Apparently our lone Congressperson, Bernie Sanders, somewhat surprisingly is going to work his ass off to get Kerry elected:
Not only am I going to vote for John Kerry, I am going to run around this country and do everything I can to dissuade people from voting for Ralph Nader. The likelihood is, this election will come down to a relatively few votes. Some of the polls already indicate Nader at 5, 6, 7 percent -- it's the margin of difference allowing Bush to be ahead of Kerry.
I consider four more years of Bush a potential horror show for this country, where actions will be taken that literally will be irreversible in terms of the courts, in terms of the movement or the privatization of Social Security, Medicare, the Veterans' Administration, and public education.
So I am going to do everything that I can, while I have differences with John Kerry, to make sure that he is elected.
I have made a career of taking bungee jumps in my election calls. Sometimes I haven't had a helmet and I have gotten a little scratched. But here is my jump for 2004: John Kerry will win the election.
Have you recovered from the shock? Is this guy nuts? Kerry's performance of late has hardly been inspiring and polls show that most Americans have no sense of where he really stands on the key issues that matter most to them. Regardless, I still think that he will win.
Still too soon, but it's a nice thought, isn't it?
[Update: New USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup poll shows Kerry leading Bush among registered voters 50-44. Oh, and Bush's approval rating is his lowest ever: 46%.]
¶ 4:04 PM
Bye, Bye Rummy
Today President Bush told the world that Rummy's doing a "superb job". He then broke into song:
In ev'rything I do,
My sincerity shows thro'
I looked you in the eye,
Don't even have to try,
So it looks like Bush is sticking by his man for now.
Fat lot of good it will do, but you might consider signing Kerry's petition demanding Rummy's resignation. And while you're at it, give Kerry some turkee--it's been a while since DM readers have donated, and I'm sure John has noticed.
This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential -- even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war.
Q: What do you call it when the "best SecDef ever" is fired?
A: A very good start.
[Update: found the direct link to the ArmyTimes editorial.]
¶ 11:48 AM
I'm still planning on the official move to TypePad on the 14th. There are still some things to tweak, and I want to explore some other hosting options before I take the plunge for real. But things are in motion--here's a picture hosted on the new photo album:
Finally saw a male rose-breasted grosbeak yesterday! Two, actually.
Former first lady Nancy Reagan endorsed human embryonic research Saturday night at a star-studded fund-raiser.
Such research is generally opposed by political conservatives and many anti-abortion groups because it involves the destruction of days-old human embryos. President Bush signed an executive order in 2001 limiting research to existing embryonic stem cell lines.
However, Reagan and others believe the use of stem cells taken from embryos could lead to cures for such illnesses as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, which afflicts Reagan's husband, former President Ronald Reagan.
"Ronnie's long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him," she said. "Because of this I'm determined to do whatever I can to save other families from this pain. I just don't see how we can turn our backs on this."
Army Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who spent much of the year in western Iraq, said he believes that at the tactical level at which fighting occurs, the U.S. military is still winning. But when asked whether he believes the United States is losing, he said, "I think strategically, we are."
Army Col. Paul Hughes, who last year was the first director of strategic planning for the U.S. occupation authority in Baghdad, said he agrees with that view and noted that a pattern of winning battles while losing a war characterized the U.S. failure in Vietnam. "Unless we ensure that we have coherency in our policy, we will lose strategically," he said in an interview Friday.
"I lost my brother in Vietnam," added Hughes, a veteran Army strategist who is involved in formulating Iraq policy. "I promised myself, when I came on active duty, that I would do everything in my power to prevent that [sort of strategic loss] from happening again. Here I am, 30 years later, thinking we will win every fight and lose the war, because we don't understand the war we're in."
We are involved in what Boyd called a moral conflict. In fact, I believe we have already lost. We could not win it by torturing prisoners. We could not win it by killing more of "them" than they kill of us. We could not win by lying about our reasons for this war. That is not how you win moral conflicts.
I'm glad some senior military leadership is experiencing an ephiphany about the tactical/strategic dichotomy we face in Iraq. I hope they, and eventually all commanders and the American people, realize very soon that the only thing left to do is make the best of a terrible situation and choose the least bad option.
I keep hearing folks say "failure is not an option". Sorry, but it's not a choice any more. The United States has failed to balance the evil of war with a positive outcome in Iraq. The only question now is how do we deal with our failure.
We missed our window of opportunity to make things right through BushCo's incompetence, arrogance, and lack of planning. I have argued time and again that our troops simply must leave Iraq. I more firmly believe that now than I did last year.
