Saturday, September 15, 2007

Iraq's Unclaimed Dead

Via RawStory...

Iraqi volunteers bury more anonymous victims of violence now than during Saddam's rule: CNN

Every month in Iraq hundreds of victims are struck down by sectarian violence or massive bombing campaigns, and a small band of volunteers has taken it upon themselves to give the unclaimed dead a proper burial.

"We've been doing this for 20 years, under Saddam, but the numbers have increased, as have the difficulties," Sheik Jamal al-Sudani, who leads the volunteers, tells CNN correspondent Michael Ware. "Because now it is as if the streets are flowing with blood."

Before the US invasion of Iraq deposed dictator Saddam Hussein, the volunteers buried up to 40 people every month. In the war's worst months, that figure increased 50-fold as volunteers buried an average of more than 2,000 anonymous war victims, Ware reports.

As the war stretches through its fifth year, several hundred bodies remain unclaimed every month. The unidentified bodies of men, women and children are found on Iraqi streets and sewers as well as in bombing ruins; some are "so mangled and charred, they're unidentifiable," CNN says, while others are Sunni victims whose families are too fearful from their own lives to visit Iraq's Health Ministry morgue, which is controlled by Muqtada al-Sadr's hard-line Shiite followers.

The Shiite volunteers led by al-Sudani bury victims of all religions, and the bodies are photographed and catalogued in a database before they are buried in the Muslim tradition.

Volunteers take the bodies from Baghdad 150 miles away to Najaf where they are buried in hand-dug graves. Because of the high numbers, two victims often have to share a grave.

Al-Sudani laments the necessity of his work in the war zone.

""Now you see Iraqis' houses, meant to be a family's safest place, have become like graves for their families, because any minute, any second, they're ready to die by explosion, airstrikes or car bombs," he says. "And no man, and no government, American or Iraqi, can fix it because now that will take a miracle."

The following video is from CNN's Newsroom, broadcast on September 14:

There's more: "Iraq's Unclaimed Dead" >>

Friday, September 14, 2007


Sometimes the establishment media slips through a poke in the eye of authority:

The president's speech marked only the latest shift in direction — and rationale and packaging — for a war that has lasted 4 1/2 years and cost a half trillion dollars and nearly 3,800 American lives.

- JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press

This indicates that a significant fraction of the establishment have had enough of the Iraq war.


Associated Press, "Bush preserves big troop level in Iraq," JENNIFER LOVEN, September 14, 2007.

There's more: "Ouch!" >>

Thursday, September 13, 2007


George W. Bush earlier tonight told the world how wonderfully his "surge" is working to deliver heaven on earth to Iraqis. George W. Bush has at least two fans who still take anything he has to say as resembling reality. Himself, and General David H. Petraeus. Not many more.

George W. Bush has had his say. Now it's time for a little real reality.

Dr. Dahlia Wasfi was one of the speakers at Socialism2007 June 14-17, 2007, Crowne Plaza Chicago O'Hare.

Dr. Wasfi is a speaker and activist. Born in the United States to an American Jewish mother and an Iraqi Muslim father, she lived in Iraq as a child, returning to the U.S. at age 5. She graduated from Swarthmore College with a B.A. in Biology in 1993 and earned her medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997. Dr. Wasfi has made two trips to Iraq since the 2003 "Shock and Awe" invasion to visit her extended family. She returned from a three month stay in Basrah in March 2006. On April 27, 2006, she testified at a Congressional Forum to provide her eyewitness account of life in Iraq. Based on her experiences, Dr. Wasfi is speaking out in support of immediate, unconditional withdrawal of American forces from Iraq and the need to end the occupation "from the Nile to the Euphrates." Her website is Liberate This.

This is strong, unapologetic, no holds barred, bareknuckle stuff. It is not for those who would rather not know that for Iraqis, it's 9/11 every day, and about:

Shortages; lack of electricity; potable water; tanks rolling through the streets night and day; gunfire and explosions. Iraqi health care in shambles. 200 bodies turn up daily in the Baghdad morgue.

Dr. Dahlia Wasfi: "Life in Iraq Under U.S. Occupation"

For Iraqis, it's 9/11 every day.

There's more: "Counterpoint" >>

5700 Carrots on a Stick

(Crossposted at B@B.)

That’s about what I’d call Bush’s speech tonight.

What kills me is how Bush is completely blowing off the healthy skepticism he heard in Congress on the 10th and 11th regarding the efficacy of his “surge” and is assuming because Petraeus and Crocker announced that the surge is working, well, by golly, it must be working and we can continue apace.

This part is so fucking divorced from reality, it ought to be getting alimony and even child support from it:

Anbar Province is a good example of how our strategy is working. Last year, an intelligence report concluded that Anbar had been lost to Al Qaeda. Some cited this report as evidence that we had failed in Iraq and should cut our losses and pull out. Instead, we kept the pressure on the terrorists. The local people were suffering under the Taliban-like rule of Al Qaeda, and they were sick of it. So they asked us for help.

Didn’t the chucklehead who wrote this speech realize that this talking point was shot down days ago by Frank Rich and others? The Sunni sheiks running the 25 tribes in al Anbar began successfully fighting back against al Qaida back in September, five months before the escalation had even started. Those 4000 troops were sent in for little more than photo ops so Bush could claim credit.

So, sure they asked for help. And we withheld it until Bush saw they were making headway then he rushed in with other peoples’ kids and spouses and had his picture taken with one of the sheiks.

And funny thing about that…

Today, a city where Al Qaeda once planted its flag is beginning to return to normal. Anbar citizens who once feared beheading for talking to an American or Iraqi soldier now come forward to tell us where the terrorists are hiding.

Yeah, sheik Sattar Abu Reesha certainly wasn’t beheaded at his assassination hours before the speech (whose name Bush casually didn’t mention even though a week and a half ago they sure looked like bestest buddies to me). No doubt, Vice President Go Fuck Yourself would construe that, too, as “enormous progress.”

