Saturday, October 20, 2007

It's a Catch-22

Staying humane vs. staying alive.

I'm a couple of days late to this, but Matt Yglesias makes an obvious but crucial point regarding the futility of our adventure in Iraq:

The crux of the matter is that soldiers in ambiguous situations
understandably tend to err on the side of their own personal safety and that of
their fellow soldiers. Likewise, officers faced with ambiguous situations tend
to err on the side of giving the soldiers under their command the benefit of the
doubt. And courts-martial, likewise, err on the side of taking a favorable view
of American soldiers.

All of which is fine. Unless you happen to be an Iraqi. Which is
precisely why people tend not to enjoy being under foreign military

The reality of the matter is that to succeed, our troops would need to
behave the way police officers do. But they're not cops, they're soldiers. And
there's a good reason that soldiers act the way soldiers do. There's no way that
it would be politically feasible -- or even appropriate -- for the US military
to start treating Iraqi lives as more important than American lives. But that
would be the only way to actually pull off what they've been asked to pull off.
It's an impossible situation, and not one we should be putting people in.

The impossible situation isn't just limited to Iraq, however. This is a question I have wrestled with for a long time: can this war actually be conducted while maintaining the ideals of freedom and human rights that Americans and the West hold dear? I wanted to believe it was possible, but I don't really see it. It is always easy to talk about preserving the rights of those you fight against, but it's much more difficult to tell soldiers whose friends are dying before their eyes to respect the human rights of the people doing the shooting. (I can attest to this from personal experience: the only time I have actually wished someone dead was when he was shooting at me.)

The problem only gets worse when you start talking about assymmetrical warfare in which the enemy doesn't just look like a regular citizen, he is a regular citizen (or at least a subset of the regular citizenry that is indistinguishable from the rest of them). Given the choice between self-protection and large geopolitical goals (not that I'm convinced we have any), the Iraqis are going to lose every time.

So what do we do about this? We can't legitimately tell our brave sons and daughters and their families to go out there and take one for the team, but the more vigorously they protect themselves, the more innocent Iraqis die, and the further from our goal of establishing a peaceful rule-of-law democracy we get.

The result has been a mishmash of lofty rhetoric at the strategic level ("we do not torture") and hard-as-nails pragmatism at the tactical level (we torture). Soldiers are told that their safety is priority number one, then sent out into the battlespace with rules of engagement that ensure the enemy will get off a few shots before our guys have time to react. To say that this situation is untenable is to understate the case by quite a bit: it's a situation in which the soldiers are scarcely able to act without either breaking the rules or putting themselves at extra risk.

This is why being the "shining city on the hill" pretty much precludes preemptive war, leaping into battle without a coherent strategy and/or ill-defined objectives, overthrowing dictators who pose no threat to our nation's security, and occupation of foreign lands: everything we do in the interest of these things is either done counter to our values as a nation or at an especially great risk to our soldiers. Essentially we're telling our soldiers that they must find a balance between dying with honor or living with ignominy. That they tend to find ways to muddle through this with their consciences intact is a testament to their resilience, but they should have never been put in that position in the first place.

Yet another reason why "supporting the troops" doesn't mean supporting the way the President uses them, it means opposing the Presidents who would capriciously send them into needless, poorly planned and unwinnable wars.

There's more: "It's a Catch-22" >>

General Strike November 6, 2007

Why "strike" against the Iraq war and for upholding the Bill of Rights?

Garret Keizer, who suggests a general strike in the October issue of Harpers magazine puts it this way:

The strikers remind their overlords—and, equally important, themselves—that the seemingly perpetual machinery of daily life has an off switch as well as an on.

Do we have overloards in this day and age? As the former Defense Secretary would say, "you bet." Not only establishment people, but inhuman establishment corporations serve as modern day overlords.

Keizer, himself inspired by poet César Vallejo, inspires us to break from the norm of our daily lives:

A young man goes to Walter Reed without a face. Shall I make an appointment with my barber? A female prisoner is sodomized at Abu Ghraib. Shall I send a check to the Clinton campaign?

On November 6, 2007 we need to send a message to the establishment: Ordinary people are not stupid. We are getting organized to re-establish power into the hands of the people.

Both Republican and Democratic parties, and their joint corporate backers, need to be put on notice: No more business as usual. The ground swell is building.

Specific Suggestion:
Don't go to work on Tuesday November 6, 2007, or wear a black arm band and be prepared to say it is in support of the Bill of Rights.

