's More Than A Carpenter - a book advertised as "one of the most powerful evangelism tools worldwide" - that is double-published in Arabic. Considering that only a handful of American troops speak Arabic, the book is ostensibly intended for proselytizing efforts among Iraqi civilians.

OSU has cultivated support from the Department of Defense for years. After a private October, 2005 meeting between OSU's Spinks and Defense Department officials, OSU was invited to perform inside the Pentagon. This week, Pentagon employees and active duty service members are expected to enjoy a breakfast with Spinks and Baldwin, followed by an OSU performance in which they will receive "spiritual encouragement via a Biblical message." The events will be held respectively in the Pentagon Executive Dining Room and the Pentagon Auditorium.

Spreading the Gospel to US troops is only one of many crusades Baldwin has waged in the name of the Lord. During 2006, Baldwin frequently stationed himself on the sidewalk outside a pornographic video store in New York. There, he photographed the license plates of people entering the store and threatened to publish an ad in a Nyack paper publicizing the names of those who patronized the store. "In my position, I just don't think I'm supposed to keep my faith to myself," Baldwin told a group of Texas Southern Baptists in 2004. "I'm just doing what the Lord's telling me to do."

Soon after his appearance at the Pentagon, Baldwin ships out to Iraq for OSU's "Military Crusade." With its cadre of celebrity entertainers pushing End Times theology, and the overt support of the Defense Department, OSU is hoping to transform Bush's surge into a battle of biblical proportions.

They just can't keep their faith to themselves.

Also see:

Pentagon Sued Over Mandatory Christianity

Video, Report Details Evangelism At Highest Levels Of US Military

Swastikas at Hunter Airfield, and a Rabbi on the Run

With God on Our Side: Evangelical Christianity On Steroids In US Military

Ft. Leavenworth Army Chaplains Preaching Anti-Semitism to US Soldiers

Anti-Semitic Bible Teachings Disappear From Army Site

[Cross-posted at Edgeing]

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Mirror, Mirror

I think we finally have a good picture of the Bush DeadEnders.

To see the type of person who still backs him, President Bush need only look in the mirror. The president fits the composite of today's Bush supporter: a conservative, white, Republican man, an evangelical Christian who goes to church regularly.

The only subgroups where a majority of people give Bush the nod are Republicans (67 percent), conservatives (53 percent) and white evangelicals who attend religious services at least once a week (56 percent).

These are the same three subsets of voters who support Bush on Iraq.

White evangelicals as an entire bloc - regardless of how often they report going to church - have been a reliable support group for Bush since he first set foot in the Oval Office. But even their overall approval of the president declined to 44 percent last month from 57 percent in May - a decline driven partly by bad news from the battlefield in Iraq and conservatives' opposition to Bush's ideas on immigration.

No surprises on this list, really; intuitively we already know all this. But it is helpful to have some evidence to bolster our claims.

There's more: "Mirror, Mirror" >>

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Anthony Cordesman: Odd Man Out

Turns out there was a third on that little jaunt to Iraq that Ken Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon took that resulted in that now-infamous op-ed (which I posted about here).

Turns out that Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic Studies was on that trip as well, and he came back singing a less upbeat song.

From my perspective, the US now has only uncertain, high risk options in Iraq. It cannot dictate Iraq’s future, only influence it, and this presents serious problems at a time when the Iraqi political process has failed to move forward in reaching either a new consensus or some form of peaceful coexistence. It is Iraqis that will shape Iraq's ability or inability to rise above its current sectarian and ethnic conflicts, to redefine Iraq's politics and methods of governance, establish some level of stability and security, and move towards a path of economic recovery and development. So far, Iraq’s national government has failed to act at the rate necessary to move the country forward or give American military action political meaning.

He quoted a high-level U.S. official who described the situation in Iraq as “the current situation is like playing three dimensional chess in the dark while someone is shooting at you.”

Cordesman describes “positive trends in the fighting” and indications of future political progress. Any “successes” that have been touted by the war supporters would not have been realized by increased troop numbers alone. “[T]he original strategy President Bush announced in January would have failed if it had not been for the Sunni tribal awakening.” (That awakening was accompanied by a lot of free guns. And a lot of ammo.) He goes on to say that there is a “tenuous case for strategic patience” and that he believes that tying reductions in forces to political progress without timetables is the preferable “exit strategy” but he realizes that banking on strategic patience is a high-stakes game, and as is characteristic of high-stakes games…luck is a fickle factor.

