Iraq

Tony Blair Lied Britain Into The Iraq War (P.S. Bush Did, Too)

Across the pond, rather than running bullshit investigations like our Benghazi hearings, the parliamentarian body did something useful and tried to discern how they got involved in a huge quagmire.

Sir John Chilcot delivered a devastating critique of Tony Blair’s decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003, concluding that Britain chose to join the US invasion before “peaceful options for disarmament” had been exhausted. His report, which amounts to arguably the most scathing official verdict given on any modern British prime minister, concludes:

  • Tony Blair exaggerated the case for war in Iraq
  • There was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein
  • Britain’s intelligence agencies produced “flawed information”
  • George Bush largely ignored UK advice on postwar planning
  • The UK military were ill-equipped for the task
  • UK-US relations would not have been harmed had the UK stayed out of the war

For his part, Blair disavowed the conclusions of the report, but apologized anyway:

He began by describing the choice to join the US in military action as the “hardest, most momentous, most agonising decision” of his life.

Blair said he had wanted to set the Iraqi people free and secure them from the “evil” of Saddam Hussein, but instead they had become victims of sectarian violence.

“For all of this, I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you can ever know or believe,” he said, in a speech in which his voice cracked with emotion.

Live Chilcot report live: George Bush says ‘world is better off’ without Saddam as Tony Blair mounts Iraq war defence
Live coverage as Sir John Chilcot unveils his report into the Iraq war. Plus all the day’s other political news as Tory leadership runners go down to three
Read more
The Labour politician went on to repeat that he apologised for the failures in planning the war and its aftermath, but was clear that he still believes the decision to remove Saddam was correct. Iraq could be in a worse state than Syria is now if the regime had not been stopped, he suggested.

“I did it because I thought it was right,” Blair said.

Pressed on what he was apologising for, the former prime minister named three areas where he would have done things differently: presenting the cabinet with an “option paper”; pressing the US to have better planning in place for the aftermath; and sharing the advice of the attorney general to senior colleagues.

Why Is Anybody Listening To Dick Cheney On Foreign Policy?

First of all, Dick Cheney was the architect of the Iraq invasion after 9/11, which even conservatives agree (including all the GOP candidates) was a huge mistake.  Cheney says we had faulty intelligence and that Saddam was a bad guy, both of which are/were true.  But as this blog has attested, it was easy to see that the intelligence in Iraq was faulty, if not actually manipulated by Cheney and his cronies.  When it comes to the Middle East, the man is simply wrong, at best — a liar at worst.

Which is why it is odd that he bothers to go out an public and opine about the Iran nuclear deal.  But he does.  And he is so… evil…  that even Chris Wallace at Fox News — at Fox Newscatches him behaving badly:

Wallace pointed out that Cheney had eight years to deal with Iran’s nuclear program and failed to do it.

“You and President Bush, the Bush-Cheney administration, dealt with Iran for eight years, and I think it was fair to say that there was never any real, serious military threat,” Wallace noted. “Iran went from zero known centrifuges in operation to more than 5,000.”

“So in fairness, didn’t you leave — the Bush-Cheney administration — leave President Obama with a mess?” the Fox News host asked.

“I don’t think of it that way,” Cheney replied. “There was military action that had an impact on the Iranians, it was when we took down Saddam Hussein. There was a period of time when they stopped their program because they were scared that what we did to Saddam, we were going to do to them next.”

“But the centrifuges went from zero to 5,000,” Wallace pressed.

“Well, they may have well have gone but that happened on Obama’s watch, not on our watch,” Cheney wrongly insisted.

“No, no, no,” Wallace fired back. “By 2009, they were at 5,000.”

“Right,” Cheney grumbled. “But I think we did a lot to deal with the arms control problem in the Middle East.”

Is it dementia?  Or some sort of severe cognitive dissonance that is causing him to double down on the Bush Administration’s persistent foreign policy failures?   As John Cole says, Cheney “has since passed that stage and now his only argument is ‘things were better when we were in charge.’ That’s it. That’s all he’s got.”  Indeed.

We should remember that the Iran was encouraged to continue to develop its nuclear weaponization because of the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq. As one of the three countries in the so-called axis of evil, they saw what happened to Iraq — a country that stopped pursuing WMD and destroyed most of theirs to make us happy.  And they saw what didn’t happen to the nuclear armed North Korea – a country that continues to develop WMD unabated for the most part.  And Iran decided it wanted to be more like North Korea.  Yet, another by-product of the Iraq war.  This is what happens when you destabilize a region: you throw the cards up in the air and they might not come down in a way that is an improvement.

danzcolorplus6471-668x501But Cheney’s going to talk anyway.

Maybe it has something to do with Colin Powell speaking in favor of the Iran Nuclear Agreement last week.

You know who should not be speaking at all on the agreement?  Trump:

Donald Trump says the Iran nuclear deal would force the United States to defend Iran if it were attacked by Israel.

False on the Truth-O-Meter:

“One of the clauses in the nuclear deal reached between world powers and Iran last week guarantees that the world powers will assist Iran in thwarting attempts to undermine its nuclear program,” Israel Hayom, a newsletter, said July 20.

But experts told PolitiFact Florida in late July that such interpretations are, at best, exaggerated. The aim of the provision, they said, is to protect nuclear materials from theft (say, if terrorists tried to steal Iranian assets) or from sabotage (with the intent of causing a hazardous-materials threat to health).

For years, in both Republican and Democratic administrations, the United States has pushed countries around the world to improve security for their nuclear material and facilities, said Matthew Bunn, a professor at Harvard and an expert on nuclear theft and terrorism. This agreement furthers that goal, he said.

“It has nothing to do with helping Iran protect its nuclear facilities from a military attack” of the kind that Israel or Egypt might carry out, Bunn said. “It’s about protecting against thieves and terrorists who might want to steal nuclear material or sabotage a nuclear facility.”

Of course it is false.  All you have to do is apply common sense.

P.S.  For what it is worth, the deal is going to pass Congress by a veto-proof majority….

All summer long, the question in the congressional debate over the Iran deal has been whether opponents could muster a veto-proof majority to block the agreement from taking effect.

Now it looks like President Obama might not have to use his veto pen at all.

Within minutes of each other Tuesday, three more Senate Democrats—Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Gary Peters of Michigan, and Ron Wyden of Oregon—all came out in favor of the nuclear deal, bringing the total number of supporters in the Senate to 41. That means Democrats have enough votes to filibuster a resolution of disapproval and block it from coming to a final vote.

UPDATE: The White House just came out with this video….

Yes a thousand times.

Obama Calls Out The Iraq War Prevaricators

President Obama’s speech on the Iran nuke deal was a classic. He made a convincing argument for supporting the agreement and provides a plausible overview of what will happen if Congress doesn’t approve it.

But he also talked about those opposing the deal, pointing out that these people are the same ones who got us into a costly and pointless war in Iraq.  In other words, when it comes to foreign policy, why should we listen to those who failed at it?  It was a nice “drop the mic” moment:

Between now and the congressional vote in September, you are going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising. And if the rhetoric in these ads and the accompanying commentary sounds familiar, it should, for many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.

Now, when I ran for president eight years ago as a candidate who had opposed the decision to go to war in Iraq, I said that America didn’t just have to end that war. We had to end the mindset that got us there in the first place.

It was a mindset characterized by a preference for military action over diplomacy, a mindset that put a premium on unilateral U.S. action over the painstaking work of building international consensus, a mindset that exaggerated threats beyond what the intelligence supported.

Leaders did not level with the American people about the costs of war, insisting that we could easily impose our will on a part of the world with a profoundly different culture and history.

And, of course, those calling for war labeled themselves strong and decisive while dismissing those who disagreed as weak, even appeasers of a malevolent adversary.

More than a decade later, we still live with the consequences of the decision to invade Iraq. Our troops achieved every mission they were given, but thousands of lives were lost, tens of thousands wounded. That doesn’t count the lives lost among Iraqis. Nearly a trillion dollars was spent.

Today, Iraq remains gripped by sectarian conflict, and the emergence of al-Qaida in Iraq has now evolved into ISIL. And ironically, the single greatest beneficiary in the region of that war was the Islamic Republic of Iran, which saw its strategic position strengthened by the removal of its long-standing enemy, Saddam Hussein.

***

I recognize that resorting to force may be tempting in the face of the rhetoric and behavior that emanates from parts of Iran. It is offensive. It is incendiary. We do take it seriously.

But superpowers should not act impulsively in response to taunts or even provocations that can be addressed short of war. Just because Iranian hardliners chant “Death to America” does not mean that that’s what all Iranians believe. In fact, it’s those…

In fact, it’s those hardliners who are most comfortable with the status quo. It’s those hardliners chanting “Death to America” who have been most opposed to the deal. They’re making common cause with the Republican Caucus.

The full text and the video of the speech is here.

Hey, Let’s Train The Iraqi Soldiers

Things have gone to hell in Iraq, especially in the fight against the Islamic State group (ISIS) in Iraq. The strongest evidence of this is the recent takeover of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province by ISIS forces.  Although Iraqi soldiers “vastly outnumbered” their opposition in Ramadi, they quickly withdrew last week, leaving behind a half-dozen tanks, a similar number of artillery pieces, a larger number of armored personnel carriers and about 100 wheeled vehicles like Humvees.  All of those things are now in the hands of ISIS.

Obviously, the soldiers need training.  Or a backbone.  Or something.  So….

President Obama’s decision to open a new base for an additional 450 American military trainers and other personnel in Anbar Province in Iraq is designed to give a badly needed lift to the Sunni tribes and Iraqi troops who have been struggling to hold their own against the Islamic State.

Most see this as a first step, at best.

Seems to me that we failed training the Iraqi soldiers.  We’ve been training them for 13 years.  Another 450 isn’t going to do it.

Look, this is how Vietnam went.  We kept pouring soldiers — uh, trainers — in there, thinking that would fix the problem.  If the domestic army (whether it be South Vietnam or Iraq) isn’t going to stand up for itself — hell, get out of there.

So what if Iraq falls to ISIS?  Bad for them, yes, and bad for the Iraqi citizens.  But it’s not OUR country.

I don’t know.  I’m missing something.  But it seems to me we haven’t learned anything.

 

The Stewart- Miller Interview

People wonder if The Daily Show will be as funny when Jon Stewart moves on.  Maybe,  Maybe not.  But comedy aside, I wonder if the new host will have the same journalistic chops as Stewart.

Judith Miller is making her rounds with a new memoir titled “The Story: A Reporter’s Journey.” She reportedly got a $1.2 million dollar advance for the book — and even the New York Times isn’t buying it.  Jon Stewart called it: “The ‘Eat Pray Love’ of getting us into the Iraq war.”

The book is an effort that seems to be, in large part, motored by the disgraced New York Times journalist’s desire to amend the narrative of her life — and, of U.S. history — the public has latched onto for the last decade. Stewart has been one of Miller’s loudest critics, claiming on several occasions that she had a major role in pushing the U.S. into the Iraq war. Naturally, she hit up “The Daily Show” Wednesday night in an attempt to silence a voice which has cemented her unfavorable narrative in place over the years.

Stewart would have none of it.  This was not going to be a typical come-on-the-show-and-plug-your-book interview.  He had read the book and he was prepared.  He gave a master class in adversarial journalism; something Miller was obviously incapable of in the run-up to the war. Several things are notable about the interview that was so contentious you could feel the studio audience holding their collective breath because comedic schtick was being set aside and the type on interviewing that should happen on “Meet The Press” was happening in real time.

“I believe that you helped the administration take us to, like, the most devastating mistake in foreign policy that we’ve made in, like, 100 years… but you seem lovely,” Stewart told Miller, kicking off a combative and entertaining verbal sparring match.

The embattled reporter repeated her typical lines of defense—that the intelligence sources she used were not Dick Cheney or George Bush and “had really never been wrong before,” and that they’d steered her right “on al Qaeda before 9/11” and on a story about the Soviet Union hiding a “huge cache of biological weapons.”

She even, on two occasions, passed some of the blame for the Iraq War narrative onto Bill and Hillary Clinton, saying, “It was Bill Clinton who was worried about Iraq. Long before George Bush bombed Iraq, Bill Clinton did—1998-2000 missions for WMD. What I think changed was that, after 9/11, the risk that America was willing to tolerate just plummeted,” Miller said, also adding that Bush administration officials had “persuaded a lot of Democrats—Hillary Clinton.”

“Well, it turns out idiocy is bipartisan,” cracked Stewart.

