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Bush’s Game Plan

Bush’s Game Plan

Following a week of testimony from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, Bush appeared on TV last night 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, and that the troop surge is working.

Followed by blah, blah, blah and a lot of misleading statistics about how the level of violence is down in Anbar, Baghdad, 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 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 Land, and strengthen our military so we can prevail in the struggle against terrorists 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 and extremists,” he would have continued fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and followed them into Pakistan where they are now—stronger than ever

But alas… there’s no oil in Afghanistan, and therein lies the real story.

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

To understand 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. 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, and that seems to have been the last straw.

Now here’s the thing: Ray L. Hunt, the chief executive 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, 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 and we are driving down the field.” (Check out 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 and we’re facing third and 36 on our own 22 yard line.  The next play:  Bush drops back to pass, the ball slips out of his hands and all he can do is hope that someone on his team picks up the ball so his team can punt.

Michael Moore goes for Wolf’s Jugular on CNN

Michael Moore goes for Wolf’s Jugular on CNN

Michael Moore goes on CNN to discuss his new movie Sicko. In the video below, CNN attempts to marginalize him with a lead in story by Sanjay Gupta.

Michael Moore takes the bait, but quickly changes tactics and instead uses his time to corner Wolf on Wolf & CNN’s ongoing support of the war in Iraq and demands a public apology for the lies leading up to the war.

I love it.
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Michael Moore sets the CNN record straight by backing up his facts on his website:

CNN: “Moore asserts that the American health care system spends $7,000 per person on health. Cuba spends $25 dollars per person. Not true. But not too far off. The United States spends $6,096 per person, versus $229 per person in Cuba.”

THE TRUTH:

According to our own government – the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Health Expenditures Projections – the United States will spend $7,092 per capita on health in 2006 and $7,498 in 2007. (Department of Health and Human Services Center for Medicare and Medicaid Expenditures, National Health Expenditures Projections 2006-2016. http://www.cms.hhs.gov/NationalHealthExpendData/downloads/proj2006.pdf)
As for Cuba – Dr. Gupta and CNN need to watch ‘SiCKO’ first before commenting on it. ‘SiCKO’ says Cuba spends $251 per person on health care, not $25, as Gupta reports. And the BBC reports that Cuba’s per capita health expenditure is… $251! (Keeping Cuba Healthy, BBC, Aug. 1 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/5232628.stm )
As Gupta points out, the World Health Organization does calculate Cuba’s per capita health expenditure at $229 per person – a lot closer to $251 than $25.

The interview ends with Wolf talking to Lou Dobbs who says Michael Moore “is more of a left wing promoter than Hugo Chavez”.

I’d take that as a HUGE compliment. Thanks Lou. You dick.

UPDATE 07/10/07:

Set your Tivo.

This just in from michaelmoore.com:

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

Today, Michael Moore will be on CNN again for Part Two with Wolf Blitzer, (Did you see Part One? And our response?), a new appearance on Larry King Live with Dr. Sanjay Gupta (appearing, we assume, to apologize for his factual errors), and a rerun of Mike’s appearance on Jon Stewart from 13 days ago.

Those of us who maintain Michael’s website have started a truth squad. Watch for our daily reports on how the media lies, distorts and carries the water for Big Pharma and Big Insurance.

We’ll leave you with this analysis of how the mainstream media deals with Michael Moore.

George Orwell

George Orwell

Born on this day in 1903.

Quotes:

On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.

War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.

Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.

People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.

All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.

Speaking of cuttlefish, there’s this other George…

“The march to war affected the people’s confidence. It’s hard to make investment. See, if you’re a small business owner or a large business owner and you’re thinking about investing, you’ve got to be optimistic when you invest. Except when you’re marching to war, it’s not a very optimistic thought, is it? In other words, it’s the opposite of optimistic when you’re thinking you’re going to war.”  – George W. Bush, February 2004

Bush is Simply Delaying the Inevitable

Bush is Simply Delaying the Inevitable

When General David Petraeus reports to Congress and the American people in the fall he will, no doubt, put his best face on the short-term results of the increase of US combat forces in Iraq that has come to be known as the “surge”.  He will fail.

