Friday, March 21, 2008

Iraq: Five Years Later

As we suspected &mdash and blogged previously &mdash, the recent "improvement" that resulted from Georgie's "surge," or rather repeated redeployment of worn-out troops, was an illusion manipulated mainly by the media with the assistance of complacent rightwingnut apologists in the U.S.

As with the economic crisis, people have been warning for a long time that the situation in Iraq is inherently unstable. Jaish al-Mahdi have been, so far, obedient to Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr, their leader. Mostly. In recent months, as blogger James Schneider notes (click above link), the Jaish al-Mahdi appears to be splintering with some of the more thuggish elements moving out of al-Sadr's control.

Now The Guardian, one of the last bastions of good journalism, offers us a look at the Sons of Iraq, or the Sunni Awakening, or whatever they're calling them this week. The Sunnis whom we supposedly armed and financed &mdash oops, it appears that we just promised them money, we forgot to pay them.

Given how good our credit is around the world, can you see why the Sunnis are not too happy?

Consider this: 80,000 armed angry Sunni fighters. Plus unknown numbers of al Qaeda in Iraq fighters. Plus Jaish al-Mahdi. Against 160,000 U.S. troops.

Sure, we have superior firepower. But superior firepower doesn't mean much when most of the country is filled with people who want you dead. Ask the French. They still remember Dien Bien Phu.

From Iraq, Mohammed blogs the fifth anniversary of the war. It is to weep bitter tears of blood.

Update:It appears that we missed out on the latest news from the battlefield &mdash Jaish al-Mahdi fighters have attacked both Iraqi and US military in Kut and Baghdad. Casualties appear to be few, so far.

Crossposted over at ThePoliticalCat

There's more: "Iraq: Five Years Later" >>

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The cost of the isn't just dollars and cents

I created this video for the blogswarm yesterday...

There's more: "The cost of the isn't just dollars and cents" >>

No wonder Pentagon sees no Iraq fraud

It’s happening on the inside:

Richard T. Race, the Pentagon inspector general's chief investigator of procurement fraud and official misconduct, quit his job and pleaded guilty last month to violating U.S. banking laws.

The previously unpublicized case was filed Feb. 26 in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, according to court papers. Race, 61, admitted he made cash deposits at the Pentagon's credit union on three straight days in March 2007 that were designed to evade laws that track large currency transactions. The government seized the total of $20,000 in deposits as part of the plea deal.

It appears Race was trying to avoid some IRS reporting, as well.

So, he’s the perfect person to oversee Halliburton and its dodging, filching and mismanagement on government contracts, all while surely taking IRS write-offs for all of this mismanagement, or even possible downright fraud.

There's more: "No wonder Pentagon sees no Iraq fraud" >>

Robert Fisk has a GREAT take on the Iraq 5-year anniversary

British journalist, historian, and all-around chronicler of the Middle East Robert Fisk offers his take on “The only lesson we ever learn is that we never learn”.
Much of it attacks the Blair administration for becoming more American-like in having its politics driven by press conferences and TV deadlines. But the heart of the essay, and its title, is touchstoned by a Pat Buchanan quote:

“With our MacArthur Regency in Baghdad, Pax Americana will reach apogee. But then the tide recedes, for the one endeavour at which Islamic people excel is expelling imperial powers by terror or guerrilla war.

“They drove the Brits out of Palestine and Aden, the French out of Algeria, the Russians out of Afghanistan, the Americans out of Somalia and Beirut, the Israelis out of Lebanon. We have started up the road to empire and over the next hill we will meet those who went before. The only lesson we learn from history is that we do not learn from history.”

Fisk then tackles the Blairs, Bushes and others who postured as Churchills, despite not knowing, or listening to, history. He derisively says we should call the former British PM “Anthony Blair — as we should always have called this small town lawyer.”

Then, Fisk offers new looks at the grim statistics of casualties:
The total of US dead in Iraq (3,978) is well over the number of American casualties suffered in the initial D-Day landings at Normandy (3,384 killed and missing) on 6 June, 1944, or more than three times the total British casualties at Arnhem the same year (1,200). …

Iraqi casualties allow an even closer comparison to the Second World War. Even if we accept the lowest of fatality statistics for civilian dead – they range from 350,000 up to a million – these long ago dwarfed the number of British civilian dead in the flying-bomb blitz on London in 1944-45 (6,000) and now far outnumber the total figure for civilians killed in bombing raids across the United Kingdom – 60,595 dead, 86,182 seriously wounded – from 1940 to 1945.

Indeed, the Iraqi civilian death toll since our invasion is now greater than the total number of British military fatalities in the Second World War, which came to an astounding 265,000 dead (some histories give this figure as 300,000) and 277,000 wounded. Minimum estimates for Iraqi dead mean that the civilians of Mesopotamia have suffered six or seven Dresdens or – more terrible still – two Hiroshimas.

And, non-casualty statistics on why we continue to draw Osama bin Laden’s ire;
If there are, as I now calculate, 22 times as many Western troops in the Muslim world as there were at the time of the 11th and 12th century Crusades, we must ask what we are doing. Are we there for oil? For democracy? For Israel? For fear of weapons of mass destruction? Or for fear of Islam?

The problem is, as Fisk has stated, all too few people have asked these questions. And, all too many of those in power have only asked them in a rhetorical sense, having already supplied their own answers.

There's more: "Robert Fisk has a GREAT take on the Iraq 5-year anniversary" >>

For the blogswarm

[I posted this yesterday at Lotus - Surviving a Dark Time and forgot to cross-post it here. My bad. My real bad, because I was working on four Iraq-related posts for the 19th, got interrupted, and only got two of them up. The other two will be up at Lotus later today.]

Scenes of a broken nation:

- A doctoral candidate can't get her thesis examined because there is no one to do it.

Widespread threats against Iraqi university staff have all but stripped the country of its intellectual core, particularly in Baghdad.

