Thursday, March 31, 2005

Might Pakistan place nuclear weapons On F-16s?

Might Pakistan place nuclear weapons On F-16s? That's the question that ArmsControlWonk asks.

Aircraft, however, are easier to keep on alert than liquid-fueled ballistic missiles. I worry Pakistan may assign some F-16s a “quick reaction” nuclear delivery role—a decision that might compromise the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

The Ghauri is a liquid-propellant, road-mobile ballistic missile. Although NASIC identifies the Ghauri as having a range of 1,300 km, David Wright concludes that range may be significantly shorter depending on the size of Pakistan’s nuclear warheads and the precise configuration of the missile. The latter calculation turns on an assumption—the intelligence community assumes that Pakistan’s Ghauri is an “off the shelf” Nodong and gives the same range for both; David observers the Ghauri is slightly smaller—suggesting that the Ghauri has made use of some indigenous Pakistani (read: crappy) technology—and concludes its range may be shorter.

The Ghauri missile cannot be kept “on alert.” Liquid-propellants are too corrosive to keep ballistic missiles constantly fueled. As a result, Pakistan is likely to adopt the Chinese model and keep its Ghauri missile inventory in storage with its warheads stored seperately. Islamabad may feel that its nuclear weapons are too vulnerable in this mode. During the 1999 Kargil Crisis, the United States detected Pakistan moving its Ghauri missiles out of storage and concluded the crisis was entering a particularly dangerous stage. Although Washington utilized strategic warning to intensify diplomacy, New Delhi might attempt to destroy Pakistan’s missile forces before they were ready to fire.

F-16s, however, could be kept “on alert” during a crisis: fully-fueled, sitting on the runway, with a pilot in the cockpit.

Given that Pakistan (possibly) continues to sell its nuclear secrets, why are we rewarding them with delivery systems for their nukes?

Armchair Generalist: Happy 30th Birthday, BWC!

Armchair Generalist had a post yesterday about the 30th birthday of the Biological Weapons Convention. He notes that John "the screaming diplomat" Bolton had a hand in killing the verification process for the convention.

For those of you who think that the biothreat isn't real, I highly recommend taking a look at this NOVA special on Bioterrorism. If you really want to scare yourself check out the interview with Russian Biowarrior Sergei Popov, who helped develop some of Russia's doomsday bugs. Read the whole interview here.

Also useful is their Global Guide to Bioweapons. How many enemies of the United States, current or potential, do you count on that list?

Creating Progressive National Security Activists

Mathew Iglesias reports today on a new, really incredible, Democratic Security Blog, Democracy Arsenal, a joint venture of the Center for American Progress and the Century Foundation

There's a recent post on their site which strikes very close to home for me, the famous Matt Bai NY Times Magazine article Wiring the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy. This article strikes close to home for me partly because this past summer I got highly involved with one of the groups mentioned in the article, Music for America. My work with MfA changed my life, taking me off of an Academic track and showing me my true calling-- active politics.

But, since I've decided to change careers I face a dilemma. I know that I'm good, I would even say great if I weren't so modest ;-), at politicing and I have more passion about fixing the sorry ass state/direction of our nation than most. But, as I finish up my Masters thesis and I begin to look to switch my career from computers into the political sphere, I'm struck by the almost complete lack of an infrastructure to plug myself into. I have plenty of connections and people who can testify to my abilities, and I almost certainly could land myself a good political job come summer. But what I really want is to get plugged into a broader movement/organization, but that, by and large doesn't exist.

As the the Democracy Arsenal piece points out:
on the left, we have academics and operatives.(who don't communicate with each other) The right has academic operatives. Karl Rove is the prototype. Stepford Wonks are the ones who repeat the talking points on TV and radio. The academic operative fights in the gutter in the morning but then cleans up nicely for a Clausewitz lecture in the afternoon. Voila!

The liberal side doesn't really have anything equivalent in significant numbers. Yglesias' piece about the gap between the liberal concept people and Democratic operatives on defense issues is a good overview and identifies places to begin building infrastructure for our side. (Derek, the 12 Step Program!)

One attempt to try and create this infrastructure is being done under the auspices of the Principles Project (which I wrote about a few weeks back). For now it seems that the Project will focus on voting reform as an issue to work towards the creation of an infrastructure (an issue that I care about, but I seriously disagree with making it the one and only organizing issue). I tried hard to push national security issues at the conference, since nearly a third of the document deals with this area, but ultimately I wasn't in the meeting where the issue was chosen, so my voice wasn't heard (at least not in the right place at the right time). I also tried to push credit issues, since a very large coalition-- including advocacy groups from the Armed Forces-- is about to be launched with the express purpose of re-regulating credit, but that also didn't seem to catch on.

But- no matter who does the organizing, or under what auspices, creating a new cadre of national security progressives desperately needs to happen (but please, please, don't invite Joe "Bush was right to invade Iraq" Biden to speak or teach- we don't need more Neo-Con Dems).

Operation Truth: PTSD Prevelance

There are two blog posts and an interesting conversation going on at Operation Truth about the prevelance of PTSD in Iraq right now.

The conversation was sparked by this article in the Marine Times, in which a Marine General questions the actual levels of PTSD in Iraq.
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — A top Marine commander has dismissed a study by The New England Journal of Medicine that estimated 17 percent of Iraq combat veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Brig. Gen. Joseph Dunford, assistant commander of 1st Marine Division, said the study’s basis came from checklist-type questionnaires filled out by U.S. troops. He said only about 1,000 of his Marines filled out the questionnaire, and most were members of 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. The division has roughly 45,000 Marines.

“It does not reflect all our experiences,” Dunford said during a roundtable discussion with reporters March 28 at Camp Pendleton, Calif. The study, “Combat Duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Medical Health Problems, and Barriers to Care,” was published in July 2004 in the medical journal. It received answers from three Army combat infantry units and one Marine unit.

Dunford, a former 5th Marines regimental commander, acknowledged that the stress of combat tours has taken a toll on some members of his force, some whom, like him, have done two tours in the region. But the number of those seeking or receiving help so far, he said, is “statistically insignificant.”

“I would reject the study,” he added. “In no way are we seeing 17 percent.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Video Of IED Explosion

(via Operation Truth)
Want to know what an IED explosion looks like? Check out this video (Windows Media Player) of an Humvee getting blown up by an IED. Luckily, nobody was hurt, but you can get an idea of the threat that our soldiers face every day in Iraq. Still have any doubts about why our soldiers desperately need armored Humvees? I would guess that the Marine who survived this blast would not have been so lucky if his Humvee wasn't adequately armored (though I'd venture to guess that it wouldn't have been used to push the abandoned car out of the way unless it was adequately armored).

Also, if you haven't seen it, go and see Gunner Palace. If you watch this and the movie together you can get a good idea of just how crazy, complex, and scary the mission that our soldiers face in. Here's a clip from the movie where they joke about the lack of armor for their humvees. Man is this shit scary- and shame on the DoD for putting our soldiers further into harms way than is necessary.

*Originally posted at Music for America

Panel On "The Draft: Inevitable, Avoidable or Preferable?"

Got the chance to catch the second half of the panel addressing "The Draft: Inevitable, Avoidable or Preferable?" hosted by the Center for American Progress and the Washington Monthly on C-Span today.. The talk dealt with the article of the same name, which I linked to earlier this week.

There's a link to the video on the C-Span site, but so far I haven't been able to get it to work. Give it a try- the panel is well worth watching.

My favorite idea came from the panel's moderator, columnist and moderator of CNN's The Capital Gang, Mark Shields, who suggested that we raise the enlistment age to 59 so that all the members of Congress who were too busy or important during the Vietnam War could be given a second chance to serve their country.

*Update: The link is now working...

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Failed Intelligence Or Outright Deceit?

The Armchair Generalist and Laura at War and Peace each have posts today about the the soon-to-be released presidential commission study on American intelligence failures regarding Iraq's missing WMD, and both have a similar reaction- "So what?" Now, I'm a little confused as to what they mean by their lack of surprise. On the one hand they could be saying that they're not surprised that the commission found that the CIA was seriously in err in it's intelligence on Iraq's WMD "program". On the other hand they could be "surprised" that the President's commission found everyone at fault accept for the President. I'll assume that it's the later, because everyone should know by now that, as Anthony Zinni has stated, the Neo-Cons cooked the books with the WMD.

The Senate and House might be alright with giving the president a free pass on this. But the thousands of Americans who have fought in, been injured by, or been killed during the War in Iraq, as well as the American Public, deserve to know the truth.

Update: Laura at War and Peace just posted an update to her post. Looks like I wasn't the only one confused.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Draft Watch: "The Case for the Draft"

Phillip Carter and Paul Glastris, the authors of the great blog Intel Dump, had an article in this past month's Washigton Monthly, titled "The Case for the Draft"
The United States has occupied many foreign lands over the last half century—Germany and Japan in World War II, and, on a much smaller scale, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo in the 1990s. In all these cases, we sponsored elections and handed-off to democratic governments control of countries that were relatively stable, secure, and reasonably peaceful.

