2007/05/30

Bush Administration and women

Britain's Guardian points out that

"The status of women was never as high under Saddam [Hussein] as opponents of the [Iraq] war sometimes asserted, and it was already declining throughout the 1990s, as Saddam embraced Islam to distract the populace from the effects of the Gulf war, UN sanctions, and his own depredations. But Iraq today is even worse for women: more repressive, more violent, more lawless."

Iraqi women selling their bodies are now a common sight in Syria's capital, Damascus.

"Inexpensive Iraqi prostitutes have helped to make Syria a popular destination for sex tourists from wealthier countries in the Middle East."

What of First Lady Laura Bush? She who famously said "...no one suffers more than their President and I do." while watching the devastation in Iraq. She later amended this: "...she means the 'peace of mind' that Americans 'sacrifice…when they see the terrible image of violence on TV every night.' " Yep, Iraqi women sure have come a long way from the days of "The Road to Freedom" when Laura Bush and Iraqi women sat around all comfy and cozy and talked about how great everything now was that Saddam Hussein had been deposed and the Americans were now running things in Iraq.

Oh, and "honor killings" are now on the rise. Funny, but it seems Laura Bush is now copying Karen Hughes, who famously went AWOL when the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah broke out. Hughes quickly chucked her "Public Diplomacy" portfolio and adopted a low profile, almost as though her "Public Diplomacy" efforts were a front that she discarded as soon as it became ever-so-slightly inconvenient.

2007/05/28

Memorial Day speeches

Very interesting! Congress prepares a bill to expand detainee rights at Guantanamo at the same time that VP Cheney speaks to West Point graduates, trashing the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions. At Guantanamo, only two people are identified as awaiting trials while the authorities there have plans to try only 75 more. There are about 380 prisoners there. Why these prisoners are so dangerous that they must be kept in confinement for over a half a decade is not at all clear, especially when so few of them can be credibly charged with anything.
BTW, the Department of Homeland Security has shown a very unimpressive record of only 12 terrorism convictions out of over 800,000 cases, a "success" rate of %0.0015.
But remember, according to Cheney: "Capture one of these killers, and he'll be quick to demand the protections of the Geneva Convention and the Constitution of the United States. Yet when they wage attacks or take captives, their delicate sensibilities seem to fall away." No clue here that perhaps the Geneva Conventions protect all of us, that perhaps when the shoe is on the other foot, when US soldiers, sailors or airmen are in enemy hands, maybe we'd like to have those protections applied to us. I guess Dick "five deferments" Cheney is more macho and heroic than the rest of us are.
Our tombstone display will be up until this afternoon opposite the Liberty Bell between 4th & 5th Streets on Market Street. And kudos to Fox29 for giving us a good video report on the display!

2007/05/22

What to do about outstanding subpoenas?

The Senate Judiciary Committee has threatened to subpoena Karl Rove for his role in the US Attorney firings that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has been giving such shifty and uninformative testimony about and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said she won't comply with the subpoena issued to her by the House Reform Committee. As Congress is covered under Article I of the Constitution and the presidency is under Article II, these two branches of our government are co-equal partners, but Congress is a "little bit more equal" than the presidency. As a military veteran, the way I'd put it is that the Executive Branch is being "insubordinate" towards the Legislative Branch, which generally results in what we refer to as "counseling". What's that you say? I might be angry because it doesn't look like the Legislative Branch will successfully end the Iraq War through legislative means? Let's just say that "counseling" has a wide variety of meanings. Granted, military superiors have strict limits on how mean they can be to subordinates, but they can have 'em hatin' life all the same.
So what can Congress do about Executive Branch personnel refusing to obey subpoenas? TPMMuckraker says that subpoenas are rarely followed through all the way to court and that they're usually either complied with or negotiated. What makes the difference between compliance and defiance? Public pressure!! We need to let our Congresscritters know that we're quite serious about wanting Executive Branch personnel to comply with their subpoenas, that we want to see Rove and Rice testify, under oath and in public.

Update: Very, very interesting. Seems the one thing that might make our President quit the game and leave Iraq might be an Iraqi failure to pass the Oil Law that the Bush Administration has been pushing for so long. "
Bush warned al-Maliki that Washington expected to see 'tangible results quickly' on the oil bill and other legislation as the price for continued support." [snip] "Senior Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman confirmed that U.S. pressure was mounting, especially on the oil bill, which was endorsed by the Iraqi Cabinet three months ago but has yet to come to the floor of parliament."

