Sunday, August 28, 2005

How to Win in Iraq, a strategy proposed., by Krepinevich

August 28, 2005
Winning in Iraq
New York Times

Andrew Krepinevich is a careful, scholarly man. A graduate of West Point and a retired lieutenant colonel, his book, "The Army and Vietnam," is a classic on how to fight counterinsurgency warfare.

Over the past year or so he's been asking his friends and former colleagues in the military a few simple questions: Which of the several known strategies for fighting insurgents are you guys employing in Iraq? What metrics are you using to measure your progress?

The answers have been disturbing. There is
no clear strategy. There are no clear metrics.

Krepinevich has now published an essay in the new issue of Foreign Affairs, "How to Win in Iraq," in which he proposes a strategy. The article is already a phenomenon among the people running this war, generating discussion in the Pentagon, the C.I.A., the American Embassy in Baghdad and the office of the vice president.

Krepinevich's proposal is hardly new. He's merely describing a classic counterinsurgency strategy, which was used, among other places, in Malaya by the British in the 1950's. The same approach was pushed by Tom Donnelly and Gary Schmitt in a Washington Post essay back on Oct. 26, 2003; by Kenneth Pollack in Senate testimony this July 18; and by dozens of midlevel Army and Marine Corps officers in Iraq.

Krepinevich calls the approach the oil-spot strategy. The core insight is that you can't win a war like this by going off on search and destroy missions trying to kill insurgents. There are always more enemy fighters waiting. You end up going back to the same towns again and again, because the insurgents just pop up after you've left and kill anybody who helped you. You alienate civilians, who are the key to success, with your heavy-handed raids.

Instead of trying to kill insurgents, Krepinevich argues, it's more important to protect civilians. You set up safe havens where you can establish good security. Because you don't have enough manpower to do this everywhere at once, you select a few key cities and take control. Then you slowly expand the size of your safe havens, like an oil spot spreading across the pavement.

Once you've secured a town or city, you throw in all the economic and political resources you have to make that place grow. The locals see the benefits of working with you. Your own troops and the folks back home watching on TV can see concrete signs of progress in these newly regenerated neighborhoods. You mix your troops in with indigenous security forces, and through intimate contact with the locals you begin to even out the intelligence advantage that otherwise goes to the insurgents.

If you ask U.S. officials why they haven't adopted this strategy, they say they have. But if that were true the road to the airport in Baghdad wouldn't be a death trap. It would be within the primary oil spot.

The fact is, the U.S. didn't adopt this blindingly obvious strategy because it violates some of the key Rumsfeldian notions about how the U.S. military should operate in the 21st century.

First, it requires a heavy troop presence, not a light, lean force. Second, it doesn't play to our strengths, which are technological superiority, mobility and firepower. It acknowledges that while we go with our strengths, the insurgents exploit our weakness: the lack of usable intelligence.

Third, it means we have to think in the long term. For fear of straining the armed forces, the military brass have conducted this campaign with one eye looking longingly at the exits. A lot of the military planning has extended only as far as the next supposed tipping point: the transfer of sovereignty, the election, and so on. We've been rotating successful commanders back to Washington after short stints, which is like pulling Grant back home before the battle of Vicksburg. The oil-spot strategy would force us to acknowledge that this will be a long, gradual war.

But the strategy has one virtue. It might work.

Today, public opinion is turning against the war not because people have given up on the goal of advancing freedom, but because they are not sure this war is winnable. Why should we sacrifice more American lives to a lost cause?

If President Bush is going to rebuild support for the war, he's going to have to explain specifically how it can be won, and for that he needs a strategy.

It's not hard to find. It's right there in Andy Krepinevich's essay, and in the annals of history.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Astonishing Mr. Bush

Op Ed to Herald Leader.

W. Continues to astonish us, if we are listening and looking. Now, when he
finally faces our Iraqi war dead it is to use them. To veterans at Salt Lake
City on Monday, the new reason we should stay in Iraq is "to finish the task
they gave their lives for."

Other reasons for the Iraqi war have collapsed as pretentious: no WMD, no
9/11 link to Iraq, and now no real democracy. W. finds it politically useful
to use our war dead as plain and sufficient reason for continuing.

Those of us who lived through Vietnam vividly remember that the same false
reasoning cost us another 25,000 Americans wasted. Twenty-five thousand
American lives. From the middle of the war, late sixties, it was clear to
outsiders and a few insiders charged with strategic analysis (Pentagon
Papers) that the war could not be won. We could not and would not face this
reality. America had never "lost a war."

Apparently we still cannot face the limits of American power and military
might. Combat veterans from Vietnam era, many of them, blame the Vietnam
failure on the wimpy American public, beguiled by the wimpy, soft hearted
liberals. Some believe we wimped out by not using the Bomb.

Smearing of wimpy liberals and those conned by them continues. It is the
Rove tactic that has been very successful in keeping the most disconnected
president of our time in the White House.

W. is now ready to declare "victory," as we did in Vietnam. But we have to
keep on killing and have our kids killed because so many of our kids have
been killed. Vietnam redux as W. finds new places to ride his $3k Trek Fuel

Only more astonishing is how the political right can keep justifying to
itself and smearing the opposition in order to remain righteously committed
to the Tough Guy Stand Tall cause, regardless. Some of these are beginning
to carp at W. for not winning the war. Escalation of war is entirely likely
to satisfy these supporters and to more clearly separate warriors from wimps
in the 2006 elections. Testosterone will likely prevail.

This summer, a vast disconnect has emerged and is being solidified. Warriors
versus Wimps. Patriots versus Pantywaists, Convinced versus Cowards. Or is
it simply Idealists who will pay any price for their Holy War versus hard
nosed Realists? Vietnam is still with us. We are facing or not facing the
limits of American power, either with blind pride and denial or with

P.S. Do not expect W. to give up his 9/11 - Iraqi linking. It is a necessary
part of his bubble and a vital part of his image as a successful War
President. Having begun with this conceit he cannot quit now without facing
his own blindness and alienating his True Believers. The Big Lie has a life
of its own.

Paschal Baute

Monday, August 22, 2005

Bush vs Benedict. and Catholic Conservatives

August 29, 2005 Issue
Copyright © 2005 The American Conservative

Bush vs. Benedict

Catholic neoconservatives grapple with their church’s Just War tradition.

By Daniel McCarthy

Four months into the pontificate of Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Ratzinger, it is too soon to say what will distinguish the new pontiff’s tenure from that of his epochal predecessor—beyond the safe prediction that it will be shorter. But continuities are already clear: like John Paul II, Benedict will stand firm in the church’s teachings on sexual morality and the sanctity of human life. And like John Paul II, the new pope is a man of peace whose vision for the world does not include wars of the sort lately waged against Iraq.

The priority Benedict places on peace was apparent even in his choice of name. The sixth century St. Benedict had brought monasticism to the West, becoming a patron saint of Europe. This German pope reaffirmed the church’s commitment to the historical heartland of Christianity by his choice—as if to say that Europe is not to be surrendered either to secularism or surging Islam. But above all, he paid tribute to Benedict XV, the “Peace Pope” who occupied the Throne of St. Peter in the harrowing days of World War I. The new pope made the connection explicit on April 27 in remarks he made at his first general audience:

I chose to call myself Benedict XVI ideally as a link to the venerated pontiff Benedict XV, who guided the Church through the turbulent times of the First World War. He was a true and courageous prophet of peace who struggled strenuously and bravely, first to avoid the drama of war and then to limit its terrible consequences. In his footsteps I place my ministry, in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples, profoundly convinced that the great good of peace is above all a gift from God, a fragile and precious gift to be invoked, safeguarded and constructed, day after day and with everyone’s contribution.

