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The Politics of Iraq: Train Wreck Ahead?

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The Iraq Study Group has handed in its term paper, and Professor Bush is pissed.

I have not read the report, nor its 79 recommendations in any detail. I do have a high level awareness of them though. Jack Murtha has analyzed them:

“On November 7th, 2006 the American public sent a message on Iraq and as the new Democratic majority, we must respond with decisive action. Staying in Iraq is not an option politically, militarily or fiscally. The American people understand this. Today there is near consensus that there is no U.S. military solution and we must disengage our military from Iraq. The ISG recommended that we begin a withdrawal of U.S. troops by early 2008, depending on conditions on the ground. This is no different than the current policy. We must do what is best for America and insist on a responsible plan for redeployment. Iraq is plagued by a growing civil war and only the Iraqis can solve it.”

Russ Feingold had another good point:

“Unfortunately, the Iraq Study Group report does too little to change the flawed mind-set that led to the misguided war in Iraq. Maybe there are still people in Washington who need a study group to tell them that the policy in Iraq isn’t working, but the American people are way ahead of this report.

While the report has regenerated a few good ideas, it doesn’t adequately put Iraq in the context of a broader national security strategy. We need an Iraq policy that is guided by our top national security priority – defeating the terrorist network that attacked us on 9/11 and its allies. We can’t continue to just look at Iraq in isolation. Unless we set a serious timetable for redeploying our troops from Iraq, we will be unable to effectively address these global threats. In the end, this report is a regrettable example of ‘official Washington’ missing the point.”

And on Countdown, the Wisconsin Senator told Olberman, “The fact is, this commission was composed apparently entirely of people who did not have the judgment to oppose this Iraq war in the first place, and who did not have the judgment to realize it was not a wise move in the fight against terrorism.”

The other county not heard from is the people of Iraq itself. I haven’t seen a lot of polls measuring Iraqi public opinion about the U.S. occupation but in at least one, most Iraquis said the U.S. military was a destabilizng force in that country. American public opinion grows increasingly opposed to the U.S. war/occupation there. A new AP/Ipsos poll of 1000 adults counts 71% against the way G.W. Bush is handling the Iraq issue. 60% want a timetable to get the U.S. out of Iraq by the middle of 2007; 71% want out by 2008 a the latest.Bush gets a whopping 30% approval in the latest Zogby. And it was just about a month ago that Bush and the Congressional Republicans were filleted by the voters.

In a number of ways then, the American people have spoken. It could not be clearer that on this issue Murtha and Feingold speak for they whom the President is trying mightily to ignore. And now so does Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — In an emotional speech on the Senate floor Thursday night, Sen Gordon Smith, a moderate Republican from Oregon who has been a supporter of the war in Iraq, said the U.S. military’s “tactics have failed” and he “cannot support that anymore.”

Smith said he is at, “the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up the same bombs, day after day.

“That is absurd,” he said. “It may even be criminal.”


Well, Senator Smith, as I said is from Oregon, so he’s probably a dope smoking, tie dyed, granola crunching hippie. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Point being, W cannot even count on his party to have his back anymore. He grows more and more lonely as he pushes further into the Big Muddy. If he keeps ignoring reality and  public opinion, can anyone stop him? Will anyone try? And if not, what do the people do? Get drunk? Start fights in the subway? Go shopping? Write a poem?

If the war goes on as it is going, and the Commander in Chief won’t change direction and if the Congress, now in Opposition hands, does not force a change, will we face some sort of national crisis? To be resolved how?

Written by slothropia

December 8th, 2006 at 11:40 pm

Now What?

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Friday night I watched Real Time and was driven to reflection by Bill Majer’s last New Rule of the broadcast. Here is an excerpt, provided by Common Dreams .org:

NEW RULE: When the Iraq Study Group gets done studying Iraq, it should study America.

Now, I know liberals have been on a high these last 10 days, and it can’t be the meth because that’s a gay evangelical drug. But let’s remember that all that really happened was, Republicans went so batty for so long that common sense seemed like a new idea.