Here’s a newsflash:
One year ago, much of Baghdad was under siege. Schools were closed, markets were shuttered, and sectarian violence was spiraling out of control.

Hm. Well, better late than never, as they say, but still I wonder what took the administration so long to admit to this? We knew about all this, of course, but all we’ve been getting since March 19, 2003 is a ton and a half of sunshine pumped up our asses in Halliburton pipelines. I don’t recall the administration admitting schools being closed. All we were hearing was about the schools being built and “children going to school and playing safely in the streets,” as Bush said a year and a half ago in that other success story named Tal Afar.

Markets shuttered? Nonsense! Lindsey Graham buys rugs at rock-bottom prices every time he goes with his own bestest buddy McCain! And, as Bush said in that same speech in Cleveland, “You see markets opening…”

Sectarian violence? Oh, pshaw! In fact, the NY Times had reported just over a year ago,
“A day after a Pentagon report described spreading sectarian violence and increasingly complex security problems in Iraq, President Bush painted a rosier picture. "Our commanders and diplomats on the ground believe that Iraq has not descended into a civil war," Bush said Saturday in his weekly radio address. "They report that only a small number of Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, while the overwhelming majority want peace and a normal life in a unified country.”

So, could we have committed nearly 29,000 more troops in Iraq simply because of a few “bad apples?”

Of course, the Pentagon at the time was warning that the death squads could increase the chance of civil war but what do those armchair generals know, right?

So never let it be said that George Bush never speaks the truth. He gets around to it… eventually. When it suits him and the bad news is a bit too distant to hurt him, anymore…

And if George says that there’s enough progress in Iraq to warrant sending more troops home, then that’s good enough for… Uh oh. Looks like a White House report may queer those warm and fuzzy photo ops when that 8 or 9% of our troops come home for Christmas. Seems only one more benchmark has been met, which is in slowly overturning one of Paul Bremer’s grandest achievements, the one that should’ve earned him a size 56 EEE Timberland boot nestled squarely in his rectum: De-Baathification.

Yeah, seems reversing Paul Bremer’s Presidential Medal of Freedom-winning fuckups has actually become a benchmark in itself, which is in painfully re-admitting some of Saddam’s old cronies back into power since they may or may not have actually committed war crimes.

I’m not going to go into the rest of Bush’s speech because not only is it boilerplate but it’s tarnished boilerplate at that and, as any farm boy can tell you, recycled shit still smells like the same old shit no matter how long it’s been sitting in a compost heap.

But pay heed and make sure you remind your Democratic representatives of this sentence the next time Bush loiters his way into Congress with his hand out: “At the same time, they understand that their success will require U.S. political, economic and security engagement that extends beyond my Presidency.”

He added, “These Iraqi leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America.” And who would that be, Talibani his Kurdish dick puppet? What about what the people want? Shouldn’t it be about what the people of free, democratic Iraq want instead of a couple of cardboard cutout officials?

Or does Bush (gasp) actually have a different definition of democracy than the rest of us?

There's more: "5700 Carrots on a Stick" >>


Updated On Tuesday, the Boston Globe published an op-ed by one Peter Feaver, a polisci prof at Duke University, in which the former NSC staffer vociferously attacked MoveOn over its "General Patraeus/Betray Us" ad. MoveOn was accused of McCarthyism and of being "part of an elaborate effort to undermine" support for the Iraq War, apparently in cahoots with Congressional Dems.

Precisely because [the ad] is so vicious, so public, and so deliberate, the attack on Petraeus cannot be ignored by either side in the Iraq debate. Supporters of the war are duty-bound, like Joseph Welch, to rise and ask of war opponents, "Have you left no sense of decency?" Antiwar members of Congress, like Senator McCarthy's allies, are obliged to answer. ...

This is a defining moment for the antiwar faction. They can continue on the path on to which they have veered, repeating some of the worst mistakes in American history. Or they can make a clean break with the past, police their own ranks, and promote a healthy, critical, public debate about the best way forward in Iraq.
I have written to the Globe in response. This is the text of the letter I sent:

Peter Feaver's hyperventilating reaction to's ad about General David Patraeus (Globe, Sept. 11) would have carried some weight if it could have been laid on a less-tipped scale. As it is, the column reveals less about the verbal excesses of any part of the left than it does about the partisan amorality of war supporters.

Feaver doesn't contest a single factual assertion made in the ad; indeed, he doesn't even acknowledge such assertions are made. Instead, he wants to pluck one word out of the headline as a means not only to ignore what the ad actually argues but to aggressively distract attention from it, insisting that, it would appear, the entire left half of the American political spectrum must now devote its energy to "policing its ranks" and answering the plaintive cry, "have you no decency?" rather than talking about the war.

This is because, he declares grandly, it is "not legitimate" and "corrosive" to "question the general's patriotism when his views differ from yours."

Well golly gee whillikers. Where were Feaver and his ilk when right-winger Glenn Beck said on national television just recently that Democrats in Congress "have the blood of our soldiers on their hands?"

Where were they when Fred Thompson told Sean Hannity that Congressional Democrats are "dangerously close" to "rooting for our defeat" in Iraq?

Where were they when then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that critics of Bush's Iraq policy are "encouraging terrorists?" When Tom DeLay recently accused Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi of "getting very, very close to treason?"

Where were the right-wingers, oh so interested in "a full and frank exchange of views," when Michelle Malkin was calling the New York Times "traitorous" and saying "al-Qaeda thanks you?" When David Horowitz proclaimed that the United States is at war and "the aggressors in this war are Democrats, liberals and leftists?" When top-ranked right-wing blogger Glenn Reynolds claimed that the American media is "empowering the terrorists?" When Michael Reagan said that Howard Dean "should be arrested and hung for treason?" When Ann Coulter accused Jimmy Carter of treason (along with every "liberal" in the nation)? When Oliver North said criticism of Bush's foreign policy is "nurturing America's enemies?" When cartoonist Michael Ramirez accuses Democrats of advocating "surrender" in Iraq on almost a daily basis, even doing one cartoon portarying a soldier with a knife labeled "Congress" buried in his back?

