Monday, October 23, 2006


"The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on.” - President Bush Announces Major Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended, White House (5/1/2003)


About 50 corpses were collected around Baghdad on Sunday, a figure that was considered high weeks ago but has now become routine. An Interior Ministry official said many of the victims had apparently been shot at close range and bore signs of torture.

A bomb exploded under an unattended car in the capital’s Shorja market, an area filled with wholesale stores that is Baghdad’s largest and oldest shopping bazaar. At least two people were killed and five wounded from the explosion.

A series of bombs ripped through a Baghdad market and bakery packed with holiday shoppers, killing at least nine people and injuring dozens.

A bomb exploded and wounded four people near the al-Farasha bakery in eastern Baghdad, where shoppers were lined up to buy holiday sweets.

A suicide bomber, wearing an explosive belt, detonated it on Palestine Street, a busy commercial area in the eastern part of the city, killing three people besides himself and wounding 20.

A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed three people and wounded 13 others, both police and civilians, near the shrine of a Sunni cleric in central Baghdad.

A civilian contractor working as a international police liaison officer was killed and four U.S. soldiers were wounded on Sunday when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in east Baghdad.

A U.S. soldier died on Sunday when the vehicle he was riding in was hit by a roadside bomb in western Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

A U.S. soldier was killed on Sunday by small arms fire while on patrol southwest of Baghdad, the military said on Monday.

The U.S. military said late on Sunday a soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad and two other soldiers were killed by small arms fire in the capital on Sunday.

Bring ‘em on – a summary: Six U.S. soldiers were killed Sunday, in five separate attacks in and around Baghdad, the Defense Department said in e-mailed statements. Iraqi gunman killed two soldiers with small-arms fire west of the capital, and another soldier southwest of Baghdad, the military said. Three other soldiers were killed in explosions caused by three different roadside bombs, one of which left four soldiers injured.


The U.S. military said its forces killed five suspected insurgents, including four who were in a building that was destroyed in an airstrike south of Balad.


In Sunday's bloodiest attack, gunmen in five sedans ambushed a convoy of buses carrying police recruits near the city of Baqouba, killing at least 15 and wounding 25 others. The recruits were returning home after an induction ceremony at a police base south of Baqouba.

Hamza al-Gharbi

Gunfights broke out between fighters from Sadr's Mahdi Army and a rival Shiite militia, the Badr Organization, after a bomb went off near the offices of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Badr's parent political party. Iraqi authorities called for backup from American forces, who imposed a curfew in Hamza al-Gharbi, about 60 miles south of Baghdad. The fighting, in which two people reportedly were killed, came a day after the Mahdi Army briefly took over a southern city in a conflict with Badr forces.

In Country

In all Sunday, at least 44 Iraqis were killed or their bodies were founded dumped along roads or in the Tigris River. While the number was not high by the grim standards of the more than 3 1/2-year war, the timing and targets revealed a brutal disregard for the sanctity and meaning of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which is to Muslims what Christmas is to Christians.

The battle for Amara: The Iraqi government said it had imposed a curfew in the tense southern town of Amara starting from Monday until further notice after battles between Shi'ite militias and police in recent days.

"We have imposed the curfew due to the security situation there," defence ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said.

The clashes between Shi'ite militias and Iraqi security forces, fuelled by tribal divisions, left at least 25 dead last week in Amara, which was handed over by British troops to Iraqi security forces two months ago.

Baghdad’s the game: After three years of trying to thwart a potent insurgency and tamp down the deadly violence in Iraq, the American military is playing its last hand: the Baghdad security plan.

The plan will be tweaked, adjusted and modified in the weeks ahead, as American commanders try to reverse the dismaying increase in murders, drive-by shootings and bombings.

But military commanders here see no plausible alternative to their bedrock strategy to clear violence-ridden neighborhoods of militias, insurgents and arms caches, hold them with Iraqi and American security forces, and then try to win over the population with reconstruction projects, underwritten mainly by the Iraqi government. There is no fall-back plan that the generals are holding in their hip pocket. This is it.

