Saturday, March 29, 2008

Our troops can't stop the violence

It all comes down to this point, and it really is that simple.

Our troops have done better than anyone could have expected, especially given the lack of support by the Bush administration and the republicans in Congress, the lack of a real plan after “Shock-N-Awe™”, the lack of any direction, the ridiculous decision to disband the Iraqi army, the arming and bribing of Sunni insurgents, the lack of rest, armor, equipment and the minor fact that at least 500,000 troops at the outset of the invasion would have been required in order to do what needed to be done.

However, as we have been seeing, the deadly game of “whack-a-mole” has been played out for well over a year now, and there is still absolutely no foresight into how to address the larger issues of Sunni vs. Shiite civil war, Sunni vs, Sunni fighting, local tribes and sheikhs in places like Anbar taking over, Shiite (as in al Sadr’s militia) vs. Shiite (as in Maliki) vs. Shiite (as in parts of the Iraqi army that are sympathetic to the militias) fighting, the lack of desire for a central government by many who see Maliki as an illegitimate puppet of Cheney and Bush.

Even in a situation where the Bush administration wouldn’t have been arming both sides, ignoring the real threat of al Qaeda and the Taliban, had the support of the international community, and had enough troops to rebuild Iraq, it is still a country that was artificially established with little consideration given to the various factions and sects, the history of violence in the region, the competing goals and was barely held together by a dictator. To expect any semblance of order in the best of conditions is a farce.

In this situation, this administration, backed by the republican Congress for 4 years, has taken sides with the same people who supported attacks on our troops because the Saudis threatened us, has turned against the majority population who has predictably turned on our troops, turned a blind eye to the raging civil war that pretty much everyone that took any critical look knew would happen and aligned themselves with people like Chalabi and Hakim – two people with extensive ties to Iran - all while desperately trying to provoke yet another much larger country (in Iran) while ignoring what is going on in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Petraeus himself said that there is no military solution here. Based on the lack of any progress on benchmarks, there is no political progress, which was supposed to be the point of the ill-fated escalation in the first place. “The surge is working” is not working. Closing your eyes and wishing it so does not make it so.

Sadly, it is this very increase in violence that is forcing the corporate media to finally start doing its job (sort of) by reporting about the violence. Of course, the slant is that the weapons being used to fire into the heavily fortified and now under curfew Green Zone are from Iran, but maybe people will start to realize that there has been a lot of violence all this time.

It is enough of a joke that the temporary decrease in violence was credited to “the surge” when (1) average daily troop deaths have been constant since early 2005 and (2) the decrease was more related to al Sadr’s ceasefire and ethnic cleansing. It is an absolute farce that the increasing violence is also because of the “surge’s success”. It is a travesty that we have to once again hear Bush bumble through another “this is a defining moment” speech of nonsense. It is disgusting that John W. McSame doesn’t care what anyone says, even though his version of success and winning includes his speeches being interrupted to report on more violence.

The other day, I mentioned the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq that Darcy Burner and more than 40 other Congressional Candidates (including our own Ron Sheptson) have signed on to. Today’s Washington Post has a feature article on this as well, and it is time that the discussion about leaving Iraq got some serious consideration.

Granted, Bush won’t budge, but this summer will be very, very bloody. Hundreds of troops will die, thousands will be injured, and tens of thousands of Iraqis will die, be injured or displaced. The “Responsible Plan” isn’t perfect, but it is a plan. And it should continue to be discussed. If the corporate media won’t report about Iraq, then we need to take the responsibility ourselves to spread the word.

It is too big of a country, there are too many major blowups for our troops to cover all (or even most) of them. We shouldn’t be in the middle of one civil war, let alone 3 or 4 sub-civil wars. If the Iraq forces have their loyalties torn between their country and the militias, then what can our troops do? The only thing that most Iraqis can agree on is that the United States doesn’t belong there. Al Sadr is a nationalist – he doesn’t want Iran meddling, he doesn’t want the United States occupying the country. Nor do most of the Iraqis.

Our troops can’t stop the violence. There is too much violence, too much history of violence, too little planning by those who dreamt up this gawd-awful occupation, and no amount of wishing or repeating the same lines will change that.

And if our troops can’t do what they are trained to do, they should go where they can do what they were trained to do. “We” broke it. But our troops can’t fix it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Iraq is imploding right before our eyes

Despite the fact that the corporate media is baffled by the fact that once they stopped reporting about Iraq, people had a “better” feeling about how things were going, the fruits of arming both sides, bribing Sunnis to not kill us but then not paying the bribe money, an end to al Sadr’s ceasefire and a lack of any positive movement on nearly every benchmark set at the beginning of “the surge” are all coming together in a perfect storm.

In short, things have gone from horrible to miserable over the past couple of days (even since I wrote about the rapidly devolving situation a few short weeks ago).

Of course, to Bush, the decreased violence (despite average daily troop casualties being nearly the same for over three years) was a sign that “the surge is working”. And now, Bush says that this increase in violence is a byproduct of the “success of the surge”. And John W. McSame, who is just as stubbornly ignoring the reality and facts as Bush is, had another “McCain moment” when he said that the surge is working and he doesn’t care what anyone says, except for the tiny fact that his latest speech was interrupted by reports of major violence in Iraq.

But that is the least of it - although it does show just how unqualified McCain is when it comes to being Commander in Chief. The other night, I asked what happens if the Iraqi forces can’t beat back the militia in Basra, and it looks like we may soon find out, as an oil pipeline was blown up in Basra, and there is a rapid devolvement in a number of areas in Iraq as Shiite on Shiite violence is continuing (not to mention the “other” civil war that has been raging for months between Sunnis and Shiites, or Sunni insurgents against Sunni “al Qaeda in Iraq”, and everyone against the US troops:

The violence in Basra -- which has spread to Shiite areas throughout the country, including Baghdad -- is a kind of fighting Americans are unaccustomed to seeing, said retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Donald Sheppard, CNN's senior military analyst.

"This is intra-Shia. This is not Sunni vs. Shia, this is not civil war, this is not sectarian violence, it's intra-Shia politics for control of the government," he said.

