Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Daughters Letter

Jessica Blankenbecler, 14, e-mailed this final letter to her father, Command Sgt. Maj. James Blankenbecler, at 1:29 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 3, 2003, two days after he was killed when his convoy was ambushed in Samara, Iraq.

Hat tip to Ross, click here to check out a very touching video he put together to honor the fallen.

Hi Daddy,

Sorry I haven't written to you in a while. A lot of things have been going on. I miss you so much. How have you been? Is heaven everything it says it is? I know it's probably that and more. I can't wait 'till I can come join you again. I miss you so much - just being here for me to hold your hand and you calling me "princess." But one day we can do this again. But it will be even better because Jesus will be with us. I keep going in your office to see all your things and your awards that you have gotten over the years. You accomplished so much. I am proud you were my daddy; I would not have chosen anyone else. I like to go into your closet, too and just touch and smell all your clothes ... it gives me so many memories that I miss so much. Sitting at this table I see your writing on a little piece of paper telling me and mom what e-mail and address in Iraq to write to you ... CSM JAMES D. BLANKENBECLER, 1-44 ADA. I love to just look at your handwriting so much. I have your military ring on right now. It's kind of big for my little finger, but it makes me feel you're holding my hand when I have it on....

It's been on since we found out the news. I have your driver's license with me, too, so I can just look at you whenever I want. You have a little smile this time. When we went to get them done in El Paso I asked you to just smile this time ... and you did it just for me. I also was looking at your car keys and that little brown leather pouch you always had on your key chain. It made me cry a lot when I picked it up. Everything reminds me of you so much. When we pass by Chili's I remember you sitting across from me eating your favorite salad. You always told the waiter to take off the little white crunchy things ... because you hated them. And when we drive by billboards that say "An Army of One," it makes me remember you in your military uniform. How you always made a crunching sound when you walked, and how you shined your big boots every night before you went to bed. I miss seeing that all the time. Little things that I took for granted when you were here seem priceless now. One thing that I regret is when you wanted to open my car door for me, but I always got it myself. I wish I would have let you do it. And when you wanted to hold my hand, I sometimes would pull away because I didn't want people to see me holding my daddy's hand ... I feel so ashamed that I cared what people thought of me walking down the parking lot holding your hand. But now I would give anything just to feel the warmth of your hand holding mine.

I can't believe this has happened to my daddy ... the best daddy in thewhole world. It feels so unreal, like you're still in Iraq. You were only there for 17 days. Why did they have to kill you? Why couldn't they know how loved you are here? Why couldn't they know? You have so many friends that love you with all their hearts and you affected each and every person you have met in your lifetime. Why couldn't they know? When I get shots at the hospital I won't have my daddy's thumb to hold tight. Why couldn't they know I loved for you to call me "princess"? Why couldn't they know if they killed you I would not have a daddy to walk me down the aisle when I get married? Why couldn't they know all this? Why? I know that you are gone now, but it only means that I have another angel watching over me for the rest of my life. That's the only way I can think of this being good. There is no other way I can think of it.

All the kids at my school know about your death. They even had a moment of silence for you at our football game. A lot of my teachers came over to try to comfort me and mom. They all ask if they can get us anything, but the only thing anyone can do is give me my daddy back ... and I don't think anyone can do that. You always told me and mom you never wanted to die in a stupid way like a car accident or something like that. And you really didn't die in a stupid way ... you died in the most honorable way a man like you could - protecting me, mom, Joseph, Amanda and the rest of the United States.

In the Bible it says everyone is put on this earth for a purpose, and once they accomplished this you can return to Jesus. I did not know at first what you did so soon to come home to God. But I thought about it - you have done everything. You have been the best husband, father, son and soldier in the world. And everyone knows this.

One of my teachers called me from El Paso and told me that when her  dad died. he always told her, "when you walk outside the first star you see is me." She told me that it is the same for me and you. I needed to talk to you last night, and I walked outside and looked up ... and I saw the brightest star in the sky. I knew that was you right away, because you are now the brightest star in heaven.

I love you so much, daddy. Only you and I know this. Words can't even begin to show how much. But I tried to tell you in this letter, just a portion of my love for you. I will miss you, daddy, with all of my heart. I will always be your little girl and I will never forget that...

I love you daddy, I will miss you!!

