Sunday, November 25, 2007

How's Bush's Surge Going in Afghanistan?

Captions, please!
From the Guardian

The Overton Window, Bush's Apostasy & Wizard's Complaint

The Overton window is a concept in political theory, named after its originator, Joe Overton, former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Overton says there always exists a “window” which includes the range of all possible of public policies which are discussed within a political community.Imagine that this window is superimposed upon a long continuum on which all possible political options are represented. Imagine further, that the window is centered on that scale at a point where traditional current policies exist. As one looks away in either direction from the center, one sees options which progress in turn to:
  • Popular options
  • Sensible options
  • Acceptable options
  • Extreme options
  • Unthinkable options
In the normal times, in the course of human experience, Overton’s Window would be expected to shift, incrementally, by degrees.

In the case of an ideological movement however, it would be possible to push the window in a comparatively violent and sudden shift in one direction or another. I haven’t checked this out with Joe Overton, but I think this could be managed in one or two (or a combination of both) ways:
  1. One of the agents powerful enough to do this would be a cabal of influential think tanks, drawing upon resources independent of the status quo. Such institution(s) would pound on the reasonableness of extreme options and ideas with such a depth of repetition that the unthinkable becomes more familiar, even if extreme. The more think tanks and their proxies in the MSM repeat wild-eyed notions, the more they become just squint-eyed notions. Eventually they become common-place and commonly discussed ideas or debated options.
  2. Shocking and unexpected events can call into question the traditional, customary, conventional and currently central point(s) of the continuum. Such an event causes Overton’s Window to gyrate sideways in the policy landscape toward the extremities.
Such an event would present an opportunity for an extremist ideological movement. Theoretical preparation for the implementation of a previously unthinkable set of ideas and policies as plausible options, could be facilitated by an unforeseen cataclysmic event. For example,an entire population could be stampeded into uncritically accepting stuff they previously regarded as beyond the pale of reasonableness.

The Bush Apostasy

As laid out in the Shock Doctrine, this is precisely what happened in the advent of al Qaeda’s attack on the United States on 9-11. Although narrowly selected by a 5-4 margin by the Supreme Court, Dick Cheney with only a week’s hesitation after the attacks, rolled out a program designed by Project for a New American Century (and allied think tanks) which envisioned the aggressive imperial enforcement of a Pox Americana abroad as well as a unitary executive domestically. The former they cast as the Global War on Terror and the latter they wrapped in the robes of “War-Time President". The PNAC program quantum-jumped the Overton Window to the right side by violating the U.N. Charter, the Geneva Conventions, and the Constitution of the United States. The government of Bush and Cheney:
  • Invented a doctrine of preventive war and ordered the invasion and occupation of another country which did not a threaten to America, nor constituted a credible threat to do so.
  • Abused their office by directing high officials to distort intelligence reports to Congress which presented an erroneous and fictitious image of Iraq’s capabilities and intentions.
  • Directed America’s air, land, and sea forces to invade and occupy of foreign government for the purpose of overthrowing its government.
  • Illegally transferring $700 million from the budget for the war in Afghanistan for war preparations in Iraq in July 2002, without Congressional approval.
  • Authorized the torture of prisoners by United States military personnel.
  • Permitted staff to evade the Presidential Records Act of 1978 by using outside communication systems during working hours and to violate the Hatch Act by directing government employees to engage in political activities as part of their government duties.
  • Permitted or directed the disclosure of a covert CIA agent’s identity as an act of political revenge and intimidation.
  • Used signing statements as de facto line item vetoes, in defiance of the Supreme Court ruling that line-item vetoes are unconstitutional.
  • Violated the voting rights of thousands of citizens by permitting his partisans to illegally challenge voter registrations, intimidate voters at the polls, file false charges of voter fraud, and enact laws that place undue burden on certain classes of voters.
  • Issued numerous Executive Orders overriding and undermining federal laws.
  • Directed the firing and hiring of Federal Attorneys officials for partisan political reasons, in violation of federal laws.
All of these items taken together amount to high crimes and misdemeanors referred to in the Constitution (seven times?) as justifying the sanction of impeachment. The most egregious arena of these out-of-the-window transgressions has to do with the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Nothing else Busheney have done has more isolated America in world opinion, more squandered our economic resources, more exhausted our military assets, or more confirmed Osama bin Laden's branding of the United States.

Wizard’s Complaint

There are the complaints against the Busheney policy in Iraq which fall short of what the circumstances (violation of the established Overton window) call for. I call it the Weimar Republican viewpoint. Ironically, the prime poster boy adherent of this ‘moderate’ viewpoint is the former First Lady and current front-running Democrat. But I’d rather draw from Wizard, a frequent, articulate, and eloquent commentator in my pages. Recently, on his own (recommended) site, Wizard followed the Weimar Republican/Democrat line which is, simply, that we’re there:
But what about today? The world and the Middle East are vastly different today that they were six years ago. And our ill begotten invasion and occupation of Iraq are part of the reason for the different dynamics at play.

But we cannot undo the last six years. This isn't golf and we don't get a mulligan. Instead we must play the ball where it lays. And it lays in the slowly healing Iraq.
And besides,
. . . .the real issue is Iran. While Bush screwed up with invading Iraq and providing textbook lessons in how not to occupy a country, Iran has emerged as the leader in the Middle East . . . .

And there are, in fact, no solutions to Iran, no options, even in Bush's far-reaching playbook. Posturing and bluffing are the best the West can do . . . .

So we face a nuclear Iran. Period. There are no options. Bush will not bomb. Bush cannot invade. Israel will not be our proxy . . . .

Given these facts, and they are facts, the only logical, intelligent course is to stay and rebuild Iraq from the ground up. A strong, democratic, Iraq is the only solution, even if it take years. The United States must maintain significant forces in Iraq until that job is done.
In other words, let bygones be bygones? Make lemonade out of lemons?


We share
with the Iraqis - admitedly to a much lighter degree - the experience of being an occupied country. Many Americans, however, are much taken with the impression that our 'occupation' observes a time line and will lift from our necks in January 2009. I will not say what I think of that delusion because it’s not my purpose here to puncture fragile clouds of optimism.

