What in the heck did George W. Bush mean when he warned that if Iran progresses further in their nuclear technology that there would be World War III? Let’s read the account first:
Q [Putin] said — well, at least the quote said that — and he also said, “He sees no evidence to suggest Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb.” Were you disappointed with that message? And does that indicate possibly that international pressure is not as great as you once thought against Iran abandoning its nuclear program?
THE PRESIDENT: I — as I said, I look forward to — if those are, in fact, his comments, I look forward to having him clarify those, because when I visited with him, he understands that it’s in the world’s interest to make sure that Iran does not have the capacity to make a nuclear weapon. And that’s why, on — in the first round at the U.N., he joined us, and second round, we joined together to send a message. I mean, if he wasn’t concerned about it, Bret, then why did we have such good progress at the United Nations in round one and round two?
And so I will visit with him about it. I have not yet been briefed yet by Condi or Bob Gates about, you know, their visit with Vladimir Putin.
Q But you definitively believe Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon?
THE PRESIDENT: I think so long — until they suspend and/or make it clear that they — that their statements aren’t real, yeah, I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon. And I know it’s in the world’s interest to prevent them from doing so. I believe that the Iranian — if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would be a dangerous threat to world peace.
But this — we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously. And we’ll continue to work with all nations about the seriousness of this threat.
Note the threat there. If we supposedly want to avoid World War III, we need to prevent Iran from having “the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” It’s no longer even a matter of them having nuclear weapons, but they can’t even go on track to have them.
So let’s get into Bush’s insane and childish logic here. First of all, Iran is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which specifically allows countries to proceed with nuclear technology. (note importantly that India is NOT, yet Bush signed a massive deal with them to share our nuclear technology—but hey we were never fair in terms of following international law, so why start now, right?). The NPT specifically, and most importantly, legally allows a country like Iran to have a nuclear energy program. George W. Bush would have the United States of America violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty by taking away from Iran what is rightfully and legally theirs: access to nuclear energy. Now, if George W. Bush feels the NPT is not a good treaty, he can order the United States to relinquish its terms to the treaty (as he did with the ABM treaty so long ago). After all, we’re already violating the spirit of the NPT by signing the deal with India, who does NOT belong to the NPT and probably never will.
Secondly, why would George W. Bush think that if Iran would gain nuclear technology and knowledge it would lead to a WORLD war? When you talk about World Wars, you’re talking about something along the lines of what we saw in the 1910s and 1940s. Is George W. Bush saying that multiple countries will be involved in a prolonged conflict that will lead to the deaths of millions of people?
Think about this, if Iran merely has the knowledge of nuclear technology, they can’t USE that knowledge to start wars. Knowledge in and of itself is practically useless. It must be put into PRACTICE in order for it to become forceful. So how could the KNOWLEDGE of nuclear technology lead Iran to START a world war? It couldn’t. So who would be STARTING that next World War?
Just follow George W. Bush’s own logic, guys. He is basically telling you that HE AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA will be STARTING THE NEXT WORLD WAR. We will be the instigators of WORLD WAR THREE.
I was one of those who was highly disappointed with the 2000 election. There were so many factors that took away the presidency from the rightful person and put it in the hands of a childish, boy emperor, a petulant, self-serving, babbling idiot, who has left the blackest mark on our country…since, well, I can’t honestly think of a worst president.
I can’t say how angry I have been these past seven years at Ralph Nader, siphoning votes away from Al Gore (Ralph Nader got like 70,000 votes in Florida in 2000, plenty to defeat Bush). Republicans have seen the power of a third party candidate taking votes away from the likely winner (they faced a similar situation in 1992 with Ross Perot giving the victory to Bill Clinton), and some Republican candidates have tried to mimic that for a Senate seat.
George Bush was given the presidency and the world (with the exception of a few) mourned his administration. 9/11 occurred on his watch. He began expanding warrantless wiretapping right from the beginning of his administration in February 2001 (according to QWest CEO). He ordered the CIA and the military to torture suspects a practice previously we abhorred and usually denounced when we heard other countries practice. He used politics of division rather than union and immediately angered half of his own country. He rightfully went after Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan after we were attacked, but instead of focusing on our real enemy, he chose to go after Saddam, with no really good reason to do so. He contracted out security to lawless men who murder innocent Iraqis. He continues to bamboozle America into further war, increasingly raising the specter of war with Iran.
Al Gore went away from the spotlight during this time, but in 2002, as the country was seeing red and Iraq was its target, he spoke out prophetically against the war, and made us who felt he was our real president, long for his leadership instead of the idiot we got.
For Al Gore, winning the Nobel Peace Prize today is the latest twist in a remarkable decade of soaring highs and painful lows. In the span of the last decade he went from being the vice president to being the presumptive Democratic nominee for president to winning the popular vote for president only to lose in the Electoral College — after an intervention by the Supreme Court made his 537-vote loss in Florida official.
Mr. Gore’s decision to give up the fight after the Supreme Court decision left some of his more die-hard supporters bitter, and he by and large retreated from public view for several years. He rarely inserted himself in the public debate, though he did venture out to speak against the invasion of Iraq before it happened. But, associates have said, it was during that quasi-exile that Mr. Gore broke free of the political consultancy that had come to surround him to find his true voice, returning to the environmental issues to which he had devoted his early political career.
Even before Mr. Gore’s so-called “user generated” cable television network, Current, won an Emmy, or the film on climate change in which he starred, “An Inconvenient Truth,” won an Oscar, he was growing in stature for another reason: his early opposition to the Iraq war.
He had initially voiced it in 2002 in an address that his newly galvanized supporters now describe as uncannily prescient and unfairly dismissed, though it was seen as a politically off-kilter at a time of great popularity for President George W. Bush.
The Prize certainly comes as vindication to Mr. Gore, whose early dedication to environmental issues had earned him the derisive nickname “Ozone Man” — “Ozone,” for short — from President George H.W. Bush during the 1992 presidential campaign.
Al Gore went private and became a true leader of the world. He created a TV network, he created a documentary that won him the Oscar for Best Documentary, and he went around the world and raised awareness, enough so that blogs like this write a post with well over 300 comments on global warming. This is raising awareness. And because of this Al Gore won the Nobel Prize for Peace.
Conservatives hate this, because they think they see a hypocrite (they of course never look in the mirror—if they did they might have a Dorian Gray moment). They try to downplay the importance of the Nobel Prize, claiming it is political, blah blah blah.
But in the world of power and influence, Al Gore has shown that striving for peace is more powerful and more influential than creating war.
As Noam Scheiber writes:
Watching Al Gore take a well-deserved victory lap this afternoon, I couldn’t help wondering what George W. Bush must be thinking. I mean, I know the guy still believes history will vindicate him and all, but, really, this has got to be pretty painful. Bush, according to various accounts of the 2000 campaign, absolutely despised Gore. He regarded him as a preening, self-righteous phony.
So Bush somehow manages to avenge his father’s defeat and vanquish the vice president of the United States. And yet, seven years later, it’s Gore who’s being hailed around the world as a prophet and a savior and Bush who, if he’s still being discussed at all, is mentioned only as the punchline to some joke, or when his poll numbers reach some new historic low. It must eat him up.
