The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.

The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.
The scholar


Gonzales & Warrantless Wiretapping

This came out a few days back, but I just ran across it. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "did not cite any specific activist jurists, or give examples of national security cases, in his prepared text." but he felt that:

" '...judges generally should defer to the will of the president and Congress when deciding national security cases. He also raps jurists who 'apply an activist philosophy that stretches the law to suit policy preferences.' ”

and that:

“ 'We want to determine whether he understands the inherent limits that make an unelected judiciary inferior to Congress or the president in making policy judgments,' Gonzales says in the prepared speech. 'That, for example, a judge will never be in the best position to know what is in the national security interests of our country.' ”

I like how Gonzales carefully places Congress into the group that judges should defer to, and I agree with the MSNBC piece that he's probably referring to the warrantless surveillance decision by U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in August 2006, but Congress only came into the picture very recently. The program has allegedly been going since long before 9-11, but as we well know, the Bush Administration seeks to use 9-11 as an all-purpose excuse for just about anything. The September 11 Commission pointed out that the Bush Administration's charge that the program might have been able to prevent 9-11 from occurring was disproven by the fact that the Clinton Administration had information on two of the leading hijackers in January 2000, but that the Bush Administration later lost track of them. The fact that 9-11 occurred cannot be taken as proof that the warrantless surveillance program was not operating before 9-11.

Congress did come into the picture when the "Rubber-Stamp Republicans" sought to pass a number of bills authorizing the warrantless eavesdropping, but none of the bills were finalized before the Congress switched over to Democratic control. While Democrats may wish to legalize the spying, they have no mandate to do so. As no one outside the Administration and some sworn-to-secrecy Congresspeople were even aware that the program existed, Gonzales really should be just saying "judges generally should defer to the will of the president" and should leave all mention of Congress out of it.

Fundamentally, the assertion here that there are certain issues that judges are not competent to rule on is just absolutely the most despicable, un-American, pro-dictatorial assertion imaginable. It completely contradicts two-plus centuries of American law and utterly lacks even the pretense of a dedication to democracy. When Judge Taylor ruled that the warrantless surveillance program should be terminated immediately, she was not making a policy decision, nor did she go outside her expertise or authority. Her decision was solidly grounded in the law, which is why the blogger Glenn Greenwald has been able to compile an impressive list of blog posts which support her decision.

Gonzales is grasping at straws here. He's trying to justify blatant law-breaking on the part of his boss and simply has no serious arguments with which to do so.


Liz Cheney's complaint

Sen. Hillary Clinton declared this weekend, " I'm in to win." Anyone who has watched her remarkable trajectory can have no doubt that she'll do whatever it takes to win the presidency. I wish she felt the same way about the war.

Now, in fairness, Vice-President Cheney's kids can say things like this. Liz here has five kids, one very recently and her sister Mary is a lesbian, so she can't serve in uniform either. The Bush kids have no such excuse. George W. has two daughters, both in good physical condition and who are of military age, his brother Jeb has three sons, also in good physical condition and of military age. Any call for doing whatever one can about the war would sound mighty peculiar coming from any of the younger Bushes.

Liz points out: “We are at war.” Yes we are, but who put us there? Did President Bush point America to real threats and genuine emergencies or did he and his buddies make up a bunch of stuff and get us into war for their own, still unknown purposes?

We will have to fight these terrorists to the death somewhere, sometime. We can't negotiate with them or "solve" their jihad. If we quit in Iraq now, we must get ready for a harder, longer, more deadly struggle later.

This is the kind of hysterical, overwrought screaming and yelling we've been listening to since late 2002. When I read this sort of stuff I just think of people running down the street, naked, screaming and waving their arms.

If we restrict the ability of our troops to fight and win this war, we help the terrorists

Okay, let's take Liz's word for that. Question: Does remaining in Iraq do anything whatsoever to inhibit the terrorists? Al Qaeda has troops inside Iraq. Al Qaeda did not have troops inside Iraq before March 2003. By giving Arab jihadists easy and plentiful targets to shoot at, did the US inhibit the growth of jihadist groups all over the Mideast or did it encourage them?

Beware the polls. [The American people]...did not say that they want us to lose this war.

I'd be very, very skeptical about what a member of a political party that got a “thumping” at the polls says about what their loss means. As a solid majority of Americans say they want US troops to withdraw from Iraq, I'd like to know how that can be interpreted as “Let's remain and fight on.” Seems to me that during the 2006 midterm election, Bush & Co stated quite clearly and quite frequently that leaving = losing, but Americans voted for Democrats anyway.

[Americans] did not say that they want us to allow Iraq to become a base for al-Qaeda to conduct global terrorist operations.

As Iraqis don't like al Qaeda by the very large majority of 94%, I very seriously doubt al Qaeda would survive the departure of American troops from Iraq by more than a few weeks. Obviously, Iraqis will not fight al Qaeda while US troops remain in their country, but it seems very highly unlikely that Iraqis would put up with their continued presence afterwards.

They did not say that they would rather we fight the terrorists here at home.

Again, this is the kind of mindless, hysterical, screaming overstatement I spoke of earlier. Even if we leave aside all of the conspiracy theories concerning 9-11, the theories about Bush & Co. arranging for 9-11 to happen or at the very least knowing about it all well beforehand, we still have the very strong, clear evidence that 9-11 was a one-time event. There were far too many warnings beforehand, there was much too much evidence beforehand for anyone to take seriously the idea that any such attack could succeed a second time. My brother, a conservative, pro-Bush person, went to a briefing about power plants and assures me we've got nothing to worry about on that score. One might also keep in mind that the Nazis made a single guerrilla landing on American shores back in World War II (Long Island), and were promptly rounded up. Hitler concluded American intelligence agencies were completely on the ball and aware of what was going on and never tried again.

We are fighting the war on terrorism with allies across the globe, leaders such as Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan and Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan.

Um, Afghanistan and Pakistan are right next to each other, an alliance of those two does not exactly constitute a globe-spanning movement. Seriously, there really aren't many others in the “Coalition of the Willing” anymore. All of the big countries except Britain refused to sign on to begin with and British citizens appear to be highly inclined to send Tony Blair off to the Hague to stand trial for his part in the war.

Brave activists are also standing with us, fighting for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the empowerment of women. They risk their lives every day to defeat the forces of terrorism.

Now here's where Liz just becomes completely incoherent. Terrorists don't care about any of that stuff. Individual terrorist groups may be concerned that their women are getting too liberated or that some of the people in their country have the incorrect religious opinions, but the idea that terrorists as a whole, even just the ones fighting US troops in Iraq, have a coherent set of political “platforms” or even opinions is just crazy. That sort of viewpoint takes wild, insane conspiracy theories to new heights of lunacy.

What about Iran?

What about it? Iran's nuclear program isn't going to produce anything for another decade at least and there simply isn't any evidence that Iran is seriously contributing to the Iraq War. Iran will wait until George W Bush leaves office, at which point the US can fashion a sane and sensible policy.

[US soldiers] know that free people must fight to defend their freedom.

Are the Iraqis free or are they being occupied by US troops? Iraqis seem to feel that it's the latter, that they're living under an occupation. If Iraqis had control of their own country and invited Americans in that would be a different situation entirely.

American troops will win if we show even one-tenth the courage here at home that they show every day on the battlefield.

It takes very considerably more than courage to win a guerrilla war. Iraq is not your basic, classic, straightforward battlefield. An occupier in a guerrilla war requires at least 15 soldiers for every 1,000 civilians. The US currently has about five soldiers per 1,000 Iraqi civilians, about a third of what's needed at the minimum. Is the US capable of raising enough soldiers through a draft? We'll never know because Republicans have refused to even raise the issue and Democrats have no mandate to do so.

Victory is the only option. We must have the fortitude and the courage to do what it takes. In the words of Winston Churchill, we must deserve victory.

We must be in it to win.

Very stirring and heartfelt words, but “victory” ain't gonna happen. The US is not willing to do what it takes, heck, the Bush family is not willing to do what it takes. President Bush refuses to attend the funerals of any soldiers, his wife refuse to be photographed visiting wounded soldiers in the hospital and Bush's two healthy, military-age daughters are still not in uniform. There's simply no way Americans are going to make any serious sacrifices for the Iraq War until the First Family does.


Dinesh D'Souza & Iraq

Like many other commentators in the left blogosphere, I found "Not a clash of religions" by Dinesh D'Souza in the Philadelphia Inquirer to be an appallingly stupid piece. D'Souza appears to be under the impression that the Iraq War is not about material objectives for things like oil and strategic control of raw materials, but a tender concern on the part of Islamic jihadists for the souls of Americans. Yes, it's the liberals lack of godliness that has motivated the radicals half a world away to oppose the American invasion of their country. They had no objection to being invaded of course. That would have been okay if only Americans hadn't been such godless, disrespectful heathens.
If one looks at the American conquest of the Philippines in the first years of the 1900s, concern over the religion of the Filipinos was an obviously secondary aspect of the struggle. Once coaling stations had been acquired, allowing the US to expand its presence overseas, the Filliping religion was an afterthought, a follow-on to the initial wave. Would Islamic jihadists be concerned about the US state of religion? Sure, if they were in the position of being able to take over and occupy the US. As that's extremely unlikely ever to happen, I really can't see them worrying about our religion to begin with.


Tom Friedman, "liberal"

Tom Friedman, NY Times' columnist, mischaracterizes liberal complaints about GW Bush's planned/actual war against Iraq.

"Some opposed it for military reasons"

Presumably this means that opponents thought that the US would lose the military confrontation between Saddam Hussein's official army and US troops, tanks & planes. Were Friedman to expand on this point a bit, we might learn whether he was referring to the foreseen and predicted guerrilla war that followed the initial confrontation.

"because they’re against war"

Yes certainly, there were and are pacifists among the anti-war protesters, people who steadfastly believe that war is always wrong. That's not the position of many of the anti-war groups in this country. PRAWN does not have an official position on that. Some of us believe that, many of us do not and just oppose this particular war. We also however, oppose war against Iran because we're seeing many of the delusional predictions that were offered for Iraq being recycled again for Iran. We feel a war against Iran would turn out much, much worse than war against Iraq did.

"some opposed it because they hate George Bush"

I can assure Mr Friedman that we would have opposed it just as strongly had VP Cheney or some other authoritative person been proposing it. Colin Powell was a respected fellow before his speech at the UN on 5 Feb 03. Now, after Powell gave a mendacious speech full of lies and distortions, if we liberals saw Powell on fire across the street, we wouldn't cross the street to spit on him in order to put the fire out. Our personal regard for Mr Powell was much, much higher than for President Bush, but today they're regarded in much the same light.

"some opposed it because they didn’t believe Arabs are capable of democracy"

Arab countries today are generally not democracies, but we liberals regard that as a function of their economic lack of development rather than any inherent Arab desire to be against democracy. When someone from the Arab part of the world arrives in America, they usually adapt quickly and very soon become proponents of democracy.
If the Bush Administration had any desire to see democracy flourish in Iraq, the fall of Baghdad in early '03 would have been followed by an energetic reconstruction program or at the absolute, rock-bottom minimum, the US would have seen to it that all of Baghdad's government offices were secured against looting. As it was, Iraqi government offices were looted down to the bare walls. A bureaucrat without an office is pretty much like a sailor without a ship, i.e., pretty much useless. That might perhaps have been okay if the US had an efficient reconstruction corps ready to go to restore electricity and get water purification back on line, etc. As it was, electricity is STILL not up to the standards of delivery that the evil dictator Saddam Hussein met with ease. "The average household in Iraq now gets two hours of electricity a day. There is 70 percent unemployment, 68 percent of Iraqis have no access to safe drinking water, and only 19 percent have sewage access. Not even oil production has matched pre-invasion levels."

I’m really sorry. Next time — Next time Ishwar [caller], I promise, I really promise, I’ll be a better liberal.

Sorry Tom, but you're not a liberal at all. A true libral would not have so grossly mischaracterized liberal, progressive, leftist and Democratic opposition the war, either before the war started or now that it's been dragging on for so man years.

A piece from Britain's Independent offers some serious reasons to be against the war (Bit lengthy at 28 kilobytes), the main reason being summarized as being the extreme unfairness of the economic deal being offered to Iraq. The US didn't invade Iraq for free. US corporations stand to profit a great deal from this occupation, as they were clearly meant to do so long before the first shots were fired.

Re: "Warning Syria, Iran" Letter Jan 20

The letter writer demonstrates precisely why it is that the Commander-in-Chief is not delegated the authority to declare war all by himself. In lieu of actually declaring war, Congress passed resolutions for both Vietnam and Iraq, but at least Congress was involved in the decision and retained the "power of the purse" to finally call a halt to those wars. The letter writer appears to feel that attacking Iran and Syria would be "a cakewalk" and that "American troops will be greeted with flowers" and other such happy horseshit.
Thanks heavesn we've had the following statement from the Speaker and Majority Leader: "The president does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking congressional authorization." ("Pelosi and White House trade barbs on troops" Jan 20)
Yay, Harry & Nancy! I feel ten times safer with them sharing the driver's seat.

Follow-up on MediaTank presentation

Mediatank held a really marvelous presentation of first the two Federal Communications Commissioners Michael J. Copps & Jonathan S. Adelstein, then had a panel of eight other media professionals and then opened the floor to comments from the audience (Audience members signed up to speak at the entrance to the forum and were then called in the order they signed up in). The closing of WHAT Radio was a major subject and how different organizations used their resources to bypass the major media and get critical stories out to the public was another.
I spoke on my recent PhillyIMC piece on the major media and how the left blogosphere, an aroused and active citizenry that uses blogs, among other tools to raise awareness that a profit-obsessed major media can't be bothered with.
There's an extremely sad report from Media Matters that demonstrates just how severely messed up the major media is. Reporter John Solomon from the Washington Post tries desperately to "gin up" a scandal by ignoring neighborhood housing prices and darkly suggesting that first Senate then-Minority Leader Harry Reid "collected a $1.1 million windfall on a Las Vegas land sale" and now suggesting that "Sen. John Edwards recently sold a home for $1.4 million more than he had paid for it." What Solomon leaves out of course, are the housing prices typically paid in those neighborhoods. Had he done so, he would have seen that there was absolutely nothing noteworthy about either sale.
"Twice in three months, Solomon has written an article in which he makes much of a real estate transaction in which a prominent Democrat appears to have made a million-dollar profit. Twice in three months, Solomon has hyped the gaudy number without placing it in context. In both cases, that context showed the profit to be far from atypical."
This is very clearly the behavior of a writer trying desperately to re-live the "glory days" when journalists could say whatever they liked about progressives. As the blogger Atrios puts it: "Under 'the Clinton rules of journalism,' you can say any goddamn thing you want -- as long as you say it about the Clintons. This [sic] rules have already begun to affect the way Campaign 08 is covered."
Personally, I really couldn't care less how much journalists enjoyed the Clinton Presidency when they could say whatever they pleased about progressives with no consequences. I and many, many millions of progressives, radicals, liberals and moderates HATED those days and HATED the "Clinton rules"!
Is the next president likely to be a Republican? Two years is an awfully long time and lots can happen, but the situation does NOT look good for Republicans. It's looking a lot like the next several election cycles will be Democratic ones. We lefty bloggers, liberals, citizen activists and Democrats will need to keep the pressure on for a good long time, until the media grows up and stops looking to play "Gotcha!" with us all.



Joe Lieberman (I-CT):
"I think the consequences for the Middle East, which has been so important to our international stability over the years, and to the American people, who have been attacked on 9/11 by the same enemy that we’re fighting in Iraq today, supported by a rising Islamist radical super-powered government in Iran, the consequences for us, for—I want to be personal—for my children and grandchildren, I fear will be disastrous."

Now, having been a comickal book reader for many years (DC-Vertigo is my current favorite brand) I'm well aware of what a super-powered individual is, even though all the ones I know of are fictional. I haven't the vaguest clue as to what a "super-powered government" is, even if we're talking in strictly fictional terms.
Are we fighting the same people in Iraq who attacked the US on 9-11? Well, it has been a frequent accusation that al Qaeda is operating in Iraq (See al-Zarqawi, Abu Musab) but it's been clear from mid-2003 on that foreign fighters make up, at best, about 5% of the folks the US is fighting in Iraq. No one really knows how many of the foreigners are al Qaeda. I found it very interesting, though that "94%[of Iraqis] express disapproval of al-Qaeda." So yeah, that statement is accurate in a very strict technical sense, but you really have to be very careful in your definitions and have to realize that out of 100 opponents fought, one, possibly two are al Qaeda for the statement to be regarded as true.
Lieberman regards the Iranian government as "rising" eh? Well, if they add about half of Iraq to their territory, we all know who gets the major credit for that, G. W. Bush! If Iraq hadn't been invaded, Iran wouldn't have any sort of foothold there.


Advice & the President

From Bush’s defensive radio address this morning:

Members of Congress have a right to express their views, and express them forcefully. But those who refuse to give this plan a chance to work have an obligation to offer an alternative that has a better chance for success. To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible.

This demand follows a very highly specific pattern of other Presidential requests for advice. Back in mid-December, Bush sought advice on the Iraq Study Group's recommendations. And hey wow! Amazingly enough, all of the consulted experts thought the ISG's advice was terrible! The favorite news channel of the Bush Administration, Fox News, is now advocating an attack on Iran! Gee, just as the rest of the Bush Administration is doing. How does Bush feel about recieving advice from steadfast friends & allies that contradict his plans? He ignores it. Here's an expecially interesting quote from the 2006 State of the Union Address:

Yet there is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success, and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure. Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second-guessing is not a strategy.

A Retired Major General noted all-too-accurately that: "They only need the military advice when it satisfies their agenda." The same could be said about every member of the Bush Administration under all circumstances. Bush and his people will take advice, but only if it fits their pre-concieved notions.


Joe Klein the wanker

Joe Klein, the "liberal" Time Magazine columnist and author of Primary Colors (He wrote it under the pseudonym "Anonymous.") tries his hand at blogging. Yeesh1 What an embarassment! Apparently, war advocates who recommend counterinsurgency doctrines in Iraq are not delusional. Never mind the fact that the doctrine calls for several hundred thousand troops. Troops that do not appear to be available. I mean, Joe's right. There are several strategies that would be effective, if y'know, conditions were different, like y'know if the US had any real allies besides Britain, which could happen if, y'know the Bush Administration had any clue about diplomacy and such.

And my response upon seeing the latest from Joe Klein [Emits a low groan, slapping hand to forehead] "Oh, good grief! *Sigh!* Whatta we gonna do wit' dis guy?!?!"

"I've been opposed to the Iraq war ever since...2002..."

Really? I've never heard of Klein putting up any opposition. Ah, now I see, Atrios quotes a Klein column from 2003:

"This is a really tough decision. War may well be the right decision at this point. In fact, I think it--it's--it--it probably is."

Ahh! There's the kind of deep, serious, full-throated opposition that's going to make the warmongers sit up and take notice [/snark]! Yeesh! THAT's the "liberal" columnist from Time Magazine?!?! But this is an interesting statement:

"But it's possible to have been against the war and to hope for the best in Iraq. I'd bet that the overwhelming majority of Americans who now oppose the war are praying for a turn for the better in Iraq. Listening to the leftists, though, it's easy to assume that they are rooting for an American failure."

The "best" huh? According to Editor & Publisher:

"Past surveys have hinted at this result, but a new poll in Iraq makes it more stark than ever: the Iraqi people want the U.S. to exit their country. And most Iraqis now approve of attacks on U.S. forces, even though 94% express disapproval of al-Qaeda."

So what exactly constitutes "the best" for Iraqis? Do Iraqis want an American "success"? Wouldn't an American "failure" be more agreeable to them? Obviously, Klein and the Iraqis do not agree on what constitutes either success or failure. To say that "Americans" as opposed to "leftist," are "
praying for a turn for the better" raises the very serious question of just what is "better"? I'd like to see less killing and destruction, but my solution would be for the Iraqis to get their country back and if they then want to establish a theocracy under Moqtada al-Sadr, hey well, have at it! That solution certainly fits within Klein's vague formulation of "the best," but I don't think that's what Klein means.

Update: Shorter Atrios - Joe Klein had the opportnity to be a mensch, to be prescient, to win the admiration of the left, but he blew it by being way, way too cautious.


Madam Speaker Pelosi lays down the law!!!

The Speaker of the House sketched out the new rules very clearly:

"If the president wants to add to this mission, he is going to have to justify it," said Pelosi, speaking to host Bob Schieffer. "And this is new for him because up until now the Republican Congress has given him a blank check with no oversight, no standards, no conditions. And we’ve gone into this situation, which is a war without end, which the American people have rejected."

"If the president chooses to escalate the war, in his budget request we want to see a distinction between what is there to support the troops who are there now. The American people and the Congress support those troops. We will not abandon them."

More quotes
Full transcript

Annoyingly, Senator Joe Biden demonstrates he's not a team player.


Major media vs the left blogosphere

A couple of statements were made in a recent Washington Post editorial (All highlights mine):

"But instead of allowing Republicans to fully participate in deliberations, as promised after the Democratic victory in the Nov. 7 midterm elections"
"A few Democrats, worried that the party would be criticized for reneging on an important pledge..."
"House Republicans have begun to complain that Democrats are backing away from their promise to work cooperatively."

As the blogger Digby points out, what promises? As a highly partisan Democrat, I can assure folks that I was paying close attention to statements made by Democrats during and after the recent mid-term elections. At no time did I recall hearing anything about Democratic promises to work with Republicans in a cooperative manner. At no time do I recall any such "pledge" ever being made.
Do we know of any Democrats who would have made such a pledge? As a matter of fact, we do. Senator Joe Lieberman was about the only nationally-known Democrat to run on an explicitly bipartisan platform, to promise closer cooperation between Democrats and Republicans. Well, guess what, Lieberman ultimately won the Senatorial race for Connecticut, but he ran as a member of the CFL Party because Democrats kicked him out of the party. Lieberman's pledges to work in a cooperative, bipartisan manner were not promises that Democrats were in any mood to listen to or to reward.
Does the editorial ever substantiate its claims that Democrats promised to run things in a co-operative and bi-partisan manner? Does the editorial ever name a specific Democrat who ever made any such pledges? Does the editorial provide us with the exact wording of this oh-so-important pledge?
No to all of those questions. Folks, this your major, mainstream media at work. This is your big, important paper that allegedly carefully checks all of its' facts and diligently follows up on all of its' tips and leads. This is an organization with plenty of money and personnel to make sure all of the items printed in their paper are accurate.
This is a paper that deliberately and consciously made up "an important pledge" out of thin air. Like the advice columnist Miss Manners, I refuse to engage in mind-reading. I don't know why they said this and I really don't care. The point is, this is why the left blogosphere exists. Major media gets things wrong and makes things up. They put out a lot of information that's just plain wrong. Recently, ABC TV put out a four-hour miniseries about 9-11 that should have landed them in court with a major slander suit on their hands. Why didn't they? Don't know, don't care. What is quite clear is that had the left blogosphere not made a major stink about this piece of trash, it would have aired in an unaltered fashion and would have been accepted as conventional wisdom.
We need to keep an eye on the major media. We need to pay close and careful attention when they get things wrong and we need to react immediately and strongly when they try to peddle lies and misinformation. Former President Bill Clinton took a lot of trash for reacting to the 9-11 miniseries the way he did, but his was the correct response. Fox News was not acting in an impartial manner, they took a blatantly partisan stance and Clinton correctly called them on it. The miniseries did not become conventional wisdom precisely because Clinton made it clear that he was not going to sit still for being misrepresented. We owe absolutely nothing to the major media, who had little or nothing to say about the whole issue.


Rundown on (pro-war) Stupidity

A conservative blog commented on a post on firedoglake and I found a few of the claims worth commenting on.

"I would ask her to 'acknowledge' the outstanding work of the troops, instead of using our soldiers and the deaths she 'uses' to make her politcial (sic) points."

Considering that the "outstanding work of the troops" includes essentially losing Anbar Province and of achieving nothing in "Operation Together Forward," I have no words of condemnation for the troops as they were placed into a crappy situation, but neither is their work particularly praiseworthy. No matter how many schools they paint or bicycles they fix, they're losing territory and influence. The numbers and figures offered afterwards are interesting, but as I explained in an earlier piece, it's not the total numbers of troops either involved or that die that count, it's the purpose for which our troops are fighting and the troops in Iraq see increasingly less purpose in the fighting there.

The interview with a soldier "using the soldiers (sic) ACTUAL words" is interesting, but as the blogger doesn't provide a link or even the name and rank of the soldier or the college or even the geographical vicinity of the college where the interview was supposedly conducted, it's completely unverifiable. Allegedly, the soldier escorted SecDef Rumsfeld around while the troops treated him like a rock star and heaped praise upon him. Real tough work there. Yup, our SecDef su-u-ure enough is a he-e-ero. Boooy, it sure must be tough to wander around getting praised everywhere you go. Whatta hero [/snark].

"What about the fact that our reenlistment rates , are at an all time high, is that not the military talking with their boots on the ground?"

There's no reason to doubt this statement. Soldiers today are kept in their units from start to finish. Unlike the situation in Vietnam, they don't arrive and depart as individuals. When a soldier's enlistment is up, he or she goes back home, but feels guilty to leave friends and comrades behind in a dangerous situation. It's quite natural in such circumstances for soldiers to re-up.

"Regular enlistments are also above the goals set, these are people that KNOW they will be going to Iraq."

Now this statement I have problems with. According to a study by the Marine Corps (PDF), reenlistment rates are actually falling. "For first-term enlisted Marines making reenlistment decisions in FY04, there is a strong negative relationship" and the Stanford Progressive argued in January 2006 that:

"The U.S. Army's recruitment rates have been falling, and the Army is clinging to very high retention and reenlistment rates to make up for it, avoiding a shortage crisis that way. If those numbers begin falling in the near future, however, we are headed for trouble."

The Army chaplain quoted at length seems to be very enthusiastic about the war, but he's clearly speaking for just himself. The following is a highly amusing quote:

"Let me offer a different way of thinking about this: We won the war in Iraq. Yes, past tense: we won. You see, militarily, we invaded Iraq, defeated their Army, and captured their leadership. On this point, we had a crushing and overwhelming victory. No questions about it. We did what we said we were going to do: invaded the country and deposed Saddam (remember, right before the war started, we gave Saddam 48 hours to leave office), and we inforced (sic) the weapons inspections. That was the 'war.' We won that.

"What is happening now is the reconstruction and reconstitution of Iraq. In other words: putting it back together. We helped the Iraqis democratically elect a government. Check. We have trained and Army and Police Force. Check. The problem is that the government and military of Iraq are not doing a good job. That is the point on which things are failing. We have to stop thinking about this phase as winning or losing a war."

Where to begin? .The "war" was not won. The war has not been won. It's still ongoing. The toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad simply marked a new phase in the war, where the struggle changed from a battalion vs battalion, stand-up, mechanized war to a guerrilla war. Saddam Hussein's army simply reconstituted itself as a guerrilla force and kept fighting. The American troops were the same in the second phase, the opponents were the same.
It's ridiculous to blame the government of Iraq for anything as the guerrilla war was going poorly for the US long before the US "helped the Iraqis democratically elect a government."

"Over the past two years, we had one political party (the Democrats) pretending that nothing was going right over there, and we had the other political party (the Republicans) pretending that everything was going right over there. (In other words, BOTH are to blame) In the meantime, the Iraqis get hurt by our own self-obsession."

This is an accurate statement, but suffers from excessive even-handedness. Sure the Democrats may have genuinely felt that "nothing was going right over there," but it wasn't until Ned Lamont beat Joe Lieberman in Connecticut's Democratic primary that Democrats really felt free to come out against the war. Even then, Democrats weren't in power and haven't been in control of Congress since 1994. It won't be until Democrats actually take office that they can have a real and serious effect on events on the ground. No, it is grossly inappropriate to evenhandedly blame both sides.

"What I find interesting about the Iraq Study Group report- which works under the assumption that we're 'losing'- is that the people who seem to object to the report the most are the Iraqis."

First off, the ISG did not begin with the thesis that "we're 'losing' ", it concluded "we're 'losing' ". Big difference. Second, in an January survey:

"A new poll found that nearly half of Iraqis approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces, and most favor setting a timetable for American troops to leave."

This doesn't sound to me like a population that's crying out for the Americans to save them nor does it sound like a population that's helplessly awaiting American action. Riverbend, a secular, educated Sunni Arab, makes it quite clear that she is not waiting for the Americans to rescue her or anybody else.

