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, February 24, 2007

Frank Rich - Where Were You That Summer of 2001?

Where Were You That Summer of 2001?


“UNITED 93,” Hollywood’s highly praised but indifferently attended 9/11 docudrama, will be only a blip on tonight’s Oscar telecast. The ratings rise of “24” has stalled as audiences defect from the downer of terrorists to the supernatural uplift of “Heroes.” Cable surfers have tuned out Iraq for a war with laughs: the battle over Anna Nicole’s decomposing corpse. Set this cultural backdrop against last week’s terrifying but little-heeded front-page Times account of American “intelligence and counterterrorism officials” leaking urgent warnings about Al Qaeda’s comeback, and ask yourself: Haven’t we been here before?

If so, that would be the summer of 2001, when America pigged out on a 24/7 buffet of Gary Condit and shark attacks. The intelligence and counterterrorism officials back then were privately sounding urgent warnings like those in last week’s Times, culminating in the President’s Daily Brief titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” The system “was blinking red,” as the C.I.A. chief George Tenet would later tell the 9/11 commission. But no one, from the White House on down, wanted to hear it.

The White House doesn’t want to hear it now, either. That’s why terrorism experts are trying to get its attention by going public, and not just through The Times. Michael Scheuer, the former head of the C.I.A. bin Laden unit, told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann last week that the Taliban and Al Qaeda, having regrouped in Afghanistan and Pakistan, “are going to detonate a nuclear device inside the United States” (the real United States, that is, not the fictional stand-in where this same scenario can be found on “24”). Al Qaeda is “on the march” rather than on the run, the Georgetown University and West Point terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman told Congress. Tony Blair is pulling troops out of Iraq not because Basra is calm enough to be entrusted to Iraqi forces — it’s “not ready for transition,” according to the Pentagon’s last report — but to shift some British resources to the losing battle against the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

This is why the entire debate about the Iraq “surge” is as much a sideshow as Britney’s scalp. More troops in Baghdad are irrelevant to what’s going down in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The surge supporters who accuse the Iraq war’s critics of emboldening the enemy are trying to deflect attention from their own complicity in losing a bigger battle: the one against the enemy that actually did attack us on 9/11. Who lost Iraq? is but a distraction from the more damning question, Who is losing the war on terrorism?

The record so far suggests that this White House has done so twice. The first defeat, of course, began in early December 2001, when we lost Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora. The public would not learn about that failure until April 2002 (when it was uncovered by The Washington Post), but it’s revealing that the administration started its bait-and-switch trick to relocate the enemy in Iraq just as bin Laden slipped away. It was on Dec. 9, 2001, that Dick Cheney first floated the idea on “Meet the Press” that Saddam had something to do with 9/11. It was “pretty well confirmed,” he said (though it was not), that bin Laden’s operative Mohamed Atta had met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague months before Atta flew a hijacked plane into the World Trade Center.

In the Scooter Libby trial, Mr. Cheney’s former communications aide, Catherine Martin, said that delivering a message on “Meet the Press” was “a tactic we often used.” No kidding. That mention of the nonexistent Prague meeting was the first of five times that the vice president would imply an Iraq-Qaeda collaboration on that NBC show before the war began in March 2003. This bogus innuendo was an essential tool for selling the war precisely because we had lost bin Laden in Afghanistan. If we could fight Al Qaeda by going to war in Iraq instead, the administration could claim it didn’t matter where bin Laden was. (Mr. Bush pointedly stopped mentioning him altogether in public.)

The president now says his government never hyped any 9/11-Iraq links. “Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq,” he said last August after finally conceding that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. In fact everyone in the administration insinuated it constantly, including him. Mr. Bush told of “high-level” Iraq-Qaeda contacts “that go back a decade” in the same notorious October 2002 speech that gave us Saddam’s imminent mushroom clouds. So effective was this propaganda that by 2003 some 44 percent of Americans believed (incorrectly) that the 9/11 hijackers had been Iraqis; only 3 percent had seen an Iraq link right after 9/11.

Though the nonexistent connection was even more specious than the nonexistent nuclear W.M.D., Mr. Bush still leans on it today even while denying that he does so. He has to. His litanies that we are “on the offense” by pursuing the war in Iraq and “fighting terrorists over there, so that we don’t have to fight them here” depend on the premise that we went into that country in the first place to vanquish Al Qaeda and that it is still the “central front” in the war on terror. In January’s State of the Union address hawking the so-called surge, Mr. Bush did it again, warning that to leave Iraq “would be to ignore the lessons of September the 11th and invite tragedy.”

But now more than ever, the opposite is true. It is precisely by pouring still more of our finite military and intelligence resources down the drain in Iraq that we are tragically ignoring the lessons of 9/11. Instead of showing resolve, as Mr. Bush supposes, his botch of the Iraq war has revealed American weakness. Our catastrophic occupation spawned terrorists in a country where they didn’t used to be, and to pretend that Iraq is now their central front only adds to the disaster. As Mr. Scheuer, the former C.I.A. official, reiterated last week: “Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you want to address the threat to America, that’s where it is.” It’s typical of Mr. Bush’s self-righteousness, however, that he would rather punt on that threat than own up to a mistake.

That mistake — dropping the ball on Al Qaeda — was compounded last fall when Mr. Bush committed his second major blunder in the war on terror. The occasion was the September revelation that our supposed ally, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan, had negotiated a “truce” with the Taliban in North Waziristan, a tribal region in his country at the Afghanistan border. This truce was actually a retreat by Pakistan, which even released Qaeda prisoners in its custody. Yet the Bush White House denied any of this was happening. “This deal is not at all with the Taliban,” the president said, claiming that “this is against the Taliban, actually.” When Dana Priest and Ann Scott Tyson of The Washington Post reported that same month that the bin Laden trail was “stone cold” and had been since Mr. Bush diverted special operations troops from that hunt to Iraq in 2003, the White House branded the story flat wrong. “We’re on the hunt,” Mr. Bush said. “We’ll get him.”

Far from getting him or any of his top operatives dead or alive, the president has sat idly by, showering praise on General Musharraf while Taliban attacks from Pakistan into Afghanistan have increased threefold. As The Times reported last week, now both bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, are believed to be “steadily building an operations hub” in North Waziristan. We know that last year’s London plot to bomb airliners, like the bus-and-subway bombings of 2005, was not just the work of home-grown jihadists in Britain, but also of Qaeda operatives. Some of the would-be bombers were trained in Qaeda’s Pakistan camps much as their 9/11 predecessors had been trained in Afghanistan.

All of this was already going on when Mr. Bush said just before the election that “absolutely, we’re winning” and that “Al Qaeda is on the run.” What’s changed in the few months since his lie is that even more American troops are tied down in Iraq, that even more lethal weapons are being used against them, that even more of the coalition of the unwilling are fleeing, and that even more Americans are tuning out both the administration and the war they voted down in November to savor a referendum that at least offers tangible results, “American Idol.”

Yet Mr. Bush still denies reality. Ten days ago he told the American Enterprise Institute that “the Taliban have been driven from power” and proposed that America help stabilize the Pakistan border by setting up “Reconstruction Opportunity Zones” (remember that “Gulf Opportunity Zone” he promised after Katrina?) to “give residents the chance to export locally made products to the United States, duty-free.” In other words, let’s fight terrorism not by shifting America’s focus from Iraq to the central front, but by shopping for Taliban souvenirs!

Five years after 9/11, the terrorists would seem to have us just where they want us — asleep — even as the system is blinking red once again.

US generals ‘will quit’ if Bush orders Iran attack

US generals ‘will quit’ if Bush orders Iran attack
Michael Smith and Sarah Baxter, Washington

SOME of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.

Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.

“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.

“There are enough people who feel this would be an error of judgment too far for there to be resignations.”

A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.

The threat of a wave of resignations coincided with a warning by Vice-President Dick Cheney that all options, including military action, remained on the table. He was responding to a comment by Tony Blair that it would not “be right to take military action against Iran”.

Iran ignored a United Nations deadline to suspend its uranium enrichment programme last week. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted that his country “will not withdraw from its nuclear stances even one single step”.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran could soon produce enough enriched uranium for two nuclear bombs a year, although Tehran claims its programme is purely for civilian energy purposes.

Nicholas Burns, the top US negotiator, is to meet British, French, German, Chinese and Russian officials in London tomorrow to discuss additional penalties against Iran. But UN diplomats cautioned that further measures would take weeks to agree and would be mild at best.

A second US navy aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS John C Stennis arrived in the Gulf last week, doubling the US presence there. Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, the commander of the US Fifth Fleet, warned: “The US will take military action if ships are attacked or if countries in the region are targeted or US troops come under direct attack.”

But General Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said recently there was “zero chance” of a war with Iran. He played down claims by US intelligence that the Iranian government was responsible for supplying insurgents in Iraq, forcing Bush on the defensive.

Pace’s view was backed up by British intelligence officials who said the extent of the Iranian government’s involvement in activities inside Iraq by a small number of Revolutionary Guards was “far from clear”.

Hillary Mann, the National Security Council’s main Iran expert until 2004, said Pace’s repudiation of the administration’s claims was a sign of grave discontent at the top.

“He is a very serious and a very loyal soldier,” she said. “It is extraordinary for him to have made these comments publicly, and it suggests there are serious problems between the White House, the National Security Council and the Pentagon.”

