Sunday, December 31, 2006

Oh, so NOW things could get ugly, Senators?

Front paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos

Well, pardon me for not quite believing the suddenly brazen republican Senators like Richard Lugar (IN) and Arlen “Magic Bullet” Specter (PA) with their newest toothless threats to Bush about Iraq.

While it is nice to see some prominent republicans at least pretend to act like they don’t have their heads firmly planted in their own ass or their noses firmly entrenched in Bush’s ass, these latest words are not new, credible or believable. And frankly, in a time where we have seen empty rhetoric from Specter about how he would run his Judiciary Committee (only to cave in time and time again) or how he would stand up to the Bushistas (only to cave in time and time again), not to mention a time where Lugar rightfully criticized the US lack of planning for “postwar” Iraq (only to nearly never vote his conscience on Iraq or on “diplomats” like John Bolton) – these words ring even hollower.

You see, Senators, things have been ugly for quite some time, and you have written a blank check for Bush in Iraq for quite some time – whether you are just admitting it or not.

The two quotes (somewhat paraphrased due to no official transcript) are as follows (first Lugar):

“[I]n the past, the administration has been inclined not to disregard Congress but to not take Congress very seriously. I think this time Congress has to be taken seriously.”

If Bush ignores Congress, Lugar said he should expect “a lot of hearings, a lot of study, a lot of criticism,” and “demands for subpoenas.” Fox host Chris Wallace said, “You saying this could get ugly.” Lugar replied, “Yes, it could.”

And now Specter’s:
Specter went "on the record" as saying he did not support escalation, he is "inclined to support the conclusions of Jim Baker", and he is "not going to give the President a blank check."

See, here is the problem - We can flash back to April 2006 to find another time that Specter said this about Bush and Iraq. And this was just 2 months after Congress approved $60 billion or so for Iraq. This of course, doesn’t include the “other” $60 billion approved for fiscal year 2007, or any of the other “emergency bills” that will come out either.

Yes, it is apples/oranges, but early estimates were that it would take approximately $32 billion to rebuild New Orleans. Oh yeah, we can’t forget the $177 billion (yes, that is a B) in CORPORATE tax cuts from the 2002 and 2003 tax cuts. Sorry, Arlen, but that sounds like an awful lot of blank checks already.

As for you, Dick – it is nice that you have made some basic observations which even a child could have made over the past six years. But to say that “things could get ugly” now? Come on. And I’ll preface by saying that Lugar is one of the “better” republicans when it comes to foreign relations (but even a “better republican” has been a rubber stamp). But jeez – look at the stellar voting record when it comes to backing up the tough talk.

You would have thought that it got ugly when Congress didn’t exercise its oversight or due diligence regarding the lies and flimsy evidence rammed down its throat before marching into Iraq. And yes, that includes Democrats as well.

You would have thought that it got ugly when the US let Bin Laden slip away or when Bush purposely let Zarqawi slip away because it would “hurt the case for invading Iraq.

You would have thought that it got ugly when Paul Wolfowitz was listened to over General Shinseki about the troop levels required in Iraq.

You would have thought that it got ugly when the Iraqi army was disbanded without consulting the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

You would have thought that it got ugly when well over six months ago many people realized that Iraq was descending into a civil war.

You would have thought that it got ugly when over two years ago, the soldiers called bullshit on Rumsfeld for a lack of armor and equipment.

You would have thought that it got ugly when the republicans were swept out of Congressional control this past November – when the most important issue on people’s minds was the desire for a change of direction in Iraq.

So please, pardon me for not feeling the “warm and fuzzies” for your tired and old new and improved tough talk. Forgive me for not having that welcoming holiday cheer for your newest threats to Bush. Let’s see that talk backed up with action.

Let’s see you actually take Bush – or anyone else for that matter – to task for doing what We the People (as well as many experts, military leaders and other leaders/citizens around the world) are dead set against.

Let’s see things REALLY get ugly. Not for the Americans. Not for our troops. Not for the Iraqi civilians.

But for those who are responsible for this disaster we are in.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Hey Georgie - daddy STILL thinks you are a failure

Front paged at Booman Tribune and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos.

So George – you got your pound of flesh. The “guy who tried to kill your dad” has been executed. It must feel good. You know – because you had you eye set on invading Iraq as far back as 2000.

Because, you know, back in 2002, your comment was, “Fuck Saddam, we’re taking him out”. And because you got your invasion (regardless of whether the facts were being fixed around the policy), then that is all that matters – since Saddam was a very bad man.

But that still doesn’t change the fact that daddy would have never invaded in the first place. Or that daddy’s friends had to try and bail you out (yet again).

Or that Jeb is daddy’s favorite. Not you. And you never will be.

Oh, I bet you feel vindicated that you can now try and blow more smoke about how Iraq is better and the “people of Iraq are better off” but that won’t work. Not while there are still hundreds of people dying in Iraq every day. Not while the 3,000th US soldier will be killed in Iraq today or tomorrow. Not when most of the country and the world sees through your empty bullshit words like “surge” and knows that you just want to escalate this disastrous occupation even more.

Not us. Not Iraqis. Not the world at large. And not daddy either.

You see, daddy sees the big picture – even if he is misguided at times. He knows that actions have consequences. That you can’t do something half-assed. Or that if you are to invade and occupy a foreign country – a sovereign country – you better not lie your way into it. And you better plan for the worst possible scenario (as opposed to winging it). Or even better – listen to the experts. But alas, those were more of daddy’s friends and by listening to them, you would be admitting to your own failure.

So here we are – you avenged daddy’s near death. After all, that was the whole point all along, yes? Just like Scarface, right? Or maybe it was because Saddam was sitting on all that oil, and by stealing it you could pay back daddy’s oil industry friends who kept bailing you out even after you failed where very few could have failed – oil ventures in Texas.

Either way, this hardly makes up for it. It won’t win any points with daddy. See, he still knows how bad Iraq is fucked, even though you won’t admit it yourself. He knows that Osama is the one that you took your eye off of – even if his family and yours are good friends. He sees through your line of nonsense that not capturing Bin Laden is “a success that hasn’t occurred yet”.

Another thing, George – daddy is a smart man. Who knows a lot of very important people and also happen to be smart men. And daddy has known them for years. They even trusted each other. Men like Richard Clarke. Men who you strongarmed and refused to listen to, even though they were right. Or men like Colin Powell. A man who you likely also strongarmed and threatened unless he lied for you and ruined what could have been a stellar career of service to his country.

And now, a many like former President Bill Clinton. Another very intelligent man. And one who also turned out to be right about many of the things that you were not right about. Daddy even likes to hang out with Clinton and they have spearheaded worldwide humanitarian efforts when you didn’t even care that a tsumani wreaked death and destruction a few years ago.

So, I hate to burst your bubble (actually, no I really take joy in it) Mr. Decider. But this changes nothing. Daddy still thinks you are a failure and a loser. And he is so ashamed of you that he cries just talking about “what could have been” for brother Jeb if only you didn’t go and fuck that up that too.

Yes – Saddam is no longer alive. As you would say, the era of an evil regime that is hell bent on bullying and threatening other countries with WMDs is over.

We too will be saying that.

In January 2009, if not sooner.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Just who the hell are we to execute Saddam?

Recommended at Daily Kos

Saddam may have killed thousands of Iraqis. He may have gassed the Kurds. He may have looked the other way when his 2 sons raped and murdered Iraqis for shits and giggles. He may have brutalized anyone that looked at him funny. And he may very well have deserved to die for his actions.

But none of that is really the point here. He didn't have anything to do with 9/11. He didn't have WMDs that anyone found over many years. He wasn't harboring terrorists. And he wasn't in cahoots with Osama Bin Laden.

So what business does the US have in invading his country, putting him on trial in a sham trial and executing him?

The missus and I were watching some good trash on ABC when the news broke, and Elizabeth Vargas was anchoring the prepackaged "Saddam was horrible and his reign of terror is now over" propaganda that will make wingnuts and freepers have wet dreams over for weeks. Both of us immediately had similar thoughts (after, "I hope they come back to our trash TV show").

Hers was that this was all a bullshit show for Saddam trying to kill Georgie's daddy. And mine was that this was a total farce that is an absolute embarassment and black eye for America.

Yet again - which is par for the course over the past 6 years.

If he was guilty of any or all of the crimes against humanity, then he should be punished.

But (as I said in a comment earlier tonight) then he should have been tried at the International Criminal Court as opposed to this totally farsical trial that was yet another PR mockery by this administration.

If he was guilty under international law, then that is one thing. But for the US to go into Iraq and (as was said on ABC tonight) "remove Saddam from power and execute him for crimes against humanity", then excuse me for calling bullshit right now.

