Monday, October 16, 2006


"But let's remember what we've already found. Secretary Powell on February 5th talked about a mobile, biological weapons capability. That has now been found and this is a weapons laboratory trailers capable of making a lot of agent that -- dry agent, dry biological agent that can kill a lot of people. So we are finding these pieces that were described." – Condoleeza Rice, Capital Report, CNBC (6/3/2003)

Anbar Province

Two US Marines were killed by insurgents in Anbar Province on Sunday, bringing the total number of American troop deaths in Iraq this month to at least 53, an extraordinarily high midmonth tally.


The bullet-riddled bodies of 11 men were found dumped in the capital overnight, two of them found in a trash pit in Sadr City, the sprawling Shiite slum of about 2 million people

A total of 46 bodies, with gunshot wounds and bearing signs of torture, were found in Baghdad since Saturday night.

Three roadside bombs exploded, killing three civilians and wounding seven other people, including a policeman, near a bank in central Baghdad.

Gunmen killed Farouq Atta, an air force brigadier, and wounded two of his companions on Sunday in northern Waziriya district of Baghdad.


(Update to items posted yesterday) The death toll in a surge of sectarian killings in Balad swelled to at least 91 on Monday.


(Update to items posted yesterday) In a series of attacks on Sunday against Iraqi civilian and government targets in the northern city of Kirkuk, seven bombs, including three suicide car bombs, exploded within a few hours of each other, killing at least 17 people and wounding at least 73.


Gunmen killed the media director of the education department, Raad al-Hayali, on Sunday night in the northern city of Mosul.


A roadside bomb targeted the convoy of Mohammad Daeekh, the head of the police crime department, wounding one of his bodyguards in the Shi'ite city of Najaf.


At least 10 people were killed and 15 wounded on Monday when a car bomb went off in a market in the town of Suwayra south of Baghdad, police sources said. But the mayor of Suwayra, Hussein Abdullah, told Reuters that eight were killed and 48 wounded when the car exploded near a bank in the town's market.

In Country

Hussam Ahmed, a correspondent for the independent TV station Nahrain, was forced from his car at gunpoint Saturday, police said. The gunmen took him away in another car. There has been no communication from the kidnappers.

At the current rate of American deaths — more than 3.5 a day — October is on track to be the third deadliest month of the entire Iraq war for American forces, according to Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, an independent Web site that tracks war-related casualties.

Not boding well: Last Tuesday night in Baghdad the Iraqi skyline was lit up. In what was believed to be one of the most sustained and ferocious mortar and rocket attacks in three years, there was widespread fear among senior US military personnel that the protected international zone (IZ), formerly the “green zone”, was about to experience a direct assault.

Major gun battles were being fought in two of Baghdad’s districts – Doura and Mansoor. Doura has a large oil refinery, Mansoor is technically an affluent area close to the IZ. Gunfire and explosions were louder than normal and then, at around 7pm, the first large rocket landed inside the IZ itself. Another hit came after 10 minutes, then another two minutes later. Then a series of explosions, different to the daily “normal” rocket attacks were felt. For those in the IZ, the explosions were so close and so fierce that, even for experienced military personnel, “you could taste the cordite in your teeth”.

The sustained attacks lasted for two hours, during which Camp Falcon, a major US ammunition and storage dump, was hit. The attack resulted in what one security official called “a fireworks display”. But the display wasn’t put on for entertainment. Immediate military feedback pointed to casualties.

With the IZ in blackout mode, specific troop and tanks movements were ordered, said to be a precautionary defensive measure. But there was high-level concern that the fireworks would be followed by something the US military fears – a large-scale assault on the IZ itself. Helicopters were all over the place trying to figure out what was happening and where the attacks were coming from. Tuesday in Baghdad wasn’t a good night if you needed to sleep.

The official US military line on Tuesday night was that fire had broken out at the weapons dump in southern Baghdad and that “ammunition cooking off” had caused the explosions. There were no official reports of casualties. The Iraqi interior ministry added little, saying only that neighbourhoods close to the Falcon forward operating base in Doura had been “shaken”.

What is happening in Iraq, even after three years of coalition presence, remains difficult to decipher.

