Saturday, March 29, 2008

Bush's Defining Moment in Iraq?

Is this the penultimate, mother-of-all [you know what] we have been waiting for?

It is impossible to keep up with events in Iraq. Several times in the past week I have started a screed, but events in southern Iraq are dramatic and fast changing.

I just want to get in on the ground floor of this week's clusterfook which only comes to us wrapped inside the mother of all clusterfooks in history. I'll just reiterate what I have said many times in many ways in the past: Muqtada al-Sadr is part of the solution and not part of the problem of Iraq.

But there's a big assumption - da big IF - in my argument. I call it the ASAP Assumption. That's the assumption that the goal of American policy is to get Iraq back on its feet ASAP ... and extricate ourselves from Iraq ASAP ... so that we can put the whole Bush debacle behind us ASAP, and restore America's world leadership and reputation ASAP.

It's clear that other goals are in play.

Bushism has undergone a number of overlapping transmogrifications from the start. Let's forget the oscillation of reasons and rationales put forward to justify invasion and occupation. There are too many of them to discuss here. And let's confine ourselves to the big picture because the moving parts are a blur to us, mesmerized as we are by the uncivil war in the Democratic primary. Let's just remember these:
  • The unprovoked invasion of Iraq: begun 20-Mar-03 and completed Mayday 2003, as announced on that day on the Carrier Lincoln.
  • Regime change and decapitation: achieved by the capture of Saddam Hussein 15-Dec-03.
  • The on-going pacification and occupation of Iraq: this is the pretense of standing Iraq back on its feet by promising that the occupation will end as soon as the puppet government of the Green Zone can 'stand up'
  • The latest of Bush's 'defining moments' for Iraq: polarizing Iraq between pro-Iran and anti-Iran divisions ... so that it will resemble North and South Korea ... so that our bivouac can remain there for 50 to 100 years.
And the immediate mechanism for all of this is to kill Muqtada al-Sadr and smash the Mahdi Army, thus removing one of the last remaining nationalist building blocks,
essential for a unified and independent Iraq. And that's why Bush is cheer-leading it.

This is truly Bush's defining moment.

Friday, March 28, 2008

TGIF! GOP-of-the-Week-Day!!

Douglas Kmiec
  • is a leading conservative Republican lawyer
  • served as constitutional legal counsel to former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush
  • a former dean of the law school at The Catholic University of America
  • supports preserving traditional marriage and believes that life begins at conception
Doug Kmiec has endorsed Senator Barack Obama to become our 44th President. In a recent Slate Magazine, he writes that Barack Obama is a natural for the Catholic vote:
My dear late mother would say: "Steer clear of mixing religion and politics in public discussions." Sorry, Mom, but the mix is unavoidable. Religion shapes us, and politics is our addictive national reality show. In any event, my faith, Catholicism, teaches that pluralism is enhanced, not threatened, when religions talk to one another.

Apparently, we're pretty persuasive. Catholics have been on the side of the top vote-getter (who, as we know from playing hanging chad, is not always the winner) in the last nine presidential elections. . . . Unlike our Jewish brothers and sisters who trend Democratic, and our Protestant friends who regularly populate Republican ranks, we're the ultimate flip-floppers, picking Republicans five times and Democrats four since 1972.
Kmiec served on Mitt Romney's campaign Committee because Romney was an underdog because of his religious beliefs. Overcoming the prejudice against Romney because of the candidate's Morman beliefs was something that appealed to this Catholic who remmebered JFK had the same sort of religious hurdle. But with Romney out,
whom might Catholics turn to? Since I served at one time as Reagan's constitutional lawyer, it would be natural for me to fall in line behind John McCain. Don't worry about his conservative lapses, says President Bush, the foremost expert on lapsed conservativism. There is no gainsaying that McCain is a military hero deserving of salute. But McCain seems fixated on just taking the next hill in Iraq. His Iraqi military objective is laudable, but it assumes good reasons to be there in the first place. It also ignores that Catholics are looking to bless the peacemakers.

Now, don't think me daft, but when Obama gave his victory remarks in Iowa calling upon America to "choose hope over fear and to choose unity over division," he was standing squarely in the shoes of the "Great Communicator." Notwithstanding all of Bill Clinton's self-possessed heckling to the contrary, Obama was right—Reagan was a "transformative" president. Reagan liked to tell us he was proudest of his ability to make America feel good about itself. He did. Catholic sensibility tells me Obama wants it to deserve that feeling.
Kmiec considered Hillary Clinton:
However hard-working, intelligent, and policy savvy she may be (and she is), Clinton seldom inspires even the so-called "social justice" Catholics or reveals that rare gift of empathy that defined Reagan and that one glimpses in Obama. Say what you will about not preferring style over substance, modern leadership requires both, especially now when the international community—whose help we need to arrest terrorism—seldom gives us the benefit of the doubt.
Of course, Kmiec considered other Republicans,
peering peer deeper into the Catholic mind. . . . Catholics do have to navigate some difficult ethical waters to contemplate voting blue. McCain and Huckabee—unlike either of the Democrats—join in the Catholic prayer for the unborn, but Republican promises have often left those prayers unanswered. While no papal instruction will ever condone the "right to choose," the church does ask for a consistent and realistic defense of life that actually takes steps to reduce the incidence of the practice, not just condemns it. Catholics will note that McCain and Huckabee's pro-life postures collapse when it comes to the death penalty. Even if the Supreme Court decides later this spring that lethal injection is not "cruel and unusual" under our Constitution, capital sentencing is often erratic and erroneous in light of the modern availability and reliability of DNA evidence. It is Catholic instruction that there are better ways to deter violent crime.
So, for Kmiec, he is too audacious in 2008 to be a GOP voter.
Beyond life issues, an audaciously hope-filled Democrat like Obama is a Catholic natural. Anyone seeking "liberty and justice for all" really can't be satisfied with racially segregated public schools that don't teach. And there's something deeply hypocritical about being a nation of immigrants that won't welcome any more of them. . . .

Sorry to tell you this, Sen. McCain, but a good number of the Catholics I know are not certain to light candles at the Republican political altar. Some of us who rode McCain's Straight Talk Express before the Republican commitment to a balanced budget put us on track toward a $400 billion deficit appreciate his confessed desire to redeem himself as a faithful conservative. But there are suspicions. After all, hanging out with Joe Lieberman and Russ Feingold comes well within the Latin canon:

Similes similibus gaudent.
Pares cum paribus facile congregantur

Birds of a feather flock together. . . . So, here's the thing: John McCain will have many Catholics in the pews a little while longer, but more than a few of us are thinking of giving him up for Lent. Reagan used to say that he didn't leave the Democratic Party, it left him. The launch of "Reaganites for Obama" might not be far behind. We might not be there yet, but we're getting close.
It doesn't matter to me how the tortured souls in the once Grand Ol' Party find themselves a way out from the dark side. I'm just glad they are coming, whether one by one or two by two. It's results I'm interested in. At this point, sheer numbers aren't that important: it's always better to have one Republican in hand than two in the Bush.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What I Liked About McCain's Speech Today

And what I didn't like.