We’re negotiating with ‘terrorists’?: American officials held secret talks with leaders of the Iraqi insurgency last week after admitting that their two-month clampdown on violence in Baghdad had failed.

Few details of the discussions in the Jordanian capital Amman have emerged but an Iraqi source close to the negotiations said the participants had met for at least two days.

They included members of the Islamic Army in Iraq, one of the main Sunni militias behind the insurgency, and American government representatives. The talks were described as “feeler” discussions. The US officials were exploring ways of persuading the Sunni groups to stop attacks on allied forces and to end a cycle of increasingly bloody sectarian clashes with members of the majority Shi’ite groups.

Unavoidable fact: Behind the maze of men with guns in Iraq is a very simple truth: their barrels offer protection, something Iraqis say the government has never given them.

But when the prime minister speaks of disarming militias — those mushrooming armies of men with guns that carry out most of the killing here — Iraqi brows begin to furrow.

“He’s just talking,” snapped Fadhil Sabri, a 37-year-old generator repairman in a grease-stained shop in Sadr City, a Baghdad stronghold of the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia.

“Not now. Not even in 10 years. You need arms to defend yourself,” he said.

Iraqi Diaspora: Mohammed al-Mawla is adjusting to life in his new home as an Iraqi refugee living in Syria. He operates an Internet cafe outside of Damascus and sends his two children to Syrian public schools.

He fled the violence in his homeland in 2003 and is now one of more than 500,000 Iraqis living in Syria — a number that is growing by tens of thousands each month, according to the U.N.

But al-Mawla, 42, fears the comfort he has found in Syria could quickly disappear if the money he has saved runs out.

"I sold my car in Iraq and used the money to open the cafe here, but the money I am making is hardly enough to survive on. I am scared for the future," he said.

Though Iraqis who have fled to Syria receive Syrian government health care and their children are permitted to attend school, Syria does not issue them work permits and many are unemployed or work illegally.

As a result, many say the money they have saved is quickly dwindling. Their plight is not likely to ease, with more Iraqis arriving every day.

Regional tensions: The vote in Iraq's parliament earlier this month establishing ground rules for the creation of a Shiite region in southern Iraq attracted little attention outside the Middle East. But in a region already jittery about the likelihood of a full-blown Iraqi civil war and the newfound stature of Shiites following last summer's war in Lebanon, the law's passage set alarm bells ringing. If Iraq's Shiites can form their own entity, why not those of northeastern Saudi Arabia, who chafe under Sunni rule? Or the Shiites of southern Lebanon? What about other minorities, such as the Alawis of Syria, the Druze and Christians of Lebanon, the Kurds of Turkey, Syria and Iran? Will they, too, demand the right to rule themselves?


Iraqi Deputy PM: Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih warned against defeatism and panic on Monday as his United States and British allies came under growing pressure to change their Iraq strategy in the face of relentless bloodshed. Salih, in London for talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair and other British ministers, made clear his anxiety about the change in tone in London and Washington, where senior figures are questioning whether the current strategy in Iraq is viable. "I'm obviously concerned about the debate both in the US and Europe, I have to say, because there is too much of a pessimistic tone to this debate -- even, I would say, in certain circles a defeatist tone," he told BBC radio. "We need to be realist but not defeatist. We need to understand that there is a need of utmost urgency to deal with many of the problems of Iraq, but we must not give in to panic."

Congressional Research expert: A very blunt and disturbing assessment of things in Iraq from an expert on that country.

Kenneth Katzman is with the Congressional Research Service, which advises lawmakers on Capitol Hill. And the way he see it, Iraq is "in a state of almost full collapse" -- with the U-S "powerless" to prevent a total breakdown.

Ex-administration official: President Bush and other administration officials have been smearing anyone who suggests we begin to withdraw troops from Iraq as “defeatist” and “cut-and-runners.”

Now Richard L. Armitage — who served as deputy secretary of state from 2001-2005 — is advocating a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

Ex-State Dept. expert: Mr White was the head of the state department's Iraq intelligence section until last year.

