Saturday, August 25, 2007

Cry me a river, Michael O’Hanlon

I won’t eat up too much space here on his , puerile response to critics of his and Ken Pollack’s original op-ed saying everything is hunky-dory in Iraq.

I will quote one comment, though:

Unfortunately, much of the blogosphere and other media outlets have emphasized the wrong question, challenging the integrity of anyone who dares to express politically incorrect views about Iraq. (My emphasis)

His views aren’t politically correct to the Bush Administration that he and Ken Pollack try to give intellectual props to, every chance they get.

And, this bullshit that somehow, after hunkering down in the Green Zone in Baghdad for a week, he and Pollack are somehow “daring,” is ludicrous.

I’ve said more than once that Brookings is NOT a liberal think tank. It could prove otherwise by canning people like O’Hanlon.

There's more: "Cry me a river, Michael O’Hanlon" >>

"I don't want to be here any more."

The happy-talk coming out of aWol's mouth is not cutting it with those who are actually sacrificing and being sacrificed. In fact, they are downright disdainful. last month, in a dining hall at a base south of Baghdad, aWol was speechifyin' on a big-screen teevee and the soldiers didn't even look up from their chicken and mashed potatoes.

"I don't see any progress. Just us getting killed," said Spc. Yvenson Tertulien, one of those in the dining hall in Yousifiya, 10 miles south of Baghdad, as Bush's speech aired last month. "I don't want to be here anymore."
The frustration and sagging morale is palpable, and it is being expressed in overt statements and in ranting blog posts like this one: "This occupation, this money pit, this smorgasboard of superfluous aggression is getting more hopeless and dismal by the second," a soldier in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, wrote in an Aug. 7 post on his blog, Army of Dude.

The suicide rate in the Army is at the highest level in 23 years. The evidence is even in the latrines. Someone posted the Army's "help cards" listing nine warning signs for suicide in the stalls. One of the cards had seven of the boxes checked. Of the 99 suicides committed by Army personnel last year, 27 of them took place in Iraq. A mental health survey released in May revealed that 45% of the soldiers interviewed ranked morale as low or very low, and only seven percent ranked it as high or very high.

There are two faces to the occupation of Iraq. There is the reality, which the Soldiers and Marines are facing and dealing with daily, and then there is the face that is shown to the public. With support for continuing the occupation of Iraq at about 30% at home, they dare not show the reality, or that remaining support would crumble.

It is depressing and horrifying and I could rant for pages. In fact, I have, as you know full well if you have read this to close, am going to let the soldier/blogger Alex, from Frisco Texas, have the last word:

"The only person I know who believed Iraq was improving was killed by a sniper in May."

There's more: ""I don't want to be here any more."" >>

Iraq Isn't Working Out So Well

And of course the fact that in invading Iraq Bush fulfilled Osama bin Laden's wishes might have something to do with that, so... it only makes sense to avoid facing reality and repeat the same kind of sheer idiocy on a much bigger scale and attack Iran as soon as possible:

In an effort to build congressional and Pentagon support for military options against Iran, the Bush administration has shifted from its earlier strategy of building a case based on an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program to one invoking improvised explosive devices (IEDs) purportedly manufactured in Iran that are killing US soldiers in Iraq.

According to officials - including two former Central Intelligence Agency case officers with experience in the Middle East - the administration believes that by focusing on the alleged ties between IEDs and Iran, they can link the Iranian government directly to attacks on US forces in Iraq.
One former CIA case officer
who served in the Middle East even suggested that politically framing the Iranians for its own failures in Iraq would allow the Bush administration to avoid accountability, as well as providing a casus belli for an attack.

The Bush Administration "can say it's [the Iranians'] fault we are losing the war in Iraq and that would be a convenient out for their failed policy," the officer said Monday.

The Iranians "have declared war against the US by sabotaging the war on terror is how they might sell it. I would not be surprised to next hear of Al Qaeda-Iranian connections because these people don't know the difference between a Sunni and a Shi'a."
There were times,
huddled on the floor in solitary confinement with that head-banging music blaring dawn to dusk and interrogators yelling the same questions over and over, that [Donald] Vance began to wish he had just kept his mouth shut.
He had thought he was doing a good and noble thing when he started telling the FBI about the guns and the land mines and the rocket-launchers -- all of them being sold for cash, no receipts necessary, he said. He told a federal agent the buyers were Iraqi insurgents, American soldiers, State Department workers, and Iraqi embassy and ministry employees.
For his trouble, he says, he got 97 days in Camp Cropper, an American military prison outside Baghdad that once held Saddam Hussein, and he was classified a security detainee.
Of course, if word got out too far that Iraqis trying to take back their country were buying American made land mines and rocket-launchers, the Bush regime might have a more difficult time propagandizing about IEDs purportedly manufactured in Iran being used against American troops in Iraq.

There's more: "Iraq Isn't Working Out So Well" >>

Friday, August 24, 2007

Coming up next: the exciting new "Disaster!" spin-off!

Recently, Robert Baer, ex-CIA officer and now's intelligence columnist, caused a stir by writing that

[r]eports that the Bush Administration will put Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the terrorism list can be read in one of two ways: it's either more bluster or, ominously, a wind-up for a strike on Iran. Officials I talk to in Washington vote for a hit on the IRGC, maybe within the next six months. And they think that as long as we have bombers and missiles in the air, we will hit Iran's nuclear facilities. An awe and shock campaign, lite, if you will.
Baer notes the claim that only a nation-state is capable of producing the deadly explosive formed projectiles, or EFPs. That would seem to be belied by the fact that two years ago intelligence officials were pointing to the existence of training materials describing how to make improvised versions of the charges, but never mind; Baer doesn't endorse the claim, he just reports it, admittedly without rebuttal or comment.

The point here is that Baer quotes an administration official as saying

"IRGC IED's are a casus belli for this Administration. There will be an attack on Iran."
Interestingly, however, McClatchy newspapers also reported on the idea of declaring the Revolutionary Guard "a foreign terrorist organization." Doing so, it noted, would mark the first time that a military unit of a national government was declared a terrorist group. It would certainly be destructive: at best inflammatory and almost certainly putting an end to any hope for US-Iran negotiations. But that report also suggested that Condoleeza Rice was behind the move and that
State Department officials and foreign diplomats see Rice's push for the declaration against the Revolutionary Guards as an effort to blunt arguments by Vice President Dick Cheney and his allies for air strikes on Iran. By making the declaration, they feel, Rice can strike out at a key Iranian institution without resorting to military action while still pushing for sanctions in the United Nations.
That is, rather than being advanced within the internal White House struggle as a basis to attack Iran, it's being pushed as a way to head off an attack by upping the ante in a way that would allow for other sanctions besides war. However,
[p]artisans of military force argue that Rice's strategy has failed to change Tehran's behavior.
So the push for war, lead by the ghoulish, bloodthirsty Veep, continues. The real danger here, and something of which I'm sure "The Big" Dick is aware, is that
"[t]he coercion ... undermines diplomacy. And once diplomacy is undermined, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy," said Ray Takeyh, an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.
In other words, if McClatchy is right and it's an attempt by Rice to head off a direct strike, it may well do so in the short run only to make one more likely, even certain, in the longer run by creating a situation in which even those within the adminsitration who do not want to attack Iran come to feel that they must accede to it because the US couldn't not attack without losing that "credibility" in which they place so much stock. Yes, that is an astonishingly amoral position but still one likely to be adopted by "realistic" foreign policy advisers both in an out of the White House, people to who morality is a convenience, something nice to have as a frill, but not a guiding concern.

That situation of having to defend "credibility" is already being created by the Bushites:
The Bush administration has been engaging Iran in a increasingly strident war of words since the spring, when the Bush administration demanded tougher U.N. sanctions over Iran's nuclear energy program. ...

Recently, the administration has stepped up the rhetoric, accusing Iran of providing Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq with particularly deadly roadside bombs that have killed dozens of U.S. service members.
In fact, the military has now gotten very specific, according to another McClatchy report:
For the first time, the U.S. military said on Sunday that Iranian soldiers are in Iraq training insurgents to attack American forces.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a top U.S. commander who is in charge of a large swath of Iraq south of Baghdad, believes there are about 50 members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps in his battlefield area, military spokeswoman Maj. Alayne Conway said.
The report also said that US military officials specifically named Muqtada al Sadr's so-called Mahdi Army (which isn't really an army, more one of the numerous militias; about every political party in Iraq has one) as the recipient of Iranian weapons.

