Saturday, June 28, 2008
I don't say this very often, so get ready: Kudos to George W. Bush for trying to fight AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis in Africa!
And shame on the 7 backwards, stone-aged GOP senators who are blocking his legislation.
This kind of generosity is a perfect example of what Obama calls "promoting dignity" around the world, which in turn engenders goodwill toward the United States. It's time we Americans realize that actions like fighting AIDS, eradicating poverty, and promoting the rights and education of women, all lead to a more peaceful world, and smaller breeding grounds for terror. Butter can be a better weapon than guns (and butter is darn cheaper, too!)
7 GOP Senators Block Bush's Bill to Fight AIDS in Africa
By Halimah Abdullah
June 25, 2008 | McClatchy DC
Thursday, June 26, 2008
When Wounded Vets Come Home
As more troops than ever are surviving the fearsome injuries of war, parents are increasingly being thrust into the role of long-term caregivers
By Barry Yeoman
July - August 2008 | AARPmagazine.org
At that moment, Cynthia became one of a growing number of parents who are, by necessity, stepping back into the role of caregiver for their children who are returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with debilitating and often long-term injuries. According to officials from three national organizations—the Wounded Warrior Project, The Military Family Network, and the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes— an estimated 10,000 recent veterans of these conflicts now depend on their parents for their care. Working unheralded, these parents have quit jobs, shelved retirement plans, and relocated so they can be with their injured sons and daughters. Many have become warriors themselves, fighting to make sure this new wave of injured veterans gets the medical care and rehabilitation it needs.
These parent caregivers, many of them boomers and some older, face a 21st-century challenge: their children are coming home in unprecedented numbers with injuries that would have been fatal during earlier conflicts. "This is a war of disability, not a war of deaths," says former Army physician Ronald Glasser, M.D., author of Wounded: Vietnam to Iraq (George Braziller, 2006). "Its legacy is the orthopedics and neurology wards, not the cemetery." Not only have better helmets and body armor saved lives, but battlefield medicine now borders on miraculous. Someone arriving at the Air Force Theater Hospital in Balad, Iraq, has a 96 percent chance of survival. He or she can sometimes be stateside within 36 hours of the injury. As a result, there are just 6 deaths for every 100 injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, compared with 28 deaths per 100 in Vietnam, and 38 in World War II, according to Linda Bilmes, a researcher at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
If this survival rate is heartening, the flip side is that many of these injuries are fearsome and require extended and complicated care. Part of the reason is that the nature of warfare has changed: today's troops face a constant threat of IEDs. When these makeshift bombs detonate, they throw off pressure waves so intense that bystanders' brains literally bang around in their skulls. "These are enormous explosions," says Glasser. "The physics are astonishing—they will turn over a 70-ton tank. Anyone caught in the blast wave is going to be in trouble." Sometimes injured brain tissue swells so dramatically that part of the skull must be removed to let the brain expand.
As of April 29 the Pentagon counted 31,848 wounded service members in the current conflicts. Independent experts say that is a conservative figure. They estimate the number of brain injuries alone might total 320,000, or 20 percent of the 1.64 million who have served so far—a number that S. Ward Casscells, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, calls "plausible." In addition to the physical injuries, there are thousands of cases of depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Last year military screeners detected psychological symptoms in 31 percent of Marines, 38 percent of soldiers, and 49 percent of National Guardsmen returning from war.
(Sigh). If only it were that simple.
And just FYI, a magnetic bumper sticker is not able in any way to "Support Our Troops." It takes money, honesty, and commitment from us citizens and our government to support the troops.
Are we really supporting our troops when all that we demand for them (as if we're doing them a favor!) is a continued presence in Iraq? Indeed, the real cost of war starts when they come home.
Our Armies, Ourselves
By Nancy Gibbs
May 15, 2008 | Time.com
Etched onto the wall of a sentry box in Gibraltar is an unsigned indictment from an unknown soldier. You imagine him there many wars ago, keeping watch and weighing his prospects for a normal life.
God and the soldier, all men adore
In time of danger and not before.
When the danger is passed and all things righted,
God is forgotten, and the soldier slighted.
President Kennedy quoted the verse in 1962 to the men of the Army's 1st Armored Division, who had been secretly moved into position during the Cuban missile crisis. "This country does not forget God or the soldier," Kennedy said. "Upon both we now depend."