Because, please tell me what fucking moral standing does the US (or any other country for that matter) have to go into another country and do what we just did to Saddam? The fact that it is the US - that "shining beacon of freedom" is even worse.

What does that say? What message does that send?

And who made us World Police anyway?

This is a mockery of justice. And for a man that has been accused of so many atrocities, the stench of those atrocities now extends to the US.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Out of Iraq and into New Orleans

Front paged at Booman Tribune and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos

While that little slogan was something that I came up with totally by accident (thanks for pointing it out, Militarytracy), it did get me thinking that this really is one of the simplest ways to (1) point out the two most glaring and high impact mistakes of this administration and the rubber stamp republican Congress who supported this administration and (2) highlight two of the most pressing needs (and less controversial than other needs like universal healthcare, etc.) that must be addressed by the incoming Congress as well as any serious candidate for President.

wmtriallawyer wrote a diary earlier today that touched on rebuilding New Orleans and wrote it in a way that would save Bush’s legacy. While we all secretly or not so secretly want to see Bush go down in history as the worst president (or person) ever, that would also somewhat involve rooting for the continuation of his “reverse Midas” policies and another two years of absolute ruin and havoc. This is something that the country and world can hardly afford.

And while 2008 is a long way off, the foundation has already been laid by a number of prominent Democrats – not coincidentally some who have their eye on the White House. Now, at this point, I am not really playing favorites, although I think that Edwards and even Biden (yes, Biden) have a much better chance at showing real leadership of those who are likely candidates – for these reasons alone.

We all have seen how the “sound byte” or “catchy slogan” can go further than the most sane, rational policy. Witness “cut and run”, “flip-flop”, “fighting them over there...” and other gems that have been trotted out by the republicans and this administration to see how far a few empty words can take you. The difference here is that these words are not empty. They are words that are on every true American’s mind.

Also not coincidentally, these are probably two of the issues that I have written the most about over the past year so they are pretty important as much as I am concerned. And whether it is political more than it is genuine, the fact that Edwards made his announcement for his bid for President in New Orleans, or that Biden has come out very strong against an escalation in Iraq as well as having Rice testify before his Senate Foreign Relations Committee early next month.

These are two very simple issues that resonate with just about everyone here in the US. These are also two issues that (1) have impacted tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Americans in a very negative way, to say the least, (2) are absolute political disasters for republicans and embarrassments to this country and (3) must be addressed in a vastly different manner than they currently are being addressed. On top of these three points, these are probably the two issues that the overwhelming majority of Americans are in agreement on.

Sadly, even New Orleans residents are losing hope with respect to their current situation. According to a recent poll:

Even among the best-off post-Katrina returnees to New Orleans and neighboring Jefferson Parish - those living in houses or apartments, rather than trailers - about one-third say they may leave the area within the next two years, a small poll indicates.

As I diaried last week, the lack of any progress in the Ninth Ward is still an absolute disgrace. Even Mayor Nagin seemed to throw his hands up about the Lower Ninth Ward:
Mayor Ray Nagin, still vowing that the depopulated city will be rebuilt in its entirety, acknowledges that recovery will come in phases and that the market forces, in which his plan places great faith, will first favor the unflooded parts of town and then move to the areas west of the Industrial Canal.

"The Lower 9th Ward will probably be the last area," Nagin said at a forum held at Loyola University a few weeks ago. "That's just the way citizen investment has gone."

While early estimates indicated that it could cost up to $32 billion to rebuild New Orleans, there have been widespread reports of FEMA wasting tens of millions of dollars, trailers going unoccupied and fights between the state and federal officials about who is and is not doing what they should.

Of course, $32 billion SOUNDS like a lot of money (hell, it is a lot of money), we should remember that this little folly in Iraq is costing around $8 billion per month. Even if we still have to spend $1 - $2 billion per month after withdrawal for humanitarian efforts and rebuilding, that is still less than one year’s worth of Iraq costs that could be used to rebuild New Orleans.

I don’t really need to go into all of the reasons why New Orleans should be rebuilt or how many Americans want us the hell out of Iraq – these are very well documented and are frankly both “no brainers”. However, a Congress that addresses these issues and forces these issues to be dealt with will stay in the majority for a long time. And a candidate that takes the lead on these two issues will have fans for many years to come, not to mention a HUGE advantage come 2008.

Out of Iraq, into New Orleans – it even fits on a bumper sticker and rolls right off the tongue.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The occupation failed. There are no "do-overs" in war.

Front paged at Booman Tribune and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos.

Let’s face it – the proposed escalation is nothing more than an attempt for Bush to call “do-over” in Iraq. And just as the neocon architects of the failure in Iraq are looking to pass the buck on whose fault this horrific disaster is, we should remember one thing – this invasion and occupation was done EXACTLY the way that they wanted it to be done. Every step of the way. Every decision, every lie, every “operation”, from “Mission Accomplished” to authorizing torture at Abu Ghraib to the use of white phosphorus in Fallujah.

We are in the situation we are in because of these decisions, and just as you don’t let the ones who drove you into a ditch keep the keys, you don’t let those who have failed in such a spectacular manner keep making the decisions, regardless of whether they hold the title of “The Decider” or not.

We were told that a questionable 51% of the popular vote in 2004 was a “mandate”. Well, how does 67% of Americans wanting a withdrawal from Iraq and only 12% approving of an escalation in Iraq at this point sound? Not enough? Well, how about the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, the Iraq Study Group, Senators and Congressmen and Women on both sides of the aisle?

I have certainly written ad nauseum this past week about why an escalation would be horrific as well as futile, so I won’t go into all of those reasons again. But I will say that when more credence is given to Paul Wolfowitz over General Shinseki over the number of troops needed if Iraq is to be invaded and occupied, and when the decision to disband the Iraqi army without consulting the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then certainly those decisions have consequences (just like elections, right?).

So now we are at a crossroads. The overwhelming majority wants a real new direction (meaning out of Iraq) – that was the clear and loud message sent this past November. When an invasion and occupation was based on lies from the beginning and the facts are being fixed around the policy, it is doomed to fail from the start – even with the best intentions. And we know how “well intentioned” this crew of Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Kristol, Feith, Perle and the other neoconservative chickenhawks are when it comes to playing a real-time game of Risk™ with other people’s children.

Iraq is in the condition that it is in because of the decisions made by those who overrode the experts – the leaders, the generals. These decisions were made willfully and with the expectation that they would achieve a result. Regardless of whether the result is what was expected, desired or not, that is all meaningless right now. The point is that anything other than a withdrawal with a focus toward an international humanitarian effort to stop the genocide will make things even worse than they are now.

Lying our way into Iraq didn’t work. “Shock and Awe” didn’t work. Not stopping the looting and chaos after Baghdad fell didn’t work. Torture didn’t work. Bombing hospitals and failing to secure the infrastructure (you know, basics like clean running water and electricity) didn’t work. The “Baghdad offensive” didn’t work. Firebombing Fallujah didn’t work. None of it worked.

Sorry, you don’t get another chance. There is no second chance for those who are killed when weddings or funerals get bombed. There is no second chance for many who have lost their loved ones due to the civil war that was created by boneheaded decisions. And there is no “do over” when you want just one more chance to “really show the Iraqis that you mean business”.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The inevitable blowback against the inevitable escalation

Front paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos

I was challenged by iconoclastic cat to write a diary that would pretty much amount to “war gaming” the Iraqi response to the inevitable escalation of troops and what I would think would be the most likely scenario. As there are a large number of moving parts here, I am going to take a stab at it, and will have to make some assumptions based on recent news and other items that are either general consensus or educated guesses about the events currently in Iraq and the surrounding area.

As there are many out there who are way smarter than I am and much closer to the situation, I welcome comments and criticisms (well, more of the former, of course) to my hypothesis. Right off the bat, I will give you a “well, duh” short answer that this escalation will result in much increased violence, death of tens of thousands and retaliation.

That being said, I will start with a few assumptions and educated guesses on my part in order to provide at least some semblance of a foundation, and will try not to make this too long of a diary. So, here is my first shot at launching my political pundit career....


Initially, the escalation will be around 50,000 troops. This is the high end estimate from what I have seen reported so far (the original article is a Times Select, so the link is the text of the original article from truthout). This will also not be a short term plan but will rather be for at least 18 months, most likely (at least the initial plan) is for “the foreseeable future” but will likely last throughout the remainder of Bush’s term. The escalation will come (at least initially) from extending the deployments of troops already there, rotating other troops into Iraq sooner and possibly sending the National Guard as well.

The escalation will be primarily for fighting al Sadr and his militia but may also be used for “policing” in an attempt to control the genocide from continuing to spiral out of control.

Within the military, some officers favor using a buildup of forces to confront radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr, perhaps by moving forces into Sadr City, the Shiite slum in Baghdad where he has his political base.

