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You Don’t Need a Weatherman…

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Yesterday,  Howard Dean responded on behalf of the Democrats to W’s weekly radio address. Bush talked about immigration, but Dean talked about the war, both of which were revealing choices.

  1. I will ignore Bush since he is an irrelevant lame duck. Dean tried to achieve several objectives in his remarks.

(Dean) noted his party has made little progress toward ending the war, the cause, he said, that returned them to power.

“The American people hired Democrats last November to ensure that we end this war,” Dean said during the weekly Democratic radio address. “So let me be clear, we know that if we don’t keep our promise, we may find ourselves the minority again.”

Dean was giving his party a little pep talk, including a reminder to the Dems that they have to play harder if they want to win. He was also  letting them know that the voters would punish continued failure to end the war.  My own sense is that voters will forgive the Democrats if they see appropriate attention paid to the Iraq issue. But the former Vermont governor certainly had in mind the recent droop ion popularity of the Dem Congress.
Of course, he did not let the opposition off the hook:

Dean put the blame for the lack of progress squarely on the White House and congressional Republicans for blocking his party’s attempt at tying war funding to deadlines for troop withdrawals.

“We have to face the reality that Republicans in Congress are standing with President Bush as he stubbornly wields his veto pen,” Dean charged. In response, he proposed that the “one way to truly ensure we end this war” was to elect a Democrat as president in 2008.

Dean was attempting to deflect blame for Iraq to the party that is responsible while buying time for his own party.  Now it’s up to the elected Democratic Reps and Senators to follow through.

Meanwhile, Colin Powell has refused to say he will vote for the GOP presidential nominee in’08 and is giving advice to Obama. What is significant here is not the specific advice offered or received, but the implication of support.  As they say on The Riches, “What’s  the angle here?” What is in it for Powell to lend at least this much support to Obama?

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June 10th, 2007 at 10:50 pm

Posted in Iraq,Uncategorized

Wake Up Call for Spineless Congressional Dems

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I didn’t see this Olberman comment live because I was playing outside but I think he captures what a lot of Democrats and Dem leaners are feeling right now.

Also see tonight’s Daily Show for vicious satire at Dem expense.

OK, so its hard to get bills pat the President if he doesn’t like them, and he doesn’t like anything which might shorten the war. But it is my very clear sense that the public (aside from 28% or so) want the Democrats to keep trying. Today’s surrender will please no one but that small minority that thinks the U.S. is doing splendidly in Iraq and around the world. For Democratic voters and suppporters, though, it is a very dark day indeed.

Guess I’m voting for Kucinich.

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May 23rd, 2007 at 10:29 pm

Open letter to Peoria Journal Star

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Today (Tuesday, may 1) the Journal Star published an editorial cartoon depicting Osama bin Laden celebrating a possible deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Is the JS among those (like Vice President Cheney) who argue that Saddam was behind the 9/11 attacks

I understand that the Journal Star supports the war in Iraq. But the cartoon referred to above is confusing to me. After all, the war against Al Qaeda’s terrorism was weakened when the Bush administration moved resources and attention from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Furthermore, it is obvious that having the United States bogged down in Iraq serves Bin Laden’s strategic purposes. Every day that the U.S. loses blood and treasure in Iraq is a victory for Al Qaeda.

Your newspaper certainly has a right to take any editorial position it likes, but you might want to consider some other opinions. Consider the following:

The political problem of the Bush administration is grave, possibly beyond the point of rescue. The opinion polls are savagely decisive on the Iraq question. About 60 percent of Americans wish the war ended — wish at least a timetable for orderly withdrawal. What is going on in Congress is in the nature of accompaniment. The vote in Congress is simply another salient in the war against war in Iraq. Republican forces, with a couple of exceptions, held fast against the Democrats’ attempt to force Bush out of Iraq even if it required fiddling with the Constitution. President Bush will of course veto the bill, but its impact is critically important in the consolidation of public opinion. It can now accurately be said that the legislature, which writes the people’s laws, opposes the war.