According to the country's higher education ministry, 240 lecturers were killed from 2003 to October 2007.

Approximately 2,000 academics have fled the country, according to Tariq al-Bakaa, a former minister of higher education who served under the 2004 government of the then prime minister Ayad Allawi.
- A family waits in line all day and even longer for gasoline.
Iraqis are once again facing days of power outages and queues hundreds of meters in length at petrol stations in parts of the capital, Baghdad, as well as in some of the country's provinces. . ...

The Iraqi electricity ministry has blamed the oil ministry for not providing sufficient fuel to run its generators. The oil ministry has blamed the electricity ministry for failing to provide its refineries with an uninterrupted power supply.
- Another family learns that eating by candlelight is not romantic.
In many areas of Baghdad, electricity is only available for a couple of hours a day.

Iraqi officials usually blame the electricity shortages on disruptions in fuel oil supplies or sabotage at power plants. Now, officials are confirming that corruption and intimidation are sometimes factors in who gets electricity in Iraq's capital.
- A sick man can't get care because it's too dangerous to get to the hospital.
Because of poor security conditions in much of the country, the sick and injured are often cut off from access to medical care. In some areas, it has become extremely difficult to provide emergency medical services, supplies or equipment....
- A sick child can't get care because the family can't afford it.
Some people go to private clinics, which are safer but also more expensive – so much so that a large part of the population could never afford them. A private-sector consultation typically costs between two and seven US dollars, depending on the quality of the service. It is not at all clear how people earning less than five dollars a day could ever pay so much.
- A sick woman can't get care because there is no one to provide it.
Hospitals and health-care centres often lack drugs and other essential items. There are not enough functioning emergency rooms and operating theatres to cope with mass casualties. There are currently 172 public hospitals with 30,000 beds – well short of the 80,000 beds needed – plus 65 private hospitals [for a population of 27 million]. ...

Like many other Iraqis, medical doctors, nurses and their families are in danger of being kidnapped or killed. Some have received threats against them. According to official Iraqi sources, more than 2,200 doctors and nurses have been killed and more than 250 kidnapped since 2003. Of the 34,000 doctors registered in 1990, at least 20,000 have left the country. The Iraqi health-care system is now in worse shape than ever.
- Poor families face the choice of doing without enough water...
Many Iraqis can no longer rely on public services for clean water. Left to their own devices, many people, especially the poorest, struggle to find what they need. The estimated average monthly salary in Iraq is now around 150 US dollars. As the cost of drinking water is roughly one dollar for 10 litres, each family has to spend at least US$ 50 per month on water alone.
...or drinking what may be disease-carrying filth.
Sewage systems have often deteriorated to the point that there is a real danger of drinking water being contaminated by untreated sewage.
- A man makes his living as "body contractor."
A 38-year-old Shiite who sports a thin beard and a checkered black-and-white kaffiyeh, [Jabber] Sowadi charges clients $300 to $500 to track down missing relatives, or more often their corpses.
- Then there are the walls...
Five years of occupation have destroyed Iraq as a country. Baghdad is today a collection of hostile Sunni and Shia ghettoes divided by high concrete walls. Different districts even have different national flags. Sunni areas use the old Iraqi flag with the three stars of the Baath party, and the Shia wave a newer version, adopted by the Shia-Kurdish government. The Kurds have their own flag.
...and the silences...
It's a cold, gray day in December, and I'm walking down Sixtieth Street in the Dora district of Baghdad, one of the most violent and fearsome of the city's no-go zones. Devastated by five years of clashes between American forces, Shiite militias, Sunni resistance groups and Al Qaeda, much of Dora is now a ghost town. This is what "victory" looks like in a once upscale neighborhood of Iraq: Lakes of mud and sewage fill the streets. Mountains of trash stagnate in the pungent liquid. Most of the windows in the sand-colored homes are broken, and the wind blows through them, whistling eerily. House after house is deserted, bullet holes pockmarking their walls, their doors open and unguarded, many emptied of furniture. What few furnishings remain are covered by a thick layer of the fine dust that invades every space in Iraq. ... Emptied and destroyed by civil war, walled off by President Bush's much-heralded "surge," Dora feels more like a desolate, post-apocalyptic maze of concrete tunnels than a living, inhabited neighborhood. Apart from our footsteps, there is complete silence.
...interrupted by the sounds of death and the wails of the survivors.
The death toll from a bomb attack near a revered Shiite shrine in the central Iraqi city of Karbala has risen to 52, a health official told AFP Tuesday.

A bomb exploded near the shrine of Imam Hussein, a pilgrimage destination for Shiite Muslims in the centre of the city, on Monday.

Karbala police chief Brigadier General Raed Shakir said the bomb had been planted in the area by insurgents, although other police and health officials said the attack was carried out by a female suicide bomber.

On Tuesday, Salim Kadhim, spokesman of the Karbala health directorate said the death toll from the attack was now at 52, while 75 others were wounded.
Let's make no mistake.

We did this.

It's our fault.

Our fault.

Our fault.

The blood is on our hands. And it will not wash off.

There's more: "For the blogswarm" >>

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cheney, McCain Give Happy Talk in Sad Country

Cross-posted from The Paragraph.

