Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category

Friday nature blogging

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

Lovers and dreamers and me

Lovers and dreamers and me
What’s at the end?

With this post, Deep Blade Journal ceases publication. I’ve been mulling this decision for a long time now. I can’t keep this thing going by myself any more. People I have tried to engage in writing for this blog in order to help me build it just have not been inspired. In the last several weeks, I’ve had a ton of posts in mind. Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan–all of the places where events are streaming like they’re coming out of a flame thrower–could use a great deal of anti-imperial analysis that just isn’t happening within the empire’s media systems (including in many so-called liberal blogs). But there just doesn’t seem to be enough traffic here to warrant me continuing to try to provide that analysis.

I may post HERE at times. However, one of my greatest disappointments blogging is the public reaction to THIS (also posted HERE). That reaction was a big fat nothing. I asked the hundreds of people involved in the March actions to “think this through…, and arrive at some positions and then focus and maximize our organizing power.”

Guess what? Nobody came to my posts and indicated that they had thought it through much. Then not entirely unexpectedly, the Democrats folded before the highly unpopular Bush. War funding continues, and will continue apace. This empty thud really illustrated for me how much time I have been wasting trying to hammer things out in this medium. Realize that I am not blaming others here for not responding as I had envisioned. I’m just realizing that I am not using my own time most effectively if I really want to help organize the next steps needed to end this war.

This brings us to the Horse Race that will obsess bloggers for the next 18 months running up to election 2008. I’m not going to waste my time on that either. Obviously, various factions of the ruling class dearly want to acquire the US presidency after Bush. But we must realize that working for a Democrat means accepting ruling class prerogatives. I can’t make that compromise and live with myself any more.

We can elect all of the Democrats we want. They’ll tell us, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did on March 23, that they are acting to end the war. But that is an obvious charade. The politicians are in a full-gallop retreat away from public opinion, and the common discourse is about making sure the public does not understand what is really going on. The only real choices in the field all must incant the canonical texts of those ruling class prerogatives in order to receive funding. Hence, “all options” must be “on the table” with respect to relations with Iran, for example. Certainly valid arguments exist that a Democrat winning would be “better” than a Republican. But the fundamental nature of US empire and ruling-class domination will not change.

So what are the prospects for Iraq? First, general US public opinion will remain totally irrelevant to the warmakers. The US has acquired Iraq and it will stay there until an essential component of the imperial project, the US military for example, breaks down completely. That day may be many years away. Meanwhile, the recently-escalated program of bombing the Iraqis into submission will go on, and on, and on. Well into the next administration for sure. They’re gonna keep Iraq come hell or high water because it’s an ultra-strategic imperial asset. If Democrats and Republicans have to talk Terror War to keep the public scared enough to retreat into the happier places inside their televisions and their Wal Marts then that’s what they’ll do. It seems to have worked so far.

I will try to keep adding to, the podcasting site that accompanies this one. I have a ton of material collected over the last few months that I have intended to post there. But apart from a few very good friends who are very, very generous people, is not generating enough interest that would seem to justify its existence either. But a decision on that will wait for another day.

With that, this blog is over.

Media pro-torture campaign

Friday, June 1st, 2007

“Capture one of these killers, and he’ll be quick to demand the protections of the Geneva Convention and the Constitution of the United States. Yet when they wage attacks or take captives, their delicate sensibilities seem to fall away.” –Vice President Richard B. Cheney, May 26, 2007

Lately the notion that America is on the “moral high ground” no matter what it does to its “killer” enemies–who are always doing worse things–is making the rounds through wingnuttia. Glenn Greenwald dissects the phenomenon in a typically smashing post today. Here he studies how reactionary outlets like the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Professor Instapundit have picked up on the theme that weak-kneed liberal media is failing to properly position tales of “discovery” of al-Qaeda torture manuals.

