Friday, August 31, 2007

War On Terror: The Rise Of The Politics of Fear:
Nightmares, Lies And Manipulations

Incinerated body of an Iraqi soldier on the "Highway of Death," a name the press has given to the road from Mutlaa, Kuwait, to Basra, Iraq. U.S. planes immobilized the convoy by disabling vehicles at its front and rear, then bombing and strafing the resulting traffic jam for hours. More than 2,000 vehicles and tens of thousands of charred and dismembered bodies littered the sixty miles of highway. The clear rapid incineration of the human being [pictured above] suggests the use of napalm, phosphorus, or other incendiary bombs. These are anti-personnel weapons outlawed under the 1977 Geneva Protocols. This massive attack occurred after Saddam Hussein announced a complete troop withdrawal from Kuwait in compliance with UN Resolution 660. Such a massacre of withdrawing Iraqi soldiers violates the Geneva Convention of 1949, common article 3, which outlaws the killing of soldiers who "are out of combat." --War Crimes
The 1990/91 Gulf War, The Death Of Reason, the ensuing long years of the sanctions war against the people of Iraq, the 2003 invasion of the country, and the ongoing occupation of Iraq since, are all aspects of and symptoms created by something much larger and much more insidious: War On Terror: The Rise Of The Politics of Fear.

To help shake off and counteract what Maryscott O'Connor called "the System's monopoly over opinion-moulding", watch the following BBC documentary from Adam Curtis. It's a long one, three hours in total, split into three one hour segments. I highly recommend it for a fuller and clearer historical context and understanding of how we got to where we are today.

Video: The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear
Written and produced by Adam Curtis, via AxisOfLogic, 06 August 2007

Editor's Note: This 3-hour, BBC documentary shows that the "threat of terrorism" is to a very large extent, "a fantasy manufactured by politicians, national security profiteers and Islamic terrorists in order to project and consolidate their own political power". The documentary reveals the origins of the "war on terrorism" in the Reagan Administration under the influence of Neocons like Michael Ledeen and their ally, former CIA Chief, William Casey. The two videos below offer a taste of the entire documentary which is linked below the following brief video excerpts. - LMB (Les Blough, AxisOfLogic)

Here are two short excerpts: (You can watch the full 3 hour production in 3 parts, on the flip)

Video Excerpt: Interview of Melvin Goodman, Head of Office of Soviet Affairs, 1976-1987: "The CIA's chief of Soviet affairs from 1976 to 1987 admits Ronald Reagan had nothing to do with the downfall of the Soviet Union".

Video Excerpt: CIA admits that "lies became reality" while hyping the Soviet threat. (includes Michael Ledeen, pro-war neocon, and his argument installing "democracy" by force in other sovereign nations. Melvin Goodman describes the beginning of the mythological "war on terror" under Ronald Reagan.)

Watch the full 3 hour production in 3 parts, on the flip
The first 2 1/2 minutes of each video below have the same intro.

The Power of Nightmares Part 1: Baby it's Cold Outside

The Power of Nightmares Part 2: The Phantom Victory

The Power of Nightmares - Part 3: The Shadows in the Cave

Articles on Hyping Terror:
Hyping Terror For Fun, Profit - And Power
by Thom Hartmann

The Myth of an al Qaeda Takeover of Iraq
by Ted Galen Carpenter, Cato Institute

Everyone we fight in Iraq is now "al-Qaida"
by Glenn Greenwald

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American Exceptionalism In Iraq

This film by John Pilger was made before George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, but after George H.W. Bush attacked Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War in response to the Iraqi invasion Of Kuwait. "After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the United Nations (backed strongly by the US and UK) imposed harsh sanctions on Iraq that lasted for 10 years (1991-2001); the harsh restrictions on imports of everything, including access to key medicines, resulted in over a million deaths, more than half a million of which were women and children. That's more deaths than the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan and 9/11 combined." The film is an hour and fifteen minutes long. Watch it. While you're watching it, keep in mind that George W. Bush's Iraq and Mid-East Debacle has happened to Iraq since this film was made.

I saw someone earlier today make the claim that the Democratic control of Congress is too narrow for a fast, effective action to get us out of Iraq. That, in the sense that matters most, is utter, unadulterated, self-deceiving bullshit. The only sense in which it is true is that too many Democrats in Congress are placing their own interests ahead of the the lives of the soldiers and the Iraqis that are dying everyday, while those Democrats cynically try to use supporting/funding/continuing the debacle to win elections next year.
If the Democrats don't want to do the right thing... it becomes obvious that they want to continue the occupation.

For what? Cheap gasoline? Or the neocon vision of world domination?

What has been needed all along and is needed now is for the Democrats to show that they have some balls and display A Measure of Morality in Congress:
If you could secretly tell a magic genie "Yes" and suffer horribly and die but save the lives of a million people you've never met, would you say No? This one they don't even ask in philosophy school, much less Congress. But let's think about it for a minute. What's the worst fate a Congress Member could face as a result of voting against funding the war? For most it must be the loss of their seat. How horrible is that? Some of these congress members are freshmen, first elected last November campaigning on promises to end the war. Now they're prepared to vote $100 billion for the war in hopes of getting elected again in 2008. What in the hell did they want to get elected for in the first place? What district is going to receive less money if we end the war and redirect our spending to useful projects than if we continue the war but fund special pieces of pork here and there?
So what if they chance losing their seats. How horrible is that?

