One Veteran's Voice

30 November 2005

National Strategy for Staying the Course in Iraq



Read the President's National Strategy for Victory in Iraq

Well America, we've finally got a strategy for victory in Iraq. It's long, repetitive, at times rambling, a blend of fact and fantasy, and it has eight pillars. Islamic religious thought is only worthy of five pillars, so I already know we've got these bastards beat.

All sarcasm aside, the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq is more of the same from President Bush and his administration. The questions Americans have about the war in Iraq are deeper than George Bush is willing to address. President Bush has a credibility problem that he can't shake, and rightly so. Every few days he gets up in front of a captive military audience and makes the same tired speech about staying the course. The NSFVIA expounds and clarifies Bush's National Strategy for Staying the Course. It offers no new insights or ideas. A sea change in national policy on Iraq is needed to fix this problem. A quote from the NSFVIA
OUR ENEMIES AND THEIR GOALS

The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists, and terrorists affiliated with or inspired by Al Qaida. These three groups share a common opposition to the elected Iraqi government and to the presence of Coalition forces, but otherwise have separate and to some extent incompatible goals.

Rejectionists are the largest group. They are largely Sunni Arabs who have not embraced the shift from Saddam Hussein's Iraq to a democratically governed state. Not all Sunni Arabs fall into this category. But those that do are against a new Iraq in which they are no longer the privileged elite. Most of these rejectionists opposed the new constitution, but many in their ranks are recognizing that opting out of the democratic process has hurt their interests.
We judge that over time many in this group will increasingly support a democratic Iraq provided that the federal government protects minority rights and the legitimate interests of all communities.

Saddamists and former regime loyalists harbor dreams of reestablishing a Ba'athist dictatorship and have played a lead role in fomenting wider sentiment against the Iraqi government and the Coalition.
We judge that few from this group can be won over to support a democratic Iraq, but that this group can be marginalized to the point where it can and will be defeated by Iraqi forces.

Terrorists affiliated with or inspired by Al Qaida make up the smallest enemy group but are the most lethal and pose the most immediate threat because (1) they are responsible for the most dramatic atrocities, which kill the most people and function as a recruiting tool for further terrorism and (2) they espouse the extreme goals of Osama Bin Laden -- chaos in Iraq which will allow them to establish a base for toppling Iraq's neighbors and launching attacks outside the region and against the U.S. homeland.
The terrorists have identified Iraq as central to their global aspirations. For that reason, terrorists and extremists from all parts of the Middle East and North Africa have found their way to Iraq and made common cause with indigenous religious extremists and former members of Saddam's regime. This group cannot be won over and must be defeated -- killed or captured -- through sustained counterterrorism operations.

There are other elements that threaten the democratic process in Iraq, including criminals and Shi'a religious extremists, but we judge that such elements can be handled by Iraqi forces alone and/or assimilated into the political process in the short term.


WTF is a rejectionist? Arab-nationalist would be a more descriptive term. Neo-Baathist has a nice ring to it. What about anti-occupationist? The NSFVIA is correct in assessing that the largest groups of the insurgency, the so called rejectionists, are beginning to join the political process. Check out this article which details how talk of a military withdrawal is finally accomplishing what elections and military action have not been able to-- getting the Sunni leaders who implicitly support the rejectionists to the negotiating table with U.S. forces and the Iraqi government.

According to Bush's NSFVIA, the 1st strategic pillar is to "Defeat the Terrorists and Neutralize the Insurgency." We cannot neutralize the insurgency through military means. I agree that the religious fanatics of Al Qaida will never negotiate, and they must be rooted out wherever they are found through the use of good intelligence and commando units. Preferably Arab commando units. But from what I've seen, read, experienced, and believe as a rational human being-- the widespread and continued presence of American military forces in Iraq is inflaming the insurgency, legitimizing Al Qaida, hurting the political process, as well as the economic reconstruction of Iraq. The Iraqi government has already tacitly endorsed the insurgency. A super-majority of Iraqi citizens want us gone. Iraq is already in a low grade civil war-- and I really don't believe that things will get too much worse if we pull out. In fact, I believe that by withdrawing the bulk of our forces from Iraq and reducing our meddling involvement in the new Iraqi government, both Americans and Iraqis will benefit. With no occupation to fight, the bulk of the insurgents will stop fighting. The foreign and religious extremists who kill fellow muslims (a problem, by the way, that Iraq did not have before the occupation) will not be tolerated in a post-occupation Iraq. Moderate Iraqi and American voices must win the day, or we are all in trouble.

27 November 2005

What some troops on the front lines are saying

In my experience, this article is a pretty decent look at what lower enlisted soldiers (not usually intervied in depth by the MSM) in the front line units are thinking/feeling. There is more diversity of thought within the military than some would believe.

LA Times- November 22, 2005

As goes Israel

I mentioned this in one of my previous posts, but it warrants repeating.

If Ariel Sharon can rethink his policy, maybe there is hope for the Middle East after all.


Ariel Sharon spent the greater part of his life fighting Arabs. He was a ferocious fighter, an able general, and he is proving to be a competent statesman.

Stick with me for a short history lesson
. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the root of our current predicament in the Middle East. The nation of Israel was arbitrarily created after World War II to insure that no further genocide would ever be carried out against a people that had been wronged. In the process, Arabs were displaced, their holiest city (which also happened to be the Jewish holiest city, after all, they worship the same God) was made part of the new nation, and the Arabs, believing this international intervention to be the last straw in a series of Western misadventures in the region which began with the crusades, attacked Israel. Israel, with highly motivated and trained soldiers and international support in the form of money and arms, most of it from the United States, consistently defeated the Arabs in a series of wars. The Arabs that still wanted to fight turned to unconventional warfare. Terrorism. The 1972 Olympics. Hijackings. 9/11. Islam became to some a means to achieve a political end-- the destruction of Israel, and all those who support it.


Flash forward to the present. Our current misadventure in the Middle East was conducted under the auspices of ridding the world of the insane Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction. In actuality, the war in Iraq was orchestrated by certain elements of the American and British governments that believed that by creating a democratic and free market society in Iraq-- a large, oil rich, unstable country ruled by an unpopular tyrant-- other countries in the region would follow suit, radical Islam would be debunked, oil production would increase, and the threat of terrorism would be reduced.


The fatal flaw in their logic was to underestimate both the number of troops that would be necessary to undertake such a nation building mission, as well as the intensity with which it would be resisted by a proud and suspicious culture which has been taught from birth to distrust the west, including the United States, as having colonialist and imperialist aims.

Let me be clear about this. The average Arab believes that the United States intends to permanently occupy Iraq. Many Arabs seriously believe that the attacks of 9-11 were orchestrated by the Israeli secret service. I had an enlightening conversation with an Iraqi guard at my camp, and he grilled me about whether or not I supported Israel. He simply could not believe me when I told him I was neither a Christian nor a Jew. Bin Laden took the radical jihad against Israel and redirected its anger towards the United States. He declared war on American civilians. Bin Laden claims that the United States wants to occupy the Muslim holy lands and will not rest till it subjugates all the Muslims. Right now we are pretty much proving him right. (Do not misconstrue this paragraph as being sympathetic to Bin Laden the person. I would shoot him dead with the pistol sitting next to me if he were here in this room.)

Here's the good news-- men like Sharon are realizing that Israel's hard line approach and military action have not always made the nation safer. Sharon realizes that Israel must engage in real negotiations with the moderate Palestinians and make concessions for a lasting peace. Sharon would not call this a "cut-and run" approach to foreign policy. It is the smart thing to do. It is the only solution to the problem.