Stewart did not let Miller off easy, claiming that Miller partook in a “concerted effort” to lead us into a war with Iraq.

“I think it was a concerted effort to take us into war in Iraq. You had to shift, with energy, the focus of America from Afghanistan and al Qaeda to Iraq. That took effort,” Stewart said. “Somebody pointed the light at Iraq, and that somebody is the White House, and the Defense Department, and Rumsfeld. He said right after 9/11, ‘Find me a pretext to go to war with Iraq.’ That’s from the 9/11 papers and the study.”

All this led to a very heated exchange between Stewart and Miller:

MILLER: “Jon, were we not supposed to report what it was that had the intelligence community so nervous about Saddam?”

STEWART: “No. You should have reported it, though, in the context of this administration was very clearly pushing a narrative, and by losing sight of that context, by not reporting—”

MILLER: “I think we did.”

STEWART: “I wholeheartedly disagree with you.”

MILLER: “That’s what makes journalism.”

STEWART: “It’s actually not what makes journalism…”

After several back-and-forths between the satirist and a deflecting Miller, Stewart closed the interview on a somber note, hardly looking at her and  — you’ve heard the expression ‘his contempt was palpable’? — whoa, nelly.

“Alright. We’re obviously never going to see eye-to-eye on it. I appreciate you coming on the program,” Stewart said while looking down at his desk.” These discussions always make me incredibly sad because  they point to institutional failure at the highest levels and no one will take responsibility for them.”

Watch it:

Rambos Go To Prison

A little justice from Bush’s horrid war:

A federal judge Monday sentenced a former Blackwater Worldwide security guard to life in prison and three others to 30-year terms for killing 14 unarmed civilians in a Baghdad traffic circle in 2007, an incident that fomented deep resentments about the accountability of American security forces during one of the bloodiest periods of the Iraq war.

All the defendants vowed to appeal what one called a “perversion of justice,” saying they fired in self-defense in a war zone and a city that was then one of the world’s most dangerous places.

Sure.  They made it dangerous, and then try to use that as a defense.

The American Sniper Controversy

bradley-cooperI don’t expect “historical” movies to be documentaries.  I have no problem with some artistic license for dramatic purposes.

I saw “American Sniper” recently, not knowing that it was based on the real life events of Chris Kyle, known as “The Legend” for his abilities during the Iraq War.  It was clear from the end of the film (which cut to actual footage of Chris Kyle’s funeral, instead of Bradley Cooper) that he was a real guy.

I didn’t mind that the film, directed by Clint Eastwood, was very pro-war.  I didn’t mind that Chris Kyle (in the movie as well as in real life) basically held contempt for anything Iraqi. including innocent civilians.

And I didn’t mind that Kyle went to Iraq as a result of 9/11, thereby cementing the false link between Iraq, on the one hand, and al Qaeda/9-11 on the other hand.  Some people are going to think that no matter what.  The politics of the movie were wrong and stupid, but I have to open myself up to the reality that many people, including quite possible the actual Chris Kyle and Clint Eastwood, are wrong and stupid about the Iraqi War.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

And in Clint Eastwood, at least acknowledged that there was other views of the war.  He had some soldiers (including Kyle’s younger brother) question the reason for the war itself.  It was a tip of the hat.

So on the whole, I didn’t mind that movie neglected to expose the lies of the Iraq War.

My biggest gripe, however, is that the movie made much of the fact that the Iraqis had put a $20,000 bounty on Kyle’s head.  Didn’t happen that way.  They put a $20K bounty on every American sniper’s head.

And the movies climax, where — spoiler alert — Cooper-as-Kyle takes out “Mustafa”, the number one Iraqi sniper with a single shot from over a mile away?  That’s BS, too.  Kyle’s biography only mentions Mustafa once, in a single paragraph, in passing.  Kyle never took him out, period.

That was taking it too far.  That’s kind of like making MLK march across the Pettus Bridge in Selma and take out Sheriff Clark with laser beam eyes.

Love him or hate him, Kyle was an excellent marksman.  If you have to make shit up to show how good he was, then maybe we shouldn’t be making movies about him.

But other than that, I will take the movie on its face.  I like what it says about the struggle that soldiers and their families go through, and I like how it addresses the mental health aspect of returning soldiers.

Read more fact-vs-Hollywood fiction re: American Sniper here.

The Lesson From 2002

We all have felt it from time to time.  The urge to simply go nuclear.

It's understandable.  Some backwoods jihadi moron slices off an American head, or a bunch of them band together and fly hijacked airplanes into sckyscrapers, and our natural reaction is: "Fuck you.  NOW you're going to see the hand of God."

The problem with that is that it doesn't work.  Unless you are prepared to kill every single Muslim whereever they live, and every potential ally of the Muslim, all you are going to do is further enrage the beast.

Bush wanted to invade Iraq.  He didn't have a strategy.  Just a dream.  Number One: we invade and get Saddam… which leads to…  Number Two: Huge power vacuum… which leads to…. uh, peace?

Of course not.  It leads to even scarier fucks occupying the vacuum.  Hello world, meet ISIS.

And once again, we have the right wingers screaming for us to do exactly what was done before — go in and start bombing things without regard to collateral damage (i.e., innocent civilians) and without any idea of the consequences of our actions.

Obama is right in taking it slowly.  He's thinking "Can we figure out a strategy that might actually work, like the air support that helped Iraqi forces break the siege of one town?"

Take a breath. Figure out the complexity of the situation (which involves more than crazed Islamic radicals taking over territory and nearly genociding people). 

A little patience, maybe. How about getting some allies involved, since — you know — this affects them.  And perhaps a whole bunch of American snipers.

That's how we win this.  But to just cowboy up and zoom in guns-ablazin'?  We just did that.  Made it worse.

Senile Old Man Talks Crazy Shit On CNN

Dick Cheney:

TAPPER: But do you think the decisions that you made, your administration really has nothing to do with what's going on in Iraq right now? 

CHENEY: I think, when we left office, we had, in Iraq, a very stable situation.

January 18, 2009 — two days before Obama took office:

Baghdad

– A roadside bomb detonated in front of the deputy Sahwa leader's house in Furat neighborhood in western Baghdad on Saturday night. Five people were injured including the Sahwa leader who had a serious injury.

– Three mortar shells hit Jamia’a neighborhood on Saturday night. One shell fell near an army check point. Two soldiers were wounded.

– A roadside bomb targeted an American patrol in Ameen neighborhood in eastern Baghdad around 11 a.m. Three people were wounded, Iraqi police said. The MNF-I response as the following “ Soldier died of wounds suffered following an improvised explosive device in eastern Baghdad Jan.18 at approximately 11 a.m”.

– A roadside bomb targeted a police patrol in Meshtal neighborhood in eastern Baghdad around 8 p.m. Two policemen were wounded.

– A roadside bomb targeted a trailer carrying blast walls in Jordan intersection in Yarmouk neighborhood in western Baghdad around 8:15 p.m. Two people were wounded.

– A roadside bomb detonated in front of Ibtisam restaurant in Palestine street in eastern Baghdad around 8:30 p.m. Eight people were wounded.

Mosul

– A roadside bomb detonated in Dorat al Swais neighborhood in Mosul around 4 p.m. Two people were wounded including one policeman.

– A suicide bomber targeted the former major general Hassan Zaidan, whose son Falah is a parliament member of the national dialogue blog at the Haj Ali village in Qaiyara (south of Mosul) around 6 p.m. Zaidan was killed in that incident.

Basra

– A magnetic bomb planted under a car belongs to an employee of the Basra prisons near a petrol station in western Basra city. The employee was wounded.

January 19, 2009 – the day before Obama took office and last day of Bush-Cheney

Baghdad

– A roadside bomb targeted a civilian car in Zafaraniyah neighborhood in eastern Baghdad near Siaada Gas factory and few yards from an army check point around 7 a.m. The driver was killed and seven other people, including a soldier, were wounded. The driver of the car was a captain from the Ministry of Interior, police said.

– Two roadside bombs targeted a police patrol in Amil neighborhood in western Baghdad around 2 p.m. Five people were wounded including two policemen.

Mosul

– A roadside bomb detonated in downtown Mosul around 11 a.m. Four people were wounded.

– A roadside bomb targeted an army patrol in the Bakir neighborhood in Mosul around 5 p.m. Two Iraqi soldiers were wounded.

In January alone, 372 Iraqi civilians were killed in violence. By the end of the year, an estimated total of 5,175 people were killed in Iraq.

That's what "very stable" means.

Ten Years Later And I Get To Say “I Told You So”

Ten years ago today, President Skippy McNumbskull announced that we were going to war with Iraq.

They said Iraq had WMDs.

I said the administration had no evidence of WMDs in Iraq.  I said the UN inspectors who were, you know, there, hadn't found any evidence of WMDs, or even the precursors necessary to create WMDs.

They said we would be greeted in Iraq as liberators.  I said that removal of Saddam would simply unleash ethnic strife in the country, causing a civil war between the competing Shiite and Sunni and Kurds.

They said the war would pay for itself.  I said it would cost us dearly.  To date, that conflict has claimed the lives of nearly 8,000 U.S. service members and contractors and more than  130,000 Iraqi citizens, and is projected to cost the U.S. Treasury more than two trillion dollars.  And that's only the tragedies that can be quantified.

I (among many others) was right; they were wrong.

I'm not psychic, and I have no skills or experience in political science or Middle Eastern studies.  Why was I right?

The Iraq War was the first historical example of what would dominate the right wing for the next decade (including today): epistemic closure.  That's where you believe in something so much that your belief becomes the evidence, the facts, the truth.  I was right because I could see the evidence.  I could read about the ethnic strife.  I could read the UN inspectors reports saying "No WMD".  None of this seemed to matter to the Bush Administration (who flat out lied), or the cowed media cheerleaders.  (CNN would like you to think they were duped by the Bush administration — uh, no.  You were lazy, CNN).

The Iraq War was a failure.  We managed to kill Saddam Hussein at a cost too high.  We diverted attention and resources from the war in Afghanistan, and allowed bin Laden to slip away and keep an actual threat — al Qaeda — alive for decades to come.  We left the region in ruins.  And it sent the national debt skyhigh — so skyhigh that now we have to cut important programs and the social safety net here.  

Well played, Skippy.  But I told you so.

For a full timeline of the mess-ups, see Think Progress here.

RELATED: The New Republic's John Judis writes about what it was like to oppose the Iraq War back then.  Interesting part:

There were, of course, people who opposed invading Iraq—Illinois State Senator Barack Obama among them—but within political Washington, it was difficult to find like-minded foes. When The New Republic’s editor-in-chief and editor proclaimed the need for a “muscular” foreign policy, I was usually the only vocal dissenter, and the only people who agreed with me were the women on staff: Michelle Cottle, Laura Obolensky and Sarah Wildman. Both of the major national dailies—The Washington Post and The New York Times (featuring Judith Miller’s reporting)—were beating the drums for war. Except for Jessica Mathews at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington’s thinktank honchos were also lined up behind the war.

In December of 2002, I was invited by the Ethics and Public Policy Center to a ritzy conference at an ocean front resort in Key West. The subject was to be Political Islam, and many of the best-known political journalists from Washington and New York were there. The conversation invariably got around to Iraq, and I found myself one of the few attendees who outright opposed an invasion. Two of the speakers at the event—Christopher Hitchens, who was then writing for Slate, and Jeffrey Goldberg, who was then writing for The New Yorker—generously offered to school me on the errors of my way.

I found fellow dissenters to the war in two curious places: the CIA and the military intelligentsia. That fall, I got an invitation to participate in a seminar at the Central Intelligence Agency on what the world would be like in fifteen or twenty years. I went out of curiosity—I don’t like this kind of speculation—but as it turned out, much of the discussion was about the pending invasion of Iraq. Except for me and the chairman, who was a thinktank person, the participants were professors of international relations. And almost all of them were opposed to invading Iraq. 

 

Party of Delusion

This is amazing.  Most Republicans really live in a bubble not connected to reality.

A recent Dartmouth study polled Democrats, Republicans and Independents on various matters related to foreign policy.

At the end were two questions which revealed astounding results:

Pollquestions

That's right — 63% of Republicans still think Iraq had WMDs, even though the Bush Administration (finally) admitted otherwise.

And only 19% of Republicans never bought into birtherism.

That blows my mind.  How gullible.

(via No More Mister Nice Blog)

How To Overthrow A Dictator

So with the (unconfirmed) news that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has been killed, sounding the end of his 35 year brutal regime in Libya, now would be a good time to pull some lessons on how to actually do dictator-toppling.

