The Withdrawal Guessing Game

| Mon Aug. 29, 2005 2:25 PM EDT

There's been a lot of back and forth over whether the Bush administration will really start to draw down troops from Iraq in 2006. Maj. Gen. Doug Lute, director of operations at CENTCOM, says there's a plan for doing just that. The president says no, no, we'll stay until "we win the war on terror," whatever that means. Garance Franke-Ruta of Tapped thinks that the president will follow his usual pattern, which means pretending to stand like a strong, tall oak in the wind of public opinion, and then bending at the last minute, which would mean drawing down troops next year while painting the (few) Democrats who are demanding just such a thing as craven appeasers and limp-kneed defeatists. All interesting theories. But Anthony Cordesman of CSIS takes a hard look and says no—it's very unlikely that the U.S. will start to pull-out in 2006:

The talk of US withdrawals by US military and Bush Administration officials is based on a reasonable degree of political success and inclusiveness, Iraqi military and security forces coming on line in large numbers, and the assumption that the police will become more effective, hold together, and be supported by and Iraqi government presence in the field. None of these conditions as yet exist….

There are all kinds of reports about US withdrawal plans and well-defined exit strategies. I don't believe them. None of my sources can give a clear target month for getting US forces down below 100,000 men and women.

Well, I'll take Cordesman's word for it: his BS detector has been pretty stellar these past few years. Plus, his take jibes with everything we know about the "enduring bases" being set up in Iraq—why we need those nobody knows; to guard the oil? to attack Iran? Not to mention the fact that timing the withdrawal right before the midterms, with Iraq going to hell, could well be disastrous for the Republican Party's electoral chances if it goes badly. Can't have that.

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Haiti and the Media

Mon Aug. 29, 2005 1:09 PM EDT

For the past month a group of friends and I have been attempting to raise awareness of the crisis in Haiti. Like Iraq, Haiti is a country in which the U.S. has been meddling for years, and like Iraq, the U.S. helped orchestrate the removal of Haiti's leader. Although it remains disputed the extent to which the U.S. was involved, ousted President Aristide maintains that he was taken hostage and forced to leave the country against his will. And while there is good evidence to support Aristide's claims as well as to suggest that the U.S. backed the armed rebellion that swept into Port-au-Prince in 2004, the U.S. media to this day almost fully refuses to acknowledge what took place. You would think that the press would care a bit more about Haiti given the one major difference with Iraq: Aristide, unlike Saddam, was a democratically elected President so committed to peace that he abolished Haiti's army.

Besides myself, The Heretik has been staying on top of the unfolding crisis, and today he points to some of the NYT's rare and always atrocious coverage on Haiti. Today's article amounts to little more than apologetics for the U.N.'s so-called "peace-keeping" activities.

Consider what happened: On July 6, U.N. troops surrounded one of Haiti's worst shanty-towns, – Cité Soleil – with tanks and helicopters under the pretense of going after a gang leader and his thugs. In the weeks after the attack, the U.N. maintained that only the gang leader and a few armed gang members were killed, despite the countless reports emerging that dozens of innocent people were killed, many women and children. Independent observers who traveled to Haiti speak of the horror of bodies lying in the street being eaten by dogs. All of the victims were supporters of Aristide.

As The Heretik notes, the NYT's coverage of this event leaves something to be desired. Today's piece essentially blames the impoverished residents of Cité Soleil for the violence the peace-keeping troops inflicted upon them. The story also justifies the violent actions as necessary for democracy!

For United Nations peacekeeping forces, bringing some semblance of order to Cité Soleil and giving its residents a chance to vote in the elections are seen as important steps in establishing a new, credible government in Haiti.
With elections coming up in Haiti in the next few months, we are likely to see more violence against Aristide's supporters and even more denials and rationalizations by the likes of the NYT.

On the Consequences of War

Mon Aug. 29, 2005 12:20 PM EDT

My good friend and the always sharp Bionic Octopus draws attention to an important British document published in yesterday's Guardian – a letter sent in May 2004 by the Foreign Office permanent under-secretary Michael Jay to the cabinet secretary basically arguing that the war in Iraq was stimulating Muslim extremism in Britain. The letter states:

Colleagues have flagged up some of the potential underlying causes of extremism that can affect the Muslim community, such as discrimination, disadvantage and exclusion... But another recurring theme is the issue of British foreign policy, especially in the context of the Middle East peace process and Iraq...Experience of both ministers and officials ... suggests that ... British foreign policy and the perception of its negative effect on Muslims globally plays a significant role in creating a feeling of anger and impotence among especially the younger generation of British Muslims..."
And Bionic makes the connection how odd it is that such a sentiment could have come from within the British government a year before the London bombings and yet the official government position remains that there is no link between the bombings and the Iraq war.