Other military leaders say a larger force should be used to improve the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy and take more effective measures to protect Iraqis.

Why taking on al Sadr will be disastrous

For starters, let’s start with the fact that despite what has been said about Maliki and Sistani looking to marginalize al Sadr, the opposite is more likely closer to the truth. In fact, the above link as well as this one seem to indicate that al Sadr and his followers are about to strike a deal to return to the Iraqi parliament.

And regardless of whether he is authorizing or the source of rampant killing and violence against Sunnis, there is the small matter of him being (1) a figure that has a vast loyal following and (2) is a big part of the “democratically elected” Iraqi government – regardless of whether Bush and his minions want it to be so. The ancillary issues with respect to a military operation to take out a member of the Iraqi government – and one whose family has a city named after them would have repercussions that, from a political standpoint, would be a nightmare for the US. If you thought that our reputation in Iraq couldn’t get any worse, just wait until “war is waged” against al Sadr.

There is also the matter of this being a horribly kept secret. Take into account the fact that al Sadr’s militia is estimated to have around 60,000 fighters and they aren’t just a bunch of “dead enders”:

The Iraq Study Group's grim report embraces the most worrisome estimates about Muqtada al-Sadr's private army: He has up to 60,000 fighters, and his followers are planted throughout the security forces protecting the Health Ministry and other Iraqi government institutions.

Making matters worse, the high-level panel believes the cleric himself may not be able to manage the diverse and growing parts of his network known as the Mahdi army.

It should be noted that this translates to 3 al Sadr fighters for every 7 US soldiers – not good odds for our troops. The reaction and “only logical solution” posed by the wingnuts is either to “take out” al Sadr and all of his fighters (read: pull a Fallujah on Sadr City) or to “secure the population” and “clear the neighborhoods”.

The biggest problem here is that there is no thought of what would be done to (1) prepare for this or (2) done to retaliate for this. Not to mention the fact that there are already over 900 attacks per week, and that there is absolutely no support for this here in the US, around the world, within the military and among most of Iraqis. Add to that the fact that there is vast approval of and support among Iraqis for attacks against our troops, and you don’t have a good result.

If we take on al Sadr, then you can expect the attacks by the Shiites increase in number and in severity. Our troops are already sitting ducks and can’t control the violence that is already escalating out of control in Baghdad alone.

The Iran factor

I don’t know too much about this as of yet, but we do know that Ahmadinejad has been poking a stick at Bush for a few years now, and Cheney, Bush and the neocon chickenhawk warmongers are just itching to show Iran who’s boss. Of course, that doesn’t consider the small detail about there not being any feasible way to attack Iran from a practical or logistical manner, even if it were necessary (which it of course isn’t).

But we can say that Iran is at least, somewhat supportive of al Sadr:

Qom-based Iraqi-born cleric Kazim al-Husseini al-Haeri with the administration of eastern Baghdad, according to "The New York Times" on 26 April. Al-Haeri reportedly issued a religious edict in early April that was distributed among Shia clerics in Iraq that calls on them "to seize the first possible opportunity to fill the power vacuum in the administration of Iraqi cities." "We hereby inform you that Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr is our deputy and representative in all fatwa affairs," Haeri's decree adds. "His position is my position." Thousands of people chanted their support for Muqtada al-Sadr as they went to hear him at the Friday prayers at a Najaf mosque.

Al-Haeri once had a close relationship with the Shia Al-Da'wah al-Islamiyah party, but split with the group because al-Haeri was excessively pro-Iranian and called for the party to respect the guidance of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Beirut's "Al-Mustaqbal" reported on 24 April. Al-Haeri is an advocate of Vilayat-i Faqih (Guardianship of the Supreme Jurisconsult), on which Iran's theocracy is based. Al-Haeri's involvement in Iraqi politics could have a profound impact. He is the point at which the Sadriyun (as supporters of al-Sadr are known), SCIRI, and Da'wah converge.


Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani praised al-Sadr's recent actions as "heroic" during his Friday prayer sermon in Tehran on 9 April. "Contrary to these terrorist groups in Iraq, there are powerful bodies which contribute to the security of that nation...among them is the Mahdi Army, made up of enthusiastic, heroic young people," Reuters quoted Rafsanjani as saying. However, Iranian Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri criticized the Al-Mahdi Army in comments faxed to Reuters, saying: "Imam Mahdi would never be content to initiate disunity, division, and factionalism in his name."

And from my diary from a couple of weeks ago (linked above):
While we are at it, we can even look to a hot off the presses report by the conservative-leaning Middle East Media Research Institute, which includes these little nuggets:
Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Commander Yahya Rahim Safavi: "The Americans are sunk in the quagmire of Afghanistan and Iraq, and there is no way for them [to move either] forward or backward. Assuming they attack Iran, [then] their 200,000 troops, in their 33 bases, are highly vulnerable. American politicians and military commanders both know this.

"They can start a war, but [the decision to] end [the war] will not be in their hands.


Iranian Navy Commander: "American Warships Are Heavy... And Easily Sunk": On November 27, 2006, the Iranian news agency Mehr reported that IRGC Navy Commander Admiral Sejad Kouchaki had said, "We are fully monitoring the route taken by the American [warships in the Gulf], and because American warships are heavy, they have no maneuverability, and are easily sunk."


Iranian Suicide Bomber Organization Threatens Suicide Operations Against U.S. Targets in Gulf: On November 20, 2006, the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai reported: "An extremist Iranian group is threatening to carry out suicide operations in the Gulf countries that are allies of the U.S., in the event that the U.S. uses its own bases in these countries to attack Iran."

The refugee situation

It has been reported recently that there are 3,000 Iraqis flee the country daily. It was also reported today in the Wall Street Journal that in addition to the “sectarian killings” going on around the country, Sunnis and Shiites are stealing the land and houses from the families of those who have fled and are attempting to return:

Panicked moves -- from mixed Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods to sharply divided ones -- are on the rise across Baghdad as both Sunnis and Shiites flee their homes for safer areas where their sect is in the majority. As this shapes the city's sectarian landscape, it is also fueling a now-common real-estate scam: expropriating the newly vacated property. Shrewd defensive measures against such takeovers, along with the occasional brave act of cross-sectarian kindness, are appearing too.

Most refugees have to leave in a hurry, often after a family member has been murdered, so they have little time to sell or rent the house or even move their belongings. Gen. Jalil Khalaf of the Iraqi army was going over some paperwork one recent morning when an elderly Shiite man in baggy pants was ushered into his office, complaining about assailants trying to take over his house. "They threatened me, I'm scared of going back," the man told the general. "The whole street is empty now." Gunmen shot at his door in the mostly Sunni neighborhood, he continued, and shouted at him to get out. He was now begging for an army escort to accompany him back home so he could fetch some clothes and warm blankets for his children and leave the house for good.

Local strongmen, backed up by sectarian militias, simply take over the empty houses, not allowing the owners to sell or rent them out. This forces the refugees further into poverty. Their old houses are used by militias to provide free or deeply discounted accommodation to militia supporters or to refugees from other neighborhoods.

A recent United Nations report estimates that some 420,000 Iraqis have been displaced from their homes since February. Shops full of merchandise get confiscated too. Owners count their blessings if they simply escape alive. A Sunni computer technician who would only identify himself as Abu Aiman says his brother-in-law was recently murdered and left behind a large grocery store in a mostly Shiite neighborhood. Then a Sunni relative running the shop was abducted together with his son. The kidnappers called other family members with a warning: "You have no right to this shop, go away and leave everything, it belongs to us now," Abu Aiman recalls. The family did as it was told. Sacks of rice, shelves of canned food and row upon row of other groceries along with some cash were all lost. The kidnapped shopkeeper hasn't been heard from again.

Add to this the fact that Syria is pissed, to say the least about Rice’s comments that the US will not open talks with Syria about the next steps in Iraq. We know that Iran actually reached out to us in 2003 and both Saudi Arabia and Jordan are both concerned about the refugees flooding their countries, as well as the potential for the killings to spill over into their countries.


To be brief, the decision to not engage Iran and Syria will likely have much bigger consequences than we may currently know. Not only in the short term, but over the course of years as the potential for rebuilding relationships and trying to work together in stabilizing (sort of) the region is passing us by. And yes, we can say how this is the “grand plan” of Bush and the neocons, but that really isn’t the point here.

With respect to an escalation in Iraq, there is only disaster written all over that. The blowback against our troops in Iraq, troops in the region, and the potential for retaliatory attacks here in the US is enormous (look no further than what is going on in the UK as proof). There could easily be another 50,000 – 100,000 Iraqi civilian casualties in a short period of time if there is a focus on Sadr City and al Sadr’s militia. Attacks would increase against our troops, and our overall military would suffer greatly in the long run as well.