Mann fears the administration is seeking to provoke Iran into a reaction that could be used as an excuse for an attack. A British official said the US navy was well aware of the risks of confrontation and was being “seriously careful” in the Gulf.

The US air force is regarded as being more willing to attack Iran. General Michael Moseley, the head of the air force, cited Iran as the main likely target for American aircraft at a military conference earlier this month.

According to a report in The New Yorker magazine, the Pentagon has already set up a working group to plan airstrikes on Iran. The panel initially focused on destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities and on regime change but has more recently been instructed to identify targets in Iran that may be involved in supplying or aiding militants in Iraq.

However, army chiefs fear an attack on Iran would backfire on American troops in Iraq and lead to more terrorist attacks, a rise in oil prices and the threat of a regional war.

Britain is concerned that its own troops in Iraq might be drawn into any American conflict with Iran, regardless of whether the government takes part in the attack.

One retired general who participated in the “generals’ revolt” against Donald Rumsfeld’s handling of the Iraq war said he hoped his former colleagues would resign in the event of an order to attack. “We don’t want to take another initiative unless we’ve really thought through the consequences of our strategy,” he warned.

Culture of Life . . .

Paul Krugman - Colorless Green Ideas

Colorless Green Ideas


The factual debate about whether global warming is real is, or at least should be, over. The question now is what to do about it.

Aside from a few dead-enders on the political right, climate change skeptics seem to be making a seamless transition from denial to fatalism. In the past, they rejected the science. Now, with the scientific evidence pretty much irrefutable, they insist that it doesn’t matter because any serious attempt to curb greenhouse gas emissions is politically and economically impossible.

Behind this claim lies the assumption, explicit or implicit, that any substantial cut in energy use would require a drastic change in the way we live. To be fair, some people in the conservation movement seem to share that assumption.

But the assumption is false. Let me tell you about a real-world counterexample: an advanced economy that has managed to combine rising living standards with a substantial decline in per capita energy consumption, and managed to keep total carbon dioxide emissions more or less flat for two decades, even as both its economy and its population grew rapidly. And it achieved all this without fundamentally changing a lifestyle centered on automobiles and single-family houses.

The name of the economy? California.

There’s nothing heroic about California’s energy policy — but that’s precisely the point. Over the years the state has adopted a series of conservation measures that are anything but splashy. They’re the kind of drab, colorless stuff that excites only real policy wonks. Yet the cumulative effect has been impressive, if still well short of what we really need to do.

The energy divergence between California and the rest of the United States dates from the 1970s. Both the nation and the state initially engaged in significant energy conservation after that decade’s energy crisis. But conservation in most of America soon stalled: after a decade of rapid progress, improvements in auto mileage came to an end, while electricity consumption continued to rise rapidly, driven by the growing size of houses, the increasing use of air-conditioning and the proliferation of appliances.

In California, by contrast, the state continued to push policies designed to encourage conservation, especially of electricity. And these policies worked.

People in California have always used a bit less energy than other Americans because of the mild climate. But the difference has grown much larger since the 1970s. Today, the average Californian uses about a third less total energy than the average American, uses less than 60 percent as much electricity, and is responsible for emitting only about 55 percent as much carbon dioxide.

How did the state do it? In some cases conservation was mandated directly, through energy efficiency standards for appliances and rules governing new construction. Also, regulated power companies were given new incentives to promote conservation, via rule changes that “decoupled” their profits from the amount of electricity they sold.

And yes, a variety of state actions had the effect of raising energy prices. In the early 1970s, the price of electricity in California was close to the national average. Today, it’s about 50 percent higher.

Incidentally, since someone is bound to mention it: the California energy crisis of 2000-2001 has nothing to do with this story. That crisis was caused by market manipulation — we’ve got it on tape — made possible by ill-conceived deregulation, not conservation.

Back to California’s success. As the higher price of power indicates, conservation didn’t come free. Still, it’s striking how invisible California’s energy policy remains. It’s easy to see why New York has much lower per capita energy consumption than, say, Georgia: it’s a matter of high-rises versus sprawl, mass transit versus driving alone. It’s less obvious that Los Angeles is a much greener city than Atlanta. But it is.

So is California a role model for climate policy? No and yes. Even if America as a whole had matched California’s conservation efforts, we’d still be emitting about as much carbon dioxide now as we were in 1990. That’s too much.

But California’s experience shows that serious conservation is a lot less disruptive, imposes much less of a burden, than the skeptics would have it. And the fact that a state government, with far more limited powers than those at Washington’s disposal, has been able to achieve so much is a good omen for our ability to do a lot to limit climate change, if and when we find the political will.

Disgusting treatment for those to whom we owe so much

Disgusting treatment for those to whom we owe so much

By Joseph L. Galloway
McClatchy Newspapers

There's a great deal more to supporting our troops than sticking a $2 yellow ribbon magnet made in China on your SUV. There's a great deal more to it than making "Support Our Troops" a phrase that every politician feels obliged to utter in every speech, no matter how banal the topic or craven the purpose.

This week, we were treated to a new expose of just how fraudulent and shallow and meaningless "Support Our Troops" is on the lips of those in charge of spending the half a trillion dollars of taxpayers' money that the Pentagon eats every year.

The Washington Post published an expose, complete with photographs, revealing that for every inpatient who's getting the best medical treatment that money can buy at the main hospital at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, there are 17 outpatients warehoused in quarters unfit for human habitation.

Some of the military outpatients are stuck on the Walter Reed campus, a couple of miles from the White House and the Capitol, for as long as 12 months. They've been living in rat and roach-infested rooms, some of which are coated in black mold.

There was outrage and disgust and raw anger at this callous, cruel treatment of those who have the greatest claim not only on our sympathies but also on the public purse. Who among the smiling politicians who regularly troop over to the main hospital at Walter Reed for photo-op visits with those who've come home grievously wounded from the wars the politicians started have bothered to go the extra quarter-mile to see the unseen majority with their rats and roaches?

Not one, it would seem, since none among them have admitted to knowing that there was a problem, much less doing something about it before the reporters blew the whistle.

Within 24 hours, construction crews were working overtime, slapping paint over the moldy drywall, patching the sagging ceilings and putting out traps and poison for the critters that infest the place.

Within 48 hours, the Department of Defense announced that it was appointing an independent commission to investigate. Doubtless the commission will provide a detailed report finding that no one was guilty - certainly none of the politicians of the ruling party whose hands were on the levers of power for five long years of war. They will find that it all came about because the Army medical establishment was overwhelmed by the caseload flowing out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, brave soldiers who were wheelchair-bound with missing legs or paralysis, have been left to make their own way a quarter-mile to appointments with the shrinks and a half-mile to pick up the drugs that dim their minds and eyes and pain, and make the rats and roaches recede into a fuzzy distance.

All this came on the heels of my McClatchy Newspapers colleague Chris Adams' Feb. 9 report that even by its own measures, the Veterans Administration isn't prepared to give returning veterans the care they need to help them overcome destructive, and sometimes fatal, mental health ailments.

Nearly 100 VA clinics provided virtually no mental health care in 2005, Adams found, and the average veteran with psychiatric troubles gets about a third fewer visits with specialists today than he would have received a decade ago.

The same politicians, from a macho president to the bureaucrats to the people who chair the congressional committees that are supposed to oversee such matters, have utterly failed to protect our wounded warriors. They've talked the talk but few, if any, have ever walked the walk.

No. This happened while all of them were busy as bees, taking billions out of the VA budget and planning to shut down Walter Reed by 2011 in the name of cost-efficiency.

Among those politicians are the people who sent too few troops to Afghanistan or Iraq, who failed to provide enough body armor and weapons and armored vehicles and who, to protect their own political hides, refused to admit that the mission was not accomplished and change course.

But it's they who are charged with the highest duty of all, in the words of President Abraham Lincoln in his Second Inaugural in 1865: "to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan."

How can they look at themselves in the mirror every morning? How dare they ever utter the words: Support Our Troops? How dare they pretend to give a damn about those they order to war?

They've hidden the flag-draped coffins of the fallen from the public and the press. They've averted their eyes from the suffering that their orders have visited upon an Army that they've ground down by misuse and over-use and just plain incompetence.

This shabby, sorry episode of political and institutional cruelty to those who deserve the best their nation can provide is the last straw. How can they spin this one to blame the generals or the media or the Democrats? How can you do that, Karl?

If the American people are not sickened and disgusted by this then, by God, we don't deserve to be defended from the wolves of this world.

General Plays Down Value Of Capturing Bin Laden

General Plays Down Value Of Capturing Bin Laden

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Saturday, February 24, 2007; A08

FORT WORTH, Feb. 23 -- The Army's highest-ranking officer said Friday that he was unsure whether the U.S. military would capture or kill Osama bin Laden, adding, "I don't know that it's all that important, frankly."

"So we get him, and then what?" asked Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the outgoing Army chief of staff, at a Rotary Club of Fort Worth luncheon. "There's a temporary feeling of goodness, but in the long run, we may make him bigger than he is today.

"He's hiding, and he knows we're looking for him. We know he's not particularly effective. I'm not sure there's that great of a return" on capturing or killing bin Laden.

Schoomaker pointed to the capture of Saddam Hussein, the killings of his sons, Uday and Qusay, and the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as evidence that the capture or death of al-Qaeda's leader would have little effect on threats to the United States.