This divine rant contnues for a few more hundred words, and contains a few good money quotes. Like:

Let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that this election brought new thinking to Washington. It didn’t. It brought Democrats, who are often just Republicans slowed down a step by a sense of shame.”

This is especially true of the self-styled Blue Dogs, conservative democrats. As I have written here in agreement with minds much greater than mine, we still have a one party (with two wings) system. The Democrats will do the right thing only on a tactical basis. Maybe that’s because they get much of their money from the same corporate sources as the GOP. Whatever.

Still, the good news (which may after all be only temporary) coming out of this year’s election is that the Reagan coalition has been dismantled and the FDR coalition cobbled together once more. Consider Billmon’s description of the careeer arc of Jim Webb, Virginia’s new Senator. Webb began life as a Democrat and went GOP over Vietnam related issues. Then:

Webb was rewarded, eventually, by being named an assistant secretary of defense and then Secretary of the Navy in Reagan’s Pentagon, where he became a fanatical advocate of a 500 600-ship Navy — a defense contracting boondoggle so egregious even the Reagan Administration eventually abandoned it. When Webb quit, in a huff, I assumed he would end up pulling a seven-figure salary as a defense lobbyist and spend the rest of his days helping shovel pork down various congressional gullets and tending the shrine of St. Ronnie.

But instead, nearly two decades later, Webb’s now the newly elected Senator from my native state (a stronghold of the Confederacy and the national “right-to-work” movement) who’s lined up shoulder to shoulder with Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi and is writing op eds for the Wall Street Journal explicitly calling for what the Republican chattering classes sneeringly condemn as “class warfare”(.)

But having such a broad coalition would make it more difficult for the Dems if they were motivated to fashion a strategic vision that would resolve the many systemic problems that stifle progress in the U.S. Which brings me to another money quote from Maher:

Oh, Congress looks like America — we’ve got blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and whatever else is in Barack Obama. But diversity of thought? There’s exactly one socialist, and when it comes to “faith” — I bet there’s not even one who wouldn’t profess the greatest of piety…

If we actually had the occasional far left hippie in Congress to balance out all the legion of loonytoons on the far right — but outside of Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich, there isn’t a far left in America (note: John Hall is a new Congressman and a rock musician. That’s almost like a hippie, no? note: Hall and bernie Sanders both represent Northeast states that border on Canada. Coincidence?). Nancy Pelosi isn’t going to try to legalize drugs or socialize hospitals or really tax gasoline or tell the Pentagon to cut its bloated, corrupt budget…

There’s no out-of-the-box thinking in this country. If we were really looking for a new direction, we’d not just change Congress, we’d have another Constitutional Convention, as Jefferson suggested we do.

And there is the essence of the overall problem facing the U.S. Whatever history has brought us here, here is where we are. We are faced with a series of critical, systemic crises and the system whose function is to resolve these crises is sclerotic and paralyzed.

We know for example, how to make sure that health care is affordable and available to all, but lack the will to do what needs to be done (pass the powder milk biscuits, Garrison). We know that Iraq is a disaster but too many are unwilling to admit that the only option is withdrawal, sooner or later. See Maher quote above for further examples.

Maybe we do need a new constitution that would establish a system that would enable us to dealing with reality. It would have to be more inclusive and open to fresh thinking than what we have now but that wouldn’t be hard to achieve.

For starters, how about a legislative branch that solicits multiple parties instead of jkust the Ins and the Outs. Let there be parties for the Blue Dogs and the Kucinich/Sanders wing, and the Clintons (and others too). Lieberman can continue to have his own party.

Let the Buchanan’s have their own party, as well as the Brownback’s , the neo-cons and the Giullianies and McCains.

Let there be real debate and dialogue that forces the body politic to at long last face reality and deal.

Written by slothropia

November 19th, 2006 at 12:04 pm

I Voted Early This Year

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I voted early this year. I had to go to the County Clerk’s office to do it, but I didn’t mind at all. I voted early only partly because I expected to be out of town generating revenue on November 7. Mostly, I wanted to make sure I got my kick at the prostrated GOP and just couldn’t wait another two weeks.

