Saturday, December 30, 2006

Our "Dry Drunk" President is showing his true colors.

Paschal: Because of my long experience with alcoholics, addiction, and dry drunks, I early identified President George W. Bush, years ago, as a dry alcoholic, much to the dismay and criticism of my friends, back in 2002.

A Formal Intervention with a Dry Drunk President
by Katherine van Wormer

One of the rituals well known to the addiction treatment world is the formal Intervention. The classic Intervention starts with meetings of concerned significant others that are called during a time of crisis. The result is a confrontation of the individual in trouble and an ultimatum of some sort for a drastic change in course (the most famous examples are Interventions of Betty Ford and Elizabeth Taylor for pill use and drinking.)

The long-anticipated report of the Iraq Study Group has been likened in some media reports to the classic treatment Intervention provided to drug users and alcoholics who have "hit bottom." Seething in its criticism, the report (Intervention) made a number of take-it- or-leave-it recommendations. "This is not like fruit salad," the head facilitator later explained; the recommendations must be followed as a whole. Characteristic of a person with an addictive mentality, the president responded in a state of denial as do the "enablers" around him. His supporters are getting fewer and fewer, however. And even his father recently broke into tears. We will return to that later.

The addictive mentality I am talking about is a cognitive impairment that is associated with alcohol-drug use, and may have preceded or followed the addictive behavior. George W. Bush, over his lifetime, has gone from one extreme-extensive and long-term binge drinking and at least some cocaine use-to another-affiliation with religious fundamentalism and authoritarian belief systems that cannot be explained by his religious upbringing. From an elitist background, the junior Bush was able to build a political base from a cultural group that was arguably alien from his own. (See What's the Matter with Kansas?)

For an understanding of this phenomenon of how the drinking and drug use affects patterns of thinking, we need to look at brain research. The most recent brain research, now revolutionized by technological advances in brain imaging, confirms what members of A.A. have known for years, labeled by them, the dry drunk phenomenon. Rigidity, poor impulse control, grandiosity, and all-or-nothing or black and white thinking are the classic characteristics. (See "the dry drunk syndrome" on google.) We now know that once the heavy drinking and/or other drug use stops, a certain amount of cognitive impairment may persist. We also know, however, that the brain can actually be "rewired" through cognitive work.

"You've got to work at it." This is a commonly heard saying of George W. Bush. One thing he has not worked at, however, is what is sometimes called in alcoholism treatment parlance, "the second recovery." Treatment centers specialize in cognitive work, as does A.A., in effect, aiding persons in recovery to replace irrational, grandiose, and self-centered thoughts, with healthier and more moderate ways of thinking.

The kind of intervention that our president needed was a personal intervention, one aimed at the reasons that Bush fool heartedly and dishonestly (pushing for false intelligence assessments of the international situation) led the nation in a fantasy mission that was doomed to failure against "evildoers" in the Middle East. As I described as early as 2002 and as psychiatrist Justin Frank later, in Bush on the Couch, also concluded, to understand the motives behind the ill-fated invasion of Iraq, we have to consider Bush's role in his family, the unique psychological dynamics. As any Bush biography makes clear, the younger Bush was not only named for his father, but he was somehow destined to follow in his father's footsteps most of his life- at Andover, Yale, as a military pilot, in the oil business-only to fail at each juncture until he would enter politics and as commander- in-chief be able to stride triumphant in 2004 and declare "mission accomplished" on the carrier flight deck. Then he would have proven himself to his father and to the world.

In December, 2006, the elder Bush's tears shed at the tribute to his son, Governor Jeb Bush, told it all. "The true measure of a man is how you handle victory, and also defeat"-these were his exact words uttered at the moment that he got too choked up to continue. Though his loss of control was later claimed to be related to his younger son's (Jeb's), earlier defeat in a governor's race in 1994, it seems far more likely that his tears were shed over the disgraced presidency of his elder son and in recognition for the significance of this debacle for the entire Bush dynasty.

In the future, it will be left to psychologists and historians to ponder the real reason for George W. Bush's selection as members of his team, the very men like Cheney, Wolfowitz, Powell, and Rove, who, strikingly, had served under his father. Even Rumsfeld also had a historic relationship with Bush, Sr., albeit a problematic one. Above all, the challenge to psychologists and historians will be to ponder the real reason why the younger Bush was driven to an unnecessary and unbelievably costly war "mission impossible." The Iraq Study Group, which, interestingly, was headed by Bush Sr.'s former secretary of state, James Baker, was summoned in desperation to find a way out of a disastrous course, failed to tackle causality, which, in the final analysis is the most significant issue of all.

Katherine van Wormer ( teaches social work and addiction treatment at the University of Northern Iowa and is the co-author of Addiction Treatment: A Strengths Perspective.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Where are the Christians now

Where Are the Christians?
By William Fisher
t r u t h o u t | Columnist

Wednesday 27 December 2006

It's not rocket science to understand why Republicans have gone into hibernation on the issue of Rep. Virgil Goode's outrageous rant against his fellow Congressman, Keith Ellison - the first Muslim ever elected to either legislative house - who wants to take his oath on the Quran.

After all, Goode is one of their own. He's from the same party that brought us George Allen's "Macaca Moment" and the flirtatious "Call Me" tagline from a cute white blonde in a campaign commercial in the recent senate race against black Rep. Harold Ford.

To refresh your memory, Goode is the congressman who wrote his constituents: "If American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration, there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Quran in his personal private ceremony."

Immigration? What has a single Muslim congressman got to do with immigration? Easy. If you've learned anything from Messrs. Bush and Cheney over the past six years, it's that conflating wildly unrelated issues can get people so spooked that it works. The president and the veep did it with Iraq and 9/11. Goode does it with an unofficial swearing-in and dark visions of illegals pouring across our borders. If we don't stop Rep. Ellison from taking his oath on a Quran, the numbers of illegal Muslim immigrants will become a tsunami.

Never mind that the real swearing-in is administered to new members of Congress en masse and without any holy book at all. The ceremony at which Ellison wants to use the Quran is a private, unofficial event for friends and family, a kind of memory-book photo-op. Also never mind that Muslim immigration into the US is miniscule and overwhelmingly legal. Unlike the 9/11 hijackers who were in the US legally on valid visas, most Muslim immigrants become citizens and many have been here for generations and more.

An extensive search suggests that only two Republicans have uttered a single word against this no-nothing attack. One of them is Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, who delivered a robust smackdown of this bigot on one of the Sunday morning talk shows. Graham asked why the newly-elected Minnesota lawmaker shouldn't be allowed to take his oath on a book he believes in.

The other is Sen. John Warner of Virginia, who offered the half-hearted comment that he respects the right of all members of Congress to freely "exercise the religion of their choice, including those of the Islamic faith utilizing the Quran."

California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, presidential wannabee, Guantanamo booster, and outgoing chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, dodged the Goode question put to him by CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

Good for Senator Graham. He did the right thing.

But the more important question - particularly at this season of the year - is, Where are all the Christians? Unless I've completely misunderstood the Scriptures, Christ believed in helping "the least of these," for love, compassion, and tolerance.

But the silent Christians seem to have forgotten to ask, "What Would Christ Do?"

One wouldn't expect the likes of Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, or Pat Robertson to be caught dead defending a Muslim's right to be a Muslim. They've already made the denigration of this religion a cottage industry for the far right in Christendom.

So have senior military officers like Gen. Jerry Boykin, who has inveighed in uniform that his God is better than their God.

But there are tens of millions of other Christians out there. They ought to know that love of all God's creatures is at the core of their religion. They ought also to know that an attack against one religion is an attack against all religions. Next week, it could be Jews. Next month, it could be Christian fundamentalists or evangelicals.

You might not be aware of it, but there is a robust community of progressive Christians in America, struggling to get its voice heard. That's a tough task when you don't have the deep pockets and the cynical White House connections to effectively drown out dissent. Or change the subject. It's a lot easier for this wedge constituency to get people worried that if same-sex unions become legal, they'll all be forced to marry a gay or a lesbian, than it is to speak out for the homeless, the poor, those who have no health care, and for religious tolerance to find common ground.

Lately, however, we, the people, have been doing a bit better. As of Nov. 7, voters have sent their message to the Congress, to the White House, and to the religious far-right. America has grown weary of their divide-and-conquer strategies.

Republicans may find some hope in this message. Now, they might not be quite so terrified of losing their campaign contributions and maybe their seats by taking principled stands against the never-mind-what-Christ-would-do wing of their party.

Mainstream Christians can play a big role here. Expressing their outrage at Virgil Goode's mindless xenophobia and their support for Keith Ellison would be a good first step.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Biggest Falsehoods of 2006.

Lies and Obfuscations
By Eleanor Clift

Friday 22 December 2006

A look back at some of the biggest falsehoods of 2006.

In the spirit of holding our political leaders accountable, this year-end review will tabulate the worst lies told by Bush and company, along with several stories that were underreported in the media.
Much of what was generated got lost in the fog of war, but the long arm of history will retrieve these moments. As the president said in his news conference this week, if they're still writing about No. 1 - George Washington - there's plenty of time before the historians can properly evaluate No. 43. Judging by the mess in Iraq, it could be 200 or 300 years - if ever - before Bush is vindicated.

Bush has shifted his rhetoric in deference to the grim and deteriorating reality on the ground in Iraq. Asked by a reporter on Oct. 25 if we are winning the war, Bush said, "Absolutely, we're winning." Offered the opportunity at his press conference to defend that statement, Bush has adopted a new formulation. He now says, "We're not winning, but we're not losing." That sounds like the definition of a quagmire.

