Cowardly Virginia Senator George Allen, in the best authoritarian manner, like his beloved Confederacy, attacked yet another Marine.
Former Marine and UVA first year law student, Mike Stark was asking Allen about his sealed arrest record and sealed divorce.
At that point, Allen's political thugs assaulted Stark and nearly smashed his head through a window.
Oddly enough, this is how civil rights protestors were dealt with, by violence, when they protested peacefully.
Allen's campaign may have had reason to attack Stark, since he had asked the senator if he had ever used the word nigger.
Which began his slide in the polls.
Now, the veteran law student is pressing charges against the goons who assaulted him. This kind of oppression people enlist in the military to prevent.
Last week, it was Jim Webb's novels, this week, it's Mike Stark being assaulted like a dissedent in a dictatorship.
Why does George Allen hate Marines? Update
Letter from Mike Stark
Oct 31, 2006
The following is a letter to NBC29 from Mike Stark, the man who was tackled for a comment he made at Senator Allen's campaign stop in Charlottesville on Tuesday.
My name is Mike Stark. I am a law student at the University of Virginia, a marine, and a citizen journalist. Earlier today at a public event, I was attempting to ask Senator Allen a question about his sealed divorce record and his arrest in the 1970s, both of which are in the public domain. His people assaulted me, put me in a headlock, and wrestled me to the ground. Video footage is available here, from an NBC affiliate.
I demand that Senator Allen fire the staffers who beat up a constituent attempting to use his constitutional right to petition his government. I also want to know why Senator Allen would want his staffers to assault someone asking questions about matters of public record in the heat of a political campaign. Why are his divorce records sealed? Why was he arrested in the 1970s? And why did his campaign batter me when I asked him about these questions.
George Allen defends his support of the Iraq war by saying that our troops are defending the ideals America stands for. Indeed, he says our troops are defending our very freedom. What kind of country is it when a Senator's constituent is assaulted for asking difficult and uncomfortable questions? What freedoms do we have left? Maybe we need to bring the troops home so that they can fight for freedom at George Allen's campaign events. Demanding accountability should not be an offense worthy of assault.
I will be pressing charges against George Allen and his surrogates later today. George Allen, at any time, could have stopped the fray. All he had to do was say, "This is not how my campaign is run. Take your hands off that man." He could have ignored my questions. Instead he and his thugs chose violence. I spent four years in the Marine Corps. I'll be damned if I'll let my country be taken from me by thugs that are afraid of taking responsibility for themselves.
It just isn't the America I know and love. Somebody needs to take a stand against those that would bully and intimidate their fellow citizens. That stand begins right here, right now.
As the GOP asked recently, what are the stakes in the Nov. 7 election? Well, one complaint you hear a lot about the current Republican regime is that they want to regulate what people do in the bedroom. Sometimes that sounds like political hyberbole, until you read something like this: The Bush administration is spending millions in an effort to stop unmarried people in their 20s from, well, doing the wild thing:
The federal government's "no sex without marriage" message isn't just for kids anymore.
Now the government is targeting unmarried adults up to age 29 as part of its abstinence-only programs, which include millions of dollars in federal money that will be available to the states under revised federal grant guidelines for 2007.
The government says the change is a clarification. But critics say it's a clear signal of a more directed policy targeting the sexual behavior of adults.
"They've stepped over the line of common sense," said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that supports sex education. "To be preaching abstinence when 90% of people are having sex is in essence to lose touch with reality. It's an ideological campaign. It has nothing to do with public health."
As the article notes, "well over" 90 percent of people in their 20s have already done the dirty deed. And experts say that if the issue is reducing out-of-wedlock births in this age group is the goal, a successful program should involve contraception -- not surprising, considering the above statistic. And you really have to wonder how much of this is really concern about the potential social consequences of unwanted pregnancy, and how much is the latest offensive from the American Taliban?
Here's a question for the conservatives that like to populate the comment section here. In what way or sense is this Bush-backed government program truly "conservative." You've got Big Government telling adults what to do in the privacy of their own home, and wasting millions of your tax dollars to do it.
Seems like the lunacy of this is somewhere where liberals and conservatives could actually find some common ground.
With the 2006 midterms around the corner, it’s worth pausing a moment to first clarify the story of the 2004 elections….
The post-election summaries of the state of the two parties were strikingly different. The Democrats and their less-than-inspiring presidential nominee, we were told, were out-smarted, out-strategized, and out-maneuvered by their opponents. President Bush and the Republicans, on the other hand, were blessed with sharper consultants, more agile candidates with firmer backbones, a more substantial political infrastructure, less party infighting, and delivered a clearer and simpler message about the ideals and issues the party represented.
But there were other, more concrete factors that had already tipped the scales in the Republicans’ favor. By 2004 the Republicans controlled all of both elected branches of the national government, the federal courts, and a majority of governors and state legislative chambers. They benefited as well from a media echo chamber driven by Fox News, 24-hour conservative talk radio, and a battalion of well-funded conservative think tank experts who were willing and able to repeat every talking point and focus group-tested phrase, from “cut and run” (Democrats) to “stay the course” (Republicans).
As an incumbent running for re-election, Bush also had the power of bully pulpit and the luxury of a two-year head start on the Democrats — plenty of time for Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman, the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign chairman, to build their field campaign in the key states like Ohio.
If these advantages were not enough, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, provided the president with something that none of his predecessors in half a century could claim: a truly transformative issue. One must go back to at least the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision and the civil rights movement, if not all the way back to the 1929 stock market crash and ensuing Great Depression, to find an episode with the potential to so fundamentally alter the political and partisan landscape.
And what was the result of all of this? Bush picked up three points and Iowa…[because] New Mexico’s five added electors were essentially cancelled out by the four lost in New Hampshire...
Elsewhere on the ballot, the Republicans had to dine on rather thin gruel.
Thanks to five southern Democratic senators retiring at once, the G.O.P. did manage to boost their Senate majority by four seats. But they added a mere three seats in the U.S. House, and would have lost ground had Tom DeLay not used his power to re-redistrict Texas in the middle of the decade. There was no movement in the total share of governors; Republicans picked up Indiana and Missouri; Democrats captured Montana and New Hampshire. And Democrats won the state legislative battle by adding 60 seats nationally, while capturing eight new legislative chamber majorities to just four for the Republicans
So there you have it: Three points plus Iowa in the presidential race, four additional U.S. senators and three House members, no net new governors, and losses in the state legislatures. If that’s a landslide, I’m the starting power forward for the Knicks.
The real story of 2004 is that Bush and the Republicans blew the best opportunity in two generations to alter the partisan landscape in substantial, enduring ways.
If you caught the Stephanie Miller show today, you probably heard her chat with the fellow who sent her a death threat (Brad's Blog has posted up a copy of the letter). The coward is an elderly gent, Florian A. "Sock" Sokolowski. His letter lists Centerville, Ohio as an address but apparently he lives in Dayton.
This clown apparently was trained in the Dick Cheney School of word parsing, because he insists he did not threaten to kill her, but here is what he wrote:
As with Cindy Sheehan the best thing that could happen to you would be seeing some WONDERFUL activist sticking an AK-47 up your Glory Holes and sending you into eternity.
What is it with these closeted Republican homosexuals? Pent up rage? They are obsessed with glory holes and pages.
But wait, there is more. Stephanie called him up and he willingly got on the phone. Here's what he had to say (mp3 link).
Florian "the Sock Puppet" Sokolowski, fancies himself a political activist. He wrote the following letter to the editor last year:
DEMOCRATS, LIBERALS, PROGRESSIVES, leftists, whatever they wish to be called, view a glass as half empty and wallow in negativity and pessimism while Republicans, conservatives, rightists, our preferred designations, see a glass as half full and look for positivity and optimism, a distinction that becomes obvious when comparing the dual agendas of our parties.
Having returned to Ohio after 10 plus years in the Sunshine State I look forward to resuming a hobby that worked well in Florida i.e., recruiting potential first-time voters, young people as well as oldies to the Republican Party. Obviously, both states are very pivotal in federal elections and, hopefully, both will remain a flaming red.
I personally have found that young people particularly, but others, too, prefer optimism, especially in dark times, and, therefore, opt for the glass half full choice as regards their candidates for president as well as lesser offices.
As proven in the Bush v. Kerry presidential race, they want the candidates to offer their agenda for the nation rather than simply hate and venom for the opposition. They want to consider alternatives on a range of issues, but all the left offered was a hatred toward our president while George W. Bush offered his plans for the country. Approve or disapprove of what was presented, the right exhibited plans for consideration while the left did not.
Conservatism must win the political wars being fought and those to come. The future, the successful futures of our children and, in my case, too, our grandchildren depend on our being the ultimate victors.
FLORIAN "SOCK" SOKOLOWSKI
Dayton Daily News, 25 June 2005
Florida authorities may want to go back and make sure that Sokolowski is not a Mark Foley type of Republican. A guy this angry surely has some repressed sexuality. Let's hope he didn't molest any children in Florida in his zeal to recruit new voters.