Days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, President Bush said he wanted bin Laden "dead or alive," and then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said, "It is not enough to get one individual, although we'll start with that one individual."

Bush reaffirmed the goal last September in a prime-time speech, warning bin Laden: "No matter how long it takes, America will find you, and we will bring you to justice."

But Schoomaker's remarks echoed comments last year by Vice President Cheney, who seemed to play down the value of capturing or killing bin Laden days before the Bush speech. "He's not the only source of the problem, obviously. . . . If you killed him tomorrow, you'd still have a problem with al-Qaeda," the vice president said.

Schoomaker, who is due to be replaced as chief of staff in April by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commanded the U.S. Special Operations Command before becoming chief of staff. Special operations personnel have been leading the hunt for bin Laden along the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Michael Hirsh - Why We're Staying in Iraq

Why We're Staying in Iraq
The Petraeus plan will have U.S. forces deployed in Iraq for years to come. Does anybody running for president realize that?
By Michael Hirsh
Updated: 3:15 p.m. CT Feb 22, 2007

Feb. 22, 2007 - The British are leaving, the Iraqis are failing and the Americans are staying—and we’re going to be there a lot longer than anyone in Washington is acknowledging right now. As Democrats and Republicans back home try to outdo each other with quick-fix plans for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and funds, what few people seem to have noticed is that Gen. David Petraeus’s new “surge” plan is committing U.S. troops, day by day, to a much deeper and longer-term role in policing Iraq than since the earliest days of the U.S. occupation. How long must we stay under the Petraeus plan? Perhaps 10 years. At least five. In any case, long after George W. Bush has returned to Crawford, Texas, for good.

But don’t take my word for it. I’m merely a messenger for a coterie of counterinsurgency experts who have helped to design the Petraeus plan—his so-called “dream team”—and who have discussed it with NEWSWEEK, usually on condition of anonymity, owing to the sensitivity of the subject. To a degree little understood by the U.S. public, Petraeus is engaged in a giant “do-over.” It is a near-reversal of the approach taken by Petraeus’s predecessor as commander of multinational forces in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, until the latter was relieved in early February, and most other top U.S. commanders going back to Rick Sanchez and Tommy Franks. Casey sought to accelerate both the training of Iraqi forces and American withdrawal. By 2008, the remaining 60,000 or so U.S. troops were supposed to be hunkering down in four giant “superbases,” where they would be relatively safe. Under Petraeus’s plan, a U.S. military force of 160,000 or more is setting up hundreds of “mini-forts” all over Baghdad and the rest of the country, right in the middle of the action. The U.S. Army has also stopped pretending that Iraqis—who have failed to build a credible government, military or police force on their own—are in the lead when it comes to kicking down doors and keeping the peace. And that means the future of Iraq depends on the long-term presence of U.S. forces in a way it did not just a few months ago. “We’re putting down roots,” says Philip Carter, a former U.S. Army captain who returned last summer from a year of policing and training in the hot zone around Baquba. “The Americans are no longer willing to accept failure in order to put Iraqis in the lead. You can’t let the mission fail just for the sake of diplomacy.”

Many U.S. military experts now believe that, if there is any hope of stabilizing Iraq, the Petraeus plan is the only way to do it. The critical question now, they say, is whether we have anywhere near enough troops committed to the effort, and whether America has the political will to see the strategy through to the end.

“This is the right strategy: small mini-packets of U.S. troops all over, small ‘oil spots’ [of stability] spreading out. It’s classic counterinsurgency,” says one of the Army’s top experts in irregular warfare, who helped draft the counterinsurgency manual that Petraeus produced while commander at Fort Leavenworth last year—the principles of which the general is applying to Iraq. “But it’s high risk and it’s going to take a long time.”

How long? At his confirmation hearings in January, Petraeus was asked by Sen. Ted Kennedy about a timetable for the surge plan. "I can't give you dates at this time," he said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates was only slightly more specific at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 11. "I don't think anybody has a definite idea about how long the surge would last," he said. "I think for most of us, in our minds, we're thinking of it as a matter of months, not 18 months or two years." A White House spokeswoman said Thursday she could find no record that the president, national-security adviser Stephen Hadley or any senior administration official had volunteered anything more specific than that. But the Army expert in irregular warfare notes that insurgencies take on average 10 years to defeat. And while technically we’re about four years into this one, the Pentagon was in such denial for so long about confronting the Iraqi insurgency—and wasted time on so many errant alternatives—that America may be at square one in fighting it, or possibly even “in negative numbers,” this expert says.

The Petraeus plan returns U.S. troops to the role they played in the immediate aftermath of the 2003 invasion (although back then there was no partnering with Iraqis at all). Paul Rieckhoff, a former U.S. Army reservist and the author of “Chasing Ghosts,” a harshly critical look at the Iraq war, says he is disheartened that Petraeus is moving his troops back into the same turf that Rieckhoff’s First Armored Division brigade, under Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey, controlled in 2003. The Dempsey approach to U.S.-led policing was similar to Petraeus’s, but it was abandoned in early 2004. “The 82nd Airborne is now returning to the area of Adamiyah [a neighborhood in central Baghdad] we left in 2004,” Rieckhoff says. As a result of all the lost time, the anonymous irregular warfare expert worries about “whether we have the support of the American people for the multiyear commitment it will take,” adding: “This is how great powers lose small wars.”

America’s political will may depend, in turn, on whether the casualty rate stays the same—or goes even higher, as is likely for a time. An attack on a U.S. outpost north of Baghdad on Monday highlighted some of the hazards of the new approach. Insurgents sent suicide vehicles into an abandoned police station manned by a small contingent of U.S. troops, killing two American soldiers. “The troops are certainly more vulnerable than they are on super bases,” says John Arquilla, who teaches irregular warfare at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. “The mission now is less force protection of American troops and more protection of the Iraqi people.”

Yet like two planets spinning away from each other in different orbits, the Petraeus plan developing on the ground and the Iraq debate generating headlines back home seem to be disconnected, increasingly so. On Wednesday, most of the Democratic candidates for president gathered in Carson City, Nev., and pitched their various schemes for capping funds for the war and thus forcing at least a partial U.S. withdrawal. Back on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw her support behind a proposed bill by Rep. John Murtha that would reduce the U.S. presence in Iraq by requiring troops to spend one year at home between deployments, among other provisions for readiness.

Can any of these efforts succeed, when the highly esteemed Petraeus will be making regular visits to the Hill pleading for more time? Phil Carter, who is also a lawyer, believes the congressional efforts to cut off Petraeus will fall flat—although he’s also skeptical that the general’s plan can work without several hundred thousand more troops, which Congress is highly unlikely to authorize. “I just don’t see Congress stepping up and drawing a line in the sand,” he says. The analogy one hears most often is to the end of the Vietnam War, when Congress cut off aid to the South Vietnamese government. But Carter believes that comparison is a false one. “The myth on Vietnam is that Congress did it, but by the time they did Nixon had pulled out all the U.S. troops anyway,” he says. “This is different.”

Even so, because the Petraeus plan will likely extend well into the next presidency, much will depend on the views and actions of whoever is elected in 2008. Ultimately, if we do withdraw prematurely, we may end up doing what embattled British Prime Minister Tony Blair has just announced he's doing in the southern Iraqi city of Basra: declare victory (though there is scant evidence of one), and go home. But not if Dave Petraeus and his dream team can help it.


Eisenhower's Worst Nightmare Now Harsh Reality For U.S.A

Eisenhower's Worst Nightmare Now Harsh Reality For U.S.A

By John Hanchette

02/20/0 "Niagara Falls Reporter " - -- OLEAN -- I have come to believe Dwight David Eisenhower, our 34th president, is one of the most underrated and unappreciated men ever to hold that office.

Until recently, Eisenhower was generally regarded as a terrific general (commander of all Allied Forces in World War II) but mediocre president. Now, he is proving to be one of the most prescient visionaries of our modern age.

All of my high school years occurred during Ike's second term. Think "Happy Days" of TV fame, with Fonzi and the malt shop. To most parents, the biggest crisis seemed to be this terrible rock 'n' roll music that was sweeping the nation and corrupting our youth. The new dance sensation the Twist (in which partners never even touched each other) was banned at my high school, despite being downright puritanical by today's standards.

The White House coverage was pretty boring, and so was Ike. The American public loved him because not much all that bad was happening and he'd gotten us out of the Korean War, but he was viewed by most commentators as an unimaginative avuncular type.

Young people paid so little attention to him that my birth cohort was dubbed the Apathetic Generation. (We dispelled that unfair tag when Vietnam came along.)

Eisenhower, however, in January of 1961, in his last speech before vacating the White House to make room for the just-elected John F. Kennedy, warned America of a "disastrous rise of misplaced power" if we continued allowing the germination of a new historical entity he called "the military-industrial complex."

Very few Americans knew what the heck Eisenhower was talking about. We do now.

It's 46 years later, and we are rapidly coming to realize the federal government really doesn't run this country anymore. Huge, shady corporations with fat federal contracts do.

The public's concept of federal government was basically forged by FDR's all-encompassing, can-do successes of ending the Depression and winning World War II. That no longer holds. Recent presidents and Congresses -- under pressure from taxpayers and voters -- have downsized government to the point where private companies are under federal contract to perform a broad scope of functions and get the actual work done. Almost everything is farmed out.