The situation in Iraq (in general) would likely get worse than it is now – if you can think of such a thing. It is almost bordering on complete anarchy as is, but would pass a point where there is nothing that anyone – not the Iraqi government, not even al Sadr or the other countries in the region can do other than to wait this out and hope to contain the violence to within Iraq’s borders.

And of course, the US would suffer economically as nobody in the entire world will want to deal with us, let alone the hundreds of billions more that this will cost.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The huge lie that is the "short term surge"

Front paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos

At the risk of hearing “enough, clammyc – we get it. You don’t think the “surge” is a good idea”, let me give you one more reason why this must be stopped before it goes any further. We know that Bush is in way over his head. We know that the “short term surge in troops” is almost unanimously though of as one of the worst ideas of all of the worst ideas regarding Iraq. And we know that there are those who still cling to the thought that Iraq was the “right war executed in the wrong manner”.

Despite what we may have seen recently from the neocons who are trying to disassociate themselves with their fingerprints on quite possibly the biggest foreign policy mistake in US history, they are still clamoring for more killing, more “strength” and more of the same failed policies.

We know how they have been pulling the strings on US foreign policy since before Bush even stole took office – whether it is the PNAC players, or other right wing “think tanks” like the American Enterprise Institute talk about an 18-24 month duration for a troop increase.

And just as I said earlier in the week:

In fact, if you take the twisted logic of the Bush administration and apply it here, if we set a timetable for withdrawal then the "insurgents" will just wait us out until we leave – or so says the Decider. OK, fine. So if we have a "temporary increase" of 40,000 – 50,000 troops, then why wouldn’t these same "insurgents" just wait us out then as well?

waiting for answer...

......still waiting for answer...

Well, we now have our answer, courtesy of the PNAC leader – one of the men who was the most wrong on everything about Iraq, William Kristol. While the Fox News transcript isn’t up yet, the link above has a video clip of Kristol’s stellar performance – which not only answered my question above, but gave a glimpse into what will no doubt go down as the decision that accelerated the civil war and genocide in Iraq and made this war from horrific to unimaginable disaster:
"There's no point having a short term surge," Kristol said on Fox News Channel. "Especially, if it's proclaimed ahead of time that it's just short term. Then [the enemy] goes into hiding for 3 or 6 months."

"We pull back and we're in the same situation," the Weekly Standard editor said. "Bush will commit -- I believe, when he speaks in a couple of weeks -- to doing this. That this is a strategy for victory and that he's willing to do this for the remaining 2 years of his presidency."

Forcasting the president's plan for Iraq, Kristol adds, "I think [Bush] will say 'We can win. We have to win. We're going to increase troop levels as part of a new strategy for the sake of victory.' And, so, it will not be a short term surge."

And there it is. Screw the overwhelming majority of Americans who want out of Iraq. Screw the unanimous-until-this-week Joint Chiefs of Staff who think that an increase in troops is a bad idea. Screw the 88% of Americans who do not want a troop increase.

Bush and the neocons want their “surge” and more troops, so to hell with the rest of the world. And Kristol’s comments show just how much Bush’s insecurity and “fuck you” attitude are playing into his decision.

Kristol respects the president for increasing troops against conventional wisdom in D.C. and against the wishes of public sentiment, but mocks the majority of people that have doubts about a troop increase, saying, "This is a remarkable moment, though. I came to Washington 30 years ago. How often does a president go against -- what Juan referred to -- the wider consensus in this town, 'the military solution isn't possible?' It's a very broad consensus of the establishment and, I think, that's why there's so much anger among the establishment-types. 'Gee. The Baker-Hamilton Commission pronounced its verdict. And how dare the president make up his own mind and decide that he's not just going to just gracefully accept defeat with this nice bi-partisan patina of the Baker-Hamilton Commission. How dare he decide that we might win in Iraq."

Interesting how Kristol paints the Baker-Hamilton report as “accepting defeat”. I guess since they didn’t say “clap harder will lead to victory”, then reality once again can’t permeate the bubble that these chickenhawk warmongers live in. “How dare he decide that we might win in Iraq”? MIGHT win??? What happened to “we ARE winning”? What a tool.

Kristol may be shockingly incompetent and may have a stellar track record at being wrong on all levels of what is good or bad foreign policy. But he is one of those who is steering this ship. And when he says that Bush is likely going to increase troop levels on a more than short term basis, we should all sit up and take notice.

We cannot let this happen. This is a recipe for more disaster, more killing and most likely a massive chemical weapon bombing campaign against Sadr City. Yes, it is crazy. Yes, it is stupid beyond all belief. And yes, it will have horrific consequences – both short term and long term. Which makes it all the more likely that it is part of the “new way forward”.

No more troops. Not for one year. Not for six months. Not for one day.

Also front paged at Booman Tribune, My Left Wing and ePluribus Media

Sunday, December 24, 2006

How will more troops help THIS?

So, President HeadUpHisAss is reportedly “pleased with progress towards a new Iraq strategy” that includes throwing more of our troops needlessly into harm’s way in order to “save his legacy”. And whatever threats or bribes that have been thrown at our military commanders who, up until just a few days ago, were pretty much unanimously, not to mention very vocally against an escalation (because, let’s call it what it is) now has some of our top commanders suddenly having a change of heart.

Of course, we all have to wait until next year to hear details of a “new way forward” that will no doubt be something that is vastly different from anything sane or rational. Since any troop level increase must be “tied into some sort of plan” (gee, thanks douchebag for that sensationally insightful comment), one only has to look at the news of the past couple of days to see that it doesn’t matter if we put another 10,000 or 50,000 or 500,000 troops into Iraq.

To put it more bluntly and slowly – Our. Continued. Presence. In. Iraq. Is. Making. It. Worse.

Much. Much. Worse.

How will more troops stop this from happening?

[t]he head of the migration committee, Abdel Khalik Zankana, announced Sunday in Iraq's parliament that 3,000 Iraqis daily were fleeing the chaos and violence-plagued country. The figures were based on surveys by transport companies and Iraqi embassies, he said.


Official sources put the total of families who have been forced out of their houses at between 60,000 and 80,000 so far. Expulsions and mass escapes have increased markedly in Iraq this year.

And oh, by the way, those refugees have to go somewhere - like the neighboring countries of Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia or Jordan. And judging by how this country feels about people “illegally” crossing the borders – can you imagine how these other countries are feeling about thousands of refugees crossing their borders each week? Or how these Iraqis feel about having to flee their homes and leave their lives, friends and families behind?

Not only that, but if news like this is a more than daily occurrence, then how would more troops stop the following:

A suicide bomber walked into a police station in the Iraqi town of Muqdadiya in Diyala province Sunday morning and detonated his explosives, killing at least seven police officers and wounding 30 more, according to a security official in Diyala.

Should we have our troops camped out at the front of each police station in Baghdad? Oh wait, this wasn’t in Baghdad – so maybe we should have our troops camped out in front of every police station in Iraq. Hmmmm, methinks that we would need more than 50,000 additional troops to do that. Actually, forget I said that – I don’t want to give “the Decider” any more moronic ideas.

I am sure that as part of this “new way forward” that consideration was given to how the Iraqis view our troops – surely they are grateful for our security presence:

On Saturday, residents in Baquba blamed U.S. troops for a rocket attack that killed six people and wounded six others, including women and children, a Baquba joint coordination center official said.

Rockets landed on a residential neighborhood Friday, leveling one of the houses and partially damaging several others.

It was not known who attacked the town 37 miles northeast of Baghdad, and no one has claimed responsibility.

Now, you would also think that since there was much touting of the “democratically elected” Iraq government that surely they would buy into and welcome this “temporary increase in US forces”, right? Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight....
One of Iraq's most influential Shiite clerics rejected a U.S.-backed proposal to isolate Shiite extremists in the national government, saying the country should govern itself with the help of anti-U.S. firebrand Muqtada Sadr, according to politicians who spoke with the cleric Saturday.

Shiite politicians met with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in this Shiite holy city, and then said they had thrown their support behind Sadr, who demands a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq rather than the temporary increase under consideration in Washington.

"The Sadr movement is part of Iraqi affairs," said Haider Abadi, a leader of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party. "We won't allow others to interfere to weaken any Iraqi political movement."


The sad fact is that this invasion and occupation were wrong from the very beginning, from the very first lie – every decision, action and "direction". You name it - strategic, logistical, political. Everything – wrong. And those who screwed everything up don't get a "do-over". All of our dead and permanently injured troops and the Iraqis killed don't get a do-over.

