Tuesday, June 28, 2005

War News for Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bring ‘em on: At least two people killed and two wounded when police opened fire on a crowd of unemployed workers demonstrating for jobs in Samawa.

Bring ‘em on: Bosnian national working for a US company killed June 15 in bomb attack some 60 kilometers from Baghdad. He was the first Bosnian to die in Bush’s war.

Bring ‘em on: Suicide car bomb attack near the entrance to a US base in Baquba, no word on casualties. One civilian killed and seven wounded in two coordinated car bombings in Baquba. One civilian killed during a gunbattle involving police, U.S. troops and insurgents in the Yarmuk district of western Baghdad. Two policemen killed by gunmen in western Baghdad. One Iraqi council member from the Mansur district of Baghdad shot dead. Three people killed and 13 wounded when a suicide bomber dressed as a policeman blew himself up in a police security station inside a hospital in Musayyib. Two bodyguards killed and six people wounded in car bomb attack aimed at the head of the traffic police in Kirkuk, who survived the attack.

Bring ‘em on: A senior member of Iraq’s parliament, his son, and three bodyguards killed in a car bombing in northern Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: One US soldier shot to death in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed and one wounded in a suicide car bomb attack in Balad.

Bring ‘em on: Four killed and ‘dozens’ wounded in car bombing outside a theater southeast of Baghdad. Three Iraqi employees of the North Oil Co. killed in roadside bombing between Kirkuk and Hawijah.

Helicopter crash: Two crew members killed in crash of US AH-64 Apache attack helicopter in Mishahda, no reason for the crash yet disclosed. Other reports indicate the aircraft was shot down by ground fire.

Another disaster: Iraq's health ministry is warning of a human refugee disaster as thousands of families flee the Iraqi city of al-Qaim, an Arab newspaper reported Tuesday.

The United Arab Emirates' al-Khaleej daily newspaper quoted Iraq's deputy health minister Jalil al-Shammari as warning of starvation among the refugees who fled and continue to flee al-Qaim and surrounding areas to avoid massive U.S. military operations against suspected insurgents.

Al-Shammari told the pro-government paper that more than 7,000 families have left several towns in al-Qaim province in Iraq's northwest.

While most families have taken refuge in several towns, hundreds of families are stranded in the desert, he said.

Voting change proposed: Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric appeared to offer a major concession to the Sunni Arab minority on Monday when he indicated that he would support changes in the voting system that would probably give Sunnis more seats in the future parliament.

In a meeting with a group of Sunni and Shiite leaders, the cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, outlined a proposal that would scrap the system used in the January election, according to a secular Shiite political leader, Abdul Aziz al-Yasiri, who was at the meeting. The election had a huge turnout by Shiites and Kurds but was mostly boycotted by Sunni Arabs.

Such a change would need to be written into Iraq's new constitution, which parliamentarians are drafting for an Aug. 15 deadline. Although there has been little public talk about what form elections might take under the constitution, Ayatollah Sistani has been highly influential in Iraq's nascent political system.

Under the proposal, voters in national elections would select leaders from each of the 19 provinces instead of choosing from a single country-wide list, as they did in January. The new system would essentially set aside a number of seats for Sunnis roughly proportionate to their numbers in the population, ensuring that no matter how low the Sunni turnout, they would be guaranteed seats.

Sunni Arabs welcomed news of the suggestion. "This should have been done from the beginning," said Saleh Mutlak, a member of the National Dialogue Council, a Sunni Arab political group that has pressed for a more active role in politics. "That election was wrong."

Firemen: Firefighters are Iraqi heroes in most parts of the country - battling blazes, giving first aid and even getting water to places where pipelines have been sabotaged.

But in regions where insurgents are waging a guerrilla war against US and Iraqi forces, they can face a different kind of fire.

The rattle of insurgent machine guns often greets them when they respond to emergencies, especially following the almost daily suicide car bombs targeting US and Iraqi military convoys, said Colonel Abdul Karim Messin Zayer, a fire station commander on Baghdad's southern outskirts.

At other times, armed men show up at fire stations to warn firefighters not to respond to attacks against the US military, said an administrator at the civil defense corps headquarters.

Prisons: The U.S. military said Monday it plans to expand its prisons across Iraq to hold as many as 16,000 detainees, as the relentless insurgency shows no sign of letup one year after the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqi authorities. Say what? A year after the Iraqi government gained sovereignty the US military is fixing to imprison 16,000 Iraqis?

