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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Monday, January 15, 2007


Today we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As I drove into work this morning (yes, I had to work), I was fortunate enough to catch his "I Have a Dream" Speech. I can't help but think what the Dr. King would have thought and said about the actions of the Bush administration and their continued effort to make, and keep war.

One could say that Dr. King is needed as much today, thirty-nine years after his death, as he was on that bridge in Selma, Alabama.

-Noah Greenberg

Today's Quote in the Lead

"Sometimes you're the Commander-in-Chief - sometimes you're the Educator-in-Chief,"
-President Bush, to Scott Pelley of CBS News' 60 Minutes

But most of the time, you're just the Doofus-in-Chief.

Q: I wonder just what GW is trying to teach America. Is he trying to teach us how to send our sons, daughters, fathers and mothers to die in a nation halfway across the globe for a "Mission" which he has already stated has been "Accomplished" ?
A: Well then, Mr. President - Mission Accomplished!

Q: Is President Bush trying to teach us how to spend billions of dollars and take our economy from a surplus to the largest deficit in its history?
A: Mission Accomplished!

Q: Is "Junior" trying to teach us Americans how to bankrupt the American middle class while lining the pockets of his "base" of "haves and have mores", which include his and Vice President Dick Cheney's war profiteering buddies?
A: Mission Accomplished here, too. Georgie-Boy!

If GW has any more "Accomplished Missions", he might just do what those "Radical Islamists" are killing themselves to do: Kill America.

Let's hope that we can get rid of him before that final "Mission" is "Accomplished".

Please, no more lessons, GW.

-Noah Greenberg

The "Bush-Push for More-War"

What would you call a CEO who never asked for advice, except from those who only agreed with him? What would you call that CEO if I told you his Board of Directors vociferously disapproved of his plans going forward, and that they wanted him to take another look at his options and probably reconsider? And, finally, what would you call that CEO if he was going to go forward with his plans, even though eight out of every ten of his company's stock holders and employees thought it was a bad idea?

You'd probably ask yourself how this guy is still the CEO.

"I fully understand they could try to stop me from doing it. But I've made my decision. And we're going forward,"
-President Bush, regarding the possibility that congress will attempt to stop him from expanding the Iraqi conflict and send more troops into the quagmire anyway

How would you describe President Bush?
A) Determined and Confident
B) Stubborn and Arrogant
C) Dumb as a Stump
D) All of the Above

The correct answer is "D". President Bush is, and has always been Determined and Confident during his presidency. But determination in the face of a reality which doesn't fit your goal turns into stubbornness. You could be a determined person and attempt to fit a three inch rubber patch over a five inch hole in your swimming pool's liner, but the liner's still going to leak. Iraq is leaking, and this small patch of 21,500 troops in this pool of 28 million people isn't going to halt the upcoming flood.

"Congress obviously has to support the effort through the power of the purse. So they've got a role to play, and we certainly recognize that. But you also cannot run a war by committee."
-Vice President Dick Cheney

Congress doesn't have to support the effort through the purse, or any other way, for that matter. And to limit their participation to less than that of a cash register is borderline treason, which should make Cheney feel right at home. Running this war, and the nation, should always be by consensus. There are 535 members in our nation's congress, most (I hope) with the best interests of our nation and her people at heart. After viewing the past few years under the Bush administration, there can be no doubt that the 110th Congress of The United States cares more about the feelings and safety of the American people than this president and his advisors ever will.

Keeping the purse strings tied and taught will force The President to re-examine the path he has chosen for our nation going forward. I can see a possible standoff coming between the White House, which has been supporting special interests over people since day one, and a new congress which has yet to be tested. If they blink first, it could mean a long two years and a short-lived majority.

And the front-man for the "Bush-Push for More-War" is none other than VP Cheney himself.

"They have absolutely nothing to offer in its place. I have yet to hear a coherent policy from the Democratic side."

What policy are you looking for, Mr. Cheney? "The Decider" has already stated that he's made his decision and he's going forward. It's obvious that there is nothing that will make Bush change his mind - or your mind as it pertains to his, for that matter.

"They're (the insurgents) convinced that the United States will pack it in and go home if they just kill enough of us. They can't beat us in a standup fight, but they think they can break our will."

