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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Monday, January 22, 2007


Bush Priorities

Welcome to the brave new world of corporate ownership. Yesterday, the Afghan government announced that it would privatize most of the state-owned enterprises in the state that isn't quite owned by their government (at least not yet). Number one on the auction block is the dried fruit industry.

One wonders when the heroine industry will make it to the Christie's auction block.

The influence of the Bush administration, and their global corporate masters, can be seen all over this one. With all of the angst still felt in Afghanistan and all of the trouble still there, the first order of business is to do the bidding of the world's global corporatist leaders. Forget that the Taliban has taken over the southern part of the nation. Forget the announcement by the Taliban that they're going to set up schools in the territory which they now control. Forget the fact that Osama bin-Laden travels the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan as easily as New Jersians traverse the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels. As long as the FOB's (Friends of Bush) can make a buck, all is right in their world.

And what about those schools that the Taliban plans to build in their part of the country? Let's remember that it was the Taliban who destroyed schools and murdered teachers in the name of religious purity. Just what kind of schools are they going to build anyway?

And just how can Bush and Cheney allow the Taliban to do anything at all in Afghanistan is incredible in its own right. Remember that these are the religious zealots who harbored bin-Laden and the 911 terrorists in the first place. These are the guys who allowed the final safe haven for bin-Laden as his 911 terrorists killed 3,000 mostly American citizens.

How could the first order of business in Afghanistan be the selling off of their natural resources and government owned (for the moment) industries?

And just what happens after the Taliban comes back into control of the whole nation? After all, we (the US and Bush) are treating Afghanistan as Iraq's insignificant little brother. In a nation of some 25 million people - roughly the same size as Iraq - the size of the US commitment is less than that of the New York City police department.

If there was any doubt as to the Bush administration's priorities when it comes to protecting our nation and  the rest of the world, there is no such doubt any more. Job one is to not only drown our own government in the bathtub, but it appears that they wish to make all nations' industries the property of their "base" of "haves and have mores".

The Bushies are getting their way and this Lame Duck will be the single most dangerous Lame Duck in US and world history.

-Noah Greenberg

What Would Bush Say If...?

What would President Bush say at tomorrow's State of the Union address if he truly were an honest broker? Like the announcer said in the owl and the blow-pop commercial might have said: The world may never know. But what we do know about President bush is that he is a true believer in all things Reaganomics. That's the same Reaganomics which his father called "Voodoo Economics". That's the same Reaganomics which forced Ronald Reagan - the great tax-cutter - to actually raise taxes when his plans failed.

If Bush were truly that honest broker, the beginning of his speech might sound like this:

"As you all should know by now, I firmly believe in the theory of trickle-down economics. Everything I have done so far - from my unbalanced tax breaks which overwhelmingly favored the very rich to my plans for privatizing Social Security - have been with the thought process of making sure that rich people will spend money, which will allow those they are spending the money with the ability to spend money as well. I was wrong"

But that's not going to happen.

If the President were truly an honest broker he would get to Iraq right after telling us how badly he screwed up the economy. It might go something like this:

"And speaking of Iraq, I have to apologize to all of those who have lost sons and daughters, fathers and mothers since March, 2003. I have to apologize to all of those whose lives will never be the same because of my foolish, head-strong, non-yielding handling of the war in Iraq. I apologize to those troops in Afghanistan who, I have left out-numbered and almost alone with the Taliban on their way back. I apologize to the Iraqi people who I have left in the midst of a civil war. Boy did I mess up."

There are a lot of things that the President might say in regard to his numerous blunders, lack of fore-sight and total disregard for the people of the United States (his "base" of "haves ad have mores" excluded, of course). But from a man who can only admit a mistake in the third person (does anyone remember "Mistakes have been made"?), the humility and realization that in order to correct a mistake, one first has to admit to its existence doesn't come easily, if ever.

"The Decider" will keep on making those decisions which cost the American middle class their savings and their children their lives. He is no honest broker.

-Noah Greenberg

Today's Pre-State of the Union Quote

With the State Of The Union speech coming up tomorrow night, and with Feb. 2 not so far away, I think it is time to share with you a message I received and enjoyed on February 8, 2005. Attributed to an associate professor at University of New Mexico, who I can identify specifically, if needed, the quote - verbatim - is:

"Last Wednesday we experienced both Groundhog Day and the State of the Union Address. It was an ironic juxtaposition: one involved a meaningless ritual in which we looked to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication; the other involved a groundhog".

-Carroll S. Rankin

The Decider interviewed by The Washington Post

Q: Did you see The Washington Post historical forum on your legacy, because one of the historians, Eric Foner, called you the worst president ever.
BUSH: No, I didn't see it.