This “war” was lost before it even started. There is no “new way forward”. There is no way to measure or declare “victory”. There is nothing more that our troops can do. There is nothing that more troops can do. They can’t stop the mass exodus. They can’t help the other countries with the influx of refugees. They can’t make the Iraqi government do its bidding against al Sadr. They can’t (and shouldn’t) police every neighborhood. They can’t “win the hearts and minds” – especially not after Abu Ghraib and Haditha. They can’t bring peace. They can’t end unemployment, or bring back the dead. They can’t undo Fallujah. They can’t turn on and keep on the electricity, or provide clean water. They can’t stop the civil war from raging.

Therefore, they must come home. That is the only “new way forward” with respect to Iraq. Without a withdrawal, there is no “forward” - only a “stuck in place” or “continuing to go in reverse”.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A holiday and New Year wish to our troops, veterans and families

Front paged at Booman Tribune

Forgive the sentimental sappiness, but it happens to all of us (or at least most of us...). But driving to get the missus and I some breakfast this morning, I heard a commercial, or more like a radio station ID ad, from one of our troops stationed overseas, wishing their family and friends a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

This wasn’t the first one that I heard, but it did get me thinking about our troops, our veterans (not only of Iraq and Afghanistan, but more so them because of the lies that have them overseas), and their families. And how, even after all this time – all of the lies that ended up splintering families, straining relationships and challenging the strength and resolve of those who have put their lives and families on the line and on hold – the world is a bigger mess than it was a few short years ago.

Which, to me, is wholly unfair that our troops and families have to spend yet another Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year apart. They deserve better. They deserve more. They deserve to spend their holiday season with their loved ones.

There are more than a few people in this community whose lives are affected by the invasion and occupation of Iraq. People who may be stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan, people who may have returned themselves – no doubt in many instances as a completely changed person, and people whose family members are either still stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan, or are set to be deployed (or redeployed). And of course, those whose friends or families have been lost due to this immoral invasion and occupation.

Some of those who come to mind are slothlax, who posts from Iraq, mjd in florida, whose son and his friends have gone and returned from the Middle East, John and Peter Laesch who have posted here frequently and are two men who I admire greatly, militarytracy, testvet6778, Paul Reickhoff and the others over at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and so many others who I have exchanged comments and/or emails with over the past couple of years. While there are many others whose names I have not mentioned here, it is not because you are not as important – not by a long shot.

But to all of the troops who are serving, have served, will serve – as well as your families, friends and loved ones – I want to wish you a very happy holiday season, and a happy healthy New Year.

May the next year bring you, as well as the rest of us, better news, better times, and most of all, a safe return. And until you return, I certainly want to thank you for putting yourself in a most difficult position, and regardless of what you may hear – we support the troops, even if we do not support the mission. That is the job of true patriotic Americans, which is what I am proud to call myself, even if I am ashamed of what our so-called “leaders” are doing around the world and to our fellow Americans in the name of “spreading freedom™”.

We here are thinking of you –we wish nothing but a speedy and safe return to your families and friends.

Stay safe.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

My Recommended Diary at Redstate

Front paged at Booman Tribune. Recommended at Daily Kos and Redstate.

No, that is not a typo. And actually, the response that I have received (and am receiving) is a very pleasant surprise. A bit of background – yesterday, I posted a diary here about my thoughts regarding the “surge option”, and thought that this would be an issue that I could get some good dialogue from our RedState counterparts on.

So, I signed up for an account last night, and was very up front (full disclosure as to who I was, etc.) with my thoughts, and, figuring that a wrong step or comment would result in a banning or some other fate worse than death....So, I was clear, concise and direct – but also respectful – all without knowing whether I would get any replies, or if so, replies that would be respectful as well.

And lo and behold, not only were the comments pretty respectful (even if I didn’t agree with them), but they were plentiful and I was surprised to find the diary right smack in the middle of the Recommended Blogs list.

Why did I do this? Well, this was my first venture to RedState (other than some on and off lurking) and I thought this was an issue that would generate some good comments and thoughts, and a healthy debate. I also wasn’t going to go anywhere near Freeperville or LGF because I wasn’t looking to be shouted down or lower my intelligence level just by reading.

And while I think that there are some good and well thought out replies (again, even though I don’t really agree with some of them), I was welcomed by many of them. The moral to me here is that even if you disagree, if you are respectful and make clear points and stay on topic, then dissent is actually welcomed. I guess we can say the same here, piefights nothwithstanding...

If you are interested in reading the comments, I liked the diary above, but if not, then the full text of my diary is below:

Questions about "the surge" from someone on the left

In the interest of full disclosure, I post as a frequent diarist and a front page contributor on some of the "lefty" blogs. And while I have lurked here on and off for some time, I haven't really jumped in to comment or post until now.

So, why now? Well, I posted a piece yesterday with my thoughts on the "surge" that is being discussed and am looking for some thoughts from those of you here.

I don't know if this will be read by a lot of you, but I truly welcome some thoughts other than "yeah, great post", so that is why I am here...While I am and have been a critic of the war in Iraq (but not Afghanistan) for quite some time, my main criticism relates to the troop levels, armor and equipment, as well as the cutting of veteran's benefits when they return.

All that being said, I wanted to lay out some thoughts here about the recent call to add 20,000 - 50,000 troops for a "limited time" and see what the reaction is to my thinking.

I really have two main issues/questions to raise with respect to this (and they are laid out to a degree in my post linked above).

For starters, my thought is that the US needed at least double the number of troops back in 2003, if not more than that. Not my words, but those of General Shinseki and a number of others (not to belabor this point - just as background and I can certainly find sourcing for other Generals or prominent figures if need be). Now that the level of violence is what it is, I don't see how even 50,000 troops would have any material impact.

My argument here is that if we are to build up a troop presence at this stage (and I personally am against this), then we shouldn't do it halfway - we should send in at least another 300,000 - 500,000 troops. Of course, this leads to the question of where we would find this number of troops (among other questions), but if you want to do it right, then we would need much more than 50,000.

I think that it is fairly disingenuous of Senators like Reid and McCain (see, I am equal opportunity here) to call for this number and that they both should know that this wouldn't be more than window dressing for political cover. I think this is even moreso the case when the Joint Chiefs of Staff are unamimously against this, as is soon to be retiring General Abizaid.

My other issue is less strategic than it is dealing with the disconnect between this and setting a timetable for withdrawal. We have heard many indicate that if we set a timetable for withdrawal, then the insurgents will just wait us out until we withdraw. Regardless of whether I agree with this line of thought, the same question would apply to a temporary surge.

Why wouldn't al Sadr or any of the other insurgent groups, militias or terrorists who are in Iraq just wait until the surge is over and the 20,000 - 50,000 troops are redeployed from Iraq before continuing their violence against each other and our remaining troops?

As I said at the beginning of my post, I don't know if this will be read or commented on by many of you, but I do want to see what your thoughts are on these two questions/issues. So as to not be accused of a "drive by post", I will stick around to see if there are comments and will respectfully reply to them, as I am not looking to bait anyone here or stir up crap just for the sake of it (I don't have the patience to do that over at Daily Kos or wherever else I post anyway).

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Not bad, eh?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Like putting a band-aid on a shotgun wound

Front paged at Booman Tribune, My Left Wing and ePluribus Media. Recommended at Daily Kos

In all seriousness, all of this talk about and support (what little there is) for a “temporary surge” is absolutely asinine. Even if we take a high end estimate and talk about an additional 50,000 troops for a one year period of time (and you know damn well that if Bush gets his way here that it will NOT be for a short-prescribed period of time), then what will that really accomplish?

Today, we find that another suicide bomber killed 12 and wounded 24 (at least as of current count) in Baghdad. We have seen a Pentagon report which is chock full of horrific news about the completely deteriorating situation in Iraq. According to yesterday’s Washington Post, we find out the following:

In its most pessimistic report yet on progress in Iraq, the Pentagon described a nation listing toward civil war, with violence at record highs of 959 attacks per week, declining public confidence in government and "little progress" toward political reconciliation.

And lest we forget General Shinseki’s warning in 2003 that we would need “several hundred thousand” troops to be successful, how would an increase of approximately 1/10 of the “necessary troops” to a level that would have only been around 40% - 50% of the acceptable troop level BEFORE Iraq descended into a bloody civil war on the brink of complete anarchy and hurtling towards genocide?

It is evident that, despite our troops best efforts, 140,000 troops is a miserably low level. It is further evident that an overwhelming majority of Americans want a pullout within six months. It is also evident that the Joint Chiefs of Staff think that a temporary increase in troop levels of 30,000 – 50,000 is a horrible idea:

The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting the concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intense debate.

In fact, if you take the twisted logic of the Bush administration and apply it here, if we set a timetable for withdrawal then the “insurgents” will just wait us out until we leave – or so says the Decider. OK, fine. So if we have a “temporary increase” of 40,000 – 50,000 troops, then why wouldn’t these same “insurgents” just wait us out then as well?

waiting for answer....

......still waiting for answer...