On top of this, a spokesman for the Baghdad security plan was kidnapped from his Baghdad home, there are tens of thousands of protesters in the streets of Baghdad and the ultra super safe Green Zone is being pelted with mortars and rockets for pretty much every day over the past week.

Down in Basra, British military officials are indicating that the Iraqi police force is almost part and parcel with some of the militias they are supposed to be fighting, and offered a very ominous message:

"During a briefing in Baghdad on Wednesday, a British military official said that of the nearly 30,000 Iraqi security forces involved in the assault, almost 16,000 were Basra police forces, which have long been suspected of being infiltrated by the same militias the assault was intended to root out. . . .

"[I]f the Mahdi Army breaks completely with the cease-fire that has helped to tamp down attacks in Iraq during the past year, there is a risk of replaying 2004, when the militia fought intense battles with American forces that destabilized the entire country and ushered in years of escalating violence."

According to Juan Cole, the Mahdi Army still controls parts of Basra, the Iraqi Army has possibly committed mass executions in Basra and Kut (where the Mahdi Army has taken control of), and there is already a shortage of food and water for residents of Basra. And McClatchy is reporting many dozens dead, hundreds injured, tortured bodies showing up in hospitals and violence in at least a half dozen cities on Wednesday alone.

Here is one of many issues with this - this is not just “Shiite on Shiite violence”, and it is not just “Iraqi forces against al Sadr” - this is a new round in the struggle for power and a fight against what many view as the US puppet regime (in Maliki) trying to maintain control of a central government that many feel is illegitimate to begin with.

And it was very easy to see coming.

When the “surge is working - just look at Anbar” was exposed for the farce that it was, and that it was more because of giving up control to the local sheikhs, it was quite logical to see that while this is something that quelled some violence for a while, it was a very short term fix. When the decision was made to arm and pay Sunni insurgents to not kill US troops, it was pretty evident that this was not a good long term (or even medium term) strategic decision. And it was painfully obvious that once they were not paid anymore, they wouldn’t be too happy.

From the decision to invade and occupy Iraq, there has not been any real consideration given to a strategic vision. Decisions were made on the fly and with the sole purpose of passing this quickly and violently devolving disaster to the next administration. But the convergence of angry unpaid Sunni insurgents with weapons we gave them, a weak and ineffective central government that wasn’t held to any level of accountability, the backing of Shiites over Sunnis until Bush, Cheney and their partners in crime realized that Iran was also Shiite and we couldn’t support “people like them” (even though it was the Sunni al Qaeda and Taliban who we are supposed to be fighting) and the end of a ceasefire that was also foreseen by those who wondered why the same logic that applied to setting a withdrawal timeline and “waiting us out” didn’t also apply to al Sadr waiting out the “surge” is now coming home to roost.

Things have gotten a lot worse lately - and there is no other way to spin this. This is not the time to pretend that things are just peachy. It is time to act like adults. It is long past time to face reality. It is time to make tough decisions and realize the very precarious position our troops have been put in. To bury your head in the sand or to cover your ears and say that everything is just a-ok is unacceptable. And if John W. McCain wants to continue doing that, he is showing a lack of fitness for office that many will soon see.

We can only hope and pray that our troops and the Iraqi people don’t suffer as much as they are likely to suffer from bad decision after worse decision. If the Iraqi troops were supposed to be as ready as we were told last year, then this is their time to stand up. It is their civil war. It is their country. It is their future.

It is their primary responsibility. Our troops can’t do anything at this point on any meaningful level. Not unless there are another 400,000 of them in Iraq. Therefore, it is time for the international community to take over. It is time to get our troops out of harm’s way - from a situation that they have no place being part of.

Iraq is imploding, and as Petraeus said, there is no military solution here. If they don’t want to make any political progress, then we can’t do it for them. If they want a central government, then so be it. If they don’t, then so be it.

But ignoring reality and using empty rhetoric that means absolutely nothing and shows the world that we don’t know or we don’t care about the very complex and rapidly declining situation in Iraq.

The surge didn’t work. It isn’t working now. And it won’t work. To quote McCain, I say that, and I really don’t care what anyone thinks.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Let's talk about leaving Iraq. Seriously.

A few months ago, I suggested that we tie the cost of Iraq to everything, and it is good to see that Obama did just that when he tied Iraq the the economic peril that we face here in America.

But it isn’t just for “strategic” or “political” reasons that this should be done. It should be done because, well, it is true. The price of oil, the economy, the deficit, that things that we could otherwise be spending money on, a sane energy policy, national security, foreign policy decisions and matters - they all are impacted by what is going on in Iraq.

And yet, more than 5 years in and close to 4,000 US troops deaths, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths and millions of displaced refugees and hundreds of billions of dollars later, we are still hearing empty rhetoric and platitudes about what should be done. The occupation is very unpopular in American people’s minds, only turning slightly in favor once the corporate media stopped reporting about it. It is costing a tremendous amount of money, lives and resources - and is frankly not working.

As even General Petraeus said, there is no military solution to Iraq, and things getting worse overall, not better. With Bush’s approval rating at or near historic lows, and while it is long past time to start putting together a responsible plan to end our military involvement in Iraq and move in a new direction, fortunately, there is a group of true American heroes (and heroines) that have done just that.

Titled ”A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq”, it incorporates existing proposed legislation, recommendations of the Iraq Study Group (which were endorsed by a large percentage of the population, yet were completely ignored by this administration) and touches on many issues and challenges arising from the decisions and consequences of the past five years.

Amazingly, this initiative was taken by Democratic Congressional candidates. Not Speaker Pelosi, not Majority Leader Reid, not Senator Clinton (or Obama), or those who we have already elected to make good on their promises in 2006 and end the occupation.

Yes, Congressional candidates, along with noted military leaders. Tomorrow’s leaders, acting as today’s leaders, while today’s Congressional “leaders” are doing little in the way of their jobs, and more disingenuous pandering or just plain scolding of their core supporters.