In Iraq, we failed to do this, despite heroic efforts by U.S. and coalition troops. The newly-elected Iraqi government inherits a country in which assassinations, kidnappings, suicide bombings, pipeline sabotages, and beheadings of foreigners are daily occurrences. For the last eight months, the ranks of the insurgency have been growing faster than those of the security forces of the provisional Iraqi government—and an alarming number of those government forces are secretly working for the insurgency. American-led combat operations in Ramadi and Fallujah killed large numbers of the enemy, but at the price of fanning the flames of anti-American hatred and dispersing the insurrection throughout Iraq. Despite nearly two years of effort, American troops and civilian administrators have failed to restore basic services to much of the central part of the country where a majority of Iraqis live. The U.S. military has not even been able to secure the 7-mile stretch of highway leading from the Baghdad airport to the Green Zone where America's own embassy and the seat of the Iraqi government are headquartered.


But there's a deeper problem, one that any president who chose to invade a country the size of Iraq would have faced. In short, America's all-volunteer military simply cannot deploy and sustain enough troops to succeed in places like Iraq while still deterring threats elsewhere in the world. Simply adding more soldiers to the active duty force, as some in Washington are now suggesting, may sound like a good solution. But it's not, for sound operational and pragmatic reasons. America doesn't need a bigger standing army; it needs a deep bench of trained soldiers held in reserve who can be mobilized to handle the unpredictable but inevitable wars and humanitarian interventions of the future. And while there are several ways the all-volunteer force can create some extra surge capacity, all of them are limited.

The only effective solution to the manpower crunch is the one America has turned to again and again in its history: the draft. Not the mass combat mobilizations of World War II, nor the inequitable conscription of Vietnam—for just as threats change and war-fighting advances, so too must the draft. A modernized draft would demand that the privileged participate. It would give all who serve a choice over how they serve. And it would provide the military, on a “just in time” basis, large numbers of deployable ground troops, particularly the peacekeepers we'll need to meet the security challenges of the 21st century.

America has a choice. It can be the world's superpower, or it can maintain the current all-volunteer military, but it probably can't do both.
This really is one of the best cases I've seen made for why we not only need a draft, but why it could be a very positive step, and it is well worth a thorough read.

For those of you in the DC area, they'll be hosting a panel at a CAP conference titled "The Draft: Inevitable, Avoidable or Preferable?" this Wednesday.

Some Creditors Make Illegal Demands on Active-Duty Soldiers

The New York Times has an article today dealing with the support Troops are getting from credit companies, in the form of illegal attempts to foreclose on their houses while they're deployed.
A longstanding federal law strictly limits the ability of his mortgage company and other lenders to foreclose against active-duty service members.

But Sergeant Savage's experience was not unusual. Though statistics are scarce, court records and interviews with military and civilian lawyers suggest that Americans heading off to war are sometimes facing distracting and demoralizing demands from financial companies trying to collect on obligations that, by law, they cannot enforce.

Some cases involve nationally prominent companies like Wells Fargo and Citigroup, though both say they are committed to strict compliance with the law.

The problem, most military law specialists say, is that too many lenders, debt collectors, landlords, lawyers and judges are unaware of the federal statute or do not fully understand it.

The law, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, protects all active-duty military families from foreclosures, evictions and other financial consequences of military service. The Supreme Court has ruled that its provisions must "be liberally construed to protect those who have been obliged to drop their own affairs to take up the burdens of the nation."
Operation Truth looked at this horrendous abuse of our soldiers earlier this month. It's also important to note that attempts to exempt soldiers from gutting of the bankruptcy laws that was passed a few weeks back was defeated, almost entirely along party lines (cough-Joe Biden-cough).

We are asking men and women across the country to drop everything and fly half-way across the world to fight in a war they may or may not believe in, and we let these predators prey on them when they are least able to defend themselves? Un-friggin-believable!

UPDATE: Operation Truth has an Open Letter to the financial institutions who are currently breaking the law.
I am puzzled about something. I see the American flags draped prominently on your buildings. I see the yellow ribbon and American flag stickers placed prominently on your employees' cars. And I see the advertising you target at military families, advocating your long-standing and total support for the troops. So why don't your actions match your rhetoric?

This isn't about compliance with the letter of the law. This is about deeds, not words. You really want to show your support for troops in a visible and concrete way? Try this.

Immediately adopt a policy that freezes the debts (credit card bills, home loans, car loans, etc.) for any Reserve Component soldier from 90 days prior to mobilization to 90 days after. No payments, no accrued interest, nothing. The clock stops on that debt. Seems only fair, since for many soldiers, the clock stops on their personal lives during that same period. Don't wait for legislation, just do it.


And please don't whine to me about financial losses. We all expect a banner year for the financial industry due to the new bankruptcy legislation that just passed. Military families make up such an infinitesimal portion of your customer base, you'll hardly even miss the money.

So how about it? Can we see some real support instead of just empty gestures? 2.8 million servicemembers are waiting for your answer.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Center for American Progress- The President's Men

CAP posted a good piece on its site this week on
Bush's nominations of Wolfowitz and Bolton.
With the back-to-back nominations of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as president of the World Bank and John Bolton as United States ambassador to the United Nations, President Bush has emphatically returned to his peculiar brand of "stick a hot poker in your eye" foreign policy and done so with the same inevitable consequence – making the American people less secure in an increasingly dangerous world.
The article lays out convincing cases against both candidates, go give it a read.

War – and Warriors – Are about Killing

Soldiers for the Truth has an amazing article about the brutal nature of war titled War – and Warriors – Are about Killing.
Somewhere along the way to the vicious conflict in Iraq, it seems a lot of people forgot that war is about killing. They forgot that warfare, by its very nature, is about the absolute, resolute application of death-dealing power against an enemy until that opponent either submits or is destroyed. For thousands of years war was understood to be about “kill or be killed” and the “law of the jungle” and the “survival of the fittest.” Tarzan beating on his chest and yowling until the jackals fled their supper is what it was all about.
This, seemingly obvious point, was one of the things I tried to make apparent to those who advocated for the Iraq War under the pretense of a humanitarian mission to relieve the Iraqi citizens from Saddam's vicious rule. But for most of my friends, who are almost entirely under 30, the hell of war was too abstract, and their passion for action was too intense for this to sink in.

The article goes on to discuss the training that turns men into warriors:
Soldiers are trained to be warriors. They are carefully forged and tempered in hot coals and cold steel burnished with tales of valor and glory in an atmosphere where raw power is king and the application of brute force is a virtue. Until lately soldiers started talking about killing the first day of basic training and boot camp when the greatly feared and even more respected drill instructors - D.Is - told the recruits they were next to discover the drawbacks of sudden death if they didn’t listen to the evil-eyed instructors looking at them with malevolent gazes framed in lop-sided grins.

The grizzled, earthy sergeants told their charges in simple terms that a warrior is someone who killed people. The officers were the ones who explained a warrior is “engaged or experienced in war, or in the military life; a soldier; a champion [1913 Websters],” or “someone engaged in or experienced in warfare”, according to 2004, but it really didn’t compute. Only mean did.
So what is a warrior?
My favorite description of a warrior was somebody who is “a lean, green killing machine, a paid assassin in the employ of his country.” Drill Sergeant Villa called me that when I was seventeen and weighed about 130 pounds with my boots on. I was ready to go out and do a back-take-down-strangle-hold “guaranteed to snap a man’s neck like a twig” on the first S.O.B. that crossed my path. He made me a tiger!

In different guises and vernaculars training soldiers for war have used variations of that same theme for at least 100 years. Even before then men were taught to mindlessly move at their officer’s barked commands under a hail of arrows and spears and shot from slings, against galloping walls of crazed war horses carrying armored knights, and into massed musket fire. Anthropologists can probably point back 50,000 years and identify fellows willing to share the same notion in grunts and squawks. In those days warriors probably just picked up a big, ugly rock and smacked the crap out of anybody that annoyed them!

“What is the spirit of the bayonet,” the drill sergeants demanded insanely with eyes bulging and spittle flying from their contorted faces while we young recruits stabbed bayoneted rifles into straw-stuffed dummies and screamed in return, “The spirit of the bayonet is to kill, Drill Sergeant,” we roared, “kill, kill, kill!” It didn’t take too long to get the point across that way.
But as the author, Nathaniel R. Helms, notes- the main stream media tends not to focus on the brutal aspects of war, and when the brutality emerges, for example in the form of videos of U.S. Soldiers killing an unarmed Iraqi, the anchors who sit in their cushy studios fain shock and horror at the scene and try and convince themselves and their audience that this is the aberration in war. But that's just not the way it is- brutality is the norm in warfare.