But of course, even now, the Bush administration continues to sound the same song, second verse – "The war in Iraq has made the U.S. safer" and "We have taken the war to our enemies to fight them on their own soil," etc. etc. Maintaining a plausible façade of justification for a war of aggression like Iraq depends upon convincing the public that national security is a stake. And it seems that in the case of Tony Blair, maintaining that façade even requires contradicting the best assessments of his own government.

Suddenly, everyone cares about Louisiana

| Mon Aug. 29, 2005 11:56 AM EDT

In her news conference yesterday, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco said she had heard from George W. Bush, and that he was "very concerned" about Louisiana. It was only few weeks ago that Bush's sudden status as a Louisiana booster surprised the governor, and it may take her a while to get used to his newly found solicitousness. Bush has been bragging about the $540 million for Louisiana's coastal restoration that is part of the new energy bill. But only a week before the bill passed, the White House was trying to get the Louisiana appropriation changed to $57 million.

For some time now, Bush has opposed any attempt by Congress to help Louisiana regain some of its lost coastline, and it has taken years of pleading by Louisiana officials--led by Senator Mary Landrieu--to get Congress to pay any attention at all to the state's crisis. Yesterday on NPR, Landrieu took an opportunity to say once again that the loss of Louisiana's wetlands should be of concern to the entire nation.

Bush describes the $540 million as "a good start." Blanco, Landrieu, and the citizenry of Louisiana will be waiting to see if there is anything beyond a "good start" coming from Congress and the White House. There is every reason to be skeptical, especially since the Bush administration recently cut $71.2 million in funding for New Orleans hurricane and flood protection, the largest one-time cut in history.

Things to read while you bang your head against the wall

| Sat Aug. 27, 2005 12:07 AM EDT

I was visiting Pam's House Blend, where Pam published a bunch of freerepublic quotations concerning Jerry Falwell's revelation that housing and employment are not "special" rights. One of them so completely boggled my mind that I think my mouth fell open, as the old song says, like a country pond: "...Gays want privileges like blacks and women have been granted. I've always wanted to ask one of these special rights people for just one example of how they were treated unfairly."

Of course, there isn't enough paper, enough bandwidth, enough breath to provide all of the ways that gays, people of color, and women (and I can add several more to that list) have been treated unfairly. The cateogories alone are legion: economics, due process, sexual expression, privacy, bodily safety, freedom from fear, housing, employment, health care, social acceptance, education, free speech, safety of property, etc.

So if anyone is up to it and wants to find a way to communicate with this person who has been living in a two-foot hole in the ground in an island off of Mars, please get in touch with him or her to talk about what happened when you were stopped for driving while black, denied a job when you were the most qualified candidate, called obscene names, followed by the department store detective, denied a promotion when you were the one who obviously should get it, beaten up on your way home, told to take this Xanax and not worry your pretty little head about it, called a boy when you were an adult man of color, called a girl when you were an adult woman, told you shouldn't teach children, denied the right to marry, barred from the hospital room of your lifelong partner, dragged down the road behind a truck, told by your co-worker that you should always wear those sweaters that make your breasts look so nice, had a cross burned in your yard, told you couldn't play ball, told you were a bitch because you exercised your assigned authority, raped by your dinner date, charged more interest for a loan than everybody else, not allowed to play golf and tennis though you could afford the club dues, abandoned by your peers in the locker room, sent hate mail, not allowed to adopt children, judged for your looks rather than your contribution to the project, put in prison for something you didn't do, not allowed to fill your medical prescription, falsely named a sex offender, not considered competent because you weren't a male, called a slut because you enjoy sex, charged more than other people for drinks in a bar, sexually assaulted--but hey--can't you take a joke?, not considered competent because you weren't white, executed for a crime you didn't commit, told that the government controls your body, not allowed to take your date to the school dance, overlooked because you would be taking a job away from a man, denied all parental rights, prescribed toxic substances once you could no longer breed, spoken to as though you were a child, always described by your color, pistol-whipped and tied to a fence...