How we treat returning soldiers once the parades have passed is a measure of a country's character and a government's competence. Often the war shadows the warriors: to the returning victors of World War II came honor and glory and the GI Bill. But for veterans of Korea--"the Forgotten War"--there was silence. Infantryman Fred Downs returned from Vietnam with four Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and one arm. Back in school, he was asked if he'd lost his arm in the war. Yes, he said. "Serves you right," he was told.
We've grown up since then, embraced complexity: it doesn't matter that nearly two-thirds of Americans say the Iraq war wasn't worth fighting; three-quarters say the government is not doing enough to help returning vets. They protect us when we hand them a rifle and say, "Go fight the enemy." We betray them when we hand them a pencil and say, "Now go fight the bureaucracy."
At least they're not fighting alone: Kennedy's promise to "not forget" is honored by every town that welcomes home its National Guard unit by helping members reconnect; by the ingenuity of groups like Sew Much Comfort, which provides "adaptive clothing" for vets with burns and other injuries, casts and prostheses. Mental-health professionals volunteer through Give an Hour to treat vets for free; pro bono lawyers help them navigate the dense disability-benefits maze. But private charity can't replace a public commitment to finish what we start, to do the long, hard, expensive work of making soldiers whole when they come home.
Wars are like icebergs: much of the cost remains hidden, and the near doubling of the defense budget since 2001 does not cover what lies ahead. Better body armor and trauma care mean new life for thousands of soldiers who would have died in any earlier war. But many are broken or burned or buried in pain from what they saw and did. One in five suffers from major depression or post-traumatic stress, says a new Rand Corp. study; more than 300,000 have suffered traumatic brain injury. The cost of treating them is projected to double over the next 25 years. Four hundred thousand veterans are waiting for cases to be processed. The number seeking assistance for homelessness is up 600% in the past year.
In the face of so much need, too often comes denial. At a May 6 hearing, lawmakers lit into officials from Veterans Affairs after an e-mail surfaced from Ira Katz, its chief of mental health, on suicide rates of soldiers in its care. The subject line: "Shhh." The VA had been insisting there were fewer than 800 suicide attempts a year by vets in its care; the real number was closer to 12,000. "Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?" Katz asked. Bob Filner, chair of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, saw criminal negligence. "The pattern is deny, deny, deny," he told Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Peake. "Then when facts seemingly come to disagree with the denial, you cover up, cover up, cover up."
It took a YouTube video to scald the conscience of officials at Fort Bragg, where soldiers returned from 15 months in Afghanistan to a barracks festooned with filth, paint peeling in pages off the walls. "Soldiers should never have to live in such squalor," said Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who saw the video. "Things happen too slowly." But even if the system worked perfectly, it would still take billions of dollars to meet the need.
Memorial Day was designed to honor dead soldiers; the other 364 belong to the living. Of the private efforts there is much to be proud, for they reflect the best traditions of the country the soldiers are fighting for. But the holes they are patching reveal a system in tatters; the very least veterans deserve from their government is honesty about its failures.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Another 9/11 would be a small price to pay for a third Bush term to prevent any more 9/11's.
By James Glanz
Monday, June 23, 2008
Monday, June 16, 2008
Some U.S. terrorism suspects wrongly held
By Nancy Waitz
June 15, 2008 Reuters
A journalistic investigation into terrorism suspects held at U.S. prison camps around the world found that possibly hundreds had been wrongly imprisoned, McClatchy newspapers said on Sunday.
An eight-month investigation in 11 countries on three continents found that the U.S. wrongfully imprisoned suspects in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis of "flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty payments," a story posted on their website said.
McClatchy said it interviewed 66 released detainees, more than a dozen local officials, primarily in Afghanistan and several U.S. officials and former officials. The investigation also reviewed thousands of pages of U.S. military tribunal documents and other records.
According to their investigation "at least seven (detainees) had been working for the U.S.-backed Afghan government and had no ties to militants, according to Afghan local officials."
"As far as intelligence value from those in Gitmo, I got tired of telling the people writing reports based on their interrogations that their material was essentially worthless," a U.S. intelligence officer said in an e-mail, using the military's slang for Guantanamo.
The Supreme Court ruled last week that those held at the high-security prison camp at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, can go before U.S. federal judges to challenge their years-long detention.
