The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Mahablog - Betrayal

Betrayal

Filed under: Bush Administration, conservatism, American History — maha @ 10:44 am

Per Glenn Greenwald, don’t miss this audio essay by rightie Rod Dreher.

As President Bush marched the country to war with Iraq, even some voices on the Right warned that this was a fool’s errand. I dismissed them angrily. I thought them unpatriotic.

But almost four years later, I see that I was the fool.

In Iraq, this Republican President for whom I voted twice has shamed our country with weakness and incompetence, and the consequences of his failure will be far, far worse than anything Carter did.

The fraud, the mendacity, the utter haplessness of our government’s conduct of the Iraq war have been shattering to me.

It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. Not under a Republican President.

Like so many loyal soldiers of movement conservatism, Dreher’s earliest political memories are of the Carter Administration and the Iranian hostage crisis, followed by the triumphant ascension of Ronald Reagan. He was 13 years old when Reagan was elected, so you can’t fault him for viewing these events through a child’s eyes. The problem is, as it is with so many of his fellow travelers, that his understanding of politics remained childish. He seems to have retained a child’s simple faith that Democrats (and liberals) are “bad” and Republicans (and conservatives) are “good,” so one does not have to think real hard to know who’s right or wrong. In the minds of righties, Republicans/conservatives have an inherent virtue that keeps them on the side of the angels. What passes for “critical analysis” among righties is most often just the unconscious jerking of their knees in support of their faith.

Dreher’s is the voice of a man who realizes his faith has been betrayed.

As I sat in my office last night watching President Bush deliver his big speech, I seethed over the waste, the folly, the stupidity of this war.

I had a heretical thought for a conservative - that I have got to teach my kids that they must never, ever take Presidents and Generals at their word - that their government will send them to kill and die for noble-sounding rot - that they have to question authority.

On the walk to the parking garage, it hit me. Hadn’t the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely?


The answers to your questions, Mr. Dreher, is (1) yes, and (2) because you were brainwashed. As I wrote here,

I noticed years ago that the rank-and-file “movement conservative” is younger than I am. Well, OK, most people are younger than I am. But surely you’ve noticed that a disproportionate number of True Believers are people who reached their late teens / early twenties during the Carter or Reagan years at the earliest. They came of age at the same time the right-wing media / think tank infrastructure began to dominate national political discourse, and all their adult lives their brains have been pickled in rightie propaganda.


Because they’re too young to remember When Things Were Different, they don’t recognize that the way mass media has handled politics for the past thirty or so years is abnormal. What passes for our national political discourse — as presented on radio, television, and much print media — is scripted in right-wing think tanks and media paid for by the likes of Joseph Coors, Richard Mellon Scaife, and more recently by Sun Myung Moon. What looks like “debate” is just puppet theater, presented to manipulate public opinion in favor of the Right.

In this puppet theater “liberals” (booo! hisss!) are the craven, cowardly, and possibly demented villains, and “conservatives” are the noble heroes who come to the rescue of the virtuous maid America. Any American under the age of 40 has had this narrative pounded into his head his entire life. Rare is the individual born after the Baby Boom who has any clue what “liberalism” really is. Ask, and they’ll tell you that liberals are people who “believe in” raising taxes and spending money on big entitlement programs, which of course is bad. (Read this to understand why it’s bad.)

Just one example of how the word liberal has been utterly bastardized, see this Heritage Foundation press release of March 2006 that complains Congress is becoming “liberal.” Why? Because of its pork-barrel spending.

But I want to say something more about betrayal. One piece left out of most commentary on the freaks (not hippies, children; the name preferred by participants of the counterculture was freaks) was how betrayed many of us felt. Remember, we’d been born in the years after World War II. We’d spent our childhoods dramatizing our fathers’ struggles on Normandy Beach and Iwo Jima in our suburban back yards. Most of us watched “Victory at Sea” at least twice. Most of our childhood heroes were characters out of American mythos, like Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone (who seemed an awful lot alike). Further, some of the scariest times of the Cold War unfolded during our elementary and middle schools years. We grew up believing the Communists would nuke us any second. Our schools (even Sunday School, as I recall) and media made sure we were thoroughly indoctrinated with the understanding that liberty and democracy were “good” and Communism was “bad,” and America Is the Greatest Nation in the World.

For many of us, these feelings reached their apex during the Kennedy administration. I was nine years old when he was elected. He seemed to embody everything that was noble and good and heroic about America. I remember his tour of Europe the summer before the assassination. I watched his motorcade move through cheering crowds on our black-and-white console television and never felt prouder to be an American.

But then our hearts were broken in Dallas, and less than two years later Lyndon Johnson announced he would send troops to Vietnam. And then the young men of my generation were drafted into the meat grinder. Sooner or later, most of us figured out our idealism had been misplaced. I was one of the later ones; the realization dawned for me during the Nixon Administration, which began while I was a senior in high school. Oh, I still believed in liberty and democracy; I felt betrayed because I realized our government didn’t. And much of my parents’ generation didn’t seem to, either.

The counterculture was both a backlash to that betrayal and to the cultural rigidity of the 1950s. And much of “movement conservatism” was a backlash to the counterculture, albeit rooted in the pseudo-conservatism documented earlier by Richard Hofstadter and others.

(And how weird is it that anyone is still talking about “hippies”? Did some hippiechick sitter drop Dreher on his head when he was a baby?)

Rod Dreher and others of his generation are now old enough that their children are at least approaching adolescence, if they haven’t already arrived. What “earliest political memory” will imprint on them? What form will the inevitable rebellion against their parents’ generation take?

http://www.mahablog.com/2007/01/13/betrayal/

Friday, January 12, 2007

In Baghdad, Bush Policy Is Met With Resentment

In Baghdad, Bush Policy Is Met With Resentment
By JOHN F. BURNS and SABRINA TAVERNISE

BAGHDAD, Jan. 11 — Iraq’s Shiite-led government offered only a grudging endorsement on Thursday of President Bush’s proposal to deploy more than 20,000 additional troops in an effort to curb sectarian violence and regain control of Baghdad. The tepid response immediately raised questions about whether the government would make a good-faith effort to prosecute the new war plan.

The Iraqi leader, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, failed to appear at a news conference and avoided any public comment. He left the government’s response to an official spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, who gave what amounted to a backhanded approval of the troop increase and emphasized that Iraqis, not Americans, would set the future course in the war.

Mr. Dabbagh said that the government’s objective was to secure the eventual withdrawal of American troops, and that for that to be possible there had to be security for Iraqis. “If this can be achieved by increasing either Iraqi or multinational forces,” he added, “the government, for sure, will not stand against it.”

Mr. Dabbagh suggested that much about the Bush plan depended on how circumstances in Iraq would evolve over the coming months — an echo, in its way, of senior Bush administration officials. They have implied that they might halt the month-by-month inflow of additional troops if they think Mr. Maliki is failing to meet the political and military benchmarks Mr. Bush identified as the Iraqi government’s part in making the new war plan work.

“The plan can be developed according to the needs,” Mr. Dabbagh said. Then he added tartly, “What is suitable for our conditions in Iraq is what we decide, not what others decide for us.”

The spokesman’s remarks, and a similarly dyspeptic tone that was adopted by Shiite politicians with close ties to Mr. Maliki, pointed to the double-bind Mr. Bush finds himself in. Faced with low levels of public support for his new military push and a Democratic leadership in Congress that has said it will fight him over it, he also confronts the uncomfortable prospect of foot-dragging in Baghdad over the troop increases and the benchmarks he has set for the Iraqis.

While senior officials in Washington have presented the new war plan as an American adaptation of proposals that were first put to Mr. Bush by Mr. Maliki when the two men met in the Jordanian capital of Amman in November, the picture that is emerging in Baghdad is quite different. What Mr. Maliki wanted, his officials say, was in at least one crucial respect the opposite of what Mr. Bush decided: a lowering of the American profile in the war, not the increase Mr. Bush has ordered.

These Iraqi officials say Mr. Maliki, in the wake of Mr. Bush’s setback in the Democratic sweep in November’s midterm elections, demanded that American troops be pulled back to the periphery of Baghdad and that the war in the capital, at least, be handed to Iraqi troops. The demand was part of a broader impatience among the ruling Shiites to be relieved from American oversight so as to be able to fight and govern according to the dictates of Shiite politics, not according to strictures from Washington.

What transpired, in Mr. Bush’s speech on Wednesday night, appears to have been a hybrid: a plan that aims at marrying the Maliki government’s urgency for a broader license to act with Mr. Bush’s determination to make what American officials here see as a last-chance push for success in Iraq on American terms. And that, as Mr. Bush made clear on Wednesday, implies objectives that will be difficult — many Iraqis say impossible — to square with Mr. Maliki’s goals.

The differences seemed clear on Thursday as Iraqis responded to Mr. Bush’s speech. In the streets of Baghdad, reactions followed, broadly, the familiar pattern in a city that is more and more divided on sectarian lines. Many Shiites said Iraq’s own security forces, which are predominantly Shiite, should be left to do the job of stabilizing the city, while many Sunnis, shocked by the violence of Shiite death squads in recent months, said they would welcome the Americans if they could rein the sectarian killing in.