Exploitation of the war gained Republicans seats in '02 and got Bush a second term in '04, but it wasn't enough in '06. Karl Rove decided the best way for Republicans to retain control of the House and Senate was to embrace the war in Iraq and run against the Democrats as "Defeatocrats" and "Cut and Runners." It might have worked, had not most Americans decided they did indeed want to cut and run. Not right away - the voters want an orderly exit - but they weren't buying Bush's big lie about the Democrats.

Bush campaigned this fall as though the Democrats were the real enemy, not the terrorists. "They [Democrats] think the best way to protect the American people is wait until we're attacked again…If you don't want your government listening in on terrorists, vote for the Democrats." Now that the Democrats have won, watch Bush try to off-load blame for the failure in Iraq. If the Democrats won't go along with whatever cockamamie scheme he comes up with, he can always accuse them of losing the war.

Days after giving Defense Secretary Rumsfeld a ringing endorsement, declaring he would be there until the end, Bush fired him. It was the most obvious lie of his presidency. And it tripped so easily off Bush's tongue. There was none of the stammering that usually accompanies his public utterances. It was as big a lie as Rove's assertion on National Public Radio that all the public polls pointing toward a rout for the GOP were wrong. "I have the math," Rove proclaimed. A lot of people believed Rove, but the voters didn't.

The administration had the media snookered much of the time. Stories that were underreported largely because they ran counter to administration spin include:

* A study that shows the death toll among Iraqis has reached as high as 655,000. Extensively researched by teams of doctors commissioned by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md., the study - and the controversy over its sampling methodology - was given scant attention by the media because it was so far out of line from the administration's projection of perhaps 50,000 civilian deaths. That's still a horrendous death toll of innocents in a country the size of Iraq. Now, 100 bodies routinely turn up every day in Baghdad's morgues, the victims of sectarian violence, and the report, published in October in The Lancet medical journal, seems to be closer to the truth than anything the Bush administration has acknowledged.

* Private contractors in Iraq. There are 100,000 government contractors in Iraq, a number that rivals the 140,000 U.S. soldiers in the country. It's dangerous work; some 650 contractors have died there. They do a lot of the jobs the military used to do, everything from providing security and interrogating prisoners to cooking meals for the soldiers. They work for military contractors like KBR and DynCorp International, which are helping train the Iraqi police force. This is the largest contingent of civilians ever operating in a battlefield environment, and there's been no congressional oversight or accountability. That should change with the Democrats taking over the investigative committees on Capitol Hill. The abuses may be just waiting to be uncovered.

* America's secret torture prisons, whose existence Bush acknowledged as part of his tough-guy campaigning this fall. Set up in the aftermath of 9/11 to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely, the legality, morality and practicality of these so-called "black sites" have come under scrutiny. After a brief flurry about the use of torture tactics like "water boarding," where a prisoner is made to feel he's drowning, the story of these CIA-operated overseas prisons faded. Yet they contributed to the central tragedy of the Bush administration, the collapse of America's standing around the world.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A woman I know was murdered. Joan Chittester, NCR

Published on Friday, December 22, 2006 by the National Catholic Reporter
A Woman I Know Was Murdered
by Joan Chittister

A woman I know was murdered in September, a fact which in itself is bad enough. But this woman was not the victim of a random shooting or a back alley mugging or a rape or even of the far too common problem of domestic violence.

No, this woman was murdered because she was doing what women are not allowed to do.

I met Safia Amajan, an Afghan women, in Geneva in 2002. We were in Switzerland as delegates to the first assembly of "The Women's Global Peace Initiative." This U.N. partnership organization emerged out of Kofi Annan's "Summit of Spiritual Leaders" in 2000 was a millennium event that called for the inclusion of women in world affairs.

I have her picture in my photo album. There we are arm-in-arm, smiling into the lens of history at this life-changing moment when the appearance of women as a class on the world stage would finally broaden the world agenda, would at long last raise the concerns of the other half of the human race to the level of the real, to the level of the significant.

Safia, the Minister of Women's Affairs in the province of Kandahar, was shot in the back seat of a taxi on the way to her office. Her most significant work was opening six schools for girls -- in defiance of custom, despite opposition. (Read more.)

After a series of death threats she had asked for protection but never got it. Instead, two motorcyclists ambushed her taxi, shot at her through the car window and sped away. Being a woman who advocates for women's issues is clearly a dangerous, if not suicidal, thing to do. At best, some would say, it is a very unwise, unacceptable -- even immoral -- thing to do.

They say that maybe now, another woman dead, women will learn not to go where women must not go, will learn not to do what women have no right doing.

After all, the history of women, like the history of oppressed peoples everywhere, is clear: Just tell them no and they'll go away, right? Just ignore them and they'll disappear, right? Just tell them what to do and they'll get back in line.

Well, maybe. Then again, maybe not. Not if the world is going in the other direction, as it now seems it well may be. Science no longer argues for the inferiority of women, for instance. Anthropology and history take note of their early status. Medical research now studies women as women rather than simply as subsets of men. Statisticians count them as separate human beings now. And pollsters even include them in their surveys.

Anyway, whose world is it? Now, that is the fundamental question.

After all, women are the majority race. If God doesn't like girls, S/he certainly made a lot of them. And they're beginning to figure it out.

In fact, when I heard about Safia's death, I figured I ought to tell somebody about the meeting I never thought I'd attend so whoever killed her could get prepared for what's coming.

The Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equity 2006, or WISE, met in New York City in November. Organized by the American Society for Muslim Advancement, it brought together more than 100 Muslim women -- some of them in headscarves, many not -- from 26 countries, from Afghanistan to the United States.

And they all had credentials and bios that read like the yellow pages of an international telephone book: They were physicians and teachers, writers and communication professionals, political scientists and specialists in the Qur'an, sociologists of religion and Arabic scholars, human rights activists and lawyers, artists and poets.

They are, in other words, highly educated and deeply involved in both religious and social issues, both local and global.

Most of all, they are committed to the development of the role of women in Islam. This was a meeting of Muslim feminists. Actually, it was a meeting of Muslim women leaders.

What were they doing in New York? They were organizing an international network of Muslim women for the sake of changing the world.

They talked about the difference between sharia law and the Qu'ran in much the same way that Western feminists talk about the difference between canon law and the Gospel.

They called for the recognition of women imams or prayer leaders and the ordination of "10 muftia in 10 years."

They discussed the organization of a women's shura, an advisory council of women that would interpret Islamic law for the religious leaders of a region.

They created a global fund for women designed to prepare women in Islamic jurisprudence in order to eliminate discrimination against women based on sexist interpretations of religious law.

In fact, they sounded a lot like us.

These are the women the West thinks do not exist.

I don't know who murdered Safia but I do know that they wasted their time. There are thousands of other women just like her out there. And they will not be denied either the fullness of their humanity or the integrity of their religion. This is the spirit no amount of killing can kill.

According to The Independent," Fariba Ahmedi, a female member of parliament who attended the burial, said: "Those enemies who have killed her should know it will not derail women from the path we are on. We will continue on our way."

From where I stand, those people who think that feminism is a Western fad which will either eventually go away or can simply be ignored, need to listen again. The roar we hear behind us is the sound of the whole wave of women around the globe for whom the Will of God means a great deal more to them than the historical suppression of women done in its name.

© Copyright 2006 The National Catholic Reporter

Friday, December 22, 2006

Early Warning: Gates disses American Troops and American People, Arkin, WaPo

William M. Arkin on National and Homeland Security
Gates Disses the Troops, and the American People

Strategy means being mindful that what you do today pays-off tomorrow.

In communications, that means saying the things that build to an overall message.

In action, it means understanding timing and gesture so that deeds and messages culminate with the intended outcome.

Barely a day into the job, no doubt to hit the ground running and demonstrate the seriousness of the problem, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates flew off to Baghdad with a gaggle of generals and aides (including politburo "minders" from the Vice President's office, but that's another point) to further his education.

Back this weekend, Gates is expected to brief the President with his preliminary observations and recommendations.

With Congress out of session, one might ask what the rush is: after all, Washington has already dithered for five weeks since the unambiguous election mandate.

What's the rush? Well, there are American boys and girls fighting and dying in Iraq everyday.

This gets me back to some troubling insight regarding Bob Gates' strategic sense. It is a tradition for the Secretary to serve the troops turkey at Thanksgiving and visit the front lines at Christmas.

Gates couldn't have gone on Wednesday and planned to stay a couple of more days in the war zone through Christmas: for tradition, for compassion?

He has to be back in the United States this weekend to deliver - what -- the thousandth briefing the President has gotten on Iraq?

Welcome to Gates' first misstep, or at least a gigantic window onto this political operator's true stripes. Bob Gates couldn't spend two more days in Iraq to pay homage to the troops because the front to him is in Washington.

I don't normally pick on the mainstream media -- The Washington Post after all is the mainstream media -- but the Pentagon memo today in The New York Times is a particularly egregious example of fluff and filler, a gigantic valentine to power that misses the story.

The New York Times "memo" is the umpteenth profile of the new Secretary and his challenges. It reflects more the Times' elitism and is an endorsement of the Gates style than anything else. The new secretary -- open-minded, humble, and patient -- is contrasted with the aloof and impatient Rumsfeld. Look, I consistently warred with Rumsfeld from 2001, but the Times missed the reality that Gates sat down with a half-dozen soldiers as a photo-op, rushing back to Washington to leave them alone with their glum Christmas away from their loved ones.

I don't want to make too much of Gates' stiff-arming the troops: they'll get over it and no doubt would like the Secretary to spend Christmas in his office if it means coming up with an exit strategy so that next Christmas is different.