President George Bush, a man who never had to fight for anything in his pampered life, could take a hint from Ariel Sharon, a man who had to fight for the very existence of his country. Instead, the President utters incendiary remarks like "Bring it On!" How many American lives did that one cost? How many Arab's did he alienate forever? Personally, I am fed up with the current President and his heavy-handed attempts at foreign policy. I truly believe that he is directly responsible for the deaths of almost as many Americans as were killed on 9/11. I am not a coward. I am not a peacenik. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I do not believe Bush "lied" to the American public. Most people in the know did believe that Iraq had some chemical weapons. President Bush is not an innocent bystander, however. He did not tell the truth about the real motivations for the war. The intelligence was exaggerated, cherry picked, and presented in a manner that precluded disagreement or real debate. Dissent was treasonous, and suppressed by attack dogs like Scooter Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney. Collectively, they purged men like Gen. Shinseki and Joe Wilson, moderate voices questioning administration policy, from government. Bush knew what he was going to do in Iraq well before the last bullshit U.N. resolution that he used as his mandate.


If you, a male of sound mind and body, are a United States citizen between 18 and 35 years of age, have never served in the military, and support the war in Iraq, don't even bother commenting and expressing your views until you have seen your nearest recruiter and enlisted. I dropped out of college to do it, you can do it too. Otherwise I will denounce you with one word, "Hypocrite!" How can you ask others to make the ultimate sacrifice when you will not do it yourself, especially when our Army and Marines are hurting for new recruits?


If you, a male (or female) of sound mind and body, are a United States citizen serving in the Armed Forces in Iraq or elsewhere, I do not intend to demoralize or discredit your incredible efforts and honorable sacrifice. I got shot at as well. I killed as well. I handed out candy to children as well. I know what it's like to be on active duty and not be able to speak out. I also know that a lot of guys are re-enlisting not because they agree with the ideology, but because it's a stable job with benefits, a good bonus, and they have hungry mouths to feed. The military will never publicly question its civilian leadership. That is not its job. Its job is to fight and win the nation's wars. President Bush has created a self-defeating situation where the military can not win. The lesson that ideological republicans such as Reagan and Powell learned from Vietnam was that the United States' fighting man could never again be sent into battle with unclear goals or with his hands tied behind his back. A continued large scale foreign military presence can not further the goal of a democratic Iraq. I simply cannot stand by idly as more people die. It stains my conscience. I can accept that the cause I fought for was true and just, but ultimately foolhardy. Truth is--when I was fighting I was more concerned with my the immediate survival of myself and my comrades than any political goals. Democracy was the furthest thing from my mind when I was blasting people with a 7.62mm machine gun. As a soldier, I am satisfied with my performance in the fight, but I was, and am, unsatisfied with our government's performance. We as a nation deserve something better than what we are getting. Take it back.

26 November 2005

I'm with stupid

Michael Brown, the self-proclaimed fashion god and former head of FEMA, is starting a consulting firm to capitalize on his status as the number one loser when it comes to disaster preparedness.

I swear I am not making this up.


Mr. Brown, go back to horse trading and leave disaster preparedness to the professionals.

25 November 2005

$ELLING IDEA$

Lobbyists are nothing more than go-betweens for the bribers and the bribed. In return, they get a cut of the dirty money. Lobbyists buy influence with fancy dinners, vacations, and gifts. They are paid to advocate a certain point of view. If the point of view being advocated was held by the majority of the electorate, there would be no need to pay for it to be heard. Lobbyists are killing democracy. The people's voice is muted by money. Money buys the next campaign commercial and the next election.

Email your representative and demand real finance reform in Washington.

Vote out the corrupt-- in the end, your vote is still more powerful than their money!

23 November 2005

The turkey's name is Monica...



Off to see the family-- here's wishing everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday.

22 November 2005

At least they can agree on something



If you haven't already checked out this story, please do so.

It seems as though the Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish factions were able to quit their bickering long enough to agree on at least one thing-- the US needs to go. The following quote is from the referenced AP story (cause I know you're too lazy to check it out).

"In Egypt, the final communique's attempt to define terrorism omitted any reference to attacks against U.S. or Iraqi forces. Delegates from across the political and religious spectrum said the omission was intentional. They spoke anonymously, saying they feared retribution.

'Though resistance is a legitimate right for all people, terrorism does not represent resistance. Therefore, we condemn terrorism and acts of violence, killing and kidnapping targeting Iraqi citizens and humanitarian, civil, government institutions, national resources and houses of worships,' the document said."

The Iraqi government is implying that those who target US troops (and even its own security forces) represent legitimate resistance, as long as they don't target civilians or civil institutions. The not so subtle message is, "Fuck you America. We don't want you here, but we'll continue to use your children's blood to do the job that our people don't have the heart for."

I say we give them what they want-- sooner, rather than later. What do you think?

21 November 2005

news

Everyone's excited because Zarquawi may have finally bit it in Mosul, but I'm not holding my breath. Guys like him are slippery as snakes, and I wouldn't be suprised if he wasn't even in Iraq anymore. I mean, we obviously have no idea where he is. I wonder whose DNA they are going to use to compare with in order to identify the remains? His family in Jordan that just disowned him? Some secret CIA stash? Might seem like a small sticking point, but I'm curious.

Is there finally hope for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Peace in this region would do more to hurt the cause of Islamic fundamentalists than almost anything I can think of. Here's hoping Sharon has enough popular support to get it done.

And finally, I know that it's not nice to make fun, but this is just too tempting. I think that the photo pretty much sums up Bush's Asian excursion.

19 November 2005

What an embarrassment

I was glued to the TV tonight, watching the debate on Iraq unfold in the House of Representatives.

The most amazing thing to me was the duplicity of the whole affair. The Republicans strongarmed a sham resolution (although a few defectors actually had a conscience) onto the house floor that they knew damn would fail just so they could say, "See, we told you so." Rather than let real debate on Rep. Murtha's proposal take place, and perhaps a compromise by-partisan resolution emerge from that debate, they undercut the essence of the legislative process. Unfortunately for them, it all began to backfire when Congresswoman Schmidt, very gawdily dressed as an American flag, accused a decorated Vietnam Veteran of being a coward. She was quickly booed down and forced to retract her remarks. Amazingly, Schmidt won her last election (very narrowly) over an Iraq veteran. How much do you want to bet that he wins his senate race, and she loses her next one? I wouldn't fault Hackett for abandoning the whole idea after seeing the disgraceful displays in the House today. Vietnam Veterans on both sides got up and related everything that is going on now to what happened to them in Vietnam. Not to reference the Big Lebowski too many times in one week, but it's almost too perfect...

"I don't see the connection with Vietnam, Walter."
"Well...There's not a literal connection."
"No Walter, there's not any connection."

The war at home during Vietnam-- protestors spitting on soldiers, calling them baby killers, soldiers shooting protestors-- I can not even imagine what kind of galvanizing effects these things must have had to the people who lived through them. The problem is that I don't see how either side propping up veterans of the Vietnam war to support or decry a foreign policy decision on Iraq is really very relevant. I don't see how forcing a sham vote on a fake resolution is productive. All through the debate one Republican after another self-righteously decried the fact that the debate was even happening, and proclaimed that the call to withdraw was destroying the morale of the troops. All of them failed to mention that the resolution being debated and decried was introduced by their party leaders. Nor was the fact mentioned that the resolution being debated was never intended to pass-- it was intended to create the kind of partisan strife that they then called traitorous. Who are the real traitors?