Apropos of nothing, I'm going to be overhauling DM in the coming weeks as part of a relaunch celebrating my one year blogoversary in June. I appreciate the feedback I've gotten over the past several months, and I hope to make the site more functional, easier to read, etc.
The war in Iraq has become also a war of images. This week, we were troubled by pictures of tortured Iraqi prisoners. Last week, it was photographs of American soldiers who have given their lives there.
On Friday a week ago on NIGHTLINE, Ted Koppel read the names of the dead and showed their photographs. But their faces and names were blacked out on ABC stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting. Sinclair accused Koppel of "…doing nothing more than making a political statement."
[I]t's their right. Freedom of the press, it has been famously said, is guaranteed only to those who own one.
That's just the point. These media giants can be within their rights even while doing wrong. It's the system, dear Brutus, the system...a cartel, in effect, of big companies and big government scratching each other's back.
Nowadays, these mega-media conglomerates relieve government of the need for censorship by doing it themselves. So we're reminded once again that journalism's best moments have come not when journalists make common cause with the state but stand fearlessly independent of it. A free press remains everything to a free society.
Thank goodness for blogs.
[Update: Tom Curley, the AP's President and CEO, also gets it. Read the whole thing. Thanks to praktike over at Eschaton.]
¶ 8:15 AM
The sharp-hoof'd moose of the north, the cat on the
house-sill, the chickadee, the prairie-dog ;
The litter of the grunting sow as they tug at her teats,
The brood of the turkey-hen, and she with her half-
spread wings ;
I see in them and myself the same old law.
A chickadee perches amongst new leaves this afternoon. It brings me cheer.
Time to lighten the mood: we have a winner in the latest Rummy Caption Contest! Here's the picture:
As usual, it was a tough choice. The honorable mentions:
Rummy: You could say we intend to Achy Breaky the will of the terrorists.
Garth: Um, that wasn't me.
Gee, Death, you're nothing like I pictured.
"Some people see the Grim Reaper in robes, some see him in a cowboy hat. Either way, you're coming with me, Rummy."
Cowboy: Yeah, I'd recognize the Rummy Kid anywhere, he's part of the Double-U Gang. Take him away sheriff, he's the worst!
Secretary Rumsfeld secretly wished to himself that he man in the cowboy hat was motioning for him to come out on the dance floor and join him for a waltz. Rummy remembered his youth spent cavorting in the hills above Vienna listening to the grand dances and dreaming that some young prince would sweep him off of his feet and ask him to the governor's ball where he could wear that dress he ever so loved. Was this charming cowboy his secret prince?
"Yes, I'd love to dance," he said with a breathless smile and eyes turned up at his enchanted lover.
The cowboy, a bit confused, said, "Hey, man. I just wanted a smoke."
The authorities routinely used arbitrary arrest and detention, prolonged detention, and incommunicado detention, and continued to deny citizens the basic right to due process...Special security courts have jurisdiction in all cases involving espionage and treason, peaceful political dissent, smuggling, currency exchange violations, and drug trafficking. According to the Special Rapporteur and other sources, military officers or civil servants with no legal training head these tribunals, which hear cases in secret. Authorities often hold defendants incommunicado and do not permit contact with lawyers...
Wazir Mohammad was held incommunicado. He was given no opportunity to challenge the lawfulness of his detention. He had no lawyer, no access to his family, and was not brought before any court, including the "competent tribunal" envisaged by the Geneva Conventions to determine prisoner status in time of war. He never met a delegate from the International Committee of the Red Cross either. He was then put on a plane to Guantánamo Bay. He said that he was hooded and handcuffed for the 22-hour flight. When asked about toilet facilities during the flight, he refused to elaborate, saying that he could not talk of some of the things that happened on the plane.(19) Upon arrival at Guantánamo, Wazir Mohammad said that he and his fellow detainees were taken off the plane "like cargo, not people".
How important to the total-domination apparatus this complete disappearance of its victims is can be seen in those instances where, for one reason or another, the regime was confronted with the memory of survivors. During the war, one SS commandant made the terrible mistake of informing a French woman of her husband's death in a German concentration camp; this slip caused a small avalanche of orders and instructions to all camp commandants, warning them that under no circumstances was information ever to be given to the outside world. The point is that, as far as the French widow was concerned, her husband had supposedly ceased to live at the moment of his arrest, or rather had ceased ever to have lived.
There were no rules, by her account, and little training. But the mission was clear. Spec. Sabrina Harman, a military police officer charged with abusing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, said she was assigned to break down prisoners for interrogation.
A pro-military Democratic congressman's description of the war in Iraq as "unwinnable" unless changes are made sparked anger in House Republicans Thursday.
Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, in a news conference with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said the problems in Iraq are due to a "lack of planning" by Pentagon chiefs and "the direction has got be changed or it is unwinnable."
Republicans seized on that word, ignoring Murtha's overall point: that more troops and equipment should be sent to Iraq.
Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, the majority leader, accused Murtha of participating in a "calculated and craven political stunt."
"The Democrats are quitting, calling the war unwinnable while we have our men and women and their families sacrificing every day" charged Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
A few things struck me about this story and the way it was reported:
Of course, the obvious gross stupidity and/or crass politics in the GOP's response leaps out. Observing that we must change direction or the war is unwinnable is clearly different than saying the war is, in fact, unwinnable.
It's interesting that the reporter, Ted Barrett, felt it necessary to add the "pro-military" label to describe the Democrat, as though most other Dems hate the military. Some memes die hard.
I give Barrett full marks for noting that the GOP seized on "unwinnable" and completely ignored Murtha's point. Unusual for somebody at CNN or most of our media outlets to point out such things. Could the worm be turning?
Why is it that Republicans have such a hard time with reading comp? Maybe the private schools they went to should be declared "failing" and shut down?
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Friday extended "my deepest apologies'' to Iraqi prisoners abused by U.S. military personnel and told Congress he accepts full responsibility for the shocking events.
"These events occurred on my watch. As Secretary of Defense, I am accountable for them. I take full responsibility,'' Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
I didn't think the old goat had it in him. At least somebody's taking responsibility in this administration.
Other items also modestly improved: employment population ratio was up 0.1%; average duration of unemployment dropped from 20.1 weeks to 19.7; there were 159k fewer people working part-time for economic reasons. Good.
Now the manure in that pile of ponies (thanks, Commissar): the number of jobs created were fewer than last month, and fewer than the promised 320k/month; hours worked was stagnant; wages barely budged. Not good.
Overall, hopeful signs in this report. I know the wingers will chastise me for my lack of enthusiasm, but these numbers are nothing to crow about, especially after years of promises--for me this is more of the good feeling you get when you stop beating your head against the wall. That said, I'm happy to see positive job growth, and hope to see this trend continue.
Even though I said midnight UTC today was the deadline for the current Rummy Caption Contest, it's still really not too late to enter for a chance to win a VALUABLE PRIZE. Winner announced tomorrow. Go now!
I told [King Abdullah] I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners, and the humiliation suffered by their families. I told him I was equally sorry that people who have been seeing those pictures didn't understand the true nature and heart of America. I assured him Americans, like me, didn't appreciate what we saw, that it made us sick to our stomachs. I also made it clear to His Majesty that the troops we have in Iraq, who are there for security and peace and freedom, are the finest of the fine, fantastic United States citizens, who represent the very best qualities of America: courage, love of freedom, compassion, and decency.
The essential feature of the narcissistic personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy (DSM-IV™, 1994, p. 658)...Kantor (1992, pp. 203-204) describes the clinical characteristics of NPD as:
an exaggeration of the importance of one's experiences and feelings;
ideas of perfection;
a reluctance to accept blame or criticism;
absence of altruism although gestures may be made for the sake of appearance;
[Update: apparently Bush's crap passes as a real apology for the AP's Terence Hunt: President Bush, struggling to control a growing crisis, apologized Thursday for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers and called it "a stain on our country's honor." Puhleeze!]
¶ 8:09 PM
I was arguing with somebody the other night about Iraq-Vietnam comparisons. Inevitably, wingers point out the literal differences between the two conflicts, as though we don't know there are differences and that the analogy requires them to be exactly the same to hold true. One of the most popular reasons they list for why Iraq is no Vietnam is the casualty level, so I decided to take a look more closely.
Of course, it doesn't take a lot of research to recognize that casualties in Vietnam were an order of magnitude higher than what we're incurring in Iraq. But one would expect our casualties to be fewer now, wouldn't we? I mean, we've been told that our military technology is a force multiplier, so we need fewer troops to do the job and all that. But whatever.
First, some raw data. Here's a chart I built comparing the first 14 months of each conflict1:
What leaps out at me is that during the initial combat phase in Iraq, we suffered more casualties than we did in Vietnam. Of course, things got rapidly worse in Vietnam, whereas our quick overthrow of Saddam's regime bought us a relative "lull" in fighting. One other scary thing: we've seen a dramatic upward trend in casualties in the last few months, and May shows no sign of the violence abating.
All told, there were 14,910 killed and wounded during the first 14 months of Vietnam, and 4852 total casualties2 during the same span in Iraq. Great, we've only lost about 1/3 the personnel we did in Vietnam. Wow, I guess the wingers are right that Iraq is totally not Vietnam. It sucks 1/3 less!