U.S. Vice President Cheney, a major architect of the Bush regime’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, visited Baghdad Monday, and gave this assessment:

So if you reflect back on those five years, I think it’s been a difficult, challenging, but nonetheless successful endeavour and that we’ve come a long way in five years and it’s been well worth the effort.x60

But Cheney’s happy talk fades fast into the sad reality of Iraq. There violence has killed 100,000’s of citizens and thousands of U.S. and allied soldiers, and kills more day-by-day.x61 There violence has driven millions of citizens from their homes. There the five years of violence and neglect have destroyed the infrastructure, and millions of citizens lack safe drinking water and electricity. There half the citizens who need a paying job can’t find one. There, where the country’s major income is oil, it has not flowed for a single day as it had before the invasion. There the U.S. government has spent a half trillion dollars, and spends three billion a week more to maintain the occupation, its massive embassy in the “green zone”, its new military bases, and the lush profits of its corporate contractors.x62

Sen. John McCain, to whom President Bush wants to pass the war baton, also visited Baghdad this week, and also spoke happily: “We find a continued success of the strategy …”, and “The surge is working.” But the time for the “surge” is up, and it has failed. Its benchmarks have not been met and there is no exit in sight for U.S. troops.x63 That does not seem to faze McCain. Instead of an exit plan, he has a staying dream, where the Iraqi government and people welcome U.S. troops for “maybe a hundred years”.x64 But since Bush war policy has played out in the torture at Abu Ghraib, the siege of Fallujah, and loose rules of engagement, such welcome seems unlikely.x65x66x67 So what way forward do we have? Southern Iraq gives a clue: since the British occupation troops left Basra, violence has dropped 90%.x68

Bush & McCain make up – August 2004. Now Bush wants to pass the war baton to McCain.


60 ‘Headlines for March 18, 2008—Suicide Bomber Kills 42; Cheney & McCain Cite Success in Iraq’ Democracy Now!

61 ‘IRAQ: Five Years, And Counting’ – Inter Press Service, Analysis by Dahr Jamail, 2008-03-18

62 ‘War Profiteers Profits Over Patriotism in Iraq’ by Robert L. Borosage, Eric Lotke and Robert Gerson; Campaign fo America’s Future; September 2006 – pdf file

63 Despite Failure To Meet Bush’s Original Goals, McCain And Lieberman Declare ‘The Surge Worked’ – Matt,, Jan 10th, 2008

Despite the failure of the surge to meet its political goals, war hawks are rushing to declare victory. Writing in the Wall Street Journal today, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) declare that “the surge worked.”

Here are a few examples of how their claims of “victory” do not correspond with the reality in Iraq:

CLAIM: “The surge worked.”

FACT: In October, the Government Accountability Office assessed that of the eight political benchmarks set forth by President Bush and Congress, the Iraqi government had only “met one legislative benchmark and partially met another.” Since then, progress has stalled on key areas laid out by Bush: an oil law, de-Baathification reform, a process for amending the Constitution and provincial elections.

CLAIM: “Conditions in that country have been utterly transformed from those of a year ago, as a consequence of the surge.”

FACT: Though the “surge” has helped Sunni Arabs in Anbar province push al Qaeda in Iraq to the sidelines, the decision to turn on al Qaeda was not caused by the “surge.” U.S. commanders wisely “took advantage of these changing dynamics,” but they did not cause them. Additionally, as al Qaeda’s presence has decreased, sectarian strife has increased.

CLAIM: “We have at last begun to see the contours of what must remain our objective in this long, hard and absolutely necessary war — victory.”

FACT: Only politicians and pundits are speaking of victory. At the end of last year, Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, cautioned that “recent security gains are fragile and still reversible.” “We are trying to be cautious as we describe the progress that is taking place in Iraq,” Petraeus told Foreign Affairs. “There are a number of concerns that we do have.”

64 ‘McCain in NH: Would Be ‘Fine’ To Keep Troops in Iraq for ‘A Hundred Years’’ by David Corn, 2008-01-03

After the event ended, I asked McCain about his “hundred years” comment, and he reaffirmed the remark, excitedly declaring that U.S. troops could be in Iraq for “a thousand years” or “a million years,” as far as he was concerned. The key matter, he explained, was whether they were being killed or not: “It’s not American presence; it’s American casualties.” U.S. troops, he continued, are stationed in South Korea, Japan, Europe, Bosnia, and elsewhere as part of a “generally accepted policy of America’s multilateralism.” There’s nothing wrong with Iraq being part of that policy, providing the government in Baghdad does not object.

In other words, McCain does not equate victory in Iraq—which he passionately urges at campaign events—with the removal of U.S. troops from that nation.

65 ‘America Puts Brakes on Drive for More War’ The Paragraph, 2006-11-30; footnotes 120-122

66 ‘The Real ‘Surge’ of 2007: Non-Combatant Death in Iraq and Afghanistan’ By Neta C. Crawford, Catherine Lutz, Robert Jay Lifton, Judith L. Herman, Howard Zinn – Carnegie Council, January 22, 2008

The U.S. says it takes particular care in both Afghanistan and Iraq to avoid killing or injuring non-combatants. And it is true that the rules of engagement have become more restrictive and that the U.S. has used more precision guided munitions in both conflicts than in any previous wars. So, what explains this surge in non-combatant deaths? There are three main factors.

First, the United States has significantly increased “close air support” operations in both countries. In other words, when U.S. and NATO ground forces come into contact with insurgents, the U.S. has increasingly tended to call on helicopters and fixed wing aircraft to fire on targets. While pre-planned attacks can take risks to civilians into account through “collateral damage estimates,” close air support operations are done on the fly and often with poor intelligence. The majority of the deaths recorded in the last year were caused in these operations.

Second, while the Pentagon has increasingly restricted the rules for when its soldiers can use deadly force, the rules of engagement are too permissive, permitting the use of force if the soldier feels threatened with “hostile intent.”

Third, U.S. forces are understandably stressed and therefore sometimes too quick to fire in ambiguous situations. Troops rotations are long, combat stress is high, and returning soldiers report attitudes of contempt for Iraqi and Afghan civilians. This combination of contempt, fear, and fatigue is a toxic brew.

67 ‘US/IRAQ: Rules of Engagement ‘Thrown Out the Window’’ By Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Service, March 15, 2008

68 ‘In Basra, violence is a tenth of what it was before British pullback, general says’ The Associated Press,

November 15, 2007

* * *

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

There's more: "Cheney, McCain Give Happy Talk in Sad Country" >>

I Tried. I Really Tried.