After a Democratic victory in the House, and maybe the Senate, perhaps the Sock Man will have a chance to get back on his blood pressure medicine, lay off the viagra, and realize that the Democrats won't cut off his social security or throw his ass into Guantanamo. He's a nasty, small minded man. He claims that Democrats are vessels of hate, but after reading the poisonous, vile trash that he put on paper, Sock Sokolowski needs to have a good face-to-face with himself in his own mirror. That's where you'll find the hate and venom Socks.
By Michael Abramowitz Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, October 31, 2006; Page A01
SUGAR LAND, Tex., Oct. 30 -- President Bush said terrorists will win if Democrats win and impose their policies on Iraq, as he and Vice President Cheney escalated their rhetoric Monday in an effort to turn out Republican voters in next week's midterm elections.
Democratic operatives continued to broaden the field of races they believe are competitive enough to merit last-minute investments, as the party's House election committee launched ads in typically conservative districts of Kentucky, Nebraska and Nevada. In the Senate battle, new public and private polls yesterday indicated very tight races in Tennessee, Virginia and Missouri, the last of which is shaping up as possibly the country's tightest contest.
President Bush returns a crying toddler to his parents at a campaign rally at Georgia Southern University. Bush said Democrats retaking control of Congress would be a victory for terrorists.
Faced with potential GOP defeat in both chambers, Bush and Cheney aimed to avert that by convincing voters that they cannot risk giving the opposition party any power in Washington.
"However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses," Bush told a raucous crowd of about 5,000 GOP partisans packed in an arena at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, one of his stops Monday. "That's what's at stake in this election. The Democrat goal is to get out of Iraq. The Republican goal is to win in Iraq."
Democrats reacted sharply to the latest White House attacks. Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) said Bush "resorted to the same tired old partisan attacks in a desperate attempt to hold on to power." House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said Bush is looking to retain a "rubber-stamp Republican Congress that has done nothing to change our failed Iraq policy."
Cheney, meanwhile, said in an interview with Fox News that he thinks insurgents in Iraq are timing their attacks to influence the U.S. elections.
"It's my belief that they're very sensitive of the fact that we've got an election scheduled," he said. Cheney said the insurgents believe "they can break the will of the American people," and "that's what they're trying to do."
George Bush has confused the opponents of the GOP with the enemies of the United States.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 — In November at the five-star Hotel Splendido overlooking the harbor in Portofino, a playground of the Italian rich, Representative Curt Weldon was the center of attention.
The second-ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Mr. Weldon was a main speaker at a conference sponsored in part by the Italian military giant Finmeccanica. At the gathering of Italian, British and American political leaders, Mr. Weldon, of Pennsylvania, spoke on behalf of Italian arms makers who were seeking a bigger share of Pentagon contracts.
Taxpayers paid for Mr. Weldon’s stay. He received a $1,153 daily expense allowance from the federal government and flew over on a military jet.
For Mr. Weldon, the conference was a victory lap. After several years of promoting Italian military contractors, the Italians had scored some big victories at the Pentagon. But Mr. Weldon’s efforts were equally beneficial for his district, his family, his friends and his campaign coffers.
Today, the Italians may well have second thoughts about their embrace of Mr. Weldon, who has represented his suburban Philadelphia district since 1987 and is now the subject of a federal investigation into possible influence peddling and, as a result, is in a tight re-election race.
The Justice Department is looking into whether he used his position to steer almost $1 million in consulting contracts from a Russian energy company and other Eastern European interests to a lobbying firm headed by his daughter Karen, 31. Her home and her office were searched two weeks ago by federal officials.
Law enforcement officials said they were examining a wide variety of Mr. Weldon’s connections with foreign companies, but they would not discuss whether the inquiry focused directly on Finmeccanica.
So why is an American congressman protecting the interests of an Italian company? Maybe because they hired his daughter Kim, who was a social worker?
I am sick and tired of the vote suppression disguised as thoughtful comments
"Karl Rove is going to steal the election"
"Bush will declare marshal law"
Jesus fucking christ, stop panicking and start thinking.
One, elections are run by states. As crappy and badly designed as Diebold is, there is no evidence that an election has been turned by them. There are plenty of other machines as well, but the weak link is the age of the poll workers. The average age is 72. They aren't conversant with computer technology.
But to steal an election, you need a swing district and a close race where Republicans have been elected in the recent past.
My bet is that the GOP will claim illegals voted in large numbers, not mess with the machines, which vary from district to district.
If you are concerned about election fraud, YOU CAN DO SOMETHING. Work the polls, volunteer to watch them for campaigns. Don't sit on your hands and whine. You can do your part in this, make sure at least a few people are going to have their rights protected. But stop screaming that they're going to steal the election. Because that only keeps people from voting which is what the GOP wants
It's very simple. This is a country of 300m people. Most of the Army is deployed overseas. The Army wants nothing to do with civil law enforcement, not in Iraq or New Orleans.
There is no national police force, which is essential for creating martial law.
During the LA riots, it took the LAPD, an LAV Battalion from the Marines and a brigade of the National Guard to calm things down. That's a lot of people for a city of three million, where maybe 100,000 were in the rioting area.
Local law enforcement detests the FBI, which only has 13,000 agents, half assigned to counter intelligence duty.
Bush could declare it from the Oval Office, but he would have an extremely difficult time enforcing it, especially with so many Iraq war vets in the ranks.
Oh, and to the asshole in the last thread who wants a new, uncorrupt third party which will not soil his hands.
Grow the fuck up. People live and die on who's in office. You may not see the difference between the two parties, but if you get Medicaid, you will. If you work in Wal Mart, you will. People don't have the luxury of washing their hands then having the balls to ask that opinion be respected.
If you don't vote, don't bitch.
Even if all you do is take your parents to vote, do something, anything.
REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus (UNITED STATES) Cocktail waitress Chrissy Mazzeo (R) listens as her attorney Richard Wright speaks to reporters during a news conference in Las Vegas, Nevada October 25, 2006.
By RYAN NAKASHIMA, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 56 minutes ago
LAS VEGAS - The district attorney said Monday that authorities have reopened their investigation into a cocktail waitress' claim that a Republican congressman running for governor assaulted her in a parking garage after a night of drinking.
District Attorney David Roger said the case involving Rep. Jim Gibbons — which had been closed after the woman, Chrissy Mazzeo, dropped her complaint — is under investigation again.
Sheriff Bill Young, who supports Gibbons for governor, said last week his office would reopen the investigation if Mazzeo requested it. Young did not immediately return a phone call Monday.
Mazzeo, a Las Vegas Strip casino waitress, accused Gibbons, 61, of pushing her up against a wall Oct. 13 and propositioning her. Mazzeo, 32, said she had been pressured and offered cash from people linked to the Gibbons campaign to drop the complaint.
The five-term congressman, who is in a close race with Democratic state Sen. Dina Titus for Nevada's open governor's seat, has denied wrongdoing and sued Monday to force police to release surveillance videos he said would disprove Mazzeo's claim.
A judge set an emergency hearing for Tuesday.
Mazzeo's lawyer, Richard Wright, said he met with Roger on Monday morning to discuss how to proceed with the case, then went with Mazzeo to a police station, where she retracted her request to drop the allegations.
"I just want them to conduct an investigation just like they would conduct any other investigation when a woman alleges a battery or coercion," Wright said.
Someone got her back, maybe her union, but someone, because she was scared witless.
But then, Gibbons' had a rough couple of weeks, with the illegal alien and all.
By Amit R. Paley Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, October 31, 2006; A01
BAGHDAD -- The signs of the militias are everywhere at the Sholeh police station.
Posters celebrating Moqtada al-Sadr, head of the Mahdi Army militia, dot the building's walls. The police chief sometimes remarks that Shiite militias should wipe out all Sunnis. Visitors to this violent neighborhood in the Iraqi capital whisper that nearly all the police officers have split loyalties.
And then one rainy night this month, the Sholeh police set up an ambush and killed Army Cpl. Kenny F. Stanton Jr., a 20-year-old budding journalist, his unit said. At the time, Stanton and other members of the unit had been trailing a group of Sholeh police escorting known Mahdi Army members.
"How can we expect ordinary Iraqis to trust the police when we don't even trust them not to kill our own men?" asked Capt. Alexander Shaw, head of the police transition team of the 372nd Military Police Battalion, a Washington-based unit charged with overseeing training of all Iraqi police in western Baghdad. "To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure we're ever going to have police here that are free of the militia influence."
The top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., predicted last week that Iraqi security forces would be able to take control of the country in 12 to 18 months. But several days spent with American units training the Iraqi police illustrated why those soldiers on the ground believe it may take decades longer than Casey's assessment.
Seventy percent of the Iraqi police force has been infiltrated by militias, primarily the Mahdi Army, according to Shaw and other military police trainers. Police officers are too terrified to patrol enormous swaths of the capital. And while there are some good cops, many have been assassinated or are considering quitting the force.
"None of the Iraqi police are working to make their country better," said Brig. Gen. Salah al-Ani, chief of police for the western half of Baghdad. "They're working for the militias or to put money in their pocket."
U.S. military reports on the Iraqi police often read like a who's who of the two main militias in Iraq: the Mahdi Army, also known as Jaish al-Mahdi or JAM, and the Badr Organization, also known as the Badr Brigade or Badr Corps.