I don't speak for Democrats or Liberals, as I consider myself a fighting Progressive. When I call for immediate impeachment and immediate withdrawal from Iraq (whichever comes first), I am looking forward, not backward. The moral imperative which is facing my once-great country is to (a) repudiate Bush-Cheney and (b) deny them their spoils in Iraq:
Make Bush and Cheney
eat their illegal and ruinous war
before they are excused from the table.
Wizard’s expression – a ‘Mulligan’ – is exactly what we need. If you want me to work with you and the Iraqi people and support/prolong this insidious and ill-begotten occupation, you have to first join with me and expel from American soil this political occupation of the American people by Busheney’s imperial presidency.

Bush and Cheney are our own home grown, state-sanctioned terrorists. They have done more harm to America than Osama bin Laden. If we don't save America from them today, their Neo-Conservative thugs will be back in four to eight years with more of their toxic Straussian thinking. These radical apostates have to be torn up from American soil, from whence they have burrowed into these past seven years. They must be cast out into the nearest desert.

To remain in Mesopotamia and prolong the occupation is to use Iraqis’ oil, soil and peoples as a buffer against demonized Iran. To remain in Iraq for years to come exactly and perfectly completes Neo-Conservatism’s original Mein Kampf for the Middle East. That would mean that Bush and Cheney win.

This is not a concession that America needs to make. America needs to annul or shatter the current Overton Window. Restore it to its pre-2001 location. The time to cancel and rollback the 21st Century as the Anti-American century was yesterday.

The Vigil Is Going on Comment Moderation

I am undergoing shoulder surgery on 27 November.

I have no idea how soon I will be able to resume keyboarding enough to resume as an adequate host. (I floated the idea of hiring a sweet young and capable secretary to move my mouse for me, but that was vetoed by Trophy Wife.)

I always dislike 'Comment Moderation' because it sort of squelches spontaneity of comments in a blog. It basically amounts to 'prior restraint'. I am employing it as the last resort - just as surgery - short of freezing the site completely.

In any event, although remaining open, The Vigil will be on comment moderation for a spell, effective 27 November. Until then, comment moderation shall remain off!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Israeli Lobby

Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest might suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. interests and Israel's are essentially identical.

Owen Bennett-Jones of the BBC interviews John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of The Israel Lobby which was temporarily banned in the United States but ultimately published here as The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

My favorite feature of BBC broadcasts that I am fortunate enough to catch on my local AM station is The Interview. A BBC interview is different in quality from anything to be found on American media. No question is allowed to go unanswered because follow-ups are guaranteed. Owen Bennett-Jones has a habit of drilling down to get answers from his elusive guests, and Mearsheimer and Walt are not afforded any exception from this practice.

I recommend jumping in 38 seconds into this 27+ minute tape. Alternatively, those so inclined can peruse an
abridged transcript here.

What Is the Meaning of Jack Howard's Defeat in Australia?

Bush's "Deputy Sheriff" has lost his badge and his seat.

Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd is Australia's new prime minister after defeating John Howard's Liberal-National coalition in Saturday's parliamentary election.

How can this have happened?

Howard is dismissed after his 11-year reign (four straight elections from March 1996) leaving a booming economy and an iron grip on national security and illegal immigration?


  • Howard's reforming Australian employment laws, making it easier for employers to sack workers and promoting individual work contracts instead of union-based award conditions.
  • Disgruntled voters in Australia's biggest cities, with job security falling while house prices and home mortgage interest rates rise.
  • His decision not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change in the face of a record-setting Australian drought.
  • His close political and personal affiliation with Bush and Howard's decision to join the 2003 war on Iraq which led the media to describe Howard as Bush's "deputy sheriff" in the region.
Political analyst Nick Economou told Reuters:
Howard has had some successes in managing a prosperous economy. But then they made a major error by instilling insecurity in people at a time of prosperity.
Does this sound familiar?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ron Paul Is Anointed into the Goldwater Lineage of the GOP

Barry Goldwater is My Republican of the Week.

Barry M. Goldwater, Jr., son of the late former Republican presidential candidate and Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, has endorsed Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul for president. Goldwater Jr. retired from politics in 1983 after serving 14 years in Congress.

His late father, Barry M. Goldwater, Sr. is credited with sparking the modern conservative movement and was the Republican Party presidential nominee in 1964.

Endorsing Ron Paul, Barry Jr. said
America is at a crossroads. We have begun to stray from our traditions and must get back to what has made us the greatest nation on earth or we will lose much of the freedom we hold dear. Ron Paul stands above all of the other candidates in his commitment to liberty and to America. Leading America is difficult, and I know Ron Paul is the man for the job.
Ron Paul's Campaign manager Lew Moore:
The Ron Paul campaign is exceptionally honored by Mr. Goldwater’s endorsement. Dr. Paul and Congressman Goldwater fought together in the Congress for the ideals of limited constitutional government that Mr. Goldwater’s father so tirelessly advocated. The Goldwaters have left an indelible mark on the Republican Party, and theirs is a legacy which Congressman Paul will certainly inherit as President.
This endorsement formalizes Ron Paul as the natural standard bearer for true American Conservatism.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Bon Appetite

Inside the Bush White House and What's Wrong with Washington

What Happened?
Oh, no!
Does the truth make the news?

Out of the blue, ex-Presidential Press Secretary Scott Mclelland blurts out the truth in a pre-April leak of his memoirs:
The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

There was one problem. It was not true.

I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration "were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the president himself.
This must have been too trivial or too ambiguous to amount to a news item. What Happened? The current White House press secretary, Dana Perino, said it wasn’t clear what McClellan meant in the excerpt.

Couldn't she have at least paraphrased her boss when McClellan announced his resignation in April 2006? Remember? Bush and Scotty embraced during a tearful appearance on the South Lawn and the president said,
I thought he handled his assignment with class, integrity. ... One of these days he and I are going to be rocking on chairs in Texas, talking about the good old days and his time as the press secretary. And I can assure you I will feel the same way then that I feel now, that I can say to Scott, 'Job well done.'
Can't find what I'm looking for in the way of National Review, Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard. I just checked a couple of blogs:

In a craven attempt to rake in a pile of cash, former Press Secretary Scott McClellan has betrayed his President and his Administration. And in doing so, he has betrayed America. Question: was Scott lying then or is he lying now? I can’t be sure, but it seems what he’s leaking now to the press will potentially make him a lot of money from BDS afflicted moonbats who reflexively grasp at any straw in a futile effort to embarrass our great President. Next he’ll be posting on Daily Kos.
And, Flopping Aces:
Whats the trash talk? Well, he writes a tell-all book and wanting to ensure it will sell millions he releases a few sentences that he knew would get the left drooling in anticipation.
I eagerly await the electronic and paper MSM pundits from the Conservative side. They should receive their talking points before the day is out. Until then, there's no news about the news.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

To What Extent Are Primary Candidates Favored Because of Their Perceived Political Philosophy?