Conservatives of almost all stripes had cause to rejoice in Ratzinger’s election, as even non-Catholics among them saw in him a man who would uphold the values dear to them. An ephemeral but telling sign of his support was the presence on the Internet of sites announcing themselves as the “Ratzinger Fanclub” and “Protestants for Ratzinger.” The new pope would be a sure ally for the Right in the Culture War. But where hot wars are concerned, many of Ratzinger’s most ardent admirers—Catholic neoconservatives especially—find themselves diametrically at odds with the pope.

Michael Novak, George Weigel, and Richard John Neuhaus are three of the most prominent Catholic neocons whose reading of Just War doctrine clashes with the views of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Novak and Neuhaus fit the classic mold: they were radicals in the 1960s and early 1970s, both involved in protesting the Vietnam War. Neuhaus—a Lutheran pastor before his 1991 conversion to Catholicism—founded Clergy Concerned About Vietnam alongside Fr. Daniel Berrigan and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel; Novak co-wrote with Heschel and Robert M. Brown Vietnam: Crisis of Conscience. By the 1980s, both had moved rightward, trading social democracy for Novak’s “democratic capitalism.” Today, they and Weigel, a biographer of John Paul II whose ideological background is less exotic, champion an interpretation of Just War theory that strongly favors the foreign policy of George W. Bush.

Disseminating the views of Neuhaus, Novak, and Weigel—and often making bolder statements in defense of the administration than the big three themselves—are such journals as Crisis, co-founded by Novak, and First Things, established and until recently edited by Neuhaus. In October 2004, Crisis ran a cover story touting “The Case for an American Empire”; four months later, it published an article calling for the return of the draft. First Things has, by contrast, been more genteel, even publishing a debate on war and statecraft between Weigel and the Church of England’s Rowan Williams. But a recent article by the journal’s new editor, Joseph Bottum, suggests the underlying tendency. In “The New Fusionism,” arguing for an alliance between neoconservatives and social conservatives, Bottum laments, “Much of the Roman curia seems to have fallen into a functional pacifism that threatens a damaging loss of the traditional Catholic theory of just war.”

Writing in National Review Online—a venue not explicitly Catholic or neoconservative but colored by both—shortly after the death of John Paul II, University of Reading philosophy professor David Oderberg put the neocon line bluntly. “When it comes to applying tradition to life-and-death moral issues”—such as the Iraq War—“Bush 43 wins hands down over John Paul II.” George Weigel or Michael Novak would never write such a thing, but the conclusion is one to which their arguments readily lead. Where foreign policy is concerned, for the Catholic neoconservative, it is Bush si, Benedict no.

The new pope and his predecessor have been consistent—some, like Osterberg, would say to a fault—in taking the most restrictive possible view in favor of life in matters of capital importance, whether abortion, the death penalty, or war. Neoconservative Catholics have met this papal position with defiance. They point out, correctly, that abortion and war are not parallel—the former is wrong in all instances, the latter permissible in some. Novak and Neuhaus also take care to emphasize the wording of Section 2309 of the Catholic Catechism, which states that deciding when the conditions for a just war have been met “belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good”—meaning the Bush administration, as they would have it.

Yet war is a matter of both moral judgment and prudential judgment. The church is not competent to deduce the likelihood of strategic success or to address other purely prudential considerations of Just War doctrine. But there remain moral considerations in going to war about which a pope certainly can speak with authority, if not with infallibility. Neither John Paul II nor Benedict—whose intellect neoconservative Catholics have in other contexts praised —needs reminding about what the Catechism says. In Benedict’s case, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he supervised its recent abridgement. In a May 2003 interview reported by Rome’s Zenit news service, Ratzinger was asked about the justice of the Iraq War in light of the Catechism. He agreed that Just War doctrine may require revision, as Weigel and other Catholic neoconservatives have suggested—but in a more, not less, restrictive direction.

The pope [John Paul II] expressed his thought with great clarity, not only as his individual thought but as the thought of a man who is knowledgeable in the highest functions of the Catholic Church. Of course, he did not impose this position as doctrine of the Church but as the appeal of a conscience enlightened by faith. The Holy Father’s judgment is also convincing from a rational point of view: There was not sufficient reasons to unleash a war in Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war.’

As for “preventive war,” Ratzinger flatly stated in September 2002, the “concept of a ‘preventive war’ does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.” The then-cardinal’s remarks also suggested that the United Nations, rather than George W. Bush, would be the proper public authority to decide upon war with Iraq: “the United Nations … should make the final decision,” he said. “It is necessary that the community of nations makes the decision, not a particular power.”

The doctrine of papal infallibility does not, of course, extend to Benedict’s remarks as a cardinal nor even, for that matter, to any of John Paul’s opinions about the Iraq War, however well informed they were. But there is no mistaking the gravity of their views. If, as both men believed, the attack on Iraq in 2003 was unjust, support for the war becomes unconscionable. Novak, Neuhaus, and Weigel have spent much of their careers battling relativism, arguing forcefully that there is moral truth at the core of even the most contentious and divisive issues. There is a moral truth, they would surely agree, at the heart of the Iraq War—the justice of the war is not something that is ultimately moot or merely a question of perspective. The war in Iraq is a matter of moral right and wrong. Catholic neoconservatives say it was right; Benedict says it was wrong.

Faithful Catholics of conservative disposition face a difficult choice here. Their president, the Republican Party, and the leading Catholic intellectuals who identify themselves as conservatives all support a policy that the pope opposes. Yet the antiwar movement seems at a glance to consist of people whose values are unalterably opposed to a Catholic’s—a motley collection of secular leftists, many of them supporters of abortion and homosexual marriage. Even the history of faithful antiwar Catholics in America has since World War II been marked by radicalism and outright pacifism, from Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers Movement to Fr. Daniel Berrigan.

There is, however, a conservative alternative, one that does not have the financial reach or media savvy of the neoconservative press but which has a long and venerable history and which agrees with the pope on hot wars and the culture wars alike. This brand of antiwar Catholicism is to be found in periodicals like The Wanderer, a 138-year-old newspaper based in Minnesota, and the considerably younger New Oxford Review.

The price paid by antiwar Catholic conservatives for upholding the pope’s thought in foreign policy as well as in cultural battles at home has been ostracism from the respectable Right. Even the late Brent Bozell, a founding father of postwar conservatism—William F. Buckley’s brother-in-law, ghostwriter for Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative—found himself marginalized after he and the Catholic magazine he founded, Triumph, began to grow critical of the Vietnam War. The conservative movement that has built itself a big tent in so many other respects still counts dissent in the foreign-policy arena as an excommunicable offense.

Yet in the end, American Catholics are not faced with a choice between conservatism and their faith—conservatives in the realist, anti-militarist traditions of George Kennan, Robert Nisbet, Russell Kirk, and the 1930s Old Right have always held foreign-policy views compatible with Benedict’s. But between what commonly passes for conservatism today, as represented by the president’s Iraq policy, and the vision of the pope there is an unbridgeable gap, on one side or the other of which American Catholics will have to take a stand.