These words were not written by a left wing blogger, but by William F. Buckley at National Review Online on April 28. Mr. Buckley concludes the quoted article this way:

General Petraeus is a wonderfully commanding figure. But if the enemy is in the nature of a disease, he cannot win against it. Students of politics ask then the derivative question: How can the Republican party, headed by a president determined on a war he can’t see an end to, attract the support of a majority of the voters? General Petraeus, in his Pentagon briefing on April 26, reported persuasively that there has been progress, but cautioned, “I want to be very clear that there is vastly more work to be done across the board and in many areas, and again I note that we are really just getting started with the new effort.”

The general makes it a point to steer away from the political implications of the struggle, but this cannot be done in the wider arena. There are grounds for wondering whether the Republican Party will survive this dilemma.

No doubt Mr. Buckley is aware of public opinion about Iraq. In a recent CBS/New York Times poll the question was asked, “Do you think the United States should or should not set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq sometime in 2008?”

The respondents answered this way:

Should         Should Not            Unsure

%                   %                       %

4/20-24/07           64                  32                      4

4/9-12/07             57                  38                      5

I wonder if the public in Central Illinois feels this way?

Today (Tuesday, may 1) the Journal Star published an editorial cartoon depicting Osama bin Laden celebrating a possible deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Is the JS among those (like Vice President Cheney) who argue that Saddam was behind the 9/11 attacks

I understand that the Journal Star supports the war in Iraq. But the cartoon referred to above is confusing to me. After all, the war against Al Qaeda’s terrorism was weakened when the Bush administration moved resources and attention from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Furthermore, it is obvious that having the United States bogged down in Iraq serves Bin Laden’s strategic purposes. Every day that the U.S. loses blood and treasure in Iraq is a victory for Al Qaeda.

Your newspaper certainly has a right to take any editorial position it likes, but you might want to consider some other opinions. Consider the following:

The political problem of the Bush administration is grave, possibly beyond the point of rescue. The opinion polls are savagely decisive on the Iraq question. About 60 percent of Americans wish the war ended — wish at least a timetable for orderly withdrawal. What is going on in Congress is in the nature of accompaniment. The vote in Congress is simply another salient in the war against war in Iraq. Republican forces, with a couple of exceptions, held fast against the Democrats’ attempt to force Bush out of Iraq even if it required fiddling with the Constitution. President Bush will of course veto the bill, but its impact is critically important in the consolidation of public opinion. It can now accurately be said that the legislature, which writes the people’s laws, opposes the war.

These words were not written by a left wing blogger, but by William F. Buckley at National Review Online on April 28. Mr. Buckley concludes the quoted article this way:

General Petraeus is a wonderfully commanding figure. But if the enemy is in the nature of a disease, he cannot win against it. Students of politics ask then the derivative question: How can the Republican party, headed by a president determined on a war he can’t see an end to, attract the support of a majority of the voters? General Petraeus, in his Pentagon briefing on April 26, reported persuasively that there has been progress, but cautioned, “I want to be very clear that there is vastly more work to be done across the board and in many areas, and again I note that we are really just getting started with the new effort.”

The general makes it a point to steer away from the political implications of the struggle, but this cannot be done in the wider arena. There are grounds for wondering whether the Republican Party will survive this dilemma.

No doubt Mr. Buckley is aware of public opinion about Iraq. In a recent CBS/New York Times poll the question was asked, “Do you think the United States should or should not set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq sometime in 2008?”

The respondents answered this way:

Should         Should Not            Unsure

%                   %                       %

4/20-24/07           64                  32                      4

4/9-12/07             57                  38                      5

I wonder if the public in Central Illinois feels this way?

Written by slothropia

May 1st, 2007 at 11:00 pm

Are Congressional Democrats Vertebrates?????

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Truer words were never posted. From BarbinMD, writing at The Daily Kos:

When is enough enough? How much more clear do the American people have to be? Fifty-six percent of us want our military forces withdrawn from Iraq. Sixty-seven percent oppose Bush’s escalation of his war. Fifty-eight percent support Rep. Jack Murtha’s plan to place readiness requirements on troop deployments. So, what is the latest plan to get us out of Iraq?