New at Mother Jones

| Fri Aug. 26, 2005 7:42 PM EDT

The Achilles Heel of Torture
What the JAG Memos tell us
By Karen J. Greenberg

Britain's Post-July 7 World
The Blair government's anti-terror policies have Britain's Muslims feeling uneasy and alienated.
By David Enders

Is Iraq Vietnam on Crack Cocaine?
The hawks and neocons who first started us off in Iraq have essentially created their own worst nightmare
By Tom Engelhardt

Supernatural Selection
It's Creationism's latest evolution—half the science with twice the religion!
By Mark Fiore

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Turning our backs on women's suffrage

| Fri Aug. 26, 2005 11:11 AM EDT

Today is Women's Suffrage Day. 85 years ago, women in the United States gained the right to vote. In the 70's, we used to have a parade, dress in period costume, and do public readings. Now, the only thing I have to look forward to each year is Ellen Goodman's annual Sexism Awards.

The suffragists--known then and even now by the sexist, demeaning nickname, "Suffragettes"--paid a great price to get the vote. They were belittled, threatened, beaten, chained, kicked, dragged, choked, had their heads bashed against prison walls, and were force-fed, causing permanent physical damage. President Woodrow Wilson stood by quietly while the women were stalked and tortured, then took credit for the 19th Amendment when the inevitable occurred.

Though it is nice to acknowledge the anniversary of women's suffrage, it is perhaps more important to acknowledge that women in this country could not vote until the 20th Century. And that our nation--land of the free--was a so-called democracy for 144 years before half of its population could cast a vote.

In this shocking appearance on "Meet the Press" last week, PNAC bigshot Marc Gerecht allowed that since America had done okay as a "democracy" for almost 150 years without women voting, that was proof that democracy-building in Iraq does not require women's suffrage. George W. Bush seems to agree with him, but then--why wouldn't he? He is doing everything he can to derail women's rights in his own country.

Kansas State Senator Kay O'Connor is probably giving a thumbs-up to Gerecht as I write this. In 2001, she said:

I think the 19th Amendment, while it's not an evil in and of itself, is a symptom of something I don't approve of. The 19th Amendment is around because men weren't doing their jobs, and I think that's sad. I believe the man should be the head of the family. The woman should be the heart of the family.

I know irony was supposed to have died in 2001, but this was a female office-holder speaking. In fact she is running for the office of Kansas Secretary of State next year (and has already been fined for an ethics violation).

Women vote, but they vote against their own interests, even against their own safety. Consider all of the California women who voted for Arnold Schwarzengger, an unindicted but well-established sex criminal. Millions of women voted for George W. Bush, who not only doesn't mind sending their children off to die for Halliburton, but who wants to curtail their control over their own bodies and to encourage the dominance of an extreme patriarchal religious movement.

Nowadays, when August 26 rolls around, I wonder if there is much to celebrate.

"It's just a bloody war!"

Fri Aug. 26, 2005 10:39 AM EDT

Well, it looks like Tony Blair and Jack Straw are proceeding with their xenophobic plan to purge the U.K. of immigrants in general and foreign asylum seekers in particular. Over at Lenin's Tomb we hear that her majesty's government is preparing to deport a war zone.

Despite refugee groups and the UNHCR warning that the volatile situation in Iraq means that no-one should be forced home, the Home Office are insisting that some parts of Iraq are not as affected by insurgent action and are therefore safer. This goes against Foreign Office advice which has discouraged non- essential travel to Iraq for Britons and warns of an expected increase in attacks by insurgents.
So if your country is at war, don't think of trying to seek asylum in the U.K., they will just send you right back. This goes hand in hand with Blair's new agenda to roll back human rights legislation so that they can also deport people to countries that torture its citizens.

Hey--American Legion! Bring it on...

| Thu Aug. 25, 2005 8:46 PM EDT

Delegates to the American Legion annual convention say they will "use whatever means necessary 'to ensure the united backing of the American people to support our troops and the global war on terrorism.'"

The 2.7 million-member organization has "declared war" on antiwar protesters, calling for an end to all "public protests" and "media events" against the war.

The American Legion will stand against anyone and any group that would demoralize our troops, or worse, endanger their lives by encouraging terrorists to continue their cowardly attacks against freedom-loving peoples.