Accusations of treason and similar spoutings of verbal bilgewater laid against opponents of Bush's war are an everyday occurrence in the fetid hallways and conference rooms of the right. But let them get one-tenth, one-thousandth, of what they dish out aimed back at them, and suddenly they get the vapors, fanning themselves madly and going on at length about "decency."

Questions about "policing ranks" and "decency" are indeed relevant, Mr. Feaver. But it is the supporters of the war, not its opponents, who need to answer them.
Personally, I think the ad was foolish not for what it said but because it gave the wingnuts an opening to launch the kinds of bogus attacks they have, successfully diverting some on the left into wasting time and energy going "oh no no, I'm not with them" (which only legitimizes the original attack by treating it as something requiring response) instead of getting on with opposing the insanity that surrounds us - that being a tendency on the left about which I have griped for years. I don't know how others here feel, but I will not be apologizing for or answering for MoveOn or its ad and beyond the tactical criticism I just made I will not be criticizing it. I'm just going to keep saying what I think in my words and for those I take full responsibility.

I noticed that at the Betray-Us hearing one GOPper waved the ad around and said he was giving committee Democrats the "opportunity" to distance themselves from it. Someone on the other side, I don't know who, shot back "Point of order, Mr. Chairman: It's not necessary to disassociate yourself from something you were never associated with," to which the GOPper could only reply "okay, calm down." That Dem gets it: Don't get distracted.

I have said this so many times, but it bears repeating: Slicing away your friends and supporters will not help you! And spending time apologizing for things a)that you didn't do and b)in fact require no apology is self-defeating and politically foolish.

Updated because I forget to say: Cross-posted at Lotus and The Core 4.

There's more: "Letters" >>

Kevin Drum not batting well on Iraq this week

After yesterday telling "second tier" Democratic presidential candidates to withdraw, Drum now says that without a cloture-proof 60, let alone a veto-proof 67 in the Senate, Democrats are hamstrung on Iraq action.

Once again, like, you're wrong, wrong, wrong on Iraq, Kevin.

The magic number in the Senate is 41; that prevents cloture and blocks any funding bill that doesn't defund Iraq.

You’re wrong, Kevin, and Harry Reid is wrong when he says the same thing. I believe more and more that Ted Rall is right about Congressional Democrats on Iraq.

If it takes government gridlock or a funding meltdown by invoking cloture against ANY budget bill that continues to fund Iraq, that’s what it takes.

Do it, dammit.

I read Kevin’s post right after hearing Reid make the same claim on All Things Considered, followed by Mitch (I’m the lying senator McConnell, not the lying intelligence director McConnell) McConnell.

And I was steamed.

Update: Yes, and I remembered that budget bills are approved through a cloture-free reconciliation process after I originally posted this post.

BUT, you can still run cloture on any other bill that even smacks of getting close to Iraq; or even of bills that have ZERO connection to Iraq. There are end run ways of still making 41 the magic number, and I don't care if it causes a Congressional clusterfuck or not.

Remember, Reid himself used "reverse cloture" for the overnight speak-a-thon on Iraq earlier this year.

So, even though Kevin's procedurally right, it's only in the narrowest of senses.

Don't let Reid say otherwise.

I read Kevin’s post right after hearing Reid make the same claim on All Things Considered, followed by Mitch (I’m the lying senator McConnell, not the lying intelligence director McConnell) McConnell.

There's more: "Kevin Drum not batting well on Iraq this week" >>

Islam Isn't the Problem

Cross-Posted at Decline and Fall.

Regarding the motivations of the insurgents I interrogated in Iraq, a week ago I wrote:

The vast majority of them weren't radical Muslims, bin Laden acolytes or Saddam hardliners; they were motivated by nationalism. They opposed the U.S. occupation of what they saw as their sovereign land (silly them!) so they lashed out in the most meaningful way they could: at the "collaborators" in their midst aiding and abetting the occupying, colonial power. It's basic insurgency doctrine, folks. In my experience, "religious fanaticism" is the veneer that some in Iraq, and even more in the West, use to cover what is essentially the struggle to get out from under the thumb of a strongman.
Later last week, The Washington Monthly published an article by Andrew Tilghman, former Stars & Stripes reporter, that came to a similar conclusion, and on Tuesday Gallup released a poll analysis that supports my anecdotal experience. (Thanks to Framing Science for the link) The pollsters discovered that political grievances, rather than religious ones, are the prime motivating factors behind Violent Islamic Extremism:

After analyzing survey data representing more than 90% of the global Muslim population, Gallup found that despite widespread anti-American sentiment, only a small minority saw the 9/11 attacks as morally justified. Even more significant, there was no correlation between level of religiosity and extremism among respondents. Among the 7% of the population that fits in the politically radicalized category -- those who saw the 9/11 attacks as completely justifiable and have an unfavorable view of the United States -- 94% said religion is an important part of their daily lives, compared with 90% among those in the moderate majority. And no significant difference exists between radicals and moderates in mosque attendance.

Gallup probed respondents further and actually asked both those who condoned and condemned extremist acts why they said what they did. The responses fly in the face of conventional wisdom. For example, in Indonesia, the largest Muslim majority country in the world, many of those who condemned terrorism cited humanitarian or religious justifications to support their response. For example, one woman said, "Killing one life is as sinful as killing the whole world," paraphrasing verse 5:32 in the Quran.

On the other hand, not a single respondent in Indonesia who condoned the attacks of 9/11 cited the Quran for justification. Instead, this group's responses were markedly secular and worldly. For example, one Indonesian respondent said, "The U.S. government is too controlling toward other countries, seems like colonizing."

