Sunday, January 28

March on Washington - It Matters

Fact: At least 3,065 American military personnel have been killed and at least 22,834 have been wounded since the start of the war in March 2003, according to Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, a Web site that tracks Department of Defense numbers. The United Nations has estimated that at least 35,000 Iraqis have been killed each year since the war started.

Fact: President Bush, who often spends weekends at Camp David, was in Washington on Saturday but had no public events scheduled. He spent part of the morning on his weekly bicycle ride at a Secret Service training facility in Beltsville, Md.

Gordon D. Johndroe, a White House spokesman said, “The president believes that the right to free speech is one of the greatest freedoms in our country. He understands that Americans want to see a conclusion to the war in Iraq, and the new strategy is designed to do just that.”
Now did you read the story about the "Tens of Thousands" who marched in Washington, DC yesterday?

United for Peace and Justice, a coalition group sponsoring the protest, had hoped 100,000 would come. They claimed even more afterward, but police, who no longer give official estimates, said privately the crowd was smaller than 100,000.

A handful of congressional Democrats spoke at the rally, but no major presidential candidates. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who has embarked on a long-shot bid for his party's nomination, stood up and called for his party to end funding for the war.

"The president said he is `the decider,'" said Maxine Waters, a Democratic Representative from California. "He is not `the decider,' he is a liar." She added when it comes to funding this "immoral" war, "I will not vote one dime."

Democratic Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat and chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said the Nov. 7 election -- which gave Democrats control of both houses of Congress -- showed Americans want change.

The House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. John Conyers, threatened to use congressional spending power to try to stop the war. ``George Bush has a habit of firing military leaders who tell him the Iraq war is failing,'' he said, looking out at the masses. ``He can't fire you.'' Referring to Congress, the Michigan Democrat added: ``He can't fire us.

``The founders of our country gave our Congress the power of the purse because they envisioned a scenario exactly like we find ourselves in today. Now only is it in our power, it is our obligation to stop Bush.''

"It takes the ... outrage of the American people to force Washington to do the right thing," he said. "We've got to hold more of these ... until our government gets the message -- Out if Iraq immediately. This year. We've got to go."

Jane Fonda, the 69-year-old actor and activist once dubbed "Hanoi Jane" by critics angered by a 1972 anti-war trip she made to North Vietnam, was the star attraction. She drew parallels with Vietnam, suggesting that once again an arrogant American government has intervened in a historic culture of which it has no understanding.

"I'm so sad we still have to do this," she said.

“We need to be talking not just about defunding the war but also about funding the vets,” Susan Sarandon said, adding that more than 50,000 had sought treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs while benefits for them continue to be cut.

“I grew up during the Vietnam War, but I never protested it and never had my lottery number called to go fight,” said David Quinly, a 54-year-old carpenter from Prairie Village, Kan., who arrived here Friday night with about 50 others after a 23-hour bus ride.

“In my view, this one is a war of choice and a war for profit against a culture and people we don’t understand,” Mr. Quinly said. “I knew I had to speak up this time.”

At the rally, 12-year-old Moriah Arnold stood on her toes to reach the microphone and tell the crowd: ``Now we know our leaders either lied to us or hid the truth. Because of our actions, the rest of the world sees us as a bully and a liar.''

The sixth-grader from Harvard, Mass., organized a petition drive at her school against the war that has killed more than 3,000 U.S. service-members, including seven whose deaths were reported Saturday

A small contingent of active-duty service members attended the rally, wearing civilian clothes because military rules forbid them from protesting in uniform.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Tassi McKee, 26, an intelligence specialist at Fort Meade, Md., said she joined the Air Force because of patriotism, travel and money for college. ``After we went to Iraq, I began to see through the lies,'' she said.

"I'm convinced this is Bush's war. He has his own agenda there," said Anne Chay, holding a sign with a picture of her 19-year-old son, John, who is serving in Iraq. "We're serving no purpose there."

Chay said her son, who has been in Baghdad since last July, said he was proud of her for traveling from Andover, Massachusetts, to take part in the anti-war rally.

Counter-protesters said that the anti-war protesters were undermining troop morale and increasing the likelihood of a premature withdrawal. Larry Stark, 71, a retired Navy officer who fought in Vietnam for five years and was a prisoner of war, said, “We never lost a battle in Vietnam but we lost the war, and the same is going to be true in Iraq if these protesters have their way. “It’s like we never learn from the past.”

On the stage rested a coffin covered with a U.S. flag and a pair of military boots, symbolizing American war dead. On the Mall stood a large bin filled with tags bearing the names of Iraqis who have died.

Meanwhile at Gitmo

I found this to be a really alarming quiz

The "Cully Quiz"

Test your knowledge of the Guantanamo Bay detention center and its detainees against that of Charles "Cully" Stimson, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Detainee Affairs in the U.S. Department of Defense.

A story of one of the detainees at Gitmo

Friday, January 26

Loebsack vows fight for low- income programs

Rep. Dave Loebsack said a firsthand look he gave facilities and programs for the working poor [in Iowa City] on Thursday will help him fight for continued funding for these kinds of programs.

Loebsack, D-Iowa, visited the Broadway Neighborhood Center, 2105 Broadway St. ‘‘I’ll do the best I can to advocate for these very organizations and the people they serve,’’ he said after meeting families and children there. Loebsack said it was important to meet the families and see the faces of those who benefit from facilities such as the Broadway Center, a community-based human service agency that provides educational and child-care programs.

‘‘It’s important so I can carry these messages to Washington,’’ Loebsack said.‘‘ I’ll do the best I can to fight for t h e s e p r o grams.’’

Many of the families using the center benefit from the Even Start Family Literacy Program, which provides funding for preschool education and adult literacy programs. ‘‘It’s really important to come to Iowa City,’’ Loebsack said, referring to meeting with low-income workers, ‘‘because people don’t think of Iowa City in these terms.’’

Brian Loring, executive director for the Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County, told Loebsack the center nearly lost all of its Even Start funding last year.
The center received $114,000 in fiscal 2007 for Even Start, down from $150,000 the previous year.

Loring said he fears the program will be eliminated and wanted Loebsack to see that support is needed.

Loebsack serves on the Education and Labor Committee in Congress.

The "Straight Talk Express" Has Better Name

I know, what is a progressive blogger doing fraternizing with the "enemy"? But wisdom on Iraq comes from both sides of the aisle. Senator Hagel gets "big cojones" points for dressing down his fellow Senators.

On the Dems side, Wisconsin's Russ Feingold tells his colleagues that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee didn't rise to the occasion before the Iraq War, voting for the "bizarre" response to 9/11 that was the invasion of Iraq and, more importantly, that their toothless plans to oppose Bush's continuation of Iraq are equally irresponsible.

State of the Union as Seen on YouTube

Thursday, January 25

State of the Facts

From Fact Check

President Bush delivered his State of the Union address Jan. 23, concluding that "the State of our Union is strong [and] our cause in the world is right." That broad judgment we'll leave to others to evaluate. Some of the specific facts the President cited, however, we found to be selective, and one we found to be incorrect.

Gasoline Cut

Bush overstated matters when he proposed to slash the nation's use of gasoline by one-fifth over the next decade:

Bush: Let us build on the work we've done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years.

But, compared to what? In reality, Bush's stated goal is not so grand as he made it sound. A White House "fact sheet" says in the fine print that he's talking about a 20 per cent from projected levels, not from what motorists are using today.