Helms gives some of his own experiences to illustrate his point:
One time in Vietnam, I watched a Navy corpsman patching up one side of a North Vietnamese prisoner’s head after a comrade had cut his ear off. Meanwhile the same 19-year-old Marine cut the dying prisoner’s other ear off with his K-bar knife. Now that was some seriously inappropriate behavior. It is a good thing that didn’t make the nightly news! The young rifleman collected them on a string necklace he wore around his neck. The dried ears looked like a row of peanuts. Behind the gruesome setting other fellows were enjoying lunch.

Later, I discovered a famous picture of a French “Poilu” in World War I sitting on a rotting German corpse in a fortress at Verdun eating his lunch. Some things just never change.

Gross? Yes. Disgusting? Indisputably! Depraved? Without a doubt! That is what war is and that is what warriors do. It isn’t right, it isn’t condoned and competent authorities don’t encourage it, but degenerate behavior, vicious stupidity, and remorseless cruelty are as much a part of war as bravery, honor and glory. Perhaps even more so! Just ask Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He knows a lot about terror and cruelty.
This fact should be reminded to every citizen of this nation, especially when we are considering sending our soldiers into combat, but as Helms notes the MSM (and I would add- our government) does its best to make sure that this reality never reaches the average citizens television screens. Maybe if the brutal realities of war were allowed to pierce our false senses of moral superiority and safety than we'd be a lot less likely to send our young men and women into the belly of the beast.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Draft Watch: Army to Miss Recruiting Goals, Backdoor Draft Continues

According to today's New York Times, the Army is likely to miss its recruiting goals for March and April.
The secretary, Francis J. Harvey, said internal Army studies predicted that the service would not meet its goals this month and the next.

Those internal Army forecasts follow the official release of statistics for February, when the active-duty Army was 27 percent below its recruiting goal of 7,050. That shortfall was the first time since May 2000 that the Army missed a monthly goal, Army officials said.

In the first five months of this fiscal year, the Army has met 94 percent of its goal of 29,185 new soldiers. The Army plans to bring in 80,000 recruits this year to replace those who retire or do not re-enlist.

Mr. Harvey pointed out that in the active-duty force, retention is over 100 percent of the goal to this date, and is near 100 percent in both the Army National Guard and the Reserve, he said. Mr. Harvey said retention was actually higher than Army goals for units that had been deployed to Iraq.
I'm curious how much of that retention is due to forced reenlistments and other backdoor draft maneuvers, like this one reported today in Yahoo News.
The U.S. Army is ordering more people to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan involuntarily from a seldom-used personnel pool as part of a mobilization that began last summer.

They are part of the Army's Individual Ready Reserve, made up of soldiers who have completed their volunteer active-duty service commitment but remain eligible to be called back into uniform for years after returning to civilian life.

The Army, straining to maintain troop levels in Iraq, last June said it would summon more than 5,600 people on the IRR in an effort to have about 4,400 soldiers fit for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan after granting exemption requests for medical reasons and other hardships.

Lt. Col. Pamela Hart said on Wednesday the Army has now increased the number of IRR soldiers it needs to about 4,650, which means a total of about 6,100 will get mobilization orders.

The IRR differs from the part-time Army Reserve and Army National Guard, whose soldiers train regularly as part of units. People on the IRR have no such training requirements.
Sounds like just what we need in Iraq- untrained, unmotivated, and older soldiers.

Also today, the Christian Science Monitor has an interesting piece about the reserves being used on the front lines of the War in Iraq.
When the reservists of Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion of the 23rd Marine Regiment based in Houston got the call, most expected an uneventful tour in Iraq. The marines, drawn mostly from Louisiana and Texas, had anticipated pulling only security duty.

"We figured we wouldn't do much because we were reservists,'' said Staff Sgt. Jesse Noriega, a policeman from San Antonio, Texas. "We've been in the middle of it ever since."

Six months later, the Bravo Company infantrymen are as battle-worn and "salty" as any US unit. They've seen Iraq's dangerous Anbar province. They've fought in Fallujah and Ramadi and worked at the sharp end of the spear in America's most sustained urban combat since Vietnam. They're among the tens of thousands of reservists who have fought in Iraq, a consequence of the country's insurgency and an active-duty military understaffed for long-term occupation. In the process they've become the epitome of the "citizen soldier."
*Update: Operation Truth has a post dealing with the involuntary callups. As they note:
Americans please take note, the IRR is the last pot to dip in before selective service.

undergroundclips: Anthony Zinni CBS Video

Just found someone hosting the full 60 Minutes segment on Anthony Zinni from last May.

If you haven't seen the video yet, and want an idea of the type of speaker and thinker that Zinni is, this is a great place to start.

undergroundclips: Anthony Zinni

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Bush's Intelligence Policy: Lie, Then Blame The Analysts

The second comparison (between the Vietnam and Iraq wars)is trying to draw the American people into support of the war by cooking the books. We did it with the Gulf of Tonkin situation, where we were led to believe there was an attack on our destroyers while they were innocently in international waters, when they weren't. They were in North Vietnam territorial waters supporting an ongoing operation. And here we have had the case for WMD as an imminent threat for not using international authority to go in.
Anthony Zinni on comparisons between the Vietnam and Iraq wars.
This weekend on Kos I found links to two major stories having to do with U.S. intelligence and the ongoing lies of the Bush Administration.

First, via Hunter, we have this- U.S. Misled Allies About Korea's Nuclear Export
In an effort to increase pressure on North Korea, the Bush administration told its Asian allies in briefings earlier this year that Pyongyang had exported nuclear material to Libya. That was a significant new charge, the first allegation that North Korea was helping to create a new nuclear weapons state.

But that is not what U.S. intelligence reported, according to two officials with detailed knowledge of the transaction. North Korea, according to the intelligence, had supplied uranium hexafluoride -- which can be enriched to weapons-grade uranium -- to Pakistan. It was Pakistan, a key U.S. ally with its own nuclear arsenal, that sold the material to Libya. The U.S. government had no evidence, the officials said, that North Korea knew of the second transaction.

Pakistan's role as both the buyer and the seller was concealed to cover up the part played by Washington's partner in the hunt for al Qaeda leaders, according to the officials, who discussed the issue on the condition of anonymity. In addition, a North Korea-Pakistan transfer would not have been news to the U.S. allies, which have known of such transfers for years and viewed them as a business matter between sovereign states.

The Bush administration's approach, intended to isolate North Korea, instead left allies increasingly doubtful as they began to learn that the briefings omitted essential details about the transaction, U.S. officials and foreign diplomats said in interviews. North Korea responded to public reports last month about the briefings by withdrawing from talks with its neighbors and the United States.
Don't forget, this was released on the same week that secretary of State Rice heaped praise on Pakistan. Anyway, who needs credibility with your allies, especially when dealing with intelligence reports on WMD, when you have the worlds strongest military?

But don't worry, we already know who's to blame for this exaggeration- it's the intelligence agencies! Bush will make sure that whomever is to blame for this is brought to account- and by "this" I mean leaking the lies of the Administration to the press or telling the truth to congress and the American people.

The second story, via teacherken, is an article by former CIA agent Ray McGovern (who chaired the national intelligence estimates for the CIA), titled The Intelligence Made Me Do It.
Let's review now. It was bad intelligence that made President George W. Bush invade Iraq, right? No, you say, and you are correct; that is just White House spin. The "intelligence" was conjured up many months after President George W. Bush's decision to attack.

Now, two years and tens of thousands of lives later, I marvel at the ease with which the White House has succeeded in getting Congress to scapegoat the intelligence community. All it takes is "a few good men"-like Senate Intelligence Committee chairman and former Marine Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), living out the Marine Corps motto, Semper Fi-always faithful.

But faithful to what? Faithful, first and foremost, to the party, in what-let us be frank-has become for all intents and purposes a one-party state. That pejorative label, you may recall, is what we used to pin on the dictatorship in the U.S.S.R., where there were no meaningful checks and balances. It is getting scary.

Scary indeed. What ever happened to keeping national security above partisan politics? Like so many of the Republican "principles" (i.e. talking points) this rule only applied when they were out of power. Now that they have control they've revealed themselves for who and what they really are- extremist ideologues more intent on keeping their party in power than they are with pesky little issues like national security. Who needs security when you have faith?

Roberts to the Rescue

Chairman Roberts is still faithfully marching to the drum of the commander in chief, as he did last year in deflecting blame onto the intelligence agencies prior to the presidential election. The White House can count on the senator from Dodge City to salute. And fortunately for him, he and his staff have abundant instances of malfeasance and misfeasance by the CIA and other agencies from which to draw. That his Democrat colleagues usually acquiesce makes it still easier.