Or, is it their smiles, hair or age?

Here's a poll/quiz/test/survey you can take to measure whether your political preferences reflect politics and policies as opposed to . . . ah . . . more superficial criterion.

If you're interested in this ten-minute exercise, read the orientation below which can save you some time. If not, then click on outta' here and be gone!

Welcome to The Political Compass™

There's abundant evidence for the need of it. The old one-dimensional categories of 'right' and 'left', established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789, are overly simplistic for today's complex political landscape. For example, who are the 'conservatives' in today's Russia? Are they the unreconstructed Stalinists, or the reformers who have adopted the right-wing views of conservatives like Margaret Thatcher ?

On the standard left-right scale, how do you distinguish leftists like Stalin and Gandhi? It's not sufficient to say that Stalin was simply more left than Gandhi. There are fundamental political differences between them that the old categories on their own can't explain. Similarly, we generally describe social reactionaries as 'right-wingers', yet that leaves left-wing reactionaries like Robert Mugabe and Pol Pot off the hook.

That's about as much as we should tell you for now. After you've responded to the following propositions during the next 3-5 minutes, all will be explained. In each instance, you're asked to choose the response that best describes your feeling: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree or Strongly Agree. At the end of the test, you'll be given the compass, with your own special position on it.

The test is entirely anonymous. None of your personal details are required, and nothing about your result is recorded or logged in any way. The answers are only used to calculate your reading, and cannot be accessed by anyone, ever.

The idea was developed by a political journalist with a university counselling background, assisted by a professor of social history. They're indebted to people like Wilhelm Reich and Theodor Adorno for their ground-breaking work in this field. We believe that, in an age of diminishing ideology, a new generation in particular will get a better idea of where they stand politically - and the sort of political company they keep.

So are you ready to take the test? Remember that there's no right, wrong or ideal response. It's simply a measure of attitudes and inevitable human contradictions to provide a more integrated definition of where people and parties are really at.
Click here to start.

Omigod! I am not at all near where I thought I was. I always think of myself as in the middle of the road, maximum mainstream, Mr. Moderate and Objective.

I am sure I used to be! I am amazed to finally realize how much Busheney have radicalized me!

Messenger writes:
I note three things:
  1. Ron Paul is really not that far away from Gravel and Kucinich.
  2. There are no authoritarian leftists in the primaries.
  3. I score right where I thought I was.
Here's Hillblogger's political portrait:

Silver Surfer:

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Torture and the Devolution of American Heroism

How far have Busheney pushed the American Psyche?

Well, for sure from Real-Politick to Neo-Conservatism in less than one decade. In my lifetime, I have witnessed a drift from
Jack Armstrong to Jack Ryan to Jack Bauer. . .

Jack Armstrong didn't torture. Did Jack Ryan torture? I don't remember. (Readers please comment.) But Jack Bauer sure does! Knee-capping, shocking and finger-breaking, etc., etc.
Rarely has fictional television seemed so entwined with our national political life. Not since Dan Quayle invoked the name Murphy Brown (Aug 1992) have national Republican candidates invoked make-believe candidates from tee-vee's make-believe world in order to score points on the campaign trail. Such is the non-factually-based world of the GOP mindset.

Weimar Republicans celebrate "24" as a vote for patriotism and all things authoritarian. In fact, when Republicans - candidates especially - meet and congregate to discuss national security, you could describe it as a Jack Bauer Hour of Power. Rosa Brooks (LA Times) recently characterized last May's GOP debate as "virtually a Jack Bauer Impersonation Contest". According to Brooks, it was a bunch of middle-aged white guys trying their very best to emulate and identify with
Kiefer Sutherland's character Jack Bauer - "torture enthusiast" - in Fox's hit show "24". For my one reader who does not own an operating TV, Jack Bauer is a special agent in the fictitious L.A.-based Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU).

In the debate Brooks recalls, it was Fox News moderator Brit Hume who brought "24" up. It was almost like chumming bait to starving sharks. Imagine, Hume told the candidates, that hundreds of Americans have been killed in three major suicide bombings. This is
. . .a fictional, but we think plausible, scenario involving terrorism and the response to it. . . a fourth attack has been averted when the attackers were captured … and taken to Guantanamo…. U.S. intelligence believes that another, larger attack is planned…. How aggressively would you interrogate…?
Rudy Giuliani didn't hesitate:
I would tell the [interrogators] to use every method…. It shouldn't be torture, but every method they can think of. . . I would - and I would - well, I'd say every method they could think of.
Governor Mitt Romney naturally had to up the ante:
You said the person's going to be in Guantanamo. I'm glad they're at Guantanamo…. Some people have said we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is we ought to double Guantanamo . . . . Enhanced interrogation techniques have to be used.
Rep. Duncan Hunter of California boasted that,
in terms of getting information that would save American lives, even if it involves very high-pressure techniques . . . . one sentence: Get the information.
And not to be outdone, from my native state, Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo:
We're wondering about whether water-boarding would be a - a bad thing to do? I'm looking for Jack Bauer at that time, let me tell you.
According to Brooks, this remark was greeted by uproarious laughter and sustained applause from the audience.

The notable exceptions were John McCain and Ron Paul, both of whom - interestingly enough - served in the Vietnam campaign. Ex-POW McCain reminded the audience that
. . . it's not about the terrorists, it's about us. It's about what kind of country we are.
BTW, actor Kiefer Sutherland denies that "24" is advocating torture as a policy; it's just using torture as a dramatic device:
You torture someone and they'll basically tell you exactly what you want to hear, whether it's true or not, if you put someone in enough pain... Within the context of our show, which is a fantastical show to begin with, the torture is a dramatic device to show you how desperate a situation is.
One thing that bothers me about the show "24" is its jump-ass music in the background; the insistent jungle-beat communicates the pressure of time. The whole 24-episode series of "24" is supposed to be 24 hours in a single, frenetic day of anti-terrorist activity by the "CTU" and the tempo of music reminds even those of us separated from the TV room by a closed door, of the urgency for resolution.

