Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Infantile Idealism vs. Adult Realism

A Micro-Civil War Around and Within the National Security Council?

A struggle over the control of the ship of state seems to be ensuing. Neocons Dick Cheney & Co. are losing out to Conservatives Brent Scowcroft & James Baker, Inc.

Brent Scowcroft, was national security adviser to three Republican presidents, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George Bush Sr. He may be pulling strings in the latest US foreign policy departures. He is definitely a pivotal figure behind the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group. This panel submits its final report to Congress on Dec. 10.

Scowcroft said in an interview he gave the Turkish Daily News of Nov. 9, 2006:
I think we need to embed Iraq in a larger regional solution, and that to me goes back to the Palestinian issue. I think this would put us back on the offensive psychologically and even make Iraq easier to manage.

But I don’t think this will start with some kind of a conference because everyone will come with their preset speeches and everything will freeze again. But I think that there will be some quiet consultations in the region. I believe the Arab states in the region are eager for such a conversation. Israel may not be eager, but Israel is in bad shape right now.
This is what most of us expected, on 12-September-01.
It's five years late. And billions of dollars short.

Who Is Hadley Talking About?

Which 'war-time' leader is Stephen J. Hadley, really writing about in this Nov. 8 National Security Council memorandum?
He impressed me as a leader who wanted to be strong but was having difficulty figuring out how to do so. . . . Perhaps because he is frustrated over his limited ability to command _____ forces against terrorists and insurgents, _____ has been trying to show strength by standing up to the _____ . . . .

It is less clear whether _____ is a witting participant. The information he receives is undoubtedly skewed by his small circle of _____ advisers, coloring his actions and interpretation of reality. His intentions seem good when he talks with Americans, and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the _____ hierarchy and force positive change. But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests _____ is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action.
Give up?
Released today by the New York Times

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Progressive Ultimatum Part II

Tell Bush to get out now: either out of Iraq or out of the White House.

American progressives - Republicans and Democrats - should demand that Bush either resign or clean-up his mess in Mesopotamia before he leaves office in 2008.

One recent morning, I forgot my need to get up and fetch another cup of coffee when I read this:
. . . .All I read were criticisms, many of which were harsh but no alternatives to the current Elephant plans in place. The Elephant plans are without a doubt flawed and big mistakes have been made in Iraq. On the other hand the Donkeys don’t really have a plan from what I’ve concluded. I have the impression they’re only focused on withdrawing from Iraq. If they do withdraw before Iraq is stabilized then I must honestly say that I’ll consider it as a defeat. . . a very bad defeat and a second Vietnam. Here comes the question: Which one is better having no plan or having a flawed plan?
Planning by the worst administration in history is worse than no plan at all.

Michael Moore's letter (below) answers the first part of this objection.
Our current occupation of Iraq is in a state of free-fall in a cascade of civil war, ethnic cleansing and insurrection. Part of the problem was that this un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (UULUIUOI) has been driven by a Bushevik-Sharansky dogma that democratic governance was the silver-bullet answer to terrorist werewolves.

Secondly, at the risk of slapping up the most presumptuous comment ever, I told the author that tragically he was probably too young and callow to realize that Bush’s UULUIUOI has amounted to and continues to be a major departure from the American tradition in foreign policy. Neocons are not just an ultra-conservative administration: they represent a militarist mutation of conservatism which tracks its origins only back to Leo Strauss, not to settled American traditions or political thought. As such, they are alien strain to American political thought.

If they were only a ‘very conservative’ Republican administration, there could be room for confidence in a belief that the merciful pendulum of history would swing back naturally in a couple of years. In which case, we could say, foreign policy stops at the water's edge, suck it in, manage the mess in Mesopotamia as best we can, honor Bush’s commitments as if they were our own, etc.

But this is not the case. Bush and Cheney and Rove represent the worst American can be and, left to cycle out in 2008, will yet become. After 2008 they will not be long gone. They’ll be back, metastasized in an even more virulent form.

All this is to say, there are stakes bigger than Iraq involved here. In foreign policy alone, the doctrine of preventive war, preemptive war, or whatever - in hell - you want to call it, has to be repudiated and banished from our American lexicon. Until we do this, we can accomplish nothing of value for Iraqis or for ourselves. This has to be accomplished by 2008. If not, it will be done by future historians which is to say, too late.

Bush and Cheney have to be forced to eat their war before they’re excused from the table.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Progressive Ultimatum Part I

Cut and Run, the Only Brave Thing to Do
I received my regular email this morning from Michael Moore, who has always demonstrated an unparalleled capacity for putting things in appropriate historical perspective:

Tomorrow marks the day that we will have been in Iraq longer than we were in all of World War II.