The sad thing is that I could see the dread in many of the republican speakers' eyes-- the crazed look of a suicide cult member or a captain who has bound himself to go down with the ship. So be it, the die is now cast. Any real chance for a meaningful debate by the current congress on the issue of Iraq has been lost. The next thing to look forward to is to elect some new people in 2006 and 2008. And the worst part of it, the part that left me the most disillusioned, was that the democrats were afraid to stand behind Mr. Murtha. They cheered for him, and applauded, and booed Jean Schmidt, but when it came time to vote they voted the way the Republicans knew they would all along. They didn't even counter the political move with one of their own. Bunch of chickenshit bastards. It's almost enough to make me not give a fuck anymore. I really wish that Paul Hackett, and not Jean Schmidt, had been able to make remarks at tonight's debate. Maybe then someone who knows what the fuck they're talking about would say something meaningful, and not a bunch of crochety old guys trying to relate today's problems to the struggles of their youth. The kind of culture war that happened in the late 60's and early 70's was certainly horribly detrimental to the morale of the troops in Vietnam, as well as to the society in general. This isn't Vietnam. Hopefully there will be no need for a culture war-- but I would never back down from a battle if an uber-bitch like Jean Schmidt wanted to bring it.

Damn, I got all worked up. Who knew C-SPAN could be such great television?

18 November 2005

On a lighter note



I took this propaganda poster of Muqtada al-Sadr off a wall in Baghdad, and now I have it hanging in my house, complete with dry erase board to give him an ever-changing voice. I don't know why I find this funny, maybe it's his gnarly teeth or insane expression. Although they've abandoned open attacks against the US, the Mahdi Army (Muqtada's military arm that I fought against in Sadr City) has gotten some bad press recently for acting as a vigilante religious police force. Religious fanaticism wears many masks, but the goal is always the same--less freedom and more fear.

Rep. Murtha

I must say that I respect Representative John Murtha. Today Rep. Murtha addressed many of the issues that have been troubling Americans about Iraq, but that no moderate elected official has had the sack to say, at least in public. Personally, I think that six months might be a bit unrealistic of a timetable, but that is certainly debatable. I suppose that if the war in Iraq is truly immoral and illegitimate, six months is six months too long. How many more American soldiers will be dead in six months?

One thing that caught my eye-- the media is reporting the story as though Rep. Murtha's transformation from hawk to dove was an overnight conversion, but as reported here by instapundit, his views on the war, like everyone's, have evolved over the past few years. Let's face it, the story isn't that a senior democrat is criticizing the war, Ted Kennedy has been doing it from the beginning. The story is that Rep. Murtha is a Vietnam veteran whose defense credentials are very well respected by Democrats and moderate Republicans alike. This is not a guy that Cheney or Bush can write off as a traitor. At least not without looking completely hypocritical in light of their (lack) of service in Vietnam. Oh wait, I forgot. Bush was in the Texas Air National Guard-- sort of.

In the end, I think I know why Rep. Murtha made his declaration today. Veterans have a special duty to be vigilant as to how our nation's troops our employed. By virtue of their situation, active duty servicemembers cannot speak out against the war, their commander in chief, or refuse duty if they are asked to serve in a war zone. Veterans, being those citizens who have known war, have a special duty to ensure that no American fighting man or woman is asked to fight and die for any other reason than that which they are sworn, "To protect and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies." I am quite sure Rep. Murtha believes that he was fulfilling this moral duty as a veteran by saying what he did today. Bush/Cheney may disagree, but in Murtha's words, "I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."

16 November 2005

Solutions

I was reminded today that it is very easy to be critical of decisions made by others, but much harder to offer solutions to the problems that face us.

Whatever one thinks of the decision to invade Iraq, hindsight is always 20/20. Whatever one thinks of the foreign policy of the President and his administration, they were acting in what they felt was the national interest. It seems as though they often believed the national interest superseded both the rule of law and their obligation as elected officials to be truthful to the citizens they represent. This is unacceptable, and thankfully we live in an open society with a (mostly) free press that will uncover the truth, no matter how deeply it is buried.

But what to do about Iraq? There really aren't any simple answers. Cindy Sheehan wants every American soldier out of Iraq tomorrow. I support the sentiment, but it's just not going to happen like that. Both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of polarizing the debate on Iraq. President Bush has made it quite clear that there is no room for quibbling-- you're either with him or with the terrorists. This is a ridiculous and counterproductive assertion. And contrary to the opinions of many of my left-leaning friends, Bush is not the anti-Christ. He's just not a very competent official. To the average American, the debate on Iraq is a choice between two polar opposites, the warhawks and the peaceniks, and this stifles all the moderate and intelligent people out there who want a workable solution to the problem.

I am not a pacifist, although I respect pacifism. Violence should always be the last resort. A nation should never blindly follow its leader into war, nor should anyone be afraid to speak out against an unjust war for fear of feeling unpatriotic. Anti-war movements help to counterbalance the natural human urges towards violence and aggression, and they are necessary for the health of any democracy.

The goal is a democratic and less radical Middle East. The problem is that we are not dealing primarily with governments, but radical individuals spread around the world. These people truly are willing to sacrifice everything and kill anyone to advance their cause, and that makes them extremely dangerous, and a very real threat. Invading Iraq was an attempt to bring democratic change to the region, couched in the guise of "ridding the world of Saddam and the WMDs". The people who engineered the invasion (and it was well before September 11, 2001) rightly believe that a more prosperous, progressive, secular, and democratic Middle East is the only way to really prevent terrorism in the future. The invasion of Iraq, however, was a foolish and Machiavellian act, because genuine democracy cannot be imposed by an outside country through violence. If democracy is going to happen in Iraq it will be because the Iraqi people genuinely want it, and not because we want them to want it.

Violence begets violence. Islamic fascism is based on perpetuating the ideology that the west, and especially the United States, is the cause of the suffering of the Arab people. Make no mistake that they are suffering-- many Iraqis live in pretty horrid conditions. Most Arabs live under repressive regimes, and even the most liberal, such as Jordan or Kuwait, do not allow much dissent or free expression. The United States must account for its meddlesome actions in the region (funding Iraq during the war with Iran, our sometimes blind support of Israel, supporting countless repressive and corrupt regimes such as Saudi Arabia when it suits us financially, ect.) and realize that these are all legitimate points of contention and grievance. What is not legitimate is the response of the hardcore Islamic radicals, who are willing to kill innocent people to advance their cause.

The most encouraging thing to me is that in spite of all the violence, the average Iraqi is participating in his/her new democracy (at great personal risk). Iraq can become a model for democracy in the Middle East. The biggest stumbling block to this is the violence. Most of the terrorists, nationalist fighters, criminal gangs, militias, and others that are actively fighting US forces in Iraq are simply not capable of organizing or carrying out terrorist attacks on US soil. They are fighting us in Iraq because it's easy to get there, easy to get arms, easy to find like minded individuals to organize, and we are there waiting to fight, even saying "Bring it on!" One of the problems I had while stationed in Iraq was that I always felt like a target. It seemed as though we were securing ourselves more than the Iraqis. And when we got hit, like any good army, we hit back ten times as hard. Innocent people and property were inevitably caught in the middle of all of it, and now you have a widow, orphan, or pissed off business owner who sees the US as the cause of his/her pain, because it was a US bullet that caused it. It's not that they don't hold the terrorists culpable as well, they do. But all our high notions of building a democracy seem pretty empty when there's a fire fight going on in your backyard.

The best solution to the problem that I can come up is to let the more progressive heads of state in the region handle terrorism as an internal problem. We should most definitely exercise our right to self protection by going after known terrorists, as well as offering our partners in the Middle East more financial, military, and intelligence gathering assistance. We cannot continue to go it alone. Men like King Abdullah of Jordan realize that the average al-Queda terrorist hates him almost as much as the Jews or the Americans, and these heads of state have selfish reasons for wanting to hunt Islamic radicals down. Their intelligence operatives are infinitely more capable of rooting out these individuals, because their agents are rooted in the society. There simply aren't too many Arab CIA operatives capable of infiltrating an al-Queda cell. If Arab leaders are seen by the Arab people to be taking real action against the radicals in their midst, the conflict is no longer framed in an "us against them" mentality. That goes for the American people, as well. The benefit is that we no longer have to have a substantial military presence in the region if the Arab leaders start to clean house and democratize themselves. The progressive heads of state in the Middle East must be willing to take a firm stand against Islamic radicals, even if it means pissing off the clerics. Their people will support them, and the world will support them. That's really the only hope, as far as I see it.