The prison population at three military complexes throughout the country — Abu Ghraib, Camp Bucca and Camp Cropper — has nearly doubled from 5,435 in June 2004 to 10,002 now, said Lt. Col. Guy Rudisill, a spokesman for detainee operations in Iraq. Some 400 non-Iraqis are among the inmates, according to the military.

"We are past the normal capacity for both Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca. We are at surge capacity," Rudisill said. "We are not at normal capacity for Camp Cropper."

The burgeoning prison population has forced the U.S. military to begin renovations on existing facilities, and work has also begun on restoring an old Iraqi military barracks near Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles northeast of Baghdad.

The facility, to be called Fort Suse, is expected to be completed by Sept. 30 and will have room for 2,000 new detainees, Rudisill said.

British quandary: Britain is coming under sustained pressure from American military chiefs to keep thousands of troops in Iraq - while going ahead with plans to boost the front line against a return to "civil war" in Afghanistan.

Tony Blair was warned that war-torn Iraq remains on the brink of disaster - more than two years after the removal of Saddam Hussein - during his summit with President Bush in Washington earlier this month.

"The Prime Minister was given a pretty depressing run-down of the prognosis for Iraq while he was in Washington," one senior Ministry of Defence source said last night. "The Americans are pushing for at least a maintenance of the troop numbers we have there now. Our latest intention is to reduce by at least half the number of our troops in Iraq within a year.

"It's difficult to see how we can square that circle."

"Political solutions": Top U.S. military officials are increasingly emphasizing political solutions rather than military ones to Iraq's insurgency, a shift acknowledging the difficulty they and the Iraqi government face in stopping the violence.

Gen. George Casey, the U.S. commander of the multinational coalition in Iraq, told reporters on Monday that the worst-case estimate of the size of the Iraqi insurgency is less than one-10th of 1 percent of the country's population - that is, a top end of 26,000 people supporting the insurgency.

The insurgents are responsible for 450 to 500 attacks a week around the country, Casey said during a Pentagon press conference. It's a pace on the level with much of last year, although officials reject any notion the fight has become a quagmire.

The violence has done away with much of the euphoria that arose after the Jan. 30 elections. While attacks ebbed for a time, they have since increased. That has military leaders now offering sober assessments of the insurgency, even as the Bush administration this week marks a year of Iraqi sovereignty by trying to highlight progress there.

Negotiating with terrorists: Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his top general in Iraq said yesterday that U.S. military attempts to initiate discussions with Iraqi leaders who claim to hold sway within the insurgency are in the early stages and have not yet yielded much progress.

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said that his forces have been working to speak with Iraqis from several ethnic and political groups, largely aiming to reach those who say they are connected to the Iraqi insurgency. Casey said there have been no discussions with foreign fighters, including those linked to insurgent leader Abu Musab Zarqawi.

Oh boy! Only two years left to blog! And then we all get ponys!: Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said yesterday that two years would be "more than enough" to establish security in his country, a task that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said may take up to 12 years.

After talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, al-Jaafari said that such goals as building up Iraq's own security forces, controlling the country's porous borders and pushing ahead with the political process would all play a part in ending the violence.

"I think two years will be enough, and more than enough, to establish security in our country," he told reporters.

Well, maybe a little longer: Iraqi leaders put on a brave face on Monday after Washington said it would be up to them -- not American forces -- to defeat an insurgency that could last a decade or more.

Asked about comments by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that the insurgency in Iraq would last years, Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari said it was impossible to predict how long it would take to defeat the guerrillas.

"Politics is not mathematics," he told a London conference.

Soon to be reporting from Gitmo: "You have a great country," remarked a radio reporter, one of the five Iraqi journalists traveling with Jafari, as he and his colleagues snapped photos of one another before the event.

Minutes later, the same Iraqi journalist exposed a yawning expectations gap between the Iraqis and the Americans. "When will you begin the reconstruction in Iraq?" he asked Bush -- a question that seemed to take the president, who has already sunk a couple of hundred billion dollars into the occupation, by surprise.

"We are spending reconstruction money," Bush said. "But, you know, you need to ask that to the government. They're in charge. It's your government, not ours."