He told the BBC that the US position in Iraq was untenable.

"The effort can't be sustained over the long haul, and so we can't stay a course, I think, that requires years and years more."

He said: "We're not winning. It's apparent.

"I checked with almost a dozen sources in Baghdad in just the last 24 hours," Mr White said. "Every single one of them answered the question as to whether the violence was lessening, or getting worse, with - 'worse'."

Top diplomat: Washington's top foreign affairs spin doctor has described US policy in Iraq as "a failure", and accused his government of "arrogance" and "stupidity". Speaking in Arabic on al-Jazeera television Alberto Fernandez, director of public diplomacy at the state department's bureau of near eastern affairs, gave viewers an unusually sharp assessment of the administration's efforts in Iraq. He spoke in the past tense, as though it was all over.

"We tried to do our best [in Iraq], but I think there is much room for criticism because, undoubtedly, there was arrogance and there was stupidity from the United States in Iraq," he said. "If we are witnessing failure in Iraq, it's not the failure of the United States alone. Failure would be a disaster for the region.

Who put the sodium pentothal in this guy’s Wheaties? -m

One Dem Senator and a dozen cowardly partisan whores: On Fox this morning, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) said the upcoming elections in November may determine whether the U.S. changes course in Iraq. If control over the Senate changes hands, “you’re going to see twelve to fourteen” conservatives “freed up to go out and join in a bipartisan way to tell the President we are seriously off course,” Biden said. He added that if elections don’t result in a change of control, then the administration will view it as a reaffirmation of stay the course.

Biden said three conservatives have told him personally that they want to change course, but won’t state so publicly until the outcome of the elections is determined. If Biden’s assertions are true, nearly a dozen conservative Senators have come to the determination that the course in Iraq is failing, but are unwilling to speak out.

2,791 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq and this month has been the deadliest in Iraq this year. While troops are courageously fighting and dying in Iraq, conservative politicians at home can’t muster the courage to honestly state their views about the war.

Two phony "independent Republicans" and one former administration official: 'I don't believe that we can continue based on an open-ended, unconditional presence,' Senator Olympia Snowe, a centrist Maine Republican, told the Washington Post last week. 'I don't think there's any question about that, there will be a change.'

Snowe is not alone. Senator John Warner, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has also weighed into the fray after returning from a fact-finding mission to Iraq and stating, in sharp contradiction to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit last month, that the country was adrift and all options should be examined.

Most damning of all, however, were the comments of Richard Haass, a former Bush administration foreign policy official, who told reporters yesterday that the situation is reaching a 'tipping point' both in Iraq and in US politics.

'More of essentially the same is going to be a policy that very few people are going to be able to support,' said Haass, now the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. He added that the administration's current strategy - of a stable, democratic Iraq, within a politically feasible time frame - 'has virtually no chance of succeeding'.

But no one can tell C-plus Augustus anything, can they: President Bush on Saturday reviewed Iraq strategy with top war commanders and national security advisers, but indicated little inclination for major changes to an increasingly divisive policy.

"Our goal in Iraq is clear and unchanging: Our goal is victory," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "What is changing are the tactics we use to achieve that goal."

Under bipartisan, pre-election pressure for a significant re-examination of the president's war plan, the White House is walking a fine line.

It made sure to publicize the president's high-level meeting on the deteriorating conditions in Iraq — October already is the deadliest month this year for U.S. troops. At the same time, officials characterized the session as routine and part of a continuing discussion that seeks merely tactical adjustments to — not a radical overhaul of — war policy.

Department Of Bet You Never Saw This One Coming

Yes, in the Bush administration, telling the truth is misspeaking: A senior U.S. diplomat who said the United States has shown "arrogance" and "stupidity" in Iraq said he "seriously misspoke" in an interview aired on Sunday after President Bush said he was flexible on tactics, if not strategy.