I don’t know if it eats up Mr. Bush, who never cared much of what others thought of him (at least publicly), but it sure brings satisfaction to those of us who wonder why Bush ever became our president.
After all, he is speaking out against the war calling it a “nightmare” and all. Must be phony.
Read this piece from CNN about a “firefight” in Baquba. Note the shift at work. It is slowly changing from Al-Qaeda being our big enemy in Iraq to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard being our main enemy.
U.S.-led coalition forces launched an airstrike west of Baquba on Friday morning, killing about 25 insurgents after a “heavy firefight” with troops, a U.S. military statement said.
The firefight involved assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, the statement said.
The forces’ operation was targeting a commander with suspected links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force. According to the U.S. military, he was “involved in the movement of various weapons from Iran to Baghdad.”
Do you see it? In a few months, they won’t be as cautious with their words against Iran, and Al-Qaeda will completely be removed from their lexicon in Iraq. This is the work of men who have a strategy in mind to deceive and convert Americans into fundamentalist supporters of war with Iran. Note that nothing really has changed in reality, just in how they REPORT reality.
Not looking very good at all for Blackwater. Not only does the United States military corroborate what Iraqi civilians at the scene say but apparently Blackwater, feeling that mere machine guns weren’t deadly enough, used a grenade launcher to kill civilians.
The U.S. military reports appear to corroborate the Iraqi government’s contention that Blackwater was at fault in the shooting incident in Nisoor Square, in which hospital records say at least 14 people were killed and 18 were wounded.
“It was obviously excessive, it was obviously wrong,” said the U.S. military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the incident remains the subject of several investigations. “The civilians that were fired upon, they didn’t have any weapons to fire back at them. And none of the IP or any of the local security forces fired back at them,” he added, using a military abbreviation for the Iraqi police. The Blackwater guards appeared to have fired grenade launchers in addition to machine guns, the official said.
This incident really is far worse than Abu Ghraib. I hope our governmental leaders understand this. Hey Romney, when are you going to fire that Blackwater VP from your policy board? When are you going to speak out against launching grenades at civilians?
Dang, I never thought I would have to make that kind of argument before…
That is the question the father of one of the victims in Blackwater’s murderous rampage two weeks ago asks.
The carnage has sparked outrage and demands to reform the private contractor industry. Almost three weeks later, the collective memory of Iraqis at the scene is raw.
“It was catastrophic. So many innocent people were killed,” recalled Zina Fadhil, 21, a pharmacist. That day, she huddled in fear inside her store about 100 yards from the square as Blackwater helicopters hovered above. Like other eyewitnesses, she said she saw Blackwater guards firing down from the helicopters, an allegation the security firm denies.
“I am a peaceful person, but I wished I could have shot those people in the helicopters,” Fadhil continued, her soft voice rising.
Not one of the victims or family members interviewed had been aware that Blackwater was immune to prosecution in Iraq under an order by U.S. administrators after the 2003 invasion.
“Why is the blood of Iraqis so free for everyone to spill?” asked Sahib Nasr, the father of one of the victims.
Shoot first, ask questions later? Is that really how we want the world to perceive us, America?
Kadhum, the doctor, and her son Haitham, who were in the flow of cars the officers were trying to stop, didn’t react quickly enough. A Blackwater guard fired, striking Haitham as he sat in the driver’s seat, three witnesses said.
“The bullet went through the windshield and split his head open,” recalled traffic police officer Sarhan Thiab. “His mother was holding him, screaming for help.”
The car, which had an automatic transmission, kept rolling. Another officer, Ali Khalaf, tried to stop the vehicle as another spray of bullets killed Kadhum.
Thiab fled first, then Khalaf, followed by bullets that struck a traffic light pole, a billboard and their police guard post. Then the Blackwater guards escalated their firepower, engulfing the sedan in flames.
In sworn statements to State Department investigators reported by ABC News, four Blackwater guards said they fired upon the sedan because it was traveling at high speed and would not stop. Khalaf and other eyewitnesses said it was moving slowly and posed no threat.
Imagine if that was your mother and brother. If you cannot handle that being done to your family, how can you tolerate that being done to other people’s families?
On Monday, inside his spacious cream-colored house in Baghdad’s Khadisiya neighborhood, Firoz Fadhil Abbas questioned whether anyone would be held accountable for the shootings.
He has met several times with U.S. military investigators, and every time they apologized for his brother’s death, he said. But such words have done little to ease the clan’s loss.
“It looks like everything is back to normal. The company is back in operation,” Abbas said. “And we’ve lost the head of our family. There’s no justice here.”
Mohammed Osama Fadhil, Osama’s 14-year-old son, quietly listened to the conversation. Seated near him was his brother, Ahmed, a solemn 7-year-old. Finally, Mohammed spoke, focusing on Blackwater.
“They killed many others before,” he said. “Have they done anything to help those people, so that we can expect something?”
This is a clear case of murder, whether accidental or purposeful, those civilian guards fired on civilians and killed at least fourteen. For no excuse good enough to warrant the actions they took. And they are really above the law. They are not bound to Iraqi law. They are not bound to the military code. They are not bound by American law either. The Bush administration ensured that these mercenary guards are above the law.
Is this what you really want, America? If not, then make it known to Congress, the only power left to subdue this out of control executive. This is evil stuff. This is not the characteristics of a Christian nation, or any nation professing a belief in some sort of higher being. These are not the standards we were founded upon. These are not the standards our forefathers died for. Why do we accept them now?
that Pakistan, a country that has several nukes, is losing the fight against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Um, er, uh, what are we doing in Iraq again? The same thing that Bin Laden apparently sent some of his goons into Iraq for…
Heck’v’a job, Bushie!
Oh, and instead of preparing Americans to go into Pakistan WHERE WE SHOULD BE ALREADY, Bush and Cheney are preparing Americans to go into Iran! Huh?
A new poll is out and it shows an INCREASE of Americans wanting out of Iraq. This poll comes AFTER General Petraeus’ testimony last week to Congress. It seems the good general failed to convince Americans that indeed things are improving in Iraq.
A word of advice, General. If you are going to try to convince someone, it is best to stick to the truth, and not obfuscate. It is also wise, if you offer statistics, to reveal just how you got to those statistics. Let the truth be your master, and follow it to whatever end, not to the end you desire. It will never go there.
In any case, unfortunately nothing has changed. We’re on to the next Friedman Unit, and the next real conversation will be six months from now. At that time, we will hear from many quarters that we need to continue for another six months, because those next six months will be ‘crucial’ to the war effort. After that, a year from now, we will meet again, and discuss again the need to continue for at least six more months, because those next six months will be ‘crucial’ to the war effort. After that, a year and a half from now, we will meet again, and discuss again the need to continue for at least six more months, because those next six months will be ‘crucial’ to the war effort. After that, two years from now, we will meet again, and discuss again the need to continue for at least six more months, because those next six months will be ‘crucial’ to the war effort. After that, two and a half years from now, we will meet again, and discuss again the need to continue for at least six more months, because those next six months will be ‘crucial’ to the war effort.