Unilateral or coalition?

Iraq, under Bush:  The organized international community was against the War in Iraq, so Bush created what he called "the coalition of the willing".  It was hardly a coalition.  Most countries did not supply troops; in fact, most countries only joined the coalition in return for foreign aid (hence, "coalition of the billing").  It was 90% Anglo-American (mostly American), the U.S. ran the entire operation and made all military decisions, and by the end of the Iraq War, the U.S. was virtually the only nation involved.

Libya, under Obama:  A true coalition.  NATO forces, NATO-led.  In fact, the U.S. involvement was so under-the-radar that most Americans these past few months have been unaware that we were warring with Libya.  

Sidenote: When Obama announced our participation, he was in Brazil.  Conservative skewered him for being in another country when we were facing war in Libya, but they didn't understand that Obama's efforts to minimize our involvement were deliberate.  We were part of a team, not actiing unilaterally.

Time it took to depose leader

Iraq, under Bush: About nine months to depose Saddam (in December 2003)

Libya, under Obama:  About seven months to depose Gadhafi (today)

Time it took after leader was desposed for the U.S. military to be out of country

Iraq, under Bush:  Eight years and counting….

Libya, under Obama:  A few days from now at most

Reputation of United States as world leader as a result

Iraq, under Bush:  Tarnished, particularly among our closet allies

Libya, under Obama:  Not tarnished at all

Cost of engagement in terms of US tax money spent:

Iraq, under Bush:  $900 billion so far

Libya, under Obama:  $1 billion (the amount spent on Iraq every three days)

Cost of engagement in terms of US soldiers lives:

Iraq, under Bush: 4,500 dead; over 32,000 wounded (not including PTSD), and counting…

Libya, under Obama:  Zero dead, zero wounded.  None. Nada. Nyet. 

***********

To be fair, no two theaters of war are the same, and each one requires different tactics.  But that point was lost on the Bushies as they clamorred to invade Iraq.  They lied to the American people and told us it was be a quick cheap war (like the one Obama provided).  Some of us knew better.

Mission Accomplished

So with the last combat troops leaving Iraq, I guess now is a good time to reflect on the war itself.  Did the War in Iraq accomplish its goals?

Get Saddam? Check.

Return Iraq to a stable region, thus stabilizing the Middle East? *Ahem* well, actually… uh….

Find those weapons of mass destruction?  Uh, heh… *cough*… hey, is that a rainbow?

At least Cheney accomplished this:

Halliburton Co. said on Wednesday that it has gotten a letter of intent from Shell Iraq Petroleum Development BV that would make Halliburton the project manager for developing the Majnoon field in southern Iraq.

Halliburton said it wold be working with Nabors Drilling and the Iraq Drilling Company. The contract needs final approval by Iraqi authorities, Halliburton said.

Iraq reached a deal with Shell in January to develop the mammoth oil field, along with partner Petronas, Malaysia's state-run oil company. Shell and Petronas plan to raise production in the field from the current 45,900 barrels per day to 1.8 million barrels per day over 10 years.

Halliburton shares rose 9 cents to close at $28.79 on Wednesday.

So I guess that was worth 4,415 American soldiers' lives….

War In Iraq Is Over

Final U.S. combat brigade pulls out of Iraq.

By the end of this month, the United States will have six brigades in Iraq, by far its smallest footprint since the 2003 invasion. Those that remain are conventional combat brigades reconfigured slightly and rebranded "advise and assist brigades." The primary mission of those units and the roughly 4,500 U.S. special operations forces that will stay behind will be to train Iraqi troops. Under a bilateral agreement, all U.S. troops must be out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011.

Cool.

Faith-Hinkley1 4,415 U.S. soldiers dead. That number includes Spc. Faith R. Hinkley, 23, of Colorado Springs, Colo., who died on Aug. 7 in Baghdad, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked her unit in Iskandariya, Iraq. She was assigned to the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion, 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. 

She was 16 when the war started.

31,907 wounded.

Um…

Who won?

UPDATE — John McCain has an interesting perspective on who deserves credit…

Walnuts_has_alzheimers_exhibit_a
 

Military Cover-up: Reuters Employees and Civilians Killed in Violation of Rules of Engagement

In 2007, two Reuters employees — photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh — were killed by a U.S. helicopter strike in Baghdad. The U.S. military’s official response to the killings argued that the attack occurred after security forces came under fire from men accompanying the reporters, and that the rules of engagement were followed in returning fire. Skeptical of the military’s claim, Reuters filed a Freedom of Information Act request for video of the killings, but was unable to get the videos from the military.

However, Wikileaks obtained the video from an unnamed military source, and released it this morning.  The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. None of the members of the group were taking hostile action, contrary to the Pentagon's initial cover story; they were milling about on a street corner. One man was evidently carrying a gun, though that was and is hardly an uncommon occurrence in Baghdad.

Reporters working for WikiLeaks determined that the driver of the van was a good Samaritan on his way to take his small children to a tutoring session. He was killed and his two children were badly injured.

In the video, which Reuters has been asking to see since 2007, crew members can be heard celebrating their kills.

"Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards," says one crewman after multiple rounds of 30mm cannon fire left nearly a dozen bodies littering the street.

A crewman begs for permission to open fire on the van and its occupants, even though it has done nothing but stop to help the wounded: "Come on, let us shoot!"
Story continues below

Two crewmen share a laugh when a Bradley fighting vehicle runs over one of the corpses.

And after soldiers on the ground find two small children shot and bleeding in the van, one crewman can be heard saying: "Well, it's their fault bringing their kids to a battle."

The video makes it clear: the military’s official response to the events is inaccurate and that it has not been telling the truth when it claims that the Apache attack “occurred after security forces came under fire.” Also clear is the fact that the Apache pilots in question violated the 2007 U.S. Rules of Engagement for Iraq, which permit the use of “deadly force” only against individuals who “pose a threat to Coalition Forces by committing a hostile act or demonstrating hostile intent.”

See for yourself (warning – violent imagery):

"Collateral damage" happens in wartime.  This particular incident didn't have to happen.  From the audio, you can tell that the Apache pilots had "kill fever", certainly with respect to the van (containing children) which came to the rescue of the wounded Reuters photographer.  And the military's official response that American forces were under threat is, quite simply, a cover-up.

It's not a one-off event.  This kind of thing happened all the time, and continues to happen in Afghanistan.

In Which I Get All Politically Incorrect And Puffed Up About Veteran’s Day

You know what?  I'm not going to go up to a veteran and thank him for protecting my freedom.

You know why?  Because unless he is a hundred years old, chances are that that ex-soldier didn't do a damn thing to preserve and protect my freedom.

Don't get me wrong.  I have nothing but respect and admiration for those who choose to enter the service.  I have nothing but respect and admiration for those who put their life on the line in service to their country (even when their service takes place in wars and conflicts with which I strongly disagree).

In fact, I respect and admire so much what our armed forces do, that I get a sense of outrage or… or… something… when they get patronized from the mouths of people who apparently overstate what soldiers do.

Because, in point of fact, soldiers do not preserve our freedoms.  To do so, our freedoms have to be under attack.  And I am hard-pressed to think of a war since the Civil War when this was an issue.  You know who preserves our freedom?  The same people who enshrined our freedoms in the Constitution — lawyers, activists, politicians.  Civil rights workers, the ACLU, etc.  Not the 82nd Armored Division.

It's true!  Take one freedom — say, free speech, embodied in the First Amendment.  Now tell me the soldier, the unit, the branch of the military in which that freedom was "preserved".  Tell me the war, and identify the enemy who was attacking free speech in the first place.  You see what I mean?

"Ah," you say.  "But what about national defense?  Certainly, soldiers provide for our national defense."

No argument there, but when was our national defense breached to such an extent that our freedoms were threatened?  Not 9/11.  Yeah, 3,000 people were killed by al Qaeda, but did al Qaeda even target, much less threaten, freedom of speech?  Of course not.  The terrorists took lives, not freedoms.  And but for the Bush administration circumventing the Constitution here and there, our First Amendment freedoms are as they were on September 10, 2001.

Even with WWII, could Hitler and Japan have actually conquered the United States and maintained control over it, such that we would lose our freedoms?  Personally, I don't think it was possible, and not because of our WWII soldiers at the time, but because the world is too big and the German army was too small.  We would have, at worst, lost our sovereignty, which is not the same thing as losing our freedoms.

All I am saying here folks is, let's get real.  Most of the wars and conflicts in the last century and this one were wars to protect American geopolitical interests — those interests of the country as determined by its Commander in Chief — and were not wars to protect the freedoms of American's citizenry.  Korea?  Vietnam?  The Gulf War?  Iraq?  Afghanistan?  Panama?  They were wars for land, to prevent aggression, to combat ideologies, and lots of other things, but NOT to "preserve our freedom"  What freedom would you have lost had those wars been losses?

So thank a soldier for his sacrifices.  Her valor.  His dedication. Her willingness to risk her life.  But don't patronize what they do by saying they "protect our freedoms", because — unless you happen to be saying that with respect to George Washington or General Grant — that kind of praise is nothing more than mindless Sarah Palinesque "look-how-great-I-am-because-I-am-pro-military" pablum.  Frankly, our soldiers deserve better — meaning, more thoughtful – commendation than that.

Death Toll In Iraq

Fortunately, the body count from Iraq has gone down in the past few years.  No longer do we hear about multiple deaths per day.

Today, sadly, was a notable and grim exception, made all the more grim by the fact that five dead U.S. soldiers were killed — intentionally, it would seem — by another U.S. soldier.  Three were wounded.  The shootings took place in a clinic for those suffering from war stress.

One of these days, this country is going to have to take a serious look at its recruitment standards, redeployment policies, as well as the nature of PTSD and its effect on our troops.

Thoughts I Had Or Heard While Serving In Iraq

By Steven A. Devine:

Wow, it's really hot here.

Wow, those guys look really mad.

Wow, I don't want to know where he was hiding that rocket.

Now, that looks really painful.

That is really painful.

Wait, define "infection."

Merry Christmas.

Wow, it's really cold.

Wow, that guy looks really angry.

That spider was really fast.

Wait, define "amputate."

When I get home, I'm going to kill my recruiter.

Do they really call this food?

Adventure, women, booze, parties, and I end up here; I really am going to kill my recruiter.

What about that goat? No wonder he looks mad.

Finally, we're leaving.

Wait, define "held over."

Define "six more months."

I'm going to kill that recruiter.

Shoe-Throwing Fallout

The world is abuzz at the now-famous shoe-throwing incident, and everyone is looking for the perfect pun.  ("The insurgency is in its last throws")

Conservative pundits are quick to point out that the shoe-throwing would have never happened under Saddam.  So, therefore, $800 billion in U.S. taxpayer money well-spent, I guess.

Of course, shoe-throwing isn't really a very good sign that democracy and lawfulness have come to Iraq.  After all, what would happen if an American, on American soil, threw his shoes at the president, especially in this post-9/11 world?  Probably Gitmo… or worse.  In any event, it's assault, and not exactly something to be tossed out as a sign of "progress".

Meanwhile, reactions from Iraq to the shoe-throwing incident (shoe-throwing is a sign of contempt in the Muslim world) are coming in.

In Najaf, for example:

In the holy Shiite city of Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, demonstrators chanted: “Bush, Bush, is a cow, your farewell was by a shoe,” and, “The shoe got its goal straightly, but Maliki turned it away.”

I'm assuming those chants sound better in the original tongue….

UPDATE:  Background on the shoe-thrower here.

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I Give The Secret Service A C-

But Bush himself, with his dodging abilities, an A:

I thought when we liberated Iraq from Saddam, they were supposed to throw flowers at our feet.  But I guess they misread the memo, and started throwing their feet at our Fuhrer.

The Cost Of Reconstruction In Iraq

It's here!  It's here!  The new quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction (October 2008) has arrived! 

In the report, you'll find lots of PDFs and Excel spreadsheets explaining how your hard-earned tax dollars are being put to good use over there.

Smythe_disguise For example, the 15th Finance Battalion spent $35.80 on "disguises".  Because you know how those guys in the Fighting Fifteenth Finance are, right?  Cloak-and-dagger, all the way.

The boys at the 15th also spent $199.60 for eight laser pointers, because you can never have enough of those, right? 

And $1,134 on curtains, because the others ones clashed.

Contractor Brigade Quartermasters, LTD spent $803 on handcuff pouches, because (I'm guessing) their handcuffs were getting dusty or lost.  And you can't foster a growing democracy with smudgy or missing handcuffs.