Senator John McCain addressed the Los Angeles World Affairs Council today (26-Mar-08). His address was not open to the public. What I saw of his delivery on C-SPAN demonstrated that he was heavily dependent on reading from the teleprompter, but did well considering his age. What follows are my excerpts drawn from the prepared text of his remarks.

Early on, McCain pointedly put Bush in his place:
I detest war. It might not be the worst thing to befall human beings, but it is wretched beyond all description. When nations seek to resolve their differences by force of arms, a million tragedies ensue. The lives of a nation's finest patriots are sacrificed. Innocent people suffer and die. Commerce is disrupted; economies are damaged; strategic interests shielded by years of patient statecraft are endangered as the exigencies of war and diplomacy conflict. Not the valor with which it is fought nor the nobility of the cause it serves, can glorify war. Whatever gains are secured, it is loss the veteran remembers most keenly. Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes the merciless reality of war.
That seemed to have been a response to this Bush's lame attempt to serve as cheerleader for our beleaguered troops in the Afghanistan theater: In McCain's address there was some evidence of some new thinking on foreign policy in McCain's camp.
To meet this challenge requires understanding the world we live in, and the central role the United States must play in shaping it for the future. The United States must lead in the 21st century, just as in Truman's day. But leadership today means something different than it did in the years after World War II, when Europe and the other democracies were still recovering from the devastation of war and the United States was the only democratic superpower. Today we are not alone. There is the powerful collective voice of the European Union, and there are the great nations of India and Japan, Australia and Brazil, South Korea and South Africa, Turkey and Israel, to name just a few of the leading democracies. There are also the increasingly powerful nations of China and Russia that wield great influence in the international system.

In such a world, where power of all kinds is more widely and evenly distributed, the United States cannot lead by virtue of its power alone. We must be strong politically, economically, and militarily. But we must also lead by attracting others to our cause, by demonstrating once again the virtues of freedom and democracy, by defending the rules of international civilized society and by creating the new international institutions necessary to advance the peace and freedoms we cherish.
But that really doesn't constitute new thinking for the rest of us, does it? It's more like traditional thinking before the blot of Busheney's apostasy brought our nation to its knees. There's more in this remedial line:
At the heart of this new compact must be mutual respect and trust. Recall the words of our founders in the Declaration of Independence, that we pay "decent respect to the opinions of mankind." Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed. We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies. When we believe international action is necessary, whether military, economic, or diplomatic, we will try to persuade our friends that we are right. But we, in return, must be willing to be persuaded by them.
McCain touched on torture and evoked an impatient but robust applause before he finished saying,
... We can't torture or treat inhumanely suspected terrorists we have captured. I believe we should close Guantanamo and work with our allies to forge a new international understanding on the disposition of dangerous detainees under our control ...
McCain on global warming:
We need a successor to the Kyoto Treaty, a cap-and-trade system that delivers the necessary environmental impact in an economically responsible manner. We Americans must lead by example and encourage the participation of the rest of the world, including most importantly, the developing economic powerhouses of China and India.
Some of McCain's 'fresh thinking' did not go far enough for me. To be fair, I'm not sure any candidate can afford to question this statement this year:
We also need to build the international structures for a durable peace in which the radical extremists are gradually eclipsed by the more powerful forces of freedom and tolerance. Our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are critical in this respect and cannot be viewed in isolation from our broader strategy. In the troubled and often dangerous region they occupy, these two nations can either be sources of extremism and instability or they can in time become pillars of stability, tolerance, and democracy ..... Iraq and Afghanistan lie at the heart of that region. And whether they eventually become stable democracies themselves, or are allowed to sink back into chaos and extremism, will determine not only the fate of that critical part of the world, but our fate, as well...
But I think the next POTUS will have to begin to question this proposition in 2009. I mean, such is the amount of American military and economic assets that have been squandered in Iraq, I'm not sure the Afghanistan mission, mandated since 11-Sep-01, is affordable or even achievable any longer.

Which really brings me to the nub of my reaction to McCain's great epistle today. There's not a word, of course, addressing his part as a cheerleader in the most ruinous, calamitous, hydra-headed disaster in the history American foreign policy. In the un-provoked, unnecessary, unilateral and deceitful invasion of Iraq, McCain was in on the ground floor. He voted for it and argued for it. McCain swallowed the same Kool-Aid dished out by Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz, regurgitated it, and spewed it out in turn. He's still spewing it out. He's willing to keep our forces in Iraq until the last dog dies.

Out of all of this unfathomable tragedy brought down upon the unfortunate Iraqis in our nation's name, the one astounding thing which confounds me every day is this: how can any Democrat or Republican, who signed on to this egregiously erroneous project, possibly run for President of the United States? How can any politician who championed such a mistake in 2003, not start off each speech in 2008 without apologizing to the world, to Iraqis, and to Americans for playing his or her part in such a blunder?

To all these presidential poseurs I want to paraphrase Special Counsel Joseph N. Welch:

Let us not assassinate truth any further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Whose Slo-Bleed Tactics Are These?

A year ago, Wolf Blitzer rattled me as I was pouring my first cup of coffee in the morning. He was telling me and his CNN audience that the Democrats were using the “slow-bleed tactic” in cutting off Iraq war occupation funding. That morning, I could not believe Wolf’s audacity and imagination.

But sure enough, 'slow-bleed' was the meme with which Republicans were trying to frame the new Democratic majority's effort to curtail spending on Iraq. However, it turned out that Wolf could read his cue cards more fluently than could members of Bush's war-party in Congress:

As shockingly ironic as this GOP line was, it was short-lived. I think they realized that 'bleeding' was not a theme that would be fruitful
for their side, in the longer term, .

Alex S. Jones director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard, says:
Vietnam held the media's attention a lot better because it was a war with a draft that touched a lot more people; people were sent against their will, and many more Americans were killed ... In a conventional war, like World War II, there's dramatic change, a moving front line, a compelling narrative
But after the triumphal first months, when Bush declared victory on Mayday 2003, Iraq became a war of insurgents vs. counterinsurgents.

That is to say, we entered the occupation mode. That's what counterinsurgency (COIN) is: war against the people. We were not welcomed by the Iraqi people with their hearts and flowers as Cheney had promised. Instead we – the occupiers – had to pacify and subdue them. American forces have become just one more militia among many in Iraq. We may be the most powerful of all the militias, and the only one with air cover. But our militia has less legitimacy than all the others.

It's been a slow process, requiring innumerable bait n' switch
bench-marks, yardsticks criterion, standards, metrics, check-points and Friedman units. Bush and Cheney have put us all, as a nation, in slow bleed mode: drip ... drip ... drip ... We turn around, five years after Bush declared major hostilities were concluded and we have 4,000 troops dead. Of those killed in action, 97% of our KIA have died after the occupation began. That's a slow bleed policy.