But what was the trip to Baghdad for, if not as a photo-opportunity? It isn't as if Gates walked the streets of Sadr City or secretly met with the enemy. Whatever briefings Gates received he could have just as easily gotten in Washington, that is, if he's in such a rush.

But Gates did say one really interesting thing about his observations upon meeting with U.S. commanders and after meetings with the Iraqi Prime Minister and Minister of Defense in the Green Zone and at the airport:

"I think perhaps the Study Group was here a short enough time that perhaps we didn't have the opportunity to explore in the kind of depth I have today with Iraqi officials, so it may have just been my misinterpretation from early September. But what struck me today was the amount of planning, the amount of thinking, the amount of coordination that had gone on on the Iraqi side in terms of how they intend to move forward, and also their thinking in terms of the role that we can play, so I think that it's that change that I noticed."

Thinking strategically, what is Gates saying?

He is paving the way for the President to say in January that the Iraq Study Group didn't have a complete understanding of the Iraqi situation and that they did not fully understand both the commitment of the Iraqi government to create security and the progress they are making.

Surge or no surge, it is now clear that Gates has already made up his mind: we cannot withdraw. Not when the Iraqis are doing so well!

Gates spoke yesterday of the "progress of the Iraqi government in its own -- not only in its own commitment but in its thinking about how to address some of these security issues."

He spoke of "the desire of the Iraqi government to take a leadership role in addressing some of the challenges that face the country" and their desire to "show that leadership to the Iraqi people."

Election mandate or not, Gates will stand firm with the President that the United States can not withdraw now or any time soon. Not when such "progress" is being made!

Back at the front in Washington, Gates has already heard an earful from the uniformed leadership and the Joint Chiefs that they do not favor proposals -- "Democratic Party proposals" -- to withdraw troops from Iraq or set a timetable for withdrawal. A senior military officer who has participated in many meetings tells me that the chiefs are unimpressed with the Iraq Study Group's withdrawal by early 2008 proposal.

"I especially emphasized to the prime minister the steadfastness of American support and our enduring presence in the Persian Gulf," Gates said in his final press conference yesterday.

The steadfastness of American support? When only three out of every ten Americans supports the war?

Sorry America, there is no Santa Claus, at least not in the form of Robert Gates. We may have thought the humble, open-minded outsider was going to blow in to sweep away the old. Instead he is shaping up to be flaccid yes man, one who can't even get his timing right.

By William M. Arkin | December 22, 2006; 9:14 AM ET
Previous: More Troops Buys Silence of the Lambs |

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Desperation in the White House, by Galloway

Desperation in the White House
By Joseph L. Galloway
The Miami Herald

Sunday 17 December 2006

The power brokers in Washington spent the week carefully arranging fig leaves and tasteful screens to cover the emperor's nakedness while he was busy pretending to listen hard to everyone with an opinion about Iraq while hearing nothing.

Sometime early in the new year, President Bush will go on national television to tell a disgruntled American public what he has decided should be done to salvage "victory" from the jaws of certain defeat in the war he started.

The word on the street, or in the Pentagon rings, is that he'll choose to beef up U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq by 20,000 to 30,000 troops by various sleight-of-hand maneuvers - extending the combat tours of soldiers and Marines who are nearing an end to their second or third year in hell and accelerating the shipment of others into that hell - and send them into the bloody streets of Baghdad.

These additional troops are expected to restore order and calm the bombers and murderers when 9,000 Americans already in the sprawling capital couldn't. They're expected to do this even when Bush's favorite (for now) Iraqi politician, Prime Minister Nouri Kamel al-Maliki, refuses to allow them to act against his primary benefactor, the anti-American cleric Moqtada al Sadr and his Shiite Muslim Mahdi Army militiamen who kill both Americans and Sunni Arabs.

This hardly amounts to a "new way forward" unless that definition includes a new path deeper into the quicksand of a tribal and religious civil war where whatever Bush eventually decides is already inadequate and immaterial.

The military commanders on the ground - from Gen. John Abizaid, the head of the U.S. Central Command, to his generals in Iraq - have said flatly that more American troops aren't the answer and aren't wanted. For them, it's obvious that only a political decision - an Iraqi political decision - has even the possibility of producing an acceptable outcome.

The White House hopes that its much-trumpeted reshuffling of a failed strategy and flawed tactics will buy time for their bad luck to change miraculously. That this time will be bought and paid for with the lives and futures of our soldiers and Marines - and their families - apparently means little to these wise men who've never heard a shot fired in anger.

This president has made it painfully obvious that he has no intention of listening to anyone who doesn't believe that he's going to win in Iraq. He'll march stubbornly onward without any real change of course until high noon on January 20, 2009, when his successor will inherit both the hard decision to pull out of Iraq and the back bills for his reckless, feckless misadventure.

The midterm election that handed control of Congress to the Democrats can be ignored. His own approval rating in the polls, now at an all-time low of 27 percent - likewise means little or nothing.

Only Bush's definition of reality carries any weight with him and therein lies the tragedy - both his and ours.

James Baker was sent to Washington by the original George Bush, No. 41, to salvage something out of the mess that his son, Bush No. 43, has made of his presidency and the world. The Baker commission labored mightily and produced, if little else, some truth: That the situation in Iraq is dire and rapidly growing worse.

It's also clear, however, that Bush the son is paying no more than lip service to the Baker report. He doesn't want Dad's help, and the idea that he once again needs to be rescued from the consequences of his mistakes - as he had to be so often back in Texas - can only have hardened his resolve to stay the course.

This is akin to a drowning man who pushes away a life preserver just before he sinks for the last time. Can nothing save this man from himself - from the voices that only he hears telling him that he, like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman, will have his reputation and his place in American history restored and burnished long after his death?

What will happen to that impossible dream in the coming year if the congressional Democrats begin to do their job, issuing subpoenas and holding oversight hearings into the looting of billions from the national treasury by defense contractors and other fat-cat donors to the GOP?

What will happen if everything that President Bush does to string things along in Iraq fails, as has everything else he has done there so far, and the Iraqis ask, order or drive us out of their country?

Did you notice that at every stop on the president's information-gathering tour this week, there was a very familiar face looming over his shoulder?

It can be argued that Bush understood little about war and peace and diplomacy and honesty in government. Vice President Cheney understood all of it, and he bears much of the responsibility for what's gone on in Washington and in Iraq for the last six years. Keep a sharp eye on him. Desperate men do desperate things.


Joseph L. Galloway is former senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bush is hooked on the drug of military might and his own ego.

Bush Can't Kick the Habit
By Robert Scheer

Here we go again: A new secretary of defense and yet another call for ending the war in Iraq by escalating it. What are they smoking in the Bush White House?

Even as government statistics now show marijuana is America's No. 1 cash crop, it is important to remember that militarism is the most dangerous drug threatening our sanity. Yet even formerly sober folks - first Colin Powell and now new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates - get a contact high from cozying up to the walking hallucinogen that is our president.

Succumbing to the Bush fantasy that freedom is fertilized by firepower, a vision that has mucked up Iraq beyond recognition, Gates told CBS that "as the president has made clear, we simply cannot afford to fail in the Middle East. Failure in Iraq at this juncture would be a calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility, and endanger Americans for generations to come."

This from a man who recently made sense, during his confirmation hearings, when he told members of Congress that we are not winning this war, despite having committed, proportionally, as many troops as we did in Vietnam. But now, as a rising chorus of obsessed hawks calls for a "surge" in U.S. troop deployment in Iraq - a call echoed even by some prominent Democrats - Gates endorses the staying-the-course strategy for compounding the Iraq failure rejected by the voters. A member of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group (ISG) who had apparently supported its unanimous findings that the military strategy was bankrupt is suddenly blinded by Bush's Iraq victory myopia.

In a sign of just how out there Bush is on Iraq, The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff are in "unanimous disagreement" with "White House officials aggressively promoting the concept.... [T]he Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission [in Iraq]."

All this despite the fact that the ISG report correctly underscored that the real failures in the Mideast have clearly been political, not military. The accurate subtext of the report is that the continued U.S. military presence in Iraq is the key source of chaos in the region - inflaming religious fanaticism from Beirut to Baghdad and leaving the United States dependent on the tyrants in Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia to now bail us out.

So with Bush rejecting the sage advice of a commission headed by his father's secretary of state to cut our losses is there any hope the Democrats who now control Congress will stop playing the role of enabler to these war junkies? After all, it was the Democratic congressional leadership that provided Bush with bipartisan cover for his irrational "anti-terrorism" invasion of a country that had nothing to do with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Some, like John Kerry, now recognize that folly, and even Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, in her appearance on NBC's "Today" show Monday, finally expressed her regrets for supporting the war and opposed a "surge" in U.S. troops for Iraq.

But other Democrats continue to play the dangerous game of supporting Bush's escalation. Particularly alarming were the remarks on Sunday of incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid endorsing a buildup as long as it aims at getting the troops home by 2008: "If the commanders on the ground said this is just for a short period of time, we'll go along with that."

Reid's strategy is as obvious as it is opportunistic: This is a Republican war, goes the thinking, and the Dems will give the Republicans all the rope they need to hang themselves in '08. This seems a deeply cynical position, when you consider that the Pentagon just announced that attacks on American and Iraqi targets are at their highest levels, with a 22 percent leap from just this summer. The difference between taking a position and positioning oneself is what determines leadership; if the Dems fail to provide real leadership on ending this war, they will deservedly lose the next election.