Mr. Dabbagh, the government spokesman, emphasized the parts of the Bush plan that best suited the Maliki government’s political ambitions. He said the “good thing in this plan is that it determines that responsibility should be transferred from the Americans to the Iraqis.” This was a prime point with Mr. Bush, too, when he said that the role of American troops under the new plan would be to “help the Iraqis” secure neighborhoods in Baghdad, protect the local population and maintain security in areas that American and Iraqi forces have cleared.

Within hours of Mr. Bush’s speech, American commanders were meeting with their Iraqi counterparts in Baghdad to work out the details of a new command arrangement that would give Mr. Maliki a direct role in overseeing the new crackdown. The Iraqis named a commander for the operation, Lt. Gen. Aboud Gambar, a Shiite from southern Iraq who was a top general in Saddam Hussein’s army until the American-led invasion in 2003.

General Gambar will report directly to Mr. Maliki, outside the chain of command that runs through the Defense Ministry, which the Maliki government has long viewed as a bastion of American influence, and, because the defense minister is a Sunni, of resistance to Shiite control. General Gambar will have two deputies, one for the heavily Shiite east part of Baghdad, another for the mostly Sunni west part, and they will oversee nine new military districts, each assigned an Iraqi brigade.

As details of the Bush plan became known on Wednesday, Iraqi officials said that the new arrangements would give Iraqis operational control of the new push in Baghdad. But Mr. Dabbagh and others were quick to pull back on Thursday, acknowledging that Baghdad would remain under American operational control at least until later this year. American officials noted that American officers would be assigned to General Gambar’s headquarters, that an American battalion would be twinned with each Iraqi brigade and that every Iraqi unit, down to the company level, would have American military advisers.

If this fell a long way short of the plan for full Iraqi control in Baghdad that Mr. Maliki set out in November, his officials were at pains to say that the prime minister would decide the issue of most concern to the Iraqi leader: whether, and when, Iraqi and American forces would be allowed to move in force into Sadr City. That Shiite working-class district in northeast Baghdad is the stronghold of the Mahdi Army, the most powerful of the Shiite militias, and the main power base of Moktada al-Sadr, the Mahdi Army leader, whose parliamentary bloc sustains Mr. Maliki in office.

“It’s been agreed that in order to succeed they have to consult,” Mr. Dabbagh said — a bland requirement as he stated it — but some distance from the formula put forward at Washington briefings on the new plan. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, at a news conference on Wednesday, said that American and Iraqi troops would be free to go into “all parts of Baghdad, including Sadr City” and that one benchmark in the plan was that there would be no “political interference” with military operations or attempts to protect death squad leaders.

That appeared to be an allusion to the past American experience with Mr. Maliki, who has consistently refused to sanction major offensives in Sadr City. On at least one occasion, he intervened to secure the release of a man captured by American troops and identified by American commanders as a death squad leader with links to Mr. Sadr. Mr. Maliki’s argument has been that the solution to the problem of militias, including Mr. Sadr’s, must be political, not military, but he has simultaneously postponed any action on a new law to disarm and demobilize the militias.

One of Mr. Maliki’s political allies, Sheik Khalid al-Attiya, who is deputy speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, said Thursday that he expected the benchmarks set by Mr. Bush to take 6 to 12 months to be met. With American commanders in Baghdad saying they hope to have the main parts of the city stabilized by late summer — allowing American troops to be pulled back to bases outside the city as Mr. Maliki has demanded — the Americans seem likely to run out of patience with Mr. Maliki long before Mr. Attiya’s timetable plays out.

A Shiite political leader who has worked closely with the Americans in the past said the Bush benchmarks appeared to have been drawn up in the expectation that Mr. Maliki would not meet them. “He cannot deliver the disarming of the militias,” the politician said, asking that he not be named because he did not want to be seen as publicly criticizing the prime minister. “He cannot deliver a good program for the economy and reconstruction. He cannot deliver on services. This is a matter of fact. There is a common understanding on the American side and the Iraqi side.”

Views such as these — increasingly common among the political class in Baghdad — are often accompanied by predictions that Mr. Maliki will be forced out as the crisis over the militias builds. The Shiite politician who described him as incapable of disarming militias suggested he might resign; others have pointed to an American effort in recent weeks to line up a “moderate front” of Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political leaders outside the government, and said that the front might be a vehicle for mounting a parliamentary coup against Mr. Maliki, with behind-the-scenes American support.

Hussein’s Will Sought No Mercy

CAIRO, Egypt, Jan. 11 (AP) — Hours before Saddam Hussein’s execution, the ousted Iraqi dictator asked his lawyers not to appeal for his life and accused the United States and Iran of collaborating to hang him, according to a copy of his will.

Mr. Hussein gave his chief lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, the right to “decide whatever is related to me except appealing for the life of Saddam Hussein to any of the presidents, kings, Arabs or foreigners,” reads a copy of the will obtained by The Associated Press.

He also asked to be buried in either Ouja, his birthplace, or in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, where many of the country’s Sunni Arab insurgents are fighting, depending on his daughter Raghad’s decision. He was buried in Ouja.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/12/world/middleeast/12iraq.html?_r=2&th=&emc=th&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin

No Oversight on Katrina?

No Oversight on Katrina?

Joe Lieberman gives the president a pass on Katrina.
WEB EXCLUSIVE
By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball
Newsweek
Updated: 8:04 p.m. CT Jan 11, 2007

Jan. 11, 2007 - Sen. Joe Lieberman, the only Democrat to endorse President Bush’s new plan for Iraq, has quietly backed away from his pre-election demands that the White House turn over potentially embarrassing documents relating to its handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans.

Lieberman’s reversal underscores the new role that he is seeking to play in the Senate as the leading apostle of bipartisanship, especially on national-security issues. On Wednesday night, Bush conspicuously cited Lieberman’s advice as being the inspiration for creating a new “bipartisan working group” on Capitol Hill that he said will “help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror.”

But the decision by Lieberman, the new chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to back away from the committee's Katrina probe is already dismaying public-interest groups and others who hoped the Democratic victory in November would lead to more aggressive investigations of one of the White House’s most spectacular foul-ups.

Last year, when he was running for re-election in Connecticut, Lieberman was a vocal critic of the administration’s handling of Katrina. He was especially dismayed by its failure to turn over key records that could have shed light on internal White House deliberations about the hurricane, including those involving President Bush.

Asserting that there were “too many important questions that cannot be answered,” Lieberman and other committee Democrats complained in a statement last year that the panel “did not receive information or documents showing what actually was going on in the White House.”

Among the missing material: the record of a videoconference in the White House Situation Room in which former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown said he warned senior officials about the dire situation in New Orleans, but was greeted with “deafening silence.” Also missing: records believed to include messages and conversations involving the president, Vice President Dick Cheney and their top aides during the days in late August and early September 2005 when the Katrina disaster was unfolding and thousands of city residents were flocking to overcrowded shelters and hanging onto rooftops awaiting rescue.

But now that he chairs the homeland panel—and is in a position to subpoena the records—Lieberman has decided not to pursue the material, according to Leslie Phillips, the senator’s chief committee spokeswoman. “The senator now intends to focus his attention on the future security of the American people and other matters and does not expect to revisit the White House’s role in Katrina,” she told NEWSWEEK.

Phillips said that Lieberman may still follow up on some matters related to Katrina contracting. But in listing the Connecticut senator’s top priorities for the panel, she cited other areas, such as reform of homeland-security agencies and legislation promoting tighter security at U.S. seaports. Asked whether Lieberman’s new stand might feed complaints that he has become too close to the White House, Phillips responded: “The senator is an independent Democrat and answers only to the people who elected him to office and to his own conscience.”

But in the view of White House critics, the Katrina fallout is far from over. They view the missing White House material, along with contracting foul-ups and abuses, as an important part of the story of the disaster that befell a major American city. “Katrina was perhaps the government's biggest failure ever,” said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a liberal watchdog group. “For the Congress not to be willing to stand up to the White House and demand to know who's accountable is a total abdication of their responsibility. How serious about oversight are they if they're not willing to flex their muscle over this one? Wasn't the election about holding the government accountable? Congress has the power for oversight, and the mandate. Does it have the will?”

Rep. Charlie Melancon, a Louisiana Democrat who participated in House investigations on Katrina last year, also said the Katrina disaster needs further inquiry and that he will continue to push for such a probe in the House. “It is still important to my constituents—many of whom lost everything, including their loved ones—that we learn from the mistakes so that they aren't repeated,” he said. “We deserve to know what happened."

In the House, both Democrats and the GOP majority on the Government Reform Committee last year also expressed frustration with White House refusals to turn over internal records related to Katrina. But as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to keep committees on a tight leash, it is not at all clear that House leaders will be more assertive than Lieberman plans to be in the Senate. A congressional official familiar with the agenda of Rep. Henry Waxman, the House panel’s new chairman, said that trying to force the White House to surrender Katrina material was still a "possibility." But Waxman and his committee have not yet made any decisions on what the government-reform committee will investigate, other than that Waxman's first priorities were to probe "waste, fraud and abuse," according to a congressional aide who, like other sources, asked not to be identified talking about internal matters.

Still, Lieberman’s more accommodating position is likely get more attention, especially because of the Connecticut Democrat's increasingly close relationship with the White House. No sooner did President Bush finish his speech Wednesday night than Lieberman put out a statement applauding Bush for his “courageous course”—a notable comment, given the lukewarm response the president’s speech received from many leading Republicans.