And what's more, Baer writes that
there's a belief among neo-cons that the IRGC is the one obstacle to a democratic and friendly Iran. They believe that if we were to get rid of the IRGC, the clerics would fall, and our thirty-years war with Iran over.
They're aiding our enemies. They're supplying terrorists, in fact they are terrorists. They're gonna get The Bomb. We'll be seen as liberators. My god, they didn't even have to change the script. These are deeply warped people.

There's more: "Coming up next: the exciting new "Disaster!" spin-off!" >>

We now return you to your regularly scheduled "Disaster!"

So hey, guess what? Things are looking up in Iraq! Yes! The president has been vindicated and the naysayers vanquished! So much so that, the Washington Post said on Wednesday,

Democratic leaders in Congress [who] had planned to use August recess to raise the heat on Republicans to break with President Bush on the Iraq war ... have been forced to recalibrate their own message in the face of recent positive signs on the security front....
For example,
"We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Anbar province, it's working," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Monday.

"My assessment is that if we put an additional 30,000 of our troops into Baghdad, that's going to quell some of the violence in the short term," Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) echoed in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "I don't think there's any doubt that as long as U.S. troops are present that they are going to be doing outstanding work."
So, yeah, it's going better and better! The "surge" is surging! Just look at Anbar Province! Of course, that had nothing to do with the "surge," but never mind! Violence is down! Of course, that's largely due to the fact that the military keeps changing how it reports it, so

[d]espite the military's assertion that violence has dropped significantly since the surge began in February, statistics compiled by McClatchy Newspapers show that while the number of bodies found in the streets has dropped, the overall level of violence is unchanged.
And of course there's the fact that, as laid out in today's New York Times,
[t]he number of Iraqis fleeing their homes has soared since the American troop increase began in February, according to data from two humanitarian groups, accelerating the partition of the country into sectarian enclaves. ...

Statistics collected by one of the two humanitarian groups, the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization, indicate that the total number of internally displaced Iraqis has more than doubled, to 1.1 million from 499,000, since the buildup started in February. ...

The findings also indicate that the sectarian tension the troops were meant to defuse is still intense in many places in Iraq. Sixty-three percent of the Iraqis surveyed by the United Nations said they had fled their neighborhoods because of direct threats to their lives, and more than 25 percent because they had been forcibly removed from their homes.
Get that? A big part of the reason for any "decline" in sectarian violence is that it's succeeding. Neighborhoods are being ethnically cleansed and isolated.

But never mind! Who cares? Certainly not us! Because we know things are getting better! Why, just look at the new National Intelligence Estimate, released yesterday: It says security will improve over the next six to 12 months! Of course, it says the improvement will be "modest" and that violence will remain high, but just you never mind! Things will be great in just, um, how long, guys?
The U.S military will begin pulling out the additional troops it sent to Iraq as part of the so-called surge next spring and will have completed their withdrawal by next August, [Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno,] the No. 2 American commander in Iraq said Friday.
Oh, so a year from now troop levels will be back to where they were last December? Uh, well, okay, sure! And the rest of them?
[On Sunday, Rear Adm. Mark] Fox, [a U.S. military spokesman,] said he didn't know how large an Iraqi security presence is needed before U.S. troops can start pulling out of Iraq or how long that will take.

Determining an appropriate security force size is "a work in progress, quite frankly," Fox said.
Oh. Uh.... Hmmm. Well, do you have any idea how long this is going to take?
Gen. George Casey - the former top commander in Iraq and now the Army chief of staff — declared that Iraq will be a remarkable country “in a decade or so” if we maintain the U.S. occupation. ...

Casey’s comments echo those of the current top commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) disclosed that on her recent visit to Iraq, Petraeus told her that the U.S. “will be in Iraq in some way for 9 or 10 years.”

Yeah, things are going great.

Well, but certainly the Democrats will ultimately save us from this, won't they? Tell us, Bloomberg News!
Senator Hillary Clinton warned Democrats not to "oversell" plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, setting a cautious tone on the war that was echoed by the party's two other leading presidential candidates.

Clinton and her main competitors for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Barack Obama and former Senator John Edwards, agreed in a debate [Sunday] morning that pulling U.S. forces out of Iraq can't be accomplished in just a few months and that any withdrawal must be balanced by security concerns. ...

Biden led the other Democrats in disagreeing [with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson's six-month timetable]. "It's time to start to level with the American people," Biden said. "If we leave Iraq and we leave it in chaos, there'll be regional war. The regional war will engulf us for a generation."

Clinton said Biden is "absolutely right," cautioning that "this is going to be very dangerous and very difficult' and "a lot of people don't like to hear that." ...

Obama said Biden is right and that "this is not going to be a simple operation."

(To be fair, Edwards did not oppose a deadline, he said rather than Richardson's was too optimistic, suggesting something more like 10 months, sort of splitting the political difference between a firm deadline and "when the security situation improves." But more importantly, none of the big three call for all troops to be withdrawn, just "most" troops or "combat" troops.)

Meanwhile, the WaPo says that advisers to Clinton and Obama said their statements in support of the reports of improvement on the ground were
political as well as substantive statements, part of a broader Democratic effort to frame Petraeus's report before it is released next month by preemptively acknowledging some military success in the region.
I suppose that looks like smart politics and perhaps it is if you're thinking of positioning for the 2008 election rather than ending the war, but that kind of cynical triangulation is part of what brought us to this turn in the first place. Why they think it's going to work any better now is beyond me - except, that is, they figure that the real antiwar electorate will decide it has nowhere else to go than whoever the Dummycrat candidate is so there's no risk from repeatedly slapping that electorate in the face.

Okay, but leave all that aside. Because at least now, with all that's happened of late, we finally know where to place the blame. Nope, not on the Shrub gang, panting for war with Iraq from the git-go. And not on the intelligence community that told the panting mouth-breathers what they wanted to hear. Nor on the Congress that kept - and keeps - going "uh-huh, yep, whatever you say." And certainly not on our illegal, immoral invasion and occupation of a foreign nation which has plunged it into sectarian violence, civil war, chaos, and death, a nation now awash with American-supplied weapons, including about 110,000 AK-47 rifles and 80,000 pistols the Government Accountability Office says cannot be accounted for. (That's on top of the literally hundreds of thousands of small arms that can't be traced to a particular owner and the weapons taken from unsecured Iraqi caches in the wake of the invasion.) Not on any of the stupidity, the inanity, or the cruelty. Nope, to the great relief of our politicians and pundits, they're all exonerated, every one. The real fault, we now know for sure, the real blame for the entire mess lies with the Iraqi government.
Declaring the government of Iraq "non-functional," the influential chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said yesterday that Iraq's parliament should oust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his cabinet if they are unable to forge a political compromise with rival factions in a matter of days[, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday].

"I hope the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and more unifying prime minister and government," Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) said after a three-day trip to Iraq and Jordan. ...

Levin's comments to reporters followed the release of a joint statement with the second-ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, Sen. John W. Warner (Va.), which was pessimistic about Iraq's political future. The statement referred to a round of recent meetings between Maliki, who is backed by President Bush, and Iraqi political leaders as "the last chance for this government to solve the Iraqi political crisis."
And that in turn was followed up by the statement of
Hillary Rodham Clinton[, who] said Wednesday the Iraqi Parliament should replace embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki with a "less divisive and more unifying figure" to reconcile political and religious factions.
That according to MSNBC.

After all that, the NIE finding that
[t]he Iraqi government is strained by rampant violence, deep sectarian differences among its political parties and stymied leadership [and that] "To date, Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively,"
even its prediction that the government "will become more precarious over the next six to 12 months," seemed like an afterthought.

In fact, though, it must be said that things really are bad in the Maliki government. It's so bad that Juan Cole wrote yesterday that
[a] rumor is circulating among well-connected and formerly high-level Iraqi bureaucrats in exile in places like Damascus that a military coup is being prepared for Iraq. I received the following from a reliable, knowledgeable contact. There is no certitude that this plan can or will be implemented. That it is being discussed at high levels seems highly likely.

"There is serious talk of a military commission (majlis `askari) to take over the government. The parties would be banned from holding positions, and all the ministers would be technocrats, so to speak... [The writer indicates that attempts have been made to recruit cabinet members from the ranks of expatriate technocrats.]

"The six-member board or commission would be composed on non-political former military personnel who are presently not part of the government OR the military establishment, such as it is in Iraq at the moment. It is said that the Americans are supporting this behind the scenes.

"The plan includes a two-year period during which political parties would not be permitted to be part of the government, but instead would prepare and strengthen the parties for an election which would not have lists, but real people running for real seats. The two year period would be designed to take control of security and restore infrastructure.

