It appears the Bush/Cheney administration has started to wake up and smell reality concerning Iraq. What was the alarm clock that awoke the White House from its dream of a Middle East subsidiary of BushCo? Personally, I think it was millions of Americans expressing their opinion at the voting booth. It's just extremely unfortunate that Americans waited until 2006 to send a message to its leaders that should have been sent in 2004. Smart leadership in 2004 really would have improved the chances for a successful outcome in Iraq. Staying the course has only allowed Iraq to spiral downward into further chaos.
Now that the very idea of a unified Iraq is about to fly off the edge of a cliff, and now that Bush and Cheney are no longer busy campaigning everyday for the Republican party, the White House can now focus their attention on what really matters. Everyone would like a positive outcome in Iraq, but is it too late?
The Iraq Study Group
The release of any information from the much anticipated Iraq Study Group report was purposefully delayed until after the November elections and the ISG report is not expected to be made public until the end of the year. Nonetheless, the ISG did meet with the Bush/Cheney administration and cabinet members on November 13th.
Some speculation about some of the ideas that the ISG may have given the administration has focussed on possible diplomatic engagement with Iran and Syria. From previous statements, James Baker and Robert Gates both seem to share this approach. I don't hold out much hope for direct diplomatic talks from Bush/Cheney neocons, but I do see some opportunity for third party intermediaries to accomplish some success in this approach.
Certainly, if the Iraq Study Group suggested to the White House to start to engage Iraq's neighbors, the administration has started with their allies in the region first. As the South African based Mail and Guardian reports, Vice President Dick Cheney flew into Saudia Arabia for a one-day meeting with King Abdullah, and another key ally, Jordan, is hosting a meeting between Iraqi PM al-Maliki and President Bush next Wednesday -- but getting all the players to focus singularly on Iraq without everyone dragging in other issues will be difficult.
The Levin Plan
About two months ago, the much-respected and current Republican Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John Warner (VA) and the incoming Democratic Chairman, Carl Levin (MI) visited Iraq. They met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, and other cabinet ministers in the Iraqi government. I watched their press conferences when they returned. VA Senator Warner could not echo the positive proclamations coming from his political party's White House. You could see the anguish on his face and hear it in his voice.
On November 13th, MI Senator Carl Levin gave a press conference, obstensibly to outline the priorities of his upcoming term as chairman. You can watch the entire press conference with RealVideo via C-Span, here. Iraq is the obvious first priority, and about six minutes into his statements, Senator Levin got unusually animated when he spoke about the way forward in Iraq:
The American people are not accepting the Presidential view, which is that we are, quote, "we are absolutely winning," a view expressed by the President just a few weeks ago. They're not accepting the Vice President's view of a few weeks ago, "full speed ahead in Iraq."
Those sound like statements that were made years ago in Iraq. Those were statements made just a few weeks ago -- ignoring the obvious reality on the ground in Iraq -- that we're getting deeper and deeper into a hole; that we should stop digging; and that we should look for alternatives in order to promote the chances of success in Iraq.
As many of you know, it's been my belief, which is shared by about forty Senators in the Senate who voted for the Levin-Reed resolution, that the way in which we can promote the chances of success in Iraq is by putting pressure on the Iraqi leadership to reach political compromises which are essential to ending the violence, and ending the insurgency, and avoiding civil war. They, and they alone, are going to decide whether they're going to have a nation or whether they're going to have an all-out civil war.
We have given them the opportunity at huge cost of blood and treasure to have a nation, should they choose it. But it is up to them, not us, not our brave, and not our valiant troops. It's up to the Iraqi leadership. Do they want a civil war or do they want a nation?
And, to just to continue to tell them that we're going to give them whatever protection we're able to give them in a Green Zone does not promote the decision which only they can make. It does not force them to take steps to resolve those differences.
They've made promises to each other. They've made promises to the world. They were supposed to consider amendments to their constitution within ninety days of the beginning of the assembly. They did not keep that promise.
They adopted a very formal, signed, plan to reduce the violence in Baghdad. It was a plan which the Prime Minister gave great promotion to, he talked about in public, just a few months agos. When we there on our last trip, the prime minister told us that it was going to be signed that night, and it was, on October 3rd.
Just a month ago, there was a signed agreement among the factions that they would act to end the violence in Baghdad, and in Iraq. They have not kept that agreement.
And so, I've reached a conclusion -- which again, I reached long ago -- that as long as the Iraqis believe that we're there in some open-ended way, that we're then taking the pressure off them to make some very difficult decisions about sharing power and resources; ending this insurgency; ending this connection of their police to the militias; and ending, even yes, the connection between the army, apparently, and the militias, of which there was evidence just in this last weekend's New York Times.