Deliberately targeting reporters?: Gunmen killed a radio journalist and kidnapped a television reporter, Iraqi police said Saturday, continuing a spate of attacks that has killed 14 media employees in recent weeks. Hussam Ahmed, a correspondent for the independent TV station Nahrain, was forced from his car at gunpoint Saturday, police said. The gunmen took him away in another car. There has been no communication from the kidnappers.

Police also reported that another journalist, announcer Raid Qais of Voice of Iraq radio, was shot while driving to work in the Dora neighborhood of south Baghdad on Friday. Qais died instantly, police said. Three other journalists recently have been kidnapped or killed in roadside attacks, and 11 employees of a television station were killed by gunmen Thursday.

Refugees: Thousands of Iraqis are fleeing the country every day, in what the UN's refugee agency describes as a steady, silent exodus.

The number of Iraqis claiming asylum in the West is growing, says the UNHCR.

The agency also says the number of internally displaced is growing, with some 365,000 Iraqis uprooted this year.

Iraqi Politics

Fractures: Months of bloodshed have threatened to loosen the bonds holding together Iraq's fractious government, with tensions between political blocs spilling out in recent days in fiery rhetoric as well as fighting that left more than 130 people dead nationwide. Disagreements over several contentious issues burst into the open with a highly divisive vote on the issue of parceling Iraq into federal districts, finger-pointing over the assassination of a top politician's brother and a series of massacres between rival Shiite Muslims and Sunni Arabs north of the capital.

National reconciliation postponed: Iraq's government indefinitely postponed a much-anticipated national reconciliation conference Sunday as a two-day spree of sectarian revenge killings and insurgent bombings left at least 86 Iraqis dead.

…In announcing postponement of the reconciliation conference, the Ministry of State for National Dialogue said only that the gathering, which was planned for Saturday, had been put off for "emergency reasons out of the control of the ministry." The move reflected the upheaval worsening violence has wrought on efforts to stabilize the government and curb bloodshed.

The postponement could deeply damage the al-Maliki administration, which took office just over four months ago vowing to implement a 24-point National Reconciliation plan to heal the nation's severe political wounds.

Junta?: Iraq’s fragile democracy, weakened by mounting chaos and a rapidly rising death toll, is being challenged by calls for the formation of a hardline “government of national salvation”.

The proposal, which is being widely discussed in political and intelligence circles in Baghdad, is to replace the Shi’ite-led government of Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, with a regime capable of imposing order and confronting the sectarian militias leading the country to the brink of civil war. Dr Saleh al-Mutlak, a prominent Sunni politician, travelled to Arab capitals last week seeking support for the replacement of the present government with a group of five strongmen who would impose martial law and either dissolve parliament or halt its participation in day-to-day government.

Islamic Republic: A video posted on the internet on Sunday in the name of one of Iraq’s largest insurgent groups called for the creation of a separate Sunni Islamic state in the country.

If authentic, it could indicate a shift in strategy for parts of the Sunni Arab insurgency. ”Your brothers in the Mutayibeen Coalition herald the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq,” said a spokesman, whose face was blotted out.

He said it should encompass the governates of Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salahedddin, Nineveh and parts of Babel and Wasit – a swathe of central and western Iraq where most Sunni Arabs live.

The Mutayibeen coalition was purportedly set up last week by the Mujahideen Shura Council, an al-Qaeda-dominated umbrella organisation, along with smaller groups and tribal leaders.

(My emphasis. Kirkuk? That would heat up the war. -m)

Saddam’s two cents: Ousted leader Saddam Hussein has urged the Iraqi people to be "just" in the insurgency against US-led troops, in a letter from his US-run prison sent through his lawyers.

"Resistance against the invaders is a right and a duty ... but I urge the brothers in the noble resistance and the great Iraqi people to be just and fair," Saddam said in the letter, a copy of which was sent to AFP by his Iraqi lawyer, Khalil Dulaimi.

"I also urge you to forgive those who lost their way ... and keep the door of forgiveness open until the last minute that precedes the hour of liberation," Saddam wrote from prison.

"Do not forget that your goal is to liberate your country from the invaders and their followers and is not a settling of accounts outside this goal," Saddam said.

"Remember that after each war there is peace, after each division there is unity," he said, adding that "victory against the occupation forces is certain"

The Human Cost

Widows: About 40 percent of the more than 3,000 U.S. troops who have died since Sept.11, 2001, had a wife or husband waiting for them back home. And for those surviving spouses, who are almost all women, the grieving process is their own. But within this sisterhood that grows with every casualty, there is a subgroup of young widows in their teens and early 20s. Newly single, but not exactly so, these women say they must strike a balance between being the fallen hero's wife and being a young, independent woman--all while mourning under the microscope.