What it all comes down to is this: wingers seem to think there is a threshold that we must pass before we can compare Vietnam and Iraq, and before we can call this a quagmire. Okay, so when do we cross that line? Do we have to be knee deep in the Big Muddy (or Sandy) before we recognize we're bogged down? Will we know we're in trouble when we have 1000 dead?
I was asked to put a number on it myself (I'll note the person asking the question never provided his). I said 500. Mostly arbitrary, but I figured it was a round milestone number, and clearly indicated that we'd been a) in Iraq for a significant time, thus the conflict would not be a Six Week Wonder like GWI, and b) incurring low-level casualties on a continuing basis, indicating that we aren't making any progress in terms of security and stability. Given that Vietnam also started slowly, and when we hit 500 in Iraq we were beginning to trend upward, this sounded like a reasonable marker of quagmireness.
But more importantly, how many is too many? Is 11,552 acceptable? How about 18,937? Or 29,853? Roughly 30k is apparently how many the "mass public" would accept in Iraq, according to a 1999 survey. However, what's important to note is the study asked specifically how tolerant would Americans be of casualties in a conflict to rid Saddam of WMD. Further, it seems that "what is crucial for maintaining public support is not [the incursion of] casualties per se, but casualties in an inconclusive war, casualties that the public sees as being suffered indefinitely, for no clear, good, or achievable purpose." That is why support for the war has slid.3
Let's leave Vietnam for the moment. All the talk about Abu Ghraib has made me wonder about some other comparisons. Wingers are gnashing their teeth, wailing, "where were the liberals when Saddam was doing bad things?" Is that really the bar we've set for ourselves: that we do bad things, but not as much as Saddam did?
I think of the Iraqis we've killed in combat since March, 2003, and the new revelations of abuse, torture and murder at our hands and again wonder, how much is too much? Is 11,000 Iraqi civilians we killed in just over 1 year (not counting the 1300+ we killed in April alone) really that much better than the 300,000 Saddam killed in 25? Is our abuse better than Saddam's because we mean well?
Not only have we gone in and destabilized a region and pissed off the Arab world more than they already were, but we've done the very things the bad guys have done. Keeping score and saying we're an order of magnitude less evil is cold comfort. This time it's my fucking government that is to blame. Morally and pragmatically, if not strategically, this war is a disaster.
Why did we lose Vietnam? Wingers like to say hippies and politicians are to blame. I'd say it was our inability to match our words with our deeds: saying we are defending freedom sounds great, but the reality of abuse, death and destruction trumps any assertions we make. Why did we lose Iraq? The numbers aren't exactly the same as Vietnam, but as Twain said, "History doesn't repeat itself, at best it rhymes." We're singing the same sad song today that we did 40 years ago.
2 - This is assuming that Col. Hackworth is not correct when he says we're approaching 22,000 casualties. I've seen such high figures reported elsewhere, usually based on evacs or how many people have been treated at hospitals like Walter Reed, but I'm going to stick with the officially reported figures.
3 - That's interesting because support for Vietnam didn't start to really tank until late 1967.
I love mornings, especially the calm before-the-day-starts feeling as the birds start to wake up. As Cairo and I were taking out the trash/recycling, we paused to listen to the sounds of the red-winged blackbirds, cardinals, blue jays, mourning doves, and other members of the avian chorus. We also took in the sights of the foggy world in the early morning light...
One of the many webs out in our meadow this morning. Alas, at this resolution, you can't really see the teeny droplets of moisture collected on the strands.
Tommy is so cute when he gets all optimistic. He's right, Rummy should resign, but I don't hold out hope that this or anything else BushCo does will do all that much to restore our moral authority in the community of nations. We lost that long ago, and it's going to take a long time to get it back.
No, wait. I mean sick. Sick and wrong and pure distasteful vileness and what is the world coming to.
And genius. And hilarious.
Viral marketing. Sinister as hell. It's when an ad company creates a twisted little promotion specifically designed to bypass the mainstream and penetrate the subculture and be spread by word of mouth and word of e-mail, and everyone forwards it on to their friends and family and says oh my God you've got to see this hilarious video oh my God it's so funny/sick/horrible/twisted oh my God click here now.
The Republican-controlled Senate voted yesterday to block new Labor Department rules that critics said would deny overtime pay to millions of white-collar workers, handing an embarrassing rebuff to the Bush administration on a politically sensitive jobs issue.