Be prepared to give examples:
  • Threats to habeas corpus (Military Commissions Act applies to US citizens)
  • Military databases of peace protesters,
  • Warrant less surveillance (e-mail captured by ATT, phone taps, sneak-and-peek)
  • Torture memos of the US Justice Department
  • Presidential Signing Statements saying Bush will not follow some laws
  • Secrecy through executive privilege
  • Blocking judicial processes via "state secrets" "Privilege"
The list goes on. Memorize some points and be ready to rattle them off on November 6.


Garret Keizer, Specific Suggestion: General Strike, Harpers Magazine, October 2007 Issue

There's more: "General Strike November 6, 2007" >>

Foreign Idiocy

USA Today Diplomatic Correspondent Barbara Slavin released a new book this week: Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the US and the Twisted Path to Confrontation.

Enter George W. Bush. He had the best chance to patch up relations after 9-11 and he blew it. The U.S. and Iran both opposed the Taliban and Iran believed Bush and Cheney, as ex-oilmen, would lift sanctions. Unknown to many, the U.S. and Iran held secret, one-on-one high-level talks in Paris and Geneva from the fall of 2001 through May 2003, talks led on the U.S. side by Ryan Crocker and Zalmay Khalilzad.

In early May 2003, through Swiss intermediaries, the Iranians also presented an offer for comprehensive negotiations (reprinted in the annex to my book). Bush, full of hubris over Iraq, did not even give the Iranians the courtesy of a reply. The Europe talks ended, meanwhile, after yours truly wrote about them on the front page of USA TODAY and al-Qaeda bombings took place in Saudi Arabia that the White House said were linked to al-Qaeda detainees in Iran.

The Iranians did not give up, however. In late 2005 and through the spring of 2006, Ali Larijani, their new national security adviser, sought backchannel talks with Steve Hadley. Larijani went so far as to publicly accept a prior U.S. offer of talks on Iraq in March 2006. Supreme leader Khamenei publicly endorsed the talks, something he had never done before. Again, Bush sawed off the limb. The upshot: Larijani was weakened, Khamenei humiliated and Iran accelerated its nuclear program and its intervention in Iraq.

There is much more, including an intelligence assessment in early 2003 that invading Iraq would spur the two members of the Axis of Evil with real nuclear programs -- Iran and North Korea -- to intensify their efforts. Also the fact that the White House did not even ask the intelligence community for an assessment of the regional impact of toppling Saddam before invading.

It simply assumed that all would go well and that Tehran would be the next evildoer to fall. Instead of dividing our enemies by negotiating with Iran, the Bush administration has united them. And now -- like the child who shot his parents and complains he's an orphan -- the White House blames Iran for taking advantage of the strategic opportunities the United States has provided.
It's useful though quite troubling to be reminded that our current problems with Iran were entirely self-inflicted by this administration.
-- Steve Clemons, The Washington Note

If Bush attacks Iran we know where the responsibility for the global catalcysm falls:

Simpletons? Check. Lunatics? Check. Fanatical neocon ideologues? Check.

There's more: "Foreign Idiocy" >>

What Cost The Soul Of A Senator? Cheap: $48,500

From Buzzflash:

Senator Jay Rockefeller loves those telecom lobbyists. Well at least since March 2007 he has. In the last 5 years, Rockefeller received a pathetic amount of funds from AT & T and Verizon. Nothing that could cause a controversy. That all changed in March when the wiretapping telecoms discovered the power of the chairman of the Senate Select Commitee on Intelligence. Since March "telecom Jay" has received $48,500..
It would appear that Jay Rockefeller has figured out that it is easier to sell out to big business than provide principled leadership on the Senate Select Commitee on Intelligence, doesn't it? Or to represent the people who put him there.

And look how cheap it is to buy a senator nowadays! A mere $48,500! Why, that's probably only .0000000000000001% of their yearly profits!

It makes you wonder how much they paid…uh…donated, yeah, that's the ticket, DONATED for Senator Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, doesn't it? I'll bet it was a lot more because of their "leadership" titles, eh? How many more of our senators have been bought so cheaply?

Geez, even Iraqi politicians make off with BILLIONS of American dollars, making our politicians an unqualified bargain. Or at least unqualified to actually stand up for Americans and do their fucking jobs.

Cross-posted from VidiotSpeak

There's more: "What Cost The Soul Of A Senator? Cheap: $48,500" >>

Friday, October 19, 2007

More Corruption, Delays and Overruns in the Iraq Embassy Project

Image: McClatchy Newspapers

Even more problems with the new mega-bunker embassy in Baghdad are coming to light - and this time there is a criminal investigation into the construction contract. This criminal probe follows an investigation by Henry Waxman and the House Oversight Committee that was initiated a few weeks ago into the conduct of the IG for the State Department. Howard J. Krongard, the Inspector General for the State Department, has exhibited a persistent tendency to censor reports that might embarrass the administration, and has repeatedly thwarted investigations of the State Department and the problems with the embassy.