Andrew Bacevich, himself a Catholic and a conservative, observes in The New American Militarism, “If in the aftermath of the Cold War a religious counterweight to the evangelical influence on U.S. policy were to have emerged, that counterweight ought to have been the Roman Catholic Church. Great in numbers, political influence, and material resources, with anti-Catholicism largely a thing of the past, the church was eminently well-positioned to put its stamp on public policy.” But the opportunity was squandered by a hierarchy enmeshed in scandal. This makes the efforts of lay Catholic leaders and individual priests—people like Novak, Weigel, and Neuhaus—all the more important. Lately there have been hints that Neuhaus, at least, is beginning to re-evaluate his support for the Iraq War (“There is a lively and legitimate argument about whether, knowing what we know now, this war was justified and necessary”) even as he still makes excuses for the president (“leaders do not have the convenience of making decisions retrospectively”). Perhaps Novak and Weigel, reflecting upon Pope Benedict’s thought, will follow suit. More likely, Catholics in search of a consistent application of the principles of their faith to the realm of foreign policy will have to look to the periphery of the conservative movement—and, of course, to Rome.

August 29, 2005 Issue

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Cindy Sheehan: strategic effect and Iraqi withdrawal

Sheehan Story Shows Elite Split on War
Submitted by marianne on Thu, 2005-08-18 19:03. Cindy Sheehan

by Ira Chernus
Common Dreams

It was an astonishing turnout. Last night, in my small middle-American city, more than 150 people stood on street corners supporting Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mom who is waiting outside the president's ranch to ask him, "Why did you kill my son?" Of course, demonstrations like this don’t have much effect unless they are reported in the mainstream media. Cindy Sheehan is making the media pay attention.

Even the Washington Post's official White House watcher, Dan Froomkin, took notice this week. “The real drama,” he wrote, “is not whether Bush will relent and meet with her. It's almost certain that he won't. The burning question is where does the Sheehan story go from here?” Spoken like a true professional journalist. It’s all about the story, the drama. Ms. Sheehan has created a gripping plot, indeed.

But the administration’s PR professionals are far more adept at shaping and shifting the public script, and they’re working overtime to do it. As Froomkin rightly said: “The White House is certainly hoping that that the press will just get bored and move on. Almost as good for the White House would be if the story becomes all about Cindy Sheehan, rather than her cause. The big danger for the White House, however, is if Sheehan incites the public, the press and political leaders to actually begin a national conversation about what a pullout from Iraq would look like.”

It is not Ms. Sheehan’s job to incite that conversation. It’s the job of the peace movement. And we have to confess that we haven’t been doing it well enough to force attention from the mainstream media. That’s why Froomkin can write: “In public, the discussion about how to get out of Iraq has been oddly muted. It's a rare public opinion poll that even asks whether U.S. troops should be withdrawn -- although when the question is asked, Americans are more likely to agree with Sheehan than with Bush."

As an experienced inside-the-beltway journalist, Froomkin should know that there is nothing at all "odd" about the public wanting change, yet never seeing its wishes reflected in mainstream news media. When it comes to foreign policy, in particular, the public opinion-makers rarely reflect public opinion. They reflect the opinion of the foreign policy elite, those few thousand Republicans and Democrats who talk only to each other (and perhaps, if they have any time left over, to the God of their choice).

The bad news is that, no matter how much the public wants our troops out of Iraq, they will probably stay there until the foreign policy elite decides its time for this folly to end.

The good news is that the foreign policy elite is beginning to recognize that the U.S. effort to control Iraq really is folly. The clearest evidence is that they let Cindy Sheehan become front-page news. And that columnists like Dan Froomkin are pointing out the disconnect between the media and public opinion.
There have been quite a number of Cindy Sheehan's before -- grief-stricken parents who lost children in Iraq and spoke out against the war. They were all ignored by the mainstream press, because the elite were all still determined to stick it out in Iraq till the bitter end. Cindy Sheehan just happened to be in the right place at the right time -- the time that a debate has broken out within the elite about whether or not to cut bait in Iraq.

I can't prove all this. I'm assuming it, based on what the history books tell us about the Vietnam war. As much as we'd like to believe that the peace movement forced the U.S. government to give up that insane war, it probably didn't happen quite that way. Lyndon Johnson's advisors knew as well as Karl Rove that antiwar demonstrators like Cindy Sheehan often gain more sympathy for the president than for peace.

But they also knew that growing public dissent can eventually divide the country and, in the worst case, make it ungovernable. At best, antiwar opinion undermines the president’s domestic political agenda. When venerable figures in the elite like Dean Acheson and George Kennan came to the White House in 1967 and said, "Mr. President, we can't win this war. We must get out of Vietnam," Johnson knew that the end had come. He soon announced that he wouldn’t seek a second term. Apparently he feared that, even if he won a second term, he couldn’t govern effectively. He would only tear the nation apart.

No matter what happens to the Cindy Sheehan story, George W. Bush should now know that the end has come for his war, too. His political power will continue to fade as long as U.S. troops continue to die in Iraq. Influential elite voices must be saying that, in private, to the administration. It’s the job of the peace movement to seize the advantage, mobilize the growing antiwar sentiment, and convince the elite that there is no other choice but to end the war now.

So far, the peace movement has been largely paralyzed by fears that a U.S. withdrawal would lead to a bloody civil war in Iraq. Those of us who can remember working to end the U.S. war in Vietnam should find that argument odd, at best. We remember hearing it back in the 1960s: If the U.S. leaves, a “bloodbath” will ensue. It took us a while to realize that we were not preventing a bloody civil war. The civil war had been going on long before the first U.S. troops arrived in Vietnam. We were merely propping up the weaker side. We were perpetuating the civil war.

Iraq and Vietnam are not at all precise parallels. Saddam Hussein’s despicable terror prevented any possibility of civil war in Iraq. It was the arrival of U.S. troops, en masse, that created the possibility of civil war. It was the massive U.S. effort to forge a new, pliable, virtually puppet Iraqi government that created the inevitability of civil war. As long as the U.S. troops remain, the civil war will go on. The only chance of ending the civil war is to withdraw not only all U.S. military forces, but all U.S. government agents (now staffing the largest U.S. embassy in the world), along with all the contractors (and their private security forces) who are milking Iraq for billions.

What happens then? No one can say for sure. There is indeed some evidence that a bloody civil war may ensue. But there is also plenty of evidence that most Iraqis want to work out their differences relatively peacefully and have the skills to do it. Only one thing is certain. As long as the U.S. tries to run Iraq, the civil war will rage on.

Every successful political campaign needs a single, simple theme, heard over and over again. Now that the elite are debating among themselves about whether to end the war, the peace movement’s message can finally be heard in the mainstream media. That message should be single, simple, loud, and clear: “We are not preventing a civil war. We are perpetuating it.” It's up to us in the peace movement to make sure that message gets through. When it does, both the foreign policy elite and the mass public will force the White House PR machine to take up a new task: putting the best face and a quick and total U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

Ira Chernus ( is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and author of American Nonviolence: The History of an Idea.
Copyright,see original

Clash of Two Worlds and Bush Loses.

Clash of Two Worlds and Bush Loses.
Paschal Baute, August 18, 2005

A remarkable drama is happening deep in the heart of Texas on the doorstep of Mr. Bush’s ranch, where he has been made a prisoner by a grieving mother and his own disconnect.

Political drama. A mother who lost her son in Iraq wants an interview. The President rides his bike around joking, Our military is subject to horrendous attacks daily, with loss of life and grave wounds, and our President calls their sacrifice a “noble cause” while vacationing for five weeks.

It is a wondrous spectacle: If Bush meets with her, she wins. If he refuses to meet with her, she wins. If he returns early to the White House where he should be, figuring out how to get us out of this quagmire, she wins.

Furthermore, as long as she stays her ground, she is paralyzing and infuriating the political right and all the pro-war quasi-patriots into revealing their basic hate and venom. Epitomized by Limbaugh and O’Reilly. This negativity is more likely to turn off than turn on the undecided and the wavering. She wins here also.