The convenient lie behind all of this is that U.S. military occupation is the indispensable agent of Mideast enlightenment. No, we have become the enablers of Iraqi madness, be it in the form of torture or the ascendancy of religious tyranny in Iraq, where daily life has been reduced to an unmitigated horror.

Yet, like a junkie who needs one more hit to get his life in order, Bush is hooked on the drug of military might. If the Democrats continue to feed his dangerous habit they will only help Bush visit greater mayhem upon Iraq while undermining the core values of our own country.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Rascals are still in charge. by Paul Campos.

The Rascals are Still In Charge
by Paul Campos

At the beginning of the Seven Years' War, the English admiral John Byng was sent to relieve Fort St. Philip on the island of Minorca. Commanding an undermanned fleet, Byng was unable to repulse the French warships besieging the island, and the fort was forced to surrender.

When he returned to England, Byng was court-martialed, and convicted for having failed "to do his utmost" to secure victory. He was executed by firing squad on the deck of the HMS Monarch, in Portsmouth Harbor. This incident inspired the French writer Voltaire's famously sardonic comment that in England "it is considered a good thing to kill an admiral from time to time, pour encourager les autres [to encourage the others]."

Voltaire's epigram crossed my mind when I heard neo-conservative military strategist Frederick Kagan holding forth on National Public Radio, regarding his plan to send a "surge" of new combat troops to Iraq. The word in Washington is that Kagan's plan is much to President Bush's liking, and that the president is inclined to put it into action next month.

Voltaire noted that in 18th century England mistakes made in the heat of battle could result in the most savage punishment. In America today, we are beset by the opposite problem: an incompetence so grotesque that it is as a practical matter difficult to distinguish from treason and in fact only increases the power and prestige of those who are guilty of it.

And while I wouldn't go so far as to recommend the occasional execution of a neo-conservative strategist, it's worth noting that the chief architects of the Iraq war have suffered no punishment whatsoever for plunging the nation into the biggest foreign policy disaster in our history.

Indeed, far from being subjected to any adverse consequences for sending America on a military adventure that has already cost hundreds of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, while accomplishing the remarkable feat of leaving the Iraqi people even worse off than they were under Saddam Hussein, people like Kagan still control our Iraq strategy.

This is an odd state of affairs. It could be compared to empowering the former management of Enron to balance the federal budget, or hiring O.J. Simpson as a marriage counselor. Yet, when it comes to Iraq, nothing succeeds like failure. (The honors showered on the likes of Paul Bremer, Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld would have been considered completely unbelievable if these people had been characters in a satirical novel.)

Last month, Republicans suffered a crushing defeat in the midterm elections, largely because of public disgust with the war. Last week, polls revealed that more than seven of 10 Americans disapprove of President Bush's current war strategy, and that only 12 percent of the nation wants to toss more troops into the maw of this ever-expanding fiasco.

To say that something that's supported by 12 percent of the public is a fringe position is an understatement (you could probably get 12 percent of the public to favor an invasion of Jupiter).

None of this seems to make any difference. It doesn't even make any difference that many of the president's own generals are against sending more American troops to Iraq, and would openly oppose any such move if doing so wasn't the equivalent of career suicide.

Of all the tragic aspects of this national disaster this is worst: The people who have been catastrophically wrong about everything are still in charge. And a year from now, when things are even worse in Iraq, we can be sure the neo-conservatives will still be demanding that yet more American soldiers die so that Kagan and his ilk can continue to live out their increasingly destructive geopolitical fantasies.

A few of these people need to begin to pay some price for the damage they're doing - if only "to encourage the others" to stop.

Paul Campos is a professor of law at the University of Colorado. Reach him at

Copyright © 2006 Rocky Mountain News


Monday, December 18, 2006

Shift in power in Iran. firebrand out.

Iranian Leader Loses Vote, Reformers Say

Filed at 10:36 a.m. ET

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's biggest reformist party said on Monday President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had suffered a ``decisive defeat'' in nationwide elections last week due to his government's ``authoritarian and inefficient methods.''

The government's spokesman countered that by saying the government had no favored candidates in Friday's twin votes for local councils and a powerful clerical body known as the Assembly of Experts and was happy to work with the winners.

Political analysts said the elections, the first since Ahmadinejad's stunning 2005 presidential win, would have no immediate impact on policy in the Islamic state where Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the last word on all matters.

But a poor showing for allies of the anti-Western president could give a stronger voice to more moderate voices in decision-making in future.

Vote counting in the major battleground Tehran continued for a third day on Monday, prompting government critics to express fears the delay could indicate possible tampering.

The results that have been announced suggest that moderate conservative and reformist candidates had, on the whole, fared better than close allies of Ahmadinejad although no one group could claim outright victory.

``The initial results of elections throughout the country indicate that Mr Ahmadinejad's list has experienced a decisive defeat nationwide,'' the pro-reform Islamic Iran Participation Front said in a statement.

``These results were tantamount to a big 'no' to the government's authoritarian and inefficient methods,'' it said.


Government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham preferred to highlight the turnout of about 60 percent, well above levels for equivalent elections in recent years.

``The government does not work in the interest of any particular political group,'' he told a weekly news conference. ''It is not important for us who is the winner in the elections.''

Early vote tallies for the crucial Tehran City Council race gave Ahmadinejad supporters up to four of the 15 seats. Among those poised to be elected was a sister of the president.

The rest of the council seats were shared among moderate conservative backers of Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and reformists, including at least three former cabinet ministers.

Reformists said the Tehran results reflected those in other parts of the country. Some reformists leaders said they feared backers of Ahmadinejad and Qalibaf could form an alliance to squeeze out reformists from power in Tehran.

There were also disappointments for Ahmadinejad allies in the vote for the Assembly of Experts, an 86-member body which elects, supervises and can even dismiss the supreme leader.

In Tehran former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a staunch critic of the president who lost to Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential vote, easily topped the vote. Political analysts said it was a significant comeback for Iran's arch pragmatist powerbroker.

Firebrand cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, a vocal backer of Ahmadinejad, trailed in sixth place with almost half the votes of Rafsanjani but enough to retain his assembly seat. Several other clerics allied to the president and Mesbah-Yazdi failed to win seats.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Are we offering an America that our kids can love?

Citizen Dreyfuss
by Katrina vanden Heuvel

Richard Dreyfuss stood before a packed community meeting in Martha's Vineyard last week and asked, "Where do we offer young people the chance to fall in love with America?" He insisted that he was "not speaking for Democrats, Republicans or anything else. [But] as an American who wants to hand to his kids the country he learned about." He then led a discussion on the importance of reviving civics education in our nation's public schools.

The man who once obsessively built clay models of a form that couldn't escape his mind, who warned locals on this same island of a killer shark roaming the waters offshore, who devoted himself to teaching music at the expense of his relationship with his hearing-impaired son... Those fictitious events were part of Dreyfuss's other life as an actor. But it is Citizen Dreyfuss who spoke at the community meeting--living what he calls "the second half of my life."

From the age of 12, Dreyfuss has wanted to do three things: be an actor, be a movie star, and be in politics. He says that four years ago, after he was fired from the London production of The Producers, he decided it was time to retire and do the third thing.

"I've been acting since I'm 12," he says. "I've been famous since I'm 25.... So, I just got really tired of it. After forty years, there are other things you love and want to spend time with.... I decided that instead of waiting to be rich enough to do whatever you want to do, you'll just do whatever you want to do and scramble around for the money."

What he wanted to do was enroll at Oxford University to study democracy. And he did. "I came there with a notion that I had tried to sell to Coca-Cola about ten years previously," he says. "That was to create a two-hour show for kids. The idea was the story of democracy as a biography like a Dickensian tale. Think of David Copperfield as Democracy, and it becomes immediately a more interesting story: born under perilous circumstances, raised without any love and affection--fragile childhood. Held in contempt, dismissed... surprising allies and surprising opponents. And then, out of nowhere almost, he prevails. And he not only prevails he becomes the system of choice--the most popular in England. But he carries within himself the seeds of his own destruction because that's what he sought. And I think that that could be a legitimate two-hour movie for TV, and never stray from the truth. And hook people on that story, and make them want to go even further."

But Dreyfuss found himself drifting towards political writers at Oxford and wanting to be in the classroom. And he was deeply distressed about the state of America's democracy.

"There is no serious place to discuss serious issues any more and that's a serious problem," he argues. "How do you discuss serious issues without the melodrama and all that stuff? Kids grow up thinking that shouting is the only way to discuss politics--that rumination and thinking things through is for sissies."

Dreyfuss says that the Framers felt that the people could be relied upon to maintain our system--they could be sovereign. But being sovereign required a thoughtful, intelligent, active citizenry. Dreyfuss believes that today we know so little about our system; even worse, we are taught so little about how to preserve and strengthen it. As he said in an interview on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, "If the people are sovereign, they are the monarch. Who tutors the monarch? Who trains and teaches the people to be sovereign?" Dreyfuss says that he became convinced "America was going to go by way of all the other leading nations which slipped up, kept hold of its documents which lost any meaning, and simply faded away...."

But at some point during his time at Oxford Dreyfuss found reason for hope. "I realized that all of the institutions are there," he says. "And it just takes the revivification of one or two of these places and the rest will follow." His original idea for the TV show began to morph into a civics curriculum--which he says is the teaching of the tools that are necessary to maintain our system of government--"the internal combustion engine and not the Porsche and not the Chevy." He says that these tools are "pre-partisan," and he defines them as reason, logic, clarity of thought, dissent, debate, and civility. Dreyfuss says that civility was the one "I thought I had to bury because I knew it was the biggest buzzword." But civility, he insists, is "the oxygen that democracy requires. Democracy is our willingness to share political space with those with whom we disagree. We need to share it with respect--letting [people] finish their sentences, not patronizing them, thinking things through, getting to know people. Otherwise we strangle on incivility."

