Support the Vets?

Senator Patty Murray introduced a bill last April to increase funding for the Veterans Administration because her calculations showed the program was seriously underfunded. The bill was voted down primarily because Jim Nicholson, the VA Administrator since February 2005, wrote a letter in April 2005 saying, “I can assure you that VA does not need emergency supplemental funds in FY 2005 to continue to provide the timely, quality service that is always our goal… But certainly for the remainder of this year, I do not foresee any challenges that are not solvable within our own management decision capability.” Link.

Yesterday, the VA announced that the budget for providing health care for veterans was underfunded by a billion dollars. It turns out that their projections used to respond to Murray in April were based on 2002 data that was collected well before we started the Iraq war.

Murray had this to say about the VA announcement: “This shortfall results from either deliberate misdirection or gross incompetence by this administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs.” Murray, sounding quite pissed, confronted Nicholson yesterday afternoon. Here’s a transcript from an NPR broadcast this morning:

Murray: We had the information. We knew there was a problem. The VA was saying there wasn’t. Okay, we’re here now. Do you think there is a problem?

Nicholson: I think that’s uh, you know, that’s a matter of definition. We thought we had a situation that we could handle and I uh think that we were right. Uh…

Murray: But do we have a problem now?

Nicholson: For ’05?

Murray: Correct.

Nicholson: We certainly don’t have a crisis. No.

Murray: Do we have a problem?

Nicholson: Well I suppose uh…

Murray: How much is it?

Nicholson: We’re talking about a billion dollars.

Murray reintroduced her April bill to increase funding for the VA by 1.9 billion dollars. I don’t know if she’ll get that much, but maybe she’ll get the 1 billion needed for 2005. My guess is that because the Republicans are so opposed to raising taxes to pay for this war, whatever the amount is, we’ll just add to the deficit and pass the bill onto the next generation.

Cliffs Notes to Bush’s Speech

I didn’t listen to the speech on the drive home yesterday, but I did read through it this morning. Here’s a quick summary:

My greatest responsibility is to protect you.
Terror!
September 11, 2001
Terrorists!
BOO!
September 11th
Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war.
Terrorists kill people.
Osama bin Laden is bad and wants to kill you.
BOO!
September 11th
Terrorists and insurgents
September 11th
Support our Troops! Fly the flag.
Please join the Armed Forces.
September 11th
BOO!
Thank you very much.

Like I wrote a while back, Bush is again selling the war by tying it to September 11th and Osama Bin Laden.

Statistics: He referred to September 11th five times and alluded to it once. He used the words “terror” and “terrorism” eight times. He spoke of terrorists twenty-three times and insurgents only six times. (He must be trying to tell us that there are more terrorists in Iraq now than there are insurgents. It didn’t used to be that way, but… oh never mind.) Weapons of Mass Destruction were mentioned zero times.

We’ll have to wait for the poll results to see how this propaganda affects public opinion of the war.

Boo!

A Long Bloody War

Over two years ago, our military cruised through Iraq and took over the Iraqi capitol of Baghdad. On May 1, 2003 our glorious leader was flewn onto the USS Abraham Lincoln off the coast of San Diego and, after parading around his stuffed flight suit, he had this to say:

Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. (Applause.) And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.

A little over two years and 1,500 or so combat deaths later, Dick Cheney had this to say on Larry King Live:

I think we may well have some kind of presence there over a period of time. The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.

Yesterday, Rumsfeld clarified for us what “a period of time” means:

Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years. Coalition forces, foreign forces are not going to repress that insurgency. We’re going to create an environment that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces can win against that insurgency.

So, it sounds like we’re going to be in Iraq for the next five to twelve years depending on when the Iraqi security forces are able to hold their own against the insurgents. Thing is, there wasn’t even supposed to be an insurgency, just a bunch of disgruntled Saddam supporters. Before they went in, Bush and his posse assured us that this war wasn’t going to turn out like that long, costly Vietnam War. So just what do our troops have to say about the progress of the Iraqi security forces?