2007/05/21

Continuing relevance of FISA

I was tipped off to this OpEd by Glenn Greenwald.
In the third paragraph, Mike McConnell admits what FISA is all about:

FISA was created to guard against domestic government abuse and to protect privacy while allowing for appropriate foreign intelligence collection.

But he never returns to the point that the problem FISA is intended to solve involves human nature. Governments want to engage in far more surveillance than is necessary or is called for. Government tries to retain far more data about non-threatening peace groups and religious people than it needs to. The entirety of the rest of McConnell's OpEd concerns technology, but it's not at all clear that technology is the problem.

Many Americans would be surprised at just what the current law requires. To state the facts plainly: In a significant number of cases, our intelligence agencies must obtain a court order to monitor the communications of foreigners suspected of terrorist activity who are physically located in foreign countries.

But it's not that both parties are located in foreign countries, it's that at one end of the conversation is an American citizen physically located in the United States of America. That's the type of situation that requires a court order. That's because government officials would be constantly snooping in on conversations between American citizens and foreigners. If someone went backpacking in Europe seven or eight years ago and received a phone call from a fellow he met back then, that could open up a perfectly innocent American citizen to unneeded, unwarranted snooping in on what should be a private conversation. That's why FISA does not require the approval of a mere “shift supervisor,” that's why FISA requires a judge to spy on American citizens.


What does this have to do with technological changes? Nothing really. FISA was indeed passed in the era when computers had memories of 16 kilobytes and telephones had rotary dialing, but human nature remains the same. As a comparison, sure, Social Security was established in1934 because:


For most of human history, people lived and worked on farms in extended families and this was the foundation of their economic security. However, this changed as the developed world underwent the Industrial Revolution.
The extended family and the family farm as sources of economic security became less common as more and more people became wage-earners, working for others. Along with the shift from an agricultural to an industrial economy, Americans moved from farms and small rural communities to larger cities.

How has any of this changed? Are family farms any more likely to take care of elderly people in retirement today than in 1934? Hardly. Why does Social Security need to be updated? The answer is that it doesn't. Human nature is that folks spend what they have on hand and only wealthy people will put aside what they need for retirement. The reason Social Security has been an issue in our politics has been that investors wish to cut up Social Security and feed it to the wolves of Wall Street. They want to tear it apart for the sheer profit of it all. It's not an issue because of any changes that have occurred.

Likwise, FISA is designed the way it is because of human nature. Government engages in far more surveillance than is necessary for our security. The whole point of FISA was to prevent that.

I found it quite telling that Mr McConnell spends most of his OpEd discussing technology. The reason for that isn't hard to guess at.

2007/05/17

Doing the right thing: Timing

The Washington Post came out today in response to the Comey testimony and expressed shock that the Bush Administration could act in such a blatantly thuggish and lawless manner. Sending Alberto Gonzales and Andy Card to John Ashcroft's bedside to get him to sign off on an unlawful surveillance program struck the WaPo, quite properly, as reprehensible. But this was a side issue in the whole warrantless-wiretapping case. America knew about that case in December 2005 and a District Court Judge decided in August 2006 that it was without even a figleaf of legitimacy. A Bush Administration appointee said a few months back that he considered the program to still be legitimate and proceeded to name precisely those reasons that had been shot down by the District Court Judge!

I mean, hey it's great that the WaPo now sees the light and is speaking out against this disreputable behavior, but where have they BEEN since December 2005?!?! Making excuses for the Bush Administration and averting their eyes, mostly.

They're hardly the first ones to do this, they are aware that things are not the way they should be, but say nothing until the damage is long since done. I mean, it's great that George Tenet is now coming out and saying that the Iraq War was built on phony info, but the appropriate time for him to make this point was before the war was launched. As Crooks & Liars puts it:

Meet the Press continues the George Tenet buy my book traveling show. Dear Tim, please ask why Tenet felt that holding onto this information for four long years was acceptable — and how he thinks that fact ought to sit with family and friends of our soldiers stationed in Iraq and elsewhere, for starters.

