Friday, November 30, 2007

A day chock-full of Iraq news

First, a leading Sunni political group and its parliamentary bloc head are alleged to have connections to car bombs. The government said Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the Accordance Front, could be stripped of the immunity from prosecution he holds as a member of parliament if he was found to have links to car bombs. He is denying the charges.

That’s your Surge™ at work. Breathing space for Sunni “concerned citizens groups” to build bombs!

Meanwhile, the Turks are ready to enter the Kurdish area of Iraq. The Turkish parliament’s enabling resolution is for one year.

However, an old friend, Iran, gets mention again here. Supposedly, many of the Kurdistan Workers Party members have slipped across the border into Iran.

And Bush keeps poking Congress to approve Iraq occupation money. Rep. John Murtha has now uttered the magic word “compromise,” which on Congressional Democrats and Iraq issues, is Beltway-speak for “roll over and play dead.”

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Why is the Marine Corps scaling back their order of MRAPs?

Let's just put this in the "I don't know what the hell to think about this" file right off the starting blocks. (Even though I have my cynical suspicions...and I hate that these bastards have made me think like a conspiracy theorist sometimes...)

Those who read this blog know that I have been pitching a mighty hissy-fit for two and a half years about going to war in jeeps.

Long story short: I'm against it.

Humvees aren't MRAP's. They are small-j jeeps. They are utility vehicles, built for scrambling across terrain quickly, and designed to be integral to supply lines. They are not designed to be troop carriers and they are not adequate for combat operations. They were never designed to be armored, and even when they are up-armored, the rear (where the gas tank is located) is exposed because the chassis can't handle the added weight of armoring the entire vehicle.

The bottom of a Hummer is flat, and absorbs the full impact of a mine or IED blast, and a four-pound land mine will take out the rear axle, and likely a couple of Soldiers or Marines as well.

Humvee's are decidedly ill-suited for use in urban warfare, like they are currently being used in Afghanistan and Iraq. That is why I greeted the news last summer that the DoD was going to be stepping up their purchases of MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles with somewhat mixed emotions. On the one hand, I was glad that the Soldiers and Marines I actually support and don't resent paying taxes for would be getting safer vehicles in which to patrol. After all, not a single American life has been lost in an MRAP. On the other hand, it pissed me off because I thought it was ultimately too little, too late. And I read it as a sure sign that they are setting up a decades long occupation.

Think about it: Four years on, when we should ought to be making tangible withdrawal plans, they are purchasing 3500 MRAPs a year? Yes, that pissed me off a tad.

[Keep reading...]

And now - the Marines are scaling back their order by 1300 units, from 3700 to 2400 in the current fiscal year. I can't help but wonder, just what the hell is up with that?

Just last month, Marine Corps Commandant James T. Conway said the Marine Corps has emerged as a "second land Army" and must buy heavy equipment, including the mine-resistant vehicles, for protection against IED's and ambushes in urban areas.

So what precipitated the change? Has the Marine Corps brass really decided that they want to "retain their expeditionary flavor" or is there something else afoot? Maybe politics? I'm cynical enough to believe that is possible.

The funding battle for Bush's Iraq misadventure is just getting started, and it's going to get a lot uglier.

Why don't you go ahead and bookmark this post now, because you might need it later.

Do not be surprised if, in the upcoming weeks, you start hearing a mantra that goes something like "our troops are being denied the vehicles that will keep them safe because the democrat-party controlled congress is playing politics with the war funding" - and I have no doubt you will - You can say "Oh - I have known for weeks that you lot were going to peddle this line of bullshit - and it is bullshit by the way - and this is why..."

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Iraq good news-bad news department on Sunni “groups”

Our military brass admits it has overcounted Sunni militiamen “concerned local citizens,” to the tune of 77,000 rather than the actual 60,000.

Good news? That’s that many fewer armed Sunni militia forces to possibly inflame Sunni-Shi’a issues, to put it mildly, in the future.

Bad news? That’s 17,000 fewer “concerned local citizens” than the Surge™ previously claimed credit for.

Ehh… the What-a-Gon will probably dismiss it as just another rounding error.

Oh, and don’t “concerned local citizens” sound kind of like “concerned citizens councils” so beloved of folks in places like Trent Lott’s Strom Thurmond-loving political world?

