The long-awaited Iraq debate has arrived. Prepare to be bombarded with official opinion on all sides. Over the next two weeks, there will be no fewer than 12 congressional hearings assessing the state of things in America's fifty-first state.

This week, Congress will review two new reports. The first, by the GAO, will look at Iraq's progress on political and security benchmarks; the second, by Marine General James Jones, will examine the training and capabilities of Iraqi security forces. The forecast is gloomy in each case. The reports will prepare the rhetorical battlefield for next week's main event: the testimony of Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus on the effects of the 'surge.'

As the political battle is joined in Washington, Mother Jones will be there. Check the MoJoBlog for our coverage. A list of events already on the schedule:

Tuesday, September 4, 2007, 2pm: Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds an open hearing on the GAO report assessing the political and military progress in Iraq.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007, 10am: House Armed Services Committee holds an open hearing on the GAO report.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007, 2pm: House Foreign Affairs Committee holds an open hearing on the GAO report.
Thursday, September 6, 2007, 9am: Joint House Armed Services/Foreign Affairs Committee holds an open hearing on "Beyond the September Reports: What's Next for Iraq?"
Thursday, September 6, 2007, 10am: Senate Armed Services Committee holds an open hearing on Marine General James Jones report on training and capabilities of the Iraqi security forces.
Thursday, September 6, 2007, 2:30pm: House Armed Services Committee holds an open hearing on report from Marine General James Jones with testimony from General Jones.
Thursday, September 6, 2007, 2:30pm: Senate Intelligence Committee holds a CLOSED hearing on the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq.
Friday, September 7, 2007, 9am: Senate Armed Services Committee holds an open hearing on the GAO report.
Monday, September 10, 2007, 12:30pm: Joint House Armed Services/Foreign Affairs Committees holds an open hearing with U.S. Armed Forces Commander in Iraq General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker on their report assessing the situation in Iraq.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007, Time TBD: Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds an open hearing with General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker on their report on Iraq.
September 12, 2007, Time TBD: Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Peter Pace.

Yesterday, John Edwards picked up the endorsements of two unions, the United Steelworkers and the United Mine Workers of America. It's a big moment for Edwards because labor, which was supposed to be a major source of support for his campaign, has been leery of supporting him. Happy with all the Democratic candidates in the '08 field, the A.F.L.-C.I.O., for example, will likely not endorse anyone.

The steelworkers union represents 1.2 million workers and retirees, making it the nation's largest private sector industrial union. Those kind of numbers are essential to Edwards' Iowa-heavy campaign strategy. One-third of Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa came from union households in 2004.

(H/T Swampland)

Jack Goldsmith is an unlikely Bush White House antagonist. The conservative former University of Chicago legal scholar argued with John Yoo for the U.S. to exempt itself from international law and treaties, including those dealing with war crimes. So no one was surprised when in 2003 he was appointed to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, the department's chief legal policy shop. But when Goldmsith got inside, he got a good look at how nuts -- and from a legal perspective, intellectually bankrupt -- it all was. From a forthcoming New York Times magazine profile of Goldsmith:

Several hours after Goldsmith was sworn in, on Oct. 6, 2003, he recalls that he received a phone call from Gonzales: the White House needed to know as soon as possible whether the Fourth Geneva Convention, which describes protections that explicitly cover civilians in war zones like Iraq, also covered insurgents and terrorists. After several days of study, Goldsmith agreed with lawyers in several other federal agencies, who had concluded that the convention applied to all Iraqi civilians, including terrorists and insurgents. In a meeting with Ashcroft, Goldsmith explained his analysis, which Ashcroft accepted. Later, Goldsmith drove from the Justice Department to the White House for a meeting with Gonzales and Addington. Goldsmith remembers his deputy Patrick Philbin turning to him in the car and saying: "They're going to be really mad. They're not going to understand our decision. They've never been told no." (Philbin declined to discuss the conversation.)
In his book, Goldsmith describes Addington as the "biggest presence in the room — a large man with large glasses and an imposing salt-and-pepper beard" who was "known throughout the bureaucracy as the best-informed, savviest and most conservative lawyer in the administration, someone who spoke for and acted with the full backing of the powerful vice president, and someone who crushed bureaucratic opponents." When Goldsmith presented his analysis of the Geneva Conventions at the White House, Addington, according to Goldsmith, became livid. "The president has already decided that terrorists do not receive Geneva Convention protections," Addington replied angrily, according to Goldsmith. "You cannot question his decision." (Addington declined to comment on this and other details concerning him in this article.)
Goldsmith then explained that he agreed with the president's determination that detainees from Al Qaeda and the Taliban weren't protected under the Third Geneva Convention, which concerns the treatment of prisoners of war, but that different protections were at issue with the Fourth Geneva Convention, which concerns civilians. Addington, Goldsmith says, was not persuaded. (Goldsmith told me that he has checked his recollections of this and other meetings with at least one other participant or with someone to whom he described the meetings soon after.)
Months later, when Goldsmith tried to question another presidential decision, Addington expressed his views even more pointedly. "If you rule that way," Addington exclaimed in disgust, Goldsmith recalls, "the blood of the hundred thousand people who die in the next attack will be on your hands."

Goldsmith describes Addington's judgment as "crazy" if well meaning. Presumably lots of fodder in Goldsmith's soon to be released book, The Terror Presidency, for upcoming Congressional hearings.

The NRA has decided to offer all active-duty troops a complimentary year's membership. The $35 per is not exactly monumental, but the NRA could gain thousands of lifelong members out of this dandy bit of PR. And while the fact that the latest issue of American Rifleman may be at a soldier's doorstep his first day home from combat isn't ideal, I think the NRA is on to something fundamental.

Now, of course, soldiers should be paid enough that they can pay for their own memberships, but when it comes to thanks-giving troops should get free memberships everywhere, to gyms, museums, rotary clubs, Costco. They should get to the head of the line at movie theaters, the DMV, for Southwest flights; we should be yielding to our troops at every turn (not to mention ensuring they get proper medical care, and jobs). Instead, we likely treat them like any other strangers; we honk at them for cutting us off, hustle in front of them at the grocery store, and generally ignore the sacrifices, and adjustments, these men and women are making.

Of course, unless you live in a company town, you likely don't know who is soldier and who civilian. And since there's no draft, there is a convenient majority who doesn't know anyone who is serving or has served. So what if we treated everyone we meet as if they might have put themselves in harm's way to protect our right to cheap gas and bulk goods?

I know, it's not gonna happen. But the NRA, in its twisted way, has the sentiment right. Say thanks with substance (the go-out-and-shop, post-9/11 GWB-inspired variety of patriotism), because when it comes to returning home, our troops deserve all the perks our lifestyle affords. Not that such perks will make coming home much easier, but they just might make us feel better.

The Doberman Pinscher was first bred in the 1890s by a German tax collector Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann who wanted a ferociously loyal dog to accompany him on his rounds...

Virginia Senator John Warner (former husband of Elizabeth Taylor. Also long-time head of Senate Armed Services committee) is not seeking another term. This clears the way for Mark Warner (Virginia's super popular Democratic ex governor; also former Nextel executive). If Mark Warner does run for the Senate (instead of holding out for VP), he looks pretty likely to win. Unless the GOP finds another Warner to run against him, just to totally confuse voters.

Hey, it's happened before.