This tempo suggests a question to me: does not all this pervasive sense of urgency suggest a frenzy of stop-gap measures and a reflection of a lack of earlier, systematic and long-term planning? Like the lack of systematic inspection of shipping containers and trucking?

Personally, I am not a loyal fan of many TV series. Week-by-week character development is essential for me to retain interest. I only lasted halfway through the first season of "24". For me, nothing really got past the threshold of Jack's compartmentalized inhumanity/humanity. Every week, 24's writers would pose to me the same question:

Can Jack Bauer retain a semblance of human dignity as a father, lover, citizen and still - within the same hour - reach in, up to his elbows, into blood, bones and flesh?

Long before the end of the first season, I quit "24" with the feeling I was just being played by the show's writers.

But many of my fellow Americans seem to find real world instruction in 24's weekly real-time episodes. I'm talking not only of casual voters, of course, but also even intense political types, like some of my fellow bloggers lurking out there. (You know I know who some of you are!) But what truly stuns me is that Jack Bauer's novitiates can also be found among the highest elites in our government.

Take for example, Mr. Justice Scalia:
Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. … He saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

Are you going to convict Jack Bauer? Say that criminal law is against him? 'You have the right to a jury trial?' Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don't think so.

So the question is really whether we believe in these absolutes. And ought we believe in these absolutes.
Or take 2008's aspirant First Spouse, Bill Clinton, who seems to be saying that torture could be useful but should be unlawful:
If you're the Jack Bauer person, you'll do whatever you do and you should be prepared to take the consequences. . . If you have any kind of a formal exception, people just drive a truck through it, and they'll say, 'Well, I thought it was covered by the exception. . . . When Bauer goes out there on his own and is prepared to live with the consequences, it always seems to work better.
Does art imitate life or vice-versa? Whatever the purpose of the torture's content within 24's scenarios, the US military is alarmed about its message. The Pentagon has appealed to the producers of "24" to tone down the torture scenes. The show's message,
internalized by its young, impressionable troops, contradicts their formal professional training. Plus, the Jack Bauer ethic produces a national public relations problem abroad. This recalls Gen. David Petraeus' letter last May 10 to all U.S. troops serving under him in Iraq:
Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information…. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary…. What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight … is how we behave. In everything we do, we must … treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect.
What we been sayin', of course!

It's good news that the Writers' Strike has aborted 24's season. Cancelling just one episode, I hear, vitiates the symmetry of 24 hours in 24 episodes, ruining its 'dramatic conceit'. Now, if we could just get the spineless Congress to go on strike and refuse to write any more checks to pay for this ruinous occupation and its melodramatic conceit. . . .

Only Obama Can Bring America Barack!

Friday Night & Saturday Morning Filching

E from StarSpangledHaggis placed this tremendous piece of writing by Andrew Sullivan on my radar screen. So, I am filching from her as well as from the Atlantic Magazine, Sullivan's publisher.

I apologize to my reader(s) for the length of what follows. Anyone contemplating investing a few minutes in this read should be assured that I have saved them considerable time already.

Sullivan's punditry is not perfect. (He was wrong on Busheney's invasion of Iraq.) But Sully's writing always arrests my attention. In this piece, he encapsulates in a very personal way what weighs down on my consciousness and unconsciousness, 24-7. He informs me why I have known from the beginning, why I have to vote for Barack Obama as long as he is running. I will not have a comment at the conclusion.

Andrew Sullivan, then:

The logic behind the candidacy of Barack Obama is not, in the end, about Barack Obama. It has little to do with his policy proposals, which are very close to his Democratic rivals’ and which, with a few exceptions, exist firmly within the conventions of our politics. It has little to do with Obama’s considerable skills as a conciliator, legislator, or even thinker. It has even less to do with his ideological pedigree or legal background or rhetorical skills. Yes, as the many profiles prove, he has considerable intelligence and not a little guile. But so do others, not least his formidably polished and practiced opponent Senator Hillary Clinton.

Obama, moreover, is no saint. He has flaws and tics: Often tired, sometimes crabby, intermittently solipsistic, he’s a surprisingly uneven campaigner.

A soaring rhetorical flourish one day is undercut by a lackluster debate performance the next. He is certainly not without self-regard. He has more experience in public life than his opponents want to acknowledge, but he has not spent much time in Washington and has never run a business. His lean physique, close-cropped hair, and stick-out ears can give the impression of a slightly pushy undergraduate. You can see why many of his friends and admirers have urged him to wait his turn. He could be president in five or nine years’ time—why the rush?

But he knows, and privately acknowledges, that the fundamental point of his candidacy is that it is happening now. In politics, timing matters. And the most persuasive case for Obama has less to do with him than with the moment he is meeting. The moment has been a long time coming, and it is the result of a confluence of events, from one traumatizing war in Southeast Asia to another in the most fractious country in the Middle East. The legacy is a cultural climate that stultifies our politics and corrupts our discourse.

Obama’s candidacy in this sense is a potentially transformational one. Unlike any of the other candidates, he could take America—finally—past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us. So much has happened in America in the past seven years, let alone the past 40, that we can be forgiven for focusing on the present and the immediate future. But it is only when you take several large steps back into the long past that the full logic of an Obama presidency stares directly—and uncomfortably—at you.

At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war—not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a mo­mentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade—but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about war—and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama—and Obama alone—offers the possibility of a truce.

The traces of our long journey to this juncture can be found all around us. . . . Something deeper and more powerful than the actual decisions we face is driving the tone of the debate.


Given this quiet, evolving consensus on policy, how do we account for the bitter, brutal tone of American politics? The answer lies mainly with the biggest and most influential generation in America: the Baby Boomers. The divide is still—amazingly—between those who fought in Vietnam and those who didn’t, and between those who fought and dissented and those who fought but never dissented at all. By defining the contours of the Boomer generation, it lasted decades. And with time came a strange intensity.

The professionalization of the battle, and the emergence of an array of well-funded interest groups dedicated to continuing it. . . . Clinton clearly tried to bridge the Boomer split. But he was trapped on one side of it—and his personal foibles only reignited his generation’s agonies over sex and love and marriage. Even the failed impeachment didn’t bring the two sides to their senses, and the election of 2000 only made matters worse. . . .