The real difference between those who condone terrorist acts and all others is about politics, not piety. For example, the politically radicalized often cite "occupation and U.S. domination" as their greatest fear for their country and only a small minority of them agree the United States would allow people in the region to fashion their own political future or that it is serious about supporting democracy in the region. Also, among this group's top responses was the view that to better relations with the Muslim world, the West should respect Islam and stop imposing its beliefs and policies. In contrast, moderates most often mentioned economic problems as their greatest fear for their country, and along with respecting Islam, they see economic support and investments as a way for the West to better relations. Moderates are also more likely than the politically radicalized to say the United States is serious about promoting democracy.

Note how counter-intuitive this all seems from the Clash of Civilizations perspective through which the entire GWOT has been filtered for us. No significant difference in mosque attendance between radicals and moderates. The Quran cited only as justification for abhorring violence, not condoning it. American occupation and lack of respect are the reasons the radicals fight us, not the results of their fight against us.

The implications of a study such as this are enormous. The most obvious is that if we are going to claim to be serious about fighting terrorism, we need to focus our efforts on the factors that actually motivate people to become terrorists, not the factors we continue to insist motivate them. Killing or incarcerating a terrorist or insurgent may take one of them out of circulation, but if you create two new ones for every one you destroy, you are going backward, not forward.

I saw this dynamic when I was an interrogator in Iraq. Coalition forces would arrest an insurgent, humiliate him in front of his family, keep him in prison for months, and then release him without charges. In the meantime he learned to hate us (even if he hadn't before) and, more importantly, his family learned to hate us. While he was learning to hate us, he was in a population that was uniquely qualified to fan the flames of his hatred and teach him how he might better act on it. Meanwhile his family and close friends were now easy targets for recruitment. In getting rid of one "terrorist," we created several. Is it any wonder that the estimated number of insurgents in Iraq jumped from 5,000 (total) in 2003 to 70,000 (Sunni) in 2007, while the prison population skyrocketed from 10,000 to 60,000? (See pp. 25-26 of this Brookings Institute report for details.)

When will we realize that our presence in the Middle East and our support of tyrants such as Mubarek and the Saudi Royal Family are not only not helping ease the troubles in the region, they are the primary cause for those troubles? Middle Easterners are not stupid. They can see that America has a long history of supporting brutal dictators (remember the Shah?) and they have learned from that experience that we are not to be trusted. They see us stomping around the world with our big stick and turn to whatever means of resistance they can find to resist what they see as the assault on their culture by the biggest bully on earth. The fact that militant Islam is their only major option should not cause us to confuse their motives.

There's more: "Islam Isn't the Problem" >>

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


There's more: "Meanwhile..." >>

Ted Rall calls out so-called “antiwar Democrats”

And, in doing so, not just one or two, but Congressional Democrats en masse, he again demonstrates again why he’s probably my favorite progressive columnist. He first notes:

In June Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's Extra! Magazine wrote: “If the Democrat-controlled Congress wanted to force the Bush administration to accept a bill with a withdrawal timeline, it didn't have to pass the bill over Bush's veto--it just had to make clear that no Iraq War spending bill without a timeline would be forthcoming.”

Democratic leaders know that. And here's how I know they know: days after taking control of Congress, on January 30, they invited five constitutional law experts to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask them how they could end the war. Four out of five of the experts swore that the Democrats could stop the Iraq War

After accusing the mainstream media of perpetuating the myth that Democrats really do want to end the war, but can’t get a bill past Bush, Rall then observes:
You'd think the Democrats would want to end the Iraq War before their likely retaking of the White House, but that's because you're a human being, not a politician. Politicians are happy to dispatch hundreds of young American men and women to certain death (along with thousands of Iraqis), if the bloodshed squeezes out an extra half percentage point at the polls. Reid and Pelosi prefer to run against a disastrous ongoing Republican war than point to a fragile Democratic-brokered peace.

I really don’t think any more commentary is needed.

Cross posted at SocraticGadfly and Watching Those We Choose.

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Petraeus Dithers, Then Plays Ball

Michael Goldfarb is right to chastise some on the left for wanting to have it both ways regarding the Petraeus testimony--either Petraeus is a stooge for the Administration or he isn't. Here's the General's hand-wringing non-response to Sen. Warner's question of whether the Iraq war is making America safer:

"I don't know, actually. I have not sat down and sorted in my own mind."
That reaction seems to me to be a tacitly negative response. If he were truly the lapdog that he's been accused of being, he would have at least muttered something incoherent about success in Iraq being a "vital national interest" or something, but instead he hid behind what is, in all honesty, at least a somewhat legitimate dodge: it's not his job to assess the war's implications for the overall national security of the United States.

I say "somewhat legitimate," because, as a Four-Star General, one would think that he would have pondered this question at least a bit. Even if he hasn't spent his waking hours as MNF-I Commander agonizing over the pros and cons of the Iraq War vis-a-vis the threat to America proper, he certainly ought to have at least entertained some thoughts in that direction during the years he spent at the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center writing the Army's Counter-Insurgency doctrine. After all, he was back in the U.S. working explicitly on the Army's broader missions, which one would think would include things that fell under the heading of "support[ing] and defend[ing] the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic."

So actually, Petraeus should have been able to answer that question more fully at the time. Given the constraints of the political circus that his testimony could only be, I can understand why he would hesitate to dive right in with a bold declaration that the Iraq War is doing bupkis to protect America.

But then he got his bearings, remembered why he was there, and came clean in exactly the incoherent "vital interest" vein that we have come to expect from a political class that excels at saying nothing:
Candidly, I have been so focused on Iraq that drawing all the way out was something that for a moment there was a bit of a surprise.

But I think that we have very, very clear and very serious national interests in Iraq. Trying to achieve those interests — achieving those interests has very serious implications for our safety and for our security. So I think the answer really, to come back to it is yes.
"Very, very clear and very serious" national interests. Good boy. No word yet on what those interests actually are.

I suspect that his initial instinct--to run from that question with all his might because he knows the frank answer will be counter-productive to his Commander-in-Chief's staged love-in for a tragically ill-advised and destructive campaign--was borne out of unease. That hesitation betrayed a lot more about Petraeus' thoughts than anyone with a political axe to grind--left or right--is willing to admit.