Collateral damage: A missile? Mortar? Whose? It was impossible to know. The Americans were invading Baghdad, and Marwa Naim blamed them. She would never forget the explosion. It had blown up her house, thrown her into the air and flung her on top of her mother. Marwa saw a hole the shrapnel carved into her mother's stomach. Her mother lay still. Marwa saw blood. "Mommy, Mommy, get up…. " Then Marwa's vision began to fade. She would recall thinking that she herself was dying. Or that maybe she was already dead. Before she lost consciousness, she heard her aunt screaming for her father. "Mohammed!" her aunt cried. "Your wife is dead! Your wife is dead!" Marwa was 9 years old.

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

For Democracy!: David Brooks has incredible access to the White House so when he said this shocker on "The Chris Matthews Show," I believed him. Bush is thinking about replacing the entire Iraq government. I kid you not.

Matthews: David, do you believe the President is looking for an out from his doctrinaire policy of staying the course?

Brooks: Not really, no I don't. I think they're looking at policy options. One of those options is trying to replace the current government which seems to be doing nothing. The second option is some sort of federation which–Joe Biden has suggested as separating Iraq. A third option and by far the least likely is going in with more troops, So there's all different three options…We have much less control over Iraq than we did two or three years ago…

For Freedom!: The Pentagon kept tabs on nonviolent protesters of the Iraq war -- including a Broward County group that planned a protest for the annual Fort Lauderdale Air and Sea Show -- by collecting information and storing it in a military antiterrorism database, according to documents released today by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The documents, which the ACLU posted today at its website, http://www.aclu.org/safefree/spyfiles/index.html, were obtained from the Department of Defense under the federal Freedom of Information Act, the civil-liberties group said.

For Justice!: Abdul Rahim Al Ginco thought he was saved when the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and overthrew the Taliban regime.

Mr. Ginco, a college student living in the United Arab Emirates, had gone to Afghanistan in 2000 after running away from his strict Muslim father. He was soon imprisoned by the Taliban, and tortured by operatives of Al Qaeda until, he said, he falsely confessed to being a spy for Israel and the United States.

But rather than help Mr. Ginco return home, American soldiers detained him again. Nearly five years later, he remains in the United States military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — in part, it appears, on the strength of a propaganda videotape made by his torturers.

For the Rule of Law!: The U.S. Marine Corps has threatened to punish two members of the military legal team representing a terrorism suspect being held at Guantanamo Bay if they continue to speak publicly about reported prisoner abuse, a civilian lawyer from the defense team said Saturday. The action directed at Lt. Col. Colby Vokey and Sgt. Heather Cerveny follows their report last week that Guantanamo guards bragged about beating detainees, said Muneer Ahmad, an American University law professor who assists in the defense of Canadian suspect Omar Khadr.

The order has heightened fears among the military defense lawyers for Guantanamo prisoners that their careers will suffer for exposing flaws and injustices in the system, Ahmad said.

To Protect the Nation from Evildoers!: When President George W. Bush starts using fifty-cent words in press conferences, one has to wonder why, and on Wednesday, during his Rose Garden appearance, he used the word “caliphate” four times. The enemy, he said—by which he clearly meant the Islamic terrorist enemy—wants to “extend the caliphate,” “establish a caliphate,” and “spread their caliphate.” Caliphate? Really? Many people live long, fruitful lives without once using the word caliphate. Almost no one, with the exception of our president and some of his advisers, uses it as a pejorative.

As NEWSWEEK reported last month, the president and the people who prep him are still clearly casting about for the right phrase to pin on America’s elusive enemy. “Axis of evil” is outdated by now. “Islamist,” the preferred choice of scholars, has been deemed too jargony and academic. “Islamofascist” is a recent favorite, and in a speech last month the president used it as punctuation in a litany of other tags, notably “Islamic radicalism” and “militant jihadism.” The beauty of “caliphate” is that no one but students of Islamic history have much more than a vague idea of what it means. “Bush has been successful in defining terms in his own way,” said Steve Ebbins, a former Democratic speechwriter. “[The Bush administration] has captured the language. If you control the language, you control the message and are able to sway people’s attitude toward your policy. It’s a policy-endorsing mechanism.” Until last January, the president rarely used it, if ever. Since then, he’s used it more than 15 times.