The “bipartisan working group” on national-security issues that Bush cited in the speech was inspired by a proposal that Lieberman and Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins made late last year. The plan: to have top committee chairs and ranking members meet regularly with the White House, according to Marshall Whitman, the chief spokesman in Lieberman’s office. Whitman says Lieberman is trying to take on the role that Henry (Scoop) Jackson played in the 1960s and 1970s—a tough “national security” Senate Democrat who was willing to cross party lines to work closely with Republican presidents like Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. “That’s the tradition he is following,” Whitman said.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16585614/

A voice from Gitmo's darkness

A voice from Gitmo's darkness

A current detainee speaks of the torture and humiliation he has experienced at Guantanamo since 2002.

By Jumah al-Dossari, JUMAH AL-DOSSARI is a 33-year-old citizen of Bahrain. This article was excerpted from letters he wrote to his attorneys. Its contents have been deemed unclassified by the Department of Defense.
January 11, 2007

Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba — I AM WRITING from the darkness of the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo in the hope that I can make our voices heard by the world. My hand quivers as I hold the pen.

In January 2002, I was picked up in Pakistan, blindfolded, shackled, drugged and loaded onto a plane flown to Cuba. When we got off the plane in Guantanamo, we did not know where we were. They took us to Camp X-Ray and locked us in cages with two buckets — one empty and one filled with water. We were to urinate in one and wash in the other.

At Guantanamo, soldiers have assaulted me, placed me in solitary confinement, threatened to kill me, threatened to kill my daughter and told me I will stay in Cuba for the rest of my life. They have deprived me of sleep, forced me to listen to extremely loud music and shined intense lights in my face. They have placed me in cold rooms for hours without food, drink or the ability to go to the bathroom or wash for prayers. They have wrapped me in the Israeli flag and told me there is a holy war between the Cross and the Star of David on one hand and the Crescent on the other. They have beaten me unconscious.

What I write here is not what my imagination fancies or my insanity dictates. These are verifiable facts witnessed by other detainees, representatives of the Red Cross, interrogators and translators.

During the first few years at Guantanamo, I was interrogated many times. My interrogators told me that they wanted me to admit that I am from Al Qaeda and that I was involved in the terrorist attacks on the United States. I told them that I have no connection to what they described. I am not a member of Al Qaeda. I did not encourage anyone to go fight for Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have done nothing but kill and denigrate a religion. I never fought, and I never carried a weapon. I like the United States, and I am not an enemy. I have lived in the United States, and I wanted to become a citizen.

I know that the soldiers who did bad things to me represent themselves, not the United States. And I have to say that not all American soldiers stationed in Cuba tortured us or mistreated us. There were soldiers who treated us very humanely. Some even cried when they witnessed our dire conditions. Once, in Camp Delta, a soldier apologized to me and offered me hot chocolate and cookies. When I thanked him, he said, "I do not need you to thank me." I include this because I do not want readers to think that I fault all Americans.

But, why, after five years, is there no conclusion to the situation at Guantanamo? For how long will fathers, mothers, wives, siblings and children cry for their imprisoned loved ones? For how long will my daughter have to ask about my return? The answers can only be found with the fair-minded people of America.

I would rather die than stay here forever, and I have tried to commit suicide many times. The purpose of Guantanamo is to destroy people, and I have been destroyed. I am hopeless because our voices are not heard from the depths of the detention center.

If I die, please remember that there was a human being named Jumah at Guantanamo whose beliefs, dignity and humanity were abused. Please remember that there are hundreds of detainees at Guantanamo suffering the same misfortune. They have not been charged with any crimes. They have not been accused of taking any action against the United States.

Show the world the letters I gave you. Let the world read them. Let the world know the agony of the detainees in Cuba.

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-dossari11jan11,0,4240384.story?coll=la-opinion-center

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bush's New Strategy - The March of Folly

Published on Thursday, January 11, 2007 by the lndependent/UK

Bush's New Strategy - The March of Folly


So into the graveyard of Iraq, George Bush, commander-in-chief, is to send another 21,000 of his soldiers. The march of folly is to continue...
by Robert Fisk


There will be timetables, deadlines, benchmarks, goals for both America and its Iraqi satraps. But the war against terror can still be won. We shall prevail. Victory or death. And it shall be death.

President Bush's announcement early this morning tolled every bell. A billion dollars of extra aid for Iraq, a diary of future success as the Shia powers of Iraq ­ still to be referred to as the "democratically elected government" ­ march in lockstep with America's best men and women to restore order and strike fear into the hearts of al-Qa'ida. It will take time ­ oh, yes, it will take years, at least three in the words of Washington's top commander in the field, General Raymond Odierno this week ­ but the mission will be accomplished.

Mission accomplished. Wasn't that the refrain almost four years ago, on that lonely aircraft carrier off California, Bush striding the deck in his flying suit? And only a few months later, the President had a message for Osama bin Laden and the insurgents of Iraq. "Bring 'em on!" he shouted. And on they came. Few paid attention late last year when the Islamist leadership of this most ferocious of Arab rebellions proclaimed Bush a war criminal but asked him not to withdraw his troops. "We haven't yet killed enough of them," their videotaped statement announced.

Well, they will have their chance now. How ironic that it was the ghastly Saddam, dignified amid his lynch mob, who dared on the scaffold to tell the truth which Bush and Blair would not utter: that Iraq has become "hell" .

It is de rigueur, these days, to recall Vietnam, the false victories, the body counts, the torture and the murders ­ but history is littered with powerful men who thought they could batter their way to victory against the odds. Napoleon comes to mind; not the emperor who retreated from Moscow, but the man who believed the wild guerrilleros of French-occupied Spain could be liquidated. He tortured them, he executed them, he propped up a local Spanish administration of what we would now call Quislings, al-Malikis to a man. He rightly accused his enemies ­ Moore and Wellington ­ of supporting the insurgents. And when faced with defeat, Napoleon took the personal decision "to relaunch the machine" and advanced to recapture Madrid, just as Bush intends to recapture Baghdad. Of course, it ended in disaster. And George Bush is no Napoleon Bonaparte.

No, I would turn to another, less flamboyant, far more modern politician for prophecy, an American who understood, just before the 2003 launch of Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq, what would happen to the arrogance of power. For their relevance this morning, the words of the conservative politician Pat Buchanan deserve to be written in marble:

"We will soon launch an imperial war on Iraq with all the 'On to Berlin' bravado with which French poilus and British tommies marched in August 1914. But this invasion will not be the cakewalk neoconservatives predict ... For a militant Islam that holds in thrall scores of millions of true believers will never accept George Bush dictating the destiny of the Islamic world ...

"The one endeavour at which Islamic peoples excel is expelling imperial powers by terror and guerrilla war. They drove the Brits out of Palestine and Aden, the French out of Algeria, the Russians out of Afghanistan, the Americans out of Somalia and Beirut, the Israelis out of Lebanon... We have started up the road to empire and over the next hill we will meet those who went before."

But George Bush dare not see these armies of the past, their ghosts as palpable as the phantoms of the 3,000 Americans ­ let us forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis ­ already done to death in this obscene war, and those future spirits of the dead still living amid the 20,000 men and women whom Bush is now sending to Iraq. In Baghdad, they will move into both Sunni and Shia "insurgent strongholds" ­ as opposed to just the Sunni variety which they vainly invested in the autumn ­ because this time, and again I quote General Odierno, it is crucial the security plan be " evenhanded". This time, he said, "we have to have a believable approach, of going after Sunni and Shia extremists".

But a "believable approach" is what Bush does not have. The days of even-handed oppression disappeared in the aftermath of invasion.

"Democracy" should have been introduced at the start ­ not delayed until the Shias threatened to join the insurgency if Paul Bremer, America's second proconsul, did not hold elections ­ just as the American military should have prevented the anarchy of April 2003. The killing of 14 Sunni civilians by US paratroopers at Fallujah that spring set the seal on the insurgency. Yes, Syria and Iran could help George Bush. But Tehran was part of his toytown "Axis of Evil", Damascus a mere satellite. They were to be future prey, once Project Iraq proved successful. Then there came the shame of our torture, our murders, the mass ethnic cleansing in the land we said we had liberated.

And so more US troops must die, sacrificed for those who have already died. We cannot betray those who have been killed. It is a lie, of course. Every desperate man keeps gambling, preferably with other men's lives.

But the Bushes and Blairs have experienced war through television and Hollywood; this is both their illusion and their shield.

Historians will one day ask if the West did not plunge into its Middle East catastrophe so blithely because not one member of any Western government ­ except Colin Powell, and he has shuffled off stage ­ ever fought in a war. The Churchills have gone, used as a wardrobe for a prime minister who lied to his people and a president who, given the chance to fight for his country, felt his Vietnam mission was to defend the skies over Texas.

But still he talks of victory, as ignorant of the past as he is of the future.

Pat Buchanan ended his prophecy with imperishable words: "The only lesson we learn from history is that we do not learn from history."