"...[I]t is another [desperate plan], but one which many many Iraqis will support, since they are sick of their country being pulled apart by the 'imports' - Maliki, Allawi, Jaafari et al. The military group is composed of internals, people who have the goal of securing the country even at the risk of no democracy, so they say."
(Brackets as per Cole's post.)

The bit about "the Americans are supporting this behind the scenes" gets some indirect support from former Democratic congressional staffer Brent Budowsky, who claimed recently that
a growing faction close to President Bush privately favors a new “Iraqi strongman” to establish some form of authoritarian rule.
If this is true, perhaps it's just an example of things coming back into fashion: In May 1991, in the wake of the Gulf War, at a time when at least some folks knew booting out Saddam Hussein would result in "a quagmire," a staff report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee quoted an NSC aide as saying “Our policy is to get rid of Saddam Hussein, not his regime.” The goal, that is, was to provoke a military coup that would replace one dictator who had become unreliable with another who would be more friendly.

Since Bush just dipped into history to cite both World Wars, Korea, and even Vietnam to urge "stay the course," why shouldn't he look to the first attack on Iraq for advice on what to do now after the second?

But, you ask, how can it be a quagmire when things are improving - yes indeedy, improving, I say! - on the security front? Well, how about the fact that in talking about removing the troops involved in the escalation - excuuuse me, "surge" - General Odierno
didn't comment on what might happen after the additional U.S. forces leave. U.S. officials have claimed that the surge plan has cut violence, but they've also expressed concern that the violence could resume once U.S. troops are reduced because there's been no move at reconciliation between rival Sunni and Shiite groups.
And the NIE
warns against scaling back the mission of U.S. forces. Analysts found that changing the U.S. military's mission from its current focus - countering insurgents and stabilizing the country - in favor of supporting Iraqi forces and stopping terrorists would hurt the security gains of the last six months.
In other words, they're saying that the very "successes" and "gains" they're bragging about have actually tied us down even more to what we're already doing - tied us down for, if others are to be believed, another decade. If that's not a quagmire, what the hell would be?

This concludes this episode of Disaster! Coming up soon, new episodes arising from these developments:

- August 20: Members of the Mehdi Army confirm to The Independent (UK) that they received training in Lebanon from Hizbollah,
[A] Mehdi Army fighter, a 26-year-old who asked to be identified as Abu Nasser, said he and 100 other group members travelled to Lebanon in December 2005. "They didn't teach us anything about suicide bombings, they showed us real tactics and taught our snipers," he said. Speaking in Tufa in Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr, the head of the Mehdi Army, admitted to "formal links" with Hizbollah.
- August 20: An upsurge in violence in northeast Iraq, on the Iranian border, has Iraqi Kurdish officials expressing "deepening concern," according to The Guardian (UK).
Jabar Yawar, a deputy minister in the Kurdistan regional government, said four days of intermittent shelling by Iranian forces had hit mountain villages high up on the Iraqi side of the border, wounding two women, destroying livestock and property, and displacing about 1,000 people from their homes. Mr Yawer said there had also been intense fighting on the Iraqi border between Iranian forces and guerrillas of the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), an armed Iranian Kurdish group that is stepping up its campaign for Kurdish rights against the theocratic regime in Tehran.
Iran, which has recently sent tens of thousands of Revolutionary Guard troops to the area, calls PJAK terrorists and charges it is
sponsored and armed by the US to increase pressure on Iran.

On a recent visit to PJAK camps in the Qandil mountains the Guardian saw no evidence of American weaponry.
- August 22: The heat is rising in more than one way in Iraq. AFP says that
[f]or war-weary residents of Baghdad fighting sweltering heat in near-blackout conditions, the message on Wednesday from Electricity Minister Karim Wahid was grim - there won't be any relief this summer. Nor next summer. Nor even the one after.

"It will take another three to four years to fully rehabilitate the grid," Wahid told reporters in an air-conditioned room in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, while temperatures outside soared above 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).

Much of the national power grid was destroyed during the US-led invasion in 2003, while insurgents, militias and thugs continue to vandalise infrastructure even as the government races to rehabilitate facilities, he said. ...

"We are reaching only 20 to 40 percent of Baghdad's needs," Wahid said, adding however that hospitals and essential services are receiving power 24 hours a day.

Baghdad residents complain that conditions are far worse than they can remember, with electricity reaching them just two or three hours a day - and sometimes not at all.
Not at all. Seems like an apt summation:

"I'll take 'Iraq' for $1000, Alex."

"The answer is, 'Not at all.'"

"What is how much has the US invasion really helped ordinary Iraqis?"


There's more: "We now return you to your regularly scheduled "Disaster!"" >>

The Washington Consensus Of Iraq Reality Is Delusion

Recognition of the realities of the situation that has been created in Iraq is all well and good and important, but... and it's a big but.

This from Jay Ackroyd's post at TPMCafe really bothers me:

If you saw Taylor Marsh at YKos, you heard a clear delineation of this DC consensus. This isn't a matter of reflexive use of force as the only solution by crazy neocons. This is a recognition that Iraq is a failed state without a sovereign government and without the capacity to defend itself. The US Congress passes resolutions declaring what laws Iraq must pass, while the Pentagon makes all military decisions. Iraq's government plays no role other than certifying US policy. And, these days, we're hearing talk of changing the government. That talk is taking place in Washington. And there can be no freely elected, sovereign government in Iraq, because, in the Washington consensus, those bases are more important than a reprentative government--and no represesentative government would permit military bases defending Israel and threatening Iran.

This leaves the Democratic candidates in a very difficult position. They are part of this Washington consensus.
Iraq is a mess. That's undeniable reality. It's not going to be fixed easily. I think that's also undeniable reality.

Taylor Marsh is describing another, separate reality, however. The Washington Consensus. Which appears to distill down to the attitude that Washington must make the decisions for Iraq, almost as if Iraqis are incompetent children who cannot manage their own affairs. And I see nearly no recognition, if any at all, even grudging recognition, that is is Iraqis who are going to make the decisions. As they are doing now, successfully or not from their point of view.

The whole of the "recognition of reality" by the Washington consensus described in Ackroyd's post seems to me to be excuses and justifications for imperialism/colonialism/control of Iraq and the countrys resources, regardless of and without concern for what Iraqis want.

One of the things we know Iraqis want is to NOT be occupied by American military.

Every time Iraqis kill another American soldier, it is, in my view, a "request" to Washington to withdraw all the troops. Some of the puppet government of Iraq would deny that I think. But they are a puppet government, and a large percentage of the social groups in Iraq are rejecting that puppet government and doing their damnedest to force it to collapse.

Iraqis don't want US troops in their country, and they don't want a US puppet government running their country for the benefit of America. I think that's also undeniable reality.

The "Washington consensus" is focused only on what the "Washington consensus" wants.

I don't think Iraqis, in the main, care in the least what the "Washington consensus" wants, and I think that's also undeniable reality.

I think that if there are any "benchmarks" to be set or to be met, or "decisions" made by anyone about what is or is not "progress" for Iraq, rightfully those benchmarks and those decisions should be being set and made by Iraqis. Required benchmarks to be met by Washington for the "right" and the "privilege" of being allowed to stay and "help". And I believe now that in actual fact that is exactly what is now happening in Iraq.

Both the rate, with upwards of 10,000 Iraqi deaths from foreign terrorism each month now, and the total number of Iraqi deaths from foreign terrorism, are huge problems, that are probably creating hundreds of thousands of people who absolutely hate America and would like to kill as many Americans as possible.

Saba Ali Ihsaan, Baghdad, Irak
The American "surge" as with everything else they have done is a failure...

All I care about is that your country has its troops in my land raping its people, raping its resources, slaughtering our children, and defiling our Holy Places...

The Americans in Irak are reflecting their culture. Racist, callow, shallow, and seemingly unable read a map, it's just that they are a little more honest, a little bit more openly barbaric about it.

There is only one measure of progress that matters in Irak and that is the progress in chewing the invader forces into pieces and then spitting them out. Progress on that is excellent.

They came here as predators and now they are prey. The only thing an American understands is force, we sand nig*ers know a thing or two about that.
I think that, for good or for ill for the people of Iraq, it is not up to anyone in the US to decide for Iraqis what is or is not "progress".

To metaphorize a bit, since we destroyed the infrastructure of the house before we started the fire and made no effort to rebuild it, once we stop throwing fuel in and get out of the way before we are thrown out of the way, someone else will rebuild it.

It probably won't look anything like what we'd like it to when they're done, but too bad.

It's their business, in other words. Not America's. Regardless of how often the "national security interests" line is uttered.

The U.S. presence in Iraq, and the U.S. refusal to leave, is the problem.