Another contractor charged the U.S. government $1,800 for designing a web site, which seems like a lot.  But then again, it was 20 pages, so….

Clothing seemed to be an issue.  Maybe some of these contractors' employees forgot to pack before they went over there.  Highcom Security, for example, ordered 2,500 pairs of white socks, sizes 9-13 ($3,750). 

All_inone Another contractor ordered "THERMAL UNDERWEAR, BOTTOM, SIZE X-LARGE" this past fiscal quarter, because it gets really cold in Iraq during the summer, I guess.  That cost American taxpayers an incredible $10,779.45.  I can assume that this contractor ordered many x-large pairs; either that, or there is some contract employee in Iraq with a really big butt.

Contractor Advanced Technology Computers charged the government $3,282.54 for "Microsoft Office 2003 and Adobe Photoshop".  In the future, they could probably save some money by buying it from Circuit City.  Okay, maybe not Circuit City, but Best Buy. 

And as for the contractor who bought Microsoft Flight Simulator — another essential thing for the reconstruction of Iraq, I'm sure you'll agree — well, I'm not sure that was $679.50 well-spent.  Perhaps, he should check out Best Buy, too.  Or order from Amazon.

Rosenbauer America, LLC spent $2,224,434 to buy three firetrucks, which seems like a lot to me. Maybe they should have just taken a cue from the other guy and simply bought Microsoft Firetruck Simulator.

Okexpress-firetruck And Rosenbauer America also had to buy the manuals for the firetrucks separately (at a cost of $1,800).  You would think the manuals would come with the firetrucks for free.  Did they look in the glove compartment? 

Oh well.  What's done is done.  At least they know how to work them now.

In fact, manuals were a pretty hot ticket item.  One other contractor spent $500 for a manual for a "truck, cesspit".  That might sound like a lot of money for a manual about a truck and cesspool, but it was probably hand-calligraphied by monks, and bound in leather and goldleaf.  Nothing but the finest for our cesspool/truck operators in Iraq.

A contractor named "ESS" charged the government $18.9 million for "definitizing the basic contract".  I don't know what that means, but I think I'm going to quit my job and become a definitizer.  Sounds like good money.

My favorite entry comes from an unnamed contractor who conducted "S&A OBLIGATION FOR PR W915WE61298606".  I don't know what that job entailed, but you can't complain that he overcharged.  In fact, he charged the U.S. government $0.01 for his services.  And he earned every penny of that penny, because he actually got paid.

That’s Got To Leave A Mark (GOP Response: “We’re Fucked”)

The Prime Minister of Iraq has endorsed U.S. plans for an withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Well, not Bush’s plan. And not McCain’s plan (McCain doesn’t really have one).

Nope, the Bush-backed Iraqi PM supports Senator Obama’s plan:

BERLIN (Reuters) – Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told a German magazine he supported prospective U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s proposal that U.S. troops should leave Iraq within 16 months.

In an interview with Der Spiegel released on Saturday, Maliki said he wanted U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible.

"U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."

It is the first time he has backed the withdrawal timetable put forward by Obama, who is visiting Afghanistan and us set to go to Iraq as part of a tour of Europe and the Middle East.

Obama has called for a shift away from a "single-minded" focus on Iraq and wants to pull out troops within 16 months, instead adding U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan.

Asked if he supported Obama’s ideas more than those of John McCain, Republican presidential hopeful, Maliki said he did not want to recommend who people should vote for.

"Whoever is thinking about the shorter term is closer to reality. Artificially extending the stay of U.S. troops would cause problems."

And with that, the notion of Obama being "inexperienced" and green about matter of foreign policy disappear.  After all, it was Bush who repeatedly said that when we are asked to leave Iraq, we will (only to backpedal when it looks like we’ve been asked).

Marc Ambinder provides why this is a big deal:

This could be one of those unexpected events that forever changes the way the world perceives an issue. Iraq’s Prime Minister agrees with Obama, and there’s no wiggle room or fudge factor. This puts John McCain in an extremely precarious spot: what’s left to argue? To argue against Maliki would be to predicate that Iraqi sovereignty at this point means nothing. Obviously, our national interests aren’t equivalent to Iraq’s, but… Maliki isn’t listening to the generals on the ground…but the "hasn’t been to Iraq" line doesn’t work here.

So how will the McCain campaign respond?

The problem for McCain is that there is no good response.  He’ll either have to agree that Obama’s plan was right all along, OR explain why Maliki’s opinion about events in his own country don’t matter.

And according to Ambinder, Republicans know McCain is in a tight spot:

(Via e-mail, a prominent Republican strategist who occasionally provides advice to the McCain campaign said, simply, "We’re fucked." No response yet from the McCain campaign, although here’s what McCain said the last time Maliki mentioned withdrawal: "Since we are succeeding, then I am convinced, as I have said before, we can withdraw and withdraw with honor, not according to a set timetable. And I’m confident that is what Prime Minister Maliki is talking about, since he has told me that for many meetings we’ve had.")

Obama’s campaign, however, was quick to issue this statement (from an email):

There are two problems with John McCain’s political attacks on Barack Obama’s foreign policy. First, on the biggest foreign policy questions of the last eight years, Barack Obama has made the right judgment and John McCain has sided with George Bush in making the wrong one. Second, the failure of the McCain-Bush foreign policy has forced John McCain to change his position, and to embrace the very same Obama approaches that he once attacked.

Just this week, Senator McCain has been forced by events to switch to Barack Obama’s position on two fundamental issues: more troops in Afghanistan, and more diplomacy with Iran. On both issues, Obama took stands that weren’t politically popular at the time – opposing the war in Iraq as a diversion from the critical mission in Afghanistan, and standing up for direct diplomacy with Iran – while John McCain lined up with George Bush. Time has proven Obama’s judgment right and McCain wrong.

The next shift appears to be Iraq. For months, Senator McCain has called any plan to redeploy our troops from Iraq “surrender” – even though we’d be leaving Iraq to a sovereign Iraqi government. Now, the Bush Administration is embracing the negotiation of troop withdrawals with the Iraqi government – a position that Senator Obama called for last September, and reiterated on Monday in the New York Times. And now, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki supports Barack Obama’s timeline, telling Der Speigel that, “Barack Obama is right when he talks about 16 months.”

The McCain campaign really has no clue what it is doing.  It’s not thinking.  First, they attacked Obama for having little foreign policy experience.  "I mean, he’s never even been to Iraq and Afghanistan", they cried (while touting McCain’s foreign policy experience he gained as… a POW.  I guess.)

So Obama says he’s going to go to Iraq and Afghanistan.  And then, right away, before you know it, the trip becomes a HUGE media event, stealing whatever thing McCain has got going, and giving Obama all kinds of free media attention.  Now desparate for the spotlight that they all but handed to Obama, the McCain people call the trip a political stunt, but nobody pays attention.

And then this.  Before Obama’s foot steps off the plane, al-Maliki gives an interview which, in one full swoop, gives Obama more foreign policy cred than the Bush Administration (and its McCain successor).

Not a good week for McCain.  He just lost his strong suit: foreign policy.

By the way, a sidenote from the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.  Most reporters got the story from a White House email…. by mistake:

The White House this afternoon accidentally sent to its extensive distribution list a Reuters story headlined "Iraqi PM backs Obama troop exit plan – magazine."

The story relayed how Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told the German magazine Der Spiegel that "he supported prospective U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s proposal that U.S. troops should leave Iraq within 16 months … ‘U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes,’" the prime minister said.

The White House employee had intended to send the article to an internal distribution list, ABC News’ Martha Raddatz reports, but hit the wrong button.

Of course, they would have found out about al-Maliki’s interview in Der Spiegal anyway, but the whole White House error caused it to come out as a concussive grenade, rather than a slow blog-to-MSM hiss.

UPDATE:  The McCain campaign has just released this weak statement in response:

ARLINGTON, VA — Today, McCain 2008 Senior Foreign Policy Advisor Randy Scheunemann issued the following statement:

"The difference between John McCain and Barack Obama is that Barack Obama advocates an unconditional withdrawal that ignores the facts on the ground and the advice of our top military commanders. John McCain believes withdrawal must be based on conditions on the ground. Prime Minister Maliki has repeatedly affirmed the same view, and did so again today. Timing is not as important as whether we leave with victory and honor, which is of no apparent concern to Barack Obama. The fundamental truth remains that Senator McCain was right about the surge and Senator Obama was wrong. We would not be in the position to discuss a responsible withdrawal today if Senator Obama’s views had prevailed."

It kind of dodges the issue at hand, and moves the playing field to an irrelevant place.  The problem for McCain, which he dodges, is that he doesn’t believe in withdrawal at all.  So it’s a little hard to see this as somehow vindicating him.

Marine Expelled For Puppy Throwing

You may have heard about this story a few months ago.

It’s about the U.S. soldier in Iraq who threw a puppy off a cliff.  Here’s the video [WARNING:  This is a very disturbing video]

Justice is (somewhat) served.  According to the AP:

The Marine Corps said Wednesday it was expelling one Marine and disciplining another for their roles in a video showing a Marine throwing a puppy off a cliff while on patrol in Iraq.

The 17-second video posted on YouTube drew sharp condemnation from animal rights groups when it came to light in March.

The clip shows two Marines joking before one hurls the puppy into a rocky gully. A yelping sound is heard as it flips through the air.

"That’s mean. That’s mean, Motari," an off-camera Marine is heard telling the Marine who tossed the black and white dog. The off-camera Marine snickered slightly afterward.

Lance Cpl. David Motari, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment at Kaneohe Bay, is "being processed for separation" from the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps said in a news release. He also received unspecified "non-judicial punishment."

Senate Intelligence Committee Report On Pre-War Iraq Released

Key conclusions:

The Committee’s report cites several conclusions in which the Administration’s public statements were NOT supported by the intelligence. They include:

  • Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa’ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa’ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence. 
  • Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information. 
  • Statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic, did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products. 
  • Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq’s chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community’s uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing. 
  • The Secretary of Defense’s statement that the Iraqi government operated underground WMD facilities that were not vulnerable to conventional airstrikes because they were underground and deeply buried was not substantiated by available intelligence information. 
  • The Intelligence Community did not confirm that Muhammad Atta met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001 as the Vice President repeatedly claimed. 

Republican Senators fought very hard to prevent the release of this intel report back in 2004 to insure Bush’s re-election. And, they wouldn’t release this report back in 2006 to protect their own re-elections. All that delay has resulted in the release of this report in 2008 — leaving John McCain to defend the Bush Iraq war agenda.

There are two parts to the report, and you can read them here (warning: big .pdfs):

"Report on Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government officials Were Substantiated by Intelligence Information"

"Report on Intelligence Activities Relating to Iraq Conducted by the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group and the Office of Special Plans Within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy"

UPDATE:  But that’s history, right?  That’s how we got into Iraq.  What about getting out?

Well, The UK Independent has a troubling report on a “secret plan” for U.S. occupation in Iraq allegedly being pushed by the Bush administration:

A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November.

The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq’s position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.

Jeez.

Here’s What Happened

The folks over at McClatchy newspapers are trumpeting their own horn about their reportage in the run-up to the Iraq War.  And well they should.  Unlike the rest of the media, they actually questioned the Bush Administration’s "intelligence" and justification for an Iraq War. To them (and other astute political observers), Scott McLellan’s book is nothing new.

But the "crimes" of the Bush Adminsitration turns out to be quite the laundry list:

OK, Scott, What Happened?

Here’s what happened, based entirely on our own reporting and publicly available documents:

* The Bush administration was gunning for Iraq within days of the 9/11 attacks, dispatching a former CIA director, on a flight authorized by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, to find evidence for a bizarre theory that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the first World Trade Center attack in 1993. (Note: See also Richard Clarke and former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill on this point).

* Bush decided by February 2002, at the latest, that he was going to remove Saddam by hook or by crook. (Yes, we reported that at the time).

* White House officials, led by Dick Cheney, began making the case for war in August 2002, in speeches and reports that  not only were wrong, but also went well beyond what the available intelligence said at that time, and contained outright fantasies and falsehoods. Indeed, some of that material was never vetted with the intelligence agencies before it was peddled to the public.

* Dissenters, or even those who voiced worry about where the policy was going, were ignored, excluded or punished. (Note: See Gen. Eric Shinseki,  Paul O’Neill, Joseph Wilson and all of the State Department ‘s Arab specialists and much of its intelligence bureau).