GREENWALD: But now this “Al-Qaeda-does-it-too” song has become a little cause cèlèbre among our brave, pro-torture, right-wing warrior class. This “idea” — that something sinister is going on because the media reported America’s torture so extensively but is giving little coverage to Al Qaeda’s torture manuals — is now spreading rapidly among Bush followers….

Greenwald sarcastically questions the mentality of the “Epic, Existence-Threatening, Unprecedentedly-Dangerous” Islamophobic war where torture supporters are “resorting to the third-grader mentality that ‘Al Qaeda does it, too.'”

So far, the American public largely has been willing to accept “techniques such as hypothermia and waterboarding (for which some Gestapo defendants were convicted and sentenced to death at a 1948 war crimes trial).” It’s a truly disheartening situation. From Cheney on down, America has lost sight of what is supposed to make us different than the Gestapo, or al Qaeda for that matter. Instead, the wingnut justification that because they may not observe the Geneva Conventions, we don’t have to either seems to carry the day.

You can't handle the truth

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

How two-thirds million civilians can die in Iraq while hardly anyone in America notices

From a New York Times story on a military hearing concerning a Marine lawyer’s failure to report a now notorious slaughter of Iraqi civilians, the Haditha massacre:

On Friday Major McCann, an experienced Marine lawyer, interjected some unsettling questions about how many civilian deaths it would take to constitute a violation of military regulations.

Alluding to Haditha, he asked, “At what point do we have to scratch our heads that we killed a lot more civilians than enemy?”

Because so many witnesses had testified that civilian deaths from “combat action” need not be investigated, Major McCann said, “I’m trying to figure out what authority they are citing.”

The witness testifying then, Col. Keith R. Anderson, a senior Marine Reserve lawyer now with the Department of the Navy, delivered a succinct and telling answer. “There is no authority,” he said. “I think it’s just a mind-set.”

Of course, the Times frames this as a legitimate dilemma because the real bad guys are “a ruthless insurgency that uses civilians as cover and disregards the laws of conflict taught in the United States.”

It is just so hard for Americans with the big guns who are sent from half-way around the world to sort all this out using the moral goodness we’ve been taught in our deeply ethical rules of conflict.

Indifferent to their fate

Friday, May 11th, 2007

Blair says, “I did what I thought was right”

If he thinks that now, two-thirds million killings and the creation of four million refugees in Iraq during the Bush/Blair war reveals that Mr. Blair’s moral failure is utterly contemptible and he has zero insight into the rot of his own condition.

Patrick Cockburn sums up Blair pretty well today:

For four years he has nailed British colours to a failed US policy over which Britain has no significant influence. He has advertised a humiliating British dependency on Washington without gaining any advantages.

As for Iraqis, despite all his rhetoric about rescuing them from Saddam, he has been surprisingly indifferent to their fate.

Yeow! Media engagement

Monday, April 30th, 2007

CBS’s Mark Knoller takes on Moyers’s “Buying the War” and gets pummeled in return

We have not yet seen Bill Moyer’s devastating documentary on the cooperation of mainstream media with the Bush Administration in developing public consent for the Iraq invasion because our PBS station here in Maine had its annual auction last week. NOTE TO MAINE READERS: It will air THIS WEDNESDAY, MAY 2, at 9pm on channels 10 & 13.

Still I want to point out that there is a very interesting mainstream media response to the Moyers piece from CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller. Knoller attempted to criticize the Moyers piece HERE, on the basis of how Moyers treated an important March 6, 2003 Bush press conference. Knoller wrote last week,

He shows only a single, brief example of a question – deep in the news conference – in which a reporter asked Mr. Bush to reflect on how he was guided by his faith at that difficult time. Admittedly, it was a softball.

But Moyers did not cite any of the other much more pointed questions put to the President that evening in the East Room.