The problems started with the bid process.

When the State Department requested bids in 2005, exactly one came in, from J. A. Jones International of Charlotte, North Carolina. In spite of having a track record with the State Department, and having won embassy construction contracts in the past, the J.A. Jones bid was rejected because the estimated to cost was twice as much as had been allotted by State, and the company would not guarantee the June 2007 completion date. Additionally, the J.A. Jones bid was a cost-plus estimate, which frankly, is about the only way a responsible contractor would have bid the job, since the construction site was in a freakin' war zone...that was getting hotter every day. First Kuwaiti was chosen solely because it was willing to offer a fixed-price contract, in which cost overruns aren't passed on to the government.

"The only company in the end that would offer us a firm fixed-price (contract) was First Kuwaiti. The decision was made, and I believe rightly so, that firm fixed-price is the best protection for the American taxpayer. If an American company had bid a firm fixed-price, they might or they might not have won." said Patrick Kennedy, the State Department's director of management policy.

Unable to get a legitimate contractor to walk down the primrose path to potential financial ruin, the State Department Bureau of Overseas Building Operations (OBO) waived the law requiring open and competitive bidding, and awarded the contract to a firm from Kuwait, First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting Company. When the OBO issued the waiver, they described First Kuwaiti as "capable of completing the design and construction in accordance with the required schedule, budget and performance parameters."

That rosy assessment and vote of confidence was, to say the least, overblown. Four months after the embassy was supposed to be ready to open, it is not only not ready, but problems are still presenting. The most recent setback has been with the sprinkler system. When they tested it, the pipes burst at the junctions. In May, when electrical systems were tested they failed, and an investigation revealed that First Kuwaiti was using counterfeit wiring that fell short of the specifications.

You get what you pay for.

[keep reading]

Counterfeit, sub-standard building materials are one way to turn a profit on a bad bid, I guess. Another way is to abduct workers from emerging and third-world countries and spirit them off to Baghdad against their will, then underpay them to the point that they are essentially slave labor. I realize that "slavery" is a strong word, but I am not the only one using it. "It is distressing to hear that our fellow Filipinos are being deceived into working in Iraq by unscrupulous contracting firms," Senator Mar Roxas of the Philippines said, upon hearing of the abduction of Filipinos to work on the embassy. "Unless we have officially accepted that the days of slavery are back, the government must act." (emphasis mine)

According to testimony by an American who spent a short period of time working as an Emergency Medical Technician at the embassy complex, Filipino workers were given tickets that indicated they were boarding a plane to Dubai, and were not told they were going to Baghdad until the plane was airborne. When they found out, and objected, a security guard reminded them at gunpoint that they were in no position to protest. They were indeed going to Baghdad, and there was not a damned thing they could do about it. The American EMT testified before the Oversight committee that conditions at the site "were deplorable, beyond what even a working man should tolerate." Foreign workers, he said, were packed tight into trailers, equipment was insufficient and basic needs went unmet. "If a construction worker needed a new pair of shoes, he was told, 'No, do with what you have' by First Kuwaiti managers."

He also said in his testimony that workers were routinely physically and verbally abused and another witness testified about the rate of on-the-job injuries. "There were a lot of injuries out there because of the conditions these people were forced to work in. It was absurd."

As if the substandard building materials, the shoddy construction, the missed deadlines, and the abduction and forced labor of third-world workers wasn't enough, the company has also been implicated in a kickback scheme with...wait for it...Kellogg, Brown& Root.

And all that corruption and malfeasance took place with the apparent complicity of the Inspector General for State, Howard Kronegard, whose job it was to provide oversight and prevent those very offenses.


But wait! There's more!

You know how they say that it isn't the corruption that gets you busted, it's the cover-up?

That holds true here, as well.

In May, a mortar shell smashed into the complex, damaged a wall and caused what were reported as minor injuries to be sustained by people inside. The walls were supposed to be blast-resistant, but weren't.

The project manager, James L. Golden, contractor for State, attempted to alter the scene and conceal evidence of shoddy construction. According to documents and interviews, the IG for State, Krongard, reared his head once more and prevented State Department officials from investigating the incident.

When it came to the attention of Ambassador Ryan Crocker, he banished Golden from the country, yet Golden still oversees the project, as well as other projects for the OBO.

The OBO is headed up by a close personal friend of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, retired Army Maj. Gen. Charles Williams. Williams was hand-picked by his old friend and colleague to head up the OBO, and Williams apparently runs the OBO like a personal feifdom, going so far as to refused to let U.S. diplomats and congressional staffers onto the new embassy compound, according to congressional testimony given in July, and corroborated by a former senior official with first-hand knowledge of Williams and the OBO.