(Note: Since he prepared his report and made this assessment, hundreds of thousands of residents of Baghdad have lost power and water in 120º heat, and five more Cabinet members have bolted from the Maliki government and the Cabinet can no longer reach a quorum to approve legislation to the Parliament.)

There's more: "Anthony Cordesman: Odd Man Out" >>

Well, Ron Paul surely will lose much of his more sensible anti-Iraq War support over this

His call to privatize offensive wars like Iraq will show that he’s not really anti-war or even anti-Iraq war, just a libertarian taking a libertarian stance on one more issue that almost every non-libertarian in our country will reject.

It’s clear that, libertarian ideas of civil liberties aside, Paul cares not a whit about what mercenaries would or would not do as far as war crimes. He also doesn’t look at the idea that mercenaries (as we have already seen) would be more likely to commit some sort of war crimes than national soldiery, and, still being traceable to the United States, give us even more of an international black eye than we now have. Nor, given that libertarians seem to think that lawsuits are an answer for regulatory agencies, does he deal with the possibility of the United States getting sued over mercenaries’ behavior or other issues.

Paul has come off as a libertarian nutbar on many other issues; it is now clear he is a libertarian nutbar on Iraq, too.

Say good night, Ron, and don’t let the Iowa caucuses door hit you in the butt on the way out.

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

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Monday, August 6, 2007

This Dark Age Must End

Kollwitz, The Propeller

Having shown over the last seven months, since taking control of the legislative branch that they are at least equal to the Republicans when it comes to avarice, the Democrats set out this past weekend to demonstrate that, when it comes to cowardice, to blatant, unmitigated, ass covering politics they are every bit a match for Republicans.

Who impeaches the Congress? What in our Constitution protects the citizens of this country from a completely rogue government? When all three branches have abrogated their constitutional obligations, who will stand up for, who will represent the people of the United States?

Where must we search, to whom do we go for protection from the power of the wealthy corporate classes who are stealing our wealth, our livelihoods, and our future, who are spitting on our laws and our history as they sacrifice our Children and Grandchildren on the profane altar of their greed, in their eternal wars for profit and power?

Where is the opposition? Where do we go for redress of grievances when every institution of government is in the hands of the enemies of the people?

After suffering through five long years of watching a rogue executive blow it's nose on the American Constitution and wipe it's feet on our laws and bill of rights, it was with some relief and a glimmer of hope that I watched the election results last November as the Democratic party was returned to control of the legislative branch of the federal government. The pendulum is returning to the center I told myself, surely it will soon move to the left and show benefits to the working people of this country again.

I was somewhat apprehensive of course, I wrote several pieces warning my fellow Democrats to clean their own house and to do so loudly and publicly, to show the electorate that they were worthy of the public trust and to be on guard against the toxic infections of the corporate lobbyists and special interests that had so corrupted the Republicans they were replacing.

My voice and the more powerful and eloquent voices of others with the same message might have been crickets chirping in the wilderness, they could not be heard above the howl of the bitter wind driven by the building stampede.

The great headlong rush was on. The Democrats looked like the riotous crowds of Pamplona in their frenzied dash for campaign funds, for their rightful share of the political plunder that had, for so long, been denied to them. Like the mobs of Pamplona except they were chasing after the bulls, racing madly down the streets of our capitol, through the storied halls of our public monuments, their larcenous rotting hearts exposed, their shameless, greedy, grasping palms outstretched, drooling mouths at the ready, eager to suck at the poisonous teats of public corruption and corporate largess, it was a sight from hell.

The relief of last November is now long forgotten amid in the fear and loathing of July, the wars continue unabated, the so called opposition party has joined in dividing the spoils and trampling the law, the hope is gone and, I belive, it is time for every American who cares for this country, for humankind to face up to the sickening and unavoidable reality of our times.