There's a big difference. The Energy Information Administrationpredicts that if current trends continue American motorists will consume 12 per cent more gasoline than they do currently by the year 2017. Cutting that projected consumption by 20 per cent works out to a level that is just 11 per cent less than current consumption. That would still be a historic reversal and a major accomplishment, but roughly half of what Bush's words seemed to promise

Foreign Oil

Bush – once again – spoke of lessening dependence on Middle Eastern oil and imported oil generally:

Bush: For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil.

He didn't mention that the nation has become significantly more dependent on foreign oil during his time in office. According to the Energy Information Administration, the US imported 60.2 per cent of the oil it consumed in 2006, up from 52.9 per cent in Bill Clinton's last year in office. Dependency has grown in each year of the Bush presidency save one, despite all the talk and enactment of his energy legislation.

Federal Deficit and Fiscal Discipline

Bush called for fiscal restraint and claimed credit for cutting the federal deficit in half:

Bush: What we need is to impose spending discipline in Washington, D.C. We set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009, and met that goal three years ahead of schedule.

Actually, Bush inherited a budget with a comfortable surplus, and then ran up enormous deficits that continue to the present. Under Bush, the national debt (debt held by the public) has increased by more than $1.5 trillion. The annual deficits peaked at $413 billion in fiscal year 2004, and has declined since then. But in fiscal year 2006 (which ended last Oct. 31) the deficit was still $248 billion. The latest estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office project a further reduction in the current fiscal year, to $172 billion. That would indeed be less than half the worst of Bush's deficits, but it would be only two years prior to fiscal 2009, not three.

As for spending restraint, Bush has shown little if any to date. He allowed spending to soar 42 per cent during his presidency, and didn't veto a single spending bill. (His only veto was of a bill to loosen restrictions on federally funded stem-cell research.) He did sign massive tax cuts, and revenues increased only 21 per cent during the same period.


The President called for reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, saying:

Bush: Students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap...the No Child Left Behind Act has worked for America's children.

According to the government's own National Center on Education Statistics, the overall achievement gap between minority students and white students has decreased between 2002, when Bush signed the law, and 2005. But the act's impact on math and reading scores is debatable. Students in 4th and 8th grades performed at historic high levels in math in 2005. However, scores had been on the rise since before the law passed. In reading, there was no difference between 4th graders' scores in 2002 and 2005, and the scores of 8th graders actually dropped two points in that interval. The reading scores in 2005 were barely different from those in 1992.

The Economy

When it came to describing the economy, Bush was pretty much on the mark:

Bush: Unemployment is low, inflation is low, and wages are rising.

In fact, the 4.5 per cent unemployment rate for December was well below the historical average. For all months since 1948, when the BLS started publishing its current statistical series, the average rate has been 5.6 per cent. The current rate is not far above the 4.2 per cent rate that prevailed when Clinton left office.

Inflation remains reasonably low. The Consumer Price Index rose 2.5 per cent during 2006, less than the 3.4 per cent rise of 2005.

And it's also true that wages are rising, and finally rising faster than inflation. According to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average weekly earnings for rank-and-file workers rose 2.1 per cent last year even after adjustment for inflation. But last year's rise came after many years of stagnation. In December workers were earning only 2.9 per cent more per week than when Bush took office, taking inflation into account.

Job Gain

The President puffed up his description of the economy using an apparently bogus number. And in fact, when we dug into this we found that the White House has been using inflated numbers for job gains for more than four months.

Bush: We're now in the 41st month of uninterrupted job growth, in a recovery that has created 7.2 million new jobs -- so far.

The 7.2 million figure is correct according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, counting an unusually large upward adjustment in the figures for total non-farm employment that the BLS announced in October. However, as in the past, Bush concentrated only on the period since August 2003, which was the low point of the prolonged job slump that plagued the first 2-1/2 years of his presidency. Since 2.7 million jobs were lost that time, the net gain from the time he took office has been 4.6 million jobs, a respectable number but still not so large as the one Bush highlighted.

Wednesday, January 24

State of the Obvious

The State of the Union address is on of those time honored traditions that allows the president to stand before Congress and blow smoke up their (and our) behinds. Take the one last night.

"we are all held to the same standards, and called to serve the same good purposes: To extend this Nation's prosperity ... to spend the people's money wisely ... to solve problems, not leave them to future generations ... to guard America against all evil, and to keep faith with those we have sent forth to defend us."

Let me count the ways this statement is absent of reality--Iraq $$$$$, 3,063 dead soldiers/22,951 wounded, a foreign relations fiasco that has China, North Korea, the whole of the Middle East, South American nations, ramping up their forces.

"we must balance the federal budget. We can do so without raising taxes. What we need to do is impose spending discipline in Washington, D.C. We set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009 - and met that goal three years ahead of schedule. Now let us take the next step. In the coming weeks, I will submit a budget that eliminates the federal deficit within the next five years. I ask you to make the same commitment. Together, we can restrain the spending appetite of the federal government, and balance the federal budget."

How do we do that when we are waging war? Our Defense budget is 19% of our GNP and 35% of our national budget.

If American forces step back before Baghdadis secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country - and in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict.

Isn't it already? Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia all rattling sabers and funding militias in Iraq.

Monday, January 22

The Kucinich Plan

This is a bit livlier than reading text.

3,200 New Troops in Baghdad

Baghdad boosted as US losses grow
More than 3,000 US troops have arrived in Baghdad, the first deployment of extra forces promised for the Iraqi capital by US President George W Bush.
As the deployment began, the US military said four soldiers and one marine had been killed in the restive western province of Anbar.

It took to 25 the number of US deaths in Iraq on Saturday - one of the worst days for US troops since the invasion.

In the latest violence in Baghdad seven people were killed in two blasts.

A bomb on a minibus killed six people in Karrada, a mostly Shia district. The second bomb hit central Baghdad.

In the south of the country, a British soldier was killed by a roadside bomb near the city of Basra.

The 3,200 extra troops sent to Baghdad are the advance guard of a 21,500-strong deployment ordered by President Bush earlier this month.

Loebsack Co-sponsors Murtha Redeployment Resolution

H.J.Res.18 - Resolutions are non-binding


To redeploy U.S. forces from Iraq.

Whereas Congress and the American people have not been shown clear, measurable progress toward establishment of stable and improving security in Iraq or of a stable and improving economy in Iraq, both of which are essential to `promote the emergence of a democratic government';

Whereas additional stabilization in Iraq by U.S. military forces cannot be achieved without the deployment of hundreds of thousands of additional U.S. troops, which in turn cannot be achieved without a military draft;

Whereas more than $471 billion has been appropriated by the United States Congress to prosecute U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan;

Whereas, as of the drafting of this resolution, 3,026 U.S. troops have been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom;

Whereas U.S. forces have become the target of the insurgency;

Whereas, according to recent polls, over 91 percent of Sunni Iraqis and 74 percent of Shiite Iraqis want the U.S. forces out of Iraq;

Whereas polls also indicate that 61 percent of the Iraqi people feel that the attacks on U.S. forces are justified; and

Whereas, due to the foregoing, Congress finds it evident that continuing U.S. military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the people of Iraq, or the Persian Gulf Region, which were cited in Public Law 107-243 as justification for undertaking such action: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That:

Section 1. The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.

Sec. 2. A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S. Marines shall be deployed in the region.

Sec. 3. The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.

Sunday, January 21

And Now Bill Richardson...Where Does He Stand?

Former UN Secretary, Energy Dept. head (under Bill Clinton), and New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson has joined the "explorers" club. What's his plan for Iraq?