Who would have imagined? It's like we were a whole bunch of frogs in a pot which the Neocons slowly brought to a boil. All of a sudden, after five (5!) years we find ourselves cooked! To the tune of a $ 1,000,000,000,000! And the media never told us?

How long were the French in Algeria? Eight years from 1954-62. It took them four years of trial and error to develop a COIN doctrine and operational concept able to defeat the FLN inside Algeria and prevent outside assistance from reconstituting their insurgents. By 1960 it was apparent the FLN could not win the liberation of Algeria militarily. However, the political situation within France and the diplomatic situation internationally had deteriorated by then to the point that military operations were not going to affect the political outcome in Algeria. By the time
the French Armed Forces adopted an effective doctrine to combat the nationalists' threat, it was irrelevant.

It doesn't matter when we leave. Things are not coalescing now, politically, during the thermidor of the surge. There's no political glue there. Baghdad is a labyrinth of walled-off and armed camps. As is the rest of Iraq. Our presence only delays the bloody resolution of the raging sectarian and militia conflicts which our invasion and decapitation of the Iraqi state evoked. Iraq, as we knew it, is over. Kaput!
It's going to be nasty and gnarly and brutish when we leave, whenever we leave. A hard rain is going to fall.

Now? In 15 months? In five years? Take your choice. Spend a little more, bleed a little more. How much more? Is it worth spending $1.2 trillion? Howabout $1.5 trillion? 6,000 KIA? 50,000 WIA's requiring billions of dollars in medical care for the rest of their lives?

None of this matters to McCain any more than it mattered to Bush. Theirs is the slow-bleed policy.
Drag it out and hope for the best. Bush and McCain messed it up and they're holding on long enough to force the Democrats to clean it up.

At bottom, The Busheney-McCain plan is a gamble. And like all gamblers, especially gamblers who play with other peoples' money and lives, they have 'lost it'. They are lurching and reeling along their path with the heedless frenzy of gamblers who are throwing away good money and lives in the hopes of covering their losses. We have to keep dying and bleeding so that those who have died and bled before now will not have died and bled in vain? That's your slow-bleed policy.

We Americans have to rouse ourselves from our
stupor induced by these blood-lusting gamblers before they leave office. Support our troops by bringing them home now.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Terrorized by “War on Terror”

A scholar-
is critical
of America's
in the
21st century.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, is the author most recently of “Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower” (Basic Books).

Earlier this month, professor Brzezinski published a largely over-looked article criticizing the Bush administration’s use of the 911 attacks to stampede the American people into militarizing their foreign policy.

Here are the paragraphs which I have clipped from Terrorized by “War on Terror” which scream out to be featured in headlines:

The "global war on terror" has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush administration's elevation of these three words into a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American democracy, on America's psyche and on U.S. standing in the world. Using this phrase has actually undermined our ability to effectively confront the real challenges we face from fanatics who may use terrorism against us.

The damage these three words have done - a classic self-inflicted wound - is infinitely greater than any wild dreams entertained by the fanatical perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks when they were plotting against us in distant Afghan caves. The phrase itself is meaningless. It defines neither a geographic context nor our presumed enemies. Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique of warfare - political intimidation through the killing of unarmed non-combatants.

But the little secret here may be thatthe vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors. Constant reference to a "global war on terror" did accomplish one major objective: It stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue. The war of choice in Iraq could never have gained the congressional support it got without the psychological linkage between the shock of 9/11 and the postulated existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Support for President Bush in the 2004 elections was also mobilized in part by the notion that "a nation at war" does not change its commander in chief in midstream. The sense of a pervasive but otherwise imprecise danger was thus channeled in a politically expedient direction by the mobilizing appeal of being "at war."

To justify the "war on terror," the administration has lately crafted a false historical narrative that could even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By claiming that its war is similar to earlier U.S. struggles against Nazism and then Stalinism (while ignoring the fact that both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were first-rate military powers, a status al-Qaeda neither has nor can achieve), the administration could be preparing the case for war with Iran. Such war would then plunge America into a protracted conflict spanning Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and perhaps also Pakistan.

The culture of fear is like a genie that has been let out of its bottle. It acquires a life of its own - and can become demoralizing. America today is not the self-confident and determined nation that responded to Pearl Harbor; nor is it the America that heard from its leader, at another moment of crisis, the powerful words "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"; nor is it the calm America that waged the Cold War with quiet persistence despite the knowledge that a real war could be initiated abruptly within minutes and prompt the death of 100 million Americans within just a few hours. We are now divided, uncertain and potentially very susceptible to panic in the event of another terrorist act in the United States itself.

That is the result of five years of almost continuous national brainwashing on the subject of terror, quite unlike the more muted reactions of several other nations (Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan, to mention just a few) that also have suffered painful terrorist acts. In his latest justification for his war occupation in Iraq, President Bush even claims absurdly that he has to continue waging it lest al-Qaeda cross the Atlantic to launch a war of terror here in the United States.

Such fear-mongering, reinforced by security entrepreneurs, the mass media and the entertainment industry, generates its own momentum. The terror entrepreneurs, usually described as experts on terrorism, are necessarily engaged in competition to justify their existence. Hence their task is to convince the public that it faces new threats. That puts a premium on the presentation of credible scenarios of ever-more-horrifying acts of violence, sometimes even with blueprints for their implementation.

That America has become insecure and more paranoid is hardly debatable.

Snipping five paragraphs here. . . .

Someday Americans will be as ashamed of this record as they now have become of the earlier instances in U.S. history of panic by the many prompting intolerance against the few.

In the meantime, the "war on terror" has gravely damaged the United States internationally. For Muslims, the similarity between the rough treatment of Iraqi civilians by the U.S. military and of the Palestinians by the Israelis has prompted a widespread sense of hostility toward the United States in general. It's not the "war on terror" that angers Muslims watching the news on television, it's the victimization of Arab civilians. And the resentment is not limited to Muslims. A recent BBC poll of 28,000 people in 27 countries that sought respondents' assessments of the role of states in international affairs resulted in Israel, Iran and the United States being rated (in that order) as the states with "the most negative influence on the world." Alas, for some that is the new axis of evil!

The events of 9/11 could have resulted in a truly global solidarity against extremism and terrorism. A global alliance of moderates, including Muslim ones, engaged in a deliberate campaign both to extirpate the specific terrorist networks and to terminate the political conflicts that spawn terrorism would have been more productive than a demagogically proclaimed and largely solitary U.S. "war on terror" against "Islamo-fascism." Only a confidently determined and reasonable America can promote genuine international security which then leaves no political space for terrorism.