One document on the Karrada district police chief says: "I strongly believe that he is a member of Badr Corps and tends to turn a blind eye to JAM activity." Another explains that the station commander in the al-Amil neighborhood "is afraid to report suspected militia members in his organization due to fear of reprisals."
American soldiers said that although they gather evidence of police ties to the militias and present it to Iraqi officials, no one has ever been criminally charged or even lost their jobs.
Among the worst of the suspected Mahdi Army members is Lt. Col. Musa Khadim Lazim Asadi, station commander of the Ghazaliyah patrol police. "He has stated to us that he does not believe the Mahdi Militia is a bad organization," a military report said. "He had a picture of Sadr in his vehicle until we said something about it."
"He is a cancer to the station and the people of Ghazaliyah," the report concluded.
................... Among Ani's bosses are the police chief for all of Baghdad, who has been linked to the Mahdi Army, and the minister of the interior, who is a member of Sadr's political bloc.
"I think he's trying to do the right thing," said Lt. Col Aaron Dean, the battalion commander, as he walked to his Humvee after the meeting with Ani. "But I know they're all under certain influences. If you take a big stand against the militias, they're going to come after you."
The difficulty of eliminating corruption and militias from the Iraqi police forces can be exasperating for the American soldiers who risk their lives day after day to train them. "We can keep getting in our Humvees every day, but nothing is going to work unless the politicians do their job and move against the militias," Moore said.
Sitting in the battalion's war room with four other members of his team, Moore estimated it would take 30 to 40 years before the Iraqi police could function properly, perhaps longer if the militia infiltration and corruption continue to increase. His colleagues nodded.
"It's very, very slow-moving," Estes said.
"No," said Sgt. 1st Class William T. King Jr., another member of the team. "It's moving in reverse."
by Chris Bowers, Mon Oct 30, 2006 at 01:16:59 PM EST
In a great article in the Washington Post, Professor Michael McDonald tells us about five voter turnout myths that every political junkie should know. Here is the truth behind the CW:
* 1. Voter turnout isn't lower than in previous decades:
Turnout rates among those eligible to vote have averaged 55.3 percent in presidential elections and 39.4 percent in midterm elections for the past three decades. There has been variation, of course, with turnout as low as 51.7 percent in 1996 and rebounding to 60.3 percent by 2004. Turnout in the most recent election, in fact, is on a par with the low-60 percent turnout rates of the 1950s and '60s.
* 2. Citizens of other countries don't vote more regularly than Americans do:
Americans are asked to vote more often -- in national, state, local and primary contests -- than the citizens of any other country. They can be forgiven for missing one or two elections, can't they? Even then, over the course of several elections, Americans have more chances to participate and their turnout may be higher than that in countries where people vote only once every five years.
* 3. Negative ads don't reduce voter turnout.
Negative TV advertising increased in the mid-1980s, but turnout hasn't gone down correspondingly. The negative Swift boat campaign against Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) apparently did little to depress turnout in the 2004 presidential race.
Some academic studies have found that negative advertising increases turnout. And that's not so surprising: A particularly nasty ad grabs people's attention and gets them talking. People participate when they're interested.
* 4. Republican GOTV does not give them a decisive advantage:
Studies of a campaign's personal contact with voters through phone calls, door-to-door solicitation and the like find that it does have some positive effect on turnout. But people vote for many reasons other than meeting a campaign worker, such as the issues, the closeness of the election and the candidates' likeability. Further, these studies focus on get-out-the-vote drives in low-turnout elections, when contacts from other campaigns and outside groups are minimal. We don't know what the effects of mobilization drives are in highly competitive races in which people are bombarded by media stories, television ads and direct mail.
Republican get-out-the-vote efforts could make a difference in close elections if Democrats simply sat on the sidelines. But this year Democrats have vowed to match the GOP mobilization voter for voter. So it'll take more than just knowing whether a prospective voter owns a Volvo or a BMW for Republicans to eke out victory in a competitive race.
* 5. Increased voter registration does not necessarily mean increased voter turnout, but Election Day registration probably does:
Sizable increases in turnout can be seen in states with Election Day registration, which allows people to register when they vote. This may be related to the fact that lots of people don't make up their minds to vote until Election Day, rather than months in advance when they get a license.
Form the perspective of trying to win campaigns, the negative ad myth is the most interesting one to me. It certainly puts more context behind the modern Republican political machine, in that going nuclear on Democrats is actually an essential part of their GOTV. In fact, I bet it was going nuclear on John Kerry via Swift Boating and other tactics that allowed Republican turnout in 2004 to surpass Democratic turnout. Given this, in isolation, I'd bet that the Republican 72-hour program and the Amway-stuff probably wasn't superior to our GOTV operations by much, if at all. What was clearly superior was their messaging to drive up base turnout, with going nuclear on gay marriage and equally nuclear on John Kerry serving as essential factors. This could also explain why Democrats appear more mobilized in 2006 than Republicans. We can go nuclear on Bush to the base, but they can't pull off going nuclear on "generic Democrat," which is essentially who we are to about 50% of the electorate right now (notice the utter ineffectiveness of their attacks on Nancy Pelosi). Thus, our newfound ability to appeal to the base through progressive media and the general midterm opposition edge of the Generic Advantage might be even bigger factors in this election than I at first thought. If Democrats turn out at higher rats than Republicans those two factors will be as key as our GOTV operations.
Call for change--Participate in the most sophisticated and effective progressive voter contact program.
P.S. If Election Day was a national holiday every year, and same day voter registration was available, I'd be open to the idea of fining people who are eligible to vote but choose not to do so. But only under those two conditions
P.S. If Election Day was a national holiday every year, and same day voter registration was available, I'd be open to the idea of fining people who are eligible to vote but choose not to do so. But only under those two conditions.
We can win if we work to win. We can win if we vote.
arly Monday morning, a tell-all book from a former Bush White House official hit Washington like a small explosion, generating at least a color orange political threat level. Here was a conservative Republican, someone who had been on the inside of the president's signature domestic policy agenda of the first term, leveling damaging accusations of hypocrisy, wide-scale manipulation, and deceit. Conservatives reacted accordingly. They charged the traitor, former Deputy Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives David Kuo, with timing the book to do maximum damage in the midterm elections, and they compared him to Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. "What David Kuo is saying about the President and his efforts," said David Contreras, Texas director of the Council on Faith in Action, "is nothing more than a cynical attempt to sell books and line his pockets with 30 pieces of silver [a reference to the payment Judas received for turning Jesus over to the Pharisees.]"
The reaction from the left has been, to put it mildly, slightly less vigorous. It is in stark contrast to the way in which liberal commentators and bloggers embraced other revelations, such as former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's memoir or the latest Bob Woodward book. This time, the responses have ranged from total silence to yawns to fears that the book could backfire on the Democratic Party. In general, most liberals have chosen to distance themselves from Kuo and his case.
This could just be smart politics. After all, Republicans are in such a free-fall at the moment that it might be best for liberals to stay out of the way and let conservatives fling recriminations at each other, as has largely been the case with the Mark Foley scandal. But something else is at play, too. Despite the evidence Kuo presents in Tempting Faith, liberals simply don't believe him. They've spent so much time fear-mongering about American theocracy that a book illustrating the opposite simply makes no sense to them. In fact, the real revelation of Kuo's book is not that the Bushies don't care about evangelicals; it's that liberals are too wedded to their views to capitalize on it.
The first clue that the left didn't see any political value in Kuo's book came last week on msnbc's "Scarborough Country." Another msnbc show had obtained an advance copy of the embargoed book and reported passages on how White House aides routinely referred to conservative evangelical leaders as "nuts" and "goofy." In response, Lawrence O'Donnell--former Democratic Senate aide and the resident liberal commentator at msnbc--dropped the ball. "I think the good news here is that people working in the White House think that Pat Robertson is nuts," he said. "They should. Pat Robertson is nuts." It seemed a little off-message--after all, this was a politically embarrassing book for the Bushies, and here O'Donnell was praising them. True, Robertson does regularly spout off truly nutty and dangerous statements (his call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez; his prayer for the death of liberal Supreme Court justices; his belief that UPC symbols are the Mark of the Beast as foretold in Revelation). But what rankled O'Donnell the most was Robertson's "insane" belief that Jews are going to burn in hell. "
While most of them would put it more delicately than Robertson, it is an article of faith for millions and millions of evangelicals that the only way into heaven is through belief in Jesus Christ. (The good reverend has also said he believes Methodists will burn in hell, but that's not really the point.) By condemning and mocking that doctrine, O'Donnell managed an impressive feat. He took Robertson, a figure widely disliked and discredited throughout the evangelical community, and found a way to criticize him that would also insult and alienate evangelicals. Congratulations, Lawrence O'Donnell--you're the new poster-boy for secular liberal intolerance.
Since they haven't done so yet, they're missing a golden opportunity. Evangelicals have become increasingly disillusioned with the Bush administration and the Republican Party in general over the last two years. While 78 percent of white evangelicals voted for Bush in 2004, only 57 percent approve of the job he's doing now, and only 52 percent say they are likely to support Republicans in the November elections.