In addition, Cindy Sheehan is facing all of America with the injustice of this war when most of us prefer not to think about it at all. In particular, she is a symbol of the downside devastation for many in denial (the majority of media and the American people) as well as those who prefer to think in black and white, either-or, good or bad categories. We are being confronted with a moral choice. How can we justify continuing to lose our men when the war is going so badly and so little hope for anything different? Her witness is confronting us all.

Finally, Mother Cindy is a clear and stark contrast to the refusal of this President to be honest with the American people. Her stark sacrifice confronts his unwillingness to call for sacrifice and even his dishonesty with himself. She wins the shoot-out with a man who now seems more disconnected and cowardly by the day.

If this stand up pretentious man does meet with her, Cindy Sheehan will win for sure because he lives inside his own world where he has been screened from reality for five years. He is incapable of unrehearsed vulnerability and of doing much of anything without a script. He hates the media and has given fewer press conferences than any President in fifty years.

My assessment of the man is that there would sooner or later be some occasion that would reveal his character flaw. I believe this to be his pretentiousness and shallowness. I have no other way to understand the vast control, deceit, manipulation of the American people and the media that we have witnessed. This is the most power hungry and secretive Administration my six decades have ever seen (I do not admit to seven plus) When one examines the entire picture, the Bushies make the misbehavior of Nixon and Clinton look like kinder-garten high jinks.

This single determined Gold Star mom has become the President’s nemesis and his character revealing moment and the potential awakening of our people.

What is really weird is how my conservative friends and relatives prefer to live inside their own worlds and overlook the immoral relativism of the Bush White House. They refuse to see what this man is doing to our country by his lack of leadership on many issues, undermining our economic future by lack of fiscal accountability, while destroying our nation as the beacon of human rights and freedom in the world. For the supposedly morally superior tribe among us, this is to me really weird.

His policies have enraged and aroused Muslim radicals around the world, and we, already with great loss of life and limb in Iraq, are now more subject to terror than ever before. Safer? Hah!

The terrible tragedy of 9/11 has been used for right wing imperial purposes to line the pockets of Republican corporate friends. It has been “damn those who differ and full speed ahead. We shall do what we damn well please as long as we can get away with it.”

There is the strong suspicion of treasonable behavior if we ever wake up to it. God bless Cindy Sheehan. We may be seeing the defining moment of the Bush Presidency. The drama is delicious. She is helping us understand what a closed, shallow and pretentious man we have in the White House.

Paschal Baute
tel (859) 293-5302

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Ralph Nader to Cindy Sheehan: an Open Letter

Written by Ralph Nader, Wednesday, 10 August 2005

Dear Ms. Sheehan,

From your grief over the loss of your son, Casey, in Iraq has come the courage to spotlight nationally the cowardly character trait of a President who refuses to meet with anyone or any group critical of his illegal, fabricated, deceptive war and occupation of that ravaged country. As a messianic militarist, Mr. Bush turned aside his own father's major advisers who warned him of the terroristic, political, and diplomatic perils to the United States from an invasion of Iraq. He refused to listen.

Thirteen organizations in early 2003 separately wrote their President requesting a meeting to have him hear them out as to why they opposed his drumbeating, on-the-road-to war policies. These groups represented millions of Americans. They included church leaders, veterans, business, labor, retired intelligence officials, students, women and others. They are among those Americans who are not allowed through the carefully screened public audiences that are bused to arenas around the country to hear his repetitive slogans for carrying on this draining, boomeranging war. They each wrote President Bush but he never bothered even to acknowledge their letters simply to say no to the requested meetings. Not even the courtesy of a reply came from their White House.

Ever since then it has been the same-exclusion, denial, contempt and arrogance for views counter to that of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney and the tight circle around them that composes the inner tin ear of this Administration. Why, they even refuse to listen to objections by their own government's military lawyers (JAG) over repeated violations of due process of law. When will he realize that he is supposed to be the
President of all the people, not just those misled into supporting his Iraq maneuvers?

Perhaps the breakthrough will begin this hot August in Crawford, Texas. with the devastating loss of a beloved child transformed into a mission for the soul of our country. This rogue regime, led by two draft-dodgers and officially counseled by similar pro-war evaders during the Vietnam War, is not "our country." Millions of Americans, including military and public servants in his Administration, and many in the retired military, diplomatic and intelligence services, opposed this war, still oppose it and do not equate George W. Bush and Dick Cheney with the United States of America.

Our flag stands for "liberty and justice for all." Our flag must never be misused or defiled as a bandana for war crimes, as a gag against the people's freedom of speech and conscience or as a fig leaf to hide the shame of charlatans in high public office, who violate our Constitution, our laws and our founding fathers' framework for accountable, responsive government.

You will be goaded to cross the semantic line against a President who himself has crossed the much graver constitutional line that has cost so many lives on both sides and continues to cost and cost our country in so many ways domestically and before the world. Neglecting America for the Iraq war has become the widening downward path trod by the Bush government.

Authenticity, bereft of contrivances, is what must confront this White House Misleader. And authenticity is what you are and what drives you as you demand to see this resistant President. He is on an intermittent month long vacation, with spells for fundraisers and other insulated events. His schedule provides ample time for such a meeting. You reflect the hopes and prayers of millions of like-minded Americans. Should he relent and opens his doors, be sure to ask why he lowballs U.S.
casualties in Iraq, deleting and disrespecting soldiers seriously hurt or sickened in the Iraq war theatre, but not in direct combat. Remind him of those soldiers back in military hospitals who, with their families, wonder why they are not being counted as they cope with their serious and permanent disabilities. (60 Minutes, CBS program).

Ask him why, despite Pentagon audits and GAO investigations about corruption, waste and non-delivery of services in Iraq by profiteering large corporations totaling billions of dollars, this Commander of Chief accepted campaign contributions from their executives and proceeds to let this giant corporate robbery continue without the requisite law and order?

Consider bringing to him a copy of President Dwight Eisenhower's famous "Cross of Iron" speech, delivered in April 1953 before the nation's newspaper editors in Washington, D.C. And add statements by Marine General Anthony Zinni (ret.), a Middle East specialist who strongly criticized the Bush-Cheney war policy before and after March 2003. May you and your associates succeed in galvanizing the public debate in
this country over why a growing majority of Americans now think it was a costly mistake to invade Iraq and want our soldiers back, with the U.S. out of that country. He knows that his support for how he is handling this war-occupation is falling close to one third of respondents in recent polls-the lowest yet. Even with the mass-media at his disposal everyday, he now represents a minority of public opinion, which should give him pause before closing his oil marinated doors on majority views in this nation.

May you prevail where others have failed to secure an audience with Mr.


Ralph Nader

President cannot afford to face soldier's mother. -Inquirer.

8/14 - President can't afford to face soldier's mother Philadelphia Inquirer, Section: CURRENTS

Worldview | Truth be told, President can't afford to face soldier's mother

By Trudy Rubin

Cindy Sheehan is right to be furious. Camped out in Crawford, Texas, with several other mothers who lost sons in Iraq, Sheehan wants to meet President Bush. She says: "Our sons made the ultimate sacrifice, and we want answers."

Cindy Sheehan is right to be furious.

Camped out in Crawford, Texas, with several other mothers who lost sons in Iraq, Sheehan wants to meet President Bush. She says: "Our sons made the ultimate sacrifice, and we want answers."

I understand why Bush doesn't want to meet Sheehan. She wants him to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq. But the President can't pull the troops out. He can't even make the substantial reductions that some of his top brass are predicting for early next year. If he does, he risks disaster for Iraqis while boosting the cause of jihadi terrorists.

And Bush can't afford to tell the mothers why he's caught in this trap.