Where is the U.S. leader ready to say, "Enough of this hysteria, stop this paranoia"? Even in the face of future terrorist attacks, the likelihood of which cannot be denied, let us show some sense. Let us be true to our traditions.
Zbigniew Brzezinski is a foreign policy advisor to the 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama, whose candidacy he endorsed last August.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Message for 2008

Needed: Leadership to Bring Us Together

Friday, March 21, 2008

Can't We Just Talk?

Writing in today's Los Angeles Times, Carl Byker agrees with Senator Barack Obama that it is time for white and black Americans to enter into dialogue about race relationships " ways that will bridge the divide."

He invites white Americans to ask themselves what it would have felt like " work 365 days a year from sunrise to midnight, with no hope of a better life" - and to know that his/her children were condemned to live out "the same nightmare". He urges black Americans to ask themselves: "If I were a white Southerner before the Civil War, would I have owned slaves if it meant a better life for my family" - and to wonder if a decision to do so automatically made him/her an "evil" person.?

I heartily support Byker's concluding sentence: "After years of making historical documentaries, I'm convinced that the most important thing about coming to grips with our past is that it enables us to figure out who we want to be in the future."

Last Tuesday night, in his "More Perfect Union" speech, Obama modeled for each of us what speaking honestly and openly from one's heart looks like. What if each of us were to ponder and answer for ourselves, the questions Byker puts before us? What if, having done our inner "homework", we then began to share our thoughts and feelings about race with members of our families and with our friends? What if local churches, synagogues, mosques, and other groups within our neighborhoods and communities were to offer rooms and facilitators where small groups of citizens of all colors and beliefs could sit down together and dialogue about their "homework"?

Could we, would we, dare to talk together " ways that will bridge the divide"? Could we, would we, be willing to dialogue with one another in ways that are respectful of our very different racial and experiential histories? Could we, would we, seek to understand each other, rather than to judge, label, and condemn each other? Could we, would we, have the courage to "Seize the Day"? Imagine the possibilities if we decided that we could and we would...!

Lou Thieblemont is Republican of the Week

Our Regular Friday Feature Continues!
Unfortunately, once again, he's only an ex-Republican. But that's the way it goes.

Camp Hill (PA) Mayor Lou Thieblemont switched his lifelong Republican registration this week so he can vote for Democratic Sen. Barack Obama in Pennsylvania's April 22 primary.

Thieblemont said of Obama.
I'm sick and tired of the politics of fear in this country. He's the only one who doesn't do that. He's the only candidate who's said he'd talk to our enemies and try to get some common ground.
A retired airline pilot, Thieblemont, 62, said he doesn't believe the Bush administration's claims that the United States is safer now. Obama is
the only candidate that speaks to me and my interests ..... get us back to a sane world and use common sense ..... Right now, we have a polarized society ..... We're all alone in the world. We have basically lost all our friends in the world with comments like 'bring it on.'
Republicans are on the run in Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

George Bush Has Put a Bigger Hurt on America than Has Osama bin Laden

Wanted - Dead or Alive?
Indict and Prosecute!!!

I have been posting on this theme at least twice a year for years. And every year, doing the simple arithmetic paints an increasingly uglier picture.

Now that George Bush has had three quarters of a decade to drive America to I-wreck and I-ruin, the truth is incontrovertible: Bush's illegal, un-provoked, unnecessary, and largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq has cost our nation more in blood and treasure than has Osama bin Laden.

Contrast the bloodshed caused by al Qaeda in America seven and a half years ago with the sacrifices of our troops in Iraq, beginning five years ago tonight.

OBL: Total Deaths - All 9/11 Attacks: 3,030
OBL: Total Injuries - All 9/11 Attacks: 2,337
GWB: Total US KIA in Iraq: 3,990
GWB: Total U.S. WIA in Iraq: 13,138

What I realized when I last posted on this theme on 11 September 2007, was that it can be argued - as I vehemently have argued - that a massive American retaliation against Afghanistan was not only justified by the 9-11 attacks, but was mandated. Thus, our costs sustained in Operation Enduring Freedom are expenses (in blood and treasure) which are directly attributable to the 9-11 attacks against us. Accordingly these sacrifices sustained in Afghanistan can be charged to bin Laden. I made an effort to account for those losses but found that they didn't materially change the balance in this ledger.

I also dealt with economic costs born by Americans as a result of the 9/11 attacks vis-a-vis the self-inflicted squandering of resources due to our invading and occupying Iraq. Further discussion of economic costs on my part would be redundant, given the recent authoritative work of Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes. Stiglitz is a Nobel Prize-winning economic professor at Columbia and Bilmes is at Harvard. They have co-authored a monograph with the self-explanatory title, The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of The Iraq Conflict. Stiglitz
and Bilmes say of Iraq that
. . . the big picture is that, by our most conservative estimates, this war has cost an almost unimaginable $3 trillion. A more realistic estimate, however, is closer to $5 trillion once you include all the downstream "off budget costs" of long-term veteran benefits and treatment, the costs of restoring the now depleted military to its pre-war strength, the considerable costs of actually withdrawing from Iraq and repositioning forces elsewhere in the region.
I'm going to take their word for it. The evidence is conclusive and the jury's verdict is in.

It is George W. Bush who has put the biggest hurt on Americans by squandering our blood, our economic resources, our military assets, and our international esteem on this unnecessary, ruinous and endless war occupation in Iraq.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Barack Rocks

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Obama comes up huge!

Have you heard Obama's speech yet? The parts of it that I've heard (thanks, mostly, to Randi Rhodes who played much of the speech this afternoon) "Nailed it perfectly!", meaning that he fearlessly and honestly talked with, and to, we the people,his fellow citizens, about race, racism, prejudice, slavery, his former minister and his (Obama's) respect and affection for the man that Reverend Wright is, the ambience found in many churches with a membership that is predominantly black, and so much more.

To me, his words are moving, they are honest, they are heartfelt, and they undeniably radiate the fact that Obama has it within himself to be a truly great leader who is able to unite the people of our country who are so sick and tired of the usual and customary politics of personal destruction and hate.

His speech was insightful, inspiring, hopeful, courageous, and absolutely awesome. He spoke with passion, intensity, integrity, honesty, and wisdom. The parts of it that I got to hear inform, educate, and moved me to tears.

I feel such a longing in my heart for him to be elected by a landslide. If we, as a nation, are smart enough to elect him as our President, we shall be truly blessed. Not only is he a man who is psychologically "congruent", who is "inner-directed", meaning that he is clearly someone who is comfortable in his own skin. He is also uniquely poised to speak to both black and white Americans, for his father is from Kenya and his mother from Kansas. Who else is so uniquely qualified to speak, out loud in the public forum, that which white people may say in private only to other white people and that which black people may say in private only to other black people? As Barack so wisely noted, one biracial (black) Presidential candidate and one campaign season cannot accomplish the "More Perfect Union" envisioned by our Founding Fathers, but his speech today begins the necessary national dialogue about America's "original sin"; a dialogue into which our country must enter if America is ever to truly become color blind.