Those numbers have not dropped because conservative evangelicals picked up Kevin Phillips's American Theocracy and became worried that Bush was too religious. Instead, evangelical support has plummeted in large part because they, along with other religious conservatives, have begun to suspect they've been played by Republicans--used for their votes and then ignored ......................
Amy Sullivan , a contributing editor at The Washington Monthly, is writing a book about religion and the left
Amy Sullivan, who was extremely pissed when I suggested that she missed the anti-semitic tone behind attacks on Hollywood, which oddly enough came out during the war on Christmas campaign.
Now, she's blowing off the anti-semitism rampant in the fundamentalist movement. Oh, it's not really a big deal that Jews are doomed in Robertson's world view. A lot on the Israeli right has unwisely accepted fundie support, not realizing that the ultimate outcome is conversion or death.
It's not a minor deal, it really isn't. Robertson repeated a key anti-semitic tenet of the fundie faith and Larry O'Donnell is supposed to ignore it? Why? When Muslims make similar comments, they are excoriated in the American media. I can't accept that as an idea which needs to be validated in our democracy. If they're insulted, so what? It's a foul idea, a wrong idea and ignoring it is immoral.
Sullivan was one of the big voices screaming about "values voters" meaning toss the gays and pro-choice people under the bus. Of course she was wrong, and her downplaying the Dominionists creates a massive blind spot.
The leaders of the religous right aren't playing. They want power and they want it to make Christianity the dominant religion. Sullivan thinks if we just talk nice to them, they'll vote for Democrats. Which is insane.
The best comparison would be to the Klan of the 1920's. People joined socially, but the movement was undone by it's corruption. Sullivan constantly undervalues Democratic beliefs in order to appeal to the minority of Americans who are evangelical.
What Sullivan will find out when they stop bullshitting her is that a lot of these people are evangelicals because it is the way they can preserve their world view, and it isn't a happy one.
One guess who a GOP strategist was talking about fighting in that title. Osama Bin Laden? Bwahaha! No. The "insurgents" in Iraq? More plausible, but still no.
No, that unnamed staffer was talking about having a "cataclysmic fight to the death" with none other than the Congress of the United States.
If the Democrats take over and try to investigate the White House, that is. More below ...
The quote comes from a Time Magazine story about the state of the Bush Presidency. After quite a bit about his "loneliness" and how GOP candidates suddenly remember a hair appointment when Bush comes to town, the article gets to the real meat of the story, as far as I'm concerned.
If lame-duck Presidents are to achieve anything, they often have to look for ways to go around Congress, especially when it is in the hands of the other party. Clinton used Executive Orders and his bully pulpit to encourage school uniforms, impose ergonomic rules on employers and prevent mining, logging and development on 60 million acres of public land. White House press secretary Tony Snow says Bush may take the same bypass around Capitol Hill. "He told all of us, 'Put on your track shoes. We're going to run to the finish,'" Snow said. "He's going to be aggressive on a lot of fronts. He's been calling all his Cabinet secretaries and telling them, 'You tell me administratively everything you can do between now and the end of the presidency. I want to see your to-do list and how you expect to do it.' We're going to try to be as ambitious and bold as we can possibly be."
In fact, when it comes to deploying its Executive power, which is dear to Bush's understanding of the presidency, the President's team has been planning for what one strategist describes as "a cataclysmic fight to the death" over the balance between Congress and the White House if confronted with congressional subpoenas it deems inappropriate. The strategist says the Bush team is "going to assert that power, and they're going to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court on every issue, every time, no compromise, no discussion, no negotiation." Um ... wow. That is stunning in its breathtaking arrogance and destructiveness. "Every issue, every time, no compromise, no discussion, no negotiation." Well, don't that just sum it all up right there.
I could go on and on about how wrong that is, how un-American, how against the basic framework laid down by the Founding Fathers ... but I don't want to go on too long here ... you guys can take care of that in comments.
But what I do want to say is this: November 7th may be a very big day on the political calendar, but you have just been served notice. If you didn't know it before, you should know it now. The fight does not end on November 7th, it begins in earnest on that day.
This fight will have to be waged across multiple fronts at all times. From efforts like Major Danby's FINGER project to all the liberal blogs to every Democratic politician, all of us will be needed to fight this White House's unprecedented power grab. The Bush White House has laid down the marker: no compromise, no discussion. They don't want to hear from Congress, and the fact that the country will have voted against them means nothing to them. They are not interested in the will of the people; they are interested in the triumph of the will of George W. Bush.
So, work hard through Election Day (and for god's sake get Joe Lieberman out of there!), take a day or two off, and then get ready for the real work of taking this country back.
You've been warned.
First, this means, despite the bravado, Bush is preparing for war with the Congress. A Democratic Congress.
If the Bush Administration tries this, not only will they lose the American people, within six months, no matter what Nancy Pelosi says today, there will be a consitutional crisis leading to impeachment.
Bush is unpopular now. If the Republicans are turfed out like the pessimists think, forget the optimists, this is going to hurt him a lot more than Congress.
But if, let's say 40 seats change hands and the Senate is 50-50, why does Bush think he can ignore Congress? The last two Congresses gave him leeway. This one is likely not to. Does Bush think he's gonna offer up Social Security theft and the unlimited war in Iraq without opposition?
He may think that, but right now he's just above Nixon numbers, a refusal to deal with Congress would lead to a sharp decline.
Bush talks tough, he loves to talk tough, but his right wing lackies will not be able to protect him. If the House changes hands, the Dems get the floor and Bush is on 24/7 defense. And they haven't done defense all that well.
The tenor of DC will have changed. The Vichy Dems will have been proven wrong and Dean proven right. Going after Bush will not have the penalties it did in the past. The people who abandoned the GOP won't be coming back after the election.
Mother of two Karen Gallimore was searching for Christmas gifts for her two daughters, Laura 10, and Sarah, 11, when she came across the 'toy' Enlarge the image
Tesco has been forced to remove a pole-dancing kit from the toys and games section of its website after it was accused of "destroying children's innocence".
The Tesco Direct site advertises the kit with the words, "Unleash the sex kitten inside...simply extend the Peekaboo pole inside the tube, slip on the sexy tunes and away you go!
"Soon you'll be flaunting it to the world and earning a fortune in Peekaboo Dance Dollars".
The £49.97 kit comprises a chrome pole extendible to 8ft 6ins, a 'sexy dance garter' and a DVD demonstrating suggestive dance moves.
The kit, condemned as 'extremely dangerous' by family campaigners yesterday, was discovered by mother of two Karen Gallimore who was searching for Christmas gifts for her two daughters, Laura 10, and Sarah, 11.
Mrs Gallimore, 33, of Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, said yesterday: "I'm no prude, but any children can go on there and see it. It's just not on."
Dr Adrian Rogers, of family campaigning group Family Focus said yesterday that the kit would "destroy children's lives".
He said: "Tesco is Britain's number one chain, this is extremely dangerous. It is an open invitation to turn the youngest children on to sexual behaviour.
"This will be sold to four, five and six-year olds. This is a most dangerous toy that will contribute towards destroying children's innocence." ..................... Tesco last night denied the pole dancing kit was sexually oriented and said it was clearly marked for "adult use".
A spokesman added: "Pole dancing is an increasing exercise craze. This item is for people who want to improve their fitness and have fun at the same time."
Ok, it's stupid to think people are going exercise by pole dancing, but why in God's name would you put this in the toys and games section of a department store?
If President George Bush's hasty news conference on Iraq this week was the Republican October Surprise -- unveiling some sudden presidential flexibility after three and a half years of stubbornly staying a losing course -- it didn't work ..................
Oh yes. One other bit of news: the White House that says nothing is too good for our troops has turned its back on a plea by Army leaders for a $25 billion increase in its 2008 budget so it can carry out the missions the administration has assigned to it.
The White House Office of Management and Budget rejected Army chief Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker's extraordinary plea by for the additional funds to pay for repairing and replacing thousands of worn out and blown up tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and Humvees.
Instead of the $25 billion that Schoomaker says the Army needs just to keep doing what it's been doing with spit, adhesive tape and baling wire for the last five years, the Pentagon says the Army can have $7 billion.
The president declared himself confident that Republicans would sweep to victory and maintain their stranglehold on both houses of a Congress that's done nothing but rubberstamp Bush's war policies and Republican efforts to enrich their fat-cat donors and themselves, of course.
If he's right and that's the result of the Nov. 7 elections, then the American people will finally have fulfilled H.L. Mencken's prophecy that we'd continue choosing the lowest common denominator until, in the end, we get precisely the government we deserve.
This unseemly circus and its clowns in Congress can't go away fast enough and with enough dishonor and disgrace to suit the circumstances. Their place in America's history is secure: They will go down as the worst administration and the worst Congress we've ever had. Period.
Oh, but you're going to build new subs and the F-22. Why? Because careers hang on them as they convert more POG (Persons other than Grunts) into grunts, via military alchemy, and barely train them.
Do we need more subs? No.
We need a new military, but we're not going to discuss that as long as these clowns are in power.