As recently as August, Williams assured the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the embassy would be ready for occupancy by the end of September.

"This and other incidents involving separate embassy construction projects raise concerns about the adequacy of the Department's management of our overseas building operations," committee chairman Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Cal., wrote to Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte on October 4.

The State Department declined to make Williams available for an interview and directed questions to Patrick Kennedy, the department's director of management policy.

As of this writing, the embassy is not move-in ready, and there is no clear indication when it will be. They have, however, complicated matters further by deciding after-the-fact to move General Petraeus and his entourage into the embassy, requiring space for an additional 250 people, and an expansion of the classified areas, because, in the words of Kennedy, "Crocker and Petraeus don't want to divorce."

There's more: "More Corruption, Delays and Overruns in the Iraq Embassy Project" >>

Raise your left hand if you are as sick of Nancy "can't kiss enough 'Publican ass" Pelosi as I am

I have had it with that miserable Republican-lite cephalopod (spineless, yet predatory).

Fuck her.

The only time she seems capable of showing any moxie at all, she is attacking other Democrats.

Fucking miserable bitch.

Here is what has me so fired up...

Fellow Bay-area Democrat Pete Stark, Californias longest-serving congressperson, said out loud yesterday what a hell of a lot of us say in private all the damned time.

He said that American soldiers and Marines are fighting and dying for the amusement of the sociopathic Deserter-in-Chief.

Of course, the Big Lebowski's in the GOP (motto: High Dudgeon 'R Us!) immediately started frothing at the mouth and emergency rooms throughout the land immediately filled up with stroke victims, so offended were their chickenhawkin' warmongerin' judgment passin' sensibilities. (They can't handle the truth! - apparently.)

Immediately the head of the National Gropin' Old Perverts denounced the "Democrat party" and demanded everyone who has ever driven through or vacationed in a blue state make with an immediate apology! The troops had been dissed! Oh horrors! Apologize now! If you don't, you aren't patriotic!

So what did the feckless, faithless, cowardly, pathetic excuse for a leader Pelosi do?

She took Stark to task!

What a bitter disappointment she has been. I thought she had brass ovaries, but apparently not. She is just another Republican't light, and I hope to hell we elect a passel of real Democrats next session and replace her worthless ass as speaker.

She is a far cry from worthy.

In fact, I hope she looses her god-damned seat to a primary challenger. Or even a moderate Republican. Hell, that's what she is, so really, what would be the diff?

There's more: "Raise your left hand if you are as sick of Nancy "can't kiss enough 'Publican ass" Pelosi as I am" >>

Erik Prince: not just a mercenary-thug-cowboy, but a rustler, too!

In the old west, they would just hang the mother fucker and leave him danglin' for the buzzards.

And frankly, that's about what the mercenary freak deserves.

After due process, of course.

Which is more than his thugs give Iraqis who cross their paths.

The Associated Press is reporting that two years ago, Blackwater tried to abscond with two military aircraft that belonged to the state of Iraq. When Iraqi officials protested and attempted to reclaim them, Blackwater refused, and to this day the whereabouts of the aircraft in question are unknown.

There's more: "Erik Prince: not just a mercenary-thug-cowboy, but a rustler, too!" >>

Sen. Dodd Blocks FISA Bill, Skewers The Lies, Sets Example For Defunding & Ending Iraq Occupation

Let's hear a big round of applause for Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT).

President Dodd?

Speaker Pelosi? It is time to stop funding and put an end to George Bush's occupation of Iraq and get all the troops there home. Now. You have exhausted all your excuses, and all of them have just been shown up to be nothing more than the hot air they are. If you will not end it before November 2008, after Chris Dodd's clear example yesterday of real, honest legislative leadership, you deserve to be unseated and sent home in disgrace.

Dodd issued a press release yesterday stating

...that he would block the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) "from being considered by the full Senate and from receiving a vote on the Senate floor." The statement came as the Senate Intelligence Committee met to consider the legislation -- and weeks before it is likely to reach the floor.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of Senators and the Bush administration reached a compromise on the politically charged bill, which governs the federal government's domestic surveillance program, including a highly controversial grant of legal immunity to telecommunications companies. Civil libertarians oppose the compromise as going too far to protect telecoms that were revealed to have participated in a warrantless wiretapping program, and because the legislation wouldn't establish warrants for each individual wiretap.

Dodd said he would place a "hold" on the FISA bill, a device available to any senator to stop legislation from moving forward. "By granting immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the president's terrorist surveillance program, even though such participation may have been illegal, the FISA reform bill sets a dangerous precedent by giving the President sweeping authorization to neglect the right to privacy that Americans are entitled to under the Constitution," Dodd explained in a statement outlining his concerns.

The rhetoric got hotter with every paragraph. "It is unconscionable that such a basic right has been violated, and that the president is the perpetrator," Dodd said. "I will do everything in my power to stop Congress from shielding this President's agenda of secrecy, deception, and blatant unlawfulness."
Chris Dodd deserves to be elected President next year.

He has just blown out of the water all of the claims by Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Leadership that they are unable to defund and end the occupation of Iraq with the claims that they 'don't have the votes', and set a clear, effective example of the "power of the purse" that Pelosi now has no excuse not to follow.

David Swanson explains in greater detail on the flip.

Dodd Ends Spying, No Senator Will Do Same for War
By David Swanson. After Downing Street, Thursday, October 18, 2007
Senator Chris Dodd on Thursday single-handedly blocked a bill to legalize unconstitutional spying and immunize criminals who have engaged in it. But by doing so, Dodd may have made the biggest blunder Washington has seen in many months. He advertised the fact that a single senator with nerve has the power to block a bill, including – of course – every bill to further fund the occupation of Iraq. Now, how will Dodd explain his past and future failure to use the same power to end the war that he has used to end warrantless spying? How will other senators, including Harry Reid, explain their own failure? How will Nancy Pelosi manage to keep asserting in every conversation that only 67 senators can end a war?

Dodd released the following statement:
It's been a busy day, but I wanted take a moment and let you know that I have decided to place a "hold" on legislation in the Senate that includes amnesty for telecommunications companies that enabled the President's assault on the Constitution by providing personal information on their customers without judicial authorization.

I said that I would do everything I could to stop this bill from passing, and I have.

It's about delivering results -- and as I've said before, the FIRST thing I will do after being sworn into office is restore the Constitution.

But we shouldn't have to wait until then to prevent the further erosion of our country's most treasured document.

That's why I am stopping this bill today.
But blocking a bill, not passing one, is exactly what's needed to get our troops and mercenaries home from Iraq. It is a lie that Congress must pass a bill to end the occupation of Iraq. The occupation can be ended with an announcement by Congressional leaders that there will be no more funding. Any proposal to fund it can be blocked by 41 senators filibustering or by a single senator putting a hold on the bill. Bush has plenty of money for withdrawal and could be given more for that exclusive purpose. When your television tells you the Democrats need 60 or 67 senators to end the occupation, your television is lying to you.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could if they wanted announce today that the House and Senate will no longer bring to a vote any bills to fund anything other than withdrawal. They have many colleagues already on board with that position, not to mention two thirds of the country. It would take 218 signatures on a discharge petition to force a bill to the floor of the House without Pelosi's approval. It is unlikely enough Democrats would oppose their party to fund Bush's war in that way. In the Senate, Reid alone could refuse to bring a bill to the floor, or another senator could put an open or secret hold on a bill. And, while not all bills can be filibustered (appropriations bills can be, budget reconciliation bills cannot), you can hardly claim you need 60 votes to get past a filibuster without admitting that with only 41 you could launch your own filibuster and that with 51 you could defeat any bill. Once you understand the goal as blocking bills rather than passing them, the number of allies you need shrinks dramatically.

In fact, Senator Dodd has just very publicly advertised his ability to take action on Iraq in January, thereby earning the right to be president. This would be a major shift from his current proposal that we elect him president first, after which he'll see about ending the war.

Thank Dodd and urge others to join him in blocking the FISA bill here:

There's more: "Sen. Dodd Blocks FISA Bill, Skewers The Lies, Sets Example For Defunding & Ending Iraq Occupation" >>

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How U.S. policy has destabilized the Middle East

(Originally posted at The Motley Patriot and is an update to an article I wrote posted at TalkLeft)

I originally posted a diary at TalkLeft entitled, `The Merry-Go-Round of Iraqi Sectarian Violence`, in which I show how U.S. policy in Iraq is fueling the sectarian violence. Given Turkey's recent vote to allow incursions into northern Iraq against the PKK, I thought an update appropriate.

So, first, exactly how is the U.S. policy in Iraq fueling the sectarian violence? Because we are arming militia's and using our influence to get militia's incorporated into the Iraqi government, then, these militia's use their newfound positions to attack others. Joe Klein wrote:

According to soldiers I spoke with in Baghdad, the Mahdi Army has a major presence in the local Iraqi Security Forces, especially the local police, which was precisely the point that the seven enlisted men were making.