We should be home already. All of our goals are accomplished, except, of course, the financial bankruptcy of the US middle class, the financiers of this war. They already have killed more than enough of us, as well. We all know that the Bushies think of the lives lost in Iraq as "just a number" that "doesn't mean anything to (them)." But it means something to the rest of us. We're not fighting a conventional enemy, that much is true. I don't think that you can even call this a war which we are fighting either. Our goals are not defined, by any stretch of the imagination. And "to won" cannot be considered a "strategy".

The plan has not changed, regardless of how many troops The President sends into Iraq. It appears that the only thing this will do is keep the status quo - or, in other words, they will help us "stay the course", no matter how stupid or open-ended that course is.

"This is an existential conflict. It is the kind of conflict that's going to drive our policy and our government for the next 20 or 30 or 40 years. We have to prevail and we have to have the stomach for the fight long term."

These guys are laying the groundwork for a multi-generational war. It's a set-up and we're the marks. It will be our sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters. sent to die on this Biblical battlefield. They will enlist the armies of the religious Right and describe their allegiance as a "crusade" against those who will destroy our American-Judeo-Christian way of life. They will take ten cents from every one of our dollars earned to keep their "base" of "haves and have-mores" in suburban mansions with gold bathroom fixtures and platinum umbrella stands. They will have us support their war profiteering buddies and ignore the old and the sick and the poor. They'll make sure that their elitist entitlement comes before the welfare of the majority of the American people. There will be no health care reform while this all goes on. and they'll continue to distract us as their real strategy.

And they will extend their strategy of moral and the American middle class financial bankruptcy into Iran and Syria. There will be a time in the not-so-distant future when we'll all be able to say that we knew someone who perished in the Bush-Cheney-Mid-East wars.

"We are going to need to deal with what Iran is doing inside Iraq,"
-National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley

Just what does "deal with" mean in Bush-Speak anyway? And what of the consequences of a US invasion into Iran? What will China, a major oil purchaser of Iran do when we cross that birder? And what will Russia, who has been supplying Iran with nuclear "stuff"? (After all, do we really know exactly what they are supplying?)

Are we going to allow people like Dick Cheney to destroy our children and grandchildren's futures? Are we going to allow the politics of corporate welfare to dictate our nation's future? If so, then get ready for the new USA - a third world nation.

-Noah Greenberg

The Iron Triangle

I watched General Pace's testimony in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a couple of moments a few days ago.

It is striking to note that Gen. Pace is the prettiest one in any room he enters.

This exemplary parade ground soldier, in taking over the military role in devising Iraq strategy, makes it clear that the Iron Triangle is operating in Gen. Pace's Pentagon.

The Iron Triangle is a concept that political scientists use to describe the relationship between elected officials, lobbyists and bureaucrats.

Simply stated the Iron Triangle posits that lobbyists can capture governmental agencies and bend them to their will by exerting influence on the political sector actors.

The political sector actors are of course our elected officials.

What is interesting in the Iron Triangle as it is currently operating in Washington, D.C. is that the bureaucracy has captured the political sector.

General Pace with his medals dangling off his chest is in position to dictate policy to the President.

The President with his deer in the headlights public demeanor and 29% approval rating, has only a thread to credibility: his attachment to the military.

In the country that supports our troops, the question of whether our troops support us is becoming increasingly more important and germane.

-Robert Chapman

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2007 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

One of the basic tenets of a democracy is that elections matter. In a democracy, when the people speak, the government must listen. That is why despite a civil war and other serious internal struggles like the suffrage movement, the black civil rights movement and Watergate, there has never been martial law in the U.S. and there has never been a coup.

In November 2006, Americans–tired of the corruption of the Republican-run government with its numerous indicted congressmen and tired of the war on Iraq--voted overwhelmingly for change. In the months leading up to the election, polls had repeatedly indicated that Americans believed Democrats would do a better job with ethics and in winding down the war. President Bush had the lowest approval rating of any president since Richard Nixon and the majority of Americans said that he had mishandled the war.

As a consequence of the November election, Democrats won a sizable majority in the Congress. For the first time in 12 years, the Congress is now held by the Democrats.

Under the leadership of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats have gone to work as promised. Since the new Congress convened in early January, the Democrats have been drafting bills to address the concerns voiced by American voters: raise the minimum wage, change the money grab of the elderly regarding prescription drugs, promote stem cell research.