It’s time for Congress to stop with the non-binding resolutions and meaningless gestures. It’s time…no, it’s past time for them to ask:

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

And then do something about it.

I sincerely hope the Democrats realize that they are playing with electoral fire if they do not do everything within their power to try  and end the war.

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February 28th, 2007 at 11:22 pm

Another Argument Against the Iraq War

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Back in the early 90’s I read Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of Great Nations. Therein, Kennedy forges a theory about how and why nations rise, build empires and then fall. From a NY Times review by Michael Howard:

Paul Kennedy of Yale University has broken ranks with his colleagues. In a work of almost Toynbeean sweep he describes a pattern of past development that is not only directly relevant to our times but is clearly intended to be read by policy makers, particularly American policy makers. ”The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers” is, as Mr. Kennedy states, a book that can be read on at least two levels. On the one hand it presents a clearly defined and closely reasoned thesis explaining the subject matter of the title – why nations rise and fall, and why the process is still continuing. On the other, in order to provide the data for his thesis, Mr. Kennedy gives a clearly written and fairly uncontentious history of the rise and fall of Europe and its empires and the confrontation between the superpowers which had followed. He unashamedly endorses the view of the German historian Leopold von Ranke that history is fundamentally about high politics, and that politicians will be better at their jobs if they understand the historical processes of which they form part.

He expands his thesis in the introduction and epilogue. It can be easily summarized: The more states increase their power, the larger the proportion of their resources they devote to maintaining it. If too large a proportion of national resources is diverted to military purposes, this in the long run leads to a weakening of power. The capacity to sustain a conflict with a comparable state or coalition of states ultimately depends on economic strength; but states apparently at the zenith of their political power are usually already in a condition of comparative economic decline, and the United States is no exception to this rule. Power can be maintained only by a prudent balance between the creation of wealth and military expenditure, and great powers in decline almost always hasten their demise by shifting expenditure from the former to the latter. Spain, the Netherlands, France and Britain did exactly that. Now it is the turn of the Soviet Union and the United States.

I was very impressed with Kennedy’s theory and could easily see that the courrse the U.S. was on even then could one day lead to a drastic reduction of its influence in the world and its standard of living.

I was not the only one:

As revealed in a 2005 strategy document, al-Qaida hopes to repeat Osama bin Laden’s victory over the Soviet empire in Afghanistan by eliminating the chief obstacle in the way of establishing an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. The goal is not, as Bush administration and right-wing pundits proclaim, to conquer or directly destroy America. Osama bin Laden wants to provoke the United States into destroying itself.

The game plan owes at least part of its inspiration from Paul Kennedy’s book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. In his investigative report The Secret History of Al-Qaeda, Abdel Bari Atwan writes that top al-Qaida ideologist Ayman Al-Zawahiri is a reader and “great admirer” of Kennedy’s book. The New York Times Book Review‘s Michael Howard summarized the book’s insights in a manner that must have clicked with budding jihadists observing the Soviet Union’s fall at the time: “Power can be maintained only by a prudent balance between the creation of wealth and military expenditure, and great powers in decline almost always hasten their demise by shifting expenditure from the former to the latter.” (Thanks to Adam Elkus in Alternet)

The game plan is working, and the longer we stay in Iraq, the happier is al-Quaida. Kennedy’s book and Howard’s review were both written nearly two decades ago, and now we Kennedy’s prophecies will apparently be fulfilled.

Unless, of course, the Democratic Congress can exercise the power it now holds and quickly get the troops home.

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February 7th, 2007 at 9:05 pm

Posted in Iraq

Why the Iraq War Was a Bad Idea: Reason # 2467 x 522

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There were and are many reasons for Americans to oppose the war in Iraq. Some of those reasons can be agreed to by citizens of other countries. One could, for example, oppose the war in Iraq because it is a war, and all wars are evil as is the institution of war.

