Just Jihad: November 2006: Archives

November 27, 2006

Olbermann Tells Bush How Iraq Is Like Vietnam genre: Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation

Daniel DiRito | November 27, 2006 | 9:11 PM | link | Comments (1)
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

November 17, 2006

Iraq - The Money Pit: Pentagon To Ask For Billions genre: Econ-Recon & Just Jihad

Money down the drain

The GOP likes to talk about Democrats enabling the terrorists when they voice concerns that the war in Iraq is a mess...that we need to establish a time frame for our exit...and that it isn't reducing the threat of terrorism. At the same time, according to an article in USA TODAY, he Bush administration is preparing to ask for somewhere between 127 and 160 billion dollars to fund the U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Depending on the final request, the war on terror could be the most expensive war since World War II.

If memory serves me, one of the stated objectives of Osama bin Laden was to force the U.S. into spending itself into decline in its efforts to combat the threat of terror. At the current level of spending, one might well argue that the Bush administration is the one that is actually enabling the terrorists.

The Pentagon is considering $127 billion to $160 billion in requests from the armed services for the 2007 fiscal year, which began last month, several lawmakers and congressional staff members said. That's on top of $70 billion already approved for 2007.

Since 2001, Congress has approved $502 billion for the war on terror, roughly two-thirds for Iraq. The latest request, due to reach the incoming Democratic-controlled Congress next spring, would make the war on terror more expensive than the Vietnam War.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who will chair the Senate Budget Committee next year, said the amount under consideration is "$127 billion and rising." He said the cost "is going to increasingly become an issue" because it could prevent Congress from addressing domestic priorities, such as expanding Medicare prescription drug coverage.

Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., who put the expected request at $160 billion, said such a sizable increase still "won't solve the problem" in Iraq.

To make any meaningful conclusions requires some important contextual review. Clearly the invasion of Afghanistan was a reasonable and necessary action intended to put an end to al-Qaeda and those who carried out the attacks on 9/11. Unfortunately, before that mission was completed, the Bush administration turned their attention to Iraq...premised upon the assertion that Sadaam possessed weapon of mass destruction that could find their way into the hands of terrorists. It wasn't long before the WMD justification morphed into full fledged nation building in order to export democracy to the Middle East.

So what have we achieved for our half a trillion dollars and counting? Afghanistan remains a tribal nation with an economy driven by drug production and a resurgent Taliban intent on toppling the U.S. backed government. Osama bin Laden remains a free man who is likely intent on radicalizing a remote region of Pakistan into a mirror image of the domain he held in Afghanistan. Pakistan's leader, Pervez Musharraf, holds power by force over a population that opposes the U.S. and supports al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He must walk a thin line between appeasing the Bush administration and preventing the toppling of his tenuous rule which limits our ability to capture or kill Osama and his minions. Regarding al-Qaeda and the Taliban, one might argue that aside from some hard to quantify weakening, we have achieved little more than forcing a geographic shift.

In Iraq, we have in excess of 140,000 soldiers in harms way...a government that is ineffectual and lacking the power, the influence, and perhaps the motivation to put an end to the escalating sectarian conflict. Democracy seems more symbolic than endemic as longstanding allegiances and ethnic animosity appear to far exceed the desire for unifying the nation under a consensus government. Each time more executions are carried out and more people are kidnapped and murdered, the potential for resolution diminishes while deep seated revenge and rage run rampant.

At the same time, our presence in Iraq...in conflict with many of the religious beliefs in the region...has fueled the recruitment efforts of numerous terrorist groups...all intent on harming the United States and its allies. The effort to resolve the Israeli - Palestinian conflict has been set to the side and suffers the unintended, though tangible, consequences of our incursion in the region. Syria and Iran continue to fuel extremism while we virtually refuse to engage them in dialogue. Frankly, one could argue that the bulk of our efforts have served to undermine the goal of democratizing the region.

The new request being considered for the war on terror would be about one-fourth what the government spends annually on Social Security — and 10 times what it spends on its space program.