Now, I took quite an interest in this, having posted recently about that very press conference on its 4th anniversary. Before citing the dozens of times the president was allowed to give his stock answer at this crucial pre-war event, “If he [Saddam Hussein] doesn’t disarm, we’ll disarm him,” I wrote,

The president’s gibberish–”I hope we don’t have to go to war, but if we go to war,” and “I’ve not made up our mind about military action. Hopefully, this can be done peacefully,” and “We hope we don’t go to war; but if we should, we will present a supplemental [budget].”–should have been transparent at that point. For the most part, the sheepish press corps was more interested in Mr. Bush’s “faith.”

It is also striking how almost nobody in the room seemed at all interested in the president’s long-term plan for Iraq, and what the costs of a lengthy occupation might be. Only that question about Vietnam even raised the issue about going down a long, destructive path. Of course if the attack had been presented as leading to a lengthy occupation possibly costing thousands of American lives, which at the time even this administration certainly could have expected, support for it would have been much lower.

Needless to say, I do not think much of Knoller’s point about “pointed questions.” Now, there is a whole lot of attack on Knoller in the public comment section for his piece, which I thank CBS for even having. I posted twice in there. The first (now down on page 15) as follows:

If these WH Press Corps questions on March 6, 2003 were so probing, how is it that President Bush was able to give exactly the same answer every time? (eg., “If he doesn’t disarm, we’ll disarm him.”) It was like the WHPC served him, cooperatively, these “doubts” that made a whole lot of the world’s citizens rightfully very angry just so he could bat them away with his stock answer.

I remember almost punching the TV that night, you guys came off so weak.

It is also striking how almost nobody in the room seemed at all interested in the president’s long-term plan for Iraq, and what the costs of a lengthy occupation might be. Only that question about Vietnam even raised the issue about going down a long, destructive path. Of course if the attack had been presented as leading to a lengthy occupation possibly costing thousands of American lives, which at the time even this administration certainly could have expected, domestic support for it would have been much closer to the level in the rest of the world–LOW.
Posted by owl0426 at 07:17 PM : Apr 26, 2007

Yesterday, I noted that Knoller had posted an update, obviously stunned by the content of the hundreds of comments he received. He threw down a challenge for commenters to put themselves into the reporters’ position on March 6, 2003 and to come up with a “finely-crafted question…that both serves the public interest and will get a meaningful response.”

Here’s what I wrote,

I respect Mark Knoller’s challenge here. But I also think one additional, overriding criterion for the questions beyond “serves the public interest” and “meaningful response” needs to be added: “will not harm the correspondent’s access or attract unwanted flak from the White House or bosses”.

Here is something that could have be asked, but probably would have run afoul of that third, unspoken criterion:

In the March 3 issue of Newsweek, John Barry reports that “Hussein Kamel, the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein’s inner circle, told CIA and British intelligence officers and U.N. inspectors in the summer of 1995 that after the gulf war, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them.”

You and Secretary Powell both have cited Kamel as a credible source. Does this not undermine totally your present case that Iraq must now be “disarmed”?

Posted by owl0426 at 01:27 AM : Apr 30, 2007

If the press corps had pressed on this, they might have pumped the Barry story up to the level it deserved, and brought the rest of the then-voluminous available information contrary to Bush’s case for war out into the light. As it turns out, Barry was 100% correct. There was no threat in Iraq that had to be “disarmed,” as the UNMOVIC mission without a doubt eventually would have been able to certify. Iraq had in fact not lied in its declaration under UN Security Council Resolution 1441. The US invasion was pure and simple a war of aggression–a taking of Iraq.

While they did serve up a few, mild, non-detailed critiques of the WMD case chielfly so Bush could slap them down, the sheep in the press corps failed to press Bush on his stock answer, and failed to vigorously pursue any stories about how the president’s “views were challenged or disputed by others.”

The world could have been spared the utter disaster that is now Iraq if members of this elite press corps had taken their jobs seriously.

Prophets of the punditocracy

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

How quickly they forgot… see Tom Tomorrow for details

Right wing columnist Cal Thomas, April 2003:

THOMAS: All of the printed and voiced prophecies should be saved in an archive. When these false prophets again appear, they can be reminded of the error of their previous ways and at least be offered an opportunity to recant and repent.