Don't believe me? Consider this mind-twisting equation from a well-researched article in the current issue of "Vanity Fair" magazine: Private federal contractors now "absorb the taxes paid by everyone in America with incomes under $100,000."

Viewed a bit differently, "more than 90 percent of all taxpayers might as well remit everything they owe directly ... to some contractor rather than to the IRS."

Disastrous "misplaced power" indeed. Ike was right.

The "Vanity Fair" article is written by two of the best investigative reporters of our time, Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele, who used to ply their craft for The Philadelphia Inquirer until that double digit-Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper lost its appetite for expensive investigative reporting. Bartlett and Steele, who won two of those Pulitzers and 50 other national journalism awards, went to "Time" magazine and now to the increasingly aggressive "Vanity Fair."

Their first article for the big, slick magazine lays open the above situation, which the authors call "Eisenhower's nightmare." They illustrate the dominance of the military-industrial complex by describing the success of a powerful private company only a tiny fraction of Americans have even heard of -- Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC.

I first came across SAIC about 15 years ago while toiling as a Washington reporter covering the Pentagon and other bureaucracies in the wake of the Persian Gulf War -- Bush the Elder's speedy eviction of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991, and equally speedy pullout once the work was done. (Daddy Bush was smarter than his son in suspecting an American occupation force in Iraq would lead to deadly and ruinous civil war, a conflict of religions and disruption of political balance in the entire Middle East.)

Thousands of troops had come home from that war with mysterious, multi-symptom maladies -- some deadly -- that for years drew persistent Pentagon scorn for the afflicted vets as gold-bricking shirkers and benefit-seekers who weren't really sick at all, or if they were, the Defense Department held, the illnesses were minor and mostly in their heads.

Non-government doctors and medical experts in the Veterans Affairs Department tended to think otherwise, validating the illnesses as serious and chronic under the general term Gulf War Syndrome, but still seeking the causes. The ensuing conflict of professional opinions led the Pentagon, VA and Department of Health and Human Services to hire dozens of private-sector consultants to advise the federal defense, health and intelligence communities.

One of the favorite consultant firms that kept cropping up on this or that aspect of the debate was SAIC -- and surprise of surprises, SAIC almost always backed the Pentagon view, despite the evolving government admission the debilitating mystery illnesses eventually affected almost a fifth of those who served.

Editorial interest in pursuing descriptions of some vague consulting firm waned, and I never got the go-ahead to write much about SAIC, but now Bartlett and Steele have nailed this spooky firm they call a "stealth company."

SAIC, founded in 1969, employs more than 44,000 workers and took in about $8 billion in revenue last year, almost all of it from the federal government. It currently holds more than 9,000 active federal contracts. More than 100 of them, state the authors, are worth more than $10 million each. Two of them are worth more than $1 billion. If all the contracts negotiated and pending are eventually signed, federal taxpayers will shell out another $13.6 billion to SAIC. Indeed, it is hard to keep current with the federal government's use of SAIC.

Over the weekend, as this column was in preparation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration hired SAIC for $13.5 million to "support" NASA's Johnson Space Center "financial and administrative system services" in procurement, human resources and daily operations. The contract will be worth $25 million if two additional one-year options are signed. The language says SAIC will provide "sustaining engineering and system integration support for administrative systems." That's about as specific as most federal contracts get these days.

In its recent existence, SAIC was the largest employee-owned research and engineering firm in the country, ranking 285 on the Fortune 500 list and boasting a return on revenue larger than ExxonMobil's storied percentages. SAIC stock went public last fall. Its share price rose 40 percent within a matter of days.

What SAIC purports to do is provide the federal government with the brainpower and computer expertise to run its vast and extensive defense, security and intelligence operations. According to Bartlett and Steele, "no Washington contractor pursues government money with more ingenuity and perseverance than SAIC. No contractor seems to exploit conflicts of interest in Washington with more zeal. And no contractor cloaks its operations in greater secrecy."

SAIC, according to the "Vanity Fair" article, "has become the invisible hand behind a huge portion of America's national-security state."

Talk about conflicts of interest. SAIC hires top federal officials at such a prodigious rate the Washington "revolving door" spins so fast it makes the mind blur. SAIC, write Bartlett and Steele, "might as well operate an executive shuttle service between its McLean, Virginia offices and the CIA, the FBI, the Pentagon, and the Department of Energy."

Some examples:

New Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is a former SAIC board member.

Former defense secretary Melvin Laird is a former SAIC board member.

Former CIA director John M. Deutch is an SAIC board member.

Donald Foley, until recently a top executive at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the military agency that invented the Internet, is a current SAIC director.

Rear Admiral Bobby Inman went from head of the National Security Agency to SAIC board member.

Undersecretary of Defense Ryan Henry is former senior vice president of SAIC.

William B. Black Jr. retired from a top National Security Agency office in 1997 to become SAIC vice president. In 2000, he returned to the NSA. Two years later, NSA awarded SAIC a $280 million contract for "Trailblazer" -- a much-touted effort to redesign an NSA computer system that had failed to highlight and interpret such missed such 9/11 terrorism clues as the intercepted Arabic message on Sept. 10: "Tomorrow is zero hour."

"Four years and more than a billion dollars later," write Bartlett and Steele, "the effort has been abandoned." SAIC is not fretting. It recently was awarded another $361 million intelligence contract to have another go at the Trailblazer concept.

The company is "packed ... with generals, admirals, diplomats, spies, Cabinet officers -- people with access." SAIC, write the authors, is "a private business that has become a form of permanent government." SAIC developed expertise in getting both ends of the play -- "writing regulations on the recycling of radioactive metals even as it went into the recycling business."

But things may be changing. Government audits, employee lawsuits and federal whistleblowers have been key in revealing a trail of SAIC failures to fulfill contract promises despite the river of taxpayer money. Still, there's a long road ahead for taxpayer satisfaction. Steele, interviewed for the magazine's "Contributors" blurbs, said, "There is no oversight; no one is watching the money, taxpayers' money."

You will hear more about this hugely powerful firm. Bartlett and Steele -- despite their intrepid digging -- have only scratched the surface. Write your members of Congress ... if they aren't on SAIC's payroll already.

John Hanchette, a professor of journalism at St. Bonaventure University, is a former editor of the Niagara Gazette and a Pulitzer Prize-winning national correspondent. He was a founding editor of USA Today and was recently named by Gannett as one of the Top 10 reporters of the past 25 years. He can be contacted via e-mail at

Giuliani To Run For President Of 9/11

Giuliani To Run For President Of 9/11

February 21, 2007 | Issue 43•08

NEW YORK—At a well-attended rally in front of his new Ground Zero headquarters Monday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani officially announced his plan to run for president of 9/11.

"My fellow citizens of 9/11, today I will make you a promise," said Giuliani during his 18-minute announcement speech in front of a charred and torn American flag. "As president of 9/11, I will usher in a bold new 9/11 for all."


Giuliani at a campaign stop near Washington.

If elected, Giuliani would inherit the duties of current 9/11 President George W. Bush, including making grim facial expressions, seeing the world's conflicts in terms of good and evil, and carrying a bullhorn at all state functions.

"Let us all remember how we felt on that day, with the world watching our every move, waiting on our every word," said Giuliani, flanked by several firefighters, ex-New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and Judith Nathan, his third wife. "With a campaign built on traditional 9/11 values, and with the help of every citizen who believes in the 9/11 dream, I want to make 9/11 great again."

According to Washington–based political analyst Gregory Hammond, Giuliani's candidacy "should not be underestimated."

Giuliani Bio

"Sure, he has no foreign or national policy experience, and both his personal life and political career are riddled with scandal," said Hammond. "But in the key area of having been on TV on 9/11, the other candidates simply cannot match him. And as we saw in 2004, that's what matters most to voters in this post-9/11 world."

After his downtown Manhattan announcement, Giuliani held an afternoon rally near the Pentagon. In the early evening, he flew to a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where he hosted a $5,000-a-plate fundraising dinner in a tent decorated with clouds of ash, streaming sheets of singed office paper, and small piles of authentic rubble from the World Trade Center site.

Among the policy planks listed on his website are his Cleaner Air Act, which would severely limit the levels of smoke and harmful gases allowed to pour from 747s flying into 110-story office buildings, guaranteed health insurance covering burns caused by shards of burning metal, and his "No Child Left Behind In A Smoldering Skyscraper" initiative.

Giuliani supporters praised the candidate for his "early and unwavering commitment" to 9/11.

"People talk about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but did either of them happen to be mayor of New York in September 2001?" Bedford, NH resident Helen Rolfe said. "Guiliani was. To me, that speaks volumes about this man."

Giuliani Video

Still from an early "Giuliani For 9/11" ad now running in New Hampshire.

Though his campaign apparatus is not yet fully operational, Giuliani's "mobile campaign units"—refurbished fire trucks decorated with banners, balloons, and bloodstains, whose droning sirens continuously blare Giuliani's official campaign song—have already begun canvassing towns in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Giuliani's pro-9/11 message seems to be resonating with potential voters. Said Ames, IA voter Alan Benoit: "I remember seeing Rudolph Giuliani's face, on television, saying reassuring things during a highly emotional moment filled with fear and confusion. He's got my vote."