The hapless Democrats on Roberts' committee let themselves be snookered last summer into agreeing to postpone until after the election "phase two" of the panel's investigation into the performance of intelligence on Iraq. In return for their acquiescence in an incomplete report that, in effect, exonerated the White House, Roberts promised phase two would deal later with the question of White House misuse of intelligence and pressure on intelligence analysts. (CIA's ombudsman had told the committee that never in his 32-year career with the agency had he encountered such "hammering" on CIA analysts to review and reconsider their judgments.)

Roberts also agreed to look into the role played by the controversial Pentagon Office of Special Plans, conduit of much of the spurious intelligence on Iraq. Most important, he conceded that public statements by top White House officials had been "very aggressive, very declarative" in asserting the existence of "weapons of mass destruction," and may have gone beyond the evidence. On July 9, 2004 he assured reporters that the committee would proceed with phase two after the election: "It is a priority. I made my commitment and it will get done."

Bait and Switch?

Marines respond instinctively when upper echelons change their orders. Thus, it should have come as no surprise when Roberts told reporters last week that the phase-two probe was no longer a priority for his committee. Roberts explained:

"If you ask any member of the administration, 'Why did you make that declarative statement?'...basically, the bottom line is they believed the intelligence and the intelligence was wrong."

This, however, does not stand up to close scrutiny. Take the ubiquitous mushroom clouds about which the president and his top advisers warned on October 7, 8, and 9, 2002 just before Congress voted on October 10 and 11 to authorize war. It was Vice President Dick Cheney, not Saddam Hussein, who "reconstituted" Iraq's nuclear weapons development program, and he did it out of thin air.
At some point our intelligence capabilities are going to break under this kind of preassure. Let's just hope that before this happens we can get some Senators into the halls of Congress who still put our nation and our security before their party loyalty. The consequences for failing to mount an opposition to the Republican lies and insanity will be severe, and we will all pay the consequences.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Anthony Zinni, Chuck Pennachio, and the 2006 PA Senate Race

Just put up a post over at Young Philly Poltics about the PA race...

Here's a part:
I personally could care less what any of these polls say. PA is going to be hotly contested and anyone out there who found comfort in the polls where Casey was shown to be way ahead is fooling themselves. Underestimating Santorum and the Republicans is suicide.

That's why I really can't believe that the PA Dems are trying to anoint Bob Casey Jr. as the challenger to Santorum.


I can't think of a worse strategy than the one the Dems are currently employing in Pennsylvania. Hopefully the party, and maybe more importantly the party's financial backers, will look at these numbers, realize that their course of action is in err and make the necessary changes to insure a Dem victory in '06. Maybe a lightbulb will go off in Rendell's head and he'll realize "hey- bringing in outside candidates like Chuck Pennachio, and reaching out to potential candidates like Anthony Zinni would be great strategic moves for Democrats in the '06 races." More than likely they'll be blinded by their own confidence and their personal/political/business ties to each other. Which is why it's up to us in the activist and blogger world to make sure that we make this primary competitive- victory depends upon it.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Fifteen Threats And The Need For A National Health System

In my original Draft Zinni post, I noted how health care had become a national security issue. In response to this, AlexC at pstupidonymous (his friends just call him stupid) wrote:
Defending against a bio-weapon IS NO REASON for National Health Care. Spend money on bio weapon research. On vaccinations and on intelligence to find them before their used.
Are there really no sound arguments for nationalize health care left? All that's left is fear?
How about being pro-active on bioterrorism?
Well, pstupid, last week that liberal bastion known as the Department of Homeland Security released a list of the fifteen most likely security threats(PDF, via Global guerrillas) that the American Public faces. The New York Times provides a nifty little graphic illustration. Take a good look at that list. How many of those threats require a surplus medical capacity (drugs/hospitals/professionals/etc)? How many of the threats can really be dealt with by "taking it to the enemy"?

Three out of the fifteen threats are large-scale biological events, with two being man made (Anthrax and Pneumonic Plague attacks), the third being a natural event (an influenza pandemic). Putting aside the question of how one could go about finding terrorists that have acquired weaponized biological agents (we're having a hard enough time finding Bin-Laden), I wonder how pstupid would go about "proactively protecting" our nation from an influenza pandemic. Maybe we could develop tiny little robots that would invade the bodies of every human on earth and attack the viruses, maybe pstupid would prefer to kill all of the animals that carry the strains that threaten to turn into a pandemic strain of the virus (i.e. birds, sheep, goats, etc). Or maybe we can threaten the nations where these diseases tend to originate from (can't you just picture Condi going to the U.N. to condemn China for allowing these viruses to mutate in the hopes of getting a resolution to attack China unless it halts the flu mutations happening within its borders?).

Back in reality (a place rarely visited by Republicans these days) there is no way to "take it to the enemy" when your enemy is a naturally occurring virus. But, hey, how dangerous could a little flu bug be?

According to the DHS the only thing that would be nearly as dangerous as a flu pandemic would be a nuclear explosion. They estimate that up to 300,000 people would need to be hospitalized, with 87,000 dying, and that, unfortunately, is a rosy scenario. According to the World Health Organization 30-40 percent of the populations of every nation could become infected by a pandemic flu, while the DHS report assumes a 15% infection rate. This means a more realistic number would be roughly 200,000 dead with somewhere over 600,000 hospitalized. For some perspective, the CDC reports that the National Disaster Medical System has voluntary access to approximately 100,000 hospital beds across the country to cope with a large-scale medical emergency. So where will those extra hospital beds come from in this type of emergency? Do people like pstupidonymous think that these beds will just pop up when they're needed?

Here are the "secondary" problems that the DHS report details:
The greatest secondary hazard will be the problems caused by shortages of medical supplies(e.g., vaccines and antiviral drugs), equipment (e.g., mechanical ventilators), hospital beds, and health care workers. Having a detailed system for allocating resources potentially can reduce such difficulties. This system ideally should be in place well before an influenza pandemic actually occurs. Also of particular concern is the real likelihood that health care systems, particularly hospitals, will be overwhelmed. Another important secondary hazard is the disruption that might occur in society. Institutions, such as schools and workplaces, may close because a large proportion of students or employees are ill. A large array of essential services may be limited because workers are off work due to pandemic influenza. Travel between cities and countries may be sharply reduced.
Hmm, hundreds of thousands hospitalized, up to a couple of hundred thousand dead, our current medical facilities overwhelmed to a breaking point, large scale societal disruptions, tens-of-billions of dollars in direct costs, several months in "recovery time", and people like AlexC at pstupidonymous don't think that we need to do anything to prepare for this type of event outside of investing in vaccinations (something that I'm all for- in addition to creating a surplus health capacity)?

And take a look at the other 14 events that the DHS looks at. How many of those would require a large response from our health systems? Seven. That means that out of the top 15 threats we face as a nation, over half would require a massive response from our health systems, which are currently unprepared to handle such scenarios.

Creating a national health system is not just a good policy for helping our nation deal with skyrocketing health costs (14% of all Americans currently have serious medical debts) it is also a national security issue, one that deserves our immediate attention. The fact that Republicans such as AlexC argue against creating such a system shows that not only do they have little regard for the personal and financial health of their fellow citizens, they also have little regard for national security when it doesn't coincide with their right-wing ideologies.

Blame Turkey

Well, we found out yesterday who's really to blame for our problems in Iraq. No, it wasn't Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld who went into battle with far fewer troops than his Generals said he needed to secure the country. No, it wasn't the Bush Administration officials who "forgot" about General Zinni's plans for an Iraq invasion, which anticipated many of the problems that we're seeing today.

No, the real reason for the insurgency is NATO member Turkey, who refused to let the US invade Iraq from the North. Yes, if only we had been able to invade from the North than the Iraqis would already have become a Western-style Democracy. Those damned freedom hating Turks!
WASHINGTON, March 20 - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Sunday used the second anniversary of the American-led invasion of Iraq to answer the most tenacious criticism of the war effort - that the Pentagon did not commit sufficient troops to the major offensive or to stability efforts after Baghdad fell.

The fault, Mr. Rumsfeld contended in two appearances on television talk shows, rested with Turkey, a NATO ally, which would not give permission for the Fourth Infantry Division to cross its territory and open a northern front at the start of the war in March 2003.

"Given the level of the insurgency today, two years later, clearly, if we had been able to get the Fourth Infantry Division in from the north through Turkey, more of the Iraqi Saddam Hussein Baathist regime would have been captured or killed," he said on "Fox News Sunday."

As the invasion neared, the heavily armored units of the division and its support elements were in ships off Turkey, ready to create a battlefield vise to squeeze adversaries with the larger Army and Marine Corps force entering Iraq from Kuwait to the south. Had that happened, "the insurgency today would be less," Mr. Rumsfeld added.