If you haven’t seen the plan yet, it is comprehensive and impressive enough that the dialogue should be moving away from the same, tired, inside the box thinking and sound byte slogans that are doing nothing more than wasting more lives, time and money. It addresses seven main areas:

Our plan will:

1. End U.S. Military Action in Iraq
2. Use U.S. diplomatic power
3. Address humanitarian concerns
4. Restore our Constitution
5. Restore our military
6. Restore independence to the media
7. Create a new, U.S.-centered energy policy

These candidates are our leaders, and recognize the urgency of acting now. They understand that there must be pressure on the current Congress (and I’ll add especially in light of the corporate media blackout and the unwillingness to do the right thing by current Congressional leadership) right now. From the Executive Summary:
Supporters of this document have committed to these objectives. The American people do not need to wait for a new Congress and new administration to pursue this agenda: public pressure on our current elected officials to act can help us move in the right direction even before January 2009, when we hope a new presidential administration and a new Congress will avail themselves of the opportunity to address the great challenges we face as a nation.

I highly urge that you check out the Plan, the site and even join the Facebook Group. We need to put pressure on our elected officials NOW, and with a document such as this one (as well as momentum) garnering the support of more Congressional candidates every day, even more so due to the overexposure given to the current Presidential primary.

With tens of thousands of Sunni insurgents that WE ARMED AND PROMISED TO PAY pissed off that we decided to stop paying them after we armed them, time is even more of the essence. With yet another “McCain moment” happening as he continues to conflate Iran with al Qaeda, the dialogue needs to be established now so he can be put on the defensive when he starts backpeddling on his “100 years” or “there will be more wars” comments. And most importantly, the time is long past where we devote our money, resources and troops to things that they are supposed to be used for. It is time to have an adult discussion about ending the occupation of Iraq in a responsible manner.

Before ending this diary, I want to point out those who put their time, effort and reputation into being a leader, so here are the true patriots who are stepping up and creating a framework that should be adopted by anyone who loves this country and wants to move away from an era of reckless disregard and dangerous simple minded chest thumping:

The plan is endorsed by the following 16 featured House candidates

Darcy Burner, candidate for U.S. House, Washington
Donna Edwards, candidate for Representative - U.S. House, Maryland
Eric Massa, candidate for U.S. House, New York
Chellie Pingree, candidate for U.S. House, Maine
TOM PERRIELLO, candidate for U.S. House, Virginia
Jared Polis, candidate for U.S. House, Colorado
George Fearing, candidate for U.S. House, Washington
Larry Byrnes, candidate for U.S. House, Florida
STEVE HARRISON, candidate for U.S. House, New York
SAM BENNETT, candidate for U.S. House, Pennsylvania
Harry Taylor, candidate for U.S. House, North Carolina
Alan Grayson, candidate for U.S. House, Florida
Dennis Shulman, candidate for U.S. House, New Jersey
Larry Grant, candidate for U.S. House, Idaho
Leslie Byrne, candidate for U.S. House, Virginia
Bill O'Neill, candidate for U.S. House, Ohio

And by the following two featured Senate candidates

Steve Novick, candidate for U.S. Senate, Oregon
Jeff Merkley, candidate for U.S. Senate, Oregon

And by

Major General Paul Eaton (U.S. Army ret.) former Security Transition Commanding General, Iraq
Dr. Lawrence Korb, former Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration
Brigadier General John Johns (U.S. Army ret.) specialist in counterinsurgency and nation-building
Capt. Larry Seaquist (U.S. Navy ret.) former commander of the U.S.S. Iowa and former Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning

And by the following seven candidates

Darius Shahinfar, candidate for U.S. House, New York
Faye Armitage, candidate for U.S. House, Florida
Jim Hunt, candidate for U.S. House, Montana
Tom Wyka, candidate for U.S. House, New Jersey
Cheryl Sabel, candidate for U.S. House, Alabama
Greg Fisher, candidate for U.S. Senate, Kentucky
Ed Fallon, candidate for U.S. House, Iowa

Please sign on to endorse the plan or send a note to any of the above leaders and patriots.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Public funds for private bailouts but not healthcare

If I have to have my taxpayer dollars go to no bid deals for Halliburton, that is bad enough. But if I have to have my taxpayer dollars go to bailing out a private company like Bear Stearns (and there will be others who are in major imminent trouble), then that shows a stunning display of absolute contempt by this current government towards the needs of We the People.

Many remember that, back in the 1980’s, Drexel Burnham Lambert was allowed to fold into bankruptcy because of illegal actions. And even the S&L bailout in the 1980’s (that John W. McCain helped his buddy Charles Keating with) was not a private investment bank that has private profit sharing for its owners, employees and investors but not the public, who is now being forced to use public funding to prop up a private company, whose profits were most certainly not being shared with the American taxpayers.

I don’t expect to get a check from Bear Stearns (or Lehman Brothers or any of the other private investment banks who are in deep trouble) for all of the past years of profits, and I certainly don’t deserve one if I didn’t invest my money with them. But for a firm that should have known better than to take on such huge risk on something that, to somebody like me (who is not a financial expert) seemed like a very bad repeat of junk bonds or internet companies with no revenue model - that is its problem when those decisions and risks come back to bite it in the ass.

It is their money, and they chose to invest it in something that had a decent likelihood to fail. When it worked in its favor and there were massive profits to be had, the American people did not get to share in those profits. Now that it is a failure, and Bear Stearns (or whoever is next) is at risk of folding, well, sorry for having no pity there. And yes, I know that there will be people who will be out of a job, but as a former Andersen employee who didn’t even know that Enron was a client, and someone whose wife was left without a job when Andersen folded, I have a pretty good frame of reference.

Which leads to why Andersen was left to fold over what ultimately was a reversal of a guilty verdict. While it may have been on a technicality, the fact is that what certain Andersen employees and high level partners did was not on the “up and up”, and may have been illegal, it was the illegal pumping up of the shares by financial service companies, research analysts, underwriters and law firms that did much more damage to the economy as well as to Enron employees and shareholders. And not one of those companies or firms were given any meaningful penalty in terms of their crimes or transgressions”..

Besides the horrific precedent that is set by a government bailout using public taxpayer dollars of a private company that does not serve the public interest, there is the fact that this is (1) money that we don’t have and (2) should be used, if anything, for something that serves We the People.