This is so horribly incompetently wrong on so many levels its pitiful. I just want to make a few scattershot points.
1) The Iraqi leaders that Washington has to give a good talking to are finger puppets. Their government is based out of the green zone. Any conversation there is basically masturbation.
2) Zakaria has this notion that the United States is basically benign and positive. Sorry, that's not how the Iraqi's see it. They see America as the oppressors, people who have wrecked their country.
3) The proportion of Iraqi's who support attacks on American troops is much higher than 61%. That includes the Kurds. If you exclude them, the figure is 61% of about 80%. The real number is 77% of Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites support attacks on Americans. They hate Americans.
4) Zakaria suggests that the problems are an ineffective occupation, lack of security, lack of jobs, failures of reconstruction, corruption, and Abu Ghraib. Then he simply says, too bad, so sad. Like the Iraqi's will just forget about it.
5) His solution is to 'return to normalcy, jobs need to be created, electricity supplied regularly, more oil produced and exported, and more security.' Unfortunately, his plan will worsen the situation.
6) "We should stop trying to provide basic security in Iraq's cities and villages. US forces should become a rapid reaction force to secure certain core interests." Basically, all destruction all the time, with the good stuff being someone elses problem. He notes "True as we draw down, violence will increase."
7) We should have three goals. The first of which is to just keep on doing whatever the hell it is we were failing at in Anbar province, under the guise of fighting Al Quaeda. He imagines that Al Quaeda goes in for stand up battles. He also imagines that Al Quaeda is the dominant aspect of the Sunni insurgency (94% local, 6% foreign, 3% Al Quaeda). He has no clue.
The fight in places like Anbar is largely not a Jihadist crusade against America, but a Sunni struggle for control of the country. Uhm.... WRONG!!! If a minimum of 75% to 90% of Sunni's support attacks on Americans, that should tell you something.
9) Second objective: Secure Kurdistan. From what, for what, he doesn't know. No clue. He just likes the Kurds. Oh, Turkey's upset about something. Best not get too involved. Idiot.
10) Prevent a bloodbath. By pulling out of Town's and Villages and acting as a rapid strike force. Uh huh. Really. Turns out that this will require monitoring Iraq's roads and highway, and controlling the police and army. Iraqi forces will henceforth operate under the command or supervision of American 'advisors'... presumably on their days off from being rapid reaction forces.
11) Keep the four superbases and 44,000 soldiers 'to look after American interests'. Mighty white of America.
12) To look after the Iraqi's, 16,000 'advisors', a squad of 30 or 40 attached to every 600 or so. To 'act as the spine.'
12) I love the part about 'catchment basins' to trap refugees fleeing towards the border. What comes after that? Napalm?
13) Just remember the good thing! We deposed Saddam Hussein, who killed 500,000 Iraqi's in thirty years. And we only had to kill 650,000 in three years!
I dunno. I think if I was an Iraqi civilian, reading this 'plan', I'd be picking up a rifle. Condescending, cold blooded, dishonest, inept, incompetent, recipe for bloodbath... I can't say enough good things.
Why try to rewrite what he said? It's all true.
Here's my point, Iraq isn't anything like Korea. The Korean Army was actually trained and fighting, not defecting to the Communists. There was an international agreement that the war was worth fighting, even though Americans were skeptical.
But the biggest difference was that we were not occupiers in Korea. We were invited.
However, this is not my biggest objection to his beltway nonsense.
Who is going to do the dying? Not his friends or their kids. Faceless POG's and Grunts sent to the sandbox, not just once, but two, three, four times. Broken families, destroyed marriages, the wounded and the dead. Nearly 3000 killed, 22000 wounded, and at least 5k absent.
Who the fuck does he think is going to fight his war? Spacemen? Because the US Army isn't going to much longer. They're forcing men into the Infantry for God's sake.
I am so sick and tired of these Washington armchair pundits. They act as if soldiers are disposable parts and not humans.
He should discuss his plan at Walter Reed and see if he leaves without it shoved up his ass.
I am just so sick of these risk playing motherfuckers acting like we can tell Iraqis what to do. If I was a Shia, you're goddamn right I'd want to run the country from Irbil to Basra. And I wouldn't be up for any deals on the subject. Just because the Hakims are more loyal to Tehran than Iraq is not my problem.
One simple point: what kind of idiot thinks Maliki can make a deal that can be kept? The Iraqi government was elected during an occupation, like Vichy. Who would trust them to do anything to protect the country?
The simple fact is this: Iraq will be one country. It will be run by the Shia. The odds are high that Shia will be Moqtada Sadr or a disciple of his. The Sunnis will cut their deal with him, kill the AQ lunatics and then join the Turks and Iranians in repressing the Kurds.
The drawdown option: It is past time to confront reality. To avoid total defeat, we must reduce and redeploy our troops and nudge the Iraqis toward a deal. Here's how. By Fareed Zakaria
Nov. 6, 2006 issue - BY 1952, the last year of his presidency, Harry Truman recognized that the victory he had hoped for was no longer possible in Korea. U.S. forces were not losing, but they were not winning, either. Instead they were caught up in a vast, bloody and expensive holding operation. Two thirds of the American public disapproved of the war. Truman had hoped that peace talks, underway since July 1951, would yield results, but his team was negotiating under constraints. Republicans were eager to criticize the Democrats for being soft on the communists. Others, even Democrats, asked how they could justify the deaths of 50,000 U.S. troops without a clear win. Many, including South Korea's President Syngman Rhee, had not given up on the dream of a unified Korea that would be an ally in the war against communism.
Truman's successor, Dwight Eisenhower, as a legendary general, had enormous freedom to maneuver. He used it, ending new military offensives, conceding several key points to the North Koreans and the Chinese. By some accounts, he also threatened to use nuclear weapons. On July 27, 1953, the parties to the war signed a peace treaty—all parties, that is, except the South Koreans, who believed the deal amounted to a sellout. ........................................
So what should the United States do? First of all, Washington has to make clear to the Iraqi leaders that its continued presence in the country at current troop levels is not sustainable without some significant moves on their part.
Iraqi leaders must above all decide whether they want America there. Perhaps the most urgent need is for them to help build political support for the continued deployment of U.S. forces. Right now the massive U.S. presence is allowing Iraq's leaders a free ride. With the exception of the Kurds, many of them play a nasty game. They publicly denounce the actions of U.S. soldiers to win popularity, and then, more quietly, assent to America's continued involvement. As a result, the proportion of Iraqis who now support attacks on U.S. troops has risen to a breathtaking 61 percent. The Iraqi people's frustration with the occupation is largely the result of its ineffectiveness, the lack of security and jobs, and abuses like Abu Ghraib. But those past errors cannot be undone. Iraqis must also realize that we are where we are, and that they can have either a country with U.S. troops or greater chaos without.
Iraq's Parliament should thus publicly ask American troops to stay. Its leaders should explain to their constituents why the country needs U.S. forces. Without such a public affirmation, the American presence will become politically untenable in both Iraq and the United States.
Next, Iraqis must forge a national compact. The government needs to make swift and high-profile efforts to bring the sectarian tensions to a close and defang the militias, particularly the Mahdi Army. The longer Iraqi leaders wait, the more difficult it will be for all sides to compromise. There are many paths to help Iraq return to normalcy; jobs need to be created, electricity supplied regularly, more oil produced and exported. But none of that is possible without a secure environment, which in turn cannot be achieved without a political solution to Iraq's sectarian strife.
There is one shift that the United States itself needs to make: we must talk to Iraq's neighbors about their common interest in security and stability in Iraq. None of these countries—not even Syria and Iran—would benefit from the breakup of Iraq, which could produce a flood of refugees and stir up their own restive minority populations. Our regional gambit might well lead to nothing. But not trying it, in the face of so few options, reflects a bizarrely insular and ideological obstinacy.
Unfortunately, there's a strong possibility that these changes will not be made in the next few months. At that point the United States should begin taking measures that lead to a much smaller, less intrusive presence in Iraq, geared to a more limited set of goals. Starting in January 2007, we should stop trying to provide basic security in Iraq's cities and villages. U.S. units should instead become a rapid-reaction force to secure certain core interests.
We can explain to the Iraqi leadership that such a force structure will help Iraqis take responsibility for their own security. Currently we have 144,000 troops deployed in Iraq at a cost of more than $90 billion a year. That is simply not sustainable in an open-ended way. I would propose a force structure of 60,000 men at a cost of $30 billion to $35 billion annually—a commitment that could be maintained for several years, and that would give the Iraqis time to come together, in whatever loose form they can, as a nation.
True, as we draw down, violence will increase in many parts of the country. One can only hope that will concentrate the minds of leaders in Iraq. The Shia government will get its chance to try to fight the insurgency its way. The Sunni rebels can attempt to regain control of the country. And perhaps both sides will come more quickly to the conclusion that the only way forward is a political deal. But until there is such a change of heart, the United States should stick to more limited goals.