* The Bush administration didn’t even want to produce the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs that’s justly received so much criticism since.  The White House thought it was unneeded. It  actually was demanded by Congress and slapped together in a matter of weeks before the congressional votes to authorize war on Iraq.

* The October 2002 NIE was flawed, no doubt. But it contained dissents questioning the extent of Saddam’s WMD programs, dissents that were buried in the report. Doubts and dissents were then stripped from the publicly released, unclassified version of the NIE.

* The core of the administration’s case for war was not just that Saddam was developing WMDs, but also that, unchecked, he might give them to terrorists to attack the United States. Remember smoking guns and mushroom clouds? Inconveniently, the CIA had determined just the opposite: Saddam would attack the United States only if he concluded a U.S. attack on him was unavoidable. He’d give WMD to Islamist terrorists only "as a last chance to exact revenge."

* The Bush administration relied heavily on an Iraqi exile, Ahmed Chalabi, who had been found to be untrustworthy by the State Department and the CIA. Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress were given millions, and produced "defectors" whose tales of WMD sites and terrorist training were false, fanciful and bogus. But the information was fed directly to senior officials and included in official White House documents.

* The same INC-supplied "intelligence" used in the White House propaganda effort (you got that bit right, Scott) also was fed to dozens of U.S. and foreign news organizations.

* It all culminated in a speech by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003 making the case against Saddam. Virtually every major allegation Powell made turned out later to be wrong. It would have been even worse had not Powell and his team thrown out even more shaky "intelligence" that Cheney’s office repeatedly tried to stuff into the speech.

* The Bush administration tried to link Saddam to al Qaida and, by implication, to the 9/11 attacks. Officials repeatedly pushed the CIA for information on such links, and a seperate intel shop was set up under Defense Under Secretary Douglas Feith to find "proof" of such ties. Neither the CIA nor anyone else ever found anything resembling an operational relationship between Saddam and al Qaida.

* An exhaustive review of Saddam Hussein’s regime’s own documents, released in March 2008, found no operational relationship between Saddam and al Qaida.

* The Bush administration failed to plan for the rebuilding of postwar Iraq, as we were perhaps the first to report. The White House ignored stacks of intelligence reports, some now available in partially unclassified form, warning before the war about the possibilities for insurgency, ethnic warfare, social chaos and the like.

We could go on, but the rest, as they say, is history.

That’s what happened.

And that’s what history will record.

The McClellan Book

You know, it doesn’t say anything that many of us didn’t already know.  It’s just nice to see someone on the inside of the Bush Administration admit that these things went on:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The incidents that first left then-White House press secretary Scott McClellan "dismayed and disillusioned" about Washington involved the surreptitious release of classified information, McClellan said Thursday.

The first of the "defining moments," McClellan told NBC’s "Today" show, was when CIA operative Valerie Plame’s name was leaked to the media.

The second, he said, was when he learned that President Bush had secretly declassified a report on Iraq so Vice President Dick Cheney and Cheney aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby could disclose it to reporters.

"We had been out there talking about how seriously the president took the leaking of classified information, and here we were learning that the president had authorized the very same that we were criticizing," McClellan said, the day after his controversial memoir hit bookstore shelves.

***

As White House spokesman, McClellan defended Bush’s policies during much of the Iraq war, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the scandal that followed the leak of Plame’s identity.

But he now says the administration was mired in propaganda and political spin and played loose with the truth at times.

In March 2007, Libby was found guilty of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements for lying about what he said to reporters about Plame. Bush later commuted Libby’s 2½-year sentence prison sentence, but left in place Libby’s fine and probation.

McClellan told "Today" on Thursday, "I had been assured — and [then-senior adviser] Karl Rove and ‘Scooter’ Libby both — I asked them point-blank, ‘Were you involved in this in any way?’ And both assured me in unequivocal terms, ‘No, we were not involved.’ "

"And Rove even told the president, and the president and VP directed me to go out and exonerate ‘Scooter’ Libby on this, and that’s when I went to ‘Scooter’ and asked him the question," McClellan said.

***

McClellan also discussed how, he said, Bush decided to go to war against Iraq soon after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. The president ordered aides to make arrangements for it, McClellan told "Today."

"I think very early on, a few months after September 11, he made a decision that we’re going to confront Saddam Hussein, and if Hussein doesn’t come fully clean, then we’re going to go to war. There was really no flexibility in his approach," McClellan said. "Then it was put on the advisers: How do we go about implementing this? How do we go about doing this?"

So, there you have it.  From someone on the inside.  They lied.  They leaked.  They manipulated.

Also:

In hindsight, McClellan views the war as a mistake by a president swept up by his own propaganda and a grand plan of seeding democracy in the Middle East by overturning Saddam Hussein‘s regime.

McClellan says Bush and his aides became so wrapped up in trying to shape the story to their political advantage that they ignored facts that didn’t fit the picture. He blames it on a "permanent campaign culture" that pervades Washington.

Over 4,000 U.S. soldiers dead.  Because the Bush Administration was obsessed with a second term and engaged in groupthink.

What is "groupthink"?  It plagued the Johnson administration, too.  It is a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis.  In order to make groupthink testable, Irving Janis devised eight symptoms that are indicative of groupthink.  They are:

1. Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.
2. Rationalising warnings that might challenge the group’s assumptions.
3. Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.
4. Stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, disfigured, impotent, or stupid.
5. Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of “disloyalty”.
6. Self censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
7. Illusions of unanimity among group members, silence is viewed as agreement.
8. Mindguards — self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information.

So, future presidents, what have we learned?

The wingnut blogosphere is blaming the messenger as they always do, attacking McClellan as a liberal, a liar, a charlatan trying to sell books, and claiming they never liked him anyway.

The White House is perhaps even more spittle-flecked than the bloggers, calling McClellan "disgruntled" and even a traitor.

And so it shall always be.

The Coulter Foreign Policy

Great:

McClatchy says the U.S. military is investigating reports that Marines have been handing out religious material at checkpoints in Fallujah, Iraq.

"Multi-National Force-Iraq is investigating a report that U.S. military personnel in Fallujah handed-out material that is religious and evangelical in nature," spokesman Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll says in a statement to the news organization. "Local commanders are investigating since the military prohibits proselytizing any religion, faith or practices."

Local residents say the Americans distributed coins inscribed with a verse from the Bible.

"We say to the occupiers to stop this," Sheikh Mohammed Amin Abdel Hadi says, according to McClatchy. "This can cause strife between the Iraqis and especially between Muslim and Christians . … Please stop these things and leave our homes because we are Muslims and we live in our homes in peace with other religions."

USA TODAY has requested additional information from commanders in Iraq.

Update at 8:55 a.m. ET: One of the coins, according to McClatchy, says "Where will you spend eternity?" on one side and "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16." on the other side.

Some of you may be wondering, "So what?"  The "so what" is that many in the Arab country think that the United States is on a crusade to change them.  They think the United States does not respect their values, culture, and mostly, their religion.  Of course, that is not true, as a matter of policy.  But this type of thing makes that deniable difficult to stand by.  It certainly looks like the government of the United States is trying to prosyletize, when uniformed soldiers are passing out the Gospel.

The guys should be tried, convicted, and discharged.

Flashback:

"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." — Ann Coulter, 9/13/01

Fiscal Malfeasance In Iraq

Can you imagine if you ran your household finances this way?

In one case, according to documents displayed by Pentagon auditors at the hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a cash payment of $320.8 million in Iraqi money was authorized on the basis of a single signature and the words “Iraqi Salary Payment” on an invoice. In another, $11.1 million of taxpayer money was paid to IAP, an American contractor, on the basis of a voucher with no indication of what was delivered…

The disclosure that $1.8 billion in Iraqi assets was mishandled comes on top of an earlier finding by an independent federal oversight agency, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, that United States occupation authorities early in the conflict could not account for the disbursement of $8.8 billion in Iraqi oil money and seized assets.

And then check this out:

The mysterious payments, whose amounts had not been publicly disclosed, included $68.2 million to the United Kingdom, $45.3 million to Poland and $21.3 million to South Korea. Despite repeated requests, Pentagon auditors said they were unable to determine why the payments were made.

“It sounds like the coalition of the willing is the coalition of the paid — they’re willing to be paid,” said Mr. Waxman

And some more details:

In one instance, a United States Treasury check for $5,674,075.00 was written to pay a company called Al Kasid Specialized Vehicles Trading Company in Baghdad for items that a voucher does not even describe.

In another case, $6,268,320.07 went to the contractor Combat Support Associates with even less explanation. And a scrawl on another piece of paper says only that $8 million had been paid out as “Funds for the Benefit of the Iraqi People.”

But perhaps the masterpiece of elliptic paperwork is the document identified at the top as a “Public Voucher for Purchases and Services Other Than Personal.” It indicates that $320.8 million went for “Iraqi Salary Payment,” with no explanation of what the Iraqis were paid to do.

Whatever it was, the document suggests, each of those Iraqis was handsomely compensated. Under the “quantity” column is the number 1,000, presumably indicating the number of people who were to be paid — to the tune of $320,800 apiece — if the paperwork is to be trusted.

Your tax dollars at work.

Bush Makes Ultimate Sacrifice For The War

President Bush finally admitted today that he has been touched by the true cost of war:

For the first time, Bush revealed a personal way in which he has tried to acknowledge the sacrifice of soldiers and their families: He has given up golf.

"I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf," he said. "I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."

UPDATE: Warren Street at Blue Girl, Red State says that Bush is lying about why he quit golf:

Actually, it is far more likely that Bush quit playing golf because he was suffering from knee problems throughout the latter half of 2003.

Street then links to a CBS News article published in December 2003:

Bush, 57, will have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test on Thursday, Dec. 18. The body-scanning device enables doctors to see internal organs in 3D.

The MRI is being performed on the advice of the President’s regular White House physician. Last summer, Bush suffered a minor muscle tear in his right calf and that injury, along with aching knees, forced him to abandon his running routine. The calf strain healed by August when he had his annual physical, but the president said in September that he suspected he had a meniscus tear.

UPDATE II: Bush actually played his last round of golf on October 13, 2003.  We started bombing in August 2003.

UPDATE III:  One might well ask why golfing during wartime sends "the wrong signal", but recreational boating and fishing with the familly at Kennebunkport is just fine….

UPDATE IV:  Rude Pundit says:

Sure, it’s easy to knock President Bush for his "If I play golf, soldiers’ families will cry" remark to Politico. That foolishness is easily disposed of with this from a year ago:


Seriously, dude, just fuckin’ golf. And don’t use the war as an excuse for your weak-ass follow-through.

The Mortality Rate Of Iraq And Afghan Wars

Something to think about when you consider the U.S. casualty count.

Thomas Insel — director of the National Institute of Mental Health and the U.S. government’s top psychiatric researcher — said today that “the number of suicides among veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may exceed the combat death toll because of inadequate mental health care.” Bloomberg reports:

Insel echoed a Rand Corporation study published last month that found about 20 percent of returning U.S. soldiers have post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, and only half of them receive treatment. About 1.6 million U.S. troops have fought in the two wars since October 2001, the report said. About 4,560 soldiers had died in the conflicts as of today, the Defense Department reported on its Web site.

Based on those figures and established suicide rates for similar patients who commonly develop substance abuse and other complications of post-traumatic stress disorder, “it’s quite possible that the suicides and psychiatric mortality of this war could trump the combat deaths,” Insel said.

PTSD

A RAND study just showed that something like 20% of all returning servicemembers from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from depression or PTSD.

That’s an astounding number — almost 300,000 men and women.

But it is just a number.

What is it like?  Read this post from a vet actually suffering from this syndrome.  A sample:

So it’s like that — you’re all alone. But, hey, at least you made it home!

So you go to your barracks room, dump your stuff, then you head to the PX so you can get some civilian clothes to go out on the town.

You shower. You eat. Then, you go out.

And…and…and nothing. You head to the mall, for lack of something better to do, and you see the people milling around — and it’s like nothing ever changed. If you didn’t tell them, they wouldn’t know you’re a soldier, they wouldn’t know we’re at war, and they wouldn’t know that you just got back.

Don’t get me wrong — they’re not ungrateful. They’ll thank you, they’ll congratulate you…and then, they’ll go on their lives and you’ll go on with yours.

Except for this: the whole time you were in Ar Ramadi or Balad or Tuz Khurmatu, your platoon leader and your company commander and various VIPs were telling you that you were the only thing standing between America and the massed hordes of Osama bin Laden. We were fighting them in some godforsaken shithole in Ad Dawr because the other option was kicking their ass in Aurora or Hilliard or Prestonsburg.