If Bush met Sheehan, platitudes would not suffice. She would want to know why 140,000 U.S. soldiers are stuck in Iraq more than two years after the fall of Baghdad. She would demand answers that go beyond "Freedom is on the march."

The President is not willing to give those frank answers. If he were, here's what he would have to say (translated from Bush-ese):

"Mrs. Sheehan, our troops are mired in Iraq because of errors made by my team. The Pentagon made no plans for the postwar. We sent too few troops to secure Iraq after Saddam fell, despite prewar warnings by top U.S. generals. This created a power vacuum, into which rushed former Baathists who want to restore the old order, along with Iraqi criminals and Arab jihadis.

"I admit we failed to recognize the danger of this power vacuum. We disbanded Iraq's army, rather than let Iraqis revamp it. This required us to build new Iraqi security forces from scratch, a mammoth task that only got going in June 2004.

"Those new Iraqi forces are far, far from ready to fight alone.

"The real truth is we were wrong to think we could build a new Iraqi army like kids build with Legos. Building an army takes more than sending equipment and trainers. We forgot that we were dealing with human beings in a country very different from ours.

"One of our fine retired U.S. generals, Barry McCaffrey, who visited Iraq in May, summed it up just right: 'Here's the real shortcoming of the Iraqi forces: Do they collectively believe it's worth fighting and dying for Iraq?' Iraq is so split by religious and ethnic conflicts that many Iraqi soldiers don't know what they're fighting for.

"So we are caught in an awful bind, Mrs. Sheehan. Our military has concluded we can't defeat this insurgency by force. We don't have the manpower or the intelligence resources. We've badly overstretched our National Guard, along with our Army and Marines.

"But if we leave now, Iraq will disintegrate, maybe into full-scale civil war. The Kurds will take the north. The Shiite majority, who were our tacit allies, will take the south and most of the oil and ally with Iran. Worst of all, the Sunni chunk of the country will become a nightmare zone, where Arab terrorists train for attacks against our Arab allies, their oil wells, and Israel.

"The Iraqi terrorist threat that didn't exist before we invaded will truly haunt the region. We will have created a monster.

"And, once more, we will have betrayed the Iraqis. Reagan let Saddam gas the Kurds; my father let Saddam slaughter the Shiites after urging them to rebel. Now I'll be responsible for taking out Iraq's institutions and leaving chaos behind.

"So when can our troops come home, you ask?

"It's up to the Iraqis.

"No, no, I'm not trying to brush you off, Mrs. Sheehan.

"You see, the Iraqis are drafting a constitution that's supposed to be finished by tomorrow. If Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds can only agree on a federal formula for sharing power, they can move forward to elections in December. If key Sunni leaders can be brought into the political process, that will undercut the insurgency, which is largely made up of disgruntled Sunnis.

"Then maybe we can draw down the troops.

"Yes, I know this is expecting a lot. Yes, I know Iraq is on the brink of civil war. I agree I overplayed the chance of democracy in a country with no experience of political give-and-take.

"Gen. McCaffrey had it right when he told columnist Trudy Rubin that 'if the [Iraqi] political process doesn't work, we're screwed.'

"We're damned if we leave, and we may be damned if we stay, but we have to stick it out in force until next summer. By then, we'll know if the Iraqis can get their act together. If not, we'll be in big, big trouble.

"Who's to blame, you ask? Why haven't I fired Don Rumsfeld? Why haven't Paul Wolfowitz or Douglas Feith taken any heat for their gross mismanagement of the postwar?

"There's a limit to frankness, Mrs. Sheehan. I sympathize with your loss, but I really have to get back to my vacation..."

How Chaplains, even good ones, can get brain-washed by the Military Zeitgeist


I was a Navy Chaplain (reserve) during the Vietnam War (rank Lt. Comdr). I saw first hand how the military brainwashed the chaplains so that the ambitious ones became more military than the military. Future Cardinal O'Connor (New York) gave a talk on Vietnam in the late 60s in Philadelphia to a small group of citizens, as a Navy Chaplain in Vietnam at the time. He came dressed in his combat fatigues and unbeliievalbly was very pro-war. My BREATH-TAKING, STUNNING insight was the way to make it up the ranks of the military chaplaincy was to become more military than the military.
O'CONNOR, who predictably became Chief of Chaplains--highest ranking officer in the Navy Chaplains Corps even wrote and published a very pro-war book on Vietnam, that he later said he was ashamed of.

It was a small part of the disillusionment that for me took me, first out of the Navy Chaplaincy, then out of the Navy reserve (I had been re-commissioned as a psycholgist in the Medical Service Corps, Reserve), and eventually out of the Roman Catholic structure.

Organized religion, Christian faith is more about Turf, membership and money than about following Jesus. He never said "Go to Church,: and never gave any indication that church membership or submission to a clerical or priestly caste was an essential or necessary part of following him. Love God totally and your neighbor as yourself. Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren you do to me. This is the essence of Jesus message, which I also find summed in Mary's response to the angel, the verses in Luke 1, called the Magnificat.

Jesus came and preached the gospel, but the Church came and preached Jesus. Huge difference. He never intended, IMO, to found a church that would assume to supercede his own Hebrew faith and persecute his people for 2000 years.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Cindy Sheehan vs President Bush

A quote from
. . .

There's a lesson in this. Americans are not, generally speaking, your basic turn-the-other-cheek sorts of folks. They like to know that the people they vote for or support will, at the very least, stand there and whack back, if whacked at. Whatever she may have been before, Cindy Sheehan was beaten into just that shape on the anvil of her son's death. ("I was stunned and dismayed when the United States invaded Iraq. I didn't agree with it. I didn't think it was right, but I never protested until after Casey was killed.") Some of her testimony at the Conyers hearings on the Downing Street Memo catches this spirit and it's well worth quoting:

There are a few people around the US and a couple of my fellow witnesses who were a little justifiably worried that in my anger and anguish over Casey's premeditated death, I would use some swear words, as I have been known to do on occasion when speaking about the subject. Mr Conyers, out of my deep respect for you, the other representatives here, my fellow witnesses, and viewers of these historic proceedings, I was able to make it through an entire testimony without using any profanity. However, if anyone deserves to be angry and use profanity, it is I. What happened to Casey and humanity because of the apparent dearth of honesty in our country's leadership is so profane that it defies even my vocabulary skills. We as Americans should be offended more by the profanity of the actions of this administration than by swear words. We have all heard the old adage that actions speak louder than words and for the sake of Casey and our other precious children, please hold someone accountable for their actions and their words of deception.

Last week, the Pentagon relieved a four-star general of his command allegedly because he had an affair, while separated from his wife, with a woman not in the military or the government; and yet not a single top official or high-ranking officer (except for scapegoat Brigadier Gen Janice Karpinski) has suffered for American acts at Abu Ghraib, or murder and torture throughout our imperium, or for torture and abuse at our prison in Guantanamo, or for any of the disasters of Iraq. In such a context, the words "please hold someone accountable" by the mother of a boy killed in Iraq, a woman on a mission who doesn't plan to back down or leave off any time soon - well, that truly constitutes going directly for the president's political throat. It's mano a mano time, and while I would never underestimate what this administration might do, I wouldn't underestimate the fierce power of an angry mother either. The Bush administration is in trouble in Iraq, in Washington, and in Crawford.

Note on sources: Cindy Sheehan is first and foremost an Internet phenomenon. Those of you who want to read her writings since 2004 should visit her archive at the always lively libertarian site, (Rockwell seems to specialize in strong women, publishing as well the writings of retired Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski.) For the Sheehan phenomenon in its present incarnation, check out a new website, but then go to the must-visit site,, which has a fascinating, ever-updated Sheehan subsection.