That didn't satisfy Jafari, who stood beside the natty Bush in creased suit pants and well-worn tasseled loafers. "We hope that Mr. Bush will try to redo a Marshall Plan, calling it the Bush Plan, to help Iraq, to help the Iraqi people," he urged. "And this would be a very wonderful step." The president, by way of reply, said "Good job" and led the prime minister to lunch.

Too hard for Bunnypants: President Bush and his guest, Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, reversed roles yesterday in the East Room. While the quiet Iraqi delivered a peppy sales pitch to the United States and spoke cheerfully of declining violence, the famously sunny president kept talking about how terribly rough things are.

It's "a difficult chore, and it's hard work" in Iraq, Bush asserted. "It's hard to stop suicide bombers, and it's hard to stop these people that, in many cases, are being smuggled into Iraq from outside Iraq. It's hard to stop them."

Bush alluded to high levels of difficulty no fewer than 19 times in his 33-minute appearance. The Iraqi government faces "monumental tasks," he said. "The way ahead is not going to be easy." In case somebody napped through that, he repeated: "It's difficult. . . . It's tough work, and it's hard."

The president hadn't had such a hard outing since last year's presidential debate, when he mentioned 22 times how very hard his job was, saying of one military widow: "It's hard work to try to love her as best as I can." "Saturday Night Live" spoofed Bush for that performance, showing him pondering Saturdays at the office and saying, "Frankly, I don't know why my opponent wants this job, because it's hard!"

And It’s 1,2,3,4 – What Are We Fighting For?

This, apparently: Physicians have been beaten for treating female patients. Liquor salesmen have been killed. Even barbers have faced threats for giving haircuts judged too short or too fashionable. Religion rules the streets of this once cosmopolitan city, where women no longer dare go out uncovered.

Unmarked cars cruise the streets, carrying armed, plain-clothed enforcers of Islamic law. Who they are or answer to is unclear, but residents believe they are part of a battle for Basra's soul. In the spring, Shiite and Sunni Muslim officials were killed in a series of assassinations here, and residents feared their city would fall prey to the kind of sectarian violence ailing the rest of the country. Instead, conservative Shiite Islamic parties have solidified their grip, fully institutionalizing their power in a city where the Shiite majority had long been persecuted by the Sunni-dominated rule of Saddam Hussein.

And this: Students in the Shi’ite Muslim religious Iraqi city of Najaf said the police recently arrested and beat several of them for wearing jeans and having long hair.

“They arrested us because of our hair and because we were wearing jeans,” said student Mr Mohammed Jasim, adding that the arrests took place two weeks ago in the city, the spiritual heart of Iraq’s newly dominant Shi’ite majority.

“They beat us in front of the people. Then they took us to their headquarters, beat us again, shaved our heads and tore our clothes.

“When we asked what we had done, they said that we had no honour,” he told Reuters this week.

The Big Pep Talk

Reinvigorate this, Bunnypants: As President Bush prepares to address the nation about Iraq tonight, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that most Americans do not believe the administration's claims that impressive gains are being made against the insurgency, but a clear majority is willing to keep U.S. forces there for an extended time to stabilize the country.

The survey found that only one in eight Americans currently favors an immediate pullout of U.S. forces, while a solid majority continues to agree with Bush that the United States must remain in Iraq until civil order is restored -- a goal that most of those surveyed acknowledge is, at best, several years away.

The findings crystallize the challenges facing Bush this evening in his nationally televised address from Fort Bragg, N.C., an event the administration sees as a critical opportunity for the president to restate the case for his Iraq policies. The goal is to reinvigorate public support for a war that has grown unpopular over time and convince Americans the administration has a policy that will lead to success over time.

Optomist or bubble boy?: President George W. Bush is a self- styled optimist. That may be causing him political problems over Iraq, as his administration's persistently upbeat assessments of the past two years continue to be undermined by new waves of bombings and deaths.

Bush is preparing to address the nation on Iraq tomorrow from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, home to the Army's 82nd Airborne and the Joint Special Operations Command.

The address, which is designed to make his case for American policy, comes as critics such as Democratic Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware charge there's a ``credibility gap'' between ``the rhetoric the American people are hearing and the reality that is happening on the ground in Iraq.''

A review of statements by the president and his top advisers since 2003 shows why such criticism seems to resonate with the public.

As recently as June 23, Vice President Dick Cheney insisted the Iraqi insurgency was in its ``final throes.'' The next day, at least five U.S. Marines and a sailor were killed in a car bombing near Fallujah.