How did the Mahdi Army get positions in the local Security Forces? An article at Crooks and Liars states:

(W)hen General Petraeus says that they're merely applauding these tribes from the sidelines, he's lying. I mean, while we were embedded with the Americans, we saw American military commanders hand wads of cash to tribal militias. And when he says that they are facilitating their integration into the country's security forces, what he means is they're pressuring Iraq's government to incorporate these militias wholesale into the police forces. In fact, that's one of the promises that these tribes are given, that after working with the Americans for a few months, they'll become Iraqi police, be armed by the Iraqi state and be put on regular payroll. So it's completely disingenuous, what he's saying.

And, where is all that cash to pay off the local tribes? Were we not treated to this as well?

Nearly $9 billion of money spent on Iraqi reconstruction is unaccounted for because of inefficiencies and bad management, according to a watchdog report published Sunday.

So, to recap the sectarian violence alone:

- The U.S. disbanded the Iraqi Army in May 2003.

- The U.S. then lost $9 billion dollars.

- The U.S. then payed tribal leaders in "wads of cash", helped to arm them, and promised to get their militia's jobs in the local security forces if they would simply help the U.S. troops.

- The security forces then have used their new positions to commit sectarian violence.

But, what about Turkey and the PKK?

The PKK is on the State Department list of organizations deemed to be "terrorist" organizations.

#21. # Kongra-Gel (KGK, formerly Kurdistan Workers' Party, PKK, KADEK)

The U.S. policy in Iraq has been to support the Kurd's, and thus, the PKK, as the PKK was causing problems for Iran. But, they have been causing problems for Turkey as well. Now, Turkey has had enough and has voted to allow incursions into northern Iraq to seek out the PKK. This now puts the United States into the situation of "who do we support?", the PKK and Kurd's, or Turkey, or both, or neither?

This doesn't even take into account Iran and the administration's wish to take out Iran's government, or, Pakistan tribes supporting al-qaeda and the Taliban against Afghanistan, or, Israel attacking Syria, or Russia's support for Iran.

See a problem here? Do we see how our invasion of Iraq has destabilized the entire region, just as was predicted? Do we not see, with Bush warning of WWIII, where this is heading?

There's more: "How U.S. policy has destabilized the Middle East" >>

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

More "Phony Soldiers" Piping Up

About two months ago, the New York Times published an op-ed from seven infantry NCOs that questioned the wisdom of “staying the course” in Iraq. The piece was damning, and punctuated by the fact that one of the Soldiers was seriously wounded between the time the piece was written and when it was published, and two more of the seven were killed shortly after.

Today, on the fifth anniversary of the congress passing the AUMF, the Washington Post ran an op-ed penned by twelve former Army Captains who served in Iraq; and it is just as damning and just as sweeping. Five years into this mess, the military is over-extended and under-resourced, and the nation of Iraq is in tatters.

As Army captains who served in Baghdad and beyond, we've seen the corruption and the sectarian division. We understand what it's like to be stretched too thin. And we know when it's time to get out.

What does Iraq look like on the ground? It's certainly far from being a modern, self-sustaining country. Many roads, bridges, schools and hospitals are in deplorable condition. Fewer people have access to drinking water or sewage systems than before the war. And Baghdad is averaging less than eight hours of electricity a day.

Iraq's institutional infrastructure, too, is sorely wanting. Even if the Iraqis wanted to work together and accept the national identity foisted upon them in 1920s, the ministries do not have enough trained administrators or technicians to coordinate themselves. At the local level, most communities are still controlled by the same autocratic sheiks that ruled under Saddam. There is no reliable postal system. No effective banking system. No registration system to monitor the population and its needs.

The inability to govern is exacerbated at all levels by widespread corruption. Transparency International ranks Iraq as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. And, indeed, many of us witnessed the exploitation of U.S. tax dollars by Iraqi officials and military officers. Sabotage and graft have had a particularly deleterious impact on Iraq's oil industry, which still fails to produce the revenue that Pentagon war planners hoped would pay for Iraq's reconstruction. Yet holding people accountable has proved difficult. The first commissioner of a panel charged with preventing and investigating corruption resigned last month, citing pressure from the government and threats on his life.

This is the scenario against which the U.S. military is struggling to hold the nation of Iraq together, with too-few troops. Even with the additional 30,000 that the “Surge™” temporarily afforded. There are simply not enough Soldiers and Marines in-country to clear insurgents, hold territory and build sustainable institutions.

…Though temporary reinforcing operations in places like Fallujah, An Najaf, Tal Afar, and now Baghdad may brief well on PowerPoint presentations, in practice they just push insurgents to another spot on the map and often strengthen the insurgents' cause by harassing locals to a point of swayed allegiances. Millions of Iraqis correctly recognize these actions for what they are and vote with their feet -- moving within Iraq or leaving the country entirely. Still, our colonels and generals keep holding on to flawed concepts.