The threat of Islamic radicalism is real. Over two thousand voices silenced on September 11, 2001 would attest to it, if they still could. The war was declared, but it was not declared by Saddam, or Iran, or any one nation or man. It was a war declared by those truly evil and maniacal men who believe they can further a political end by any means necessary. We as a nation can not fall into the same trap, or we are doomed to fail, just as they are.

15 November 2005

Flip-Flopping

"Some of our elected leaders have opposed this war all along. I disagree with them, but I respect their willingness to take a consistent stand. Yet some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force are now rewriting the past. They are playing politics with this issue and sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy. That is irresponsible.

As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them. Our troops deserve to know that this support will remain firm when the going gets tough. And our troops deserve to know that whatever our differences in Washington, our will is strong, our nation is united, and we will settle for nothing less than victory."

--Excerpt from President Bush's speech last night

The President called out all the flip-floppers last night. I agree that any democrat who voted for war looks like a damn fool now. But in the words of "The Dude"

New shit has come to light, man.

  1. The indictment of Scooter Libby and the possibility (probability, in my view) of an administration conspiracy to out a CIA agent for political reasons.
  2. The Downing Street Memo and other memoranda indicating that the invasion of Iraq was planned well before September 11.
  3. The incredibly negligent and cavalier attitude of Rumsfeld in preparing for post-invasion Iraq (i.e. firing Shinseki and anyone else in the top brass who expressed doubt).
  4. The length and cost (especially the human cost) of the war.
  5. Lack of positive results--The bottom line.
Many people who originally supported the war in Iraq are now, in light of all this new shit, extremely critical of it. Although they would never admit it, most democrats who voted for the war did so because the people wanted the war. Politicians (at least most of them) don't vote their conscience so much as their constituency. To not vote for the war would have been seen as being weak on terrorism, the most seditious of acts in post 9/11 America.

I grow weary of 'the troops' being called down by both sides of the political spectrum in this debate. They are always referred to in a way that makes them seem as dumb and docile as a herd of cattle. The troops, especially those in Iraq, are hardened volunteers that get paid to do a dangerous job. A great many would rather not personally be in Iraq, fighting the noble cause. Some believe it is worth it. Some just don't care. I know that when I was in Iraq I always detested anyone, the president included, putting words in my mouth by speaking for 'the troops'.

I care very deeply about the men and women over in Iraq. I don't want any more of them getting shot up or blown to pieces. I would never do or say anything to aid the enemy. The President's insinuation that those critical of him are helping the terrorists is a desperate and pathetic attempt to quell legitimate dissent, and it's certainly not the first time Bush has played that card. To be frank, it pisses me off. Bush will continue down this tired old road until popular opinion is strong enough to force policy change. That critical mass is not here yet, but it's getting closer.

I am a realist-- I don't agree with pulling out all our forces from Iraq overnight. For better or worse, we are entangled in a mess that will take us a little while to get out of. Make no mistake--we need to start getting out, or we will only get sucked deeper in. And then one day you wake up and the 5,000th soldier has been killed. Then the 10,000th.

Supporting the troops is a lot more complicated than slapping a bumper sticker on an SUV.

To the President, people like me are irresponsible. To me, irresponsibility is blundering your way into and through a war that has cost thousands of lives and then insisting that everything will be ok, as long as the war continues. It's appointing idiots like Michael Brown to head major federal agencies. Legitimate dissent is both responsible and neccesary for the health of any democracy.

14 November 2005

VA Cancels PTSD Review

In a move that will bring a sigh of relief to many vets suffering with PTSD, the VA administration has cancelled a review of PTSD claims after acknowledging that the problems with the questionable claims were due to clerical errors and not fraud.

Veterans Secretary R. James Nicholson said, "In the absence of evidence of fraud, we're not going to put our veterans through the anxiety of a widespread review of their disability claims. Instead, we're going to improve our training for VA personnel who handle disability claims and toughen administrative oversight."

The fact that the VA was more ready to blame the problem on veterans rather than on its own bloated beauracracy doesn't go away, and it certainly won't be forgotten by all the vets with PTSD claims who were basically being called liars by the very government agency created to look out for them. I suppose that the more correct way to put it would be that the veterans were being called potential liars because the nature of their disability was not physical, and thus open to interpretation.

I guess the moral of the story is that the truth came out, a wrong was righted, and the VA came to its senses and realized that any financial gain to be had in reviewing claims wasn't worth the moral black eye. Bad press-- it's what get's em every time.

13 November 2005

Revisionism

While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began.
George W. Bush


Let's get one thing straight. When the executive branch of a wartime government (acting through the CIA and various heads of state) tells the legislature that a rogue government possesses weapons of mass destruction and intends to use them against the citizens of the United States, the legislature is supposed to believe it. Especially after 9/11. That's how it's supposed to work.

When the raw (and very minimal) intelligence from the CIA and dubious foreign sources is distorted and fed to the legislature and people in order to prosecute a war of aggression, the legislature no longer assumes responsibility for the outcome. The executive assumes responsibility.

At the time that the war in Iraq began, I was still stateside at Fort Hood, Texas. I remember being pretty ambivalent as to whether the war was justified. Saddam was not exactly sane or honest, and I felt it likely that he still had a few mustard gas shells left over from the war with Iran (which we happened to fund). If the president and CIA seemed convinced that he was bent on giving aid to terrorists, who was I to question?

But that's not even the real truth about the justification for Iraq. The truth is that I distinctly remember being in the Military Entrance Processing Station shortly after enlisting in late 2001 and predicting that I would eventually go to Iraq. I figured the next big war would be in Iraq. Everybody did; Bush and co. certainly had their sites set on it. It was the next logical progression, and I wanted in on it. Most of the kids who join up to be combat arms are a little screwy, and I was no different.

The point is that America wanted Iraq on a much more primitive level than anyone wants to acknowledge. After Pearl Harbor, there was an enemy country to war with. Iraq was payback for September 11th. Shock and awe. Embedded reporters. It was all great reality TV, and America really came together and had a great war. The problem was and is the aftermath. Any far thinking military man such as Gen. Shinseki, who questioned the ability of only a hundred thousand American troops to succesfully occupy and stabilize Iraq, was quickly chased out of the Pentagon by Rumsfeld. And now we are left mired in the current quagmire.

You are certainly correct, Mr. Bush. We should not engage in revisionist history when it comes to examining the start of the Iraq War.

11 November 2005

Bush's Veteran's Day Speech

What follows is a transcript of President Bush's Veteran's Day Address, presented to you, the informed reader, in its entirety. The bolded statements are my comments/criticism. Hope this veteran's day finds all of you well. To all the future veterans still in Iraq, hang in and keep your heads down.

(Washington) November 11, 2005 - Transcript of remarks by President Bush on the war on terror:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Thank you all for coming, please be seated. Thanks for the warm welcome. I'm glad to be back in Pennsylvania and I'm proud to be the first sitting President to visit Monroe County. (Applause.) I'm especially pleased to see so many military veterans with us today. Those who have risked their lives for our freedom have the respect and gratitude of our nation on Veterans Day and on every day. (Applause.)

Tobyhanna is a fitting place to commemorate Veterans Day. In the better part of a century, this facility has provided critical services for our armed forces. Around the clock and around the world, personnel from here maintain technology that our troops use to take the fight to the enemy. From Afghanistan to Kuwait to Baghdad International Airport, technicians from Tobyhanna are carrying out dangerous missions with bravery and skill. I know you're proud of them, and so is the Commander-in- Chief. (Applause.)

Tobyhanna is also home to a thriving community of military families. Your support for those who wear the uniform and your support of each other through difficult times brings great pride to our country. The American people stand with our military families. (Applause.)

I want to thank Colonel Ellis for allowing me to come and give you this speech today. Thank you for your service to our country, Colonel Ellis. (Applause.) I want to thank Senator Specter and Congressman Kanjorski and Congressman Sherwood for joining us today. It was good to have them on Air Force One. (Applause.) I appreciate their service to our country. And I want to thank all the state and local officials, and I want to thank all the veterans. (Applause.)

Today, our nation pays tribute to those veterans, 25 million veterans who have worn the uniform of the United States of America. Each of these men and women took an oath to defend America -- and they upheld that oath with honor and decency. Through the generations, they have humbled dictators and liberated continents and set a standard of courage and idealism for the entire world. This year, 3.5 million veterans celebrate the 60th anniversary of freedom's great victory in World War II. A handful of veterans who live among us in 2005 stood in uniform when World War I ended 87 years ago today. These men are more than a hundred years old, many of their lives have touched three different centuries, and they can all know that America will be proud of their service. (Applause.)

On Veterans Day, we also remember the troops who left America's shores but did not live to be thanked as veterans. On this Veterans Day, we honor the courage of those who were lost in the current struggle. We think of the families who lost a loved one; we pray for their comfort.{Even though we refuse to talk to them a second time} And we remember the men and women in uniform whose fate is still undetermined -- our prisoners of war and those missing in action. America must never forget their courage. And we will not stop searching until we have accounted for every soldier and sailor and airman and Marines missing in the line of duty. (Applause.)

All of America's veterans have placed the nation's security before their own lives. Their sacrifice creates a debt that America can never fully repay. Yet, there are certain things that government can do; my administration remains firmly committed to serving America's veterans. (Applause.)

Since I took office, my administration has increased spending for veterans by $24 billion -- an increase of 53 percent. (Applause.) In the first four years as President, we increased spending for veterans more than twice as much as the previous administration did in eight years, and I want to thank the members of the Congress and the Senate for joining me in the effort to support our veterans. {Bush acts like he did any of this on purpose. He forgets to mention that the increase in spending is entirely due to all the newly disabled veterans coming back from Iraq. There are thousands and thousands of them. So, spending has been increased, but this is only because the wars have destroyed so many. The VA is still grossly underfunded. This is the kind of doublespeak logic that just sends me for a loop. And he keeps going...} (Applause.)

We've increased the VA's medical care budget by 51 percent, increased total outpatient visits, increased the number of prescriptions filled, and reduced the backlog of disability claims. We've committed more than $1.5 billion to modernizing and expanding VA facilities so that more veterans can get better care closer to home. We've expanded grants to help homeless veterans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, because we strongly believe no veteran who served in the blazing heat or bitter cold of foreign lands should have to live without shelter in this country. {I like the sentiment, but the very fact that grants have to be given to private charities taking care of homeless vets is disgraceful. Where are the public programs and initiatives to house these homeless and often mentally ill vets? This sounds like a guy giving to charity to ease his sense of guilt. Screw that} (Applause.)

I've joined with the veterans groups to call on Congress to protect the flag of the United States in the Constitution of the United States. (Applause.) In June, the House of Representatives voted for a constitutional amendment to ban flag desecration. I urge the United States Senate to pass this important amendment. (Applause.){Umm, I'm a veteran and I will gladly defend AGAIN the right of disaffected citizens to burn the flag, although I do not condone it and have never done it. But I support the right of people to do it. When Bush is talking about veteran's groups, I don't think he's talking about IVAW here. What groups is he talking about, why doesn't he name them?}

At this hour, a new generation of Americans is defending our flag and our freedom in the first war of the 21st century. The war came to our shores on September the 11th, 2001. That morning, we saw the destruction that terrorists intend for our nation. We know that they want to strike again. And our nation has made a clear choice: We will confront this mortal danger to all humanity; we will not tire or rest until the war on terror is won. (Applause.){ September 11th was horrible. I joined the army because of it. Iraq had nothing to do with it. No more than Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya, or any other country in the region. People know that now.}

In the four years since September the 11th, the evil that reached our shores has reappeared on other days, in other places -- in Mombasa and Casablanca and Riyadh and Jakarta and Istanbul and Madrid and Beslan and Taba and Netanya and Baghdad, and elsewhere. In the past few months, we have seen a new terror offensive with attacks on London and Sharm el-Sheikh, another deadly strike in Bali, and this week, a series of bombings in Amman, Jordan, that killed dozens of innocent Jordanians and their guests.

All these separate images of destruction and suffering that we see on the news can seem like random, isolated acts of madness -- innocent men and women and children who have died simply because they boarded the wrong train, or worked in the wrong building, or checked into the wrong hotel. Yet, while the killers choose their victims indiscriminately, their attacks serve a clear and focused ideology -- a set of beliefs and goals that are evil, but not insane.

Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; and still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it's called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism, subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Hindus and Jews -- and against Muslims, themselves, who do not share their radical vision.

Many militants are part of a global, borderless terrorist organization like al Qaeda -- which spreads propaganda, and provides financing and technical assistance to local extremists, and conducts dramatic and brutal operations like the attacks of September the 11th. Other militants are found in regional groups, often associated with al Qaeda -- paramilitary insurgencies and separatist movements in places like Somalia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Chechnya, Kashmir and Algeria. Still others spring up in local cells -- inspired by Islamic radicalism, but not centrally directed. Islamic radicalism is more like a loose network with many branches than an army under a single command. Yet these operatives, fighting on scattered battlefields, share a similar ideology and vision for the world.

We know the vision of the radicals because they have openly stated it -- in videos and audiotapes and letters and declarations and on websites.

First, these extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace, and stand in the way of their ambitions. Al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, has called on Muslims to dedicate, their "resources, their sons and money to driving the infidels out of our lands." The tactics of al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists have been consistent for a quarter of a century: They hit us, and expect us to run.

Last month, the world learned of a letter written by al Qaeda's number two leader, a guy named Zawahiri. And he wrote this letter to his chief deputy in Iraq -- the terrorist Zarqawi. In it, Zawahiri points to the Vietnam War as a model for al Qaeda. This is what he said: "The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam -- and how they ran and left their agents -- is noteworthy." The terrorists witnessed a similar response after the attacks on American troops in Beirut in 1983 and Mogadishu in 1993. They believe that America can be made to run again -- only this time on a larger scale, with greater consequences.

Second, the militant network wants to use the vacuum created by an American retreat to gain control of a country -- a base from which to launch attacks and conduct their war against non-radical Muslim governments. Over the past few decades, radicals have specifically targeted Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and Jordan for potential takeover. They achieved their goal, for a time, in Afghanistan. And now they've set their sights on Iraq. In his recent letter, Zawahiri writes that al Qaeda views Iraq as, "the place for the greatest battle." The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. We must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war against the terrorists. (Applause.)

Third, these militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region, and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia. Zawahiri writes that the terrorists, "must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq." He goes on to say: "(T)he jihad ... requires several incremental goals. ... Expel the Americans from Iraq. ... Establish an Islamic authority over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq? Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq."

With the greater economic, military and political power they seek, the terrorists would be able to advance their stated agenda: to develop weapons of mass destruction; to destroy Israel; to intimidate Europe; to assault the American people; and to blackmail our government into isolation.