P.S. I have never been so proud of my last name.
Sunrise - June 27, 1963
Sunset - October 1, 2003

Posted by The Bastard at 12:01 AM in Military | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Body Count

Written by: Liberal Jarhead

This is Liberal Jarhead's response to the first comment left on this post.


Pretty impressive numbers you tossed out. Now let's compare the population of California to the number of Americans and Brits in Iraq and get per capita death rates.

The US Census Bureau estimates that 35,893,799 people lived in that state as of 2004, making that about 1 homicide for every 14,933 people. The combined US and UK troop strength in Iraq is about 160,000, making that one death for every 177 troops. In other words, the casualty rate in Iraq is over 84 times the murder rate in California. So which place would you rather take your chances? Ready to sign up, get that "we O U body and vehicle armor" chit, and go on patrol in Baghdad? I didn't think so.

As the man said, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Which category does your misleading presentation of the numbers fall into?

Anyway, you can't measure the rightness or wrongness, necessity or otherwise, evil or less evil of a war by body counts. Human beings are not beans, no matter what the bean counters think, and that the fact that fewer Americans have died than in other wars doesn't make this okay. They used to call this kind of war LIC, or Low Intensity Conflict, as if it was less of a big deal than a High Intensity Conflict; but as the tactics instructors at Quantico used to tell us, if you're the one with the sucking chest wound, it's pretty fucking high intensity as far as you're concerned that day.

If this war were for a legitimate cause, as WW2 was, deaths (of whatever nationality) would be necessary but still tragic and obscene, the lesser of evils. When the whole thing is based on lies, egos, and self-delusions, it's not necessary - just tragic and obscene.

I had an epiphany when I was 18, the first time I had to search a mangled corpse for ID and try to match up the pieces (there were lots of mismatched pieces that day) and get them all together in the right body bag. I realized that if it was a movie, there would have been some sweet wistful music playing, and it would have all had some higher meaning. But all I could hear was the buzzing of the flies, and there was no higher meaning, and it smelled like the devil's barbecue, and it was making me crazy that I couldn't get the sticky gore off my hands (I can't stand the feel of finger foods to this day.) I realized that this was horror, and my job was to try my hardest to do this to other people while they tried to do it to my friends and me. And I felt an obscene shame and humiliation at having been naive enough to buy into the glamorization and the intellectualization and the tough-guy rhetoric.

Yes, when we volunteer we commit ourselves to fight where we are sent. It has to be that way, because if the military starts usurping those decisions from the civilian government, you end up with a military dictatorship. My prayer was never "Don't let them send me to die." But it sure as hell was "Don't let them throw my life away - if they're going to spend me, make it for a good reason."

There have been a very few wars that were necessary, but this isn't one of them. If it was, they wouldn't have needed to make up one lie after another to justify it - they could have just told the truth about their reasons and most of the American people would have understood and agreed.

I am a proud patriotic Democrat who put my ass on the line for 20 years to protect my country, unlike that strutting bully Bush who got Daddy to help him dodge it, unlike Cheney, Rove, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Frist, Delay, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, etc. (Rumsfeld did serve, and John McCain is a hero - but Bush trashed McCain.) And I am AWAKE, thank you very much. When I was 18, I was a conservative Republican. Those 20 years turned me into a liberal Democrat.

We have been lied to by both Republicans and Democrats many times - but this administration is the most dishonest and corrupt since at least Harding and possibly ever. And the fact that Democrats have lied doesn't make it okay for Republicans to lie, any more than it works the other way around when Democrats are in power. Any administration that starts an illegitimate war or, if it inherits one, continues it a day longer than necessary to get out in a reasonable way, is guilty of crimes against humanity.

By their fruits ye shall know them... look at who is benefiting from this war. No one, except contractors, Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, and the Republicans in 2004. A pretty damn weird way to fight a war on terrorists (not war on terror - terror is an emotion, not a country, not a group of people, not a political movement. Anyway, on the American political scene, this administration has done more to scare Americans than Bin Laden has.) If I was going to fight terrorists, I wouldn't do it by polarizing the formerly moderate and fairly friendly majority of Muslims against us, turning Iraq into a permanent recruiting film and training ground for them, grinding the US military into the dust, breaking the US economy in the process, and cutting funding for domestic first responders and veterans' benefits.

This isn't about Democrats and Republicans. It's about what's good for this country. And what's happening now isn't good.

Posted by The Bastard at 12:36 AM in Military | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Fighting Dems...