These are significant, damaging characteristics of the current police and army. It's got to end. But, it's not going to end, if they think we're an ongoing, unending, security blanket for them in the so-called Green Zone in Baghdad.
It's very much worth it to watch the entire video from this press conference in order to understand the transcript segment I've made for you, to hear the emphasis in his words, and to listen to the media question-and-answer segment in which he also speaks about the Iraq Study Group, aka the Baker-Hamilton Commission.
On this Thanksgiving Day holiday, I thought I should try to think of some things for which I should be thankful as an American. Mostly, I'm thankful the political system seemed to work two weeks ago and the will of the America people seemed to envision the beginning of some kind of correction in the future course of our country.
Unfortunately, I have no temptation to relax or celebrate the Democratic Party's Congressional victory very much because there remains the stark reality that the Bush/Cheney administration is still in power for about the next 800 days. A lot can happen in two years.
Remember how after the 2004 Bush/Cheney election victory, I started referring to George Bush as The Democrusader when I heard his inaugural address? Similarly, former Reagan administration official, editor and author, Paul Craig Roberts, referred to Andrew Bacevich's book, The New American Militarismand warned us all about the foolishness of Empire and Militant Christianity:
The new American militarism has abandoned the Founding Fathers, deserted the Constitution, and unrestrained the executive. War is a first resort. Militarism is inconsistent with globalism and with American ideals. It will end in abject failure.
The world is a vast place. The US has demonstrated that it cannot impose its will on a tiny part known as Iraq. American realism may yet reassert itself, dispel the fog of delusion, cleanse the body politic of the Jacobin spirit and lead the world by good example. But this happy outcome will require regime change in the US.
Roberts wrote this two years ago, thousands of casualties ago, and before the Military Commissions Act of 2006 stripped us all of basic legal rights. The good example of legalizing torture for the rest of the regimes in the world is not something anyone in the U.S. should politically justify. We've only started down the path to regime change.
Darth Cheney still has imperial dreams in the broader Middle East. Bush seems to be mentally unravelling even further in the face of his grand failures. Bush 41 is emotionally crushed to hear what people really think of his idiot son. With their domestic political egos badly damaged, I still fear the warmongers in the White House may continue their plan for declaring victory in Iraq by simply changing the subject and waging war with Iran.
When I wrote Rush to the Next War last month, I didn't have the benefit of reading Seymour Hersh's last article. However, the details he fleshes out in his article should be taken seriously. Yoda has the access, foshizzle. Almost everyone agrees that the same mechanisms are being used to go to war with Iran as were used to go to war with Iraq.
Politically, the Bush/Cheney adminstration says it offers diplomacy, but offers none. They simply prefer regime change to a diplomatic solution with Iran. The Iranian Directorate was set up this year in the same Pentagon office as Cheney's infamous Office of Special Plans, that cooked up all the pre-war intelligence on Iraq.
The Pentagon office is stove-piping raw intelligence reports to Darth Cheney's office again, to the horror and dismay of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Israelis are training Kurdish Special Units in the north of Iraq and our own Special Ops teams are making incursions into Iranian territory for recon and intel gathering.
As I said before, don't expect the Democratic Party to stop a war with Iran, if Darth Cheney wants it. Even Democratic celebrities like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have already supported a hard-line with Tehran. Additionally, the Congressional leadership change doesn't seem to hopeful for peace, either.
The chairman for the House International Relations Committee will be Representative Thomas Lantos from California. He's a known tool for AIPAC -- and as the Detroit-based, award-winning columnist, Bill Gallagher, just recently reminded us -- Lantos was in charge of the infamous pre-Gulf War hearings hoax, 15 years ago:
The Democrats can make a difference, but their new majority status brings a real obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Rep. Thomas Lantos, D-Calif., is set to become chairman of the House International Relations Committee. Lantos' views are in complete conformity with the Likud Party and AIPAC.
Lantos lost all credibility in the first Gulf War. That's when he held a hearing on Saddam's invasion of Kuwait and helped foster one of the great lies in that episode. Lantos brought in a compelling witness who described Iraqi troops going into a hospital in Kuwait City, disconnecting infants from neonatal units and taking the expensive equipment to Baghdad.
The beautiful, tearful young woman spoke in excellent English as she told the committee about Saddam's ruthless infanticide. Her story became one of the most repeated arguments for the need to drive Saddam from Kuwait.
