Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Bush Is No Conservative

I never thought I'd be referring my readers to newsmax... But this article is right on the mark... Take heed all you conservatives out there.
Bush Is No Conservative:

"President Bush passes himself off as a conservative Republican and a born-again Christian. These are disguises behind which Bush hides. ...

Bush has overridden a number of protections in the Bill of Rights. The right to assemble and to demonstrate has been infringed. The Secret Service now routinely removes protesters from the scene of Bush political events. Many unthinking Americans go along with this authoritarianism because they don't agree with the protesters, but once the right is lost, everyone loses it.

"Bush has ignored habeas corpus and claims the unconstitutional power to arrest and detain people indefinitely without a warrant and without presenting charges to a judge. This is the most dangerous abuse of all, because whoever is in office can use this power against political opponents. Many unthinking Americans are not concerned, because they think this power will be used only against terrorists. However, as the Bush administration has admitted, many of its detainees are not terrorists. Most are innocent people kidnapped by tribal leaders and sold to the United States for the bounties paid for 'terrorists.'

"Bush has refused to obey statutory law, specifically the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Bush claims that as commander in chief he has the right to ignore the law and to spy on Americans without a warrant. Many unthinking Americans are unconcerned, saying that, as they are doing nothing wrong, they have nothing to fear. This attitude misses the point in a large way.

"If a president can establish himself above one law, he can establish himself above all laws. There is no line drawn through the law that divides the laws between the ones the president must obey and the ones he need not obey.
It would be horrendous if breaking the law was Bush's only crime. But as I've argued before he's a terrible governor -- in the sense that he doesn't govern and doesn't even believe we need government.

Profiteering by the rich and powerful

When I leaned that Bush's mom's, Barbara, donations to Katrina victims was ear-marked to be spent ONLY through her son Neil's company -- well, I shouldn't have been surprised: but I was.
"The President's mother, Barbara Bush, donated tax-deductible money to the Katrina Relief after the flood. And now we find out that it was with specific instructions that the money be spent for educational software owned by her son Neil. Because who can forget those tragic images of the poor black people on rooftops in New Orleans holding up signs that said, 'Send Educational Software'?"
---Bill Maher

The people running this country are continually looking at ways to profit from the situation. Whether that situation is war in Iraq (no-bids to Haliburton and other (crony) contractors) or a natural disaster, the extended Bush family seems focused on its top priority: ensuring either they, or close friends, benefit.

Why? Aren't they rich and powerful enough?

Of course, but they simply can't help it. Profiteering is simply ingrained in their character: These folks aren't truly concerned about governing... they aren't interested in using the tools of government and its resources to level the economic or social playing field... they don't want to help those less fortunate get a leg-up.

They simply don't believe in government as a tool of economic and social justice. For them, the dog-eat-dog marketplace is the ultimate judge of worth: of reward and punishment.

Even in the face of natural disasters we see this is true. We now know that 'ole George was thoroughly briefed before Katrina on the possible fate of the levies. What did he do? Next-to-nothing. In the case of natural disasters I can only speculate that he believes they come from god and hence whatever happens ... well, its His diving providence. Who am I to interfere?

You see, the leaders the American people have put in charge have a knee-jerk reaction to any situation -- how can "I" make money here... how can "I" help out my friends -- because their operating philosophy is "you're in this on your own..."

For all of its faults, the liberal viewpoint at least considers America as a society -- a place where the fortunate have a responsibility to help others out; where we are indeed our brother's keepers (to a certain extent). Because when it comes down to it, those who succeed never do it on their own: they rest on the accomplishments, sweat and efforts of those who've come before.

And then there's the practical aspect to responsible/liberal government. Society as a whole benefits when more of its citizens can feed and shelter themselves; when they have access to health care; when they can get their children educated. For one, crime goes down.

The world is not a fair place... All men are indeed not created equal, but born in to widely varying circumstances. The powerful will always take advantage of those at the bottom. Government, while it cannot address many of the problems arising from that reality, can attempt to address some of them. It should try -- responsibly -- and admit/correct its mistakes when it makes them.