I suspect that he is a man who is conflicted about the overall war, his role in it, and his responsibilities as a commander tasked with managing it. That he only came to his senses and played the political ball game when he had been allowed a moment to consider his options at least says that he has struggled with his faith.

Anyone who has ever believed in something and been put in a position where they had to act on those beliefs but entertained thoughts to the contrary should understand this. I know I do, because I came to Iraq the first time in 2004 with nothing but praise for the enterprise, only coming to realize that it was a bad idea and a lost cause after experience and reflection. That was a long process, though. Could General Petraeus be going through a similar existential crisis? I'd like to think so.

But even after changing my mind, I still had (and have) a job to do, as does Petraeus, only in a vastly more significant way. While I'm free to distance myself intellectually from the strategy and the entire war, he isn't. As Goldfarb concludes, "he's not there to defend the war--despite what the left is saying--he's there to defend the strategy." Goldfarb is right about that, but only in the sense that this "report" isn't really a report; it's a public relations campaign for a failed strategy. In a political culture that was less poisoned by naked partisanship, he would have been there to report on a strategy. But we always knew that wouldn't really be the case. Only a partisan hack like Goldfarb, however, would call that a good thing.

Cross-posted at Decline and Fall.

There's more: "Petraeus Dithers, Then Plays Ball" >>

Senator Chris Dodd Blasts Clinton And Obama

In a video released yesterday Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) challenged fellow Senate Democrats to state whether they would vote for Iraq legislation that does not include a firm, enforceable deadline for withdrawal:

In a statement released today Dodd got even more specific and strongly criticized both Clinton and Obama for trying to have their cake and eat it too with Orwellian rhetoric and stepping backwards on Iraq:
"I was disappointed that Senator Obama's thoughts on Iraq today didn't include a firm, enforceable deadline for redeployment, and dismayed that neither he nor Senator Clinton will give an unequivocal answer on whether they would support a measure if it didn't have such an enforceable deadline.

"It is clear to me - especially after yesterday's testimony - that half-measures aren't going to stop this President or end our involvement in this civil war. I thought it was clear to Senators Obama and Clinton as well after they finally came around to supporting the Feingold-Reid measure and voting against a blank-check supplemental spending bill this spring. If 'enough was enough' then, why isn't it after the bloodiest summer of the war?

"Senator Obama has a gift for soaring rhetoric, but, on this critical issue, we need to know the substance of his position with specificity. Without tying a date certain to funding how does he plan to enforce his call for an immediate redeployment?

"The only specificity Senator Obama offered was a call for a new constitution, but that will do nothing other than provide the Iraqis and the Bush Administration another excuse to delay -- the ink is barely dry on the constitution they have.

"It is going to take bold leadership to change our course in Iraq. We need to do more than write letters to the President, we need to be clear with him.

"I urge Senators Obama and Clinton not to backtrack on the need for a firm, enforceable deadline and state clearly and directly whether they will support an Iraq measure if it does not include one."
I congratulate Chris Dodd for going this far and it's nice to hear, but in my opinion, even coming from Dodd who has been one of the most progressive, it's still not going quite far enough, and he and the rest of them need to be calling for complete and total withdrawal of all troops, not just combat troops, and an end to the occupation of Iraq before the 2008 elections, if not sooner.

Speaking for myself I believe that:
... if leading Democrats heard enough people say to them that they will not vote for ANY Democrats next year EXCEPT Democrats who have been vocally, and by their votes on supplementals, calling for total withdrawal from Iraq they would quickly notice.

They are politicians after all, and they are concerned with winning elections.

They would notice if enough people turned the tables on them and used fear to motivate them, instead of voting simply out of fear of republicans.

If Democrats were filled with fear that they would lose Congress and the presidency UNLESS the occupation was ended before the 2008 elections, they would end the occupation of Iraq.
Can The Iraq Occupation Be Ended Before The 2008 Elections?

There's more: "Senator Chris Dodd Blasts Clinton And Obama" >>

Amen to Lynn Woolsey: Let’s have some Dems get anti-war primary challenges

That’s what California Democratic Congresswoman Woolsey says herself:

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) is encouraging anti-war activists to find challengers to centrist Democrats, with the aim of moving the party to the left and ramping up opposition to the war in Iraq, to the chagrin of top Democratic aides.

“You folks should go after the Democrats,” Woolsey said in response to a suggestion from an activist during a conference call last month organized by the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

“I’d hate to lose the majority, but I’m telling you, if we don’t stand up to our responsibility, maybe that’s the lesson to be learned.”

Democratic leaders have yet to punish Woolsey for her stance, but their aides were irked by and dismissive of Woolsey’s remarks.

“The political reality is that the real targets of the outside groups should be Republicans who have so far refused to join the overwhelming majority of Democrats in voting for a change of course in Iraq,” a top aide said.

Ahh, the current Democratic Congressional leadership: shoot the message as well as the messenger.

Oh, let’s take Ms. Woolsey’s call one step further.

Let’s have more liberal bloggers beating the drum for Green Party or socialist candidates for the general election, too. I intend to do so.

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

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RIP: Sergeants Mora and Gray

Cross-posted at Decline and Fall.

As General Petraeus testifies in the dog and pony show on Capitol Hill this week, news comes that two of the seven soldiers who wrote the brilliant New York Times Op-Ed “The War as We Saw It,” Sgt. Omar Mora and Sgt. Yance T. Gray, died when their cargo truck overturned. They were scheduled to come home in November.

These soldiers understood the pointlessness of their mission, and they understood the enormous sacrifice that they were asked to make, and have now made, in service of that pointlessness. Their honest and incisive assessment cut through the usual blather of the Iraq debate with an eloquence and an authority that has rarely been seen in the tired platitudes that pass for American political discourse:
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.
Simple, erudite and brutally honest. Three qualities that are in short supply on Capitol Hill this week.