Lantos said his star witness could not be identified for her "protection." Months later, the truth emerged. The woman was the daughter of Kuwait's ambassador to the United States and she was here at the time of the invasion. Her whole story was a hoax, used to sell the war.
Lantos knew who she was, but lied to his colleagues and the world about her act. The Democrats should not allow Lantos to dictate policies on the Middle East.
The American, Israeli, and Islamist warmongers have an infrastructure of power and propaganda. They will likely lash out and force events, when they're cornered or have to compromise their agenda. These people need to be denounced -- whether or not they may make their arguments for war in practiced, polite and calm tones of voice on television -- or raucous and spontaneous outrage on the streets.
Extremists, and xenophobes, and fearful people, will call for more war, more determination, and more sacrifice for victory by "us over them." Peaceful-minded Americans, Israelis, and Muslims around the globe need to remain mindful and take heed. The next two years may be troubling times as the two competing visions of the future of Our Little Spinning Ball of Mud® intensifies and when these opposing visions of war and peace are forced down the funnels of decision and future human events.
Earlier this month, I blogged about some of the immediate political ramifications of the Bush/Cheney administration's decision to replace Donald Rumsfeld with Robert Gates as U.S. Secretary of Defense. And, I had a little snarky fun in doing so. I admit it. Now, I think it might be time to more seriously review some very recent history before we get too overly hopeful that some of these post-election changes of political personality will have on the future of our Little Spinning Ball Of Mud ®.
Certainly, other than Bush and Cheney themselves, Rumsfeld has been the public face of the Bush/Cheney administration's so-called War on Terror. Contemporary authors have already written and future historians will write volumes (assuming we all live long enough to need historians) about Donald Rumsfeld's prosecution of the Afghan and Iraq wars.
Rumsfeld is this generation's Robert McNamara -- and oddly enough -- both reviled Secretaries of Defense hovering over the operations of failed military strategies of flawed foreign policies are similar in many ways. They even look similar in appearance. Read the resumès of both people. Both were very successful as corporate executives. Most notably, McNamara in the automotive industry at Ford Motor Company and Rumsfeld in the pharmaceutical industry at Searle. Both were hailed as successful and analytical reformers. Perhaps, future presidents should take note and will look beyond corporate America for future leaders of the Department of Defense.
One of the most publicized Vietnam-era, anti-war, anti-pentagon personal acts of protest happened when Norman Morrison, a Quaker, set himself on fire in front of Robert McNamara's office window. While it only took a post-election, politically self-serving administration to remove Donald Rumsfeld last week, I feel most compelled to point out an odd symmetry of self immolation.
Sadly, the day before Donald Rumsfeld resigned, Malachi Ritscher, an Illinois artist and anti-war protestor, also set himself on fire on the side of a Chicago freeway during rush hour traffic to publicize his final and ultimate protest against the Iraq war.
Despite the fact that we now live in the information age, are we all too cynical, or just programmed and brainwashed to accept the mass violence of Iraq or the personal tragedy as unnoteworthy? Is it Iraq-fatigue? If a white blonde girl set herself on fire to protest war, would Barbie Doll sales go down?
It is fairly clear to people who have been paying attention to the Pentagon for the last five years, Rumsfeld didn't play well with others, except with his future retirement community neighbor and Project for a New America Century (PNAC) co-founder, vice president Dick Cheney. One of the reasons for not accepting Rumsfeld's earlier resignations was the domino theory of politics -- once Rumsfeld fell, people would call for resignation or impeachment of the next one up in the dysfunctional chain of command.
Rumsfeld was key to enacting Cheney's policies, but jealous of George Tenet's CIA because the CIA already had plans for Afghanistan ready when 9/11 happened and the Pentagon did not. The CIA had been dealing with their warlords in Afghanistan for 20 years. Rumsfeld was arrogant, turf-protecting, and thought little of anyone in other agencies, like Powell or Rice in the State Department. Afghanistan and Iraq are slipping into the abyss because of the Bush/Cheney admistration's Katrina-syndrome. Despite all the inspiring political talk, they continue to fail.
So, now Donald Rumfeld will be gone if Robert Gates is confirmed as the next Secretary of Defense by the U.S. Senate. Even at age 75, Rumsfeld will likely spend his retirement testifying in front of Congressional committees and courts of law around the country for various ongoing civil rights lawsuits. He will likely not leave the country, as he is currently being brought up on war crimes charges in German federal court, now.
