Saturday, December 30, 2006

December 31, 2006

December 19, 2006


Enough. Enough, enough, enough! Enough with the spin and re-spin. Enough with slandering those who question this abortion of a war. And enough with the war itself. The time to put a stop to this madness was long ago. But we didn't. Instead we allowed a clutch of half-mad fundamentalists unleash a bloody, unless, un-winnable war that's killed maybe hundreds of thousands. A war that has become an insatiable black hole that sucks in more lives every day.

Now the President, and his shrinking circle of fellow travelers, want to send up to 35,000 additional US troops into that black hole. He will also ask Congress for a couple of hundred billion more dollars (we don't have) to pay for two more years of war.

Enough! We should have said enough, meant it, and forced it long ago. But today is all we have, and today is a far better day than tomorrow, to say it, “enough already!”

To Democrats, like Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid, I say, get with it or get the hell out of the way. You've hidden behind your triangulated, mealy-mouthed, obfuscated, do-nothing, take-no-risks, non-positions for too long. And, to our shame, we have allowed you to get away with it. Enough of that too.

The time has come for Democrats to do something for change, to stand for something, for a change. We are onto your dodge, you excuses, which can be summarized something like this:

“Sure I voted to give the President permission to attack Iraq. But I did so only to give him negotiating power. I didn't think he would really do it. And I sure didn't vote for the kind of incompetence we've seen in conducting the war.”

Oh, how tidy. How minced. How nauseatingly weaselly. That vote was four years ago. Where the hell have you been since? That vote was 2951 dead US GI's ago. Since Democrats and Republicans in congress has voted over $350 billion in funding to facilitate that deadly incompetence. So shut up with that crap, Hillary. You and Democrats like you, have your own penance to do, your own crow to choke down, your own shame to shoulder. And the best way to begin is to learn how to say, “enough!”

That's what voters said in November, “enough!” Our vote putting Democrats back in control of Congress, was not a vote for anything. It was a vote against this war. It was not a vote for “Hillary for President,” it was a vote against the current occupant of that office.

The time has come for those of you elected to congress last November to act. The day you raise your hands and are sworn into office this January the very first thing you must do – Nancy Pelosi – is to say "enough!" You need to stop this war, stop it dead in its bloody tracks. And, no, Nancy, that can't wait 100 hours until you raise in the minimum wage. In fact, we can wait for every item on your first 100 hours to-do list, Ms. Pelosi. What we can't wait one day longer for is for congress to say, “enough” to this war. No more continuing resolutions. No additional funds for a “surge” of troops to Iraq. Enough! The only money the administration should get for Iraq is just enough to pay for a safe and orderly extraction of US troops out of Mad Max Iraq.

Below is a chart every member of congress should have stapled to their forehead until they get it. It shows that, when it comes to fighting an indigenous insurgency, sending more troops is simply feeding the beast. As you can see in January 1965 Lyndon Johnson was at precisely the same juncture as George W. Bush finds himself today. The US had 180,000 troops fighting Communist Viet Cong insurgents in Vietnam, and we were losing. Johnson's choices, like Bush's now, were limited; withdraw or add troops. To Johnson, Texan like Bush, withdrawal meant defeat and he was not about to stand for that on his watch. So he added troops – a lot of troops – another 360,000 troops. (See chart below.)

We all know how that turned out. Still, even to this day, die-hard right-wingers will tell you that we didn't lose that war, but forfeited it. That politicians in Washington “tied the hands of our military.”

Excuse me. Tied whose hands? We had B-52's carpet bombing North Vietnam, air tankers defoliating thousands of square miles of rain forest, free-fire zones in which anything that moved, man, woman, child or water buffalo, was shot dead, entire villages were napalmed. I'd hate to see what those right-wingers consider “unhindered” warfare.

I only mention that because that's what we will hear from those now in favor of sending more troops to Iraq. They will argue that we have not fought in Iraq as though it was a real war, and that's precisely what we must do now. And, that if we do send more troops, we can still “succeed.”

Hello. Earth to morons. Vietnam is a smaller country than Iraq -- 325,360 sq km compared to Iraq's 432,162 sq km. We poured over half a million troops into that smaller country -- far more troops than we could muster today -- and we still couldn't gain the upper hand over those insurgents. Nevertheless we are about to be asked by this an administration -- an administration with a unbroken record of failure -- to give them one more crack at it. They want us to accept the unlikely premise that, if we just let them increase US troop strength in Iraq to something around 165,000, we could still “succeed.”

Do the math. Vietnam, 325,360 sq km/560,000 US troops - and we lost. Iraq, 100,000 sq km bigger, 165,000 US troops -- and they say we can "succeed." What nonsense. Utter, nonsense. Deadly nonsense.

So, members of congress, “enough,” okay? It's arrived -- the time to put a end to the madness now – right now. Not two years from now, not four months from now, not 100 hours from now. But now. We want it stopped and stopped immediately.

Clue to Harry Reid: Harry, Harry, Harry. After all that's happened, and with all that's happening, what were you thinking last Sunday when you said on Face The Nation, “Yes, I could support a surge, if it's for a short period....” Harry, when we hear you say things like that, at this point, we want to just reach right through our TV screens and give you the mother of all dope slaps. Jeezus man. Talk about a flat learning curve. What were you thinking?

As I wrote a few weeks ago, the ball in Congress' court now. It's simple and you in congress will no longer be able to sidestep it. "He who pays the piper calls the tune.” Congress pays the piper. And what additional proof does congress need that this piper is mad as a hatter?

Which is why we demand begin the new year by calling an entirely new, and long overdue, tune. “Enough!” No more. Not one more dime. Not one more bullet. Not one more US soldier. Not one more life of an American's precious son, daughter, mother or father for Iraqis who can't kill one another fast enough, or with enough brutality.

Oh, one more thing. If you in congress fail us – again --- we will remember when we see your name on the ballot in less than two years. Last November we told you what we wanted with our vote. Stop the madness now, or come November '08 it'll to you we say, “basta!”

December 18, 2006

Bucks for Bodies

Reader George Piter emailed me the little ditty below over the weekend. When I read it I did what I do so often these days. I shook my head, first in disbelief, then in disgust and moved on.

But there was, still in my email box this morning. And I just couldn't bring myself to delete it. I don't know why. After all, like you I'm a veteran of three years worth of Abu Ghraib, Gitmo and water-boarding stories. Maybe it was because this particular story showed just how cold and desensitized we've become. Maybe because it epitomizes everything that's wrong with this administration's lassie fair attitude towards the war they started, the harm they've caused and death itself.

Air Force looks to outsource casket duty

By Bruce Rolfsen
Staff writer/Air Force Times

The Air Force is looking for a private contractor to fly caskets out of Dover Air Force Base, Del.

Dover is the air hub where most troops who die overseas are brought before being returned to their families ... According to the request issued in late November, Air Mobility Command is looking for a firm that can provide crews and four aircraft able to carry two caskets each and their military escorts. The planes could make up to 110 flights a month...The initial contract would last until the end of January; however, it could be extended for up to six months. (Full Story)

Ike could never have imagined that the “military-industrial complex,” of which he warned, would extend to profiting from the very bodies their products, lobbying and campaign contributions help create. Talk about a vicious, vicious circle!

The accounting industry has a term for this. They call it a “moral hazard,” and they warn against creating them. A moral hazard is when someone can legally profit by doing the wrong thing. For example, the savings and loan crisis was the product of congress creating a moral hazard by deregulating S&Ls and letting them risk taxpayer-insured deposits on their own investment schemes. If their scheme paid off the S&L guys got to keep it. If they lost money on bad investments and the S&L went belly up, the government had to pay back the depositor's money. It was a classic "heads the S&L owners won. Tails, taxpayers lost. And lost we did -- $165 billon that time around.

We now have the military-industrial complex eqivalent of a moral hazard that's encouraged risky-- and often just plain wrong behavior.

How's this for a moral hazard? When a company can make money transporting dead soldiers it's in the interest of that company that there be as many dead soldiers as possible.

I'm not saying that there are a bunch a folks sitting in a boardroom trying to figure out how to get more US troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am just saying that, come the next election cycle those folks will be supporting those running for office who support military solutions to the foriegn policy problem(s) de jour. (Can you say, "Iran?")

Today's army still marches on its stomach. The only difference is --and it's no small difference -- that those stomachs are kept full by Halliburton's subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown & Root. And the farther those soldiers are from home, and the more difficult/dangerous their posting, the more money KBR rakes in. It's a simple and entirely documentable formula -- and moral hazard if there ever was one. A host of other privated companys now provide services and supplies that were once entirely the perview of the military's own H&S (headquarters and supply) companies.

Neo-cons will roll their eyes this, I know. The whole military-industrial complex rant is -- to them -- a liberal horse we drag out at times like this to blame and beat. But even they have to admit, this is a new low, even for this administration. Outsourcing the return of our dead US soldiers to their grieving families simply turns the stomach.

They might as well just box them up ans ship them home via UPS.


You Want MORE Troops?

The trial balloons were released over the weekend. The White House is preparing us for Bush's announcement in January that he's going to send more troops to Iraq. His cover story will be that we need to make one final push to stabilize Baghdad so the Iraqi government can govern.

And who are the biggest backers of this very bad idea? Iraq's Sunnis, that's who. Iraq's Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi was at the White House just last week and he found George W. Bush a man he could deal with. They are two drowning men clinging to the other. Both men made serious mistakes, mistakes that directly led to the mess in Iraq today.

Bush's mistakes began with the invasion itself, but then were compounded by his decision to disband the largely Sunni-controlled Iraq Army Those soldiers went home without paychecks but with a grudge, rifles, RPGs and all kinds of things that go "bang."

The Sunnis' mistake was to think that the way back to power in Iraq was to destablize the Shiite-dominated government. It did, but it also has provoked a civil war. For months the Shiites put up with Sunni-death squads, until they decided it was time to fight back with their own death squads.

How's this for Irony? Bush invades Iraq and unseats its Sunni dictator, empowers the Shiite majority which is now busily massacring as many Sunnis as they can get their hands on. Now Bush has to send in more US troops, for what purpose – to fight Shiite dead squads and protect Sunnis, even though it was the Sunnis that created the unrest now killing most US troops. (Makes my head hurt to just think write that sentence.)

At this point both Bush and Hashemi find themselves on the losing end of developments. The Shiites are Iraq's majority -- by a long shot. If the US doesn't fight Shiite death squads, the Sunnis are toast. And, if the US can't get control in Baghdad, the Iraqi government is toast. And if that happens George W. Bush's legacy is toast.

It's just that simple folks. Don't believe the nonsense that “it's complicated,” and that there are “no good solutions.” True, there may be no good solutions for the Iraqis, and only they can sort that out. But there is a good solution for the US – get our young men and women out of that dysfunctional, backward, religiously-crippled, animal house of a nation - now.

But the two men who met last week are desperate, and primed for desperate solutions to their mutual problems. For Hashemi it's all about survival – in his case both political and physical. They say there are no second acts in American politics. Maybe, maybe not. But there are certainly no second acts in Iraqi politics. Just a short trip, blindfolded, a bit of electric drill action for good measure, and shot to the back of the head -- the Iraqi equivalent of impeachment.

For George W. Bush the entire mess has come down to buying time – 24 months to be precise. Enough time to get out of Washington so that the inevitable collapse in Iraq does not occur on his watch.

The best way for him to buy that time is feed more US troops into the maul. Because, it takes longer to extract troops from an active combat zone than it does to send them in. Another 20,000 troops means Bush has Iraq in the bag until he leaves office. After that he can blame his successor for failing.

The price of another 24 months will be high. Bush will pay for this getaway time with the blood of more US troops and Iraqi civilians. And it's a price he's willing and ready to pay, if we let him.

Of course there is a bright side to sending more troops to Iraq. Some company is going have more paying passengers heading home -- in boxes.


Hey Steve:
Yeah, how much lower can these turds sink?

I know how we treated guys who died when I was in Nam. You looked out for them almost as if they were still there, at least until the medevac came and removed the bodies. Over there a wounded Marine was designated as a “routine” medevac; a DOA was designated a “permanent routine.”

I can’t picture any company that gets the contract for this treating the bodies of fallen soldiers and marines with the dignity they deserve. I mean, look at the disgust that registers when you remember that some lowlife bastards shipped heroin back in dead bodies from Nam.

Nothing will ever be the same here, I’m afraid and we have anyone who ever voted for a Bush, or Reagan, or Nixon to thank for that. What a shame.

You wanna get a look at the future of how our soldiers will be treated by these mercenary bastards? Read Anna Politkovskaya’s A Dirty War. The Americans in Iraq have already suffered through the rotten food provided by Halliburton.

And wouldn’t it be ironic if the company that gets the contract has ties to the rendition planes?


I propose that we transport the remains of dead American troops from Iraq ALL the way to the family's destination of choice using ONLY military aircraft. Further, I propose that each coffin be escorted by a member of Congress representing the dead soldier's home of record.

If Congress can send the troops into battle they can sure as hell give them the honor of accompanying them back to their final resting place. In addition, I propose that a member of Congress from a wounded soldier's home or record personally visit such soldier at least once while hospitalized or within 30 days of discharge from the hospital.

AND I propose that each soldier or family of a soldier who has died or been wounded while on active duty in a combat zone receive a letter of thanks and commendation personally signed by the President, the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of the specific military department. No ghost signers or automatic signature machines, please! Let them see how it feels to be up close and personal with the death and destruction they cause with the stroke of their pens.

Jeff M.