But I couldn't think of anything to say that I didn't say last year on March 19 when I posted this at Edgeing, or think of anything to say that hasn't been said many times before, and by many other than myself.

I also can't think of anything to say to this girl....

The Iraqi Childrens Debacle

I hope George Bush, Dick Cheney, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, the complicit media, and quite a few others, can think of something to say to her....

Bush's Iraq and Mid-East Debacle - Four... sorry, FIVE Year Anniversary

Tomorrow marks the four FIVE year anniversary of the attack on and invasion of Iraq as American missiles hit targets in Baghdad on March 20, 2003 in the start of a US led campaign to topple Saddam Hussein. In the following days US and British ground troops entered Iraq from the south and over the next few weeks rather quickly overcame the little resistance the Iraqi Army was able to offer.

On May 1 of that year George W. Bush, in a needlessly theatrical stunt, landed in a jet on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, and wearing a flight suit in a staged attempt to look as macho as possible for the photo opportunity, announced that "In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed", standing with an enormous banner displaying the words "Mission Accomplished" as the backdrop for a ridiculous, deceitful propaganda event.

Since "Mission Accomplished" more US soldiers have died in Iraq than the number of Americans who died in the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, an event that George W. Bush and the White House propaganda machine has repeatedly tried to insinuate was carried out with the backing and involvement of former Iraq President Saddam Hussein as part of their attempts to justify the Iraq invasion and subsequent occupation as being the central front in Bush's so-called War On Terror, which I have often renamed the "War On Thinking".

Since "Mission Accomplished" tens of thousands of American soldiers have returned home to their friends and families crippled, blinded, burned, poisoned, and maimed, or dead.

Since "Mission Accomplished" the invasion and occupation of Iraq has become known as George W. Bush's Iraq and Mid-East Debacle.

Since "Mission Accomplished" nearly one million Iraqis, about seven hundred and fifty thousand of them defenseless Iraqi children and women, have died needlessly.

Since "Mission Accomplished" George W. Bush's accomplishments have become "in horrible reality a cowardly War on Women and Children, a War on Asian Women and Children and a War on Muslim Women and Children."

Since "Mission Accomplished" the anti-war movement has steadily grown, but has made little real progress towards ending the Debacle in Iraq.

Since "Mission Accomplished" the approval ratings of George W. Bush and the Republican Party have steadily declined, but has resulted in little real progress towards ending the Debacle in Iraq.

Since "Mission Accomplished" the Democratic Party has retaken majority control of the House Of Representatives and of the United States Senate, but has made little real progress towards ending the Debacle in Iraq.

Yesterday March 18, Katrina Vanden Heuvel writing in the Editor's Cut Blog at The Nation noted:

As we mark what may well be the most colossal foreign policy disaster in US history, we mourn the death and destruction--which has not ended. We mark the lies and delusions that launched this war--since they too are continuing.

The majority of the American people have found their way to the truth and are demanding an end to this catastrophe. Yet the political system continues to crawl hesitantly toward accepting the enormity of this failure.

She then moves quickly to the real heart of the matter, to the deeper questions that will need to be addressed and answered if the Debacle, which terrifyingly is only a symptom of a larger problem, is ever to be ended:

But as we mark the anniversary of the Iraq war, it is also time to consider the longterm damage the misconceived "war on terrorism" has inflicted on our security and engagement with the world. Eventually US troops will leave Iraq because the brutal facts on the ground will compel it. But even as we struggle to get out of this failed war, our political system continues to evade the challenge of finding an exit from the "war on terror." At a time when we need a coherent alternative to the Bush doctrine and an alternative vision of what this country's role in the world should be, we see both parties calling for intensifying the "war on terror" --even for increasing the size of the military, and for expanding its ability to go places and do things. But who is asking the fundamental question: Won't a war without end do more to weaken our security and democracy than seriously address the threats and challenges ahead?

Katrina then moves beyond the questions to begin making some concrete suggestions:

Fighting terror requires genuine cooperation with other nations in policing and lawful and targeted intelligence work; smart diplomacy; withdrawal of support for oppressive regimes that generate hatred of the US; and real pressure to bring about negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians with the goal of achieving peace and security for Israel and justice and a secure state for the Palestinians. (There are other effective means of combating terrorism; what is important is that they are harnessed and coordinated so as to provide a true alternative to hyper-military ventures.)

Katrina is on the right track here, and she has some heavyweight agreement with her thinking and perspective on how to fight terror.

Last June author Salman Rushdie was interviewed by Bill Moyers on Moyer's Faith and Reason program. The video is here and the transcript here. Rushdie drew a very apt and instructive analogy to the long history of 'terrorism' troubles Britain had to deal with from the IRA that can be of help in understanding what we are dealing with when considering what we can do about fringe groups like Al Qaeda:

ALMAN RUSHDIE: There are people, as I say, you have to defeat, you know. But I'm talking about the enormous culture of which they're the pimple on the nose of it. And I think in the end the way in which radical Islam will be defeated is when ordinary Islam, you know, when the regular world of the Muslim faith comes to reject the idea that they will be represented by, defined by that kind of extremist behavior.

BILL MOYERS: But many people say that that kind of extremist behavior is part and parcel of the ideology of the heart of Islam. What do you--

SALMAN RUSHDIE: I don't think necessarily. I mean, the IRA was not intrinsically-- was not somehow arising from something intrinsic to Catholicism. And actually the IRA is a relevant example. Because when the Catholics of Northern Ireland became disillusioned by being represented by the IRA that is what brought the IRA to the peace table. At that moment their power disappeared. And that's why I'm saying that it is in a way incumbent on the Muslim world to reject Islamic radicalism, because that is what will remove the power of Islamic radicalism.

BILL MOYERS: Is America doomed to live under a fatwah as you did? Under the threat of terrorism for a long time, as you did?

SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yes, I think. But I mean, I think everywhere is dangerous now. You know the world is not a safe place; and there are no safe corners of it. And actually, there probably never have been. I think, in a way, America was insulated from that for awhile by the enormous power of America. But even that no longer insulates. So I think we do have to accept that the world is like that now. And I think ' one of the reasons I can say this is that, having lived in England during the years of the of the IRA campaign ' it became something that people, in a way, came to accept. That every so often a bomb would go off in a shopping mall, shopping center, and in the end, people refused to allow that to change their daily lives and just proceeded. And I think that refusal to be deflected from the path of normality also played a great deal of the role in the defeat of the IRA, that they didn't achieve their goal. And I think it is, I mean, it's something I've written quite a bit about, that the answer to terrorism is not to be terrorized, and it becomes important to continue--

Continue we must learn to do, and Katrina Vanden Heuvel concludes her article with still more concrete ideas, that I think taken in the spirit that Rushdie delineated, are the only reasonable way left forward.

If we are to go forward:

With the 2008 elections looming, it is unlikely that the Democrats (with a few honorable exceptions) will rethink their official national security strategy in any significant way. But citizens committed to a vision of real security can launch a debate framed by our own concerns and values. If we have learned anything in the past six years, it is that even overwhelming military power is ill suited to dealing with the central challenges of the 21st century: climate crisis, the worst pandemic in human history (AIDS), the spread of weapons of mass destruction, stateless terrorists with global reach, genocidal conflict and starvation afflicting Africa, and a global economy that is generating greater instability and inequality.

A real security plan would widen the definition to include all threats to human life, whether they stem from terrorism, disease, environmental degradation, natural disasters or global poverty--a definition that makes it clear that the military is only one of many tools that can be used to address urgent threats. A last resort. This alternative security strategy would also reconfigure the US presence in the world – reducing the footprint of American military power, pulling back the forward deployments drastically and reducing the bloated Pentagon budget by as much as half.

Yes, at home, all this will take time and have to overcome the fiercest kind of political resistance. Yet this is not an impossible political goal, now that Americans have seen where the military option leads. Dealing intelligently with reality is not retreat. It is the first wise step toward restoring real national security.

Princeton Universities Wilson School has in fact been working on devising a new cogent and workable foreign policy for America that may show promise. The Princeton Project on National Security on September 29, 2006 released their final report in the form of 96 page PDF document titled "Forging a World of Liberty Under Law, U.S. National Security In The 21st Century, which according to thir mission statement was developed by 400 contributors over a 2 year period, to "set forth agreed premises or foundational principles to guide the development of specific national security strategies by successive administrations in coming decades".

The Princeton Project's report is here. Trust Albert Einstein's old alma mater to take up this challenge. How apt!

"He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder."

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction."

--Albert Einstein

Perhaps the War On Thinking is being won after all? And how could it be otherwise, really. Everything begins with an idea. Bush and the Republicans never really had any. And liberals by their nature cannot help but have many.

There's more: "I Tried. I Really Tried." >>

Iraq: Interesting Juxtaposition

Seen this morning over at Huffpo:

First headline: Poll: Majority Of Americans Say War Not Worth It

Second headline: Bush: Iraq War Worth It

In other news, although why call it "news" when it's not new and should come as no surprise to anyone, Drunky McStaggers once again attempts to tie 9/11 and his old friend Osama bin Laden (hey, where is Osama, anyway?) to Iraq.

"The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around -- it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror. For the terrorists, Iraq was supposed to be the place where al-Qaeda rallied Arab masses to drive America out. Instead, Iraq has become the place where Arabs joined with Americans to drive al-Qaeda out. In Iraq, we are witnessing the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden, his grim ideology, and his murderous network. The significance of this development cannot be overstated."
No, you pathetic dry drunk drug-addled brainless idiot. Iraq was the proverbial innocent bystander here. Your friends the Saudis who won't increase oil production no matter how much you beg and grovel and publicly fellate them sent 15 of their citizens in a well-funded plot directed by a mastermind your Daddy's hunchmen trained, to damage America. That mastermind, Osama bin Laden, is believed to be hiding out in Afghanistan, where we're losing yet another war, thanks to your failed concepts of military strategy. Or he might be in Pakistan, where your good buddy Musharraf is soon to join the ranks of ex-dictators of Pakistan (notorious mainly for being assassinated).

Remember that picture? Five years ago, this idiot told us the war was over. Since then, 4,000 American troops have died; over one million Iraqis have died, men, women, children, old people, sick people, blind, deaf, and otherwise disabled people; between 3 and 5 million Iraqis are refugees, either in neighbouring nations, or internally displaced, because Shrinky McBrainless hasn't done squat to have the U.S. take in those Iraqis who worked with us and are now targeted by death squads; over 30,000 U.S. servicemen are maimed, injured, and disabled; and who knows how many Iraqis we have left wounded.

For a little perspective on how much this war is costing us and a comparison of timelines, drop by Gordon and Fixer's. Take a bucket, you'll need to puke.

Drunky's liege lord, Senior Puppetmaster and professional impersonator of human life, Snarly McCrashcart, meanwhile, flew his wife and daughter on a junket to the middle-east, that tinderbox of explosive politics. What are they doing, you ask, you humble American taxpayer whose dollars are financing that junket, even as you work your ass off without an inflation-matching raise for a decade? Goin' fishing. No, no kidding. Even as the reptilian bastard snarls in public about the nonexistent links between al Qaeda and Iraq.

When informed that two-thirds of the American people don't support the illegal, immoral war of occupation in Iraq, Snarly gave the American public the rigid digit. See the video clip for yourself.

So, you the two-thirds of the American Public who are against this war? Better get off yer asses and do something about it. And no, electing John McInsane is not the answer, because he can't tell his al Qaeda from a hole in the ground, and wants to start another war &mdash in Iran &mdash so the economy can go even further into the hole than it is already.