Last summer, Dreyfuss and his longtime friend and Martha's Vineyard educator, Robert Tankard, spoke with the island's Superintendent, James Weiss, about teaching a new civics curriculum. They wanted parents, teachers, students, historians, and others to collaborate on it, use the Martha's Vineyard school system as a laboratory, and then offer it as a model for a national civics revival. Weiss said that if they could generate interest in the local community he would implement the classes.

"I never heard such a great offer in my life," Dreyfuss says. "It's the difference between walking and talking." And that's how Citizen Dreyfuss found himself talking civics with the community last week.

Dreyfuss spoke about the risk of doing nothing. Without doing the rigorous work, the training, and learning "the tools of democracy, we leave the running of our system to happenstance and luck. We can kiss it goodbye in the lives of my children and yours."

Dreyfuss found a receptive crowd. On the importance of civility an elderly man said, "You were born with two eyes, two ears, one nose, and one mouth. Use them in those proportions." Others complained of people "making up facts in order to win arguments." Or "bashing others to score political points instead of working to solve problems." They felt that civics education needed to start younger so that by the time people finished high school they were practicing citizenship rather than learning it. Historian Gordon Wood told the group, "We are a nation of immigrants.... What holds us together? It can't be Starbucks and McDonald's. That's why we go back to the Founders--equality, liberty, self-government.... If younger people don't know [this foundation], they will lose any sense of collectivity, identity as Americans." Sociologist James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, also participated in the meeting and called the teaching of civics "one leg of many in our culture to revive and renew us." A retired principal spoke of the obstacles created by No Child Left Behind--the forced focus on reading and math, and the consequent cuts to music, arts and other programs. "To be successful, we need to think of the whole child again," he said.

There was another target on the mind of Dreyfuss and many of the citizens at the meeting: the media, and especially television. (Dreyfuss calls television "possibly the worst thing that ever happened to us. I think it shortened our brains. I think it created road rage. I think it killed rumination. I think it allows us to think that we are discussing serious public issues when we're not. I think that it has become the place of serious public discussion of issues but it isn't. And it just passes for that.") He said that television is where we go for news information. It delivers information through image (rather than text) instantaneously, leaving no time for rumination. He cited 9/11 coverage as an example--the instantaneous images of the Twin Towers replayed over and over again--leaving room for nothing other than feelings of "grief and revenge." Dreyfuss believes television has caused us to reinterpret what makes a good politician (the image being more important than the text). He called people in the industry "like addicts--denying that a problem exists." Meanwhile, he says, we accept the medium as offering the same level of reflection and insight as reading and rumination. There was general agreement that we have lost our way in teaching young people to be critical thinkers and sort through the information industry.

As the meeting ended, Dreyfuss asked: "Are you in favor of teaching civics in American public schools?" He called for the nays and there was silence. Dreyfuss allowed it to linger. Finally, he asked for the yeas, and hundreds of people responded with enthusiasm. The contrast was striking, and Dreyfuss had clearly drawn on his skillful sense of timing to orchestrate the moment. Dreyfuss and Tankard had achieved their objective of demonstrating strong public support. Participants were invited to attend a follow-up session at a local high school the next day where the focus would shift to developing a pilot program.

After the meeting Superintendent Weiss said that there is an eighteen-month window of opportunity to revamp civics education on the island. The standardized testing in social studies for the state will be decided during that time period and curricula will be revised. He said that eighteen months was "just enough time" to succeed.

The next morning, Dreyfuss was pleased with the conference but also tired and frustrated as he reflected on the contributing factors that he perceives as threatening our system of government--a system he undeniably loves and is passionate about. He railed at a media that fails to demand the truth on the gravest matters of our time ("You want someone to say [to the President], 'Excuse me, you're full of shit, and answer the question.' And they don't do that"). He decried the infighting of the Democratic party ("Democrats eat their young") and the failure of the left to articulate a compelling case that people can rally around. He denounced Republicans for not being straight with people about what they stand for and why. He said that America has broken the hearts of young people and caused cynicism to be rampant among them. Dreyfuss believes that civics--despite what he calls its boring reputation--is the way young people can begin to have "a love affair with America."

Whether or not one agrees with Dreyfuss's critique of political culture, one thing is clear: He's not only talking the talk, he's also walking the walk--and demonstrating the kind of committed citizenship he espouses. How many Oscar-winners walk away from their profession to develop curricula ("The only time you'll ever see me in a movie or anything like that is when you know they paid me a billion dollars....")? To Dreyfuss, "representative democracy is as thrilling as anything Charles Dickens wrote and Alfred Hitchcock ever shot." It is both a thriller and a romance, and offers a narrative with a distinct beginning, middle and end. The beginning and the middle are history--and to Dreyfuss, the still open-ending begs this question: "What country do we want to hand to our kids?"

With reporting from Martha's Vineyard by Gregory Kaufmann, a Washington, DC-based journalist and screenwriter.

Copyright © 2006 The Nation


Friday, December 15, 2006

Baptists challenge Wal Mart, including Ky ministers. Lockwood

A group of Baptist ministers is challenging Wal-Mart's treatment of its employees, suggesting some of the company's policies are anti-family and un-Christian. The letter below, is signed by dozens of Baptist leaders including at least eight Kentuckians. Among the signers: Baptist Seminary of Kentucky professor Glenn Hinson, and pastors from Frankfort, Louisville and Campbellsburg. The letter:

Baptist Center for Ethics | Nashville, Tennessee |

December 14, 2006

Mr. H. Lee Scott, CEO
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Bentonville, AR 72716-8611

Dear Mr. Scott,

We write you as moral theologians with grave concerns about Wal-Mart's corporate practices-practices that conflict with our commitment to pro-family values.

The Christian prophetic witness teaches that justice is the highest family value for any society-protection for the fatherless, security for the single mother, honesty in the marketplace, fairness for the weakest one in society, respect for the elderly.

The Hebrew prophet Micah said that God required justice (Micah 6:8). The prophet Amos said that God wanted justice to flood the land (Amos 5:24). The prophet Isaiah said that God wanted his people to seek justice (Isaiah 1:17). Jesus told community leaders that they were neglecting justice (Luke 11:42).

The biblical witness also teaches responsibility-parents are responsible for children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) and employers are responsible for fair wages for their employees (1 Timothy 5:18). Jesus said, "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded" (Luke 12:48).

We believe that Wal-Mart has been given and entrusted with much wealth, power and influence. We believe that much is required of and demanded from Wal-Mart in terms of its responsibility to working families. That responsibility necessitates that Wal-Mart treat well its employees with such things as:

* fair-living wages, not poverty-level wages;
* generous health care benefits, not eliminating low-deductible health care plans;
* decent places to work that treat women with dignity and equality;
* respectful schedules for children in school; and good benefits for sound retirements.

A company with the wealth of Wal-Mart has the responsibility to advance the common good for a better society, not seek only personal gain. Wal-Mart's leaders need to recognize their moral obligations to be good stewards of what the corporation has been given and entrusted, not simply through acts of charity but with justice for working-family employees who have built but not necessarily benefited from Wal-Mart's vast earnings.

When we celebrate Christmas, we mark the birth of the Messiah who gave the moral imperative of the Golden Rule (Luke 6:31; Matthew 7:12), a rule that encourages Christian consumers to consider where they shop and that guides corporate practices.

We challenge you this Christmas to make Wal-Mart a Golden Rule company, one that is mindful in reflecting the best of Christian values and one that seeks a higher standard for its employees and their families.

[To read the list of signers, click below.]

Continue reading "Baptists attack Wal-Mart" »

from Bible Belt Blogger, Frank Lockwood.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Media calling on Clinton to resign are silent on Bush.

December 14, 2006

Newspapers That Once Called Upon Clinton To Resign Are Silent On Bush

By Marc McDonald


"Has the President so failed in his duties to the nation that he should leave office? The answer to that question is yes, and the time for the President to leave is not after months of continued national embarrassment but now. Clinton should resign."
---USA Today editorial, Sept. 15, 1998

George W. Bush is a crook.

He has violated the Constitution. He has violated his oath of office. He lied America into a disastrous war of aggression that killed 650,000 Iraqi men, women and children. He has made America into the most feared and hated nation on the planet.

By contrast, all Bill Clinton did was lie about a blow job.

Guess which president our nation's media called upon to resign?

In 1998, Kenneth Starr released his special counsel's report, the product of a $50 million blatantly partisan GOP witchhunt aimed at bringing down the Clinton presidency. Despite this incredibly intense probe into every detail of his life, the only real "dirt" the report had on Clinton was that he lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Americans never really gave a damn about the Lewinsky affair. Even at the height of the impeachment "crisis," Clinton enjoyed strong approval ratings in the high 60s. I always got the feeling that the American public just wanted Congress to move on from this silly affair and get back to the real business of the nation.

What's remarkable is the American people believed this way despite the fact that, day after day, the "liberal media" was desperately hyping the Lewinsky story and trying to convince the public that it was a serious "crisis" for the White House.

In fact, after Starr released his report, dozens of major U.S. newspapers called upon Clinton to resign. The nation's biggest circulation newspaper in America, USA Today, led the way.

In a Sept. 15, 1998 editorial, USA Today said:

"Has the President so failed in his duties to the nation that he should leave office? The answer to that question is yes, and the time for the President to leave is not after months of continued national embarrassment but now. Clinton should resign."