Rehashing a statistic from above – there are now an average of 953 attacks per week. There are already 63 US military deaths this month alone in Iraq. An average of over 3 per day. This is the on pace to be the second highest month since January 2005.

The results of the vaunted “Baghdad offensive” was, well, offensive. Just yesterday, over $700,000 was stolen in a heist at gunpoint in Baghdad - the second such heist in a week:

The thieves escaped with more than one billion Iraqi Dinars (US$709,000), police said.

Hours later, guards at another downtown bank opened fire on a funeral procession, wounding a mourner. Police said the guards thought the coffin was fake, and that criminals were masquerading as mourners as part of an elaborate attempt to rob the bank. Police intervened and found the mourners to be genuine.

On December 11, gunmen disguised as Iraqi soldiers stopped a bank truck carrying US$1 million and stole the money.

Hell, we would need another 50,000 troops in Baghdad alone just to stop this type of violence – let alone the death squads, the Iraqi police and Shiite militia working in cahoots and the suicide bombings, kidnapping, torture and rampant revenge killings that are too numerous to even keep track of.

If anyone dares to seriously talk about increasing troop levels at this time – a time when nearly 80% disapprove of the way Bush is handling the “war” in Iraq, and right after an election where the overwhelming issue on people’s minds was Iraq and a new direction (not a “new way forward™”), then step up and be fair to our troops. Call for an increase of 300,000 troops. Hell, it would get more respect from me than this nonsense about trying to gain political points at the expense of our troops, even though my position on Iraq is clear as crystal.

If not, then there is only one option – listen to the American public, as well as our elected leaders (both Democratic and republicans) who are rightfully calling for an end to this disastrous no-win situation for our troops and get our troops out and redeployed as quickly as possible. Then, and only then, can we start to consider a multinational approach to stopping the genocide from continuing and help the Iraqi people in a manner that doesn’t put a target on our troops’ backs.

You don’t put a band aid on a shotgun wound. And you don’t send such an insanely inadequate number of troops into an already doomed-to-fail “mission”, especially against the overwhelming opinions and advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, military leaders, Congressional leaders and the American public . To be fair to the troops, the Iraqis and the world, it’s either 450,000 troops, or none.

And we know it isn’t going to be 450,000.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Not a Merry Christmas in the Ninth Ward

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media. Recommended at Daily Kos

Well, just as there wasn’t much joy in Whoville, thus is life in the Lower 9th Ward nowadays – nearly eighteen months after Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the Gulf Coast – nearly a year and a half after Bush stood in New Orleans (finally, after his criminal negligence) and proclaimed that New Orleans will rise again.

The most famous of the destroyed areas outside of New Orleans has little to show for it other than desolation, weeds and debris as we approach the second holiday season after the levees around New Orleans (that this administration knew wouldn’t hold but still underfunded them) were breached and one of America’s most historic and cultural cities was no more – at least as far as anyone who ever lived or visited there would attest to.

A heart-wrenching article in today’s Times-Picayune has interviews, stories, examples and mind boggling statistics that paint a picture that is emblematic of just why this is the worst, most uncaring and selfish administration many of us will see in our lifetimes.

The stream of tourists has dried to a trickle from the torrent that once came by cab or in rented cars. They called it simply the Lower 9th, referring not to the political jurisdiction that stretches all the way through eastern New Orleans but to the devastated grid of about 20 by 25 blocks that had been embraced by worldwide media as the emblem of Katrina's assault on the city's working poor.

There is the story of 83 year old Herbert Gettridge, Sr. whose block is pretty much barren and whose wife is over a thousand miles away and can’t come back until the house is rebuilt:
Sixteen months after the floodwaters tore through his stucco-coated shotgun, Gettridge's neighbors haven't returned, and most of them probably never will.

"A lot of people can't come back," said Gettridge, a stubborn 83-year-old who has been rebuilding to provide a home for his ailing wife, who yearns for him in Madison, Wis. "In some cases, some people are better off now than they were before the storm."

Out of the more than 5,500 homes in the Lower 9th Ward before Katrina struck, there are demolition permits outstanding for around 1,300 of them – the highest of any area in New Orleans. Sadly though, demolition permits don’t necessarily mean that there will be rebuilding. The telling sign here is the number of electrical permits that have been applied for
[o]nly 3 percent (of homes) in the Lower 9th (have applied for electrical permits), enough to power only 152 houses, three of them belonging to Gettridge.

"When you open the door at night, you don't see nothing but broken-down houses. There's nobody to talk to," said Gettridge, who contents himself with his television, a crank radio and a King James version of the Bible.

And in true Christmas spirit – the grinches are back – thieves who are stealing whatever is left from people’s property. Like Gettridge’s $800 generator, which was stolen right out of his backyard recently along with some plywood.

Just over two weeks ago, another body was found in the Lower 9th Ward during a demolition. Officials think that it could be yet another victim of Katrina. Mind you – this is over sixteen months later – after the search for bodies was abandoned – much like the city was in the lead up, wake of and aftermath of the Hurricane.

An article in yesterday’s Seattle Times talks about reaching out to those in the Gulf Coast who the author had met with last year. And, similar to all of the other stories, this isn’t chock full of holiday cheer:

I called Ernest Ratliff at his service station in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward. He said so little I thought the phone had gone dead.

But no. Just his hope.


"Everything is about the same," Ratliff told me the other day. "We ain't got no help yet. The only insurance we had was on the cars."

Christmas? Too much to think about.

"We take it one day at a time. We just keep on going."

As for the icing on the cake, NPR reported last week that FEMA, the organization that wasted tens of millions of dollars, according to a recent GAO report, is now fighting a federal order to pay Katrina victims.

This city – these people – whose lives were ruined in the course of hours, have been pushed to the back burner. Treated as an afterthought for well over a year now. But during this holiday season, please take a moment to think about these Americans who deserve much better than what life has thrown at them.

May the new year bring them some level of peace and happiness.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

If this is how the Iraqi forces are "standing up"...

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

In the latest example of just how great the Iraqi troops are being trained, or where their allegiances may lie (probably first and foremost it lies with saving their own asses), we have this bit of news from earlier today:
Gunmen in Iraqi army uniforms burst into Red Crescent offices on Sunday and kidnapped more than two dozen people at the humanitarian organization in the latest sign of the country's growing lawlessness.

While the article and other early reports don’t indicate whether these gunmen were actual Iraqi forces, were members of the army that was so brilliantly disbanded after the initial invasion, stole the uniforms or were given the uniforms by members of the current Iraqi army – it does indicate one thing:

Things could very well be worse than even we think.

If this is part of the “stay the course” “new way forward”, then it certainly seems as though it is a lot closer to what Roger Daltrey sang back in the early 70’s when he said “meet the new boss.....same as the old boss”. As for that “humanitarian organization” – well it is none other than the Red Crescent, which is part of the International Red Cross, and has over 200,000 volunteers and staff in Iraq.

As I wondered above – while this may not actually be the Iraqi police, this event from last week certainly was an Iraqi officer:

A nephew of Saddam Hussein's who was serving a life sentence for financing insurgents and possessing bombs escaped from prison yesterday in northern Iraq with the help of a police officer, authorities said.

Or this story from under two months ago which talks about the Shiite militia infiltrating the Iraqi police force. And not just low level forces either:
The signs of the militias are everywhere at the Sholeh police station.

Posters celebrating Moqtada al-Sadr, head of the Mahdi Army militia, dot the building's walls. The police chief sometimes remarks that Shiite militias should wipe out all Sunnis. Visitors to this violent neighborhood in the Iraqi capital whisper that nearly all the police officers have split loyalties.

And then one rainy night this month, the Sholeh police set up an ambush and killed Army Cpl. Kenny F. Stanton Jr., a 20-year-old budding journalist, his unit said. At the time, Stanton and other members of the unit had been trailing a group of Sholeh police escorting known Mahdi Army members.

“Standing up so we can stand down”. Killing American troops that were supposed to be training them. Police Chiefs calling for genocide. Please tell me how 20,000 or even 50,000 more troops will do anything at all to stop this from continuing to spiral out of control? From the same Washington Post article:
Seventy percent of the Iraqi police force has been infiltrated by militias, primarily the Mahdi Army, according to Shaw and other military police trainers. Police officers are too terrified to patrol enormous swaths of the capital. And while there are some good cops, many have been assassinated or are considering quitting the force.


U.S. military reports on the Iraqi police often read like a who's who of the two main militias in Iraq: the Mahdi Army, also known as Jaish al-Mahdi or JAM, and the Badr Organization, also known as the Badr Brigade or Badr Corps.

Seventy percent? SEVENTY FUCKING PERCENT of the Iraqi police are under the control of various militia? This is standing up? This is “progress”? This is state authorized genocide.