Like expanding healthcare coverage, for example. But of course, there is a “slippery slope” about expanding healthcare coverage for uninsured families or children, right? However, the socialized treatment towards private financial services companies is acceptable to the same people that rail against government intervention, as well as government assistance to lower and middle income families who need it most or who lose everything from a natural disaster like, say, a hurricane.

What about those like absolute hypocrites like Grover Norquist and his supporters who wanted to drown the government in a bathtub? Where are they now when it comes to using government funds for something of this nature? Or what about Mister Bush’s own words just the other day about the use of government funds:

"I'm deeply concerned about law and regulation that will make it harder for the markets to recover — and when they recover, make it harder for this economy to be robust. And so we got to be careful and mindful that any time the government intervenes in the market, it must do so with clear purpose and great care. Government actions have far-reaching and unintended consequences."

So it is ok for the government to intervene in this market in order to prop up a failing private financial services company, that just so happens to have given multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Bush campaigns and to republicans, and it is ok for Bush to leave the speech he made in order to attend a fundraiser that brought in nearly $1.5 million for the republican party.

Just don’t dare use the government or the taxpayer money for something like middle class tax breaks or healthcare. It needs to be saved for much more selective and important items - like bailing out private industry when their bad risks fail. Yet, in the name of “free markets”, those same companies that receive taxpayer money when they are failing get to keep all of their profits when times are good.

A perfect example of the “resiliency” and “belt tightening” that Americans need to exhibit in these tough times.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Surprise! McCain BBQ attendees skew their reporting of him

For starters, a hat tip to Daily Kos community member Jay Ackroyd for pulling together a list of those corporate media talking meatsticks who attended John W. McCain’s BBQ lovefest at the beginning of March. I’ve put that list at the end of the diary, so we can all keep tabs on this.

In looking over some of these attendees’ recent reports, columns and newscasts, there has been identifiable bias towards John W. McCain, and should be called out on their misleading behavior and irresponsible journalism. There are over 25 on this list, but I’ll point out a few of the offenders here. Needless to say, we are not just fighting against McCain, we are fighting against the media, who is already pointing out that since they stopped reporting on Iraq, people’s opinions about it have improved.

To be fair, I did find a critical article written by the AP’s Libby Quaid about his temper, but this was pretty much the exception.

As pointed out by Media Matters, CNN’s Dana Bash (an attendee of the McCain BBQ) misled viewers about McCain and his trips to Iraq in her segment earlier this week:

Reporting about John McCain's upcoming trip to Iraq, CNN's Dana Bash read from a statement in which McCain said: "Had I not traveled to Iraq, I doubt I would have been informed enough to understand what we were doing wrong and what we should do to correct our mistakes." But Bash and host Wolf Blitzer did not report that just before and during a previous fact-finding trip to Iraq, McCain made claims about the safety of Baghdad neighborhoods that were widely criticized as misleading and that McCain later admitted he had "missp[oken]."

Michael Shear from the Washington Post has written a few articles since the BBQ, nothing overly glowing, but certainly fluff stories and downplaying the Democratic criticism. Another to keep an eye on.

On the other hand, Newsweek’s Holly Bailey shares her “dear diary-like” post about her experience at the BBQ, describing what he wore, how he “gushed” at a mother bird teaching her baby to fly and what he had in his living room, closing with this statement:

McCain's living room is decorated with historic Navajo rugs—"Worth a lot of money," he said—and other Southwest-themed art, including a massive watercolor of the Grand Canyon that sits above his fireplace. A mechanical telescope sits in one corner of the room, while pictures of his family and awards McCain has received over the years decorate mantels and tabletops. His bookshelf includes tomes by Henry Kissinger, a biography of Jesse Ventura and Sen. Jim Webb's book, "The Emperor's General."

On the back porch McCain talked at length about the Zen he gets from grilling. "Nothing makes me happier," he said. "I have a lot of nervous energy ... It keeps me moving." A few minutes later it was reporters who were moving, ushered back to buses by campaign aides. "We'll have to do this again," McCain called, waving. "See you tomorrow!"

In her next article, she described him as “the underdog”. And as some have noted in the comments, she is the one who is swinging in the tire in the video posted by McCain's daughter.

USA Today’s David Jackson has been awfully kind to McCain as well, especially since the BBQ with mainly fluff pieces, including this one about receiving Bush’s endorsement, telling how Mr. 32%’s endorsement could be a positive because it will help McCain shore up his base.

MSNBC’s Adam Aigner excused McCain’s campaign finance law breaking and gave him a pass on the “100 years in Iraq, no, I really mean it will be over soon” comments the week of the BBQ. He also defended McCain in the Boeing contract issue, and used the NYC recruitment center bombing incident as an excuse to praise McCain on a number of issues that had nothing to do with the incident.

And finally (for now), CBS’ Andante Higgins bragged about his BBQ experience, closing with this wistful comment:

For McCain the icing on the cake will be clinching the GOP nomination next week.

If that happens, McCain and his press corps can expect a change. Increased security could limit their unfettered access and intimate gatherings and McCain’s barbecue ribs could be off the menu.

The following weeks were filled with such important issues like McCain ruling John Kerry out as his running mate (2 stories) as well as his response to Hillary Clinton’s “3AM call” ad. Such hard hitting journalism.


Here is the full (as far as I know) list of the attendees of the McCain suck up BBQ of 2008:

Dana Bash,CNN
Washington Post reporter Michael Shear
Reuters' Jeff Mason
CBS's Dante Higgins
Newsweek's Holly Bailey
Libby Copeland Washington Post Staff Writer
Dan Nowicki , The Arizona Republic
Scott Orr, Newark Star-Ledger
Michael Cooper
Kelly Shannon, AP
Politico's Jonathan Martin
Laura Meckler, WSJ
Ana Marie Cox, TIME
Gerald Herbert, AP
Khue Bui, Newsweek
Libby Quaid - AP
Jill Zuckman - Chicago Tribune
Sasha Issenberg - Boston Globe
Adam Aigner - NBC
Mosheh Oinounou - FOX
Brett Hovell - ABC
Tasha Diakides, CNN (bylined on blog article)
Evan Glass , CNN (bylined on blog article)
David Jackson USA Today
Steve Hayes, Weekly Standard

Let’s keep an eye out - this is the height of conflict in interest, and we must make sure that people like this are called out when they violate their journalistic responsibilities (which happens all too frequently).