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Kay Bailey Cheerleader speaks in Dallas

This comes from a story from my newspaper editor’s day job. Four southern Dallas County cities, all covered by my suburban weekly newspaper group, have a join umbrella chamber of commerce. That chamber holds a quarterly luncheon with a keynote speaker. Today, it was Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison,

I had a few minutes of media time with her after her luncheon speech. I didn’t extremely grill her, given the situation, but I did ask questions on some things she said on major topics, and I otherwise “backgrounded” other statements she made.

Except for her filibustering-related comments, I omitted most non-Iraq related material. The filibustering is of course germane to Congressional attempts to get us out of Iraq, via funding cuts, timetables, etc. I left a shortened version of her comments on energy issues, inasmuch as oil is the unstated reason we’re in Iraq, of course.

Anyway, the story itself follows:

Iraq, taxes, immigration and health care — U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison hit all the primary political notes in her Best Southwest Chamber of Commerce speech Nov. 29.

Senatorial harmony
“The atmosphere in Washington is not so good right now and I don’t like that. There are beginning to be deep divisions in so many areas,” she said.

She referred to the process of filibustering in the Senate as one concern, specifically citing a largely-Democratic threat of filibuster blocking attempts to open a portion of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Under Senate rules, 60 of 100 Senators, not a bare majority of 51, are required to end debate on a bill in the Senate, unless the bill has already been brought to the floor on a unanimous consent device. Speaking against cloture, the ending of debate, is a filibuster. It has been used at times in the past, but now — especially among Republicans — the mere threat of a filibuster, by an advance announcement of intent to vote against cloture, has slowed the progress of many bills in the Senate.

Hutchison later addressed filibustering and filibustering threats by both parties in the Senate.

“It’s so important for us to do away with the toxic atmosphere; everything seems to be a political issue,” she said, mentioning she had been in the minority party in the Senate in the past, as well as the current Senate, and had not seen things hit this level before.
“I would very much like to see us move forward. It’s not a healthy atmosphere where everything takes 60 votes.

“But I can’t give you the right formula, because we’ve tried a lot.”

More below the fold.

Hutchison then moved to energy issues, including the ANWR filibuster threat she mentioned earlier.

“The energy issue is not looking very good,” she said.

She called for America to become more self-sufficient in oil, pointing out the fact that America now imports 60 percent of its oil. She added that many people may be unaware that Venezuela, led by socialist President Hugo Chavez, who has been in the news recently for actions that got him called a “lunatic” by Hutchison, is a bigger importer of oil to the U.S. than any of the Arab oil states of the Persian Gulf.

For alternative energy sources, she said America needed more ethanol, but needed to look at other sources besides corn, which she said simply will not be able to meet a mandated major increase in alternative fuels that Congress is considering. The current standard of 7.5 billion gallons per year, met largely by ethanol and biodiesel, could be raised as high as 30 billion gallons a year.

Hutchison said the country simply couldn’t get that much more ethanol out of corn without eliminating corn as a food source. She called for increasing efforts into getting ethanol from cellulosic sources, such as wood, leaves, weeds and other plant “waste.”
But, Hutchison also called for more domestic oil drilling

She also called for an end to Democrats blocking oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which she noted was about as big as the state of South Carolina. She said the area that would be the focus of exploratory oil drilling was only about the size of Love Field, the Dallas airport.

After the luncheon, Hutchinson was asked what her stance was on energy conservation issues, most notably, a bill currently in Congress to raise the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, the average gas mileage for all its makes of automobiles each car manufacturer must meet, from its current 27.5mpg for cars to 35mpg by 2020. Light trucks have a current standard of 20.7mpg; some versions of the CAFÉ standards bill would make them meet the same standard as cars. Currently, cars and trucks combined, sold in 2004, had a fuel economy average of 24.6mpg.

Hutchison said she was in favor of looking at CAFE standards in general, but did not want to adopt any specific standard that would hurt American automakers.

Iraq and national security
The final topic on her agenda was Iraq and national security issues.

“Terrorists are trying to take away our freedom and our diversity more than anybody ever did before,” she said.

Without naming any senators or party affiliations, she then said she was concerned by what she called an attitude of “cutting and running” on Iraq.

Hutchison was later asked if she was worried about the Iraq government not appearing to step up its efforts at better governance, and how she would respond to other people who had the same concerns.

“I worry about that myself,” she said. “I think we need to bring in the surrounding Arab countries (for regional talks on Iraq’s future and stability), and that has not yet happened. There have been some regional summits, but I think the Arab states need to do more.”