One thing that has to have you wondering is why are there so many veterans returning home to run as Democrats as opposed to Republicans. I mean we aren’t talking about 50/50 here; we are talking about an ass kicking.

You think it might have anything to do with the complete incompetence in which the war was waged? You think it might have anything to do with the fact that soldiers can see through the thinly veiled mask of gross negligence that blankets the Bush Administration?

As of now there are 11 Iraqi War veterans who will be running on the Democratic ticket come next November, how many does the GOP have? 2.

Could it be a sense of national service, one that they know can only fulfilled by joining the ranks of the new Democratic Party? Could it be a sense of urgency brought on by being in the middle of the biggest military quagmire since


Politics don’t belong to the soldier, matters that politicians quibble over mean nothing on the battlefield, all that matters to a soldier who has bullets flying over his head is an intense and burning desire to make it home and make sure the guy standing to his right and left are coming home with him. Let the officials back home worry about school vouchers, let them worry about defending our social systems, let the men in the suits argue about the necessities of protecting the environment.

It’s all meaningless if you don’t make it home.

If there is one thing that the modern GOP needs to worry about it is men and women hardened by the battlefield. Men and women who are instilled with values, men and women who will not bend to pressures from either big business or the new American Taliban. Men and women who have one central and uniting strength; integrity.

I can’t say I know why a disproportionate number of veterans are running as Democrats, but I can take a few stabs at it. They probably realize that the modern GOP in an effort to save its soul has sold their soul to the highest bidder. It’s all about the power, being in control at all cost to the GOP, they no longer concern themselves with their task of looking out for Americans and making

America a better place for future generations.

They are more concerned with funding bridges that go no where; they are more concerned with legislation defending the symbols of a corporate


If there is one thing that these Fighting Dems are looking for it is integrity, one thing that the GOP no longer has.

They have energy and they have the strength to pull our party together, they have to strength to bring the imploding GOP to its knees.

More on the fighting Dems:

L. Tammy Duckworth (IL-06)
David Harris (TX-06)
Andrew Duck (MD-06)
Patrick Murphy (PA-08)
Paul Hackett (OH-Sen)
Bryan Lentz (PA-07)
David Ashe (VA-02)

Fighting Dems website from The Majority Report...

Posted by Chris Oates at 12:17 AM in Campaign News, Military, Politics | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 15, 2005

America: Seduced By War

Dr. Andrew Bacevich is a graduate of West Point and a Vietnam veteran. He’s currently a Professor of International Relations at Boston University.

His newest book is titled “The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War.”

Bacevich describes himself as conservative, and he says Americans have become seduced by a “military metaphysic.” All international problems are seen as military problems, and inevitably a military solution is always sought. It’s a variation on that old saying: if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

According to Bacevich, up through the end of World War II, America’s military needs were always gauged by the current situation. At the end of all of our major wars – including the Civil War, World War I and World War II – the extra troops raised for that war were disbanded when they were no longer needed.

Since the end of the Cold War, America has valued military power for its own sake. It’s now standard policy to maintain military capacity far beyond that of any adversary or any possible combination of adversaries. The defense budget is now 12% larger (adjusted for inflation) than the average defense budget during the Cold War era.

“By some calculations” (sorry, the author doesn’t get more specific than that) the United States now spends more on defense than every other country in the world put together. There’s no historical precedent for anything like this.

There are American bases and forces in dozens of countries. A lot of these countries are perfectly capable of providing their own defense. In every corner of the world, U.S. forces are training, planning, exercising. This has been standard for so long now that practically nobody – liberal or conservative – gives it a second thought.  It’s gradually become the norm, sort of like a huge glaring billboard that you’ve gotten used to and now you don’t even notice it any more.

Bacevich says “Whether any correlation exists between this vast panoply of forward-deployed forces on the one hand and antipathy to the United States abroad on the other has remained for the most part a taboo subject.”

I first heard of Andrew Bacevich through this article written by Pastor Anthony Robinson.

At some point in our recent history, “religious” leaders began promoting a “Crusade theory of warfare.” This has replaced the earlier doctrine of “Just War.” Under the mindset of the Crusade theory, supposedly “preventive” wars – like the Iraqi invasion – are justified.