Personally, I think it is the best way for them to retain their seats.

The continuous whine that "we don't have the votes" is also part of the big lie.

If the Democrats stand up NOW and announce that they will no longer fund the occupation and that there will be no more emergency supplementals introduced when the current one runs out, the situation will become one of NO votes needed to NOT pass a bill. The ball will be in Bush's court.

The Democrats have absolute power in this debate. What good is it and why should voters let them retain it next year if they are too weak kneed to use it to end the Debacle? If they will not, then by default they proclaim their complicity with Bush.

The argument that 'defunding endangers the troops' is utter bullshit and is completely and irrefutably debunked. Let the rethugs try to accuse Democrats of it. Democrats will win that political argument, but ONLY if they have the cohones to do what they know is the right thing. ........................................................... Maybe America needs an Exceptional new National Anthem.
When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse, Out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look but it was gone. I cannot put my finger on it now. The child is grown, the dream is gone. I have become comfortably numb.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Major cholera outbreak

In northern Iraq, there are nearly 4,000 people being treated for cholera, or at least, what they suspect is cholera. Eight people have died so far. There are a total of 82 confirmed cases so far. This is happening in Kurdistan, and at least for the province of Sulaimaniya, I do not think that we can pin this on the ongoing military occupation or prior bombing.

Here’s what a World Health Organization official had to say:

"A health catastrophe could emerge in Kurdistan if help is not urgently offered by other states and the World Health Organisation (WHO)," minister Zairyan Othman told Reuters. Othman said Kurdistan had declared a state of emergency to prevent the spread of the acute intestinal infection, which is caught through contaminated water or food.

There are two major outbreaks that they are covering – one in the province of Sulaimaniya and the other in Kirkuk. The hospital in the province of Sulaimaniya is reportedly well organized and well handled. It is being blamed on a contaminated well, which residents are forced to use because of a shortage of drinking water. In Kirkuk, the contamination is blamed on cracked water pipes. It is unclear if this is due to an aging water system or from bombings in the area, or maybe a combination of the two factors.

This is disrupting many aspects of life in those areas. Let’s hope it is under control soon.

More information on Iraq Today blog about current events in Iraq.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Latina/o Anti-War Breakthrough: Moratorio Irak!

37 years ago today, the Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War rocked Los Angeles and the country. One of those historic events that somehow elude US history classes in high school, the 1970 Chicano Moratorium played two historic roles. It marked a decisive step by the new Chicano movement onto the political stage and delivered a sharp shot to the head which blindsided the diehards in US government and ruling circles who were trying to keep the Vietnam War going.

Today, the launching of Moratorio Irak, a Spanish language wing of the Iraq Moratorium with its own website, marks that anniversary. El Moratorio has been pulled together in recent weeks by a group of Spanish-speaking and bilingual activists based mainly in the veterans and military families movement. Among them are Gold Star family members like Fernando Suárez de Solar, Carlos & Mélida Arredondo and Juan Torres: and Iraq vets like resister Carlos Mejía and Edgar Cuevas, both recently-elected officers of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

As part of the Iraq Moratorium, Moratorio Irak aims to mobilize many who now are against the war, but have yet to act against it, by undertaking local actions that have a low threshold of entry on the Third Friday of every month, commencing September 21.

This is a very big deal, friends, for two reasons.

First, the Pentagon, increasingly desperate for cannon fodder, has made a special target of immigrants from Latin America, especially recent ones who are primarily Spanish speakers. Stronger networking can raise anti-war voices and visibility in these communities, and in particular help hardworking activists counteract the predatory recruiters who prowl the schools and malls.

Second, the Moratorio Irak website and its blog seek to address one of the most glaring deficiencies in the movement against the Iraq War thus far. This is the first time, as far as I can tell, that a national level anti-war organization, coalition or campaign has developed an independent, interactive, stand-alone website with both translated and original material. It will, let's hope, provide inspiration and an example for others to take up.

Finally, an appeal for support from those of you who feel that these courageous men and women have begun something that will damage the war machine and expand the movement to get out of Iraq. Moratorio Irak requests two things of you. Please, spread the word, especially to friends, lists, blogs and websites which might be interested. You can use the rollout announcement in Spanish will be included in the comments and can also be seen as the first post on the blog at the Moratorio Irak website.

Also, the Iraq Moratorium urgently needs financial support! Hosting, designing, translating and maintaining the website are not yet paid for. The production and distribution of literature and buttons, armbands and so on will cost. So will travel by those coordinating the campaign. Please donate, even if it’s only ten or 15 bucks. You can give online directly, or via PayPal or by mail at click "contribute" in the menu on the left hand side.

[crossposted at DailyKos]

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From Times Select: He’s in Iraq. U.S. Reward: Deport Wife?

He’s in Iraq. U.S. Reward: Deport Wife?
Published: August 28, 2007

While Alexander Gomez was in Iraq at the United States government’s bidding, that same government was trying to kick his wife out of this country. For the Colombian-born Mr. Gomez, more accurately Specialist Gomez of the New York Army National Guard, something was definitely out of kilter.