And so it goes.
You get the picture yet, America?
Let’s just be clear about all the obfuscation you will be hearing, all the muddying of the waters that you will hear this week from General Petraeus and Ambassador Corker. They are Bush loyalists, and will not tell you the truth.
First off is this little nugget in one report out today:
For two hours, President Bush listened to contrasting visions of the U.S. future in Iraq. Gen. David H. Petraeus dominated the conversation by video link from Baghdad, making the case to keep as many troops as long as possible to cement any security progress. Adm. William J. Fallon, his superior, argued instead for accepting more risks in Iraq, officials said, in order to have enough forces available to confront other potential threats in the region.
The polite discussion in the White House Situation Room a week ago masked a sharper clash over the U.S. venture in Iraq, one that has been building since Fallon, chief of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees Middle East operations, sent a rear admiral to Baghdad this summer to gather information. Soon afterward, officials said, Fallon began developing plans to redefine the U.S. mission and radically draw down troops.
One of those plans, according to a Centcom officer, involved slashing U.S. combat forces in Iraq by three-quarters by 2010.
They’re not planning at all to withdraw, or even reduce the size of our forces in Iraq before 2010. They’re in this for the long haul, whether you like it or not, America. Will you stand for this? They won’t care if a Democrat is in power in 2009. They’ll press on the lie to ensure more Americans are over in Iraq to die for…well, we’re not quite sure what. Some “victory” whatever the hell that means.
The second comes from this fascinating report about a UN report supposed to come out now. But notice what is going on:
The United Nations has delayed the release of a quarterly report on human rights in Iraq to avoid criticizing Washington and Baghdad while they are seeking to rally congressional and international support for the war effort, according to U.N. officials.
The move follows a request by Ryan C. Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, to Ashraf Qazi, the United Nations’ top envoy in Baghdad, saying Iraq needs “several weeks” to study the report, according to an account by a senior U.N. official. The delay will effectively postpone debate over the United Nations’ view of Iraq’s sectarian violence — and U.S. and Iraqi efforts to combat it — until after Crocker and Gen. David H. Petraeus deliver a crucial assessment of conditions in Iraq to Congress this week.
A draft of the U.N. report, which was completed last month, focuses primarily on violence committed by Iraqi militias and insurgents, according to U.N. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. But it also documents abuses by U.S. and Iraqi forces during more than four months of the U.S.-backed military buildup in Baghdad. It faults Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, saying it lacks commitment to improving its rights record.
Gee, why would we want to avoid criticizing Washington and Baghdad while they’re trying to build support? Shouldn’t we know the full picture as they are trying to build support? Why hide? Doesn’t the truth set you free?
So just know America. You will be bamboozled.
Oh, and the political positioning by Republicans now is all about 2012. They’re pretty certain to lose 2008 to the Democrats and are trying to position the war so whatever Democratic leader starts in 2009 has a losing war to end, thereby creating the perfect opportunity for Republicans to come back in 2012 as the “saviors” of America from those dastardly liberals.
(Courtesy of New York Times)
Look at these numbers carefully from Iraq. This tells you about detainees in Iraq since the start of the surge. Note the significance of what they say:
Nearly 85 percent of the detainees in custody are Sunni Arabs, the minority faction in Iraq that ruled the country under the government of Saddam Hussein; the other detainees are Shiites, the officers say.
Got that? 85% of detainees are Sunni Arabs. Not Shi’ite Iranians.
Military officers said that of the Sunni detainees, about 1,800 claim allegiance to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown extremist group that American intelligence agencies have concluded is foreign-led. About 6,000 more identify themselves as takfiris, or Muslims who believe some other Muslims are not true believers. Such believers view Shiite Muslims as heretics.
Got that, they hate Shi’ite Muslims. There are no Sunnis in Iran (except for a really tiny minority—but not the ones in power—or the Iranians we accuse of messing around in Iraq)
“Interestingly, we’ve found that the vast majority are not inspired by jihad or hate for the coalition or Iraqi government — the vast majority are inspired by money,” said Capt. John Fleming of the Navy, a spokesman for the multinational forces’ detainee operations. The men are paid by insurgent leaders. “The primary motivator is economic — they’re angry men because they don’t have jobs,” he said. “The detainee population is overwhelmingly illiterate and unemployed. Extremists have been very successful at spreading their ideology to economically strapped Iraqis with little to no formal education.”
They don’t attack us because they hate us. Got that? They attack us because they get paid.
Now, are you ready for the most significant numbers?
According to statistics supplied by the headquarters of Task Force 134, the American military unit in charge of detention operations in Iraq, there are about 280 detainees from countries other than Iraq. Of those, 55 are identified as Egyptian, 53 as Syrian, 37 as Saudi, 28 as Jordanian and 24 as Sudanese.
Look at those numbers carefully. Notice something strange? Let’s see. I see 55 Egyptians. I see 53 Syrians. I see 37 Saudis. I see 28 Jordanians. I see 24 Sudanese. Who is missing? Isn’t it interesting that the one nation we consider the scourge of the Middle East has absolutely zero of its people detained by Americans in Iraq? Where are the Iranians?
When it comes to the hard facts, the Bush administration is proven wrong again and again and again. They really do live in an alternate reality where the bad guy continuously shifts to whoever they choose, and not what the facts on the ground tell them.
Iran is not our enemy. However, if we are not careful, we may end up being theirs.
Well, it looks like this truck bombing in northern Iraq is now the worst terrorist attack since 9/11 in terms of number dead, now placed at 500 poor souls.
The US military continues to lie to the American people. They are saying the purpose of the attack was to “sway public opinion.”
The Tuesday truck bombs that targeted the villages of Qahtaniya, al-Jazeera and Tal Uzair, in northern Iraq near the border with Syria, were a “trademark al Qaeda event” designed to sway U.S. public opinion against the war, a U.S. general said Wednesday.
The attacks, targeting Kurdish villages of the Yazidi religious minority, were attempts to “break the will” of the American people and show that the U.S. troop escalation — the “surge” — is failing, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon said.
See, in the eyes of the US military, any big setback like this HAS to be tied to Al-Qaeda. It cannot possibly be the work of anybody else. Because, see, if it isn’t the work of Al-Qaeda, then it really does mean that our “Surge” is not working very well. The thing is that this incident is actually most likely a conflict over territory between ethnic groups. Note who exactly was targeted. A spectacular bombing like this, if really intended to sway American public opinion would not have taken place against the Yazidi religious minority, but rather indiscriminately somewhere close to Baghdad. Baghdad is the epicenter for public opinion about Iraq. But this takes place far in the north, away from all the real conflict. As Juan Cole states:
The operation resembled the horrific bombing of the Shiite Turkmen of Armili on July 2. Note that first Shiite Turkmen were targeted and now Kurdish Yazidis. They have in common not being Sunni Arabs. My suspicion is that these bombings are not just an attempt to spread fear and intimidation, but are actually part of a struggle for control of territory. The Sunni Arab guerrillas face powerful challenges from Kurds and Shiites with regard to the future of provinces such as Ninevah, Diyala and Kirkuk. A lot of Kurdish police and troops have been deployed in Mosul not far from Tuesday’s bombings, and they are seen as among the deadliest enemies by the Sunni Arab guerrillas. Sooner or later, my guess is that the Sunni Arabs will wage a major war with the Kurds over the oil fields of Kirkuk.