What do our own troops have to say about the predicament they are in? Well, an article in today’s LA Times paints a bleak picture about Iraqi troops, leadership in the Iraqi army and the lack of trust that the US troops have:

As U.S. forces train Iraqis to take more responsibility in fighting insurgents in Al Anbar province, they say that leadership in the Iraqis' enlisted ranks remains in short supply.

An Iraqi army unit here sagged after the death of one of its soldiers, whom Marines nicknamed Sgt. Barnes after a hard-nosed character in the movie "Platoon." And Marines say the unit's combat effectiveness fell apart after a sergeant they respected was killed by a roadside bomb.


A year ago the Marine Corps changed its priorities to emphasize the training of Iraqi security forces. At this station, Marines and Iraqi soldiers went on joint missions but details often had to be withheld from the Iraqis for fear they would inform the insurgents.

"You want to trust them, but you really can't," said Lance Cpl. Robert Warren, 20.

A report by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) last month had some gruesome findings and also pointed out that:
UNAMI's Human Rights Office received continuing reports that the police and security forces are either infiltrated or act in collusion with militias, while police and military security operations continued to be based on massive sweeps.

Notice that none of this is all that old. In fact, I don’t think that any of these reports linked above were from before the last week in October. What can honestly be done by our troops when (1) they can’t trust the forces they are supposed to be training in the first place, (2) the police forces are overrun with members of Shiite militias whose sole purpose is to kill as many Sunnis as possible, (3) the number of properly trained Iraqi units is hovering around zero more than three years after the occupation began and most importantly (4) noone in the Iraqi government or in any position of power wants to (or can do) anything to reverse this trend.

Our troops are in an impossible situation. They have been from the beginning. They have done all that they could, given the situation, the tools, guidance, armor, equipment (or lack thereof) they were provided. To have an impact here, we need another 300,000 troops, at a minimum. If that isn’t going to happen (and given the fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans want us the hell out of dodge within six months), then there is only one thing left to do.

Bring our troops home now. Things are already completely out of control. They will be out of control whether we stay or not. We might as well protect our own country and our own troops.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Insanity is the Only Explanation I Can Come Up With

Front paged at Booman Tribune. Recommended at Daily Kos

There is just no other way to explain it. Arrogance? Sometimes, but not always. Stupidity? Maybe, but nobody, let alone a group of people who have risen to the powerful positions they occupy can be this stupid. Greed? Sure, but there are so many other egregious acts that don’t reek of greed.

No, I think the only truly appropriate word to describe the actions of certain members at the highest levels of this administration – especially since November 7 and moreso this past week – is insanity. Because not one, not two but three stories over the past couple of days makes me believe that there is no possible other word to describe what twisted shit is going on with our “leaders”.

Not surprisingly, all three articles have a direct bearing on Iraq and the direction we are headed. The couldn’t be louder and clearer referendum on the illegal occupation of Iraq means that the voters want a big change, and a big change right now. And even now, it is still by far the most important issue on people’s minds.

Now let’s take a look at the three years too late “bold and scathing” Iraq Study Group report. One of the big recommendations was to engage in talks with Iran and Syria (bonus link from FoxNews). Another of the big recommendations was that we should draw down troops (another bonus link from FoxNews).

How popular were these two recommendations with the American public? Well, let’s just say that we are not talking about those “fringe lefty loonies” anymore:

But public opinion polls suggest the president may come under increased pressure to start withdrawing troops. The latest National Public Radio poll found that 47 per cent of Americans strongly favoured starting to withdraw troops over the next seven months, even though 44 per cent of those polled believed it would make Iraq less stable.

Nearly half of Americans polled what a withdrawal to start within seven months. Let me repeat that for you: NEARLY HALF OF AMERICANS POLLED.

What about engaging Iran and Syria? Surely, these two enemies of freedom™ - one of which is a card carrying member of the Axis Of Evil™ - don’t deserve our time, right? Well, actually….. 3/4 - 4/5 of Americans believe that it is time to get serious and talk to Syria and Iran. Over 70% of Republicans. Nearly 80% of Democrats.

Good news, no, GREAT news, right?

Not so fast….cuz Condi and Georgie know better. You know, Georgie can feel it in his gut. The Decider. Plus, those people on the ISG are daddy’s friends and are only out to make him look bad. So, fuck em. And Condi. She has lots of degrees. She is a doctor. She is so adept at foreign policy that her big speech that she was going to give on September 11, 2001 was all about the biggest security issue to America - missile defense. Yup. These two know best. And oh boy, we are in deep doo-doo.

From yesterdays Washington Post: Rice Rejects Overture to Iran and Syria:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday rejected a bipartisan panel's recommendation that the United States seek the help of Syria and Iran in Iraq, saying the "compensation" required by any deal might be too high. She argued that neither country should need incentives to foster stability in Iraq.

"If they have an interest in a stable Iraq, they will do it anyway," Rice said in a wide-ranging interview with Washington Post reporters and editors.

“They will do it anyway”? What the hell is that? I think we saw how “cowboy diplomacy” has worked out so far in the Middle East. Or the rest of the world for that matter. Um, Condi – do I need to remind you who pays your salary?

As for the Decider – he “decides” to take the advice of his newest also-insane bestest friend, John McCain, and add 20,000 troops to Iraq:

The Bush administration is leaning toward temporarily sending as many as 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, even as the Democrats taking charge of Congress demand a drawdown of forces.

U.S. officials say the increase is needed to make a new push to stabilize Baghdad and to bolster efforts to train the Iraqi army. The emerging plan is facing opposition from Iraqi officials adamant that more U.S. forces aren't the answer. U.S. military commanders in Baghdad have drawn up plans for the country that don't require any new personnel. The debate over whether to send additional U.S. forces to Iraq is the most visible manifestation of the high-level tumult roiling the Bush administration as it works to find a way forward there ahead of a presidential address to the nation early next year.

(scratching head quizzically…..)

20,000 troops? Isn’t that just a wee bit like putting a band aid on a shotgun blast wound? Seriously – if you want to talk about increasing troops in Iraq, at least don’t be a total pandering failure ass covering hypocrite and call for the right amount of troops. You know, something like, oh, 300,000 more. Otherwise, you’re just sentencing another 20,000 of our children, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers and friends to a criminally negligent death sentence. Or a lifetime of PTSD. Or maybe a debilitating injury.

All because of lies.

But the most insane of the three stories is the one relating to the two men who are arguably the most responsible for the horrible situation this country and world is in right now. Yesterday, Bush and Cheney were at a ceremony honoring Rumsfeld for his service.

And even with the overwhelming disaster in Iraq – even with the overwhelming number of people around the world, and right here in America who would piss on the graves of these three men if they ever got the chance – they live in an alternate reality. Because here is a man – Rumsfeld – who everyone except Mrs. Rumsfeld and Bush himself wanted out of a job, and you would think that he had actually saved the world instead of singlehandedly nearly destroying it.

President Bush called Mr. Rumsfeld "one of America's most skilled, energetic and dedicated public servants."


"I've never worked harder for a boss and I've never learned more from one, either," said Vice President Dick Cheney, who began his career in politics as an intern for Mr. Rumsfeld in 1969.

Mr. Cheney praised Mr. Rumsfeld as a man with "near perfect recall.

speechless….can’t even come up with a smart ass comment…

It takes skill to have this much incompetence, deviousness, stubbornness, arrogance, greed, stupidity and gall. Lots of skill. But they aren’t this smart either. That is why the only explanation is that they are insane. The whole lot of ‘em.<.p>

May God bless help us all.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Happy Xmas (War is Over)

Front paged at Booman Tribune. Recommended at Daily Kos and My Left Wing

...if you want it.

Those words first hit the airwaves almost 37 years ago to the day. And maybe it is just me, but I seem to be hearing this song more this holiday season. Maybe it is because of the cover version by Sarah McLaughlin that was released this year. Maybe it is because I am more in tune with John Lennon songs in general. Or maybe it is because of the times we live in now – times that are as eerily similar to when those first words left the mouth of one of history’s greatest songwriters and most influential people.

Either way, the song feels a bit more important this year – even more so than last year or 2004. Maybe it is because of the democratic sweep in the November elections. Maybe it is because I am much more aware and in tune with what is going on in the world. Maybe it is because of the direction my life has taken me these past 12 months.

Maybe it is because there is some hope for the first time in years that we truly will see some sort of real push toward accountability on the lies that led us to this point (note how the “I” word is “investigation” at this early point).

But each time I hear that song these past few weeks, the radio gets a bit louder and I start reflecting more and more – certainly as compared to prior years. The words, even though they were written nearly four decades ago, are just as poignant – just as powerful today.