Richardson Proposed Solution

Iraq is in a state of civil war, and only they can stop it. Bush's policies have brought us to the point where we now have to choose between bad options and worse ones. We need to choose the path that will do the least damage to American national security -- not the one that does the least damage to the President who created this catastrophe.

I agree with Senator Levin that our leverage is the withdrawal of our troops.

Once Iraq's leaders understand that our military presence in Iraq is neither permanent nor unconditional They are far more likely to take the political steps necessary to deal with their political crisis.

We should give the Iraqi cabinet the opportunity to discuss the details of our departure with us and to make suggestions, but we need to establish a 2007 departure date.

If the Iraqi government agrees, we should announce jointly that our mission is over, and that we will leave by the specified date. If they doon't agree, we should announce that date without them.

We should harbor no illusions. This withdrawal will not be pretty. People will die. But fewer will die than if we stay. There are no guarantees that our departure will end the civil war. But it is sure to continue so long as we stay.

The Iraqis might, or might not, resolve their political crisis. It is up to them. They distrust and fear one another, and this makes it very tough.

But they share one goal they don't want to destroy their own country. To save it, they need to stop killing each other and start compromising

And we need to get out of the way. And then we have a moral obligation to help.

Once we are on our way out, I believe we can be helpful in the following ways:

First, we should encourage national reconciliation talks.

Second, we should work with the Iraqis and the UN to convene a regional conference similar to the Dayton conference that produced a settlement in Yugoslavia. .

Third, the United States must lead the way on economic assistance for reconstruction. Working with the UN, the Europeans and other countries

And for our own security, we must return National Guard troops to their States, where they are needed, and redeploy troops to Afghanistan, to knock down the resurgent Taliban.

Redeployment from Iraq will help us rebuild our military, so we can negotiate from a position of strength with countries like Iran, Syria and North Korea. One thing the Bush administration has never understood is that diplomacy and military power are not alternatives to one another, but rather are complementary sources of strength. Because diplomacy without power is weak, and power without diplomacy is blind.

There are no quick or easy answers to the crisis in Iraq. Our choices are between bad options and worse ones.

Some prefer military escalation. Some choose staying the course. These options are illusions. The only realistic choice we have is to stand down militarily, and let the Iraqis stand up and face the political crisis which only they can resolve.

Saturday, January 20

Hillary Is In, Where Does She Stand on the War?

From Senator Clinton's interview on Jan. 18 with Gwen Ifill

I think that certainly our [current] strategy has not succeeded, and I don't think there's any doubt about that anywhere, including in the White House.

The question is, what do we do now going forward? And the president's proposal to add 21,500 troops in an escalation of the combat situation is not going to work.

In the absence of a comprehensive approach that tries to put some pressure on the Maliki government to do the kinds of actions, to create some political resolution, to deal with the oil revenues, to reverse the de-Baathification, all of that has to be done, and so far there have been no consequences extracted from this government.

They get open-ended commitments from the Bush administration. You know, for more than a year-and-a-half, I've been in favor of phased redeployment of our troops, bringing them home as quickly as possible, but based on a comprehensive strategy that looked at the diplomatic, political, and economic challenges and, frankly, exerted some leverage on the Iraqis who have to take these actions if any possible salvage can be made of this situation.

"Look, we have to cap the number of American troops, make it very clear we're not putting more American troops into this sectarian war."

We, instead, are going to set forth one last time the actions we expect from the Maliki government and, instead of cutting funding for American troops, which I do not support, because still to this day we don't have all of the equipment, the armored Humvees and the rest that our troops need, instead of cutting funding to American troops, cut the funding to the Iraqi forces and to the security forces, often private contractors that we pay for to protect the members of this government.

We have to do something to get their attention, in order to force them to deal with the political, and the economic, and the diplomatic pieces of the puzzle that confronts us.

If you listen to what Prime Minister Maliki said, as you recounted, they want us to equip and provide the resources and firepower to the Iraqi forces.

I say no. That will be a mistake, because that will certainly produce a reaction from regional powers that are not going to sit idly by and see the sectarian forces, represented by the various Shia factions, be able -- with our help -- to go after the Sunnis.

They will feel compelled to up their support for the Sunni insurgents in order to defend themselves. So I think we have to make it clear to the Maliki government, we do not have a blank check with an open commitment here.

I think this administration is also focused on Iran. And I think we need to send a very strong message that an administration with its track record of failure, of arrogance, of refusal to listen and learn from the disastrous steps that have, unfortunately, been taken should not be rushing off and putting American servicemembers in harm's way and possibly widening the conflict.

So there's a lot that we have to worry about.

Posturing While Baghdad is Burning

This week while more troops were sent to Iraq Democrats and moderate Republicans in the Senate postured with creating a non-binding resolution decrying Bush's commitment of 21,500 more soldiers to Iraq. Meanwhile bills in the Woolsey Bill in the House to withdraw troops in 6 months and the Kennedy Bill in the Senate to require congressional approval before further escalation--that have teeth to them-- are waiting for the light of day. On top of this Bush is pushing forth a defense spending bill that will pay for the war for another year!

It is time to demand Congress to do the right thing. The eyes of Congress are on 2008 and not today. The first party who blinks loses the Presidency is the thinking of political strategists. What is missing in the picture is that our army is a voluntary one. If the public perceives that the government is making a political football out of the lives of their sons and daughters, we will have a very serious domestic problem to address.

Ending this war is the right thing to do because, in so doing, it chills the growing unrest in the region by removing the us, the 900 pound gorilla, that has put Iran onto the battlefield. Without diplomatic solutions, it is likely that the whole of the Middle East could become embroiled in a full scale war, which would be to no one's benefit.

Iraq is in turmoil, there is no doubt. But without our troops there and with diplomacy and, perhaps, the Arab states providing peacekeeping troops, it is more likely that a reasonable solution can be found.

Thursday, January 18

Quotes on War

One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one. Agatha Christie

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones. Albert Einstein

Sometime they'll give a war and nobody will come. Carl Sandburg

People in general are scared to death of the war and all the exhibition have been a failure, because the rich - don't want to buy anything. Frida Kahlo

You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake. Jeannette Rankin

War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's children. Jimmy Carter

War is not its own end, except in some catastrophic slide into absolute damnation. It's peace that's wanted. Some better peace than the one you started with. Lois McMaster Bujold

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy? Mahatma Gandhi

The way to win an atomic war is to make certain it never starts. Omar Bradley

Either war is obsolete or men are. R. Buckminster Fuller

It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events. Sir Winston Churchill

When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it? Eleanor Roosevelt

War is a cowardly escape from the problems of peace. Thomas Mann

Wars teach us not to love our enemies, but to hate our allies. W. L. George

Wednesday, January 17

Facts and Lack Thereof


President Bush's sobering address to the nation laid out his plan to rescue Iraq by sending in more troops at a time when polls show the American people want just the opposite. Is his approach a significant change of course? Will it work? We leave that to others to chew over. What we can say is that he was right on the facts he cited, although there were some notable omissions. While he highlighted the planned distribution of oil revenues to the Iraqi people and a new commitment of reconstruction funds by the Iraqi government, he didn't say a word about how the U.S. or Iraq would deal with rampant corruption that threatens to undermine both.
Similarly, we found the rebuttal by Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat, to be factually accurate but also somewhat selective.

Bush's speech wasn't long on facts, since he was focused mainly on what the U.S. and Iraq will do in the future. We'll take his factual statements one-by-one and note some things that got left on the cutting-room floor.

Desire to live in peace?