Or, on the other hand, maybe just so Bush and Blair won’t have to admit they were wrong…: In August this year the British base in the provincial capital, al-Amara, was handed over to the Iraqi army, with flag ceremonies and bands playing (and was promptly looted by local people). The hope was that this would allow 3,000 British troops to be withdrawn from theatre, but after complaints from the US and the Iraqi government that Maysan's border with Iraq would be exposed, the forces were simply redeployed to the border.

In this context, the sight of British troops mending playground swings and doling out pastel-coloured satchels to primary schools in Basra last week is revealed as little more than public relations, despite the announcement that 1,000 British soldiers in southern Iraq are taking part this month in "Operation Sinbad". In practice they remain in each district of the city for no more than 48 hours before moving on.

Many of the troops on the ground in Iraq, and their commanders back home, believe that they are remaining there almost exclusively for political reasons. Their main role, in this view, is face-saving for the Iraqi government as well as their own, not to mention relations between London and Washington.

Domestic Politics

Sounds great, John. Too bad it’s about two years too late: Democratic Sen. John Kerry, a potential White House candidate in 2008, said on Friday the Iraq war had worsened terrorism and that the Bush administration had squandered the nation's moral authority.

"They tell us we're making progress in Iraq and that there is no civil war. That is a lie. There is a civil war and it is costing American and Iraqi lives every single day and we must change course in Iraq," said Kerry, who lost to President George W. Bush in the 2004 election.

Profile in cynicism: MARGARET WARNER: Since you were there, another 110 or more American soldiers have died and close to 3,000 Iraqis have been killed in Baghdad alone. Why wait yet another month, at least, if not more, before you make your recommendations?

JAMES BAKER: Well, because it's really important, if our report is going to mean anything, if it's going to have any chance of being embraced by opinion-makers in the United States, by the administration, by the Congress, we really have to take it out of politics. It cannot be seen to be politically inspired or politically motivated or politically directed, and we couldn't do that if we reported before the election, midterm election.

I love this crap from the guy who fixed the 2000 election. What it is, this report is going to say Junior’s approach to the war is (surprise!) a complete train wreck and something has to change. Obviously the Democrats could only benefit from this public acknowledgement that W is a miserable failure, and that, of course, is the true political motivation for withholding the report. -m

Withdrawal? Talking to Iran and Syria? Who drafted this report, Michael Moore?: A commission backed by President Bush that is exploring U.S. options in Iraq intends to propose significant changes in the administration's strategy by early next year, members say. Two options under consideration would represent reversals of U.S. policy: withdrawing American troops in phases, and bringing neighboring Iran and Syria into a joint effort to stop the fighting.

While it weighs alternatives, the 10-member commission headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III has agreed on one principle. "It's not going to be 'stay the course,' " one participant said. "The bottom line is, [current U.S. policy] isn't working.... There's got to be another way."

Sounds great, US public. Too bad it’s about two years too late: With three weeks left in a volatile U.S. election campaign, growing public unhappiness with the Iraq war has become the top obstacle for Republicans in their fight to keep control of Congress, pollsters and analysts said.

While a Capitol Hill sex scandal shook up Republicans and President George W. Bush's sinking popularity is weighing them down, public concern over Iraq is the dominant factor driving voters toward Democrats in the November 7 election.

Breaking The US Military

Disability: About one in five soldiers leaving the military have been disabled to some degree in the two conflicts. Of this group, more than 100,000 have been granted disability compensation. The numbers will increase exponentially, and taxpayers will have to start getting used to paying more as soldiers leave the service and file claims. Roughly 567,000 of the 1.5-million U.S. troops who have fought in these conflicts have been discharged. And one official predicts that if current trends hold for the next few years, more than 400,000 discharged service members probably will seek disability benefits when they retire.

Support Lt. Watada!