Haunted by the ghosts of Vietnam, the one-time maverich has transformed himself into just another liberal-bashing fearmonger
By Matt Taibbi
June 26, 2008 Rollingstone.com
"Like Hillary Clinton, an erstwhile vilified liberal who remade herself as a flag-waving, Sixties-bashing champion of 'hardworking Americans, white Americans' once the remarkable candidacy of Barack Obama forced her off her old turf, the one-time 'insurgent' McCain has finally decided to sail with the wind at his back by going dumb and courting the same talk-radio demographic that used to despise him. What enables him to do so is a key insight: that while George W. Bush may be unpopular as an individual, fear and hatred in this country have never gone out of style."
"Only a few months ago, I was constantly running into Republicans at McCain events who had profound concerns about the Arizona senator's 'liberal' record. But these days I'm hard-pressed to find anyone on the trail who even remembers that McCain once supported Roe v. Wade, and opposed the Bush tax cuts, and compared the tortures at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo to the techniques of the Spanish Inquisition, and even heretically claimed that Mexican immigrants were 'God's children too.' When I ask Mary Morvant, a pro-life Christian, why she's supporting McCain given his record on abortion, she gives a typical answer: 'I'm much more concerned about Obama.'
"McCain enters the general election in the form of a man who has jettisoned the last traces of his dangerous unorthodoxy just in time to be plausible in the role of the torchbearing leader of the anti-Obama mob, waving the flag and chanting, 'One of us! One of us!' all the way through to November. He now favors making the Bush tax cuts permanent, he's unblinkingly pro-life every time he remembers to mention abortion, and he's given up bitching about torture. With his newfound opposition to his own attempts to reform immigration policy and campaign finance, McCain is perhaps the first candidate in history to stump against two bills bearing his own name."
"Break it down and this is basically the same old label game, with McCain trying to rally his crowds against all the major isms: terrorism, socialism, elitism, anti-Americanism. His crude attempts to paint Obama with these brushes are more or less the whole of his argument for the presidency. Obama is terrorist-coddler because he is 'ready to talk in person with tyrants' like Ahmadinejad, he hates soldiers because he refused to condemn MoveOn's 'General Betray Us' ad, and he's a socialist because he favors health-care reform — despite the fact that the Obama plan isn't 'socialized' medicine any more than the universal requirement to buy private auto insurance is socialism."
"Which means that despite all the talk about 'change,' we're once again stuck in the same dumb flashback that has been prodigiously wasting our time for the last four or five decades — the seemingly endless quest to crush the mythical leftist revolution, which for some reason has spent most of the last half-century cleverly disguised as a bunch of ineffectual bourgeois New Yorkers sitting around watching Stanley Kubrick movies and eating whole foods while conservatives took over the world."
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Boo-hoo! This article was written for the same rich people sobbing in this article. And for the record, it says nothing about Obama's proposed spending. And don't forget savings of $100 billion (or more) a year after we pull out of Iraq!
Take that New York media executive they quoted who has made over $300 K a year for more than 10 years -- that's over $3 million -- and with only 1 child! Yet he's crying about the cost of living: "We're just dog paddling now." That guy should be smacked upside the head with a bag of quarters! I'd switch places with him in a second. Gimme a break!
Obama's advisor was exactly right: "Income growth in that group has been extremely rapid, while it's been stagnant for everyone else," says Goolsbee. "It's hard to argue they face the same struggle to get by."
I do have some sympathy for higher-income earners making less than, say, $300 K living with children in expensive areas of the country, like New York, Boston, and S. California. (Hmmm... and those happen to be liberal Democrat bastions... Go figure!....) But I have no sypmathy for the top 1 percent. You obviously don't understand the elite group you're talking about. They have plenty of money to fund any shortfalls in the federal budget. Since you won't read Free Lunch or Perfectly Legal by David Cay Johnston, let me break it down for you...
How does the national income pie divide up, then & now? The top 10 percent earned 34.6 percent of U.S. income in 1980, and 48.5 percent in 2005. The top 1 percent of income earners saw their share of all income rise from 10 percent in 1980 to 21.8 percent in 2005. To parse that top percent further: the top 1/10th of 1 percent, or 300,000 Americans, earned 3.4 percent of all income in 1980, but a whopping 10.9 percent in 2005. That's almost as much income as the bottom 150 million Americans.
Let's parse even further: the very wealthiest 30,000 Americans (the top 1/100th of 1 percent) made 1.3 percent of all income in 1980, but just over 5 percent in 2005. They had an average income of $5.2 million in 1980, which rose to $25.7 million in 2005, after adjusting for inflation. To parse even further: in 2000, the top 400 very-highest-income taxpayers, with an average income of $174 million, reported more than 1 percent of all national income. Imagine that!