That's right. We were able to defeat all of Nazi Germany, Mussolini, and the entire Japanese empire in LESS time than it's taken the world's only superpower to secure the road from the airport to downtown Baghdad.
In Fact, The route to Baghdad to the 'secure Green Zone is only by air taxi; and if by night, the lights aboard are out. Moore goes on:
After 1,347 days, in the same time it took us to took us to sweep across North Africa, storm the beaches of Italy, conquer the South Pacific, and liberate all of Western Europe, we cannot, after over 3 and 1/2 years, even take over a single highway and protect ourselves from a homemade device of two tin cans placed in a pothole.
Bush and Blair's un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (UULUIUOI) has been composed long on gall, short on war, and interminal on occupation. The duration of our occupation has now reached 1,305 days if you count Bush's Mayday 2003 celebration on board the Lincoln and 1,078 if you count our capture of the Iraqi head of state in December 2003. For that length of time, we have been misusing our fighting men and women to impress down upon the Iraqi people an unwanted occupation. On this point, Moore says, there can be no doubt:
. . . according to a recent poll conducted by the University of Maryland:
  • 71% of all Iraqis now want the U.S. out of Iraq.
  • 61% of all Iraqis SUPPORT insurgent attacks on U.S. troops.
. . .the vast majority of Iraqi citizens believe that our soldiers should be killed and maimed! So what the hell are we still doing there? Talk about not getting the hint?

. . . . Where were all the suicide bombers when Saddam was oppressing them? Where were the insurgents planting bombs along the roadside as the evildoer Saddam's convoy passed them by? I guess ol' Saddam was a cruel despot -- but not cruel enough for thousands to risk their necks.
As I've said before, wars are lost (mostly); some are won. Occupations are neither won or lost; they are always ended.
There are many ways to liberate a country. Usually the residents of that country rise up and liberate themselves. That's how we did it. You can also do it through nonviolent, mass civil disobedience. That's how India did it. You can get the world to boycott a regime until they are so ostracized they capitulate. That's how South Africa did it. Or you can just wait them out and, sooner or later, the king's legions simply leave (sometimes just because they're too cold). That's how Canada did it.
This UULUIUOI is alien to American history and experience.
A country can HELP another people overthrow a tyrant (that's what the French did for us in our revolution), but after you help them, you leave. Immediately. The French didn't stay and tell us how to set up our government. They didn't say, "we're not leaving because we want your natural resources." They left us to our own devices and it took us six years before we had an election . . . . The French didn't say, "Oh, we better stay in America, otherwise they're going to kill each other over that slavery issue!"
Where do we go from here? Moore's suggestion for Progressives' demand from Congressional Democrats:
  1. Bring the troops home now. Not six months from now. NOW. Quit looking for a way to win. We can't win. We've lost. Sometimes you lose. This is one of those times. Be brave and admit it.
  2. Apologize to our soldiers and make amends. Tell them we are sorry they were used to fight a war that had NOTHING to do with our national security. We must commit to taking care of them so that they suffer as little as possible. The mentally and physically maimed must get the best care and significant financial compensation. The families of the deceased deserve the biggest apology and they must be taken care of for the rest of their lives.
  3. We must atone for the atrocity we have perpetuated on the people of Iraq. There are few evils worse than waging a war based on a lie, invading another country because you want what they have buried under the ground. Now many more will die. Their blood is on our hands, regardless for whom we voted. If you pay taxes, you have contributed to the three billion dollars a week now being spent to drive Iraq into the hellhole it's become. When the civil war is over, we will have to help rebuild Iraq. We can receive no redemption until we have atoned.
I'll have more to say on these points covered above. In the meantime please read Michael's comments in full.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Coalition of the Un-Willing Grows

Peter Tinley, former SAS officer who devised and executed the Iraq war plan for Australia's special forces breaks, ranks to say that the nation's involvement has been a strategic and moral blunder and to call for immediate withdrawal of his nation's deployment.

"The notion that pre-emption is a legitimate strategy is a betrayal of the Australian way."

Mr Tinley, 44, who retired from the army last year after a distinguished 25-year career, served 17 years with the elite SAS regiment, leaving the army as a major last year. In 2003, Mr Tinley served as deputy commander for the 550-strong joint special forces task group that took control of western Iraq. The same year, he was appointed a member of the Order of Australia (AM) for "dynamic leadership and consistent professional excellence". He has also been decorated for his military service in Afghanistan.

Tinley says the US-led coalition had been naive in its thinking about what it could achieve after a quick military invasion of Iraq and condemns the Howard Government over its handling of the war and has called for an immediate withdrawal of Australian troops:
It was a cynical use of the Australian Defence Force by the Government . . . . This war duped the Australian Defence Force and the Australian people in terms of thinking it was in some way legitimate . . . . They never had enough troops to fully lock down the major centres and infrastructure or the borders.
During war planning with US and British special forces at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in 2002, Mr Tinley says he never saw any hard intelligence that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction:
When I pressed them (US intelligence) for more specific imagery or information regarding locations or likely locations of WMD they confessed, off the record, that there had not been any tangible sighting of any WMD or WMD enabling equipment for some years.