I've written about David "Dean" Broder who also held his tongue just long enough for the Bush Administration to get away with what they were doing. Broder showed several weeks after the Swift Boat Vets attack on John Kerry's candidacy for the presidency petered out that he was fully aware of the dishonorable and disreputable nature of their attack on Kerry. Problem was, he was nowhere to be found when the attack was taking place, when a column by him exposing the Swift Boat Vets might have stopped them in their tracks.

As Glenn Greenwald points out, one kinda has to wonder just how long the WaPo's outrage will last. Will this be something that will shake them out of their torpor and lead them into devoting front-page stories to it, or will it be a one-day story that will never make it out of the back pages?

Further links on Comey testimony:
FireDogLake
Taylor Marsh
TalkingPointsMemo

2007/05/14

The Right-Wing Noise Machine falls on some hard times

I was talking with a buddy of mine from the anti-war movement and he was telling somebody else about "The Mighty Wurlitzer" which was going to bowl over every Democrat who tried to contradict the Republican message (See a good example of what he means). Seems to me progress has been pretty gradual, but I think the "Noise Machine" of the right wing has been losing steam lately. Exhibit #1 is Speaker Pelosi's trip to Syria taken during the first week in April. The mainstream media tried really, really hard to make her trip seem controversial, as though she had done great damage to US foreign policy. The polls are now in and her approval rating is virtually unchanged. She's fallen a whole point, going from 46% approval to 45% approval. At the same time, President Bush scored only a 35% approval.
Keep in mind that the WaPo, two major pundits from NBC, a CNN anchor and the usual right-wingers, the Weekly Standard and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), all criticized her Syria trip. Secretary of State Rice also had some very negative comments to make about Pelosi's trip: "She claimed Pelosi had only gone to Damascus 'to have those pictures' and to suggest a relationship 'that doesn’t exist with Syria.' ” CNN ran a caption "Talking with the Enemy" as though Americans regarded Syria as on a par with the former Nazi Germany or the now-collapsed Soviet Union. (They don't. According to World Public Opinion, 75% of Americans think talking with Syria is a good idea.)
Why is the RWNM so impotent at this point? I'd guess they've just hit the panic button too many times, for one. People get tired of being fearful all of the time, they get jaded and cynical after being told "Wolf" over and over and over again, they realize after awhile that people that we're supposed to trust are inveterate liars who can't be trusted, lots of reasons having to do with simple burn-out. If the old adage is true, that "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on," then Truth is now fully dressed and ready to kick butt and take names.
Also, seems to me that with a critical mass of people getting their information from the blogs (The blog Firedoglake says that its readers are "discerning, highly informed, roughly forty years old (on average) and often hold advanced degrees. Ads here will reach 2 million unique visitors per month."), that means that people are getting more and more used to the idea that, by going online and by intelligently weighing the different accounts, they can get a reasonable approximation of the truth. And trustworthiness in the regular media is taking some really hard hits recently. The Bill Moyers documentary on the lead-up to the Iraq War is causing all sorts of heartburn and distress among major media figures. The very highly cynical and disrespectful Jon Stewart is enjoying a huge success with the under-30 crowd and the blog DailyKos is getting almost a half-million hits a day. The retired General Batiste of VoteVets is also a prime example (In this example, VoteVets slams the Bush Administration's dishonest use of the word "fascist.")
The number of people who believe that any particular source of information is automatically trustworthy is steadily shrinking. The Noise Machine has certainly seen better days. Let's hope the days get far worse for them.

2007/05/12

Retired General John Batiste fired by CBS

It was unfortunately, an entirely predictable scenario. An on-air analyst for CBS (The station where Katie Couric proved that she's a hard-line, right-wing conservative) came out in an ad done for VoteVets.org criticizing "Dear Leader" G W Bush. Batiste was promptly canned and CBS made a statement saying that their written policies do not permit open, explicit political advocacy.

Well, guess what? Yup, the blogs started searching back through the careers of other CBS on-air analysts and promptly found at least two (As of late May 11) other on-air commentators who openly and explicitly advocated for the "surge" policy in Iraq and for the presidential candidacy of Senator John McCain.

Problem: The rule of law is based on the idea that laws are enforced in a fair, objective and impartial manner (And no, no actual laws are at issue here; with CBS, we're talking about an internal, self-imposed rule). In a democracy, laws and rules apply equally to everyone. When CBS or anyone else enforces rules in a blatantly partisan, unfair manner, that hurts the credibility of all laws and rules. When any large institution applies rules so that they apply in some instances, but not in others, that means people have to get by or get ahead using less-then-clear rules.