Imagine that, Sunnis caring more about their future vis a vis their neighbors than swaying American public opinion. Imagine that, we’re not at the epicenter of all things on this planet.
Surprise surprise, the White House has lied again. General Petraeus is supposed to give a report to Congress in September on the “progress” of the surge. Well, he will not be writing this report.
Despite Bush’s repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.
Right, input on how to best spin this grand failure. Com’on America, don’t let them continue the bamboozling act!
Have you guys noticed how often the Republicans have said this past week that if Congress didn’t pass the FISA bill, terrorists would attack us? Note Mitch McConnel and Lamar Smith who say:
“Al-Qaida is not going on vacation this month,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “And we can’t either until we know we’ve done our duty to the American people.”
“I hope that there are no attacks before we are able to effectively update this important act,” said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.
Then there is Trent Lott scaring up the whole town of Washington DC with this:
In light of the heightened threat, Congress can either amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or all of us can run screaming into the inferno.
Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) ominously advised Thursday that Congress needed to pass changes to terrorist surveillance laws before leaving for the August recess and warned that otherwise “the disaster could be on our doorstep.”
Further demonstrating his counterterrorism sagacity, when asked if people should leave Washington, D.C., during the month of August, Lott replied that “I think it would be good to leave town in August, and it would probably be good to stay out until September the 12th.” By contrast, a former Capitol Hill chief had the temerity to note that, according to U.S. intelligence analysis he’d been privvy to, “Americans tend to be much more oriented toward anniversaries and the jihadists seem to be less so. I’ve seen over the years where we concentrate on dates and the analysts say, ‘Don’t get wrapped up in dates because our terrorist jihadist enemies bide their time.'”
The American Heritage Dictionary defines terrorism as such:
n. The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.
One has to ask himself, just why would these Republican leaders use such threats of possible attacks to rush through a law without proper debate or even real consideration of the effects of the new law? It’s time to be quite frank. These Republican leaders are using terrorism to frighten Americans into submission. They use their favorite boogeyman, Al-Qaeda, to threaten Americans. Pass this law, or we just might be attacked, they claim. As if not passing this law means we will be attacked. Note the logic in that. It gives the feeling that Republicans can control this boogeyman, and can assure that we will not be attacked if this law is passed, but if this law is not passed, there is no guarantee that we will not be attacked. Does that sound familiar to anybody? Who else uses such threats? Anybody remember The Godfather Part II? What did that Italian mob boss try to do to Don Corleone? It’s called extortion. Wikipedia defines extortion as such:
Extortion is a criminal offense, which occurs when a person either obtains money, property or services from another through coercion or intimidation or threatens one with physical or reputational harm unless they are paid money or property. Refraining from doing harm is sometimes euphemistically called protection. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime groups. The actual obtainment of money or property is not required to commit the offense. Making a threat of violence or a lawsuit which refers to a requirement of a payment of money or property to halt future violence or lawsuit is sufficient to commit the offense. The four simple words “pay up or else” are sufficient to constitute the crime of extortion. An extortionate threat made to another in jest is still extortion.
You know, when I hear people like Tom DeLay and other miscreants talking about how The Terrists are about to do something that could make Washington a really dangerous place to be if Democrats don’t instantly cave in and sign over whatever else Bush wants, it sounds to me like it’s not so much a warning as a threat. And therefore, I expect Democrats to stand right up and say, “Are you threatening us?”
Because constantly trying to terrify people with the threat of violence really is terrorism, and it’s not Al Qaeda that’s doing that to us right now.
So my next question would be: “Why would Al Qaeda want to launch a terrorist attack on America just in time to give a bomb-happy executive the opportunity to suspend the elections so he can take out half the Muslim world?”
I would just love to hear the Democratic leadership stand up and ask what the Republicans are up to when they start terror-threatening over legislation. They could say:
“I thought you said you were keeping us safe. If that’s true, why are you so sure we’re about to be attacked? Aren’t you planning to stop it? Are you saying you will refuse to ‘keep us safe’ if we don’t support your bills?”
Or they could say:
“My, it sure is convenient for you that Al Qaeda is always about to attack us right before you want us to vote for your bills that we haven’t even had time to read. Are they on your payroll or something?”
Indeed. It also is so surprising that in a country like ours these Republicans can actually get away with terrorism like they do. And our Democratic leaders really are pansies of the worst kind. Com’on guys get some balls! Bin Laden is probably taking notes from them on how to effectively terrorize a population to capitulate and do their will for them.
Here may be a great reason for the multitude of Mormons still supportive of this war to think twice about it. The families, especially the children of soldiers who go off to Iraq are irreprably harmed.
Rates of neglect and abuse of the children of servicemen and women rose 42% within the family when the enlisted parent was deployed on a combat mission, according to a new study led by senior health analyst Deborah Gibbs of RTI International, a research institute in North Carolina. Previous studies have shown an association between combat-related deployments and higher levels of stress in the family, and it is this stress that is thought to play a major role in the maltreatment of children by the parent who stays home.
The current study is the first to take a comprehensive look at how deployment affects child neglect and emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Backed by funding from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, the researchers harvested data from the U.S. Army Central Registry of 1,771 families worldwide with at least one instance of child neglect or abuse between Sept. 2001 and Dec. 2004, a period during which many soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. The results show that a staggering 1,858 parents had maltreated their children during that period — boys and girls in equal numbers, with an average age of 6. Nearly 10% of those parents neglected or abused their children on more than one day. The number of times a parent was deployed, however, whether once or twice, did not significantly affect the rate of maltreatment — researchers speculate that by the time of a soldier’s second tour of duty, the homebound parent has developed at least few coping strategies.
The study suggests that Mom is the one taking it out on the kids. During the deployment of her soldier-husband, rates of child maltreatment tripled; neglect quadrupled; and physical abuse nearly doubled. “Female spouses are the ones that stay at home when soldiers are deployed,” says Gibbs. “They deal with the stress of single parenting, worrying about a spouse and holding down a job as well. We recognize that military families do an amazing job at getting though these situations that are tougher than many of us could ever imagine.” Abusive women were more likely to be Caucasian than Hispanic or black, suggesting that there may be differences in the way white mothers cope with stress compared with black or Hispanic moms; the study’s authors write that the racial difference may have to do with the mother’s employment status or her willingness to ask for outside help. In contrast, male spouses showed no increase in maltreatment when their wives were deployed.
The study controlled for characteristics often linked to child maltreatment — such as substance abuse, socioeconomic status and age of the children —making it evident that deployment was the determining factor.
So let us review the costs of this war and see if they do not indeed outweigh the supposed benefits
1. Our good, professional, all-volunteer force is being decimated and spent, making it more difficult to be fully ready for any bigger event on the horizon.