Profile in courage: "He's a bakatare," said George Ishihara, an 85-year-old Santa Monica resident, calling Watada the Japanese word for fool. "He ought to be ashamed of himself." Across town, another Japanese American World War II veteran sees the young soldier as a hero. "He's following a higher law, and that's your conscience and the Constitution," said Paul Tsuneishi, an 83-year-old Sunland resident. Watada, 28, is an Army first lieutenant who earlier this year became the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq, calling the war illegal and immoral. Although other soldiers have refused deployment, his status as an officer sets his case apart. The Honolulu native of Japanese and Chinese descent faces a general court-martial and up to seven years in prison for charges involving his refusal to deploy, criticism of President Bush and "conduct unbecoming an officer."


NY Times Editorial: When President Bush rammed the bill on military commissions through Congress, the Republicans crowed about creating a process that would be tough on terrorists but preserve essential principles of justice. “America can be proud,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the bill’s architects.

Unfortunately, Mr. Graham was wrong. One of the many problems with the new law is that it will only make it harder than it already is to separate the real terrorists from the far larger group of inmates at Guantánamo Bay who were bit players in the Taliban or innocent bystanders. Mr. Graham and other supporters of this dreadful legislation seem to have forgotten that American justice does not merely deliver swift punishment to the guilty. It also protects the innocent.

Michael Bywater: (1) 655,000 Iraqis have died since the British/American invasion of Iraq, an undeclared war of dubious legality at best.

(2) Some 750,000 British servicemen (excluding colonials) died in the whole of World War I, a formally declared war legitimate under international law.

(3) 388,000 British servicemen and civilians (excluding colonials) died in World War II, a formally declared war legitimate under international law.

We regard World War I as an unmitigated horror. The death toll in Iraq has already reached almost 90 per cent of the WWI total. We also regard one of the great horrors of that war the number of maimed, who would never lead a normal life again. We do not have figures for the maimed of Iraq.

We regard World War 2 as exacting a terrible toll in a just cause; the fallen (we believe) surrendered, or were deprived of, their lives to preserve the freedoms we now enjoy. The death toll in Iraq has only to rise by around two per cent to reach double the number of British dead in WW2.

Nobody has even noticed the comparative figures. But it's all worth while. It is. Really. It's really all worth while. Really it is. It's what they would have wanted. Really. It is. It's really what they'd have wanted.

Patrick Cockburn: But the question has to be, was this civil war always inevitable? There was always going to be friction and possibly violence between the three main communities in Iraq - Sunni, Shia and Kurd - after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The Sunni were going to lose much of their power and the Shia and Kurds were going to gain it.

But the occupation of Iraq by US and British armies over the past three years has deepened the divide between these communities. The Sunni Arab community fought back against the occupation in arms; the Kurds largely supported it; the Shia did not like it but used it to take power at the ballot box. Tony Blair's thesis - that the insurrection in Iraq is the work of some Islamic Comintern operating across the Middle East - was always nonsense.

The guerrillas in Iraq are strong because they are popular. A leaked Pentagon poll last month showed that 75 per cent of the five million-strong Sunni community support armed resistance.

The present slaughter in Iraq is taking place because the existing ethnic and sectarian hostilities have combined with animosities that have been created by the occupation. For instance, a Sunni ex-army officer supporting the resistance now sees a Shia serving in the Iraqi army or police force not just as the member of a different Islamic sect but as a traitor to his country who is actively collaborating with the hated invader.

Michael Schwartz: Recently, the New York Times broke a story suggesting that the U.S. Army and the Marines were about to turn the conceptual tide of war in Iraq. The two services, reported correspondent Michael R. Gordon, "were finishing work on a new counterinsurgency doctrine" that would, according to retired Lt. Gen. Jack Keane, "change [the military's] entire culture as it transitions to irregular warfare."

Such strategic eureka moments have been fairly common since the Bush administration invaded Iraq in March 2003, and this one -- news coverage of it died away in less than a week -- will probably drop into the dustbin of history along with other times when the tactical or strategic tide of war was supposed to change. These would include the November 2004 assault on the city of Falluja, various elections, the "standing up" of the Iraqi army, and the trench that, it was briefly reported, the Iraqis were planning to dig around their vast capital, Baghdad.

But this plan had one ingenious section, derived from an article by four military experts published in the quasi-official Military Review and entitled "The Paradoxes of Counterinsurgency." The nine paradoxes the experts lay out are eye-catching, to say the least, and so make vivid reading; but they are more than so many titillating puzzles of counterinsurgency warfare. Each of them contains an implied criticism of American strategy in Iraq. Seen in this light, they become an instructive lesson from insiders in why the American presence in that country has been such a disaster, and why this (or any other) new counterinsurgency strategy has little chance of ameliorating it.

