Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Craig & Vitter

Just like U.S. involvement in Iraq shouldn't be analyzed without discussion of Afghanistan, what should happen to Larry Craig should not be discussed without the same question being raised regarding David Vitter.

John McCain and Norm Coleman - both Republicans running campaigns - believe Craig should resign. They don't say a thing and apparently haven't even been asked about David Vitter.

I can only interpret their silence on Vitter as being supportive. If so, they should speak out against the over-the-top prosecution by the US Justice Department of Debra Jean Palfrey.

For the record, I don't believe either should resign for what - in Vitter's case - I believe should be legal and for what - in Craig's case - is a minor legal violation. Their constituencies, though, should be allowed to consider their hypocrisy and the media should fully report on it. I, too, retain the right to mock them for their hypocrisy and genuinely bizarre behavior.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Future Republican Candidate?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Cutting Corners in Afghanistan

In my opinion, the biggest cost to our involvement in Iraq continues to be the fact that it prevents us from providing the necessary troops and resources necessary to succeed in Afghanistan.

This problem again became, sadly, clear today with the deaths of three British soldiers from a U.S. airstrike.

Now I know that unintentional deaths of coalition troops (friendly fire) or to the civilian population (collateral damage) are a cost of any military invaision and occupation. However, it is well known that these costs rise greatly the more you rely on an air war against insurgents as opposed to boots on the ground.

These unintentional deaths carry a great cost in the battle for hearts and minds. Every civilian death that results from an errant airstrike increases hostility toward the coalition forces and creates civilian support for the insurgency. The U.S. has been repeatedly condemned by Hamid Karzai and our allies for the damage caused by errant airstrikes. At soome point, the predictably results from these airstrikes no longer are considered accidents.

In my view, any intellectually honest discussion of the surge in Iraq or our continued occupation of that country needs to address the damage our involvement there is having on the international community's ability to succeed in Afghanistan.

Bush clearly avoids any discussion of Afghanistan whenever he discusses Iraq and the media has failed to ask the tough questions of Bush or rightwing hawks or anybody about this issue. It's up to elected Democrats and campaigning Democrats to make this point. Sadly, I haven't been hearing much about it and I fear our ability to succeed in Afghanistan is slowly slipping through our fingers.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Question of the Day: Is Al Anbar a "Success" of the Surge or Withdrawal?

Both in President Bush's speech yesterday and in a number of comments from Democrats (e.g. Hillary), I've heard of declining violence in Al Anbar. Bush, of course, is portraying this as a success of the surge. But isn't this really the result of capitulation to the Sunni warlords in Al Anbar?

Am I right in understanding that we changed our strategy in Al Anbar from one trying to bring the population under the control of the Shia dominated security forces and/or central government to one where we allow them complete local control and governance?

Given the almost complete Sunni make-up of Al Anbar, wasn't the violence there almost entirely against American and Iraqi troops and their civilian supporters?

So, in other words, isn't any success in Al Anbar actually the result of a partial withdrawal rather than any troop surge?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Drip Drip BOOM!

Seven NCOs who are finishing their 15 month deployments in Iraq were given high rent space on the NYT editorial page and this is what they wrote.

You'll be hearing a lot about it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Petraeus' "Pullback" Feint Exposed

The media is abuzz with this LA Times story in which unnamed officials spin the likelihood of General Petraeus calling for a pullback of troops from areas of "success." Such a proposal would obviously be spun as "the surge is working!"

Many liberal bloggers have rightfully caught the admission contained in the piece that the September report will actually be written by the White House and will not come directly from Petraeus as has widely been reported and perceived. However, another nugget in the piece is being overlooked that exposes the "pullback" claim as unrealistic spin.

The LA Times piece which carries today's date actually appeared on the web yesterday. Given the time for writing and editing the story, it is probable that the statements coming from Petraeus' spinners were made before yesterday's horrific bombings that killed more than 250.

Here's a passage from the LA Times piece on the expected proposal for a pullback:

Petraeus has not told the White House where he might recommend reductions. But military commanders have indicated in recent briefings that Nineveh province in northern Iraq and its capital, Mosul, like Al Anbar in the west, could be an area from which it might be suitable for the U.S. to withdraw.

And yesterday's attacks:

Officials said at least 260 people were killed and 320 wounded Tuesday when suicide truck bombers attacked the villages of Qahtaniya, al-Jazeera and Tal Uzair, in northern Iraq near the border with Syria.