"We tried to do our best (in Iraq) but I think there is much room for criticism because, undoubtedly, there was arrogance and there was stupidity from the United States in Iraq," U.S. State Department official Alberto Fernandez told Al Jazeera television, according to a Reuters reporter who heard the interview, which was in Arabic.

Fernandez, the State Department's director of public diplomacy in the bureau of Near Eastern affairs, said that he had misspoken during the interview.

"Upon reading the transcript of my appearance on Al-Jazeera, I realized that I seriously misspoke by using the phrase 'there has been arrogance and stupidity' by the U.S. in Iraq. This represents neither my views nor those of the State Department. I apologize," Fernandez said in a statement.

The State Department had said that the English translation of the comments posted on Al Jazeera's English-language Web site had misquoted Fernandez.

Ha ha! First he tells the truth (great career move in this administration) - on al-Jazeera of all places! - then the State Department lies and tries to blame it on the translation - and then this bozo - the director of public diplomacy! - admits to the quote, thus revealing his Department as the lying bunch of skanks they are. Hell of a diplomat, this guy. I wonder if he was in the Arabian horse business before he took this gig. Pure comedy gold, except all the mangled bodies and dead kids and destroyed lives sort of take the edge off the humor. -m

America: No Reality Allowed

Their coffins are propaganda too: The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee asked the Pentagon on Friday to remove CNN reporters embedded with U.S. combat troops, saying the network's broadcast of a video showing insurgent snipers targeting U.S. soldiers was tantamount to airing an enemy propaganda film.

Opinion – Joan Vennochi: Sometimes, a newspaper photograph or piece of television footage is so striking it cannot be ignored. When that happens, I find myself staring at the skeletal remains of cars and trucks that were ripped apart by bombs deliberately set in the vicinity of markets, police stations, and other public buildings. I try to comprehend the damage done to human beings who happened to be in that doomed spot. I think of the men, women, and children who were standing in line one moment -- and were obliterated the next, by people who live in the same country but do not see each other as fellow countrymen.

Any parent of a teenage son knows the stomach lurch that comes when military recruiting material arrives in the mail. Regularly now, I read news stories about soldiers from my area who died in Iraq. I often study the faces in the photos and especially the eyes, imagining the life they envisioned. I contemplate the mothers, fathers, wives, and children left behind. But, the frequency and prominence of newspaper stories about war casualties are also subject to debate. Some see them as antiwar propaganda. Others see them as pro-administration bias.

The truth is often controversial. It often hurts, but that is no reason to hide it.

CNN was right to broadcast the truth of these sniper attacks. It's well past time to rip off the blinders, so we are forced to see reality, even when it is filmed by insurgents.

Habeas Corpus Is Objectively Pro-Terrorist

Farewell, Rule of Law: Moving quickly to implement the bill signed by President Bush this week that authorizes military trials of enemy combatants, the administration has formally notified the U.S. District Court here that it no longer has jurisdiction to consider hundreds of habeas corpus petitions filed by inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

In a notice dated Wednesday, the Justice Department listed 196 pending habeas cases, some of which cover groups of detainees. The new Military Commissions Act (MCA), it said, provides that "no court, justice, or judge" can consider those petitions or other actions related to treatment or imprisonment filed by anyone designated as an enemy combatant, now or in the future.

Beyond those already imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, the law applies to all non-U.S. citizens, including permanent U.S. residents.

Mustered Out

The living: Sgt. Morrow, barrel-chested with salt-and-pepper hair, says he still gets headaches. He says his eyesight has been diminished by the explosion. He has lingering back problems, and says that his doctors told him that "my injuries are degenerative. Because of my age. Which is crazy."

His stint in Iraq ended a year ago, yet his battles continue. After several months at home, he's bitter about the way he was treated in hospitals and in the military's Community Based Health Care Organization, which allows injured soldiers to receive outpatient medical treatment close to home. He's been in the Guard for 20 years and has a Purple Heart to his name, but he feels chewed up and spit out.