2. Their families are suffering at a staggering rate back home, with abuse and maltreatment.
3. The financial costs of this war are being put on a credit card for future generations to pay while we sit back and consume like good baby boomers.
4. Iraq is a veritable hell-hole. Thousands of Iraqis die violently a month. They have to rely on militias to get some semblance of security because the Americans are certainly not providing proper security.
5. There is no political resolution on the horizon in Iraq. The Iraqi Parliament is on vacation for the month of August.
6. Regional countries are beginning to be assertive in controlling the broken country to their own selfish needs. Turks are attacking Kurds in the north. Saudis are funding their Sunni brothers in the insurgency. Shi’ite Iranians are supporting the Shi’ites in the south.
7. The war has done absolutely nothing to stop Al-Qaeda regain its strength while they sit comfortably with friends in Pakistan.
8. The Taliban in Afghanistan are learning techniques used by insurgents in Iraq so as to further undermine and destabilize the country we should have already bagged years ago. Instead, Afghanistan is falling further and further in the direction of Iraq.
9. Iran is not feeling any real heat and continuing on their desired path towards nuclear technology.
10. Israel certainly does not feel any safer than it did before 2003.
I’m sure there are many more. Now, I ask those few who read my blog, what have been the benefits of our invasion of Iraq that have outweighed these costs? I ask it in this fashion, because there of course have been obvious benefits to the invasion, one being that Saddam is gone. But tell me, does his removal outweigh these costs?
The Marine Corps Times is reporting on poor relations between the two men who have most to lose if the surge fails, Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki and General Petraeus. The problem is that the two actors want two different things and both are talking past each other. General Petraeus has to satisfy his boss back home who has to deal with domestic pressures while Maliki’s priorities are, well, not the same as that of General Petraeus and the Americans. The article lists the problems they face:
— Al-Maliki, a Shiite who spent years in exile under Saddam Hussein, hotly objects to U.S. tactic of recruiting men with ties to the Sunni insurgency into the ongoing fight against al-Qaida. He has complained loudly but with little effect except a U.S. pledge to let al-Maliki’s security apparatus vet the recruits before they join the force. He also has spoken bitterly, aides say, about delivery delays of promised U.S. weapons and equipment for his forces.
Of course he’s complained about this. There is no way he can ever trust Sunnis in power anymore. That was the whole purpose of his backing the American removal of a Sunni dictator by the name of Saddam Hussein.
— Petraeus is confronted with an Iraqi military and police force, nominally under al-Maliki’s control, that has in many cases acted on sectarian — namely Shiite — not national Iraqi interests. He has faced a significant challenge in persuading al-Maliki to shed his ties to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who runs the Mahdi Army militia.
Heh, I think General Petraeus might have an easier time getting Bill Kristol to renounce neo-conservatism and turn against his best buddy Fred Kagan.
It’s fine for such leaders to really dislike each other and find it difficult to work together. We don’t need to sit at a campfire and sing kumbayas in order to get things done; sometimes you’ve got to slap people around to get them to do what they need to do. The problem in Iraq (out of the bazillions of problems plaguing that poor cursed country) is that even the sharp disagreements are not getting real long-lasting progress done. One really has to wonder why the city of Baghdad after FOUR YEARS still only gets less than one hour of electricity a day! You’d think a far advanced country like ours would have the ability to do this.
So what should happen? Well General Petraeus and PM Maliki do not have to get along, but General Petraeus must be clear (and this should come from General Petraeus’s boss, Mr. Bush who will never do the right thing) that there is a severe consequence if Mr. Maliki refuses to press forward with the political resolutions. The real threat of withdrawal should do the job, or force Maliki out for being too weak. Iraq needs a leader. Maliki is not proving to be a good one. Unfortunately General Petraeus will also not do the right thing, as smart a man as he is. He has for too long towed the Bush neo-con line, and is basically the wrong man for the job. I mean, he’s not even following his own counterinsurgency principles in this surge!
The sad thing is that even in 2009 when (not if) a Democratic leader becomes president, they also won’t remove the troops, nor remove the failed leaders out of power. At least, I’m gearing up for extremely low expectations hoping to finally be nicely surprised by politicians. I’m learning though that upon getting an opening to do bad things, even the most good-hearted politician will choose the bad. So sad.
This is a breath of fresh air, albeit quite late in the game, but two conservatives from the Reagan administration, one the commandant of the Marine Corps, the other a lawyer in the Reagan White House, have now officially and publicly come out against Bush’s latest executive order, which really didn’t change anything about how the CIA (mis)treats detainees.
One of us was appointed commandant of the Marine Corps by President Ronald Reagan; the other served as a lawyer in the Reagan White House and has vigorously defended the constitutionality of warrantless National Security Agency wiretaps, presidential signing statements and many other controversial aspects of the war on terrorism. But we cannot in good conscience defend a decision that we believe has compromised our national honor and that may well promote the commission of war crimes by Americans and place at risk the welfare of captured American military forces for generations to come.
Awww, they still feel Bush has the imperial power, just as long as he doesn’t torture.
In April of 1793, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson wrote to President George Washington that nations were to interpret treaty obligations for themselves but that “the tribunal of our consciences remains, and that also of the opinion of the world.” He added that “as we respect these, we must see that in judging ourselves we have honestly done the part of impartial and rigorous judges.”
To date in the war on terrorism, including the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and all U.S. military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan and Iraq, America’s losses total about 2 percent of the forces we lost in World War II and less than 7 percent of those killed in Vietnam. Yet we did not find it necessary to compromise our honor or abandon our commitment to the rule of law to defeat Nazi Germany or imperial Japan, or to resist communist aggression in Indochina. On the contrary, in Vietnam — where we both proudly served twice — America voluntarily extended the protections of the full Geneva Convention on prisoners of war to Viet Cong guerrillas who, like al-Qaeda, did not even arguably qualify for such protections.
The Geneva Conventions provide important protections to our own military forces when we send them into harm’s way. Our troops deserve those protections, and we betray their interests when we gratuitously “interpret” key provisions of the conventions in a manner likely to undermine their effectiveness. Policymakers should also keep in mind that violations of Common Article 3 are “war crimes” for which everyone involved — potentially up to and including the president of the United States — may be tried in any of the other 193 countries that are parties to the conventions.
In a letter to President James Madison in March 1809, Jefferson observed: “It has a great effect on the opinion of our people and the world to have the moral right on our side.” Our leaders must never lose sight of that wisdom.
It’s nice to see them hearkening back to our Founding Fathers, but…well, I wonder, where were you two in 2004? Abusive interrogations were known BEFORE the 2004 general election. I wonder why you two have waited until now to speak out. You quote Thomas Jefferson who said: “It has a great effect on the opinion of our people and the world to have the moral right on our side.” Did we not lose that moral right at Abu Ghraib? The evidence was clearly there that that incident was a direct result of President Bush’s orders vis a vis detainees and the Geneva Conventions. Why did you NOT speak out then, dear sirs?