This is a carryover from the Cold War. Some conservative religious leaders framed the Cold War as a worldwide struggle between Christianity and godless communism. In order to maintain our Crusade mindset, Islam has now been substituted for communism. Franklin Graham (Billy’s offspring) has denounced Islam as “a very evil and wicked religion.”

Other “Christian” leaders just lash out blindly at anyone and everyone who doesn’t meet their approval. Southern Baptist President Jack Graham has said, “Satan is the ultimate terrorist” and “this is a war between Christians and the forces of evil, by whatever name they choose to use.”

Yup, there’s evil everywhere, and it’s our job to stamp it out.

Ironically, during the third century some Christians splintered off into their own branch (called Manichaeism). This school of “Christianity” divided the world into good and evil, and thought it was the duty of all “good” people to stamp out evil. Manichaeism was branded by the Church as heresy from the time it first reared its head. It blinded people to their own capacity for evil, and it made self-delusion too easy.

As we can see, the Manichaeism school of “Christianity” has been alive and well in America for the past few decades.

Under our traditional doctrine of a Just War, war is considered the last option. In order to be “just,” a war has to meet the following requirements: “just cause” (i.e. self-defense); public declaration of war by a lawful authority; and no ulterior motives (vengeance, personal gain, etc.).

Which of these criteria does the Iraqi war meet?

“Christian” leaders who are pushing this modern-day Crusade have betrayed their faith. Andrew Bacevich – a Christian and a soldier – believes Christianity should serve as a check against the excesses of war and an over-reliance on the military. Christians should not be cheerleading for war.

cross-posted at Who Hijacked Our Country

Posted by Tom Harper at 03:01 AM in Current Affairs, Military, Politics, Religion | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Bush - A Dimestore Stickup Artist

The following is a comment in response to this post by Liberal Jarhead

Hoy, Jarheads! I'm a twenty-year man, myself. And this 'war president' reminded me of a story told by a Marine aviator who saved his own life by skillful use of his service pistol - yes, the ubiquitous 1911A1 .45. He was shot down in Korea while covering an urgent rearward advance, and held off the enemy patrol until his own troops could extricate him to safety.

He would sit at the picnic table in the back yard and (lovingly, reverently) clean it as he told us that story. Strong stuff for ten-year olds. Apparently, though, his kid was unimpressed; he swiped his dad's gun and used it to stick up a liquor store. Nobody got hurt, but the cops caught him and the gun was destroyed after the judge sent him to prison. The old man was never the same after that. His old, trusted friend was gone, and dishonorably at that.

The gun wasn't a bad thing or a good thing - just a thing. It's having been used to save (his) life made it a noble thing. The kid profaned that nobility by using it for a completely selfish and ignoble purpose.

So it is with the president and his military (which is really OUR military). The military is neither good or bad, it is made noble or ignoble by the way it is used. By the way in which we allow it to be used.

This president is brandishing OUR military like a dimestore stickup artist brandishes a Saturday Night Special. In doing so, he dishonors not only the commitment of those serving today, but the commitment of all who have served throughout our history. He turns them into thugs and gunsels.
When we put on the uniform of our country, we mindfully place our lives in forfeit for our nation. But more than that, we agree to do the things which are not acceptable in civilized society. We willfully suspend our deeply ingrained prohibitions on killing, for instance. And in doing so, we are forever changed.

So, when we are ordered to do so and it turns out that the reasons are ignoble, are lies,... then the commitment, the sacrifice, the honor of service to our nation and it's ideals is voided and becomes merely the actions of another well trained, well equipped gang of thugs. Another mob of Vandals or Huns acting as muscle for an Empire.

Posted by The Bastard at 02:25 PM in Military | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Friday, December 02, 2005

Tale Number One: Demoralization

written by: Liberal Jarhead

Bush took a swipe at his congressional critics and opposition Democrats, saying that although he respected a healthy debate on his Iraq policy, it was discouraging American forces in Iraq.

"For our men and women in uniform, this debate can be unsettling," Bush said. "When you're risking your life to accomplish a mission, the last thing you want to hear is that mission being questioned in our nation's capital. While there may be a lot of heated rhetoric in Washington, DC, one thing is not in dispute: The American people stand behind you," he said.

After being one of the troops for 20 years, I think I can talk about what really demoralizes the troops.