That would be in Ninevah Province.

Talk about bad timing for proposing a pullback in Ninevah.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Jose Padilla Trial: Weak Evidence Vs. Fear

Closing arguments are done in the Jose Padilla trial.

Padilla is charged with conspiracy to murder, kidnap & maim people overseas. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

I've followed the press reports of the case and, by all accounts, the evidence against Padilla is weak. The case almost completely relies on this (PDF file) "Mujahideen Data Form."

The form, in and of itself, expresses no intent to commit murder, kidnapping or terrorist violence. While Padilla's fingerprints are on the front and back of the form, they are nowhere else on it. His attorney argues Padilla handled it but that there is no evidence he even filled it out. Moreover, there's a handprint by the signature line and the government didn't even bother to test if it was Padilla's (indicating that they know it is not).

There were no witnesses placing Padilla in Afghanistan much less attending a terrorist training camp. A government witness - one of the Lackawana Six - who attended a camp after filling out a similar form, backfired on the government when he testified on cross examination that the camp was a military boot camp and did not engage in terrorist training for acts of violence against civilians. This allowed Padilla's attorney to argue that even if you believe Padilla went to such a camp, there is no evidence that all attendees went with an intent to murder, maim or kidnap civilians.

Of the government's 300,000 wire taps, Padilla only appears on 7, uses no coded language and only says innocuous things consistent with his lawyers claim that he went overseas to study and make a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Remember also that the government's "dirty bomb" allegations that were used to demonize Padilla and scare the American public have been dropped from the case.

You can see why the Bush administration never wanted him tried. The evidence shows Padilla was more a PR prop for false alarms of iminent terrorist attacks in America and they knew it. Best to lock him up in solitaire until he goes nuts or their sickening use of him for their personal gain is forgotten.

The prosecutor did get to say Al Qaeda a lot and show the jury a picture of Padilla wearing a checked Arab headdress, so maybe fear will win out. As the saying goes ... the jury's still out.

Kids Sucking Lead

The toy scandal continues as it is being revealed today that the recall has been expanded to 9 million toys.

On a political note, I believe this is what you get with unchecked Capitalism --- the kind supported by the Bush administration and Republicans. Democrats and progressives prefer that there is some governmental check in place to prevent toys coated with lead-based paint from getting into our kids' mouths. We understand that corporations by their nature are profit driven and, in this modern age, short-term profits in particular. The incentives to cheat are ever present and safety regulations are a necessity.

Interestingly, the CNN report does not refer to any governmental action being taken to determine the actual breadth of the problem.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Overrated: The Iowa Straw Poll

Doesn't anyone else think its goofy that the 4,400 votes Mitt Romney received to win this weekend's Iowa straw poll gets so much play throughout the media?

Yeah, that's it ... 4,400 votes. My State Rep needs more votes than that to get elected and I'll guaran-damn-tee you he isn't getting front page coverage on the New York Times and headlining every Network and Cable News broadcast.

I'm sure the Daily Kos' presidential polls have far more participants than this poll. Do you think a straw poll held in Harlem or El Paso would get thismuch coverage even if greater numbers participated? I doubt it.

I think some of the same considerations here are at play as with many in the media's - think David Broder - insistence that it is best for Iowa and New Hampshire to go first in the Presidential primaries.

Iowa straw poll voters are made up of Broder's Main Street or Real Americans. Of course, I suspect those voters are largely white and a bit older than the typical American voter ... uhm ... like Broder himself.

But my biggest bitch about the coverage is that it isn't really democratic to give so few voters such a big voice.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The "D" Word

Remember the War Czar - Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute. Well, his finally popped up for the first time since his confirmation to the post in June. And - uhm - he let slip a doozy:

Frequent tours for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have stressed the all-volunteer force and made it worth considering a return to a military draft, President Bush’s new war adviser said Friday.

“I think it makes sense to certainly consider it,” Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said in an interview with National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”

“And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table.

You see, Lute knows and has to actually spend time thinking about the stress multiple and extended deployments have placed upon our military personnel. He also knows the current troop deployment can’t support the surge and de facto troop reductions will occur early next year.

So anyone serious about continuing the surge past early next year must seriously consider a draft.

Yet, for this bit of candor, I suspect it will be quite awhile before we hear from the War Czar again.