That's bad for everybody who doesn't like living under a monarchy or a dictatorship. That's the essential distinction between what they used to call "Rule by law" vs "Rule by men (people)." I saw a column several years ago where an elder, white conservative guy said basically "Hey we shouldn't be so hard on elder white guys who happen to be hypocrites, people who condemn President Clinton for having an affair while having had affairs themselves." Pardon me, but yes, we should! Neither is it much better to have condemned Clinton for his affair while going easy on later public figures who did much the same thing. When a former Speaker of the House criticizes a current Speaker of the House for something that the former Speaker did when he was in office, that's an extremely relevant point that should be taken quite seriously. Of course, not all accusations of hypocrisy are equal. People condemned feminists for giving Clinton a pass on the issue of sexual harassment, but it wasn't clear that he actually engaged in that particular conduct.

For further thought on the issue of hypocrisy, Concurring Opinions reprints a passage from a story involving what appears to be the Right Honorable James Hacker, MP (Member of Parliament). Marvellously dry humor.

2007/05/06

Author of the "surge" defends same

Frederick Kagan wrote an article in the NY Times pleading for Americans to support the "surge" (Really an "escalation" as there's no indication as to when it will ever end) in Iraq. What are Kagan's qualifications to have designed the escalation? Well, he is a scholar. He's a former professor of military history (He specialized in the Soviet Union) and has published several peer-reviewed articles, but none of those articles were in either the Mideast nor were they in guerrilla warfare.

Late in his piece, I found a very interesting paragraph:

"When Moktada al-Sadr called for fellow Shiites to demonstrate against the American surge last month, General Petraeus wrote an open letter to the Iraqi people pointing out that such demonstrations would not have been permitted under Saddam Hussein, and asking the demonstrators to avoid violence. In the end, the demonstrations were limited in scale and peaceful, and fears that Sunni terrorists would set off a wave of attacks on the protesters proved unfounded."

First off, al-Sadr was calling for a demonstration against the American occupation of Iraq, not merely the escalation. Second, I found it very interesting that in a contemporary gathering of pieces on the march (From the BBC, Al Jazeera, UK Guardian and IslamOnLine) there's no mention of a letter, "open" or otherwise from Petraeus. If he ever wrote such a letter, it didn't come to the attention of anyone in Iraq or in the larger Middle East.

Did the followers of al-Sadr need to advised to avoid violence? There's no question there was a great deal of violence at the march, but all of the violence was directed against inanimate objects:

"Many in the crowds were seen trampling on and striking US and Israeli flags painted on the ground with their shoes, an act considered one of the worst insults in Arab culture."

But as Juan Cole points out:

"...some journalists are writing that al-Sadr called for violent attacks on US troops, the communique he released on Sunday simply says that Iraqi Army troops and Mahdi Army militiamen should not fight one another and should not allow the Americans to manipulate them."

Was the march reduced at all? Doubtful, as there were about a million Iraqis there. That doesn't sound like a march that was "limited in scale." It's not at all clear that the appeal allegedly put out by Petraeus, if there ever was any such appeal, had any effect whatsoever. I think this "open letter" of General Petraeus falls under the category of what Markos Moulitsas referred to as "making shit up."

2007/05/05

More on David Broder

I've written before about David Broder, a once-respected columnist who appears to be ready for the rocking chair, who just the other day opined for an online chat. He's asked first why he's a "centrist" as the country seems to have gone pretty solidly for liberal solutions in preference to the conservative solutions in just about every category:

I have to disagree. I think the country is closely balanced, with a controlling group in the center that rejects extreme positions and seeks practical solutions drawn from the agendas of both liberals and conservatives. Most Americans I meet are not ideologues of any sort; they are practical people seeking practical solutions to real challenges.

Nah, that doesn't make any sense to me, either. The main problem with the last six-plus years is that we've had an extremist, right-wing government that seeks fringe, far-right, highly ideological solutions for every problem. The latest diplomatic missed opportunity is typical. Secretary of State Rice attended a conference of Middle Eastern nations devoted to stabilizing Iraq. It was attended by Iran, but nothing happened diplomatically between the US and Iran because apparently, no prior groundwork had been done to make anything happen. A question-and-answer session with a Democratic national-security expert established that:

3. "But Rice didn’t talk to Iran. Tell us about the interesting news out of that hand off to underlings." - TM
BEERS: "That’s right. only the ambassador and the State Dept. coordinator talked to Iranians. Not a good start. Someone reported this week that the State Dept. was told by the Iranians that their Foreign Minister wasn’t plugged in enough to talk to. Go figure."
--------
6. "Honestly, how 'plugged in' do you have to be to get talks started where none existed before?" - TM
BEERS: "EXACTLY. You have to start. and it doesn’t matter where. That’s diplomacy 101, but these guys and girls don’t get it."
[minor edits done]

This is not simply a Bush Administration problem. This is a problem of conservatives vs liberals. Bush and Co have taken the approach of "Do it our way. NOW!!!" or as you like "My way or the highway." It's simply not possible to split the difference on this sort of issue. One cannot simply borrow from both liberal and conservative views on how to solve this. There's a fundamental incompatibility between the conservative/Bush Administration approach to foreign nations and actually getting something done. BTW, our Democratic national-security expert, Rand Beers, continues on the possibility of war between the US and Iran:


15. "Care to comment on this? The results of an attack on Iran could be horrendous. After all, according to a recent study of 'the Iraq effect' by terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, using government and Rand Corporation data, the Iraq invasion has already led to a seven-fold increase in terror. The 'Iran effect' would probably be far more severe and long-lasting. British military historian Corelli Barnett speaks for many when he warns that 'an attack on Iran would effectively launch World War III.' ” - Oklahoma kiddo
BEERS: "An invasion of Iran would be an ever greater disaster than Iraq, no question. WW III, probably not, but a major expansion of hostilities against a much more effective enemy than bin Ladin or the Iraqi insurgents."

As the Bush Administration appears to be pretty gung-ho for an invasion of Iran, this doesn't strike me as a problem that's really open to discussion and negotiation between conservatives and liberals:


Iran, too, was in the administration’s sights. The Israeli attack on Lebanon, according to Seymour Hersh, was to 'serve as a prelude to a potential American preemptive attack to destroy Iran's nuclear installations.' But first, the Bush administration needed to get rid of Hezbollah’s capacity to retaliate against Israel in the event of a U.S. strike on Iran, which apparently prompted Hezbollah's buildup of Iranian-supplied missiles in the first place.

The fact that Bush and Co are being less-than-forthright about their intentions via-a-vis Iran is another reason NOT to see the Bush Administration vs America split as being one that can be arranged or negotiated between conservative and liberal factions. In order for there to be serious negotiations, both sides have to honestly and forthrightly "put their cards on the table" and tell the other side what their intentions are. There's no sign that Bush and Co are doing this.

Here's an interesting Q&A that occurred later in the Broder interview:


Anonymous: "Your anti-Reid column was thoroughly unconvincing. It struck me as a rather desperate attempt to maintain your 'pox on both their houses' schtick, the other side of your ever-present 'bipartisanship is the answer' coin. Why is it so hard for you to admit that Bush is, in fact, a uniquely bad president who has led the Republican party into a ditch that no blue-ribbon commission of respected elder statesmen from both parties can save us from?"
David S. Broder: "Perhaps because I have come to have deep respect for the wisdom of the American people, who, in 2004, chose to reelect George W. Bush as president. I have been very critical of his policies, economic, diplomatic and military. But I am unwilling to assume that I am so much smarter than the voting public that I will dismiss as worthless someone they have chosen as president of the United States."

First off, the interview piece points out that Broder had no such scruples when it came to dealing with President Clinton and second, it seems to me that, due to the "Swift Boat Veterans" smear job on presidential candidate John Kerry, it's not exactly like America made a calm and deliberate choice for president [all emphases in original]:

