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Thread: The War in Iraq

  1. #781
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    US War Costs Increased By Nearly 50% In 2007

    Reauters / Yahoo
    By Richard Cowan
    Jan 23, 2008

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Iraq war may not dominate U.S. news reports as the carnage drops, but a new report underscores the financial burden of persistent combat that is helping run up the government's credit card.

    "Funding for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and other activities in the war on terrorism expanded significantly in 2007," the Congressional Budget Office said in a report released on Wednesday.

    War funding, which averaged about $93 billion a year from 2003 through 2005, rose to $120 billion in 2006 and $171 billion in 2007 and President George W. Bush has asked for $193 billion in 2008, the nonpartisan office wrote.

    "It keeps going up, up and away," Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad said of the money spent in Iraq since U.S. troops invaded in 2003.
    "We're seeing the war costs continue to spiral upward. It is the additional troops plus additional costs per troop plus the over-reliance on private contractors, which also explodes the costs," said Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat who opposed the war.

    Since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, Congress has written checks for $691 billion to pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and such related activities as Iraq reconstruction, the CBO said.

    There are around 158,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and 27,000 in Afghanistan.

    $11 BILLION A MONTH

    Of the total, the CBO estimated that $440 billion had been spent on fighting in Iraq launched with the goal of ousting President Saddam Hussein from power and securing weapons of mass destruction that were never found.

    All of the Iraq and Afghanistan war money -- about $11 billion a month -- is effectively being put on a government credit card at a time when U.S. government debt has skyrocketed to more than $9 trillion, up from around $5.6 trillion when Bush took office in January 2001.

    Bush has opposed paying the cost of waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan with tax increases or other specific offsets.

    That means that nearly every penny spent gets added to the U.S. debt. The CBO estimated that just the interest payments on the debt would total $234 billion this year, more than the likely $250 billion budget deficit for the year.

    These annual deficits and steep interest payments on borrowing all get rolled into the running tally that is the government's debt -- the more-than-$9-trillion figure.

    The debt problem snowballs long-term, especially if the escalating costs of government-run health care and retirement programs are not reined in and if the United States maintains a large long-term military presence in Iraq.

    Interest payments on the debt will total an estimated $2.7 trillion over the next decade, the CBO said.

    Congress is expected to pass another round of money for the war in May or June, despite repeated attempts by Democrats to bring the fighting in Iraq to an end.

    Republicans have defended the costs of the Iraq war, saying it has helped to stave off new attacks on the United States.

    But Conrad said the deficit spending on the war was "another negative trend among many negative trends" in the budget.

    (Editing by Howard Goller and Doina Chiacu)

    Copyright © 2008 Reuters Limited.

  2. #782
    Forum Veteran MidtownGuy's Avatar
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    2.7 trillion. For a war that was 100% unnecessary. It is insanity.
    When I see those numbers, and then consider the people who don't think the US can/should afford better schools and national health care, it makes me want to scream.

  3. #783

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    hey, u could vote here and let people know/know other people's opinion on Iraq wars.
    http://www.select2008.com/whatshot

  4. #784
    Senior Member Capn_Birdseye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MidtownGuy View Post
    2.7 trillion. For a war that was 100% unnecessary. It is insanity.
    When I see those numbers, and then consider the people who don't think the US can/should afford better schools and national health care, it makes me want to scream.
    Totally agree MTG - ditto the UK where hospital wards are being closed, doctors and nurses sacked ..... all for a lie-based war nobody, (or most sensible people), didn't and don't support!

  5. #785

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    An Europian passenger of mine told me that Whole World should be able to vote on US Presidential election since US foreign policy affects the whole world...He made a lot of sense..

  6. #786

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    How much money has the Uk spend in comparison?

  7. #787
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    MC: Then US citizens should get to vote in the Chinese elections.

    Oh, wait ... do they have elections in China?

  8. #788

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    Quote Originally Posted by lofter1 View Post
    MC: Then US citizens should get to vote in the Chinese elections.

    Oh, wait ... do they have elections in China?
    The passenger was Europian.... I don't think Chinese have any elections, not in the same category as ours anyway...

  9. #789
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    If your passenger was Italian then maybe he'd be more than glad to let some foreigners vote in their election.

    But not sure where we'd find the time -- in Italy they seem to need to have another one every couple of weeks.

  10. #790

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    ^^^)))))))

  11. #791
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Cross-Border Chases From Iraq O.K., Document Says

    NY TIMES
    By ERIC SCHMITT and MICHAEL R. GORDON
    February 4, 2008

    WASHINGTON — American military forces in Iraq were authorized to pursue former members of Saddam Hussein’s government and terrorists across Iraq’s borders into Iran and Syria, according to a classified 2005 document that has been made public by an independent Web site.

    The document, which was disclosed by the organization Wikileaks and which American officials said appeared authentic, outlined the rules of engagement for the American division that was based in Baghdad and central Iraq that year.

    It also provided instructions for how to deal with the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr: his status as a hostile foe was “suspended,” and he and his key associates were not to be attacked except in self-defense.

    Wikileaks, a Web site that encourages posting of leaked materials, says its goal in disclosing secret documents is to reveal “unethical behavior” by governments and corporations. It has previously posted the United States military’s manual for operating its prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; a military assessment of a 2004 attack in Falluja; and lists of American military equipment in Iraq.

    The American military command in Baghdad on Sunday sharply criticized the group’s decision to post the document.

    “While we will not comment on whether this is, in fact, an official document, we do consider the deliberate release of what Wikileaks believes to be a classified document is irresponsible and, if valid, could put U.S. military personnel at risk,” said Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, a spokesman for the command.

    Rules of engagement in Iraq, which cover the procedures for using force on a battlefield in which insurgents and terrorists mix with civilians, have long been considered highly classified. The American military’s concern is that adversaries will be able to adjust their tactics if they know the rules that describe the specific circumstances in which force may and may not be used.

    The 2005 document covers the procedures used by Multi-National Division Baghdad, the American unit that operated in the Iraqi capital and central Iraq. At a time when sectarian divisions had brought Iraq to a low-level civil war, the document suggests that capturing and killing former members of Mr. Hussein’s government was still a concern.

    In a section on crossing international borders, the document said the permission of the American defense secretary was required before American forces could cross into or fly over Iranian or Syrian territory. Such actions, the document suggested, would probably also require the approval of President Bush.

    But the document said that there were cases in which such approval was not required: when American forces were in hot pursuit of former members of Mr. Hussein’s government or terrorists.

    Approval by the defense secretary “is not required to conduct uninterrupted pursuit and engagement of positively identified former regime military aircraft, terrorist and senior [former] military leadership and senior nonmilitary elements of former Iraqi regime command and control across international borders,” the document said.

    It stated that the American commander engaged in the pursuit, however, should consult with top commanders in Baghdad, “time permitting.”

    It is not known if the authority to conduct hot pursuits across the Iranian and Syrian borders was ever used or what authority exists today. In October 2005, The New York Times reported that there had been a series of clashes between Army Rangers and Syrian troops along the border with Iraq. According to the 2005 document, American forces were also authorized to respond to a “hostile force” that used Syrian or Iranian territory to attack American troops in Iraq or that posed an “imminent threat” to American operations there. They were instructed to consult with a senior American commander if there was time.

    Apparently in a carryover from the intelligence failures of the Iraq invasion in early 2003, the document says the United States Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, gave American commanders in Iraq the authority to attack mobile “W.M.D. labs”; such labs for making germ weapons were later determined not to exist.

    The 2005 document also referred to a Central Command list of the “hostile forces” that may be “engaged and destroyed.” It focused heavily on Mr. Hussein’s former security forces, like the Special Republican Guard and members of the Baath Party militia that were said to have shifted from “overt conventional resistance to insurgent methods of resistance.”

    Reflecting the clash the year before between American forces and Mr. Sadr’s militia, the document said the militia and other armed supporters of the cleric had also been on the list of paramilitary forces deemed to be “hostile.” L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the American occupation authority in Iraq until June 2004, had branded Mr. Sadr an outlaw, and an Iraqi judge had issued a secret warrant for his arrest.

    But a truce was later worked out with Mr. Sadr, and Iraqi politicians sought to bring him into the political process. Apparently as a result of those developments, the rules of engagement were modified. Referring to Mr. Sadr and the Mahdi Army, the document says: “Their status as a declared hostile force, however, is suspended and such individuals will not be engaged except in self-defense.”

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  12. #792

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    Iraq’s Tragic Future

    Posted on Feb 5, 2008
    By Scott Ritter

    Any analysis of the current state of the ongoing U.S. occupation of Iraq that relied solely on the U.S. government, the major candidates for president or the major media outlets in the United States for information would be hard pressed to find any bad news. In a State of the Union address which had everything except a “Mission Accomplished” banner flying in the background, President Bush all but declared victory over the insurgency in Iraq. His recertification of the success of the so-called surge has prompted the Republican candidates to assume a cocky swagger when discussing Iraq. They embrace the occupation and speak, without shame or apparent fear of retribution, of an ongoing presence in that war-torn nation. Their Democratic counterparts have been less than enthusiastic in their criticism of the escalation. And the media, for the most part, continue their macabre role as cheerleaders of death, hiding the reality of Iraq deep inside stories that build upon approving headlines derived from nothing more than political rhetoric. The war in Iraq, we’re told, is virtually over. We only need “stay the course” for 10 more years.

    This situation is troublesome in the extreme. The collective refusal of any constituent in this complicated mix of political players to confront Bush on Iraq virtually guarantees that it will be the Bush administration, and not its successor, that will dictate the first year (or more) of policy in Iraq for the next president. It also ensures that the debacle that is the Bush administration’s overarching Middle East policy of regional transformation and regime change in not only Iraq but Iran and Syria will continue to go unchallenged. If the president is free to pursue his policies, it could lead to direct military intervention in Iran by the United States prior to President Bush’s departure from office or, failing that, place his successor on the path toward military confrontation. At a time when every data point available certifies (and recertifies) the administration’s actions in Iraq, Iran and elsewhere (including Afghanistan) as an abject failure, America collectively has fallen into a hypnotic trance, distracted by domestic economic problems and incapable, due to our collective ignorance of the world we live in, of deciphering the reality on the ground in the Middle East.

    Rather than offering a word-for-word renouncement of the president’s rosy assertions concerning Iraq, I will instead initiate a process of debunking the myth of American success by doing that which no politician, current or aspiring, would dare do: predict the failure of American policy in Iraq. With the ink on the newspapers parroting the president’s words barely dry, evidence of his misrepresentation of reality begins to build with the announcement by the Pentagon that troop levels in Iraq will not be dropping, as had been projected in view of the “success” of the “surge,” but rather holding at current levels with the possibility of increasing in the future. This reversal of course concerning troop deployments into Iraq highlights the reality that the statistical justification of “surge success,” namely the reduction in the level of violence, was illusory, a temporary lull brought about more by smoke and mirrors than any genuine change of fortune on the ground. Even the word surge is inappropriate for what is now undeniably an escalation. Iraq, far from being a nation on the rebound, remains a mortally wounded shell, the equivalent of a human suffering from a sucking chest wound, its lungs collapsed and its life blood spilling unchecked onto the ground. The “surge” never addressed the underlying reasons for Iraq’s post-Saddam suffering, and as such never sought to heal that which was killing Iraq. Instead, the “surge” offered little more than a cosmetic gesture, covering the wounds of Iraq with a bandage which shielded the true extent of the damage from outside view while doing nothing to save the victim.

    Iraq is dying; soon Iraq will be dead. True, there will be a plot of land in the Middle East which people will refer to as Iraq. But any hope of a resurrected homogeneous Iraqi nation populated by a diverse people capable of coexisting in peace and harmony is soon to be swept away forever. Any hope of a way out for the people of Iraq and their neighbors is about to become a victim of the “successes” of the “surge” and the denial of reality. The destruction of Iraq has already begun. The myth of Kurdish stability—born artificially out of the U.S.-enforced “no-fly zones” of the 1990s, sustained through the largess of the Oil-for-Food program (and U.S.-approved sanctions sidestepped by the various Kurdish groups in Iraq) and given a Frankenstein-like lease on life in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion and occupation—is rapidly unraveling. Like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, present-day Iraqi Kurdistan has been exposed as an amalgam of parts incompatible not only with each other but the region as a whole.

    Ongoing Kurdish disdain for the central authority in Baghdad has led to the Kurds declaring their independence from Iraqi law (especially any law pertaining to oil present on lands they control). The reality of the Kurds’ quest for independence can be seen in their support of the Kurdish groups, in particular the PKK, that desire independence from Turkey. The sentiment has not been lost on their Turkish neighbors to the north, resulting in an escalation of cross-border military incursions which will only expand over time, further destabilizing Kurdish Iraq. Lying dormant, and unmentioned, is the age-old animosity between the two principle Kurdish factions in Iraq, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP). As recently as 1997, these two factions were engaged in a virtual civil war against one another. The strains brought on by the present unraveling have these two factions once again vying for position inside Iraq, making internecine conflict all but inevitable. The year 2008 will bring with it a major escalation of Turkish military operations against northern Iraq, a strategic break between the Kurdish factions there and with the central government of Baghdad, and the beginnings of an all-out civil war between the KDP and PUK.

    The next unraveling of the “surge” myth will be in western Iraq, where the much applauded “awakening” was falling apart even as Bush spoke. I continue to maintain that there is a hidden hand behind the Sunni resistance that operates unseen and uncommented on by the United States and its erstwhile Iraqi allies operating out of the Green Zone in Baghdad. The government of Saddam Hussein never formally capitulated, and indeed had in place plans for ongoing active resistance against any occupation of Iraq. In October 2007 the Iraqi Baath Party held its 13th conference, in which it formally certified one of Saddam’s vice presidents, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, as the supreme leader of the Sunni resistance.

    The United States’ embrace of the “awakening” will go down in the history of the Iraq conflict as one of the gravest strategic errors made in a field of grave errors. The U.S. military in Iraq has never fully understood the complex interplay between the Sunni resistance, al-Qaida in Iraq, and the former government of Saddam Hussein. Saddam may be dead, but not so his plans for resistance. The massive security organizations which held sway over Iraq during his rule were never defeated, and never formally disbanded. The organs of security which once operated as formal ministries now operate as covert cells, functioning along internal lines of communication which are virtually impenetrable by outside forces. These security organs gave birth to al-Qaida in Iraq, fostered its growth as a proxy, and used it as a means of sowing chaos and fear among the Iraqi population.

    The violence perpetrated by al-Qaida in Iraq is largely responsible for the inability of the central government in Baghdad to gain any traction in the form of unified governance. The inability of the United States to defeat al-Qaida has destroyed any hope of generating confidence among the Iraqi population in the possibility of stability emerging from an ongoing American occupation. But al-Qaida in Iraq is not a physical entity which the United States can get its hands around, but rather a giant con game being run by Izzat al-Douri and the Sunni resistance. Because al-Qaida in Iraq is derived from the Sunni resistance, it can be defeated only when the Sunni resistance is defeated. And the greatest con game of them all occurred when the Sunni resistance manipulated the United States into arming it, training it and turning it against the forces of al-Qaida, which it controls. Far from subduing the Sunni resistance by Washington’s political and military support of the “awakening,” the United States has further empowered it. It is almost as if we were arming and training the Viet Cong on the eve of the Tet offensive during the Vietnam War.

    Keeping in mind the fact that the Sunni resistance, led by al-Douri, operates from the shadows, and that its influence is exerted more indirectly than directly, there are actual al-Qaida elements in Iraq which operate independently of central Sunni control, just as there are Sunni tribal elements which freely joined the “awakening” in an effort to quash the forces of al-Qaida in Iraq. The diabolical beauty of the Sunni resistance isn’t its ability to exert direct control over all aspects of the anti-American activity in Sunni Iraq, but rather to manipulate the overall direction of activity through indirect means in a manner which achieves its overall strategic aims. The Sunni resistance continues to use al-Qaida in Iraq as a useful tool for seizing the strategic focus of the American military occupiers (and their Iraqi proxies in the Green Zone), as well as controlling Sunni tribal elements which stray too far off the strategic course (witness the recent suicide bomb assassination of senior Sunni tribal leaders). 2008 will see the collapse of the Sunni “awakening” movement, and a return to large-scale anti-American insurgency in western Iraq. It will also see the continued viability of al-Qaida in Iraq in terms of being an organization capable of wreaking violence and dictating the pace of American military involvement in directions beneficial to the Sunni resistance and detrimental to the United States.

    One of the spinoffs of the continued success of the Sunni resistance is the focus it places on the inability of the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad to actually govern. The U.S. decision to arm, train and facilitate the various Sunni militias in Iraq is a de facto acknowledgement that the American occupiers have lost confidence in the high-profile byproduct of the “purple finger revolution” of January 2005. The sham that was that election has produced a government trusted by no one, even the Shiites. The ongoing unilateral cease-fire imposed by the Muqtada al-Sadr on his Mahdi Army prevented the outbreak of civil war between his movement and that of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and its militia, the Badr Brigade.

    When Saddam’s security forces dissolved on the eve of the fall of Baghdad in March 2003, the security organs which had been tasked with infiltrating the Shiite community for the purpose of spying on Shiites were instead instructed to embed themselves deep within the structures of that community. Both the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigade are heavily infiltrated with such sleeper elements, which conspire to create and exploit fractures between these two organizations under the age-old adage of divide and conquer. A strategic pause in the conflict between the Mahdi Army and the U.S. military on the one hand and the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigade on the other has served to strengthen the hand of the Mahdi Army by allowing time for it to rearm and reorganize, increasing its efficiency as a military organization all the while its political opposite, the SCIRI-dominated central Iraqi government, continues to falter.

    Further exacerbating the situation for the American occupiers of Iraq is the ongoing tension created by the war of wills between the United States and Iran. The Sunni resistance has no love for the Shiite theocracy in Tehran, or its proxies in Iraq, and views creating a rift between the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigade as a strategic imperative on the road to a Sunni resurgence. Any U.S. military strike against Iran will bring with it the inevitable Shiite backlash in Iraq. The Shiite forces that emerge as the most independent of the American occupier will be, in the minds of the Sunni resistance, the most capable of winning the support of the Shiites of Iraq. Given the past record of cooperation between the Mahdi Army and the Sunni resistance, and the ongoing antipathy between Sunnis and SCIRI, there can be little doubt which Shiite entity the Sunnis will side with when it comes time for a decisive conflict between the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigade, and 2008 will be the year which witnesses such a conflict.

    The big loser in all of this, besides the people of Iraq, is of course the men and women of the armed forces of the United States. Betrayed by the Bush administration, abandoned by Congress and all but forgotten by a complacent American population and those who are positioning themselves for national leadership in the next administration, the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who so proudly wear the uniform of the United States continue to fight and die, kill and be maimed in a war which was never justified and long ago lost its luster. Played as pawns in a giant game of three-dimensional chess, these brave Americans find themselves being needlessly sacrificed in a game where there can be no winner, only losers.

    The continued ambivalence of the American population as a whole toward the war in Iraq, perhaps best manifested by the superficiality of the slogan “Support the Troops,” all the while remaining ignorant of what the troops are actually doing, has led to a similar amnesia among politicians all too willing to allow themselves to seek political advantage at the expense of American life and treasure. January 2008 cost the United States nearly 40 lives in Iraq. The current military budget is unprecedented in its size, and doesn’t even come close to paying for ongoing military operations in Iraq. The war in Iraq has bankrupted Americans morally and fiscally, and yet the American public continues to shake the hands of aspiring politicians who ignore Iraq, pretending that the blood which soaks the hands of these political aspirants hasn’t stained their own. In the sick kabuki dance that is American politics, this refusal to call a spade a spade is deserving of little more than disdain and sorrow.

    While the American people, politicians and media may remain mute on the reality of Iraq, I won’t. There is no such thing as a crystal ball which enables one to see clearly into the future, and I am normally averse to making sweeping long-term predictions involving a topic as fluid as the ongoing situation in Iraq. At the risk of being wrong (and, indeed, I hope very much that I am), I will contradict the rosy statements of the president in his State of the Union address and will throw down a gauntlet in the face of ongoing public and media ambivalence by predicting that 2008 will be the year the “surge” in Iraq is exposed as a grand debacle. The cosmetic bandage placed over the gravely wounded Iraq will fall off, and the damaged body that is Iraq will continue its painful decline toward death.

    If there is any winner in all of this it will be the Sunni resistance, or at least its leadership hiding in the shadow of the American occupation, as it continues to exploit the chaotic death spiral of post-Saddam Iraq for its own long-term plan of a Sunni resurgence in Iraq. That the Sunni resistance will continue to fight an American occupation is a guarantee. That it will continue to persevere is highly probable. That the United States will be able to stop it is unlikely. And so, the reality that the only policy direction worthy of consideration here in the United States concerning Iraq is the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of American forces continues to hold true. And the fact that this option is given short shrift by all capable of making or influencing such a decision guarantees that this bloody war will go on, inconclusively and incomprehensibly, for many more years. That is the one image in my crystal ball that emerges in full focus, and which will serve as the basis of defining a national nightmare for generations to come.

  13. #793

    Default RollingStone

    The Chicken Doves
    Elected to end the war, Democrats have surrendered to Bush on Iraq and betrayed the peace movement for their own political ends
    Victor Juhasz

    MATT TAIBBI
    Posted Feb 21, 2008 12:00 AM


    Quietly, while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been inspiring Democrats everywhere with their rolling bitchfest, congressional superduo Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have completed one of the most awesome political collapses since Neville Chamberlain. At long last, the Democratic leaders of Congress have publicly surrendered on the Iraq War, just one year after being swept into power with a firm mandate to end it.

    Solidifying his reputation as one of the biggest pussies in U.S. political history, Reid explained his decision to refocus his party's energies on topics other than ending the war by saying he just couldn't fit Iraq into his busy schedule. "We have the presidential election," Reid said recently. "Our time is really squeezed."

    There was much public shedding of tears among the Democratic leadership, as Reid, Pelosi and other congressional heavyweights expressed deep sadness that their valiant charge up the hill of change had been thwarted by circumstances beyond their control — that, as much as they would love to continue trying to end the catastrophic Iraq deal, they would now have to wait until, oh, 2009 to try again. "We'll have a new president," said Pelosi. "And I do think at that time we'll take a fresh look at it."

    Pelosi seemed especially broken up about having to surrender on Iraq, sounding like an NFL coach in a postgame presser, trying with a straight face to explain why he punted on first-and-goal. "We just didn't have any plays we liked down there," said the coach of the 0-15 Dems. "Sometimes you just have to play the field-position game...."

    In reality, though, Pelosi and the Democrats were actually engaged in some serious point-shaving. Working behind the scenes, the Democrats have systematically taken over the anti-war movement, packing the nation's leading group with party consultants more interested in attacking the GOP than ending the war. "Our focus is on the Republicans," one Democratic apparatchik in charge of the anti-war coalition declared. "How can we juice up attacks on them?"

    The story of how the Democrats finally betrayed the voters who handed them both houses of Congress a year ago is a depressing preview of what's to come if they win the White House. And if we don't pay attention to this sorry tale now, while there's still time to change our minds about whom to nominate, we might be stuck with this same bunch of spineless creeps for four more years. With no one but ourselves to blame.

    The controversy over the Democratic "strategy" to end the war basically comes down to whom you believe. According to the Reid-Pelosi version of history, the Democrats tried hard to force President Bush's hand by repeatedly attempting to tie funding for the war to a scheduled withdrawal. Last spring they tried to get him to eat a timeline and failed to get the votes to override a presidential veto. Then they retreated and gave Bush his money, with the aim of trying again after the summer to convince a sufficient number of Republicans to cross the aisle in support of a timeline.

    But in September, Gen. David Petraeus reported that Bush's "surge" in Iraq was working, giving Republicans who might otherwise have flipped sufficient cover to continue supporting the war. The Democrats had no choice, the legend goes, but to wait until 2009, in the hopes that things would be different under a Democratic president.

    Democrats insist that the reason they can't cut off the money for the war, despite their majority in both houses, is purely political. "George Bush would be on TV every five minutes saying that the Democrats betrayed the troops," says Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an Independent who voted against the war but caucuses with the Democrats. Then he glumly adds another reason. "Also, it just wasn't going to happen."

    Why it "just wasn't going to happen" is the controversy. In and around the halls of Congress, the notion that the Democrats made a sincere effort to end the war meets with, at best, derisive laughter. Though few congressional aides would think of saying so on the record, in private many dismiss their party's lame anti-war effort as an absurd dog-and-pony show, a calculated attempt to score political points without ever being serious about bringing the troops home.

    "Yeah, the amount of expletives that flew in our office alone was unbelievable," says an aide to one staunchly anti-war House member. "It was all about the public show. Reid and Pelosi would say they were taking this tough stand against Bush, but if you actually looked at what they were sending to a vote, it was like Swiss cheese. Full of holes."

    In the House, some seventy Democrats joined the Out of Iraq caucus and repeatedly butted heads with Reid and Pelosi, arguing passionately for tougher measures to end the war. The fight left some caucus members bitter about the party's failure. Rep. Barbara Lee of California was one of the first to submit an amendment to cut off funding unless it was tied to an immediate withdrawal. "I couldn't even get it through the Rules Committee in the spring," Lee says.

    Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a fellow caucus member, says Democrats should have refused from the beginning to approve any funding that wasn't tied to a withdrawal. "If we'd been bold the minute we got control of the House — and that's why we got the majority, because the people of this country wanted us out of Iraq — if we'd been bold, even if we lost the votes, we would have gained our voice."

    An honest attempt to end the war, say Democrats like Woolsey and Lee, would have involved forcing Bush to execute his veto and allowing the Republicans to filibuster all they wanted. Force a showdown, in other words, and use any means necessary to get the bloodshed ended.

    "Can you imagine Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert taking no for an answer the way Reid and Pelosi did on Iraq?" asks the House aide in the expletive-filled office. "They'd find a way to get the votes. They'd get it done somehow."

    But any suggestion that the Democrats had an obligation to fight this good fight infuriates the bund of hedging careerists in charge of the party. In fact, nothing sums up the current Democratic leadership better than its vitriolic criticisms of those recalcitrant party members who insist on interpreting their 2006 mandate as a command to actually end the war. Rep. David Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee and a key Pelosi-Reid ally, lambasted anti-war Democrats who "didn't want to get specks on those white robes of theirs." Obey even berated a soldier's mother who begged him to cut off funds for the war, accusing her and her friends of "smoking something illegal."

    Rather than use the vast power they had to end the war, Democrats devoted their energy to making sure that "anti-war activism" became synonymous with "electing Democrats." Capitalizing on America's desire to end the war, they hijacked the anti-war movement itself, filling the ranks of peace groups with loyal party hacks. Anti-war organizations essentially became a political tool for the Democrats — one operated from inside the Beltway and devoted primarily to targeting Republicans.

    This supposedly grass-roots "anti-war coalition" met regularly on K Street, the very capital of top-down Beltway politics. At the forefront of the groups are Thomas Matzzie and Brad Woodhouse of Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq, the leader of the anti-war lobby. Along with other K Street crusaders, the two have received iconic treatment from The Washington Post and The New York Times, both of which depicted the anti-war warriors as young idealist-progressives in shirtsleeves, riding a mirthful spirit into political combat — changing the world is fun!

    But what exactly are these young idealists campaigning for? At its most recent meeting, the group eerily echoed the Reid-Pelosi "squeezed for time" mantra: Retreat from any attempt to end the war and focus on electing Democrats. "There was a lot of agreement that we can draw distinctions between anti-war Democrats and pro-war Republicans," a spokeswoman for Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq announced.

    What the Post and the Times failed to note is that much of the anti-war group's leadership hails from a consulting firm called Hildebrand Tewes — whose partners, Steve Hildebrand and Paul Tewes, served as staffers for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). In addition, these anti-war leaders continue to consult for many of the same U.S. senators whom they need to pressure in order to end the war. This is the kind of conflict of interest that would normally be an embarrassment in the activist community.

    Worst of all is the case of Woodhouse, who came to Hildebrand Tewes after years of working as the chief mouthpiece for the DSCC, where he campaigned actively to re-elect Democratic senators who supported the Iraq War in the first place. Anyone bothering to look — and clearly the Post and the Times did not before penning their ardent bios of Woodhouse — would have found the youthful idealist bragging to newspapers before the Iraq invasion about the pro-war credentials of North Carolina candidate Erskine Bowles. "No one has been stronger in this race in supporting President Bush in the War on Terror and his efforts to effect a regime change in Iraq," boasted the future "anti-war" activist Woodhouse.

    With guys like this in charge of the anti-war movement, much of what has passed for peace activism in the past year was little more than a thinly veiled scheme to use popular discontent over the war to unseat vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in 2008. David Sirota, a former congressional staffer whose new book, The Uprising, excoriates the Democrats for their failure to end the war, expresses disgust at the strategy of targeting only Republicans. "The whole idea is based on this insane fiction that there is no such thing as a pro-war Democrat," he says. "Their strategy allows Democrats to take credit for being against the war without doing anything to stop it. It's crazy."

    Justin Raimondo, the uncompromising editorial director of Antiwar.com, regrets contributing twenty dollars to Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq. "Not only did they use it to target Republicans," he says, "they went after the ones who were on the fence about Iraq." The most notorious case involved Lincoln Chafee, a moderate from Rhode Island who lost his Senate seat in 2006. Since then, Chafee has taken shots at Democrats like Reid, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, all of whom campaigned against him despite having voted for the war themselves.

    "Look, I understand partisan politics," says Chafee, who now concedes that voters were correct to punish him for his war vote. "I just find it amusing that those who helped get us into this mess now say we need to change the Senate — because we're in a mess."

    The really tragic thing about the Democratic surrender on Iraq is that it's now all but guaranteed that the war will be off the table during the presidential campaign. Once again — it happened in 2002, 2004 and 2006 — the Democrats have essentially decided to rely on the voters to give them credit for being anti-war, despite the fact that, for all the noise they've made to the contrary, in the end they've done nothing but vote for war and cough up every dime they've been asked to give, every step of the way.

    Even beyond the war, the Democrats have repeatedly gone limp-dick every time the Bush administration so much as raises its voice. Most recently, twelve Democrats crossed the aisle to grant immunity to phone companies who participated in Bush's notorious wiretapping program. Before that, Democrats caved in and confirmed Mike Mukasey as attorney general after he kept his middle finger extended and refused to condemn waterboarding as torture. Democrats fattened by Wall Street also got cold feet about upsetting the country's gazillionaires, refusing to close a tax loophole that rewarded hedge-fund managers with a tax rate less than half that paid by ordinary citizens.

    But the war is where they showed their real mettle. Before the 2006 elections, Democrats told us we could expect more specifics on their war plans after Election Day. Nearly two years have passed since then, and now they are once again telling us to wait until after an election to see real action to stop the war. In the meantime, of course, we're to remember that they're the good guys, the Republicans are the real enemy, and, well, go Hillary! Semper fi! Yay, team!

    How much of this bullshit are we going to take? How long are we supposed to give the Reids and Pelosis and Hillarys of the world credit for wanting, deep down in their moldy hearts, to do the right thing?

    Look, f*** your hearts, OK? Just get it done. Because if you don't, sooner or later this con is going to run dry. It may not be in '08, but it'll be soon. Even Americans can't be fooled forever.

  14. #794

    Default

    The U.S. death toll in the Iraq War now stands at 4,000

    Only 1/3 of Americans polled were aware the number is that high.

    Number killed before Bush declared victory: 120

    After: 3,880

  15. #795

    Default

    The BBC reported this with more significance than any american agency it seems.

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