Do go view Tom Tomorrow. I’ll agree with Mr. Thomas on the above point quoted in the cited post. Unlike Mr. Thomas and the rest of the paid pundits, I can cite my own archives without recant or repent. From Issue #1, first published February 11, 2003 and substantially revised March 12, 2003:

…why this war is wrong and must be stopped:

1. Slaughter. War will mean death and destruction for hundreds of thousands of innocents….

…U.S. taking of Iraq does not appear to be the end of the imperial designs of U.S. planners. An extended, dangerous period of escalation of application of U.S. power in an attempt to hold and control its expanding spoils of war can be expected. Despite their arrogance and hubris, Bush and his team should not have much confidence that the chaos of the post-invasion period can be kept benign.There is great uncertainty about the controllability of forces that could be unleashed as America commits to new global management requirements far beyond its present substantial deployments….

The imperialism of Bush and his lieutenants is a BETRAYAL of the troops and the American people, while they engender a false image that American troops do not care about human life. This image of our troops as storm troopers enforcing imperial policy, like it or not, will take a quantum leap in currency after an attack on Iraq. We will have lost any remaining legitimacy we have in using our military might against actual terrorists (not that I agree this has been the U.S. aim at any point, but post-9/11 legitimacy in the eyes of the world will have been squandered totally). None of this weight do I want our great country, our troops, and all of our people to have to bear.

And Deep Blade Issue #2, also published March 12, 2003:

In the short term, some Americans, informed or not but usually not, like to feel powerful because of the fact that we can dominate and destroy Iraq while changing its government, occupying its lands, and rebuilding it in our image at our president’s will. Many of these fine Americans unfortunately swallow the pretexts hook line and sinker. They are unaware of or willfully ignore the war’s underlying motivations and potentially disastrous consequences.

Will it dawn on us some day that we have allowed another disingenuous administration write yet another sorry entry for the annals of U.S. history to be filed with Vietnam and the human tragedy for civilians and soldiers alike that that war represented? If the war can be stopped, this can be prevented. Otherwise, I cry for my country.

Please pass me the hankies.

The war you're not reading about

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

The Iraq SituationUN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): 4 million displaced Iraqis since 2003

The title of this post is the same as that of an oped published Sunday in the Washington Post (reprinted today in the Bangor Daily News) carrying the byline of the Republican presidential candidate, Arizona Senator John McCain. Along with McCain’s properly much-ridiculed April Fools walk through a Baghdad market backed by a powerful militia, his oped would be extremely silly except for the fact that the war McCain so dearly supports is causing death, injury, and displacement for millions of innocent Iraqis.

I won’t take on McCain’s “cautious optimism” point-by-point. Instead I’ll challenge his complete omission of any sense that he understands the full devastating depth and breadth of the total destruction of the foundations of Iraqi society that the war has brought. And, let me say I just cringe at the deep colonial mentality revealed by the “counterinsurgency approach” that McCain argues “for” — “separating the reconcilable population from the irreconcilable.”

If taken to its logical end, the language used here by McCain shows that he believes the part of the Iraqi population who continue to display their opposition to US control of their country is disposable. To me, McCain’s use of “irreconcilable” suggests that in the end his recommended approach would involve applying force in a manner tantamount to genocide. To McCain, “separating” means ridding Iraq of those who never will accept American domination, a clear majority in every study of Iraqi public opinion.

©Reuters/Ali Jasim, CourtesyUnfortunately, McCain is correct in one unintended sense. Many Americans who find themselves reading war cheerleading by the likes of the senator are not reading about how terrible the actual war is.

Just today, for example, the International Committee of the Red Cross released a report that describes an Iraq where, “The suffering that Iraqi men, women and children are enduring today is unbearable and unacceptable. Their lives and dignity are continuously under threat.” The American media barely has covered this release. It’s a slight footnote in a few news stories and I have seen no mention yet on television.