The Bush plan, and the question of withdrawal

What Bush says

20,000 troops increase

Mistake of not sending sufficient troops must be rectified. Troops stabilise Baghdad and reinforce Anbar province, on condition that Iraqis take on Shia militias

$1bn reconstruction aid

Fresh funds will help create jobs and stimulate economy to show Iraqis there can be a peace dividend, and friendly Middle East states should help out too

Pullout

US commitment to Iraq is not open-ended but no timetable for troop withdrawal, even though US troops are expected to hand control to Iraqis by November

What Congress says

20,000 troops increase

Troop build-up is a mistake. House expected to vote on increase, Senate legislation forces Bush to seek congressional approval but neither move could block troop deployment

$1bn reconstruction aid

Don't throw good money after bad. US has squandered billions since the invasion and Democrats plan investigation. Millions of dollars 'overpaid' by Pentagon to Iraq contractors

Pullout

Bush has not learnt the lesson of November's mid-term elections which gave Democrats control of the House and Senate on the platform of a phased withdrawal from Iraq

What Baker says

20,000 troops increase

Up to 20,000 military trainers and troops embedded into and supporting Iraqi army, while combat troops drawn down to avoid increase in total numbers

$1bn reconstruction aid

US economic assistance should be boosted to $5bn per year. US should take anti-corruption measures by posting oil contracts on the internet for outside scrutiny

Pullout

All US combat troops not needed for force protection should be out of Iraq by the first quarter of 2008

Likely outcome

20,000 troops increase

Escalation of conflict

Money will be wasted, with official corruption in Iraq said to drain $7bn a year

Pullout

Troop surge could disguise 'cut and run' depending on the circumstances in both Iraq and America

©Copyright 2007 Independent News and Media Limited

http://www.commondreams.org/views07/0111-27.htm

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Cenk Uygur - The White House Threatens to Ignore Congress

"The President has the ability to exercise his own authority if he thinks Congress has voted the wrong way." ---- Tony Snow -- January 8, 2007



We've jumped the shark. If this idea doesn't outrage the American population, the media and the opposition party (and even his own party), then we've lost track of what America is all about. Do we have a constitution or don't we?


I can't imagine any other president saying he has the right to do what he pleases even if Congress makes it illegal. What does "if he thinks Congress has voted the wrong way" mean? Wrong, according to whom? The fact that it is a law makes it right by definition, by our democracy, by our constitution.


The president can veto laws he thinks Congress voted the wrong way on. But if they override his veto, it is not within his authority to ignore that law. This is so fundamental that it's unbelievable that it has to be spelled out.


If you asked whether a president could do this in an eighth grade civics class and anyone answered -- "Yes, a president can exercise his own authority if he thinks Congress voted the wrong way." -- you would unquestionably fail them. That is not the correct answer. At least not in our system of government.


If Reagan felt that Congress voted the wrong way in the Boland Amendment, then does that make his administration's actions in Iran-Contra legal? If Nixon felt Congress would have voted the wrong way on impeachment, could he just stay in office? Even he wasn't brazen enough to make this claim.


This is the stuff constitutional crises are made of. This president has been unabashedly breaking and reinterpreting the law to suit his needs for years now. He does out in the open. He does it with the flimsiest of explanations. And he rubs everyone's face in it.


He is in direct violation of FISA - he knows it, we all know it, and no one does a thing about it (except the previous Republican Congress that tried to make it legal retroactively and Senator Feingold's motion for censure). He now claims the right to violate the new postal reform bill - right after he signed it into effect. Laws don't apply to him. He has magical executive authority.


You know what this kind of "executive authority" used to be called before? The divine right of kings, dictatorial power, authoritarian rule. I would like anyone to explain how a president in our constitutional form of government can claim the right to ignore laws passed by the legislative branch.


President Bush has claimed the right to reinterpret laws by attaching signing statements to over 750 laws. Often times, his "interpretation" is the exact opposite of what the law clearly states (e.g. the torture ban and postal legislation). Other times, the president has simply broken the law and lied about it until caught (e.g. warrantless wiretapping).


In the case of Tony Snow's comment yesterday, the White House seems to be implying that Bush will send in however many troops he wants to Iraq no matter what laws Congress passes. That he will simply declare that "Congress voted the wrong way."


Imagine if Congress passes a law saying that our troop presence in Iraq is capped at 150,000 troops. Bush vetoes, Congress overrides. Then Bush orders more troops into Iraq, surpassing the legal limit imposed by Congress. What do we do?


Does the Supreme Court have to order the generals to not deploy the troops? Do they have to listen? Who does the Pentagon take orders from? If Bush thinks he can ignore Congress, what if he tells the commanders to also ignore the Supreme Court?


This is madness. We are supposed to be a country of laws. What do we do when we have a president who expressly tells the country that he is not constrained by the law?


A positive first step would be for the opposition party to grow a spine and let the president know that he will follow the law or he will be thrown out of office. Violating clear federal laws is more than enough to meet the "high crimes and misdemeanors" requirement of Article II, Section 4.


It was one thing when Democrats lived an intimidated existence, huddling in a small corner as the minority party. It was one thing when it appeared that it was politically perilous to cross the president (it never appeared that way to us -- the progressive bloggers and media -- and it turned out we had judged the national mood better than the Democratic Party or the mainstream media). But now that it is politically perilous to not challenge the president and the Democrats are in the majority, there are no more excuses.


Do your job. Check the president. Demand that he follow the law - or show him the door. We aren't playing kid's games here. The man is jeopardizing the constitution and our way of life. He must be brought back in line before we face a true constitutional crisis.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/1/9/132412/5088

Guess who is opening, reading your mail

Miami Herald

Guess who is opening, reading your mail
OUR OPINION: CONGRESS MUST HOLD HEARINGS ON SIGNING STATEMENTS

The postal legislation that President Bush signed into law last month seems innocent enough. It gives the government the right to open mail without a warrant if there is suspicion that it may contain a bomb, anthrax or some other threatening substance. President Bush said the law gives the government no power that it doesn't already have. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service agrees. But the law isn't as benign as it seems.

This law is more like the Trojan Horse of Greek mythology, in which the Greeks used a hollowed out giant wooden horse to invade and conquer Troy. President Bush attached a ''signing statement'' to the law that allows a president to authorize a search of mail in an emergency to ''protect human life and safety'' and ``for foreign intelligence collection.''

750 signing statements

Strictly speaking, the Postal Service is correct in saying that the law seems to authorize what already is permitted under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). But why attach the signing statement if the president already has the authority to open private mail? Therein lies the problem.

In an investigative report last year, The Boston Globe reported that President Bush has issued signing statements more than 750 times during his presidency, more than all other presidents combined. A report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that the Bush administration is using the practice to assert the primacy of the executive branch and to ignore, change or circumvent laws with which the president disagrees.

Expansive powers?

From the CRS report: The ``broad and persistent nature of the claims of executive authority forwarded by President Bush appears designed to inure Congress, as well as others, to the belief that the president, in fact, possesses expansive and exclusive powers upon which the other branches may not intrude.''

President Bush has used signing statements to allow to him to ignore the anti-torture legislation passed by Congress last year, to refuse to disclose information requested by the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks and to prevent an inspector general from conducting audits and oversight of spending by the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, among other things.

The scope of the president's use of signing statements is breathtaking and scary. With a sweep of his pen, the president can intrude into citizens' private affairs, hide financial bungling by the government, negate months of hard work by Congress and commit or cover up a multitude of sins and wrongdoing. Congress has a solemn duty to, at minimum, conduct open hearings on the use of signing statements and demand a full accounting from the president.

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/opinion/16415082.htm

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Jay Rosen - Grave and Deteriorating For the Children of Agnew

Grave and Deteriorating For the Children of Agnew

by Jay Rosen


The choices resemble what the go-getters from Enron faced: confront the bad accounting or adopt even more desperate measures to conceal losses. But if the AP had fabricated a source and relied on that source 60 times, maybe the tables could be turned again and the day of reckoning put off.

The idea that the liberal press has to be overcome for conservatives truly to take power started with the Goldwater campaign in 1964, and today’s bias warriors are the inheritors, through Agnew, of that idea. It’s not surprising to me that Spiro Agnew was yesterday lionized at RedState.com in a post by Martin Knight that tried to rouse the bias troops to further action by persuading them that nothing has changed since Agnew was criticizing those “men of the media.” They’re as powerful, as liberal, as unelected as ever. Still have a hold on public opinion. Don’t represent the people, still. A first-class hate object, as they were in 1964.

About “the rightosphere’s Jamail Hussien witch hunt,” Digby said: “It’s an ugly story all around.”

I agree. But when I sat down to think about the story, I didn’t start with Jamil Hussein, or the AP’s reporting, or the right-wing bloggers and their misdeeds, or even the larger shame of the cultural right’s attack on the press. In my own sorting through what USA Today called “the running six-week battle between bloggers and the Associated Press over the wire service’s report of sectarian violence in Iraq,” I started, not with the episode itself, but with the way we went into Iraq: on bad intelligence and cooked books and a phantom plan for the peace.

Leaps to large conclusions from thin and miserable facts are routine in the established record of how it happened. Discredited sources left in because they were critical to a faltering case— also routine. And we know maybe ten percent of what will soon emerge when the record of those years (2002-04, especially) comes out through Congressional oversight, memoir-writing, the Libby trial, score-settling among the key players and the inevitable decline of the President’s power and reputation as he lurches on to the end.

The intelligence fiasco in the build-up to the invasion is an exceedingly ugly story and rather than receding into the past, its significance grows every day. It’s like the decomposing body under the expanding executive house. More keeps coming out about the fraudulent case for war, and the consequences of having only an imaginary plan for the occupation.