But we were even more struck by The Dean’s assessment of those Swift Boat Veteran complaints. What happened this summer, according to Broder? According to Broder, John O’Neill and his Swift Boat Veterans launched "a scurrilous and largely inaccurate attack on the Vietnam service of John Kerry." But then, The Dean displays some strange reasoning. For reasons only The Dean can explain, he slams his colleagues for having been "diverted" into "chasing this sham event."
What a strange bit of reasoning! Broder doesn’t say who is at fault for "chasing this sham event." But surely, if Broder’s assessment of the Swift Vets is accurate, the major media should have done more in taking apart their fake claims! It’s hard to measure such matters, of course. But the "scurrilous" claims of those Swift Boat Veterans may have transformed this White House campaign! If the claims in these ads were "scurrilous and inaccurate," why shouldn’t news orgs have taken them on? Indeed, shouldn’t the nation’s big news orgs have gone after these claims that much harder?
"No, Broder doesn’t flesh out his reasoning. But good news! By way of contrast, his real-time conduct is there for all to see. According to Broder, John O’Neill launched a "scurrilous attack" on a White House front-runner—a scurrilous attack which was "largely inaccurate." So here’s our question: Did Broder ever tell readers this, as these scurrilous attacks gained traction? Did Broder ever warn his readers about these bogus charges? Did Broder ever inform his readers that John O’Neill was a vile, nasty man? In short, did Broder ever get off his ass and try to defend his democracy?
The answer is obvious—no, he did not. This tired old man was dozing again as these "scurrilous, largely inaccurate" claims transformed your White House campaign. And it’s not as if he simply said nothing. Six weeks ago, when the press should have acted, Broder wrote a pair of columns which focused on the Swift Boat ads. But neither column says a word about the Swift Vet claims being bogus. Quite the contrary—Broder almost implied that Kerry deserved his butt-whuppin’ from the riled Vets.

The 2004 election was not only NOT an example of Americans making a sober and reasoned choice between Bush & Kerry, Broder himself assisted the Swift Boat Vet attacks by remaining silent at a critical time. At a time when he could have used his influence as a "big-foot" columnist to ensure that American citizens were enabled to make an intelligent, informed choice, Broder instead assisted the Bush camp into pulling the wool over the eyes of Americans. Broder performs a two-step where he maintains the appearance of wide-eyed innocence while doing a great deal, through silence and inaction, to assist Bush into being the "choice" of Americans and then says "But I am unwilling to assume that I am so much smarter than the voting public that I will dismiss as worthless someone they have chosen as president of the United States."


One looks at David Broder's picture, one can then look at my attack on him and say "Aw geez, there's Rich, attacking poor old, frail Dave again, mugging the ol' guy for kicks." But it's very important to understand just what Broder is saying and that the "bewildered innocent" act is an act and that the inspiring rhetoric is just that, rhetoric. Broder has been an opinion columnist for many decades. There's nothing accidental or unwitting about what he says.

2007/05/01

Bush's veto speech 2May07

"Twelve weeks ago, I asked the Congress to pass an emergency war spending bill that would provide our brave men and women in uniform with the funds and flexibility they need. Instead, members of the House and the Senate passed a bill that substitutes the opinions of politicians for the judgment of our military commanders. So a few minutes ago, I vetoed the bill." [emphasis added]

Gee, I guess it's a really terrible and awful thing for a civilian to override the judgement of a military commander on the ground, eh? But what's with this statement from December?

"Asked if he would overrule his own military commanders if they opposed a plan to increase troop levels [i.e. the "surge"] in Iraq, Bush called the question a 'dangerous hypothetical.' "
"Let me wait and gather all the recommendations from Bob Gates, from our military, from diplomats on the ground interested in the Iraqis' point of view and then I'll report back to you as to whether or not I support a surge or not."

Well, as it turned out, Bush DID substitute his opinion as a politician for the professional opinions of the military commanders who felt that the "surge" (Really an "escalation" as there is no obvious end date for the "surge" to draw to a close) was a bad idea. In fact, he doesn't even say here that the opinions of the military commanders are his primary consideration, they're just one among many groups that all have an input into what was a military decision, but which was also a highly political one. After all, the "surge" impacted the citizens of Iraq, had an impact on Arab opinions across the Middle East and put an extra strain on US supply lines.

Not that there's anything wrong with the Commander in Chief overriding commanders in the field. The C-in-C is entitled to be "The Decider" for the military and to have the final say. In fact, a decision concerning withdrawal is one that a military commander would describe as "above my paygrade." Deciding whether to call off the Iraq War and to bring the troops home is NOT a purely military decision. Certainly, uniformed personnel on the ground in Iraq are entitled to their opinions and it's always a good idea to listen to what those ideas and cautions and qualifications are, but it's not like their opinions are the only ones that matter. Far from it. The decision as to whether to call the war off is one that the American public has already made. Bush is just trying to bully the Congress into backing down on the latest "emergency" spending bill.