Sure it is easier to speak out now, when the nation is clearly against this president. But true courage is to stand up to evil from the BEGINNING!
As per the conversation with ECS below, I have uploaded the Bismullah Brief here: (Bismullah Brief). It is a Word doc.
This past Saturday my wife and I went and saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The movie was pretty well done, though I do wonder what the “Order of the Phoenix” actually had to do with the plot of the movie—the actual Order members appear at the very beginning and then at the end to save the day (but that’s another story). In any case, the movie was pretty good. I got thinking about a particular aspect of our modern fictional heroes and villains. See I’m also reading Hugh Nibley’s books on the Jaredites and their origins in ancient Asiatic cultures and kingdoms. Absolutely fascinating stuff! Mr. Nibley has opened a window to a world I did not really know about but have been quite curious about for the longest time. The steppes of ancient Asia were quite a bloody, violent, and unstable times, with ruling kings dueling with rivals, capturing kings, having them live in captivity all their lives, so on and so forth. These ancient Asiatic and Jaredite kings were unafraid of battle. In fact, it was their culture that the king took the lead in the battle. They reveled in besting their rivals on the field of battle. In fact, in the account of the Jaredites the two remaining kings, Coriantumr and Shiz battled to the ultimate death and destruction of the Jaredite nation.
In any case, I’ve noticed quite a trend in our stories of late regardless of medium, be it film, television or book. The hero (and the villain too) usually takes the lead, usually is willing to go through hellfire and damnation to achieve near impossible tasks. (These same heroes apparently come out rather unscathed psychologically, but again that is also another story). Jack Bauer takes the lead on “24”. Harry Potter leads the ragtag children of Hogwarts against far more advanced Death Eaters at impossible odds. Maybe their young age makes them not think twice about the fact that they could die very easily at the hands of a Death Eater. And let me just say, if I were a Death Eater, I doubt I would let little kids get in my way of things. But that would ruin the story, wouldn’t it? Leonidas takes charge of the 300 Spartan warriors against one million Persians. Leonidas and his men die in their efforts but their efforts were able to weaken the Persians enough that a few years later they were defeated. Aragorn charges wildly into the mass of orcs in Return of the King, even though it is a foolish move if you think about it. He doesn’t though, because dramatically speaking, charging against the mass of orcs is a far more powerful scene than sitting back strategizing the perils of the kingdom of Gondor at large if the king were to die in battle.
Reality is that when the king leads the battle, the kingdom has a good chance of completely failing, of complete collapse. This is what we learn about ancient Asiatic kingdoms. People wait around until a strongman appears who takes charge, quickly amassing a powerful army that takes control of half of Asia. In no time at all, upon the king’s quick death in battle, the kingdom falls. Modern nations are a vastly different institution, where the ultimate leader stays in the back of the battle sending off the underlings to die for the cause, the homeland, for the state.
I wonder what it is doing to our culture and our mindset when we tie in our hearts and culture the worship of the hero, the soldier, the warrior, the one who, risking all, darts off to battle “evil”, coming back conqueror. Even the most insanest of us all tends to be quite realistic when it comes to his or her own survival. Thus I am befuddled when I see for example this video of College Republicans who speak so easily of our cause against terrorism, but who they themselves do not wish to pick up a weapon and fight.
I don’t mean to pick necessarily on Republicans with this point, it’s just that their example is the most blatant right now. Who do they expect to do the fighting for the cause they speak so proudly of?
We see so many examples in our entertainment, in all mediums, books, television and film, of a worship of the warrior that I really do think it has clouded our understanding of both warfare and tolerating situations we really have no power to control. So many speak of doing “something” about Iran, for example, as if it were not tolerable to have an Iran with nuclear technology. When we speak of not tolerating a nuclear Iran, what does that mean? Do we really have the power to 1) stop Iran from learning nuclear technology? 2) and not further decay our own power?
Reality bites hard. We may have deposed Saddam Hussein. Few doubted our military might and our ability to defeat someone as weak as Saddam. But I wonder if the fakery of fictional characters has so clouded our vision that we think taking massive risks means the risks won’t actually take place? I was watching “A Bug’s Life” with my daughter the other day and I thought some more about this. Flick made a grave mistake when his contraption caused the offering to fall into the river below. That’s fine, a big problem, but fixable. But Flick does not learn the lesson of his mistake, and that is that taking risks could be destructive to the whole tribe. It was quite opportune for Flick and the ants that a bird lived close by, because really, without the bird, something Flick could not control, all his plans were doomed to fail.
Pundits favoring the actions in Iraq talked so often and frequently about how this action would utterly change the Middle East that one really has to wonder how they were believed. Then again no one really asked these pundits just what evidence they had that forcible invasion of a very nationalistic tribalistic state would magically create a pro-Western democratic haven right smack in the middle of a whole slew of other ultra-nationalistic tribalistic states whose influences were and still are far greater and more powerful than the invading army’s influence. We took a high priced risk. We were the hero who rushed wildly at the mass of orcs thinking that, hey it worked in the fictional account, it should work in reality. Aragorn won’t die. He can’t. Frodo will somehow magically make it to the Mount of Doom to melt the ring of Sauron’s power. And more importantly that action would somehow make all the orcs stop attacking to kill Aragorn. Or that Han Solo would appear at the right moment to “surge” and deflect just enough of Vader’s ship to give Luke the opportunity to shoot his guns into the plot-appropriate hole that magically destroys the entire Death Star. We hear plenty in real life from war supporters who say, hey “bomb them all to hell.” “Just nuke the place, that will solve all our problems.”
I used to think that we should restart a draft into American culture, because I used to believe that forcing Americans to serve in defense of their country would make them wisen up about risking so much in wars of choices. After all, interestingly, many of today’s leaders did NOT fight in Vietnam (Dick Cheney had five deferments for “other priorities” for example). But I now don’t think the problem with our rush to wars is lack of fighting by Americans. I think it is our worship of the hero, the warrior, the soldier. Ironically, the Army’s new slogan is an “Army of One.” Heh, it couldn’t be more fitting for our culture of hero worship.
This is not going to change soon. In fact, it will probably get worse before it gets better. Which is too bad, because we’re now in decline in the world around us. The risks were not neutralized, but instead materialized as we were warned. We’ve got many problems ahead of us.
I have closely observed the goings on of my government (as best as I can seeing how secretive they want to be) these past five years, ever since Bush decided to go to war with Iraq back in the summer of 2002. (Read Bill Schneider’s “Marketing Iraq: Why Now?” where you can read Andrew Card’s comment: “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” They decided over the summer to attack Iraq. The rest was all a matter of marketing, selling it to the American public). They got the war rammed down Americans’ throats, with an extremely complicit media rooting the Administration on, damned be anyone that stood in their way.