With more than a year until the primaries—unless Giuliani's court-filed request to hold New York's primary on the second Tuesday in September is approved—Giuliani said it is too early to discuss potential running mates, though he refused to rule out the possibility of naming a twisted, half-melted aluminum beam, an FDNY ball cap, or even John McCain. Giuliani, however, called rumors that he had met with a large shard of glass from the wreckage of the Pentagon "patently untrue."

"Letting 9/11 fall into the hands of the Democrats in 2008 would be nothing short of a national tragedy," Giuliani said. "Ever since 9/11 was founded that fateful day on 9/11, 9/11 has stood for one thing: 9/11."

Long Iraq Tours Can Make Home a Trying Front

Long Iraq Tours Can Make Home a Trying Front

In the nearly two years Cpl. John Callahan of the Army was away from home, his wife, he said, had two extramarital affairs. She failed to pay his credit card bills. And their two children were sent to live with her parents as their home life deteriorated.

Then, in November, his machine gun malfunctioned during a firefight, wounding him in the groin and ravaging his left leg. When his wife reached him by phone after an operation in Germany, Corporal Callahan could barely hear her. Her boyfriend was shouting too loudly in the background.

“Haven’t you told him it’s over?” Corporal Callahan, 42, recalled the man saying. “That you aren’t wearing his wedding ring anymore?”

For Corporal Callahan, who is recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and so many other soldiers and family members, the repercussions, chaos and loneliness of wartime deployments are one of the toughest, least discussed byproducts of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and loved ones have endured long, sometimes repeated separations that test the fragility of their relationships in unforeseen ways.

The situation is likely to grow worse as the military increases the number of troops in Iraq in coming months. The Pentagon announced Wednesday that it was planning to send more than 14,000 National Guard troops back to Iraq next year, causing widespread concern among reservists. Nearly a third of the troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have done more than one tour of duty.

Most families and soldiers cope, sometimes heroically. But these separations have also left a trail of badly strained or broken unions, many severed by adultery or sexual addictions; burdened spouses, some of whom are reaching for antidepressants; financial turmoil brought on by rising debts, lost wages and overspending; emotionally bruised children whose grades sometimes plummet; and anxious parents who at times turn on each other.

Hardest hit are the reservists and their families, who never bargained on long absences, sometimes as long as 18 months, and who lack the support network of full-fledged members of the military.

“Since my husband has been gone, I have potty-trained two kids, my oldest started preschool, a kid learned to walk and talk, plus the baby is not sleeping that well,” said Lori Jorgenson, 30, whose husband, a captain in the Minnesota National Guard, has been deployed since November 2005 and recently had his tour extended another four months. “I am very burnt out.”

In the next couple of months, Ms. Jorgenson, who has three young children, has to get a loan, buy a house and move out of their apartment.

Even many active-duty military families, used to the difficulties of deployments, are reeling as soldiers are being sent again and again to war zones, with only the smallest pause in between. The unrelenting fear of death or injury, mental health problems, the lack of recuperative downtime between deployments and the changes that await when a soldier comes home hover over every household.

And unlike the Vietnam era, when the draft meant that many people were directly touched by the conflict, this period finds military families feeling a keen sense of isolation from the rest of society. Not many Americans have a direct connection to the war or the military. Only 1.4 million people, or less than 1 percent of the American population, serve in the active-duty military.

“Prior to 9/11, the deployments were not wartime related,” said Kristin Henderson, a military spouse whose husband served as a Navy chaplain in Iraq and Afghanistan and whose recent book “While They’re at War” explores the impact of today’s deployments. “There were separation issues, but there was no anticipatory grief and no fear and no medical overload.”

It is common for spouses to wind up on antidepressants, Ms. Henderson said, a situation made worse by the repeat deployments. The more deployments, the less time that families have to mend before the stress sets in again, she added.

Ms. Henderson recalled having a panic attack in church while her husband was away and crying in the shower most mornings so no one would see her. “The common misconception,” she said, “is that the more you do this, the better you get. That is not true.”

Some relationships grow stronger as distance and sacrifice help bring into sharp focus what is important. Before Robert Johnson’s deployments to Iraq with the North Carolina Army National Guard, he and his wife, Dawn, faced difficult decisions about how to care for their seven children, including four living at home. They decided their two severely disabled teenage twin sons would be best cared for elsewhere, one in a group home, the other with grandparents.

But Ms. Johnson, 41, who works full time at a pharmacy, said she felt there had been an upside to the ordeal. “Now I know,” she said, “that I can pretty much survive anything.”

Other marriages, especially young marriages rushed by deployment, may have been destined to fail from the start.

Seeking Help

As the war stretches into its fourth year, more troops and their families are reaching out for help, turning to family therapists and counselors. The Army and the Marines, partly in response to a jump in the number of divorces and a rise in domestic violence reports, have created programs to help couples cope, including seminars and family weekend retreats. The Army has also improved the family readiness groups that often serve as a lifeline for spouses.

Divorces, which had hovered in the 2 percent to 3 percent range for the Army since 2000, spiked in 2004 to 6 percent among officers and 3.6 percent among enlisted personnel. The rate for officers dropped to 2.1 percent in 2006, but the rate for enlisted personnel has stayed level, at 3.6 percent.

Married women are having the hardest time. The divorce rate for women in the Army in 2006 was 7.9 percent, the highest since 2000, compared with 2.6 percent for men.

Demand for counseling has grown so quickly among military families and returning soldiers that the military has begun contracting out more services to private therapists. Reservists must rely largely on networks of volunteers.

“For a while a lot of soldiers coming back were not being seen because there was such an overload of patients and so few mental health providers on base,” said Carl Settles, a psychologist and retired Army colonel who runs a practice near Fort Hood, Tex.

The military recently called him to ask how many of several hundred patients he could take on, Dr. Settles said.

Corporal Callahan, who is on the brink of divorce, said his marriage, his second, had been troubled before his deployment but became unsalvageable once he shipped out. His deployment also forced him to transfer guardianship of his children temporarily to their grandparents because of problems at home, he said.

His injury, which has left him unable to walk, has now complicated his chances of remaining in the Army. “I felt like I had hit bottom,” he said. “I had so much bitterness in me. I have been so angry. So many nights I have cried and tried to figure out what I can do and what I can’t do.”

Capt. Lance Oliver, Corporal Callahan’s commander in Iraq, said he kept close track of Corporal Callahan’s personal situation, and while disintegrating marriages are not uncommon, Captain Oliver said, Corporal Callahan’s was the most dramatic.

“I can’t think of one that is more heartwrenching,” he said.

Spouses’ Secrets

Extramarital affairs, hardly rare in other wars, are also a fixture now.

David Hernandez, who is in the Army and is based in Fort Hood, said his relationship with his wife of 10 years crumbled between his second and third deployments. She was frazzled and lonely, he said, with two children to care for; he came back moodier, quieter and more distant. Now his wife is living with another man, Mr. Hernandez said in e-mail messages from Iraq. He, in turn, has started a relationship with a female soldier, despite his hope for reconciliation.

“It was very stressful for her doing everything and worrying about me,” he said, adding, “I spent so much time away; it drove us apart to seek other relationships.”

“Now I’m back out here,” he said. “I feel helpless. What can I do? It makes it a little easier being with someone out here. Temptation was the hardest, and I gave in.”

Dr. Settles sees about 40 soldiers a week in private practice and says a majority of soldiers cope well. But those with problems feel them deeply.

“Infidelity and financial issues are major issues,” Dr. Settles said, adding that there are abundant cases of wives who clear out their husband’s bank accounts or soldiers who come home and go binge shopping. “Even a good mule needs a few oats once in a while,” he said. “ Some of these guys, they are kind of at their limit.”

Some therapists say they are bracing for this year’s divorces. Mary Coe, a marriage and family therapist working near Fort Campbell, an Army base on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee, said she was seeing “many, many divorces” right now. The 101st Airborne Division recently returned from its second deployment with an astonishing level of rage, she said. “Now we are seeing 15- to 20-year marriages not making it, and these are families that survived 20 years of deployments,” Dr. Coe said.

Lei Steivers, whose husband is a senior noncommissioned officer at Fort Campbell, has been a military wife for 25 years. But it took her husband’s second yearlong deployment to Iraq to cripple their marriage. They are now in counseling. A family leader on the base, Ms. Steivers, 46, also has two sons in the military. She said a number of men she knows came home last year for rest and relaxation and demanded a divorce.

Many spouses, she said, blame the presence of women alongside combat units. The blame may be misplaced, but the anxiety is not.

“They are side-by-side fixing an engine, the girls live upstairs, the guys live downstairs,” Ms. Steivers said. “We are just more and more in awe, saying, What is going on?”

Some wives have uncovered their husband’s pornographic pictures on Web sites like MySpace, she said, adding, “I’ve seen them because the wives show them to me.”

Dr. Coe said she had been surprised by the number of soldiers who had come home and sought counseling for sexual addictions fueled by DVD’s and Internet pornography.

While pornography is blocked by the United States military in Iraq, service members gain access to it with laptops through their own Internet service providers, Corporal Callahan said.

At the same time, spouses back home sometimes hook up with men on the Internet. When the relationship surfaces, it sometimes leads to violence, said Robert Weiss, who co-wrote “Untangling the Web,” a book about Internet pornography, and who has been hired as a consultant by military family groups looking for guidance.