His speech reflects a man unafraid to truly be himself, who spoke to us and shared with us, in crystal clear words, his understanding that we are, each of us, imperfect and flawed; people who are capable of saying really divisive things and yet who are, nonetheless, still deserving of friendship and love and acceptance within the human family. How many of us can say that we don't have a family member or a close friend who has said out loud things that are racist that have made us cringe, just as Obama shared that his grandmother had done?

His comments about his church, which is a part of the United Church of Christ denomination, made me proud to have grown up in that faith community and to wish that I could find a church up where I am now that would "hum" for me.

I was so moved, hearing him upon turning on Randi's show, that I HAD to call people up and tell them about it! I hope Keith Olbermann plays it in its entirety, and if not, I plan to look for it on the net.

If you haven't heard it, you absolutely must! It is, as Randi said, a speech that will be taught in Universities in the future. And, I'm betting, that he wrote every single word of it. It rings with conviction and truth.

All of you, of course, already know all of this about him! Do hear it in its entirety, if you haven't already.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bush Addressing Our Brave Troops (Thursday)

When I first put this up on 13-March, I didn't have anything much to add. Now that the Ides of March have come and gone, I do.

As depicted above, Bush is responding to a recent poll which indicates morale of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, our forgotten war, has dipped significantly lower than for our troops in our Iraq war occupation. In his own inimitably inept, chickenhawkish style, Bush is trying to do a little cheer-leading here. It's all that he has left. That and about ten months. He just has a little more time for them to hold out for him.

Secretary of Defense Gates has gotten 'the memo' from Europe: the cavalry is not coming from Europe to rescue our cowboy war president. Tonight, I heard Gates quoted on Bill Moyer's Journal to the effect that the 'problem' with E.U. governments is that they get confused; that their antipathy for Bush's war in Iraq contaminates their resolution for helping out in Afghanistan. Wow! (That memo has been on my desk for a year or more.)

It's not much of a surprise to discerning Internet readers is it? Consider:
  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, the highest ranking military officer overall in the United States Armed Forces, in his recent Congressional testimony:
    In Afghanistan, we do what we can. In Iraq, we do what we must.
    America has not been leading by example by committing more of its own resources to Afghanistan from the beginning when Busheney sacrificed their mandated post-911 mission. In case anyone has forgotten, that was to capture Osama bin Laden 'dead or alive'. That mission was abandoned in order to prep-up for invading Iraq. This statement of Mullen comes half a decade later to confirm all European suspicions that we have been expecting, and hoping and relying upon them to pull our chestnuts out of the fire in Talebinistan. NATO populations in Europe and Canada are now convinced that we are not serious about the mission, and that understandably makes them all the more dubious of the whole enterprise. Checkout public opinion surveys in Europe if there's any question of this: you will find approval ratings supporting Afghanistan deployments to be in the twenties.

  • From the beginning Busheney's Global War on Terror (GWOT) has ponderously conflated the war in Afghanistan with the war occupation in Iraq. That's been for U.S. domestic public opinion, of course. But we Americans have no idea how much more Europeans read our press and media than we read theirs. They are stakeholders in what goes on within the ex-leader of the free world. So it's natural that keep their eye on our demagogue-in-chief. So, when they hear that the two theaters are like World War III, well, that's not exactly what they signed up for.

  • Finally, we have the firing of Admiral William J. Fallon. Fallon as the Commander, U.S. Central Command ranked 2nd only to Admiral Mullen. He was the remaining high-ranking soldier holding Gates' feet to the fire with respect that our global strategic interests are not centered in Iraq. Europeans took note of this, too.

The truth is that NATO governments, being functioning democracies, are attentive to their publics. Furthermore, Europeans have watched Busheney conflating Iraq and Afghanistan in USA's 'global war on terror' (GWOT). They have followed it year after year as Bush has bundled, budgeted and bloviated his Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom as one in the same. Those NATO publics who oppose the war in Iraq have come to view the mission in Afghanistan as guilty by association. No amount of browbeating, cajoling, and guilt-tripping is going to change their mindset on this.

All of this is to say, my fellow Americans, that help is not on the way. The cavalry is not coming. We are the people we have been waiting for.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Rev. Jeremiah Wright

What's the big hubbub all about?
Rev. Jeremiah Wright was hired by Trinity United Church of Christ in 1972 when he could find no Baptist church to take him. The congregation on 95th Street had recently adopted the motto "Unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian" and was at home with Wright's his fiery red Afro and black power agenda. Over the decades since then, Wright has built Trinity's membership into the nation's largest UCC congregation at 6,000. Wright filled his church with his blunt, charismatic preaching, meldings detailed scriptural analysis, black power, Afrocentrism and an emphasis on social justice. Wright is steeped deeply into James Cone's Black Theology of Liberation which interprets the Bible as a guide to combating oppression of African-Americans.

It was a needed prescription in the early 1970's. Many black Christians were leaving the church for other religious traditions, including the Black Hebrew Israelites and the Nation of Islam. Wright recalls,
They didn't know African-American history. They were leaving the churches by the boatloads. The church seemed so disconnected from their struggle for dignity and humanity.
In 1972, he planted a "Free South Africa" sign on the lawn of his church and asked other local religious leaders to follow his lead. None took him up on the invitation. The sign stayed until the end of apartheid. Wright continued to make waves with his own audacity, questioning the common sense of scripture, objecting to mandatory prayer in schools and clashing with clergy who preach prosperity theology. I didn't know what that is. Apparently it's a popular notion among black pastors that God will bestow wealth and success on believers.

Well, fast forward to the new century, as they say. It turns out that Barack Obama had joined Trinity in 1991. He and his wife Michelle Robinson were married in the church and his daughters were baptized. Obama's bestselling The Audacity of Hope is said to have been inspired by one of Wright's sermons. And Reverend Wright is said to have been one of the first people Obama thanked upon his 2004 election to the U.S. Senate. Recently, You-Tube excerpts from Rev. Wright's sermons have launched themselves into circulation on Fox news and the Internet. Since the content of these excerpts are considered to be politically incorrect', Barack Obama is deemed to have a 'Pastor problem'.

So what is this all about? In the most widely quoted sermon (April 2003), Wright is shown to have preached:
The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes three-strike laws and wants them to sing God Bless America.

No! No No!

God damn America … for killing innocent people.

God damn America for threatening citizens as less than humans.

God damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and supreme.
Well, in the historical context, let's remember that was in the first month of Bush's un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq. One can easily see how those words might offend my fellow Americans who were offended by Bush's unjustifiable aggression abroad. Not only were they not offended by it, but they were cheerleaders and still are.