Bush: Most of Iraq's Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace.
A big orange warning flag should go up over the accuracy of any polls of a population caught in the middle of a war. That said, the available polling data supports this claim. Last June, the International Republican Institute asked over 2,000 Iraqis to agree or disagree with the suggestion that the nation be segregated according to religious or ethnic sect. Only 13 percent agreed or strongly agreed, while 66% strongly disagreed. In the same poll, 89 percent of respondents said that establishing a "unity" government was extremely important "to the future peace and stability of Iraq.
In addition, the summary of a 1,000-person poll in Sept. 2006 by the World Public Opinion organization concluded that "Majorities of all groups do not favor a movement toward a looser confederation and believe that five years from now Iraq will still be a single state. A large majority sees the current government as the legitimate representative of the Iraqi people."

Sharing oil revenues

Bush: Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.
That sounds good, but Bush fails to note that crude oil production hasn't yet recovered to pre-war levels. Before the U.S.-led invasion, it stood at 2.5 million barrels/day. By December 2006, it was 2.15 million – down a bit from the months of June-Oct. of last year. With the price-per-barrel being high, there still could be a lot of money to pass around – except for corruption that is siphoning off a good deal of the money and which we didn't hear about in the President's speech.


Bush: To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs.
The missing word here is "corruption," perhaps the most glaring omission in the President's address. If the $10 billion in reconstruction money is to be effective, the Iraqi government will have to do something about the rampant corruption noted by the Iraq Study Group, the Government Accountability Office and numerous news accounts. Bush didn't use the word "corruption" once in his speech, nor was it mentioned by either of the "senior administration officials" who briefed White House reporters just prior to the speech on the condition that their names not be used. By contrast, "corruption" is mentioned 15 times in the ISG report, which lists it as one of the major reasons for the Iraqi government’s inability to provide basic services like water and electricity on any sort of reliable basis. Other examples:
ISG Report: [C]orruption is rampant. One senior Iraqi official estimated that official corruption costs Iraq $5–7 billion per year.

ISG Report: Economic development is hobbled by insecurity, corruption, lack of investment, dilapidated infrastructure and uncertainty.

ISG Report: One senior U.S. official told us that corruption is more responsible than insurgents for breakdowns in the oil sector.
In July 2006, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) reported a poll that found a third of Iraqis said they had paid bribes for goods or services that year. In a September 2006 news report by the United Nations’ Integrated Regional Information Networks, Judge Radhi al-Radhi, head of the Commission for Public Integrity (CPI) in Iraq, estimated that $4 billion “has been pilfered from state coffers and no one is taking responsibility.”

Transparency International, a non-partisan international watchdog group, has listed Iraq as the second most corrupt government in the world, with only Haiti edging it out of first place. The GAO reported that the lack of an effective banking system in Iraq , ambiguous procurement systems, and inadequate anti-corruption training have hampered attempts to reduce foul play. The GAO also reported that between January 2005 and August 2006, 56 Iraqi officials were found guilty of corruption or had arrest warrants issued against them, but apparently the arrests and prosecutions aren't having much of a deterrent effect.

Sunni outreach

Bush: [T]o allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws.
This measure, which is indeed on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's to-do list, was also recommended by the ISG as a key element of national reconciliation. Many professionals who worked in the government in the days of Saddam Hussein were purged because of their Baath Party ties in the weeks and months after Hussein was ousted. But 40 percent of Iraq's professional class has left the country altogether, and Bush doesn't address the problem of luring them back.

al Qaeda

Bush: Al Qaeda has helped make Anbar the most violent area of Iraq outside the capital. A captured al Qaeda document describes the terrorists' plan to infiltrate and seize control of the province.
It is fair to say that al Qaeda is still active in Iraq, even though its leader in the country, Abu Masab al Zarqawi, was killed by U.S. forces in June 2006. The group is believed to include mostly foreign fighters, and it's widely acknowledged that they're most active in Anbar. The Brookings Institution's Iraq Index estimates that there were between 800 and 2,000 foreign fighters in all of Iraq as of November.
The Washington Post reported in November that a secret Marine memo described al-Qaeda in Iraq as the “dominate organization of influence in al-Anbar.” But the official who leaked the memo to the paper said “it overstates the role of al Qaeda in the province.” A Congressional Research Service report characterizes this group as “numerically small, but politically significant.”

al Qaeda, pt. II

Bush: America's men and women in uniform took away al Qaeda's safe haven in Afghanistan, and we will not allow them to re-establish it in Iraq.
Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S. military response to the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, pretty much ousted the Taliban and al Qaeda from Afghanistan. But Bush didn't mention that the Taliban have been creeping back, possibly as a consequence of the deployment of so many troops to Iraq, and some key members of al Qaeda – including, according to many reports, Osama bin Laden – have found safe haven just over the border in Pakistan.


Bush: Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops.
There's not much disagreement on this front, except from the Iranians. It is widely accepted that Iran , either directly or indirectly, has been involved in aiding militia and insurgent groups fighting U.S. forces. In August 2006 The Washington Post quoted Department of Defense spokesman Major General William B. Caldwell as saying, “We do believe that some Shiite elements have been in Iran, receiving training. But the degree to which this is known and endorsed by the government of Iran is uncertain.” However, by the following month, the U.S . military reported that explosive devices with signature labels found in Iraq were proof-positive of Iranian government involvement. And Brig. Gen. Michael Barbero of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said in an interview that “Iran is definitely a destabilizing force in Iraq …I think it’s irrefutable that Iran is responsible for training, funding and equipping some of these Shiia extremist groups and also providing advanced technology to them, and there’s clear evidence of that.” A Congressional Research Service report from December 2006 also cites reports of Iranian involvement with Sunni insurgents fighting US forces.

The Democratic Rebuttal

In a Democratic rebuttal to the President’s speech, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said a troop increase is not what the voters ordered up in the 2006 House and Senate elections. That’s true as far as it goes, but it’s truer of Democrats than Republicans.
Durbin: Escalation of this war is not the change the American people called for in the last election.
Exit-polling data from last year's congressional elections support this statement. When asked about troop levels in Iraq, only 17 per cent said “send more” and 21 per cent favored no change. But 55 per cent said they favored withdrawing some or all US troops. Democrats were far more likely than Republicans to favor withdrawal, and the few who favored a troop increase were Republican by three to one.
After Durbin spoke, The Associated Press reported a new AP /Ipsos poll showing that 70 per cent of those surveyed oppose sending more troops. The poll was taken in the days just before Bush spoke, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 per cent, according to AP. The partisan split continues: 87 per cent of Democrats opposed a troop increase, but only 42 per cent of Republicans.

Ignoring advice of generals?

Durbin: In ordering more troops to Iraq, the president is ignoring the strong advice of most of his own top generals. General John Abizaid -- until recently, the commanding general in Iraq and Afghanistan -- said, and I quote, "More American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future," end of quote.
True, Abizaid said that at a Nov. 15, 2006 hearing, and also said that he believed Iraqi forces could defeat the insurgency. But later at the same hearing he also said, “If more troops need to come in, they need to come in to make the Iraqi army stronger.”Bush says that's just what he's doing: using the added US troops to stiffen Iraqi forces. The two senior administration officials who briefed reporters Wednesday said some of the added US troops would be embedded with Iraqi forces, but that Iraqis would take the lead in combat operations.
A minor point, but Abizaid no longer is one of Bush’s “own top generals,” which Durbin himself noted in passing. Bush announced a few days ago he was replacing Abizaid as head of the Central Command, at the same time that he replaced Gen. George Casey as the top commander in Iraq. Casey had also expressed reservations about sending more troops, although at a news conference Thursday Marine Corps General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the request for additional troops actually came from Gen. Casey "and his commanders."
Pace: General Casey and his commanders came forward and asked for additional forces.They asked for additional forces for Baghdad, and they asked for additional forces for al-Anbar.
Bush is glossing over some inconvenient facts, and so are his critics.