The government of the United States is thoroughly and completely corrupt. From top to bottom, from one side of the aisle to the other, at all levels, whether we look at the federal system or in our statehouses, our government, our institutions, our military, our courts and schools and regulatory bodies, each and every one, has fallen under the control of criminals. And they are being aided and abetted by the treacherous and treasonous majorities of both of our so called political parties.

We need not travel 12,000 miles and comb the dusty caverns of remote mountain ranges, or the empty blazing deserts of Arabia in a search for terror and evil. All the terror, all the fear, all the evil we could ever desire to discover is centered in the chambers of our government and commerce and the evil hearts and minds of those who control them.

The government of the United States now operates under the careful tutelage, direction and control of enormously powerful international corporate interests which have no respect for the people of this or any other nation, not their laws, not their values nor their common histories and least, their humanity, their very lives.

The only interest of these piratical, plutocratic vermin is to take the labor from our backs, to strip the fruit from our trees and the crops from our fields, to mine the ore and pump the oil from our earth, to discover a way to steal the water from our seas and the very light from our sky and make it their own, to control it all, to control it all in their thirst for profit, in their worship of Mammon, of Moloch.

Look not to the media, the self exalted press, those journalistic guardians of the past, have become the corporate stooges of the present, the once independent protectors of the people no longer exist, they were bought, bought and sold in the same trades as the judges, as the preachers, the pastors, bishops, and the healers, bought as cheaply as the public servants, their souls are owned by the houses of wealth and power. All the saviors have sold us out, there is no one to save us but ourselves.

I find no further hope in the ballot box, another election of the darlings of the captains of industry, be they the favorite of the energy or drug companies, of the hedge funds or the arms merchants, I see no prospect for change from them and feel no desire to entrust the future to those so beholden to the slave masters of the past and the prison guards of the present.

I see no alternative, to wait further is to wait in vain, to continue on the path of non involvement, to ignore the evil that confronts us is to accept the shackles of our slavery willingly. We have only one strength, the strength of numbers and of the rightness of action against tyranny, for it is tyranny that we face.

If the law does not restrain the tyrant, it need not restrain the oppressed.

Some may call this the ravings of a paranoid mind, so be it. If my reaction to the reality of the world being created in our name, the reality of the sights and sounds of the miserable poverty, the continuous promotion of death and destruction, to the cries of the displaced and the maimed, the weeping of the mourners amidst the laughter of those who manipulate events to their own private ends is deemed paranoid then I accept the diagnosis. I welcome it. I am afraid, for myself, for my family, for my country, for my fellow man.

This government has stirred the fears of the populace for years, they toiled mightily to create a state of paranoia and keep it in the forefront, fear has been their currency. They have succeeded mightily, the populace is afraid and although I fear, in some measure, the danger they point to, I fear much more, much more, those who bear the pointing finger.

It is time I think, for massive nonviolent protest, for marches, acts of civil disobedience, general strikes, slow downs, sit ins, park ins on major thoroughfares, mass boycotts. It is time for people to resort to any nonviolent means of bringing this bloodsucking system to a standstill, to force the criminals into the prisons in which they belong and to transfer control of our government, our institutions and our resources to the people.

Paranoid? Perhaps. Over the top? Maybe.

Is any one else afraid of those who rule over this dark age?

Bob Higgins

Worldwide Sawdust

Related Stories:

The strong and tough Democrats by Glen Greenwald

House Approves Foreign Wiretap Bill

There's more: "This Dark Age Must End" >>

I think Dick Cheney must be referring to some other “Surge™”

Last week on CNN, Dick Cheney was adamant that “The Surge ™” was working – if you will.

He is optimistic that the report to Congress by Petraeus and Crocker next month will be positive. (We’re winning!!!) "The reports I'm hearing from people whose views I respect indicate that the Petraeus plan is in fact producing results," insisted Cheney, employing the same shift-the-blame meme that has been peddled furiously of late. Of course this is not Petraeus’s plan. The “Surge™” was actually dreamed up by some fatassed armchair generals at the AEI, and everyone who has been paying attention knows it. (Emphasis on paying attention…given the state of awareness we currently realize, the mendacious pricks will likely get away with everything to date, and more into the future.)

It is going so swimmingly that the very next day, the appeal for help attempting to unscrew the pooch was made to the United Nations.