What else? Well, in the days after 9-11 attacks, Wright is alleged to have told his flock,
We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because of stuff we have done overseas is now brought back into our own backyard. America is chickens coming home to roost.
Well, that is harsh, even if true. Under the first Bush, my USA had pulverized the nation of Panama just to make a narcotics arrest. And for decades my country has financed Israel at the tune of $5 billion per year with only a wink and nod at settlement encroachment on Palestinian lands. So, I guess we were all (1) shocked at our vulnerability and (2) enraged at being on the receiving end of mass destruction for a change. Not to mention (3) our fledgling Bush administration, bent on setting up a missile defense, only to be caught with their pants down by 19 A-rabs with box-cutters.

Well, Reverend has retired from Obama's church last month. Via his Huffington Post, On My Faith and My Church, Obama has placed into the record his obligatory renunciations and denunciations of everything his ex-Pastor said that was in the least bit objectionable.

And now that we are assured that Barack Obama is not a Muslim, can we get on with the campaign? Hillary, are you listening?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Senator Lincoln Chafee

This Space Is Reserved for Praising a Redeemable Republican

One day a week, every Friday, we make this effort in behalf of bipartisanship.

In the fall of 2002, Lincoln Chafee was the only Republican Senator to oppose authorization to go to war in Iraq. Serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chafee spoke out against Bush's stampeding America into war. Ironically, with blue dog DINOs who supported Bush's war campaigning against him, he lost re-election in 2006 to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse. In 2007, Chafee severed his ties to the GOP.

In this interview with Sam Stein of the Huffington Post, he recounts how, at the time he opposed the initial war authorization, he felt like a lone Progressive among retrogressives.

What was it like to be in the opposition to the Iraq War five years ago, with the drums beating loud and the majority of the public and Congress supporting the rush to war?

When the president first started talking about Iraq, it was just met with incredulity. There was no connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. The intelligence was questionable. But there was all this fear from 9/11.

Colin Powell was the coup de grace with his testimony at the United Nations. And you heard it here in Rhode Island. People were saying, 'Well Colin Powell presented all this evidence about weapons of mass destruction and Saddam being a threat.' He sold the war for them.

The administration was just brilliant with their marketing. I still marvel at the weapons of mass destruction. It never got defined. What were the weapons they were talking about? But it worked. People believed these weapons existed. People got the feeling that the [terrorists] were going to come down the shores and onto the main streets and that we were in danger.

What was going on in the Senate at the time? Was there just too much pressure by the administration for a majority anti-war coalition?

We just got through Vietnam. And we were about to do it all again. The Democrats were abysmal. They controlled the Senate in 2002. And none of the right questions were being asked. There was a minority led by Sen. [Robert] Byrd. He was terrific. But the floor was generally silent.

How could that be?

Sept 11th had everyone angry. It was a difficult atmosphere. It was a time you needed cool heads. But we didn't have them. And then you factor in the mistake the Democrats made on the first Gulf War. They didn't want to do that again.

When you think about it, all the leaders who were contemplating running for president - Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Tom Daschle - they all voted for it. Why? They all were making a calculated personal decision and didn't want the war hanging over them.

What were your thoughts on the media's role in the run up to the war? Did they do their jobs, or were they too acquiescent to the Bush administration?

I thought The New York Times was good. The Washington Post was okay. But, for the most part, the press went along. I can remember the talk shows, Imus and the like. The only people they were interviewing were war proponents. I used to listen to Imus driving into work and I used to scream: 'Can you get one person opposed to the war?' There were 23 of us in the Senate. You couldn't talk to Barbara Boxer? Russ Feingold? Paul Wellstone?

Was there a point in time during the war where you thought it could be a success? Or did you think, from the beginning, that it was doomed to be a lost cause?

There was a moment when I said to myself, 'You were wrong.' That was a moment right after "Mission Accomplished," right after 2003... [All these regional leaders] were all in the Jordanian seaside town of Aqaba, and they were all standing there saying that with the removal of Saddam Hussein, in Iraq was going to energize the peace process for Israel and Palestine. And I said 'Wow, if this all pans out that would be amazing.' Maybe I had misjudged it after all, Paul Wellstone called it dual victories in the war on terror, the fact that we could take out Saddam and restart the peace process. But it never happened. It never panned out. From that moment on it was just a series of bad decisions and blunders. And we lost any chance for success.

So, five years later, we are still in Iraq. And it seems that, until President Bush leaves office, we will remain there. What does the U.S. need to do in order to facilitate an end to the war occupation?

We need to have stronger efforts on peace negotiations. I also believe that the six countries that share a border with Iraq - Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait - those are the key countries if we want to get this thing resolved. They share a border with Iraq. They know the Iraqis. Two of them, people say, shouldn't be at the table - Syria and Iran. But we need to make stronger efforts to get them to share responsibilities if we want to end this war.

It seems as if the war occupation has become almost an accepted reality for the American public. We are not shocked by news of deaths. And in some voter surveys, Iraq registers as the third most important issue.

With no draft it is almost like this is somebody else's war. But when the violence spikes [they pay attention]. And Vietnam is still fresh in people's minds. Yes, the war is down on page 8 [of the paper]. But now with the economy softening, I do think that people will make the connection. They will look at all these proposals and say: 'How the heck can we afford these things.' And they will look at how much money we are spending on the war.

Will our society be divided by this war occupation even after it ends? Will the political and social fault lines be drawn around Iraq - much like they were, in the 80s and 90s around Vietnam?

The president still gets that standing ovation by saying it is the right thing to do. Yeah, that is a different crowd from the rest of America. And it is tied into continued fear about terrorism. So, yes, the potential is there for this battle to be waged for a long time.

I have interposed and exercised my editorial judgment in modifying Sam Stein's phrasing of his questions. Senator Chafee's answers I have to leave inviolate. It's not the Senator's fault the questions were inexpertly put to him.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hillary Clinton’s Qualifications to Serve as Vice President

are 'just words'?

I hope everyone got this memo today:
When your entire campaign is based upon a claim of experience, it is important that you have evidence to support that claim. Hillary Clinton's argument that she has passed "the Commander- in-Chief test" is simply not supported by her record.

There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton played an important domestic policy role when she was First Lady. It is well known, for example, that she led the failed effort to pass universal health insurance. There is no reason to believe, however, that she was a key player in foreign policy at any time during the Clinton Administration. She did not sit in on National Security Council meetings. She did not have a security clearance. She did not attend meetings in the Situation Room. She did not manage any part of the national security bureaucracy, nor did she have her own national security staff. She did not do any heavy-lifting with foreign governments, whether they were friendly or not. She never managed a foreign policy crisis, and there is no evidence to suggest that she participated in the decision-making that occurred in connection with any such crisis. As far as the record shows, Senator Clinton never answered the phone either to make a decision on any pressing national security issue - not at 3 AM or at any other time of day.