When you’re in uniform, the things most likely to demoralize you are apathy on the home front and the awareness that the decision-makers don’t value or respect you. One thing that is painfully obvious is that the President and his people don’t give our military people credit for being very bright or very observant. Message for them: we pay more attention than anyone else to how their actions actually affect the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines that have to walk their talk. We pay attention to how much attention they pay to us when we try to give them input or feedback based on our experience. These guys keep making the classic boot lieutenant mistake of thinking it’s a sign of weakness or something to get the advice of their subordinates who are the experts on the task at hand.

I was enlisted for nine years, then an officer for eleven, and when I got commissioned I knew that my Staff NCOs and NCOs would make me or break me – I’d been one of them. So everything that had to be done I ran past them, and got their input before making a plan, and listened when (not if) they spotted holes in the plan. Then I looked out for their interests while they got the job done. And things worked out great, after which my main function was to make sure they got the recognition and credit they deserved for our success. That’s the opposite of the way these guys are operating, and that’s damned demoralizing. They ignore the input of their generals when it isn’t what they want to hear, and when something bad happens (Abu Ghraib?) they blame the troops instead of standing up and saying, "Yes, I was in charge, so I was responsible for making sure this didn’t happen – I failed as a leader. I take the hit along with the troops that actually committed the offenses."

Lip service without substance behind it is demoralizing, as in seeing people wave flags and hug the more photogenic troops for the cameras, right before you go back to your muddy hole in the ground and running patrols at 2:00 a.m. while they go back to Washington and try to cut your combat pay and the benefits they’ve promised to your food-stamp-dependent family and to you in the future as a possibly disabled vet … so they can give another tax break to Bill Gates and Donald Trump and vote themselves another raise to their already-six-figure salaries and then go on vacation for a few weeks.

Being used as toy soldiers and crowd extras for dog-and-pony show photo ops – e.g., being lined up in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner or getting served plastic turkey by a plastic turkey - is demoralizing. I’ve always thought that must be what it’s like to be one of those dogs whose owners dress them in humiliating costumes and parade them around. It does a pretty thorough job of rubbing your nose in the fact that to them, you are an object, a minor prop for their narcissism.

Being given defective equipment, or not getting the necessary equipment at all, is about as demoralizing as it gets – you’re far from home and utterly dependent on those people, and they’re letting you down. Kind of like when your deadbeat dad doesn’t pay his child support and you don’t have a coat for school for the winter, except a lot worse – very few children die because of deadbeat dads, but lots of soldiers and Marines die when Uncle Sam welshes. Ask the guys who became unwitting beta testers for the not-ready-for-prime-time version of the M-16; the folks digging through scrap heaps and welding hillbilly armor onto non-armored hummers that weren’t meant for combat use are in the same kind of fix.

It’s terrifyingly demoralizing to be deployed for your second, third or fourth tour in a place where the situation keeps slowly sliding downhill, more of the citizens hate and fear you every day, and you can almost see the odds stacking up against you making it home in one piece – while people who have never been and will never be shot at strike belligerent poses, talk about your willingness to sacrifice for a noble cause, and from behind fortifications two continents away, invite the people down the street from you who are trying to kill you and your friends to "Bring it on!" Being put in a three-way shooting gallery with a target painted on your back, like Reagan did to the Marines and their Navy Corpsmen in Beirut.

Here are some things that are not demoralizing – they’re morale-boosting.

It’s wonderful to hear that most Americans are concerned enough about your safety and welfare, paying enough attention to know about and raise hell about demoralizing things like those we talked about above.

It’s morale-building when people on the home front demand that you be given satisfactory equipment.

It’s great for morale to learn that mainstream America is making the administration stop trying to cut your pay and benefits while you're getting shot at.

When you read in the newspaper or a magazine that Congress and your senior military leaders are yelling that the multiple combat deployments are grinding you, your family, and your gear into the dust and something has to change, it feels good to know they see your pain and are trying to do something about it.

When you can see that what’s in front of your face doesn’t match what the plastic turkeys are telling people, and that more and more people are raising the bullshit flag and demanding straight answers that make sense, it feels pretty good – validating, as the psychologists say.

Bush is operating at the same level of moral and emotional development as a child of about three. You know, that age when you catch the kid with his hand in the cookie jar, and he stares at you with his hand still in the jar and tells you he didn’t do it. The age when everything’s about them. So if something is demoralizing them, it must be demoralizing the troops that are just extensions of their egos! Kind of like the woman who told her daughter she couldn’t buy the red dress she wanted because "I don’t look good in red."