Some might be tempted to dismiss these goals as fanatical or extreme. They are fanatical and extreme -- but they should not be dismissed. Our enemy is utterly committed. As Zarqawi has vowed, "We will either achieve victory over the human race or we will pass to the eternal life." (Applause.) And the civilized world knows very well that other fanatics in history, from Hitler to Stalin to Pol Pot, consumed whole nations in war and genocide before leaving the stage of history. Evil men, obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience, must be taken very seriously -- and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply. {No real argument on most of these points from me, but HOW IS THE IRAQ WAR HELPING TO DISCREDIT OR DEFEAT THE EVIL MEN. It's giving them credibility, and worse yet, a following. See my other posts for refutation of the "We're fighting them in Iraq so we don't have to here," logic.}

Defeating the militant network is difficult, because it thrives, like a parasite, on the suffering and frustration of others. The radicals exploit local conflicts to build a culture of victimization, in which someone else is always to blame and violence is always the solution. They exploit resentful and disillusioned young men and women, recruiting them through radical mosques as pawns of terror. And they exploit modern technology to multiply their destructive power. Instead of attending far-away training camps, recruits can now access online training libraries to learn how to build a roadside bomb or fire a rocket-propelled grenade -- and this further spreads the threat of violence, even within peaceful democratic societies.

The influence of Islamic radicalism is also magnified by helpers and enablers. They've been sheltered by authoritarian regimes -- allies of convenience like Iran and Syria -- that share the goal of hurting America and modern Muslim governments, and use terrorist propaganda to blame their own failures on the West, on America, and on the Jews. This week the government of Syria took two disturbing steps. First, it arrested Dr. Kamal Labwani for serving as an advocate for democratic reform. Then President Assad delivered a strident speech that attacked both the Lebanese government and the integrity of the Mehlis investigation into the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister.

The government of Syria must do what the international community has demanded: cooperate fully with the Mehlis investigation and stop trying to intimidate and de-stabilize the Lebanese government. The government of Syria must stop exporting violence and start importing democracy. (Applause.)

The radicals depend on front operations, such as corrupted charities, which direct money to terrorist activity. They are strengthened by those who aggressively fund the spread of radical, intolerant versions of Islam into unstable parts of the world. The militants are aided as well by elements of the Arab news media that incite hatred and anti-Semitism, that feed conspiracy theories, and speak of a so-called American "war on Islam" -- with seldom a word about American action to protect Muslims in Afghanistan and Bosnia and Somalia and Kosovo and Kuwait and Iraq; or our generous assistance to Muslims recovering from natural disasters in places like Indonesia and Pakistan. (Applause.)

Some { Like me. Wow, he is starting to address opposing points of view. WTF?} have also argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions in Iraq -- claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001. {Actually..we'd been bombing Iraq for years. Once again, the September 11th and Saddam connection. Give it up.} (Applause.) The hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue, and it will exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse. The government of Russia did not support Operation Iraqi Freedom -- and, yet, the militants killed more than 150 Russian schoolchildren in Beslan. { The Chechyna conflict is obviously not understood by Bush. It's more ethnic and nationalistic, and not just about islamic ideology. Some of the atrocities committed by Russian soldiers in the war were pretty incredible as well.}

Over the years these extremists have used a litany of excuses for violence: the Israeli presence on the West Bank, the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, the defeat of the Taliban, or the Crusades of a thousand years ago. In fact, we're not facing a set of grievances that can be soothed and addressed. We're facing a radical ideology with inalterable objectives: to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world. No act of ours invited the rage of killers -- and no concession, bribe, or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder. On the contrary, they target nations whose behavior they believe they can change through violence. Against such an enemy, there is only one effective response: We will never back down, we will never give in, we will never accept anything less than complete victory. (Applause.) { This kind of talk just gives me the willies. So much blood will be shed before this guy is stopped.}

The murderous ideology of the Islamic radicals is the great challenge of our new century. Yet in many ways, this fight resembles the struggle against communism in the last century. Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is elitist, led by a self-appointed vanguard that presumes to speak for the Muslim masses. Bin Laden says his own role is to tell Muslims, "what is good for them and what is not." And what this man who grew up in wealth and privilege considers good for poor Muslims is that they become killers and suicide bombers. He assures them that this road -- that this is the road to paradise -- though he never offers to go along for the ride. {I haven't seen Bush offering to go on too many raids in Iraq, either} (Applause.)

Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy teaches that innocent individuals can be sacrificed to serve a political vision. And this explains their cold-blooded contempt for human life. We have seen it in the murders of Daniel Pearl and Nicholas Berg and Margaret Hassan and many others. In a courtroom in the Netherlands, the killer of Theo Van Gogh turned to the victim's grieving mother and said, "I don't feel your pain ... because I believe you're an infidel." And in spite of this veneer of religious rhetoric, most of the victims claimed by the militants are fellow Muslims.

Recently, in the town of Huwaydar, Iraq, a terrorist detonated a pickup truck parked along a busy street lined with restaurants and shops, just as residents were gathering to break the day-long fast observed during Ramadan. The explosion killed at least 25 people and wounded 34. When unsuspecting Muslims breaking their Ramadan fast are targeted for death, or 25 Iraqi children are killed in a bombing, or Iraqi teachers are executed at their school, this is murder, pure and simple -- the total rejection of justice and honor and morality and religion. (Applause.)

These militants are not just the enemies of America or the enemies of Iraq, they are the enemies of Islam and they are the enemies of humanity. And we have seen this kind of shameless cruelty before -- in the heartless zealotry that led to the gulags, the Cultural Revolution, and the killing fields.

Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy pursues totalitarian aims. Its leaders pretend to be an aggrieved party, representing the powerless against imperial enemies. In truth, they have endless ambitions of imperial domination -- and they wish to make everyone powerless, except themselves. Under their rule, they have banned books, and desecrated historical monuments, and brutalized women. They seek to end dissent in every form, to control every aspect of life, to rule the soul itself. While promising a future of justice and holiness, the terrorists are preparing a future of oppression and misery.

Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy is dismissive of free peoples -- claiming that men and women who live in liberty are weak and decadent. Zarqawi has said that Americans are, "the most cowardly of God's creatures." But let us be clear: It is cowardice that seeks to kill children and the elderly with car bombs, and cuts the throat of a bound captive, and targets worshipers leaving a mosque.

It is courage that liberated more than 50 million people from tyranny. It is courage that keeps an untiring vigil against the enemies of rising democracies. And it is courage in the cause of freedom that will once again destroy the enemies of freedom. (Applause.)

And Islamic radicalism, like the ideology of communism, contains inherent contradictions that doom it to failure. { For once I agree with him. But if it's doomed to fail why are we in Iraq?} By fearing freedom -- by distrusting human creativity and punishing change and limiting the contributions of half a population -- this ideology undermines the very qualities that make human progress possible, and human societies successful. The only thing modern about the militants' vision is the weapons they want to use against us. The rest of their grim vision is defined by a warped image of the past -- a declaration of war on the idea of progress itself. And whatever lies ahead in the war against this ideology, the outcome is not in doubt. Those who despise freedom and progress have condemned themselves to isolation and decline and collapse. Because free peoples believe in the future, free peoples will own the future. (Applause.)

We didn't ask for this global struggle, but we're answering history's call with confidence, and with a comprehensive strategy. Defeating a broad and adaptive network requires patience, constant pressure, and strong partners in Europe and in the Middle East and North Africa and Asia and beyond. Working with these partners, we're disrupting militant conspiracies, we're destroying their ability to make war, and we're working to give millions in a troubled region a hopeful alternative to resentment and violence.

First, we're determined to prevent attacks of the terrorist networks before they occur. We are reorganizing our government to give this nation a broad and coordinated homeland defense. We're reforming our intelligence agencies for the incredibly difficult task of tracking enemy activity -- based on information that often comes in small fragments from widely scattered sources, both here and abroad. And we're acting, along with governments from other countries, to destroy the terrorist networks and incapacitate their leadership.