Those are the words of Thomas Cadmus, American Legion national commander, speaking to delegates in Honolulu.

Hey, Commander Cadmus--everyone knows that suicide-bombers and insurgent guerillas don't make a move unless they believe U.S. and allied troops have been sufficiently "demoralized" by Cindy Sheehan. They live for it, and die for it. And everyone knows that every time someone marches or rallies against the war, suicide bombers and insurgent guerillas have a beer, slap each other on the back, high-five it, and say "O-kay! Some Americans don't think their country should be over here. Cool. Let's go blow up another humvee."

The people who hate America hated America long before Bush invaded Iraq. The problem is that they hate us even more now. They don't want us in their country. Let's say it again: They don't want us in their country or in their part of the world. And if the Pentagon sprinkled G.I. Joe fairy dust on us tonight while we were sleeping, and we all woke up gung-ho about the war, the people who hate America would still hate America. They would still launch attacks against our soldiers. They would still go on suicide-bombing missions.

I am willing to concede there are soldiers who believe they should be in Iraq, risking their lives. I'm sorry they have been persuaded that their lives are worth less than Halliburton and PNAC, but I can do nothing about their opinions. And though they may feel anger when someone at home protests the war, the anger of the protestors is no less legitimate. Protesters are not only upset that American troops are being killed and maimed over a pack of lies, but also that the rest of us are now in more danger than ever of being attacked by terrorist groups.

The military exists to protect the homeland, and to intervene in crises deemed significant enough for intervention. Bush says it is better to "fight them over there" than to "fight them over here." The problem with that statement is that--in this case--fighting them over there is more likely to lead to fighting them over here.

People of conscience cannot be quiet when American soldiers are sent to die and lose their hands and legs because of lies told by the ersatz president of the United States.

People of conscience cannot be quiet when thousands of Iraqi civilians are killed and maimed, and when a city's infrastructure is destroyed because of lies told by a so-called leader who cuts veterans' benefits in the middle of a war and does not send the troops to battle with the proper equipment.

People of conscience cannot be quiet when it is clear that the only winner in a war is an oil products and services company.

Here is Cadmus's parting shot, but you knew it was coming:

Let's not repeat the mistakes of our past. I urge all Americans to rally around our armed forces and remember our fellow Americans who were viciously murdered on September 11, 2001.

Unlike you, Commander, I do remember my fellow Americans who were viciously murdered on September 11. They were murdered by people from Saudi Arabia, the country whose royal family is in bed 24/7 with that oil products and services company.

If I were Bill O'Reilly, I would tell you, Cadmus, to Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! But I am better-mannered than that, so I'll just ask you to stop lying and spewing anti-American rhetoric all over the place.

A Persistent Lie

Thu Aug. 25, 2005 3:20 PM EDT

Matt Taibbi's take on the Cindy Sheehan phenomenon just went online at Rolling Stone. As you'd expect, it alternates between ludicrous (like when he pretends to be an advanceman for Sean Hannity) and touching.

Taibbi takes a bit of time to point out that some of the activists who rushed to sleep on the ground in Texas, in August, are -- surprise -- a bit kooky:

At one point at Camp Casey, an informal poll taken around a campfire revealed that six out of a group of ten protesters, selected at random, believed that the United States government was directly involved in planning the 9/11 bombings. Flabbergasted, I tried to press the issue.

"Do you know how many people would have to be involved in that conspiracy?" I said. "I mean, start with the pilots . . ."

"The planes were flown by remote control," a girl sitting across from me snapped.

So what did Taibbi find at a nearby anti-Sheehan demonstration?

Aaron Martin, 31, had never heard the administration say that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, but Martin did remember one thing about Iraq that he said he'd heard "prior to 9/11."

"They had a fuselage," he said. "It was like a 747 fuselage that they use for training purposes for terrorism."

Was there any other reason he believed Iraq was connected to 9/11?

"It's just a general feeling," he said. … It was like a scene from Spinal Tap.

The latter right-wing delusion is only marginally more supported by anything resembling the truth. It just that rather than being advanced by some flat-earthers and French authors, this convenient lie was implied regularly by the President and the war's other hawks. And as Taibbi points out, this intentionally engendered confusion reinforced the prejudices that drove us to war, and still drive Sheehan's detractors.