Media finds increased support for Iraq occupation since reporting on it stopped

In the latest head smacking example that shows just how much impact the corporate media has on how people feel about things, we see that people’s views of Iraq are “better” over the past few months.

It is also interesting to note that there has been a decrease in the overall reporting about Iraq from 15% of the total stories as recently as last July to a mere 3% in February 2008. And what do we get in that time period?

We heard Charles Gibson chastise the Democratic candidates in a nationally televised debate, telling them that “the surge is working”, neglecting the fact that there has been basically no progress on any benchmarks in any measurable manner. We hear how there has been a “general downturn in violence”, neglecting the fact that violence has pretty much decreased because of al Sadr ordering his militia to stop attacks and the fact that there has been major sectarian cleansing throughout the country.

And yet, if you look at the most basic things going on in Iraq, you will find that things are most certainly NOT good or improving for Iraqis. Or for the troops, outside of not getting killed as quickly as they were 6 months ago. But as for their mission, still nothing. The goals – still nothing. The metrics – nothing.

The “success” of the “surge”? nothing.

So, no wonder that with the absolutely abhorrent lack of coverage of what is happening in Iraq, only 28% of people knew that nearly 4,000 troops have been killed, almost half as many people as just last August that knew how many troops have been killed. In fact, the Project for Excellence in Journalism came out with a report that showed how much impact the media had on people’s perception of how things were going in Iraq. This should stand out:

And as the year went on, the narrative from Iraq in some ways brightened. The drumbeat of reports about daily attacks declined in late summer and fall, and with that came a decline in the amount of coverage from Iraq overall.

This shift in coverage beginning in June, in turn, coincided with a rising sense among the American public that military efforts in Iraq were going “very” or “fairly well.”

This was a study of around 1,100 news stories from over 40 different sources for 2007. Absolutely stunning in the irresponsibility of the so-called “fourth estate”. So it is no doubt that we see headlines from CBS News that say “Iraq fades from view for many Americans”, or that CQ Tracker crows that “Americans more positive about Iraq, but divided on pullout” – all while burying the fact that 63% want an immediate or phased withdrawal.

What is more ironic and frustrating is that just yesterday, Pew (the ones who conducted the poll) noted that there was a likely explanation of this increased optimism:

Pew suggested a possible link between the simultaneous increase in the numbers of Americans belieiving progress was being made in Iraq, with a sharp decline in news coverage of Iraq and public interest in Iraq news.

Gee, do you think that if there is a near complete blackout of the events going on in Iraq, and whatever news does get reported is “cheery” and optimistic instead of the truth and full story that people will either lose interest or think things are better than they really are? But if we look at the coverage in Politico, we really see what is happening here. Titled Support for war effort highest since 2006, it completes the Karl Rove self fulfilling prophesy that people don’t care as much about Iraq because it isn’t being reported.

But if you look right below the surface, we see where this is going – right toward the media’s massive man crush on John W. McCain:

The repercussions will be most acutely felt in the presidential contest. Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton remain committed to a staggered pullout, while Republican John McCain holds steadfast in his support for the Bush administration’s military surge.


Democrats’ resolute support for the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces may soon position them at odds with independent voters, in particular, a constituency they need to retake the White House.


The uptick in public support is a promising sign for Republican candidates who have been bludgeoned over the Bush administration’s war policies. But no candidate stands to gain more than McCain.

“How could Democrats possibly hand McCain a better issue than to let him run on his record of advocating a robust U.S. presence in Iraq with all the positive battlefield news that is filtering out of that country?” asked Michael O’Hanlon, a national security adviser at the Brookings Institution who has been at the center of the Iraq debate since the war’s outset.

Just remember - we are not just fighting against McCain. We are fighting against a very strong narrative that is patently and blatantly false and biased.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

McCain's torture should raise questions about his fitness to lead

John McCain did not deserve to be tortured. Neither does anyone else - even putting aside the fact that it just doesn’t work. The fact that he had to endure the physical and emotional suffering that he did - for more than five years - is a testament to the determination he showed during that terrible time in his life.

But that doesn’t make him more fit to lead the US military and exercise the measured, calculated, deliberative judgment that is required if that White House phone rings at 3AM. Rather, it raises questions about whether his decision making ability is clouded (and if you listen to his republican Senate colleagues, it certainly isn’t for the better) by his experience.

Of course, John Kerry, who heroically served in Vietnam and receive Purple Hearts is a terrorist loving traitor, and the press will no doubt be just as fair to someone whose fellow soldiers in Vietnam remind us as the one who lost 5 US Navy aircraft and was a below average student in the Naval Academy.

Our own CIA declassified documents that were prepared in the 1960s that dealt with brainwashing and torture. Other than the fact that there are “interrogation techniques” referred to as “torture” in these documents that are way less extreme than some that our own administration and much of the republican party thinks is just peachy keen, there are some interesting notes.

For starters, note the passage in bold regarding isolation. John McCain spent approximately 2 years in solitary confinement. That’s a helluva long time. The CIA document referenced in the link above (the link in the diary is broken but if you play around with it, you can get to the entire document) has the following to say about isolation and the impact on a person subjected to it (emphasis mine):

A major aspect of his prison experience is isolation. Man is a social animal; he does not live alone. From birth to death, he lives in the company of his fellow man. His relations with other people and, especially with those closest to him, are almost as important to him as food or drink. When a man is totally isolated, he is removed from all of the interpersonal relations which are so important to him and taken out of the social role which sustains him. His internal as well as his external life is disrupted.


After a few days it becomes apparent to the prisoner that his activity avails him nothing and that will he will be punished or reprimanded for even the smallest breaches of the routine. His requests have been listened to but never acted upon. He becomes docility of a trained animal. Indeed, the guards say that prisoners are “reduced to animals”. It is estimated that in the average case it takes from four to six weeks of rigid, total isolation to produce this phenomenon.

Four to six weeks in isolation will produce that. John McCain was in isolation for two entire years. And within those two years, he was also bound into painful positions with rope and beaten every two hours.