And so this is Xmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong

Even though I wasn’t born until nearly a year after that song was written, I became a huge Beatles fan in my early childhood. Obsessed, you might say (and not in the “1964 shrieking girl” kind of way). But by age 11, I knew all the words to probably over 100 of their songs, more than a few Wings and John Lennon songs as well. This one was one of my early favorites too. But I never really appreciated it as much as I have over the past few years until living through these times.

Times when torture, waterboarding, rendition, FISA, the IIPA, white phosphorus and “free speech zones” are terms that are known by and discussed all too casually by way too many people in this country. Times when xenophobia, fear and hatred are only matched by corruption, war crimes and criminal indifference to our own citizens when true homeland security is needed.

And so happy Xmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fight

A time where our citizen’s right to vote is still suppressed and disenfranchised based on racial factors. When chest thumping and empty rhetoric like “bring em on” or “cut and run” or “fight em over there so we don’t have to fight em over here” are the norm, despite the fact that 3/4 - 4/5 of Americans believe that it is time to get serious and talk to Syria and Iran about the least horrible way to prevent the complete destruction of the Middle East.

A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

Let’s hope that we truly are turning the corner. The next year brings a Democratic Congress. It brings oversight (that one is for you, BTD if you are reading this). It brings investigations. It brings accountability. It brings sanity. It brings reason. It brings hope for minimum wage earners. It brings serious talk about picking America up off its ass and getting back towards a government “of the people, by the people and for the people”. Hopefully it brings an end to governing by fear.

War is over, if you want it
War is over now

Yes, John. I want it over.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The James Baker/Saudi "Quid Pro Quo"?

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

A lot has been made about James Baker, the Iraq Study Group report as well as the Saudi threat that it may start to fund the Sunnis if the US leaves Iraq. However, a comment that Maccabee made in his diary today about the delay in the US strategy in Iraq, coupled with a comment made to me by my father recently, didn’t give me the “warm and fuzzies” about all of these events over the past few weeks.

For starters, the comment by Maccabee was as follows:

The Saudi Ambassador left DC in a huff. Why? Because I now believe it was the Saudis who brokered this. It was the Saudis who visited with Cheney and Rice to tell them that the Saudi government wants the civil war in Iraq to be over.


I now believe that the entire Iraq Study Group was sponsored by the Saudis to limit the damage that Bush 43 causes in the long term.

Whether this is true or not, there are some other very unsettling parts to this equation – and many lead back to the “savior” himself – James Baker.

Now, you may remember that the 9/11 families filed a massive lawsuit against the Saudis, alleging their involvement in the attacks. Earlier this year, Newsweek ran an article that discussed the Saudi’s legal team and legal defense strategy. As part of this, a passing mention was made of the Housotn based law firm that was defending Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi defense minister. That firm (a huge international law firm) is named Baker Botts. And guess who is one of their senior partners – one James A. Baker III.

A few things worth mentioning about Baker Botts and their defense of the Saudi defense minister. As part of the information uncovered during the defense:

Sultan’s U.S. lawyers also presented highly detailed new evidence of the Saudi government’s role in funneling millions of dollars to a web of Islamic charities that are widely suspected by U.S. officials of covertly financing the operations of Al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups.

Now, what type of vacation to “Club Gitmo” would one get for even knowing someone who knows someone who was funneling money to Islamic charities that were suspected of financing Al Qaeda? Hell, we have heard of much worse done to US citizens and other innocent people for much less. But that is besides the point. Ultimately, Botts was able to get the case against Sultan bin Abdul Aziz dismissed – no doubt much to the relief of the Saudi royal family. Now, this is not meant to be a commentary on why the case was dismissed, or whether the 9/11 families have legal grounds or basis for their lawsuit. This IS meant to point out that the same man who was charged with heading the Iraq Study Group is a senior partner in the law firm that defended one of the Saudi officials, ultimately leading to such official getting “off the hook”.

This past Monday, Investor’s Business Daily (hardly a liberal paper) ran an Editorial/Opinion regarding Saudi Arabia called ”The Saudi Factor”. It mentions a few interesting tidbits, including the following note from the Iraq Study Group report:

Missing from the Baker report's 79 recommendations for stopping the violence in Iraq is perhaps the most obvious one: getting our "ally" Saudi Arabia to stop funding the insurgency there.

The 160-page report reveals on page 29 that the Saudis are backing the Sunni terrorists who are killing U.S. soldiers next door. But then it never returns to the subject. Poof! It's as if it were never mentioned.

Sure enough, taking a look at the Iraq Study Group report (warning, .pdf file), on page 25 is the following:
Several Iraqi Sunni Arab politicians complained that Saudi Arabia has not provided political support for their fellow Sunnis within Iraq. One observed that Saudi Arabia did not even send a letter when the Iraqi government was formed, whereas Iran has an ambassador in Iraq. Funding for the Sunni insurgency comes from private individuals within Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, even as those governments help facilitate U.S. military operations in Iraq by providing basing and overflight rights and by cooperating on intelligence issues.

OK, so it does say “private individuals”, but again, it is telling as to how much the Saudis are helping us out – even moreso taking into account the “blackmail” of threatening “official” funding to the Sunnis. Not only that, but as the Investor’s Business Daily article reports, there may be more to this than meets the eye:
Riyadh insists it knows nothing of such payments to Iraqi insurgents. But the Associated Press reports that boxes of cash collected from Saudi mosques and charities are being trucked and bused across the border into Iraq.

In one recent case, $25 million in Saudi money went to a top Iraqi Sunni cleric and was used to buy weapons, including a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile. Last month the U.S. lost an F-16, possibly to such a missile. It went down over western Iraq.

The kingdom's denials ring hollow against another little-reported fact: Most of the foreign fighters captured or killed in Iraq hail from Saudi Arabia.

While this Op/Ed goes more into detail questioning why Baker and the ISG report lets Saudi Arabia off the hook, I won’t get into that here. However, I will note that when it came to the blacked out pages from the 9/11 report (article halfway down the page – the original source is not truthout), there was wide speculation that it involved the Saudis as well.

This leads me to the next strange point. As LithiumCola points out in his diary, there is lots to be had with respect to Iraqi oil, and the Bushies don’t want to let their main reason for invading Iraq in the first place go unfulfilled. Of course, I am speculating here, but we do know that Baker is a founder and senior advisor at the Carlyle Group. And we also find out last month that the Carlyle Group is establishing a MidEast “buyout team” which would make private equity investments in the Middle East and North Africa. As part of this:

A drop in Middle Eastern stock markets has lowered valuations and made companies there more attractive private equity targets, analysts and investors say. The drop has prompted oil-rich investors in the region to recruit U.S. and European private equity investors to join them in raising funds to invest there.


Carlyle's offices will be in Cairo, Dubai and Istanbul, with a focus on energy, financial services, health care, industry, infrastructure, technology and transportation., infrastructure and other industries noted above. Seems like Iraq is a great place for some of that “investment”. It has also been asserted that the Saudis have been heavy investors in Carlyle and Bush family interests. Additionally, as reported in The Nation back in 2004 Baker is even more entwined with the Saudis:
For instance, one of Iraq's largest creditors is the government of Saudi Arabia. The Carlyle Group does extensive business with the Saudi royal family, as does Baker's law firm, Baker Botts (which is currently defending them in a $1 trillion lawsuit filed by the families of September 11 victims). The New York Times determined that the potential conflicts of interest were so great that on December 12 it published an editorial calling on Baker to resign his posts at the Carlyle Group and Baker Botts to preserve the integrity of the envoy position.

"Mr. Baker is far too tangled in a matrix of lucrative private business relationships that leave him looking like a potentially interested party in any debt-restructuring formula," stated the editorial. It concluded that it wasn't enough for Baker to "forgo earnings from clients with obvious connections to Iraqi debts.... To perform honorably in his new public job, Mr. Baker must give up these two private ones."

So many conflicts of interest, it isn’t even funny. But what we have seen is that there is more evidence of the Saudis already doing some sort of funding of “insurgents” than there is for many of the prisoners who are rendered or held in Gitmo. There is a threat of the Saudis “officially” funding the Sunnis if the US decides to pull its troops. And right on cue, we have a decision by The Decider™ himself to send more troops to Iraq.

We also have Baker’s fingers all over the potential for not only oil deals for his buddies, but also permanent military bases in Iraq for his other buddies. Not to mention the business investment opportunities for Baker’s Carlyle Group in the Middle East, the high priced defense of the Saudi government officials and the lack of any real mention of the Saudi involvement in the attacks against our own troops in Iraq.

As if this all wasn’t fishy enough, it sure seems real fishy now. Why are all of these events happening now? It is too much of a coincidence to be a, well, coincidence. Who is benefiting from this? And whose name keeps popping up in the middle of all this? The answers to these questions may not be as nefarious as the questions seem. But people have been rendered, tortured and locked up with no due process for much less.