As for the current Iraqi government, led by Nouri al-Maliki, she said, “We can’t dictate who the Iraq leaders are.”

On other national security issues, she said she liked what she called the change in European attitude by new French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She decried the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and member states for not getting involved in Iraq, even though non-U.S. NATO countries immediately got involved in Afghanistan and now supply the majority of troops there.

Endnote: It was a pretty partisan speech, especially given her opening cries for a more bipartisan Congress. (That said, Hutchison isn’t John Cornyn, who is a right-wing hack.) She has the right answers on some things, definitely on not relying on corn-based ethanol, and is trying to find some sort of middle on illegal immigration. She also clearly conflated Iraq and Afghanistan on trying to guilt-trip NATO about not being in Iraq, showing she’s still drinking a full share of winger Kool-Aid on Iraq. On Iraq, I could have asked half a dozen questions, but there wasn’t time, and given the nature of the engagement, didn’t want to harsh up too much on the questioning.

And, she’s supposed to be a more sensible, more moderate conservative than many GOPers. Other than on reproductive choice, you look at her, look for moderate, and just have to shake your head, because it ain’t there, except in style compared to an attack dog like Cornyn.

There's more: "Kay Bailey Cheerleader speaks in Dallas" >>

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

With the V.A. overwhelmed, Veterans suffer needlessly

The Department of Veterans Affairs has produced it's annual year-end report to the congress, and for the third year running, the rate at which the V.A. acts to render decisions on disability claims fell further behind.

While the goal is to make determinations within 125 days, the reality is, on average it takes a claim 183 days to be acted on.

When a claim is rejected and appealed, the goal is to act on that appeal within one year, or 365 days. In reality, rejected claims take on average 660 days to be acted on; just under two years.

The VA has responded to this backlog by hiring new personnel, but it takes a reviewer two to three years to become efficient at their job, and the backlogs had a huge head start. While new personnel have been hired, and are being trained and gaining the acumen to do their jobs efficiently, veterans continue to be caught in limbo.

And when it is all said and done, just under 90% of all claims are found to be reasonable and valid, and the veteran receives the benefits he or she is due.

Very few wounded veterans have the ready resources that politicians seem to take for granted, and virtually none have the resources of the Bush clan. While they wait for their benefit determinations, they often face poverty, destitution and homelessness. No returning soldier should face homelessness, and no soldier should be relieved that they lost both arms because then the VA will have to give them a 100% disability rating!

[Keep reading...]

That is why I favor the heartbreakingly simple approach advocated by Linda Bilmes of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard: Give the Veteran the benefit of the doubt. Provisionally approve all claims made by Veterans for disability benefits, and don't withhold health care benefits while the claim is under review by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Bilmes has been studying veterans’ medical care and disability benefits for years, and it is her considered and esteemed opinion that the current backlog simply overwhelmed a system that was already struggling under budget cuts before the wars started and created a whole bunch of new veterans needing services. Now things only stand to get worse. Last spring, in testimony before a congressional subcommittee, she predicted 250,000 to 400,000 claims will be filed over the next two years alone by veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This, she maintained, would create a situation that she said “will rapidly turn the disability claims problem into a crisis.” The problems of the VA are exacerbated as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan grind on and on with no end in sight, and and the flood of wounded shows no sign of abating. And the DoD health system continues to dump patients into the underfunded VA system. This negatively impacts all veterans who use the system.

Keep in mind that Bilmes offered this testimony nearly a year ago, before the latest information on TBI was publicized.

The most recent findings are the result of percussive experiments conducted on animals, then the animals were sacrificed and the brain tissue examined microscopically. In the animal studies, scientists have discovered a fundamentally different injury than the “concussion” wound that has traditionally been ascribed to exposure to explosions. A concussion is essentially a bruise on the brain that generally heals with time.

Brain damage at the cellular level is likely permanent – and will almost certainly lead to further neurological degradation over time. Put bluntly, G.I.’s afflicted by TBI are not likely to get better, and in fact will get worse. How much worse is still unknown, but this will strain the system even further.

When the V.A. falters, it is the Veterans who stepped up and served who pay the price - again! - and who suffer as a result. That is a situation I find wholly intolerable. And frankly, anyone who professes unflagging support for the troops, but isn't hopping mad about the way our veterans are being treated once back home, should probably not profess their patriotism in direct proximity to me.