The core national-security interests of the United States in Iraq are now threefold: first, to prevent Anbar province from being taken over by Qaeda-style jihadist groups that would use it as a base for global terrorism; second, to ensure that the Kurdish region retains its autonomy; third, to prevent or at least contain massive sectarian violence in Iraq, as both a humanitarian and a security issue. Large-scale bloodletting could easily spill over Iraq's borders as traumatized and vengeful refugees flee to countries like Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia. Historically, such population movements have caused trouble for decades to come.
These interests are achievable with fewer forces. President Bush is fond of warning, "If we leave Iraq, they will follow us home." This makes no sense. Qaeda terrorists from Iraq could have made their way to America at any point in the last three years. In fact, Iraq's borders are more porous today than they have ever been. If a terrorist wanted to inflict harm on U.S. civilians, he could drive across Anbar into Syria, then hop a plane to New York or Washington, D.C. Does the president really believe that because we're in Iraq, terrorists have forgotten that we're also in America? Here's what we really need to worry about doing:
Battle Al Qaeda. In fact, the fight in places like Anbar is largely not a jihadist crusade against America, but a Sunni struggle for control of the country. The chances of Iraq's being taken over by a Qaeda-style group are nonexistent. Some 85 percent of the population (the Shia and Kurds) are violently opposed to such a group. And polls have consistently shown that the vast majority of Sunnis dislike Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. The real jihadists in Iraq are a small and unpopular band that relies on terror and violence to gain strength. They do not have heavy weapons—tanks, armored vehicles—and cannot hold territory for long. Were a deal between the Shia and the Sunni to be signed, Al Qaeda would be marginalized within months. In the meantime, U.S. Special Forces could harass and chase Qaeda terrorists just as they do in Afghanistan today.
Secure Kurdistan. The Iraqi Kurdish region is the one unambiguous success story of the Iraq war. It is stable and increasingly prosperous. Its politics are more closed and corrupt than most realize—the place is essentially carved up into two one-party states—but it has aspirations to become more market-oriented and more democratic. Perhaps most crucially, it is a Muslim region in the Arab world that wants to be part of the modern world, not blow it up. The simplest way for the United States to ensure the security of Kurdistan would be to give it a security guarantee.
There are various proposals to redeploy U.S. forces in the region. Beyond a token force, this seems unnecessary. The troops would be far from the problem areas of Iraq. And what would their mission be? To stop Kurdish secession? To get involved in battles between Kurdish separatists and the Turkish Army? Kurdistan can be defended quite easily with a political guarantee. And Kurdish leaders seem to recognize that, as with Taiwan, their de facto independence depends on their not demanding de jure independence.
Prevent a bloodbath. This is the most difficult task. The United States will not be able to stop all sectarian fighting in Iraq. It cannot do so even today. Our goal must be to ensure that any such violence remains localized and limited, and that national institutions like the Army and police work to stop it rather than participate. That will require some ability to control movement along Iraq's roads and highways. It will also require monitoring the Army and police. The strategy of pairing Iraqi Army units with U.S. advisers has worked well thus far. Iraqi forces don't fight superbly in the presence of Americans, but they fight much better and more professionally. Most important, they tend not to commit major human-rights abuses when we are around.
Draw down troops and ramp up advisers. To preserve these interests, the United States should begin drawing down its troop levels, starting in January 2007. In one year, we should shrink from the current 144,000 to a total of 60,000 soldiers, some 44,000 of them stationed in four superbases outside Baghdad, Balad, Mosul and Nasi-riya. This would provide a rapid-reaction force that could intervene to secure any of the core interests of the United States when they are threatened. To preserve the basic security of Iraq and prevent anarchy, U.S. troops must also act as the spine of the new Iraqi Army and police force. American advisers should massively expand their current roles in both organizations, going from the current level of 4,000 Americans to at least 16,000, embedding an American platoon (30 to 40 men) in virtually every Iraqi fighting battalion (600 men).
This plan might not work. And if it does not, the United States will confront the more painful question of what to do in the midst of even greater violence and chaos. The Brookings Institution's Kenneth Pollack is already working on a plan to address just such a worst-case scenario, in which U.S. forces establish "catchment basins" along the borders of Iraq to stop massive refugee flows. But there is also the possibility that Iraq's leaders will begin to face up to their challenges, move the country toward reconciliation and build up the capacities of their state. Civil strife tends not to go on forever. A new nation and a new state might well emerge in Iraq. But its birth will be a slow, gradual process, taking years. The most effective American strategy, at this point, is one that is sustainable for just such a long haul.
The Iraq war has had its achievements. A brutal dictator who tyrannized his people (killing about 500,000 of them), attacked his neighbors and for decades sought dangerous weapons is gone. One part of the country, Kurdistan, is indeed turning into a promising society. The many strains of Arab politics are negotiating for space in Iraq, through political parties and the press, in a way that one sees nowhere else in the region. But these achievements must now be consolidated, or they too will be at risk.
The lesson of Korea, where more than 30,000 U.S. troops are stationed to this day, is not that America should withdraw from Iraq completely. But to have any chance of lasting success, we must give up our illusions, scale back our ambitions, ensure that the worst does not happen. Then perhaps time will work for us for a change.
My comments are in the next post because of the length here
By MICHAEL LUO and QAIS MIZHER Published: October 29, 2006
BAGHDAD, Oct. 29 — The missing American soldier who has been the subject of an intensive manhunt here in the capital since he was kidnapped by gunmen outside the heavily protected Green Zone last week was secretly married to an Iraqi woman and had been visiting her at the time of the abduction, several people who identified themselves as his in-laws said Sunday.
Such a marriage, if confirmed, would not only be highly unusual but also a violation of American military rules and would put the mystery of the missing soldier in an entirely new light.
The American military command has been circumspect in the details of the missing soldier, saying he was an Iraqi-American translator who had left the Green Zone without permission to visit unidentified relatives in Baghdad. Search squads have shown local residents the missing soldier’s picture, but the military has not even released his name.
The new details of his family connections were disclosed as a spate of attacks reported elsewhere in Iraq left at least 33 people dead, including a police academy ambush in southern Iraq that killed 17.
The people who said they were the missing soldier’s in-laws identified him as Ahmed Qusai al-Taei, 41. They showed visitors to their Baghdad apartment an enlarged wedding photo of him and the bride, whom they identified as Israa Abdul-Satar, 26, a college student. They also showed the visitors glossy snapshots of the smiling couple in Egypt for their honeymoon.
The couple had married, they said, three months ago. The precise dates of the wedding and honeymoon, and whether the soldier had been on active duty at the time, were not clear.
The people also described in vivid detail how members of the Mahdi Army militia, led by a local commander known as Abu Rami, came to the wife’s home in the central Baghdad neighborhood of Karada last Monday, the first day of the Muslim holiday Id al-Fitr, and dragged Mr. Taei away.
“They were saying, ‘He’s an American journalist,’ ” said a woman who identified herself as his mother-in-law and asked that she be identified only by her nickname, Um Omar, because of fear of reprisals. “We were saying, ‘No, he’s an Iraqi,’ ”
Um Omar and the others in the home said they had not learned until after his kidnapping that he was an American soldier.
Military officials would not comment when asked on Sunday about these new details, and it was impossible to corroborate independently the account given by Mr. Taei’s purported in-laws.
The military’s fraternization policies prohibit active duty personnel from marrying local civilians, said Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle, a military spokeswoman. But she said privacy rules barred her from providing any details about the missing soldier.
In 2003, a pair of Florida national guardsmen famously married Iraqi doctors they met in Baghdad soon after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in a joint ceremony. One of the soldiers’ marriages dissolved soon afterward, but the one whose marriage lasted was confined to his base and eventually discharged from the military.
The people who claimed to be the missing soldier’s in-laws said he and his immediate family, Sunni Arabs from the capital’s Adhamiya neighborhood, had fled to the United States before the fall of Mr. Hussein. They explained how he came to marry Ms. Abdul-Satar, also a Sunni.
Mr. Taei had friends in Karada, a mostly well-to-do commercial district that sits outside the Green Zone, Um Omar said. As she described it, he spotted her daughter one day as she was en route to classes at Mutsamsirya University in central Baghdad, where she is enrolled in the science college.
Through friends, he arranged to speak with her parents, Um Omar said, and after some discussion, Ms. Abdul-Satar agreed to marry Mr. Taei, whom her mother described as a “gentleman.”
After the couple married, Um Omar said, Ms. Abdul-Satar moved out of her mother’s cramped apartment on the third floor of a dreary complex on a side street in Karada near the National Theater, to a cousin’s one-story home down the block.
Mr. Taei came to visit every few days, said a neighbor who lives across the street from the cousin’s home, where the kidnapping took place.
“We thought he was a businessman,” said the neighbor, who asked to be identified only by his last name, Nadhir.
Ms. Abdul-Satar and her brother are now staying in the Green Zone for their safety and to answer additional questions from the military, their mother said. She has heard from her daughter a few times, but there has been no news.
American troops, along with their Iraqi counterparts, have cordoned off much of eastern Baghdad, including Sadr City, in their search for the missing soldier.
On Sunday, thousands of residents, along with politicians from Mr. Sadr’s political bloc, gathered in Sadr City to protest peacefully the security cordon around the neighborhood. .........................
For Um Omar, the last week has been filled with waiting and worrying. If she had known that Mr. Taei had been in the United States Army, she said, she would have forbidden him from visiting.