The report, called “Civilians Without Protection,” (unlike the situation for Senator McCain in the Baghdad market) describes the “ever worsening humanitarian crisis” where “Thousands of Iraqis continue to be forced out of their homes owing to military operations, general poor security and the destruction of houses. And the outlook is bleak, particularly in Baghdad and other areas with mixed communities, where the situation is likely to worsen.”

It’s all so depressing. American public opinion generally has turned against McCain and the war, but there still is woeful ignorance about what is actually happening to the Iraqis as a direct result of the American invasion. We don’t see the most important reporting on the situation.

Patrick Cockburn of the UK Independent, author of The Occupation, a riveting book on Iraq, is an essential antidote to the poison of McCain. His dispatches are not published in American newspapers, but the Internet is an easy way to get them. Here are just a few recent doses of reality filed by Cockburn around the 4th anniversary of the invasion:

  • March 19, 2007: Almost Every Aspect of Iraqi Life has Gotten Worse in the Last Four Years

Tony Blair and George Bush still occasionally imply that the picture of Iraq as a war-torn hell is an exaggeration by the media. They suggest, though not as forcibly as they did a couple of years ago, that parts of the country are relatively peaceful. Nothing could be more untrue.

In reality, the violence is grossly understated. The Baker-Hamilton report by senior Republicans and Democrats, led by James Baker, took a single day last summer, when the US army reported 93 acts of violence in Iraq, and asked American intelligence to re-examine the evidence. They found the real figure was 1,100–the US military had deliberately understated the violence by factor of over 10….

  • March 20, 2007: Four Years After the Invasion: Iraq is a Vast, Blood-Drenched Human Disaster

Four years after the US and British troops invaded Iraq the country is drenched in blood and its people full of fear. Iraqis often have a look of half-suppressed panic in their eyes as they tell how violent death had touched them and their families again and again….

  • April 10, 2007: The Beacon of the US “Success” The Myth of Tal Afar

Embedded American journalists scurried to this poor and depressing Turkoman city between Mosul and the Syrian border to report on the good news. President Bush even singled it out for optimistic comment in March 2006. “Tal Afar shows that, when Iraqis can count on a basic level of safety and security, they can live together peacefully,” he said. “The people of Tal Afar have shown why spreading liberty and democracy is at the heart of our strategy to defeat the terrorists.”

It was always a myth. On March 27, a gigantic truck bomb exploded in a Shia market area in Tal Afar. It was the deadliest single bomb out of the many that have been detonated by Sunni insurgents. The Interior Ministry said that 152 people were killed and 347 wounded in the explosion….

It was always absurd to treat Tal Afar as a possible textbook case of how the US might successfully expedite a counter-insurgency policy.

For more on Tal Afar, see Deep Blade Journal HERE. This SEARCH produces a large catalog of Patrick Cockburn dispatches from Iraq. Cockburn’s book, “The Occupation,” is a highly recommended read.

Saudi oil: implications for US in Iraq

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

Key sections of super-giant Ghawar field may be “watering out”;
Why does Senator Levin say “we’re not going to cut off funding for the troops” in Iraq??

Ghawar Field oil saturation

Stuart Staniford at The Oil Drum says THIS DISCUSSION is “not introductory.” No, surely it isn’t. There is no way that I understand all of the oil field concepts involved. However, the upshot of this post, previous cited posts, and a great deal of debate and discussion attached to all of these posts is that the largest Saudi oil field, Ghawar, will play out in one to two decades.

This is no small matter. This single field produces about 5% of all the oil produced in the entire world.

The way oil is produced at Ghawar involves the injection of water in order to force out the oil. At some point, mostly water will be produced and not much oil. It will have “watered out”. Indications are that this is happening now. Including handy references to the entire discussion, Staniford writes of the

hypothesis that watering out of North Ghawar is the main cause of declines in Saudi production in the last couple of years. Readers getting up to speed may want to read the following earlier posts which document most of “The Oil Drum Ghawar Project”:

In many cases, the comments contain a great deal of additional analysis and value beyond the posts themselves…

Do go read this stuff. There are several competing points of view, but they are beginning to merge upon a concensus that Saudi Arabia is no longer capable of increasing oil production in a sustained way. In fact, Saudi output involuntarily is declining at an alarming rate.