It was all shadows and inferenced conversations between Iraqis. There was an overwhelming desire for all of the planning staff to simply believe that the Iraqis had learned how to conceal their WMD assets away from the US (surveillance) assets.

During our preparations for this war I remember hearing (ex-defence chief) General Peter Gration's misgivings and assumed he did not possess all the information that our Prime Minister did.

I now reflect on his commentary with a completely different view and am saddened that other prominent people in our society didn't speak louder at the time and aren't continuing to speak out in light of what we now know.

This is no slur on our soldiers. (Brigadier) Mick Moon and his men have been doing a fantastic job.

The notion that pre-emption is a legitimate strategy in the face of such unconvincing intelligence is a betrayal of the Australian way.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Today, Our Highest Thoughts

express gratitude for our good fortune and sorrow that it is not universally shared.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

We Are in a State of Flux

Which way for Bush & Blair's un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (UULUIUOI)?

There is plenty on the post-Thanksgiving policy menu for our nations' leaders.
  1. Stay the course, with tactical adjustments, says President Bush, with an echo from top U.S. military leaders.

    The administration's current approach is to continue efforts to suppress violence while pressuring the Iraqi government to reach political agreements, control the militias and strengthen security forces.

    In the latest tactical shift, military leaders are planning to sharply increase the number of U.S. advisors working with Iraqi security forces. They hope American forces can be drawn down as Iraqi units take control of all regions of the country, which they say can happen within 18 months.

  2. Temporary increase in U.S. troop level say Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni and some neoconservatives.

    The Pentagon could temporarily boost the current troop level by substantial numbers — in the tens of thousands — to try to suppress violence in key areas, such as Baghdad and Sunni-dominated Al Anbar province.

  3. Gradual withdrawal say many Democratic leaders.

    The Bush administration could begin a gradual drawdown of troops over several years, possibly coupled with a redeployment that would move U.S. forces into a support position. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says the administration should begin a drawdown in four to six months. He argues that U.S. forces should shift to more limited missions, such as training Iraqi forces and fighting foreign insurgents. Iraqis say they want a withdrawal over several years, but each major group wants a pullout structured to protect its interests.

  4. Partition or decentralization say some Kurds, former U.S. diplomat Peter Galbraith and Sen. Joseph R. Biden.

    This option has a variety of applications: Iraq could be formally divided into Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni states, or the three regions could be given wide autonomy around a weak central government that would retain some responsibilities for foreign policy, defense and trade. The Iraqi Constitution provides the foundation for greater regional autonomy.

  5. An immediate withdrawal is not on the table as far as elected political leaders are concerned. Not yet . . .

Monday, November 20, 2006

Carrying Coals to Contratimes

Bill Gnade is a blogger who ably presides over at Contratimes. As a writer Bill has demonstrated to his readers great versatility, wide curiosities, and unexpected profundities. One of his self-disclosed traits is that he is a fast typist. I think he may not agree with me when I say that can be a problem for him (and his readers) in that his writing may occasionally outpace his mind.

In any event, he is given to making rather long comments on The Vigil. Long comments can be objectionable as they are conversation stoppers, kind of like any one you can recall monopolizing a conversation at a cocktail party. In Bill's case I'm always - usually - willing to make an exception because he always has something to say.

He did so on Sunday. But in this instance I felt the major thrust of his comment not as responsive - entirely - as it could have been had he broken up his overlong essay and parsed portions out to a number of different threads.

So, in order to discourage him in this verbose pattern and yet to encourage his continued participation, I have decided to dedicate a post to his last comment. I trust he will find this agreeable.

The balance of Gnade's comment is flowery and no doubt purposive in his own mind; in my mind a portion of it wanders off on a tangent I cannot endeavor to follow with the limited time I can spare. I'm sure what I have neglected to comment on does not constitute the mutterings of an idiot, of course, because Bill is a smart enough fellow. Bill Gnade is, above all - an accomplished artist in photography and poetry. He is just giving us the pleasure of reading through some incomplete thoughts of his, works-in-progress. (Isn't that what blogging is all about?) Curious readers can find his complete statement here.

Bill Gnade, of Contratimes, begins with:
It is good to grieve over the loss of life, for any reason. It is even good to be reminded -- daily -- of the human costs of war. This is a sad war, as are all wars.