As Petraeus, Crocker and their Administration bosses spin their statistics and pat themselves on the back for the “Anbar miracle,” remember what those seven, now five, soldiers wrote:
[W]hile creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.
A real political solution requires that the proxies, be they Sunni tribes bought and paid for by us, the central Iraqi government, or any other group working with us, actually be working toward the goal of a unified Iraq. If they aren’t, they are just using us to strengthen their hand until the opportunity to jump ship arises. This is the Achilles’ heel of any lofty goals the Masters of War ever had of bringing democracy, peace and stability to Iraq. This is what should be honestly discussed on the Hill this week.

America owes it to them to have this discussion.


**UPDATE** Thank you, Blue Girl, for the no-subscription-required link to The War as We Saw It at Behind the Times, who re-posted it and is leaving it at the top of the page all day in honor of Sergeants Mora and Gray.

There's more: "RIP: Sergeants Mora and Gray" >>

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Bush to Announce Troop Cut: Pathetic

President Bush will tell the nation Thursday evening that he plans to reduce the American troop presence in Iraq by as many as 30,000 by next summer but will condition those and further cuts on continued progress, The Associated Press has learned.


King George has no clothes on this spin. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also rolled her eyes at Bush's "big announcement":

Please. It's an insult to the intelligence of the American people...

Think of it, we'll reduce the size of the US occupation from 170,000 to 140,000 a year from now, not counting private mercenaries and black operators, PROVIDED the victims of the US war of aggression make progress that we define.


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The “Petraeus report”: my professional take

Note: the following is adapted from my most recent newspaper column, written about Gen. Petraeus’ report on the “surge.”

First, it isn’t a report on conditions in Iraq nearly as much as it is PR flak. Independent studies have shown that violence in Iraq in general is up — well up if you adjust for the summertime slack-off in 120-degree heat.

The Government Accounting Office has said this. But, not just the GAO.
Our own, Bush-sized embassy in Baghdad has said this. So has the Congressional Research Service. And, so has an independent private-world think tank

From the Congressional Research Service study, as reported by the New York Daily News:

“My assessment is that because of the number and breadth of parties boycotting the (Iraqi) cabinet, the Iraqi government is in essential collapse,” said Kenneth Katzman, the author of the report. “That argues against any real prospects for political reconciliation.”

Without that political infrastructure, Katzman said any military progress would be short-lived.

That is, if there actually is any military progress, which Katzman doubts.

“I would even question the military progress,” he said.

Because of the political instability, and the lack of military success, Katzman said he agreed with many senior State Department officials in Iraq that a political solution to the war is now “hopeless.”

And, Stephen Biddle, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of Petraeus’ advisory panel, said (expressing his personal view) that the strategy in Iraq would require the presence of roughly 100,000 American troops for 20 years — and event then would be a “long-shot gamble.”

Twenty years? Talking about Vietnam comparisons, that’s twice as long!

But, President Bush is apparently determined to have a successful report, whether it’s reality-based or PR-based. And Gen. Petraeus, from what I’ve read, has been willing to salute whatever his commander-in-chief ran up the flagpole from the time Petraeus was named ground commander in Iraq.

Especially as Petraeus isn’t even putting anything in writing himself for Congress, we should more accurately call it the Bush report anyway.

And, contrary to a popular straw man, red herring, or whatever, no, the terrorists are not going to follow us home if we leave Iraq. Nor is al-Qaeda going to then topple Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Many people have compared this war to Vietnam. One of the closest comparisons is these two statements closely track the “domino theory” about South Vietnam, how if it fell to the North, Laos, then Cambodia, then Thailand, then all of southeast Asia would go Communist. Eventually, the theory went, we could be fighting them in America, a statement no doubt used to justify CIA domestic spying and a host of other evils.

Well, Vietnam was as much, if not more, a nationalist war than a Communist plot. And, nobody “followed us here.” So, too, is Iraq a nationalist revolt more than a religious one. Plus, given the almost mythical al Qaeda in Iraq accounts for less than 10 percent of violence there — probably less than 5 percent — nobody there is in a position to “follow us here.” Besides, with the degree of factionalism there, that country is likely to enter something like the Thirty Years War when we leave.

So, let’s leave, already. The notion that we can actually change anything — change for the long term, certainly — in Iraq would be laughable if not already tragic. As for the claim the “surge” has rediced Iraqi civilian casualties, the independent studies paint a different story. And, since the Pentagon won’t even declassify how it determines causes of different casualties, its methodology has to be considered suspect because it lacks transparency. (To put it bluntly, from where I sit, the Pentagon is cooking the books, and for political reasons. Does anybody remember the inflated body counts of Vietnam, and for similar reasons?)

Beyond all of the above, there’s too great a danger that too much of the general populace will take the Bush-ghostwritten Petraeus report at face value. That, in turn, could lead to knee-weakening of too many Democratic Members of Congress.

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

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Six Years and 6000 Miles From 9/11

Brit Hume checks his talking points emailed from Karl Rove before his Fox News show airs.

On this, the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, let us remember and never forget the lessons of 9/11 as taught to us by the Truthiness Giver Brit Hume:

No constitutional right is too sacred, no civil liberty too precious to throw on the junkheap like a spare carburetor part or closet like an ugly Christmas present as a direct result of your leader falling asleep at the switch.

Lower Manhattan, after 2191 days, is still scarred by a deep pit where the WTC once stood and it's still Bill Clinton's fault. It always will be Bill Clinton's fault.

It was never about the oil. Well, hardly. Until now, anyway.

Let us never, ever take for granted the privations, hardships and ultimate sacrifices made by our well-rested, amply-compensated, fully-armored and in-the-loop troops who are fighting an al Qaida in Iraq that was always there. Before us. Even though we'd never heard the name prior to the legal and necessary invasion or even after the legal and necessary invasion until 2007.

Because Brit "How are you after your shotgun accident, Mr. Vice President?" Hume says so.

And because Dear Leader said it first, which proves that it's true.

And now (Dave Letterman drumroll, please) the top lesson of all is that after witnessing a flock of lies getting shot up, shot through and shot down like canned pheasants on a Cheney safari...