Of course, the implications of this are staggering. What country can function as swing oil producer if Saudi cannot? Perhaps in ten years, Iraq? Maybe. Plenty of reporting on Iraq’s potential may be found on the net. A typical number used for Iraq’s potential production intensity is cited HERE, “Iraq might be able to pump up its production to as much as 6 mbd by 2010 and 7-8 mbd by 2020”.

But the US project to harness control of development and production of Iraqi oil has hit a roadblock that if looked at honestly would be called armed indigenous resistance. Hence, US troops are destined to remain under the policies of President Bush, or ostensibly competing strategies offered by Democrats.

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI, Chair of Senate Committee on Armed Services) cleared up the point on ABC News today. He said that in the end, the Democrats will continue to fund war in Iraq against the will of the American people for the indefinite future.

Though he says, “What we should do, and we’re going to do, is continue to press this president to put some pressure on the Iraqi leaders to reach a political settlement,” what this really means is that the Democrats are all for the colonial project. The “benchmarks” Levin and the Democrats speak of include “dividing the oil resources.”

This is code for what I have discussed before, that the new Iraqi oil law will give “executive managers of from important related petroleum companies” control of Iraqi oil valves, thus taking direct control of world swing oil production–what the Saudi’s have been in charge of since the Texas Railroad Commission lost its power due to the depletion of Texas oil reserves after 1971.

The only way to keep these “executives” in charge will be to keep thousands of American troops in Iraq for an indefinite time.

What does Tal Afar say about today's rosy Iraq portraits?

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

CBS reports “Dozens Of Sunnis Killed In Iraq Rampage: Shiite Cops And Militants Allegedlly Kill Sunni Civilians As Revenge For Dual Truck Bombings” in a city that CBS reporter Lara Logan helped the administration hold out as “a model for how to fight and win the rest of the war.”

Today both Atrios and the PBS News Hour coupled the news story of a grisly round of bombings and killings in the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar with a review of the March 2006 pronouncement by President George W. Bush that this city was “a concrete example of progress in Iraq.”

I thought that the PBS News Hour did a pretty good job with this story. The analyst Ahmed Hashim from the Naval War College basically debunked Lara Logan’s angle on “Tal Afar: Al Qaeda’s Town,” and the US “battle to retake” it:

GWEN IFILL: For more on Tall Afar, we are joined by Ahmed Hashim, who worked in Tall Afar as a political adviser to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in 2005. He’s now an associate professor at the Naval War College, and he lectures at Harvard…. Mr. Hashim, given the latest violence, is it possible to assume at this point that perhaps the optimism that was expressed in 2005 about what was happening there was either overstated or premature?

AHMED HASHIM, Naval War College: I think it was overstated. Tall Afar was never consolidated after the 3rd ACR left.

The situation in the city has more to do with local grievances and identity conflicts between the Sunni Turkmen, and the Shia Turkmen. And it really is not al-Qaida who has infiltrated so much as the fact that what happened in 2003 is the formerly dominant Sunni-Turkmen majority there, that constitute 70 percent of the population, that controlled the police, the municipality, the security services.

They were primarily the teachers, and also there was about 20,000 Turkmen who were veterans of the former Iraqi army. Suddenly, they felt themselves having been thrown out of power.

And this is essentially their revenge on what they see as the empowerment of the Shia minority in the town, which has been helped by central power in Baghdad, which is, of course, now in the hands of the Shia.

This explanation for the violence in Tal Afar is completely missing from the tales told by Ms. Logan last year for the program 60 Minutes under the guidance of one Colonel H.R. McMaster, who according to the CBS story “should know” how “Al Qaeda in Iraq had a very sophisticated strategy for taking over the city” because he “served as one of the military’s top advisers on fighting the Iraqi insurgency.”