—by the Staff of

Tuesday, January 16

Now That Obama is Exploring, What is His Plan?

Sen. Barack Obama has officially decided to explore running for President. As such, it is time to add his plan to those who have thrown their hat into the ring--sort of and/or all the way.

"I have long said that the only solution in Iraq is a political one. To reach such a solution, we must communicate clearly and effectively to the factions in Iraq that the days of asking, urging, and waiting for them to take control of their own country are coming to an end. No more coddling, no more equivocation. Our best hope for success is to use the tools we have – military, financial, diplomatic – to pressure the Iraqi leadership to finally come to a political agreement between the warring factions that can create some sense of stability in the country and bring this conflict under control.

The first part of this strategy begins by exerting the greatest leverage we have on the Iraqi government – a phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq on a timetable that would begin in four to six months. When I first advocated steps along these lines over a year ago, I had hoped that this phased redeployment could begin by the end of 2006. Such a timetable may now need to begin in 2007, but begin it must. For only through this phased redeployment can we send a clear message to the Iraqi factions that the U.S. is not going to hold together this country indefinitely – that it will be up to them to form a viable government that can effectively run and secure Iraq. Let me be more specific. The President should announce to the Iraqi people that our policy will include a gradual and substantial reduction in U.S. forces. He should then work with our military commanders to map out the best plan for such a redeployment and determine precise levels and dates. When possible, this should be done in consultation with the Iraqi government – but it should not depend on Iraqi approval. I am not suggesting that this timetable be overly-rigid. We cannot compromise the safety of our troops, and we should be willing to adjust to realities on the ground. The redeployment could be temporarily suspended if the parties in Iraq reach an effective political arrangement that stabilizes the situation and they offer us a clear and compelling rationale for maintaining certain troop levels. Moreover, it could be suspended if at any point U.S. commanders believe that a further reduction would put American troops in danger.

Drawing down our troops in Iraq will allow us to redeploy additional troops to Northern Iraq and elsewhere in the region as an over-the-horizon force. This force could help prevent the conflict in Iraq from becoming a wider war, consolidate gains in Northern Iraq, reassure allies in the Gulf, allow our troops to strike directly at al Qaeda wherever it may exist, and demonstrate to international terrorist organizations that they have not driven us from the region. Perhaps most importantly, some of these troops could be redeployed to Afghanistan, where our lack of focus and commitment of resources has led to an increasing deterioration of the security situation there. The President’s decision to go to war in Iraq has had disastrous consequences for Afghanistan -- we have seen a fierce Taliban offensive, a spike in terrorist attacks, and a narcotrafficking problem spiral out of control. Instead of consolidating the gains made by the Karzai government, we are backsliding towards chaos. By redeploying from Iraq to Afghanistan, we will answer NATO’s call for more troops and provide a much-needed boost to this critical fight against terrorism. As a phased redeployment is executed, the majority of the U.S. troops remaining in Iraq should be dedicated to the critical, but less visible roles, of protecting logistics supply points, critical infrastructure, and American enclaves like the Green Zone, as well as acting as a rapid reaction force to respond to emergencies and go after terrorists.

In such a scenario, it is conceivable that a significantly reduced U.S. force might remain in Iraq for a more extended period of time. But only if U.S. commanders think such a force would be effective; if there is substantial movement towards a political solution among Iraqi factions; if the Iraqi government showed a serious commitment to disbanding the militias; and if the Iraqi government asked us – in a public and unambiguous way – for such continued support. We would make clear in such a scenario that the United States would not be maintaining permanent military bases in Iraq, but would do what was necessary to help prevent a total collapse of the Iraqi state and further polarization of Iraqi society. Such a reduced but active presence will also send a clear message to hostile countries like Iran and Syria that we intend to remain a key player in this region.

The second part of our strategy should be to couple this phased redeployment with a more effective plan that puts the Iraqi security forces in the lead, intensifies and focuses our efforts to train those forces, and expands the numbers of our personnel – especially special forces – who are deployed with Iraqi as units advisers. An increase in the quality and quantity of U.S. personnel in training and advisory roles can guard against militia infiltration of Iraqi units; develop the trust and goodwill of Iraqi soldiers and the local populace; and lead to better intelligence while undercutting grassroots support for the insurgents.

Let me emphasize one vital point – any U.S. strategy must address the problem of sectarian militias in Iraq. In the absence of a genuine commitment on the part of all of the factions in Iraq to deal with this issue, it is doubtful that a unified Iraqi government can function for long, and it is doubtful that U.S. forces, no matter how large, can prevent an escalation of widespread sectarian killing. Of course, in order to convince the various factions to embark on the admittedly difficult task of disarming their militias, the Iraqi government must also make headway on reforming the institutions that support the military and the police. We can teach the soldiers to fight and police to patrol, but if the Iraqi government will not properly feed, adequately pay, or provide them with the equipment they need, they will continue to desert in large numbers, or maintain fealty only to their religious group rather than the national government. The security forces have to be far more inclusive – standing up an army composed mainly of Shiites and Kurds will only cause the Sunnis to feel more threatened and fight even harder.

The third part of our strategy should be to link continued economic aid in Iraq with the existence of tangible progress toward a political settlement. So far, Congress has given the Administration unprecedented flexibility in determining how to spend more than $20 billion dollars in Iraq. But instead of effectively targeting this aid, we have seen some of the largest waste, fraud, and abuse of foreign aid in American history. Today, the Iraqi landscape is littered with ill-conceived, half-finished projects that have done almost nothing to help the Iraqi people or stabilize the country.

This must end in the next session of Congress, when we reassert our authority to oversee the management of this war. This means no more bloated no-bid contracts that cost the taxpayers millions in overhead and administrative expenses. We need to continue to provide some basic reconstruction funding that will be used to put Iraqis to work and help our troops stabilize key areas. But we need to also move towards more condition-based aid packages where economic assistance is contingent upon the ability of Iraqis to make measurable progress on reducing sectarian violence and forging a lasting political settlement.

Finally, we have to realize that the entire Middle East has an enormous stake in the outcome of Iraq, and we must engage neighboring countries in finding a solution. This includes opening dialogue with both Syria and Iran, an idea supported by both James Baker and Robert Gates. We know these countries want us to fail, and we should remain steadfast in our opposition to their support of terrorism and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But neither Iran nor Syria want to see a security vacuum in Iraq filled with chaos, terrorism, refugees, and violence, as it could have a destabilizing effect throughout the entire region – and within their own countries. And so I firmly believe that we should convene a regional conference with the Iraqis, Saudis, Iranians, Syrians, the Turks, Jordanians, the British and others. The goal of this conference should be to get foreign fighters out of Iraq, prevent a further descent into civil war, and push the various Iraqi factions towards a political solution.

Make no mistake – if the Iranians and Syrians think they can use Iraq as another Afghanistan or a staging area from which to attack Israel or other countries, they are badly mistaken. It is in our national interest to prevent this from happening. We should also make it clear that, even after we begin to drawdown forces, we will still work with our allies in the region to combat international terrorism and prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. It is simply not productive for us not to engage in discussions with Iran and Syria on an issue of such fundamental importance to all of us.