Maybe we'll actually elect leaders that want to lead next time... instead of stand by while the boat sinks.

Monday, March 27, 2006

A Time for Heresy

In our republic we elect officials to represent out interests during governmental policy making. These people are supposed to "represent" our views.

Yeah right...

All of our representatives in Washington are beholden to special interests. Some are more candid about it than others.

But what really bothers me: how do folks reconcile their faith in a meek man from middle east with a self-righteous, money grubbing panderer like Tom Delay? He stands for everything Jesus spoke against -- and fits the mold of the Pharisee perfectly: he mouths the words of the prophet while living the lifestyle of the king...

We have to stand up to these "wolves in religious clothing" -- we have to call them exactly what they are: charlatans who use "faith" to shield them from reasoned criticism..., demagogues who have nothing in common with the teachings of christ.

Until someone stands up to this crowd and exposes them for what they are we'll never take back this country.
AlterNet: A Time for Heresy:

"When Tom DeLay worked the system to reward the rich and powerful, he had come a long way from Sugar Land, Texas. The people who had voted for him had the right to expect him to represent them, not the big lobbyists in Washington. This expectation is the very soul of democracy. We can't all govern -- not even tiny, homogeneous Switzerland practices pure democracy. So we Americans came to believe our best chance of responsible government lies in obtaining the considered judgments of those we elect to represent us. Having cast our ballots in the sanctity of the voting booth with its assurance of political equality, we go about our daily lives expecting the people we put in office to weigh the competing interests and decide to the best of their ability what is right.

What do they do instead? Well, as Tom DeLay became the king of campaign fundraising, The Associated Press writes 'He began to live a lifestyle his constituents back in Sugar Land would have a hard time ever imagining.' Big corporations provided private jets to take him to places of luxury most Americans have never seen -- places with 'dazzling views, warm golden sunsets, golf, goose-down comforters, marble bathrooms, and balconies overlooking the ocean.'

The AP reports that various organizations -- campaign committees, political action committees, even a children's charity established by DeLay -- established by DeLay -- paid over $1 million for hotels, restaurants, golf resorts and corporate jets used by DeLay. There were at least 48 visits to golf clubs and resorts; 100 flights aboard corporate jets arranged by lobbyists; and 500 meals at fancy restaurants, some averaging $200 for a dinner for two. Spreading a biblical worldview kept DeLay on the move and on the take.

Monday, March 20, 2006

God and Country

Religion and government -- can they get along? Can we keep the tenets of religious faith and the duties of our elected officials separate? Should we?

I think most American's, when asked, would agree with the abstract premise that religion and government should be kept separate. After all, its enshrined in the Constitution. However, the public is somewhat schizophrenic on this issue: a large portion of the public wants our elected officials to be 'god fearing' folk. Simply believing in the good old U. S. of A. isn’t enough.

While personal faith is one thing, I believe an overt display of religious faith in an elected official is something to fear -- for many reasons – and not seek out. Let’s focus on Christianity since it’s the dominate faith. I think this applies to Muslim and Jews too, but I’m not an “ex” Muslim so I can’t speak to experience.

Electing people who have strong religious belief is simply not healthy for our form of government. It sets up an inherent conflict within the official. We’re seeing a lot of this now with everything from the presidents ‘faith based initiatives’ to his ‘stay the course’ (cuz god told me to smite the evil-doers) attitude in Iraq. (can you even believe we have a president that says “evil-doers”?)

A couple examples.

The first "Commandment" - Thou shalt have no god before me... A good Christian wants to uphold this commandment right? But what about the first "Amendment" - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion... If you're an elected official you can practice one privately, but publicly you better "profess your faith" to the First Amendment...

How many of our god fearing officials do you currently see standing up for the First Amendment? I don’t see many. I see more Tom Delay clones barking about ‘godless judges’ and ‘removing god from our schools’ (like he was ever there to begin with) than I see officials standing up to defend the rights of protestors (even tho you may disagree with their position).

Aren’t these guys supposed to be trumpeting our rights under the Constitution as opposed to shouting about our obligations to their version of god?


"Thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy god in vain" conflicts with an elected official’s responsibility to UPHOLD the rights of people to say what they want about god – like the fact that if she exists she’s likely really pissed with the current group of pharoses running the country.

The problem with our populace is that they want their elected officials to be "godly" and lawful... Well, you know what the bible says about serving two masters... Maybe the faith based crowd should go back to doing what they do best: annoying the rest of us by shouting about god’s second coming on street corners while letting the rest of us handle the mundane, earthly things like running the country.

Major General Eaton Slams Rumsfeld

For his failures, Rumsfeld must go

"In an opinion piece published on Sunday in the New York Times, Eaton said Rumsfeld had proven himself ``not competent to lead our armed forces'' and therefore ``must step down.''

``First, his failure to build coalitions with our allies from what he dismissively called 'old Europe' has imposed far greater demands and risks on our soldiers in Iraq than necessary. Second, he alienated his allies in our own military, ignoring the advice of seasoned officers and denying subordinates any chance for input,'' Eaton said.

``In sum, he has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone else responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq,'' Eaton said.

Eaton was in charge of training Iraqi military forces from 2003 to 2004.

Another experienced voice into the fray. Come'on all you conservatives -- admit it when you've backed the wrong horse. This isn't just an academic argument -- kids are dying overseas because of the incompetence YOU voted into office.

I'm just waiting for Bush to give Rummy his medal -- just like the one he gave Tenent: "Here ya go -- let me reward you for making some of the biggest/costliest mistakes of the last decade."

We truly live in a bizzaro-world with these idiots in charge.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Not Even an Honest Conservative...

You're daily data point… from another conservative source: the WSJ oped page.
Yesterday USA Today ran a front-page story ... The headline: " Federal Aid Programs Expand at Record Rate." The text:

A USA Today analysis of 25 major government programs found that enrollment increased an average of 17% in the programs from 2000 to 2005. The nation's population grew 5% during that time. It was the largest five year expansion of the federal safety net since the Great Society created programs such as Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960's. Spending on these social programs was $1.3 trillion in 2005, up an inflation-adjusted 22% since 2000 and accounting for more than half of federal spending.
Enrollment growth was responsible for most of the spending increase, with higher benefits accounting for the rest. The paper quoted a liberal think tanker saying the increase in the number of people on programs is due to a rise in the poverty rate. It quoted a conservative congressman countering that entitlement programs should not be growing when unemployment is near record lows. Arguments about the report and its numbers will ensue.
President "scrub" is not a conservative… He's funneling money (in the form of incentives) to big corporate interests that have long since stopped innovating in the market place (e.g. - oil co's, auto, airline, etc. etc. -- big pharma innovates, but hardly needs 'incentives' -- they are the most profitable industry in America. Yet the Prescription drug bill makes it ILLEGAL for Medicare -- the single largest buyer of medication in the country -- to use that buying power to negotiate lower prices. What kind of sense does that make?!?!?!)

The democrat is right: poverty has INCREASED every year of the Bush presidency… (It decreased every year under Clinton's policies (even with Welfare-to-Work)). Real wages have been next-to-stagnate since 2000 and more and more people find themselves without health care.

If this is "compassionate conservatism" I think I'll take the plain 'ole variety -- at least they are honest about their policies...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Was it worth it?

Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Colonel, U.S. Army (ret.); former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell:

No. I'm principally a strategist and from that perspective the war has been a disaster. First, the foremost winner has been Iran: it rid itself of its greatest threat, Saddam Hussein and his military, without firing a shot; won the December 15 Iraq elections; owns the south, particularly Basra; and has felt the freedom to elect Mahmoud Amadin-Nejad who, in turn, has felt the freedom to reclaim leadership of radical Islam, leadership Osama bin Laden claimed on 9/11. Second, the foremost loser--after Iraq itself--has been Israel, whose leaders must now fear more than ever before the new strategic maneuver room afforded Iran by America's ineptitude. Third, the general war against global terrorists has been affected greatly by the failure in Iraq. Recruiting among Muslim ranks has been aided significantly, while America has squandered the upper hand in the world of ideas--which is the real battlefield of this conflict. Lastly, if our failure in Iraq produces regional conflict, we will find ourselves expending far greater blood and treasure to stabilize the situation once it gets completely out of hand. And the odds that it will get completely out of hand if we continue on the present course are quite high.