He will report some successes. Yes, some neighbourhoods in Baghdad are a bit safer now and even some of the local markets can function almost normally; yes, sectarian torture and murders in the city are down from the unsustainable levels of late 2006.  Yet even in Baghdad the mayhem continues, with car and suicide bombings, shootings and kidnappings; the dumped bodies, often mutilated, like so much refuse are still turning up in their dozens – every week. 

Elsewhere, the violence has escalated particularly in Diyala Province northeast of Baghdad where US forces are struggling to counter the increasing insurgent attacks amid rising casualties.   South of Baghdad 4000 US troops continue to search for two missing American soldiers who were snatched (dead or alive – we still don’t know for sure if the insurgents are simply yanking our chain by pretending they have live prisoners) in a daring raid that overwhelmed an inexplicably isolated patrol that should never have been so vulnerable.  The other five Americans and an Iraqi interpreter in the group were killed.

The insurgents continue to kidnap and kill Iraqis at will, sometimes using a favourite tactic of setting up a phoney checkpoint to stop traffic and then dragging their victims out of their vehicles.  Just today, it was reported that five British citizens were snatched in the very heart of Baghdad from the Iraqi Ministry of Finance by men wearing police uniforms and travelling in a convoy of nineteen vehicles, who then headed off in the direction of Sadr City.  This incident, at least, may have a happier ending than most such events since the Shiite militias have less of a motive and track record of murdering westerners than their Sunni counterparts in Iraq.

The fact is that the chaos continues unabated, barely slowed by the US troop surge; even a force surge to nearly 200,000 troops is too little too late. The insurgents have not relinquished the initiative.  They have repeatedly displayed their adaptability and tactical agility.  They match snipers with their own snipers; they counter the mobility and armoured firepower of the Coalition forces with increasingly effective and deadly improvised explosive devices; they mount daring raids and strikes showing a sophistication in planning and execution that American commanders cannot help but respect.  How long, one might ask, before they strike a truly devastating blow by attacking and overwhelming one of the larger platoon-sized US troop outposts? 

The Iraqis continue to despise the foreign occupation in their midst yet fear the withdrawal of American and Coalition forces for the greater evil that may follow.  Meanwhile, the Iraqi politicians who are being afforded more time to reach desperately needed compromises to unite their country – time bought mostly with American blood – continue, instead, to bicker and stonewall and plan their summer vacations.  The majority Shiites (aided by an increasingly independent Kurdish minority seeking virtual autonomy) have the power and the oil wealth and they give little sign of a willingness to share either with the minority Sunnis who used to control both.

The Republicans in Congress say that the Petraeus report in September will be critical for their continued support, as though a few months rather than years can make the critical difference.  Bush and the GOP have refused to understand that the issue has never been whether this or that tactic or strategy can salvage something worthwhile from this sorry mess.  It is whether our country believes that remaining in Iraq for five to ten years with the concomitant expenditure of blood and treasure is worth it.  Most Americans don’t think so now – and a great many of them never did. 

If the old bromide that it is countries that fight wars not armies is true, it’s equally so that this war cannot be pursued indefinitely with the support of just one political party and its base.  To delay making a drastic rather than cosmetic change in course now that will transition to what should be, primarily, a training and support mission combined with an orderly, phased withdrawal of major US combat forces in Iraq within a specific timeframe, is to put off the inevitable at a cost of yet more American lives.  The only thing about the surge on which Bush is right is that it has brought a spike in US casualties; it has not and will not bring about a fundamental change for the better on the ground. 

It is not good enough to insist that we must stay in Iraq because the presence of al-Qaida terrorists, whom we released in the aftermath of our invasion like some evil genie from the bottle, makes our departure in the foreseeable future impossible.  Nor is it sufficient to devise doomsday scenarios of the bloodbath that will follow our disengagement.  If the only reason to stay in Iraq is because things will get worse if we leave because we came in the first place, then maybe it’s a hard lesson we need to learn about the limits of military power – even of a superpower. 