The Senate voted 52 to 47 to scrap the new rules despite recent changes to address earlier criticism, an intense lobbying campaign by Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao and a last-ditch GOP effort to avert defeat by proposing a long list of jobs for which overtime pay could not be eliminated.
Although the GOP's concessions were approved unanimously, they did not satisfy five moderate Republicans who broke ranks to vote with nearly all Democrats in favor of keeping the administration from cutting anyone's overtime pay.
But I'm sure the bastards at BushCo will try again. Last July, the House voted to let them go ahead with killing OT for upwards of 8 million workers (the DoL claimed "at least 644,000"). Fortunately, in September the Senate gave the House and BushCo a smackdown. I'm ever thankful for the Senatorial saucer...
[Update: the roll call vote wasn't available when I first posted. The "moderate Rs" were: Campbell, Chafee, Murkowski, Snowe and Specter. The usual suspects, I guess. The only Dem to vote no? Miller, of course.]
¶ 9:02 AM
A number of people, including Jay Garner, the first U.S. administrator of Iraq, think that the Bush administration shunned early elections, which might have given legitimacy to a transitional government, so it could impose economic policies that no elected Iraqi government would have approved. Indeed, over the past year the Coalition Provisional Authority has slashed tariffs, flattened taxes and thrown Iraqi industry wide open to foreign investors — reinforcing the sense of many Iraqis that we came as occupiers, not liberators.
But it's the reliance on private contractors to carry out tasks usually performed by government workers that has really come back to haunt us.
Conservatives make a fetish out of privatization of government functions; after the 2002 elections, George Bush announced plans to privatize up to 850,000 federal jobs. At home, wary of a public backlash, he has moved slowly on that goal. But in Iraq, where there is little public or Congressional oversight, the administration has privatized everything in sight.
You may ask whether our leaders' drive to privatize reflects a sincere conservative ideology, or a desire to enrich their friends. Probably both. But before Iraq, privatization that rewarded campaign contributors was a politically smart move, even if it was a net loss for the taxpayers.
In Iraq, however, reality does matter. And thanks to the ideologues who dictated our policy over the past year, reality looks pretty grim.
If the United States invaded Iraq to liberate its people from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, recent reports of "systematic" inhumane treatment of Iraqi prisoners only underscore that the very nature of occupation of one country by another is such that it invariably leads to acts that dehumanize the occupied people in the name of security. The outcome: intense and incessant hostility, resentment, and anger of the occupied toward the occupiers.
New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh has written a gruesome account of gross and systematic abuse of Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Gharib prison. The ultimate irony is that, during the rule of Saddam, Abu Gharib became a symbol of brutality. Once it could not find weapons of mass destruction to justify its invasion of Iraq, the administration of US President George W Bush claimed that the liberation of Iraqis from the most inhumane rule of a dictator was a good enough reason for taking military action against that country. Now reports of the US military's abuse of Iraqi prisoners in that notorious prison threaten to deprive the United States of even that wobbly claim.
The seeds of prisoner abuse were sown in the very act of invasion and occupation of a country, especially when it was done without the moral authority of the international community. By going into Iraq without the sanction of the United Nations - the sole symbol of international legitimacy - the occupation forces became the target of Iraqi anger, particularly by not only remaining there indefinitely, but also by promising to transform Iraq into the image of their own society. Any expectation of overwhelming cooperation from the Iraqi populace was unrealistic. The manifestation of Iraqi anger through acts of resistance and insurgency was bound to create an equally brutal response from the occupying forces.
The Arab world has been saturated with the reports and pictures of the dehumanization of Iraqi prisoners. Admittedly, there is no comparison between the brutality of the Saddam regime and the reports of abuse of prisoners in occupied Iraq. However, as one dispatch in the latest issue of Newsweek aptly notes: "No one would liken US abuses to Saddam's techniques, which included the most sadistic forms of torture and murder. But then, being more humane than Saddam isn't much to brag about."
[The war] ended quickly1 with few civilian casualties2 and with little damage to Iraq's cities, towns or infrastructure3. It ended without the Arab world rising up against us4, as the war's critics feared, without the quagmire they predicted5, without the heavy losses in house-to-house fighting6 they warned us to expect.
In full retreat, the war's opponents have now taken up new defensive positions7: "Yes, it was a military victory, but you haven't found Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction." Or, "Yes, we destroyed Saddam's regime, but now other dictators will try even harder to develop weapons of mass destruction to make sure they will not fall to some future American preemptive strike."
We will find Saddam's well-hidden chemical and biological weapons programs8, but only when people who know come forward and tell us where to look. While Saddam was in power, even a hint about his concealment and deception was a death sentence, often by unimaginable torture against whole families. Saddam had four years to hide things. We have had a few weeks to find them. Patience--and some help from free Iraqis--will be rewarded.