The trauma of 9/11 has tended to obscure the memory of that unprecedentedly bitter election, and its nail- biting aftermath, which verged on a constitutional crisis. But its legacy is very much still with us, made far worse by President Bush’s approach to dealing with it. Despite losing the popular vote, Bush governed as if he had won Reagan’s 49 states. Instead of cementing a coalition of the center-right, Bush and Rove set out to ensure that the new evangelical base of the Republicans would turn out more reliably in 2004. Instead of seeing the post-’60s divide as a wound to be healed, they poured acid on it.

With 9/11, Bush had a reset moment—a chance to reunite the country in a way that would marginalize the extreme haters on both sides and forge a national consensus. He chose not to do so. . . . . As the Iraq War faltered, the polarization intensified. In 2004, the Vietnam argument returned with a new energy, with the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry’s Vietnam War record and CBS’s misbegotten report on Bush’s record in the Texas Air National Guard. These were the stories that touched the collective nerve of the political classes—because they parsed once again along the fault lines of the Boomer divide that had come to define all of us.

The result was an even deeper schism. Kerry was arguably the worst candidate on earth to put to rest the post-1960s culture war—and his decision to embrace his Vietnam identity at the convention made things worse. Bush, for his part, was unable to do nuance. . . . It was and is a toxic cycle, in which the interests of the United States are supplanted by domestic agendas born of pride and ruthlessness on the one hand and bitterness and alienation on the other.

This is the critical context for the election of 2008. It is an election that holds the potential not merely to intensify this cycle of division but to bequeath it to a new generation, one marked by a new war that need not be—that should not be—seen as another Vietnam. A Giuliani-Clinton matchup, favored by the media elite, is a classic intragenerational struggle—with two deeply divisive and ruthless personalities ready to go to the brink. . . . And however hard she tries, there is nothing Hillary Clinton can do about it. She and Giuliani are conscripts in their generation’s war. To their respective sides, they are war heroes.

In normal times, such division is not fatal, and can even be healthy. It’s great copy for journalists. But we are not talking about routine rancor. And we are not talking about normal times. We are talking about a world in which Islamist terror, combined with increasingly available destructive technology, has already murdered thousands of Americans, and tens of thousands of Muslims, and could pose an existential danger to the West. The terrible failures of the Iraq occupation, the resurgence of al-Qaeda in Pakistan, the progress of Iran toward nuclear capability, and the collapse of America’s prestige and moral reputation, especially among those millions of Muslims too young to have known any American president but Bush, heighten the stakes dramatically.


Of the viable national candidates, only Obama . . . [has] the potential to bridge this widening partisan gulf. Polling reveals Obama to be the favored Democrat among Republicans. . . But Obama’s reach outside his own ranks remains striking. Why? It’s a good question: How has a black, urban liberal gained far stronger support among Republicans than the made-over moderate Clinton or the southern charmer Edwards? Perhaps because the Republicans and independents who are open to an Obama candidacy see his primary advantage in prosecuting the war on Islamist terrorism. It isn’t about his policies as such; it is about his person. They are prepared to set their own ideological preferences to one side in favor of what Obama offers America in a critical moment in our dealings with the rest of the world. The war today matters enormously. The war of the last generation? Not so much. If you are an American who yearns to finally get beyond the symbolic battles of the Boomer generation and face today’s actual problems, Obama may be your man.

What does he offer? First and foremost: his face. Think of it as the most effective potential re-branding of the United States since Reagan. Such a re-branding is not trivial—it’s central to an effective war strategy. The war on Islamist terror, after all, is two-pronged: a function of both hard power and soft power. We have seen the potential of hard power in removing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. We have also seen its inherent weaknesses in Iraq, and its profound limitations in winning a long war against radical Islam. The next president has to create a sophisticated and supple blend of soft and hard power to isolate the enemy, to fight where necessary, but also to create an ideological template that works to the West’s advantage over the long haul. There is simply no other candidate with the potential of Obama to do this. Which is where his face comes in.

Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.

The other obvious advantage that Obama has in facing the world and our enemies is his record on the Iraq War. He is the only major candidate to have clearly opposed it from the start. Whoever is in office in January 2009 will be tasked with redeploying forces in and out of Iraq, negotiating with neighboring states, engaging America’s estranged allies, tamping down regional violence. Obama’s interlocutors in Iraq and the Middle East would know that he never had suspicious motives toward Iraq, has no interest in occupying it indefinitely, and foresaw more clearly than most Americans the baleful consequences of long-term occupation.

This latter point is the most salient. The act of picking the next president will be in some ways a statement of America’s view of Iraq. Clinton is running as a centrist Democrat—voting for war, accepting the need for an occupation at least through her first term, while attempting to do triage as practically as possible. Obama is running as the clearer antiwar candidate. At the same time, Obama’s candidacy cannot fairly be cast as a McGovernite revival in tone or substance. He is not opposed to war as such. He is not opposed to the use of unilateral force, either—as demonstrated by his willingness to target al-Qaeda in Pakistan over the objections of the Pakistani government. He does not oppose the idea of democratization in the Muslim world as a general principle or the concept of nation building as such. He is not an isolationist, as his support for the campaign in Afghanistan proves.

Here, Sullivan quotes from the speech Obama gave in Chicago on 02-Oct-02, five months before the war, which I posted last February. Sullivan continues:

. . . . The man who opposed the war for the right reasons is for that reason the potential president with the most flexibility in dealing with it. Clinton is hemmed in by her past and her generation. If she pulls out too quickly, she will fall prey to the usual browbeating from the right—the same theme that has played relentlessly since 1968. If she stays in too long, the antiwar base of her own party, already suspicious of her, will pounce. The Boomer legacy imprisons her—and so it may continue to imprison us. The debate about the war in the next four years needs to be about the practical and difficult choices ahead of us—not about the symbolism or whether it’s a second Vietnam.
A generational divide also separates Clinton and Obama with respect to domestic politics. . . . . Obama. . . did not politically come of age during the Vietnam era, and he is simply less afraid of the right wing than Clinton is, because he has emerged on the national stage during a period of conservative decadence and decline. And so, for example, he felt much freer than Clinton to say he was prepared to meet and hold talks with hostile world leaders in his first year in office. He has proposed sweeping middle-class tax cuts and opposed drastic reforms of Social Security, without being tarred as a fiscally reckless liberal. (Of course, such accusations are hard to make after the fiscal performance of today’s “conservatives.”) Even his more conservative positions—like his openness to bombing Pakistan, or his support for merit pay for public-school teachers—do not appear to emerge from a desire or need to credentialize himself with the right. He is among the first Democrats in a generation not to be afraid or ashamed of what they actually believe, which also gives them more freedom to move pragmatically to the right, if necessary. He does not smell, as Clinton does, of political fear.