I am disappointed, however, by several things here. First, I am disappointed that you should refer to these dead -- all of them volunteer enlistees -- as casualties of Bush's war, which you've dubbed, reductionistically, the UULUIUOI.
When Bill points out that these are volunteers, is his point that they asked for it? In fact many - not all - post 911 enlistees thought they were volunteering to fight the people who bombed us on September 11th, 2001. Of those who have been in service prior, I would submit that many of them never would have guessed they would be sent to fight and die in an elective war - a war of choice - not one unnecessary to our national security.
How can you possibly believe that the Iraq conflict is solely George Bush's doing?
It was the Bush administration that sought the "Iraq Resolution" or the "Iraq War Resolution" which were popular names for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public law 107-243, 116 Stat. 1497-1502). This was passed by the United States Congress authorizing what was soon to become the un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (UULUIUOI). If Bill wants to argue that Congress has complicity in this UULUIUOI, he should go right ahead. He should point out that, in the Senate, all but 22 Democrats and one Republican were gullible and culpable; in the House all but 126 Democrats and 6 Republicans were gullible and culpable.
We have, sort of, had this conversation before. But I ask again: At what point between 1991 and 2006 was the US NOT IN CONFLICT with Iraq? At what point was there a moment's peace between Iraq and, let's just say, the Clinton administration? Wikipedia's (among many other sources) entry for the Gulf War I (scroll down to "Consequences"), says that Iraq was nearly bombed EVERY OTHER DAY during the Clinton administration: the two major Iraq conflicts, in 1996 and 1998, brought more bombs to fall on Iraq than Gulf War I (or something to that effect). So why pretend that this war began in 2003? It did not.
Obviously, during this period of bombing sortees to which Bill alludes, there was never any authorization to invade or occupy Iraq. Otherwise, Bush would not have gone to the effort to get his above-mentioned UULUIUOI authorized on 10-Oct-02, would he have?
I have no problem decrying war. But I want to decry it for the right reasons; I want to decry it for reasons based in truth, in reality, and without the rewriting or denying of history.

What also bothers me here is the inference, almost laden with surprise, that this war is uniquely damaging to our soldiers. There has not been a moment when any war, even those fought for the noblest of reasons, has not damaged soldiers' bodies or psyches. While some soldiers DO return damaged from Iraq (my best friend and college roommate is one of them), how do we explain that soldiers are REENLISTING at rates above the Army's target goals (especially when the Army has seen the most deaths)?
That the employment rates for Iraqi vets are reportedly high I attribute to unprecedented large re-upping bonuses, and the comradery of fighting young men and women for whom the salient code is no one gets left behind. But even 'the solidarity of the foxhole' doesn't affect the way they feel about the occupation.
Why is it that the vast majority of soldiers appear to disagree with the critics of the conflict?
Bill's rhetorical question raises a cluster of other questions:
  • Do the vast majority of soldiers disagree with the critics of the occupation?
  • Why are our troops in Iraq and Kuwait bombarded with radio druggy Rush Limbaugh but not allowed access to Air America?
  • Why is Internet access for troops in Iraq and Kuwait restricted to Rumsfeld-approved sites?
I could go on. Obviously, in the Pentagon there is a concern about the volatility of troop opinion about the occupation; otherwise there wouldn't be such a concerted effort to control access to information.
I believe you (unintentionally) sully the meaning of the deaths of thousands of Americans by your reductionistic acronym, and by blaming this all on Bush.
It is Bush. Bush is the president. The Buck stops on his desk.
But these are just my opinions, I know. I don't think you mean to "sully" the sufferings of others; perhaps I have overstated it. But I think one could be given that impression. In fact, one has been given that impression - me. Not that you are cold or crass or unfeeling or even reckless. I am sure you've thought about this all rather seriously. But I am wondering if you've thought long enough about how your acronym might make those folks feel who have lost a limb, or a loved one, for a cause they deem just, noble, and for the good of the common man.
My acronym does not sully our Armed Services which are exemplary, honorable, notable, patriotic, and courageous; it's the mission of the UULUIUOI which has betrayed their trust. Those to my left may call it reductionist of me to say this, but prior to Bush, it was not our American custom for our presidents to direct, nor for Congress to authorize, the sending of our armed forces abroad to invade and occupy nations which had not attacked us or our allies. (Even in the case of Vietnam, there was an effort to make a case for fighting international aggression.)

It is Bush's invasion
and subsequent occupation of Iraq that is demeaning to our honorable military service men and women and to our military traditions which all Americans hold in the highest esteem.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Bush In Hanoi??!!

Perk up your ears...
Do you hear that old Vietnam refrain?
Pssst!! Send more troops. Send more troops! Pssst!

1968: Gen. Earle "Bus" Wheeler asked for 200,000 more troops without any guarantee that they could find the light at the end of the tunnel. Lyndon Johnson finally said "no" and in effect resigned from the presidency.