It is in Americas interest obviously, to NOT have a failed state of anarchy in Iraq, and to not have Iraq aligned with Iran.

But that can't be forced on Iraq. Iraqis have the right to, and will, decide for themselves.

And they are.

All that Washingtons "help" has ever done for Iraq is make the situation worse. Continually. Never better. Only worse.

Iraq will get fixed. Eventually.

But I think it will not be republicans or democrats, or even the U.S. that fixes it. If Iraq can be fixed it will be Iraqis that fix it. They will, and do, set the benchmarks. I think not recognizing that is delusion.
When Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah opened the Arab Summit in Riyadh [...] speaking about Iraq as a land where "blood flows between brothers in the shadow of an illegitimate foreign occupation and hateful sectarianism," he offended many policymakers in Washington. But the statement was only one signal among many that, in the face of explosive conflicts that the Bush administration has caused or failed to contain, the king is out to assert Saudi Arabia's role as an independent leader in the region. The goals--to stabilize Iraq, build an Arab-Israeli peace and contain the growing influence of Iran--are the same as Washington's. But the means to those ends are very different. In an exclusive interview, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal sat down with NEWSWEEK's Christopher Dickey to trace the dramatic changes in his country's policy over the last year.
What will fix Iraq is not staying there and fantasizing that continuing to do the same things that are causing the problems there will somehow magically begin to solve the problems.

What will fix Iraq is not "doing" something.

What will fix Iraq is "not doing" something.

Not that I expect it will ever happen, but not funding the occupation any longer and complete and total withdrawal of all U.S. military from the country is what will begin fixing Iraq.

Along with massive reparations paid to the Iraqi people, perhaps equal to the trillion dollars spent to destroy their country.

There's more: "The Washington Consensus Of Iraq Reality Is Delusion" >>

The Iraqis Don't Deserve Us. So We Betray Them..

The Iraqis don't deserve us. So we betray them...
By Robert Fisk, The Independent, 23 August 2007

Always, we have betrayed them. We backed "Flossy" in Yemen. The French backed their local "harkis" in Algeria; then the FLN victory forced them to swallow their own French military medals before dispatching them into mass graves. In Vietnam, the Americans demanded democracy and, one by one - after praising the Vietnamese for voting under fire in so many cities, towns and villages - they destroyed the elected prime ministers because they were not abiding by American orders.

Now we are at work in Iraq. Those pesky Iraqis don't deserve our sacrifice, it seems, because their elected leaders are not doing what we want them to do.

Does that remind you of a Palestinian organisation called Hamas? First, the Americans loved Ahmed Chalabi, the man who fabricated for Washington the"'weapons of mass destruction" (with a hefty bank fraud charge on his back). Then, they loved Ayad Allawi, a Vietnam-style spook who admitted working for 26 intelligence organisations, including the CIA and MI6. Then came Ibrahim al-Jaafari, symbol of electoral law, whom the Americans loved, supported, loved again and destroyed. Couldn't get his act together. It was up to the Iraqis, of course, but the Americans wanted him out. And the seat of the Iraqi government - a never-never land in the humidity of Baghdad's green zone - lay next to the largest US embassy in the world. So goodbye, Ibrahim.

Then there was Nouri al-Maliki, a man with whom Bush could "do business"; loved, supported and loved again until Carl Levin and the rest of the US Senate Armed Forces Committee - and, be sure, George W Bush - decided he couldn't fulfil America's wishes. He couldn't get the army together, couldn't pull the police into shape, an odd demand when US military forces were funding and arming some of the most brutal Sunni militias in Baghdad, and was too close to Tehran. ...>>

There you have it. We overthrew Saddam's Sunni minority and the Iraqis elected the Shias into power, and all those old Iranian acolytes who had grown up under the Islamic Revolution in exile from the Iraq-Iran war - Jaafari was a senior member of the Islamic Dawaa party which was enthusiastically seizing Western hostages in Beirut in the 1980s and trying to blow up our friend the Emir of Kuwait - were voted into power. So blame the Iranians for their "interference" in Iraq when Iran's own creatures had been voted into power.

And now, get rid of Maliki. Chap doesn't know how to unify his own people, for God's sake. No interference, of course. It's up to the Iraqis, or at least, it's up to the Iraqis who live under American protection in the green zone. The word in the Middle East - where the "plot" (al-moammarer) has the power of reality - is that Maliki's cosy trips to Tehran and Damascus these past two weeks have been the final straw for the fantasists in Washington. Because Iran and Syria are part of the axis of evil or the cradle of evil or whatever nonsense Bush and his cohorts and the Israelis dream up, take a look at the $30bn in arms heading to Israel in the next decade in the cause of "peace".

Maliki's state visits to the crazed Ahmedinejad and the much more serious Bashar al-Assad appear to be, in Henry VIII's words, "treachery, treachery, treachery". But Maliki is showing loyalty to his former Iranian masters and their Syrian Alawite allies (the Alawites being an interesting satellite of the Shias).

These creatures - let us use the right word - belong to us and thus we can step on them when we wish. We will not learn - we will never learn, it seems - the key to Iraq. The majority of the people are Muslim Shias. The majority of their leaders, including the "fiery" Muqtada al-Sadr were trained, nurtured, weaned, loved, taught in Iran. And now, suddenly, we hate them. The Iraqis do not deserve us. This is to be the grit on the sand that will give our tanks traction to leave Iraq. Bring on the clowns! Maybe they can help us too.

© 2007 Independent News and Media Limited

There's more: "The Iraqis Don't Deserve Us. So We Betray Them.." >>

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Pottersville Mailbag

Every once in a great while, I get letters from people who are either in Iraq or claim to be serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. My regular readership may recall the letter that I'd gotten near New Year's from a 20 year-old Marine in Iraq who'd received my CARE Xmas package.

I didn't know what to say to the kid. I couldn't in good conscience laud his efforts nor his participation in an illegal and unjustified war nor could I risk angering him or waking him up to the realities that we can see with the objectivity of stateside civilians.

But in my inbox tonight I found the following screed from someone who'd written me with a Marine Corp email client so I'm assuming that this is legit (although it could just be someone just using a terminal on a Marine base. Who knows?). It's in response to a post I'd written last February about Jennifer Parcells, the young lady who was killed in a suicide bomb attack, a girl who just wanted to follow her big brother into the Marine Corps.

The letter starts off with the word "Ungrateful", an ugly salutation that immediately made me see red. Now I'm no longer so concerned about possibly subverting the mission by speaking truth to someone caught up in the massive web of lies and deception that is Iraq. I no longer care about incurring the wrath of someone who still believes in the legitimacy and righteousness of his mission. Since he now claims to be back stateside, I have no compunctions about letting him have it, Cheney-style, with both barrels. I no longer care about insulting even someone who's served in Iraq who remains so blatantly and willfully ignorant, someone who assumes that I'm disrespecting the USMC and hate Iraqis in general. Obviously, this person (whose name and email address will be withheld) knows nothing about what I write here in Pottersville or what my stance is on this war.

I trust once he reads this, he'll be better educated.

Here's his letter, followed by my rejoinder:

"Dear Ungrateful

Sorry I didn't get to tell you this sooner. I am a marine that was out In Iraq the same time as Jennifer Parcell as a matter of fact I knew her before we went out to Iraq we were in the same Bn in Japan and I can promise you all you thought on the war is what pisses all of us in the military off we are there for a reason and it's not oil. Not all Iraqi people are bad in-fact some of them are very nice people so if you don't know shut your mouth and stop causing more pain for those who knew and loved her. She was doing her job and saved the live of at least two other marine's.

Respectfully etc etc etc."

"Ungrateful"? Yeah, that's respectful.

OK, Sparky, listen up. I don't know if you're just some Republican flack writing this from Mommy's basement, your pajamas smeared orange from last night's Cheetos or if you are who and what you claim you are but either way I'll try to type this in small words so you can keep up:

In my two posts about Jennifer Parcell, I never said that she was anything less than a hero. It's not the nobility of the mission that defines heroism. Jessica Lynch proved that. It's how honorably one conducts oneself regardless of the legitimacy of their circumstances.

And never did I say that all Iraqis were bad. Far from it. They are a constantly occupied, brutalized people who have had enough of Anglo-American brutality and oppression, not to mention homegrown dictators who usurp power.

If you ever read the rest of my blog beyond my posts about Jennifer, you'd know that I have an unending reservoir of compassion for the Iraqis, people who have sacrificed much more during this fucking illegitimate war than we can ever imagine (and have). We're the type of people who sigh and drum our fingertips on our Escalade steering wheels if we sit in the drivethrough at McDonalds for more than three minutes.

You say that we're not there for the oil but for other reasons, reasons that you tellingly don't specify in your barely legible message.