With the Fourth Infantry blocked from entering from the north, "by the time Baghdad was taken, the large fraction of the Iraqi military and intelligence services just dissipated into the communities," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "And they're still, in a number of instances, still active."
But the Turks aren't the only ones to blame for the mess in Iraq. No, the Generals are also at fault.
Pressed on why the level of American forces was not increased to subdue a resilient insurgency even after the United States was the occupying force in Iraq, he said the troop levels for the stabilization mission were set by Gen. Tommy R. Franks, who at the time was commander of the military's Central Command.

"General Franks made a call, and he made a judgment that not only would they not be needed and it would not be appropriate, but that it would be ill advised to put that many more, quote, 'occupation forces' in," Mr. Rumsfeld said on the ABC News program "This Week."
Or could it be that Franks didn't want to become a lame duck like Shinseki?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Gov. Rendell Blasts Plan to Cut Vets' Benefits

Ed Rendell slammed the Bush Administration this weekend over Bush's proposal to cut Veteran Health Benefits.
HARRISBURG, Pa. - While states are spending more to extend benefits to their National Guardsmen called to duty, the Bush administration is reducing benefits, Pennsylvania's Democratic governor said Saturday.

"While we the governors do all we can for our vets and our returning soldiers, our federal government has the primary responsibility for meeting the needs of our veterans," Gov. Ed Rendell said in his party's weekly radio address. "And that's why I find the president's budget cuts for critical veterans services to be unconscionable."

In his budget, President Bush has proposed charging certain veterans a $250 annual registration fee and raising from $7 to $15 the copayment those veterans pay for a 30-day supply of prescription drugs. The budget also would cut $293.5 million by limiting the veterans whose care in state-operated veterans homes is reimbursed by the federal government.

"During this time of war, it is absolutely the wrong time for our federal government to step back from any of its commitment to our veterans," Rendell said. "To do so would be penny-wise but pound-foolish."
I think that it's great that Gov. Rendell is speaking up for our veterans and against the Bush Administration's reckless national security policies-- I obviously think that the myth of the "strong Republican" needs to be attacked at each and every opportunity. But why not try and find a candidate to run for Pennsylvania's Senate seat who has military credentials that embody the Democrat's national security strengths? Does Rendell really think that words alone will alert the American public to the weakness being propagated by the Republicans and their irresponsible and ideologically driven national security decisions?

I for one feel that it is insufficient to simply state that the Republicans are weakening our country, while Democrats are looking for ways to strengthen it. We must put forth candidates who can quickly frame the Democrats as the strong and secure choice and the Republicans as the party of lies, ideology, and weakness. This is why I feel that we need to try and convince Anthony Zinni to run for PA's Senate Seat as a Democrat, but for now Rendell seems more intent on avoiding a primary and anointing a challenger to Santorum than thinking outside the box and finding a candidate who can effectively challenge the Republicans on national security issues.

*Originally posted at Young Philly Politics

Thursday, March 17, 2005

General Zinni Speaks At Beloit

This is from an article on a speech that Gen. Zinni gave yesterday at Beloit University.
Most Americans now respect the military even if they disagree with the political decision to go to war, he said.

But magnetic yellow ribbons are not enough, the retired general said.

'This is your military. This is your security; this is your protection. It is the image you project overseas,' Zinni said. 'You need to re-embrace that military. You need to demand that the military be the military you want.'
Unfortunately, right now the only people who are able to "demand" anything from the Bush Administration and Congress are those who are paying, or who turned out for them in election. Even more unfortunate is the fact that many of those who voted for Bush in the last election are pretty much clueless about National Security (i.e. they conflate our enemies, they believe WMD were already found in Iraq, etc) and/or hostile to many of the transformations that are necessary to protect ourselves (for example, see Pstupidonymous' response to my initial Draft Zinni post regarding preparations for biological attacks). Besides, I haven't seen anything that suggests that the Bush Administration has learned from its mistakes in Iraq or has embraced enhancing our nation building skills as a national security priority. In fact, the nominations of Bolton and Wolfowitz suggest that Bush thinks that his go-it-alone strategy is continuing unabated.

This is from earlier in the article:
America's armed forces are good, professional, highly trained and well equipped, he said. But he added that they are fraying at the ends-losing veterans and failing to attract new recruits-in part because of the nontraditional tasks they are ordered or forced to perform but weren't trained and equipped for.

Zinni posed many questions: Should the military deal with failing or failed states such as Somalia and Haiti? Shouldn't there be other national or international organizations to do what American military personnel have been ordered to do, such as keep the peace and rescue populations from drought and famine?

"Shouldn't we try to solve problems before we're left with that one punch-intervention?" he asked. "Shouldn't there be international cooperation and support to intervene early?
Yes we should, but the Republicans (almost certainly) never will. Our only hope appears to be electing Democrats to congress who have the breadth and depth of knowledge necessary to make these difficult decisions (and enough of them to bring the party back into the majority). And though Zinni still claims to be a Republican, his views on international relations are shared mostly by Democrats and Progressives (I bet I could count on two hands the number of blogging/activist Republicans who share his views).

Democrats need to reach a hand out to Zinni-- we need his voice, his experience, his wisdom-- but would Zinni take that hand? If men like Zinni aren't willing to do more than just speak up, if they're not willing to run for office and take back power from the neo-con revolutionaries and reactionary and isolationist/unilateralist Republicans, than I fear that the changes we need to make to defend ourselves won't be made in time. The clock is ticking..........

Draft Watch: US Army asks for longer enlistments

The Army is continuing to look for ways to make up for shortfalls in enlistment, especially amongst the national guard and reserves. This is the latest. US Army asks for longer enlistments as recruitment numbers fall
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US Army has asked Congress to allow it to extend enlistment contracts offered to future soldiers by two years in order to "stabilize the force," as top defense officials warned that key recruitment targets for the year could be missed.

The request came as the House of Representatives on Wednesday put its stamp of approval on an 81.4-billion-dollar supplemental spending bill that contains new benefits for US troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the new money notwithstanding, Army Deputy Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Franklin Hagenbeck told a House subcommittee that yearly recruitment goals for the Army reserve and the National Guard were "at risk."

"In the manning area, we need Congress to change the maximum enlistment time from six years to eight years in order to help stabilize the force for longer periods of time," Hagenbeck went on to say.

The appeal coincided with the release of a new congressional report that showed that the intensifying anti-American insurgency in Iraq and continued violence in Afghanistan were followed by a distinct drop in the number of volunteers willing to serve in the branches of the military that see the most combat.

The Army reserve and Army National Guard respectively met only 87 percent and 80 percent of their overall recruiting goals in the first quarter of fiscal 2005, according to the study by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

The Air Force Reserve attained 91 percent of its target, the Air National Guard 71 percent and the Navy Reserve 77 percent.

The shortfalls could potentially have a noticeable effect on units operating in Iraq, Afghanistan and surrounding areas because, according to defense officials, reservists and guardsmen make up about 46 percent of the total force deployed there.
But, as the article notes, the reserves and national guard aren't the only one's feeling the pinch.
Recruitment problems are beginning to dog even active duty units that have not experienced them in a long time.

The Marine Corps, whose reputation for efficiency and toughness has always helped it attract ambitious young men and women, missed its goal by 84 recruits in January and another 192 in February for the first time in 10 years, the GAO report said.

"There is no disputing the fact that the force is facing challenges," acknowledged Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Charles Abell.

The obvious cooling off in Americans' interest in military service is observed despite multiplying benefits and financial enticements offered by the Pentagon to those signing up for service.
Why would my generation voluntarily sign up to fight for the Bush Administration, which has lied to the public to go to war, and has lied at every stage since then regarding the conditions on the ground? The answer increasingly is, they won't. There comes a point where no financial incentives will encourage people to enlist, so then what?

The article ends with this:
Army reserve commander Lieutenant General James Helmly warned in January that with lengthy and grueling deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the reserve is rapidly turning into "a broken force" and may not be able to meet its operational requirements in the future.
Are we really willing to risk our reserve capabilities so that we can avoid bringing back the draft, with all of the political ramifications that it is bound to have? Could the Bush Administration really be negligant enough to endanger our country in such a flagrant way? Unfortunately, the answer is probablly yes.

Republicans Vote "No" On Veteran Health

Why any soldier or their family would vote Republican is beyond me. Yesterday, Republicans voted "No" to expanding veteran health benefits. These are the same people who pushed for the war in Iraq, and now they're abandoning our soldiers who fight those wars. How lovely.

Samantha Powers on John Bolton

In this week's New Yorker Samantha Powers takes a look at George W. Bush's latest one-finger salute to the world- the nomination of John Bolton to become abassador to the U.N. (via the Gadflyer)
Barring a sudden and improbable outbreak of independent judgment in the Senate, John Bolton will soon be confirmed as President Bush’s Ambassador to the United Nations, an institution he openly disdains. “It is a President’s prerogative to name his ambassadors,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan meekly told reporters last week. When he was asked whether he saw the nomination as a hostile act, he laughed and said, “I’m not sure I want to be drawn on that one.” At U.N. headquarters, staffers walked around in a daze of disbelief. They had hoped that Bush’s congenial European trip—combined with the U.N.’s moves toward internal reform and its indispensable role in pulling off the Iraqi elections—would spawn a U.S.-U.N. détente. Then came word that Bush was sending them Bolton.