Monday, August 06, 2007

"Humanitarian Crisis" Not A Good Excuse For Continued Occupation

One of the latest tactics of the "stay forever" crowd is to argue that withdrawal will lead to a humanitarian crisis. Thus, they argue, progressives who advocate confronting humanitarian crises around the world - the Darfur, for instance - are hypocritical for wanting to leave Iraq with a pending humanitarian crisis.

There are a number of problems with this argument. First, it ignores that there is already a massive humanitarian crisis taking place in Iraq. The continuing occupation is not alleviating it but, in fact, is perpetuating it. We need look no further than today's headlines for a story as to how our military cannot account for some 190,000 rifles and pistols that have been brought into Iraq. These weapons were dispersed under General Petraeus' watch while he was in charge of training Iraqi security forces. These undoubtedly are being used to kill people. Likewise, we should remember how the ammo dumps were left unprotected - Al Qa Qa being the most memorable - in the immediate aftermath of the initial invaision in 2003. Likewise, our support of a human rights abusing government has been tragic. And let's not forget the fact that, due to the chaos created by the invaision and occupation, human rights aid groups cannot operate in Iraq right now. So, in my opinion, it is an errant assumption to believe the Bush administration is competent to confront a humanitarian crisis and, indeed, will continue to exaccerbate the existing one. Simply, the best approach toward the humanitarian crisis isn't staying the course with Bush.

Second, the conservatives are disingenuous in conflating support for a continued occupation as the only legitimate response to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Progressives did not push for or support a full-scale invaision and occupation of Bosnia or Kosovo to alleviate those crises. Nor was one needed when Bush belatedly acted in Liberia. Likewise, in the Darfur, progressives are pushing for a real peace keeping force for that specific region (not all of Sudan) and increased diplomatice efforts with consequential threats on the national government; not an overthrow of the government in Khartoum.

Third, ending the occupation does not mean turning a blind eye to the human rights crisis that exists today and will continue for sometime - regardless of the US's continued occupation. Mark my words. It will be the progressives who will continue to fight for spending on pragmatic, humanitarian assistance to Iraq. Once the occupation ends, it will be the conservatives who abandon the Iraqis.

I don't believe conservatives are being intellectually honest in voicing concerns about a pending humanitarian crisis. It is just another part of their "say anything" strategy that allows them to continue in their self-denial that "victory is just around the corner" and deviating from the course will be the only thing that can cause us to lose.

Friday, August 03, 2007

This Is Not Your Sixties Anti-War Movement

Kevin Drum, using a great quote from Hendrik Hertzberg, posts this insightful post on how moderate, and dare I add "mainstream," the anti-war movement, as represented at YearlyKos, truly is.

Drum ends with this dead-on zinger:

I think a lot of journalists (though I don't mean to include Hertzberg here) don't quite get this because they haven't internalized just how far off the rails the modern Republican Party has gone. Until they do, they're going to continue to misunderstand what's happening.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The "Made in China" Poisoning Continues - This Time Its Our Kids

Every couple of weeks we seem to be getting a new story of some product made cheaply in China (so as to increase the profits of Multi-National corporations) that has been dispersed widely in America that puts our health and safety at risk. Most notorious may be the tainted pet food that has killed and sickened many of our cats and dogs.

That pales in comparison by the latest scandal - the lead poisoning of our children. It turns out one of our biggest toy manufacturers - Mattel/Fisher Price - has been using a Chinese contractor to put decorative paint on their toys and that contractor used lead based paint.

A recall of a million toys sold between May and August 2007 is underway. But listen to this:

Fisher-Price and the government had wanted to withhold details of the recall from the public until Thursday to give stores time to get suspect toys off the shelves and Fisher-Price time to get its recall hotline running, but some news organizations broke the embargo and posted news of the recall online.

I'm pissed. I'm fucking pissed. My son just had his second birthday and got one of these toys as a gift. He has been playing with it for 4 days now and these motherfuckers, with the government's acquiescence, wanted to delay the public notice to get their PR operation in place. How long have they known? How many kids - and these are toys largely sold for babies and toddlers - put these fucking things in their mouth as they plotted their PR strategies? Where was our government in protecting our kids from this danger? Don't we now have to go back and test all of the toys Mattel/Fisher Price sold us over the past few years?

Here's a list of the tainted toys. And looking at the list, I'm willing to bet that the estimate of a million with only a third of those getting to the public is way low.