…The anger over his injuries and treatment has bled into other areas. He feels, for example, that other members of his platoon were wrongly nominated for a Bronze Star medal for heroism. He's not thrilled with the burgeoning Mexican population in Beechview, or with the rest of the population, for that matter:

"There's a lot of things that [tick] me off about the civilian population," he says.

He said he's worried that his troubles, physical and mental, are taking a toll on his wife, Nicolette, and his 6-year-old twins, Gemini and Robert.

Then he lit another cigarette. He's up to two packs a day.

The dead: Spread across several tables in a vast warehouse here are the pieces of one soldier's life.

There is the photo album with images of graduations and family gatherings, tanks and smiling military buddies. There are piles of brown T-shirts and socks, a jumble of sneakers and boots, a plastic bag filled with handwritten letters. A knife. A stack of video games.

Nearby, surrounded by walls of metal mesh, are rows of dusty black footlockers that have just returned from war. Inside each are the artifacts of other lives cut short.

This is the Joint Personal Effects Depot, a pair of warehouses on this base northeast of Baltimore that serve as the military's main repository for the possessions of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Within days of troops' deaths in action, their clothes, pictures and books and everything else that defined their lives on the battlefield wind up here.


Beaumont, Helmore and Hinsliff: The difficulty for the British government is that American policy on Iraq is now likely to be determined by the outcome of the November elections: if Bush does badly, an early exit becomes more likely, but if he does unexpectedly well there could even be a push to send more troops to Iraq to quell the insurgency.

As the junior partner in the coalition, Britain will inevitably be swept along by whatever new American policy emerges. But that policy remains unclear, leaving British politicians essentially playing for time until they establish what Bush is likely to do.

And Bush is not the only one with elections on his mind. If the midterm contest goes badly for the Republican Party, Labour minds will inevitably turn to the elections due here in May for local councils and the Scottish and Welsh assemblies. In Scotland particularly, Iraq is a hot political potato and Labour's two main opponents north of the border, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, are both highly critical of the war.

All of which, however, is academic for those in the killing fields of Iraq.

James Wolcott: Cokie Roberts made a cogent point on ABC's This Week--I know, I couldn't believe it either--when she said that all you had to do was look at the photograph of this weekend's high-level pow-wow on Iraq featuring the three principle architects of the Iraq war, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, and wonder: How much can the policy actually change with those three still in charge--the ones who set the policy to begin with? It isn't as if any of them are prey to serious second thoughts and soul-searching. As of his most recent interview, Cheney is still relatively sanguine, whereas for Bush, as Steve Gilliard points out, it's personal:

"Bush will not leave Iraq, not because he thinks we can win, or he thinks it's part of the war on terror. But because he cannot face another failure. Which is why Scowcroft and Baker have had no influence on him. They are his father's men, veterans, despite their politics, realists. Bush is not and never has been. When he wasn't hiding from his failure with booze and coke, he hid from it with Jesus. Now he has Henry Kissinger whispering in his ear, telling him what he wants to hear. He doesn't want advice, he wants support and only support. Those who do not support him, are diminished, then banished.

"This is a man who has never honestly looked himself in the face and said I have failed. He has always been protected from failure.

"Which is why Rumsfeld keeps his job. To admit he was incompetent, and some days he seems positively addled, would reflect poorly on Bush.

"When people look to understand Iraq, they look at the facts and see failure, but that isn't what Bush sees. He sees one more chance for personal glory and he will not quit until he is forced to."

New York Times Editorial: The generals who told President Bush before the war that Donald Rumsfeld’s shock-and-awe fantasy would not work were not enough to persuade him to change his strategy in Iraq. The rise of the insurgency did not do the trick. Nor did month after month of mounting military and civilian casualties on all sides, the emergence of a near civil war, the collapse of reconstruction efforts or the seeming inability of either Iraqi or American forces to secure contested parts of Iraq, including Baghdad, for any significant period.

So what finally, after all this time, caused Mr. Bush to very publicly consult with his generals to consider a change in tactics in Iraq? The president, who says he never reads political polls, is worried that his party could lose some of its iron grip on power in the Congressional elections next month.