Bush's credibility problem may have begun on May 1, 2003, when the president stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, in view of a banner that read ``Mission Accomplished, '' and said: ``Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.''

Increasingly doubtful: President Bush delivers a prime-time address Tuesday to a public that is increasingly doubtful of his justifications for going to war in Iraq and wants a timetable set for U.S. troops to come home — a step Bush has ruled out.

Just one in three Americans now say the United States and its allies are winning the war, according to a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday. That is a new low, down 9 percentage points since February. Half say neither side is winning.

Chaos: Using the anniversary of the handover of power for his speech tonight, President Bush is expected to point to progress the nation has made in the past year, from training thousands of soldiers and police to maintaining a stable Iraqi currency. But in the streets of Baghdad, sovereignty is still a nebulous idea, and the daily violence overshadows the progress that has been made. Many Iraqis interviewed said they believe U.S. officials have too much influence in the nation's important decisions and the government is far too dependent on the Americans for Iraqis to place much stock in their sovereignty. "This is not a democracy," said Sarah Abdul Kareem, 21, a Shiite. "This is chaos."

No banner this time?: President Bush is casting about for ways to turn the tide of public opinion on Iraq. He is running into a growing level of skepticism, new strains in Republican unity and more frequent comparisons to the Vietnam conflict of almost four decades ago.

A new stepped-up public relations effort has yet to show results. The next event is a prime-time speech Tuesday at Fort Bragg, N.C., with U.S. troops as his backdrop.

Bush administration officials see the speech as a chance for the president to clearly spell out his goals — and the stakes — of a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq, one year after it regained its sovereignty from the United States.

It will take more than a finely honed speech to revive flagging public support or to reverse an alarming slide in military recruitment, analysts suggest.

"I don't think anybody will be able to watch that speech without wondering where is the banner saying 'Mission Accomplished,' " said Anthony H. Cordesman, a defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Quote Unquote

Congressman Donald Rumsfeld (R, IL), 1966:

“The administration should clarify its intent in Viet Nam. People lack confidence in the credibility of our government.”

“It’s a difficult thing today to be informed about our government even without all the secrecy. With the secrecy, it’s impossible. The American people will do what’s right when they have the information they need.”

“I do, however, believe it is important to the future of our Nation to recognize that there is a problem of credibility today.”

“…the people of the United States must know not only how their country became involved but where we are heading.”

“Accurate judgment is predicated on accurate information. Government has an obligation to present information to the public promptly and accurately so that the public’s evaluation of Government activities is not distorted.”


Only a billion?: Pentagon auditors have questioned more than $1 billion in costs by contracting giant Halliburton Co. for its work in Iraq, a number several times higher than previously disclosed, according to a report by congressional Democrats.

The report, based on Defense Contract Audit Agency documents and a briefing by DCAA officials, details $813 million in questioned costs on a Halliburton contract to provide logistical support to U.S. troops and $219 million on a no-bid contract to restore Iraqi's oil network.

The Defense Contract Audit Agency found an additional $442 million in Halliburton charges that were "unsupported," meaning the company had not provided enough documentation to justify the cost, the report said.

Among the costs that Pentagon auditors questioned were $152,000 in "movie library costs," a $1.5 million tailoring bill that auditors deemed higher than reasonable, more than $560,000 worth of heavy equipment that was considered unnecessary, and two multimillion-dollar transportation bills that appeared to overlap.

Free pass: Democratic legislators stepped up criticism of the Halliburton Company on Monday for what they said was "war profiteering," citing Pentagon audits that question more than $1 billion of the company's bills for work in Iraq.

The estimates of excessive spending and improper billing by Halliburton, a Texas-based company that provides logistical support and oil-field repairs in Iraq, are more than twice as high as those in previous official reports. The findings, including previously unpublicized internal Pentagon studies, were released at a Democrat-sponsored forum that was held, Democratic leaders maintained, because the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans have refused to hold the contractor accountable.

"The bottom line is, the Republican leadership in the Congress is giving Halliburton a free pass," said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey.

Downing Street And Other Crimes

Rewards few and risks high: In the spring of 2002, two weeks before British Prime Minister Tony Blair journeyed to Crawford, Tex., to meet with President Bush at his ranch about the escalating confrontation with Iraq, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw sounded a prescient warning.