In the end, the future of Iraq must be charted by the Iraqis themselves.  We can and should help them to make the best of it even as we plan, along with our allies and regional players such as Syria and Iran, for the worst should the violence worsen.

We blundered into Iraq in ignorance and hubris.  We need now to commence preparations for a more dignified, if chastened, departure.     

Iraq – The Case for a Deadline on US Disengagement Makes Sense

Iraq – The Case for a Deadline on US Disengagement Makes Sense

Opponents of setting a deadline for the withdrawal of major United States and Coalition combat forces from Iraq typically use some or all of the following arguments :

–         setting a deadline tells our enemies how long they need to hang on for victory – or, as neo-conservative William Kristol declares in an outraged tone every Sunday on ‘Fox News Sunday’ during the panel discussion: America’s “surrender day”;

–         we will have handed al-Qaida, who consider Iraq the major front in the war on America, total victory;

–         the al-Qaida terrorists will “follow” us home and we’ll be fighting them on our own streets instead of in Baghdad;

–         if we think the chaos and slaughter in Iraq is bad now, wait until we withdraw;

–         the meltdown in Iraq that’s sure to follow the withdrawal of US forces will engulf the Middle East in regional strife that we will be powerless to contain;

–         the US will lose its credibility and the world will no longer believe we have the stomach for war (that’s one of Vice-President Cheney’s favourites – he of the “other priorities” when he had an opportunity to serve during the Vietnam War);

–         the sacrifice of the troops who have fought and died or been seriously wounded will have been in vain;

–         we have a responsibility as the nation that invaded and occupied Iraq to see the mission through and leave Iraq, if not a shining beacon of democracy in the Mid-East, at least stable and functioning as a state.

To these points in turn I would respond thus:

–         setting a deadline above all else tells the world that we have no territorial designs on Iraq or on its resources, that there is a limit to our willingness to have our soldiers fight and die waiting for Iraq’s politicians to make the hard decisions that will make the country governable and able to function as a state, and that only Iraqis can solve their differences and come together as a nation; I would argue also that a phased, unhurried and orderly withdrawal from a country where we do not belong, that we should never have invaded in the first place, and which we have insisted all along we would not occupy indefinitely, is only “surrender” in the minds of ideologically blinded, muddleheaded political flacks such as Bill Kristol – oh, and the president and vice-president;

–         our invasion of Muslim Iraq with our largely Christian armed forces has furthered al-Qaida’s  aims and objectives in a way that few other actions by the US could have matched – so much so, that Osama bin Laden (OBL) must have thought his birthday had come early; it has bogged down and worn out the ground force component of our armed forces, divided us from traditional allies, inflamed anti-American  passions among Muslims throughout the Middle-East and stimulated recruitment for al-Qaida and affiliated terrorist groups;  the last thing al-Qaida wants us to do is leave Iraq, thus they try to goad us into staying by pretending that they will have driven us out – a line that resonates with Bush/Cheney and the GOP base;

–         the “follow us home” line which we hear so often from right-wing pundits, Bush, Cheney and even some, like Senator Joe Lieberman who I used to think had a brain, is hardly worthy of response given its absurdity;  they never actually explain how that would happen (would they charter a plane or six, maybe? hijack a ship and wade ashore on Myrtle Beach, perhaps? persuade some hapless State Department consular officer somewhere to issue non-immigrant visas to them en masse?) or show any recognition that al-Qaida-in-Iraq is a franchise of the main OBL-led organization, is rooted in Iraq itself and will have its hands full fighting for survival after we leave in a country which is 80% Shiite and Kurdish and where even the Sunni minority doesn’t buy into al-Qaida’s evil brand of extremist, fundamentalist Islamic fascism; 