Tom Engelhardt is editor of Tomdispatch and the author of The End of Victory Culture. (Copyright 2005 Tomdispatch. Used by permission.)

(Copyright 2005 Tom Engelhardt)


Social Security Lessons

Social Security turned 70 yesterday. And to almost everyone's surprise, the nation's most successful government program is still intact.

Just a few months ago the conventional wisdom was that President Bush would get his way on Social Security. Instead, Mr. Bush's privatization drive flopped so badly that the topic has almost disappeared from national discussion.

But I'd like to revisit Social Security for a moment, because it's important to remember what Mr. Bush tried to get away with.

Many pundits and editorial boards still give Mr. Bush credit for trying to "reform" Social Security. In fact, Mr. Bush came to bury Social Security, not to save it. Over time, the Bush plan would have transformed Social Security from a social insurance program into a mutual fund, with nothing except a name in common with the system F.D.R. created.

In addition to misrepresenting his goals, Mr. Bush repeatedly lied about the current system. Oh, I'm sorry - was that a rude thing to say? Still, the fact is that Mr. Bush repeatedly said things that were demonstrably false and that his staff must have known were false. The falsehoods ranged from his claim that Social Security is unfair to African-Americans to his claim that "waiting just one year adds $600 billion to the cost of fixing Social Security."

Meanwhile, the administration politicized the Social Security Administration and used taxpayer money to promote a partisan agenda. Social Security officials participated in what were in effect taxpayer- financed political rallies, from which skeptical members of the public were excluded.

I'm writing about this in the past tense, but some of it is still going on. Last week Jo Anne Barnhart, the commissioner of Social Security, published an op-ed article claiming that Social Security as we know it was designed for a society in which people didn't live long enough to collect a lot of benefits. "The number of older Americans living now," wrote Ms. Barnhart, "is greater than anyone could have imagined in 1935."

Now, it turns out that an article on the Social Security Administration's Web site, "Life Expectancy for Social Security," specifically rejects the idea the Social Security was originally "designed in such a way that few people would collect the benefits," and the related idea that the system faces problems from "a supposed dramatic increase in life expectancy in recent years."

And the current number of older Americans as a share of the population is just about what the founders of Social Security expected. The 1934 report of F.D.R.'s Commission on Economic Security, which laid the groundwork for the Social Security Act, projected that 12.7 percent of Americans would be 65 or older by the year 2000. The actual number was 12.4 percent.

Despite Ms. Barnhart's efforts, however, privatization seems to be dead for the time being. The Democratic leadership in Congress defied the punditocracy - which was very much in favor of privatization - by refusing to cave in, and the American people made it clear that they like Social Security the way it is.

But the campaign for privatization provided an object lesson in how the administration sells its policies: by misrepresenting its goals, lying about the facts and abusing its control of government agencies. These were the same tactics used to sell both tax cuts and the Iraq war.

And there are two reasons to study that lesson. One is to be prepared for whatever comes next on Mr. Bush's agenda. Despite the tough talk about Iran, I don't think he can propose another war - there aren't enough troops to fight the wars we already have. But there's still room for another big domestic initiative, probably tax reform.

Forewarned is forearmed: the real goals of reform won't be as advertised, the administration will say things about the current system that aren't true, and the Treasury Department will function in a purely partisan capacity.

The other is that the public's visceral rejection of privatization, together with growing dismay over the debacle in Iraq, offers Democrats an opportunity to make an issue of the administration's pattern of deception. The question is whether they will dare to seize that opportunity, when for some of them it means admitting that they, too, were fooled.


Sunday, August 14, 2005

Someone Tell the President the War is Over

New York Times
August 14, 2005
Someone Tell the President the War Is Over

LIKE the Japanese soldier marooned on an island for years after V-J Day, President Bush may be the last person in the country to learn that for Americans, if not Iraqis, the war in Iraq is over. "We will stay the course," he insistently tells us from his Texas ranch. What do you mean we, white man?

A president can't stay the course when his own citizens (let alone his own allies) won't stay with him. The approval rate for Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq plunged to 34 percent in last weekend's Newsweek poll - a match for the 32 percent that approved L.B.J.'s handling of Vietnam in early March 1968. (The two presidents' overall approval ratings have also converged: 41 percent for Johnson then, 42 percent for Bush now.) On March 31, 1968, as L.B.J.'s ratings plummeted further, he announced he wouldn't seek re-election, commencing our long extrication from that quagmire.

But our current Texas president has even outdone his predecessor; Mr. Bush has lost not only the country but also his army. Neither bonuses nor fudged standards nor the faking of high school diplomas has solved the recruitment shortfall. Now Jake Tapper of ABC News reports that the armed forces are so eager for bodies they will flout "don't ask, don't tell" and hang on to gay soldiers who tell, even if they tell the press.

The president's cable cadre is in disarray as well. At Fox News Bill O'Reilly is trashing Donald Rumsfeld for his incompetence, and Ann Coulter is chiding Mr. O'Reilly for being a defeatist. In an emblematic gesture akin to waving a white flag, Robert Novak walked off a CNN set and possibly out of a job rather than answer questions about his role in smearing the man who helped expose the administration's prewar inflation of Saddam W.M.D.'s. (On this sinking ship, it's hard to know which rat to root for.)

For rest of this copyrighted article see

Saturday, August 13, 2005

guest letter from NY Times, from Tom Miller, Oakland, CA

To the Editor:

The war has come to this: a lonely grieving mother, initially standing alone, joined now by people of all classes and backgrounds, demanding an end to the war. In opposition stands the most powerful man in the world, who never admits mistakes. The tipping point has arrived.

Tom Miller
Oakland, Calif., Aug. 12, 2005

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Revolution is Now, Activism, by S. Samples,

The Revolution is NOW...

By Sheila Samples

"If you shut up the truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way."
-- French author Emile Zola

The incomparable Raw Story website is publishing a letter it acquired on Tuesday, Aug 9, from 16 Democratic Representatives (whose number has now burgeoned to 38) urging George Bush to meet with Cindy Sheehan, whose son, Casey, was slain in Iraq in 2002. Sheehan has been camped on Bush's doorstep since Saturday when she and a small group of supporters were forced to walk in a ditch struggling through knee-deep weeds as they made their way to Prairie Chapel, the Bush "ranch," a former pig farm in Crawford, Texas.

According to The Iconoclast, Bush's hometown paper, Sheehan said she decided to go to Crawford because of comments Bush made which coincided with the deaths of 12 Marine reservists from Ohio who were killed in perhaps the deadliest roadside bombing of U.S. troops in Iraq. Sheehan was outraged at Bush's remarks to about 1,800 members of the American Legislative Exchange Council in Grapevine on Aug 3 that the men and women who've lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan died in a noble and selfless cause.

"We all know by now that that's not true, and I want to ask George Bush, 'Why did my son die? What was the noble cause that he died for?'" said Sheehan. "I don't want [President Bush] to use my son's name or my family name to justify any more killing or to exploit my son's name, my son's sacrifice, or my son's honor to justify more killing. As a mother, why would I want one more mother to go through what I'm going through, Iraqi or American?

for more see
Sheila Samples: 'It all started at the pig farm'
Date: Thursday, August 11 @ 10:29:09 EDT
Topic: Activism

---To New York Times Editor, March 11
To the Editor:

Maureen Dowd, in "Why No Tea and Sympathy?" (column, Aug. 10), says, referring to Cindy Sheehan, a California woman whose son was killed in Iraq last year, "It's amazing that the White House does not have the elementary shrewdness to have Mr. Bush simply walk down the driveway and hear the woman out, or invite her in for a cup of tea."