They gave the government the benefit of the doubt that they would not be sorely used when they joined up - the government owes them the same courtesy in return.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

McClatchy: Inside Iraq - Debunking The Myth Of Iraqi Sovereignty

[Cross-posted from My Buffalo River Home]

McClatchy: Inside Iraq

November 27, 2007

False Sovereignty

School in the whole world is a place for educating people whether this school is in the USA or in Iraq. But what happened yesterday at one of the schools in Baghdad is so far from education and humanity. A teacher and student in a central Baghdad school told me this story.

School in Iraq

Yesterday noon, an American squad from the United State Army (about ten to twelve) We don't have the right to ask them why they came to the school. The soldiers spread in different spots of the school walking towards the back yard which is used as a soccer field. Most of the students were in their classes when the squad came, but still there were many students in the yard who were terrified to see the American soldiers with their guns. One of the students was upset to see the soldiers and he threw a stone and hit one of them. Three soldiers surrounded him kicking him with their boots for some minutes on different parts of his body.

Later, a teacher of English said that the captain of the squad told him "next time if students throw stones, we will use our machine guns not the boots". I really hated myself hearing that news as I am a teacher myself. What shall I do if I were there? What shall I tell my students? How can I behave? What excuses will I give for that incident? My brain stops thinking from now on .

In 2003 I thought we were getting democracy and freedom, but what happened at that school does not tell the story of freedom .

Posted at 11:43 AM


Iraqi Schoolchildren

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Monday, November 26, 2007

The Betrayal Is Complete: Permanent Occupation Of Iraq

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...

"Principles" for Permanent Iraqi Presence
A "democratic Iraq" here means the Shiite-led Iraqi government. The current political arrangement will receive U.S. military protection against coups or any other internal subversion. That's something the Iraqi government wants desperately: not only is it massively unpopular, even among Iraqi Shiites, but the increasing U.S.-Sunni security cooperation strikes the Shiite government -- with some justification -- as a recipe for a future coup.
In other words, we're staying in Iraq to defend George Bush's ass, and his puppet Nouri al-Maliki against all enemies, foreign and domestic. What will the presidential candidates say about this?

via uruknet:

White House Releases "Principles" for Permanent Iraqi Presence

Spencer Ackerman - TPM Muckraker

November 26, 2007

So it begins. After years of obfuscation and denial on the length of the U.S.'s stay in Iraq, the White House and the Maliki government have released a joint declaration of "principles" for "friendship and cooperation." Apparently President Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed the declaration during a morning teleconference.

Naturally, the declaration is euphemistic, and doesn't refer explicitly to any U.S. military presence.
-- Iraq's leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America, and we seek an enduring relationship with a democratic Iraq. We are ready to build that relationship in a sustainable way that protects our mutual interests, promotes regional stability, and requires fewer Coalition forces.

-- In response, this Declaration is the first step in a three-step process that will normalize U.S.-Iraqi relations in a way which is consistent with Iraq's sovereignty and will help Iraq regain its rightful status in the international community – something both we and the Iraqis seek. The second step is the renewal of the Multinational Force-Iraq's Chapter VII United Nations mandate for a final year, followed by the third step, the negotiation of the detailed arrangements that will codify our bilateral relationship after the Chapter VII mandate expires.
A "democratic Iraq" here means the Shiite-led Iraqi government. The current political arrangement will receive U.S. military protection against coups or any other internal subversion. That's something the Iraqi government wants desperately: not only is it massively unpopular, even among Iraqi Shiites, but the increasing U.S.-Sunni security cooperation strikes the Shiite government -- with some justification -- as a recipe for a future coup.

Notice also the timetable. The U.S. and Iraq will negotiate another year-long United Nations mandate for foreign troops in Iraq, which will expire (I think) in late December 2008. According to today's declaration, following the forthcoming renewal at the U.N., "we will begin negotiation of a framework that will govern the future of our bilateral relationship." That means that during Bush's last year in office, the administration will work out the terms of the U.S.'s stay in Iraq in order to, at the very least, seriously constrain the next administration's options for ending the U.S. presence. Even if Bush doesn't take the audacious step of signing a so-called Status of Forces Agreement -- the basic document for garrisoning U.S. forces on foreign soil -- while he's a lame duck, the simple fact of negotiations will create a diplomatic expectation that his successor will find difficult to reverse.