Family Trumps All Else

For some spouses, concerns about infidelity take a back seat to the demands of a household. Lillian Connolly’s husband of 21 years, a staff sergeant in the Army Reserve in Massachusetts who now works at a Lowe’s Home Improvement, was sent to Iraq twice. The first deployment, in 2003, lasted 11 months. The second one, for which he volunteered, was much harder on the family. Even before his father’s second deployment, the couple’s 12-year-old started having tantrums. When his father left their home in 2005, the boy started to misbehave at school, Ms. Connolly said. He and his sister were the only children with a deployed parent, and the school, she said, was mostly unsympathetic. If anything, Ms. Connolly said, she got the blame.

“He really worried about his dad every day,” Ms. Connolly said of her son. “They couldn’t understand he had an anger problem because his dad was gone.

“That was more stressful and harder to deal with than my husband being gone.”

Mary Keller, the executive director of the Military Child Education Coalition, a private nonprofit group that helps children and schools cope, said two million children had experienced deployments. Worst hit are those in schools that are isolated from military culture.

“It is highly likely that the teacher doesn’t have a personal experience with the military,” Dr. Keller said.

At home, spouses say, they try to keep their young children connected to their deployed parents. Ms. Jorgenson lets her three children pull Skittles out of a bowl to mark the passage of time. She buys them surprise gifts from their father, like boxes of Fruity Pebbles or camouflage sheets. Meanwhile, she thinks, “Will I ever get through bath time and get them to bed without screaming and losing my patience?”

Parents of young soldiers often appear the most tormented, counselors say, especially if opposed to the enlistment. There are also few resources for them.

“Mothers are in worse shape than wives,” said Jaine Darwin, a psychoanalyst and co-director of Strategic Outreach to Families of All Reservists, a volunteer group that offers counseling to military families in many states. “Mom is not allowed to cry. And that is certainly a problem.”

Esther Gallagher, 50, who works in a counseling office at a high school in Goodrich, Minn., has two sons in Iraq. She worries about both but frets most about her youngest, Justin, 22, a gunner who has seen a lot of violence in Falluja. He joined the Minnesota Army National Guard and has spent most of the past three years on deployment; the last tour was recently extended, which angered his mother and disheartened the soldiers in his unit.

When Sergeant Gallagher came home for two weeks last year, he walked out of the room any time anyone talked about Iraq.

“Every day, they are in harm’s way,” Ms. Gallagher said, her voice quavering. “I mean, that’s your baby — to have him out there in harm’s way, and not knowing. Your life has been to protect these kids.”

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Coal Plant Lawyers: Global Warming "For Kings And Presidents...To Decide"

Coal Plant Lawyers: Global Warming "For Kings And Presidents...To Decide"

The Huffington Post | Melinda Henneberger | Posted February 22, 2007 11:52 AM

AUSTIN - A lawyer for TXU Corp has told the judges who will rule on whether it can build a slew of new coal-burning power plants here that global warming is not on the docket, and none of their concern.

"It's for kings and presidents and world leaders to decide how to address global warming," argued TXU attorney John Riley. "It's not for air permit hearings."

With no kings in sight, Texans who oppose TXU's plan to build 11 new plants across the state are nonetheless looking to two administrative judges to block the plan.

They argue it would double CO2 emissions here overnight. Texas already emits more of the greenhouse gas than any other state in the country.

But in court Today, Riley said all that was beside the point.

"What we can do to forestall global warming?", he asked. "The scientists still quarrel over it. But it is a very big issue."

"For instance, India is going to build 300 of these plants over the next 10 years, and China 500. My point is, 10 plants is not the significant contributor to the problem that the counsel" is trying to make it into.

In a courtroom where the air conditioner was running on an 80-degree day in February, Riley also questioned whether the US should even want to get ahead of India and China on the issue.

"Does the U.S. want to take that step before others do?"

Lawyers for the Texas Clean Air Cities Coalition say TXU is in a rush to build the plants not because the state needs the extra electricity, but because it wants them built before Congress can pass legislation aimed at reducing the greenhouse gases that are a major contributor to global climate change.

Their pro bono lead attorney, Steve Susman -- named by Who's Who Legal as the best commercial litigator in the world last year -- says TXU then could benefit further when carbon emissions are regulated, under a cap and trade program that would allow polluters to sell carbon credits.

"I think they're thinking that's a great deal," John Turner, another lawyer on Susman's team, said in an interview after the proceedings.

In court, Riley mocked the idea of "backroom deals. It's very dramatic, and I appreciate the drama."

Preparing for the possibility of CO2 regulation, he said, "is no better and no worse than any other company seeing trends and trying to prepare for them."

Court documents obtained from attorneys for the opposition show that in a conference call in August of '06, TXU officials did speak in detail about how CO2 regulations might work to their advantage.

"While we are not suggesting that a cap and trade program is the right answer, it is one of the many scenarios we modeled," said Jonathan Siegler, the company's vice president for strategy and mergers and acquisitions, according to a transcript.

"If a program similar to the Kyoto Protocol was put into effect in the US," Siegler said on the call, "it would impact TXU in the following ways. Based on the average allocations in the UK, TXU would receive allocations for 70 percent of its current CO2 emissions."

In other words, Susman said, the higher the emissions going in, the better for the company.

Though TXU has announced that it will reduce overall ozone emissions by 20 percent after building the new plants, lawyers for the opposition also argued the company appears to have no specific plan to do that.

Riley called that a misrepresentation, and continued to complain until one of the judges, Kerry Sullivan finally held his hand up and shouted, "Enough!"

The permit hearings were taken off the fast-track this week when a state district judge here ruled Gov Rick Perry lacked the authority to expedite them.

At the hearing, various environmental groups opposed to the plants asked the judge for more time to collect testimony from expert witnesses, and got it.

TXU's Riley called their requests for more time "preposterous. That's equivalent to saying let's delay forever; that's absurd." The judges disagreed, however, and said they would hear the rest of the case in June.


Jonathan Schwarz - The Significance Of Frank Gaffney

The Significance Of Frank Gaffney

Jonathan Schwarz

A few weeks ago I wrote something comparing Michelle Malkin's moral and intellectual standards to those of Holocaust deniers. But I also said Malkin has no significance in and of herself; every country has people as strange and confused and angry as she is. What matters is that normal societies leave them to fulminate in their parents' basement. In contrast, troubled societies let them organize "conferences" and guest host national television programs.

This brings us to Frank Gaffney, third-string neocon and founder of the Center for Security Policy. In a healthy country, Gaffney would spend his days arguing with his enormous collection of Star Wars action figures. Here in America, we constantly put him on TV as as "expert" on foreign policy and give him an organization with a $2 million budget.

Last week Gaffney appeared on the Alan Colmes Show with Glenn Greenwald to talk about his recent column for the Washington-Moonie Times. As Greenwald had publicized, the column originally started with a fabricated Abraham Lincoln "quote," which has now been removed. Gaffney's call to hang Sen. Carl Levin remains, however.

During the program Gaffney made some claims about Iraq and WMD that are standard in the further reaches of wingnuttia—out in the wilderness where even Dick Cheney doesn't venture. Below are the most important parts; if you want to listen to it, Crooks & Liars has the audio. (Both of these sections are in the second segment.)

starting about 8:50

GAFFNEY: The Iraq Survey Group, the guys who went in and did a forensic analysis of what was the status of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program, found -- contrary to what Glenn keeps saying -- that there was a hot production line for chemical and biological agents in Iraq, that there were plans to ramp it up when sanctions were lifted, which was imminent, and to place the products of those lines into aerosol cans and perfume sprayers for shipment to the United States and Europe. That's documented fact.

COLMES: Why isn't the administration making that argument?

GAFFNEY: I don't know why they're not, but I'm telling you that's a fact!

starting about 13:20

GAFFNEY: I'm simply asking you to square what you just said with what I pointed out is the fact of what Saddam Hussein had -- which was active production of chemical and biological weapons, albeit at low levels, with the plans to ramp them up for use as terrorist weapons against the United States and Europe. That's not something I'm making up! That's not something that was fraudulently presented to the American people! That's what we now know on the basis of the facts we discovered when we finally liberated Iraq!...

Glenn, you don't know the facts! You're a "stickler for the facts," and you don't know the facts!...

What [the ISG report] said is they did not find large stockpiles of chemical weapons. What happened to them is a mystery they weren't able to explain. But what they did find, and what is in the [ISG] report, and what I'm citing, and what is fact, is that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction programs, and plans to ramp them up and use them against us. You may choose to ignore that. You may choose to say that's irrelevant...

There was evidence Saddam Hussein had actual stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. There is evidence they were removed across the border into Syria. I don't know.

But what is not in dispute, except from Glenn, who apparently chooses to ignore it, or at least won't come to grips with the fact it validates my position and undermines his, is the [ISG] report said he had production of these chemical and biological agents and he planned to put them in weapons to ship to the United States. Now that's the kind of thing that did require, I believe, the liberation of the country!

Now I'll go through and examine Gaffney's effluvia in detail. I don't do this in hopes Gaffney himself would ever acknowledge what he said was false; in fact, I doubt he can distinguish between fantasy and reality well enough to understand this. Moreover, even if you could get him to stop doing this kind of thing, it wouldn't make any difference. He'd just get fired, and his bosses would hire another mouthpiece.