For Bush supporters who soldier on, the choices resemble what the go-getters from Enron faced: confront the bad accounting that’s gone on for years or adopt even more desperate measures to conceal losses and keep your hand alive. But if the AP had fabricated a source and relied on that source 60 times, maybe the tables could be turned again and the reckoning put off.

That a day of reckoning for the children of Agnew was overdue amid the mess in Iraq was the point of Rich Lowry’s column for The National Review on Dec. 19th. Speaking to fellow conservatives (and directly to warbloggers, I thought…) Lowry started slowly: “The conservative campaign against the mainstream media” has certainly “scored some notable successes.” Dan Rather’s national guard investigation and Newsweek’s Koran desecration story are mentioned. (And wouldn’t it have been great to have added Jamil Hussein?)

He’s right: it’s been a conservative campaign against the mainstream media. But has this campaign been good for conservatives? Not in Iraq. “The mainstream media is biased, arrogant, prone to stultifying group-think and much more fallible than its exalted self-image allows it to admit,” Lowry wrote. “It also, however, can be right, and this is most confounding to conservatives.”

That such a discovery—hey, the press can be accurate, people—would be confounding to conservatives is important to know. I give Lowry a lot of credit for saying that. For it shows how far things had gotten.

In their distrust of the mainstream media, their defensiveness over President Bush and the war, and their understandable urge to buck up the nation’s will, many conservatives lost touch with reality on Iraq. They thought that they were contributing to our success, but they were only helping to forestall a cold look at conditions there and the change in strategy and tactics that would be dictated by it.

Yes, and by helping to forestall that cold look they were helping to create the huge failure that our policy in Iraq has become.

As I argued in my Dec. 18 post (and the 214 comments it drew) the Bush government’s retreat from empiricism is not some unfortunate tendency or bad habit that George W. Bush fell into. It’s part of an emancipatory impulse in the political style that he and Cheney invented, right in front of our eyes. I draw attention to its down side when I call it a retreat. The upside is you are much freer to act, to invent, to surge and conceal your surging from the enemy.

There’s a story I want to tell you from Fiasco by Thomas E. Ricks, Pentagon correspondent of the Washington Post. That’s the book that recently made Republican Senator Gordon H. Smith of Oregon “heartsick” because it documents, on page after page, the retreat from empiricism and lack of professionalism (as well as failed oversight) in the making of the war.

Ricks is discussing Retired Lt. General Jay Garner’s preparations to head to Iraq and take charge of post-war operations for the White House. This is Bush’s man on the ground, hand-picked. On Feb. 21-22, 2003 Garner convened experts from across the government for the one and only meeting they would have to bring war policy roughly in line with what they could roughly predict would happen. (The effort failed.) Ricks goes on:

Of all those speaking those two days, one person in particular caught Garner’s attention. Scrambling to catch up with the best thinking, Garner was looking for someone who had assembled the facts and who knew all the players in the U.S. government, the Iraqi exile community, and international organizations, and had considered the second-and third-order consequences of possible actions. While everyone else was fumbling for facts, this man had dozens of binders, tabbed amd indexed, on every aspect of Iaqi society, from how electricity was generated to how the port of Basra operated, recalled another participant.

“They had better stuff in those binders than the ‘eyes only’ stuff I eventually got from the CIA,” said a military expert who attended.

“There’s this one guy who knew everything, everybody, and he kept on talking,” Garner recalled. At lunch, Garner took him aside. Who are you? the old general asked. Tom Warrick, the man answered.

“How come you know all this?” Garner asked.

“I’ve been working on this for a year,” Warrick said. He said he was at the State Department, where he headed a project called the Future of Iraq, a sprawling effort that relied heavily on the expertise of Iraqi exiles.

“Come to work for me on Monday,” Garner said.

And Warrick did just that. A few days later Rumsfeld takes Garner aside and tells him he has to get rid of Warrick. “I can’t,” says Garner. He’s good, he’s smart and he knows a ton about the country. Rumseld says there’s nothing he can do; the order comes from above. Garner goes to see Stephen Hadley, deputy director of the National Security Council. Haldey can’t do anything either. Later Richard Armitage explains it to Ricks. “Anybody that knows anything is removed.” And Warrick was removed from Garner’s team, undoubtedly on Cheney’s orders.

Now why would the White House (Cheney) hamper the White House (Garner) in that way? The retreat from empiricism is replete with puzzles of this kind. That’s why it’s important for conservatives and warbloggers to ask how it happened on their watch. (From the comments at Retreat From Empiricism: “Suskind was the pass-along for a message between Republicans.”)

It’s going to take a while, I think. At the New Criterion site, James Bowman has a highly skeptical piece up—called Delusions of “reality”—about the “periodic ‘reality’ jags” journalists go on, “proudly boasting of their own intimate relations with that elusive commodity and taking the occasion to pour scorn and contempt upon what they take to be the Bush administration’s unfamiliarity with same.”

To Bowman, those who claim that Bush is out of touch with reality are calling their opponent in a political struggle mentally damaged. This sort of objection should be laughed out of opinion court because it transparently refuses to deal with Bush’s arguments and policies. It’s like telling me I’m in denial when I don’t agree with your assessment of how it’s going. Cheap trick, he says. Like you’re in touch with reality and Bush isn’t? Nice try, Frank Rich.

Here’s what I would say back to Bowman. You’re like an outside director of a company where the employees are trying to signal the board that the CEO is out of touch with conditions in the firm. He’s relying on flawed reporting and advisers who won’t tell him the truth because they don’t think he wants to hear it. Now you think these people are grandstanding. Their criticism sounds far-fetched to you. But one day a big outside audit shows the company out of touch with conditions swamping its business. The consensus among those in the know, including friends of the firm: the CEO’s strategy lacks reality.

Maybe it’s time to take a second look at those early complaints. Lowry, a conservative, was saying what Bowman should be saying: wake-up, conservatives! “Most of the pessimistic warnings from the mainstream media have turned out to be right— that the initial invasion would be the easy part, that seeming turning points (the capture of Saddam, the elections, the killing of Zarqawi) were illusory, that the country was dissolving into a civil war.”

And this is the setting in which the battle of Jamail Hussein was fought. Not only the essential accuracy of the media’s account—situation grim and deteriorating—but the fact that conservatives and Republicans were telling each other: it’s time to recognize that reality. Lowry was peddling some new religion: when the media gets it right… (And his media blogger, Stephen Spruiell, followed up with that here.) The bloggers’ battle with the AP, the largest news organization in the world, was about that old time religion. The AP is piping it, and has sources who are sympathizers.

They were feeling alive and tingly again in the church of Goldwater and Agnew. Their eyes got big: Bloggers take down Big Media, books eight and nine. And in an amazing plot twist for those who have read the series, Eason Jordan returns to the fray, working with Michelle Malkin in the hunt for answers.

The many conservatives who, according to the editor of the National Review, had lost touch with reality on Iraq lost it because they identified with Bush’s will to act— and to act “against” the liberal media. They wanted him to openly deny it legitimacy, information, cooperation, respect. They cheered the effort to roll back the press, and thought they had done a fair amount of it themselves.

Lowry was saying this strategy had gone badly. “Realism is essential in any war,” he wrote, “and it is impossible without an ability to assimilate bad news, even bad news that comes from distasteful sources.” He should have gone further: If you really wanted Bush to succeed in Iraq, and you noticed that he could never be wrong or accept that bad news bearers could be right, this was a warning sign that the warbloggers themselves, as friends of the president’s project, should have taken the lead in discussing. Why didn’t they?

The children of Agnew have been fully on his side, soldiers in his struggle, happy warriors with Bush because they believe in their red state bones the press is biased against them. Like him they also disbelieve the bad news on principle, and then find someone more loyal to look into it.

http://rawstory.com/showarticle.php?src=http%3A%2F%2Fjournalism.nyu.edu%2Fpubzone%2Fweblogs%2Fpressthink%2F2007%2F01%2F09%2Fwarbloggers_ap.html

Monday, January 08, 2007

Paul Krugman - Quagmire of the Vanities

Quagmire of the Vanities

By PAUL KRUGMAN

The only real question about the planned “surge” in Iraq — which is better described as a Vietnam-style escalation — is whether its proponents are cynical or delusional.

Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, thinks they’re cynical. He recently told The Washington Post that administration officials are simply running out the clock, so that the next president will be “the guy landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof.”

Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science for his research on irrationality in decision-making, thinks they’re delusional. Mr. Kahneman and Jonathan Renshon recently argued in Foreign Policy magazine that the administration’s unwillingness to face reality in Iraq reflects a basic human aversion to cutting one’s losses — the same instinct that makes gamblers stay at the table, hoping to break even.

Of course, such gambling is easier when the lives at stake are those of other people’s children.

Well, we don’t have to settle the question. Either way, what’s clear is the enormous price our nation is paying for President Bush’s character flaws.

I began writing about the Bush administration’s infallibility complex, the president’s Captain Queeg-like inability to own up to mistakes, almost a year before the invasion of Iraq. When you put a man like that in a position of power — the kind of position where he can punish people who tell him what he doesn’t want to hear, and base policy decisions on the advice of people who play to his vanity — it’s a recipe for disaster.