The White House is also taking steps to argue that there's nothing unusual about what it intends for Iraq. Here's that fact sheet again:
The Declaration Sets The U.S. And Iraq On A Path Toward Negotiating Agreements That Are Common Throughout The World

The U.S. has security relationships with over 100 countries around the world, including recent agreements with nations such as Afghanistan and former Soviet bloc countries.
Not stated, of course, is that Iraq would represent a military commitment opposed by most of the American people. Nor that it would represent codifying an unpopular war into an unpopular, indefinite war. Nor even what that commitment would entail. Here's the "principle" behind future U.S.-Iraq security ties:
To support the Iraqi government in training, equipping, and arming the Iraqi Security Forces so they can provide security and stability to all Iraqis; support the Iraqi government in contributing to the international fight against terrorism by confronting terrorists such as Al-Qaeda, its affiliates, other terrorist groups, as well as all other outlaw groups, such as criminal remnants of the former regime; and to provide security assurances to the Iraqi Government to deter any external aggression and to ensure the integrity of Iraq's territory.
In other words, we're staying in Iraq to defend George W. Bush's need to not admit his mistakes, and defend his puppet Nouri al-Maliki against all enemies, foreign and domestic. What will the presidential candidates say about this?

Fact Sheet: U.S.-Iraq Declaration of Principles for Friendship and Cooperation

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary, The White House
November 26, 2007

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Bad, Worse, Worst and Beyond

Bad, Worse, Worst and Beyond
By William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Columnist, Monday 26 November 2007

Fear is just another word for ignorance. -- Hunter S. Thompson

Once upon a time there was Bad, and there was Worse, and there was Worst, and that used to be it. Those were the only parameters necessary when the time came to assess the severity of a given situation and decide if the thing was merely wrong, actually dangerous, or just plan ridiculous. Bad, for example, was Gerald Ford's full pardon of Richard Nixon, which came in tandem with his decision to let Nixon keep the tapes. That's pretty straightforward, and the provided example should be clear enough: Bad means something is pretty damned bad.

Worse, by comparison, was Oliver North's sale of missiles to the same Iranian government that killed more than two hundred Marines in Beirut back in '83, followed by his illegal funneling of that sale's proceeds to fund a pack of kill-crazy fascists in Central America who shot some nuns and other non-combatants down like dogs using the good bullets they bought with thrice-laundered American tax dollars.

All of which was taking place as Reagan slid further into the senility that eventually left him capable only of pretending to be the president. Rather than deal with the reality of the situation, however, the decision was made to hand the entire hyper-weaponized machinery of the federal government over to a bunch of wild boys nobody ever voted for, whose abuse of that power rapidly devolved into a mind-bending crime spree that almost got their uncomprehending boss impeached.

As for Worst, well ... that's simple enough. Worst was a box in the cargo hold of Air Force One that left Dallas with John Kennedy inside of it, and was the blood pooling beneath Robert Kennedy's head as he lay dying on a dirty kitchen floor in California, and was Martin Luther King Jr. shot dead through the throat on some inconsequential Memphis hotel balcony, and was Medgar Evars shot dead in his driveway while his wife and children watched and wailed, and was Malcom Little who became Malcolm X who became El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz before a dozen gunshots put him down like Evars to die before the eyes of his wife and children.

That is a fair sampling of Worst, but only for openers, because this file is the biggest of the three by orders of magnitude, fairly bursting with names and events that sound in the reading of them like a roll-call of doom and nightmare, for that is precisely what they are.

Worst was as terrible as it could get, or so it was believed, until now, until the creation of a new fourth category became unavoidably necessary. The bewildering and terrifying fact of the matter is Worst has been fully and completely trumped by the times, relegated to silver-medal status and the lower podium. The grim reality of this brave new deranged world is the nation is now swarming with so many new and different horrors, which were upon us in one brief and ravaging eyeblink of time. It went beyond Worst just that fast.

As such, the new category is titled Beyond.

Beyond, for starters, is the fact nearly every American citizen stands surrounded by a confluence of mortal perils that threaten to completely unravel and eviscerate their country. Nearly every American will be severely and painfully affected should these dangers turn lethal ... and yet hardly anyone in America actually knows this. Almost nobody understands or recognizes the cocked and loaded gun pressed against their collective head, even as the trigger is slowly yet steadily squeezed and there are live rounds sitting in the chamber waiting for the hammer to drop.