Those who have visited this blog will have noticed my AntiRepublican and anticonservative animus. I think I will take this lull behind the electoral storm to discuss how and why Republicans, conservatives and other right wingers wherever they may be have earned my contempt.

Never mind the biographical aspect of this story. Yes, I have been jerked around in some ways by THEM, the right, conservatives, whatever they are called. And they are called different things depending on where they are active. Yes, the right wing political parties are one of their tools. But tools are all they are. Conservative political parties and governments exist in order to expand and consolidate power in the hands of a specific segment of society.

I gotta admit though, apart from some early struggles imposed on me by this uber class, having to do with imperial wars, THEY have left me alone. In recent years, in fact, THEY have helped me buy a lot of cool stuff.

But it’s not about me. It is about everyone who is harmed by the imbalance of power, whether they live in this country or another.

And it’s about power. Money is in many ways just a way of keeping score.

Until January of next year, Republicans will hold nearly all the federal political power there is to hold, and they serve their masters well. Always have. Everybody else loses though.

I’m trying to look at the big picture, the grand historical pattern. At the start of the Industrial Revolution, the owners of capital had all the power in the capitalist societies, like Britain, Germany, Canada and the United States. Much of the history of the last two centuries in these counties has had to do with how power has come to be distributed somewhat more equally. The expansion of suffrage, unionism, the civil rights, feminist, gay pride and other movements have all been part of that process as have been the struggles for pensions and universal health insurance.

Capital’s reaction to these has been more violent in the United States than it has been in other countries.  I don’t pretend to know why that is but I know I can find a lot of people who agree with me. Three symptoms of the reaction will bear this argument.

Unions have fewer members and less power in the United States than in most other advanced countries. Their ability to organize is also tightly constricted by state and federal legislation.

  1. The only industrialized nation without universal health insurance is the United States.
  2. Repeatedly, the United States has shown itself susceptible to waging war in less developed countries, like Vietnam, Panama, and Iraq. The proxy war by the Contras against the elected government of Nicaragua also counts.

Here is one result of the inequitable distribution of power in this country.  As Ezra Klein puts it:

From 2003 to 2004, real average income for the top 1 percent of households shot up by 17 percent. For the remaining 99 percent, the average gain was under three percent. Indeed, the top one percent accumulated 36 percent of all income increases in 2004, a six percent increase from 2003.

So now we can empirically demonstrate that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Now, I am not necessarily arguing that everybody needs more stuff, but a big part of what people do everyday is trying to improve their lives and the lives of their children (where applicable).

It is conservative Republicans who have given us this inequitable mess, and it is they who mouth bromides about fiscal responsibility. Ironically, their gift to us has been a ticking fiscal time bomb.

What other gifts has the Reagan Revolution’s upward distribution of wealth and power bestowed upon this city on the hill:               

·        Our  life expectancy is decreasing

·        Our infant mortality rate is increasing

·        The Unites States is now 53rd in Press Freedom

·        The U.S. has apparently lost its ability to achieve its foreign policy goals or to get much of anything useful done.

Given all this, I would have been very surprised if voters had stayed with the Republicans last week. I mean, they’re not stupid, are they?

Written by slothropia

November 13th, 2006 at 11:59 pm

Are We Still in Kansas, Toto?

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Could this be happening? For real? Most of the votes have been counted and there will be a shift in power in Congress and in many states as well.

This election was a profund rejection of the Republican Party and its current brand of conservatism. It is also final proof that the Rovian strategy of paying attention only to the base is not indefinitely sustainable.

Having rejected the Republican Party at several layers of government, is the U.S. electorate now somehow oriented in ways that it was not previously? Republicans and conservatives have been going on tv every 27 seconds for three days straight now insisting that a lot of moderate democrats were elected so conservatism is therefore still where people are at. Let us stipulate that in fact the Democratic Party coalition is now wider than it was before. So what? New progressive Democratic legislators were elected and there are still plenty of them continuing in office, starting with the devil herself, Madame Speaker Pelosi. They may not share my political philosiphy, but they can still be an occasional force for good – or at least not so bad.
There is no doubt that (in my mind at least) Iraq was the driving issue in this election. To be sure there were other issues, but Iraq overwhemed all of them (despite what the exit pols told the network pundits). Indeed, some of the other issues fed into the narrative around Iraq. The culture of corruption in Washington, for example, helps everyone understand the problems with the rebuilding effort in Iraq. And Iraq=Oil=Haliburton=Lobbyists=Abramoff=Cheney=Rumsfeld=Bush. All these ingredients simmered in the stew pot of the electorate’s collective mind until served cold on Tuesday evening last.