“I’m pro-American,” Bolton says, as if that required him to be anti-world. He dismisses the U.N.’s tools for promoting peace and security. International law? “It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so—because, over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrict the United States.” (Never mind that such laws might have “constricted” the torture of detainees.) Humanitarian intervention? It’s “a right of intervention that is just a gleam in one beholder’s eye but looks like flat-out aggression to somebody else.” Negotiation as a way of dealing with rogue states? “I don’t do carrots,” Bolton says.


Bolton is also a longtime skeptic of tools that are increasingly part of the Bush Administration’s arsenal. Nation building is a “fallacy,” he thinks. “The U.S. is still engaged in nation building here two hundred and twenty-five years plus after the Declaration of Independence, and we still have a long way to go,” he said in 2002. “The idea that we can nation build for somebody else is just unrealistic.” When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced Bolton’s nomination, last Monday, she said, “We who are on the right side of freedom’s divide have an obligation to help those who are unlucky enough to be born on the wrong side of that divide.” But Bolton, who stood stoically next to her, has never believed that spreading freedom is America’s business.

It is unclear what the Bush Administration has in mind by shipping Bolton to New York. The appointment has been spun as “Nixon goes to China.” Nixon, however, actually went to China: the visit was compatible with his world view. Bolton, by contrast, seems averse to compromise, and is apparently committed to the belief that the U.N. and international law undermine U.S. interests. If he is to be an engine for U.N. reform, he will have to jettison his core values. He will have to work on expanding the Security Council, even though, in 1997, he said, “Leave the veto alone, and leave the Security Council’s membership alone.” (More recently, he suggested shrinking membership to a single state: his.) He will have to work with European states, even though he believes that “some Europeans have never lost faith in appeasement as a way of life.” He will have to coöperate with China, even though he has called for full diplomatic recognition of Taiwan. And, if the Administration is serious about prosecuting the perpetrators of atrocities in Darfur, he will have to allow the Security Council to refer the case to the I.C.C.
Bolton may not "do carrots" but he does do screaming. If you'd like to get a taste of Bolton's style of "diplomacy", check out this video of him screaming at other diplomat types. So at a time when Generals such as Zinni and Clark are pushing for greater cooperation with the rest of the world, the Bush Administration keeps heading down the lonely and dangerous path of unilateralism.

How much longer can we head down this path before our leaders realize that we need international cooperation to ensure our own security?

Flawed Intelligence, Flawed Senate

Spencer Ackerman notes in the New Republic that the Senate has decided to put questions about who was really responsible for the WMD intelligence failure on "the back burner".
Last July, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a 511-page report into how the intelligence community erroneously assessed Saddam Hussein's nonexistent weapons of mass production programs and relationship to Al Qaeda. However, it wasn't complete. Committee members opted to defer inquiry into the politically hazardous questions of how accurately the Bush administration represented the intelligence it possessed on Iraq to the Congress and the public and how appropriately administration policymakers influenced the assessment and presentation of intelligence products within the government until after the November election. Liberals especially have been waiting with bated breath ever since.

Today, Pat Roberts, the Senate intelligence committee chairman, told everyone not to bother. "It's basically on the back burner," Roberts said after a speech on intelligence reform at the Woodrow Wilson Center. "The bottom line is that [the administration] believed the intelligence, and the intelligence was wrong."

Wonderful, we had either a monumental failure of American Intelligence, or the Bush Administration was flat out lying to the American Public (obviously, this is what I have firmly believed for a long time). With the Administration making lots of noise about Iran and North Korea's attempts to obtain and/or build nuclear weapons, shouldn't this be a top National Security priority. Yes it should, and the fact that it is getting put on the back burner while the Senate spends its time selling our armed forces to credit card companies and our national treasures to oil companies speaks volumes about the Republican Party and its priorities.

How much longer can the Republican Party maintain the illusion of strength as they systematically weaken our nation?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Pat Buchanan: Democracy, Hamas & Hezbollah

Pat Buchanan has an article on World News Daily about Democracy in the Middle East that points to the question I raised in my post about the New Yorker article on making the Democrats look tough.:
"With his enthusiasm for mass demonstrations, free elections and majority rule, President Bush has unleashed a whirlwind from which Hamas and Hezbollah may be the beneficiaries. Nor does the president seem to realize that his embrace of a political cause in the region has the effect of an endorsement by Ariel Sharon.

'Why don't they realize that once America makes a case for something, the Middle East will go in the opposite direction?' an Arab diplomat told Weisman, 'Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, but now its hand is strengthened by American opposition.'

Political causes define themselves and advance themselves by choosing the right enemies. In the 1940s, America defined herself as the implacable foe of Hitler. In the Cold War, America's enemy was communism and the 'Evil Empire.' That was moral clarity.

Unfortunately, in the Middle East, the way to advance oneself today is to have as your enemy Israel or the United States of George W. Bush. And thus does Hezbollah advance toward power in Lebanon. "
If only we had leaders in the White House who could understand this type of complex dynamic in the Middle East then maybe we would stop hurting the chances of Western-friendly Middle-Easterners and providing our enemies with more and more recruitment tools.

Anti-War Groups Shooting Progressive Causes In The Foot

Operation Truth has a post today about a planned protest near Fort Bragg, in North Carolina.
Here's the press release:
NEW YORK -- In observation of the second anniversary of the Iraq War, a number of national and local antiwar groups are planning to protest this weekend in Fayetteville, N.C., the home of Fort Bragg. Iraq Veteran and Operation Truth Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff issued the following statement today opposing the protestors' plans to protest in the Troops' backyard:

"Demonstrators have every right to protest the Iraq War this weekend. However, their choice of location for one protest -- Fort Bragg -- is wrong and insensitive. It blames the warriors for the war. The decision makers are not at Fort Bragg, they are in Washington. Rallying against the war by marching at Fort Bragg is like protesting the cows if you don't like McDonalds.

"The anti-war protesters say they support the Troops. They can say it until they are blue in the face, but that's a hollow sentiment when they're protesting the busloads of Troops coming and going from Bragg to Iraq every day. If you support the troops, don't protest them in their backyards, especially not as they're sent to war or returning home.

Finally, as families living in and around the bases try to salvage some sense of normalcy as they worry about their loved ones overseas, the last thing they need to see on Saturday morning is a crowd of protestors outside their window. This is the height of insensitivity by the anti-war organizations.

If we are to make real progress in supporting and protecting our Troops we should hold our elected officials' feet to the fire for the decisions they make. But protesting the Troops will accomplish nothing; we should be listening to them."
I hope that this message gets through to these groups, because they are doing much more harm then good by making it seem that we don't support our friends, family, and neighbors in the armed forces, by doing this in the backyards of the military families who's loved ones are serving in Iraq.

Securing America: Wes Clark's New Website

Wes Clark, the reason why I registered as a Democrat during the 2004 primaries, has a new website- Securing America. Obviously I'm very siked by the title that Gen. Clark chose for the site- it's a very simple frame that I believe should be one of the centerpieces of the Democratic message to America. The website also includes the new WesBlog.
This is from the initial post:
America today is at a crossroads. Both at home and abroad, our security and values are being challenged. And while technology and the globalization of capital present many opportunities, we also face many threats. America needs a new vision for itself in order to deal with its challenges and make the most of its opportunities.

The evolving global economy is making it harder for America to maintain its economic preeminence in the world and threatens Americans' ability to compete for the best jobs. The threats to our physical safety and national security are greater now than they have been during any period since the end of the Second World War. We need a strategy to cope with these threats and to maximize our opportunities.

Poverty, ignorance and desperation are feeding the wellspring of hatred against America and the values for which we stand. Many people perceive Americans as rich, as arrogant and as uncaring. Unfortunately, this Administration has done more to feed in to that stereotype than to dispel it. As a nation, we must show the world the formula that will save them from their oppression and save the world from endless wars. It's an American formula. It's the formula of freedom, opportunity and equality. We need a new vision for ourselves and our place in the world for the 21st century.

Part of our new vision for America is new strategy for national defense. So far, this administration's strategy hasn't been productive.

Osama Bin Laden is still on the loose, Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and the middle east remains unstable. These challenges demand a new vision for America.

Wes also outlines his strategy for dealing with China and lays out his domestic priorities as well:

1. A strong base with Europe. We need to strengthen our relations with Europe through NATO.

2. We've got to have strong international institutions. We have a lot of work to do with the United Nations for them to meet the needs that we will put on it over the next 30 years.

3. We need to cultivate and nurture our working relationship with India to produce a balance to China. India after all is the largest democracy in the world.