Another quote from another anonymous soldier:

"He said that those that say they support the troops but not the war and say they are 'losing' in Iraq, obviously do not have confidence in us. (he swept his hand around to all his fellow soldiers standing there in Iraq)"

No, it means we've looked at the strategic situation and have concluded that to get enough troops to truly win in Iraq, we'd need as many as 500,000 more. Victory with less is very unlikely ever to occur. Will there ever be a draft? Very highly unlikely, as Republicans appear convinced that a draft is a one-way ticket to losing political power for a very long time to come. Democrats have no mandate to institute a draft as they have no mandate to continue the war in the first place.

"It IS a pity that the war in Iraq has become so political, but it HAS. Clearly the lines on Iraq are drawn between political entities. It is what it is. I do NOT see [the blog] Crooks and Liars asking the AP, or NYT to stop politicizing the war and start giving both sides"

The Iraq War was politicized by the Bush Administration from the very beginning.

This statement by Kenneth Adelman (“Cakewalk In Iraq,” the Washington Post, February 13, 2002), made in the immediate aftermath of President Bush’s Axis of Evil speech, epitomized the mindset of the ruling political establishment in Washington in the months leading up to the current war.
Summary: During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, writes the intelligence community's former senior analyst for the Middle East, the Bush administration disregarded the community's expertise, politicized the intelligence process, and selected unrepresentative raw intelligence to make its public case.
You've probably read Rajiv Chandrasekaran's account in the Washington Post today of how the Iraq occupation became, in part, an employment agency for the children or relatives of well-connected Republican party operatives or ideologically correct hacks, with much less expertise than others turned down.
The Iraqi Most Wanted deck employs game metaphors as a strategic means of describing attacks conducted on Iraq. Politicized use of ‘fun’ game metaphors communicates positive, can-do thinking and masks the real casualties of war.

And so on and so forth. At absolutely NO time during the entire Iraq conflict has the subject NOT been relentlessly politicized by the Bush Administration. It is cynical and one-sided in the extreme to complain that liberals are all of the sudden politicizing this very highly politicized war.


Re: "How many war deaths are too many?" Jan 1

Letter to Philadelphia Inquirer in response to article at
http://www.philly. com/mld/inquirer /16359666. htm

The answer to that question is very much "it depends." Back in 1859, Napoleon III assisted Italian nationalists against Austria in the Battle of Solferino. In 16 hours of fighting, both sides lost about 40,000 soldiers. Napoleon III was sickened by the slaughter, examined his motives for engaging in the fight in the first place and decided that he simply wasn't the warrior his famous namesake and uncle was. France was a monarchy at the time, so there were no opinion polls then or provincial elections to lose, but there's no indication that his withdrawal caused him any political difficulties back home.

In 1916, a mere 57 years later, France was under a more democratic government (And thus, presumably, a more peace-loving government) and engaged Germany in the Battle of Verdun as part of World War I. The German General Erich von Falkenhayn justified his launching of the battle in terms that sound surprisingly similar to "We're fighting them over so we don't have to fight them over here." He allegedly wanted to "bleed " the French Army so as to soften them up to suffer further setbacks and losses.

The slaughter was immense. Nearly 800,000 soldiers were lost on both sides. Again, there's no indication the French government suffered any political damage, this time from stubbornly holding onto Verdun at immense cost. In 1859, France did not object to withdrawing from a war after 40,000 soldiers were lost on both sides. In 1916, France held firm in the face of 800,000 casualties on both sides.
What changed in those 57 years? Did the French national character change? Did France become more warlike? Did French mothers and wives become more callous towards losing sons and husbands? No to all of those questions.

France's military objectives changed. Sometimes, an objective is worth an immense cost in lives. Sometimes the loss of a single soldier is a single life too many. The Iraq War is a very different war from the Civil War, where 3000 soldiers could be lost in a single hour of fighting. Our current president has failed to explain what the Iraq War is about in terms that make sense to the American people. I read President Bush's casus belli speech against the government of Iraq (Which was personified as Saddam Hussein) in September 2002. I concluded then that the Iraq War wasn't worth a single life, military or civilian, Iraqi or American. As Americans now agree, in the words of New York Times reporter Judy Miller "I was proved $%&# right!"