“I know the party line. You know, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, five-star generals, four-star generals, President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld: The Iraqis will be ready in whatever time period,” said 1st Lt. Kenrick Cato, 34, of Long Island, N.Y., the executive officer of McGovern’s company, who sold his share in a database firm to join the military full time after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. “But from the ground, I can say with certainty they won’t be ready before I leave. And I know I’ll be back in Iraq, probably in three or four years. And I don’t think they’ll be ready then.”

“I just wish [the Iraqi troops would] start to pull their own weight without us having to come out and baby-sit them all the time,” said Sgt. Joshua Lower, a scout in the Third Brigade of the First Armored Division who has worked with the Iraqis. “Some Iraqi special forces really know what they are doing, but there are some units that scatter like cockroaches with the lights on when there’s an attack.

Hmmm… sounds to me like we need to send a few more troops over to go help clean things up.

Anyone feel a draft?

Burning Flags, Credibility, and a sick cartoon

It’s been a couple days since I posted anything and there’s plenty to write about, but I don’t have the time. So rather than ramble on here, I’ll just point you to a few noteworthy items out there.

The House passed the controversial “flag burning” amendment on Wednesday. It’s now in the hands of the Senate. Go here for an excellent commentary by Greg Saunders posted at This Modern World about why it’s so ridiculous to amend the Constitution to prevent desecration of the flag.

As usual, Paul Krugman nails the credibility issue in today’s column.

On one side, the people who sold this war, unable to face up to the fact that their fantasies of a splendid little war have led to disaster, are still peddling illusions: the insurgency is in its “last throes,” says Dick Cheney. On the other, they still have moderates and even liberals intimidated: anyone who suggests that the United States will have to settle for something that falls far short of victory is accused of being unpatriotic.

We need to deprive these people of their ability to mislead and intimidate. And the best way to do that is to make it clear that the people who led us to war on false pretenses have no credibility, and no right to lecture the rest of us about patriotism.

And… here’s the sick cartoon of the day.

Enjoy.

Forbidden Words Obscure the Truth

On June 14th, Senator Dick Durbin had the courage to speak the Truth when he stood before the Senate and said:

When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here [at Guantanamo Bay]–I almost hesitate to put them in the [Congressional] Record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime–Pol Pot or others–that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.

Naturally, anyone who thinks it is treasonous to criticize the actions of American soldiers or special agents-even if the evidence clearly supports allegations of torture-seized upon the words “Nazis,” “Soviets,” “gulags,” and “Pol Pot” and demanded an apology from Durbin. The critics from right and left objected to his comparison of American military personnel to that of murderous regimes of the past. Never mind that prisoners have been brutally murdered by Americans at Guantanamo. Never mind that the torture Durbin described actually took place. None of that mattered. What mattered was the comparison. The comparison, not the torture, is what they found so despicable.

Durbin held his ground and released this statement the next day:

This administration should apologize to the American people for abandoning the Geneva Conventions and authorizing torture techniques that put our troops at risk and make Americans less secure.

Of course he was right to ask for an apology from the Bush Administration. After all, it was the Administration that put the policies in place that led to the atrocities he described the day before. The critics weren’t satisfied though, because he had used the word “Nazi” in his remarks the day before and, as Jon Stewart pointed out last Thursday, one should never ever invoke the name Hitler or use the word Nazi, because everything one says before and after using those forbidden words will be summarily dismissed.

Okay, so it would have been smarter for Durbin to have said something like “Sadly, this was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners. Their actions are not representative of the America I know-the America that stands for liberty, freedom and human rights. The use of torture by Americans against the detainees at Guantanamo Bay is known around the world and, as a result, we may never recover our good reputation again.” Who knows? If he had made his remarks without using the forbidden words, perhaps his colleagues would have focused on the point he was trying to make and supported him. Alas, he didn’t say it that way, so the critics kept after him.

Donald Rumsfeld on a Fox News Radio show tried to equate the comment with actress Jane Fonda calling U.S. soldiers war criminals during a visit to North Vietnam in 1972. Never mind that Jane Fonda was right when she pointed out that some of the U.S. soldiers in Vietnam were war criminals. Damn her for saying it! Damn the Truth!