Iraq-War Vets: The Democrats' Newest Weapon -- Joe Klein: Iraq-War Vets: The Democrats' Newest Weapon
This is Karl Rove's worst nightmare: a large crowd has gathered in a restaurant in the small town of Montrose, Pa., on a sunny Sunday afternoon in February to listen to the Democratic candidate running in the 10th Congressional District, a rural conservative bastion considered "safe" for Republicans.

The candidate, Chris Carney, is soft-spoken and well informed .. a Navy Reserve intelligence officer who is also a college professor.

The first question from the audience is about Iraq: What would Carney do now? "I'd withdraw one American battalion for every Iraqi battalion ready to fight. President Bush says there are 50 Iraqi battalions ready." Of course, there really aren't 50 Iraqi battalions ready to operate independently; in fact, according to the U.S. military, there isn't even one. "Right, but the President claims there are 50," Carney said later. "We're not going to have an honest conversation about the war until the President is held accountable for the things he says."

Carney is no left-wing bomb thrower; he is a pragmatic moderate. Before the war began, he specialized in studying Saddam's ties to regional terrorist groups. "There were no links to 9/11," he told me. "But there were plenty of other contacts with terror groups. I always thought that was a better argument for the war than weapons of mass destruction." Carney's politics pretty accurately reflect the views of most Iraq combat veterans running as Democrats. They are not so much antiwar as anti-Bush, furious about the lack of preparation for the war, the insufficient troop levels, the lousy equipment. "I served in Kosovo and had an up-armored humvee," says Jon Soltz, the director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America political-action committee. "Then I served in Iraq and had a humvee that wasn't armored. I lost one soldier I sent on a convoy without armor. You don't forget something like that."

And the guy he's running against is a 65 year old father of 3 who -- until recently -- was banging a 29 year old and threatening her with violence. He settled a case with her out of court.

Even with this I read:
Chris Carney has one of the toughest races. "The district is so Republican that no one really thinks he can win, even with Sherwood's problems," says G. Terry Madonna, who runs Franklin and Marshall College's Keystone Poll.
If that is really the case, the American public is even more lost than I thought...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

25 Key Questions on the War in Iraq

Just read this in the NYT. So lets play -- what are your "5 questions"?

Talking Points: 25 Key Questions on the War in Iraq by David C. Unger - New York Times:

Here are 25 of the most important questions about the Iraq invasion — 10 that policy makers should have asked before invading, 10 that they should have asked as it unfolded, and 5 that they should be asking themselves now.

I. 10 Questions That Should Have Been Asked Before the Invasion

1. What would Iraq look like without Saddam Hussein?

Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, but he was also just about the only thing holding Iraq together. The people planning this war should have foreseen that once the repressive lid of Baathist rule was lifted, just about everything would be up for grabs in Iraq, including national unity and the balance of power among Sunni Arabs, Shiites and Kurds. Mr. Hussein had spent much of the preceding 35 years systematically reshaping Iraq and its institutions around his personal will. No one who had bothered to look at and understood that history could have seriously imagined that things would have fallen simply and peacefully into place by merely removing him and dissolving his army.

2. Regime change or nation-building?

Once American forces invaded Iraq, it was obvious that Washington would find itself hip-deep in some pretty arduous and long-term nation-building. Obvious, that is, to everyone but the Pentagon.

3. How many American troops would be needed, and for how long?

The best time to have asked this question was before the invasion, the timing of which was completely a matter of Washington's choice. If the administration had asked the right questions, it would have understood that defeating Mr. Hussein's army was only the beginning of the mission, to be followed by an extended period of peacekeeping and rebuilding political institutions.

There was at least one person who was asking the right questions at the right time — the Army's chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki. Based on the army's experiences in the Balkans and elsewhere, he publicly called for sending "several hundred thousand troops" into Iraq. But this view faced sharp opposition from higher-ups, notably Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who had rejected an initial war plan that called for using 380,000 troops. General Shinseki was publicly slapped down by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and his military career lost traction from then on. He retired from the Army in 2003.