So let's take stock of what those reasons could possibly be, shall we?

Uh, WMD? Just because we haven't found them after four and a half years, 3700 lives and half a trillion dollars doesn't mean they're not there. Maybe you should try digging in Syria. Perhaps Curt Weldon and Peter Hoekstra can lend a hand.

Ongoing revenge for Saddam's complicity in 9/11? Sorry. Not a single shred of evidence for that exists, nor did it ever, that such a complicity ever existed. You want to know who was involved with 9/11? Our friends the Saudis. Our friends the Pakistanis.

Ongoing revenge for Saddam's complicity with al Qaida? Sorry, that was a bogus story, too. You want to know who is supportive of al Qaida? Our friends the Saudis. Our friends the Pakistanis. See a trend here, leatherneck?

Uh, reshaping the Middle East? Democracy for Iraq? Yeah, that template's working out real well:

Bomb the shit out of the country for eight months just as we're gearing up to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, even as Dear Leader is telling us after the Downing Street Minutes meeting with Tony Blair that he hasn't given up on diplomacy and committed to military action. Then bomb the shit of them some more before sending in 100,000 more troops. Smash then disband the military, creating a ready-made insurgency for you guys to fight, making the borders porous for terrorist infiltration. Not bomb the terrorist training camps (the only places, it seems, in Iraq that we haven't bombed the shit out of) that are springing up faster than Starbucks franchises, allow those proud graduates to cross the border so they can import their newfound skills to other countries.

Inflame places like Fallujah by slaughtering innocents, close down their newspapers, have Blackwater joyride all over the fucking place in unarmored SUVs like the stereotypical ugly Americans that we are, get them killed through reckless greed, kill some more of them, solidify and motivate the insurgency outraged over our needless and blatantly illegal occupation, kill more of them.

Then, once we've established this safe and stable haven for democracy, set up "free" elections by having local elections officials withhold food ration cards until the people vote. Forget the fact that most of the candidates had to campaign in secret for fear of their lives so that when election day came on January 31, 2005, no one knew who the candidates were, what their names were or where they stood on the issues.

Take the ballots out of the country into Jordan in plastic Wal-Mart containers so the coerced votes can be counted in relative security and make the people wait anxiously in an uneasy state of anarchy for months before the results are announced. It's free democracy, after all, and soon will be the template for democracy all over the Middle East, a region in the world where Islam is hostile to democracy in general, especially our so-called tenets of separation of church and state.

Hold more elections later on, propping up a puppet like al-Maliki, a guy so universally hated outside his Shiite allies that even Republicans are calling for his ouster and Sunni lawmakers boycott the government, leaving their constituents without political representation. Ensure that every cabinet official is in control of his own death squad, such as al-Jabr, head of the Finance Ministry who oversees disbursements to over 100,000 government workers.

Meanwhile, our diplomatic corps stands idly by while Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds kill eachother while you guys are too busy ducking mortar shells, bullets, IED's and flying body parts to try to instill any semblance of order.

Then when one of those flying body parts turns out to be yours, you can get sent to Walter Reed and be made to live in filthy conditions, have your mail undelivered for a year at a time since that, too, was outsourced to Halliburtoin clones and then be told when the story breaks to shut up and suffer.

Then send Dick Cheney abroad in a business suit so he can then browbeat these exasperated, ignored and likely targeted Iraqi officials and say, "Don't go on vacation until you hand over all your fucking oil", not that that's the primary reason for our presence in Iraq any more than it was the Great British's during their own occupation almost 90 years ago. I'm sure we'd still be there if Iraq had bean fields instead of oil and natural gas fields.

Yeah, that sounds like a good plan for the nation building that Donald Rumsfeld would've fired anyone four years ago for even mentioning.

Oh, and the only thing the Bush administration has succeeded in doing from the outset was in enriching Dick Cheney's "former" company Halliburton, not to mention over 400 other contractors like Blackwater at taxpayer expense.

So what do I have to be grateful for?

Now, I don't know how many websites or which ones you're allowed to visit on military servers but I imagine that if you're allowed to see my blog, then you're allowed to go to other sites that also give the facts. Maybe you guys are just in a bubble like President Bubble Boy. Maybe you don't know that over half the United States is now against this war.

But it may hearten you to know that even Democratic presidential candidates such as Hillary Clinton are essentially saying that the party will continue for at least a couple of more years because, well, we just can't gracefully exit right now (read: We're all jockeying for position to be the savior of this war and whoever gets to pull us out without leaving too much more flesh behind gets to be a hero. Better to be perceived as a chickenhawk than a dove and who cares about the troops?).

And I hate to have to be the one to break this to you, Sparky, but everyone who has ever died in Iraq, whether American, Iraqi or Coalition, died for no reason. Their lives were wasted just as surely as we've wasted half a trillion dollars to get our hands on oil reserves that the Iraqis still don't want to hand over to us.

We don't blame you for making the world and our nation a less safe place from the reach of Muslim terrorists. The Bush crime syndicate must assume the blame for that. You in uniform were merely the instrument for the will of a spoiled, petulant, ill-bred, uneducated little sociopathic rube with a messianic complex who had the audacity to think that he could reshape the entire Middle East because God told him to.

Where I blame you, Lance Corporal, is in remaining willfully ignorant, stupid and hostile toward the truth of the matter, a truth that is out there if you but seek it. Yes, I may be the first person to come right and say it in plain words: Those who have died in Iraq since George W. Bush, that smirking, shiftless jackal, loped through the back door of the Oval Office died in vain. Your lives were completely wasted. You left friends, loved ones and body parts behind so Halliburton's stock could rise to $64 a share. So Blackwater could make a killing on the killing of countless Iraqi civilians and the killing of their own kind.

You are helping to perpetuate a dialogue firmly rooted in falsehoods, fabrications, half-truths and outright lies that have looooong since been proven bankrupt of truth and reason.

And the only reason, and I mean the ONLY reason why so many families of war veterans are still supporting Bush's selfish folly that is not paid for by any personal sacrifice is because this truth is intolerable to them, the truth that their loved ones died in vain, that they were maimed so others could profit beyond the wildest dreams of avarice.

You did your duty as a Marine and, I assume, did so honorably. Now it's time to do your duty as an American and to wake the fuck up and smell the bullshit.


There's more: "Pottersville Mailbag" >>

Crandall Canyon, The King of the Mountain , The Fox in the Coop

A rumble a loud crack, like thunder, rocks, dirt and chocking dust rain down.
A rock fall is imminent. So what is a miner to do?
"You run for your life," said Tim Miller, who toiled in Kentucky's mines for more than two decades.

... The goal is to eliminate the coal industry. Of course the goal is to eliminate the coal industry. Coal is filthy. It destroys ecosystems to dig it up. It kills the people who work around it. Coal plants throw particulates in the air and causes respiratory ailments. They throw mercury in the water and causes birth defects. They throw CO2 into the atmosphere and cause global warming. The coal industry corrupts the political process. It lies to the public about global warming, and mine safety, and coal reserves, and everything else. It leeches money and opportunity out of the states where it is based.
The only reason we think of coal as "cheap" is that we don't tally all those costs in the debit column.
From David Roberts Coal is the enemy of the human race...

During the winter of my fourteenth year I had a part time job. Every morning I would get up at 5 o"clock and walk up the hill to the ancient brick home of an elderly widow where I would descend to the dimly lit basement and remove the previous day's supply of clinkers from the firebox of an equally ancient and frightening looking furnace, shovel in a supply of fresh coal and get a good fire roaring. That was it, home to shower and head to school. She payed me two dollars a day and in 1958 when a gallon of gas was a quarter, that was a good sum of money. That is also the sum total of my life's experience with coal.

David Roberts wrote the brief but engaging piece quoted above earlier in the summer at Huff Post, he wrote his rant in reference to a coal industry mogul who for several months had been preaching to anyone who would listen about the evils that congress, in league with environmentalists, were plotting to perpetrate on the coal industry. I had heard the name of the subject of his rant before but at the time I didn't recognize it.

It wasn't until two weeks ago when a mine in central Utah's Emery County in Crandall Canyon, one of the deepest coal mines in the country collapsed, burying six miners 1500 to 1800 feet below the surface and 3 1/2 miles from the entrance point, that the name and the reason the it rang a bell popped back into my mind.