This is terrible to do to any human being and way more than McCain should have ever had to endure. But it changed him. That is a fact, not a guess. And certainly not his fault, nor is it something that should be looked down or poorly upon. Sadly, we have seen from the far too many of our troops who are coming back to the US with PTSD and a life that revolves around emotional or physical therapy as well as just trying to get through the day - let alone trying to piece their lives back together.

The long term effects of solitary confinement have been well documented, and there is little doubt that the torture that McCain endured had a profound effect on him, both short and long term.

There is, of course, the quote from none other than republican Senator Thad Cochran, who has known McCain for over 30 years:

"The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine," Cochran said about McCain by phone. "He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me."

Is there any doubt that McCain feels some level of anger, bitterness, holds a grudge or wants revenge for what was done to him? Hell, I know I would. I’d be permanently pissed off and looking for a fight - and I’m a pretty mild mannered guy. But, do we want to have a Commander in Chief who is even more hawkish on foreign policy than Bush is? On Iraq? On Russia? On China? Someone who talks openly about more wars, especially at a time when we are hated around the world for our confrontational and reckless foreign policy, not to mention with troops already stretched to the breaking point?

It is extremely telling that McCain would not vote to outlaw torture, yet he tells 60 Minutes that torture is wrong and the US shouldn’t do it anymore.

Can we afford to have someone who endured such horrific treatment that has been well documented to have profound negative effects on their personality and judgment? The fact that McCain served this country is admirable. The fact that he was tortured is horrific and more than regrettable - in fact, it is inexcusable.

However, it is a fact that is far from helpful for someone that would be our Commander in Chief, even more so at this time in history, and who would be answering that hypothetical phone call at 3AM.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Real REAL bad stuff going on in Iraq

So it has pretty much been adopted by many of those who still deny reality that the “decrease in violence” is the proof that the ill fated escalation worked. And it is also evident that John W. McCain has been a chief proponent and certainly the main beneficiary of this absolutely over simplistic and erroneous line of thinking.

But, buried in the hullabaloo of the latest Democrat to be in the cross hairs (due in large part to his own actions), as well as the obsession over the Clinton/Obama tit-for-tat is some news from Iraq that really does not bode well. I offer a bit of analysis, but more in the way of information as to the situation on the ground.

Let’s start with a a new estimate that pegs the cost of this ongoing debacle at $12 BILLION per month in 2008. A conservative estimate by the CBO pegs the cost for Iraq alone at $1 trillion - $1.2 trillion by 2017. I’ll also note that John W. McSame has no intention of getting the troops out of Iraq – rather he is very much in favor of “more wars” (with what troops, popular support and money, I have no idea).

Another trend in Iraq is the continued violence that, despite the ongoing violence and the fact that US troop deaths have been at the same daily rate since January 1, 2005 apparently doesn’t exist according to the “surge believers” like John “four more wars” McSame. Iraqi security force and civilian deaths are on pace for the largest number of deaths since last August.

Oh, but this is a mere blip, right? After all, it is a violent area, except for the fact that there is the general thought that there is no more real violence. Well, not so fast.

I take this with a grain of salt, but there is now a warning that al Qaeda is spreading in Iraq, and may be planning larger scale attacks in the country. And who would have thought that when we armed the Sunni insurgents to fight against al Qaeda that they wouldn’t do the job for us? Of course, when you only know how to outsource the hunt for al Qaeda (among pretty much everything else), you don’t always get the results you were hoping for.

But there is always hope, right?

Well, when you have an ultra-fortified Green Zone and a partitioned off city like Baghdad, there is more than just hope. Sectarian cleansing led to a reduction in violence as there were no more Sunnis or Shiites to kill in certain areas, and at least the increased troop level in Baghdad would lead to less violence there, even if the whack a mole approach led to increased violence elsewhere.

Except for the minor issue of major violence in Baghdad lately. In what was the deadliest day so far this year for US troops, 8 troops and 14 others were killed, with more injured in multiple attacks in Baghdad. This followed a wave of attacks a few days ago where close to 70 people were killed in attacks in the very safe city of Baghdad.

But it isn’t just Baghdad either. A bus hit a roadside bomb in southern Iraq, and this was just one of a number of bombings and blasts that killed another 30 people. As for the targets – not just US troops or Iraqi security forces – they also targeted militias and civilians, a police station, a hotel, a busy traffic intersection and near a mosque and a hospital. No biggie and just another day at the office for someone like John W. McCain, who would be ok with this for another 100 years.

There were over 700 deaths in February, which is close to a third more than January. Already, March is on pace for over 900 deaths. Obviously, the key here is that the invasion was wrong, the prosecution of the invasion and occupation was wrong, the theory behind the invasion and occupation was wrong, and even the excuses and metrics used to measure “success” are flat out wrong.

Things are NOT getting better. There was one measure that was latched onto that “proved” success, and even that is a total fallacy. This is an occupation that John W. McBush wants to continue indefinitely. He is dishonest about the facts on the ground. He is dishonest with his rhetoric. He is out of step with reality. And since the press loves him and his BBQ, someone has to report the truth and smack this country back to reality.

It’s a damn good thing that there was a major link between Saddam and al Qaeda. Oh wait, even the Pentagon has said there was no link.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Listen to Betsy Markey (candidate for CO-4) LIVE on BlogTalkRadio

It may come as a surprise to some, but Colorado’s 4th District was recently ranked by the Washington Post as a top 10 House race to watch, despite Marilyn Musgrave holding onto the seat for the past three elections. However, to those who know Betsy Markey, this is not really a surprise at all, especially when you consider that Musgrave’s vote total in 2006 (46%) was the lowest winning percentage in the entire country.

And you can hear Betsy LIVE today at 11AM Eastern/8AM Pacific talking to thereisnospoon and I on our BlogTalkRadio show.

Betsy’s background, credentials and experience is pretty impressive, especially in a purple state that hopes to trend blue over the next couple of years. She worked in the Treasury and State Departments from 1983 – 1988 (under the Reagan Administration) and (according to her Wikipedia profile) served as Director of Computer Security Policy and Training and worked with all bureaus to craft computer security policy. She created the Department’s first comprehensive computer security training program for management, security personnel and support staff globally. For her work, Markey received the State Department’s Meritorious Honor Award.