–         the violence in Iraq may, indeed, get worse before it gets better once we depart Iraq, but that may happen anyway whether we leave in a year or five years; in any event, I go back to the argument that it must be for Iraqis to decide their future and that the presence of American military occupiers is as much a catalyst for violence as a positive force to quell it;

–         as for the possibility that the chaos will engulf the Middle-East, all the more reason for us to plan now for such a scenario by engaging our allies in the region as well as in Europe and reaching out diplomatically to Iran and Syria, neither of whom have any national interest in a regional conflict, to contain and limit the conflagration if it occurs;

–         the old canard about the world believing we don’t have the stomach for sustaining a war if we quit Iraq is a  figment of Cheney’s fevered imagination; we will be engaged in Afghanistan for many years to come (if the people there don’t rise up against us for killing so many civilians in air strikes or in undisciplined panic attacks by our troops) if anyone wants proof of our staying power; as for our credibility, we will have regained much in the eyes of the world if we withdraw from Iraq since almost nobody thought it made sense to go there in the first place;

–         I happen to hold the belief that the sacrifices of the members of our armed forces whenever and wherever it has been made, have never been in vain or wasted when we, as a nation, set them a mission that we thought was in the national interest; sometimes our country has been wrong or misguided, but the faithful and dedicated service of our servicemen and women will never be forgotten and will never have been wasted.

Finally, if we break it, it’ll be ours to fix – to paraphrase then Secretary of State Colin Powell’s pre-invasion warning to Bush.  This is by far the most compelling reason to stay in Iraq until some sort of stability and order can be imposed.  After all, our actions precipitated the chaos that followed the overthrow of the established order, introduced terrorist groups into the country, the car bombings, the sectarian murder and mayhem. How can we just up and leave?  Even I, a certified member of the 30% Club who bitterly opposed the madness of an Iraq invasion from the beginning, have a problem with that one.  Isn’t it our responsibility to see this thing through even if it takes five or ten years for the sakes of the people of Iraq?

I can only reiterate my belief that it is in the long term interests of Iraq and its people that we leave as soon as possible.  Al-Qaida has stoked the violence in Iraq but once they are deprived of the unifying element of a foreign occupier, I believe the people – Sunnis as well as Shiite and Kurds – will turn on them and destroy them.  Only if the Shiite politicians in Baghdad myopically fail to share power and the nation’s oil wealth with the Sunni minority will the latter be tempted into an unholy alliance with al-Qaida.

The US and its coalition of the lukewarm-willing have overthrown a tyrant and afforded the Iraqis an opportunity for a new beginning.  Major US ground forces should stay no more than another year. Beyond that, we should leave dedicated anti-terrorist forces, trainers and air/naval assets to assist the Iraqi armed forces and provide whatever other economic, diplomatic and other help we can to a friendly government. It is past time, however, for Iraqis themselves to determine Iraq’s future without the security blanket of the US Army and Marine Corps.

 

A Sorry Lot

A Sorry Lot

Given the sorry lot of Republican presidential candidates described below, it’s no surprise that several high-profile Republicans have left the party and decided to throw their support behind a Democratic candidate.  Who are the Bush defectors?  One of them is Tom Bernstein who used to co-own the Texas Rangers with George W. Bush.  Bernstein has actually given a lot of money to the Democrats and Republicans.  His donation record shows that he did support Bush and the RNC with some big chunks of money during the Bush campaigns. Another is Bush’s former chief campaign strategist, Matthew Dowd; and another is Robert Kagan, one of the founders of the Project for a New American Century.

Who do they like?  Barack Obama.

The “leader” of this group of defectors is John Martin.  He is “a Navy reservist and founder of the website Republicans for Obama.”

And…

Financiers have also been oiling Obama’s campaign. In Chicago, his home town, John Canning, a “Bush pioneer” and investment banker who pledged to raise $100,000 for the president in 2004, has given up on the Republicans. “I know lots of my friends in this business are disenchanted and are definitely looking for something different,” he said.