Robert Murray. The name was familiar because I had read a Washington Post article about his testimony before a congressional committee in the spring in which he took congress to task over the Clean Air Act of 1990 and declaimed on the perils of listening to the purveyors of Global warming science, which he has since referred to as "global goofiness." (as quoted below in the New York Sun)

"Some wealthy elitists in our country," he told the audience, "who cannot tell fact from fiction, can afford an Olympian detachment from the impacts of draconian climate change policy. For them, the jobs and dreams destroyed as a result will be nothing more than statistics and the cares of other people. These consequences are abstractions to them, but they are not to me, as I can name many of the thousands of the American citizens whose lives will be destroyed by these elitists' ill-conceived 'global goofiness' campaigns."

2007 speech to the New York Coal Trade Association

Robert Murray is one of two people that you would recognize from the nearly non stop coverage of the aftermath of the cave in, the repeated rescue attempts, and the ensuing tragedy upon tragedy when the rescuers themselves were caught in another collapse killing three and injuring six others.

Murray, is the most recognizable, at times seen castigating the press or the unions, at others in the mine, pointer in hand, explaining the rescue operation to the media, or as seen below. Murray is the owner and CEO of Murray energy which is among the dozen largest coal mining companies in the country. He owns 19 mines in Ohio and Illinois including the Crandall Canyon mine and others in Utah. In general, Murray's operations have a far less than stellar reputation for safety, having over the years, been cited thousands of times for safety violations and fined millions of dollars. Murray says that the safety violations were trivial and included violations such as not having enough toilet paper in the restroom.

Murray claims that the Crandall Canyon collapse was caused by an earthquake, seismologists dispute his claim saying that the seismic activity they recorded was the result of the collapsing mountain not the cause of it. The head of the National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colorado said that an analysis of seismic waves that occurred in the area around the time the mine collapsed are consistent with what would be seen from a mine collapse, and, subsequent seismic activity that has been detected may have been related to energy being released in the aftermath of the collapse,

However its probably easy to guess which side of this question the insurance companies will land on.

If Murray has no love for environmentalists and federal regulation, he also has no love for unions and all but one of his mines are non union, a fact that probably is responsible, in large measure, for the dismal safety record. In a union atmosphere, union stewards and safety committees can report violations without fear of retaliation from management. In a non union mine reporting safety violations or unsafe practices and working conditions place the individual miner at risk of losing his job, or worse, for speaking out. This often results in an atmosphere of fear in which such conditions are overlooked, placing lives at risk.

Murray is also a serious donor to Republican candidates for office, having bequeathed over $150,000 to such notables as George Bush, Mitch McConnell, Katherine Harris and Sam Brownback among others, in the last couple of years through his Murray Energy PAC and other affiliates. This may help to explain the accommodating way he has been treated by federal regulators.

The coal in the Crandall Canyon mine is removed by what is called the room and pillar method where digging and removing coal creates a cavity or room and large pillars or columns of coal are left standing to hold up the roof which is further augmented by drilling and setting roof bolts. It is believed by many that at the time of the collapse the miners were engaged in retreat mining in which the pillars are removed and the roof is allowed to collapse as the workers retreat back to the entry.

Although considered to be a very dangerous undertaking, the mine had the necessary permits for performing retreat mining from Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) according to Robert Friend who told the Washington Post that the cause of the collapse had not yet been discovered but, "there was retreat mining where these miners are." Asked about the conflict with Murray's denials that the retreat method was in use he replied, "I can't speculate as to what he meant."

Some, including Utah's Governor are calling for an investigation focusing on why those permits were granted in this instance and UMW says that the MSHA has been too cozy with the industry in recent years.

There are whispered reports (it's a good idea to lower one's voice when criticizing mine owners or their operations in central Utah) that the Crandall Canyon mine was unsafe when Murray bought it last year. Not wanting to leave behind any of the coal contained in the pillars they began the retreat mining operation. A spokesman for UMW, Phil Smith, said yesterday, "No one took the time to see that it was a recipe for disaster.

The graphic depicts retreat mining in a room and pillar operation like Crandall Canyon.
The pillars are mined from the farthest point towards the entry and the mine is allowed to collapse as it will.
Wanna try it? I'm sure the image above is a much more orderly depiction of the process than the reality.

Though it may seem strange to people outside the coal industry, generations of miners have been cutting away those pillars to increase coal production in a practice known as retreat mining. It's legal and considered standard procedure. But it has claimed the lives of 17 coal miners in the past seven years.

In Kentucky alone, four miners have been crushed in rock falls during retreat mining in the last 14 months.

"You're definitely playing Russian roulette," said Miller, now an organizer for the United Mine Workers of America, which spells out in its contract that members can withdraw from any section of mine they believe is unsafe. "You remove those pillars, the roof is coming down. It's inevitable."

Retreat Coal Mining Comes Under Scrutiny

Which brings us to the second recognizable figure from the coverage of these horrible events, Richard Stickler the Mine Safety and Health Administrator who waited two days after the mine collapsed before taking control of the rescue efforts, a delay that reminded some of "Brownie" and Katrina.

Stickler is a former mine executive and manager whose confirmation for the position was turned down twice by the Senate.

Richard Stickler

The injury rates at coal mines Stickler managed from 1989 to 1996 were double the national average, according to statistics assembled by the Mine Workers before Stickler's appointment to head the Pennsylvania Bureau of Deep Mine Safety.

During his confirmation hearings, Stickler said he believed the then-current mine safety laws were adequate and did not need strengthening. This spring, when coal mine deaths stood at 33?at the time the highest number killed on the job in a full year since 2001. Congress passed legislation to strengthen and improve mine safety.


In spite of fierce opposition from both Democrats and Republicans as well as the United Mine Workers, George Bush made the appointment last October during a congressional recess.
The Fox was now in charge of another regulatory chicken coop.

The federal government's power to regulate the activities of business is among it's most sacred duties to our citizenry. The regulation of the purity of our drugs and our food, the safety of our workplaces, the safety and reliability of manufactured products, ranging from what we wear to what we drive is a responsibility that is as critical to our social health and civil order as defense. In this area, as in so many others, this administration has not only dropped the ball, they have thrown it to the opposing team.

From a candlelight vigil held in Huntington last week, focused on the six coal miners trapped in the Crandall Canyon mine. Photo by Trent Nelson Salt Lake Tribune

"We are at the mercy of the officials in charge and their so-called experts."
Sonny Olsen, Spokesperson for the families of the trapped miners"

As I was about finish and post this article I received this Email from John Sweeney, AFL-CIO President. The timing was spooky, but he wrote the perfect postscript to what I wanted to convey here. So I'm going to use his remarks as my close, Take it Mr Sweeney:

Dear Robert,

As you may already know, the underground rescue operation to save the six coal

miners trapped in the Crandall Canyon Mine has been halted. Tragically, the miners may be buried beneath the Utah mountain


At this difficult time, I ask you for your thoughts and prayers for the miners and their families, as well as for the families of the three rescue workers who gave their lives trying to save the missing.

I also thank you for being someone who cares enough to take action to improve life for working

families on many fronts.

Last year, after 12 coal miners died in the Sago Mine in West Virginia you helped convince Congress to pass the first major overhaul to mine safety laws in more than three decades, the MINER Act.

Since the Bush administration came into office, it has been systematically dismantling workplace safety protections. But you wouldn't allow corporate greed and Bush administration neglect and indifference to go unchallenged.

That neglect and indifference haven't been isolated to workplace safety. Just look at our economy workers' paychecks are stagnant while our productivity goes up and up. Just think back to the

administration's catastrophic response to Hurricane Katrina, the poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the nation's crumbling infrastructure, our health care crisis; many, many people are wondering,What's wrong with America?

Fortunately, in our democracy, every four years we have a chance to fix what's wrong by electing

leaders, including a president, who put working families first. We have a very busy time ahead of us, fighting together for health care, good jobs and the freedom to form unions without employer interference and fighting for a government led by people committed to make America work for

working families.

Thank you for all that you've done so far in this fight and for all you will do in the months ahead.

In solidarity,

John Sweeney

President, AFL-CIO

P.S. What do you think the next president should do to make our workplaces safe and healthy? Please share your thoughts on our AFL-CIO Working Families Vote 2008Forum.

Related Stories and Links:

Columbus Dispatch

Two For The Money

The Salt Lake Tribune

Memo shows mine already had roof problems in March

I See Dead People

A sincere thank you to Marty Kaplan and David Roberts

Bob Higgins

Worldwide Sawdust

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Six hours later, and I'm still in shock

It is six hours later, and I am still trying to make sense of that speech Resident Evil gave at the VFW convention, just a few blocks from my home...I'm still waiting for the lotus-like sluggishness of intellect to lift from my zipcode. We are deep blue here in the MO 05, and we were just inundated by more republicans downtown than Kansas City has seen since the convention in 1976.

But I was ranting about Resident Evil. Where was I?

Oh, yes....