Consider, on one side, the case of the C.I.A.’s Baghdad station chief during 2004, who provided accurate assessments of the deteriorating situation in Iraq. “What is he, some kind of defeatist?” asked the president — and according to The Washington Post, at the end of his tour, the station chief “was punished with a poor assignment.”

On the other side, consider the men Mr. Bush has turned to since the midterm election. They constitute a remarkable coalition of the unwilling — men who have been wrong about Iraq every step of the way, but aren’t willing to admit it.

The principal proponents of the “surge” are William Kristol of The Weekly Standard and Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute. Now, even if the Joint Chiefs of Staff hadn’t given the surge a thumbs down, Mr. Kristol’s track record should have been reason enough to ignore his advice. For example, early in the war, Mr. Kristol dismissed as “pop sociology” warnings that there would be conflict between Sunnis and Shiites and that the Shiites might try to create an Islamic fundamentalist state. He assured National Public Radio listeners that “Iraq’s always been very secular.”

But Mr. Kristol and Mr. Kagan appealed to Mr. Bush’s ego, suggesting that he might yet be able to rescue his signature war. And am I the only person to notice that after all the Oedipal innuendo surrounding the Iraq Study Group — Daddy’s men coming in to fix Junior’s mess, etc. — Mr. Bush turned for advice to two other sons of famous and more successful fathers?

Not that Mr. Bush rejects all advice from elder statesmen. We now know that he has been talking to Henry Kissinger. But Mr. Kissinger is a kindred spirit. In remarks published after his death, Gerald Ford said of his secretary of state, “Henry in his mind never made a mistake, so whatever policies there were that he implemented, in retrospect he would defend.”

Oh, and Senator John McCain, the first major political figure to advocate a surge, is another man who can’t admit mistakes. Mr. McCain now says that he always knew that the conflict was “probably going to be long and hard and tough” — but back in 2002, before the Senate voted on the resolution authorizing the use of force, he declared that a war with Iraq would be “fairly easy.”

Mr. Bush is expected to announce his plan for escalation in the next few days. According to the BBC, the theme of his speech will be “sacrifice.” But sacrifice for what? Not for the national interest, which would be best served by withdrawing before the strain of the war breaks our ground forces. No, Iraq has become a quagmire of the vanities — a place where America is spending blood and treasure to protect the egos of men who won’t admit that they were wrong.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Utahns break from Bush on Iraq

Utahns break from Bush on Iraq
Reddest state no longer behind war's handling, split on 'surge'
By Matthew D. LaPlante
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated:01/07/2007 12:23:07 AM MST


President Bush has lost majority support on Iraq from residents of the reddest state in the nation.

A Salt Lake Tribune poll conducted last week shows Utah's support for Bush's handling of the war in Iraq has taken a substantial plunge in the past few months. Just 41 percent of Utahns say they support Bush on Iraq - marking the first time a Tribune poll has found fewer than half of Utahns in the president's war camp.

Meanwhile, the poll shows Utahns about evenly split on whether to send more troops to Iraq. About 44 percent of Utahns back a "surge" - an option Bush reportedly is considering, and which has much lower nationwide support.

Less than six months ago, with Bush and two senior members of his Cabinet in town to shore up support in the state that gave him his largest margin of victory in two elections, 54 percent of Utahns supported him on Iraq, according to a Tribune poll conducted in August. That rate exceeded national numbers collected at the same time by about 20 percent.

Since then, the president has publicly acknowledged increased violence in Iraq - a war even he will no longer say the U.S. is winning. A high-profile panel has roundly criticized his approach to the war, as have a number of retired generals. His defense secretary - the architect of much of America's policy in Iraq - stepped down under heavy criticism. And the tally of U.S. troop deaths has continued to grow.

All of that appears to have affected Republican performance in midterm elections in which Democrats won majority control in both chambers of Congress.

And those Republican losses, said pollster J. Brad Coker, may have had the greatest influence on Utahns' support for Bush at war.

"I suspect a lot of the drop is post-election voters who were sticking with Bush through the election out of party loyalty," said Corker, of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., which conducted The Tribune poll. "Now, they're looking back and thinking if he had handled Iraq better maybe Republicans would have fared better."

So, long pariahs in a nation where support for the president's handling of the war has been flagging for several years, more Utahns now appear to be lining up with their neighbors on the subject.

The Tribune survey results are similar to findings of pollster SurveyUSA, which in a poll sponsored by KSL-TV last month, found 42 percent of Utahns supportive of the president's handling of the war.

But with national support for Bush at war also having plummeted in recent months, support in Utah remains about 20 points higher than the nation at large.

According to a CBS News poll, conducted in the first three days of 2007, just 23 percent of Americans support Bush on Iraq.

Although Utah still appears to lead the nation in its support for Bush's war management, the drop below 50 percent should be a warning to the Bush administration, said Kirk Jowers, director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.

"I think Utah is like the canary in the coal mine for Bush," Jowers said. "If he loses Utah, the state that has been most steadfast in supporting him, he has to know it can't get much lower."

And Bush doesn't appear to have gotten a bump in approval for his war management in the wake of the killing of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The execution was marred by the public release of a video in which gallows witnesses were heard chanting praises for a cleric whose relatives now hold significant power in Iraq - and who are wielding it, some say, in ways not unlike the manner in which Saddam kept power during his reign.

In Utah, Kim Spangrude, a member of Military Families for Peace, said she believes The Tribune poll results reflect a burgeoning reality in the Beehive State, one in which criticism of the president and his military policies is not immediately denounced as not supportive of U.S. troops.

"The rhetoric up until now has been framed in terms of patriotism - that we all must continue the support of the war in order to continue upholding our troops," said Spangrude, whose son served in Iraq. "Now people know it's important to speak up. People are finally coming to terms with the fact that they have the right and obligation to speak up when they believe we are going in the wrong direction."

Louis Freeman, a retired pharmacist from Sandy, was among the 625 registered Utah voters to participate in The Tribune poll. He supported Bush when the war began.

"It was the correct thing to do," Freeman said of the overthrow of the Iraqi government. "That's a given in my mind."

Since the invasion, though, Freeman said Bush hasn't exhibited the flexibility in leadership to respond to the ever-changing situation on the ground in Iraq.
Freeman is among those Utahns who say they would support a short-term increase in the number of troops in Iraq.

Polls have consistently shown national support for such an option at less than 20 percent over the past year. The rate of support for a surge in Iraq among voters in Utah - which though vastly conservative has sent fewer service members to fight in the nation's current wars than most other states - is twice as high, according to the poll.

Utahns continue to support Bush personally, with 56 percent rating the president's performance in the White House as "excellent" or "good" in the Tribune poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, according to Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc.

Nationwide approval for Bush has fluctuated between 30 percent and 40 percent in various polls over the past month.

But a White House spokesman noted that Bush "doesn't govern by polls," directing The Tribune to the president's comments to reporters on Dec. 20.

"I'm often asked about public opinion," Bush said. "Of course, I want public opinion to support the efforts. I understand that. But I also understand the consequences of failure."

But Bill King, a Salt Lake City resident who also participated in The Tribune survey, said Bush is the failure.

King said he had "skeptical support" for the president's decision to go to war in Iraq. Now, King believes, Bush is responsible for mismanaging a war that has cost more than 3,000 American lives.

"He's a crook," King said.

And that, he said, is an opinion he's hearing more often among friends, acquaintances and co-workers these days.

mlaplante@sltrib.com

http://www.sltrib.com/portlet/article/html/fragments/print_article.jsp?articleId=4966131&siteId=297

Katha Pollitt - Happy New Year!

subject to debate by Katha Pollitt
Happy New Year!

[from the January 22, 2007 issue]

It's only January 2 as I write, and I've already broken my New Year's resolutions. (Exercise! Keep diary! Be better person! [Start column earlier!--Ed.]) You'd think I'd learn--these are the same self-improvement projects I swore fealty to last year, and the year before (and before), with the same results. But enough about me and my slothful ways--how about some resolutions for liberals? For example:

1. Think bigger. For decades, we've been chasing the rightward-drifting center--a k a the "middle class"--by throwing huge chunks of our agenda overboard like ballast from a leaky ship. Now the Democrats are, however shakily, back in power, and their program is so modest you need a microscope to see it. Raise the federal minimum wage in stages to $7.25--all the way back to its 1979 levels. Restore (some) taxes on the superrich. Fund cheaper student loans. Let Americans import prescription drugs from foreign countries. There's something so pathetic about that last item: The drug companies have us cornered, but maybe you can escape! How about: Raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour and index it to inflation so it won't decline in value again. Single-payer healthcare for all. Quality childcare for all. Decent affordable housing--an issue that's dropped off the radar screen even as housing costs have skyrocketed. Free or nominal tuition in public universities--sounds like utopian madness until you realize that public higher education actually was free, or cheap, until the 1980s. To complaints that these things cost too much, George W. Bush has provided a simple reply: If the government can pay for the war in Iraq--$355 billion and counting--it can pay for anything.