American G.I.’s are tasked with too many objectives and too much battle space. This serves to makes them targets, and sadly, one of the inevitabilities of a protracted withdrawal will be a ratcheting upward of attacks against the occupying forces, the civilian leadership of the nation, and third-party consultants. They will also, without a doubt, be caught in the crossfire of the Iraqi civil war.

Iraq’s security forces will be unable to salvage the situation. Even if they had adequate training, equipment and commitment; with their numbers shy of 350,000 there are too few of them to successfully hold the country together.

Besides that, soldiers in the Iraqi army pretty much leave at will, once the pay envelopes and weapons are passed out; the police are controlled by the militias, the corruption is systemic and the United States taxpayers are equipping and arming the very elements that will fight one another once the American forces inevitably withdraw.

American Generals are laying plans that are contingent on peace breaking out in Iraq, while simultaneously, the Iraqis are preparing for a full-on, salt-the-fields and poison-the-wells civil war.

The Captains close the piece with an uncomfortable truth…There is only one way to sustain an operation like is currently being pursued in Iraq, and that is to bring back the draft. “Short of that, our best option is to leave Iraq immediately. A scaled withdrawal will not prevent a civil war, and it will spend more blood and treasure on a losing proposition.”

America, it has been five years. It's time to make a choice.”

There's more: "More "Phony Soldiers" Piping Up" >>

Never Give An Inch

If you ever doubted it...

...this should resolve the question once and for all: We are on our own.
Asked about her "greatest mistake," Pelosi said Why don't you tell me? 'Cause I think we're doing just great." Remember when Georgie stumbled over a similar question and couldn't recall any mistakes? It seems Our Only President is not the only one so afflicted.

The hand-off...

It has been pointed out to me many times that the Iraq Occupation and the FISA amendment are only two issues of many, on most of which the Democrats are incrementally better than Republicans, and this has been used as an argument against the conclusion that there is no difference between them.

They are incrementally better. Is that a reason to give them a pass for being complicit in the mass death caused by the Iraq Occupation and in the bankrupting of America? Or a reason to give them a pass for hacking away at freedom and privacy?

Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Leadership are confidant that they will win the presidency and the Congress next year simply on the strength of peoples fear of Republicans.

Sadly, if that happens "rethugs" will be back in power for another four or eight years, dressed up as and self-labelled as "democrats". And the shell games will continue.

And it all can be turned around - if enough people quit whining about how powerless they feel, and remember that they have the power.

If every time a Democratic candidate met with constituents or knocked on peoples doors or phoned them looking for money or votes they heard...

"If you Democrats defund and end the occupation of Iraq before November 2008 I'll contribute to you and vote for you.

Don't waste my time with excuses. Come back or call back when you're done and you'll get my money and my vote. Have a nice day."

... the Democratic Leadership would quickly sit up and listen.

And the Iraq occupation would be history. Along with the FISA amendment. And along with all the bullsh*t of the past seven years.

If enough people quit whining about how powerless they feel, and remember that they have the power...

and use it.

If they believe they will have the votes without doing what they were elected to do, and instead keep enabling Bush, then they have no reason to change and there is no effective difference between them and the rethugs.

I will not, two years down the road, be defending myself for supporting people who enabled Bush when they had the power to stop him.

I also will not wait for millions or tens of millions of other people to use the threat of support withdrawal to pressure them before I will do so.

Waiting for that to happen would mean someone else would have to go first, and would mean that I do not have the courage of my own convictions  but would stand with my finger in the wind...

Someone has to go first. If it's me then so be it. I've stood alone most of my life.

There are two taglines on my blog. One from Hunter Thompson: "The Edge... There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over."

And one from me: "The opposite of conventional wisdom is the likely truth of most things."
"If you Democrats defund and end the occupation of Iraq before November 2008 I'll contribute to you and vote for you.

Don't waste my time with excuses. Come back or call back when you're done and you'll get my money and my vote. Have a nice day."

There's more: "Never Give An Inch" >>

More on the Iraqi clusterfuck, from former U.S. boots on the ground

Twelve former Army captains spell out Iraqi corruption, the paucity of boots on the ground (including in the “surge”) and more.

Their final thought? One that no Republican has entertained or will entertain for a moment, and that has also escaped acceptance from the three “top-tier” Democrats:

There is one way we might be able to succeed in Iraq. To continue an operation of this intensity and duration, we would have to abandon our volunteer military for compulsory service. Short of that, our best option is to leave Iraq immediately. A scaled withdrawal will not prevent a civil war, and it will spend more blood and treasure on a losing proposition.

If “war-lite” Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or John Edwards get the nomination, you know what to do with your conscience.

Vote Green.

There's more: "More on the Iraqi clusterfuck, from former U.S. boots on the ground" >>

Monday, October 15, 2007

Washington Post: "Al-Qaeda in Iraq Reported Crippled"

Well, the foam-flecked loons will have a field day with that WaPo headline. I can hear the chest thumping and chickenhawk bravado from here. They are already lighting bonfires around which to dance naked while chanting “Boo-Ya, Bitches! We Win! U!S!A! U!S!A!”

They are so predictable.

They will read the first sentence:

The U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and perhaps irreversible blows to al-Qaeda in Iraq in recent months, leading some generals to advocate a declaration of victory over the group, which the Bush administration has long described as the most lethal U.S. adversary in Iraq.

Then conveniently overlook the inconvenient parts…

But as the White House and its military commanders plan the next phase of the war, other officials have cautioned against taking what they see as a premature step that could create strategic and political difficulties for the United States. Such a declaration could fuel criticism that the Iraq conflict has become a civil war in which U.S. combat forces should not be involved. At the same time, the intelligence community, and some in the military itself, worry about underestimating an enemy that has shown great resilience in the past.

"I think it would be premature at this point," a senior intelligence official said of a victory declaration over AQI, as the group is known. Despite recent U.S. gains, he said, AQI retains "the ability for surprise and for catastrophic attacks." Earlier periods of optimism, such as immediately following the June 2006 death of AQI founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a U.S. air raid, not only proved unfounded but were followed by expanded operations by the militant organization.

[keep reading]

I hate that these jokers make me a conspiracy theorist, but what the hell? I’m just a crackpot blogger anyway, so here goes…is the WaPo article just a piece of a larger PR campaign?

Let’s take stock…last spring more astute observers started noticing that suddenly every single thing that happened in Iraq was the work of al Qaeda in Iraq. If a swarthy man sneezed, it was the work of al Qaeda. By last summer, virtually every report out of Iraq was citing violence by “al Qaeda” – but in reality, al Qaeda in Iraq has never really been more than a bogey-man, even the most generous assessments put their numbers at 10% of the insurgency, and likely only about 4%. (It has been long acknowledged that Shi’ite militias have represented a far greater threat than Sunni insurgents and jihadist fighters professing membership in AQI.)

Then the references slowed down.

And now, the WaPo prints a specious headline (Fred Hiatt is a perennial contender for the Wurlitzer Prize) and yellow feathers fill the air as the self-congratulating cowards and chickenhawks bust out the beer-bongs, launch at one another in belly-bumps and exchange high-fives and Hulk poses. “We’re kickin’ ass!!!”

Of a piece? That’s possible I suppose.

It’s always good news when groups attacking Americans are on the wane. But only if there is some “there” there, and this cast of characters has a lousy track record where honesty is concerned - having lied to get us into the war in the first damned place - so you'll just have to pardon me if I don't come running when the little boy cries "wolf!"

There's more: "Washington Post: "Al-Qaeda in Iraq Reported Crippled"" >>

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Senator Lindsay "DADT" Graham Advocates Overthrowing the Elected Gov't of Iraq

Just a few minutes ago Senator Graham, being interview by Wolf Blitzer on CNN, clearly stated that if the current government of Iraq cannot pull off political reconciliation of all the disparate groups of Iraq within 90 days, he will admit that the current government will never be able to do so, and then "we" will have to consider replacing the al-Maliki democratically elected government with a government that can achieve American goals in Iraq.

This is the very height of chutzpa, gall, arrogance, and stupidity that shows the world what total frauds comprise the American government. The very idea of overthrowing al-Maliki's government after all the flowery words of the phony bastids we have running our government about the "purple finger" elections, hailed at the time as the first and greatest step towards a functioning democracy, is repugnant beyond belief and shows America cares not one wit about democracy and everything about gaining control of Iraqi oil, for it is al-Maliki's failure to gain agreement on the draconian oil law written by Americans for American Big Oil that is spelling the doom of al-Maliki.

All that remains to be seen now is whether we enable internal political parties to stage a coup, or whether we just have an American sniper put a bullet in al-Maliki's head.

At this point I think my money is on the bullet, as bush has no compunctions at all with ordering the extra-judicial killing of anyone he so desires.

America, soon to be destroying a freely elected democracy near you.

Cross-posted at VidiotSpeak

There's more: "Senator Lindsay "DADT" Graham Advocates Overthrowing the Elected Gov't of Iraq" >>