Not that he could do much about it, not from the military base near Nasiriya, in southern Iraq, where he was a mechanic in an Army maintenance company. “I had to stay focused on what I was doing there,” he said.

As things go in this war, Nasiriya was hardly the most dangerous place, said Specialist Gomez, who returned from Iraq last year after 14 months and now lives with his wife, Marly Sampedro, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Still, “It wasn’t summer camp,” he said. “We were in a hostile environment. The most important thing was to stay focused. If you lose focus, you’re going to go home in a bag.”

In the end, everything worked out fine for him and Ms. Sampedro, who is also from Colombia. But their story offers insight into some of the problems that are peculiar to immigrants serving in the wartime United States military.

There are thousands of foreign-born men and women like Specialist Gomez, who remains on active duty with the 145th Maintenance Company, based on Staten Island. According to the Defense Department, about 21,100 legal immigrants who are noncitizens are serving in the United States armed forces. Each year, several thousand of them become citizens, taking advantage of a speeded-up naturalization process offered to those who put their lives on the line for their adoptive country.

That’s what Specialist Gomez, 33, did. He had a green card and was not a citizen when he joined the Guard in 2003. Nor when he met Ms. Sampedro in 2002. Nor when he married her in 2004, around the time that their son, Alexander Jr., was born. Nor when he headed off to Iraq in November 2004.

Thanks to the expedited process for service members, he got his citizenship in April 2005. That did not do Ms. Sampedro any good, though. The circumstances are somewhat complicated, but they boil down to this:

Ms. Sampedro, who is 37 and struggles with English, had come to this country from Cali, Colombia, in 2001, with a son from a previous relationship, Milton, now 14. She applied for asylum. The request was ultimately denied, but when she first arrived, it was good enough for a hearing officer to let her in temporarily.

That made her an “arriving alien,” in the jargon of the immigration world. When she applied for permanent residence — a green card — the authorities told her in 2005: No way. Arriving aliens, they said, may not seek an adjustment of their immigration status. That she was married to someone who by then was a United States citizen made no difference.

Not only that, but the authorities wanted to deport Ms. Sampedro and Milton right away. They said she had lied to them by claiming American citizenship for herself. In fact, she had made no such claim. The charge was a mistake, as the government later acknowledged.

Nonetheless, there she was in the spring of 2005, with deportation staring her in the face, with a husband in Iraq and with no idea what to do about their baby: take him with her to troubled Cali or find foster care in New York?

Desperate, she turned to the New York Association for New Americans, an immigrant services agency. An agency lawyer, Michael Lehach, took up her cause.

To cut to the chase (and through a thicket of legalese), he blocked a deportation order and then got the government to back down altogether. Ms. Sampedro and Milton not only got to stay, but they also recently got green cards of their own. End of story.

But there is a larger point. For Mr. Lehach, it is that “Marly and Milton are not the only family members of United States servicemen who find themselves in jeopardy with Immigration.” There may be hundreds of people, if not thousands, with similar troubles, he said.

To him, “it’s unacceptable that a bona fide spouse and child could be removed while he’s serving his country. They should get the maximum amount of favorable discretion that the government can give.”

As for Specialist Gomez, he fully expects to be sent at some point back to Iraq or perhaps to Afghanistan. Does he bear any resentment over how his family was treated? Not at all.

“It’s the law, and we all have to obey the laws,” he said. “I always believe in this country and its laws.”

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Petraeus and the Summer of Kabuki™

The natural born cynic in me has a lot to work with these days, and the material is an embarrassment of riches – in addition to just being embarrassing.

Next Tuesday the Government Accountability Office is scheduled to present to the Congress a 70-page report on the prospects for political reconciliation in Iraq. Insiders who have seen the report say it paints a very grim picture. It seems to confirm the “scorecard” of the status of Iraqi security forces that was released yesterday that concludes the Iraqis are years away from assuming responsibility for the security of their own country.

Congress is wasting no time. Indeed, they are starting hearings on the reports in the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees in advance of the Petraeus - Crocker Happy-talk Express that is supposed to be delivered the following week.

For the cynic in all of us, they have invoked clichés that would be edited out of a dime novel – Petraeus is scheduled to appear before Congress on September 11.

The atmosphere is sure to be charged, and enough congresscritters have Petraeus' number to make his appearance contentious. Especially in light of the fact that Petraeus tampered with the integrity of last weeks NIE.

The NIE, requested by the White House Iraq coordinator, Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, in preparation for the testimony, met with resistance from U.S. military officials in Baghdad, according to a senior U.S. military intelligence officer there. Presented with a draft of the conclusions, Petraeus succeeded in having the security judgments softened to reflect improvements in recent months, the official said. (emphasis added)

For his part, the Resident continued to spin yesterday. He was rhetorically high-fiving Iraqi politicians for reaching some minor agreement on Sunday, but so what? The Cabinet still does not have a quorum so it doesn’t matter. Without a quorum, it’s just so much rowing with one oar.

Politicians traipsed to Iraq all summer long in an endless parade of self-important potentate puffery, as if a few hours of being shown what you are meant to see and nothing more is an honest assessment medium!

This Summer of Kabuki™ has provided Petraeus with the opportunity to do what he does so well…stage productions. It has been like summer stock theater over there, and let's give credit where credit is due! His production values have been spectacular!