The corrupting influence of raw power began immediately after 9/11. I’m sure in the very first seconds of realizing the potential power the Executive could yield, the Administration probably had good intents, but those were just a few seconds. They realized just how much power they really had: raw power. And they realized they must keep it a secret, for if it really got out, they would be forced to follow the rule of law, and not the rule of raw power. They took advantage of all the support (90% approval ratings and support from many nations around the world) and ran with it as far as they thought they could go. Karl Rove told Republicans in January of 2002 to run with the war in the November elections and they would win seats. They did and they won seats. They got the war they wanted, on the cheap, small force, shock and awe military might that defeated a ragtag worn down Iraqi military in three weeks. No surprise there. No wonder so many neo-conservatives and their allies chortled after the war, and drank in their wine of success.
Reports and studies, however, were there from the beginning that all was not well, and that continuing down this path would lead to serious problems for America. The most serious is the raw power employed by the Bush administration. Unchecked, the Bush administration began, right from the start, right from 2001 and early 2002, to employ power beyond what is written in the Constitution. Why? Because they saw what raw power there was in the Executive Branch and they took it. Even so, they knew they were doing wrong, or they wouldn’t be so secretive about it. Only those with something to hide, hide something. So right from the start, the United States of America began torturing people, employing techniques learned from the Soviets and the Nazis. They kept this as much of a secret as they could. For they knew if this were to get out, they would be in trouble. The American public still had more raw power over the administration, at least until after the 2004 presidential election. Once that election passed and Bush won, their raw power achieved the ultimate. For the next four years, no one could stop them. So some of their secrets could get out. In fact, by slowly getting out, the secrets became acceptable. Like any watcher of pornography, you can justify the soft porn at first, but you cannot justify the hardcore. Once you get enough of the soft porn, the hardcore becomes acceptable and even desirable. It soon becomes a part of who you are.
In 2006 something wonderful happened. America broke out of the spell of this administration and its evils. A lot of Democrats and liberals (and many independents) were hopeful to see a change.
Unfortunately that is not going to happen. You see, the Bush administration has tasted of raw power and they will not let go. In fact, even if the Democrats get a veto proof majority in these next 18 months, there is nothing to hold back the Bush administration from simply defying the veto overrides of Congress. Note with what impunity the administration is telling private citizens not to show up for Congressional subpoenas! They even claim executive privilege over documents related to Pat Tillman’s debacle. Why? Because they can. There is no raw power above them, so why should they listen to anyone or do anything for anyone? They answer to none but themselves.
We must realize that there is only one thing that can actually end this raw power by this administration over these next 18 months and that is a full on revolution where the American people rise up and kicks this administration out of power. Congress has no raw power to impeach this president. He will simply defy their will. Why should he bother with Congress? He has no incentive. He has nothing to lose.
America has not been in as dangerous and precarious position as it is today. We must go back to the rule of law. For the rule of law to have any real effect, those who broke the rule of law must be punished and held accountable. Otherwise, what is the purpose of law? Without any punishment, there is no law. Unfortunately this will not happen, and we will have to deal with the administration as currently constituted for the next 18 months. We will have to deal with a possible military strike on Iran. We will have to deal with attempts by this administration to fix the next election so that they ensure a Republican president and a security and secrecy over what they have done these past six years. What Republican candidate today is going to actually hold anyone in the Bush administration accountable for their crimes? What Republican candidate today will punish anyone in this administration?
For that matter, what Democrat will truly do what needs to be done? I bet that even they will come up with some rationale about healing the wounds of Bush’s divisiveness and let them get away with it. Again, if there is no punishment, can there really be a law? If there is no law, what do we have?
Jack Balkin writes about why this is so important:
At this point in Bush’s Presidency three things matter above all others. They motivate this final round of constitutional hardball: The first is keeping secret what the President and his advisers have done. The second is running out the clock to prevent any significant dismantling of his policies until his term ends. The third is doing whatever he can proactively to ensure that later governments do not hold him or his associates accountable for any acts of constitutional hardball or other illegalities practiced during his term in office.
If the NSA program and the Torture Memos were examples of the second round of constitutional hardball, the Libby commutation and Harriet Meiers’ refusal to testify before Congress are examples of the third round. Although his Presidency now seems to be a failure, Bush’s third round of constitutional hardball may be every bit as important as the first two. That is because if Bush is never held accountable for what he did in office, future presidents will be greatly tempted to adopt features of his practices. If they temper his innovations and his excesses only slightly, they will still seem quite admirable and restrained in comparison to Bush. As a result, if Congress and the public do not decisively reject Bush’s policies and practices, some particularly unsavory features of his Presidency will survive in future Administrations. If that happens, Bush’s previous acts of constitutional hardball will have paid off after all. He may not have created a new and lasting constitutional regime, but he will have introduced long-lasting weaknesses and elements of decay into our constitutional system.
This administration is by far the worst that America has ever seen. But it is far more dangerous than that. Their policies and their use of raw power has done serious and potentially permanent damage and harm to the rule of law and the Constitution. Note for example the audacity of Sara Taylor claiming her oath to the president rather than to the Constitution. When corrected, now how smugly she replied:
Leahy: And then you said, I took an oath to the President, and I take that oath very seriously. Did you mean, perhaps, you took an oath to the Constitution?
Taylor: Uh, I, uh, yes, you’re correct, I took an oath to the Constitution. Uh, but, what–
Leahy: Did you take a second oath to the President?
Taylor: I did not. I–
Leahy: So the answer was incorrect.
Taylor: The answer was incorrect. What I should have said is that, I took an oath, I took that oath seriously. And I believe that taking that oath means that I need to respect, and do respect, my service to the President.
Leahy: No, the oath says that you take an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States. That is your paramount duty. I know that the President refers to the government being his government — it’s not. It’s the government of the people of America. Your oath is not to uphold the President, nor is mine to uphold the Senate. My oath, like your oath, is to uphold the Constitution.
This was an unscripted moment showing the reality of the raw power employed by the Bush administration. Loyalty is NOT to the Constitution, but to the president. Because the real raw power is not in the Constitution, but in Bush and Cheney. Note also Cheney’s ludicrous claim that is was not part of the executive branch, and thus cannot be held in check by any rules or regulations. These are but a few examples of the raw power employed by the Bush administration. (Heck, let’s not even bring up Scooter Libby!).
What can be done? At this point we must continue to reveal the secrets, show Americans just how much the Bush administration is not for the Constitution they took an oath to uphold. Continue forcing them to explain themselves. History will be the judge. If the administration attempts to start a fight with Iran, we must take to the streets and say NO! It won’t do much to actually stop them, but that’s all we can do, unless we’re riping for a real revolution.
Whatever you do, if you want a real assessment about the situation in Iraq, do NOT listen to the President of the United States. Read Patrick Cockburn instead, for example. What will you learn? You’ll learn that, yes, Iraqis did progress on a few of the 18 benchmarks, but all the areas where they improved were insignificant, and the areas where Iraqis must have improved, about six benchmarks, Iraqis made absolutely no improvement at all. Things like security and politics. The very important stuff. No improvement at all.
The White House yesterday sought to suggest possible change for the better in Iraq by saying that there had been satisfactory progress on eight of the 18 goals set by Congress. Unsatisfactory progress is reported on six, unsatisfactory but with some progress on two and “too early to assess” on a further two.
The picture it hopes to give – and this has been uncritically reported by the US media – is of a mixture of progress and frustration in Iraq.