This brings me to a set of broader points. As we change strategy in Iraq, we should also think about what Iraq has taught us about America’s strategy in the wider struggle against rogue threats and international terrorism. Many who supported the original decision to go to war in Iraq have argued that it has been a failure of implementation. But I have long believed it has also been a failure of conception – that the rationale behind the war itself was misguided. And so going forward, I believe there are strategic lessons to be learned from this as we continue to confront the new threats of this new century. The first is that we should be more modest in our belief that we can impose democracy on a country through military force. In the past, it has been movements for freedom from within tyrannical regimes that have led to flourishing democracies; movements that continue today. This doesn’t mean abandoning our values and ideals; wherever we can, it’s in our interest to help foster democracy through the diplomatic and economic resources at our disposal. But even as we provide such help, we should be clear that the institutions of democracy – free markets, a free press, a strong civil society – cannot be built overnight, and they cannot be built at the end of a barrel of a gun. And so we must realize that the freedoms FDR once spoke of – especially freedom from want and freedom from fear – do not just come from deposing a tyrant and handing out ballots; they are only realized once the personal and material security of a people is ensured as well.

The second lesson is that in any conflict, it is not enough to simply plan for war; you must also plan for success. Much has been written about how the military invasion of Iraq was planned without any thought to what political situation we would find after Baghdad fell. Such lack of foresight is simply inexcusable. If we commit our troops anywhere in the world, it is our solemn responsibility to define their mission and formulate a viable plan to fulfill that mission and bring our troops home.

The final lesson is that in an interconnected world, the defeat of international terrorism – and most importantly, the prevention of these terrorist organizations from obtaining weapons of mass destruction -- will require the cooperation of many nations. We must always reserve the right to strike unilaterally at terrorists wherever they may exist. But we should know that our success in doing so is enhanced by engaging our allies so that we receive the crucial diplomatic, military, intelligence, and financial support that can lighten our load and add legitimacy to our actions. This means talking to our friends and, at times, even our enemies. We need to keep these lessons in mind as we think about the broader threats America now faces – threats we haven’t paid nearly enough attention to because we have been distracted in Iraq."

Monday, January 15

6 Pillars of Character

The six pillars of character, according to the Iowa Character Institute are: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. I wonder how the institute would grade our politicians re: character. Dear readers, please submit your grades for the politicians you think show good character. After all, don't we want leaders that exhibit these traits, in addition to critical thinking ability and political acumen?


Trust is the basis of all good relationships and a cornerstone of good character. Trustworthy people keep their promises, are honest, reliable, principled, and never inappropriately betray a confidence.

· Be honest - don't deceive, cheat or steal
· Be reliable-do what you say you'll do
· Have the courage to do the right thing
· Build a good reputation
· Be loyal-stand by your family, friends and country

Treating people with respect helps us get along with each other, avoid and resolve conflicts, and create a positive social climate. Respectful behavior means treating others with civility and courtesy, accepting personal differences, listening to what others have to say, and refraining from ridiculing, embarrassing or hurting others.
· Each of us has a role in creating a respectful climate.
· Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule
· Be tolerant of differences
· Use good manners, not bad language
· Be considerate of the feelings of others
· Don't threaten, hit or hurt anyone
· Deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements

Responsibility is often regarded as a burden, but we discover that it is actually a great source of personal power. It is the key to taking charge of our lives. Responsible people do what needs to be done, fulfill their obligations, are accountable for their actions, use good judgment, and don’t let people down.
· Do what you are supposed to do
· Persevere; keep on trying!
· Always do your best
· Use self-control
· Be self-disciplined
· Think before you act-consider the consequences
· Be accountable for your choices

Nothing makes people bristle like injustice, but often it’s difficult to know what’s fair and what isn’t, or what to do when faced with injustice. Fairness means living by the golden rule, doing what it takes to be a fair and just person, and realizing how much our personal actions do matter.
· Play by the rules
· Take turns and share
· Be open-minded; listen to others
· Don't take advantage of others
· Don't blame others carelessly

Caring is not just a way of feeling, it’s a way of behaving. What makes us caring people is doing caring things. Caring people respond selflessly to the needs of others and treat others with kindness, concern, and generosity.
· Be kind
· Be compassionate and show you care
· Express gratitude
· Forgive others
· Help people in need

Citizenship, at its core, is social responsibility in action. It is doing your part for the common good, serving your community, and helping make our democracy work. One person can make a big difference!

· Do your share to make your school and community better
· Cooperate
· Stay informed; vote
· Be a good neighbor
· Obey laws and rules
· Respect authority
· Protect the environment
· Recycle

Sunday, January 14

Bush Says "Show me Your Plan"

President Bush on Saturday [1/13/07] challenged lawmakers skeptical of his new Iraq plan to propose their own strategy for stopping the violence in Baghdad.

"To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible," Bush said.

Forgetting for a moment that he is our Commander-in-Chief and should have asked for alternatives prior to making his own announcement, he asks a valid question.

So what are the Democrats' plans? Here are the plans that announced candidate's for President in 2008 propose.

Sen. Joe Biden's Plan (August 2006)

The five-point plan [General Les Gelb and] I laid out offers a better way.

First, the plan calls for maintaining a unified Iraq by decentralizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis their own regions. The central government would be left in charge of common interests, such as border security and the distribution of oil revenue.

Second, it would bind the Sunnis to the deal by guaranteeing them a proportionate share of oil revenue. Each group would have an incentive to maximize oil production, making oil the glue that binds the country together.

Third, the plan would create a massive jobs program while increasing reconstruction aid -- especially from the oil-rich Gulf states -- but tying it to the protection of minority rights.

Fourth, it would convene an international conference that would produce a regional nonaggression pact and create a Contact Group to enforce regional commitments.

Fifth, it would begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces this year and withdraw most of them by the end of 2007, while maintaining a small follow-on force to keep the neighbors honest and to strike any concentration of terrorists.

This plan is consistent with Iraq's constitution, which already provides for the country's 18 provinces to join together in regions, with their own security forces and control over most day-to-day issues. This plan is the only idea on the table for dealing with the militias, which are likely to retreat to their respective regions instead of engaging in acts of violence. This plan is consistent with a strong central government that has clearly defined responsibilities. Indeed, it provides an agenda for that government, whose mere existence will not end sectarian violence. This plan is not partition -- in fact, it may be the only way to prevent violent partition and preserve a unified Iraq.

Sen. Christopher Dodd's Plan (January 2006)

The time for blunt force is long past. Instead, we ought to withdraw our combat troops from urban centers of sectarian conflict, where they are simply cannon fodder. We ought to focus on training reliable Iraqi security forces whose allegiance is to the greater Iraqi people, not to any specific sect. We need to redouble counterterrorism efforts and border security to deny al-Qaeda a failed-state foothold. And, perhaps most importantly, we must engage Iraq’s leaders and its neighbors to promote political reconciliation.

If the only solution to Iraq a is political one, diplomacy is the only weapon we have left.

What has the administration been doing in the last four weeks? Since the time the Iraq Study Group’s report was released, almost 100 American soldiers have been killed and by many estimates, four to five thousand Iraqi civilians have been killed in the widening strife.

And the President’s solution to all of this was to ignore the most important recommendations of the Iraq Study Group – namely “robust diplomacy,” and instead settle on an escalation of our current combat strategy.

This is a tactic in search of a strategy, and it will not bring us a stable Iraq.