Some of the Dog-and-Pony-Shows have even been somewhat effective, as in the case of Brian Baird, Representative of Washington. He came back after a one-day fact finding fact free trip to the war zone, where, by golly, he saw enough to convince him of the necessity to give Petraeus another Friedman Unit! This did not go over well with his constituents, and at a town-hall meeting, he got a face full of claws and faced a rhetorical lashing at the hands of an angry electorate that apparently stopped just short of burning him in effigy. One constituent pulled no punches and reminded him just who the hell he works for. "We don't care what your convictions are," said Jan Lustig of Vancouver. "You are here to represent us."

Petraeus will be appearing before a congress that has been provided details about what they have done that pissed us off, and that has been told in explicit terms just what the hell is expected of them, so he is not in for a Sunday stroll to the ice cream parlor, or even an open-air market in Indiana. He has been hinting around at a decade of combat involvement in Iraq – will he mention that in his testimony before a hinky congress?

And will Congress listen to those of us who control whether they keep their jobs or not? Or will they furrow their brows and scratch their chins in a most studious manner, and then do what ever the little idiot wants, while the killing continues apace?

[Crossposted from WTWC &
Blue Girl, Red State]

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It's only $50 Billion, and besides, we'll pay for it with tax cuts!

[Crossposted from Blue Girl, Red State]

It was announced yesterday that Resident Evilplans next month to ask Congress for an additional $50 Billion dollars in funds to sustain the build up of American forces in the ongoing occupation of Iraq.

These funds would be in addition to the $460 Billion in the defense budget for FY 2008, and $147 Billion provided in a supplemental funding bill for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Preferably, this additional request would have been announced after the Petraeus-Crocker Happy Talk Express comes to deliver aWol's fat-pencil rendered report to the congwess. (There's pwogweth! It's twue!!! You can't thtop pounding thand down the wathole now, can you???)

The request is being prepared now in the belief that Congress will be unlikely to balk so soon after hearing the two officials argue that there are promising developments in Iraq but that they need more time to solidify the progress they have made, a congressional aide said.
Most of the funding in the revised supplemental spending bill would go for funding the current troop-buildup strategy that has brought troop levels to 160,000. The funding for the escalation was cleverly/dishonestly left off from the 2008 budget "because they weren't sure how long it would last." The overtures that indicate additional funding will be requested indicates that the powers that be want the killing to continue apace until next spring.

Meanwhile, the Resident continued his Deny Reality 2007 Tour™ with an appearance before the American Legion in Reno, NV on Tuesday, where he gave an optimistic assessment of recent events in the war, now in its fifth year. "There are unmistakable signs that our strategy is achieving the objectives we set out," he insisted. "The momentum is now on our side."

Ummm...Okay...I'm going to be 45 this Christmas. Does this mean I am finally going to get that pony?

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Cynicism About the Jordan Verdict

My cynicism is sure getting a workout lately.

Take the conviction of Lt. Colonel Steven Jordan, the highest ranking member of the armed services to stand trial for the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib. He was not convicted of prisoner abuse, or of being a derelict officer. He was convicted of talking about what happened at the prison.

(Loose lips sink appropriations for new ships!)

And the real culprits all skate away. The Two-Star Dominatrix, MG Barbara Fast? She skates away, unencumbered by charges nor, it seems, by conscience. But some of us know the score. We know that her deputies, Military Intelligence Warrant Officers shown tuning up prisoners in the photographs right next to SSG Graner, are some of the most sadistic bastards to ever don the cloth...These criminals too, walk free.

The Army counted on the idiots of this country to buy the lie that a part-time Staff Sergeant ran the entire show. That a part-time Staff Sergeant was the ringleader of the whole sordid spectacle. They conveniently omitted from their explanation the real role of those Warrant Officers. And idiot America bought it.

Most Americans don't even know what a warrant officer actually is.

They sure as hell aren't going to explain that with a WO standing there, a SSG might as well be a PFC where accountability starts and stops. Scapegoats were sentenced to military prison, while war criminals, sadists and torturers walk free.

[H/T to Pale Rider. This post is essentially a summation of an email conversation the two of us had on this topic, with some input from my husband. Crossposted from Blue Girl, Red State]

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A Message For Congressional Democrats

A Date Certain For Ending The Iraq Debacle
By Big Tent Democrat, Talkleft, Wednesday August 29, 2007

The Bush Administration will request the Congress exercise its Spending Power and increase the funding for the Iraq Debacle:

President Bush plans to ask Congress next month for up to $50 billion in additional funding for the war in Iraq, a White House official said yesterday, a move that appears to reflect increasing administration confidence that it can fend off congressional calls for a rapid drawdown of U.S. forces.

The request -- which would come on top of about $460 billion in the fiscal 2008 defense budget and $147 billion in a pending supplemental bill to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- is expected to be announced after congressional hearings scheduled for mid-September featuring the two top U.S. officials in Iraq. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker will assess the state of the war and the effect of the new strategy the U.S. military has pursued this year.