Q: Is that something that bothers you?
BUSH: My legacy will be written long after I'm president.

Q: I know you're a fan of history, though. Do you see yourself as a possible Truman?
BUSH: I've got two years to be president. I guess people with idle time like yourself can think about this. I've got a job to do, and I'm going to do it.


Boo, Hoo, Hoo ... is King George getting snippy? Ain't that a shame.

-Robert Scardapane

Bush's Death March in Iraq
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2007 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

On January 19th, in Baghdad, Gen. George Casey, current commander in Iraq, was spinning the troop surge for reporters. Meanwhile Americans were proclaiming their concern about a troop surge in polls showing 80 percent are against President Bush’s plan.

Skepticism–rightly–abounds. Casey asserted that “it’s possible” that a percentage of the 21,500 troops President Bush has ordered deployed to Baghdad won't need to stay there past “late summer.”

"I think it's probably going to be the summer, late summer, before you get to the point where people in Baghdad feel safe in their neighborhoods," Casey told reporters at a news conference with visiting Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

When Casey was asked to narrow the timeline on how long the additional 21,500 U.S. troops would be stationed in Baghdad, Casey replied, "I believe the projections are, late summer."

Casey’s equivocations don’t help his credibility, particularly when positioned against the facts on the ground.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) returned from a six-day fact-finding trip to Baghdad on January 16th with much to report about the facts on the ground. Calling the situation in Iraq “heartbreaking,” Sen. Clinton voiced her adamant opposition to sending more troops.

While she initially supported the war, as did all but a handful of members of Congress, Sen. Clinton has been an opponent of the war for several years. She has not previously demanding withdrawing troops from Iraq, however. She told reporters that her trip was revelatory. Convinced that a troop surge would only bring about more carnage, Sen. Clinton accused the Bush Administration of a "failed strategy" in Iraq. She also called for an immediate cap on the number of U.S. military personnel in Iraq dated to January 1st. President Bush has said he wants troops sent beginning February 1st. Two days after her statement and her move to propose legislation in the Senate, presidential hopefuls and fellow senators Barack Obama and Chris Dodd echoed her calls for a military cap.

Sen. Clinton went further, however, and said she would introduce legislation limiting funds for Iraqi security forces if they failed to take an effective role in quelling sectarian violence between Shias and Sunnis in the beleaguered capital and Anbar province where that violence is killing upwards of 100 Iraqis a day.

The White House met Sen. Clinton’s comments with rebuke. Although President Bush has repeatedly demanded that his critics proffer a different plan–and Sen. Clinton is among those who have done so–he has also said he will veto any efforts to oppose his troop surge. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow accused Sen. Clinton of trying to “bind the hands of the commander in chief and also the generals, and frankly, also the troops on the ground.”

But it is the troops on the ground that Sen. Clinton said are most at risk from the President’s sketchy new troop surge idea.

Can the President’s plan even be categorized as a troop surge? The troops Bush has requested, which he asserts are needed en masse to stop the outrageous violence, are being sent piecemeal, not as a surge. While the first unit of extra troops, a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division, is due to arrive this week in Baghdad, newly appointed Secretary of Defense Gates acknowledged at the Casey press conference that the majority of the troops will not be deployed until May.

Gates added that there was no way to predict how the President’s plan to calm the sectarian violence in Baghdad would work. Four other units are scheduled to arrive in Iraq between February and May.

When the President gave his speech outlining his new plan, he never explained that the so-called surge was really an escalation. There is no immediate deployment–in part because there are not available troops on hand. There is also no swarm factor, as the President suggested there would be. What’s more, Bush insisted that the plan was that of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, but al-Maliki has since distanced himself from Bush’s claims and from the President himself.

In addition, the Pentagon has been coy about exactly how this troop surge will respond to the violence. In a studied revelation on January 16th, the details were released–and should cause Americans to question the President’s plan even more.

According to Pentagon sources, the deployment will ostensibly be managed under Iraqi military control, which means that American troops will be controlled and directed by Iraqi military personnel.

Who thought this was a good idea? One fact on the ground which every man on the street in Baghdad knows is that the Iraqi military is filled with soldiers with divided loyalties. There have been repeated instances of men in the garb of Iraqi soldiers making suicide attacks on civilians, most recently on women students at the University in Baghdad last week; more than 70 young women were killed and scores more students and professors injured. Two instances were reported of men in Iraqi military uniform attacking U.S. troops from within their encampments.