After leaving the State Department, Betsy co-founded a software company and later also owned another small business. She also served as President of the Larimer County Food Bank’s Board of Directors and helped raise around $1,000,000 so that the Food Bank could expand its services.

Most recently, she was US Senator Ken Salazar’s Regional Director of Colorado’s North Central and Eastern Plains and worked very closely with Salazar directly.

Here is Betsy’s position with respect to healthcare, where she discusses preventative care as well as addressing the inefficiencies the current “system” provides (from her campaign website):

As a former Federal employee, I received excellent healthcare benefits. Every American should be able to have the same access to affordable health care that I was privileged to receive. President Nixon first proposed a sweeping national health care plan in the 1960’s that fell victim to the groups most entrenched in the medical-industrial complex. The cost of healthcare is crushing our citizens and businesses and weighing down our economy. We need to focus much more on the prevention of diseases. Seventy-five percent of health care costs are attributable to chronic diseases such as heart disease, asthma, and cancer. We must reduce the costs and increase American’s quality of life through emphasizing disease prevention. Make no mistake: every American in this country has some form of access to health care through our emergency rooms. This is expensive, unsustainable and highly inefficient. We must address how to provide healthcare, particularly preventative health care, to everyone in the most efficient and equitable way. Washington has ignored this problem for too long and it has now reached crisis proportions. It is time to make America more healthy and make affordable healthcare a national priority.

And here is her position with respect to the growing energy crisis, being that Colorado is in a position to take the lead in this area:
We have a unique opportunity at this time in our history to change the way we power this country. Colorado is poised to lead this effort. Our state’s wind, solar and agricultural energy supplies offer opportunities to create jobs, protect the environment, and decrease our dependence on foreign oil. The nation needs to get serious about global warming and climate change. American support for research in new alternative technology should be one of our highest priorities. Success in developing alternative energies is important not only to the environment, but also to America’s security. We must prioritize and support programs to substantially reduce the carbon emissions that cause global warming. Much of the carbon emissions are caused by old-style power production and our wasteful consumption habits. We can reverse these trends with cost-effective green building technologies and a national effort to change how we use energy. Each one of us can make a huge impact on our environment by being informed consumers and changing our own consumption habits.

Here is a link to her donations page, and here is the link to her ActBlue page.

Please consider donating some time or money to this very important race – as it represents a prime opportunity to turn a red seat blue.


I recently posted a diary announcing a series of BlogTalkRadio interviews with Democratic Congressional candidates as furthering the majorities in Congress, especially with progressives, is a sure fire way to help our cause. Not only do I think this is a great opportunity to hear these candidates in their own words talking about their district, their campaign and the issues they hold dear, but also to keep some focus on Congress, because without more progressives in Congress who are willing to stand up and fight for the ideals that we discuss here daily, it really won’t matter if Clinton, Obama, Romney or McCain is in the White House because a progressive agenda would not even begin to be seriously discussed, nor would a right wing agenda be able to be thwarted.

Prior interviews in this series are below:

Our next interview is tentatively set for this Friday with Daily Kos’ own Ron Sheptson who in addition to posting as “CanYouBeAngryAndStillDream”, is a super nice guy and a good friend of mine.

We also have commitments from a few others, but no dates set. We will keep you posted, and if there are any folks out there who work on a campaign, or know someone who is either a candidate or works on a campaign who may be interested, we would love to hear from you.

I hope you can listen live, and if not, we will be posting the interview at Heading Left, which is BlogTalkRadio’s official website for progressive internet radio and podcasts.

Friday, March 07, 2008

What if Clinton or Obama took the lead on a major issue?

I’ll be brief.

You know what I would like to see from the Presidential candidates who just so happen to be Senators in a time where the current political climate is crying for real leadership from prominent members of the Senate? I’d like to see them take a step back - even if for a day or two - even in a major speech, hell, even in a campaign advertisement - and really step up on one of the many issues that is facing this country right now.

They have run two very different and two very successful campaigns. I approve of one a lot less than the other, but even with all that “the other” campaign has said, done or focused on, if that Senator actually spoke out strongly and forcefully about telecom immunity, or the ongoing funding of total destruction, loss of life and waste in Iraq, or some of the other laws being ignored or broken by this administration, then I wouldn’t care about the rest of the campaign.

That Senator would really impress me.

Or if either of them used the enormous amount of exposure and attention they have to demonstrate leadership on the issues that they will have to deal with if elected President, like conducting real oversight and promising to hold those accountable for breaking the law or really speaking out against and taking steps to ending the power grab that the Executive Branch has made, or even coming to Washington DC to stand with Senate leaders like Chris Dodd in defending the Constitution.

There is a long time between now and the Pennsylvania primary. Both campaigns just raised scads of money. This is the time to demonstrate leadership, not just talk about it.

There is a great way to show how you would be a strong and respected Commander in Chief. Not by saying that you would. Not by saying that the other one wouldn’t. But by being honest and open and candid about what is happening on the ground in Iraq, by recognizing and putting pressure on other Senators to start ending this debacle NOW, not three months after being elected.


Start putting pressure on those who ignore the law or abet lawbreaking. Like Mukasey. Like the others who want retroactive immunity to protect Bush. Like those who ignored subpoenas. Or those who decided to stop looking for the missing emails.

If either of them wanted to really stand out from the other, if either of them demonstrated the leadership that they say they have and the other one doesn’t have, if either of them took the next few weeks to step up at the job they were elected to do, that would convince a lot of people that they are ready for the job they hope to get.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

OK strict constructionists - where is telecom immunity in the Constitution?

Call me “Captain Obvious”. Tell me that it doesn’t matter – that what is said and what is done are two very different things. Tell me that republicans don’t care about the Constitution. Say “well, DUH” to what I am laying out here.

All of that is true.

But all of that is meaningless in the grand scheme of things if we can’t use this as a perfect example and reason to shatter and demolish the stupid code of “strict constructionist” that is used to eliminate privacy rights, minority rights, gay marriage rights or impose creationism in the public school system.

The point is a simple one: strict constructionists or those who support strict constructionists can NOT justify giving retroactive immunity to telecom companies for their complicity in breaking the law.