Holy Chocolate Covered Christ, aren't we well into "fitness to serve" territory yet?!?!?!?

He just stood in front of the VFW and did a backflip with a 180 and stuck the landing - and nobody noticed! I actually think he freakin' believes his own bullshit!

After rejecting parallels with Vietnam, he is suddenly stripping to his skivvies and ready to climb into the sack with those very comparisons, albeit with a kinky twist. Now it seems he thinks that we should have stayed in Vietnam - you remember Vietnam - that was the war that he, draft-dodging, war-mongering, chickenhawk that he is - refused to fight, the draft he dodged - you remember Vietnam. I certainly do, and so do my aunt and uncle who lost their oldest son....And Veterans of that conflict embarrassed me today by clapping for that sonofabitch who so spectacularly failed the test back then.

"Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left," Mr. Bush said. "Whatever your position in that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people,' 're-education camps' and 'killing fields."'
And the idiots who voted for this clown called Kerry a flip-flopper. None of you should EVER call a Democrat a flip-flopper in my presence again. Not with this fucking political gymnast representin' y'all.

Well - I am not the only one who was stunned speechless by the "say anything, what do I have to lose?" resident's speech. Noted UCLA historian Robert Dallek, who has written extensively about the conflict in Iraq as compared to Vietnam, accused Bush of playing fast and loose with history.

"It just boggles my mind, the distortions I feel are perpetrated here by the president," he said in a telephone interview.

"We were in Vietnam for 10 years. We dropped more bombs on Vietnam than we did in all of World War II in every theater. We lost 58,700 American lives, the second-greatest loss of lives in a foreign conflict. And we couldn't work our will," he said.

"What is Bush suggesting? That we didn't fight hard enough, stay long enough? That's nonsense. It's a distortion," he continued. "We've been in Iraq longer than we fought in World War II. It's a disaster, and this is a political attempt to lay the blame for the disaster on his opponents. But the disaster is the consequence of going in, not getting out."
So - will the mainstream media give him a[nother] pass, or will they finally call him on his delusional bullshit? What will you bet he gets a pass? But I think I have maybe figured out is that he is just so fucking wrong, wronger than anyone has ever been, so wrong that in the history of incompetence and failure he gets a special category...That there is just an air of "Holy shit. Where do I even start???"

Well - enough already with the feeling overwhelmed. Pick a point and start making sense, and don't stop.

There's more: "Six hours later, and I'm still in shock" >>

The Rebranding Effort is Under Way

Let me state my position unequivocally to preempt spin. I am not necessarily anti-war across the board, but I am and have always been anti Iraq war. I am as pro-G.I. as you can possibly be, but I am as opposed to Resident Evil and his 'policies' as is possible as well. He is a warmongering toad, and a danger to the Republic.

But the MBA president sure has a good marketing team. The marketing team is so effective that they have convinced staunch withdrawal advocates that another Friedman is called for.

The most vapid bullshit is being repackaged and sold...and Democrats are lining up to buy it. Hillary has been so fished in that she swallowed the hook.

"We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Anbar province, it's working," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Monday.
BZZZTTT!!! Wrong! What is happening in Anbar has nothing - nothing - to do with the so-called Surge™/troop buildup and everything to do with deals being struck with Sunni insurgents that involves massive amounts of firearms and ammo. Consider this for a moment: 170 million mostly 9 mil. rounds for Iraq, and stateside our police forces train with paintballs because there is insufficient ammo. (I have been very vocal about pointing out that the Romney boys and the Bush twits are ducking duty, but Chelsea Clinton isn't in uniform either, and if Mommy is going to be a war-monger on the stump, it's only fair to point that out.)

John Edwards called her on it, too. "Senator Clinton's view that the President's Iraq policy is 'working' is another instance of a Washington politician trying to have it both ways," Edwards campaign manager David Bonior said in a statement. "You cannot be for the President's strategy in Iraq but against the war. The American people deserve straight talk and real answers on Iraq, not double-speak, triangulation, or political positioning."

Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.), an Armed Services Committee member seems to get it. "I don't know of anybody who isn't desperately supportive of the military," she said. "People want to say positive things. But it's difficult to say positive things in this environment and not have some snarky apologist for the White House turn it into some clipped phraseology that looks like support for the president's policies." (emphasis mine)

Congress comes back in two weeks, tanned rested and refreshed, having sold out the Fourth Amendment on their way to the beach. But when they come back, they are in for a surprise, because America will be standing watch, silently scrutinizing from the gallery. And it will just get worse for them from there. We, the People, have had it, and we are taking matters into our own hands. On September 4, we begin to stand watch, and on September 21, we observe the first Iraq Moratorium Day.

Participate, people. Be a worthy descendant to the founders who put it all on the line to give us a Republic that these fools have pissed away.

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Another Blackhawk Down, Fourteen Dead

A Blackhawk UH-60 (pictured) helicopter crashed in Northern Iraq on Wednesday, killing all four crew members and ten passengers on board. The cause of the crash is under investigation, but there is no indication thus far that hostile fire was involved. The helicopter was one of two conducting night operations, transporting members of Task Force Lightning, in charge of Mosul, Kirkuk and Sammara, to another operating position. The military in Iraq often travels by helicopter to avoid threats from roadside bombs.

Todays crash was the 63rd helicopter to go down in Iraq, and 36 have been struck by enemy fire. In the first two months of this year, seven helicopters were shot down, killing 28 people. That spate of fatalities led to a reevaluation of flight plans and the implementation of new tactics the prevent anti-aircraft fire.

The crash on Wednesday was the most lethal in two and a half years. In January 2005 a CH-53E Super Stallion went down, killing all 31 on board.

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Maliki can't catch a break

Don't you just hate it when such a cute couple hits the skids? Just the other day they were so devoted. Then one of them is caught crawling into bed with Iran, probably out of retaliation for the other one arming those Sunni militants.(Here we should probably remind the first one that it has not been that long ago that their paramour didn't even know there was more than one kind of Muslim, and do they need to be reminded that they fell for a dumbass?)

As the curtain falls on their relationship, it is easy to grow wistful. It was just last November, when they appeared side by side in Jordan, having renewed their vows and aWol pledged his fidelity. Nuri Kamal al-Maliki was “the right guy for Iraq” aWol gushed back then.

That was then.

Now, the relationship is on the rocks, and aWol is moving away. By the close of business on Tuesday, there was a lot of daylight between aWol and his BFF Nuri. Speaking at a meeting of north American leaders in Canada, he admitted publicly to “a certain level of frustration" with Mr. Maliki's ability to move the political process forward, and chiding him with the admonition that "American support doesn't come with a blank check."

He is practicing that time-honored Republican tradition of "shifting the blame. " Facing stiff opposition on continuing the occupation of Iraq, both among Democrats and Republicans, he is starting the process of blaming the invaded and occupied for their miserable lot. ("We did all we could, but those ungrateful Iraqis just had no interest in doing anything for them selves!")

Bush made his remarks just hours after Ambassador Ryan Crocker in Baghdad called the political progress "extremely disappointing" and told reporters that stabilizing the country would require reconciliation among rival factions. "There's not a strong sense anywhere, really, of the central government being present and active in making conditions in Iraq better," Crocker said at a news briefing. "They've got to do more of that."Neither Bush not Crocker went as far as Carl Levin did when he called for the ouster of Maliki, but Bush did not offer his usual endorsement, either. Instead, when asked about Maliki's future as Prime Minister, he said "If the government doesn't respond to the demands of the people, they will replace the government."

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Parsing the updated Brookings report, 'Iraq Index'

The Brookings institute released their updated Iraq Index (.pdf alert) yesterday, and there is some data contained therein that puts the lie to the “Surge is working” meme.

For starters, violence isn’t really down, it has just relocated. While attacks in Ramadi and Anbar dropped from an average of 25 per day in 2006 to about 4 per day since the start of the troop buildup; violence is up sharply in Diyala. In 2006, Diyala ranked eighth among all provinces, but in 2007, the province ranks as the third deadliest, and over the last five months, attacks against American forces are up 70%.

Furthermore, as the chart below shows, it is a bit of statistical gymnastics to claim that deaths among American troops are down over the summer months, when the numbers do not lie…while the number of American fatalities is down slightly from the spring and the initial increase in troop strength; when compared to previous summers, the numbers are very grim, and show a sharp increase.

(The full month-by-month chart is available on page 18 of Iraq Index)

Meanwhile, in spite of the fact that the solution has to be at least 80% political, there has been no progress on the political benchmarks. The draft of an Oil Sharing Law was passed in February, but there has been no progress beyond that, and enough Sunni cabinet members have now withdrawn from the government that a quorum is no longer possible.