Or you were helping the Iraqis win their freedom — fuck it, we’re making their livesbetter — see that kid, over there, Jalal? We hooked his family up…kid had a cleft palate, we helped rebuild his dad’s car garage so he could fix old beaters up. We did some good, we did!

But none of this matters to the folks out at Nordstrom’s or JCPenney’s or Bed, Bath & Beyond. They’re just regular folks, they just want to do their thing.

You turn on the news…nothing. The very thing that was at the center of your life for a whole year…you might see it get 90 seconds in the regular news. And when I say a whole year — I mean it: I lived my life day to day. I was grateful to see the dawn — the end of my tour snuck up on my ass like a thief in the night. There’s really no way to describe the centrality of existence to someone who hasn’t been there.

Given all that…how would you react? How would you feel? What kind of emotions would be roiling inside you?

Some guys get pissed. I’m not talking regular angry — I’m talking pissed, like Incredible Hulk you-wouldn’t-want-to-see-me-when-I’m-angry. I was one of those guys. Hell, I’m still one of those guys, though a lot less now than I was four years ago, when I got back.

You see pictures of me from back then — even my smile looks, really, frighteningly, like a snarl. A look into my eyes reveals a glimpse into a world where death walked in the afternoon, or morning, or really, any time he damn well felt like walking. A glance at the words that I wrote reveals the tension of a man trying maximally to keep the shards of his world from falling apart.

And then…and then, they did. All came undone.

My marriage fell apart. It fell apart as I unleashed the hurricane strength of my anger and indignation upon my wife. My wife, who had had the simple common decency to stand by me while I was gone and try, superhumanly, to care for me once I returned, was no match for the fury that I felt at having had to quietly withstand the dead simple savagery of war in a distant land, only to find that people back home simply didn’t give a good goddamn whether I lived or whether I died.

Read the whole thing…..

Pentagon Institute Calls Iraq War “A Major Debacle”

So is there anyone left besides the boneheads in the White House who still thinks it was a good idea to go into Iraq?

WASHINGTON — The war in Iraq has become "a major debacle" and the outcome "is in doubt" despite improvements in security from the buildup in U.S. forces, according to a highly critical study published Thursday by the Pentagon’s premier military educational institute.

The report released by the National Defense University raises fresh doubts about President Bush’s projections of a U.S. victory in Iraq just a week after Bush announced that he was suspending U.S. troop reductions.

The report carries considerable weight because it was written by Joseph Collins, a former senior Pentagon official, and was based in part on interviews with other former senior defense and intelligence officials who played roles in prewar preparations.

It was published by the university’s National Institute for Strategic Studies, a Defense Department research center.

You can read the report by the National Defense University (pdf format).  Written by a former deputy of Rumsfeld, it begins:

Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle. As of fall 2007, this conflict has cost the United States over 3,800 dead and over 28,000 wounded. Allied casualties accounted for another 300 dead. Iraqi civilian deaths–mostly at the hands of other Iraqis–may number as high as 82,000. Over 7,500 Iraqi soldiers and police officers have also been killed. Fifteen percent of the Iraqi population has become refugees or displaced persons. The Congressional Research Service estimates that the United States now spends over $10 billion per month on the war, and that the total, direct U.S. costs from March 2003 to July 2007 have exceeded $450 billion, all of which has been covered by deficit spending. No one as yet has calculated the costs of long-term veterans’ benefits or the total impact on Service personnel and materiel.

The war’s political impact also has been great. Globally, U.S. standing among friends and allies has fallen. Our status as a moral leader has been damaged by the war, the subsequent occupation of a Muslim nation, and various issues concerning the treatment of detainees. At the same time, operations in Iraq have had a negative impact on all other efforts in the war on terror, which must bow to the priority of Iraq when it comes to manpower, materiel, and the attention of decisionmakers. Our Armed Forces– especially the Army and Marine Corps–have been severely strained by the war in Iraq. Compounding all of these problems, our efforts there were designed to enhance U.S. national security, but they have become, at least temporarily, an incubator for terrorism and have emboldened Iran to expand its influence throughout the Middle East.

As this case study is being written, despite impressive progress in security during the surge, the outcome of the war is in doubt. Strong majorities of both Iraqis and Americans favor some sort of U.S. withdrawal. Intelligence analysts, however, remind us that the only thing worse than an Iraq with an American army may be an Iraq after the rapid withdrawal of that army…. No one has calculated the psychopolitical impact of a perceived defeat on the U.S. reputation for power or the future of the overall war on terror. For many analysts (including this one), Iraq remains a "must win," but for many others, despite the obvious progress under General David Petraeus and the surge, it now looks like a "can’t win."

Says it all. (Emphases mine)

But, you know, this is unimportant stuff.  What IS important is whether or not Obama wears a flag lapel pin.

How’s That Training Of Iraqi Police Going?

Um…..

Iraqi police in Basra shed their uniforms, kept their rifles and switched sides

Abu Iman barely flinched when the Iraqi Government ordered his unit of special police to move against al-Mahdi Army fighters in Basra.

His response, while swift, was not what British and US military trainers who have spent the past five years schooling the Iraqi security forces would have hoped for. He and 15 of his comrades took off their uniforms, kept their government-issued rifles and went over to the other side without a second thought.

Such turncoats are the thread that could unravel the British Army’s policy in southern Iraq. The military hoped that local forces would be able to combat extremists and allow the Army to withdraw gradually from the battle-scarred and untamed oil city that has fallen under the sway of Islamic fundamentalists, oil smugglers and petty tribal warlords. But if the British taught the police to shoot straight, they failed to instil a sense of unwavering loyalty to the State.

I know all this intra-Shi’ite infighting is confusing, but thanks to Kevin Drum, we now have a handy cheat sheet so we know who’s shooting whom.  Not that it matters.  A clusterfuck is a clusterfuck.

If This Is Positive….

Today we learn that:

American military forces for the first time conducted air strikes on targets in Basra late Thursday, joining Iraqi security forces in trying to oust Shiite militias in the southern port city.

…while in Baghdad:

U.S. forces in armored vehicles battled Mahdi Army fighters Thursday in Sadr City, the vast Shiite stronghold in eastern Baghdad, as an offensive to quell party-backed militias entered its third day. Iraqi army and police units appeared to be largely holding to the outskirts of the area as American troops took the lead in the fighting.

Four U.S. Stryker armored vehicles were seen in Sadr City by a Washington Post correspondent, one of them engaging Mahdi Army militiamen with heavy fire. The din of American weapons, along with the Mahdi Army’s AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, was heard through much of the day. U.S. helicopters and drones buzzed overhead.

Bush’s take?

I thought that was a very positive moment in the development of a sovereign nation, that is willing to take on elements that are — you know, that believe they’re beyond the law.

And secondly, we are helping, but it’s important to know that the Iraqis are in the lead. This is a positive moment in the development of a nation that can govern itself and defend itself and sustain itself. We will provide oversight and, on occasion, support when asked. This is an Iraqi operation.

The Last Five Years

Happy Fifth Birthday, Operation Iraqi Freedom!

U.S. Deaths Confirmed By The DoD: 3988
U.S. Deaths Pending DoD Confirmation: 2

Total: 3990

David M. Herszenhorn, NYT:

At the outset of the Iraq war, the Bush administration predicted that it would cost $50 billion to $60 billion to oust Saddam Hussein, restore order and install a new government.

Getting at the true cost of the war is difficult. Expenses like a troop increase were paid from the base defense budget, not war bills.

Five years in, the Pentagon tags the cost of the Iraq war at roughly $600 billion and counting. Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and critic of the war, pegs the long-term cost at more than $4 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office and other analysts say that $1 trillion to $2 trillion is more realistic, depending on troop levels and on how long the American occupation continues.

Among economists and policymakers, the question of how to tally the cost of the war is a matter of hot dispute. And the costs continue to climb.

***

All of the war-price tallies include operations in the war zone, support for troops, repair or replacement of equipment, reservists’ salaries, special combat pay for regular forces and some care for wounded veterans — expenses that typically fall outside the regular Defense Department or Veterans Affairs budgets.

The highest estimates often include projections for future operations, long-term health care and disability costs for veterans, a portion of the regular, annual defense budget, and, in some cases, wider economic effects, including a percentage of higher oil prices and the impact of raising the national debt to cover increased war spending.

Sssshhhhhh!

You know that Pentagon study I mentioned yesterday?  The one where the Pentagon concluded, after scouring Iraq for evidence, that there was no link between Saddam and Al Qaeda?

The Bush Administration is trying to keep it quiet.  ABC News reports:

The Bush Administration apparently does not want a U.S. military study that found no direct connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda to get any attention. This morning, the Pentagon cancelled plans to send out a press release announcing the report’s release and will no longer make the report available online.

The report was to be posted on the Joint Forces Command website this afternoon, followed by a background briefing with the authors. No more. The report will be made available only to those who ask for it, and it will be sent via U.S. mail from Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia.

It won’t be emailed to reporters and it won’t be posted online. Read the report’s executive summary HERE.

Asked why the report would not be posted online and could not be emailed, the spokesman for Joint Forces Command said: "We’re making the report available to anyone who wishes to have it, and we’ll send it out via CD in the mail."

Another Pentagon official said initial press reports on the study made it "too politically sensitive."

Just another attempt to keep America pig ignorant.

No Saddam And Al Qaeda Link

Not news to most of us, but there are — amazingly — still people who believe that Saddam has something to do with bun Laden and 9/11:

WASHINGTON — An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein’s regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida terrorist network.

The Pentagon-sponsored study, scheduled for release later this week, did confirm that Saddam’s regime provided some support to other terrorist groups, particularly in the Middle East, U.S. officials told McClatchy. However, his security services were directed primarily against Iraqi exiles, Shiite Muslims, Kurds and others he considered enemies of his regime.

The new study of the Iraqi regime’s archives found no documents indicating a "direct operational link" between Hussein’s Iraq and al Qaida before the invasion, according to a U.S. official familiar with the report.

He and others spoke to McClatchy on condition of anonymity because the study isn’t due to be shared with Congress and released before Wednesday.

President Bush and his aides used Saddam’s alleged relationship with al Qaida, along with Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, as arguments for invading Iraq after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld claimed in September 2002 that the United States had "bulletproof" evidence of cooperation between the radical Islamist terror group and Saddam’s secular dictatorship.

Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell cited multiple linkages between Saddam and al Qaida in a watershed February 2003 speech to the United Nations Security Council to build international support for the invasion. Almost every one of the examples Powell cited turned out to be based on bogus or misinterpreted intelligence.

As recently as last July, Bush tried to tie al Qaida to the ongoing violence in Iraq. "The same people that attacked us on September the 11th is a crowd that is now bombing people, killing innocent men, women and children, many of whom are Muslims," he said.

The new study, entitled "Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents", was essentially completed last year and has been undergoing what one U.S. intelligence official described as a "painful" declassification review.

The Obama Faux Outrage Of The Day

I’ll let Yglesius explain:

Conservatives have been all over Barack Obama (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here) for telling the following anecdote during last night’s debate:

You know, I’ve heard from an Army captain who was the head of a rifle platoon — supposed to have 39 men in a rifle platoon," he said. "Ended up being sent to Afghanistan with 24 because 15 of those soldiers had been sent to Iraq. And as a consequence, they didn’t have enough ammunition, they didn’t have enough humvees. They were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief.

Basically, as you can see if you check the conservative blogs above, that story can’t possibly be true, and the fact that Obama would say it reflects either his dishonesty or else his gross ignorance of military matters. Alternatively, you can read Jake Tapper who got in touch with the Captain in question: "Short answer: He backs up Obama’s story." The story itself is, as Tapper says, pretty interesting and worth checking out on its own merits. Obama’s conservative critics will, I’m sure, be taking note of this additional reporting.

UPDATE: Phil Carter has an excellent post following up on some of these issues. Bottom line:

In light of my experience in Iraq, Sen. Obama’s comments last night are eminently believable. Sen. Obama is also absolutely right to use this anecdote as a critique of the administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq. It is incontrovertible that the war in Iraq diverted scarce military resources (manpower, equipment, etc.) from Afghanistan to Iraq. The cost for that diversion was paid by America’s sons and daughters, and our Afghan brethren, who continue to fight in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. We owe our troops better.

Well said.

Bush Lied (Many Many Times); People Died

Not news, really:

Warcardchart

A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel did not comment on the merits of the study Tuesday night but reiterated the administration’s position that the world community viewed Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, as a threat.