Here at home we need to move forward with higher quality education, health care that is affordable, environmental regulations to help protect the beauty of our environment so that this is a country that people want to live in years from now, and investments in science and technologies so that we can continue to produce innovative products that will keep us at the forefront economically.

Making a successful strategy a reality will take all of us working together bravely and in the face of adversity. We must remember that nothing less the future and quality of life we leave our children and their children is at stake. I make this call to action because no one man can do all the work needed to make a more secure America. I need your help.

There's nothing and nobody I would like to help more...

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Coalition of the Willing Shrinks

The coalition of the willing is about to get smaller.
Italy will start to withdraw its soldiers from Iraq (news - web sites) this September, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Tuesday, adding to the list of U.S. allies looking to cut their troop levels.
Italy isn't the only country pulling out:
Earlier on Tuesday, Bulgaria's president said his country should withdraw its 450 troops from Iraq by the end of this year after a Bulgarian soldier was accidentally killed by U.S. forces. A final decision is expected by the end of the month.

The Dutch government, defying pressure from Washington, has announced it will pull its troops from Iraq by mid-April, while Poland and Ukraine plan to withdraw their forces this year.
Our efforts to internationalize this are going backwards. And John Bolton's nomination to become U.N. Ambbasador can't be helping.

Can The Democrats Make Themselves Look Tough?

Jeffrey Goldberg has an article in this week's New Yorker asking whether Democrats can make themselves look tough, that covers a lot of my sentiments and my reasons for starting this site and campaign (a generous term for a site that currently receives about 3 visitors per day).

The article begins around an interview with Joe Biden. Here's when Biden said he realized Kerry would lose the election:
“That night, I got off that trip, from Scranton, I got off the plane, Wilmington airport, only private aircraft, get off, pick up a phone, call a local place called the Charcoal Pit before it closes. They have great steak sandwiches and a milkshake. Triple-thick milkshake. And I hadn't eaten. I'm going to pass it on the way home. They're literally sweeping the floors. A woman, overweight, forty years old, a little unkempt, had a tooth missing in the side, not in the front'—he showed his flashing white teeth, to demonstrate"walks up to me to give me my steak sandwich. ‘Senator Biden, I'm so glad you're here. I've got a problem.' And I take out a piece of paper, maybe Social Security for her mother, and she said, ‘I heard you're for Kerry.' And she said, ‘You're so strong and he's so weak."

Biden looked at me, to make sure I understood what he seemed to think was a point of considerable nuance. “I'm gonna tell you why I'm going to vote for someone,' he said, addressing the woman of the story. “Look, you're working here tonight. If the Republicans have their way, you won't get paid overtime. When you stay here tonight, you're already closed. Besides that, what they want to do with your health care.' Then he quoted what the woman had replied: “But you're so strong, and he's so weak. And President Bush—he seems strong.'
I supported Kerry, but comeon, who didn't think the guy was some rich wimp? He showed no fire when he spoke, and when he tried to come off as passionate he came off, in my eyes, as a phony. And I worked tirelessly to ensure he defeated Bush.
Bush seemed strong (not to me, he also seems like a prep school brat), and that image, no matter how wrong it was, was enough to convince many voters to vote against their economic interests. (I hope that woman doesn't need to file for bankruptcy anytime soon).

Goldberg then goes on to illustrate the pitfalls ahead for the Dems, and a reason to be pessimistic about the Democrats abilities to truly turn themselves into the party of Security
Kerry considers himself to be a national-security-oriented Democrat" Holbrooke, too, puts him in that camp and appeared to take no particular offense at Biden's criticisms. 'I'm not going to dissect the campaign,' he said. But he seemed displeased when I asked whether the Democrats had a credibility problem on defense issues, and he finally said, 'Look, the answer is, we have to do an unbranding.' By this he meant that the Democrats had to do a better job of selling to the American people what he believes is already true—that the Democrats are every bit as serious on the issue as Republicans. 'We have to brand more effectively. It's marketing.'

Most national-security Democrats believe that the Party's problems on the issue go deeper than marketing. They agree that the Party should be more open to the idea of military action, and even preëmption; and although they did not agree about the timing of the Iraq war and the manner in which Bush launched it, they believe that the stated rationale—Saddam's brutality and his flouting of United Nations resolutions—was ideologically and morally sound. They say that the absence of weapons of mass destruction was more a failure of intelligence than a matter of outright deception by the Administration; and although they do not share the neoconservatives' enthusiastic belief in the transformative power of military force, they accept the possibility that the invasion of Iraq might lead to the establishment of democratic institutions there.
First off, the stated rationale wasn't how evil Saddam was, it was WMD. As Zinni points out- we were conned.

And what the hell is wrong with these guys? The intelligence community tried its damnedest to alert these fools to the fact that the CIA was getting railroaded. General Zinni stood in front of all these so-called Security Democrats and told them that Saddam was not an imminent threat. And yet, they still want to bail out the president, his lies, and the damage he has done to the intelligence community by heaping the blame on them (The buck always stops somewhere else with Bush, doesn't it?). Being strong on security doesn't mean rubber-stamping the neocon conquests. Buying into a fringe ideology is completely different from committing yourself to securing your nation, but apparently the Dems still haven't gotten that memo.

In addition, national-security Democrats try to distance themselves from the Party's post-Vietnam ambivalence about the projection of American power. In other words, they are men and women who want to reach back to an age of Democratic resoluteness, embodied by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy. Their mission may have been complicated earlier this year by Howard Dean's victory in the race for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, although Dean, the most stridently antiwar of the major candidates in 2004, has promised to suppress the urge to comment on foreign policy.
Here I have to agree- we must not be afraid to use force when it is necessary. But- if we are to wage effective wars we must be honest with the American people about why we're going to war, what the costs are going to be, etc. I personally doubt that most Americans would have supported the invasion and occupation of the war if the "threat" of WMD wasn't pushed so hard by almost everyone in the administration, and especially by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the rest of the Neocon-artists.

I couldn't disagree more with the following:
or a Democrat who wants to cultivate an image of toughness on national security, the challenge is to adopt positions that, in some cases, are closer to those of Paul Wolfowitz than to those of Edward Kennedy while remaining loyal to the Party.
This is exactly what we DON'T need, and why we desperately need great military minds like Zinni in our party. We need REALISM not RADICAL IDEALISM. If the only path to changing our security image is to adopt the radical outlook of the neocons, then we're screwed. Not only will Democrats fail to win, but we will help to normalize this type of aggressive behavior.

The article then goes on to push the notion that Democracy in the Middle East is actually on the March, and this is surely a good thing for us. Here's the problem: if the Arab people decided they wanted to be run by fundamentalist Islamic leaders, would America stand by and let it happen? Please- the Neocons only care about Democracy when someone favorable to the West is elected. If anyone thinks we'd let them elect a radical shiite cleric they're fooling themselves. Most of the Arab leaders were set up as Western puppets after WWI and II and have very little support amongst their people. But does it follow that if you rid yourself of these puppets that "the Arab street" would embrace Western Democracy? I highly doubt it.

We need a real security agenda, not some ideologically blinded theory.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Greg Anrig: Democrats, Social Security, and Framing

Greg Anrig, in the American Journal, advocates for just the sort of framing of the Democrats and Republicans that I am arguing for here. While I usually focus on the military side, Anrig proposes using the Social Security debate for the same purpose.
the much more lasting and important opportunity that the privatization push offers to liberals, should they choose to recognize it, is the chance to use this debate as a springboard for defining a coherent, compelling, and fresh progressive vision. To take full advantage of the president’s gift, liberals defending Social Security against privatization should emphasize at every turn four principles that draw a sharp distinction between the progressive and conservative worldview: 1) making the public feel more, not less, secure; 2) producing successful results in the real world, rather than fixating on unproven ideology; 3) serving everyone, not just the upper crust, special interests, or particular demographic groups; and 4) restoring public trust in government, instead of actively undermining it.
(emphasis added)
Actually, the last one that he uses is one that I have yet to emphasize, but it is an extremely important one. The partisan attacks by the Bush Administration and its proxies against against current and former government staff, including Zinni, Richard Clarke, Joe Wilson, and many others, seriously undermines the ability of our Government to recruit people to work within the government for the good of our nation, and this fact needs to be heavily emphasized by Democrats.

Anrig points to to the various ways that poor and middle-class Americans are feeling less secure. (It's also important to note that the vast majority of our soldiers find themselves amongst this group):
Elizabeth Warren, Amelia Warren Tyagi, and Jacob Hacker have demonstrated in recent books that American families across all but the highest rungs of the income ladder today confront a wide array of intensified financial pressures imposed by the market forces that conservatives extol. The list includes rising health-care costs, decreased job security, less stable family incomes, unprecedented levels of household debt combined with negligible personal savings, less reliable pensions, and escalating child-care expenses. Because economic globalization and other free-market dynamics are the very source of those strains, the conservative response -- let the market take care of it -- is worthy of ridicule.

