Friday, December 29, 2006

intellectual integrity and Republicans....

Yes, I thought some good humor was in order before the end of the year. Intellectual integrity and Republicans go together like the Houston Texans and good American football, like Paris Hilton and brains, like R. Kelly and your 14 year-old-niece. It doesn't matter whether it's troops, Secretary of Defense (for Heaven's sakes) telling him the "surge" (can we just call it an increase in troops? is it that hard to be honest with the people whose children, grandchildren, cousins, parents, grandkids, you're killing?. Another prominent military figure, a major in charge of American training has said that, essentially, we don't have an interest in the result between the two warring parties in Iraq. He has essentially conceded that the US forces are bystanders in Iraq, either innocent or not, but that we are not integral to the outcome. And yet this bad news from people who would know does not stop people who don't know from pushing old news or just tired propaganda to push the idea that they were somewhat right about something.

Another interesting post about the matter of President Bush’s unwillingness to implement the suggestions of experts, and those who, you know, know more about the Middle East than him (my 18 month old nephew (but not 6 month old….) among them)) from Sidney Blumenthal. He points out that of course these are not the first experts to warn him about the impending explosion of sectarian ties. But as this war has now dragged on so long, this warning happened over two years ago. And not just from a mid-level commander or something, but from the CIA Station Chief in Baghdad. He had written a memo in November 2004 entitled “The Expanding Insurgency Iraq” in which he stated (correctly-and nothing has been done to change course yet) that in Sunni provinces, the insurgency was “largely unchallenged” and the failure to address their concerns was “bolstering their confidence.” He also predicted over 2000 dead. So he was invited to the White House where, according to Thomas Ricks’ book, ”Fiasco”, President Bush dismissed him by asking later about him, “What is he, some kind of defeatist?”

So we see how the President deals with legitimate observations. Those indeed, probably do not rise to the level of criticism. It is his job as an intelligence officer to assemble information to present a picture of the state on the ground and not necessarily to prescribe solutions. This he did. And yet because his observations were absent from the President’s active fantastic image of Iraq which he carries in his head, he was dismissed, and glibly.

Another interesting point about Bush’s reception of advice is his comment in anticipation of the release of the Baker-Hamilton report. As it is, the report had not even come out yet, and yet he glibly (there’s that word again) downplayed its conclusions by saying that “We probably won’t agree with every proposal…we’ll act on it in a timely fashion.” Perhaps he should just have had a blue-ribbon committee make the case for staying on indefinitely as it’s obvious he was just trying to lend luster to his mediocre (actually no, that’s an insult to mediocrity) leadership.

Blumenthal also points out that Bush, after one of his top lieutenants (Stephen Hadley, one of the truest of believers in the Bush regime) had just been revealed to have written a memo demeaning the abilities of Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki, invited prominent radical Shi’ite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim whose organization is supported by the Badr Brigade, a group which has taken an active role in polarizing and dividing Iraqis by linking ethnicity and religion ever more explicitly. Yes, we need to move away from moderate leaders who might be able to unite disparate bodies of people in favor of fringe rabble-rousers appealing to peoples’ more base beliefs. A uniter, not a divider right?

Update: Read this in Juan Cole's piece on the execution of Saddam for Salon but forgot to mention it. Just now read more about it at Crooks and Liars. Apparently this weekend is a very holy weekend for Muslims: the Eid, or the day on which Muslims commemmorate Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Jacob for God. Sunnis (of which Saddam was one) celebrate it on Saturday which means the holiday was just opening when Saddam was killed. Shi'ites celebrate it on Sunday and of course the government is disproportionately composed now of Shi'ites. So Saddam is being sacrificed not only on a Holy day, but on a day which is contested by Shi'ites and which Sunnis disagree with their brethren on. The ultimate loss for Saddam. Again, this is not expressing sympathy for Saddam but simply saying that if you really wish to win "Hearts and Minds" (remember? The relatively halcyon days of 2003...), you must respect the traditions and the culture of a country. George Bush has disrespected Muslims in general, and Iraqis in a more specific sense, at every turn. He was never going to be able to win hearts and minds given the tenor of his foreign policy.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

more troops?

So I've read acouple of articles in the last few days which really capture the idiocy of sending in only a tiny number of additional troops.

Professor Juan Cole, whose Informed Comment is your one-stop shop for information about the destruction in the Middle East (not just Iraq) is right on point in noting that 20 or 30,000 troops (the President talks about them with all the gravity you might talk about the latest Hollywood blockbusters) will not stem the sectarian violence in Iraq. As Army Chief of Staff Eric Shineseki predicted back in early 2003, and which accurate statement brought him a pink slip from Mr. Known Knowns, and also reportedly discouraged other Generals from speaking out about the threats to our position in Iraq-to the detriment of the US military and Iraq (and world security), if the US was really serious about securing the country and ensuring stability and that Iraqi society was secure (those who believe this, I have some stocks to sell you as well....) they would have sent nearer to half-a-million of our young men and women over to Iraq. Of course, it's good that not more have died, but obviously with the age ceiling raised in order to allow for more willing troops, the softening of the laws that prohibit criminals from serving in the military, and the myriad recruiting violations by recruiters less and less able to honestly attract recruits, there was no way that a force of this size could be gained. And unfortunately, in spite of the accuracy of predictions of folks like Shinseki and Thomas White, another guy who, as in the above link about the dismissal of Shinseki, lost his job for, you know, doing his job. Not that it is a good idea to send troops.

But if (perhaps the world's biggest if ever) we were serious about securing the country, that's the number of troops we'd need to do it. However, as Bush says, oh so often (though, oh-so-suprisingly, not as often anymore...) he'll listentothe Generals, except when, you know, he won't.

And with regard to Ted Rall's commentary, he's utterly right; the invasion of Iraq was such a bad idea from day one that no minor shifts in policy would ever truly recover the credibility of its architects. Only a complete renunciation and turn from it would begin to fix the situation. And unfortunately, with wonderful advisers like Henry Kissinger, and a stubbornness that hints strongly at Bush's authoritarian streak, one wouldn't know that Bush's mandate was soundly rejected during the November elections, or that his approval rating has been in the 30s for the last several months, or the fact that just today, he said "it's not as bad as it looks" (famous last words many times over and really, lowering the expectations far below what a civilized (?) modern country should expect).

As these writers have said, there is no easy solution to the problmes in Iraq and things are not going to get easier. They're just going to get harder. It's leaving now or it's leaving later in the manner of the final evacuation from Saigon.

Friday, December 15, 2006

this is what's happening in Iraq

Great post from Dahr Jamail featuring some of the correspondence he has had recently with his contacts in Iraq. He was an unembedded reporter in Iraq for a couple of years until it became implausible even for an Arab-American who speaks Arabic. Anyway, his correspondence is heartbreaking although of course not at all unexpected. This is what your government is causing in your name.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Is this thing (still) on?

Could apply to this blog, could apply to the war. Although I'd happily discontinue this blog for an end to the war. That said, we all know that is not happening any time soon. So I guess I need to fight on. In that spirit, here's some of the correspondence that Iraqi-American journalist Dahr Jamail has received in recent times as things descend (yes, they still are and will be able to for as long as we pursue fuck-witted policies) further in Iraq. Terrible. But important to get out the word that these are real people in Iraq. Real soldiers too, whose so-called commander-in-chief and the pasty-faced Pillsbury Dough Boy a.k.a. Karl Rove and Dick ""Other priorities" Cheney continue to promote.