The American people have spent $14 billion training and equipping 300,000 Iraqi police and security forces. Yet, today, 23 separate sectarian militias operate with impunity throughout Baghdad. Sectarian killings continue largely unabated—averaging scores of deaths a day, and thousands a month. This is not random violence: It is a targeted civil war, complete with ethnic cleansing.

Those of us who have been to Iraq recently have seen it with our own eyes and heard it with our own ears.

Beyond that, president’s own intelligence experts have told us that the Islamic world is growing more radical, and that the terrorist threat is greater today than it was on 9/11—not despite, but because of the continuing war in Iraq. Iraq, they conclude, has become both a physical and an ideological training ground for the next generation of extremists.

The wider region has been further plunged into violence, Hezbollah has crippled the Lebanese government, civil war in the Palestinian territories now seems more likely than ever, Syria and Iran are more powerful and emboldened than they’ve been in recent memory. We are further away from stabilizing Afghanistan, as drug traffickers and tribal warfare now threaten to destroy its nascent democracy, and the Taliban is stronger now than at any point since our invasion.

And perhaps, most troubling of all is our standing in the world. According to the Pew Center for Global Opinion, more people in Great Britain, France, Spain, Russia, Indonesia, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Nigeria, India and China think that the War in Iraq is a greater danger to world peace than either Iran or North Korea. The President says we are in a “war of ideas.” But how can we possibly win a war between democracy and extremism when so much of the world considers us to be the threat?

Isn’t it the State Department’s job to engage in this debate and win the world over, or at least try? Instead we’ve had year after year of inaction, bellicose rhetoric, a categorical refusal to ask for help, to work collectively, to engage—and what has it bought us?

Sen. John Edward's Plan (October 2005)

A plan for success needs to focus on three interlocking objectives: reducing the American presence, building Iraq's capacity and getting other countries to meet their responsibilities to help.

First, we need to remove the image of an imperialist America from the landscape of Iraq. American contractors who have taken unfair advantage of the turmoil in Iraq need to leave Iraq. If that means Halliburton subsidiary KBR, then KBR should go. Such departures, and the return of the work to Iraqi businesses, would be a real statement about our hopes for the new nation.

We also need to show Iraq and the world that we will not stay there forever. We've reached the point where the large number of our troops in Iraq hurts, not helps, our goals. Therefore, early next year, after the Iraqi elections, when a new government has been created, we should begin redeployment of a significant number of troops out of Iraq. This should be the beginning of a gradual process to reduce our presence and change the shape of our military's deployment in Iraq. Most of these troops should come from National Guard or Reserve forces.

That will still leave us with enough military capability, combined with better-trained Iraqis, to fight terrorists and continue to help the Iraqis develop a stable country.

Second, this redeployment should work in concert with a more effective training program for Iraqi forces. We should implement a clear plan for training and hard deadlines for certain benchmarks to be met. To increase incentives, we should implement a schedule showing that, as we certify Iraqi troops as trained and equipped, a proportional number of U.S. troops will be withdrawn.

Third, we must launch a serious diplomatic process that brings the world into this effort. We should bring Iraq's neighbors and our key European allies into a diplomatic process to get Iraq on its feet. The president needs to create a unified international front.

Too many mistakes have already been made for this to be easy. Yet we must take these steps to succeed. The American people, the Iraqi people and -- most important -- our troops who have died or been injured there, and those who are fighting there today, deserve nothing less.

Edwards on January 9, 2007

"George Bush's expected decision to adopt the McCain Doctrine and escalate the war in Iraq is a grave mistake.

"The new Congress must intercede to stop Bush from stubbornly sticking to the same failed course in Iraq and refuse to authorize funding for an escalation of troops. They should make it clear to the President that he will not get any money to put more of our troops in harm's way until he provides a plan to turn responsibility of Iraq over to the Iraqi people and to ultimately leave Iraq. George Bush wants to dig a deeper hole, but we need to climb out.

"The situation in Iraq demands a political solution — the Iraqi people must take responsibility for their country. Escalating the war in Iraq, which our own generals agree won't help, sends the wrong message to the Iraqi people, to the region, and the world. In order to get the Iraqis to take responsibility for their country, we must show them that we are serious about leaving, and the best way to do that is to actually start leaving and immediately withdraw 40–50,000 troops. Once the U.S. starts leaving, the Iraqi people and other regional powers will be forced to step up and engage in the search for a political solution that can bring an end to sectarian violence and allow reconstruction to take hold, creating — as should have been done long ago — Iraqi jobs for Iraqis."

Sen. Michael Gravel's Plan (December 2006)

Senator Gravel believes that the United States should withdraw from Iraq immediately – “not six months from now, but now.” He believes that the Baker Commission on Iraq is likely to come out with a plan that seems reasonable that would keep US troops in Iraq for another two years. Gravel asked, “What’s reasonable? What is reasonable when you’re killing American solders every day – when you’re killing foreigners – is to stop.” He believes that the likely Baker plan will be crafted to maintain “American hegemony” over Iraqi oil in the long run.

He believes that the motivations for going to war in the first place were related to Iraq’s oil. One of these motivations in his view was to prevent Saddam Hussein from re-denominating the sale of Iraq’s oil in euros from dollars - something that could have had a disastrous effect on the dollar. He also believes that certain senior US leaders, including Vice President Dick Cheney, wanted control of Iraq’s oil in order to cement influence over the world economy as a whole.

He believes that

the tragedy for the world and ourselves is that they’re using all this treasure for this ill-advised adventure in Iraq to sustain our ascendancy in power over the oil economy in the world which is what is causing global warming when in point of fact we should be using this treasure to get ourselves off this carbon dependency and move into energy alternatives.

When asked whether he was concerned that an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq would lead to an expansion of Iranian influence over Iraq, Gravel said “No. I have no concerns about that.”

Rep. Dennis Kucinich's Plan for ending the war in Iraq (January 10, 2007)

  1. The U.S. announces it will end the occupation, close the military bases, and withdraw.
  2. The U.S. announces that it will use existing funds to bring the troops home and the necessary equipment home.
  3. We will order a simultaneous return of all U.S. contractors to the United States and turn over the contracting work to the Iraqi government.
  4. We'll convene a regional conference for the purpose of developing a security and stabilization force for Iraq.
  5. Prepare an international security peacekeeping force to move in, replacing U.S. troops, who then return home.
  6. Develop and fund a process of national reconciliation.
  7. We have to once again restart the programs for reconstructions and jobs for the Iraqi people.
  8. Reparations for the damage that's been done to the lives of Iraqis.
  9. Assuring the political sovereignty of Iraq and making sure that their oil isn't stolen.
  10. Repairing the Iraqi economy.
  11. Economic sovereignty for Iraq. And,
  12. An international truth and reconciliation process, which establishes a policy of truth and reconciliation between the people of the United States and Iraq.

And last but assuredly not least Gov. Tom Vilsack

Your [John McCain's] suggestion to deploy additional American servicemen and women to Iraq would make a big mistake even bigger and send the wrong message to President Bush, who has stubbornly refused to recognize that his Administration's military and diplomatic failures in Iraq have recklessly endangered America's national interests.

Additional troop deployments would also make the Iraqi government more dependent - instead of less dependent -- on the American military presence. Our efforts should be focused on including more countries in the reconstruction effort and strengthening local governments across Iraq."

"I welcome the view of Congressional leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi that President Bush's plan to boost troop levels in Iraq is wrong. In early December, I expressed my fundamental opposition to leading more troops into harm's way in Iraq because I think it would make a big mistake even bigger. We've stretched our military too thin already, and even our top U.S. commanders agree that adding troops won't solve the political problem. I'm glad we agree on this."

