Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sullivan on Bush

If, Dear Reader, you need a clarification of the situation in Iraq, it would do you well to jump over to this piece by Andrew Sullivan in his The Daily Dish.

Like no other "conservative" blogger/commentator, Sullivan manages to identify significant moments in the Bush Administration's mishandling of this military effort in Iraq.

I recommend it to you.


Then write your Congressperson.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

It's a tearful croc (crock?)

So, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) gives a tearful speech on the House floor during the debate yesterday (May 24, 2007) over funding the military effort in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Believing Boehner's sincerity would be easier if dadgummed history and certain facts didn't get in the way. Boehner was part of the Republican Congressional leadership which kow-towed to the Bush administration's planning for the invasion of Iraq--which was a success, and the post-planning for Iraq after Hussein had been deposed--which, kindly, has not been a success.

Go back and read Robert Novak's column from March 13, 2003.

Here's a quote which calls into question the validity of all this current Republican mantra of listening to generals instead of politicians: "[Secretary of the Army, Thomas] White last week did not join the Pentagon's civilian leadership in contradicting Shinseki's estimate but endorsed the general's credentials. Not only did this undermine Rumsfeld's efforts to gain control of the officer corps that he felt ran wild during the Clinton days, but it raised the specter of a long and difficult occupation of Iraq."

We know who won that debate.

In 2003, Mr. Bush listened to his political appointees and not the general in charge.

In 2007, Mr. Boehner weeps for the position in which our troops have been placed, and encourages his House colleagues to listen to the general and not the politician.

Too little. Too late.

Crocodile tears.

Trust, but verify.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

An Update on Petraeus/Wolfowitz/Generals/Politicans

Going back to that NYTimes piece by Eric Schmitt, here's another quote from Wolfowitz: ''Every time we get a briefing on the war plan, it immediately goes down six different branches to see what the scenarios look like. If we costed each and every one, the costs would range from $10 billion to $100 billion.''

Please remember that today, May 24, 2007, the Democratic controlled House of Representatives and U.S. Senate voted to grant Mr. Bush $100 billion to fund the military effort in Afghanistan and Iraq until September, 2007.

That means Mr. Wolfowitz was wildly inaccurate in 2003, and the President listened to him more carefully than he did to General Shinseki.

Yet, the Republican right-wing continues to support this military effort and their man in the White House who was the "decider" to take the country to war against a country which was innocent of atrocities against the United States on 9/11/01.

Trust, but verify has taken on a new element: Whom, exactly, do we trust? The President of the United States, who made us believe he trusted his generals but actually trusted his political appointees, or the generals? It seems once we trusted him, even though it led to the disgraceful treatment of an honored general. Now we trust--a general? Even that general is working in the shadow of the shabby treatment of General Shinseki?

Mr. Bush, how can we trust you to make a wise decision?

We know how to verify--merely look at the facts of history--but whom do we trust in the first/final place?

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"Who do you trust? Politicians or Generals?"

On today's NPR broadcast of Mr. Bush's press conference, time and again he repeated the name of General Petraeus.

Time and again he repeated some variation of his mantra, "Who do you trust? Politicians or Generals?"

We should trust politicians to run things political; we should trust generals to run things military.

What we should also do is remember that when General Shinseki called for "several hundred thousand" troops to be deployed to Iraq for post-war occupation and stabilization, a politician, the second in command at the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz, called the general's estimate "wildly off the mark.'' (The link is to a story by Eric Schmitt, 2/28/03, New York Times.)

We all need to remember that, in the planning before the war, Mr. Bush once listened to politicians rather than to generals. We need to remember on our own; Mr. Bush seems reluctant to remember.

General Petraeus, the man who summons your name in his own defense is a politician.


Trust, but verify.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

100 Million "Minorities"

Our Palm Springs Gannett outlet, The Desert Sun, leads with the USA Today story based on recent Census population estimates.

Indicative of future shifts is the statistic that Hispanic students are increasing in our schools while "white" students are decreasing in number.

Among the many items of interest indicated by this growth of "minorities," is the discussion of ethnic "counts."

Perhaps when the subcategories of ethnicity were introduced during the Nixon administration they were a cultural necessity for correcting some imbalances in our society.

The question today is whether those subcategories are still useful or whether they have become detrimental to the "melting pot" concept of our system of government.

Perhaps it's time to stop asking a person's ethnicity. We're all Americans--all U.S. citizens--all one nation--with liberty and equality for all.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Beware! Spinmeisters!

Here's a quote from The Los Angeles Times, Iraq's Interior Ministry said 234 people — men whose bodies were found throughout the capital — died at the hands of death squads in the first 11 days of May, compared with 137 in the same period of April. The tally so far for May is more than half the total for all of April, when 440 bodies were found. That was a decline from previous months.

Calling the increase "very minimal," U.S. military spokesman Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV said that "there has been a slight uptick, and we're obviously very concerned about it."

Notice the spin: Caldwell says "slight uptick." The Iraqi interior ministry says 237 in 11 days, which, when compared to 137 in the first 11 days in April, somehow becomes a "slight" increase (not to get into the difference between uptick and increase--"uptick" sounds less important than "increase," doesn't it? Hmm. Ask the dead.).