The wholly misleading suggestion is that the war could go either way. In reality the six failures are on issues critical to the survival of Iraq while the eight successes are on largely trivial matters.
Thus unsatisfactory progress is reported on “the Iraqi security forces even handedly enforcing the law” and on the number of Iraqi units willing to fight independently of the Americans. This means that there is no Iraqi national army but one consisting of Kurds, Shia and Sunni who will never act against their own communities. Despite three years of training, the Iraqi security forces cannot defend the government.
Set against these vitally important failures are almost ludicrously trivial or meaningless successes. For instance, “the rights of minority political parties are being defended” but these groups have no political influence. The alliance of Shia religious and Kurdish nationalist parties that make up the government is not keen to share power with anybody. This is scarcely surprising since they triumphantly won the election in 2005.
There have been some real improvements over the past six months. Sectarian killings in Iraq have declined to 650 in June compared with 2,100 in January. So-called “high-profile” bombings, including suicide bomb attacks on Shia markets, fell to 90 in June compared with 180 in March. But it is doubtful if these are entirely or even mainly due to the US surge.
The fall in sectarian killings, mostly of Sunni by Shia, may be largely the result of the Mehdi Army militia of Muqtada al-Sadr being told by their leader to curb their murder campaign. It is also true that last year, after the attack on the Shia shrine in Samarra on 22 February 2006, there was a battle for Baghdad which the Shia won and the Sunni lost.
Baghdad is more and more Shia-dominated and the Sunni are pinned into the south-west of the city and a few other enclaves. As Sunni and Shia are killed or driven out of mixed areas, there are less of them to kill. Some 4.2 million people in Iraq are now refugees, of whom about half have fled the country.
The real and appalling situation on the ground in Iraq has been all too evident this week. Thirty bodies, the harvest of the death squads, were found in the streets of Baghdad on Wednesday. The figure for Tuesday was 26 and, in addition, 20 rockets and mortar bombs were fired into the Green Zone killing three people. This was significant because they were fired by the Mehdi Army, who had been upset by criticism made on them by the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki. By way of gentle reproof they shelled his offices in the Green Zone.
What does this mean? It means that the surge is not having the intended effect. That is, if the intended effect was indeed a progress in security and political resolutions in Iraq, the surge has not succeeded, and probably will not succeed no matter how long we continue pressing this surge. The problem we are facing here at home is two fold. The public is now dead set against the war, and the military does not have any new fresh troops for the fight. A government cannot go to war without the nation behind it. Once it loses the nation, it will fairly quickly lose the war. The reason is that the soldiers come from the nation. Now, the military will run out of new soldiers to send to Iraq next April. Once April comes around what is the military going to do? They don’t say. Why not? Because their civilian bosses at the White House order them to remain silent. Why? Because it would hurt them politically.
Listen guys, the Republicans, by continuing this charade will lose badly in the November 2008 elections. They don’t seem to realize this. They believe that the American public will somehow never ever consider dropping them all. They figure that the more they filibuster Democratic legislation the more they can paint the Democrats as unable to rule. But this time the Americans will not forget (as they usually do with their massively short term attention span) that it was the Republicans who pressed for this war. This is important because if it were not for the Republicans, we’d get more honest assessments about this war and about what to do with our dear soldiers who fight for us. Instead, April will come around and well, we’ll still be living in denial while our soldiers come home wounded and weakened, stretched to the limit, and not the fighting force that can or will win our battles for us. This is very dangerous. Republicans would rather not talk about that. Neither their cohorts who control the media (see for example this latest evidence that even the New York Times would rather portray a political situation in Republican light—liberal media indeed).
What should happen?
In the real world, what should happen, especially when it comes to war, is to end the politicization. Republicans must stop using the soldiers as political fodder against Democrats. It must end. Were regular Americans to realize just how much the soldiers have been used by Republicans for political points, well, maybe many of them, the conservative kind, don’t mind the hypocrisy. In any case, it must end. It won’t unfortunately. But this is what should happen. We should look realistically at our situation now. We should assess just where this war has taken us, just what the costs have been. Will we actually do that? Not likely. Why not? Because partisan politics has gripped our nation at just the wrong time. Who is to blame for that? Karl Rove of course. As long as he is still employed we will never get an honest assessment.
The best solution for America right now in regards to Iraq is to begin talking about a way out of Iraq. The British were able to do so. We could learn a lot from the British it seems. One of the lessons is that you have to plan a good escape from the situation. The problem with Vietnam, and unfortunately the problem we will face with Iraq, is that we did not have a good plan of escape. So in the end you had a helicopter on top of the embassy with thousands of people trying to take it. What a shameful way to leave. Who is to blame for that? None other than Nixon of course. He orchestrated the ending of the war so that it would cast a bad light on the Democrats. But it was he, in the end, who left Vietnam the way he left it. George Bush does not wish to talk about how to leave Iraq. He would rather punt that on to the next administration (at this point assuredly a Democratic one). The moment the next administration withdraws the troops, he, from the sidelines, will criticize and demonize the next administration for failing in Iraq, and for not continuing his “grand crusade—er mission.” Why would he do this? Because in his heart, George W. Bush does not care about the troops as much as he cares about scoring political points for his Republican party.
The British withdrawal from southern Iraq also opens a window into our future for us to see what would happen with a withdrawal of foreign occupying troops. The Shi’ite militias turn on each other. This is the expected outcome. Why? Well, we go back to our realistic assessments. We keep pretending to believe that somehow the new Iraqi “army” will be loyal to the “government.” But please, let’s be honest. The real power lies in the militias, and will do so until the Americans leave to let the militias work it out on their own just how to run a large country the size of Iraq. What may really end up happening is that Iraq breaks down to tribal groups, as before World War I. Who knows, that may be what is actually best for a region like Iraq. The problem is that our world today prefers the nation-state. How would tribal organizations manage in such a system? Especially one like Iraq with all those lucrative resources?
In any case, Iraq will not fall to Al-Qaida. Al-Qaida’s presence in Iraq is small, and homogeneous. Their power is nowhere near that of the Shi’ite militias or the Kurdish militias. Will the Shi’ites try to murder all the remaining Sunnis? Not if the Sunnis have their own militias who protect their own. Also, if Iraq goes tribal, it won’t remain so for long. Here is where you get into the danger of a possible regional conflict. Iran will most likely eat up the Shi’ite south and east while Saudi Arabia will take in the Sunnis in the west. Will Saudi Arabia (or the United States) allow Iran to take possession of such a large amount of land with oil? Of course not. What about Turkey and Kurdistan? Turkey does currently have 140,000 troops on the border with Kurdistan. Turkish leaders have to think more of domestic politics than their obligations to foreign powers. The domestic politics demand action against the Kurds.
It really is unfortunate, and very tragic that we cannot have a realistic assessment about our actions in Iraq. The American people deserve to know the entire situation so they can make a realistic decision on whether or not to follow the president’s plan or some other. Whipping up the frenzy of Al-Qaida does nothing to solve the problem. I really hope Republicans can understand this. At this point, I am not holding my breath.