When asked to describe her experience, Senator Clinton has cited a handful of international incidents where she says she played a central role. But any fair-minded and objective judge of these claims - i.e., by someone not affiliated with the Clinton campaign - would conclude that Senator Clinton's claims of foreign policy experience are exaggerated.

  • Northern Ireland: Senator Clinton has said, "I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland." It is a gross overstatement of the facts for her to claim even partial credit for bringing peace to Northern Ireland. She did travel to Northern Ireland, it is true. First Ladies often travel to places that are a focus of U.S. foreign policy. But at no time did she play any role in the critical negotiations that ultimately produced the peace. As the Associated Press recently reported, "[S]he was not directly involved in negotiating the Good Friday peace accord." With regard to her main claim that she helped bring women together, she did participate in a meeting with women, but, according to those who know best, she did not play a pivotal role. The person in charge of the negotiations, former Senator George Mitchell, said that "[The First Lady] was one of many people who participated in encouraging women to get involved, not the only one."

    News of Senator Clinton's claims has raised eyebrows across the ocean. Her reference to an important meeting at the Belfast town hall was debunked. Her only appearance at the Belfast City Hall was to see Christmas lights turned on. She also attended a 50-minute meeting which, according to the Belfast Daily Telegraph's report at the time, "[was] a little bit stilted, a little prepared at times." Brian Feeney, an Irish author and former politician, sums it up: "The road to peace was carefully documented, and she wasn't on it."

  • Bosnia: Senator Clinton has pointed to a March 1996 trip to Bosnia as proof that her foreign travel involved a life-risking mission into a war zone. She has described dodging sniper fire. While she did travel to Bosnia in March 1996, the visit was not a high-stakes mission to a war zone. On March 26, 1996, the New York Times reported that "Hillary Rodham Clinton charmed American troops at a U.S.O. show here, but it didn't hurt that the singer Sheryl Crow and the comedian Sinbad were also on the stage."

  • Kosovo: Senator Clinton has said, "I negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo." It is true that, as First Lady, she traveled to Macedonia and visited a Kosovar refugee camp. It is also true that she met with government officials while she was there. First Ladies frequently meet with government officials. Her claim to have "negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo," however, is not true. Her trip to Macedonia took place on May 14, 1999. The borders were opened the day before, on May 13, 1999.

    The negotiations that led to the opening of the borders were accomplished by the people who ordinarily conduct negotiations with foreign governments - U.S. diplomats. President Clinton's top envoy to the Balkans, former Ambassador Robert Gelbard, said, "I cannot recall any involvement by Senator Clinton in this issue." Ivo Daalder worked on the Clinton Administration's National Security Council and wrote a definitive history of the Kosovo conflict. He recalls that "she had absolutely no role in the dirty work of negotiations."

  • Rwanda: Last year, former President Clinton asserted that his wife pressed him to intervene with U.S. troops to stop the Rwandan genocide. When asked about this assertion, Hillary Clinton said it was true. There is no evidence, however, to suggest that this ever happened. Even those individuals who were advocating a much more robust U.S. effort to stop the genocide did not argue for the use of U.S. troops. No one recalls hearing that Hillary Clinton had any interest in this course of action. Based on a fair and thorough review of National Security Council deliberations during those tragic months, there is no evidence to suggest that U.S. military intervention was ever discussed. Prudence Bushnell, the Assistant Secretary of State with responsibility for Africa, has recalled that there was no consideration of U.S. military intervention.

    At no time prior to her campaign for the presidency did Senator Clinton ever make the claim that she supported intervening militarily to stop the Rwandan genocide. It is noteworthy that she failed to mention this anecdote - urging President Clinton to intervene militarily in Rwanda - in her memoirs. President Clinton makes no mention of such a conversation with his wife in his memoirs. And Madeline Albright, who was Ambassador to the United Nations at the time, makes no mention of any such event in her memoirs.

    Hillary Clinton did visit Rwanda in March 1998 and, during that visit, her husband apologized for America's failure to do more to prevent the genocide.

  • China: Senator Clinton also points to a speech that she delivered in Beijing in 1995 as proof of her ability to answer a 3 AM crisis phone call. It is strange that Senator Clinton would base her own foreign policy experience on a speech that she gave over a decade ago, since she so frequently belittles Barack Obama's speeches opposing the Iraq War six years ago. Let there be no doubt: she gave a good speech in Beijing, and she stood up for women's rights. But Senator Obama's opposition to the War in Iraq in 2002 is relevant to the question of whether he, as Commander-in-Chief, will make wise judgments about the use of military force. Senator Clinton's speech in Beijing is not.

  • Iraq: Senator Obama's speech opposing the war in Iraq shows independence and courage as well as good judgment. In the speech that Senator Clinton says does not qualify him to be Commander in Chief, Obama criticized what he called "a rash war . . . a war based not on reason, but on passion, not on principle, but on politics." In that speech, he said prophetically: "[E]ven a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences." He predicted that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would "fan the flames of the Middle East," and "strengthen the recruitment arm of al Qaeda." He urged the United States first to "finish the fight with Bin Laden and al Qaeda."

    If the U.S. government had followed Barack Obama's advice in 2002, we would have avoided one of the greatest foreign policy catastrophes in our nation's history. Some of the most "experienced" men in national security affairs - Vice President Cheney and Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others - led this nation into that catastrophe. That lesson should teach us something about the value of judgment over experience. Longevity in Washington, D.C. does not guarantee either wisdom of judgment.

  • Conclusion: The Clinton campaign's argument is nothing more than mere assertion, dramatized in a scary television commercial with a telephone ringing in the middle of the night. There is no support for or substance in the claim that Senator Clinton has passed "the Commander-in-Chief test." That claim - as the TV ad - consists of nothing more than making the assertion, repeating it frequently to the voters and hoping that they will believe it.

    On the most critical foreign policy judgment of our generation - the War in Iraq - Senator Clinton voted in support of a resolution entitled "The Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of U.S. Military Force Against Iraq." As she cast that vote, she said: "This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make -- any vote that may lead to war should be hard -- but I cast it with conviction." In this campaign, Senator Clinton has argued - remarkably - that she wasn't actually voting for war, she was voting for diplomacy. That claim is no more credible than her other claims of foreign policy experience. The real tragedy is that we are still living with the terrible consequences of her misjudgment. The Bush Administration continues to cite that resolution as its authorization - like a blank check - to fight on with no end in sight.

Barack Obama has a very simple case. On the most important commander in chief test of our generation, he got it right, and Senator Clinton got it wrong. In truth, Senator Obama has much more foreign policy experience than either Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan had when they were elected. Senator Obama has worked to confront 21st century challenges like proliferation and genocide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He possesses the personal attributes of a great leader - an even temperament, an open-minded approach to even the most challenging problems, a willingness to listen to all views, clarity of vision, the ability to inspire, conviction and courage.

And Barack Obama does not use false charges and exaggerated claims to play politics with national security.