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack calling on Congress to block funding for a troop increase. But Vilsack said he is wary of holding back funds to try to force the return of troops already deployed in Iraq."I'm not willing to suggest we have a cutting off of funds that would really put people in greater danger than they are today," Vilsack told the AP.

Friday, January 12

President Bush Must End 'His' War in Iraq

From Progressive Democrats of America

Rep. Jim McGovern: M. Speaker, President Bush Must End 'His' War in Iraq
January 11, 2007, Washington, DC

Rep. Jim McGovern made this speech on the House floor around 5:00 PM, Wednesday, January 10, 2007, before the president's televised address:
M. Speaker, tonight we will once again listen to President Bush as he describes yet another strategy for the War in Iraq. By all accounts from the media, the president will tell the nation that he intends to send more U.S. troops to fight and die in Iraq. This is not “stay the course,” M. Speaker, this is escalation. And at a bare minimum, Congress must find the wisdom and the courage to require and vote upon specific new authorization to escalate the number of troops in Iraq. This is what Senator Kennedy from Massachusetts called for yesterday. He has introduced legislation that prohibits any federal funds from being used to increase the number of U.S. forces in Iraq without a specific authorization of Congress by law for such an increase.


Thursday, January 11

From Political Fallout

Hats off to T.M. Lindsey for this tasty morsel from his blog.

"Now it’s time for Congress to hold the Bush Administration accountable, using the very same repercussions used in the NCLB [No child Left Behind] Act:

Step 1: If the Bush Administration fails to show improved progress and proficiency in the spread of Democracy after one year, they will be put on a “Watch" list. Congress will approve more spending on the Iraq War policy with the intent that the Administration will have a year to meet specific proficiency standards.

Step 2: If, after the one-year “Watch” period, the Bush Administration still fails to meet proficiency levels, they’ll be put on a “Warning” list.

Step 3: If the Bush Administration still shows no progress regarding the War in Iraq over the two-year period, it will be stripped of all Federal Funds and Congress will step in and take over administrative duties. In addition, any taxpayer who’s dissatisfied with the Iraq War will receive a voucher to apply their proportionate taxes on a program of their choice, preferably one that is showing progress.

Under these guidelines, the Bush Administration has already surpassed Step 3 two years ago, so it’s time for Congress to step in and take over, shutting down the Bush Administration, and let the taxpayers decide where their taxes should be re-appropriated (e.g. universal health care).

Until the President is held fully accountable for his actions, Political Fallout strongly recommends that George W. Bush should be permanently banned from the White House Library (after he returns the library's copy of the Curious George book of course).

We, the American People, cannot afford, yet another disaster."

Waging War and Raising the Minimum Wage

WRONG Direction: Presidential commitment of an additional 21,500 US troops to Iraq.

RIGHT Direction: House approves a minimum wage hike over 2 years to $7.25 an hour.

As Bette Davis said, "Fasten your seatbelts, its going to be a bumpy night." for the next couple of years.

Wednesday, January 10

More Dave & the War News

From the Des Moines Register

A freshman Democrat who campaigned against the war, Rep. Dave Loebsack of Mount Vernon, said that a plan for additional troops should be called an "escalation" rather than a "surge.""I think it goes in exactly the wrong direction of what we should be doing at this point - I believe we should begin to de-escalate," he said. Loebsack said he is just beginning to learn about a proposal by Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., to use the congressional power of the purse to hold back money for the additional troops unless Congress agrees. Money would still flow for troops already in the field in Iraq. "That makes perfect sense to me," Loebsack said.

Loebsack on Armed Services Committee

Rep. Dave Loebsack was named yesterday to the Armed Services Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. The committee works on issues involving military personnel, military operations and counter terrorism initiatives.

Loebsack will serve on the committee with ten freshmen Congressmen.“During these tumultuous times, the brave service men and women from Iowa and across the country deserve respect, support and a plan for a safe return home,”

Loebsack said. “I will work hard to ensure every member of the armed services receives necessary training, protective equipment and adequate pay.”

Gark says: "But will he fight the President's plan to put 20,000 more soldiers lives on the line in Iraq?"

Where they stand on the "surge"

According to the Press-Citizen this morning (and this answers, in part, some of the questions raised about Dave Loebsack's current position about the war in earlier posts):

Freshman Rep. Dave Loebsack said Tuesday that he opposes President Bush's expected plan to send additional troops to Iraq to quell sectarian violence.

"It doesn't make any sense," the Iowa Democrat said in an interview. "I'm certainly quite opposed to it. The more troops we send, the more problems we have."

Instead of sending more troops to Iraq, Loebsack said he would like the president to "begin immediate disengagement" over the next year.

Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin also opposes Bush's plan.

"My position is clear: There is nothing to be gained by escalating our involvement in Iraq and putting more of our brave young men and women in the midst of a civil war," he said. "The deteriorating situation in Iraq cannot be solved through military action. It requires a political solution."

Republican Sen. Charles Grassley said he talked to Bush on Monday but wouldn't comment on his conversation.

Grassley said any additional U.S. troops would have to be accompanied by an agreement that the Iraqi prime minister would spend an additional $10 billion and commit more Iraqi forces.

Tuesday, January 9

Reading the Tea Leaves

A couple other bloggers (Diary of a Political Madman and Political Forecast) have latched on to my post about Dave Loebsack's statements. In fairness to Dave, and to aid my DFA friend Ed Flaherty who has been actively trying to stop this war, I sent a fax to our new IA-2 Congressman's office to clarify his position. I supported Dave in his run and, for the record, do not have any animosity toward him personally.

I feel that his public statements are confusing and hope he and/or his office will take time to clarify his current position. There are many folks in the 2nd District that would like to bring our troops home safely and have grave concerns about a projected surge that the president is likely to propose and will call for additional funding to accomplish. I know Dave to be an honorable person and look forward to reporting what I learn.

Monday, January 8

Who did we elect?

Note: Dave Loebsack is the newly elected Congressman from the Iowa 2nd District.


The situtation in Iraq: Nowhere has the failure of the Bush approach been more evident than in Iraq. This is a war that did not need to happen and one from which we should begin to disengage immediately. Our troops have successfully laid the groundwork for the Iraqis to construct
a political system of their choosing. The costs of a continued U.S. presence will far outweigh any conceivable gains. Nor should the removal of American combat forces from Iraq be followed by any kind of permanent or semi-permanent base presence in that country or even a redeployment "on the horizon" as called for by Congressman Murtha. The continued presence of U.S. troops near Iraq would only bring more instability to the region and place U.S. troops at constant risk from enemies of America. Complete disengagement from Iraq in the next year will serve to enhance America’s security. The current legislation before the Congress that comes closest to my position on Iraq is H.J. Res. 73, [Which includes: SECTION 1. The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date. SEC. 2. A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S. Marines shall be deployed in the region. SEC. 3. The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.] introduced by Congressman Murtha last November. I support his efforts to end America’s involvement in Iraq as quickly and effectively as possible.


Despite his criticism of the Iraq war, Loebsack said Wednesday he’d vote for the supplemental spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan when it comes to a vote on the House floor in the spring.

“I do favor conditions” limiting how President Bush spends the money, he said. “How that gets framed, I’m not sure at this point.”

But “if there were a straight up-or-down vote at the moment, I would not vote against the appropriations — in large part because I have relatives who have been there” serving in uniform in Iraq.