The idea that our victory over Saddam will drive other dictators to develop chemical and biological weapons misses the key point: They are already doing so9. That's why we may someday need to preempt rather than wait until we are attacked10 ...
Iraqis are freer today11 and we are safer12. Relax and enjoy it13.
Ah, would it were still the heady days of May, 2003.
1 - Newsflash: with "coalition" troops still dying daily, and 137,000 US military personnel still in Iraq, it is clear the war isn't over.
[A] count by The Associated Press found that around 1,361 Iraqis were killed from April 1 to April 30  - 10 times the figure of at least 136 U.S. troops who died during the same period.
The Iraqi tally was compiled from daily records of violence reported by AP based on statements issued by the U.S. military, Iraqi police and local hospitals. The count includes civilians, insurgents and members of the Iraqi security forces, though a detailed breakdown was not possible.
Preliminary estimates by the World Bank indicate that the Iraqi economy suffered in 2003, with GDP declining to $480 to $630 per capita. The decline was largely related to the drop in oil production caused by the war—Iraq has the world’s second largest proven oil reserves, and most of the government’s revenues traditionally come from oil. Widespread electricity outages also hobbled many businesses. Other factors hurting businesses included post-war looting, increased crime, the ongoing insurgency, and damage directly caused by fighting.
The government has spent less than $2.8 billion of the $18.4 billion that Congress provided half a year ago for rebuilding Iraq, despite the cries of urgency that accompanied President Bush's request for the money.
Graphic pictures showing the apparent abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. and British soldiers in Iraq have sparked anger among Muslims across the world...
5 - When exactly does a quagmire begin? Regardless, Col. Daniel Smith (Ret.) agrees:
Yes, Iraq is not a quagmire. But at a time when U.S. budget deficits of $401 billion this year and $480 billion for 2004 are forecast, Iraq looms as an ever-expanding funnel into which human lives, human talent, and monetary resources are being poured, never to be recovered. That, by any measure, defines a veritable black hole.
Gunmen waved their weapons in Fallujah's streets and outside car windows Saturday, cheering what they called a victory as U.S. forces pulled back. But the Marines insisted they weren't going far and that a new Iraqi force taking the front line will root out die-hard insurgents
Scores of Iraqis gathered in the streets Saturday morning, some flashing "V" for victory signs and raising the Iraqi flag. Motorists drove through the streets, shouting "Islam, it's your day!" and "We redeem Islam with our blood!"
A senior U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Marine command was not alarmed by the gleeful reaction in the city, the Washington Post reported. Of more significance, the official said, is whether the militiamen will succeed in restoring security to a level sufficient enough for U.S. troops to enter the city without being attacked.
7 - Is there such a thing as pre-emptive projection?
8 - UNMOVIC: No evidence of either current or recent development or production of proscribed munitions was uncovered.David Kay: I don't think they existed...[A] combination of U.N. inspectors and unilateral Iraqi action got rid of them.
9 - Perle misses the point: they are already doing so because we have a hegemonic military presence throughout the world (e.g., Saudi Arabia, Korean Peninsula) and have shown we are willing to invade any country to get what we want (e.g., apprehend former strongman allies like Noriega and Saddam).
10 - Pre-emption requires an imminent threat, which we know Iraq wasn't. What we engaged in was preventive, and based on bad intel and lies, so it was really nothing more than gussied up aggressive warfare. We have rightly condemned and renounced this instrument of policy since the end of WWII, and continued talk of invading other sovereign nations only threatens world peace and stability.
11 - Are they? I guess they have freedom of speech, except when their papers publish something we don't like. They definitely have freedom to worship the way they want today, although if they choose to establish an Islamic theocracy, we'll veto that. Given current economic conditions, it appears that they don't have freedom from want, and the disastrous security situation means they don't have freedom from fear. They still haven't gotten to select their own government. We've given them reason to believe that we're no better than Saddam, and that we should leave their country. Yet we won't leave until we decide to--that hardly sounds like they're free.
12 - I didn't believe this crap last year, and I don't believe it now. After thousands of lives and billions of dollars, I want proof, not assertions.
13 - What was it we're supposed to enjoy? I've quite forgotten.
¶ 9:34 AM
Esteemed members of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, good afternoon. As National Security Advisor, my job is to coordinate the efforts of America's intelligence and defense agencies and report directly to the president. I was, and continue to be, in a unique position to understand the threats and dangers our nation faces. It is with utmost confidence and sincerity that I assure each and every one of you that there was no way the federal government could have prevented the horrific events of Sept. 11 without accruing an enormous amount of overtime.