. . . Most of the additional funding in a revised supplemental bill would pay for the current counteroffensive in Iraq. . . . The decision to seek about $50 billion more appears to reflect the view in the administration that the counteroffensive will last into the spring of 2008 and will not be shortened by Congress.
I believe this request provides Congress another chance to set an end date to the Iraq Debacle. The Congress must set a date certain for ending funding for Iraq Debacle operations. If they lack the political courage to say no to this funding request, the Congress must insist that this is the LAST request and that there will be no more funding for Iraq Debacle operations after a date certain. I suggest March 31, 2008. The Reid-Feingold framework:
Let me explain again - I ask for three things: First, announce NOW that the Democratic Congress will NOT fund the Iraq Debacle after a date certain. You pick the date. Whatever works politically. If October 2007 is the date Dems can agree to, then let it be then. If March 2008, then let that be the date; Second, spend the year reminding the President and the American People every day that Democrats will not fund the war past the date certain; Third, do NOT fund the Iraq Debacle PAST the date certain.

Some argue we will never have the votes for this. That McConnell will filibuster, that Bush will veto. To them I say I KNOW. But filbustering and vetoing does not fund the Iraq Debacle. Let me repeat, to end the war in Iraq, the Democratic Congress does not have to pass a single bill; they need only NOT pass bills that fund the Iraq Debacle.

But but but, defund the whole government? Defund the whole military? What if Bush does not pull out the troops? First, no, not defund the government, defund the Iraq Debacle. If the Republicans choose to shut down government in order to force the continuation of the Iraq Debacle, do not give in. Fight the political fight. We'll win. Second, defund the military? See answer to number one. Third, well, if you tell the American People what is coming for a year, and that Bush is on notice, that i t will be Bush abandoning the troops in Iraq, we can win that politcal battle too.

Understand this, if you want to end the Iraq Debacle, this is the only way until Bush is not President. If you are not for this for ending the war, tell me what you do support. I think this is the only way. And if you shy away from the only way to end the Debacle, then you really are not for ending the war are you?
[emphasis added to closing paragraph]

There's more: "A Message For Congressional Democrats" >>

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Will Democrats please STFU about a “diplomacy offensive” in Iraq?

The nattering of people like Sen. Joe Biden (D-MBNA) makes it sound like the war in Iraq is solvable by other means if not winnable by military ones.

Joe: It ain’t “solvable,” either; certainly not as long as any of our troops are still there.

Besides, who are we going to “diplomacy” with? Iran will play the stall game. Syria is going to want major money (at least some degree of it, rightfully) for its Iraq refugee problem. Turkey’s going to demand we reign in the Kurdish area more than we have the ability to do with the number of troops there. The Saudis will say “yes” and still funnel money to Sunni insurgents because of Iran.

That’s our Democratic leadership: Still about two exponential factors behind the curve.

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OOIBC Renovations

Well, it's been a rather intense few days getting the new OOIBC site design to this point. The renovations are for the most part complete, though there are still a few tweaks here and there to be done.

Graphics wizards T. at Blue Girl, Red State and Joe at American Leftist are in development of a new header graphic for us. I won't give away their design philosophy and concept here but I'm really looking forward to seeing it.

Thanks to all for your patience with the rapid and perhaps unsettling changes over the past few days.

Here's a place for you to leave comments on the design, any suggestions you might have, and or functionality wish lists. Let us know what you think.

I can't promise that everything can be done, but let me know what you'd like to see and we'll do our best to make it happen.

I also want to take this opportunity to welcome our two newest members, Intrepid Liberal Journal and Gold Star Mom Speaks Out. I'm looking forward to see both of them posting here any day now.

In the meantime let's keep after the people in Washington, who seem to be having trouble "getting it", and keep beating them over the head to end the awful debacle that has been created by the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and to support the troops over there by getting them home and keeping any more more of them from being injured or worse...

One of the best reasons IMO is that, as James McMurtry & The Heartless Bastards said, "We Can't Make It Here Anymore":

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Not just enlisteds leaving the Army because of Iraq

Officers from West Point are refusing to re-up after their initial term:

West Point cadets are obligated to stay in the Army for five years after graduating. In a typical year, about a quarter to a third of them decide not to sign on for another term. In 2003, when the class of 1998 faced that decision, only 18 percent quit the force: memories of 9/11 were still vivid; the war in Afghanistan seemed a success; and war in Iraq was under way. Duty called, and it seemed a good time to be an Army officer. But last year, when the 905 officers from the class of 2001 had to make their choice to stay or leave, 44 percent quit the Army. It was the service’s highest loss rate in three decades.

Col. Don Snider, a longtime professor at West Point, sees a “trust gap” between junior and senior officers. There has always been a gap, to some degree. What’s different now is that many of the juniors have more combat experience than the seniors. They have come to trust their own instincts more than they trust orders. They look at the hand they’ve been dealt by their superiors’ decisions, and they feel let down.

The gap is widening further, Snider told me, because of this war’s operating tempo, the “unrelenting pace” at which soldiers are rotated into Iraq for longer tours — and a greater number of tours — than they signed up for. Many soldiers, even those who support the war, are wearying of the endless cycle.

Meanwhile, many Army generals are bringing this on themselves by their arrogance:
Soon after (Lt. Col. Paul) Yingling’s article appeared, Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond, commander of the Fourth Infantry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, reportedly called a meeting of the roughly 200 captains on his base, all of whom had served in Iraq, for the purpose of putting this brazen lieutenant colonel in his place. According to The Wall Street Journal, he told his captains that Army generals are “dedicated, selfless servants.” Yingling had no business judging generals because he has “never worn the shoes of a general.” By implication, Hammond was warning his captains that they had no business judging generals, either.