"The rewards from your visit to Crawford will be few," Straw wrote in a March 25 memo to Blair stamped "Secret and Personal." "The risks are high, both for you and for the Government."

In public, British officials were declaring their solidarity with the Bush administration's calls for elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. But Straw's memo and seven other secret documents disclosed in recent months by British journalist Michael Smith together reveal a much different picture. Behind the scenes, British officials believed the U.S. administration was already committed to a war that they feared was ill-conceived and illegal and could lead to disaster.

Shades of Cambodia: A U.S. general who commanded the U.S. allied air forces in Iraq has confirmed that the U.S. and Britain conducted a massive secret bombing campaign before the U.S. actually declared war on Iraq.

The quote, passed from RAW STORY to the London Sunday Times last week, raises troubling questions of whether President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair engaged in an illegal war before seeking a UN resolution or congressional approval.

While the Downing Street documents collectively raise disturbing questions about how the Bush administration led the United States into Iraq, including allegations that “intelligence was being fixed,” other questions have emerged about when the US and British led allies actually began the Iraq war.

World Tribunal on Iraq: Today in Istanbul the jury was taken aback by witness testimony from Iraqi war victims and a US Air Force veteran.

"Snipers hunt people in the streets. People attempting to go to health centers are shot at," testified Eman Kmammas, an Iraqi translator. "There are many crippled children. There are thousands of widows and orphans. There are no police for security and there are no courts. Even hospitals are occupied and bombed and burned."

Former US Air Force combat veteran Tim Goodrich stunned the jury by revealing his role in the "softening up" of Iraq months before the US declaration of war. "We were dropping bombs then, and I saw bombing intensify," Goodrich explained to a hushed room. "All the documents coming out now, the Downing Street memo and others, confirm what I had witnessed in Iraq. The war had already begun while our leaders were telling us that they were going to try all diplomatic options first."

This gripping but unsettling revelation came on the second day of proceedings at the World Tribunal on Iraq, held in Istanbul, Turkey, which is collecting evidence of war crimes in Iraq.

With all that, what's a little domestic surveiliance?: Three decades after aggressive military spying on Americans created a national furor, California's National Guard has quietly set up a special intelligence unit that has been given ''broad authority'' to monitor, analyze and distribute information on potential terrorist threats, the Mercury News has learned.

Known as the Information Synchronization, Knowledge Management and Intelligence Fusion program, the project is part of an expanding nationwide effort to better integrate military intelligence into global anti-terrorism initiatives.

Although Guard officials said the new unit would not collect information on American citizens, top National Guard officials have already been involved in tracking at least one recent Mother's Day anti-war rally organized by families of slain American soldiers, according to e-mails obtained by the Mercury News.

A Totally Unrelated Story That Doesn’t Even Belong In An Iraq War Blog

It’s not like we’re talking about oil: After weak prices in the 1990s due to oversupply, natural gas production in North America will probably continue to decline unless there is another big discovery, Exxon Mobil Corp.'s chief executive said on Tuesday.

"Gas production has peaked in North America," Chief Executive Lee Raymond told reporters at the Reuters Energy Summit.

Asked whether production would continue to decline even if two huge arctic gas pipeline projects were built, Raymond said, "I think that's a fair statement, unless there's some huge find that nobody has any idea where it would be."

Veterans And Active Duty Soldiers, Report Here

Take it to Karl: This is a site set up for the purpose of receiving email from men and women serving currently in the United States military or veterans who are angry at Karl Rove's recent comments.

Let Karl Rove know that when it comes to defending the USA, there are no Democrats or Republicans, just Americans. Send an email to FightingLiberals at yahoo dot com.


Opinion: So the polls show most Americans don’t “think it was worth going to war in Iraq.” An even bigger majority, almost six in 10, are dissatisfied with the Global War on Terror or, as the inside-the-Beltway types call it, the GWOT. This may seem a little contrary, even ungrateful, given that the same Americans are increasingly confident they won’t have to face another terrorist attack like 9/11 anytime real soon. (Only 4 percent thought one might happen in the next few weeks.) Something seems to be keeping the terrorists at bay. President George W. Bush says it’s the war in Iraq. So is the public just churlish? Or stupid? I don’t think so. What we’re seeing with these recent polls, in fact, is a return to common sense.