I do not find this the least bit surprising, let alone amazing.

President Bush's handlers won't let him do what Ms. Dowd suggests for the same reasons they would not let him testify alone before the 9/11 commission and will not let him get within earshot of anyone who disagrees with him.

They realize that the president is someone who is totally driven by unquestioned belief, is disdainful of empirical truths, and most important, lacks the native intelligence to engage in unscripted give-and-take without embarrassing himself.

The most frightening aspect of this whole scenario may be that President Bush may have no idea what Ms. Sheehan is so upset about.

Kenneth Berger
Englewood, N.J., Aug. 10, 2005

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Journalists in Iraq risk their lives daily to bring us real news

Tragic end to a war reporter's bracing story
Steven Vincent, who contributed to the Monitor, was killed Tuesday in Basra.
By Dan Murphy | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
BAGHDAD – In three articles for this newspaper over the past month, Steven Vincent deftly captured the criminal-induced confusion of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, the jockeying for power between rival militias within government departments, and the growing use of political assassination that foreshadowed his own murder Tuesday.

The body of the 49-year-old American reporter and author was recovered shortly after midnight in the southern city of Basra, where he'd based himself for the past three months writing about the Shiite militias, and rampant corruption among local politicians and cops.

He's the first American journalist killed in Iraq since the US-led occupation - others have died of illness or in accidents. A resident of New York City, Mr. Vincent witnessed the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, and in his horror he felt inspired at a later age to become a war correspondent, says his wife, Lisa Ramaci-Vincent. Last year, he wrote "In the Red Zone: A Journey into the Soul of Iraq."

"He watched the World Trade Center burn and collapse, he saw people jumping to their death from the north tower, and he wanted to do something to help the war on terror," says Ms. Ramaci-Vincent, his wife of 13 years. "He was too old to enlist. He thought he could go to the war zone and try to open people's eyes to what was happening."

At around 6:30 p.m. he and his Iraqi translator Nouraya Itais Wadi (also known as Nour al-Khal) left a money-changer's shop on bustling Istiqlal Street. Then, police say, four gunmen jumped out of a white car (Lt. Col. Karim al-Zaidi told Associated Press that it was a police car, something confirmed by eyewitnesses) and hustled the pair inside, shouting to bystanders, "Don't interfere, we're the police," according to witnesses interviewed by an Iraqi journalist, who has worked for American news media and feared retribution if he was identified in this story.

Mr. Vincent had told his wife in recent weeks that he was growing increasingly concerned for his and Ms. Wadi's safety. He was getting strange phone calls with no one there, and Nouraya had been approached on the street and berated for working with an American.

"He was digging deeper and deeper into this weird tangle of criminal gangs, and Iranians coming over, and the corruption, and he told me he was starting to get worried,'' says Ramaci-Vincent, said her husband was planning to leave the city soon. "In his time there he had developed a real affinity for the Iraqi people, as trite as that may sound. He really loved them."

Vincent and Wadi were then taken to a house somewhere on the city's outskirts and were held and questioned for roughly five hours, according to a Basra police officer, who requested anonymity. Then, blindfolded and with their hands bound behind them, they were taken to Al Rebaat neighborhood in Basra and shot repeatedly. Ms. Wadi survived the attack and is now in serious condition at the Basra Teacher's Hospital.

She has been interviewed by the local police, and the police official said the murderers had beaten them, and shouted at her for working with a foreigner, something they said was un-Islamic. Lubna Abdul Hamid, an Iraqi woman working for the National Democratic Institute, a US-based nongovernmental organization, was murdered on Monday. Iraqi journalists interviewed by phone in Basra say they believe the murder was motivated by her American ties.

In an opinion piece published in The New York Times on Aug. 1, Vincent wrote about Shiite political parties that maintain their own militias in the city, and he reported allegations that off-duty police are used to assassinate former members of Saddam Hussein's regime and other political opponents.

"An Iraqi police lieutenant confirmed to me the widespread rumors that a few police officers are perpetrating many of the hundreds of assassinations - mostly of former Baath Party members - that take place in Basra each month," Vincent wrote. "He told me that there is even a sort of 'death car': a white Toyota Mark II that glides through the city streets, carrying off-duty police officers in the pay of extremist religious groups to their next assignment."

In a city like Basra - where members of the city's most notorious kidnap-for-ransom gang are now major political players, and Shiite gangs have taken to ad hoc beatings and harassment of women to enforce their views of Islamic law - there is a long list of possible suspects in the Vincent murder: The police, or a faction within the police; a Shiite militia either angry at his reporting or for his association with an Iraqi woman; or common criminals, who run kidnap-for-ransom rackets.
Journalists in War Zones

Iraq has been one of the most dangerous war zones for journalists in recent history. At least 12 have died in 2005 alone.

IRAQ: At least 66 journalists and media support workers killed, 29 journalists kidnapped.

VIETNAM: 63 journalists killed between 1955 and 1975, a period of 20 years.

ALGERIA: 57 journalists killed between 1993 and 1996 during the civil war.

THE BALKANS: 49 journalists killed between 1991 and 1995 during the war in the former Yugoslavia.

Sources: Reporters without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists, International Press Institute

"We know that common street criminals often masquerade as police, we also know that insurgents have used military uniforms to conduct their acts of terror,'' says a US Embassy official in Baghdad, who requested that his name not be used. "So rather than draw a conclusion that the police force is infiltrated, we're going to wait and see what the investigation turns up. We have complete confidence in the professionalism of the Basra police force."

In a scathing review of police training efforts at the end of last month, the US General Accounting Office found that "too many" Iraqi police recruits are "marginally literate, show up for training with physical or mental handicaps, [and] some recruits allegedly are infiltrating insurgents."

In Iraq's overwhelmingly Shiite south, Basra has been one of the safest regions in the country for foreign troops; roadside bombings and suicide attacks are rare. Iraq's Shiites, who were second-class citizens under the Sunni-dominated Hussein regime, were enthusiastic about his ouster. Shiite religious parties - outlawed under Hussein because many had ties into the Shiite theocracy in Iran - have since taken the reigns of power in the city.

Iraqi journalists say, and Vincent also reported, that criminal gangs prowl the city's outskirts - some now paid by the government to "protect" electricity infrastructure and other government installations - and the gun has played a blossoming role in the city's developing politics.

But today, militants connected to the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army fought the US for control of the Shiite shrine city of Najaf last fall, are just one of the religious gangs who roam the streets, forcing women to cover their hair. Liquor shops have been firebombed and most are closed now, as have been stores that sell Western pop music and DVDs.

Basra's Police Chief, Gen. Hassan al-Sade, told The Guardian newspaper in March that about half of his 13,750-member force were moonlighting for Shiite political parties and some were involved in assassinations. He was removed from his post soon after by Basra's governor Mohammed Masabih al-Waali, whose Fadhila Islamic Party is dominant in the province's politics and is loyal to the Shiite cleric Mohammed Yaqubi, a former student of Mr. Sadr's deceased father. Though Sadr and Mr. Yaqubi are sometime rivals for power, Fadhila shares his puritanical religious convictions and has gunmen of its own.

At this time, Iraqi police say they're starting to gather evidence about the case, and don't know who might have killed Vincent. But in his last story for this paper, Vincent chronicled the travails of the Basra Police Criminal Identification Division, which processes criminal evidence. It has one computer for 101 men, and frequent shortages of materials for collecting fingerprints or analyzing bloodstains, and only processes 40 percent of the evidence it receives each month.