Or, if one could, if not a total pacifist, oppose because it increases the risk of other wars breaking out in the Middle East. Anytime I want to I can sit down and make a long list of altruistic reasons to be against this war.

Across the great divide, the dwindling band of war supporters have given up, it seems to me, trying to argue that the United States invaded Iraq to spread democracy or help the oppressed peoples of Mesopotamia. To the extent they have any arrows left in their quiver, they try to argue that it is in the best interests of the U.S. to stay in Iraq until something good happens. Oil, the largest incentive for invasion, is to be mentioned but rarely.

Let us stipulate that any nation, including the United States,  should not engage in war if it is against the national interest to do so. Then let us hold the Iraq war to that standard. Finally, consider this article by Jonathan Marcus from the online BBC:

The US invasion of Iraq and its quest to spread democracy throughout the region has had a series of profound but unintended consequences. Of these, the most important is the rise of Iran.

Washington’s destruction of the Taleban regime in Afghanistan and its toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq served to destroy Tehran’s main strategic competitors.

For a brief moment Iran too feared US intervention. It was at this moment that Tehran appeared most willing to explore talks.

But the Americans’ increasing problems in Iraq showed that for the Iranians the cloud of US ascendancy did indeed have a silver-lining.

And that silver lining is the rise of Iran as a major regional power. That nations power and influence are growing, motivating a panicking Bush trying to provoke Iran into some sort of hostile act that would precipitate war.

Marcus also describes how:

The invasion of Iraq has paradoxically also served to bring an end to the era of US diplomatic primacy in the Middle East, says Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former State Department official.

“For much of the last two decades the US enjoyed an ahistoric advantage in the region, with the end of the Cold War and the domination that it showed in the region after Iraq invaded Kuwait,” Mr Haas says.

“Now though, we are seeing something fundamentally different.” It was, he says, the end of American primacy.

Slowly, the U.S. is being  driven from the Middle East.

Written by slothropia

February 7th, 2007 at 12:04 am

Posted in Iraq,Uncategorized

What Time Does the Mutiny Start?

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The News Blog pointed me to Sir, No Sir, a site which documents the various ways in civilians and military personnel resisted the war in Vietnam. Consider the page about riots and rebellions, which includes the following:

1967

May 13
Fort Carson – On-base riot .

July 15
Fort Dix – Stockade rebellion.

October 3
Fort Hood – On-base riot.

1968

March 6
Fort Benning – On-base riot.

April 11 – 12
Fort Campbell – On-base riot.

June 14
Fort Jackson – Stockade rebellion.

July
Long Kanh Province, South Vietnam – Reported fragging.

July 4
The Presidio – Stockade rebellion.

July 23
Fort Bragg – Stockade rebellion.

August 16
DaNang Brig, South Vietnam – Stockade rebellion.

August 18 – 19
DaNang Brig, South Vietnam – Stockade rebellion.

August 29 – 30
Long Binh Jail, South Vietnam – Stockade rebellion.

September
Vietnam GI reports that someone cut safety wires and backed off several nuts on one of the hot dog General’s choppers. “Fortunately” , the crew chief discovered “the problem” before the General took off.

October
Fort Dix – Stockade rebellion.

November
Long Binh Jail, South Vietnam – Stockade rebellion.
Fort Ord – Stockade rebellion.
Camp Crockett – On-base riot.

November 7
Camp Pendelton Brig – Stockade rebellion

There’s much more of course.

As I have stated before, the war in Iraq is an imperial war, as was the war in Vietnam. Someday,  historains can compare and contrast the two wars and note the similarities and differences.

Here is one critical similarity: soldiers, marines, etc.  in Iraq are serving under extremely stressful conditions. I’m not there. I don’t know what it’s like for them, but I have begun to wonder how long it will be before military discipline becomes a serous issue.

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January 28th, 2007 at 11:55 pm

Posted in Iraq,Vietnam

Bush Blues

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I read somewhere (online of course) that the last week of January haas been deemed by some social scientist or other as the most depressing week of the year. This past Monday is the true nadir of the year, per this theory, backed by who knows how much and what kind of research.