4. What about safeguarding Iraqi weapons arsenals?

For a war that was supposed to be about weapons, it is remarkable how little planning went into locking down Iraqi arsenals. But such a lockdown would have required not only better planning, but more troops.

5. And what about sealing the borders?

If anybody in Washington was really worried about Al Qaeda getting its hands on Iraqi weapons, a top military priority should have been sealing Iraq's borders with Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Sealing those borders also would have helped prevent the infiltration of Al Qaeda fighters into chaotic post-war Iraq. This too would have required more American troops.

6. Would Iraq hold together as a unified state?

For decades before the American invasion, the only glue holding Iraq's three pieces together seemed to be Baathist terror. Mr. Hussein ruthlessly persecuted the millions of Shiites and Kurds who opposed his rule, while co-opting the few who were willing to do his bidding. To the extent that any real Iraqi national identity emerged during those decades, it did so under Baathist tutelage. In contrast, among those Kurds and Shiites who resisted Mr. Hussein, separatist regional and sectarian identities grew stronger. None of this was exactly a secret. It should have been easy to foresee that once the Baathist regime was gone, demands for regional autonomy would surge forth.

7. What could the British experience teach us?

Either Washington didn't bother studying the British experience, or somehow could not imagine the same thing could happen to the United States. Clearly, it could happen and it did.

8. How do we get and keep the Iraqi people on our side?

The best insurance against repeating Britain's unhappy experience would have been a serious strategy for showing Iraqis that the American presence would improve their lives. This should not have been impossible. Mr. Hussein was widely unpopular. Twelve years of punishing economic sanctions had reduced the Iraqi middle class to misery. After years of dictatorship and suffering, popular expectations were fairly modest. Safe streets, longer hours of electric power, and a reviving economy, helped along by new jobs for former soldiers and the idle young men of the slums, could have gone a long way. Instead, Washington simply assumed that Iraqis would be so grateful for the end of Mr. Hussein's rule that they would rally around their American liberators, even if their lives did not get better in all the other ways that mattered.

9. Once a post-Baathist Iraq took shape, how would it fit into the map of the Middle East?

10. More specifically, would invading Iraq make Iran more or less of a regional threat?

Some Bush administration hawks once gleefully imagined that the presence of American troops on Iran's eastern flank, in Afghanistan, and its western flank, in Iraq, would greatly reinforce America's quarter-century effort to contain Tehran's adventurist clerical regime. The reality has been just the opposite.

Iran has benefited enormously from America's military intervention in Iraq and continues to do so. The Shiite fundamentalist parties that America helped bring to power in Baghdad are deeply indebted to Iran for the years of sanctuary, training and aid they received there during Mr. Hussein's dictatorship. Now those parties are well positioned to repay those debts, while America, with much of its military tied down and its multilateral credibility in tatters, is poorly positioned to thwart Iran's advancing drive to arm itself with nuclear weapons.

II. 10 Questions That Should Have Been Asked Since the Invasion

It was bad enough to ignore so many of these seemingly obvious strategic questions before the invasion. But we've now had almost three years to learn from these and other early mistakes. Here are 10 more questions we should have started asking ourselves once things started going so unexpectedly wrong. A few timely mid-course corrections could still have made things a lot better than they are today.

Let's start with the first unpleasant surprise, which was evident by the spring of 2003.

1. Where were the flowers?

Vice President Dick Cheney predicted on television before the war that American troops in Iraq "will be greeted as liberators." Kanan Makiya, an expatriate Iraqi intellectual, personally told President Bush that American soldiers would be welcomed with "sweets and flowers." But within just a few weeks of the invasion, it was becoming clear that many Iraqis were less than delighted with the presence of a foreign occupying army.