However, it is worth examining Gaffney's silliness to demonstrate the levels to which his bosses require their toadies to sink in order to get their money. Again: it's the people in charge who're the problem, not Gaffney.

GAFFNEY: The Iraq Survey Group, the guys who went in and did a forensic analysis of what was the status of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program, found -- contrary to what Glenn keeps saying -- that there was a hot production line for chemical and biological agents in Iraq...

The Iraq Survey Group report is here. It's actually an impressive piece of work that reflects well on the CIA. While the "key findings" section—the only part anyone ever looks at—is highly spun and misleading, the body contains a great deal of information that's deeply embarrassing for the US government. (Or at least it would be, if anyone in Washington's political class ever read it.)

Anyway, Gaffney's statement that "there was a hot production line for chemical and biological agents in Iraq" is completely fanciful. Here's the ISG conclusion about Iraq's chemical weapons program (throughout, bold and italics are in the original; underlines are mine):

While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter...

And here's the ISG conclusion about Iraq's biological weapons program:

ISG found no direct evidence that Iraq, after 1996, had plans for a new BW program or was conducting BW-specific work for military purposes.

So where could Gaffney's claim about "a hot production line for chemical and biological agents" come from? Almost certainly from the description in the ISG report of the labs of the Iraqi Intelligence Services (IIS). This appears in the section on Iraq and chemical weapons:

ISG uncovered information that the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) maintained throughout 1991 to 2003 a set of undeclared covert laboratories to research and test various chemicals and poisons, primarily for intelligence operations. The network of laboratories could have provided an ideal, compartmented platform from which to continue CW agent R&D or small-scale production efforts, but we have no indications this was planned. (See Annex A.)

ISG has no evidence that IIS Directorate of Criminology (M16) scientists were producing CW or BW agents in these laboratories. However, sources indicate that M16 was planning to produce several CW agents including sulfur mustard, nitrogen mustard, and Sarin.

Exploitations of IIS laboratories, safe houses, and disposal sites revealed no evidence of CW-related research or production, however many of these sites were either sanitized by the Regime or looted prior to OIF. Interviews with key IIS officials within and outside of M16 yielded very little information about the IIS’ activities in this area.

So you can see the process within Gaffney's mind: he took something the ISG report said "could have" occurred but for which there was "no evidence," and decided that the ISG report said it had in fact happened. No wonder Gaffney tells us Doug Feith is an "old friend" who is "thoughtful, careful and conscientious."

Still, you might say, these IIS labs sound pretty bad. What's this about testing "various chemicals and poisons"?

It's impossible to know for sure. Perhaps these labs served as Dr. Evil's headquarters in his endless quest for world domination. But the actual explanation is likely more prosaic. The chemical section of the ISG report has an annex examing this issue in detail. According to this annex, it appears the labs may have been involved in attempted assassinations of regime enemies in the eighties and early nineties (just as US labs have been). More recently the labs were in charge of testing Saddam's food:

Exploitation of the M16 headquarters building revealed that the directorate had large amounts of laboratory glassware and analytic equipment, which could be used for both legitimate work such as food testing and forensic analysis, and illicit CW production and development. However, precursor chemicals required for CW agent production were not found among the various chemicals located at the headquarters building or its storage site in Djerf al-Naddaf...

The equipment, chemicals, and literature found at the [M16 headquarters in Karada] are consistent with sensitive reporting on the activities of the M16’s chemical forensics division, which does not have strong ties to CBW research or the development of assassination-related compounds.

The M16 chemical forensic division was responsible for testing food for the regime. Other reports corroborate that there was an M16 division which had the ability to analyze chemical substances and test food and other items for the presence of poisons and toxins.

• According to a senior IIS official who has reported reliably in the past, this building served as the M16 headquarters, where research on toxins and their properties took place. However, the same source stated that the work was solely for defensive purposes.

• Laboratory analysis of several samples taken at the site revealed that the M16 had samples of potassium cyanide, the pesticides diazinon and Malathion, the herbicide glyphosate, and several other innocuous chemicals. It would not be unusual to find these chemicals at a laboratory examining foodstuffs for poisons or contaminants, because such a lab would need standards to which it could compare analytic results.

You may recall that back before the war, Saddam's paranoia about being poisoned was used as evidence of why he was a tyrant who had to be removed. Here's a relevant section from a May, 2002 article in the Atlantic:

Fresh food is flown in for him twice a week—lobster, shrimp, and fish, lots of lean meat, plenty of dairy products. The shipments are sent first to his nuclear scientists, who x-ray them and test them for radiation and poison. The food is then prepared for him by European-trained chefs, who work under the supervision of al Himaya, Saddam's personal bodyguards.

But what's this statement in the ISG report about the IIS labs "planning to produce several CW agents including sulfur mustard, nitrogen mustard, and Sarin"? Isn't that important?

Nope. It's clear from the labs annex that this is the basis for Gaffney's claim that Saddam planned to "place the products of those lines into aerosol cans and perfume sprayers for shipment to the United States and Europe." But look carefully at what the labs annex says about this:

Future Plans To Produce CW Agent

ISG is unable to corroborate the sensitive reporting that the IIS was planning to produce nitrogen mustard, sulfur mustard, and Sarin, but assesses that if plans to produce chemical agent within the IIS existed, the M16 chemical preparation division would have been the group tasked with carrying them out.

A former Iraqi intelligence officer reported that the M16 chemical preparation division planned to produce and weaponize nitrogen mustard using CS rifle grenades. The source provided ISG with two grenade launchers and cases of CS grenades he claimed M16 officers were supposed to modify.

The same source later reported that the IIS had a plan to produce Sarin and sulfur mustard, which the IIS planned to distribute to the US and Europe. The source claimed that the director of M16, Nu’man Muhammad al-Tikriti, gave him a perfume-bottling machine that was to be used to help carry out this plan.

Both of these plans are extremely difficult to corroborate...

In other words, one unnamed Iraqi claimed that Iraq was going to do this at some point in the indefinite future. And the ISG didn't corroborate it.

It would be hilarious under any circumstance for Gaffney to say this amounts to "documented fact." But remember this all started with Gaffney's column defending Douglas Feith from accusations of shoddy cherry-picking of intelligence to reach predetermined conclusions. It's as if Gaffney were defending Feith from charges of wife-beating by punching his own wife in the face. No wonder these two get along so well.

In any case, Alan Colmes asks precisely the right question here: if this is "documented fact," why hasn't the Bush administration ever said anything about it? The answer is obvious: it's so preposterous that even Dick Cheney won't stand behind it.

And finally:

GAFFNEY: What [the ISG report] said is they did not find large stockpiles of chemical weapons. What happened to them is a mystery they weren't able to explain...

There was evidence Saddam Hussein had actual stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. There is evidence they were removed across the border into Syria. I don't know.

What happened to them is a mystery they weren't able to explain. Right. Again, here's the ISG report on Iraq's chemical weapons:

ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991.

On Iraq's biological weapons:

ISG judges that in 1991 and 1992, Iraq appears to have destroyed its undeclared stocks of BW weapons and probably destroyed remaining holdings of bulk BW agent.

This, more than anything else, is why I compare Gaffney to Holocaust deniers. Holocaust deniers begin by holding a crazy position; say, no European Jews died during World War II. When confronted by overwhelming evidence to the contrary—for instance, there used to be all these Jews in Europe, and after the war they weren't there anymore—the most they'll ever say is that the missing people's whereabouts is a "mystery" that may never be solved.

Here are some examples from the Holocaust denial website "Focal Point":

Did Jews sent to Auschwitz go to Transnistria (Rumania) instead? The Mystery Deepens.


The confirmation of the involvement of Majdanek in the Operation Reinhardt deportations serves only to deepen the mystery of what happened to the Jews of Poland.

Yeah, it's a mystery all right.

Likewise with Gaffney: the evidence that Iraq destroyed its undeclared chemical and biological weapon stockpiles in the early nineties is overwhelming. That's what the ISG report says happened. That's what all the Iraqis say happened. There's physical evidence that it happened. And of course, there were all those stockpiles in 1990, and by 1992 they weren't there anymore. To Frank Gaffney, this all adds up to an unsolvable "mystery." (The same is true for another JV neocon, Clifford May.)

And what about Gaffney's "evidence" that these stockpiles "were removed across the border into Syria"? It doesn't exist:

As the hunt for weapons of mass destruction dragged on unsuccessfully in Iraq, top Bush administration officials speculated publicly that the banned armaments may have been smuggled out of the country before the war started...

But intelligence and congressional officials say they have not seen any information — never “a piece,” said one — indicating that WMD or significant amounts of components and equipment were transferred from Iraq to neighboring Syria, Jordan or elsewhere...

[O]fficials familiar with the search say U.S. authorities have found no evidence that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein transferred WMD or related equipment out of Iraq...

Last week, a congressional official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said suggestions that weapons or components were sent from Iraq were based on speculation stemming from uncorroborated information.

But who knows? My suspicion is the missing WMD went to Transnistria (Rumania), and those six million missing Jews are all in Syria.


I emphasize once more that it's a mistake to focus on Gaffney and all the people like him. They don't matter, just as the crazy individuals at the Tehran Holocaust denial conference don't matter.