There are few areas where this Democratic fear is more intense than religion.


This struggle to embrace modernity without abandoning faith falls on one of the fault lines in the modern world. It is arguably the critical fault line, the tectonic rift that is advancing the bloody borders of Islam and the increasingly sectarian boundaries of American politics. As humankind abandons the secular totalitarianisms of the last century and grapples with breakneck technological and scientific discoveries, the appeal of absolutist faith is powerful in both developing and developed countries. It is the latest in a long line of rebukes to liberal modernity—but this rebuke has the deepest roots, the widest appeal, and the attraction that all total solutions to the human predicament proffer. . . .

You cannot confront the complex challenges of domestic or foreign policy today unless you understand this gulf and its seriousness. You cannot lead the United States without having a foot in both the religious and secular camps. This, surely, is where Bush has failed most profoundly. By aligning himself with the most extreme and basic of religious orientations, he has lost many moderate believers and alienated the secular and agnostic in the West. If you cannot bring the agnostics along in a campaign against religious terrorism, you have a problem.

Here again, Obama, by virtue of generation and accident, bridges this deepening divide. He was brought up in a nonreligious home and converted to Christianity as an adult. But—critically—he is not born-again. His faith—at once real and measured, hot and cool—lives at the center of the American religious experience. It is a modern, intellectual Christianity. . . .

And now, ultimately, and inevitably, race:

And this, of course, is the other element that makes Obama a potentially transformative candidate: race. Here, Obama again finds himself in the center of a complex fate, unwilling to pick sides in a divide that reaches back centuries and appears at times unbridgeable. His appeal to whites is palpable. I have felt it myself. Earlier this fall, I attended an Obama speech in Washington on tax policy that underwhelmed on delivery; his address was wooden, stilted, even tedious. It was only after I left the hotel that it occurred to me that I’d just been bored on tax policy by a national black leader. That I should have been struck by this was born in my own racial stereotypes, of course. But it won me over.


. . . . But there is no reason why African Americans cannot see the logic of Americanism that Obama also represents, a legacy that is ultimately theirs as well. To be black and white, to have belonged to a nonreligious home and a Christian church, to have attended a majority-Muslim school in Indonesia and a black church in urban Chicago, to be more than one thing and sometimes not fully anything—this is an increasingly common experience for Americans, including many racial minorities. Obama expresses such a conflicted but resilient identity before he even utters a word. And this complexity, with its internal tensions, contradictions, and moods, may increasingly be the main thing all Americans have in common.

None of this, of course, means that Obama will be the president some are dreaming of. His record in high office is sparse; his performances on the campaign trail have been patchy; his chief rival for the nomination, Senator Clinton, has bested him often with her relentless pursuit of the middle ground, her dogged attention to her own failings, and her much-improved speaking skills. At times, she has even managed to appear more inherently likable than the skinny, crabby, and sometimes morose newcomer from Chicago. Clinton’s most surprising asset has been the sense of security she instills. Her husband—and the good feelings that nostalgics retain for his presidency—have buttressed her case. In dangerous times, popular majorities often seek the conservative option, broadly understood.

Sullivan gets it:

The paradox is that Hillary makes far more sense if you believe that times are actually pretty good. If you believe that America’s current crisis is not a deep one, if you think that pragmatism alone will be enough to navigate a world on the verge of even more religious warfare, if you believe that today’s ideological polarization is not dangerous, and that what appears dark today is an illusion fostered by the lingering trauma of the Bush presidency, then the argument for Obama is not that strong. Clinton will do. And a Clinton-Giuliani race could be as invigorating as it is utterly predictable.

But if you sense, as I do, that greater danger lies ahead, and that our divisions and recent history have combined to make the American polity and constitutional order increasingly vulnerable, then the calculus of risk changes. Sometimes, when the world is changing rapidly, the greater risk is caution. Close-up in this election campaign, Obama is unlikely. From a distance, he is necessary. At a time when America’s estrangement from the world risks tipping into dangerous imbalance, when a country at war with lethal enemies is also increasingly at war with itself, when humankind’s spiritual yearnings veer between an excess of certainty and an inability to believe anything at all, and when sectarian and racial divides seem as intractable as ever, a man who is a bridge between these worlds may be indispensable.

We may in fact have finally found that bridge to the 21st century that Bill Clinton told us about. Its name is Obama.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Friday Is Ron Paul Day!

"Dr. No" is a 72-year old obstetrician (Duke University M.D. 1961) turned politician, the sanest man in the Republican debates and perhaps the most courageous in all of Congress.

Some time ago, I inaugurated a weekly feature which attempted to reach across the great partisan divide. Every Friday became a be-good-to-a-Republican-day. On these occasions I tried to find and feature a 'redeemable' Republican. I had in mind a Republican willing to stand up against, speak up against, and vote against, the worst president in American History, George W. Bush.

I still stand behind that iron-clad criterion, but it has been an exacting bar to overcome. Republicans willing to register early and consistent opposition to the Busheney clique are few and far between. It has been hard ('work'), but always good to find one.

But the choice has always been an obvious one. Ron Paul is the epitome of an authentic conservative. Dr. Paul stands up for re-starting the Constitution and restoring the rule of law, and defying the unitary executive.
This Texan has always cast his vote in accordance with the Constitution and not whim of his party's leadership. That is how he won the nickname of 'Dr. No.' In this campaign, Congressman Paul has engaged himself in shattering the myth of monolithic Republican unity around the ethos of war. At each intra-party confrontation, Paul has aroused the crowd and outraged his fellow candidates by merely speaking truth to power. In the polling of the television audiences after the debate in New Hampshire, for example, St. Paul has embarrassed the entire GOP field

As a result Ron Paul is the Neo-Con elites' worst nightmare. Simply having him on the stage with other candidates jars and fractures the message of what passes nowadays for mainstream Republicans. It's like having a liberal or progressive head under the war-mongering party's tent. His presence reminds those in the GOP that they don't have to be militarists, colonialists, or imperialists, just because they are Republicans. Bringing the troops home can be a respectable way to support them. It's a reminder to all potential GOP voters that idiocy is a choice: you weren't necessary born with it.Last night I heard Dennis Kucinich say in the Las Vegas Democratic debate that he was the only one on the stage who actually voted against the 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. If Dr. Paul had been there, Kucinich would not have been able to make that statement. That's how oppositional Ron Paul has been. More courageous and obstinate than half the Congressional Democrats, Paul is a festering splinter in the Republican hide.