There has been no progress on the implication of new election laws, and the de-Baathification process has not advanced. There has been no progress toward national reconciliation. There has been no progress made toward bringing Shi’ite militias under control, and the concerns of Sunni lawmakers have not been given due consideration, which has precipitated the withdrawal of Sunni lawmakers from the cabinet.

All in all, there is simply not a lot of positive information to report, and what there is is offset by negative developments elsewhere.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

I do believe an(other) “I told you so” is in order

The New York Times took a huge step toward atoning for that horrible piece of puffery that O’Hanlon and Pollack have been peddling since they returned from their choreographed tour de farce visit to Iraq, when on Sunday they published an op-ed that was group written by NCO’s from the 82nd Airborne who are nearing the end of their 15 month combat rotation. Fifteen months in the weeds trumps eight days of a totally scripted stunt. I know upon whom I choose to bestow credibility.

I would like to point out that this is the second time these Soldiers have come close to the end of this rotation. They were nearing the end when their tour was extended as part of the shell game that the Pentagon is ludicrously calling “the Surge™.” One of the soldiers credited with the piece was shot in the head (he is expected to survive) in the intervening time since he should have shipped out for home.

I am frankly sickened by the feel-good, happy-talk, clap-trap that is getting peddled in the run up to congress reconvening and getting down to debating the funding for the next fiscal year.

I am not alone. In fact, I would much prefer to be in the company of these guys than the cheerleader Michael Yon, or any of the squawking parrots running around Washington posing as “Very Serious People” and blathering on that we need another Friedman Unit.

The War as We Saw It


Published: August 19, 2007


VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias. (Click here for full op-ed)

I would point out that these reports have been readily available, and I have been blogging about similar events practically since Resident Evil scowled “bring ‘em on.” (Seriously, has anyone ever met a bigger dipshit than this guy?) In other words, this is not my first "I told you so."

The scene that these young, tough, seasoned NCO’s describe is pretty much the story I have been hearing for the last two and a half years from the returned vets I have come in contact with.

The first thing that must be done is admitting that we are an army of occupation in a hostile land. There is no military solution, nor is the requisite political progress being made.

The fact that Resident Evil drove us over a cliff in Iraq and leaves us with no good options and a broken military must also be owned up to.

Merely accepting reality has the foam-flecked loonies sharpening their knives for the stab in the back trope to be cranked out from the Mighty Wurlitzer. They are already blowing their tops about “surrendering to al Qaeda” or some such nonsense.

It has been less than a week since wingnut chickenhawk Congressman Doug Lamborn of the CO-05, who, incidentally, has never worn the uniform of his country (unless you count those little flag lapel pins) visited the war zone for one day and started the “blame the military themselves for losing an unwinnable war" meme. His stones are so big that he felt it perfectly proper that he should admonish the soldiers he met on the lone day he spent in Iraq – Soldiers who have had their tours extended to 15 months (450+ days versus one day) – by telling them they could win if they wanted to.

The last time out, it was the right that blamed the military and the Democrats, and even individual soldiers themselves, for failing to win in Vietnam. They blamed everyone but the real culprits – the warmongers and death merchants. In other words, themselves.

Because it worked before, and because it is quite frankly all they have, they will try the bullshit bait-and-switch crap again, trying to blame everyone involved except themselves. Don’t let them get away with it this time. Remind them at every turn of just how wrong they have been. Hold them accountable. They are less than three of every ten people. For the better part of three decades, they have been claiming some sort of genius strategy, when all they have really been doing is shouting down the majority and impugning the patriotism of those who have the temerity to disagree with their fun-house-mirror vision of the world.

Sweet Mother of Pearl, don’t listen to them! And for the love of Habeas Corpus, the Constitution and the Fourth Amendment, fucking fight back this time.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

John Doe Padilla Convicted of Conspiracy

Jose Padilla, center, is escorted to a waiting police vechicle by federal marshals in this Jan. 5, 2006, file photo. He has been on trial in Miami for most of this year, charged with conspiring with al Qaeda to detonate a "dirty bomb" in the United States. Photo by J. Pat Carter, AP

On Thurday August 16 2007 A federal jury convicted Jose Padilla of three counts of conspiracy in a trial that was the culmination of five years of a criminal proceeding that is among the most shameful in the history of the United States justice system.

I am not an apologist for Jose Padilla, I belong to no "Free Jose" organizations nor am I a member of any "Jose Padilla defense funds," although maybe I should have been, maybe we all should have been because when they throw away the keys to Padilla's cell we will also throw away any pretense to being a nation of laws, a nation that respects human rights, we will throw away a large measure of what once made us a great and civilized nation.

I am also not a terrorist, nor am I a member of any terrorist organization and that declaration alone, in the modern, mandatory, cocoon of fear within which we are now required to live by governmental decree, is probably enough to have a tap placed on my phone and a couple of guys who look like the Blues Brothers parked in front of my house at odd hours. After all, if I have nothing to hide, why would I bring it up. Under the new Department of Justice rule book I must be indictable for something.

Jose Padilla was arrested over five years ago in May of 2002, picked up in Chicago after returning  from Europe and allegedly carrying over 10 grand in cash. He was held for  about a month as a material witness before Attorney General John Ashcroft delayed a trip to Moscow in order to announce that the US had discovered a plot to explode "dirty bombs" inside the country. Padilla was branded as the "Dirty Bomber" and George Bush declared him to be an illegal enemy combatant.

Padilla was a small time criminal, a US citizen born in Brooklyn, he had lived in Chicago and been a member of a street gang known as the Maniac Latin Disciples. He had been in prison at least once for aggravated assault after a gang member died as a result of fight in which he was involved. While in prison Padilla converted to Islam under the tutelage of someone who is reported to have preached a non violent, mainstream version of the religion. He attended mosques in Florida for years with one of the men who was convicted with him.

Padilla was probably a bad actor, I have seen nothing in his resume that would lead me to hire him as a youth counselor, but was he a terrorist? Who knows? That is the problem.

Had the government arrested him and presented it's evidence in a court of law, as is done every day, in conspiracies great and small in every city in this country, had Padilla been afforded the guarantees of the constitution of the nation of which he was a citizen, we might have learned the truth.

Now we probably never will, because what the government did was search for shortcuts, the law was inconvenient, due process, criminal procedure, rights of the accused, all that stuff was an impediment to the speedy production of positive results in their war on terror public relations campaign, which followed on the heels of 9/11 and continues unabated to this day.

Padilla was shipped off to a Naval brig in Charleston to spend the next three and one half years in total isolation, held in constant darkness, or constant light, under extremes of temperature, subjected to physical and psychological "enhanced interrogation methods," the Bush administration's Orwellian euphemism for torture. And the government got nothing. Nothing.

When all was said and done, after more than three years of criminal treatment, the government, faced with the likelihood that the courts were about to require them to put up or shut up, finally indicted Padilla on the three conspiracy charges of which, last week, he was ultimately convicted.

Padilla was never charged with being a member of al Queada, he was never charged with being a dirty bomber, he was not indicted on nor was he ever charged with any what was alleged at the beginning of this exercise in injustice over three years before.

Our current Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales last week called the conviction of Jose Padilla and his co-conspirators " a significant victory in our efforts to fight the threat posed by terrorists and their supporters."

If holding an American citizen or anyone else, for years, years, in military custody, without charging him with a crime, subjecting him to torture during the entire period, and then failing to indict or convict him of anything close to what they originally alleged is "a significant victory" then it helps me to understand their constant claims of significant progress in Iraq or in the "War on Terror."

Make no mistake, this was no victory. This was a failure of our system of justice deliberately brought about by an executive department and two Attorneys General who had, and have, nothing but, disdain, in fact, utter contempt for the American system of justice and for due process of law.

I'm not bleeding for Jose Padilla here, I doubt if Jose even knows who he is at this point.

By accounts  that I have read he has been driven insane by the circumstances of his confinement. It is reported that as part of the process of breaking him down he was forced to sign documents with the name "John Doe." One of their goals was to relieve him of his personal identity, they succeeded, all too well.

The government on Thursday convicted "John Doe" of three counts of conspiring to participate in terrorist acts. They can do the same to me, more importantly, they can do the same to you.

They have spared no expense of time, energy and money over the last six years. they have gone to great lengths in establishing shortcuts that enable them to investigate, arrest, imprison and torture any one they want, at any time and for any reason.

To this government, this Cheney/Bush administration, this criminal enterprise that is destroying America one liberty at a time, we are all, each and every one of us "John Doe."

Bob Higgins

Worldwide Sawdust

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Window Into a Terror Suspect's Isolation

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