In the midst of this flurry of activity–getting more done in ten days than was done all last session by the most do-nothing Congress in American history–President Bush revealed his much-anticipated new strategy for the Iraq war.

Apparently the President did not get the message sent by voters in November. Bush’s January 10th speech ignored every facet of the election. Bush ignored the majority of Americans who have repeatedly said that they want the troops brought home now and that his handling of the war has gone irretrievably wrong. Bush ignored the findings of his own hand-picked bipartisan Iraq Study Group, a group of seasoned men and women led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former co-chair of the 911 Commission, Lee Hamilton, who determined that the situation in Iraq was “grave and deteriorating” and that only a political result would work, not a military one.

Bush ignored both the facts on the ground in America and the facts on the ground in Iraq.

And now–as if the November election had never happened–Bush has decided to escalate the war in Iraq by sending in another 21,500 troops.

The President couldn’t be more wrong.

Although they are overwhelmingly against the war, most Americans do not know exactly what maintaining this war entails. Most Americans know the number of dead: 3,032, at press time. According to the Pentagon, as of January 9th there have also been 22,834 soldiers wounded in action; close to 60 percent of those have incurred a permanently disabling injury, such as amputation, head injury or blindness. An additional 6, 640 soldiers have been hurt in non-hostile injuries (such as car crashes) and 18,183 have acquired diseases–all requiring medical transport out.

This means that nearly 50,000 American soldiers have been killed, injured or disabled in Iraq. That is one-third of the original troop level.

Now the President wants to send in another 21,500 troops to be similarly killed, maimed and damaged.

In his speech, Bush said that a surge in troops would secure Baghdad and rout the insurgency that has paralyzed the city and kept the capital of Iraq in a state of constant chaos. According to Bush, a surge of troops to the area will control the insurgents. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice assert that the troop surge is the idea of current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

But despite being the Bush Administration’s puppet leader in Iraq, al-Maliki has been rather useless to both Iraq and the U.S. with regard to the insurgency. As recently as October, al-Maliki refused to secure Sadr City, the main insurgent stronghold in Baghdad, where militant Shia leader Muqtada al Sadr, an Iranian insurgent cleric, reigns.

According to Bush’s plan, the Maliki government, such as it is, would agree to proffer its own troops to combat insurgents–something it has thus far never done. These Iraqi troops, which according to most Middle Eastern sources are limited in number, resources and accountability, will allegedly hold the city while being supported by American troops. And the insurgents will be quelled.

How does this differ from the current strategy in Iraq? Only by the addition of more U.S. troops and another vain promise by Maliki, who has reneged on every promise he has made to the U.S. thus far. If this were a viable strategy, wouldn’t the Bush Administration, in concert with the Maliki government, have figured it out long ago? Is Maliki really prepared to stand against the Shias? And the Sunnis? Is Maliki really ready to take on the Shia death squads that both American troops and the Maliki government have allowed to run rampant in Baghdad as well as the Sunni triangle? Are incursions into the Anbar province on the agenda? Really? And why now, after 46 months of war?

Not surprisingly, few even within his own party agree with the President’s plan. Nor is there much support for it in Iraq where the average Iraqi insists that it is the presence of U.S. troops that fuels the insurgency.

The day after Bush’s speech, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) proposed an alternate plan of troop withdrawal and urged Congress to refuse the President’s request and refuse to allot the extra $5 billion immediately requested for this troop surge. Speaker of the House Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wrote a letter to the President objecting to the troop surge and insisting that the time was past for military answers to the problem of the war.

“Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain. And it would undermine our efforts to get the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future,” Pelosi and Reid wrote in the January 12th letter, adding, “We are well past the point of more troops for Iraq.”

Republicans are not unilaterally supportive of the move either. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) returned from a fact-finding mission to Iraq and said she could not support a troop surge. New Mexico’s Heather Wilson is another Republican opposed to troop surge, stating that U.S. efforts to quell the insurgency have failed because “the U.S. is trying to do what Iraqis must do for themselves.” Wilson is on the Intelligence Committee.

Other major Republicans opposed to troop surge include Chuck Hagel, Trent Lott and Christopher Shays. The main supporters of the troop surge are Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his possible running mate, Independent Joe Lieberman. No other members of either party have voiced strong support for the plan.