No wonder the Bush administration wants to get rid of OT benefits for millions of Americans--they've learned the lessons of September the 11th, 2001, and it's all part of the "war" on terror.
Like his father's proposal to go to Mars, President George W. Bush's grand space exploration vision appears to be on the verge of being scuttled well before launch. Despite its goal of refocusing NASA, the vision's potential to inspire dreams and garner new funds is largely evaporating.
When announced, Bush's long-term plan to "extend a human presence across our solar system" excited advocates of human spaceflight, who saw Mars in particular as an invigorating target for astronauts who have spent the past 30 years going in circles. That insider euphoria hasn't spread to the masses.
Surveys show the bulk of the public is as nonplussed over the prospect of going to Mars as it is about returning to the Moon. Apathy for human spaceflight has made bold strides over the past three decades. Go if you like, the public seems to say, just do it within your budget.
The responsibility for the rapidly fading vision rests with the lack of leadership afforded NASA by the Bush Administration. It's as if Dad said the family is going to Disneyland, then he went back to work and left them all wondering when and how.
I think you're all fucked in the head. We're ten hours from the fucking fun park and you want to bail out. Well I'll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It's a quest. It's a quest for fun. I'm gonna have fun and you're gonna have fun. We're all gonna have so much fucking fun we'll need plastic surgeory to remove our godamn smiles. You'll be whistling 'Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah' out of you're assholes! I gotta be crazy! I'm on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose! Holy Shit!
I just hope the park's not closed when we get there...
Faithful reader, and contributor at Candleblog, Spine casts his ballot by mail in Oregon:
I sure do love to vote. But after all the drama of the presidential primary campaign, after all those candidates, I'm left with three unexciting choices on Oregon's ballot: John Kerry, Lyndon LaRouche, and Dennis Kucinich. I don't care for these choices. It will be time soon enough to vote for Kerry, and I'll do so eagerly. Today, though, I'm voting for the guy I truly believe in...
As Spine does his civic duty, I'll continue to do my blog duty. But first, some time in outside with the dog...
The new 25-member European Union has heralded its historic expansion with celebrations across the new bloc.
The 15 old members welcomed in Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia at midnight.
With a population of 455m, the EU now is the world's biggest trading bloc.
Electricity is now more widely available [in Iraq] than before the war.
"Iraq produced about 4,400 megawatts of electric power before the war...[and] the country required, but could not produce, about 6,000 megawatts of power per day." (WashTimes)
Our stated goal is to "improve generating capacity to 6000 MW by June 1, 2004", a mere month away. According to the Ministry of Electricity, "the seven-day average (March 27-April 2) of peak electricity production was 3,883 MW, a decrease of 5.2 percent from the previous week". (CPA)
What else did Dubya say?
Iraq's oil infrastructure is being rebuilt, with the Iraqi oil industry already producing about 2.5 million barrels per day.
"We ought to be able to get the production back up on the order of two-and-a-half, three million barrels a day within -- hopefully, by the end of the year." (Dick Cheney speaking to the American Society of Newspaper Editors on 4/10/2003)
But surely there's real good news?
On June 30th, a sovereign Iraqi interim government will take office.
"They are the images of war the Bush Administration doesn't want the American public or anyone to see. But a Web site is showing hundreds of flag-draped caskets arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Official Bush Administration and Defense Department policy forbids such photographs, saying they are disrespectful of the dead. Critics say the policy hides truth from the public, and they got the photos released under the Freedom of Information Act." So spoke Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News on April 22.
The word "hundreds" is exaggerated. There have actually been about 126 American combat deaths in April. That very tendency to overstate goes far toward explaining the Pentagon and Bush Administration's embrace of the no pictures policy in the first place.
Uh, Mona, there are 288 photos. While some appear to be different views of the same scene, there are clearly multiple caskets in each shot, so "hundreds of caskets" is not an exaggeration. And bringing up the total in April is a red herring because, of course, that's not the only month in which our 743 troops (i.e., "hundreds") have died, nor is there any indication that the photos in question are just from April.
But Mona's right: we shouldn't "overstate" how many people have died. Nor should we honor the hundreds of fallen in any way that is not officially sanctioned by the keepers of the Holy Flame of Heroism. If the Army Times wants to have a tribute to each of our military dead, that's one thing, but if Ted Koppel wants to do something, clearly it's political and anti-American.
Besides, why should we cry about hundreds of dead troops when thousands of Americans die in traffic accidents in the US every year1? Can't we focus on the positive stuff in Iraq, like how we've rid the country of torture chambers, rape rooms and mass graves? Oh wait...the schools, the schools!