Paul does not play the two-face Democratic game of hemming and hawing over non-binding resolutions of different schedules of troop redeployment from Iraq. Paul is also an in-your-face rejection of the Republican nonsense of the 'Islamofascism menace' terrorism. He roasts their nuts every time he says,
Terrorists don't come here because we are free and prosperous. Terrorists come here because we are in their face, we are in their country, building bases in their land and stealing their oil.
Of course I don't cotton to all the Ron Paul positions on tax code, freedom of choice and heath care reform. All of these are important. But on the issues of war, peace and occupation in Iraq, Iran, and Israel (the three I's I call them), Paul's positions are more steadfastly and dependably American than you can find among most rubber-kneed Congressional Democrats these days.

As much as I look forward to voting in California's Democratic primary, at the last minute I can see myself jumping parties by re-registering Republican - just to poke that damned elephant in the eye. With reliable Progressives so hard to find in Congress these days,the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

After Bush - The Deluge?

As In 'World Economic Collapse'?

This morning, I woke up to the BBC as I do every morning. But this morning I was jolted upright before dawn by a riveting interview of Richard Duncan.

I remember shittola from my college and graduate courses in economics. (Maybe the reason might be disclosed in looking up my transcripts.) But this interview scared any residue of shittola out of me.

Personal experience has taught me that the best way to dispel the lingering effects of a nightmare, a nightmarish day dream (or even a cold) is to disperse it by sharing it with all others in earshot.

In the interview, yet to be posted on the 'Net, Duncan updated his conclusions of his earlier book, The Dollar Crisis. In the interview, he spotlighted the recent crash in sub-prime mortgages. We are poised on the precipice of a world wide deflationary crash.

As I said, I can't find the BBC interview yet, but Duncan wrote this last September:

Global credit markets are caught up in the worst systemic crisis in living memory. A meaningful portion of all outstanding financial instruments are significantly impaired. The solvency of some of the largest financial institutions in the world is in question and trust in the interbank market has evaporated. Central banks have been forced to inject hundreds of billions of dollars into money markets to prevent a world-wide financial sector meltdown. It is imperative to understand this credit crisis is only one part of a much more far reaching crisis within the global economy. A world-wide credit bubble has arisen as a result of the United States’ $800 billion a year current account deficit. Flaws in the post-Bretton Woods international monetary system are to blame.

The chances of a global recession are high. The severity and length of the downturn will be determined by how policy makers respond now that the global credit bubble has begun to deflate. A wise policy response could result in some good emerging from this disaster. A foolish policy response could have catastrophic consequences. This article will consider the origins of this crisis. It will also offer advice to policy makers, who need to act quickly to prevent the Great Credit Crisis of 2007 from becoming an economic depression.

Flaws in The Dollar Standard

The Dollar Standard is the most appropriate name for the international monetary system that evolved following the collapse of the Bretton Woods System in the early 1970s. The principal flaw in The Dollar Standard is that it has no mechanism to prevent large and persistent trade imbalances between countries. Consequently, the deterioration in the United States’ current account deficit has gone unchecked, recently reaching nearly 7% of US GDP. The countries with a trade surplus with the United States have been blown into economic bubbles. Japan in the 1980s, the Asia Crisis countries in the 1990s, and China today are examples. Moreover, as the central banks of the United States’ trading partners have reinvested their dollar surpluses back into US dollar assets, the United States itself has also been blown into a bubble. In short, the US current account deficit has destabilized the global economy. That was the theme of my book, The Dollar Crisis: Causes, Consequences, Cures (John Wiley & Sons, 2003, updated 2005).

Before the breakdown of the Bretton Woods International Monetary System, international trade balanced. Subsequently, however, the gap between what the United States bought from the rest of the world and what the rest of the world bought from the United States began to steadily expand.

Under a Gold Standard, or the quasi gold standard Bretton Woods system, such large trade deficits would not have been sustainable since the US would have had to pay for its deficits out of its limited supply of gold reserves. However, the willingness of the United States’ trading partners to accept payment in dollars instead of gold meant there were effectively no limits as to how large the US trade deficits could become. This vendor financing arrangement allowed much more rapid economic growth around the world than would have been possible otherwise. The larger the US current account deficit became, the more the United States’ trading partners benefited.

When the foreign companies selling product in the United States took their dollar earnings home and converted them into their own currencies, it put upward pressure on those currencies. The central banks of those countries intervened to prevent their currencies from appreciating so as to preserve their trade advantage. They intervened by creating money and buying the dollars entering their countries. In this way, the exporters were able to keep their export earnings in their domestic currency and the central banks accumulated large foreign exchange reserves.

As the US current account deficit grew larger, central banks created more and more money and intervened on a greater and greater scale each year. In fact, total foreign exchange reserves have doubled over the past four years. In other words, during the course of the last four years, foreign exchange reserves have increased by as much (US$ 2.8 trillion) as in all prior centuries combined. The reinvestment of those dollar reserves into US dollar assets fuelled the credit excesses in the United States that culminated in an unsustainable property bubble there.

As in the case of Keynsian theory resolving the 1928 crash, Duncan sees the problem as the inability of millions of people not being able to purchase the current unprecedented surplus production of goods and services provided by our global economy. One of his long-term solutions posed in the BBC interview was the institution of a world-wide minimum wage to be increased annually.

Well, now. That feels better now that I got that off my chest. . .

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Captions Needed!

I borrowed this from No Captions Needed!Because I think it needs lots'a captions!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pausing for Respect and Reflection

For two minutes at 11:11 on 11.11.07Today, there should be 3,860 crosses but, earlier this year, the City fathers limited Arlington West to 3,000.It seems like I've been writing in these pages of mine forever, trying to find a way of expressing reverence for their sacrifice and repugnance for the mission to which they have been assigned.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Anglo-American Occupation of Iraq Is Illegitimate

Just as I have long suspected.