Nor have generals on the ground in Iraq, which is why there has also been a change in those military leaders on request of the President this week. The replacements are being made by Bob Gates, the new Secretary of Defense replacing Donald Rumsfeld, who admitted to a congressional committee last week that he knows little about the facts on the ground in Iraq.

Under the new plan, Gen. George Casey, the commander of U.S. and allied troops in Iraq, who opposes the troop surge, will be sent to Washington to serve as chief of staff of the Army. Replacing him will be Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, the former head of the Army's 101st Airborne Division. Petraeus, who supports the troop surge, will be promoted to four-star rank. He will assume Casey’s post at the U.S. command in Baghdad.

It might be easy to shuffle the hierarchy in Iraq, but what of the troops themselves? Gates acknowledged that the military needs 92,000 more troops worldwide. Where will those troops come from? Where, even, will the 21,500 needed for the troop surge come from? Just last week, unbeknownst to most Americans as it was under-reported in the news, the U.S. was involved in a military skirmish in Somalia. How many places can the U.S. extend its troops? And to what end?

Unlike other wars in which the U.S. has fought, there is no draft in place for the Iraq war. Although Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) has twice introduced bills to reinstate the draft, these have met with resistance from Congress.

There has been no military draft in the U.S. since Vietnam. When the war on Iraq hits its fourth year in March, it will have cost $400 billion–excluding the costs of the new troop surge that Bush is proposing. That figure also does not include the costs Bush alluded to for rebuilding efforts in Iraq–past, present or future.

The troop surge seems the most misguided move yet for President Bush. Polls taken the day after Bush’s speech showed that three-quarters of Americans, irrespective of party affiliations, oppose the troop surge. Even more oppose continued money being given to Iraq for rebuilding.

Kennedy has proposed a filibuster vote in the Senate to oppose both the surge and allocation of funds for it. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) called Kennedy’s bill to stop the escalation of troops “a good idea.” On January 12th, NBC anchor Brian Williams characterized the debate over the troop surge as Bush having “doubled his own bet on his own presidency” while Iraq Study Group co-chair Lee Hamilton noted “The President has failed to rally the country.” And even right wing isolationist and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan concluded, “If this move fails, the bottom will drop out of support for President.”

The bottom has already dropped out of support for the President on Iraq, however. And rightly so. It can only be a matter of time before military families, the President’s last stronghold of support, withdraw theirs as well.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen, Peter Pace, acknowledged that there would be a reorganization of troops in the upcoming weeks. Since the beginning, the war on Iraq has been–unlike any other American war–fought largely by National Guard and reservist troops. More than 40 percent of the troops in Iraq are from the National Guard and Reserves–that is how low the actual troop levels are in the U.S. and how unprotected America would be in case of an actual attack on the U.S.

Prior to the President’s speech, NG and reservists were entitled to a one year of enlisted duty and five years off duty. That is no longer viable. Nor is the standard 12 month rotation for ordinary military troops. Now the standard rotation will be 18 months for NG and reservists with no accumulated time and 24 months for other soldiers, also no accumulated time.

This means that the same people will be returned to combat over and over again, increasing their chances of dying or being maimed in this war. NG and reservists, who have families and jobs stateside, will no longer be able to count on getting their jobs back. Employers will not be obligated to honor more than one tour of duty in Iraq. Which could leave many NG and reservist families destitute, as so many have already found themselves.

Given the facts, why has Bush chosen to ignore the results of the election in November? Why has he chosen to ignore the findings of the Iraq Study Group–a group he convened whose combined intelligence on the Middle East surpasses most in the Bush Administration?

For months leading up to the November election some theorized that Bush would invade Iran just prior to the elections to help reinvigorate the so-called war on terror that has been the linchpin of the Bush presidency. That assault never happened, but Bush alluded to the possibility in his speech, citing Iran as a particular problem in the Middle East. Last week a small incursion at the border between Iraq and Iran and a brief detention of Iranian diplomats by U.S. troops suggests that some conflict with Iran is not off the table for the President.

The possibility that Bush will use the troop surge as a back door into an attack on Iran, which has, admittedly, fueled the insurgency in Iraq, cannot be ignored. Iran is a Shia theocracy and Shia leaders in Iraq welcome a combining of the two groups.