What matters is that Iran has nutty, powerful rich people willing to fund that kind of garbage, and a society that acts like it's part of legitimate debate. And what matters is that we have nutty, powerful rich people willing to fund this kind of garbage, and a society that acts like it's legitimate.

And who exactly are the nutty rich people behind Frank Gaffney? According to tax documents, his organization received $2.2 million in tax-deductible donations in 2004. About $600,000 appears to have come from various right-wing foundations.

I don't think it's possible to find out for sure who provided the rest of the donations; while organizations like Gaffney's have to file this information with the IRS, it's blacked out when the documents are made public. (One thing we can learn from the forms is that CSP is basically Gaffney alone. His 2004 salary was $272,850. The rest of the expenses were for rent, events, a few consultants, etc.)

But we can make some educated guesses. According to Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service, CSP is funded by "defense contractors and far-right Zionists associated with Israel's Likud Party." One person on the CSP board of directors is Charles Kupperman, Vice President of Space and Strategic Missiles Sector at Boeing. Another is an investment banker named David P. Steinmann, who's also on the board of JINSA. And the Chairman is Terry Elkes, who used to be CEO and president of Viacom, and now runs an equity firm "deeply engaged in the media industry." (I assume Elkes is in charge of keeping the media so liberal.)

It's these people—along with billionaires like Rupert Murdoch and Sun Myung Moon, who give Gaffney his prominent platforms—who are the source of the craziness. Gaffney himself is essentially irrelevant.

Of course, you may say you don't want to believe we're a country with lots of powerful people who wholeheartedly support the equivalent of Holocaust denial. You may say you don't want to believe our political system is as crazy as Iran's. Well, I don't want to believe it either. The only reason I do is because it's true.

Warren Hellman - If the United States were a company, would George Bush be our CEO?

If the United States were a company, would George Bush be our CEO?

The first MBA president probably wouldn't keep his job if he had to face a board of directors. But short of impeachment, what can be done to rein him in?

By Warren Hellman

Feb. 22, 2007 | The president of the United States is the chief executive officer of the most powerful economic machine in the world, yet his performance is rarely evaluated from that perspective. In fact, President Bush is the first president to have earned a master's of business administration and run a company; in 2002 Time magazine called him "the CEO president," noting his Harvard MBA and business experience.

But if the United States were a company, it would be a troubled one. A disastrous war in Iraq; another war nearly won, now at risk in Afghanistan; massive budget deficits -- USA Inc. is beset by many crises. As the chairman of a private investment firm, I have assisted many boards of directors in determining whether the CEO of a struggling company should remain in that job. As a citizen and stakeholder in this great country, I found myself thinking: How would a board of directors evaluate President Bush?

My thought exercise has its limits, since the nation doesn't technically have a board of directors -- American voters are best compared to stockholders. But in many ways the next best thing is the Congress, which has a crucial role in vetting, authorizing or blocking most of the president's proposals, from his budget to his Supreme Court picks to his decision to go to war. Now that we have a new congressional majority, it seemed an interesting time to wonder: Would we continue to employ George W. Bush if he were a CEO? If not, is there a way to remove him? And if that's not a viable option, how should Congress act for the 23 months until he leaves office?

When advising a board on how to evaluate a CEO, I tell them to review his or her performance in the following areas: implementing the company's fiscal and monetary policies, developing and successfully executing strategic plans, seeing that well-qualified personnel and managers are appointed, ensuring stability and long-range success, and respecting and protecting the charter and bylaws of the institution. How is President Bush doing on each of those counts?

Fiscal Responsibility
George W. Bush took over as CEO of USA Inc. when the country was running substantial surpluses, rapidly paying off its debt, and moving toward a future with a balanced budget. Forecasts predicted the country would continue to grow and be debt free in the near future. Bush took charge, and the opposite occurred: the country is running record deficits; debt service is skyrocketing. Bush's most recent economic forecast (arguably optimistic) predicts a balanced budget by 2012 (contingent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan not costing the United States a dime after 2009), which is, ironically, when he will no longer be in office. The trade deficit with USA Inc.'s No. 1 competitor, China, is increasing. Interestingly, a characteristic of many failing CEOs when losses are mounting is to hide or obfuscate the real deficits. This president, in addition to incurring massive deficits, has managed to hide the magnitude of the losses by special (otherwise known as "off balance sheet") allocations of billions of dollars that do not appear in the annual budget.

Strategic Decisions
The most important strategic decision made by CEO Bush was to minimize the importance of stabilizing Afghanistan, while at the same time choosing to invade Iraq. Those choices turned out to be a perfect example of the adage "fire, aim, ready!" and have led USA Inc. into unmitigated disaster. Not only were those decisions based on faulty intelligence, but Bush also had no business plan for his new endeavor, failing to take into account what the war would cost in lives and treasure, or what it would cost this country in its diplomatic relationships with the rest of the world. He cherry-picked intelligence, like a CEO cooking the books in order to get board support for his agenda. In other words, he was ready to reject any evidence that did not support the decision to invade.

Execution of Strategic Decisions
How well did our CEO execute his decision to invade Iraq? He didn't send enough troops; he didn't equip them well; he had no plan to win the peace; and he didn't do enough research to understand just how deep the division between the various sectarian groups was. This has resulted in a war that our CEO finally admits is not going well at all. Bush has left USA Inc. with no good options as to how to fix the problem. If USA Inc. were a corporation, an effective board would almost certainly not choose to ask the executive who got the company into such dangerous trouble to be the one extricate it; the board would find a new CEO.

Personnel Choices
Excellent chief executives make excellent personnel choices; they are willing to admit mistakes and replace the occasional bad personnel choice with alacrity. This has not been the case with our chief executive. Bush stuck too long with his mistakes, remaining stubbornly supportive of inept individuals from Federal Emergency Management Agency head Michael Brown to former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the architect of the invasion and occupation plan for Iraq, who was responsible for not sending enough troops to Iraq to begin with and for many more tragic mistakes along the way. Maybe worse, Bush's bad personnel decisions led other, more able people on his team, like former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, to simply give up and leave his administration after years of infighting. Bush has relied on an inner circle of like-minded cronies who have persistently belittled and then eliminated critics. For the most part, he has chosen close advisors based on loyalty and similar ideology rather than competence, experience or expertise.

R&D for the Future of the Enterprise
Because of the strategic error of invading Iraq, our CEO now finds his company can't spend money on conducting basic research or rebuilding its physical infrastructure, plus it is drastically shortchanging its educational system. USA Inc. has become so divided that problems like Medicare and Social Security appear to have no solution. All of this has resulted in polls showing, for the first time in the country's history, that many parents don't believe their children are going to do better than they have done.

Adherence to the Institution's Charter and Bylaws
This CEO has allowed his ideology to subvert the charter and bylaws this country was built on, namely the Constitution. Americans used to believe their personal papers and privacy were protected; now the government can sneak into your home secretly, steal your papers, bug your computer, read your e-mails without ever requiring a warrant or any judicial oversight. Americans used to believe there was separation of church and state; under this administration millions of tax dollars have been diverted to church-related groups; government policies are made based on personal religious beliefs rather than the needs of the people. Stem cell research is a fine example. America is falling behind its competitors: Some of the best stem cell research and other scientific advancements are now happening in Europe and Asia rather than this country.

In addition, one telltale trait of a failing CEO is that he and those who remain loyal try to silence their critics by arguing that criticism only undermines the morale of the people trying to solve the problem -- usually meaning the CEO and his management team -- and potentially emboldens the company's enemies. This sort of complaint has become a hallmark of the Bush administration.

If Bush were the chief executive of a company, he would in all likelihood be given a good pension and quickly replaced. However, this is not the situation with the president. Although Congress does have the power to impeach him for "high crimes and misdemeanors," such a step is enormously time-consuming, requiring many hours of congressional investigations and hearings, and politically divisive. While I personally think it is possible that the president's misdeeds, especially having to do with Iraq, might well rise to the level of wrongdoing that the framers imagined when they provided for impeachment in the Constitution, at this point, leading Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have rejected the impeachment option.

But Congress doesn't have to sit by and do nothing, short of impeachment. When a company is going in the wrong direction, the board of directors has the responsibility to do everything possible to change course and move forward with better direction. Congress, the closest thing we have to a board of directors, has the constitutional responsibility to be a coequal branch of the government and be a check on both the executive and the judiciary. For the past six years, Congress has abandoned that role. (If it were a corporate board of directors, there might well be shareholder lawsuits over how it has neglected its oversight responsibilities.) But now, with new majorities in both houses, it is time for Congress to return to its rightful role, which is carefully scrutinizing Bush's plans, proposals and policies. Congress has to be willing to stand up to our CEO and to reject his ideas when they believe they are wrong. Congress has to evaluate his personnel choices from a much more objective standpoint. Congress members have to behave like the elected representatives of the American people that they are.

And finally, we the people, the voters, have to use this valuable set of lessons in choosing our next chief executive. We have to learn to tune out the hyperbole surrounding a campaign and try to objectively evaluate the next president's ability to govern and administer, to discern his or her genuine aptitude to lead the country out of the troubles we find ourselves in after two terms of President Bush. We must remember that we the people are the stockholders; it is our company; it is our country, and those we elect are our employees -- and are responsible to us. We cannot afford another failure as CEO.

-- By Warren Hellman