Read all about it at TimesOnline.

This subject is also discussed in “The Conciliator,” a New Yorker article by Larissa Macfarquhar.

After Obama’s Convention speech, Republican bloggers rushed to claim him, under headings such as “Right Speech, Wrong Convention” and “Barack Obama: A Republican Soul Trapped Inside a Democrat’s Body.” The Convention speech was uncharacteristically Reaganesque for Obama, being almost uniformly sunny about America, which he called a “magical place”; these days, he tends to be more sombre. Even so, Republicans continue to find him congenial, especially those who opposed the war on much the same conservative grounds that he did. Some of Bush’s top fund-raisers are contributing to Obama’s campaign.

Of course, not all Republicans like Obama—John Martin receives a steady stream of rude e-mails. “Hi John, Just wanted to let you know that there aren’t Republicans for Obama Hussein Barack,” one woman wrote. “Please remove me from your mailing list and get over your white guilt.” “Some Republicans you scum are!” a man from Hobe Sound, Florida, wrote. “This is someone who has a 100% left wing voting record in the Senate, including rejection of Roberts and Alito and wants to repeal our tax cuts. Screw him! And screw you too!”

Yes, Bush’s base sure wants to hold on to those tax cuts of theirs that are bankrupting our country.  The “haves and have mores” sure hate to see their own supporting a genuine “uniter” who would actually try and stop this disastrous war and then start collecting taxes from them to pay off the hundreds of billions of dollars in debt that we’ve racked up on their war so far.

It’s still very early in the campaign, but this is a dynamic that we’ll have to keep monitoring.  If this turns into something big and Obama starts stuffing his pockets with money from Republican donors, how will the Democrats respond?

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 and philosophers 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 demands an Iraqi-led political solution to transcend the ethnic 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 and stability for Iraq. Our proposal could have generated political reconciliation 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 thousands 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 and scroll down through “Guernica” until you get to it about three quarters of the way down.  Enjoy the ride.

Timetables

Timetables

They’re only good when they advance your agenda, otherwise they’re downright treasonous.

This Daily Show piece shows how the first-term Bush used timetables to get the war started, and how the second-term Bush sure as hell isn’t about to use timetables to end the war.

Enjoy.

McCain’s Fall from Grace

McCain’s Fall from Grace

John McCain was on The Daily Show last Tuesday (Part I and Part II), and he received quite a different reception than he did the previous eight or nine times he’s been on the show. 

During his “straight talk” years, he’d been a great guest for Jon Stewart because he was different from the other Republicans, because he as a Republican and a conservative, but he wasn’t afraid to criticize Bush and the way the war was going.  The audience generally liked him and Jon could usually find some common ground with him and joke around about current events. 

On Tuesday, McCain had the difficult task of selling his position in favor of Bush’s “surge” to Jon and an audience that would prefer to see the U.S. pull out.  Stewart chided McCain about his “stroll through the market” and made a good case for why continuing the military fight is not worth it.  McCain responded with a Rumsfeld impression of asking a series of questions and answering them himself before Jon could respond.

In the past when he was on the show, the conversations between them were always pretty fun and they were respectful enough of each other to recognize when it was time to pause and let the other guy say a few words.  Not so during this interview.  Jon was even jokingly apologetic for the way his audience responded to some of McCain’s statements but, at one point, McCain just wouldn’t shut up about how it was wrong to not give the surge a chance and how the Democrats were giving up on it.  The debate then got pretty heated (for a Daily Show interview that is…) but Jon was able to calm McCain down and bring things back around to a more cordial level.  Midway through, Jon did stand up for his audience and say to McCain that all those people out there voicing displeasure with his stance on the war are patriotic Americans that only want what they think is best for the country.

I used to like McCain a little and I did have respect for his views even though I didn’t agree with him about most things.  I think that’s all starting to wear off now.

Needless to say, I will tune in the next time he’s on the show for what Jon said will be pure “shits and giggles.”