Together with our partners, we've disrupted a number of serious al Qaeda terrorist plots since September the 11th -- including several plots to attack inside the United States. Our coalition against terror has killed or captured nearly all those directly responsible for the September the 11th attacks. We've captured or killed several of bin Laden's most serious deputies, al Qaeda managers and operatives in more than 24 countries; the mastermind of the USS Cole bombing, who was chief of al Qaeda's operations in the Persian Gulf; the mastermind of the bombings in Jakarta and Bali; a senior Zarqawi terrorist planner, who was planning attacks in Turkey; and many of their senior leaders in Saudi Arabia.

Because of this steady progress, the enemy is wounded -- but the enemy is still capable of global operations. Our commitment is clear: We will not relent until the organized international terror networks are exposed and broken, and their leaders are held to account for their murder. (Applause.)

Second, we're determined to deny weapons of mass destruction to outlaw regimes, and to their terrorist allies who would use them without hesitation. (Applause.) The United States, working with Great Britain and Pakistan and other nations, has exposed and disrupted a major black-market operation in nuclear technology led by A.Q. Khan. Libya has abandoned its chemical and nuclear weapons programs, as well as its long-range ballistic missiles.

And in the past year, America and our partners in the Proliferation Security Initiative have stopped more than a dozen shipments of suspect weapons technology, including equipment for Iran's ballistic missile program. This progress has reduced the danger to free nations, but it has not removed it. Evil men who want to use horrendous weapons against us are working in deadly earnest to gain them. And we're working urgently to keep the weapons of mass murder out of the hands of the fanatics.

Third, we're determined to deny radical groups the support and sanctuary of outlaw regimes. State sponsors like Syria and Iran have a long history of collaboration with terrorists, and they deserve no patience from the victims of terror. The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them, because they're equally guilty of murder. (Applause.)

Fourth, we're determined to deny the militants control of any nation, which they would use as a home base and a launching pad for terror. This mission has brought new and urgent responsibilities to our armed forces. American troops are fighting beside Afghan partners and against remnants of the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies. We're working with President Musharraf to oppose and isolate the militants in Pakistan. We're fighting the regime remnants and terrorists in Iraq. The terrorist goal is to overthrow a rising democracy, claim a strategic country as a haven for terror, destabilize the Middle East, and strike America and other free nations with increasing violence. Our goal is to defeat the terrorists and their allies at the heart of their power, so we will defeat the enemy in Iraq. (Applause.)

Our coalition, along with our Iraqi allies, is moving forward with a comprehensive plan. Our strategy is to clear, hold, and build. We're working to clear areas from terrorist control, to hold those areas securely, and to build lasting, democratic Iraqi institutions through an increasingly inclusive political process. In recent weeks, American and Iraqi troops have conducted several major assaults to clear out enemy fighters in Baghdad, and parts of Iraq.

Two weeks ago, in Operation Clean Sweep, Iraq and coalition forces raided 350 houses south of Baghdad, capturing more than 40 of the terrorist killers. Acting on tips from local citizens, our forces have recently launched air strikes against terrorist safe houses in and around the towns of Ubaydi and Husaybah. We brought to justice two key senior al Qaeda terrorist leaders. And in Mosul, coalition forces killed an al Qaeda cell leader named Muslet, who was personally involved in at least three videotaped beheadings. We're on the hunt. We're keeping pressure on the enemy. (Applause.){When I read stuff like this I just don't think Bush has much of a clue as to what is really happening on the ground in Iraq.}

And thousands of Iraqi forces have been participating in these operations, and even more Iraqis are joining the fight. Last month, nearly 3,000 Iraqi police officers graduated from 10 weeks of basic training. They'll now take their places along other brave Iraqis who are taking the fight to the terrorists across their own country. Iraqi police and security forces are helping to clear terrorists from their strongholds, helping to hold onto areas that we've cleared; they're working to prevent the enemy from returning. Iraqi forces are using their local expertise to maintain security, and to build political and economic institutions that will help improve the lives of their fellow citizens.

At the same time, Iraqis are making inspiring progress toward building a democracy. Last month, millions of Iraqis turned out to vote, and they approved a new constitution that guarantees fundamental freedoms and lays the foundation for lasting democracy. Many more Sunnis participated in this vote than in January's historic elections, and the level of violence was lower.

Now, Iraqis are gearing up for December 15th elections, when they will go to the polls to choose a government under the new constitution. The new government will serve a four-year term, and it will represent all Iraqis. Even those who voted against the constitution are now organizing and preparing for the December elections. Multiple Sunni Arab parties have submitted a list of candidates, and several prominent Sunni politicians are running on other slates. With two successful elections completed, and a third coming up next month, the Iraqi people are proving their determination to build a democracy united against extremism and violence. (Applause.)

The work ahead involves great risk for Iraqis and for American and coalition forces. We've lost some of our nation's finest men and women in this war on terror. Each of these men and women left grieving families and left loved ones at home. Each of these patriots left a legacy that will allow generations of fellow Americans to enjoy the blessings of liberty. Each loss of life is heartbreaking. And the best way to honor the sacrifice of our fallen troops is to complete the mission and to lay the foundation of peace for generations to come. (Applause.)

The terrorists are as brutal an enemy as we've ever faced, unconstrained by any notion of our common humanity or by the rules of warfare. No one should underestimate the difficulties ahead, nor should they overlook the advantages we bring to this fight.

Some observers look at the job ahead and adopt a self- defeating pessimism. It is not justified. With every random bombing, with every funeral of a child, it becomes more clear that the extremists are not patriots or resistance fighters -- they're murderers at war with the Iraqi people themselves.{In my experience in Iraq a lot of the insurgents were resitance fighters and not terrorists. There are terrorists there as well, though. They all came there after we invaded.}

In contrast, the elected leaders of Iraq are proving to be strong and steadfast. By any standard or precedent of history, Iraq has made incredible political progress -- from tyranny, to liberation, to national elections, to the ratification of a constitution -- in the space of two-and-a-half years. {It really remains to be seen if any real political progress has been made, but progress in another area-- infrastructure and quality of life for Iraqis, is not being made. Until that happens extremists will be popular there.} (Applause.)

I have said, as Iraqis stand up, Americans will stand down. And with our help, the Iraqi military is ga { lost the text here, sorry}

America is making this stand in practical ways. We're encouraging our friends in the Middle East, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to take the path of reform, to strengthen their own societies in the fight against terror by respecting the rights and choices of their own people. We're standing with dissidents and exiles against oppressive regimes, because we know that the dissidents of today will be the democratic leaders of tomorrow. We're making our case through public diplomacy -- stating clearly and confidently our belief in self-determination, and the rule of law, and religious freedom, and equal rights for women -- beliefs that are right and true in every land and in every culture. (Applause.)

As we do our part to confront radicalism and to protect the United States, we know that a lot of vital work will be done within the Islamic world itself. And the work is beginning. Many Muslim scholars have already publicly condemned terrorism, often citing Chapter 5, Verse 32 of the Koran, which states that killing an innocent human being is like killing all of humanity, and saving the life of one person is like saving all humanity. (Applause.) After the attacks July -- on July 7th in London, an imam in the United Arab Emirates declared, "Whoever does such a thing is not a Muslim, nor a religious person." The time has come for responsible Islamic leaders to join in denouncing an ideology that exploits Islam for political ends, and defiles a noble faith. (Applause.)

Many people of the Muslim faith are proving their commitment at great personal risk. Everywhere we've engaged the fight against extremism, Muslim allies have stood up and joined the fight, becoming partners in this vital cause. Afghan troops are in combat against Taliban remnants. Iraqi soldiers are sacrificing to defeat al Qaeda in their country. These brave citizens know the stakes -- the survival of their own liberty, the future of their own region, the justice and humanity of their own tradition -- and the United States of America is proud to stand beside them. (Applause.)