I must say that I feel it too. Not that I’m depressed, but I’m not doing cartwheels either. It’s a kind of boredome that afflicts me. And now I have suffered, with the other 300 million residents of the U.S., the latest State of the Union expectoration from president Bush.

I won’t analyze it here, because as far as a proposed direction for the country,  it is dead, kaput, pinin’ for the fjords. Nothing new about Iraq, of course, and yet nothing else really matters.  The policy proposal that struck me the most was a feeble nod i the direction of universal health insurance. Read his lips, no new taxes, but Bush pretends that tax deductions – not even tax credits – will make a dent in the problem of 4o million or so uninsured. Well, it won’t. As Mr. Duncan Atrios suggests:

You could just sign everyone up and pay for it out of taxes one way or another. I’m flexible about how exactly it’s implemented after that, but the biggest absurdity in all of these plans it that you have to add additional complexity to the tax code, and a ridiculous additional layer of adminstration/bureaucracy. If you want everyone to sign up, don’t “mandate” that they “buy in” to the program. Just, you know, sign them up and take it from their paycheck. If they don’t have a paycheck, they’re still signed up.

Yeah, that’s the way you do it. Sorta like Canada.

I am cheered somewhat by the fact that the need for a universal heath care/insurance program is now accepted by even the flatulent gas bags on the cable news programs. Except for Fox. The point is, that health care is a problem that this and all previous administrations have failed to deal with,  but which they can no longer ignore.

Even more joyful is the sense I have that politics have changed,  and that progressive solutions are becoming inevitable.

Must sleep now, but I will try to develop these thoughts tomorrow.

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January 24th, 2007 at 1:10 am

Washington ‘Snubbed Iran Offer’ – It’s a Wonder they (Bushies) Can Even Feed Themselves

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This week the BBC reported that way back in ’03, the Bush administration rejected submissive overtures from Iran. Specifically, it was Cheney’s office that said no.

Is Cheney and his nominal boss (GW) that stupid? I guess no. They rejected peace not out of incompetence, but through malice. They would prefer to have open warfare in the Middle East, I think I have a right to conclude.
And yet, the White House gets all pissy when Speaker Pelosi talks about their behaviour in rushing toward the latest escalation:

“The president knows that because the troops are in harm’s way, that we won’t cut off the resources. That’s why he’s moving so quickly to put them in harm’s way,” Pelosi said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

The administration’s response was:

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino retorted that lawmakers are involved in a “sound bite war” against Bush, counter to Democrats’ promises of bipartisanship.

“Those particular comments were poisonous,” Perino said. “I think questioning the president’s motivations and suggesting that he, for some political reason, is rushing troops into harm’s way, is not appropriate, it is not correct, and it is unfortunate because we do have troops in harm’s way.”

Poor dears. They get so upset when someone calls their bullshit.

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January 19th, 2007 at 11:58 pm

Posted in Iran,Iraq

Support for Iraq Funding Cutoff?

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The following is taken from a Polling Report roundup of polling on Iraq. It is from a CNN/Opinion Research poll.

“Congress may consider several different resolutions on President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq. Some resolutions would take steps to prevent this, while other resolutions would express opposition to the plan, but not attempt to block it. Suppose Congress considers a resolution which would take specific steps designed to prevent the U.S. from sending more troops to Iraq. What would you want your members of Congress to do? Should they vote to allow the U.S. to send more troops to Iraq or vote to prevent the U.S. from sending more troops to Iraq?”

.

Allow Prevent Unsure    
% % %    

1/11/07

36 61 3    

And yet, Howard Fineman was on Countdown tonight saying the Democrats were afraid to cut off funding for Iraq because the polling is opposed to doing so (I will update when the transcript becomes available).

Now, on the same Polling Report page are other polls that are more closely divided on this question. But this poll and others measuring the President’s job approval, both on Iraq as well as generally, may indicate that opposition to the escalation is growing along with a desire to see the Democratic Congress take stronger action than just a nonbinding resolution.

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January 17th, 2007 at 9:53 pm