The new request is top-heavy with Army and Air Force costs to replace and repair equipment and redeploy troops, Hoagland said. That's why the 2007 cost is likely to top the war's average annual price tag.

Overall, he said, "we're easily headed toward $600 billion." That would top the $536 billion cost of Vietnam in today's dollars. World War II cost an inflation-adjusted $3.6 trillion.

Here at home, politicians haggle over raising the minimum wage, negotiating better drug prices for seniors, building a fence on our southern border, spending federal funds on stem cell and other important research, and finding the means to provide health care to well over 40 million uninsured Americans. The GOP tries to portray the Democrats as the irresponsible tax and spend party...while the cost of our war and our debt and our deficit swells at a record pace and will eventually have to be funded by the American public. I can't help but wonder what the country could do to make the lives of more Americans better with the half a trillion dollars spent on the war on terror. I doubt those who suffer the struggles of poverty and hunger feel the cost of the war has improved their day to day lives or made them any safer. I would suspect that the toil to survive each day far overshadows any concerns of safety.

In the end, while we contend that we are defending our way of life, our way of life looks to be on the decline and the road back to better days gets steeper each day. For the few that prosper, the reality is that it is dependent upon the masses achieving some level of success. The longer their needs are ignored, the sooner the established mechanisms of this increasingly narrow band of prosperity will unravel. The President likes to talk about the importance of winning the war in Iraq. If that can only be achieved at the expense of our American way of life, then I must not understand the definition of victory.

Daniel DiRito | November 17, 2006 | 12:00 PM | link | Comments (1)
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

November 8, 2006

Rumsfeld To Resign genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

Donald Rumsfeld

The Associated Press is reporting that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will resign and that Robert Gates, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Gates served under the first President George H. W. Bush and there are indications that the appointment will signal a new direction in the management of the Pentagon and the war effort in Iraq.

While I doubt it would happen, it crossed my mind that the powers that be in the GOP might think that it would also be beneficial to have Vice President Cheney resign as well. Again, I think it is highly unlikely, but one could argue that it would give the GOP an opportunity to position a Republican candidate for the 2008 presidential election. Cheney could use his health as the rationale for a resignation but if that were to be the decision, it wouldn't likely happen immediately...but at some point not too far down the road.

Thought Theater previously argued that it would serve the Democrats best if Donald Rumsfeld continued as Secretary of Defense until the 2006 midterm election. Clearly, the President's calculation to express his support for Rumsfeld just prior to the election may have been a deciding factor in the strong statement of dissatisfaction by voters. I can't help but wonder if the coming Democratic oversight may have been an element of this decision. Many have felt that the Bush administration has been able to avoid much needed scrutiny while the GOP held control of the House and the Senate. That is likely to change in the coming days.

Daniel DiRito | November 8, 2006 | 10:57 AM | link | Comments (0)
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

November 4, 2006

Four Military Papers: Rumsfeld Must Go genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

You're fired

The war in Iraq has been the albatross around the Bush administrations neck for some time now. Last week, the President reaffirmed his support for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney. Today we find out that four leading military newspapers will call for the resignation of Rumsfeld just days before an election that is seen to be largely about the war in Iraq and a referendum on the Bush administration handling of the war. That would suggest that things have gone from bad to worse.

An editorial set to appear on Monday -- election eve -- in the four leading newspapers for the military calls for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The papers are the Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times. They are published by the Military Times Media Group, a subsidiary of Gannett Co., Inc. President Bush said this week that he wanted Rumsfeld to serve out the next two years.

"We say that Rumsfeld must be replaced," Alex Neill, the managing editor of the Army Times, told The Virginian-Pilot Friday night. “Given the state of affairs with Iraq and the military right now, we think it’s a good time for new leadership there."