...the biggest lesson of September 11th (and you young, up-and-coming, jaundice-eyed, Bushie-tailed college Republicans ought to pay heed for when it comes time for you to legally and necessarily invade a defenseless, third world country on your own), is to pick up the bloody and shredded corpses of those lies, duct tape the feathers back on and stuff them with fresh talking points and use any and all taxidermic tricks at your disposal. Mount them prominently on a $15,000,000 stand and present those lies boldly and garishly in the Bates Motel Oval office. Jiggle them for effect, make chickenhawk sounds, see how wide open the little kids' and Republican red staters' eyes get:

Iraq hit us on 9/11. Al Qaida in Iraq hit us on 9/11. They were there before us.

Saddam had WMD's. We found the empty canisters from his chemical weapons from before the early 90's to prove it. Rick "Dead Baby Whisperer" Santorum said so.

Saddam paid off al Qaida for the privilege of them destabilizing his neat little dictatorship.

When these start to stink, get out the Febreeze, spritz conservatively (never liberally) and restuff as necessary.

And now America is stuck between such valuable lessons and a hard place, with American Caesar, Jr. telling Congress and the American people that their loved ones need to remain, all 162,000 of them.

Because as he himself said, the surge had a one in four chance of succeeding.

That it would take 9-10 years to clear out the insurgency.

That Iraq will still need upwards of 130,000 troops even if security is restored...

...for at least another year over that flock of gut-shot, shredded lies.

Ladies and gentleman of the United States of America, start… your… bleeding. It has only begun. We are six years and 6000 miles away from September 11th. We are so removed from September fucking eleventh, even though we’re using 2001’s calendar all over again, we are so far from September 11th that you can just smell the post holiday goodliness of another season of Fox’s American Idol (every year, it seems, they feature at least one person in uniform who’s served in Iraq or Afghanistan, Fox’s obligation to us that those who serve in the war on the late Saddam Hussein will never truly be forgotten… until the first commercial break).

And we, a hemorrhagic, hedonistic nation of couch potatoes, twisted eyes and all, are looking for retreat with honor in the world’s most powerful nerd, the hastily-promoted Gen. David Petraeus, an academic who graduated from West Point with, appropriately, a BS. Before Iraq, the closest Petraeus ever got to seeing any action was when he accidentally got shot in the chest on a firing range and, miraculously, survived both the bullet wound and the treatment of Bill “We Can Rebuild Her: We Have the Technology” Frist.

As far as training the Iraqi security forces goes, the only person there who did an even worse job than him was Giuliani human wallpaper Bernard Kerik, who was asleep half the time.

This man is the answer to our problems in Iraq, and all in the name of a man, a toy soldier who’s succeeded in degrading our military from one that defends our country to one that merely defends a political party and a pack of lies, human wallpaper even grander than Bernie Kerik, colored olive drab.

Ladies and gentlemen of America, start your bleeding. Because the 3000 who were killed six years ago today were but the down payment on the immoral check that Bush cashed against his intellectually, emotionally and morally bankrupt soul.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Three Years Ago

September 26, 2004, The Washington Post ran an op-ed titled Battling for Iraq, saying, in part:

Helping organize, train and equip nearly a quarter-million of Iraq's security forces is a daunting task. Doing so in the middle of a tough insurgency increases the challenge enormously, making the mission akin to repairing an aircraft while in flight -- and while being shot at. Now, however, 18 months after entering Iraq, I see tangible progress. Iraqi security elements are being rebuilt from the ground up.

The institutions that oversee them are being reestablished from the top down. And Iraqi leaders are stepping forward, leading their country and their security forces courageously in the face of an enemy that has shown a willingness to do anything to disrupt the establishment of the new Iraq.
I meet with Iraqi security force leaders every day. Though some have given in to acts of intimidation, many are displaying courage and resilience in the face of repeated threats and attacks on them, their families and their comrades. I have seen their determination and their desire to assume the full burden of security tasks for Iraq.
Three years ago. Three years ago. The op-ed was written by David H. Petraeus.

What's taking you, General? Why should anything you say to Congress and the American people now be given any credence whatever and taken as anything more than excuse and apologism and PR for the Petraeus/Bush line?

Today Rep. Eliot Engel(D-NY) challenged Petraeus to defend his statements in that op-ed three years ago. Petraeus' answer? "I stand by it."

There is not much more, if anything, that I can add or say. I leave it to commenters to dissect.

Why should anything Petraeus said to Congress and the American people today be given any credence whatever and taken as anything more than excuse and apologism and PR for the Petraeus/Bush line?

The Washington Consensus Of Iraq Reality Is Delusion
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 it will not be republicans or democrats, or even the U.S. that fixes it.

The U.S. presence in Iraq, and the U.S. refusal to leave, is the problem.
It is time to end the occupation. It is time to leave Iraq.
I believe that people would feel energized if they saw and heard enough people leading us in the right direction on Iraq, and that if leading Democrats heard enough people say to them that they will not vote for ANY Democrats next year EXCEPT Democrats who have been vocally, and by their votes on supplementals, calling for total withdrawal from Iraq they would quickly notice.

They are politicians after all, and they are concerned with winning elections.

They would notice if enough people turned the tables on them and used fear to motivate them, instead of voting simply out of fear of republicans.

If Democrats were filled with fear that they would lose Congress and the presidency UNLESS the occupation was ended before the 2008 elections, they would end the occupation of Iraq.
Can The Iraq Occupation Be Ended Before The 2008 Elections? The U.S. presence in Iraq, and the U.S. refusal to leave, is the problem.

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Announcing OOIBC 2.0! We Have A New Home And A New Blogroll Widget!

Click on the new site image to get new OOIBC Blogroll embed code -->

To all OOIBC Members:

Good morning everyone, and thank you all for your continued OOIBC membership and participation with the OOIBC Blogroll since we began in early 2007!