1 - This footnote is for The Commissar. According to the DOT, 43,220 people died on our roads in 2003. With a 2003 population of just under 291 million, that's a rate of 14.86 per 100,000 people. 743 deaths out of roughly 137 thousand troops in Iraq (according to Brookings' Iraq Index) is a rate of 542.33 per 100,000. Our military personnel are almost 40 times more likely to die in Iraq than we are in our cars.
[Update: fixed some numbers.]
['nother update: it occurred to me that even if we only looked at the 140 Americans who died in April, that would still be considered "hundreds". In fact, Merriam-Webster says:
Main Entry: hun·dred ...
2 hundreds plurala : the numbers 100 to 999 b : a great number <hundreds of times>
The White House argues time and again that Iraq is the "central front" on the war on terrorism. But instead of keeping murderous al Qaeda terrorists on the run, the invasion of Iraq has stoked the fires of terrorism against the United States and our allies. Najaf is smoldering. Fallujah is burning. And there is no exit is in sight. What has been accomplished, Mr. President?
Al Qaeda has morphed into a hydra-headed beast, no longer dependent on Osama bin Laden. The Administration has flippantly claimed that it is better to tie down terrorists in Iraq than to battle them in our homeland. Mr. President, with hundreds of thousands of American troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future, and a worldwide campaign of terrorism gathering steam, who is tying down whom?
Indeed, our attack on Iraq has given Islamic militants a common cause and has fertilized the field for new recruits. The failures by the United States to secure the peace in Iraq has virtually guaranteed al Qaeda a fertile field of new recruits ready to sacrifice their lives to fight the American infidels. These extremists openly call for "jihad", swear allegiance to bin Laden, and refer to the September 11 murderers as the "magnificent 19." According to intelligence sources, hundreds of young Muslims are answering terror recruitment calls with a resounding "yes."
Amidst all this, the American people are asking themselves one central question: Have we been made more safe by the President's war in Iraq? Do we sleep more soundly in our beds now that Saddam Hussein is captured? Or, instead, are we starting to fully comprehend and regret the fury which has been unleashed by the unprovoked attack on Iraq?
Deaths and casualties of Iraqi civilians are in the thousands, but an actual number cannot be obtained. Is it any wonder that Iraqis see us, not as liberators, but as crusaders and conquerors?
One of President Bush's closest confidants challenged Sen. John Kerry on Sunday to further explain comments he made in 1971 that he participated in "atrocities" in Vietnam.
The presumptive Democratic nominee has since said that he regrets using such language.
"I wish we knew a little bit more about that," Karen Hughes, the former White House communications director, said on CNN's "Late Edition."
"Did he think he did commit them or not? And who else did? And what was he really saying? Was he totally exaggerating? Was he making it up? I think the press ought to follow some line of inquiry about that."
I see a new heroic Bush ad in the works: "I chose not to go to Vietnam because I didn't want to take part in atrocities committed by my opponent." Welcome back, Karen.
CNN focuses on the fact that a small oil terminal reopened. The Beeb starts off noting that the main terminal is still shut down, a fact completely ignored by the other story. Hmm.
Both articles do observe that the attack that shut down the Basra facilities and reportedly killed two US sailors were similar to what happened to the USS Cole back in 2000. Nice to see the war has made the world safer for our navy.
Heading back down to Marlboro today and I still have a few things to do, so I'm a bit harried. Here's a picture rich with symbolism for me:
A red-winged blackbird chases away a red-tailed hawk over our back yard.
Stef was sitting on the couch in the living room yesterday evening and saw a couple of hawks circling around. I quickly grabbed my camera and ran outside and took several shots before the birds disappeared. Unfortunately, I'd been playing with shutter speeds earlier and I forgot to select the appropriate settings.
I respect former Cardinal Pat Tillman's decision to join the Rangers after 9/11. He put his money where his mouth was, as it were. Not knowing anything really about his service or how he died in Afghanistan last week, I would still agree that he was a heroic figure.
Yet I'm troubled by all this hero talk. Sports Illustrated's Peter King said yesterday, "I think 100 years from now, children in schools across the country will be reading about a hero named Pat Tillman." I'm sorry, but that seems more than a bit over the top.
Does walking away from a $3.6M contract to join the military make him more of a hero than someone who enlisted to escape poverty, someone who essentially had fewer options than Tillman? And with all the GOP attempts to denigrate John Kerry, who volunteered to serve in Vietnam and was awarded 3 Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and Silver Star, what does the word "hero" really mean?