In early September Thought Theater argued that it would be better for the Democrats if Rumsfeld remained in his position until after the election because it would simply demonstrate the intransigence of the President to consider a new strategy for the war in Iraq. In the end, I would argue that the administration was between a rock and a hard place. They didn't want the firing of Rumsfeld to signal to voters that the execution of the war had been a failure and on the other hand they ran the risk of appearing to be tone deaf to the prevailing voter sentiment that the war was being mismanaged. Frankly, the administration's tough guy approach to politics put them in this predicament because they continued to defend the handling of the war when it was evident to any reasonable observer that our efforts in Iraq were not succeeding.

The timing of the editorial was coincidental, Neill said. But he added, "President Bush came out and said that Donald Rumsfeld is in for the duration … so it’s just a timely issue for us. And our position is that it is not the best course for the military" for Rumsfeld to remain the Pentagon chief.

Neill said he was uncertain how troops will react. “I think we’ll hear from both sides," he said. “It will be interesting to find out if it swings significantly one way or the other."

Again, many political observers were shocked that the President would offer an endorsement of Secretary Rumsfeld so close to the midterm eleciton. As it now turns out, it may have facilitated this editorial and brought more focus to the war in Iraq at perhaps the most inopportune time. The following are excerpts from the actual editorial.

"So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and informed public opinion ... it is necessary to tell the hard bruising truth."

That statement was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Marguerite Higgins more than a half-century ago during the Korean War.

But until recently, the "hard bruising" truth about the Iraq war has been difficult to come by from leaders in Washington. One rosy reassurance after another has been handed down by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: "mission accomplished," the insurgency is "in its last throes," and "back off," we know what we're doing, are a few choice examples.

Military leaders generally toed the line, although a few retired generals eventually spoke out from the safety of the sidelines, inciting criticism equally from anti-war types, who thought they should have spoken out while still in uniform, and pro-war foes, who thought the generals should have kept their critiques behind closed doors.

Now, however, a new chorus of criticism is beginning to resonate. Active-duty military leaders are starting to voice misgivings about the war's planning, execution and dimming prospects for success.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, told a Senate Armed Services Committee in September: "I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it ... and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war."

[...] For two years, American sergeants, captains and majors training the Iraqis have told their bosses that Iraqi troops have no sense of national identity, are only in it for the money, don't show up for duty and cannot sustain themselves.

Meanwhile, colonels and generals have asked their bosses for more troops. Service chiefs have asked for more money.

And all along, Rumsfeld has assured us that things are well in hand.

Now, the president says he'll stick with Rumsfeld for the balance of his term in the White House.

This is a mistake.

[...] Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.

This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth:

Donald Rumsfeld must go.

I'm still puzzled as to why the Bush administration has failed to focus its midterm message more on the war on terror and less on the war in Iraq. Prior to the Mark Foley scandal it appeared that the GOP was having some success with that message but since that time, the President has redirected his comments and attention to the war in Iraq. While we will probably never know the reasoning behind this apparent shift, one might speculate that this President simply cannot accept or acknowledge mistakes and when he was confronted by the release of the classified NIE assessment and gloomy reports from Iraq, he did what he always does...defend and deny. It now appears that voters are poised to offer their own candid response...enough is enough.

Daniel DiRito | November 4, 2006 | 10:03 AM | link | Comments (0)
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

November 1, 2006

The Independent: A Candid Assessment Of Iraq genre: Just Jihad

Pulling back the blinds

On the heels of the leaked Central Command report suggesting that Iraq was as close to chaos as one can get without calling it a civil war, The Independent pulls back the drapes and gives the reader a down and dirty assessment of the deteriorating Iraq situation. I've included a few excerpts but I would recommend reading the full article.

Sunni insurgents have cut the roads linking the city to the rest of Iraq. The country is being partitioned as militiamen fight bloody battles for control of towns and villages north and south of the capital.

As American and British political leaders argue over responsibility for the crisis in Iraq, the country has taken another lurch towards disintegration.

Well-armed Sunni tribes now largely surround Baghdad and are fighting Shia militias to complete the encirclement.

The Sunni insurgents seem to be following a plan to control all the approaches to Baghdad. They have long held the highway leading west to the Jordanian border and east into Diyala province. Now they seem to be systematically taking over routes leading north and south.

In some isolated neighbourhoods in Baghdad, food shortages are becoming severe. Shops are open for only a few hours a day. "People have been living off water melon and bread for the past few weeks," said one Iraqi from the capital. The city itself has broken up into a dozen or more hostile districts, the majority of which are controlled by the main Shia militia, the Mehdi Army.

The scale of killing is already as bad as Bosnia at the height of the Balkans conflict. An apocalyptic scenario could well emerge - with slaughter on a massive scale. As America prepares its exit strategy, the fear in Iraq is of a genocidal conflict between the Sunni minority and the Shias in which an entire society implodes.

I obviously can't confirm the information provided by The Independent but it seems fully plausible given recent comments from former and current military leaders and it supports the recently leaked Central Command report. It wouldn't surprise me to see a barrage of bad news right after the election as it becomes increasingly impossible to characterize the situation as anything but a full scale civil war. That will likely be followed by the quick release of the report being prepared by James Baker and the Iraq Study Group which will no doubt call for a completely new strategy which will then allow the President to avoid any forthright admission of failure.

Amid all this, Dick Cheney, the US Vice-President, has sought to turn the fiasco of Iraq into a vote-winner with his claim that the Iraqi insurgents have upped their attacks on US forces in a bid to influence the mid-term elections. There is little evidence to support this. In fact, the number of American dead has risen steadily this year from 353 in January to 847 in September and will be close to one thousand in October.

Mr Maliki has recently criticised the US for the failure of its security policy in Iraq and resisted American pressure to eliminate the militias. Although President Bush and Tony Blair publicly handed back sovereignty to Iraq in June 2004, Mr Maliki said: "I am now Prime Minister and overall commander of the armed forces yet I cannot move a single company without Coalition [US and British] approval."

In reality the militias are growing stronger by the day because the Shia and Sunni communities feel threatened and do not trust the army and police to defend them. US forces have been moving against the Mehdi Army, which follows the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, but he is an essential prop to Mr Maliki's government. Almost all the main players in Iraqi politics maintain their own militias.

Another ominous development is that Iraqi tribes that often used to have both Sunni and Shia members are now splitting along sectarian lines.

Keep an eye on the Maliki situation. As the U.S. moves closer to disengagement, I expect Maliki to become more vocal in his criticism of the U.S. as he is forced to distance himself from the Bush administration or find himself unable to govern...something that could well happen regardless. There will soon come a point where Maliki has to act under the assumption that the U.S. is going to find a way out of the mess. As soon as his opposition understands as much, he could be doomed. My suspicion is that our current troop levels and our presumed commitment to an ongoing presence has been enough to forestall an inevitable government collapse. I suspect that unless the U.S. forces a partitioning arrangement that is acceptable to all the parties, the country will implode at whatever point we exit.

We have an election in less than a week that many voters hope will bring some shift in strategy. Unfortunately, I suspect that any possible alternatives that would minimize our involvement are rapidly evaporating. That may mean that the political party viewed to be in the lead on November 8th is going to struggle to meet the expectations of most voters. November 7th is apt to make one side pretty happy...but the following morning may come with a painful hangover.

Daniel DiRito | November 1, 2006 | 9:06 PM | link | Comments (0)
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Latest Polling: It's All About Iraq genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

Time is running out

Despite the GOP's best efforts to divert attention from the war in Iraq, the latest poll from The New York Times / CBS News clearly shows that the lengthy conflict is the dominant issue on voter’s minds as we approach the midterm election. As I've pondered the John Kerry dust-up, my suspicion is that it will merely serve to motivate those on both sides of the issue but do little to change the minds of any voters. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that opinions about the war have been in place far too long to be vulnerable to the misspoken remarks of a single Senator.

The poll found that just 29 percent of Americans approve of the way President Bush is managing the war in Iraq, matching the lowest mark of his presidency. Nearly 70 percent of Americans said Mr. Bush did not have a plan to end the war, and an overwhelming 80 percent said Mr. Bush’s latest effort to rally public support for the conflict amounted to a change in language but not policy.

The poll underlined the extent to which the war has framed the midterm elections. Americans cited Iraq as the most important issue affecting their vote, and majorities of Republicans and Democrats said they wanted a change in the government’s approach to the war. Only 20 percent said they thought the United States was winning in Iraq, down from a high of 36 percent in January.

Fifty percent of independent voters, a closely watched segment of the electorate in such polarized times, said they intended to vote for the Democratic candidate, versus 23 percent who said they would vote for a Republican.

Among registered voters, 33 percent said they planned to support for Republicans, and 52 percent said they would vote for Democrats.

There has long been a belief that voters pay little attention to politics until just before each election and I concede that there is some truth to that presumption. Nonetheless, I also think there is a mistaken tendency to generalize that observation to all elections and all situations related to all elections. I've stated previously that voters have a jurors mentality when it comes to the government...they realize that the players are suspect, they hesitate to jump to conclusions, but once they've had a sufficient opportunity to scrutinize all of the pertinent evidence, they speak their minds clearly and firmly. I believe Iraq fits into this equation perfectly and I view the consistently negative polling regarding the war as the proof that voters are prepared to be heard on the issue.

Coming at the conclusion of a contentious midterm campaign, voters said that neither Democrats nor Republican had offered a plan for governing should they win on Tuesday, the poll found. Yet Americans have some clear notions of how government might change if Democrats win control of Congress: Beyond a quicker exit from Iraq, respondents said they thought a Democratic Congress would be more likely to increase the minimum wage, hold down rapidly rising health and prescription drugs costs, improve the economy and — as Republicans have said frequently in these closing days of the campaign — raise taxes.

By a slight margin, more respondents said the threat of terrorism would increase under Republicans than those who said it would increase under Democrats.

Nearly 75 percent of respondents — including 67 percent of Republicans and 92 percent of Democrats — said they expected Americans troops would be taken out of Iraq more swiftly under a Democratic Congress.

Forty-one percent of respondents said they expected troop levels in Iraq would decrease if Democrats win, while another 40 percent said the party would seek to remove all troops. Forty-one percent said they expected troop levels to remain the same if Republicans win, while 29 percent said they thought the United States would send more troops in if the Republicans continue to control Congress.

I think there is an overlooked consideration that merits discussion. Note that voters expressed beliefs about how each party might act with regards to Iraq should they be in power. That makes sense to me but it fails to discern the full thinking of voters. By that I contend that voters realize that giving Democrats control of the House and possibly the Senate won't result in any immediate change of course in Iraq...but that's part of the appeal and the calculation. If they put Democrats in a position of power whereby the Democrats might be able to scrutinize and oversee the actions of the Bush administration it is reasonable to expect that the war effort will garner a broader evaluation which might lead to a new strategy that could alter the troubling status quo.

I think that argues that even more voters than those polled...particularly independent voters and those who have yet to fully make up their mind as to how to vote...are going to break strongly towards the Democrats as a simple matter or prudent practicality. The data suggests that most voters have concluded what each party will do regarding Iraq if they are in power and that will lead large numbers of moderate voters to opt for change on the predominant issue of this election.

It also seems sensible to surmise that the President's most recent focus on the war in Iraq and his return to the previous success of tying it to the war on terror is going to fail this election. I say as much because Iraq is now voter's singular priority such that they cannot overlook the need for a change in strategy despite concerns about other lesser issues. Iraq has become such a prevailing issue that it appears poised to skew all other considerations.

Those who suggest that the midterm will not be a referendum on Iraq and George Bush fail to realize that voters cannot reasonably conclude that Republican candidates can or will break rank with the Bush administration to implement a change in our war strategy...which means local issues or even other national issues are going to be relegated to the back burner and votes are going to be cast almost wholly upon beliefs about the handling of Iraq. I'll go out on a limb and predict that the analysis on election night will quickly focus on one theme...It's all about Iraq, stupid.

Daniel DiRito | November 1, 2006 | 7:23 PM | link | Comments (0)
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Iraq: The Uncivil Civil War That Wasn't A Civil War genre: Just Jihad

House of cards

While the GOP tries to make hay with the blundered John Kerry remarks, the war in Iraq remains a disaster and a new assessment by the United States Central Command suggests that the sectarian violence has the nation on the precipice of chaos...what I would call a code word for civil war. I find it interesting that the Bush administration wants to focus on the words of a Senator on the campaign trail in California while virtually every intelligent observer believes that the "stay the course" effort in Iraq is putting our troops in harms way.

If the President is actually concerned for our troops, why doesn't he admit his administration's mistakes and focus his energy on crafting a new war strategy rather than a new political strategy...but that would require him to be less concerned with political power and more concerned with protecting our troops...troops he enjoys waving around like a cheap campaign sign when he thinks that will win him votes...the same troops that died in near record numbers in October in a war the President declared we had won more than two years ago.

A one-page slide shown at the Oct. 18 briefing provides a rare glimpse into how the military command that oversees the war is trying to track its trajectory, particularly in terms of sectarian fighting.

The slide includes a color-coded bar chart that is used to illustrate an “Index of Civil Conflict." It shows a sharp escalation in sectarian violence since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February, and tracks a further worsening this month despite a concerted American push to tamp down the violence in Baghdad.

In fashioning the index, the military is weighing factors like the ineffectual Iraqi police and the dwindling influence of moderate religious and political figures, rather than more traditional military measures such as the enemy’s fighting strength and the control of territory.

The conclusions the Central Command has drawn from these trends are not encouraging, according to a copy of the slide that was obtained by The New York Times. The slide shows Iraq as moving sharply away from “peace," an ideal on the far left side of the chart, to a point much closer to the right side of the spectrum, a red zone marked “chaos." As depicted in the command’s chart, the needle has been moving steadily toward the far right of the chart.

One significant factor in the military’s decision to move the scale toward “chaos" was the expanding activity by militias.

Another reason was the limitations of Iraqi government security forces, which despite years of training and equipping by the United States, are either ineffective or, in some cases, infiltrated by the very militias they are supposed to be combating. The slide notes that “ineffectual" Iraqi police forces have been a significant problem, and cites as a concern sectarian conflicts between Iraqi security forces.

Other significant factors are in the political realm. The slide notes that Iraq’s political and religious leaders have lost some of their moderating influence over their constituents or adherents.

While I appreciate the effort of Central Command, it seems that they are well behind the American public in concluding that the country is in the midst of a civil war. I'm reminded of an expression in sports that is used to demonstrate how losing teams attempt to rationalize their losses..."statistics are for losers". Let me be clear. I realize that Central Command is simply providing the reports they are being asked to prepare and I don't mean to blame them for doing their job. On the other hand, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and the rest of the neocon alliance warrant significant blame and at some point they have an obligation to put a halt to this charade intended to cast the conflict in its best light.

Perhaps the report being prepared by James Baker and the Iraq Study Group will provide the administration with the necessary assessments to alter this failed war effort and begin addressing the realities in the region in a way that no longer makes our troops the victims of partisan politics. It is noteworthy to point out that the Baker report will not be released until after the election. If we're looking out for the troops, why is this report subject to political calculations?

Pardon my cynicism but the outrage at Senator Kerry's remarks are nothing more than lip service so long as this administration continues to drag its feet in finding solutions that will either allow our troops to succeed in their mission or alter the mission in order to achieve success without needlessly sacrificing our troops.

Daniel DiRito | November 1, 2006 | 8:14 AM | link | Comments (1)
AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Read about the Director and Cast

Send us an email

Select a theme:

Now Playing

Critic's Corner

 Subscribe in a reader


Planet Atheism - aggregating blogs by non-believers and freethinkers


Powered by:
Movable Type 4.2-en

© Copyright 2018

site by Eagle River Partners & Carlson Design