The article linked is an excellent one about an Army career development school for captains. Many of them there are ready, willing and able to challenge general officers’ perceptions and comments about Iraq. Who knows? Maybe we will see more and more material, in various forums, like the recent New York Times column from members of the 82nd Airborne.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

More from Army of Dude

This post was inspired by Blue Girl.

Alex, among the first group of soldiers in Iraq to have their tours extended three months*, is nearing the end of his duty,

Going home is a beautiful, terrifying thought to have once it gets this close to happening.
I’ll look back on the hysterical laughter during fifteen hour Baghdad clears, the terror of being pinned down by machine gun fire, the sight of a Stryker on its side and the unfolding of a body bag under the flames of a nearby school, unzipped tenderly to fit the body of Chevy as RPGs screamed overhead. Soon this place will all be in the past.
The key to it all [the surge] would be 24/7 interaction with Iraqi Army and a constant presence among the Iraqi citizens, giving them confidence in the mission of coalition forces. The building we picked used to be a whiskey distillery, and we’ve been busy putting up concrete barriers and wire around it. A house was too close to where the wall was supposed to be, so engineers blew it to smithereens and sent the family packing. The father owned the plot for forty years and comes by every so often to collect the useful bricks left scattered a hundred yards in every direction. Before he entered once, I patted his seventy year old frame down like a common criminal.
Next month we’ll be the first unit home that completed a three month extension. We were one of few to see Iraq before and after the surge. If the media got anything right, it was that the surge failed.

* One way the Pentagon increased the number of US soldiers inside Iraq during the surge was to make some soldiers stay in Iraq longer.


Full Blog Entry on Army of Dude "I Can Taste It"

Originally posted on GDAEman Blog

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The War, the Elections and Impeachment

Two months ago I attended the national assembly of United for Peace and Justice in Chicago. Whatever it’s shortcomings (think: too white and too old), participants shared a general sense that the anti-war movement was once again on the rise, and positioned to make real advances come the fall.

Today I would argue that the anti-war movement is actually somewhat weaker than it was then. Several dedicated activists I have spoken with recently share this concern, and tend to raise problems like activist burnout, a fall calendar chock full of scattershot and all-too-disunited demonstrations, decreased media coverage of the war, the confusion sewn by the administration’s spin doctors, and lack of leadership from the Congress that was elected to end the war.

True, every point true. But the real problem, I would argue, lies elsewhere. The momentum of the anti-war movement is being slowed and distorted by the pull of powerful gravitational fields from a pair of forces that have greatly increased in strength in the last two months. These are the Democratic Party’s 2008 campaign and the grassroots movement to impeach Bush and Cheney.

In the left liberal blogosphere, these two social currents tend to be seen as opposites, pitted against one another on an empty field, and their effect on other social movements is ignored. (The flareup around the occupation of Congressman John Conyers’ office and accompanying discussion of racism is a recent exception.)

Let me lay out as clearly as I can where I stand—I am an anti-war activist first and foremost these days. In part that’s because, as an American, if I fail to do as much as I can to stop the war, I own it. In part that’s because this unjust and unjustifiable occupation is the number one issue facing the American people. (The war is the central reality of American political life and people know it: Gallup Polls says it’s been on top of their “most important problem list since March 2004”).

The great majority are well and truly sick of this war and what it’s doing to the country. They want it over with, and they want it over with yesterday. That’s not going to change. Does anyone here believe that Bush’s poll numbers have plummeted so drastically because of Valerie Plame or White House emails on Republican Party accounts?

Those Darned Democrats

Here’s how I see the dynamics. First, the Congressional majority that was elected to end the war has done a piss-poor job of it, for a variety of unattractive reasons that have been hashed over here ad nauseam. Second, the major Democratic presidential candidates are all pushing ghastly “triangulated” positions on Iraq, proposals whose implementation would extend the occupation, in modified form, for years.

Even so, some folks are inclined to think that too much else is at stake in the coming elections--the survival of Constitutional democracy and the habitability of our planet, to cite two—to allow Democratic officeholders recalcitrant about ending the war to be the targets of protest and criticism. The liberal punditocracy and many important powers in and behind the Democratic Party have taken this stand.

It is presented seductively. Americans Against Escalation in Iraq (AAEI), for instance, has been running a very well-funded (thanks to the Service Employees union and others) campaign targeting Republican Congresscritters exclusively, demanding that they stand up against the war. A worthy cause, no? Why not put a hurting on the weasels?

But, as I am hardly the first to note, this is mainly a part of Campaign 2008. Those behind it don’t expect to win many Republicans to the kind of gutsy stance Walter Jones (R-NC) has taken against the war, they just want to soften them up for challenges from Democratic candidates next year. And they sure don’t expect to shake those Congressional Democrats who continue to cast votes enabling Bush and the Pentagon, because they’re not even trying to.

“Well, maybe that’s a job somebody else should do,” I hear you mutter. Correct, and that somebody else is the anti-war movement, which has been hitting elected officials from both parties hard through efforts like the Occupation Project and letter-writing, phone-calling and lobbying campaigns. But the AAEI and similar efforts tend to pull angry, activist-minded folks away from gearing up for a battle royale next month over the next $100 plus billion in appropriations Bush is demanding to pour down the rathole of the war.