Is the surge working? Is Mr. Bush ever going to shift from a military posture to an ideological posture in the Iraqi battlefield?

Trust but verify.

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Memo to Dick: Well, yes...but...

The May 11, 2007, US CENTCOM news feed features a story by Sgt. Sara Wood which briefly outlines the remarks Vice President Cheney made in Tikrit this week.

The VP is to be admired for going to Iraq to do some morale building. The troops deserve no less.

There are a couple of quotes in the article, however, which might give one pause. Sgt. Wood writes, "Al Qaeda terrorists have chosen Iraq as the central front in their worldwide campaign against freedom," and she quotes Mr. Cheney, "...this [Iraq] is where they’ve decided to fight..."

Actually, Sgt. Wood and Mr. Cheney, it was the Bush administration who decided to "fight" in Iraq. Al Qaeda of 9/11 was on its last legs in Afghanistan until we decided to depose Hussein. The Al Qaeda engaged in Iraq is a distant relative from the Al Qaeda which masterminded and executed 9/11. It does no good to confuse the history of the ideological struggle in which we find ourselves.

Sgt. Wood wrote good article, and Mr. Cheney gave a good speech.

A reading of the content of the article and the speech, however, reminds us to Trust, But Verify.

(If you don't know about the email briefings from US CENTCOM, you should. This is the link for the homepage of United States Central Command. The page offers a spot to sign up for "US CENTCOM latest news feed." Go there and sign up. Now!)

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Blankety Blankley

Tony Blankley, just today on Hardball, once again warning of dire consequences should there be an uninformed re-deployment out of Iraq, spouts the old how-we-got-there-doesn't-matter because what is important is what we do from here.

While it is easy to agree with Mr. Blankley about the former, his reiteration of the latter begs the question: What in the behavior of the Administration has changed so that in 2007 we should trust their judgment when, in 2002 and subsequently, they have proven to be eminently not up to the job of running this ideological struggle, not to mention their reputation today of questionable trustworthiness?

Please, Mr. Blankley, share with us the basis for your continuing trust in the Administration's policies vis a vis Iraq and the struggle against Islamic extremism.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

"...It's a long, long time...

...from May to December..." but it's a longer time from May to April, forget about September. is reporting (actually, the source is the Washington Post) that Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who "runs" Iraq on a day-to-day basis, wants to continue the surge until April, 2008.

So, when all these congressional members of the Republican party, senators and representatives, talk about a re-evaluation of the surge and of Iraqi policies in September, 2007, what do they mean?

More of the same?

Is the May talk about a September hard look merely a red herring dragged across the trail of continued carnage until next April?

Trust, but verify.

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Sunday, May 6, 2007

Meanwhile...over at The Times...

Here's a great headline from today's The New York Times: "Plan B? Let’s Give Plan A Some Time First."

In the column, Frederick W. Kagan lists some advancements in Iraq as of May 6. He goes on to state that there should be no "Plan B" until Plan A has had some time of implementation. His major argument is that the vicissitudes of war argue against planning for failure at the beginning of a new strategy. (Although why contingency planning isn't part of Plan A one has to wonder.)

That makes sense. War is more of a becoming rather than a being. It never is--for more than a nanosecond.

It's good to see this somewhat hopeful scenario on the pages of The Times.

There is a sobering moment, though. Embedded in the opinion piece is this: "As one of the initial proponents of the surge..." And this: "Frederick W. Kagan is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute..."

Ah, the two-part dilemma: 1) Do we trust a proponent of "the surge" to be as objectively honest as humanly possible; 2) Is a member of the conservative "think tank" American Enterprise Institute to be viewed with some skepticism?

1) I don't know; 2) Yes.

Perhaps the old TBV should be reversed in this instance: Verify, but trust.

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Friday, May 4, 2007

Shooting the Messenger?

Remember the recent report which claimed millions of dollars of waste in the reconstruction efforts in Iraq?

Well, the man who headed the team which came up with the report, Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., is, according to The New York Times, now under investigation himself, being investigated by the "President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency, an organization that was specifically created to investigate allegations of misconduct by inspectors general at federal agencies," as well as by the ranking Republican on the House Government Reform Committee, Mr. Thomas M. Davis III, of Virginia.

Even though Bowen is a Republican, operatives have ferreted out some "whistleblowers" to complain about some of his actions.

Two "money quotes" from the Times' story: 1) One of the former employees who filed the complaint, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern that he would face reprisals, agreed that all of those who brought the misconduct accusations had been unhappy with demotions, terminations or other sanctions during their time in the inspector general’s office.

2) “I think probably in each case, yes,” the former employee said. “Some were outright fired, and some were demoted.”
Even so, he said, all of them believed that they had seen numerous instances of genuine misconduct during their time in the office.

OK. Maybe. Representative Henry Waxman and Senator Olympia Snowe both support the investigation because the allegations of misconduct were made. That being said, they both indicate the process should proceed with some dispatch.

It smells of retribution, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is retribution.

We'll see.

Trust, but verify.

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