So when any of the lunatic fringe cries and howls like a stuck pig about how the government is overstepping its bounds with respect to the boogyman issue of the day/week/month, remember the FISA fights. Just as the Terri Schiavo legislation, and countless of other times that the republican party has overstepped the bounds of the Constitution. If Congress (or the rest of the Federal government for that matter) has no right to “interpret the Constitution” in a manner that would provide legislation for horrific things like, you know, rights that aren’t “specifically enumerated”, then how does it have a right to enact legislation that flies right in the face of the plain language of the Bill of Rights?

Anyone that wants to argue that strict constructionist doesn’t apply when it comes to striking the entire fourth amendment of the Constitution has absolutely no leg to stand on when it comes to saying that “we must take a literal reading of the Constitution” when it comes to right of privacy, right to make personal private decisions about medical issues, to have your privacy violated as an American citizen, or to have those rights taken away because “the president says so”.

It is time to throw this utter nonsense of an argument that is no more than another thinly veiled attempt to take rights and personal decisions away from “We the People” and put them in the hands of those who have absolutely no business, reason or connection to those who they would otherwise make these decisions for or impose their twisted sense of the world on.

Even though there have been many instances where this meme should have been crushed and exposed for the hypocritical farce that it is, here is one of the best times to do so. Nearly every republican has come out in favor of giving those poor telecom companies who broke the law and frankly don’t even care that much themselves about receiving the retroactive amnesty. And many of these republicans have at one time or another uttered the words “strict constructionist” when it came time to talk the extremist code talk that is really more to impose a “top down” heavy handed “do as I say and give me all of your money” society.

It comes down to one simple question: “if you are such a strict constructionist, where does the Constitution provide for retroactive immunity for anything?”

It undermines the credibility of the argument in and of itself, it exposes the person making such an arguments as even more of a hypocrite, and maybe, just maybe, it can bury the lie forever.

After all, it will rear its ugly head again and again and again until it is finally destroyed once and for all. This is as good of a chance and opportunity as we are going to find to expose this blanket argument for the farce that it is.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Listen to Heather Ryan (candidate for KY-1) LIVE on BlogTalkRadio

Over the past 2 months, there have been a number of diaries written about Heather Ryan, the Navy Vet mom-turned Congressional Candidate who Senator Mitch McConnell had fired from her job on MLK day for the horrific crime of her and her 12-year old daughter daring to ask McConnell a question about the Iraq War during a campaign fund raising stop in Paducah, KY.

She is running against incumbent Ed Whitfield, whose most impressive list of missed votes would put the rest of Congress to shame (over 250 since 1997), and when he has bothered to show up and vote, he has voted with the republican party close to 90% of the time in the current Congressional term.

And you can listen to Heather talk to us LIVE on BlogTalkRadio today at 4PM Eastern/1PM Pacific by clicking on this link.

Here is a bit of background on Heather from her campaign website:

At the tender age of 10, I became politically active when I met Senator Tom Harkin and Presidential Candidate Gary Hart at an anti-nuclear proliferation rally. From that day on, my life has revolved primarily around political activity.

Toward the end of Operation Desert Storm I enlisted in the United States Navy. I served honorably for three years as a Yeoman Third Class Petty Officer. While stationed at NAS North Island in San Diego, California, the Navy afforded the opportunity for me to attend college at Chapman University while active duty.

Through the Montgomery GI Bill, I continued my education during my tenure in Civil Service for the Department of Defense until I finally became a full time student at Drake University in Iowa. Though a divorced single mother, I was awarded a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science in 2000; the first person in my family to attend and graduate college.

This was historically a Democratic district until 1994 when “Exxon Ed” won the seat, and there was nearly a 2:1 Democrat to republican margin in registered voters in 2006. Ryan’s website had a number of “video blog entries” and you should definitely check them out as well.

Here is what Heather has to say about healthcare:

It is an absolute travesty that 50 million Americans struggle without health care in the wealthiest nation in the world. What's worse is when our representative votes against improvements in access to health services for children and the poor. Unfortunately, these are both realities that we've experienced under the current leadership. I propose that health care for every American is more important than tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. It is time we had a representative who thinks about more than just how much money he can make when he helps pass legislation that benefits drug and insurance companies. As the leaders of the free world, it is an embarrassment that we are the only industrialized nation that does not offer health care for our citizens

And as a military veteran, here is what Ryan has to say about Iraq:
The American people were duped into an ill-conceived war under false pretenses and the administration continues to over utilize a national guard system which was never intended to be used for sustained combat missions. Congress must insist that an exit strategy be planned and implemented immediately. By the Bush Administration's own account, the nation will be forced to reinstate the draft system again should we continue to over-tax our National Guard with sustained combat. I am not a supporter of reinstating the draft for as history clearly shows us, the draft is merely for those of us who are not wealthy enough to buy our way out of active duty. We must not allow this ill planned and ill executed war to continue to destroy the brave men and women in our armed forces while simultaneously placing our nation at a heightened risk with a limited national guard.

Here is a link to Heather’s ActBlue page (one of three ActBlue pages for her), and you can also contribute through her official campaign site.

Heather is just what Kentucky’s first district needs to turn it blue once again.


I recently posted a diary announcing a series of BlogTalkRadio interviews with Democratic Congressional candidates as furthering the majorities in Congress, especially with progressives, is a sure fire way to help our cause. Not only do I think this is a great opportunity to hear these candidates in their own words talking about their district, their campaign and the issues they hold dear, but also to keep some focus on Congress, because without more progressives in Congress who are willing to stand up and fight for the ideals that we discuss here daily, it really won’t matter if Clinton, Obama, Romney or McCain is in the White House because a progressive agenda would not even begin to be seriously discussed, nor would a right wing agenda be able to be thwarted.

Prior interviews in this series are below:

We also have commitments from a few others, but no dates set. We will keep you posted, and if there are any folks out there who work on a campaign, or know someone who is either a candidate or works on a campaign who may be interested, we would love to hear from you.

I hope you can listen live, and if not, we will be posting the interview at Heading Left, which is BlogTalkRadio’s official website for progressive internet radio and podcasts.