The more that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld claims he’s not worried about public opinion, the more obvious it is that he is. During hours of grilling by suddenly emboldened congressional skeptics yesterday, he claimed, lamely, that popular support would swing back behind the Iraq war because Americans have “a good center of gravity.” But he’s smart enough to know that is precisely why they’re growing immune to the administration’s spin.

A clear head and a calculator will tell you very quickly that the costs of this conflict in Iraq are on a scale far beyond whatever benefits it was supposed to bring. If Saddam had been behind 9/11, OK. But he wasn’t. If he’d really posed a clear and present danger to the United States with weapons of mass destruction, then the invasion would have been justifiable. But he didn’t, and it wasn’t. Bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people is a laudable goal, but not one for which the administration made any worthwhile preparations—which is why the occupation has been so ugly, bloody and costly. Tabloids may amuse their readers with snapshots of Saddam in his skivvies, but it’s the Bush administration’s threadbare rationales for postmodern imperialism that have been exposed.

Comment: The Army's recruiting shortfalls have put the future of the all-volunteer armed forces in jeopardy. Pressure is mounting in the Pentagon -- and perhaps on the Pentagon -- to put a happy face on its failure to achieve the needed enlistments for the Army and, to a lesser extent, the Marine Corps. The Army fell short of April recruiting objectives by 42 percent.

Three questions arise:

Can the all-volunteer force survive a sustained and unpopular war, regardless of who sits in the White House?

Will quantity in recruiting become a silent substitute for quality, leading to what is often referred to as a "hollow army?"

Were serious flaws built into the system more than three decades ago when the Gates Commission (named for its chairman, Thomas Gates) issued its report on creation of an all-volunteer armed forces?

The Gates Commission, in considering the transition from a draft to a volunteer force, optimistically assumed that young Americans would come to the colors if the nation went to war with any country that presented a conventional threat. Unconventional, non-state warfare didn't enter into the commission's calculus.

Editorial: Red flags flapping sharply in the wind signal our country is on the verge of a major political - and economic - setback.

We may now be only weeks away from a complete collapse of the Iraqi army and the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq in the face of overwhelming public pressure on Tony Blair.

That is a realistic projection based on the reports of two Washington Post reporters, whose dispatches from inside Iraqi Army units and U.S. units assigned to train and work with the Iraqi military have just been published.

Opinion: There should have been no doubt what would happen to anyone who questioned George W. Bush’s case for war. The dissenters would be baited, ridiculed, marginalized, and drowned out by accusations of disloyalty as well as epithets about “Saddam sympathizers.”

Which is, of course, what happened. War critics were treated like fringe nut cases, while nearly every major Washington pundit fell for the Bush administration’s deceptions about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. Just look at the editorial pages on Feb. 6, 2003, the day after Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations.

Now, amid the rising death toll in Iraq, a hopeful new line from some pundits is that the nation is on the cusp of a serious debate about the war’s future – as Bush finally levels with the American people, regains their trust and enlists them in the sacrifices ahead.

Does anyone believe that Bush will “address” how he “deliberately misled” the country to war? Or that if he did so, that would somehow earn him the credibility to explain how thousands of additional U.S. soldiers must die in Iraq because Bush and his advisers can’t think of a way out of the mess?

Rather, Bush has already signaled how he intends to deal with the growing doubts about both his pre-war rationalizations and his foundering war policy. The American people can expect another round of baiting, not debating.

Comment: “Before we commit troops, there has to be a clear strategy.” Contrary to recent developments, U.S. military forces should never be sent on “vague, aimless and endless deployments.”

Those are not criticisms of the Iraq quagmire expressed by some wimpish, touchy-feely liberal, as Karl Rove has now characterized virtually all administration detractors. No, those words were issued by George W. Bush during the campaign of 2000.

One wonders at what point Mr. Bush decided that unclear, vague, aimless and endless deployments are actually good military policy. Perhaps they’re good when they seem -- “seem” being the operative word -- politically expedient. Or perhaps he still believes such deployments aren’t very smart, but hasn’t the foggiest notion of how to end one, stuck as he is in Tom Jefferson’s famous metaphor of the 1820 Missouri crisis: “We have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.”

Casualty Reports

Local story: Cranston, RI, Marine killed in suicide bombing in Fallujah.

Local story: Bronx, NY, Marine killed in suicide bombing in Fallujah.

Local story: Fairchild, WI, soldier killed by roadside bomb in Baghdad.


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