Crossposted over at La Casa de Los Gatos

There's more: "Iraq: Interesting Juxtaposition" >>

Mr.Rumsfeld ‘messy war’ boomerang – Iraq war looting comes home to roost

Donald Rumsfeld’s “things are messy in wartime” comments in 2003, which was made in reference to looting of Iraq’s cultural and historical antiquities, among other things, has now come home to roost.

Some of those same looted antiquities are now funding Iraqi insurgents:

Marine Reserve Col. Matthew Bogdanos claimed that both Sunni insurgents, such as al Qaeda in Iraq, and Shiite militias are receiving funding from the trafficking. …

“Well, (unlike Afghanistan), they don’t have opium in Iraq,” he said. “What they have is an almost limitless supply of is antiquities. And so they're using antiquities.”

So, if you’re out at a war anniversary rally tonight, remember that, beyond all of his other fuckups, Don Rumsfeld has just a little bit more blood on his hands now.

There's more: "Mr.Rumsfeld ‘messy war’ boomerang – Iraq war looting comes home to roost" >>

The Clueless Losers File: Lynndie England

Crossposted from BFD Blog!

Once A Clueless Loser, Always A Clueless Loser

Truth really can be stranger than fiction. Less than two weeks after her release from military prison, the German magazine Stern has just run an interview with Lynndie England, who is arguably one of the most clueless losers of the century.

Despite initially pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to maltreat prisoners by assault and battery, and then after changing her plea to innocent and subsequently being convicted of inflicting sexual, physical and psychological abuse, which some would term torture, on Iraqi prisoners of war, Ms. England maintains:

I'm saying that what we did happens in war. It just isn't documented. If it had been broken by the news without the pictures it wouldn't have been that big...

I guess after the picture came out the insurgency picked up and Iraqis attacked the Americans and the British and they attacked in return and they were just killing each other. I felt bad about it, ... no, I felt pissed off. If the media hadn't exposed the pictures to that extent then thousands of lives would have been saved...

Yeah, I took the photos but I didn't make it worldwide. Yes, I was in five or six pictures and I took some pictures, and those pictures were shameful and degrading to the Iraqis and to our government. And I feel sorry and wrong about what I did. But it would not have escalated to what it did all over the world if it wouldn't have been for someone leaking it to the media. Hell, I was at Fort Bragg when the pictures came out and I had no idea.

Parsing Ms. England's words, one can only come to the conclusion that in her mind, even now, she believes that if her and her comrades' actions had never come to light, no harm would have been done, at least to the reputation of the United States and its military forces, and to hell with the human beings that were subjected to their abuse and torture.

When asked what she would tell her son about his parents (her son is the child of her extra-marital affair with her co-conspirator Charles Graner) and Abu Ghraib, England sounds almost proud of her military service:

I don't know. I'm trying to get together a scrapbook right now. My Mom kept every single article. And I'll probably cut them out and put them in a scrapbook and let him look at that.

Maybe she can paste some of the following memories in her scrapbook:

On the eve of the fifth anniversary of Bushliburton's "romantic" adventure of Iraq, when the total number of American military personnel killed is about to exceed 4,000, when in excess of 24,000 American PTSD and traumatic brain injury casualties have accrued, when the United States Army's ability to defend our country has been sapped to the breaking point, when the treasury of the United States has been sapped and future generations of Americans will be saddled with debt in trillions of dollars, who is the biggest clueless loser?

Illustration: Big Fella with The Worried Shrimp

Once A Clueless Loser, Always A Clueless Loser

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

5th Anniversary, Iraq Moratorium demand action

The convergence of the 5th anniversary of "shock and awe" with Christian Holy Week and Iraq Moratorium #7 has sparked hundreds of antiwar actions across the country this week.

The Iraq Moratorium, a loosely-knit grassroots movement, is usually observed on the Third Friday of every month, but March events are spread throughout the week.

It began last weekend, when more than 500 people gathered at the Unitarian Universalist Church of San Francisco for a rally, march and vigil.

Speakers included Daniel Ellsberg, State Sen. Carole Migden and former San Francisco Supervisor and current Green Party vice presidential candidate Matt Gonzalez.

Ellsberg invited the crowd at the church to join him in a "die in" Wednesday at noon outside the San Francisco office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. "We may be arrested for disturbing the peace," he said. "But there is no peace.

Golden Gate XPress, the student newspaper at San Francisco State University, reports:

[Cindy]Sheehan,(right) a congressional candidate ... concluded the event by reflecting on her personal loss. She told the story of her son who was killed in the third bloody mission into Sadr City, a mission forced upon him against his will.

“Today I have one dead son,” she said to a silent hall, using a tissue to dry a tear. “When your child is killed in a war, they always say ‘Your child volunteered. Your child was a hero,’” she said. “What makes him a hero if he was ordered to kill innocent Iraqis?”

Sheehan further acknowledged the Americans and Iraqis who lost their lives in the war and the politicians who put them there.

“It’s bullshit that we’re not impeaching,” she said.
Because the Moratorium, which encourages local grassroots action on the Third Friday of every month, coincides with the Christian observance of Good Friday, March 21, some actions will include a religious theme.

The Pike’s Peak Justice Coalition will take part in Pax Christi's Way of the Cross/Way of Justice procession in downtown Colorado Springs.

A Hartford, CT “Lamentation and Protest” will begin with an interfaith prayer service, followed by a silent procession to the federal building, where marchers will pile stones bearing the names of victims of the Iraq war. Church bells will ring in a number of communities in Massachusetts to mark Moratorium observances.

In Cincinnati, candlelight vigils will be held in eight neighborhoods, and dozens of street corner vigils are planned across the country. Most vigils take place every month, and some have been going since the war began.

In a session called “Write Some Wrongs,” people in Cornwall, CT will meet at the public library to write their Congressman about “what is in your heart about the Iraq war and what you want him to do about it.”

The Iraq Moratorium encourage local organizers to “do their own thing” on the third Friday of the month – but to do something, whatever it is, to end the war. It is all a loosely-knit national grassroots effort operating under the Iraq Moratorium umbrella.

Friday is the seventh monthly Moratorium, and more than 800 events have been listed on the group’s website, , which has a list of this month's actions and reports, photos and videos from previous months.

There's more: "5th Anniversary, Iraq Moratorium demand action" >>

Iraq more pricey than Nam – ask McCain about cost

Only World War II has now cost m ore than Iraq.

The costs of maintaining a US presence in Iraq now runs a tab of about $435 million a day — $3 billion a week, or $12 billion a month. The US has siphoned some $500 billion taxpayer dollars into Iraq, for a war that was supposed to be “sharp” and brief. Interest payments add another $615 billion, and the price tag of repairing a depleted military is projected at $280 billion.

Only World War II, in terms of inflation-adjusted dollars, was more expensive, according to a recent study by Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard University public finance Professor Laura Bilmes. Both served in the Clinton administration.

Here’s another financial analysis.of the expensive war:
The price tag in Iraq now is more than double the cost of the Korean War and a third more expensive than the Vietnam War, which lasted 12 years. Stiglitz and Bilmes calculate that it will be at least 10 times as costly as the 1991 Gulf War and twice the cost of World War I.

Only World War II was more expensive. That four-year war — in which 16 million U.S. troops were deployed on two fronts, fighting against Germany and Japan — cost about $5 trillion in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Of course, LBJ’s “guns and butter,” along with the rise in inflation it provoked, was part of what chased him out of office.

So, if Schmuck Talk Express™ is so serious about staying there 100 years, if necessary, when is the MSM press going to ask him what he would do differently than President Bush on paying for the war.

This is yet another one of those areas where Schmuck Talk has gotten a free pass from the media.

There's more: "Iraq more pricey than Nam – ask McCain about cost" >>

Hitchens still idiot on Iraq

Slate recently asked a number of its writers to contribute columns on the five-year anniversary of invading Iraq. Here's Christopher Hitchens at his snarling self-defending best.

Snitchens morphs George Bush in trying to claim he was right on invading Iraq.

Read this howler:

Baghdad's outrageous flouting of the resolutions on compliance (if not necessarily the maintenance of blatant, as opposed to latent, WMD capacity) remains a huge and easily demonstrable breach of international law.

Get that? Even though Saddam Hussein didn’t have “weapons of mass destruction” (which Hitchens knows is itself a misleading term), it had “latent WMD capability.” Funny, Bush and Tony Blair never mentioned that idea to the U.N.

Then there’s this:
The role of Baathist Iraq in forwarding and aiding the merchants of suicide terror actually proves to be deeper and worse, on the latest professional estimate, than most people had ever believed or than the Bush administration had ever suggested.

If he’s talking about the current rash of suicide bombers, he’s just lying.

Next, we have this:
Not unimportantly, a battlefield defeat has been inflicted on al-Qaida and its surrogates.

Really, Gen. David Petraeus Hitchens?

The only thing one can say about Hitchens compared to Bush is that he at least doesn’t mangle the English language when he’s lying.

There's more: "Hitchens still idiot on Iraq" >>

Monday, March 17, 2008

Vote For The Proper Bush/Iraq Anniversary Gift

Let's Give The Commander Guy an Anniversary Gift!

Just a quick note, with the 5th Anniversary of the Bush Grindhouse's invasion and occupation of Iraq coming up on Wednesday, The Garlic has set it's Weekly Poll, asking for the input of our readers on the proper gift to give for the occasion.

And, if you have an idea of one that you think may be more proper, you can offer that by leaving a comment.

Visit The Garlic to cast your vote!

Just A Reminder Bonus Riffs

Warren P. Strobel/McClatchy Newspapers: Iraq war's cost: Loss of U.S. power, prestige, influence

Paul Kiel/TPMmuckraker: Today's Must Read

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ANTI-WAR!: March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm

Stop the killing. Stop the maiming. Stop the economic and environmental devastation. Bring the troops home.

Participate / Learn More About the Blogswarm Against the Iraq War
Statement of Purpose

This blogswarm will promote blog postings opposing the war in Iraq and calling for a full withdrawal of foreign occupying forces in Iraq. Five years of an illegal and catastrophic war is five years too many. On the March 19 anniversary of the conquest of Iraq by the Bush Administration, there needs to be a loud volume of voices countering the pro-war propaganda from far too many politicians and corporate media outlets.

Trying to Decide What to Write?

You are encouraged to write against the war from a variety of perspectives. The war is a huge problem, and that makes it an enormous subject for blogging. Here are some things you might want to consider if you are having difficulty making up your mind:

Attend an anti-war event and report on it.
Interview military families and veterans.

NEW IDEA: Blog reactions to Pacifica's Live Radio Coverage of the Winter Soldier testimony by Iraq Vets would be of great interest. Coverage from the event in Washington, DC would be great too. This event deserves all the coverage it can possibly get.

Examine current plans and the rather shadowy oil laws as well as long term military bases.

Compare and contrast candidates stated intentions on what they claim they will do with their records.

Publicize online action alerts by pro-peace organizations.
Discuss the economic impacts of the war on people in Iraq and/or western countries.

Discuss the casualties on both sides.

Explore issues and impacts often ignored by most media outlets.

Analyze war propaganda.

How to Participate:

1) Post a comment with your blog's title and URL. (A Blogger ID may not be enough for us to figure out who you are.) There are regularly updated listings of all participating blogs.

2) Optional: Save one of the blogswarm graphics to your system and upload it to your blog, linking to:

3) Be sure to follow up on your commitment to write a posting on March 19 against the war.

4) Spread the word among other people who want to end this nutty war.

Here are some graphics for this purpose.

Cross-Post from the Real Liberal Christian Church & Christian Commons Project™. ANTI-WAR! REAL CHRISTIAN: March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm.
Tom Usher

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The Qwest for truth gets new hearing with perfect timing

Former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio will get a new trial. A federal appeals court ordered the new trial, saying the trial court wrongly excluded some expert testimony.

Nacchio was convicted in April on 19 counts involving the sale of $52 million worth of Qwest stock in 2001. He was sentenced to six years in prison but remained free on appeal. Jurors acquitted Nacchio of 23 counts. …

Attorneys for Nacchio told the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in December the case against him didn’t meet standards set by previous court rulings.

Nacchio’s attorney, Maureen Mahoney, also told the court that U.S. District Court Judge Edward Nottingham wrongly prevented a defense witness from testifying and that Nottingham's instructions to the jury were inadequate.

The perfect timing?

Given that Nacchio led Qwest to be the only major telecommunications company to resist President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping requests, and the House just passed a FISA renewal bill that would boot decisions on telecom immunity to a trial judge, Nacchio’s retrial could be explosive, to say the least.

That’s not to say that the federal case against Nacchio was driven by his fighting the wiretap spigot being illegally opened. But, you never now.

“Mr. GOP Insider Columnist,” Robert Novak, has claimed the GOP is being the Eliot Spitzer takedown.

There's more: "The Qwest for truth gets new hearing with perfect timing" >>

Hillary a war enabler – former R.I. Senator

So says the only GOP senator to vote against the invasion of Iraq, Lincoln Chafee. Chafee, defeated for re-election by Sheldon Whitehouse in 2006, has a new book out on just that subject.

Titled “Against The Tide: How a Compliant Congress Empowered a Reckless President,” it looks as if it could be a great insider’s tale, depending on just how much Chafee will “dish.” Chafee, now an independent who is backing Barack Obama, calls Hillary Clinton one of the “Democratic Bush enablers”:

“Being wrong about sending Americans to kill and be killed, maim and be maimed, is not like making a punctuation mistake in a highway bill,” Chafee writes. “They argue that the president duped them into war, but getting duped does not exactly recommend their leadership. Helping a rogue president start an unnecessary war should be a career-ending lapse of judgment, in my view.”

Sadly, but truly, Chafee writes that these Democrats put political ambitions ahead of principle in 2002. And now, we’re paying the price.

Of course, the flip side is that somebody could still prosecute them.

But, the flip side to that is, ain’t gonna happen either out of this administration, or out of Clinton, Obama or McCain. Not one of them would pull that trigger.

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After March 19

[Cross-posted from Lotus - Surviving a Dark Time with a few edits.]

This is about a planned protest that I stumbled across while scanning news reports for the news about the protests this past weekend. Perhaps I should have known about it sooner, but I didn't. I do think it can be considered a sign of the times. The initial source is the Press-Telegram of Long Beach, California.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) represents about 25,000 dockworkers along the US West Coast and thousands more in Canada and Hawai'i. The contract it has with marine terminal operators allows the union to hold a monthly "stop-work" membership meeting. But there are meetings and then again, there are "meetings." And so

[u]nion delegates voted in February to hold the "stop-work" meeting on May 1 "in honor of labor history and to express our support for the troops by bringing them home safely," delegates said.
The plan, that is, was to shut down ports all along the west coast of the US for a period of eight hours to protest the Iraq war.

Now, the truth is that it's hardly unusual for ILWU Local 10, which sponsored the resolution, to be involved in antiwar activities. Despite that, I have to admit that the vision of dockworkers staging what amounts to a strike against the war, even for just one shift, gives me the same sort of feeling that seeing hardhats marching in Central Park for a nuclear freeze in 1982 did.

Initially, the bosses didn't express any concern over the planned protest. Just over a week ago,
Steve Getzug, spokesman for the Pacific Maritime Association, a shippers’ group, said shipping company officials were too busy preparing for contract negotiations[, which are beginning now,] to pay much attention to the protest.
But by this past Friday they apparently had changed their minds, and are now trying to kill the plan by saying it violates the contract because it's to occur during the day shift and the contract, they say, allows such "stop-work" meetings only during the second shift.
"[W]e are not going to agree to it," [PMA President Jim] McKenna is quoted as telling the [Journal of Commerce]. ...

Representatives of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union said Friday they were reviewing their options.
Without prejudging or predicting the union's plans or intentions, the possibility has to exist that they will go ahead with it anyway. Contract negotiation time is touchy for all concerned, and while there is always a risk to a union of civil action for conducting an "illegal strike," even a specifically-limited one, it is equally true that the bosses may be reluctant to piss off the union with threats over what, if they plan for it, could be reduced to the level of an inconvenience - especially in the middle of negotiations to renew a contract that expires on July 1.

Although there is no way to know, I have a suspicion that the change in attitude comes as a result of getting the word from friends in high places back east that they don't wanna see no protestin', nohow. One thing that drives that suspicion beyond my normal levels of paranoia is that the plan was not for just dockworkers to protest. The actual text of the resolution says

That it is time to take labor’s protest to a more powerful level of struggle by calling on unions and working people in the U. S. and internationally to mobilize for a “No Peace No Work Holiday” May 1, 2008 for 8 hours to demand an immediate end to the war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the withdrawal of U. S. troops from the Middle East; and


That a clarion call from the ILWU be sent with an urgent appeal for unity of action to the AFL-CIO, the Change to Win Coalition and all of the international labor organizations to which we are affiliated to bring an end to this bloody war once and for all.
(The letter to the AFL-CIO was sent February 22; the text can be found at this link.)
“If we can do something so dramatic as to shut down the ports on the west coast, I think people will realize how important” opposition to the war is, said Jack Heyman, an executive board member of San Francisco’s ILWU Local 10, and prominent anti-war activist.
Especially if they are joined by other unions taking their own “No Peace No Work Holiday.” In that light, an attempt by the Shrub gang to "nip this thing in the bud" with a whispered word in the ear of some corporate cronies hardly seems far-fetched.

There's more: "After March 19" >>