(In the meantime, election-related waffling has also helped muddy the hard-won clarity of virtually all sectors of the anti-war movement that our central demand must be “End The War Now! Bring The Troops Home Now!” Suddenly we are back in 2004-5, having to explain and debunk nonsense about “phased withdrawal” and “timelines and benchmarks” and “residual forces,” and “Iraqi political realignment” all over again.)

Well, Why Not Impeachment?

Okay, having pissed off many honest progressive Democratic Party stalwarts, let me see what I can do with the Impeachment activists. Their position is in one sense a mirror image of the election-centered forces. They too are desperate about the grievous harm that Bush and his co-conspirators are doing—to Iraq, the environment, democracy and civil liberties, etc. So intense are their concerns that they feel that waiting 17 months is courting disaster. And, after watching this Congress, many understandably suspect that even a substantial Democratic win might not do much to reverse the damage.

Friends have told me repeatedly in recent months, “We will never get this war ended until we’ve impeached Bush and Cheney.” What this amounts to is saying that the anti-war movement must refocus on the struggle to impeach.

I would argue that this is wrong. Unlike many who have challenged the impeachment enthusiasts, I don’t argue, “It’s not practical.” That argument is predicated on things staying just as they are. Suppose Bush orders an attack on Iran, to global condemnation and deep, visible resistance in the High Command. Suppose a scandal more readily comprehensible than the US Attorney firings erupts. Suppose a major stock market crash gets the Katrina treatment from administration incompetents. Suppose Bush moves toward postponing the elections. Might not impeachment become the order of the day in a real hurry (even if some Democratic strategists would still rather keep it off the table to improve the odds for a November blowout)?

Folks who have been pushing impeachment for years, like After Downing Street, have performed an invaluable service by raising the issue and building extensive popular sentiment for it at the grassroots level, and have done so with a tiny fraction of the resources going into various Democratic campaigns. They have created networks, conditions and consciousness that may yet bear fruit in impeachment and conviction.

But the pull on the anti-war movement to make “Impeachment Now” its central demand has, again, an unfortunate and distorting effect on the movement’s momentum. Folks who have been driving forces in building opposition to the war have set it to the side for the sake of this cause, or tried to shift the focus of organizations and coalitions they are in.

To be sure, many of the best organized and most effective anti-war forces have impeachment as part of their program, like United For Peace & Justice and Veterans For Peace, so I may seem to be splitting hairs here, but I think not.

Tackling the “Order of Magnitude Gap"

My point is a simple one, but one that bears repeating. It is Iraq that’s the main issue among the people of this country. Ending the war should be the main focus for progressives and activists. The way to do that is to face up to the “order of magnitude gap" we face: 60% of the people may want the war over, but perhaps 6% has ever done anything about it—worn a button, signed a petition, stood in a vigil, called a Senator’s office, voted in a referendum, anything. We aren’t going to get the whole 60%, but reaching solidly into the two digit range will make a huge difference.

That calls for concentrating on outreach, for organizing at a very local level, and for keeping the threshold of entry low so people who are against the war don’t sense barriers when we encourage them to act against the war. This is the idea behind, for instance, the Iraq Moratorium, scheduled to kick off September 21.

If the big issue is the war, that means keeping the demand to end it front and center in our agenda. The main strategic target of the movement is the Bush/Cheney gang who started the war and are glad to continue it indefinitely. But if other folks insist on gluing themselves to the target, and this includes elected Democrats, that’s no reason for us to hold our fire. And our tactics must be flexible, including ones that isolate and put maximum pressure on any Democrats who don’t dare to stand against the war when crucial votes come before Congress.

The efforts of the anti-war movement may lead to impeachment. Or they may not. They may well lead to a Democratic blowout in 2008. Or they may not.

But they will lead to a more rapid end to a criminal war which continues to be a catastrophe of almost unimaginable magnitude for the people of Iraq and has done incalculable and permanent damage to our own country.

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Your Pentagon Iraq War Room PR $$ at work

Those Sunni insurgents we’ve been giving a shitload of arms to be nice to us and shoot the guys we call Al Qaeda in Iraq? They’ve been rebranded as “concerned local nationals.”

“These are patriots who have come forward and have joined the security process. They are working with my soldiers and they are working with the Iraqi security forces,” Col. David Sutherland said.

Hell, why don’t we just call them the Sunni Department of the Iraqi national police force while we’re at it?

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

It’s All Good

“Sarah, if the people had ever known the truth about what we Bushes have done to this nation, we would be chased down in the streets and lynched.” - Bush 41 to reporter Sarah McClendon, Dec. 1992

Hannah Arendt would’ve described this administration’s increasingly Byzantine dealings as “the inanity of evil.” There’s really no other phrase to describe it.

In describing the nondescript, guilt-free testimony of Adolph Eichmann to an Israeli court as “the banality of evil”, Arendt gave future generations a cautionary tale in miniature as to how easily we can coexist with evil even when it rears its innocuous-looking, balding head. However, she unintentionally left us unprepared for another kind of evil that’s comfortably nestled like a camouflaged snake in what passes for American culture: The inanity of evil.

