Thursday, November 30, 2006


"Had we to do it over again, we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success, being so successful so fast that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day." —President Bush, telling Time magazine that he underestimated the Iraqi resistance, Aug. 2004

More success stories…

In Country

In all, 15 civilians and 13 insurgents were killed in violence around Iraq yesterday, police and U.S. officials said. The mangled bodies of nine civilians who had been kidnapped and tortured also were found.


A roadside bomb exploded at a square in central Baghdad, killing one civilian and injuring three, an Information Ministry official said.

The military said that a U.S. soldier was killed during combat in Baghdad on Wednesday, raising to at least 2,884 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war.

Tuesday Iraqi police arrested 11 insurgents who set up a fake checkpoint in the Dora neighborhood in southern Baghdad. One police officer was killed and three injured during the chase.

Note: The remaining Baghdad entries refer to incidents from today back to Monday. Older incidents were included when they appeared to either be previously unreported here or if they reported significantly different casualty figures than previous entries. -m

An IED aimed at a police patrol exploded at the Al Nahdha bus stop, killing two civilians and wounding two civilians and two policemen.

One Iraqi police commando was killed and three policemen and four civilians were wounded in a suicide car bomb attack near city hall.

A car bomb left by the roadside exploded in Al Nidhal street near Kamal Al Samaree private hospital killing two civilians and wounding seven others, including three policemen.

Seven persons including three policemen were wounded by a suicide car bomb aimed at a police patrol in Auqba Bin Nafa’a square near the national theater.

Five bodies were found in the Shekh Maarof area, all showed signs of torture.

A man called Ali Nazar Al Jubori was arrested in eastern Bahghdad and there are reports that this person is the sniper of Baghdad. There was no confirmation from the Ministry of Interior.

Mortar shells fell in the Shurta Al Rabiaa area of southern Baghdad , injuring seven civilians.

One mortar shell landed in the Al Shoala area, wounding three civilians.

An American patrol based in southeast Baghdad arrested 12 people who were wearing Iraqi commandos uniforms and manning a fake checkpoint.

Police colonel Ahmed Izdeen from the Ministry of Oil was assassinated by unknown gunmen.


A group of about 40-50 insurgents armed with RPG'S, mortars and light weapons attacked the Diyala police directorate in Baquba. Police sources said that five insurgents were killed in the attack.

A doctor from Diyala health directorate who cannot be named for security reasons asked the families of those who are missing and killed to come to the morgue in Baqouba hospital to identify the bodies and take them within two days. He said the morgue has received 19 bodies, some of them still unidentified. Doctors in Baqouba have warned that diseases might spread because many dead bodies cannot be claimed from the streets because insurgents are targeting the teams who are removing them.


In the southern city of Basra, gunmen killed Nasir Gatami, the deputy of the local Sunni Endowment chapter, and three of his bodyguards in an attack on their two-car convoy. The Endowment, which confirmed the attack, was created to care for Sunni mosques across Iraq. In the past four months, 23 of its employees have been kidnapped in Baghdad, with suspicion focused on Shiite militias.

Diyala Province

According to the coordination centre in Diyala province six civilians from one family, three of them women, were killed by an American air strike on their house in the Al Hashimat area near the main road between Baqouba and Baghdad.

Iraqi forces found a mass grave holding 28 bodies just north of the capital in Diyala province. "The bodies were later transported to an Iraqi police station in Baghdad," a US statement said. In Baghdad, the bodies will join 58 more found scattered around the bitterly divided city over the previous 24 hours, as kidnappers and death squads plied their trade amid the constant din of gunfire and mortar blasts.

Jurf Al Sakhar

A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed three policemen and wounded three others on Wednesday in the town of Jurf al-Sakhar, about 85 km south of Baghdad.


Six bodies were found with gunshot wounds on Wednesday in Mosul.

Salahdin Province

Security reports from Salah Al Din province indicate that large groups of gunmen are gathering at the outskirts of Al Dejil and Balad, launching attacks on the towns and setting fake checkpoints on the main roads.


Unknown gunmen using 10 cars attacked a police checkpoint south of Samarra killing two policemen and wounding three others. The gunmen escaped and a curfew was imposed on Samarra.


Four civilians were wounded when clashes erupted between Mehdi Army militia and Iraqi security forces in the southern city of Samawa, 270 km south of Baghdad.


A suicide car bomber attacked the Al Thirthar police station in west Tikrit killing four policemen and wounding six others.

Destruction of civil society: As Baghdad's morgues overflow with civilian victims of Iraq's expanding war, the targeted assassinations of the country's intellectual elite is fueling a "brain drain" that will have longterm consequences for the country's ability to maintain a middle class, the linchpin to a successful and stable society, Iraqi leaders and private specialists say.

Professors, doctors, lawyers, and engineers are among the professionals who provide the human capital necessary to run the basic institutions of any healthy society and help forge a new generation of leaders. By removing those building blocks, the leaders and specialists say, the insurgents are aiming to eliminate all support for a democratic society, making it more likely that a Saddam Hussein-like strongman will return, or Iraq will become a theocracy like Iran.

"I think it is getting worse day by day," said Abdul Sattar Jawad , a visiting scholar and professor of literature at Duke University who left Iraq after threats on his life last year. "We need liberal people -- lawyers, engineers -- to build the country," Jawad said in an interview. "The intelligentsia has been beaten down, murdered, or fled."

The recent spate of assassinations -- including at least six medical professors killed in Baghdad during August and September -- does not appear to be the work of a single group, according to US and Iraqi officials and specialists. Rather, the assassinations are seen as a concerted effort by extremists on all sides of Iraq's ethnic divide to snuff out the educated classes and dash the chances for a moderate, pluralistic government.

Bugging out of Anbar?: ABC News has learned that Pentagon officials are considering a major strategic shift in Iraq, to move U.S. forces out of the dangerous Sunni-dominated al-Anbar province and join the fight to secure Baghdad.

There are now 30,000 U.S. troops in al-Anbar, mainly Marines, braving some of the fiercest fighting in Iraq. At least 1,055 Americans have been killed in this region, making al-Anbar the deadliest province for American troops.

The region is a Sunni stronghold and the main base of operations for al Qaeda in Iraq and has been a place of increasing frustration to U.S. commanders.

In a recent intelligence assessment, senior Marine Intelligence Officer in al-Anbar, Col. Peter Devlin, concluded that without a massive infusement of more troops, the battle in al-Anbar is unwinnable.

Or staying in Anbar and sending more troops in country?: Defense officials, meantime, said the Pentagon is developing plans to send four more battalions to Iraq early next year, including some to Baghdad.

The extra combat engineer battalions of Army reserves, would total about 3,500 troops and would come from around the United States, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deployments have not been announced.

At a Pentagon news conference Wednesday, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would not say whether more troops are planned for Baghdad. He did say that was among the ideas that commanders are debating.

He also said there was no plan to shift all troops from the volatile Anbar Province into Baghdad.

Nice to hear the country's still functioning: The U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, told reporters Tuesday that he expects to see "elevated levels of violence" as a result of the car bombings that killed more than 200 people in Sadr City, a Shiite district in northeast Baghdad. The coordinated attacks set off a wave of retaliatory killings in Sunni neighborhoods.

While acknowledging the sectarian conflict, Caldwell stopped short of characterizing it as a civil war.

"We don't see somebody competing for control of the country here at all," he said at a press briefing. "What we see is a country that's still functioning and still has duly elected representatives in charge who are able to give instructions and orders to their security forces."

The Sham Summit

Is there nothing this guy can’t screw up? (Rhetorical question): President Bush's high-profile meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday was canceled in a stunning turn of events after disclosure of U.S. doubts about the Iraqi leader's capabilities and a political boycott in Baghdad protesting his attendance.

Instead of two days of talks, Bush and al-Maliki will have breakfast and a single meeting followed by a news conference on Thursday morning, the White House said.

The abrupt cancellation was an almost unheard-of development in the high-level diplomatic circles of a U.S. president, a king and a prime minister. There was confusion — and conflicting explanations — about what happened.

We will beef up the Iraqis with our secret force of ponies and unicorns: President Bush said Thursday the United States will speed a turnover of security responsibility to Iraqi forces but assured Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that Washington is not looking for a "graceful exit" from a war well into its fourth violent year.

Under intensifying political pressure at home, the American and Iraqi leaders came together for a hastily arranged summit to explore how to stop escalating violence that is tearing Iraq apart and eroding support for Bush's war strategy.

With Bush hoping to strengthen his Iraqi counterpart's fragile government, the tensions that flared when their opening session was abruptly cancelled Wednesday evening were not apparent when they appeared before reporters after breakfast Thursday.

…There were no immediate answers for mending the Shiite-Sunni divide that is fueling sectarian bloodshed in Iraq or taming the stubborn insurgency against the U.S. presence. The leaders emerged from their breakfast and formal session with few specific ideas, particularly on Bush's repeated pledge to move more quickly to transfer authority for Iraq's security to al-Maliki's government.

"One of his frustrations with me is that he believes that we've been slow about giving him the tools necessary to protect the Iraqi people," Bush said. "He doesn't have the capacity to respond. So we want to accelerate that capacity."

There was no explanation from either side of how that would happen, beyond support for the long-standing goals of speeding the U.S. military's effort to train Iraqi security forces and to give more military authority over Iraq to al-Maliki.

Meanwhile Malaki will fix the infrastructure with pixie dust: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki must improve security and provide more reliable electricity and other basic services before Shiite politicians end a boycott of the government launched to protest the premier's summit with President Bush, a top legislator said Thursday.

The boycott by ministers and lawmakers loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is not affecting many vital ministries, and one striking official said work continues at his ministry even with him gone.

But the boycott has driven home the fragility of the Iraqi government, and one of its leaders said in a telephone interview that to end it there must be an increase in the number of well-trained Iraqi security forces.

Baha al-Aaraji also said the government must provide more electricity, gas and other basic services, especially in southern provinces that are less violent than central and northern Iraq. In Baghdad and other cities, residents often have no electricity or water supplies for much of the day.

Then the Easter bunny will sit everyone down for milk and cookies: The Bush administration has hoped to calm Iraq in part by getting Sunni insurgent sympathizers into talks with al-Maliki's Shiite-led government. It has pushed Sunni allies like Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to take the lead.

But Al-Maliki's refusal to talk to Bush in front of Jordan's king showed a startling level of distrust toward at least one of his Sunni neighbors — distrust that can only hamper the U.S. effort.

It may signal even worse — the possible start of a region-wide Sunni-Shiite split, spilling over from Iraq, that America may be powerless to control.

Few things would be more harmful to Iraq than if Mideast countries began "taking sides" in its internal fight, sharpening the Shiite-Sunni split and the march toward all-out civil war.

No effort to avoid a full-blown civil war in Iraq can ever succeed without "a lasting political compromise between its key (Shiite and Sunni) factions," one expert, Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said recently.

The meeting between Bush and al-Maliki showed little progress toward that, and perhaps even some signs that things could get worse.

Some Small Voices Of Sanity

These guys need support: With sectarian violence reaching new extremes, some Sunni Muslim clerics are breaking with the most militant factions in their sect and reaching out to Shiite clergy in an effort to pull Iraq back from the abyss. Some members of the Muslim Scholars Assn., which has acted as a broker between Western officials and members of the country's Sunni-driven insurgency, worry that their group has done little more than clasp hands before television cameras with their Shiite counterparts and issue joint appeals for calm. "The Muslim Scholars Assn. so far has not participated in any real, effective negotiations," said Sheik Mahmoud Sumaidaie, a senior member who preaches at the organization's Baghdad headquarters, the Umm Qura Mosque. Sumaidaie said more than 70 clerics across Iraq want to form a new religious council that can unite all Sunni factions and open a channel of communication with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the country's most revered Shiite cleric. Without it, he said, "we will never be able to stop the bloodshed in Iraq."

This is also a good idea: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today proposed an international conference among Iraqi political parties and said again the country's neighbours, Syria and Iran, needed to be involved.

Mr Annan had a telephone conference with the 10-member, US bipartisan Iraq Study Group yesterday, searching for a new policy in Iraq, and told reporters afterwards that Iraq was close to a civil war unless the situation could be reversed.

"The security in Iraq today is a major constraint," Mr Annan said in answer to reporters' questions.

"If one were to work out an arrangement where one can get the Iraqi political parties together, somewhere outside Iraq as we did in Afghanistan, the United Nations can play the role it normally plays."

You know it's a screwed up world when this idiot makes more sense than the president of the USA: US troops must leave Iraq if security is to be restored, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said during talks with the Iraqi president.

He said the US was powerless to stop the unrest in Iraq, which was also bad for other countries in the region.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in turn called on Iran to stop backing Shia militias and support Iraq's government instead, Iraq's foreign minister said.

US President George W Bush has again ruled out removing US troops from Iraq.

Wish you’d been this honest in February, 2003, Colin: Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Wednesday Iraq had descended into civil war and urged world leaders to accept that "reality".

Powell's remarks came ahead of a meeting between Bush and Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki in the Jordanian capital to discuss the security developments in Iraq.

"I would call it a civil war," Powell told a business forum in the United Arab Emirates. "I have been using it (civil war) because I like to face the reality," added Powell.

Blaming The Victims

What a disgusting trend: From troops on the ground to members of Congress, Americans increasingly blame the continuing violence and destruction in Iraq on the people most affected by it: the Iraqis.

Even Democrats who have criticized the Bush administration's conduct of the occupation say the people and government of Iraq are not doing enough to rebuild their society. The White House is putting pressure on the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group have debated how much to blame Iraqis for not performing civic duties.

This marks a shift in tone from earlier debate about the responsibility of the United States to restore order after the 2003 invasion, and it seemed to gain currency in October, when sectarian violence surged. Some see the talk of blame as the beginning of the end of U.S. involvement.

"It is the first manifestation of a 'Who lost Iraq?' argument that will likely rage for years to come," said Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University expert on terrorism who has worked as a U.S. government consultant in Iraq.

The Baker Commission Scam

Whoopee: A bipartisan commission, under pressure to offer a U.S. exit strategy for the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq, has reached a consensus and will announce its recommendations next week, the group's co-chairman said Wednesday.

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., declined to disclose any specifics about the Iraq Study Group's decisions. The report, much anticipated by the Bush administration and members of Congress, is coming out next Wednesday amid the spiraling violence in Iraq that has raised questions about the viability of the Iraqi government.

"This afternoon, we reached a consensus ... and we will announce that on Dec. 6," Hamilton told a forum on national security at the Center for American Progress, a liberal group.

Opinion by Michael Hirsh: The forthcoming report by James Baker's Iraq Study Group has enjoyed the biggest public buildup since the Segway. And it is likely to be just as big of a bust.

Here's why the Baker-Hamilton report is destined to land with a thud, after weeks of messianic hype. According to sources who have seen the draft report introduced this week, the group will recommend deeper engagement with Iran and Syria in hopes these countries can help us quell the violence in Iraq. But George W. Bush, who remains a true neocon believer--"It's the regime, stupid"--is very unlikely to cut deals with such evil states, except in the most foot-dragging way. In any case, with each passing week Iraq's sectarian fratricide makes these neighboring countries less and less relevant. One doesn't have to be trained by Hizbullah or the Iranian secret service to grab a few Sunnis off the street every night and shoot them in the head. But until those killings stop, the yes-it-is-a-civil war-no-it's-not-a-civil-war in Iraq will continue to rage out of control.

The James Baker-Lee Hamilton group will also recommend tackling the problem of Israeli-Palestinian peace. But this central issue of Islamist discontent no longer has much to do with the violence in Iraq, just as the violence has less and less to do with Al Qaeda. The neocon fantasists, in their headiest days, used to say that "the road to Jerusalem goes through Baghdad." This meant that somehow, in ways they could never spell out, the Israeli-Palestinian issue would be resolved after democracy was achieved in Iraq. Now Baker's thought seems to be that the road to Baghdad goes through Jerusalem. This is just as silly as the earlier idea. Take this down: the road to Baghdad goes through Iraq.

Above all, sources indicate the Baker-Hamilton group will fudge the issue of what the size of the U.S. troop presence in Iraq should be, and what a specific timetable for withdrawal should look like. This means that, almost as soon as the report comes out in early December, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will be able to ignore it, and he likely will. Prominent Democrats like Sens. Carl Levin, Jack Reed and Joseph Biden will begin to dismiss it and reintroduce their own plans. Biden, for example, plans to hold six weeks of hearings in January, after he takes over the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that will quickly turn Baker-Hamilton into a relic of that long-ago autumn of 2006.

What's happening in Washington right now is the worst sort of cover-your-backside politics.

Fiscal Matters

Time for some discipline? We’ll see: After riding high for five years, government contractors are bracing themselves for increased oversight, tighter budgets and stepped-up regulations as Democrats take over on Capitol Hill and vow to keep a closer eye on how companies spend taxpayer dollars.

Every company that does business with the government could feel the impact, but contractors that benefited most from work in Iraq and Afghanistan, from homeland security initiatives or from Hurricane Katrina are especially likely to be under the microscope. Big-ticket weapons programs are also expected to garner special attention, and it may become more difficult to get a no-bid contract, according to industry observers.

Oh, ow! It hurts to see a wrist patted so hard!: One of the government's largest military contractors will pay $8 million to settle six-year old claims it overcharged the Army for construction and other support services in the Balkans, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Houston-based Halliburton Co., was accused of double-billing the government and ordering unusable products while helping build Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, prosecutors said.

The contractor also allegedly inflated prices for some unspecified goods that were not put out for competitive bid, the department said.

More emergency spending: The Pentagon is preparing an emergency spending proposal that could be larger and broader than any since the Sept. 11 attacks, covering not only the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but extending to other military operations connected to the Bush administration's war on terrorism. The spending plans may push the Defense Department into conflict with Democrats as they take control of Capitol Hill in January. Democrats had been planning to limit the emergency "supplemental" spending measures that have funded the wars in favor of the regular federal budget process, which affords greater oversight and congressional control. Congressional and military officials have said the Pentagon is considering a request of $127 billion to $150 billion in new emergency war spending, the largest such request since the special spending measures were begun in 2001. So far, Congress has allocated $495 billion for Afghanistan, Iraq and terrorism-related efforts. Even within the Pentagon, the spending request is generating controversy. The Pentagon was due to forward its request to the White House by about Nov. 15. But a senior Defense Department official said that the decision has been delayed and that Pentagon officials have asked Army and Air Force officials to provide more justification for their spending demands.

Where We’ve Gone And The Men Who Took Us There

Kidnapping and secret prisons: The CIA flew 1,245 secret flights into European airspace, according to a European Parliament draft report obtained by ABC News.

The report is the result of a year-long investigation into secret CIA "extraordinary rendition" flights and prisons in Europe.

No European country has officially acknowledged being part of the program.

But citing records from an informal meeting of European and NATO foreign ministers last December that included Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Parliament's draft report concludes "member states had knowledge of the programme of extraordinary rendition and secret prisons."

Using terrorism to justify any new repression: A new law that comes into force this week gives federal authorities expanded powers to prosecute animal rights militants -- as the State Department is warning that their activities eclipse terrorism as a day-to-day security problem for U.S. companies in Western Europe.

Bush signed S 3880, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, without fanfare at the White House Monday morning, before flying to the Baltic for a NATO summit.

The bill is designed to make it easier for the FBI and Justice Department to wire-tap and prosecute animal rights extremists who mount campaigns of low-level criminal harassment against animal researchers both in the commercial and educational sectors.

David Corn takes us on a little stroll down memory lane: It's the 20th anniversary of the Iran-contra scandal. Two decades ago, the public learned about the bizarre, Byzantine and (arguably) unconstitutional actions of high officials in the post-Watergate years. But many Americans did not absorb the key lesson: the Iran/contra vets were not to be trusted. Consequently, most of those officials went on to prosperous careers, with some even becoming part of the squad that has landed the United States in the current hellish mess in Iraq.

…But history never ends. Twenty years later, Abrams is deputy national security adviser for global democracy in the George W. Bush administration. A fellow who admitted that he had not told Congress the truth and who had abetted a secret war mounted by a rebel force with an atrocious human rights record now is supposed to promote democracy abroad. Other Iran/contra figures are leading players today. Here's a partial list from the National Security Archive:

* Richard Cheney - now the vice president, he played a prominent part as a member of the joint congressional Iran-Contra inquiry of 1986, taking the position that Congress deserved major blame for asserting itself unjustifiably onto presidential turf. He later pointed to the committees' Minority Report as an important statement on the proper roles of the Executive and Legislative branches of government.

* David Addington - now Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, and by numerous press accounts a stanch advocate of expanded presidential power, Addington was a congressional staffer during the joint select committee hearings in 1986 who worked closely with Cheney.

* John Bolton - the controversial U.N. ambassador whose recess appointment by President Bush is now in jeopardy was a senior Justice Department official who participated in meetings with Attorney General Edwin Meese on how to handle the burgeoning Iran-Contra political and legal scandal in late November 1986. There is little indication of his precise role at the time.

* Robert M. Gates - President Bush's nominee to succeed Donald Rumsfeld, Gates nearly saw his career go up in flames over charges that he knew more about Iran-Contra while it was underway than he admitted once the scandal broke. He was forced to give up his bid to head the CIA in early 1987 because of suspicions about his role but managed to attain the position when he was re-nominated in 1991.

* Manuchehr Ghorbanifar - the quintessential middleman, who helped broker the arms deals involving the United States, Israel and Iran ostensibly to bring about the release of American hostages being held in Lebanon, Ghorbanifar was almost universally discredited for misrepresenting all sides' goals and interests. Even before the Iran deals got underway, the CIA had ruled Ghorbanifar off-limits for purveying bad information to U.S. intelligence. Yet, in 2006 his name has resurfaced as an important source for the Pentagon on current Iranian affairs, again over CIA objections.

* Michael Ledeen - a neo-conservative who is vocal on the subject of regime change in Iran, Ledeen helped bring together the main players in what developed into the Iran arms-for-hostages deals in 1985 before being relegated to a bit part. He reportedly reprised his role shortly after 9/11, introducing Ghorbanifar to Pentagon officials interested in exploring contacts inside Iran.

* Edwin Meese - currently a member of the blue-ribbon Iraq Study Group headed by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, he was Ronald Reagan's controversial attorney general who spearheaded an internal administration probe into the Iran-Contra connection in November 1986 that was widely criticized as a political exercise in protecting the president rather than a genuine inquiry by the nation's top law enforcement officer.

* John Negroponte - the career diplomat who worked quietly to boost the U.S. military and intelligence presence in Central America as ambassador to Honduras, he also participated in efforts to get the Honduran government to support the Contras after Congress banned direct U.S. aid to the rebels. Negroponte's profile has risen spectacularly with his appointments as ambassador to Iraq in 2004 and director of national intelligence in 2005.

As for the current relevance of Iran/contra, one could argue that the affair taught Reaganites and neocons a lesson, the wrong lesson: you can get away with it.

What Kind Of Person Could Possibly See Bush As A Decent Human Being?

Characteristic behavior: President Bush has pledged to work with the new Democratic majorities in Congress, but he has already gotten off on the wrong foot with Jim Webb, whose surprise victory over Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) tipped the Senate to the Democrats.

Webb, a decorated former Marine officer, hammered Allen and Bush over the unpopular war in Iraq while wearing his son’s old combat boots on the campaign trail. It seems the president may have some lingering resentment.

At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.

Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

“I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.

Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, reported the source, but of course didn’t. It’s safe to say, however, that Bush and Webb won’t be taking any overseas trips together anytime soon.

The answer to the question in the heading: [Christopher Lohse], a social work master’s student at Southern Connecticut State University, says he has proven what many progressives have probably suspected for years: a direct link between mental illness and support for President Bush.

…Lohse's study, backed by SCSU Psychology professor Jaak Rakfeldt and statistician Misty Ginacola, found a correlation between the severity of a person's psychosis and their preferences for president: The more psychotic the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Bush.

The study began in part as an advocacy project "designed to register mentally ill voters and encourage them" to vote, while assessing "knowledge of current issues, government and politics." The Bush trend emerged in the course of the study, according to Lohse, who describes himself as a "Reagan revolution fanatic" who nonetheless finds Bush "beyond the pale." During the course of the study, it emerged that "Bush supporters has significantly less knowledge about current issues, government and politics than those who supported Kerry," and that greater levels of psychosis predicted Bush support.


Crosses: Hundreds of white wooden crosses planted on a quiet suburban hillside have prompted a spirited debate over whether they honor or exploit the memory of troops killed in Iraq.

Jeff Heaton, who along with local peace group members started putting up the crosses in early November, sees the effort as a simple tribute.

''It seemed like it would be a touching way to make people aware of the true costs of the war,'' he said.

But to others, the display, on private property opposite a commuter train station and visible from the heavily traveled highway to San Francisco, is an affront that hijacks personal grief for political ends.

''I do not consider this a memorial,'' Lisa Disbrow, a resident of nearby Moraga who has a son preparing to serve in Iraq, said at a public hearing Monday night. Although many spoke in favor of the exhibit, others called it ''painful'' and a ''travesty.''

The hearing, which drew a crowd of more than 200 was technically not about the memorial itself, but about an accompanying sign: ''In Memory of 2,867 U.S. Troops Killed in Iraq.''

Malachi Ritscher: In the four weeks since his death, strangers have come to their own conclusions about Malachi Ritscher. He has been pegged as a courageous war protester. Or a man of convictions. Or a depressed, suicidal loner. Or a conflicted soul, plagued by a little of each.

On a crisp morning earlier this month, he focused a video camera in a wide shot of the "Flame of the Millennium" statue, officials familiar with the case said. He walked into the frame wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a skull mask, then climbed onto the base of the 25-foot abstract sculpture. In front of him, Kennedy Expressway commuters rushed past the banner he had planted near the Ohio Street exit. "Thou Shalt Not Kill. As Ye Sow So Shall Ye Reap" it read in black ink, and below that, the words "Your Taxes Buy Bombs and Bullets" penned in red. Ritscher, 52, pulled a United States flag from a container and draped it over his head and shoulders. He struck a flame and in that moment, became one of only a few dozen people to die by self-immolation in the United States. He also started a debate about what motivated him to take his life.

Commentary, Opinion and Analysis

PM Carpenter: New York Times' top story, top paragraph, top secret!:

"A classified memorandum by President Bush’s national security adviser expressed serious doubts about whether Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki had the capacity to control the sectarian violence in Iraq and recommended that the United States take new steps to strengthen the Iraqi leader’s position."

This was classified? This is how Stephen Hadley and his "senior aides" at NSC spend their days? Shhhh. Don't tell anyone, Mr. President, mum's the word, but we're starting to think that maybe Maliki doesn't have things under control.

Remember now, this is supersecret brainwork, for your eyes only -- a product of national security thinking that only qualified professionals could unravel. So don't let on, lest the media start snooping around over there and discover ... problems.

Our professional recommendation? Maybe we should help the prime minister. He just might need it.

... Are the paychecks in yet?

Brent Budowsky: In the course of a few hours, this is George W. Bush's contribution to bipartisanship on national security.

He invites Jim Webb to the White House, and when Bush mentions Webb's son, Webb replies that he would like would like his son to come home. Bush's rude answer to Webb was: "I didn't ask you about that."

Why not?

Considering that Jim Webb is one of the most credible national voices on security, that he is a former Secretary of the Navy, a decorated Marine Corps war hero, one of the very few people in government who actually has a son serving in combat in Iraq, and was one of the handful of "experts" in Washington who was right about Iraq from the beginning, why didn't Bush ask Webb's opinion?

Then in rapidfire form, Bush says: he will not negotiate with Syria or Iran, dissing the Jim Baker bipartisan group, before they have even reported. He says he will not withdraw any troops until the mission has been completed. He pulls out of the bag, his old excuse that Al Qaeda is responsible for everything going wrong in Iraq.

Then Bush sends forth his spinmeisters to tell the national newspapers that the mess In Iraq is not his responsibility, they blame the average Iraqi people.

Nicholas Kristof: For several years, the White House and its Dobermans helpfully pointed out the real enemy in Iraq: those lazy, wimpish foreign correspondents who were so foolish and unpatriotic that they reported that we faced grave difficulties in Iraq. To Paul Wolfowitz, the essential problem was that journalists were cowards. “Part of our problem is a lot of the press are afraid to travel very much, so they sit in Baghdad and they publish rumors,” Mr. Wolfowitz said in 2004. He later added, “The story isn’t being described accurately.” Don Rumsfeld agreed but suggested that the problem was treason: “Interestingly, all of the exaggerations seem to be on one side. It isn’t as though there simply have been a series of random errors on both sides of issues. On the contrary, the steady stream of errors all seem to be of a nature to inflame the situation and to give heart to the terrorists and to discourage those who hope for success in Iraq.” As for Dick Cheney, he saw the flaw in journalists as indolence. “The press is, with all due respect — there are exceptions — oftentimes lazy, often simply reports what someone else in the press says without doing their homework.” Mr. Cheney and the others might have better spent their time reading the coverage of Iraq rather than insulting it, because in retrospect those brave reporters based in Baghdad got the downward spiral right.

Maureen Dowd: Michael Gordon reveals in today’s Times that in a classified assessment, Mr. Hadley wrote that the Iraqi leader, who is getting pushed around by Moktada al-Sadr, was having trouble figuring out how to be strong. “The memo suggests that if Mr. Maliki fails to carry out a series of specified steps,” he writes, “it may ultimately be necessary to press him to reconfigure his parliamentary bloc, a step the United States could support by providing ‘monetary support to moderate groups,’ and by sending thousands of additional American troops into Baghdad to make up for what the document suggests is current shortage of Iraqi forces.” Just what the election said Americans want: More kids at risk in Baghdad. (W.’s kids, of course, are running their own risks, partying their way through Argentina.) Mr. Hadley bluntly mused about Mr. Malaki: “His intentions seem good when he talks with Americans, and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the Shi’a hierarchy and force positive change. But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action.” It’s bad enough to say that about the Iraqi puppet. But what about when the same is true of the American president?

Bob Herbert: The competing television news images on the morning after Thanksgiving were of the unspeakable carnage in Sadr City in Baghdad — where more than 200 Iraqi civilians were killed by a series of coordinated car bombs — and the long lines of cars filled with holiday shopping zealots that jammed the highway approaches to American malls that had opened for business at midnight.

A Wal-Mart in Union, N.J., was besieged by customers even before it opened its doors at 5 a.m. Friday. "All I can tell you," said a Wal-Mart employee, "is that they were fired up and ready to spend money."

There is something terribly wrong with this juxtaposition of gleeful Americans with fistfuls of dollars storming the department store barricades and the slaughter by the thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, including old people, children and babies. The war was started by the United States, but most Americans feel absolutely no sense of personal responsibility for it.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., recently proposed that the draft be reinstated, suggesting that politicians would be more reluctant to take the country to war if they understood that their constituents might be called up to fight. What struck me was not the uniform opposition to the congressman's proposal — it has long been clear that there is zero sentiment in favor of a draft in the U.S. — but the fact that it never provoked even the briefest discussion of the responsibilities and obligations of ordinary Americans in a time of war.

A. Alexander: There is always a new excuse and a new rationalization either as to why we invaded Iraq, or why we cannot possibly leave. Now that the Democrats have been elected and the Bush administration might actually have to answer for their past and present Iraq decisions, we are forced to endure two new propaganda pitches. The first being that Iraq isn't in the midst of a civil war and the second is that something called "al-Qaeda in Iraq" has suddenly overrun the country. Both claims are nothing more than violent lies. Every post-war intelligence estimate has shown that foreign fighters make up only about 5 percent of Iraq's insurgency. Yet, the lie that Iraq is being overrun by al-Qaeda-like operatives is the latest Bush administration rationalization for why we cannot leave Iraq. In the run up to the elections "cut and run" failed to do the trick. Iraq's military and police have become infested with sectarian militia members, so they'll never be able to "stand-up" and allow the U.S. military to "stand-down." How then to ensure Democrats won't muster the political courage to pull the plug on Bush's Iraq disaster? Convince the American people that leaving Iraq, no matter how bloody it becomes, would result in a million-billion al-Qaeda operatives taking over Iraq's oil and then coming to invade America. How to know this latest administration push is nothing more than spin and lies? Easy! When the hand-picked, "yes-men" Generals in Iraq are repeating, verbatim, what Bush and his people like Stephen Hadley are saying - you know it is typical coordinated Bush administration spin and lies. It is what Republicans like to call "staying on message." At the same time Bush was insisting that all the trouble in Iraq was being caused by al-Qaeda, and while Hadley was busy telling reporters that Iraq couldn't possibly be in the midst of civil war because there aren't two opposing groups fighting it out for power and territory (apparently the administration is pretending that the Shia and Sunni don't exist and aren't engaged in a bloody sectarian power struggle) - on that same day and practically at that same time, Bush's "yes-man" General in Iraq, Caldwell, repeated those exact same talking points. Caldwell like Bush and Hadley, insisted that the Iraqi insurgents weren't seeking power and therefore, the country couldn't be in the middle of a civil war. Caldwell also claimed that "al-Qaeda in Iraq" and not domestic Shia and Sunni militias were responsible for the latest violence. When that kind of coordination is taking place, Bush and his spinmeisters are telling lies. All of this is, of course, an outrage against the American people and an insult to their intelligence. This is just another -- in a long, long, long line of such events -- Bush administration attempt at conning the American people into keeping the United States military mired in the center of Iraq's civil war.

Worth Reading In Full

This is an excerpt from the Sol Feinstone Lecture on The Meaning of Freedom delivered by Bill Moyers at the United States Military Academy on November 15, 2006.

The chickenhawks in Washington, who at this very moment are busily defending you against supposed “insults” or betrayals by the opponents of the war in Iraq, are likewise those who have cut budgets for medical and psychiatric care; who have been so skimpy and late with pay and with provision of necessities that military families in the United States have had to apply for food stamps; who sent the men and women whom you may soon be commanding into Iraq understrength, underequipped, and unprepared for dealing with a kind of war fought in streets and homes full of civilians against enemies undistinguishable from non-combatants; who have time and again broken promises to the civilian National Guardsmen bearing much of the burden by canceling their redeployment orders and extending their tours.

You may or may not agree on the justice and necessity of the war itself, but I hope that you will agree that flattery and adulation are no substitute for genuine support. Much of the money that could be directed to that support has gone into high-tech weapons systems that were supposed to produce a new, mobile, compact “professional” army that could easily defeat the armies of any other two nations combined, but is useless in a war against nationalist or religious guerrilla uprisings that, like it or not, have some support, coerced or otherwise, among the local population. We learned this lesson in Vietnam, only to see it forgotten or ignored by the time this administration invaded Iraq, creating the conditions for a savage sectarian and civil war with our soldiers trapped in the middle, unable to discern civilian from combatant, where it is impossible to kill your enemy faster than rage makes new ones.

And who has been the real beneficiary of creating this high-tech army called to fight a war conceived and commissioned and cheered on by politicians and pundits not one of whom ever entered a combat zone? One of your boys answered that: Dwight Eisenhower, class of 1915, who told us that the real winners of the anything at any price philosophy would be “the military-industrial complex.”

I want to contend that the American military systems that evolved in the early days of this republic rested on a bargain between the civilian authorities and the armed services, and that the army has, for the most part, kept its part of the bargain and that, at this moment, the civilian authorities whom you loyally obey, are shirking theirs. And before you assume that I am calling for an insurrection against the civilian deciders of your destinies, hear me out, for that is the last thing on my mind.

You have kept your end of the bargain by fighting well when called upon, by refusing to become a praetorian guard for a reigning administration at any time, and for respecting civil control at all times. For the most part, our military leaders have made no serious efforts to meddle in politics. The two most notable cases were General George McClellan, who endorsed a pro-Southern and pro-slavery policy in the first year of the war and was openly contemptuous of Lincoln. But Lincoln fired him in 1862, and when McClellan ran for President two years later, the voting public handed him his hat. Douglas MacArthur’s attempt to dictate his own China policy in 1951 ran head-on into the resolve of Harry Truman, who, surviving a firestorm of hostility, happily watched a MacArthur boomlet for the Republican nomination for the Presidency fizzle out in 1952.

On the other side of the ledger, however, I believe that the bargain has not been kept. The last time Congress declared war was in 1941. Since then presidents of the United States, including the one I served, have gotten Congress, occasionally under demonstrably false pretenses, to suspend Constitutional provisions that required them to get the consent of the people’s representatives in order to conduct a war. They have been handed a blank check to send the armed forces into action at their personal discretion and on dubious Constitutional grounds.

Furthermore, the current President has made extra-Constitutional claims of authority by repeatedly acting as if he were Commander-in-Chief of the entire nation and not merely of the armed forces. Most dangerously to our moral honor and to your own welfare in the event of capture, he has likewise ordered the armed forces to violate clear mandates of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions by claiming a right to interpret them at his pleasure, so as to allow indefinite and secret detentions and torture. These claims contravene a basic principle usually made clear to recruits from their first day in service—that they may not obey an unlawful order. The President is attempting to have them violate that longstanding rule by personal definitions of what the law says and means.

There is yet another way the chickenhawks are failing you. In the October issue of the magazine of the California Nurses Association, you can read a long report on “The Battle at Home.” In veterans’ hospitals across the country—and in a growing number of ill-prepared, under-funded psych and primary care clinics as well—the report says that nurses “have witnessed the guilt, rage, emotional numbness, and tormented flashbacks of GIs just back from Iraq.” Yet “a returning vet must wait an average of 165 days for a VA decision on initial disability benefits,” and an appeal can take up to three years. Just in the first quarter of this year, the VA treated 20,638 Iraq veterans for post-traumatic stress disorder, and faces a backlog of 400,000 cases. This is reprehensible.

I repeat: These are not palatable topics for soldiers about to go to war; I would like to speak of sweeter things. But freedom means we must face reality: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Free enough, surely, to think for yourselves about these breaches of contract that crudely undercut the traditions of an army of free men and women who have bound themselves voluntarily to serve the nation even unto death.

Casualty Reports

Michigan Governor Granholm has ordered that U-S flags around the state be lowered to half-staff Friday to honor an Army National Guard member who was killed in Iraq. Specialist Brad Shilling, a 22-year-old Stanwood native, was killed November-18th when a homemade bomb detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad.

U.S. military officials said Wednesday that they are trying to determine if human remains found at the crash site of an Air Force F-16 fighter jet 20 miles northwest of Baghdad are those of the plane's pilot. The officials identified the pilot as Maj. Troy Gilbert, who had been deployed to Balad Air Base from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., but provided no other details. Gilbert's plane crashed in volatile Anbar province Monday afternoon as he flew low in support of ground troops fighting insurgents.

Flags waved, a bagpipe wailed "Amazing Grace" and eulogies flowed in a Midtown church yesterday for Army Sgt. 1st Class Schuyler Haynes, an Iraq war casualty who was the descendant of a famous Revolutionary War general. Haynes, 40, a college graduate from the Upper West Side, was a career noncommissioned officer with 17 years' service. Haynes was on his second tour of duty in Iraq when he was killed Nov. 15 by a roadside bomb.

Baker High School graduate Chris Mason wasn't afraid of dying in Iraq because of his faith in Jesus Christ and his belief in the importance of helping others, his family said Wednesday. That's why when his family learned that the soldier had been killed Tuesday by an improvised explosive device in Iraq, "it was sad, but it's not a tragedy," said Garland Mason, Chris Mason's brother.

If you were ever around Jon-Erik Loney, his smile and sense of humor infected you, friends say. "He was a good kid, well-liked, and we never had any problems out of him," Danville High Assistant Principal Gary Couey said. A roadside bomb killed Loney, a 2003 Danville High graduate, Tuesday in Iraq, family members said. He was 21.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?