1983: Remember what Ronald Reagan did when suicide bombers blew up a Marine barracks in Lebanon? He promptly removed the Marines and took full responsibility for the disaster. That's what a buck-stopping CIC does he has produced a fiasco. They don't worry about American credibility or honor. They don't talk about sending in more troops.

When I was in ROTC decades ago, I learned that the responsibilities of command are:
  1. Accomplish the mission
  2. Care for the troops under your command
  3. When and if the mission is deemed no longer attainable, force preservation becomes the primary concern of command.
I have to believe that these principles still hold sway in our Armed Forces, the best military in the world. It's just at the very chickenhawking top of our command structure where these principles were never learned.

More Americans should not be put at risk so that their leaders can try one last foolish attempt to save face.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Judgment of History Will Be Harsh

"Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war."
--John Adams
We, the American people elected an unqualified candidate for president in 2000. Bush's fellow travelers currently argue that Bush was a victim of the advice given him. But he was unschooled in law, military service and history, the traditional backgrounds of American presidents. Bush's lack of seasoning meant that his advisors got to choose him, not the other way around. So it's all the more appropriate to ask about the advice not taken.

Brent Scowcroft was national security adviser under Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, and later became founder and president of the Forum for International Policy. On 15-Aug-02, seven months before Bush launched his un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (UULUIUOI), Scowcroft published in the Wall Street Journal, Don't Attack Saddam - It Would Undermine Our Antiterror Efforts. My emphasis has been added:
Our nation is presently engaged in a debate about whether to launch a war against Iraq. Leaks of various strategies for an attack on Iraq appear with regularity. The Bush administration vows regime change, but states that no decision has been made whether, much less when, to launch an invasion.

It is beyond dispute that Saddam Hussein is a menace. He terrorizes and brutalizes his own people. He has launched war on two of his neighbors. He devotes enormous effort to rebuilding his military forces and equipping them with weapons of mass destruction. We will all be better off when he is gone.

That said, we need to think through this issue very carefully. We need to analyze the relationship between Iraq and our other pressing priorities--notably the war on terrorism--as well as the best strategy and tactics available were we to move to change the regime in Baghdad.

Saddam's strategic objective appears to be to dominate the Persian Gulf, to control oil from the region, or both.

That clearly poses a real threat to key U.S. interests. But there is scant evidence to tie Saddam to terrorist organizations, and even less to the Sept. 11 attacks. Indeed Saddam's goals have little in common with the terrorists who threaten us, and there is little incentive for him to make common cause with them.

He is unlikely to risk his investment in weapons of mass destruction, much less his country, by handing such weapons to terrorists who would use them for their own purposes and leave Baghdad as the return address. Threatening to use these weapons for blackmail--much less their actual use--would open him and his entire regime to a devastating response by the U.S. While Saddam is thoroughly evil, he is above all a power-hungry survivor.

Saddam is a familiar dictatorial aggressor, with traditional goals for his aggression. There is little evidence to indicate that the United States itself is an object of his aggression. Rather, Saddam's problem with the U.S. appears to be that we stand in the way of his ambitions. He seeks weapons of mass destruction not to arm terrorists, but to deter us from intervening to block his aggressive designs.

Given Saddam's aggressive regional ambitions, as well as his ruthlessness and unpredictability, it may at some point be wise to remove him from power. Whether and when that point should come ought to depend on overall U.S. national security priorities. Our pre-eminent security priority--underscored repeatedly by the president--is the war on terrorism. An attack on Iraq at this time would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counterterrorist campaign we have undertaken.

The United States could certainly defeat the Iraqi military and destroy Saddam's regime. But it would not be a cakewalk. On the contrary, it undoubtedly would be very expensive--with serious consequences for the U.S. and global economy--and could as well be bloody. In fact, Saddam would be likely to conclude he had nothing left to lose, leading him to unleash whatever weapons of mass destruction he possesses.

Israel would have to expect to be the first casualty, as in 1991 when Saddam sought to bring Israel into the Gulf conflict. This time, using weapons of mass destruction, he might succeed, provoking Israel to respond, perhaps with nuclear weapons, unleashing an Armageddon in the Middle East. Finally, if we are to achieve our strategic objectives in Iraq, a military campaign very likely would have to be followed by a large-scale, long-term military occupation.

But the central point is that any campaign against Iraq, whatever the strategy, cost and risks, is certain to divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism. Worse, there is a virtual consensus in the world against an attack on Iraq at this time. So long as that sentiment persists, it would require the U.S. to pursue a virtual go-it-alone strategy against Iraq, making any military operations correspondingly more difficult and expensive. The most serious cost, however, would be to the war on terrorism. Ignoring that clear sentiment would result in a serious degradation in international cooperation with us against terrorism. And make no mistake, we simply cannot win that war without enthusiastic international cooperation, especially on intelligence.

Possibly the most dire consequences would be the effect in the region. The shared view in the region is that Iraq is principally an obsession of the U.S. The obsession of the region, however, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If we were seen to be turning our backs on that bitter conflict--which the region, rightly or wrongly, perceives to be clearly within our power to resolve--in order to go after Iraq, there would be an explosion of outrage against us. We would be seen as ignoring a key interest of the Muslim world in order to satisfy what is seen to be a narrow American interest.

Even without Israeli involvement, the results could well destabilize Arab regimes in the region, ironically facilitating one of Saddam's strategic objectives. At a minimum, it would stifle any cooperation on terrorism, and could even swell the ranks of the terrorists. Conversely, the more progress we make in the war on terrorism, and the more we are seen to be committed to resolving the Israel-Palestinian issue, the greater will be the international support for going after Saddam.

If we are truly serious about the war on terrorism, it must remain our top priority. However, should Saddam Hussein be found to be clearly implicated in the events of Sept. 11, that could make him a key counterterrorist target, rather than a competing priority, and significantly shift world opinion toward support for regime change.

In any event, we should be pressing the United Nations Security Council to insist on an effective no-notice inspection regime for Iraq--any time, anywhere, no permission required. On this point, senior administration officials have opined that Saddam Hussein would never agree to such an inspection regime. But if he did, inspections would serve to keep him off balance and under close observation, even if all his weapons of mass destruction capabilities were not uncovered. And if he refused, his rejection could provide the persuasive casus belli which many claim we do not now have. Compelling evidence that Saddam had acquired nuclear-weapons capability could have a similar effect.

In sum, if we will act in full awareness of the intimate interrelationship of the key issues in the region, keeping counterterrorism as our foremost priority, there is much potential for success across the entire range of our security interests--including Iraq. If we reject a comprehensive perspective, however, we put at risk our campaign against terrorism as well as stability and security in a vital region of the world.
What has been the consequence of six years of foreign policy at the hands of the worst president in history?

Richard Haass has been president of the Council on Foreign Relations since July of 2003, prior to which he was Director of Policy Planning for the United States Department of State and a close advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell. The U.S. Senate approved Haass as a candidate for the position of ambassador and he has been US Coordinator for policy on the future of Afghanistan. In a recent interview in Der Spiegel entitled, Iraq Is Not Winnable, Haass tells us what those consequences are:
The old Middle East -- an era which I believe has only recently ended -- was one in which the United States enjoyed tremendous dominance and freedom of maneuver. Oil was available at fairly low prices, the region was largely at peace. I believe largely because of the American decision to go to war in Iraq and how it has been carried out, as well as the emphasis on promoting democracy and a lack of any serious energy policy, the Middle East has considerably grown worse. It's one of history's ironies that the first war in Iraq, a war of necessity, marked the beginning of the American era in the Middle East and the second Iraq war, a war of choice, has precipitated its end.
It's not going to be as easy for Daddy's boys to get Bush out of Iraq as it was for them to keep him out of Vietnam.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Almost Too Much to Grasp

One Man's Civic Duty
Michael White of Stone Mountain, Ga., says he keeps his website that lists military fatalities free of politics, largely because he has learned how much the families of troops rely on his figures. His site is frequently cited by the media for up-to-date and accurate body counts in Iraq. Military families rely on it because it is more current, accurate, and user-friendly than the Pentagon's.
I go to his site, Iraq Coalition Casualty Count every morning first, because it's at the top of the "Readme 1st" folder in my bookmarks menu. After consulting his site, I update The Vigil with the latest measure of cost in blood of Bush's un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (UULUIUOI).

This morning, for example, I learn from White's site that we have sustained six service personnel KIA's (killed in action) in Iraq over the past 24 hours. Those deaths are attributed to hostile action, not traffic accidents. And these are not conflated with casualties in Afghanistan, as are the Pentagon's.

I also note from the White's ICCC that, as of 7-Nov-06 our severely wounded in Iraq since the UULUIUOI's beginning totals 9,820. That's not our total wounded, which would be about double. 9,820 is just the number of wounds which were so severe that our marine, soldier, sailor or airman could not be returned to duty. We readers are left to interpolate within that figure another unspoken, unwritten, unprinted, and unknown statistic as to how many of these walking and unwalking wounded have sustained life altering injuries such as amputations, spinal cord damage and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And, of course, we will only realize decades from now - if we ever know - the full multiplying toll and effect of these unkept statistics on the families of our 'returned' service personnel.

There are many other features offered on the ICCC. You can find an incomplete count of all the private contractors, broken down by nationalities, killed by hostile action; that would be 370, if you're interested. I am, because these, too, should be counted as a cost of the UULUIUOI.