Based upon the evidence presented in this memo, I conclude that Hillary Clinton should immediately knock off on her campaign for President. Then she could take a couple of crash courses at C.C.N.Y. in international relations and American foreign policy and see if she can't train-up and get up to speed by the third week in this coming August. She could then contend for the position of Vice-President on a slam-dunk winning Democratic ticket. But if she persists in her campaign to run on John McCain's shirt tails ... well, I guess we'll never get a chance to re-start the 21st century.

Admiral William J. Fallon

Commander, U.S. Central Command
" attack on Iran will not happen on my watch... You know what choices I have. I'm a professional. There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box."
--(Anonymous Source)

Resign Spitzer!

Elliot Ness Mess

corruptio optimi pessima
I got nuthin mo' to say.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

What Game Does McCain Think He's Playing?

…we need to pull the plug on the media's disturbing habit of acting as if foreign policy and domestic policy are completely separate entities -- a pair of high stakes board games that can only be taken off the shelf and played one at a time. To hear the media tell it, combining the two would make about as much sense as using your Monopoly pieces to play Risk.
--- Arianna Huffington
The 100-Year-War man wants his electorate to imagine staying in Iraquagmire just like we stayed in the Phillipines and Korea:McCain has no clue about the domestic consequences of his open-ended occupation of Iraq. He says he doesn’t know anything about economics. In Jan 2000, McCain claimed:
I didn't pay nearly the attention to those issues in the past. I was probably a 'supply-sider' based on the fact that I really didn't jump into the issue.
In November 2005, McClain said,
I'm going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated.
And in December 2007, McClain said
The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should, I've got Greenspan's book.
When McCain confesses his ignorance of economics, that is one place where I take him at his word. You can’t keep on going on having both guns and butter forever. The American way of war has always been to call on the current generation to make their sacrifices along with the troops in the field and their families. That’s because most wars in American history were explainable to the people as war forced on us. Most of them weren’t unprovoked, elective or vanity invasions of nation-states who had no inclination or capability to attack us. So, the current generation of our people understood their war was born of dire necessity and were willing to carry the burdens of shortages and taxes to sustain the national effort. Not so with the Bush-Cheney-McCain war occupation or pacification of Iraq. Our government fudged and lied about the casus belli; then they lied and fudged about how much it would costs us; and in the upcoming presidential campaign of John McCain they will lie and fudge about how much longer it will go on.

McCain doesn’t understand much about economics, by his own admission, but
Joseph Stiglitz does know a tad. He’s a Nobel Prize-winning economic professor at Columbia. A Harvard colleague of Stiglitz is Linda Bilmes, a former assistant secretary and chief financial officer of the U.S. Customs Department. Together, they have published a monograph with the self-explanatory title The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of The Iraq Conflict. Stiglitz says of Iraq that
. . . the big picture is that, by our most conservative estimates, this war has cost an almost unimaginable $3 trillion. A more realistic estimate, however, is closer to $5 trillion once you include all the downstream "off budget costs" of long-term veteran benefits and treatment, the costs of restoring the now depleted military to its pre-war strength, the considerable costs of actually withdrawing from Iraq and repositioning forces elsewhere in the region.
I have a lot of trouble imagining even how to write a Trillion dollars out, numerically. It’s 3,000,000,000,000

A trillion dollars wasn’t what it was supposed to cost was it? Mitch Daniels, the Office of Management and Budget director, and Secretary Rumsfeld estimated the costs in the range of $50 to $60 billions, a portion of which they believed would be financed by other countries. (Adjusting for inflation, in 2007 dollars, they were projecting costs of between $57 and $69 billion.) The tone of the entire administration was cavalier, as if the sums involved were minimal. Even Lindsey, after noting that the war could cost $200 billion, went on to say: “The successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy.”

But where are we? Stiglitz and Bilmes argue the true costs are at least $3 trillion under what they call an ultraconservative estimate, and could surpass the cost of World War Two, which they put at $5 trillion after adjusting for inflation. The direct costs exclude
  • interest on the debt raised to fund the war,
  • health care costs for veterans coming home, and
  • replacing the destroyed hardware and degraded operational capacity caused by the war.
Well, according to the authors, the cost of direct US military operations - not even including long-term costs such as taking care of wounded veterans –
  • already exceeds the cost of the 12-year war in Vietnam and is more than double the cost of the Korean War.
And, even in the best case scenario, these costs are projected
  • to be almost ten times the cost of the first Gulf War,
  • almost a third more than the cost of the Vietnam War, and
  • twice that of the First World War.
Stiglitz and Bilmes write that the only war in our history which cost more was the Second World War, when 16.3 million U.S. troops fought in a campaign lasting four years, at a total cost (in 2007 dollars, after adjusting for inflation) of about $5 trillion. With virtually the entire armed forces committed to fighting the Germans and Japanese,
  • the cost per troop (in today's dollars) was less than $100,000 in 2007 dollars.
  • the Iraq war is costing upward of $400,000 per troop.
In two weeks’ time the fifth year of McCain’s 100-year war occupation will draw to a close. Operating costs (spending on the war itself, what you might call “running expenses”) for 2008 are projected to exceed $12.5 billion a month for Iraq alone, up from $4.4 billion in 2003. That’s almost four times what we’re spending on the Afghanistan theater of the war on terror – the locus of the planning for the 911 attacks on our cities.

I excuse myself from the inability of fathoming the unfathomableness of the eventual cost of $3,000,000,000,000, or its monthly price tag of $12,000,000,000. Reading through previews and reviews of the work of Stiglitz and Bilmes as well as their Congressional testimony, I can begin to grasp the reaches of this nightmarish loss in blood and treasure. The money spent on the war each day is enough to
  • enroll an additional 58,000 children in Head Start for a year,
  • make a year of college affordable for 160,000 low-income students through Pell Grants,
  • pay the annual salaries of nearly 11,000 additional border patrol agents or 14,000 more police officers.
A trillion dollars could have
  • hired 15 million additional public school teachers for a year or
  • provided 43 million students with four-year scholarships to public universities
It doesn't matter whether it's George McCain or John McBush. Both are playing risk with funny money. Robert Borosage says
John McCain enjoys a fawning press and a maverick reputation. He likes to describe himself as a conservative populist. Straight talk is his boast. But when it comes to the economy, he's peddling the same poisonous brew that is sapping this country's strength. That is why even though John McCain is a decent man, the campaign this fall will be ugly and mean. McCain couldn't survive a straight up policy debate.
Clearly, if John McCain doesn't understand the economy, he doesn't understand security. If we had infinite resources, we might be able to have perfect security. But America, like every other country, has resource constraints. That means you need to be smart -- that is, economic -- about the money we spend. If you weaken the American economy, you won't be able to find the resources you need for security. The two cannot be separated.

Come this fall, when Senator Obama demonstrates to America that Senator McCain can’t cash his rubber checks with funny money, it’s not going to be pretty.