Even if there is some truth about the earlier incidents described in the CBS Tal Afar story, given today’s extreme violence it is obvious they had no interest in looking into the dynamics of the place beyond a deeply embedded, White-House-friendly view. “Success” is ethereal and fleeting for the US in Iraq.

President Bush simply never will quit. Last year’s falsely rosy portrait of Tal Afar is followed today by his upbeat remarks before the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association:

the Iraqi people are beginning to say — see positive changes. I want to share with you how two Iraqi bloggers — they have bloggers in Baghdad, just like we’ve got here — (laughter) — “Displaced families are returning home, marketplaces are seeing more activity, stores that were long shuttered are now reopening. We feel safer about moving in the city now. Our people want to see this effort succeed. We hope the governments in Baghdad and America do not lose their resolve.”

I want to read something that Army Sergeant Major Chris Nadeau says — the guy is on his second tour in Iraq. He says, “I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. I’m a soldier. The facts are the facts. Things are getting better, we’re picking up momentum.”

These are hopeful signs, and that’s positive.

That’s rich for dear leader to be citing “bloggers,” who just happen to write exactly what the White House likes, described on Olbermann’s show tonight by Rajiv Chandrasekaran as Baghdad dentists and who also were guests in the White House a couple of years ago. How much credibility does Bush have? My answer is none.

Vote to end the war in Iraq?

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

The “U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health and Iraq Accountability Act” with nearly $100 billion more to fund the war passed the House of Representatives on a close 218-212 vote; while the measure is fatally flawed from an anti-war point of view, are its politics good?

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) declares the blank-check era for Bush’s war is over

Nancy Pelosi
Click image to download video of March 23 floor speech by Nancy Pelosi (15 min, 25 MB, wmv format); Pelosi says this vote is a major step to end the war in Iraq; anti-war protest can be heard near the end of the file

President Bush
Bush says the “House of Representatives abdicated its responsibility” with “an act of political theater”

I’m not crazy about the Iraq war funding bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier today. After all, fundamentally it violates the theme of protests organized under the From Every Village Green banner in which I have been participating in recent weeks–NOT ONE MORE DEATH! NOT ONE MORE DOLLAR. The bill would spend a lot on the war and it would guarantee continued hideous levels of killing and death by and against American forces and the Iraqi population for months or years to come.

I spoke in person with an aid to Mike Michaud on Wednesday and implored that Mike should vote against the bill as a matter of conscience. I am happy to say that Mike was amongst a handful of Democrats who did vote AGAINST the bill because it continued funding the killing and maiming. I am very, very proud to be represented by Mike and to know that this Congressional district is chock full of people organized (From Every Village Green) to back him up on this. This is what democracy looks like. He could not vote this way without us. It’s that simple.

Before I agree with some of their arguments, I first want to point out that the way the liberal organizing campaign handled this bill was very condescending to those who opposed it as a matter of conscience. I’m rather sickened by the way their email, “Rep. Allen does the right thing on Iraq”, quotes “progressive” writer David Sirota about how it is time to have “a seriousness about ending the war, rather than merely a seriousness about protesting the war.” Without naming anyone or discussing specific arguments, he accused those (I guess everyone) who campaigned against the bill of being “people just blowing off contrairian steam” who were the actual ones “selling out a viable way to end the war in order to grandstand for the cameras.”

The big thing missing in the MoveOn/Sirota argument is that there is incredible urgency about stopping this war. Tens of thousands of people are dying. The bill just passed would if it became law continue the killing for an undetermined period of time.

The case against the bill was well laid out by Military Families Speak Out in a March 15 document, partly reproduced below


The House Supplemental Appropriations Bill: “U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health and Iraq Accountability Act”
These talking points cover why Military Families Speak Out is urging a “no” vote on this bill.