OOIBC has since inception been dedicated to opposing funding the Iraq Occupation fiasco, committed to getting the troops home as soon as possible, determined to end the Iraq and Mid-East Debacle as quickly as possible, and determined to restore some sanity to the world, and the quality of posts here in that time has been tremendous.

But it's time to grow, and today OOIBC is moving to a new home!

OOIBC has finally outgrown the limitations of the Blogger platform, particularly the limited non threaded commenting system that has been a great hindrance to true community building and discourse.

Also as you all are probably aware,, who has been serving our blogroll since the beginning, has been down for updates for the past 4 months. They finally came back online 100% the other day... and have said that they will shortly begin inserting advertisements in our blogroll, on top of rearranging our blogroll out of alphabetical sequence.

OOIBC has also been somewhat limited in scope to the Iraq Occupation.

For the past few weeks I've been working behind the scenes here to build a new site with a much wider scope that OOIBC can move to and become part of, and I've also built us a brand new blogroll widget that is hosted and served directly from the new site, freeing us from the constraints and problems of, and the new blogroll will never have any ads in it.

Posting has been disabled on this Blogger site, although the site will remain as an archive, and OOIBC has become a part of the new site we've been developing - Antemedius: Liberally Critical Thinking

We have shut off the blogroll widget that you have installed now - so you'll need to reinstall the widget today.

Copy the embed code for the new blogroll widget from to install in place of the old one, and as always you'll be able and welcome to post or crosspost, but on a virtually unlimited scope of topics at Antemedius as you've been able to all along at the old site.

The new site is built on the Drupal platform giving us much greater publishing horsepower than Blogger, and provides us with much improved community building capacity with a true threaded commenting system in which commenters are ably to reply directly to each other. OOIBC 2.0!

Come on over, get the new blogroll widget, create a new user account for yourself, and enjoy the new place.

Over the next few days I'll be slowly cleaning up the new blogroll to remove any sites that have shut down or have withdrawn from the OOIBC blogroll, so please be sure let me know with an email to when you've installed the new blogroll, and if there are BlogName or URL changes that need to be made.

See you at the new digs! Antemedius: Liberally Critical Thinking

-- Vern Radul aka Edger

Please visit to obtain OOIBC Blogroll embed code.


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Sunday, September 9, 2007

Bin Laden’s Reverse Psychology Missed by Prez and Pundits

Cross-posted from The Paragraph.

Osama bin Laden, the terrorist leader wanted for murder of U.S. citizens overseas and suspected of running the September 11, 2001, airliner attacks that killed 3000 people, issued a new video addressed to Americans, just days before Congress returns to again consider the course of the Iraq occupation90x91. In the video he knocked Democrats for continuing to fund the occupation, and taunted President Bush for failing in Iraq. He also knocked Bush for leading a corporatist crony system, and for rejecting the Kyoto treaty and worsening global warming. And he praised socialist thinker Noam Chomsky as one who advised against invading Iraq. Bush commented on the video: “I found it interest[ing] that on the tape Iraq was mentioned, which is a reminder that Iraq is part of the war against extremists. If al-Qaeda bothers to mention Iraq, it’s because they want to achieve their objectives in Iraq, which is to drive us out.”x95 Republican pundits Sean Hannity and David Brooks found something else interesting in the video. Hannity said: “He seems to adopt the exact same language being used by the hard left in this country … He talks about global warming. He demonizes capitalisms (sic) and corporations …”x93 Brooks said: ”... it’s like he’s been sitting around reading lefty blogs, and he’s one of these childish people posting rants at the bottom the page, you know, Noam Chomsky and all this stuff.”x94 But the angle these Republicans missed is that bin Laden might be using reverse psychology— he knocks the Iraq occupation and backs some Democratic-championed issues because he wants to continue the Iraq occupation and undercut Democrats who might stop it95. The Iraq invasion and occupation has been a boon to bin Laden—letting him escape at Tora Bora, inspiring jihadist recruits, and bringing funds to al-Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan. CIA officials concluded that bin Laden used reverse psychology in his prior video address to Americans, four days before the 2004 presidential election96x97. In it he knocked Bush and threatened states that would vote for Bush. After that video, polls showed the race swing from a dead heat to a five point Bush lead. At a CIA strategy meeting one analyst said, “Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the President” Another said, “Certainly he would want Bush to keep doing what he’s doing for a few more years.”


90 ‘FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive: Usama bin Laden’


91 ‘Transcript of bin Laden Video Address’ 2007-09-06, pdf image

93 ‘FOX News attempts to connect Osama bin Laden with American left and Democrats’ – Raw Story, September 8, 2007

94 ‘Brooks: In His New Tape, Bin Laden Sounds Like He’s Been ‘Reading Lefty Blogs’’ – Think Progress, September 8, 2007

95 ‘Bush-Bin Laden Symbiosis Reborn’ By Robert Parry,, September 8, 2007

In a new video, al-Qaeda leader bin Laden again taunts Bush, the United States – and then the Democrats for not forcing an American withdrawal from Iraq, which should help guarantee that the Democrats won’t dare press for a withdrawal from Iraq.

At a summit of Pacific Rim leaders in Sydney, Australia, President Bush then did his part, highlighting bin Laden’s Iraq comments:

“I found it interested that on the tape Iraq was mentioned, which is a reminder that Iraq is part of the war against extremists. If al-Qaeda bothers to mention Iraq, it’s because they want to achieve their objectives in Iraq, which is to drive us out.”

Except that U.S. intelligence has long concluded that al-Qaeda really wants the opposite: to bog the United States down in a hopeless, bloody war in Iraq that has been a boon for recruiting young jihadists, raising money and protecting al-Qaeda’s leadership holed up in base camps inside Pakistan.

96 ‘Bush Agrees Bin-Laden Helped in ‘04’ By Robert Parry July 14, 2006

97 ‘Bin Laden’s ‘Nice Favor’ for Bush Helped al-Qaeda’ – The Paragraph, June 24th, 2007

* * *

By Quinn Hungeski – Posted at G.N.N. &

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