Another stat, which we shouldn't ignore are the number of journalists KIA. They elected to put themselves in harm's way, but they did it in order to tell the story of this invasion and occupation so that the rest of us would be better informed, should we so choose. Many of these were Iraqis stringers, because Western reporters, choosing discretion over valor (understandably), report from the Green Zone - the only secure ground in Iraq. The ICC also compiles each day, 'ground-zero' reportage of unvarnished events going on in Iraq. It's a harsh read - too much for me, I have to acknowledge.

There's much, much more to Mike White's site: more than I ever wanted to know about the UULUIUOI in terms of charts, maps, and names, names, and more names. I wouldn't have looked this deeply into his abyss had not the Los Angeles Times featured it on its front page this morning.

I commend the Times for thus recognizing Michael White's service to his country, and recommend his ICCC site to all my readers.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts

When I think about kinship that I have encountered in the blogosphere, one of the first that comes to mind is that which I feel with the Ramblings of a Lexington Parrothead. This site's blogmeister, Beach Bum, and I share a common fate: our mates are not bloggers but TeeVee heads; while we surf the Net, they are channel surfing.

Thinking of Kinship, I also think of Pekka, who has taken my back in these pages as well as on other sites; but because of the topic I've chosen today, I may alienate him somewhat - he is sudden death on spectator sports.

Thinking further of kinship, I think of Lil'Bill who has persevered against overwhelming odds to get me to watch one political program or another on TV: Bill does not accept my protestations, that if I ever watch TV, it would be to escape politics, not to roil further in its dirty swamps than I already do on the Internet.

The closest I came to TV in previous years was when I would sometimes sleepily indulge a hour of West Wing. The only
current exceptions have been brief midnight segments of C-SPAN while I'm maintaining a vigil with my prowling Dobbie, RedOct.

But the unexpected has happened: I have discovered a TV home during which I can actually share the couch in 'the dark room' with Trophy Wife and not fall asleep. Together we have discovered a veritable trifecta of escapist TV!

Friday Night Lights is it: an electrifying and riveting hour show centering around the fictional small Texas town of Dillon and its Panther High School football team. This show has a perfectly cast cast which keeps the ball rolling in small town romances, feuds, scandals, crimes, betrayals, fights and - yes - politics. 'Lights' raises innumerable troubling questions about life in small towns, big high schools and their obsessions with scholastic sports. At the same time it refrains from supplying easy answers.

The politics is subliminal. Not exactly surprising because football is the moral equivalent of war. The Washington Post's Tom Shales describes 'Lights' as
the "Platoon" of high school football -- the story of the embattled infantry as well as of the officers in the field, reverberant with metaphorical and microcosmic echoes.
One of the most poignant of many poignant subplots has to do with the season's starting quarterback sustaining a career ending spinal cord injury - forcing the Dillon community to deal with problems not far from the issues with which our contemporary America will have to deal. Head Coach Taylor wrestles with the community's political forces as he tries to steer his team through the treacherous and morally ambiguous turf to victory each Friday. He is not always successful, and his hands are not always spiffy-clean. If we are not, his team is certainly oblivious to his inner conflicts, self-doubts and private demons. When civic life stops still midday Friday, Dillon's denizens only hear Coach's motivating cry "Clear eyes, full hearts". I feel it's an exonerating escape from our real world.

So, My wife and I TiVO the Dillon Panthers on Tuesday nights so we can watch it Friday nights! My next door neighbor claims Friday Night Lights is a hyperbolically inaccurate portrayal of high school sports.

Because he's an authority, I just say I watch it because it's really about politics.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Pause, Before Moving On...

Arlington West, Santa Barbara CA

Flags are planted as part of a weekly memorial in Santa Barbara honoring American military personnel killed in the Iraq war.
About a dozen volunteers have shown up week after week since the start. They're joined by up to 30 others who appear now and again. Some started coming only in recent months, prompted by rumors that the project would cease for lack of help.

Except for a few rainouts, this Santa Barbara display has been erected every Sunday since Nov. 2, 2003. At its start the project had 340 of them. Last Sunday, there were 2,831.

A committee is grappling with the question of limiting the crosses, which now span nearly an acre of prime beachfront. Although the city has given its blessing to the project, some volunteers grimly anticipate that it might one day crowd sunbathers and spill over into areas reserved for beach volleyball.

A debate over its propriety recently flared in the letters columns of the Santa Barbara News-Press, with some writers saying it exploits fallen heroes for political gain.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Moving On # 2

Rumsfeld has been wrong for America.

Does Rummy want to spend more time with his family? Or, is he a bone tossed to the military brass and Republican leadership?

Rumsfeld has been wrong for America, but eloquently so. I have grudgingly admired his lyrical sarcasm, and at moments, his candidness. This guy's thinking has been more transparent than anyone else sitting at the round table in Bush's war room. He has also served as a perfect foil. Personally, I will be sorry to see him go. That said, if this administration has to be taken down for what it has done to America - as I am convinced it should - I shouldn't quarrel if my favorites are peeled away first.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Moving On

The Dance of the Neo-Cons

I have a few things to say about Neo Cons second guessing themselves and each other and I do that next door. I don't expect universal agreement. To those who wish to discuss it, we can do it here or next door. To those who would rather talk smack, I say Shaddup and drink your Kool-Aide.

Head of the Household

Two Heartbeats from the Presidency
Gender-baiting Pelosiphobics had better just get over it.

Responding to comments below:

Beach, you are right. Macaca looking for a new job is good news for America. That he be replaced by James Webb makes it a specially savoring turn of events.

On the other side, the temporary loss of Harold E. Ford Jr's leadership from national politics is a major disappointment. Congressman Ford's concession speech was a heart-wrenching promise that he would be back. Ford, the victim of a savagely dirty and racist advertisement, recalled that his experience on the campaign trail led to a discovery of
a hunger...a great appetite on the part of the American people for something much better and far more dignified and greater than what we've given them over the last several years.
And, quoting from the Scriptures (Ephesians 6:12):
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Still, if Webb has clinched his seat, and if Jon Testor is in solid in Montana, we look pretty good. As things stand now,
The Hillbloggers are right to observe that we are within a breath of attaining objective # 1 on the agenda (above-right).

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

What Does the "D" in D-Day Stand For?

Michael Moore has 5 Good Reasons to Vote Today. And he asks us to bring a broom and a camera.
Andrew Sullivan offers up a poem for the day, an abridgment of A.R. Ammons' Corson's Inlet.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Election USA - 2006

What's at Stake?
  • Oversight
  • Reversal, Redress and Repeal
  • Investigations, Subpoenas, Sworn Witnesses.
Read More

Sunday, November 5, 2006

What Can You Say?

Saddam wasn't elected? (Twice!)

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Three Days to Go

Spent the better part of the day on the phone to Pennsylvania, getting out the Democratic vote. Hard work. Boring work. Unrewarding work. It’s what the Repugs are legendary for, so I guess Progressives have to delve into retail hand-to-hand, digital politics sometimes. No point in walking my precincts, here: everyone around where I live - most anyways - knows what’s what and who’s who. The central fronts in the war against anti-terrorist-terrorism are in other states. God Bless our soldiers there.

Friday, November 3, 2006

The George W. Bush Legacy, Part II

According to an ICM survey has been carried out by the Guardian in Britain and leading newspapers in Israel (Haaretz), Canada (La Presse and Toronto Star) and Mexico (Reforma), using professional local opinion polling in each country: George W. Bush is enemy #2 to world peace and security.

Bush is ranked with some of his bitterest enemies as a cause of global anxiety. He is outranked by Osama bin Laden in all four countries, but runs the al-Qaida leader close in the eyes of UK voters: 87% think the al-Qaida leader is a great or moderate danger to peace, compared with 75% who think this of Bush.

Some of the findings:
  • The US leader and close ally of Tony Blair is seen in Britain as a more dangerous man than the president of Iran (62% think he is a danger), the North Korean leader (69%) and the leader of Hizbullah, Hassan Nasrallah (65%).
  • In Britain, 69% of those questioned say they believe US policy has made the world less safe since 2001, with only 7% thinking action in Iraq and Afghanistan has increased global security.
  • In our immediate northern and southern neighbours, Canada and Mexico, with 62% of Canadians and 57% of Mexicans saying the world has become more dangerous because of US policy.
  • Even in Israel, which has long looked to America to guarantee national security, support for the US has slipped. Only one in four Israeli voters say that Bush has made the world safer, outweighed by the number who think he has added to the risk of international conflict, 36% to 25%. A further 30% say that at best he has made no difference.
  • Voters in three of the four countries surveyed also overwhelmingly reject the decision to invade Iraq, with only Israeli voters in favour, 59% to 34% against. Opinion against the war has hardened strongly since a similar survey before the US presidential election in 2004.
  • In Britain 71% of voters now say the invasion was unjustified, a view shared by 89% of Mexicans and 73% of Canadians. Canada is a Nato member whose troops are in action in Afghanistan.
  • Neither do voters think America has helped advance democracy in developing countries, one of the justifications for deposing Saddam Hussein. Only 11% of Britons and 28% of Israelis think that has happened.
Millions of people throughout the world, sympathetic to our people and the future of our republic, consider themselves as major stakeholders in the decision we Americans make on November 7th.

But forgetta'bout dem! Let's do it for ourselves. Let's get that Progressive vote out!

Wednesday, November 1, 2006