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley chimed in with “I think it’s a disgrace to say that any man or woman in the military would act like that.” Never mind that men and women in the U.S. Military actually did “act like that.” Damn Richard Durbin for saying it! Damn him!

By yesterday, Durbin couldn’t take the pressure anymore and issued this apology for his remarks: “Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line,” the Illinois Democrat said. “To them I extend my heartfelt apologies.” And speaking about the soldiers, he added, “They’re the best. I never, ever intended any disrespect for them.”

Never mind that some of the soldiers clearly aren’t “the best.” Some of our soldiers torture the prisoners and beat the crap out of them. Some twenty or thirty have been beaten to death. Sorry, disrespect for the soldiers is not allowed. “Support the Troops!” They do no wrong! They’re just carrying out their orders. Whatever they are told must be right, because Bush and his Administration can do no wrong. If they get a lawyer to define torture in such a way that excludes the acts Durbin described last Tuesday, so be it. Never mind what independent Human Rights organizations like the Red Cross or Amnesty International have to say about it. All that matters is that NOBODY EVER SLIPS UP AND COMPARES AMERICAN SOLDIERS TO NAZIS. Got that?

John McCain got it when he said, “All of us, I believe, who have had the opportunity to serve in public life from time to time have said things that we deeply regret. I know that I have. I would like to say that the senator from Illinois, he did the right thing, the courageous thing, and I believe we can put this issue behind us.”

And Barack Obama added “[Durbin] has established himself as one of the people in this chamber who cares deeply about our veterans and about our troops.”

So… everything is okay now that Senator Durbin has apologized and we can all politely ignore what he said last Tuesday. None of it could possibly be true anyway, because he broke the rule and used forbidden words.

Something fishy went down one year ago today…

On 06/22/2004, $2,401,600,000 was loaded onto a cargo plane and flown to Baghdad. While that is odd, even more odd is that it was all in $100 bills, a mere 6 days before the country was “returned” to Iraq governance. The Fed was opened on a Sunday, and the largest transfer of funds in the U.S., occurred. Where did this money go? What was it used for?

Evil Dick

Dick Cheney said this about Howard Dean during an interview on Fox News Channel’s Hannity & Colmes.

“I’ve never been able to understand his appeal. Maybe his mother loved him, but I’ve never met anybody who does. He’s never won anything, as best I can tell.”

Howard Dean was elected of governor of Vermont FIVE TIMES.

Happy Birthday to Ian McEwan

Today is Ian McEwan’s 57th birthday. Here are a couple of quotations from this great novelist:

By measuring individual human worth, the novelist reveals the full enormity of the State’s crime when it sets out to crush that individuality.

Politics is the enemy of the imagination.

And here’s a quote from his latest novel, Saturday. This is the voice of Theo, the 18-year-old son of the book’s main character, Henry Perowne.

When we go on about the big things, the political situation, global warming, world poverty, it all looks really terrible, with nothing getting better, nothing to look forward to. But when I think small, closer in – you know, a girl I just met, or this song we’re going to do with Chas, or snowboarding next month, then it looks great. So this is going to be my motto – think small.

Now go read his books!

The Great Misleader

Things haven’t been going so well for Bush lately. The insurgency in Iraq has proven to be quite resilient and has escalated its attacks over the past couple of months. Recent polls show that the American people don’t approve of Bush’s handling of the war. But rather than come up with solutions that might get the people behind him, he has resorted to making misleading statements again. During his weekly radio address on Saturday, Bush said: “We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens.”

Was he really trying to make the connection between Iraq and 9/11 again? Didn’t we already go through this over a year ago? I seem to recall that when it became clear the 9/11 Commission was going to conclude that Saddam Hussein had no role in the attacks against our country on September 11, 2001, Bush was finally forced into admitting on September 17, 2003, “We’ve had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th.”

Oddly enough, a good portion of the public still believes that there was a connection. Apparently there aren’t enough believers, so Bush has started repeating the lie again. Once Fox News starts reinforcing his false claim or, as Bush would say, they begin to “catapult the propaganda,” we’ll once again have a majority of people in our country that believe the lie.