Robert Parry: The Republican National Committee has released a new campaign ad to rally the GOP base and other voters by showing threatening quotes from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden followed by the pitch: “These are the stakes. Vote Nov. 7.”

President George W. Bush has flogged the same theme in lashing Democrats who favor a military withdrawal from Iraq.

“If we were to follow the Democrats’ prescriptions and withdraw from Iraq, we would be fulfilling Osama bin Laden’s highest aspirations,” Bush said at an Oct. 19 campaign speech in La Plume, Pennsylvania. “We should at least be able to agree that the path to victory is not to do precisely what the terrorists want.”

But these appeals from the RNC and Bush ignore U.S. intelligence information indicating that what al-Qaeda really wants is for the United States to remain bogged down in Iraq so the terrorist band can use the American occupation to recruit and train a new generation of jihadists, who can then be deployed against targets outside Iraq.

In effect, Bush and bin Laden share a common goal in Iraq. They both want U.S. forces to “stay the course.”

Washington Post Editorial: Political progress, or the absence of it, should shape the future deployment of U.S forces. If there are breakthroughs toward Iraqi reconciliation in the coming months, American forces could help to consolidate them.

But if, as appears more likely, Iraq's civil war deepens and spreads, the United States should abandon attempts to pacify Baghdad or other areas with its own forces. It should adopt a strategy of supporting the Iraqi government and army in a long-term effort to win the war. The elements of such a strategy might include substantially upgrading the training, advising and support missions -- which have been woefully undersupported so far. U.S. airpower could back Iraqi troops, and U.S. money and equipment could flow to the Iraqi army, conditioned on government steps to demobilize Shiite militias and respect the constitution. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Iraqi governments should formally agree on a plan for turning the fighting over to Iraqi troops, province by province; Mr. Maliki himself has said he wants that transition to occur by the end of next year. A reserve force of U.S. troops could remain as a guarantor against a military victory by insurgents and as a rapid reaction force that could strike al-Qaeda targets.

A change of course won't necessarily rescue the U.S mission in Iraq. The government, political system and army that Americans and Iraqis have sacrificed so much to create could collapse without the prop of 140,000 U.S. troops or even with it. But there remains a chance the government could gain control over the country. As long as that prospect exists, the United States has a moral obligation and a practical interest to remain in Iraq.

Colbert I. King: From Tuesday's New York Times: "Conditions have been especially bleak for Christians in Basra, the southern city that is dominated by radical Shiite militias. Christian women there often wear Muslim head scarves to avoid harassment from religious zealots trying to impose a strict Islamic dress code." An Iraqi woman who attends the country's only Anglican church told the Times that she wears a head scarf anytime she goes outside her neighborhood. "I am afraid of being attacked," she said.

A priest was beheaded last week. A bomb blast at a Baghdad church killed two worshipers recently. From this mayhem, however, the Bush administration averts its gaze.

But the truth has been present all along for those who would dare to see it.

Within months of the U.S. invasion in 2003, The Post's Anthony Shadid and Rajiv Chandrasekaran were reporting on religious fissures in Iraq. The deepening divisions among Iraq's principal religious and ethnic groups were a regular theme in their writing.

But the White House and its cheerleaders would have had us think otherwise -- that the source of trouble was solely foreign infiltrators and remnants of Hussein's Baathist Party.

There is a new Iraq emerging before our eyes.

It is an Iraq that torments Christians, that indulges in unrelenting sectarian bloodbaths, that cheers for Hezbollah, that is no more a friend to Israel than is Iran, all despite the lies sold to the White House and Pentagon by self-serving, power-hungry Iraqi expatriates.

The new Iraq is not what George W. Bush talks about. But that's the Iraq he's got. And, worst of all, that's the Iraq we are in.

Sally Quinn: It is hard for the American people to turn completely against the president. It seems tantamount to patricide. We're much more comfortable being able to blame someone else for the president's mistakes. Laura Bush will never be the scapegoat. For now, it's Rumsfeld.