By this, one can infer that the current administration runs like a crippled Ratso Rizzo in a universally-inhabited dream world of shifting sand, where traction, grace or a step is never lost and bad never happens or, at worst, is casually acknowledged and pre-emptively written off. Indeed, George W. Bush has become quite adept at neutralizing current and future criticism of the war in Iraq by coldly predicting that US casualties will be heavy in the month of August and that’s merely the cost of doing war.

But that’s but one of the many Protean rationales and objectives that one could not have predicted from an administration and army of flacks and drumbeaters who’d assured us in 2003 that US troop casualties would be kept to a bare minimum, that Iraqi civilians would be spared from senseless destruction ("the sheer humanity" gushed Rumsfeld) due to the quasi-divine level of technology of our laser-guided missiles and smart bombs.

Then, after being told to be patient while we await the good news from Gen. Petraeus this September, we were then told not to raise our expectations or expect too much from the man who'd said from the outset that the surge "had a one in four chance of suceeding." The turnaround time from lofty promises to lowered expectations is getting alarmingly more brief.

The most disturbing aspect of this war is not merely the constantly metamorphosing impetuses for invading and occupying Iraq but that the administration never makes it a point to remind us that these expectations have been lowered, that they’d once made pie-in-the-sky promises that Iraq’s war would cost one billion dollars and would be paid for by their own oil revenue, that we could mop up the place with 135,000 troops and be back home by the 4th of July 2003, that we’d be greeted as liberators, that democracy would take root and become the political gold standard for the Middle East.

This constant revisionist mindset, accompanied by the paternal invocation of, “Trust us, we know what we’re doing” fits like a velvet glove over an iron fist with a criminally deferential press and an American “culture”, for want of a better word, that embraces the catchphrase of, “It’s all good.”

But “it’s all good” is in itself a complacent Republican sentiment that was expressed nearly 300 years ago when Alexander Pope wrote in the “Essay on Man, Epistle I,”

All Nature is but Art unknown to thee;
All chance direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good:
And spite of Pride, in erring Reason's spite,
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.

And to bring that point home, the Bush administration and Fox News seem to be inappropriately humping that other delightful Pope axiom of a little learning being a dangerous thing.

The press gets that when they nervously gulp and ask Bush or any senior administration official in a quavering voice questions such as, “If major combat operations were over by May 2003, then why do we need a surge?” Or, “How can the American people continue to believe that you’re aware of what’s going on and aren’t living in a constant state of denial?” Such impertinent questions are almost invariably responded to as an impatient father would after having his values questioned by his increasingly self-aware 12 year-old.

And an administration that depends entirely on Orwellian revisionism, aided greatly by a White House press pool full of Winston Smiths all too eager to forget the failed objectives, discredited rationales and once-lofty expectations doesn’t like an electorate that can think for itself and has lengthening memories. It’s notable that the people who are most conspicuously the targets of partisan backlash are the ones who are finally getting organized and have the power to mobilize like-minded people: Liberal, progressive bloggers.

It is impossible to imagine a political landscape without political bloggers, upon whom an increasingly large percentage of online news consumers are depending for an explicated, factual version of current events, as well as upon Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. It’s more than a sad and even alarming state of affairs for democracy when we have to depend upon part-time political pundits who, at most, daily attract 1-2% of the national population and comedians on the Comedy Channel for their news.

Yet it’s equally difficult for many distracted Americans to remember a day when we were told again and again that we were neutralizing a mushroom-clouded terrorist threat west of Iran and replacing it with milk and honey. And this is why the netroots is more relevant and necessary than ever.

Because not enough of the electorate has come to grips with the fact that we have failed in every one of our stated objectives (and even the ancillary ones, such as bringing democracy to Iraq, a nation deeply divided among three warring factions, not the most auspicious seedbed for Jeffersonian democracy) except in one notable instance:

Enriching the corporate sector, something forcefully promised by Donald Rumsfeld in the Pentagon briefing room on September 10th, 2001. It’s easy to view Iraq as a screaming success if you’re Eric Prince in the Great Dismal Swamp or the man who’s increasingly recognized by our Rip Van Winkle electorate as the sinister Phantom of Halliburton’s boardroom, Dick Cheney.

The same thing could be said of post-Katrina New Orleans. Blackwater USA wound up making a tidy $73,000,000 for their “work” in New Orleans while their mercenaries ambled around the French Quarter complaining to the press about making “only” $350 a day, a little over half what they made in Iraq, courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public. And New Orleans’ reconstruction has been bogged down in red tape at the municipal, state and especially the federal level, yet Halliburton still rakes in billions from the glacial cleanup and gets tax breaks from the SBA for qualifying as a small business (because Halliburton doesn’t ordinarily take on contracts such as post-disaster cleanup, which only beggars the question, “Why give it to them, in the first place?”).

If Hannah Arendt were alive today, she would surely characterize this cast of criminals who would call the sky green if Keith Olbermann or Michael Moore said it was blue, as the inanity of evil.

And we cannot say that we weren’t warned years ago when Karl Rove told Ron Suskind (and it would’ve surely been Bush’s Brain, since this quote is pure Rove),
We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

The sad part is, when the observant among us see how more or less successful is the new smear campaign against Iran, it's becoming increasingly obvious that we’re not even studying.

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