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CA Firms not fazed by Same-sex Decisions

August 3, 2005
Firms Not Fazed by Same-Sex Decision
Lenders, insurers and other businesses say they already were giving gay couples equal treatment.

By Molly Selvin, Times Staff Writer

Monday's state Supreme Court ruling broadening the rights of registered domestic partners in California will have little effect on most businesses, experts said Tuesday.

The unanimous decision held that businesses providing special services, discounts or other privileges to married couples must do the same for same-sex couples registered with the state as domestic partners.

On Monday, Jon Davidson, an attorney with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund who argued the case, said he expected the ruling to force mortgage lenders, insurers and fitness clubs to equalize their treatment of gay and married couples.

But many of those businesses said they had eliminated policies favoring married couples, either years ago in response to changing values, or because of two state laws that took effect Jan. 1 mandating equal treatment for the partners of gay clients or customers.

The court ruled in favor of a lesbian couple who sued a San Diego country club after it denied the member's partner golfing privileges routinely given to spouses. The justices agreed that the club was violating a state civil rights law by engaging in "impermissible marital status discrimination."
Copyright, : Business, August 3, 2005

Monday, August 01, 2005

It's Time to Admit Error. . Robert Parham, Baptist Center for Ethics

It's Time to Admit Error, and Find
a New Path in Iraq

Robert Parham

Bush led the world to war on the
wings of a falsehood.

He and his administration asserted
mistakenly that Iraq had weapons
of mass destruction and was close
to having nuclear weapons. Their
specious claims resulted in a
misguided rush to military
adventurism that has left the
world a more dangerous place-more
terrorism, more deaths of innocent
Iraqis, more anti-Americanism,
more deaths and injuries of
American troops and more
squandering of the American

While a host of Democrats enabled
Bush, Christian fundamentalists
placed their moral and spiritual
blessing on the war as a crusade.
Many within the cable TV news
industry beat relentlessly the war

Nevertheless, Bush and his
administration bear the ultimate
responsibility for an unwinnable
and seemingly unending war.

Here's a chronology of what the
president, vice president,
secretary of state and CIA
director said:

On Jan. 29, 2002, Bush said, "Our
... goal is to prevent regimes that
sponsor terror from threatening
America or our friends and allies
with weapons of mass destruction."

"Iraqi continues to flaunt its
hostility toward America and to
support terror. The Iraqi regime
has plotted to develop anthrax,
and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons
for over a decade. ... This is a
regime that has something to hide
from the civilized world."

On Sept. 12, 2002, Bush said,
"Iraq continues to withhold
important information about its
nuclear program-weapons design,
procurement logs, experiment data,
an accounting of nuclear materials
and documentation of foreign
assistance. Iraq employs capable
nuclear scientists and
technicians. It retains physical
infrastructure needed to build a
nuclear weapon. Iraq has made
several attempts to buy high-
strength aluminum tubes used to
enrich uranium for a nuclear
weapon. Should Iraq acquire
fissile material, it would be able
to build a nuclear weapon within a

On Oct. 7, 2002, Bush said that
Iraq "possesses and produces
chemical and biological weapons.
It is seeking nuclear weapons."

"The evidence indicates that Iraq
is reconstituting its nuclear
weapons program....Satellite
photographs reveal that Iraq is
rebuilding facilities at sites
that have been part of its nuclear
program in the past. Iraq has
attempted to purchase high-
strength aluminum tubes and other
equipment needed for gas
centrifuges, which are used to
enrich uranium for nuclear

"If the Iraqi regime is able to
produce, buy, or steal an amount
of highly enriched uranium a
little larger than a single
softball, it could have a nuclear
weapon in less than a year."

"Facing clear evidence of peril,
we cannot wait for the final
proof-the smoking gun-that could
come in the form of a mushroom

On Jan. 28, 2003, Bush said, "It
is up to Iraq to show exactly
where it is hiding its banned
weapons and lay those weapons out
for the world to see and destroy
them as directed."

"The British government has
learned that Saddam Hussein
recently sought significant
quantities of uranium from

On Feb. 5, 2003, at the United
Nations, Secretary of State Colin
Powell said, "Every statement I
make today is backed up by
sources, solid sources. These are
not assertions. What we're giving
you are facts and conclusions
based on solid intelligence."

"We know that Iraq has at least
seven of these mobile biological
agent factories. The truck-mounted
ones have at least two or three
trucks each."

"These are sophisticated
facilities.... They can produce
anthrax and botulism toxin. In
fact, they can produce enough dry
biological agent in a single month
to kill thousands upon thousands
of people."

On Feb. 27, 2003, Bush said, "In
Iraq, a dictator is building and
hiding weapons that could enable
him to dominate the Middle East

"The danger posed by Saddam
Hussein and his weapons cannot be
ignored or wished away."

On March 7, 2003, Bush said,
"Iraqi operatives continue to hide
biological and chemical agents to
avoid detection by inspectors. In
some cases these materials have
been moved to different locations
every 12 to 24 hours ..."

"He possesses weapons of terror."

On March 16, 2003, Bush said, "The
dictator of Iraq and his weapons
of mass destruction are a threat
to the security of free nations."

"He possesses the weapons of mass

On March 16, 2003, when Vice
President Dick Cheney was asked on
"Meet the Press" what he
considered the most important
rationale for war, he said, "his
[Saddam Hussein's] development and
use of chemical weapons, his
development of biological weapons,
his pursuit of nuclear weapons."

"We believe he has, in fact,
reconstituted nuclear weapons."

On March 17, 2003, Bush said,
"Intelligence gathered by this and
other governments leaves no doubt
that the Iraq regime continues to
possess and conceal some of the
most lethal weapons ever devised."

"The terrorist threat to America
and the world will be diminished
the moment that Saddam Hussein is

On March 20, 2003, the U.S.
launched a war against Iraq.

On May 1, 2003, Bush stood in
front of a huge banner on a U.S.
aircraft that said, "Mission

On May 29, 2003, Bush said that
the U.S. had "found the weapons of
mass destruction."

On July 2, 2003, Bush challenged
insurgents-"bring 'em on."

On July 11, 2003, Director of
Central Intelligence George Tenet
released a statement about the
president's assertion that Iraq
had sought uranium from Africa.

"These 16 words should never have
been included in the text written
for the President," said Tenet. It
was troubling that "the 16 words
eventually made it into the State
of the Union speech. This was a

On March 25, 2004, Bush joked
about the failure to find weapons
of mass destruction. Narrating a
slide show at a black-tie dinner
for radio and television
reporters, Bush was shown in the
Oval Office looking under a piece
of furniture. "Those weapons of
mass destruction have got to be
here somewhere," he said.

"Nope, no weapons over there," he
said about another slide. "Maybe
under here," he said of a third

As of July 28, 2005, no weapons of
mass destruction have been found.
No Bush apology has been issued
for leading the world to war on
the wings of falsehood. No
evidence exists that Bush has kept
his pledge to usher in an era of

Instead, here is what has

* The Iraqi civilian death
count is between 23,006 and

* The U.S. military-related
death count is 1,790,
excluding the number of
deaths in and around

* The number of injured
American soldiers is 13,657,
excluding the number of
injuries in and around

* The wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan already cost $314
billion; the cost could
increase another $450 billion
over the next 10 years.

The violence in Iraqi shows no
sign of lessening. Terrorism
continues unabated. The nation's
treasure is evaporating.

We are on an unsustainable path.
We need a way out, beginning with
the president acknowledging grave
errors in judgment and securing a
new leadership team.

Robert Parham is executive
director of the Baptist Center for


Richard Mitchell

Clergy & Laity Network of Kentucky

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