Two days after Mr. Cheney and his Midas delusions were singing paeans to Iraq, and freedom, and independence delivered at the barrel of a gun; Secretary of Defense Robert Gates continued dialing back expectations and admitting that the political process that the Surge™ was supposed to enable had not moved forward, and now the parliament is off on holiday until September.

Not only had stalemate and squabbling set in before the recess, but the Sunni al-Tawafuq bloc withdrew from the government of Nouri Kemal al-Maliki. They vacated five of the six ministry posts held by them in Maliki’s cabinet.

Secretary Gates admitted the lack of political progress. "In some ways we probably all underestimated the depth of the mistrust and how difficult it would be for these guys to come together on legislation," Mr Gates said. (Speak for yourself, Bob. This is exactly what *We* said was going to happen.)

Adding insult to injury, the electric grid is so decrepit that it can’t keep the water pumping, and it is 120º in Iraq this time of year. Some areas have been without water for a week.

Much hay has been made of the reduced American body count for the bloodiest July yet – violence adhered to the established pattern. It abated in July, but it has already ticked back upward the first week of August.

And if all that wasn’t enough…approximately half of all light weapons supplied by American forces - 190,000 AK-47’s and handguns – have gone missing. That is a lot of firepower unaccounted for. The BBC reports on the World Service that the weapons are certainly being used against coalition and Iraqi forces. In October of last year, it was revealed in a GAO report that 1 in 25, or 14,000 weapons had gone missing, and there was great hue and cry about it. And guess who was in charge when those weapons went missing?


Dave Petraeus.

I wonder what lesson they took from last falls weapons scandal? If I were a betting woman, I would wager that the lesson they seized on has nothing to do with securing the weapons caches. Instead, I would wager that the lesson they learned was to keep the lost weapons out of the media, which is preternaturally willing to comply with this craven administration.

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Sunday, August 5, 2007

In Iraq, hundreds of thousands are without water as the electric grid teeters on the brink of collapse

When a delusional halfwit like Pollack or O'Hanlon, or someone idiotic enough
to tout those fools as credible, insists it's looking up in Iraq,
show them this picture of Iraqi's gathered for Friday prayers in West Baghdad.

As temperatures in Baghdad soared to 120º Fahrenheit, the electric grid wheezed and strained and sputtered, leaving western Baghdad without water. It simply can’t deliver the electricity to operate water purification plants and pumping stations.

The electric grid is on the brink of collapse, unable to meet rising demand. Compounding the problems, provinces are taking local generating stations off the national grid. Coalition bombing runs and insurgent attacks have destroyed the infrastructure of the grid, while fuel shortages inhibit electricity production. Of 17 high-tension lines running into Baghdad, only two were operational at the time the AP filed their story.

Power supplies in Baghdad have been sporadic all summer and now are down to just a few hours a day, if that. The water supply in the capital has also been severely curtailed by power blackouts and cuts that have affected pumping and filtration stations.

Karbala province south of Baghdad has been without power for three days, causing water mains to go dry in the provincial capital, the Shiite holy city of Karbala.

"We no longer need television documentaries about the Stone Age. We are actually living in it. We are in constant danger because of the filthy water and rotten food we are having," said Hazim Obeid, who sells clothing at a stall in the Karbala market.

Electricity shortages are a perennial problem in Iraq, even though it sits atop one of the world's largest crude oil reserves. The national power grid became decrepit under Saddam Hussein because his regime was under U.N. sanctions after the Gulf War and had trouble buying spare parts or equipment to upgrade the system.

The power problems are only adding to the misery of Iraqis, already suffering from the effects of more than four years of war and sectarian violence. Outages make life almost unbearable in the summer months, when average daily temperatures reach between 110 and 120 degrees.

Water is a necessity of life. In fact, it makes more sense to fight wars over water than it does over oil…(and even as I write that I get a chill up my spine, knowing that that day is coming, possibly in my lifetime, and certainly in the lifetime of my grandchildren.)

None-the-less, it activates my irony meter that this war over oil – and an arrogant determination to keep squandering a precious and dwindling resource foolishly – has stolen that necessity of life away from hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people.

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