• The House Supplemental Appropriations Bill as written would give funds to President Bush to continue the war in Iraq.

• The House Leadership is trying to get all Members of Congress who oppose the war in Iraq to support this House Supplemental Appropriations Bill, which they named the “U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health and Iraq Accountability Act”. They claim it has the following provisions which are supposed to support our troops and bring about the end of the war in Iraq, but their claims are not supported by the facts:

Claim: Troop Readiness Requirements: no funds can be appropriated to deploy any unit of the Armed Forces to Iraq unless the unit is fully trained, equipped and “mission capable”
Reality: The bill includes a provision that allows the President to waive troop readiness requirements

Claim: No Extended Deployments: no funds can be appropriated for extending the deployment of the Army, National Guard or Reserves beyond a 365-day deployment, or a Marine unit beyond a 210-day deployment.
Reality: The bill includes a provision that allows the President to waive the prohibition on extended deployments

Claim: Rest Period Between Deployments: no funds can be appropriated for deploying any Army unit that has been deployed within the previous 365 consecutive days, or an Marine unit that has been deployed within the previous 210 consecutive days
Reality: The bill includes a provision that allows the President to waive the specified rest periods between deployments.

Claim: Requirements for Iraqi Government Progress: if the Iraqi government isn’t making substantial progress by October 1, 2007 and again by March 1, 2008 in making the country secure, democratic and reducing sectarian violence, the Secretary of Defense shall commence the redeployment of the Armed Forces from Iraq within 180 days.
Reality: The bill allows the President to unilaterally certify “Iraqi Government Progress”

Claim: Date Certain for U.S. Withdrawal from Iraq: combat troops out of Iraq by August, 2008 at the latest
Reality: With three U.S troops dying each day the war continues, August, 2008 is not an acceptable deadline for withdrawal of US troops. It is not bringing our troops home now. Furthermore, the bill allows U.S. troops to remain in Iraq after the August, 2008 withdrawal date if they are “engaging in targeted special actions limited in duration and scope to killing or capturing members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations with global reach” NOTE: the terms “limited in duration and scope” are undefined in the bill]; and/or if they are “training members of the Iraqi Security Forces”. This provision could be used to keep tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq for years to come.

[BOTTOM LINE:] The House Supplemental Appropriations bill as written would allow thousands of additional US troops and untold numbers of Iraqis to die before the U.S. occupation of Iraq is ended.

I do want to discuss, however, some reasons why I think the politics of the bill might turn out good for us, and why I am not overly upset with Rep. Allen for voting for it–yet. This opinion may be controversial with some in our movement, so I encourage lots of discussion. My own thoughts are just beginning to coalesce and are still somewhat fluid. But this is an area where we will be aided by having the largest number of people think this through that we can, and arrive at some positions and then focus and maximize our organizing power.

Here is what I mean by the plus for us of this bill, a point not so far from what MoveOn is saying (in its unfortunately condescending way): There is value in attaching troop-withdrawal language Bush does not like and will veto to to a bill that funds the war. In fact, if it does somehow get through the Senate and he does veto it, we win. Funds are cut off. This is the raw power of the House in the appropriation process. Bush does not get his war chest if the House decides not to let him have it without strings with which he objects enough to veto. The appropriation bill is a much easier way to stop the war than some policy-only resolution (as was tried in January).

The problem, of course, is that the House may drop the strings at some point, perhaps in a House-Senate conference committee, as if what happened today never happened. The president’s dismissal of the exercise of passing this bill as “political theater” would then be accurate. This is where we can come back in–we must force the House to stick to their guns. We must not let the strings get dropped or neutered to Bush’s liking. This won’t be easy. Busy hands in Washington will try to get the president his money. Already, there are “warnings” from the Pentagon (probably false) that the troops are about to run out of money, thus amping up the pressure on Congress that the only way to support the troops is Bush’s way. Our work is cut out for us. Let’s try to hammer out a good way to do it.