Truth is, Mr. Bush, each of those troops is a real human with his or her own life, dreams, worries, and so on, and believe it or not, you aren’t the center of that human’s universe – he or she is. So something demoralizing you may suit them just fine.

Truth is, most of us are gaining nothing and losing our freedoms, our treasure that we could be using to help people here at home in a thousand ways, and most of all a steady stream of our loved ones coming home (at night, no photos allowed) in boxes or wheelchairs. That demoralizes me. The only people demoralized by criticism of this war are the people who are financially and ideologically invested in it, i.e., war profiteers and neocons.

Truth is, as an old friend used to say, the truth doesn’t give a damn whether you believe it or not. It just sits there grinning at you and being true. Whether you find it demoralizing or not.

Posted by The Bastard at 12:02 AM in Current Affairs, Military, Politics | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Iraq: Exit Strategy

Since John Murtha set off a firestorm with his blunt diagnosis of the Iraqi quagmire, more and more conservative hawks have “come out.” Most senior Pentagon officials are thinking about an exit strategy rather than how to win the Iraqi war.

As Robert Dreyfuss says in this Rolling Stone article,    George Bush is just about the only person in Washington these days who doesn't know that the United States has lost the war in Iraq. Top U.S. generals in Iraq are saying there’s no longer a military solution; our presence in Iraq is detrimental.

Because of our continued presence there, ethnic rivalries in Iraq are stronger than ever, and Iraq’s civil war threatens to spill over into Iran, Turkey and the entire Arab world. The groups in Iraq who hate each other all agree on one thing: they don’t want foreign troops occupying their country.

Max Cleland, former Democratic Senator from Georgia, said “the key word in 'exit strategy' is not ‘exit’ but 'strategy.’ ” Cleland is a Vietnam veteran who lost both legs and an arm in combat. He was slandered out of office by America’s most infamous chickenhawk, Saxby Chambliss. Chambliss ran a series of TV ads where Max Cleland’s picture would segue into a picture of Osama bin Laden. Too many stupid voters fell for it, and Cleland was out.

Cleland also said “we need an exit strategy that we choose – or it will certainly be chosen for us. I've seen this movie before. I know how it ends.”

The main argument for staying in Iraq is that the region is so volatile and unpredictable, it needs America’s presence to serve as a steadying hand. Bush 43 has said “this enemy considers every retreat of the civilized world as an invitation to greater violence. In Iraq, there is no peace without victory.”

But more and more hardliners are thinking just the opposite: that America’s presence in Iraq is increasing the hatred and violence. General William Odom, National Security Director under President Reagan and currently affiliated with the rightwing Hudson Institute, says the longer we remain in Iraq, the more of a haven it becomes for Islamic terrorists. Our continued presence is also giving Iran more and more influence in the region.

America’s presence in Iraq is the single largest recruiting tool for Islamic terrorists. This recruiting pitch would start to evaporate after U.S. troops have pulled out.

The most popular argument against setting a timetable for withdrawal is that the insurgents could just keep a low profile until after we’ve pulled out, and then let ‘er rip. But other people are taking the opposite view: setting a timetable would force rival groups to settle their differences themselves without relying on U.S. troops. Wayne White, a former senior intelligence official on Iraq said “For better or worse, the United States has to step back and let Iraqis do it themselves.”

Another thing we need to do is (warning to conservatives: an offensive swear word will follow) – negotiate. No, not with the terrorists, but with the least radical of the groups, who probably represent most of the population. Wayne White also said “there is a whole rainbow of armed groups, including organizations that are tired of fighting and want to make a deal.”

Retired Gen. Joseph Hoar, chief of the U.S. Central Command for Bush 41, said “the reality is, you've got to talk. But this administration is so fucking stupid. They've pissed in the soup.” Hoar thinks Jordan’s King Abdullah would be a good negotiator among the United States, the interim Iraqi government and the resistance.

The Russian government has been pushing for over a year to have this type of conference. A spokesman for the Russian mission to the United Nations said “we have favored the idea of bringing in the Iraqi opposition – the patriotic, nationalist opposition. We are not talking about the jihadists, but the legitimate nationalist forces.”

The United Nations, Europe and Russia should all be involved in brokering a settlement. Max Cleland said “you need the international community to cover your rear end as you get out.” Retired General Wesley Clark blasted the Bush administration for seeking only a military solution. He said “why are you putting all this on the military? You and your neocons, you and Dick Cheney, you got us into this. You've got to think about diplomacy.”

Clark says Syria and every other neighboring country needs to be involved in settling the conflict. He said “it’s in the interest of all these countries to want us to leave. They don't want a big conflict in the region.”

The American ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War said “the two countries we most need the help of are Syria and Iran. But instead of trying to involve them, we’re upping the ante by confronting them.”

So, is it possible that we might set a timetable for withdrawal, start negotiating and get out of this endless “stay the course” loop? Maybe the top military commanders can persuade Rumsfeld to talk sense to Bush. Karl Rove, seeing how the Iraqi quagmire is dragging down the administration, might persuade Bush of the importance of ending the war. We can hope.

cross-posted at Who Hijacked Our Country

Posted by Tom Harper at 03:01 AM in Current Affairs, Military, Politics | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Monday, November 28, 2005

Off to See the Wizard

I've never been a big fan of George Jr., but I have to admit that I supported the invasion of Iraq, at first.  When Bush announced on national television that Saddam Hussein was actively pursuing a nuclear weapons program and insinuated that 'the proof could be in the form of a mushroom cloud' it freaked me out more than a little bit.

What we've found out since then, though, has really pissed me off. And while commenters here at BIO have pointed out, quite correctly, that the Downing Street Memos alone are not enough damning evidence to call the Bush administration out on the carpet, those documents should be prompting our legislators to demand explanations for the nagging questions that they raise.

What did we hope to gain by deposing Hussein? Why was military intervention unavoidable? What was so goddamned urgent that it couldn't await more international support? What contingency plans did we have in the event that non-conventional weapons were unleashed against US troops? What did we plan to do if our opponents didn't 'lay down and die'? What was our long term plan for the reconstruction of Iraq?

Enquiring minds want to know.

The Downing Street Memos may not be a 'smoking gun', but they are a sharp report in an identifiable direction. That our one major ally in all of this was asking these questions beforehand certainly raises concerns that deserve to be addressed.  This is especially true now, several years later, when the toll in human lives and taxpayer dollars continues to grow by the day.

I'd like to present you with a tongue-in-cheek look at the 'whopper' that kicked off the invasion, a few of the more eyebrow-raising quotes from the Downing Street Memos, some low blows, and a gratuitous shot of Monica Lewinsky -- all set to the Beatles. ( I never got a call back from Paul McCartney, but somehow I don't think he or John would mind.)

Posted by joesnitty at 12:14 AM in Military, Video and Animation | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bush Escalates the War Rhetoric (Again)

The best defense is a good offense, and Bush sure got plenty of mileage out of that truism last Friday.  He used Veterans’ Day as  an opportunity   to attack opponents of the Iraqi war.  He also pretended he was just horrified and insulted that anyone could have doubted his motives for the invasion.

He got so carried away with his attacks and pro-war rhetoric that he barely had time to mention anything about the millions of veterans who were supposed to be honored on this day.  Bush continued his Karl Joseph Goebbels Rove tactic of equating criticism of the Iraqi war with “undermining and demoralizing” the troops.  Referring to his critics, Bush said “these baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America’s will.”

You’d think that with the easy, cushy military “service” that Bush performed during the Vietnam war, he’d at least have some sympathy for those who didn’t get out of Vietnam or Iraq by begging Daddy to make a few phone calls.  There but for the grace of his family connections…

Again today,  just before leaving for an image-building trip to Asia (::smirks:: sometimes a comedy skit just writes itself), Bush got off another parting shot.  He accused his critics of “sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy.  That is irresponsible.”

Meanwhile, whatever anyone thinks of the war in Iraq, one inescapable fact gets clearer every day:   “The Army’s commitments have dangerously and rapidly expanded, while recruitment has plunged” according to  the New York Times. 

Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Operation Truth  is a former Army lieutenant who served in Iraq.  He said soldiers “feel like they’re the only ones sacrificing.”  Operation Truth is an advocacy group for service members and veterans.  When Rieckhoff was asked what was happening with the Army, he said “the wheels are coming off.”

Rieckhoff also said soldiers are “starting to look around and say ‘you know, it’s me and my buddies over and over again, and everybody else is living life uninterrupted.’”  It sure seems that way.  Some people are getting killed or wounded in Iraq; others are living uninterrupted easy lives cruising along with Support The Magnetic Ribbon Industry Support Our Troops plastered all over their vehicles.  It’s too easy to be a fierce devotee of the Iraqi war without making a single sacrifice for it.  People who just give lip service to supporting the war are upstanding Patriotic Americans; veterans who question the war “hate America.”  Go figure.

As the motto at  Operation Yellow Elephant    goes:  “It’s their war.  Why aren’t they fighting it?”

Rieckhoff also said “As sustained combat in Iraq makes it harder than ever to fill the ranks of the all-volunteer force, newly released Pentagon demographic data show that the military is leaning heavily for recruits in economically depressed rural areas where youths’ need for jobs may outweigh the risks of going to war.”

And don’t forget the ever-rising maximum age for enlisting — currently 39 and climbing.  At some point, retirees might be spending their golden years fighting in Iraq instead of working at McDonalds.

Operation Truth released a statement responding to Bush’s Veterans’ Day speech: 

On Veterans’ Day, the President spoke a lot about the reasons for the war in Iraq, but very little about how he plans to take care of the people fighting that war, and what the future holds for them.  Those of us who fought in Iraq deserve to know why we became Veterans in the first place. On today of all days there should be consensus on the need to rise above partisan bickering over who said what in Washington and begin real investigations into prewar intelligence. It’s unfortunate that the President doesn’t think he owes that to the people who have been unwavering in their bravery while carrying out his plans.”

We’re all too familiar with the disgraceful scandals over the past year:  insufficient supplies (and inferior quality) of bullets and body armor; shortages of armored vehicles (with the manufacturer responding that they were never asked by the Pentagon to increase production); Rumsfeld dismissing a soldier’s question with “you go to war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had,” etc.  There’s been too much of a disconnect between those who support this war — with rhetoric but no action — and those who are doing the fighting and dying.

Blind “patriotism” and character assassination of opponents are not the answer.  There have been too many divisive slogans and talking points:   “you’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists,” “you can’t be against the war and support the troops,” people who criticize the war are “demoralizing our troops” and “aiding and abetting the enemy,” etc.

The Bush Administration may or may not be guilty of manipulating pre-war intelligence, but when Congressional Republicans keep thwarting any and all attempts to investigate, they look like they’re hiding something.  Almost three years ago this war was supposed to be a cakewalk that would only last a few weeks at the most, and there would be  no American casualties.


Either the planners of this war are so stupid they’d get lost in a one-room apartment, or the Iraqi invasion was part of a Neocon master plan that had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction or bringing democracy to Iraq.  Which is it?

We need to find out how our “intelligence” and predictions could have been so wrong, and how to prevent fuckups like this from ever happening again.  We need to be sure our troops have all the equipment they need while they’re over there and all the support they’ll need when they come back.

Last summer Operation Truth ran a full page newspaper ad urging Bush to ensure funding for veterans’ benefits.  The ad was titled “Mr. President, you’re either with us or against us.”

cross-posted at Who Hijacked Our Country

Posted by Tom Harper at 03:01 AM in Current Affairs, Military, Politics | Permalink | Comments (61) | TrackBack

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Another Vietnam - Iraq Parallel - Cooked Intel

From Political Gateway:

Vietnam calls report that false intelligence escalated war a 'historic fact'

HANOI, Nov 3 (PG) - Vietnam on Thursday described as a "historic fact" a US report that false intelligence given to the White House in 1964 led to the first major escalation of the Vietnam War.

A US historian has revealed that officials of the super-secret US National Security Agency knowingly provided erroneous intelligence to the White House about a clash between US and North Vietnamese ships in 1964.

Citing an internal NSA history that the agency has refused to release, independent historian Matthew Aid said NSA officials knew that their report about an alleged attack was false but covered up the error.

Reacting to the report, Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesman Le Dung told AFP: "Everybody knows that the Tonkin Gulf event in 1964 was created by the then US administration, using it as a reason to extend war to the whole territory of Vietnam. This is a historic fact."

The NSA officials' report was used to justify the US Congress's historic Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave then-president Lyndon Johnson authority to sharply increase military operations in Vietnam without declaring war.

Aid said he believed the NSA's deputy director blocked the release of the internal history in August because of parallels with the controversy over 'cooked' intelligence allegedly used to justify the US invasion of Iraq.

Posted by joesnitty at 11:35 AM in Military | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack