Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Shrub reaches new level of callousness over Iraq

“I gave up golf to support the troops.” How incredibly tin-eared is that?

It’s no wonder that the Glenn Reynolds, the Mark Hindrakersrockets and other generals of the Fighting 101st Keyboards sit back in the laptops of luxury — they’re taking orders from the top.

What next? Give up mocha lattes at Starbucks? Montecristo cigars? Courvoisier XO?

My heart bleeds, W.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Admiral Fallon Out at CENTCOM, Pushed Diplomacy

Cross-posted from The Paragraph

CENTCOM Area of Interest

“I come from the school of ‘walk softly and carry a big stick’,” said Admiral William Fallon, former head of the U.S. military’s Central Command (CENTCOM), which covers the Middle East and southwestern Asia.x80 He saw the mission of his command as “to work with other nations in the region to set the conditions for peace and stability.”x81 In March, shortly after an article in Esquire portrayed him as the last man standing between President Bush and war with Iran, Fallon retired early, and now Bush has nominated General David Petraeus, current commander of U.S. occupation forces in Iraq, to replace him.x82x83 Petraeus goes before Congress from time to time to promote Bush’s policies of keeping troop levels up in Iraq and trying to justify an attack on Iran—policies contrary to the advice of the Iraq Study Group and the Joint Chiefs, policies that Fallon stood against.x84x85 Last month Petraeus told Congress: “Recently … some militia elements became active again. ... [T]he flare-up [in Basra] ... highlighted the destructive role Iran has played in funding, training, arming and directing the so-called special groups …”x86 But the reason the “militia … became active again” was to fight back against Iraqi government troops that were attacking it.x92 After a thousand Iraqi government troops deserted, Iraqi government officials got Iran to pull strings for a ceasefire.x87 So Petraeus’s statement blaming Iran for a “flare up”—started by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and quelled by Iran—seems wrong. But it does fit the current theme for wider war being pushed by President Bush, Senator John McCain, and other Bushies.x88x89x90x91 Fallon has also spoken about Iran—not to push war, but to push constructive engagement:

Tehran’s feeling pretty cocky right now because they’ve been able to inflict pain on us in Iraq and Afghanistan. [The trick is] to try to figure out what it is they really want and then, maybe—not that we’re going to play Santa Claus here or the Good Humor Man—but the fact is that everyone needs something in this world, and so most countries that are functional and are contributing to the world have found a way to trade off their strengths for other strengths to help them out. These guys are trying to go it alone in this respect, and it’s a bad gene pool right now. It’s not one with much longevity. So they play that card pretty regularly, and at some point you just kind of run out of games, it seems to me. You’ve got to play a real card.x80


It is my belief that today, there is far too much talk of war and not enough talk about moving things forward in this region and taking care of the many needs of the people …x81

This constant drumbeat of conflict is one that strikes me as not helpful, not useful for the people, and I wish we could get moving to things that are more constructive for the region.


[I]t is certainly my hope and expectation that there is no war and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to find ways in which we can get countries to sit together for the benefit of everyone involved. So whether now or in the future, war is not a good idea.

Adm. Fallon – pushes diplomacy (U.S. Navy)

Bush & McCain – push wider war


80 ‘The Man Between War and Peace’ – By Thomas P.M. Barnett, Esquire, March 2008

81 ‘Far too much talk of war’ – Al Jazeera

82 ‘Dissenting Views Made Fallon’s Fall Inevitable’ By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, WASHINGTON, Mar 11, 2008

... Fallon almost certainly knew that he would be fired when he agreed to cooperate with the Esquire magazine profile in late 2006.


The resignation brings to an end a year, during which time Fallon clashed with the White House over policy toward Iran and with Gen. David Petraeus and the White House over whether Iraq should continue to be given priority over Afghanistan and Pakistan in U.S. policy.

Fallon’s greatest concern appears to have been preventing war with Iran. He was one a group of senior military officers, apparently including most of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were alarmed in late 2006 and early 2007 by indications that Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were contemplating a possible attack on Iran.


Col. W. Patrick Lang, a former intelligence officer on the Middle East for the Defence Intelligence Agency, told the Washington Post last week that Fallon had said privately at the time of his confirmation that an attack on Iran “isn’t going to happen on my watch”, When asked how he could avoid such a conflict, Fallon reportedly responded, “I have options, you know.” Lang said he interpreted that comment as implying Fallon would step down rather than follow orders to carry out such an attack.

As IPS reported last May, Fallon was also quoted as saying privately at that time, “There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box”. That was an apparent reference to the opposition by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to an aggressive war against Iran.

Even before assuming his new post at CENTCOM, Fallon expressed strong opposition in mid-February to a proposal for sending a third U.S. aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, to overlap with two other carriers, according to knowledgeable sources. The addition of a third carrier was to part of a broader strategy then being discussed at the Pentagon to intimidate Iran by making a series of military moves suggesting preparations for a military strike.

The plan for a third carrier task force in the Gulf was dropped after Fallon made his views known.

Fallon reportedly made his opposition to a strike against Iran known to the White House early on in his tenure, and his role as CENTCOM commander would have made it very difficult for the Bush administration to carry out a strike against Iran, because he controlled all ground, air and naval military access to the region.

But Fallon’s role in regional diplomacy proved to be an even greater source of friction with the White House than his position on military policy toward Iran. Personal relations with military and political leaders in the Middle East had already become nearly as important as military planning under Fallon’s predecessors at CENTCOM.

Fallon clearly relished his diplomatic role and did not hesitate to express views on diplomacy that were at odds with those of the administration. Last summer, as Dick Cheney was maneuvering within the administration to shift U.S. policy toward an attack on bases in Iran allegedly connected to anti-U.S. Shiite forces in Iraq, Fallon declared in an interview, “We have to figure out a way to come to an arrangement” with Iran.

83 ‘Petraeus Promotion Frees Cheney to Threaten Iran’ by Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, WASHINGTON, Apr 23, 2008

84 ‘Iraq Study Group Report: Executive Summary’ 6 December 2006

Our most important recommendations call for new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region, and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly. We believe that these two recommendations are equally important and reinforce one another.

The United States should immediately launch a new diplomatic offensive to build an international consensus for stability in Iraq and the region. This diplomatic effort should include every country that has an interest in avoiding a chaotic Iraq, including all of Iraq’s neighbors. Iraq’s neighbors and key states in and outside the region should form a support group to reinforce security and national reconciliation within Iraq, neither of which Iraq can achieve on its own.

Given the ability of Iran and Syria to influence events within Iraq and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq, the United States should try to engage them constructively. ...

85 ‘Cheney’s Iran Fantasy’ by Joe Klein, Time, May 25, 2007

Last December, as Rumsfeld was leaving, President Bush met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in “The Tank,” the secure room in the Pentagon where the Joint Chiefs discuss classified matters of national security. Bush asked the Chiefs about the wisdom of a troop “surge” in Iraq. They were unanimously opposed. Then Bush asked about the possibility of a successful attack on Iran’s nuclear capability. He was told that the U.S. could launch a devastating air attack on Iran’s government and military, wiping out the Iranian air force, the command and control structure and some of the more obvious nuclear facilities. But the Chiefs were—once again—unanimously opposed to taking that course of action.

86 Gen. Petraeus’ Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Comm. – 2008-04-08

87 ‘Iranian general played key role in Iraq cease-fire’ By Leila Fadel, McClatchy Newspapers, Sunday, March 30, 2008

Iraqi lawmakers traveled to the Iranian holy city of Qom over the weekend to win the support of the commander of Iran’s Qods brigades in persuading Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr to order his followers to stop military operations, members of the Iraqi parliament said.

Sadr ordered the halt on Sunday, and his Mahdi Army militia heeded the order in Baghdad, where the Iraqi government announced it would lift a 24-hour curfew starting early Monday in most parts of the capital.

But fighting continued in the oil hub of Basra, where a six-day-old government offensive against Shiite militias has had only limited gains.

So far, 488 people have been killed and more than 900 wounded in the offensive, Iraqi Interior Ministry officials said.

88 ‘President Bush Discusses Iraq’ 2008-04-10

The regime in Tehran also has a choice to make. It can live in peace with its neighbor, enjoy strong economic and cultural and religious ties. Or it can continue to arm and train and fund illegal militant groups, which are terrorizing the Iraqi people and turning them against Iran. If Iran makes the right choice, America will encourage a peaceful relationship between Iran and Iraq. If Iran makes the wrong choice, America will act to protect our interests, and our troops, and our Iraqi partners.

89 ’ Remarks By John McCain To The Members Of The Veterans Of Foreign Wars (VFW)’ April 7, 2008 “We must press ahead against … the Iranian-backed Special Groups …”

90 ‘When Did Iran Start Beating Its Wife Again?’ by Jeff Huber, ePluribus Media, 04/28/2008

“Shipments of arms” continue to flow from Iran to Iraq, according to the article. Iran seems to be focusing now on “training Iraqi Shiite fighters inside Iran.” The Iranians provide “weapons to militias fighting the Shiite-led government in Baghdad as well as to militias supporting that government.” “American commanders” now have “a clearer picture of how Iranian weapons have entered Iraq.” “Iran’s Quds Force” has developed “a formal and sophisticated training program.”

By what burden of proof did these condemning allegations earn their way into America’s newspaper of record? Why, by the brave new world order’s highest standard of bedrock evidence: the testimony of anonymous “officials.”

91 ‘Will Bushies Sell Iran War ‘Product’?’ – The Paragraph, 2007-09-08

92 ‘British soldiers back in Basra as hundreds of Iraqi troops desert’ By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, 07 April 2008

The British return to Basra comes days after the Government announced that Gordon Brown’s pledge to reduce troop levels by 1,500 this spring could not be fulfilled because of security concerns. The development comes alongside the disclosure that up to 1,500 Iraqi soldiers refused to fight, or deserted in the operation against the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Shia militia. The numbers, according to Iraqi and American sources, included dozens of officers and at least two senior field commanders. ...

In addition to those who refused to follow orders, about 100 members of the Iraqi security forces simply changed sides, to the Mehdi Army. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has faced strong criticism over the operation, which he had led after flying from Baghdad to Basra and which ended, critics say, in a stalemate with an Iranian-brokered peace deal.


... The offensive which took place concentrated … on Mr al-Sadr’s forces while the Badr Brigade, which has links to Mr Maliki’s government, and the Fadilla group of Basra governor Mohammed Waeli were not targeted.

* * *

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

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Have You Called Mom Today?

The topic below was originally posted in my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal, as well as Wild, Wild Left, the Peace Tree, Independent Bloggers Alliance, Out of Iraq Bloggers Caucus and Worldwide Sawdust.

The corporate media, blogs and our individual attention spans are understandably consumed by the celebrity hype of presidential politics these days. Mothers Day however offers an opportunity for all of us to reflect on our society and individual families.

Women have made remarkable gains the past forty years. Indeed when Billy Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in their famous 1973 tennis match, women were typically denied credit cards simply for being women. Today women are CEOs, television news anchors and Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the House.

As my readers know, I’m not fond of Hillary Clinton but a woman coming this close to the Democratic Party’s nomination for president is a cultural milestone. Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to serve in the United States Congress ran for president in 1972 and observed that, “I've always met more discrimination being a woman than being black.”

Our culture has certainly evolved since Chisholm ran for president. As economist Jared Bernstein pointed out to me during a podcast interview last month, women’s wages have increased dramatically in recent years while men with high school diplomas have watched their earning power disintegrate due to globalization. Yet this reality has only added to the struggles and stress of professional moms as well as working class “waitress moms.” Too many moms must lift the household in today’s treadmill economy while their husbands struggle to earn a living wage as manufacturing jobs disappear.

Working is not simply a choice for women today or a legitimate pursuit of career ambition. It’s an absolute necessity. Most families can’t survive without two incomes and the precipitous decline of male incomes have made our treadmill economy steeper. Yet moms still absorb much of the household burdens and parenting responsibilities.

Frequently, it’s mom who carries the weight in today’s treadmill economy while their husbands struggle to earn a living wage. Meanwhile, mom has to simultaneously assuage the ego and pride of those dads who earn less after the plant closed or they were laid off. Also, too many fathers abandon their responsibilities and leave mom to raise their kids without any support.

In many households mom is the CEO within the home and sets the tone for the family as a whole. If mom isn’t happy nobody in the house is happy. Mom is often the one who wakes up the kids who would rather sleep and get them to school. Through it all it’s often up to mom to smile through the adversity, manage the conflicts and controversies between siblings, help the kids with their homework and be a wife to dad. Mom has to be a disciplinarian without losing her temper due to stress. That’s tough. And sometimes mom isn’t perfect and loses her temper when she’s expected to pick up after everyone as dad watches ESPN and kids behave like kids.

And let’s not forget the repercussions for moms from our foreign policy. While most sacrifice little in our military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan we have moms widowed and struggling, or carrying on while dads are compelled to serve multiple tours of duty due to America’s back-door draft. There are also those moms raising their kids and supporting the family while simultaneously struggling to transition their traumatized husbands back into society.

We also have mom warriors serving abroad and risking their lives while the government callously does little to help their families at home. And those mom warriors also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and are expected to seamlessly become mom again when they return home. While were at it, for damn sure we shouldn’t forget the moms in Iraq and Afghanistan living in misogynist cultures who have needlessly lost their children and husbands due to “collateral damage” as the Pentagon likes to call it.

To their enormous credit, moms have great challenges partly because they’ve embraced them and succeeded in rising above them. And of course one person those moms can often call upon when they need a helping hand, advice or a shoulder to lean on are their own moms. Kids often know that in a pinch mom will call grandma in a time of need.

Twenty-five years ago, the most memorable moment of my Bar Mitzvah was when my mother, grandmother and great grandmother stood with me on the podium while Rabbi Katz presented the Torah. Rabbi Katz told the congregation, “We are privileged to have four generations represented up here today. Three generations of mothers who made today possible.” I sensed it was a poignant moment at the time but it wasn’t until years later I realized how much it mattered to have three generations of mothers standing with me.

Bottom line, call your mom today.

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