2. Where were the Chalabi voters?

Pentagon neoconservatives believed the secular Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi when he assured them that Iraqis of all persuasions would rally to him as the democratic leader of a new Iraq. But the smooth talking Mr. Chalabi, who had last lived in Iraq in 1958, proved badly out of touch with contemporary Iraqi reality. He attracted little political support after returning to Baghdad on the heels of the American invasion. Another secular exile favored by Washington, Ayad Allawi, also never won as large a following as his American backers expected.

The only exile politicians who succeeded in winning a large following were those associated with the two disciplined Shiite fundamentalist parties that spent the Hussein era based in Iran — S.C.I.R.I. and Dawa.

3. What can stop the looting (and the erosion of American credibility that accompanied it)?

Nothing more fatally undermined American reconstruction and transition plans than the weeks of unchecked looting that followed the toppling of the Baathist regime. Iraqis, who were used to an all-powerful police state, watched in horrified amazement as vandals stripped everything of value from hospitals, schools, museums and ministries and destroyed the critical infrastructure that brought water and electricity into homes and oil to foreign and domestic markets.

Mr. Rumsfeld dismissively declared at the time that freedom was untidy and that "stuff happens." That sent precisely the wrong message to Iraqis, who were starting to conclude that the American authorities were not all that powerful or competent — and that their lives had gotten worse since the invasion. Halting the looting should have been a top priority for the Pentagon. But that would have required sending more troops.

4. Once the original game plan for political transition collapsed amid the looting and growing Iraqi ill-will , what might have been a more realistic Plan B?

Plan A was the ill-fated Garner plan for a fast-paced hand-over to Iraqi administrators and an early American withdrawal. That strategy was in ruins by May, 2003 and the White House dispatched L. Paul Bremer to take over and organize a new transition. But while the Garner timetable had been unrealistically short, and not backed up by enough troops, the timetable that Mr. Bremer produced in July 2003 was unrealistically long and backed up by too few American troops.

5. What's more important, on-time elections or inclusive elections?

Once the new electoral timetable was announced, based more on Washington politics than Iraqi preparedness, it quickly became untouchable. Firm deadlines can sometimes be helpful at forcing compromise. But as Iraq's first free elections approached, in Jan. 2005, the only hope for coaxing estranged Sunni Arab parties and voters to take part would have required reaching a consensus agreement between all groups, and that the only realistic chance for achieving this would have involved delaying the vote for a few months. Washington stood firm against any delay. The result was a badly skewed constitutional assembly and a badly skewed constitution that has contributed to the alarming drift toward civil war. Iraqis had waited all their lives for free elections. Why was Washington so unwilling to think about waiting a few months more for elections that were not only free, but inclusive enough to build a nation around?

6. Who are America's natural allies in Iraq?

Faced with a political map as complicated as Iraq's, Washington should have tried to figure out early on which Iraqi constituencies had a self-interest in building an inclusive, secular democracy. Washington early on allied itself with the Shiites and the Kurds, who suffered most at the hands of Mr. Hussein. But the main Shiite parties turned out to be far more interested in imposing fundamentalism and carrying out vendettas against their former oppressors than in building a free and united nation. And the Kurdish parties have so far shown themselves to be almost exclusively interested in autonomy for the Kurdish northeast and almost indifferent to what goes on in the Arab areas of Iraq.

Obviously, Washington should not have turned its back on the Shiites and Kurds, who together constitute more than three-quarters of the Iraqi population. But it could have done a better job, early on, of convincing Sunni Arabs that they could benefit from American protection against Shiite vengeance.

7. What would it take to get more international support?

Incredibly, the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon seemed to have assumed at first that America's Western and Arab allies, and the United Nations, would practically trip over each other to get right with the new order by sending peacekeeping troops and conferring international legitimacy on the political transition. By late 2003, it was increasingly evident that wasn't about to happen. To those not hypnotized by blind self-righteousness, it was no surprise.

8. What could be done to minimize the damage from the Abu Ghraib torture scandal?

Every top business executive learns about damage control strategies, and every good one learns that a successful strategy has to go beyond managing the bad news to managing the problem itself. Yet in the case of the Abu Ghraib scandal, President Bush, the first business school graduate to occupy the White House, did just about everything wrong.