“I’m praying,” she said. “I’m calling on Allah for his safety.”
What the fuck was he thinking?
People are getting killed over his stupidity. Sadr City almost blew up over it.
Originally, I thought he was a deserter who planned to escape with his wife. But now, wow. Did he think no one would notice he was an American? That no one would follow him, remember seeing him?
My God, what the hell was on his mind, and don't say pussy. Because he had to know there was a serious risk in even socializing with an Iraqi, forget a wedding. And even if the homeless militia leader didn't know he was a soldier, he soon fucking found out. Jesus. People can't be that stupid.
"Clio, the muse of history, is as thoroughly infected with lies as a street whore with syphilis." - Schopenhauer
"All modern wars start in the history classroom." - Anonymous
"We learn from history that we never learn anything from history." - Hegel
Writing history is much easier than learning from it. Writing history only requires limited information and time. Learning from history requires vast quantities of information and wisdom. Unfortunately I am gifted with neither. So why should I bother? Because others in the Bush Administration who have less respect for information and wisdom than I are trying to tell us all what lessons to learn from history. They are trying to make reality conform to their agenda. I'm trying to make an agenda based on reality.
This is Part 10, and the final part, of my series on the History of Iraq. This is the part where you take all that information and try to apply it to today's world. Inevitably, this is also the part where I make lots of mistakes.
"History teaches everything including the future." - Lamartine
"History is a myth that men agree to believe." - Napoleon
The first trick to learning from history is not to learn the wrong thing from history. For instance, Bush and the rest of the pro-war, right-wing liked to reference Neville Chamberlain before WWII as reasons to invade Iraq (and now, Iran). The Republicans are right to compare WWII and Iraq, but not for the reasons they think. If the Republicans weren't so ignorant about history they would have compared Yugoslavia to Iraq. No, not Yugoslavia in the 1990's. I'm talking about Yugoslavia during WWII.
Like Iraq, Yugoslavia was artifically put together by the victorious allies after WWI, and combined several ethnic groups that had long, hostile relationships. They managed to live together for decades until Hitler decided that he didn't like their current government in April, 1941. Hitler invaded for no other reason than he wanted "regime change". Yugoslavia's army collapsed quickly. However, that was mearly the beginning.
Hitler did not have enough troops available to contain any outbreak of ethnic strife, and Yugoslavia decended into civil war.
In Croatia [in 1941] the indeginous fascist regime set about a policy of "racial purification" that went beyond even Nazi practices. Minority groups such as Jews and Gypsies were to be eliminated as were the Serbs: it was declared that one-third of the Serbian population would be deported, one-third converted to Roman Catholicism, and one third liquidated. - Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th Edition
In the end, three times as many people died in Yugoslavia during WWII as died in the Yugoslavian civil war in the 1990's. The trigger was the overthrow of the government without the military force to enforce its will on an ethnically diverse people. Republicans learned the wrong lesson from history. Saddam Hussein wasn't Hitler. Saddam was King Peter II.
Well, not really. But you get the idea.
There are a few things about Iraq that we can all agree on. The most pertinent of those things is that the current bloodbath in Iraq has its roots in history.
The Shiites and the Sunnis are killing each other because of things that happened a month ago, a decade ago, as well as things that happened centuries ago. It's our job to try to understand it, because if we don't understand it then we may as well "stay the course", or "cut and run", or whatever else the right-wing media has labelled it today.
"If we allow them to do this, if we retreat from Iraq, if we don't uphold our duty to support those who are desirous to live in liberty, 50 years from now history will look back on our time with unforgiving clarity, and demand to know why we did not act." - George W. Bush
"I guess every generation is doomed to fight its war...suffer the loss of the same old illusions, and learn the same old lessons on its own." - Phillip Caputo
The Kurdish Problem
Of all the seemingly intractable problems of Iraq, the Kurds are probably the simplest. The reasons are thus: they never wanted to be part of Iraq, they never accepted being part of Iraq, and their agenda has never changed - separating themselves from Iraq.
The Kurds have fought nine different rebellions for independence since the creation of the idea of Iraq. They were literally fighting for independence from Iraq before Britain had finished creating Iraq as a nation. They have suffered genocidal military campaigns by the Iraqi army, and still continued to fight for independence. Even the name of the Kurdish warrior - peshmerga - means "those who face death."
The simple fact is that these guys aren't going to give up their fight for independence. It's a political fight based on an ethnicity, and it will never end until they have achieved their goal...or they are wiped out. Whichever comes first.
As it stands now, the Kurds have a de facto independent state of Kurdistan. The flag of Iraq is banned in Iraqi Kurdistan. The peshmerga have taken over security in Kurdistan, by agreement of the Iraqi government. In fact, the Iraqi government has agreed not to even send the military into Kurdistan unless the Kurds agree to it first. Right now, Kurdistan is only part of Iraq in name only.
There are two problems with their goal for independence, one internal, one external.
The Kurdish Democratic Party, the more powerful of the two Kurdish groups that control parts of northern Iraq, is determined to make Kirkuk the political capital of a Kurdish federal state in a post-Saddam Iraq. The KDP has drafted an Iraqi constitution outlining such a state, with Kirkuk as its most important city. Turkey opposes Kurdish control of Kirkuk, fearing it would strengthen Kurdish autonomy.
"We have a claim to Kirkuk rooted in history, geography and demographics. This is a recipe for civil war if you don't do it right". - Barham Salih, Prime Minister for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
The Kurds will not give up Kirkuk. Period. One of the major reasons for the failure of the 1970 Accord, that led to the disasterous Second Kurdish-Iraq War, was because the Kurds refused to accept the Ba'thist determination of the borders of the Kurdish area, which excluded the oil-rich Kirkuk province. After war ended in 1975, Hussein implimented the Order of 111. The Order of 111 is believed to have facilitated Saddam's efforts to Arabization the region-often by forcefully evicting local, non-Arab residents from their homes.
Since our 2003 invasion of Iraq, Kurds have been returning to Kirkuk and forceably evicting the same Arabs that Saddam put there. Either way its ethnic cleansing, and it can't go on for long without causing violence.
Mosul and other cities also historically lean Kurdish and were subject to Saddam's "Arabization", but no other city are the Kurds so determined to hold onto as Kirkuk.
The external problem with Kurdistan independence mostly involves Turkey. While Iran has also endured its share of Kurdish revolts, Turkey has been the only nation who's Kurdish problem can compare with Iraq's. Turkey is also the only nation which has launched full-scale invasions of Iraq because of Kurdish rebellions.
After the truce in 1999, the PKK seemed to be working out their issues with Turkey. But Bush's invasion of Iraq had cascading effects and more than 2,000 Turks have died in resulting violence since then.
History shows us that the Kurds of Iraq have ethnic bonds with the Kurds of Turkey and elsewhere. Like the Pushtan tribes along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, they will continue to give their rebellious, neighboring tribes safe haven irregardless of the consequences.
"Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results." - Machiavelli
So what does history teach us in regards to the Kurds?
While the goals of the Kurds have never changed, their tactics have. They started with unorganized, tribal revolts under Barzanji. They evolved to more militaristic, guerrilla tactics under Barzani. Then, after the genocide in 1988, the Kurds became more politically savvy. For instance, they stopped fighting after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait simply because they wanted to see how it would play out.
Starting with Operation Safe Haven in 1991, the Kurds have learned to live with an autonomous region. Since the fall of Baghdad in 2003, Kurdistan has actually grown stronger in relative terms to Iraq. Therefore it is likely that the Kurds won't declare independence while American troops are on the ground in Iraq. However, once we leave that could (and probably will) change. The trick to keeping Turkey out of Iraq will be in getting the Kurds to continue playing the farce that they are still part of Iraq. As long as Jalal Talabani is still president of Iraq the Kurds have reasons to play along.
While the Kurds are Sunnis, its important to remember that they are not like the religious fanatics that are fighting American troops in central Iraq. For example, the Kurds have incorporated thousands of Kurdish women into the peshmerga.
There is also another element that may or may not play in the future of Kurdistan - the PUK/KDP rivalry. This rivalry has led to open civil war in both the late 1970's and the mid-1990's. The mid-90's Kurdish Civil War actually disrupted CIA attempt to overthrow the Hussein government. Will this erupt again in the future? In the past it only erupted after a crushing defeat at the hands of the Iraqi army. Therefore I believe that as long as Kurdistan prospers we likely won't see it again.
The Sunni vs. Shia Problem
"We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." - George W. Bush
"I believe that history is capable of anything. There exists no folly that men have not tried out." - C. G. Jung
"The past is never dead; it's not even past." - William Faulkner
With the failure of the Bush Administration's plan for Iraq, you are increasingly hearing calls for the partitioning of Iraq into three states. While this may make sense for the Kurds, it makes absolutely no sense for the rest of Iraq. When you look at the ethnoreligious map of Iraq above you can't help by notice something standing out right in the middle of the map - the big gray stain around the Baghdad area. There exists more than a third of the population of Iraq in that area and it is hopelessly mixed between Sunnis and Shiites. There is no clean, geographical division between the two religious groups.
There is simply no way to partition Iraq between Sunnis and Shias without causing a civil war that would make Yugoslavia's 1990's experience look bland in comparison. To put it another way, the partitioning of Iraq between Sunni and Shia would constitute a worst-case scenerio. Every other solution would be better, without question.
And if that wasn't enough to discourage you from the "partition solution", the full-scale civil war that would follow would likely draw Iran into the war on behalf of the Shiites, which would bring Saudi Arabia in on the Sunni side. Plus, the Kurds would no longer have any motivation to maintain the farce of them being part of Iraq, and that might draw Turkey into Iraq. In other words, we are talking full-scale regional war with no way to know what the likely outcome would be.
"While the mediocre European is obsessed with history, the mediocre American is ignorant of it." - Anonymous
So what are the alternatives? For starters, its good to remember that the history of Iraq didn't begin in 1990. Everyone remembers the Shia Revolt of March 1991. What most Americans seem to not be aware of is that this was the first and only Shia revolt in Iraq's history. Before 1991 the Shia and Sunnis largely fought together in every conflict.
the theory of sectarian strife was undercut by the behavior of Iraq's Shia community during Iran's 1982 invasion and the fighting thereafter. Although about three-quarters of the lower ranks of the army were Shias, as of early 1988, no general insurrection of Iraq; Shias had occurred.
Even in periods of major setback for the Iraqi army--such as the Al Faw debacle in 1986--the Shias have continued staunchly to defend their nation and the Baath regime. They have done so despite intense propaganda barrages mounted by the Iranians, calling on them to join the Islamic revolution.
It appears, then, that, however important sectarian affiliation may have been in the past, in the latter 1980s nationalism was the basic determiner of loyalty. [...]
In summary, prior to the war the Baath had taken steps toward integrating the Shias. The war placed inordinate demands on the regime for manpower, demands that could only be met by levying the Shia community--and this strengthened the regime's resolve to further the integration process. In early 1988, it seemed likely that when the war ends, the Shias would emerge as full citizens-- assuming that the Baath survives the conflict.
It wasn't just the 80's. The Great Iraq Revolution of 1920 was mostly a Shia revolt against British occupation with Sunni participation. In the Anglo-Iraq War, the Sunnis and Shias fought side by side (albeit poorly). The al-Wathbah Uprising in 1948 included both Sunni and Shia, both rural and urban.
So in other words, the violent conflict between Shia and Sunni in Iraq today is a new development that never happened on this scale before American troops first walked on Iraqi soil in 1991.
So what does this mean? It means that the Sunni/Shia situation is not as hopeless as many would lead you to believe (unlike the Kurdish situation). What is required is leadership that doesn't exist at the moment, and less foreign involvement. But to find a solution to this problem first requires people to understand what the current situation in Iraq actually is.
Another report, by the Centre for American Progress, says sectarian violence is one element in a security situation spiralling out of control. "Iraq's conflict is now worse than civil war; it's on the brink of total collapse," the report says. "The country suffers from at least four internal conflicts that risk further spiralling out of control -- a Shiite-Sunni civil war in the centre, intra-Shiite conflicts in the south, a Sunni insurgency in the west, and ethnic tensions between Arabs and Kurds in the north."
Of those four conflicts, the last one (Kurdish tensions) is manageable in the short-term. As long as the Kurds feel they have something to gain by participating in the Iraqi government, they won't try to make an aggressive move on Kirkuk.
The second to last one (Sunni Rebellion) will be fixed the moment that America pulls its troops out - assuming that the Sunnis are empowered in whatever government exists, and the country has not been partitioned.
The intra-Shiite conflict is a little more tricky (not that they aren't all complicated).
But Mr Maliki is in a complicated and perilous position. His key difficulty is that the Shiite militias are linked to political parties that are part of his Government coalition. He won office in April partly through the support of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who controls the Mahdi Army militia, blamed for many of the sectarian killings.
Sheikh Sadr also controls 30 of the 275 seats in Parliament, and up to five cabinet posts. He has assumed, as a report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) put it in July, "the role of Shiite kingmaker".
Hence the Prime Minister's dilemma: he can't afford to alienate Sheikh Sadr, yet Washington wants him to disband Sheikh Sadr's militia.
To complicate matters, some of the militias are splintering into more radicalised groups.
According to the Washington Post there are twenty-three militias in Iraq, a majority of them Shiite. The reason for the rise of the militias was very simple - the violent choas that followed the fall of Hussein's government left the people of Iraq nowhere to turn to for security except for the tribal militias.
The key word here is "tribal". It's a very unreported aspect of Iraqi culture. Ever since Britain first created Iraq there has been efforts to break the power of the tribes in Iraq, and those efforts have largely worked. By the 1970's the combination of land reform and urbanization of society had reduced the power of the tribes in Iraq to marginal players. But then King Bush decided to eliminate the government and fire the army (note: after the Anglo-Iraq war in 1941, the British decided against disbanding the Iraqi army. Because of this Iraqi never decended into chaos. The Bush Administration decided to learn nothing from this historic example). Suddenly everything holding back the power of the tribal chiefs was wiped away.
There are two dominant militias - the Badr Brigade and the Madhi Army. The Madhi Army, led by radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has his power bases in Sadr City and Najaf.
"I think the Sadrists are a social movement, not really so much an organization," Juan Cole, a Middle East expert at the University of Michigan, told the New York Times. Mahdi followers have infiltrated Iraq's interior and defense ministries. Some police cars in parts of Baghdad openly display the organization's insignia.
The Badr Brigade is a very different organization.
It is the Iranian-trained wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the most powerful Shiite party in Iraq. The organization was built by Iraqi Shiite defectors and soldiers captured by Iran during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. Its members were funded, trained, and equipped by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The Badr Brigade's power base is purely southern Iraq, which leads to another significant difference between the two militias - the Badr Organization advocates an autonomous region for southern Iraq (similar to Kurdistan), while the Mahdi Army opposes it. In other words, the Badr Brigade with strong links to Iran, advocate the eventual break-up of Iraq, something that the Mahdi Army opposes.
Given that information you would think that the Bush Administration would embrace the Mahdi Army over the Badr Brigade. You would think wrong. Instead the Bush Administration has decided on two allies to build a new Iraq around - the Badr Brigade and the Kurdish peshmerga. Both groups want an eventual partitioning of Iraq. It makes a person think that the Bush Administration's piss-poor performance in Iraq was by design, rather than incompetence.
"All who affirm the use of violence admit it is only a means to achieve justice and peace. But peace and justice are nonviolence...the final end of history. Those who abandon nonviolence have no sense of history. Rathy they are bypassing history, freezing history, betraying history." - André Trocmé
"If history teaches anything about the causes of revolution-and history does not teach much but still teaches considerably more than social-science theories-it is that a disintegration of political systems precedes revolutions, that the telling symptom of disintegration is & progressive erosion of governmental authority, and that this erosion is caused by the government's inability to function properly, from which spring the citizens' doubts about its legitimacy." - Hannah Arendt
"History, history! We fools, what do we know or care." - William Carlos Williams
The most important obstacle to peace in Iraq is the Shia/Sunni civil war in the Baghdad area. For this problem, Iraq's history is a poor teacher. Sunni/Shia relations have simply never been this bad in Iraq's history. You would have to go back to pre-Ottoman days to find an applicable historical lesson, and that is not an era in which I am very familiar with.
Iraq's history says things shouldn't be this bad, yet they are. Of course, Iraq never went through an extended period of time without a functioning government and army before. So in looking for lessons to learn from history here, I have to look at other nations. In this case, I look at Yugoslavia.
Yugoslavia, despite a horrific civil war, created its own solution in the latter part of WWII. A strongman emerged with popular support and Yugoslavia went on to experience four decades of relative peace and prosperity.
That seems to be a likely scenerio for Iraq. An elightened leader that the people will rally around seems to be an unlikely outcome. A capitalist democracy suddenly taking hold, the neocon wet-dream, is largely a dead issue at this point. I don't know who this strongman might be, but chances are he won't be much better than Hussein.
The other player
"Nothing falsifies history more than logic." - Guizot
"Happy people have no history." - Leo Tolstoy
Of course there is one other element that needs to be considered - the occupying army.
How long will Iraq be occupied? What will the occupying authority decide to do? I can't honestly say. So far the Bush Administration has made every single wrong decision. In fact the decisions have been so totally devoid of logic, and contrary to history's lessons, that I am incline to think that chaos in Iraq was the plan all along. And if that is true then guessing what the Bush Administration might do next is a waste of time.
But the Republicans can't defy the laws of gravity forever. The militaries of both America and Britain are overstretched and breaking down. Our list of allies grow thinner every month. The budgets of America and Britain are stretched to the breaking point. History shows that empires generally have to retrench when they reach this point, whether they want to admit it or not. By 2008 we will have to start withdrawing no matter what the condition of Iraq is.
The question is: how much more damage can we inflict before that happens?
One last note: Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union was delayed for a month because of his decision to invade Yugoslavia first. Those four weeks later became critical when the Germany's invasion bogged down in the deep Russian winter, just 20 miles from Moscow.