One further advantage of focusing on "security" is the word's applicability to the public's other main source of fear: terrorism. Support for the president's response to 9/11 may have been the single most important factor in his victory, and polls show that liberals get relatively poor ratings on both "national security" and "homeland security." Revitalizing progressivism will be an uphill battle without narrowing the gap on those issues. While there are any number of substantive strategies for liberals on those fronts that hold great promise-- see, for example, The Century Foundation's Defeating the Jihadists: A Blueprint for Action by Richard A. Clarke et al -- simply gaining ownership of the word "security"; has the potential to pay enormous dividends with the public on both domestic and international issues.

Progressives should no longer be undecided about what should come between "It's" and "stupid." Security, security, security.
I think that I just found the new motto for this site!

The piece ends with this:
The two-sentence story that the Social Security debate reinforces is this: Liberals can be trusted to make all Americans feel more secure. Conservatives are dividers, not uniters; they cannot be trusted to run the government; they care more about ideology than results; and they value the unpredictability of markets over your personal security.

Progressives, it's high time for a comeback.
Amen! Now if only we could find candidates who could embody these facts...

Friday, March 11, 2005

Uri Avnery: the Next Crusades

One of the reasons that I have become so enamored with Gen. Zinni is his pretty constant insistence that Americans often pay little to no attention to the cultures we are trying to influence. So when the celebrations began last week over the Anti-Syrian push made in Lebanon I warned friends of mine to damper their elation, because Lebanon is a seriously fractured society that has been fighting an on-again off-again civil war for the last 30 years (a war that encouraged America, Israel, and Syria to occupy the country). Today I found this analysis of the region which I found to be right on target

Uri Avnery: the Next Crusades:
Lebanon is a country with a peculiar topography: a small country of high mountain ranges and isolated valleys. As a result, it has attracted throughout the centuries communities of persecuted minorities, who found refuge there. Today there are, side by side and one against the other, four ethno-religious communities: Christians, Sunnis, Shiites and Druse. Within the Christian community, there are several sub-communities, such as Maronites and other ancient sects, mostly hostile to each other. The history of Lebanon abounds in mutual massacres.

Such a situation invites, of course, interference by neighbors and foreign powers, each wanting to stir the pot for its own advantage. Syria, Israel, the United States and France, the former colonial master, are all involved.

Exactly 50 years ago a secret, heated debate took place among the leaders of Israel. David Ben-Gurion (then Minister of Defense) and Moshe Dayan (the army Chief-of-Staff) had a brilliant idea: to invade Lebanon, impose on it a "Christian major" as dictator and turn it into an Israeli protectorate. Moshe Sharett, the then Prime Minister, attacked this idea fervently. In a lengthy, closely argued letter, which has been preserved for history, he ridiculed the total ignorance of the proponents of this idea in face of the incredibly fragile complexity of the Lebanese social structure. Any adventure, he warned, would end in disaster.

At the time, Sharett won. But 27 years later, Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon did exactly what Ben-Gurion and Dayan had proposed. The result was exactly as foreseen by Sharett.
And yet America seems incapable of taking any lessons from Israel's experiences:
In Lebanon, all the diverse communities are in action. Each for its own interest, each plotting to outfox the others, perhaps to attack them at a given opportunity. Some of the leaders are connected with Syria, some with Israel, all are trying to use the Americans for their ends. The jolly pictures of young demonstrators, so prominent in the media, have no meaning if one does not know the community which stands behind them.

Only thirty years ago these communities started a terrible civil war and all of them massacred each other. The Christian Maronites wanted to take over the country with the help of Israel, but were defeated by a coalition of the Sunnis and Druze (the Shiites played no significant role at that time). The Palestinian refugees, led by the PLO, who formed a kind of fifth "community", joined the battle. When the Christians were in danger of being overrun, they called on the Syrians for help. Six years later, Israel invaded, with the aim of evicting both the Syrians and the Palestinians and imposing a Christian strongman (Basheer Jumail).

It took us 18 years to get out of that morass. Our only achievement was to turn the Shiites into a dominant force. When we entered Lebanon, the Shiites received us with showers of rice and candies, hoping that we would throw out the Palestinians, who had been lording it over them. A few months later, when they realized that we did not intend to leave, they started to shoot at us. Sharon is the midwife of Hizbullah.
This last sentence is what really grabbed me- because when you start or enter a war with a fundamentally flawed strategy or understanding of the true lay of the land you are bound to create unforeseen consequences that may make you even less secure.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Former Military Lawyers Join Lawsuit Against Rumsfeld

The ACLU and Human Rights First, along with two retired military lawyers, have a filed a lawsuit against Defense Secretary Rumsfeld for his role in the use of torture against prisoners held by the U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Mr. Rumsfeld's policies have stained our military.... We want to remove that stain," said retired Army General James Cullen, one of two retired military lawyers who are part of the legal team in a newly filed lawsuit against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (more of Cullen's statement). The action was filed on March 1 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights First, on behalf of eight former prisoners, four Afghan and four Iraqi citizens, who were tortured and abused at the hands of U.S. military personnel acting under Rumsfeld's direction.

Retired Rear Admiral John Hutson, who is also part of the legal team, acknowledged to a packed press conference in Washington on March 1 that, after 28 years in the United States Navy, "this is not an easy thing for me to do." But, Hutson explained, this lawsuit "is about our national defense, now and in the future; it's about the role that the United States has traditionally played on the world stage; it's about our self-respect and self-image; and it's largely about protecting our own soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who are already in harm's way, and who will continue to be so in the future."
I'm not sure what the suite hopes to accomplish, since it's getting completely ignored by the MSM. It certainly won't get Rumsfeld, or his boss, fired.

Operation Truth: Army Misses Recruiting Goal--We Told You So!

Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Operation Truth, posted a very powerful piece last week about the Army missing it's recruitment goals.
From USA Today:
"In what could be a troubling sign for the military, the active-duty Army missed its February recruiting goal by more than 27%. It was the first time in almost five years that the Army has failed to meet a monthly target.

'It's just going to be a rough year,' said Doug Smith, a spokesman for U.S. Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox in Kentucky."
Gee, Mr. Smith. Ya think? I'd say it is going to be a VERY rough year. The Army misses by 27%! The Guard recently missed its' recruiting goal by 30%. The Army Reserve was 10% short going in to February. Even the Marine Corps just flopped on its' monthly target. That is the first time that has happened since Chesty Puller shot a rifle! It is going to be a rough year indeed, Mr. Smith.

The US is stressing the hell out of our forces, and the troops have been telling people about it for almost two years now. But no one was listening. They said we were undermining the war. They said we should shut our mouths. They said were not supporting the troops. We ARE the friggin' troops and we know the truth and how to REALLY support them. We also know the current trend is not good for the military--or the USA.

Rieckhoff gives some of the reasons why he thinks recruitment has fallen:

The Army and USMC are getting used up more and more every day. About 50% of our people in Iraq are there for a second time. Less than half the country thinks going to Iraq was a good idea. We just passed the 1500 KIA mark. There is no clear exit strategy. No wonder recruiting is down. These guys in Washington are saying everything is cool when the house is clearly on fire.

The bottom line is that we have not taken care of our own. That is the most important reason why recruiters are pulling the hair out of their flattops lately.

We might not be very loud in public, but in bars and at dinner tables, troops and vets have definitely been talking. We talk to each other, and we have been talking to our friends who are thinking about joining--and their parents. We have told them about the Armor problems. We told them about the divorce rates. They have learned about the VA being under-funded every year. They have heard us talk about Guard and Reserve families not getting taken care of. They saw Rumsfeld give a crap answer to young soldier who tried to find out why he and his buddies had to scrounge through junkyards to protect themselves from IEDs. They have read about how Stop Loss has voided contracts and locked thousands in the military after their terms have ended. They hear about Halliburton and Blackwater employees making ten times what we make. Potential recruits have heard all this. America's young people are not stupid. Yet the politicians seem to be closing their eyes and hoping this problem will go away. Well, I had a CO in Iraq who used to have a saying that they should learn: "Hope is not a course of action".

Washington and the Pentagon have tried nothing but Band-Aid solutions, and they misled the American people about the manpower crisis we face now--and will continue to face in the future. They need to seriously sweeten the pot for those who want to join up. A "Go Army" boonie cap and some money for college ain't enough anymore. They better start getting creative.

And who does he think should be called on for these creative ideas? The Soldiers who were there- who have plenty of ideas.

If I was you Paul I wouldn't hold my breath, this administration has nothing but contempt for anybody who doesn't share their grand illusions about the world.

They won't listen, so the only choice I can see is to get soldiers like Paul or Zinni elected into office, where at the very least, they can speak the truth on behalf of their fellow soldiers and the entire American people.