The Bush Administration’s assertion is that the so-called troop surge will bolster the Iraqi military and quell the militia groups that are running rampant throughout Baghdad and Anbar province, responsible for the majority of the civilian deaths of Iraqis and American soldiers. In reality, however, the Prime Minister has been reluctant to disband these groups and has stated unequivocally that he will not disband the largest militia group, the Mahdi Army, which is the militia wing of the most radical cleric in all of Iraq, the Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr. Al-Sadr has stirred rampant violence in the capital and is alleged to be directing the Shia death squads that have been responsible for some of the most hideous violence and torture of Iraqis in the war thus far.

Al-Maliki has repeatedly refused to curtail al-Sadr’s rampages while al-Sadr for his part has demanded that Iraq become a Shia theocracy.

On January 19th, one of al-Sadr’s key aides was allegedly taken into custody by American and Iraqi forces, but the al-Maliki government denies this. Sadiq al-Rikabi, an adviser to the Prime Minister, claims the Iraqi government knew nothing about the raid in which Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji was captured. That adviser also insisted that al-Darraji’s detention was in no way planned or part of the new Bush/al-Maliki operation in Baghdad.

"There was no coordination with the Iraqi political leadership and this arrest was not part of the new security plan," al-Rikabi, told reporters. "Coordination with the Iraqi political leadership is needed before conducting such operations that draw popular reactions."

And this would be why Congress should band together to support Sen. Clinton’s legislation. Thus far hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed and 3,100 American soldiers have been killed and another 40,000 injured due to the out of control sectarian violence in Iraq that was spawned by President Bush’s invasion of Iraq. (When told last week of the UN report that more than 100 Iraqis a day had been killed last year, the President responded to PBS news anchor Jim Lehrer, “Yeah, it was a bad year for that country.”)

The Prime Minister of Iraq is declaratively not on board with Bush’s plan. And al-Maliki’s reluctance to truly end the sectarian violence by controlling al-Sadr may stem from his own sectarian leanings as al-Maliki is Shia.

The Bush Administration has never understood–nor cared to understand–the complex interworkings of the religious sects in Iraq. He apparently did not know until quite recently that Shias and Sunnis were both Muslims. (Like Protestants and Catholics are both Christians.) This lack of understanding leads inevitably to an inability to comprehend the nuances of the violence itself. Or why al-Maliki may not be willing or even able to control al-Sadr.

It’s possible that the U.S. acted alone in the January 19th raid that captured al-Darraji and killed his guard. It’s equally possible that they were utterly complicit but would prefer to deny their involvement so as not to antagonize the Shia leadership.

Yet it is just this kind of complexity that makes it essential for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq now. Casey can spin the troop surge for the press and Bush can stamp his foot and say he will veto any alternative plans proposed to him–more and more of which are coming from his own party as Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) have all voiced their disapproval with the President’s plan. Hagel, who is expected to run for President in 2008, has called the plan a “dangerously wrong-headed strategy that will drive America deeper into an unwinnable swamp at a great cost.” Hagel is the ranking Republican member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Hagel added that it is “wrong to place American troops into the middle of Iraq’s civil war,” and warned that Bush’s plan would “cost more American lives, sink us deeper into the bog of Iraq; making it more difficult to get out; cost billions of dollars more; [and] further strain an American military that has already reached its breaking point.”

Bush said January 18th that Republican senators who oppose his plan to increase U.S. troops in Iraq should put forth a plan of their own." My advice to those who are speaking out against a new plan that hasn't been given a chance to work is to present a plan that you think will work," Bush said.

Yet it is clear from every conceivable vantage point that the President’s plan cannot work.

Why isn’t the President listening at least to his own party leaders, if not to the Democrats who have been unequivocal in their opposition to the troop escalation?
And why isn’t he listening to al-Maliki, who railed at the President in the European press this week over a multiplicity of issues? Bush presents al-Maliki as an ally with the same goals as the President in Iraq. It hardly looks that way to even an unschooled eye.

The January 19th raid and the response by the al-Maliki government is a clear indicator that there is trouble brewing between al-Maliki and Bush. Casey attempted to spin some of this in his press conference, but it didn’t wash. The so-called troop surge is predicated on the assumption that al-Maliki will follow through on his commitment to bring three additional Iraqi army brigades into Baghdad and to allow raids against all illegal militias. That’s already not happening and the troop surge/escalation has just begun. What will happen two months from now? Other than more Iraqi and American casualties?

When Casey was asked if the Iraqi government was meeting its commitments, the General replied, "So far, so good."

Hardly. The January 19th raid is the prologue to the troop surge/escalation. And the Iraqis divested all responsibility for it. So much for a coalition.