The people have had a taste of revenge for 6 years of mendacious incompetence, but have the people changed? Certainly, some attitudes have matured since last we voted.

It turns out that gay bashing isn’t the winner it used to be, for example. Indeed, the tactic of creating ballot initiatives on wedge issues truly backfired on the GOP this cycle. My favourite example is the defeat of the abortion ban in south Dakota, with the Arizona defeat of an anti-same sex marriage amendment close behind.

Again, though, the main issue was Iraq. What does the vote tell us about what Americans want to happen in Iraq? Have American attitudes about war generally modified in any way by growing closer to attitudes held in other advanced countries?

For centuries – nay, millennia – Europe was wracked with war. No more. Not after the two devestating episodes in the last century. Not after the European empires have gone the way of dinosaurs and dodos. Are the good people of Europe a new, advanced species of human, or a creature closer to the Angels than Americans? Nah. They have simply learned the harsh lessons of war by having the shit bombed out of them. Their grandparents really.

Americans have not really benefitted from the direct experience of modern warfare, except for the unfortunate misunderstanding that was the Civil War. After that the only wars the U.S. fought were in other parts of the world. Pearl Harbor was an exception, but it was an attack on a military target. The Japanese did not bomb the civilians in nearby Honolulu (unlike some victorious Allied powers I could mention). American voters have usually proven reluctant to engage in wars, either of choice or necessity. And wars that drag on inconclusively become unpopular. Sometimes really unpopular. But Americans have sometimes shown an unfortuante willingness to be bamboozled into support for martial stupidity.
9/11 was an attack on U.S. soil and on U.S. civilians. Afterwards, Americans wanted a revenge that remains elusive. The W administration leveraged that desire into the policy that was rejected on Tuesday. My question remains, “Does the result of the 2006 election represent a new deterination by the American electorate to avoid unnecessary adnill advised wars?” I don’t know the answer, although if I were running for office I would pretend to. I am mildly encouraged, however, by the apparent willingness on the part of voters to reject the conservative solution to a number of chronic problems. To name just one example, in this election Democrats talked openly about universal health insurance. This is an idea whose time has almost come, but rejection of the same idea brought the Republicans to power 12 years ago.

The future is murky, and I agree with Chomsky and Vidal that the United States has not a two party sustem but a one party system with two heads, but I have a little more hope than I did a few days ago.

Written by slothropia

November 10th, 2006 at 10:30 am

W Tacs to the Center and Bows to the Inevitable

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Sometimes even the President of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked.

I wish I’d said that. That’s the sort of line that makes a poet a prophet or vice versa.

And W today stands naked, revealed as the failure he really is. I am more convinced than ever that he threw this election to help improve his place in history. If his presidency ended now he would eventually rank somewhere between Millard Fillmore and Benedict Arnold. So he visited Montana and Missouri in the campaign homestretch, just to make sure GOP incumbents would lose in both states. He and Rove deserve some sort of award for losing election while appearing to try really hard to win. Heckuva job Turd Blossom!
If his presidency ended now he would eventually rank somewhere between Waren G. Harding and James Buchanan, but now he has a chance to mitigate a small portion of the damage he has done by using the election results and the Baker Commission as figleaves to get out of Iraq. What’s the first thing he did after the “thumping” he took yesterday. Give Rummy one final handshake and “Heckuva job!” and then fire his ass. Now he can concentrate on getting the Iraq monkey off his back and pretending to fight the Dems on the rest of their agenda.

Get ready for a boost in the minimum wage.We’re all gonna be rich!!!

Written by slothropia

November 8th, 2006 at 1:08 pm