(And for the record, during Clinton's two terms, the effective income tax rate of these top 400 taxpayers fell from about 30 percent to 22.2 percent. And during an economic boom! Shame on him!)
Those were huge gains even compared to the rich in the 95th to 99th percentiles of income earners, who saw their share of national income grow from 13.2 percent in 1980 to "only" 15.3 percent in 2005. The share of national income of the 90th to 95th percentiles remained almost unchanged: 11.5 percent in 1980 vs. 11.4 percent in 2005.
By contrast, the bottom 50 percent of income earners made $15,464 in 1980; but only $14,149 in 2004, after adjusting for inflation. And the vast majority, the bottom 90 percent of income earners saw their average income peak in 1973 at $33,001; but in 2005 the bottom 90 percent's average income was only $29,000. The bottom 90 percent made 65.3 percent of all U.S. income in 1980, but only 51.7 percent in 2005. That's the lowest it's been since 1928, right before the Depression.
So, what should we do? Obama is right: let's increase taxes on those who have benefitted mightily over the past 30 years from our economy, and lower taxes, while other Americans have not. Let's increase taxes on the 3 million or so rich people who made an average of $359 K in 1975, but who now make an average of $1.11 million, after adjusting for inflation. Let's increase taxes on the top 95% of income earners, and really increase taxes on the top 1%, who have benefitted most of all. Will it bother your conscience or your economic principles to do that? Because it won't bother mine. Not one bit. Just the opposite.
When Reagan took office, the top tax bracket was 70 percent. Now it's 35 percent. Moreover, because of the Bush tax cuts, those earning more than $10 million a year pay a smaller share of their money in income SS, and Medicare taxes than those making between $100 - $200 K. Do you think maybe -- just maybe -- our tax & spending policies have had something to do with rising income inequality and stagnant incomes for the vast majority of Americans (90 percent)? Do you think our tax & spending policies just might possibly have something to do with the fact that 12.3 million U.S. children lived in poverty in 2005, according to the U.S. Census, and the fact the USA ranked 20th (below Portugal) in terms of children's material well being, according to the UN?
Think about it!
This article again brings up the point that "the rich" is always the other guy. I personally make so much less money than the people in the article that I can never be considered "rich" in income. However my house is probably twice as big and the amenities twice as nice as thiers. So who is "rich."
The article also points out that Obama's proposed programs can not be paid for with just increased taxes on "the rich" who only make up 1% to 3% of the population
"Yet limiting tax hikes to the $250,000-and-up set probably won't pump enough money into the U.S. Treasury to pay for new spending programs and deal with the ballooning deficit, even when combined with proposed corporate tax increases."
So now will you be forwarding articles about how Obama is lying, deceiving and misleading the general public about paying for his new programs that won't cost 97% of the general public a dime.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Contact your Senators and tell them, at the very least, to demand that Bush submit this treaty -- yes, treaty, not "status of forces agreement" -- to the Senate for ratification, as he is required to do by the U.S. Constitution.
Iraqis Condemn American Demands
By Amit R. Paley and Karen DeYoung
June 11, 2008 Washington Post
High-level negotiations over the future role of the U.S. military in Iraq have turned into an increasingly acrimonious public debate, with Iraqi politicians denouncing what they say are U.S. demands to maintain nearly 60 bases in their country indefinitely.
Top Iraqi officials are calling for a radical reduction of the U.S. military's role here after the U.N. mandate authorizing its presence expires at the end of this year. Encouraged by recent Iraqi military successes, government officials have said that the United States should agree to confine American troops to military bases unless the Iraqis ask for their assistance, with some saying Iraq might be better off without them.
"The Americans are making demands that would lead to the colonization of Iraq," said Sami al-Askari, a senior Shiite politician on parliament's foreign relations committee who is close to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "If we can't reach a fair agreement, many people think we should say, 'Goodbye, U.S. troops. We don't need you here anymore.' "
Congress has grown increasingly restive over the negotiations, which would produce a status of forces agreement setting out the legal rights and responsibilities of U.S. troops in Iraq and a broader "security framework" defining the political and military relationship between the two countries. Senior lawmakers of both parties have demanded more information and questioned the Bush administration's insistence that no legislative approval is required.
In Iraq, the willingness to consider calling for the departure of American troops represents a major shift for members of the U.S.-backed government. Maliki this week visited Iran, where Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, urged him to reject any long-term security arrangements with the United States.