Many other major newspapers joined in the call for Clinton to resign, among them The Seattle Times, The New Orleans Times-Picayune, The Des Moines Sunday Register, The San Jose Mercury-News, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Looking back on all this eight years later, it's difficult to fathom what the fuss was all about.

Today, America is saddled with an unbelievably corrupt occupant in the White House. Bush is guilty of a long list of horrible crimes, from embracing torture as official state policy to illegal wiretaps to lying America into a war that has turned out to be the biggest strategic blunder in U.S. history.

And what's the U.S. media's reaction to all this? (You know, the same "liberal media" that was screaming and hollering for Clinton to resign for lying about a blow job?)


Not one major newspaper has called for Bush to resign.

In fact, since Bush first took office six years ago, the nation's media has fallen into an eerie slumber. From GannonGate to PlameGate to the Downing Street memos, the media has snoozed through one major Bush scandal after another.

Not to worry, though. With the Dems now back in power in Congress, we can expect the media to shake off the cobwebs and go back to its watchdog role of holding Democratic politicians' feet to the fire (even if this "watchdog" role will consist of non-stories with no basis in fact: see HairCutGate, Whitewater, etc.)

It's great to live in a democracy with a free press. Someday I hope I have such an experience.

Authors Website:

Authors Bio: The founder of the progressive blog,, Marc McDonald is a veteran journalist who worked in print media for 15 years. In 1995, he founded a successful series of popular Web sites, including, the Web's most popular site devoted to the topic of freebie offers. receives approximately 1 million visitors per month and has been reviewed by various national and international media, including CNN Headline News, the BBC, the Washington Post, USA Today, and many more. Before founding his Web business, McDonald worked as a journalist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, as well as several other Texas newspapers.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bush's "Deliberate Speed" is Humbug and photo-ops for political capital.

Without Deliberate Speed
The New York Times | Editorial

Wednesday 13 December 2006

The claims of calm deliberation emerging from the White House this week are maddening. The search for a new plan for Iraq seems to be taking place with as much urgency as the deliberations over a new color for the dollar bill.

In Baghdad yesterday, a suicide bomber killed at least 70 people, most of them Shiite laborers whose only sin was looking for work. In Washington, meanwhile, President Bush held a series of carefully stage-managed meetings with officials and outside experts whose common credential appeared to be their opposition to the recommendations of James Baker's Iraq Study Group.

To top it off, White House aides told reporters that - despite earlier promises of a pre-Christmas speech by Mr. Bush - the country now should not expect any announcement of a new strategy until early next year. The president's spokesman, Tony Snow, said that "it's a complex business, and there are a lot of things to take into account," adding that Mr. Bush "wants to make sure it's done right."

We are more than eager for this White House to finally get something right on Iraq. But we find it chilling to imagine that Mr. Bush and his advisers have only now begun a full policy review, months after Iraq plunged into civil war and years after experts began warning that the administration's strategy was not working.

We would like to believe that the reason for delay is that some of Mr. Bush's advisers have come up with a sensible change in course and they are now trying to persuade the president to take it. Or that behind the scenes Mr. Bush is already strong-arming Iraq's leaders to rein in the sectarian militias and begin long-delayed national reconciliation talks.

(Paschal his press conference this Wed p.m. just concluded does not suggest that he has any new ideas and only that he is looking for support for his Victory at all costs aim. This is not a policy.)

We fear that a more likely explanation is that the president's ever-divided policy advisers are still wrangling over the most basic decisions, while his political handlers are waiting for public enthusiasm for the Baker report to flag before Mr. Bush tries to explain why he won't follow through on some of the report's most important and reasonable suggestions - like imposing a timetable on Iraqi leaders to make political compromises or face a withdrawal of American support. Or trying to persuade Iran and Syria to cease their meddling.

The Baker study, of course, is not the received wisdom of the ages. It should have been released far earlier, rather than being delayed to get past the midterm elections. But it was a good-faith effort by people wise enough and experienced enough to know how bad the situation really is in Iraq, and how little time left there is for the president to act.

Mr. Bush has no more time to waste on "listening tours" and photo ops. The nation is in a crisis, and Americans need to hear how he plans to unwind the chaos he has unleashed in Iraq. If the president is delaying because he is searching for a good option, he can stop. There are none. But Americans need to see that he is prepared to choose among the undesirable alternatives, and clear the way for a withdrawal of American troops that does not leave even more killing and mayhem behind.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

USA before the Sphinx: what to do in Iraq?

Published on Monday, December 11, 2006 by the Boston Globe
Desperate for Answers to All-Important Iraq Riddle
by James Carroll

In mythology, when the ancients were desperate for an answer, they would present themselves to the Sphinx and ask their question. The Sphinx would reply with a riddle. The riddle would reveal the needed wisdom. But to go to the Sphinx was an act of desperation because, if you failed to answer the riddle correctly, the Sphinx would kill you.

Our nation stands before the Sphinx today. That is how desperate we are about Iraq. What is the good way out of a bad war?
We hired the Baker commission to speak for us, and it was remarkable for its frank assessment of the Bush administration's failure, labeling the American effort as weak, deteriorating -- "not working." The commission identified the two realms within which the answer to the war can be found. Subsequent discussions have further illuminated the situation. Within Iraq, the three main parties to the conflict must be helped to deal with one another . A road to negotiation among Kurds, Shi'ites and Sunnis must be opened, so that they themselves can begin to resolve the question of their governance, whether through the present unitary constitution or through adjustments that would give each party autonomy.

The Baker commission explained, though, that such local resolution cannot happen without the positive support of the parties in the region -- the second realm. And here the dominant party is Iran, with which the Bush administration refuses to talk. Military force so dominates Bush thinking that no diplomatic initiative seems possible. Democrats are as paralyzed by the military mindset as Republicans. The impasse between Tehran and Washington thus emerges as the main obstacle to larger peace. The Baker commission, and the discourse it sponsored, laid all this out, even as the White House reiterated its refusal to deal with Iran -- displaying thereby its absolute lack of any idea for Iraq except more of the same. Bush will "prevail." Only "victory" will do. Not even Bush seems to know what these words mean. If there is a better idea, no one offers it.

So here we are before the Sphinx, with what seems an unsolvable problem. The war is killing our young. The war is devastating the people of Iraq. The war empowers the nihilistic fringe of Islam, which now threatens to ignite the entire Middle East. Because oil is at issue, the global economy is at risk. If America stays in Iraq, the violence will worsen. If America leaves Iraq, the violence will worsen. What can we do to stop this? Even after the Baker commission, no one knows.

For a long time, the Sphinx just looks at us, the famous stare. Finally, the Sphinx offers up the riddle: "I took you into this war. Adjust your thinking about me, and I can bring you out. If you refuse to change, I will destroy you. What am I?"

Once the question is put, the answer is obvious. Nuclear weapons. The Bomb is the Sphinx in the living room. Whatever first motivated President Bush to invade Iraq, Congress and the nation approved only out of dread that Saddam Hussein was obtaining nuclear weapons. Saddam's nukes turned out to be an illusion, but the fear was real, and led to our mistake. Today's war began with yesterday's nuclear nightmare.

That fear dominates us again, only now in relation to Iran. Washington says it will stop at nothing to prevent Iran's arming itself with nukes -- but in fact nothing in Washington's present strategy can stop Tehran, which is the main revelation of failure in Iraq. Military force is the new impotence, but we will flail away, preferring death to diplomacy. This course keeps us stuck in Iraq, while guaranteeing Iran's going nuclear.

"Adjust your thinking," the riddle says. Since 1945, the United States has refused to submit its nuclear program to authentic international controls, while insisting, since 1968, the year of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, that other nations must submit in just that way. This nuclear double standard is the issue. Iran's nuclear ambition is only to have what America has. Hence the impasse. No riddle here.

Washington must renounce the nuclear double standard, recommitting itself to nuclear abolition. The reason Iran should not have nuclear weapons is that no country should. With that one stroke, the entire dynamic would change. Negotiations with Iran would be purposeful. Iran would have reason to defuse the bomb of Iraq. The Sphinx itself would be disarmed.

Paschal: some realism in this, but also very un-real idealism, e.g. that the U.S. should or would renounce nuclear weapons. Show me the leader who would even suggest this?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Tragedy of our Age. Frank Rich.

ublished on Sunday, December 10, 2006 by the New York Times
The Sunshine Boys Can’t Save Iraq
by Frank Rich

In America we like quick fixes, closure and an uplifting show. Such were the high hopes for the Iraq Study Group, and on one of the three it delivered.

The report of the 10 Washington elders was rolled out like a heartwarming Hollywood holiday release. There was a feel-good title, "The Way Forward," unfortunately chosen as well by Ford Motor to promote its last-ditch plan to stave off bankruptcy. There was a months-long buildup, with titillating sneak previews to whip up anticipation. There was the gala publicity tour on opening day, starting with a President Bush cameo timed for morning television and building to a "Sunshine Boys" curtain call by James Baker and Lee Hamilton on “Larry King Live.”

The wizard behind it all was the public relations giant Edelman, which has lately been recruited by Wal-Mart to put down the populist insurgency threatening its bottom line. Edelman’s vice chairman is Michael Deaver, the imagineer extraordinaire of the Reagan presidency, and “The Way Forward” had a nostalgic dash of that old Morning-in-America vibe. In The Washington Post, David Broder gushingly quoted one member of the group, Alan Simpson, musing that “immigration, Social Security and all those other things that have been hung up for so long” might benefit from similar ex-officio bipartisanship. Only in Washington could an unelected panel of retirees pass for public-policy Viagra.