2. Stop giving the right credit for our ideas. It's nice that David Kuo, the evangelical Christian who served in the White House office of faith-based initiatives, wrote a book describing the Bush Administration's lack of commitment to so-called compassionate conservatism. But honestly, the man is a nudnik (see Alan Wolfe's devastating review in The New Republic). The handwriting was on the wall about faith-based funding from the moment it was devised. It was never anything but a flatly unconstitutional bribe to Christian conservatives, and many, many secularists--from People for the American Way and the Freedom From Religion Foundation down to, yes, me, right here--pointed this out. Why not credit the ones who were right all along? And PS: If the pastors and priests didn't get all the money they wanted for their evangelical prisons and fetal-protection programs, good! Similarly, why heap praise on antiwar reactionaries like Chuck Hagel or right-wing hacks with a soft spot for the ACLU like Bob Barr or antichoicers who draw the line at banning stem-cell research like John Danforth? Every time we give them the spotlight, we are reinforcing a portrait of the political stage in which right-wingers are the only players.

3. Stop looking for a savior. If we create a strong movement, leaders will arise. Probably too many! When a movement is weak, what you get is men--and I do mean men--on white horses, people with thin records of accomplishment upon whom wild hopes of rescue are projected. In 2004 it was Wesley Clark--supposedly electable because he was a general. This year, it's Barack Obama, with John Edwards coming up the inside. My point is not that both men are lightweight, inexperienced and less progressive than advertised. It's that, whatever their merits, if you want the next Democrat in the White House to feel beholden to you, don't act like a groupie two years in advance. Concentrate on building a movement he'll need to court--and satisfy.

4. Don't think your lifestyle can save the world. I love slow food! I cook slow food! I shop at farmers' markets, I pay extra for organic, I am always buying cloth bags and forgetting to bring them to the supermarket. But the world will never be saved by highly educated, privileged people making different upscale consumer choices. If you have enough money to buy grass-fed beef or tofu prepared by Tibetan virgins, you have enough money to give more of it away to people who really need it and groups that can make real social change.

5. Avoid weasel words. Like "spirituality." It's "religion." And "faith"--that's "religion" too. And while you're at it, define your terms. What is a "working family"? What is "the middle class"? Do these phrases mean anything more than "virtuous people entitled to make a moral claim on society"--as opposed to those criminals, drug addicts and welfare moms liberals used to care about? And speaking of liberals, whatever happened to them? And to leftists? How come we're all "progressives" now?

6. Avoid conscience-salving gimmicks. Wouldn't it be neat if you could cancel out the noxious clouds of CO2 emitted by your SUV by paying the eco-capitalists at Terrapass $80 to plant trees or turn cow farts into electricity? And what if you could provide clean water to the Third World by buying Ethos, a pricey bottled water from Starbucks? Forget it. There is no way your SUV does only $80 worth of environmental damage a year--to say nothing of wasting all that gas, taking up all that parking space and showing the whole world what a ridiculous person you are. If you really care about carbon emissions, get a Prius. Better yet, join a green group and fight the car culture. Similarly, if you want to help the Third World, get a thermos and fill it from the tap--send the hundreds of dollars you save annually not buying Ethos to UNFPA, the UN Population Fund. You'll help more people, and the Earth will thank you for not loading it up with plastic garbage.

7. Be honest. Withdrawing from Iraq may be the right thing to do, but it won't mean peace, at least not for the Iraqis.

8. Stop treating race and gender and sexual orientation as annoying distractions from the big manly task of uniting America behind class politics. Like it or not, women, gays and people of color make up something like 80 percent of the population. Get used to it! Discrimination--whether it's racial resegregation or denial of reproductive healthcare or antigay legislation--is not some touchy-feely issue of "identity politics." It's a central feature of the social injustice we all claim to be fighting.

9. Have some fun. Party like it's 2007!

http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20070122&s=pollitt

Future of Iraq: The spoils of war

Future of Iraq: The spoils of war
How the West will make a killing on Iraqi oil riches
By Danny Fortson, Andrew Murray-Watson and Tim Webb
Published: 07 January 2007

Iraq's massive oil reserves, the third-largest in the world, are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under a controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days.

The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972.

The huge potential prizes for Western firms will give ammunition to critics who say the Iraq war was fought for oil. They point to statements such as one from Vice-President Dick Cheney, who said in 1999, while he was still chief executive of the oil services company Halliburton, that the world would need an additional 50 million barrels of oil a day by 2010. "So where is the oil going to come from?... The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies," he said.

Oil industry executives and analysts say the law, which would permit Western companies to pocket up to three-quarters of profits in the early years, is the only way to get Iraq's oil industry back on its feet after years of sanctions, war and loss of expertise. But it will operate through "production-sharing agreements" (or PSAs) which are highly unusual in the Middle East, where the oil industry in Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world's two largest producers, is state controlled.

Opponents say Iraq, where oil accounts for 95 per cent of the economy, is being forced to surrender an unacceptable degree of sovereignty.

Proposing the parliamentary motion for war in 2003, Tony Blair denied the "false claim" that "we want to seize" Iraq's oil revenues. He said the money should be put into a trust fund, run by the UN, for the Iraqis, but the idea came to nothing. The same year Colin Powell, then Secretary of State, said: "It cost a great deal of money to prosecute this war. But the oil of the Iraqi people belongs to the Iraqi people; it is their wealth, it will be used for their benefit. So we did not do it for oil."

Supporters say the provision allowing oil companies to take up to 75 per cent of the profits will last until they have recouped initial drilling costs. After that, they would collect about 20 per cent of all profits, according to industry sources in Iraq. But that is twice the industry average for such deals.

Greg Muttitt, a researcher for Platform, a human rights and environmental group which monitors the oil industry, said Iraq was being asked to pay an enormous price over the next 30 years for its present instability. "They would lose out massively," he said, "because they don't have the capacity at the moment to strike a good deal."

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, Barham Salih, who chairs the country's oil committee, is expected to unveil the legislation as early as today. "It is a redrawing of the whole Iraqi oil industry [to] a modern standard," said Khaled Salih, spokesman for the Kurdish Regional Government, a party to the negotiations. The Iraqi government hopes to have the law on the books by March.

Several major oil companies are said to have sent teams into the country in recent months to lobby for deals ahead of the law, though the big names are considered unlikely to invest until the violence in Iraq abates.

James Paul, executive director at the Global Policy Forum, the international government watchdog, said: "It is not an exaggeration to say that the overwhelming majority of the population would be opposed to this. To do it anyway, with minimal discussion within the [Iraqi] parliament is really just pouring more oil on the fire."

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman and a former chief economist at Shell, said it was crucial that any deal would guarantee funds for rebuilding Iraq. "It is absolutely vital that the revenue from the oil industry goes into Iraqi development and is seen to do so," he said. "Although it does make sense to collaborate with foreign investors, it is very important the terms are seen to be fair."

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article2132569.ece

The Imperial Presidency 2.0

The Imperial Presidency 2.0

New York Times Editorial

Observing President Bush in action lately, we have to wonder if he actually watched the election returns in November, or if he was just rerunning the 2002 vote on his TiVo.

That year, the White House used the fear of terrorism to scare American voters into cementing the Republican domination of Congress. Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney then embarked on an expansion of presidential power chilling both in its sweep and in the damage it did to the constitutional system of checks and balances.

In 2006, the voters sent Mr. Bush a powerful message that it was time to rein in his imperial ambitions. But we have yet to see any sign that Mr. Bush understands that — or even realizes that the Democrats are now in control of the Congress. Indeed, he seems to have interpreted his party’s drubbing as a mandate to keep pursuing his fantasy of victory in Iraq and to press ahead undaunted with his assault on civil liberties and the judicial system. Just before the Christmas break, the Justice Department served notice to Senator Patrick Leahy — the new chairman of the Judiciary Committee — that it intended to keep stonewalling Congressional inquiries into Mr. Bush’s inhumane and unconstitutional treatment of prisoners taken in anti-terrorist campaigns. It refused to hand over two documents, including one in which Mr. Bush authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to establish secret prisons beyond the reach of American law or international treaties. The other set forth the interrogation methods authorized in these prisons — which we now know ranged from abuse to outright torture.

Also last month, Mr. Bush issued another of his infamous “presidential signing statements,” which he has used scores of times to make clear he does not intend to respect the requirements of a particular law — in this case a little-noticed Postal Service bill. The statement suggested that Mr. Bush does not believe the government must obtain a court order before opening Americans’ first-class mail. It said the administration had the right to “conduct searches in exigent circumstances,” which include not only protecting lives, but also unspecified “foreign intelligence collection.”

The law is clear on this. A warrant is required to open Americans’ mail under a statute that was passed to stop just this sort of abuse using just this sort of pretext. But then again, the law is also clear on the need to obtain a warrant before intercepting Americans’ telephone calls and e-mail. Mr. Bush began openly defying that law after Sept. 11, 2001, authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without a court order on calls and e-mail between the United States and other countries.



News accounts have also reminded us of the shameful state of American military prisons, where supposed terrorist suspects are kept without respect for civil or human rights, and on the basis of evidence so deeply tainted by abuse, hearsay or secrecy that it is essentially worthless.

Deborah Sontag wrote in The Times last week about the sorry excuse for a criminal case that the administration whipped up against Jose Padilla, who was once — but no longer is — accused of plotting to explode a radioactive “dirty bomb” in the United States. Mr. Padilla was held for two years without charges or access to a lawyer. Then, to avoid having the Supreme Court review Mr. Bush’s power grab, the administration dropped those accusations and charged Mr. Padilla in a criminal court on hazy counts of lending financial support to terrorists.