Failing to reach agreements this year authorizing the future presence of American forces in Iraq would be a strategic setback for the Bush administration, which says that such a presence is essential to promoting stability. Absent the agreements or the extension of the U.N. mandate, U.S. troops would have no legal basis to remain in Iraq.
President Bush has spoken directly to Maliki about the issue in recent days and instructed his negotiating team to show greater flexibility, Iraqi politicians said. U.S. officials circulated a draft of the status of forces agreement over the weekend without many of the most controversial demands, buoying hopes that a deal could be reached, according to Iraq lawmakers.
David M. Satterfield, the State Department's top adviser on Iraq, said he is confident the pacts can be finalized in July, a deadline that Bush and Maliki endorsed last year. "It's doable," he told reporters in Baghdad. "We think it's an achievable goal."
U.S. officials have refused to publicly discuss details of the negotiations. But Iraqi politicians have become more open in their descriptions of the talks, stoking popular anger at American demands that Iraqis across the political spectrum view as a form of continued occupation.
"What the U.S. wants is to take the current status quo and try to regulate it in a new agreement. And what we want is greater respect for Iraqi sovereignty," said Haider al-Abadi, a parliament member from Maliki's Dawa party. "Signing the agreement would mean that the Iraqi government had given up its sovereignty by its own consent. And that will never happen."
Iraqi officials plan to present the status of forces document and the security framework to parliament as a single agreement.
In a news conference in the heavily fortified Green Zone, Satterfield repeated several times that the U.S. goal is to create a more independent Iraq. "We want to see Iraqi sovereignty strengthened, not weakened," he said.
Abadi and other Iraqi officials said that assertion is undercut by the U.S. request to maintain 58 long-term bases in Iraq. The Americans originally pushed for more than 200 facilities across the country, according to Hadi al-Amiri, a powerful lawmaker who is the head of the Badr Organization, the former armed wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the country's largest Shiite political party.
Iraqi officials said the U.S. government also demanded the continuation of several current policies: authority to detain and hold Iraqis without turning them over to the Iraqi judicial system, immunity from Iraqi prosecution for both U.S. troops and private contractors, and the prerogative for U.S. forces to conduct operations without approval from the Iraqi government.
The American negotiators also called for continued control over Iraqi airspace and the right to refuel planes in the air, according to Askari, positions he said added to concerns that the United States was preparing to use Iraq as a base to attack Iran.
"We rejected the whole thing from the beginning," said Jalal al-Din al-Saghir, a senior lawmaker from the Supreme Council. "In my point of view, it would just be a new occupation with an Iraqi signature."
If the talks collapse, several Iraqi officials said, they would request another one-year extension of the U.N. mandate. But Iraqi officials said they would also ask for modifications to the mandate similar to those they are seeking in the current negotiations.
"All the same issues would then be transferred to the talks with the U.N. Security Council," Abadi said.
Assuming that violence in Iraq will continue to decrease, politicians such as Saghir have begun discussing another option: asking the U.S. military to leave Iraq.
"Maybe the Iraqi government will say: 'Hey, the security situation is better. We don't need any more troops in Iraq,' " he said. "Or we could have a pledge of honor where the American troops leave but come back and protect Iraq if there is any aggression."
The Iraqi government is also upset because it wants the United Nations to lift its Chapter 7 designation of Iraq as a threat to international security, which dates from Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Iraqi officials said the United States will not commit to supporting the removal of the label -- a position the Iraqis call an inappropriate bargaining tactic.
U.S. negotiators also said the agreements would not obligate the American military to protect Iraq from foreign aggression, Iraqi officials said, a promise they believe was a fundamental part of a declaration of principles signed by Bush and Maliki last winter.
"The prime minister is not happy about this," said Askari, who helped negotiate the declaration of principles, which outlined the strategic framework. "This is not what we agreed on."
Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish member of parliament who has been briefed on the negotiations, said the Americans recently had changed their position on four key issues: Private contractors would no longer be guaranteed immunity; detainees would be turned over to the Iraqi judicial system after combat operations; U.S. troops would operate only with the agreement of the Iraqi government; and the Americans would promise not to use Iraq as a base for attacking other countries.
"Now the American position is much more positive and more flexible than before," said Mohammed Hamoud, an Iraqi deputy foreign minister who is a lead negotiator in the talks.
In Washington, the White House hastily organized a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday after Sens. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) and John W. Warner (R-Va.), the chairman and ranking minority member of the Armed Services Committee, respectively, demanded Monday that the administration "be more transparent with Congress, with greater consultation, about the progress and content of these deliberations."
In a letter Monday to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Levin and Warner wrote that Congress, "in exercising its constitutional responsibilities, has legitimate concerns about the authorities, protections and understandings that might be made" in the agreements.
Although they have questioned the status of forces agreement's contents, lawmakers have not raised the issue of its congressional ratification.
The United States is a party to more than 80 such bilateral agreements in countries where American forces are stationed, but its proposals for the Iraq accord far exceed the terms of any of the others. Such agreements are traditionally signed by the U.S. president under his executive authority.
Although the administration has since said that the security framework is "nonbinding" and would not include any provisions for permanent bases or specific troop numbers, lawmakers charged that the White House was trying to tie the hands of Bush's successor and said the terms of the accord amounts to a defense treaty requiring congressional approval.
In a Senate hearing in April, a senior Defense Department lawyer acknowledged under questioning by Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) that the Pentagon had no definition for the term "permanent base" and that it "doesn't really mean anything."
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Monday, June 9, 2008
Call or e-mail your Congressmen and tell them "No!" to permanent U.S. bases in Iraq. And tell them to do their constitutional duty and make Bush submit this treaty -- yes, treaty -- to the Senate for ratification. Because not only is this a terrible mistake, it is another example of Bush stealing powers for the Executive branch that the Framers of our Constitution gave to the Legislative.
Revealed: Secret plan to keep Iraq under U.S. control
By Patrick Cockburn
June 5, 2008 The Independent UK
A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November.
The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.
But the accord also threatens to provoke a political crisis in the US. President Bush wants to push it through by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated. But by perpetuating the US presence in Iraq, the long-term settlement would undercut pledges by the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, to withdraw US troops if he is elected president in November.
The timing of the agreement would also boost the Republican candidate, John McCain, who has claimed the United States is on the verge of victory in Iraq – a victory that he says Mr Obama would throw away by a premature military withdrawal.
America currently has 151,000 troops in Iraq and, even after projected withdrawals next month, troop levels will stand at more than 142,000 – 10 000 more than when the military "surge" began in January 2007. Under the terms of the new treaty, the Americans would retain the long-term use of more than 50 bases in Iraq. American negotiators are also demanding immunity from Iraqi law for US troops and contractors, and a free hand to carry out arrests and conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting the Baghdad government.
The precise nature of the American demands has been kept secret until now. The leaks are certain to generate an angry backlash in Iraq. "It is a terrible breach of our sovereignty," said one Iraqi politician, adding that if the security deal was signed it would delegitimise the government in Baghdad which will be seen as an American pawn.
The US has repeatedly denied it wants permanent bases in Iraq but one Iraqi source said: "This is just a tactical subterfuge." Washington also wants control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000ft and the right to pursue its "war on terror" in Iraq, giving it the authority to arrest anybody it wants and to launch military campaigns without consultation.
Mr Bush is determined to force the Iraqi government to sign the so-called "strategic alliance" without modifications, by the end of next month. But it is already being condemned by the Iranians and many Arabs as a continuing American attempt to dominate the region. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the powerful and usually moderate Iranian leader, said yesterday that such a deal would create "a permanent occupation". He added: "The essence of this agreement is to turn the Iraqis into slaves of the Americans."
Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is believed to be personally opposed to the terms of the new pact but feels his coalition government cannot stay in power without US backing.
The deal also risks exacerbating the proxy war being fought between Iran and the United States over who should be more influential in Iraq.
Although Iraqi ministers have said they will reject any agreement limiting Iraqi sovereignty, political observers in Baghdad suspect they will sign in the end and simply want to establish their credentials as defenders of Iraqi independence by a show of defiance now. The one Iraqi with the authority to stop deal is the majority Shia spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. In 2003, he forced the US to agree to a referendum on the new Iraqi constitution and the election of a parliament. But he is said to believe that loss of US support would drastically weaken the Iraqi Shia, who won a majority in parliament in elections in 2005.
The US is adamantly against the new security agreement being put to a referendum in Iraq, suspecting that it would be voted down. The influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called on his followers to demonstrate every Friday against the impending agreement on the grounds that it compromises Iraqi independence.
The Iraqi government wants to delay the actual signing of the agreement but the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney has been trying to force it through. The US ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, has spent weeks trying to secure the accord.
The signature of a security agreement, and a parallel deal providing a legal basis for keeping US troops in Iraq, is unlikely to be accepted by most Iraqis. But the Kurds, who make up a fifth of the population, will probably favour a continuing American presence, as will Sunni Arab political leaders who want US forces to dilute the power of the Shia. The Sunni Arab community, which has broadly supported a guerrilla war against US occupation, is likely to be split.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Just think: if they had told the truth back then, there would have been no Iraq invasion or occupation, and there would be no divisive, painful debate today about withdrawal vs. staying the course.
The Truth About the War
New York Times Editorial
June 6, 2008
It took just a few months after the United States' invasion of Iraq for the world to find out that Saddam Hussein had long abandoned his nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs. He was not training terrorists or colluding with Al Qaeda. The only real threat he posed was to his own countrymen.
It has taken five years to finally come to a reckoning over how much the Bush administration knowingly twisted and hyped intelligence to justify that invasion. On Thursday — after years of Republican stonewalling — a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee gave us as good a set of answers as we're likely to get.
The report shows clearly that President Bush should have known that important claims he made about Iraq did not conform with intelligence reports. In other cases, he could have learned the truth if he had asked better questions or encouraged more honest answers.
The report confirms one serious intelligence failure: President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials were told that Iraq still had chemical and biological weapons and did not learn that these reports were wrong until after the invasion. But Mr. Bush and his team made even that intelligence seem more solid, more recent and more dangerous than it was.
The report shows that there was no intelligence to support the two most frightening claims Mr. Bush and his vice president used to sell the war: that Iraq was actively developing nuclear weapons and had longstanding ties to terrorist groups. It seems clear that the president and his team knew that that was not true, or should have known it — if they had not ignored dissenting views and telegraphed what answers they were looking for.
Over all, the report makes it clear that top officials, especially Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, knew they were not giving a full and honest account of their justifications for going to war.
The report was supported by only two of the seven Republicans on the 15-member Senate panel. The five dissenting Republicans first tried to kill it, and then to delete most of its conclusions. They finally settled for appending objections. The bulk of their criticisms were sophistry transparently intended to protect Mr. Bush and deny the public a full accounting of how he took America into a disastrous war.
The report documents how time and again Mr. Bush and his team took vague and dubious intelligence reports on Iraq's weapons programs and made them sound like hard and incontrovertible fact.
"They continue to pursue the nuclear program they began so many years ago," Mr. Cheney said on Aug. 26, 2002, adding that "we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons."
On Oct. 7, 2002, Mr. Bush told an audience in Cincinnati that Iraq "is seeking nuclear weapons" and that "the evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program." Saddam Hussein, he said, "is moving ever closer to developing a nuclear weapon."
Later, both men talked about Iraq trying to buy uranium in Africa and about the purchase of aluminum tubes that they said could only be used for a nuclear weapons program. They talked about Iraq having such a weapon in five years, then in three years, then in one.
If they had wanted to give an honest accounting of the intelligence on Iraq's nuclear weapons, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney would have said it indicated that Mr. Hussein's nuclear weapons program had been destroyed years earlier by American military strikes.
As for Iraq's supposed efforts to "reconstitute" that program, they would have had to say that reports about the uranium shopping and the aluminum tubes were the extent of the evidence — and those claims were already in serious doubt when Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney told the public about them. That would not have been nearly as persuasive, of course, as Mr. Bush's infamous "mushroom cloud" warning.
The report said Mr. Bush was justified in saying that intelligence analysts believed Iraq had chemical and biological weapons. But even then, he and his aides glossed over inconvenient facts — that the only new data on biological weapons came from a dubious source code-named Curveball and proved to be false.
Yet Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney persisted in talking as if there were ironclad proof of Iraq's weapons and plans for global mayhem.
"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use them against our friends, against our allies and against us," Mr. Cheney said on Aug. 29, 2002.
Actually, there was plenty of doubt — at the time — about that second point. According to the Senate report, there was no evidence that Mr. Hussein intended to use weapons of mass destruction against anyone, and the intelligence community never said there was.
The committee's dissenting Republicans attempted to have this entire section of the report deleted — along with a conclusion that the administration misrepresented the intelligence when it warned of a risk that Mr. Hussein could give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups. They said Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney never used the word "intent" and were merely trying to suggest that Iraq "could" do those terrible things.