"The actions taken in 2003 were based on the collective judgment of intelligence agencies around the world," Stanzel said.

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Mr. Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al Qaeda or both.

"It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al Qaeda," according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. "In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."

Named in the study along with Mr. Bush were top officials of the administration during the period studied: Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan.

Mr. Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq’s links to al Qaeda, the study found. That was second only to Powell’s 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al Qaeda.

Now, I’m not one to stick my neck out for the Bush Administration, but I wonder exactly how many of these statements were knowlingly misleading or false.  The Bush folk may just have been stupid or engaged in wishful thinking, both of which lack the element of duplicity.  Unfortunately, I can’t get at a copy of the study, seeing as how the website is down at the moment (probably due to everyone trying to get the study).

Meanwhile In Iraq…

They say that things are going very well there; that is, the surge is "working", even though nobody bothers to give a definition of what "working" actually means in this case.

Remember, the whole point of the surge was to give the Iraq government more breathing room to coalesce its government, and so that Iraqi troops could train and eventually take over their own internal security.  When they "stand up", that’s when we’ll leave.

But guess what?

The Iraqi defense minister said Monday that his nation would not be able to take full responsibility for its internal security until 2012, nor be able on its own to defend Iraq’s borders from external threat until at least 2018.

Those comments from the minister, Abdul Qadir, were among the most specific public projections of a timeline for the American commitment in Iraq by officials in either Washington or Baghdad. And they suggested a longer commitment than either government had previously indicated.

Pentagon officials expressed no surprise at Mr. Qadir’s projections, which were even less optimistic than those he made last year.

Bottom line: We’re going to be in Iraq for a looooong time.  Let me put it this way — whoever we elect as next president will be out of office before the troops leave Iraq (assuming, of course, that we go by Iraq’s timeline).

MEMORY LANE:

“The oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years. Now, there are a lot of claims on that money, but… We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon.” — Paul Wolfowitz, 2003

UPDATE:  And, aside from troop presence (and deaths) in Iraq, what’s going to be continued side-effect until 2018 (and beyond)?  PTSD-fueled murders here in America.

The Posthumous Post of A U.S. Soldier In Iraq

Here’s a post from Andrew Olmstead (posting as G’Kar) on a blog I regularly read, called Obsidian Wings.  The post is dated Sept. 22, 2007:

Let me begin with the standard disclaimers, despite which I am certain that at least one commenter will complain that I am in some way attempting to justify the Iraq War, the surge, the presidency of George Bush, tooth decay, world hunger, dogs and cats living together or worse. In fact, I think the war was a mistake, I suspect that the surge is going to be insufficient to turn the tide in Iraq, and I have precisely zero brief for George W. Bush, let alone tooth decay, or worse. [Update: I will confess to being agnostic about dogs and cats living together.] I don’t intend to support any of those things.

***

I don’t expect that we will make any big differences in Iraq. The government doesn’t appear to be interested in doing anything but preserve its power base, and I don’t know if that will change even if the U.S. does decide to actually pull out, which seems implausible in any case. I can’t make the Iraqi government work any better. I may not even be able to do much to make the Iraqi Army work any better. But I can try to help those Iraqis who want to make their country better succeed in their own small ways, and I can take advantage of my own position to directly aid Iraqis it is in my power to help. It doesn’t sound like much. It probably isn’t much. But few of us are destined to make a big difference in life; if I can make a little difference, that has to count for something.

Shortly after Christmas, in one of his last posts, he wrote:

Senator Clinton is still the odds-on favorite to be the next President of the United States. But I’ve seen little to suggest she or any other ‘serious’ contender will make any major improvement over the current occupant of the Oval Office. Nor is this a fault particular to Senator Clinton or any of the other candidates. It is a symptom of how Americans view their right to act in the world. Until such time as the voters of the United States realize that they have no particular right to bomb anyone simply because they think it’s for the best, we will be saddled with presidential candidates who work to become ‘comfortable’ with the use of military power.

Olmstead was killed in Iraq yesterday.  He provided Obsidian Wings with a post, only to published in the event he became a war casualty.  You can read the whole thing here, but here’s an excerpt:

As with many bloggers, I have a disgustingly large ego, and so I just couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to have the last word if the need arose. Perhaps I take that further than most, I don’t know. I hope so. It’s frightening to think there are many people as neurotic as I am in the world. In any case, since I won’t get another chance to say what I think, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. Such as it is.

What I don’t want this to be is a chance for me, or anyone else, to be maudlin. I’m dead. That sucks, at least for me and my family and friends. But all the tears in the world aren’t going to bring me back, so I would prefer that people remember the good things about me rather than mourning my loss. (If it turns out a specific number of tears will, in fact, bring me back to life, then by all means, break out the onions.) I had a pretty good life, as I noted above. Sure, all things being equal I would have preferred to have more time, but I have no business complaining with all the good fortune I’ve enjoyed in my life. So if you’re up for that, put on a little 80s music (preferably vintage 1980-1984), grab a Coke and have a drink with me. If you have it, throw ‘Freedom Isn’t Free’ from the Team America soundtrack in; if you can’t laugh at that song, I think you need to lighten up a little. I’m dead, but if you’re reading this, you’re not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact.

***

I suppose I should speak to the circumstances of my death. It would be nice to believe that I died leading men in battle, preferably saving their lives at the cost of my own. More likely I was caught by a marksman or an IED [Note:  Apparently, it was the former – Ken]. But if there is an afterlife, I’m telling anyone who asks that I went down surrounded by hundreds of insurgents defending a village composed solely of innocent women and children. It’ll be our little secret, ok?

I do ask (not that I’m in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn’t a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. If you think the U.S. should stay in Iraq, don’t drag me into it by claiming that somehow my death demands us staying in Iraq. If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don’t cite my name as an example of someone’s life who was wasted by our mission in Iraq. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I’m not around to expound on them I’d prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn’t support. Further, this is tough enough on my family without their having to see my picture being used in some rally or my name being cited for some political purpose. You can fight political battles without hurting my family, and I’d prefer that you did so.

***

Soldiers cannot have the option of opting out of missions because they don’t agree with them: that violates the social contract. The duly-elected American government decided to go to war in Iraq. (Even if you maintain President Bush was not properly elected, Congress voted for war as well.) As a soldier, I have a duty to obey the orders of the President of the United States as long as they are Constitutional. I can no more opt out of missions I disagree with than I can ignore laws I think are improper. I do not consider it a violation of my individual rights to have gone to Iraq on orders because I raised my right hand and volunteered to join the army. Whether or not this mission was a good one, my participation in it was an affirmation of something I consider quite necessary to society. So if nothing else, I gave my life for a pretty important principle; I can (if you’ll pardon the pun) live with that.

UPDATE:  An article he wrote (with picture of him) last week for the Rocky Mountain News (Colo).

Blackwater Shoots The New York Times’ Dog

The New York Times has been reporting how the security firm, Blackwater, has been going around shooting innocent people in Baghdad for no good reason.

And guess what happened last week?

The U.S. embassy in Iraq is investigating another deadly shooting incident involving its Blackwater bodyguards — this time of the New York Times’s dog.

Staff at the newspaper’s Baghdad bureau said Blackwater bodyguards shot Hentish dead last week before a visit by a U.S. diplomat to the Times compound.

Blackwater is saying that the dog was a threat of some sort, but the State Department is investigating and taking it "very seriously".

Casualties Of War

The other statistic:

More than 100,000 of the 750,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have sought treatment for mental problems from the Department of Veterans Affairs, an official said during a hearing on suicides.

Dr. Ira Katz, the VA’s deputy chief of patient care, told members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee that the department’s suicide hotline has received more than 6,000 calls from veterans or their families since it was established in July.

Rape Culture

As if the story of the KBR/Halliburton employee rape of an American staffer in Iraq isn’t bad enough

… it’s much worse when you take into account that KBR/Halliburton has tried to cover it up.

… it’s much worse when you take into account that a law (passed by the GOP majority) makes any the KBR/Halliburton employees immune for prosecution under the Military Code of Justice.

…it’s much much worse when you take into account these entries, from the victim’s own online diary:

May 3, 2007- I was told by the state department that my rape kit was missing. The state department had previously ensured both of my parents that the rape kit had made it back to Washington before I even arrived back to the US . I had my mom call the state department to refresh their memories.

May 4, 2007- The rape kit was found, however the pictures of the bruises and the doctor’s notes from that day were still (and are currently) missing.

May 17 2007- The state department let me know they were e-mailing the doctor that administered the rape examination again to see if she had found or located anything from my appointment in Baghdad.

May 22, 2007- Lynn Falanga flew to Florida to present my case to the AUSA in Florida . She stated that she had “good news” that she felt that there was an 85 percent chance that they were going to go foreword with prosecution. They felt that my criminal case is strong and the only setback was the logistical side of things. She stated that “this will be the first case out of Iraq that has gone this far along with prosecution."

May 31, 2007- Lynn Falanga called me to tell me that the AUSA took on my case as an “intake” so that they could investigate my case diligently. In regards to the missing pictures and doctor’s notes that were taken in Baghdad Lynn Falanga and I both called the doctor that performed the rape kit. The doctor stated to both of us that “I have no idea which rape victum you are because so many young contractor girls were raped after drinking with the guys” she also stated that “I performed so many rape kits in the six months that I was stationed there that there would be no way to recall whom yours was."

Halliburton Latest Venture In Iraq

Stomach-turning:

Abc_9jamie2_071203_sshA Houston, Texas woman says she was gang-raped by Halliburton/KBR coworkers in Baghdad, and the company and the U.S. government are covering up the incident.

Jamie Leigh Jones, now 22, says that after she was raped by multiple men at a KBR camp in the Green Zone, the company put her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be out of a job.

"Don’t plan on working back in Iraq. There won’t be a position here, and there won’t be a position in Houston," Jones says she was told.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court against Halliburton and its then-subsidiary KBR, Jones says she was held in the shipping container for at least 24 hours without food or water by KBR, which posted armed security guards outside her door, who would not let her leave.

"It felt like prison," says Jones, who told her story to ABC News as part of an upcoming "20/20" investigation. "I was upset; I was curled up in a ball on the bed; I just could not believe what had happened."
*****

Jones’ lawyer Todd Kelly says in the lawsuit that KBR and Halliburton created a "boys will be boys" atmosphere at the company barracks, which put Jones and other female employees at risk. "The last thing she should have expected was for her own people to turn on her," Kelly told ABC News.
(ABC News)

Arming The Enemy

Stunning incompetence:

The report details a massive failure in government procurement revealing little accountability for the billions of dollars spent purchasing military hardware for the Iraqi security forces. For example, according to the report, the military could not account for 12,712 out of 13,508 weapons, including pistols, assault rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers and machine guns.

Let’s be clear about this — we provided over 13,000 weapons to the Iraqi Security forces so that they can secure their own country . . . and we can only account for 800 of those weapons now?

Were Iraqis able to just walk into the weapons depot and take whatever they liked?  Are they missing because these so-called "Iraqi Security Forces" are now insurgents?  Isn’t it safe to assume they are now being used against our forces?

The mind boggles….

Say What?

Senate Minority Mitch McConnell (R-KY), on U.S. casualties in Iraq:

"Nobody is happy about losing lives but remember these are not draftees, these are full-time professional soldiers."

Oh, well.  That makes it okay, I guess.

Do Military Families Support The War?

Nope:

Nearly six out of every 10 military families disapprove of Bush’s job performance and the way he has run the war, rating him only slightly better than the general population does.

And among those families with soldiers, sailors and Marines who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, 60% say that the war in Iraq was not worth the cost, the same result as all adults surveyed.

UPDATE:  Ooops.  Missed this.

When military families were asked which party could be trusted to do a better job of handling issues related to them, respondents divided almost evenly: 39% said Democrats and 35% chose Republicans. The general population feels similarly: 39% for Democrats and 31% for Republicans.

“The Democrats are not seen as the anti-soldier group anymore,” said Charles C. Moskos, a military sociologist at Northwestern University.

Goalposts Moved When You Weren’t Looking

In Iraq:

With American military successes outpacing political gains in Iraq, the Bush administration has lowered its expectation of quickly achieving major steps toward unifying the country, including passage of a long-stymied plan to share oil revenues and holding regional elections.

Instead, administration officials say they are focusing their immediate efforts on several more limited but achievable goals in the hope of convincing Iraqis, foreign governments and Americans that progress is being made toward the political breakthroughs that the military campaign of the past 10 months was supposed to promote.

The short-term American targets include passage of a $48 billion Iraqi budget, something the Iraqis say they are on their way to doing anyway; renewing the United Nations mandate that authorizes an American presence in the country, which the Iraqis have done repeatedly before; and passing legislation to allow thousands of Baath Party members from Saddam Hussein’s era to rejoin the government. A senior Bush administration official described that goal as largely symbolic since rehirings have been quietly taking place already.

and in Afghanistan:

A White House assessment of the war in Afghanistan has concluded that wide-ranging strategic goals that the Bush administration set for 2007 have not been met, even as U.S. and NATO forces have scored significant combat successes against resurgent Taliban fighters, according to U.S. officials.

The evaluation this month by the National Security Council followed an in-depth review in late 2006 that laid out a series of projected improvements for this year, including progress in security, governance and the economy. But the latest assessment concluded that only "the kinetic piece" — individual battles against Taliban fighters — has shown substantial progress, while improvements in the other areas continue to lag, a senior administration official said.

This judgment reflects sharp differences between U.S. military and intelligence officials on where the Afghan war is headed. Intelligence analysts acknowledge the battlefield victories, but they highlight the Taliban’s unchallenged expansion into new territory, an increase in opium poppy cultivation and the weakness of the government of President Hamid Karzai as signs that the war effort is deteriorating.

There will come a day when we eventually leave Iraq and Afghanistan, and significant numbers of people will declare "victory".  Kind of easy to do when you define down what one means by "victory".  As Josh Marshall says: "Squint hard enough and it kind of sort of maybe looks like victory."

By the way, remember when war critics complained that Bush was going to try to set up permanent bases in Iraq, and they were called wacko conspiracy theorists?  Well…

Iraq’s government is prepared to offer the U.S. a long-term troop presence in Iraq and preferential treatment for American investments in return for an American guarantee of long-term security including defense against internal coups, The Associated Press learned Monday.

The proposal, described to the AP by two senior officials familiar with the issue, is one of the first indications that the United States and Iraq are beginning to explore what their relationship might look like, once the U.S. significantly draws down its troop presence.

The Good News Out Of Iraq

A diarist at Kos makes an observation:

The news this morning is full of signs of peace settling over Baghdad as increased troop levels help to quiet the insurgency.

Officials said privately that they hoped to foster a sense of normalcy and encourage limited travel to Iraq, particularly by business people and aid workers. They mentioned that Baghdad International Airport is preparing to reopen in a few days.

Wait, wait, wait.  That was 2003.

No, here’s how nice things are in Iraq.

Ammar Hussein finally felt it was safe enough to keep his pizza shop open until midnight. Life was returning to normal in Iraq’s capital. Most nights, families crowded around plastic tables outside his shop to eat pizza and ice cream.

Darn it, that was 2004.  This must be the right article.

The amazing realisation is that somehow normal life continues. Shops open, people go to work. Even the Crazy Frog mobile phone ring tone has become the latest fad in Baghdad.

Sorry again, 2005.

Let’s just skip 2006 and go straight to today.

The number of bodies appearing on Baghdad’s streets has plummeted to about 5 a day, from as many as 35 eight months ago, and suicide bombings across Iraq fell to 16 in October, half the number of last summer and down sharply from a recent peak of 59 in March, the American military says.

Ah, paradise.

Don’t misunderstand.  I very much hope that this period does represent a real, sustained move toward normalcy in Iraq.  Certainly the millions of Iraqi refugees are hoping for the same thing. After months in which tens of thousands of people were fleeing Baghdad each day, around 1,600 a day are now trickling back.  That really is a good sign.  But there have been a number of "lulls" in violence, and what we’re now looking at as the "lowest number of attacks since February 2006" only means that "normal" has been redefined as worse than anything in 2005, or 2004, or 2003.

As optomistic as I would like to be, I can’t help noticing that first article, the one from a few weeks after the war "ended," includes this paragraph.

Nonetheless, 33 American soldiers have been killed and scores wounded since major hostilities ended in May, making the postwar period the most hazardous peacetime era for Americans.

Normal, is relative.

Yup.  It ain’t over yet.  And has Kevin Drum correctly points out, a decrease in violence means nothing if there isn’r progress at the political level.

UPDATE:  The L.A. Times informs us that our military leaders are cautious as well:

But military and government officials warned at the start of the clampdown that it would not have lasting success unless it was matched with political progress. It is a message being repeated with a new sense of urgency, now that Iraqi leaders can no longer blame huge bombs, mass abductions, and street-by-street fighting as an excuse for political paralysis.

Supporting The Troops

I don’t care if you are for or against the war in Iraq — this is just plain wrong:

The U.S. Military is demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments.

To get people to sign up, the military gives enlistment bonuses up to $30,000 in some cases.

Now men and women who have lost arms, legs, eyesight, hearing and can no longer serve are being ordered to pay some of that money back.

Memo to the Pentagon — it’s called an enlistment bonus for a reason.  They enlisted, so they get the bonus. 

Trying to get the money back AFTER they’ve enlisted and had their limbs blown off — well, that’s just Scrooge-like.

For what it’s worth, the congressman of the soldier spotlighted in the above-linked story, Democrat Jason Altmire, has introduced a bill to prohibit the Bush administration from asking the troops for refunds.

Mr. Altmire, D-McCandless, held a news conference yesterday at the Ross municipal building with Spc. Kaminski and other veterans to tout legislation he has authored to aid wounded soldiers.

At the forefront was a bill introduced last week and sent to committee that targets a Defense Department policy preventing eligible soldiers from receiving their full bonuses if discharged early because of combat-related injuries.

“Hard as it may be to believe, the Department of Defense has been denying injured servicemen and women the bonuses that they qualified for,” Mr. Altmire said.

He said he drafted the legislation after hearing “outrageous” examples of bonuses being denied…. Mr. Altmire’s legislation, the Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act, would require the Defense Department to pay bonuses in full within 30 days to veterans discharged because of combat-related wounds.

I wonder if Republicans will block it.

UPDATE: Professor Volokh did some "quick research" on this and finds:

that the military does have this sort of policy, on the theory that the bonus is an advance payment for a full term of service and the soldier isn’t entitled to keep it unless he completes the full term — even when the failure to complete the term is a result of a combat wound.

It’s a stupid theory, and a crappy policy, no matter how "legal" it is.  As one of Volokh’s commenters snarkily writes:

"It’s time for these coddled soldiers to start bearing some of the burden that we here in the homeland have been carrying since 9/11.

Don’t they realize that we are at war?"

Memo To The City Of Long Beach, California

Vets_buttonToday is Veteran’s Day.  Which is to say, today is the day we specifically set aside to honor the veterans.  Regardless of how one feels about the Iraq War, or the Vietnam War, or even war in general, we set aside today to honor those men and women who put their lives on the line in service to their country.

In theory and principle — and occasionally in practice — those uniformed men and women do what they do to protect our freedoms.  They separate themselves from family and friends to serve their country.  Many of them come back without limbs, or without the same sense of sanity that they left.  Many of them don’t come back at all.

As such, we don’t provide a litmus test to veterans.  We don’t say, "We’ll honor you on Veteran’s Day, but only if you vote for Political Candidate X".  We don’t say, "We’ll honor you for your service to our country, but only if you fought in X, Y or Z conflicts."  And we certainly don’t say, "We honor you only if you forego your First Amendment rights, part of the parcel of rights you fought to protect."

So when I read that anti-Iraq War veterans were banned from your Veteran’s Day parade, I was stunned.  Let me say this quite simply: Veteran’s Day parades are to honor the veterans — all veterans.  If you were holding a Pro-Iraq War Parade, that is one thing — but this isn’t that.  And for you to think that Veteran’s Day is synonymous with being pro-Iraq, you are grossly mistaken.

UPDATE:  That goes for you, too, Denver.

CORRECTION:  The anti-Iraq vets were allowed to march in the Denver parade after all (albeit at the very end of it).  It seems that those who served understand:

Air Force veteran Jim Hill said the groups should be allowed to march in the parade.

"They put in their time, they lost their buddies too, their friends," he said.

Yup.

Porn For Soldiers

I’m with Steve Benen — if you are fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and risk get shot at or blown up at any moment, then by God you really should be entitled to read whatever the hell you want.

Yes, including Penthouse.

But the American Prude Family Association isn’t all that concerned about the soldier’s dying.  Nope, what bothers the AFA is that our soldiers are reading smut.

Dozens of religious and anti-pornography groups have complained to Congress and Defense Secretary Robert Gates that a Pentagon board set up to review magazines and films is allowing sales of material that Congress intended to ban.

"They’re saying ‘we’re not selling stuff that’s sexually explicit’ … and we say it’s pornography," says Donald Wildmon, head of the American Family Association, a Christian anti-pornography group. A letter-writing campaign launched Friday by opponents of the policy aims to convince Congress to "get the Pentagon to obey the law," he adds.

Well, obeying the law is nice, but it’s a dumb law.  And you would think that a group named American Family Association would be more concerned about returning the men and women fighting overseas back home to their families, rather than get all hot and bothered about nudie magazines.

The Imperial Presidency

Good NY Times review of two new books: DEAD CERTAIN: The Presidency of George W. Bush, by Robert Draper and THE TERROR PRESIDENCY: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration by Jack Goldsmith.

The first book, "Dead Certain" is probably the more interesting in that the author, Robert Draper, had a lot of access to President Bush and his aides, including six private interviews with the President.  The premise of the book is not that the President is stupid, but intellectually uninvolved.  He believes what he believes, and nothing will move him off the mark, including things like facts.  As the review explains:

Bush knows he is right. When facts turn out to get in the way, he brushes them off. When “Mission Accomplished” turned sour in Iraq, when various supposed bench marks of success did not stop the bloodshed, the president remained utterly confident of victory. He was sure, Draper writes, that “history would acquit him.”

These are some of the words Draper uses in discussing Bush: “certitude,” “intransigence,” “his obstinate streak,” “compulsive optimism.” “I truly believe we’re in the process of shaping history for the good,” Bush told Draper early this year. “I know, I firmly believe, that decisions I have made were necessary to secure the country.”

***

The way Bush sold the country on going to war against Iraq is well traced by Draper in quotations from speeches in late 2002. Saddam “is a man who would likely team up with Al Qaeda,” Bush said on Nov. 3. Later the same day: “This is a man who has had contacts with Al Qaeda. … He’s the kind of guy that would love nothing more than to train terrorists and provide arms to terrorists.” The next day: “Imagine a scenario where an Al Qaeda-type organization uses Iraq as an arsenal.” And repeatedly, Draper says, Bush used the line: “This is a man who told the world he wouldn’t have weapons of mass destruction, promised he wouldn’t have them. He’s got them.”

Draper says bluntly that “Bush wasn’t relying on intelligence to buttress his claims of Saddam’s dark fantasies of plotting attacks on America with Al Qaeda, or of direct contact with Al Qaeda. For no such intelligence existed.” But the scary talk worked. In time millions of Americans believed, in the teeth of reality, that there were Iraqis on the planes that struck the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

He provides another example, showing that that lack-of-fact-based certitude extended to Cheney:

Draper has a telling quotation that I had not seen before. Vice President Dick Cheney is trying to persuade Dick Armey, the Republican House majority leader, who was skeptical about a war on Iraq, in a private meeting in September 2002: “We have great information. They’re going to welcome us. It’ll be like the American Army going through the streets of Paris. They’re sitting there ready to form a new government. The people will be so happy with their freedoms that we’ll probably back ourselves out of there within a month or two.”

Yup.  The Iraqis would throw roses at us, and we would be out of there in a month or two.

An abysmal ignorance of Iraq and Islam underlay such beliefs. The Economist, which still doggedly supports the Iraq effort, wrote recently (in an article not about Bush but about former Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose support for the war had some calling him Bush’s poodle), “Only an historical illiterate would have assumed that the divided Iraqis were bound to thank their invading liberators and coalesce in democratic government.” One has to wonder whether George W. Bush had heard about the division between Shiites and Sunnis when he decided on war.

They say that "a little knowledge" is a dangerous thing.  The Bush Administration’s reliance on their beliefs, rather than evidence and facts and information, proves the veracity of this maxim.  They are not stupid; they are ignorant — the difference being that a stupid person cannot comprehend the facts staring him in the face, and an ignorant person doesn’t see the facts staring him in the face.  In Bush’s case, the ignorance was willful.  We need to remember that as we hear the war drums beat for military action against Iraq.