Although the Pentagon first learned about the abuses by early November 2003, it took no serious steps to get out in front of the problem until graphic photographs from Abu Ghraib were published in the New Yorker nearly six months later, in its April 30, 2004 issue. The president never demanded accountability from the cabinet official ultimately in charge — Mr. Rumsfeld — or from the senior commanders and officials responsible for the brutal interrogation policies at the prison. Instead, the administration kept repeating that all the blame belonged to a few bad apples, and only pursued court-martials or serious punishments against low ranking soldiers.

That struck at the core principle of command responsibility on which the professionalism of any military force depends. It also encouraged Iraqis, and the rest of the world, to see the United States as a country that practiced and tolerated torture — and as all too similar to Mr. Hussein, the man who first made Abu Ghraib famous for torturing innocent Iraqis.

9. What kind of Iraqi security forces should we be building?

The theory of the current occupation is that the United States army has to remain in place until the Iraqis develop the capacity to preserve order themselves. As early as 2003, the Pentagon was regularly reporting rapid progress in building the necessary Iraqi security forces. But anyone who looked at the details could see that the Pentagon's numbers were puffed up by including security guards hired to protect building sites along with actual soldiers and police.

10. Again — how many United States troops will be needed, and for how long?

First, American troops were supposed to be withdrawn within three months. Then, as the insurgency exploded, the target became early 2005, as Iraqi forces became large enough and capable enough to take over. Then, American troops were temporarily increased for the recent elections, with promises of significant withdrawals later this year.

Clearly, what is driving this timetable is American politics, not Iraqi progress. And the American people clearly seem to be running out of patience. In a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll this week 67 percent of those asked felt that President Bush "does not have a clear plan for handling the situation in Iraq," an all-time high. Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces now look less capable than ever of holding the country together. And American forces are still too thin on the ground, which forces them to put their own security first, and keeping Iraqi civilians out of the crossfire second.

III. 5 Questions That Should Be Asked Now

Now it's your turn.

Just as there were vital questions that weren't adequately thought through before the invasion and vital questions that haven't been adequately thought through over the past three years, there are also vital questions that are not being adequately thought through today. Here are five that Americans ought to be deliberating right now.

There are no obviously "right" or "wrong" answers. This time we are talking about an uncertain and largely unpredictable future, not a known past. Still, how America chooses to answer these questions will have enormous effects on its future role in Iraq, in the Middle East, and beyond.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Frontline: Truth, war and consequences: transcript | PBS

Frontline: Truth, war and consequences: transcript | PBS:
"NARRATOR: It is not publicly known what intelligence was provided by the special intelligence office, but FRONTLINE has learned that a report from the Czech Republic that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague got their attention and was passed on to the White House.

Vice Pres. DICK CHENEY: ['Meet the Press,' December, 2001] There is a report that has been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack.

NARRATOR: But the meeting in Prague was never confirmed. In fact, the FBI established one month later through car rental records that Atta was in Florida when the alleged Prague meeting would have occurred. The vice president, however, would still be citing the story over a year later.

Vice Pres. DICK CHENEY: ['Meet the Press,' September, 2002] On at least one occasion, we have reporting that places him in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official a few months before the attack on the World Trade Center.

GREG THIELMANN, U.S. Dept. of State (1977-02): I think it's very unusual, the amount of influence they had. What seems to have happened is that the conclusions or the work that they did somehow entered from the side into the policy community--"
This fact alone should warrant a congressional investigation. But while congress was ready to spend those 140 hours investigating the White House Xmas card list under Clinton's administration, US soldiers are still dying 7000 miles from home based on a pack of lies.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Zogby Polls the Troops

Zogby International:
"While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.”"
Who is feeding our troops this non-sense? And how do we stop it?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Praise the Lord and pass the Sauce!

Well, it has happened!

I've finally found a religion that I can call my own -- It all makes so much sense to me now:
In the beginning... He created a mountain, trees, and a midget.
I'm a Pastafarian!

After reading some of brother Bob's literature I think you too will be moved.

Bob's letter to the Kansas school board sold me -- give it a read.

Look for the FSM emblem on cars everywhere: this is a religion that is going places!