The possibility that Bush would invade Iran, justifying it by the Shia connection, provides yet another reason to stop the troop surge altogether.

The concept that the Iraqis will somehow, as Secretary Rice intimated, “step up” and do their part to secure their own country is infeasible on its face. They don’t have the troops, the power or, apparently, the will to do so. For at least a year Iraq has indeed been in the spiraling throes of a civil war and the U.S. is caught in that web–one the Bush policies created in the first place.

With nearly 50,000 troops already lost to the war on Iraq to death or injury, with anywhere between 100,000 and 600, 000 Iraqis having been killed or injured and another half million displaced by the war, what possible end point can there be? Neither Bush, Gates nor Rice was able to propose when the end of the troop surge would be. But all intimated that it would take “months” to discern whether or not it was working.

Months? Didn’t voters state emphatically in November that they didn’t want months to go by before the troops began coming home? And instead, the same troops–tired, worn-down, over-extended, suffering from post traumatic stress and now occasionally committing unspeakable war crimes–will stay on. Indefinitely, it seems, under this new planned strategy that is far too little, far too late and is mere emphasis of how wrong-headed the entire Iraq gambit was from the outset.

The day after the speech, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow did what he does best–spun the President’s comments. In attempting to deny Bush’s now-infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech, Snow asserted that the President meant something entirely different when he gave that speech more than three years ago–just a few months into the war.

Snow told the press, “You know that the mission accomplished banner was put up by members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, and the president, on that very speech, said just the opposite, didn't he?”

No, actually, he didn’t.

Lies no longer cut it with Americans or with the new Congress. The reality is that when Bush gave his May 1, 2003 speech, he stood in front of a large banner that read, "Mission Accomplished” and he declared, “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”
Bush claimed at the time–three and a half years ago–that “the battle of Iraq” was a “victory.”

It wasn’t and isn’t.

Snow and the White House can deny all they want. But the reality is, Bush’s January 10th speech was just another version of that Mission Accomplished spin. There is no quantifiable end to the war on Iraq. It was an egregious error in judgment that history will not forgive, even if the President has already forgiven himself. Tens of thousands are dead due to the war. Hundreds of thousands have been injured, many irreparably. There have been suicides among our soldiers. Some have injured themselves stateside, like the Philadelphia soldier who had a friend shoot him, rather than return to the war on yet another tour of duty. Others have raped and murdered Iraqis, driven, apparently, by the cruelties of war.

There is no accomplishing a mission that was never clarified to begin with. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein was deposed and then executed in a common thuggish lynching, not in a manner that might have lent closure to all the Iraqis and Kurds he violated. There is wholesale chaos in Iraq and there is no way an outside occupying force like the U.S. can impose its will to have it end. If the greatest military in the world–and that is what the U.S. military calls itself–has not ended this conflict in four years, how can it ever?

A troop surge is another death knell. It will lead only, as former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said in an interview this week (and yes, U.S. troops have been in Iraq long enough for there to have been more than one prime minister elected) that a troop surge was a terrible idea and would only lead to further mayhem in Iraq.

But why listen to someone who lives there and deals with the conflict daily?

The war on Iraq might not be over for Iraqis, but it is over for us. It is time to pull out the troops and let the Iraqis make their own decisions–or let Iran or Syria run through the door we opened for them.

The problem with not thinking things out ahead of time, is that details matter. The Bush Administration convinced itself that Iraqis would welcome us with, in the infamous words of Dick Cheney, “Open arms and flowers.” They did not. The majority of Iraqis, regardless of their hatred for Saddam Hussein, resented our intrusion from the outset. And as each day passes, they resent it more and more as evidenced by IEDs and pipe bombs and RPGs coming from every angle at our troops.

There is no routing this insurgency unless Iraqis themselves want it routed. Thus far the Maliki government has shown no desire for that. Bush’s wish to have a victory in Iraq will not make it so any more in January 2007 than it did in May 2003.

The war may not, sadly, be over for the Iraqis, but it is over for us. The only person who has yet to get the message is George Bush. Perhaps Americans need to tell him yet again and keep their sons and daughters from fighting his war, not ours.

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-Noah Greenberg