Vice President Cheney is not eager to replace him. And he would never fire Rumsfeld, who was his mentor and who hired him for three government jobs during the Ford administration, including as his deputy when Rumsfeld was chief of staff. (In fact, Cheney's Secret Service code name was "Back Seat.") In any event, Cheney is low-profile, secretive, nonconfrontational -- and presumably too experienced to allow himself to be easily made the scapegoat. But if Rumsfeld goes, the attention and criticism can be directed only to Cheney, or to Bush.

And it's improbable that Rumsfeld can last. He may not have an exit strategy for Iraq, but, old Washington hand that he is, he undoubtedly has one for himself.

I suspect that he has already told the president and Cheney that he will leave after the midterm elections, saying that the country needs new leadership to wind down the war. And he will resign to take a job in some sort of humanitarian venture, thereby creating the perception that he is a caring person who left of his own accord to devote the rest of his life to good works.

Bush and Cheney, who don't want him gone, will then have to contend with the reality of the new situation: One goat must be sent off into the wilderness. Who will it be?

The Independent: What is it that turns the modern American presidency into a family psychodrama? We saw it with Bill and Hillary Clinton and the endless speculation over this marriage of two extraordinarily talented people. A marriage , depending on your point of view, either made in heaven or a mere alliance of convenience -especially after Monica Lewinsky. But, pace America's mighty army of conservative moralisers, even that scandalous dalliance, and the visible distress and fury of the humiliated Hillary, made little difference to the state of our planet.

Not so, however, the other psychodrama that has been playing out here for four years, and whose climax may be yet to come - the relationship between Bush the elder and Bush the younger - "41" and "43" as they like to call each other - the first father and son to become president since John Adams and John Quincy Adams ("2" and "6" in Bush parlance) almost 200 years ago. It is a tangled tale of love and rivalry, of admiration and intense competition. And it may have brought us the disaster of Iraq.

David Broder: No one speaks more authoritatively for the Democrats on defense and national security issues than Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, both longtime members of the Armed Services Committee. If you want to know what Democratic gains in this midterm election would mean for national security policy, Levin and Reed can provide the answers.

In a conference call with reporters the other day, the two senators outlined the changes in U.S. policy toward North Korea and Iraq that they and their fellow Democrats would like to see. They signal to voters the kind of change a Democratic victory would mean.

…On Iraq, the two Democrats harked back to the amendment that 39 senators supported during a debate earlier this year -- an amendment that called for a start on U.S. troop withdrawals within six months but set no numbers and specified no target date for ending the U.S. military presence.

David Sarasohn: In every day's news, inescapable and bloody and increasingly dismal, there is Iraq. But if it's too discouraging, if the news and film and forecasts are just too much for you, there is an alternative.

There is Iraq as seen by Vice President Cheney.

You won't find it on any map, and you won't see it in the news reports, and United States troops don't seem to encounter it in their daily patrols, but it's a remarkable, heart-warming place.

"They've had three national elections with higher turnout than we have here in the United States," the vice president told radio talker Rush Limbaugh last week. "If you look at the general overall situation, they're doing remarkably well."

To see Cheney's Iraq, the one where the Iraqi government is "doing remarkably well," you just have to pull back far enough to take a general view, to get a perspective where the details don't get in the way. From Cheney's Iraq, you're too far away to hear the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, say Thursday that the recent crackdown hadn't worked and that, "The violence is indeed disheartening."

In Cheney's Iraq, that kind of complaining just misses the point.

"Well," the vice president told Limbaugh, "I think there's some natural level of concern out there because, in fact, it wasn't over instantaneously."

Three and a half years -- about as long as American involvement in World War II -- is a while longer than "instantaneously," especially if it arrives with no end in sight. But in Cheney's Iraq, it's just an understandable breathing spell.

The vice president's Iraq, of course, has always been a place far enough from Baghdad that cell phones won't cover the distance. It was a place where, "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction," and "has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." Still, fighting there would be no problem because, "My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators."

Probably, instead of the nation we actually sent troops to, we should have gone to war in Cheney's Iraq.


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