It's hard to imagine that anyone drew that distinction after hearing Mr. Bush declare that "Saddam Hussein would like nothing more than to use a terrorist network to attack and to kill and leave no fingerprints behind." Or when he said: "Each passing day could be the one on which the Iraqi regime gives anthrax or VX nerve gas or someday a nuclear weapon to a terrorist ally."
The Senate report shows that the intelligence Mr. Bush had did not support those statements — or Mr. Rumsfeld's that "every month that goes by, his W.M.D. programs are progressing, and he moves closer to his goal of possessing the capability to strike our population, and our allies, and hold them hostage to blackmail."
Claims by Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld that Iraq had longstanding ties to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups also were false, and the Senate committee's report shows that the two men knew it, or should have.
We cannot say with certainty whether Mr. Bush lied about Iraq. But when the president withholds vital information from the public — or leads them to believe things that he knows are not true — to justify the invasion of another country, that is bad enough.
Sure, we can give "attrition" a try. Just understand that it will require something conservatives generally abhor: greatly increased gov't spending & bureaucracy to regularly inspect thousands of places of business, and then vigorously prosecute and punish employers who violate the law.
To be sure, the macroeconomic impact of suddenly losing millions of low-paid laborers from our workforce, including the loss of billions of dollars that illegals pump into our economy, remains to be seen. Would that loss be more than compensated for, as some believe, by fewer illegals "milking" our emergency rooms and public schools, crowding our prisons, and driving up our auto insurance premiums? Who knows. But I guess, like Iraq, illegal immigration is one of those issues where conservatives say, "Damn the cost, it must be done!"
By Rev. John Rausch
June 5, 2008 Spero News
With the recent spike in gasoline prices, politicians and pundits have begun calling again for energy independence for America. Ethanol refiners continue lobbying Congress for massive subsidies, while electric utilities and coal producers promote clean coal and a nuclear renaissance.
Oil executives complaining that U.S. restrictions have hampered developing new sources of oil, advocate opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. "Energy independence" has morphed into code for "drill it all, dig it all and double it all." For the present, traditional forms of energy are needed to find the glide path into the terrain of alternative energy sources, yet in the future, the emphasis cannot rest solely on supply.
People of faith recognize the market functions by supply and demand, and now, at least in the near term, some demands appear unsustainable and too costly for the common good. To produce enough ethanol to fill one tank of gas in an SUV takes 450 pounds of corn. To supply all U.S. gasoline through ethanol would require planting 71 percent of American farmland in fuel crops.
In 1950 a single family car might be parked near a house averaging 1,100 square feet, but in 2005 probably several cars would stand in driveways of houses that doubled to 2,340 square feet with fewer occupants and lots more space to heat and cool.
Currently, the U.S. with less than 5 percent of the world's population uses one third of the world's electricity produced annually. With drained wetlands, clear-cut forests and paved-over top soil the capacity of the planet to carry life is rapidly being exhausted by human habits and lifestyles.
If energy were the coin of the realm, that coin would have two worn sides: first, the problems associated with global warming, and second, the challenges posed by energy security.
Global warming could initiate a new sense of community among all countries, since "everyone lives down stream" of hostile climate change. About one hundred million people in the world live one meter above sea level. With increased global warming exacerbated by burning fossil fuels, the melting ice caps would inflict unimaginable flooding of these poor populations, plus introduce diseases previously unknown in temperate regions.
Known world petroleum reserves will last 80 to 100 years, natural gas 70 to 90 years. The geopolitical imperatives to secure control of energy resources mount. Question: was the invasion of Iraq more about weapons of mass destruction or controlling the oil supply? People of faith see a simpler lifestyle and a more intentional use of resources as an essential component of peace building.
Pope Benedict XVI in his 2008 World Day of Peace Message said, "We need to care for the environment: It has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion." The "good of all" extends to succeeding generations who equally deserve a healthy, and not degraded, earth.
Two approaches make sense. First, mount intense and massive national investment on the scale of the moon race to develop renewables (solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, etc.) and high-tech energy (hydrogen-generated power, fuel cells, nuclear fusion, etc.).
Second, adopt an ethic of "less and local" to address the short term urgency. More oil can be "found" in Detroit by designing more fuel-efficient cars than from ANWR. More electricity can be "generated" from retrofitting homes with better insulation than from another coal-fired plant.
A new energy consciousness begins with numerous personal choices that collectively grow into the political will to change.
Rev. John Rausch, a Glenmary priest, teaches, writes and organizes from Stanton, Kentucky, in central Appalachia.