This is Bush’s gambit and he doesn’t even have the support of the man who inked the deal with him.

Why isn’t everyone in America calling for an immediate pullout?

That’s what Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) has demanded, as has presidential candidate and former Democratic senator John Edwards.

Casey and other officials continue to stress that it is too early to say with any kind of confidence how long the U.S. military will have to maintain a higher troop level in Iraq, but in his press conference he asserted "You're going to see some progress gradually over the next 60 to 90 days," he said.

Why will it be any different than it has been for the past four years in Iraq? The American people were promised that the entire war would last between 60 and 90 days. That was four years ago. How can it be any different with a troop surge?

Casey also said that it would be late summer–August–before there would be any way to determine if the plan was working and whether troops could be withdrawn. Which defines the action as an escalation of the war, not a semantics-driven “troop surge.” Which means another 21,500 Americans will be sent to their possible deaths and likely injury for what? And since the troop buildup is scheduled to evolve over time, with the full contingent of five new units not in place until May, how is it possible to call this a “surge?”

If this so-called surge is so important, where are the U.S. allies? The U.K. has the only measurable number of troops in Iraq–about 7,000 soldiers in the Basra area. But Britain is planning to withdraw the majority of those troops this year. The total number of troops from other coalition countries is fewer than 3,000.
That leaves the U.S. and the Iraqi military to fight what is now Iraq’s sectarian civil war.

Yet there is no apparent coalition between the Bush Administration and al-Maliki, either. Iraq's Prime Minister is increasingly bitter over what he terms the Bush Administration’s failures. Last week al-Maliki told the European press that Bush had mucked up the entire war. He said security forces would have better control over their country if the U.S. had equipped them with more and better weapons. Yet 12 million weapons were taken to Iraq and have gone missing, unaccounted for by the Pentagon. Are they now in the hands of the Iraqi militias?

As for Bush's new strategy for the Iraq, al-Maliki insisted that it was too little, too late and that the situation in Iraq would not be so dire if the Bush Administration had moved more quickly.

"The situation would be much better if the United States had immediately sent our security forces more adequate weapons and equipment. If they had committed themselves more and with greater speed we would have had a lot fewer deaths among Iraqi civilians and American soldiers," al-Maliki said.

Al-Maliki voiced serious criticism of Bush, saying Bush had capitulated to domestic pressure when he criticized the hanging of former leader Saddam Hussein.

"It seems to me that Bush is capitulating under the weight of internal pressure; he is overwhelmed by the media and by the politicians. Maybe he has lost control of the situation," al-Maliki suggested.

Last week Bush said Hussein’s execution looked like "kind of a revenge killing" and said it showed that al-Maliki's government "has still got some maturation to do."

Al-Maliki told the foreign press that Hussein's trial and execution had been carried out according to Iraqi law and Islamic rules, and "had nothing to do with sectarian vendettas."

The hanging of Saddam Hussein on December 30, 2006 was widely viewed as a lynching. Videotapes were spread over the internet and then TV news showing those in attendance–including his executioners--taunting him on the gallows and shouting Shia slogans. Last week his half brother was executed–decapitated when the hanging went awry, which caused still more international outrage which al-Maliki has yet to address. The executions were carried out on U.S. military bases.

The troop surge is another lie proffered by a failed and failing President and Administration to try and fix what they have irrevocably damaged. Iraq is a mess. It is a mess primarily because Bush invaded it for no reason and opened a Pandora’s box of seething internal problems that were only apparently held in check by Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.

That genie has left the bottle and their no capping it. But we can cap the troops and get the rest out. Ask an average Iraqi if he or she thinks the U.S. presence helps or hurts and the overwhelming response is that the U.S. troops fuel the insurgency and the chaos and the violence.

There is only one answer and Bush’s isn’t it. Congress must vote for Sen. Clinton’s legislation unanimously and get the President to pull the troops out now.

In response to, "Tommy (Tancredo, R. Co) boy will have a HUGE backlash, because there are INNUMERABLE white-collar & blue-color professional people of Chicano (or Hispanic) background who will be repulsed by his stupid nonsense," Robert Chapman writes:

Kelly is referring to the Republicans' effort to gain support by attacking undocumented workers whose only offense is not having been born on the northern side of the US-Mexico border.

My BIG point of contention with Kelly is to ask why put "people of Chicano background" into the statement.

The GOP is betting on the bigot vote that simply won't materialize.

In response to Bush's planned assault on our health care dollars, Bruno Corry writes:

I think Bush is already on good drugs, especially when he comes out with “The egg isn’t broken, it’s cracked”. The non logic in this statement is due to too much crack!

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-Noah Greenberg