Mr. Simpson notwithstanding, the former senator who most comes to mind is Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York. In the early 1990’s he famously coined the phrase "defining deviancy down" to describe the erosion of civic standards for what constitutes criminal behavior. In 2006, our governmental ailment is defining reality down. "The Way Forward: is its apotheosis. (= Deification)

This syndrome begins at the top, with the president, who has cut and run from reality in Iraq for nearly four years. His case is extreme but hardly unique. Take Robert Gates, the next defense secretary, who was hailed as a paragon of realism by Washington last week simply for agreeing with his Senate questioners that we're "not winning" in Iraq. While that may be a step closer to candor than Mr. Bush's "absolutely, we’re winning" of late October, it’s hardly the whole truth and nothing but. The actual reality is that we have lost in Iraq.

That’s what Donald Rumsfeld at long last acknowledged, between the lines, as he fled the Pentagon to make way for Mr. Gates. The most revealing passage in his parting memo listing possible options for the war was his suggestion that public expectations for success be downsized so we would “therefore not ‘lose.’ ” By putting the word lose in quotes, Mr. Rumsfeld revealed his hand: the administration must not utter that L word even though lose is exactly what we’ve done. The illusion of not losing must be preserved no matter what the price in blood.

( Note of Paschal: This failure to admit defeat cost us another 25,000 American lives in Vietnam, as the Pentagon Papers delivered to the public by Daniel Ellsburg and published by the New York Times, revealed that in the middle of the war our leaders, both political and military had secretly agreed the Vietnam war could not be won.)

The Iraq Study Group takes a similarly disingenuous tack. Its account of how the country Mr. Bush called a "grave and gathering danger" in September 2002 has devolved into a "grave and deteriorating" catastrophe today is unsparing and accurate. But everyone except the president knew this already, and that patina of realism evaporates once the report moves from diagnosis to prescription.

Its recommendations are bogus because the few that have any teeth are completely unattainable. Of course, it would be fantastic if additional Iraqi troops would stand up en masse after an infusion of new American military advisers. And if reconciliation among the country’s warring ethnicities could be mandated on a tight schedule. And if the Bush White House could be persuaded to persuade Iran and Syria to "influence events" for America's benefit. It would also be nice if we could all break the bank in Vegas.

The group's coulda-woulda recommendations are either nonstarters, equivocations (it endorses withdrawal of combat troops by 2008 but is averse to timelines) or contradictions of its own findings of fact. To take just one example: Even if we could wave a magic wand and quickly create thousands more military advisers (and Arabic-speaking ones at that), there’s no reason to believe they could build a crack Iraqi army and police force where all those who came before have failed. As the report points out, the loyalties and capabilities of the existing units are suspect as it is.

By prescribing such placebos, the Iraq Study Group isn’t plotting a way forward but delaying the recognition of our defeat. Its real aim is to enact a charade of progress to pacify the public while Washington waits, no doubt in vain, for Mr. Bush to return to the real world. The tip-off to the cynical game can be found in a single sentence: “We agree with the goal of U.S. policy in Iraq, as stated by the president: ‘an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself.’ ” This studious group knows that even that modest goal, a radical devaluation of the administration’s ambition to spread democracy throughout the Middle East, has long been proven a mirage. The Iraqi government’s ability to defend anything is so inoperative that the group's members visited the country but once, with just one (Chuck Robb) daring to leave the Green Zone. The Bush-Maliki rendezvous 10 days ago was at the Four Seasons hotel in Amman.

The only recommendations that might alter that reality, however evanescently, come not from "The Way Forward" but from its critics on the right who want significantly more troops and no withdrawal timetables whatsoever. But a Pentagon review leaked to The Washington Post three weeks ago estimates that a true counterinsurgency campaign would “require several hundred thousand additional U.S. and Iraqi soldiers as well as heavily armed Iraqi police,” not the 20,000 or so envisioned as a short-term booster shot by John McCain.

Since these troops don't exist and there is no public support in either America or Iraq for mobilizing them, the president can't satisfy the hawks even if he chooses to do so. Since he's also dead set against a prompt withdrawal, we already know what his policy will be, no matter how many "reviews" he conducts. He will stay the course, with various fake-outs along the way to keep us from thinking we’ve “lost,” until the whole mess is deposited in the lap of the next president.

But as Chuck Hagel said last week, "The impending disaster in Iraq is unwinding at a rate that we can’t quite calibrate." It is yet another, even more reckless flight from reality to suppose that the world will stand still while we dally. The Iraq Study Group’s insistence on dragging out its deliberations until after Election Day for the sake of domestic politics mocked and undermined the urgency of its own mission. Meanwhile the violence metastasized. Eleven more of our soldiers were killed on the day the group finally put on its show. The antagonists in Iraq are not about to take a recess while we celebrate Christmas. The mass exodus of Iraqis, some 100,000 per month, was labeled “the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world” by Refugees International last week and might soon rival Darfur’s.

THE Iraq-Vietnam parallels at this juncture are striking. In January 1968, L.B.J. replaced his arrogant failed defense secretary, Robert McNamara, with a practiced Washington hand, Clark Clifford. The war’s violence boiled over soon after (Tet), prompting a downturn in American public opinion. Allies in our coalition of the willing — Thailand, the Philippines, Australia — had balked at tossing in new troops. Clifford commissioned a re-evaluation of American policy that churned up such ideas as a troop pullback, increased training of South Vietnamese forces and a warning to the South Vietnamese government that American assistance would depend on its performance. In March, a bipartisan group of wise men (from Dean Acheson to Omar Bradley) was summoned to the White House, where it seconded the notion of disengagement.

But there the stories of Vietnam and Iraq diverge. Those wise men, unlike the Iraq Study Group, were clear in their verdict. And that Texan president, unlike ours, paid more than lip service to changing course. He abruptly announced he would abjure re-election, restrict American bombing and entertain the idea of peace talks. But as Stanley Karnow recounts in "Vietnam: A History," it was already too late, after some 20,000 casualties and three years of all-out war, for an easy escape: "The frustrating talks were to drag on for another five years. More Americans would be killed in Vietnam than had died there previously. And the United States itself would be torn apart by the worst internal upheavals in a century."

The lesson in that is clear and sobering: As bad as things may seem now, they can yet become worse, and not just in Iraq. The longer we pretend that we have not lost there, the more we risk losing other wars we still may salvage, starting with Afghanistan.

The members of the Iraq Study Group are all good Americans of proven service to their country. But to the extent that their report forestalls reality and promotes pipe dreams of one last chance for success in this fiasco, it will be remembered as just one more delusional milestone in the tragedy of our age.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Saturday, December 09, 2006

They Told you so (and I told you so), re Iraqi war.

They Told You So
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Friday 08 December 2006

Shortly after U.S. forces marched into Baghdad in 2003, The Weekly Standard published a jeering article titled, "The Cassandra Chronicles: The stupidity of the antiwar doomsayers." Among those the article mocked was a "war novelist" named James Webb, who is now the senator-elect from Virginia.

The article's title was more revealing than its authors knew. People forget the nature of Cassandra's curse: although nobody would believe her, all her prophecies came true.

And so it was with those who warned against invading Iraq. At best, they were ignored. A recent article in The Washington Post ruefully conceded that the paper's account of the debate in the House of Representatives over the resolution authorizing the Iraq war - a resolution opposed by a majority of the Democrats - gave no coverage at all to those antiwar arguments that now seem prescient.

At worst, those who were skeptical about the case for war had their patriotism and/or their sanity questioned. The New Republic now says that it "deeply regrets its early support for this war." Does it also deeply regret accusing those who opposed rushing into war of "abject pacifism?"

Now, only a few neocon dead-enders still believe that this war was anything but a vast exercise in folly. And those who braved political pressure and ridicule to oppose what Al Gore has rightly called "the worst strategic mistake in the history of the United States" deserve some credit.

Unlike The Weekly Standard, which singled out those it thought had been proved wrong, I'd like to offer some praise to those who got it right. Here's a partial honor roll:

Former President George H. W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft, explaining in 1998 why they didn't go on to Baghdad in 1991: "Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."

Representative Ike Skelton, September 2002: "I have no doubt that our military would decisively defeat Iraq's forces and remove Saddam. But like the proverbial dog chasing the car down the road, we must consider what we would do after we caught it."

Al Gore, September 2002: "I am deeply concerned that the course of action that we are presently embarking upon with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century."

Barack Obama, now a United States senator, September 2002: "I don't oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne."

Representative John Spratt, October 2002: "The outcome after the conflict is actually going to be the hardest part, and it is far less certain."

Representative Nancy Pelosi, now the House speaker-elect, October 2002: "When we go in, the occupation, which is now being called the liberation, could be interminable and the amount of money it costs could be unlimited."

Senator Russ Feingold, October 2002: "I am increasingly troubled by the seemingly shifting justifications for an invasion at this time. ... When the administration moves back and forth from one argument to another, I think it undercuts the credibility of the case and the belief in its urgency. I believe that this practice of shifting justifications has much to do with the troubling phenomenon of many Americans questioning the administration's motives."

Howard Dean, then a candidate for president and now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, February 2003: "I firmly believe that the president is focusing our diplomats, our military, our intelligence agencies, and even our people on the wrong war, at the wrong time. ... Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms."

We should honor these people for their wisdom and courage. We should also ask why anyone who didn't raise questions about the war - or, at any rate, anyone who acted as a cheerleader for this march of folly - should be taken seriously when he or she talks about matters of national security.