With the rise of a deadly enemy and the unfolding of a global ideological struggle, our time in history will be remembered for new challenges and unprecedented dangers. And yet this fight we have joined is also the current expression of an ancient struggle -- between those who put their faith in dictators, and those who put their faith in the people. Throughout history, tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that murder is justified to serve their grand vision -- and they end up alienating decent people across the globe. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that regimented societies are strong and pure -- until those societies collapse in corruption and decay. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that free men and women are weak and decadent -- until the day that free men and women defeat them.

We don't know the course of our own struggle will take, or the sacrifices that might lie ahead. We do know, however, that the defense of freedom is worth our sacrifice, we do know the love of freedom is the mightiest force of history, and we do know the cause of freedom will once again prevail. (Applause.)

Thank you for coming. May God bless our veterans, may God bless our troops in harm's way, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause.)


This Veteran's Day address does not speak for me. I want real answers to the question of whether or not America was misled into a war. First it was 9/11, then WMDs, then democracy for Iraqis, and now we are supposed to fight because pulling out of Iraq would create a domino effect that would lead to the rise of a superadical Islamic superstate that would threaten the existence of the United States and Israel? Yeah, ok. Bush and his white house seem to be the real national security threat to me. They just can't stop lying to save themselves, and so they won't.

10 November 2005

"Wolf!"

As we continue to bounce between disaster and scandal in our collective national game of hot potato, let us reflect to remember the ideal that this country was founded on--Rich white guys not having to pay their taxes.

Seriously though, someone needs to tell the President that the strategy of total denial is not working anymore. He made a promise to the nation that he would fire anyone involved in leaking the name of Valerie Plame, and now it's time to put up or shut up. The deeper in the shit he gets, the closer he draws the inner circle to him. Only Rove can fire Rove. Maybe Cheney could fire Rove, I'm not sure. Eventually critical mass will be reached and the cabal is going to explode like a supernova. Fair warning, Georgie boy.

Bird flu. I guess I am supposed to be terrified, but it's kind of hard when the media cries "Wolf!" over the smallest threat. Killer Bees. Flesh-Eating Bacteria. Monkey Pox. Need I go on? A real pandemic is a grave threat to our society and security, but frankly, the media can't do much about it except jade/and/or panic people. Short of running to the hills Survivor style and shooting anyone who gets near your camp, the average citizen cannot prepare for bird flu. The government, however, can. Get a PLAN in place for an epidemic to minimize death and chaos. In the end, though, nature always wins out. The government just has to be timely and effective in the aftermath. Government timely and effective? Crap, running to the hills is sounding less insane.

08 November 2005

Veteran's Day

On November 11 our country will celebrate Veterans Day, a day originally set aside as Armistice Day to remember the sacrifices of WWI veterans. Eventually the day morphed into a nationwide remembrance of all veterans in all wars, and was made official by act of Congress on May 24, 1954.

It is a shame that in this day and age the Veterans Affairs Administration is currently investigating approximately one-third of the cases of veterans who are receiving disability benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The VA believes that they were too lenient in deciding which soldiers were eligible for PTSD benefits. Last year, the VA spent $4.3 billion on PTSD disability payments and the VA hopes to reduce these payments by revoking PTSD benefits for many veterans. This will be the final insult to soldiers who were asked to fight a war on false pretenses.

There may, of course, be isolated cases of fraud in the VA disability system, but it is very hard for me to believe that fully 1/3 of the cases of PTSD are worthy of re-investigation. These veterans, already suffering mentally from what they have seen or done, will be forced to relive the experience yet again in a hostile climate of investigation and shame.

This government wants to have its cake and eat it to, and this is yet another example of cost cutting initiatives in an area where cost cutting is unacceptable. If the VA can't believe that they are spending 4.3 billion on PTSD-- believe it. It is not easy to get a VA disability pension, especially a 100% disability pension. It requires substantial documentation by medical doctors. What is more likely, that well-trained doctors were duped by greedy veterans trying to exploit PTSD in order to get a few hundred dollars a month-- or that a government in serious trouble is trying to cut costs by claiming that veterans who are scarred mentally were fine all along? It is impossible for the VA to dispute the claims of amputees, burn victims, and all the thousands of veterans who are maimed, but the mental scars of PTSD are not as easily visible. That does not make them any less real.

On this Veteran's Day, remember those whose minds and bodies are no longer whole, and ask yourself if we as a nation can continue to demand that more young men and women be sacrificed for dubious reasons.

03 November 2005

Indicted

Scooter Libby-- Indicted for lying about his role in outing a CIA agent in retribution for her husband's criticism of his bosses' lies. Of course Scooter is innocent until proven guilty in our justice system, the one branch of our constitutional republic that still seems to have some respectability and sanity left in it.

And now George Bush, faced with the worst presidential approval numbers since Nixon, is tasked with appointing yet another justice to the most powerful body in the judicial branch. I'm not a huge believer in the infallibility of the poll, but when two thirds of the country thinks the president is doing a bad job, it might be time for him to resign. Oh crap, his resignation means Dick Cheney would assume office. Never mind.

Wow, looks like the executive branch is in trouble. The smart Republican legislators are already beginning to distance themselves from Bush like rats jumping off a sinking ship. It's a huge game of musical chairs, and none of them want to be the last man standing when the music stops and the great untroubled electorate finally begins to wake up and realize that they are being fleeced and lied to. Maybe I'm being too harsh on the President, maybe he's a good guy. The truth is that it doesn't matter whether he is evil, good, or just stupidly incompetent. His decisions are costing many, many lives. And the sacrifice of the troops is not buying what he says it is. It is being wasted, and that's the sad fact. The gallantry and capability of the military are beyond question. I know, because I served. There are bad apples, and when led badly, these kind of soldiers create Abu Ghraib. But there are other, braver soldiers who informed the world about what was going on, and the truth came out. The truth always comes out.

Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't want Bush nominating any more Supreme Court Justices. Maybe I'm the insane one, but I want the troops to start coming home now as part of a well articulated and planned withdrawal from the middle east. Notice I said Middle East, and not just Iraq. Not in the next year, not in the next 5 years, but as a 10-20 year phased withdrawal of military forces from the region as we reduce our national dependency on oil. There are sane voices in the Middle East, both Jewish and Arab, and they will be heard by the people once the insane stop screaming so damn loud.

The first stage of the withdrawal is the total withdrawal from Iraq, which would take perhaps two years to accomplish. Once the average Iraqi realizes that we are actually going to pull out of his country in the near future, the legitimacy of their own government (so far only a theoretical legitimacy) will be cemented and the insurgency will be diffused.

The insurgent's argument (agreed with by many in the middle east) is that the elected government of Iraq is a puppet government of the United States, which has no intention of ever leaving Iraq. The government of Iraq is democratically elected, and the people of Iraq will support it. The insurgents are not powerful enough militarily to completely defeat the Iraqi defense forces, but they may continue to perpetuate terroristic acts after our departure against the Iraqi government as well as prominent Shiites in an attempt to incite civil war. But when we are gone, the hardcore insurgent's ideological argument is nullified and they will be seen as the violent extremists they are. Iraqis will not tolerate a large foreign jihadi presence for long, and they will be defeated by Iraqi defense forces and militia. The nationalistic Sunni insurgent will cease fighting after the occupation ends. They may continue to oppose the Shiite majority, but widespread violence and civil war seems very unlikely to me.

It is much easier for a man like Zarquawi to exist in a war torn Iraq than a peaceful one. It is easier to hide, travel, recruit, and fight. We must stop being a target, and then we can really start to fight terror by going after the most hardcore and capable leaders like Zarquawi and Osama.

How many more hundreds or thousands of brave young Americans are going to die before we come up with a plan to end the occupation of Iraq? Right now there is no plan. Stay the course. Ask no questions.

Maybe I'm the crazy one.