One of those bullets is named George, just like his father, and he is an unimaginably dangerous fellow. People still don't know that the man sitting in the Oval Office of the White House is actively working to destroy all the American government he can get his hands on, because doing so is literally the bedrock of what passes for his political ideology. Many newsroom pundits saw him veto legislation to provide twelve million children with health insurance, but brushed it off as nothing more than the act of a standard-issue fiscal conservative. A renegade few on other news shows believed his veto was actually motivated by the need to snatch the cash set aside by the bill, so he could keep feeding the financial beast his disastrous Iraq war has become.

Both opinions were almost entirely wrong, but had just enough gristle on the bone to pass muster. Of course, Bush dropped the veto on two Democratic domestic spending packages; and, of course, he needs more money so he can keep losing two wars at the same time; and, of course, these trains of thought reinforce the conventionally-accepted story line of American politics; and that's nice for the TV people, but has nothing to do with the truth of the deal.

Bush vetoed those bills for one reason and one reason only: They were going to create government programs that worked. The very idea is rank heresy for privatizers like Bush, whose ultimate goal is to privatize everything from Social Security to health care to the pigeons in the park, because that's where the money his friends and constituents have been lusting after can be found.

A government program that actually and effectively serves the people is an intolerable thing to George, because that is the single best argument against privatization. If we know anything at all after all these gruesome years, it is that Bush simply will not tolerate the existence of any fact or idea that might disrupt the spinning, clanking, gear-grinding clockwork inside that craven pretzel-dented bone-sack that wobbles above his spindled, slumping shoulders. If he doesn't already believe in something, or if something contradicts the popsicle-stick infrastructure of his beliefs, whatever it is can basically go to Hell, because it isn't going anywhere else.

He vetoed those bills because they were going to work, period, end of file.

There is a man in the Oval Office of the White House working an agenda for the destruction of American government. His partner, Mr. Cheney, has been just down the hall taking care of the rest of the job. Subpoenas are ignored, documents are not delivered, Americans are put under surveillance without warrants by the NSA with assistance from nearly every phone company in the country, deep-cover CIA spies are blown to silence critics and whistleblowers, American citizens are imprisoned and denied rights that have been around for a thousand years, direct orders to fraudulently elevate terrorism threat levels are issued to provide cover for uncomfortable news reports, like the report on how many blunt warnings came in before 9/11 but were ignored got itself bounced to the back pages after the White House began yowling about the imminent destruction of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.

That is not even close to the half of it all, and this basic truth cuts to the heart of the matter: The quickest way to destroy the functionality of American government is to destroy the rule of law itself. Declare the Executive supreme and beholden to nothing, flood the Department of Justice and the federal courts with lickspittle political loyalists with no personal code of honor, upend the balanced counterweight of the separation of powers, terrify the populace into submission to avoid any hue and cry, roll out the grand distraction of war to get the flags waving and the newsrooms into line, and never obey any law or regulation imposed by anyone, ever.

This is what has been done to America, and it turned out to be a frightfully simple task. Once the rule of law is gone, there is nothing left to defend American rights and freedoms, nothing left to bring justice to the unjust, nothing left to stop those powerful few who aren't about to let quaint anachronisms like the Constitution, or pesky ideas like the ones that became the United States, get in the way of their work.

None of this information has ever been reported by the smart people on the cable TV news shows. Much of it may not have even occurred to most of them. Pundits don't get paid to think or be smart, so much as they get paid to shout and have stupid hairstyles and deliberately miss the point of every pressing issue they address. This guarantees nobody accidentally provides real and valuable information to the American people during any news broadcasts, and that is what mostly keeps many Americans dumbly frightened and easily managed.

The final product of this process is today's American body politic, almost completely unaware of the gun at their head, a body politic without the protection of law or basic rights and does not know it, a body politic that is altogether lost and wandering and afraid, for reasons they don't begin to understand. That is an unbelievably dangerous state of affairs, a real threat to the very survival of the United States. It is, simply, Beyond.

This barely scratches the surface of the situation as a whole, and that fact alone is pretty much Beyond even Beyond all by itself. If the national economy doesn't collapse before springtime now that debt has again become a bad thing and the dollar is turning into pudding, if Pakistan doesn't fall apart and lose control of its nuclear weaponry, if Iraq and Afghanistan magically stop being lost causes, and if George and Dick actually decide to obey the law and leave office next year, there will only be fifty more disasters left sitting on our national plate.

Only fifty? Boy, that would just be wild, almost like a vacation, really. It's good to have something to look forward to. I guess.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is now available from PoliPointPress.

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