But just as the government abandoned the “dirty bomb” case against Mr. Padilla, it quietly charged an Ethiopian-born man, Binyam Mohamed, with conspiring with Mr. Padilla to commit that very crime. Unlike Mr. Padilla, Mr. Mohamed is not a United States citizen, so the administration threw him into Guantánamo. Now 28, he is still being held there as an “illegal enemy combatant” under the anti-constitutional military tribunals act that was rushed through the Republican-controlled Congress just before last November’s elections.

Mr. Mohamed was a target of another favorite Bush administration practice: “extraordinary rendition,” in which foreign citizens are snatched off the streets of their hometowns and secretly shipped to countries where they can be abused and tortured on behalf of the American government. Mr. Mohamed — whose name appears nowhere in either of the cases against Mr. Padilla — has said he was tortured in Morocco until he signed a confession that he conspired with Mr. Padilla. The Bush administration clearly has no intention of answering that claim, and plans to keep Mr. Mohamed in extralegal detention indefinitely.



The Democratic majority in Congress has a moral responsibility to address all these issues: fixing the profound flaws in the military tribunals act, restoring the rule of law over Mr. Bush’s rogue intelligence operations and restoring the balance of powers between Congress and the executive branch. So far, key Democrats, including Mr. Leahy and Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, chairman of a new subcommittee on human rights, have said these issues are high priorities for them.

We would lend such efforts our enthusiastic backing and hope Mr. Leahy, Mr. Durbin and other Democratic leaders are not swayed by the absurd notion circulating in Washington that the Democrats should now “look ahead” rather than use their new majority to right the dangerous wrongs of the last six years of Mr. Bush’s one-party rule.

This is a false choice. Dealing with these issues is not about the past. The administration’s assault on some of the nation’s founding principles continues unabated. If the Democrats were to shirk their responsibility to stop it, that would make them no better than the Republicans who formed and enabled these policies in the first place.

Frank Rich - The Timely Death of Gerald Ford

The Timely Death of Gerald Ford


By FRANK RICH

THE very strange and very long Gerald Ford funeral marathon was about many things, but Gerald Ford wasn’t always paramount among them.

Forty percent of today’s American population was not alive during the Ford presidency. The remaining 60 percent probably spent less time recollecting his unelected 29-month term than they did James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” Despite the lachrymose logorrhea of television anchors and the somber musical fanfares, the country was less likely to be found in deep mourning than in deep football. It’s a safe bet that the Ford funeral attracted far fewer viewers than the most consequential death video of the New Year’s weekend, the lynching of Saddam Hussein. But those two deaths were inextricably related: it was in tandem that they created a funereal mood that left us mourning for our own historical moment more than for Mr. Ford.

What the Ford obsequies were most about was the Beltway establishment’s grim verdict on George W. Bush and his war in Iraq. Every Ford attribute, big and small, was trotted out by Washington eulogists with a wink, as an implicit rebuke of the White House’s current occupant. Mr. Ford was a healer, not a partisan divider. He was an all-American football star, not a cheerleader. He didn’t fritter away time on pranks at his college fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon, because he had to work his way through school as a dishwasher. He was in the top third of his class at Yale Law. He fought his way into dangerous combat service during World War II rather than accept his cushy original posting. He was pals with reporters and Democrats. He encouraged dissent in his inner circle. He had no enemies, no ego, no agenda, no ideology, no concern for his image. He described himself as “a Ford, not a Lincoln,” rather than likening himself to, say, Truman.

Under the guise of not speaking ill of a dead president, the bevy of bloviators so relentlessly trashed the living incumbent that it bordered on farce. No wonder President Bush, who once hustled from Crawford to Washington to sign a bill interfering in Terri Schiavo’s medical treatment, remained at his ranch last weekend rather than join Betty Ford and Dick Cheney for the state ceremony in the Capitol rotunda.

Yet for all the media acreage bestowed on the funeral, the day in Mr. Ford’s presidency that most stalks Mr. Bush was given surprisingly short shrift — perhaps because it was the most painful. That day was not Sept. 8, 1974, when Mr. Ford pardoned his predecessor, but April 30, 1975, when the last American helicopters hightailed it out of Saigon, ending our involvement in a catastrophic war. Mr. Ford had been a consistent Vietnam hawk, but upon inheriting the final throes of the fiasco, he recognized reality when he saw it.

Just how much so can be found in a prescient speech that Mr. Ford gave a week before our clamorous Saigon exit. (And a speech prescient on other fronts, too: he called making “America independent of foreign energy sources by 1985” an urgent priority.) Speaking at Tulane University, Mr. Ford said, “America can regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam” but not “by refighting a war that is finished as far as America is concerned.” He added: “We, of course, are saddened indeed by the events in Indochina. But these events, tragic as they are, portend neither the end of the world nor of America’s leadership in the world.”

All of this proved correct, and though Mr. Ford made a doomed last-ditch effort to secure more financial aid for Saigon, he could and did do nothing to stop the inevitable. He knew it was way too late to make the symbolic gesture of trying to toss fresh American troops on the pyre. “We can and we should help others to help themselves,” he said in New Orleans. “But the fate of responsible men and women everywhere, in the final decision, rests in their own hands, not in ours.”

Though Mr. Ford was hardly the unalloyed saint of last week’s pageantry, his words and actions in 1975 should weigh heavily upon us even as our current president remains oblivious. As Mr. Ford’s presidential history is hard to separate from the Bush inversion of it, so it is difficult to separate that indelible melee in Saigon from the Hussein video. Both are terrifying, and for the same reason.

The awful power of the Hussein snuff film derives not just from its illustration of the barbarity of capital punishment, even in a case where the condemned is a mass murderer undeserving of pity. What really makes the video terrifying is its glimpse into the abyss of an irreversible and lethal breakdown in civic order. It sends the same message as those images of helicopters fleeing our embassy in April 1975: Iraq, like Vietnam before it, is in chaos, beyond the control of our government or the regime we’re desperately trying to prop up. The security apparatus of Iraq’s “unity government” was powerless to prevent the video, let alone the chaos, and can’t even get its story straight about what happened and why.

Actually, it’s even worse than that. Perhaps the video’s most chilling notes are the chants of “Moktada! Moktada! Moktada!” They are further confirmation, as if any were needed, that our principal achievement in Iraq over four years has been to empower a jihadist mini-Saddam in place of the secular original. The radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr, an ally of Hezbollah and Hamas, is a thug responsible for the deaths of untold Iraqis and Americans alike. It was his forces, to take just one representative example, that killed Cindy Sheehan’s son, among many others, in one of two Shiite uprisings in 2004.

The day after Casey Sheehan’s slaughter, Dan Senor, the spokesman for the American occupation, presided over a Green Zone news conference promising Mr. Sadr’s woefully belated arrest on a months-old warrant for his likely role in the earlier assassination of Abdel Majid al-Khoei, a rival Shiite who had fiercely opposed Saddam. Today Mr. Sadr and his forces control 30 seats in the Iraqi Parliament, four government ministries, and death squads (a k a militias) more powerful than the nominal Iraqi army. He is the puppetmaster who really controls Nuri al-Maliki — the Iraqi prime minister embraced by Mr. Bush — even to the point of inducing Mr. Maliki to shut down a search for an American soldier kidnapped at gunpoint in Sadr City in the fall. (And, you might ask, whatever happened to Mr. Senor? He’s a Fox News talking head calling for a “surge” of American troops to clean up the botch he and his cohort left behind.) Only Joseph Heller could find the gallows humor in a moral disaster of these proportions.

It’s against the backdrop of both the Hussein video and the Ford presidency that we must examine the prospect of that much-previewed “surge” in Iraq — a surge, by the way, that the press should start calling by its rightful name, escalation. As Mr. Ford had it, America cannot regain its pride by refighting a war that is finished as far as America is concerned and, for that matter, as far as Iraq is concerned. By large margins, the citizens of both countries want us not to escalate but to start disengaging. So do America’s top military commanders, who are now being cast aside just as Gen. Eric Shinseki was when he dared assert before the invasion that securing Iraq would require several hundred thousand troops.

It would still take that many troops, not the 20,000 we might scrape together now. Last month the Army and Marines issued an updated field manual on counterinsurgency (PDF) supervised by none other than Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, the next top American military commander in Iraq. It endorsed the formula that “20 counterinsurgents per 1,000 residents” is “the minimum troop density required.” By that yardstick, it would take the addition of 100,000-plus troops to secure Baghdad alone.

The “surge,” then, is a sham. It is not meant to achieve that undefined “victory” Mr. Bush keeps talking about but to serve his own political spin. His real mission is to float the “we’re not winning, we’re not losing” status quo until Jan. 20, 2009. After that, as Joseph Biden put it last week, a new president will “be the guy landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof.” This is nothing but a replay of the cynical Nixon-Kissinger “decent interval” exit strategy concocted to pass the political buck (to Mr. Ford, as it happened) on Vietnam.

As the White House tries to sell this flimflam, picture fresh American troops being tossed into Baghdad’s caldron to work alongside the Maliki-Sadr Shiite lynch mob that presided over the Saddam hanging. Contemplate as well Gerald Ford’s most famous words, spoken as he assumed the presidency after the Nixon resignation: “Our Constitution works; our great republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.”

This time the people do not rule. Two months after Americans spoke decisively on Election Day, the president is determined to overrule them. Our long national nightmare in Iraq, far from being over, is about to get a second wind.