This is a very interesting analysis of an analysis. Well worth reading in full if you care about counterinsurgency doctrine. -m

Daniel Davies: That qualitative conclusion is this: things have got worse, and they have got a lot worse, not a little bit worse. Whatever detailed criticisms one might make of the methodology of the study (and I have searched assiduously for the last two years, with the assistance of a lot of partisans of the Iraq war who have tried to pick holes in the study, and not found any), the numbers are too big. If you go out and ask 12,000 people whether a family member has died and get reports of 300 deaths from violence, then that is not consistent with there being only 60,000 deaths from violence in a country of 26 million. It is not even nearly consistent.

This is the question to always keep at the front of your mind when arguments are being slung around (and it is the general question one should always be thinking of when people talk statistics). How Would One Get This Sample, If The Facts Were Not This Way? There is really only one answer - that the study was fraudulent.[1] It really could not have happened by chance. If a Mori poll puts the Labour party on 40% support, then we know that there is some inaccuracy in the poll, but we also know that there is basically zero chance that the true level of support is 2% or 96%, and for the Lancet survey to have delivered the results it did if the true body count is 60,000 would be about as improbable as this. Anyone who wants to dispute the important conclusion of the study has to be prepared to accuse the authors of fraud, and presumably to accept the legal consequences of doing so.

So what? This is always the other line from the people who want to ignore this study. Even if we accept that the invasion has been a disaster (in the strictest sense, the doubling of the civilian death-rate is usually taken to constitute a humanitarian crisis) for the Iraqi people, what should we do differently? The majority of the deaths by violence are a result of action by the insurgents, so we can't just pull the troops home. Isn't this kind of study just "picking over the rubble", to quote the Euston Manifesto and a distraction from the real debate about humanitarian intervention?

Well, there is something that we can do. We can ensure that the people responsible for this outrage suffer the consequences of their actions. A particularly disgusting theme of some right-wing American critics of the study as been to impugn it by talking about it being "conveniently" released before the November congressional elections. As if a war that doubled the death rate in Iraq was not the sort of thing that ought to be a political issue. Nobody is doing anything about this disaster, and nobody will do until people start suffering some kind of consequences for their actions (for example, no British politician, soldier or spy has lost his job over the handling of the Iraq war and no senior member of the Bush administration either).

There has to be some accountability here. It is not good enough for the pro-intervention community to shrug their shoulders and say that the fatalities caused by the insurgents are not our fault and not part of the moral calculus. I would surely like to see the insurgents in the ICC on war crimes charges, but the Nuremberg convention was also correct to say that aggression was "the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole". The people who started this war of aggression need to face up to the fact, and that is a political issue

Glenn Greenwald: The single most erroneous and destructive premise among the Beltway political class -- which includes the Democratic consulting class along with their intellectual twins in the David-Broder-led punditry circles -- is that anger and passion are the enemies of successful political movements. They preach a mindset of fear and defensiveness -- never articulate a view too strenuously and never be driven by principle or passion because to do so renders one an unmoderate extremist who will alienate normal Americans. Whatever else you might want to say about them, the Bush-led Republicans embrace their radical ideas enthusiastically and are never shy about advocating them. But the mentality of the Democratic consultancy and pundit class have, outside of that extremist GOP crevice, stripped our political system of any real conviction, passion, belief, and resolve. Democrats so rarely mold, shape or drive public opinion because their consultants and pundits operate from the premise that passion and principle are to be avoided at all costs. Stripped to its essence, the core advice of these consultants, which most national Democrats have been embracing, is to follow, not lead. But Americans -- understandably -- want to elect leaders, not followers, and that is why nothing has been more damaging to the Democratic Party brand than the self-consciously clever, soul-less, fear-driven advice of their consultants to abandon their own beliefs. The Democratic consultants who told Joe Sestak not to advocate troop withdraw from Iraq -- even though, as a military veteran and national security expert, that is what he believes is best for his country -- suffer not only from a serious character defect but also towering strategic stupidity. Everyone other than the most self-deluded Bush followers recognize that the core impetus for the collapse of the Republican Party's popularity is the public's anger and disgust over the deceitful way we were led into Iraq and the subsequent ineptitude and dishonesty that has characterized our ongoing disastrous occupation.


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