On many occasions in these pages, I have asserted and demonstrated how Busheney's regime of spending our country into the poorhouse in order to prolong an unwanted and unpopular occupation of Iraq is against the grain America's experience and self-interest. Busheney invaded Mesopotamia without United Nations Security Council sanction and yet reached out for the U.N.'s cover to justify the occupation. Now they think they can renew the expiring U.N. mandate by cutting Iraq's frail democracy out of the process. I'm speaking of the government and parliament in/of the Green Zone (GGZ).

My edited excerpts from Joshua Holland and Raed Jarrar,
AlterNet (09-Nov-07):

The biggest headache supporters of the occupation of Iraq have to deal with is the legitimacy of occupation itself. As far back as the middle of 2004, more than nine out of 10 Iraqis said the U.S.-led forces were "occupiers," and only 2 percent called them "liberators."
. . . . Any government - even the GGZ - that represents the will of the Iraqi people would have no choice but to demand a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops. This fact poses an enormous problem, as the great triumph of the Bush administration and its supporters has been in their ability to convince Americans that Iraqi interests and Washington's interests are in harmony, even when they're diametrically opposed.

Crucial to this fiction is a U.N. mandate that confers legal cover on the so-called "multinational" forces in Iraq. The mandate is now coming up for renewal, and a majority of Iraqi legislators oppose its renewal unless conditions are placed on it, conditions that may include a timetable for the departure of American troops.

The process of renewing the mandate is highlighting the political rift that's divided the country and fueled most of the violence that's plagued the new state. That's the rift between nationalists -- those Iraqis who, like most of their countrymen, oppose the presence of foreign troops on the ground,

In the United States, the commercial media has largely ignored this story, focusing almost exclusively on sectarian violence and doing a poor job giving their readers and viewers a sense of what's driving Iraq's political crisis.

An understanding of the tensions between nationalists and separatists is necessary to appreciate the import of parliament being cut out of the legislative process and the degree to which doing so hurts the prospect of real political reconciliation among Iraq's many political factions.

In 2006, Maliki's office requested the renewal of the U.N. mandate without consulting the legislature, a process that many lawmakers maintained was a violation of Iraqi law. The problem was that Maliki didn't have the authority to make the request under the Iraqi constitution. Article 58, Section 4 says that the Council of Representatives (the parliament) has to ratify "international treaties and agreements" negotiated by the Council of Ministers (the cabinet). Specifically, it reads:
A law shall regulate the ratification of international treaties and agreements by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Council of Representatives.
Prime Minister Maliki had claimed that the constitution didn't refer to the U.N. mandate. A senior Iraqi lawmaker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said of the assertion:
If we are asked to approve a trade agreement concerning olive oil, should we not have the right to pass on an agreement concerning the stationing of foreign military forces in our national soil?
In June, GGZ's parliament had passed a binding resolution that would force Maliki to go to the parliament and give Iraqi lawmakers an opportunity to block the extension of the mandate. It was signed by the majority of the 275-seat legislature, then sent to the president. According to the Iraqi constitution, the president had 15 days to veto it by sending it back to the parliament; otherwise it automatically became a ratified law. The 15 days passed without a veto and the resolution became the law of the land in mid-June 2007.

Something happened, however, between the passage of that law and the latest report by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. According to Moon's latest report to the Security Council (PDF), dated Oct. 15, the law that had been passed by the duly elected legislature of Iraq became nothing more than a "nonbinding resolution":
The Council of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution on 5 June obligating the cabinet to request parliament's approval on future extensions of the mandate governing the multinational force in Iraq and to include a timetable for the departure of the force from Iraq.
One might have believed that the disconnect was a simple mistake, if not for the fact that members of the Iraqi parliament, still fuming over being cut out of the process the year before, sent a letter to the U.N.'s special envoy for Iraq back in April clarifying the situation in very clear terms. According to an English translation provide by the Global Policy Forum, it says:
The Iraqi Cabinet has unilaterally requested a renewal of the U.N. mandate keeping the occupation troops (MNF) in Iraq. . . . such a request issued by the Iraqi cabinet without the Iraqi parliament's approval is unconstitutional. . . The Iraqi parliament, as the elected representatives of the Iraqi people, has the exclusive right to approve and ratify international treaties and agreements, including those signed with the United Nations Security Council.
According to sources within the Iraqi delegation to the United Nations, the letter, signed by 144 MPs --more than half of Iraq's legislators -- was received in good order by the special envoy, Ashraf Qazi, but never distributed to the Security Council members, as is required under the U.N. resolution that governs the mandate. The parliament, and indeed the majority of the Iraqi population, had been cleanly excised from the legislative process.

. . . . .In cutting the nationalist majority in the parliament out of the process of governing, the Maliki administration, Bush administration and, apparently, the U.N. secretary-general are making political reconciliation much more difficult. History has offered the lesson time and time again: Deny people the right to participate in deciding their own destiny in a peaceful political process, and they'll try to do so with guns and bombs. The United Nations, like the administration and its supporters, and like Sen. Joe Biden and those who favor his plan for partitioning the country, is taking sides in a political battle that should be exclusively for Iraqis to decide.

. . . . This U.N. mandate issue is not occurring in a vacuum. When it comes to the nascent Iraqi government (GGZ), supporters of the occupation have long had their cake and eaten it too. On the one hand, they deny that the U.S.-led military force is an occupying army at all, maintaining that all those foreign troops are there at the "request" of the Iraqi government. That's an important legal nicety -- occupying forces have a host of responsibilities under international law and acknowledging the reality of the occupation would result in more legal responsibilities for the administration to ignore. At the same time, when the only people who all those purple-fingered Iraqi voters actually elected to office try to attach some conditions to the U.N. mandate, demand a timetable for withdrawal or come out against privatizing Iraq's natural resources, then somehow the legislature magically disappears and the hopes and aspirations of its constituents are discarded as if they never existed.

It's time to force the issue: The Iraqi parliament, the only body elected by the Iraqi people, wants some say over the continuing presence of foreign troops on its soil, and a majority of its lawmakers, like a majority of both Americans and Iraqis, wants a timetable for ending the occupation.
So, as it turns out, both Americans and Iraqis are occupied by a regime alien to both of them through smoking mirrors and a serial maze of non-binding resolutions.