That is a photo of blood literally running in the streets, as the saying goes. While we were jumping up and down in celebration from the result of our own November elections last week, the rest of the world continued to spin seemingly out of control. The above photo was taken in the Gaza Strip, the day after the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) continued their attack since late June in occupied territory in a northern Gaza village called Beit Hanoun. More photos and outrage can be found on notinhisname.
Today, the U.N. Human Rights Council held a special session concerning the Israeli Defense Forces artillery shelling of Beit Hanoun in which 19 people were killed and some 60 others were severly injured. The UNHRC voted to send in an international fact-finding mission into Gaza and denounced recent IDF actions.
The politically polarizing U.S. ambassador, John Bolton, is not likely to be confirmed by a Democratically-controlled U.S. Senate after his Bush-appointment ends this year. Already, the U.S. Congress is passing around a letter to colleagues in order to gain support for a more acceptable candidate, Jim Leach.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who called the shelling of Beit Hanoun "a technical mistake" was touring the U.S. on a fund raising junket. After a militant Hamas group, Qassam Brigades, killed a woman and wounded several others in the never-ending cycle of retaliation with a barage of rockets in the nearby Israeli town of Sderot today, Olmert changed his miniminally concilliatory tone and vowed "to continue fighting the unceasing, murderous terror in the Gaza Strip."
Bolton's veto in the Security Council last week for a simple investigation into the Beit Hanoun "technical mistake" was characterized as "incomprehensible" by the head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa. According to a report on Democracy Now, Moussa announced that the Arab League will now go against the ongoing U.S. strategic stance of starving the Palestinian government and start sending funds.
Friday commemorated Veterans Day in the United States, although most people simply call this the Veterans Day weekend. The President even signed a proclamation that last week would be considered National Veterans Awareness Week. In it, the President states, "I encourage all Americans to recognize the valor and sacrifice of our veterans through ceremonies and prayers." I think all Americans honored veterans this past week by voting. The ultimate gift will be more intelligent leadership in the government that can secure the country through diplomacy first; when we need the military's might, we don't tie its hands by political elections. On the left is the Department of Veterans Affair's official poster for 2006. They have an interesting gallery of posters online and links about the history of this national holiday. As a military veteran myself, I honor all the veterans of earlier wars and conflicts. I was taught to respect my elders, and as a matter of simple common sense, I listen intently to people with experience to learn from them.
I also think we can listen and learn from the everyday men and women who are currently becoming more than our relatives and neighbors by fighting and dying in the current theaters of combat.
My personal observation of Veterans Day involved watching BookTV on C-Span, where military veteran authors talked about their recent experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few of the programs that I watched:
Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq Peter Laufer Watch Video
Ruff's War: A Navy Nurse on the Frontline in Iraq Cheryl Ruff Watch Video
What Was Asked of Us: An Oral History of the Iraq War by the Soldiers Who Fought It Trish Wood Watch Video
Another thing I did this Veterans Day weekend was check out the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. The LOC is becoming more available in digital form and this is one very cool example of that upgrade.
Honestly, I look to first-hand witnesses to filter the corporate or government media messages of the situation -- liberal, conservative, or completely made up lies.
I found one very interesting first-hand account of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan at the Library of Congress. This veteran was in a position to know. His name is Joseph B. Goellner, and at the time, he was an Army all-source intelligence technician tasked to support both the top ISAF military commander and the U.S. State Department's ambassador in Kabul. I transcribed the following quote from about the 19:00 minute mark in the videotaped interview.
Q: I have to ask you this. Do you think Osama bin Laden is still alive?
A: Well, that's a dangerous question. I personally do not. I personally think he died on December 14th, 2001 in the Tora Bora mission. But, officially in the government, from the government, we always say that, "He is alive," because we can't prove it yet.
Unfortunately, the area, the eastern part of Afghanistan is still very much a war zone, especially in the rural areas. And, we're not able to get up into Tora Bora to find out who we did kill that night. And, because on that night, we dropped several large crater-busting bombs in a small area. We knew there was a large contingent of what appeared to be Arabs. And, later on, the mountain, the whole side of the mountain changed because of the bombs. And, we've not been able to get up in there, and move, do engineering work to move away the rubble to see what is actually there.
And the other reason, that I say, that I believe, that Osama bin Laden died is he's too much of an ego-maniac to stay in hiding this long. And, these little tapes they send out -- can be anyone. I just believe that his ego would not have allowed him to stay unnoticed until now.
Q: And plus, he's like 6-foot-seven and needs kidney dialysis, how do you hide?
A: Yes ... yes, ma'am.
Hmmm. When do you think the goverment or the McMedia will begin to treat their 300-million strong audience with some respect and stop treating all of us like children, or fools?