Paschal: Anyone who did not oppose this war knew nothing about the history of the Middle East, the tribalism of Iraq that is now tearing it apart, and further could not see that W. in the White House was on an Addiction - inspired obsession that was closed to reason. We in the USA shall suffer from this stupidity for many decades.
Lexington, Ky December 9.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Iraqi Study Group: FATAL FLAW. Paschal's comment.

The Iraq Study Group: A Fatal Flaw
by Robert Dreyfuss

There's good news and bad news in the long-awaited report of the Iraq
Study Group. Happily, it starts the United States down the path of
withdrawal. Unhappily, its most basic premise--that the United States
can somehow support the non-existent Iraqi government and bolster its
viciously sectarian armed forces--is fatally flawed.

Let's start with the good news. The ISG has delivered a stunning body
blow to the White House. Stripped of its details, the ISG's message is
that President Bush's Iraq policy is a complete failure that has brought
Iraq and the Middle East to the brink of catastrophe.
As a result, the
United States must execute an about-face. Almost immediately, the United
States must begin withdrawing virtually all of its combat forces from
Iraq, a withdrawal that should be completed early in 2008. At the same
time, it says, the United States will have to scramble to launch a
diplomatic effort involving Iraq's neighbors--including Syria and
Iran--the Arab League, the UN, the Organization of the Islamic
Conference and other world powers to prevent Iraq from spiraling into

Further, says the ISG report--which was handed personally to Bush by
Hamilton and his co-chair, former Secretary of State Jim Baker,
Wednesday--the United States must renounce any idea of permanent bases
in Iraq, "reject the notion that the United States seeks to control
Iraq's oil" and urgently seek national reconciliation in Iraq.
To that
latter end, the ISG proposes that the United States "must also try to
talk directly to Muqtada al-Sadr, to militia leaders, and to insurgent
leaders"--in other words, instead of seeking to crush the Iraqi
resistance and smash Sadr's Mahdi Army, it's time to talk to them. And
to top it all off, the ISG proposes a vigorous effort to restart the
Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

It's hard to imagine a more sweeping rebuke to the President's
disastrously misguided Middle East policy
. The report breathes not one
word about "victory" in Iraq. Ever the master of understatement, Baker
said that the idea of staying the course in Iraq "is no longer viable."

The Baker-Hamilton report instantly isolated President Bush against a
snowballing consensus among the mainstream political establishment. In a
collective I-told-you-so, Democrats mostly heaped praise on the ISG
report. "If the president is serious about the need for change in Iraq,
he will find Democrats ready to work with him in a bipartisan fashion to
find a way to end the war as quickly as possible," said Nancy Pelosi,
the incoming speaker of the House, who added that the ISG report echoed
virtually all of the Democrats' main talking points on Iraq.

Over on the Republican side, moderates and mainstream conservatives such
as Senators Chuck Hagel, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe also cheered
its conclusions. "It gives impetus to both the Congress and hopefully
the President," said Snowe. "The time has come to change our course and
to support a plan...that ultimately leads to a withdrawal of troops from

Against the emerging political consensus, Bush has no real option other
than to come around. Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East
program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS),
one of four think tanks that sponsored the ISG, noted that the ISG
report frees Republicans to break with Bush. "With the issuance of this
report, it has become far easier to claim that one is a loyal Republican
and that one differs strongly with the Bush Administration on Iraq. When
some Congressional Republicans did that in September, it set off a
tremor. This could provoke an earthquake and leave the President very
isolated if he refuses to change course."

Of course, notoriously stubborn, frighteningly ignorant of foreign
affairs, still susceptible to the whisperings of Vice President Cheney
and perhaps convinced that his Middle East policy is a holy Christian
mission, Bush is not guaranteed to go along. At the news
conference releasing the report, Baker explicitly refused to
psychoanalyze President Bush. Later, Larry Eagleburger, who served on
the ISG and who was Secretary of State under former President George
Bush, could only speculate on how Bush was reacting to the ISG's
142-page insult. "I was impressed with the fact that number one, he
didn't make any negative remarks at all, and secondly, he didn't have a
sour look on his face," he said.

But the situation is so grave, according to Baker, Hamilton, et al.,
that even President Bush has to get it. The United States, said Hamilton
in a television interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, has "not
months but weeks, even days" to act to prevent possible all-out civil
war and regional conflict.

Although the ISG co-chairs were willing to say--as did Secretary of
Defense Robert Gates, a former ISG member--that the United States is not
winning in Iraq, they were loath to face the real truth: that the
United States is losing; indeed, that the war is lost. Which brings us
to the bad news.

Unfortunately, the Baker-Hamilton task force insists that with a precise
combination of diplomacy, military action, micromanagement of Iraqi
politics, threats and bribes, it is still possible to salvage, well,
not victory but "success" in Iraq, and to do so in a way that protects
the "global standing of the United States." It notes that the United
States must hang on to an imperial presence in the Persian Gulf, not
only by maintaining several tens of thousands of troops in Iraq but
substantial forces in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and elsewhere
in the region.

The troops remaining in Iraq would include up to 20,000 US forces to
provide "training...advice, combat assistance, and staff assistance"
to Iraqi forces, plus "intelligence, transportation, air support, and
logistics support," along with "rapid-reaction teams" and "special
operations teams." And (on page 73 of its report) the ISG drops this
zinger, noting that it might not oppose a "surge" of US forces:

We could, however, support a short-term redeployment or
surge of American combat forces to stabilize Baghdad, or to speed up the
training and equipping mission, if the U.S. commander in Iraq determines
that such steps would be effective.

The central premise of the ISG report is fatally flawed. It proposes to
support an Iraqi government that doesn't exist, and to strengthen an
Iraqi army that is not a national army but an array of sectarian and
ethnic militias.

It proposes to withdraw perhaps 70,000 to 100,000 US combat forces by
early 2008, but to quadruple US trainers and other experts to strengthen
the Iraqi armed forces. Problem is, those Iraqi forces are nearly
entirely made up of Shiites and Kurds, including tens of thousands of
Shiite militiamen and Kurdish peshmerga forces. That means that
strengthening the Iraqi army simply bolsters two sides in a three-sided
civil war. (Incidentally, nowhere in the Iraq Study Group report do the
words "civil war" appear.) Baker and Hamilton say: "The primary mission
of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi
army." But they don't even try to explain how that might work, since
the Iraqi army is utterly broken and filled with sectarian and ethnic

And Iraq's government, led by the hapless Nouri al-Maliki, is a fiction.
On one hand, the Baker-Hamilton task force proposes to enhance the power
of the Maliki government and to give it increased control over its own
armed forces. On the other hand, Baker-Hamilton warn darkly about
threats and ultimatums that the United States must issue to Maliki. Yet
neither incentives nor threats can work when the object of those
incentives and threats is powerless. Maliki's status as a US puppet,
installed by an American occupation, kills any chance that he can emerge
as a credible Iraqi leader.

Which brings us to the most basic flaw of the Baker-Hamilton report. In
fact, the only Iraqi government that could have any credibility with
large numbers of Iraqis is one that militantly opposes the US occupation
of Iraq, demands the withdrawal of US forces on an orderly but speedy
timetable and supports the unity and integrity of the Iraqi state and
nation. Between 60 percent and 80 percent of Iraqis want the United States to leave
Iraq, quickly, and so do well over a hundred Iraqi members of
Parliament, if not an actual majority of that body. Perhaps a government
that represents them could emerge on the ruins of the Maliki regime, if
Maliki is forced from office or overthrown by Iraqis. There is, little
reported by American media, a strong effort to create a movement across
the Sunni-Shiite divide, one that could include Sadr's Mahdi Army, other
Shiite parties, many Sunni leaders in the current parliament and a
large part of the Iraqi resistance.

It's too much to expect the Iraq Study Group to support the creation of
an anti-American Iraqi government. Indeed, many of its commissioners
seem lost in a dream of somehow recapturing the lost US position in the
Middle East. But regardless of the ISG's seventy-nine options, things
are moving fast in Iraq. Much of Iraq, of course, is moving toward a
bloody civil war, pitting sect against sect and Arab against Kurd. But
there is also an Iraqi movement for a nationalist republic, one free of
the American occupation imposed on it by George W. Bush in 2003. Either
way, it's likely that the pace of that movement will accelerate in the
weeks and months ahead.

As a result, the real value of the ISG report is that it starts the
United States down the road toward a withdrawal of a major portion of
the occupation army, and toward a diplomatic effort in its place. That's
all to the good--and for most Americans, who won't bother reading all seventy-nine
recommendations, the only thing they will get from the news of the ISG's
work is that a bunch of smart people say it's time to get out of Iraq.
The rest is details. And things in Iraq are moving so fast that few, if
any, of those details will ever have any impact in the real world.

PASCHAL: I disagree with the last paragraph. Sadly, it does not start the US anywhere. My prediction is that Mr. Bush will reject either all or most of the report. He is, in fact, as I said five years ago, a dry alcoholic, with his irrational "Fix" on victory. He will take our nation down this tube of disaster and despair, because he cannot admit any self-criticism, or stepping back from his dream of being seen as the new Liberator and Founder of a democratic Middle East.
He is fixated, and on this point, simply insane. Unfortunately also, the only thing likely to slow him is Impreachment proceedings. I also believe that he is increasingly unstable, as he is basically a bully who has always gotten his way while disdaining any self-reflection. Despite never having known combat, he is willing to throw our men and women into impossible situations. It is a civil war. Most Iraqis want us out and most believe some of the violence will cease when that happens. He really is a dangerous man. December 8, 6:30 a.m.

This article can be found on the web at:

Visit The Nation

Subscribe to The Nation: