Just Jihad: July 2007: Archives

July 31, 2007

Democracy Be Damned: Rampant Corruption In Iraq genre: Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation

Payola

I understand the desire to be optimistic about the situation in Iraq but when each day brings a new scandal, a new article detailing the growing obstacles, or a call for more time to achieve our objectives, I simply cannot muster a smile. Frankly, if it weren't such a serious situation, it would be laughable.

Try as they might, the war apologists simply lack the ability to plug each emerging hole in a rationale that is long on rhetoric and sorely lacking in reality. Today's news about the rampant corruption in the fledgling Iraqi government is more of the same.

Supplies and medicine in strife-torn Baghdad's overcrowded hospitals have been siphoned off and sold elsewhere for profit because of “untouchable" corruption in the Iraqi Ministry of Health, according to a draft U.S. government report obtained by NBC News.

The report, written by U.S. advisers to Iraq's anti-corruption agency, analyzes corruption in 12 ministries and finds devastating and grim problems. "Corruption protected by senior members of the Iraqi government remains untouchable," the report sad.

The draft report obtained by NBC said the Iraqi Ministry of Health, which oversees the country's hospitals, is in the "grip" of the Mahdi Army, the anti-American militia run by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

"Contract fraud and employee theft of medicines, food, vehicles are viewed by investigators as the greatest problems," the report said, adding that "military sources have reported that the Mehdi Army [sic] finances operations from diverted medicines."

In the Ministry of Oil — the most important agency for Iraq’s economy — the report said "corruption is a major problem" when it comes to refined oil products, such as gasoline and kerosene. The report said corruption in the oil ministry is partly to blame for lines of cars stretching for miles as Iraqis wait hours to fill up their tanks.

My recollection of the pre-war rationale was that Saddam Hussein was a corrupt tyrant who ruled the country with a strong and brutal military and an array of insider alliances...all of which led to great wealth for the chosen few and much less for the powerless masses.

As we approach five years of American occupation, I'm afraid little has changed for the Iraqi people. In reality, one can make an argument that the situation is no better than it was under the Hussein regime. Reports suggest that there is significantly less electricity, gas and oil are in short supply or rationed, unemployment is outrageous, security is at best sporadic, and a select few use their power and authority to amass wealth while depriving others of basic necessities.

Saddam may be gone but his absence seems to have provided little more than an opportunity for others to step in and fill the power vacuum...and assume the all important role of plundering the wealth that the Bush administration once suggested would not only provide for the comfort and care of the Iraqi people; but would also pay for our costs to prosecute the war.

Given the state of corruption being reported, as well as the $10 billion per month we are spending to maintain our presence in Iraq, I would suggest that we completely miscalculated the potential obstacles and underestimated the level of lawlessness that would ensue.

An entire battalion of Iraqi police "was found to be nonexistent" and corruption in the army is "widespread," with ghost employees and a shortage of supplies, according to the report.

The law allows the prime minister to exempt Cabinet ministers from prosecution and allows ministers to exempt their employees from prosecution.

"This is tantamount to a get out of jail free card," Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, told NBC.

The top Iraqi anti-corruption investigator, Judge Rahdi al Rahdi, told NBC that "in many important cases, ministers did not give us the permission to take their employees to court, the prime minister's office did not give us permission to take ministers to court."

Rahdi said the total amount of missing money involved in his investigations into government misconduct is $11 billion.

Corruption is so serious that it is difficult for the government to function, according to Ali Allawi, a former Iraqi government minister.

"The Americans who are supporting this political class, I believe really have no choice. This is a group they have been saddled with, or supported in power, and must grin and bear it," he said.

History tells us that this isn't the first time the United States hitched its wagon to a government of scofflaws with the thought that it would ultimately be to our benefit. Unfortunately, history also tells us that such regimes rarely endure as their greed and disregard for the people they govern makes them targets for overthrow...often by other groups intent on doing more of the same...all the while leaving the citizenry scrambling to survive while suffering through the excesses of each new governing body.

Delivering democracy and liberty may be a fundamental goal of George Bush, but the people of Iraq may be years away from embracing such a system. No doubt there are those who favor a fair and equitable society but as so often happens they are overwhelmed by those who have learned the art of manipulation and found their way into positions of power.

Sadly, in our efforts to achieve our objectives, we are likely supporting a number of people who could care less about the good people of Iraq and our noble goal. I may be a pessimist, but I'm at a loss to envision the process whereby the thugs and thieves that have infiltrated the Iraqi government will suddenly elect to enact an equitable democracy.

Tagged as: al Maliki, Bush Administration, Corruption, Democracy, Iraq, Muqtada al Sadr, Saddam Hussein

Daniel DiRito | July 31, 2007 | 9:01 AM | link | Comments (0)
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July 30, 2007

A War We Just Might Win...After Summer Vacation genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Lipstick On A Pig

Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, write an upbeat assessment of the situation in Iraq in today's New York Times...with an even more optimistic headline, "A War We Just Might Win". After eight days in the war torn country, they conclude that progress is being made, troop morale is high, and sectarian groups are beginning to cooperate in order to bring security.

At the same time, the Iraqi parliament announced today that it would begin a lengthy vacation despite the lack of progress on a number of critical issues that have remained stalled in the struggling government. The vacation is scheduled to end on September 4th...just days prior to the much anticipated U.S. assessment intended to evaluate the effectiveness of the recent troop surge.

Perhaps O'Hanlon and Pollack failed to get the memo announcing the extended vacation...the same memo that suggests that even if the troop surge is able to bring improved security, the Iraqi government may well be incapable of stepping in and governing. Oh, and keep in mind that this is the same government that has refused to take control of numerous reconstruction projects that have been completed because they simply lack the ability and the expertise to do so.

From The New York Times:

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory" but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

Another surprise was how well the coalition’s new Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams are working. Wherever we found a fully staffed team, we also found local Iraqi leaders and businessmen cooperating with it to revive the local economy and build new political structures. Although much more needs to be done to create jobs, a new emphasis on microloans and small-scale projects was having some success where the previous aid programs often built white elephants.

Well that settles it...I need to call my representatives in Washington and urge them to support the President in his determination to stay in Iraq as long as he deems necessary. Look, I have no doubt the added troops have made some marked improvements but we've been here before and the problem remains the same...there are few reasons to believe that the Iraqi's are going to be able to govern once we reduce our presence.

Well over four years into the conflict and the Iraqi security forces appear no more able to maintain the security of Iraq than they were each prior time the Bush administration projected that they would be. Perhaps O'Hanlon and Pollack received a personal assurance from the President?

From Reuters:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's parliament went into summer recess for a month on Monday despite failing to enact a series of laws that Washington sees as crucial to stabilizing the country and reconciling warring Iraqis.

"We do not have anything to discuss in the parliament, no laws or constitutional amendments, nothing from the government. Differences between the political factions have delayed the laws," Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman told Reuters.

"Bush cannot realistically go to Congress and say he has to keep U.S. troops there because the Iraqi government is doing a good job -- because the government is largely absent. It places him in a very difficult predicament," said Gareth Stansfield, an analyst at leading British think-tank Chatham House.

Washington has pressed the Iraqi government to speed up passage of laws that include measures to distribute Iraq's oil reserves and ease restrictions on former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party serving in the civil service.

It views such laws as key to reconciling disaffected members of Iraq's Sunni Arab community, once politically dominant under Saddam and now locked in a vicious sectarian conflict with majority Shi'ites that has killed tens of thousands.

Is Reuters talking about the same country? Maybe I'm dense, but what would make the impartial observer conclude that success is just over the horizon? It looks like Reuters stopped their analysis one ridge short of the magnificent Mesopotamian miracle...you know...that place behind the curtain where the wizard walked O'Hanlon and Pollack through the tangible transformation that is taking place.

Frankly, if victory is proving that 160,000 American troops can have an impact on a nation in a virtual civil war...well...maybe we're ready for a ticker tape parade. On the other hand, isn't it possible that victory would best be equated with a certainty that, upon the withdrawal of U.S. troops, Iraq can thrive as a functional nation?

Even the rose colored glasses of O'Hanlon and Pollack only warrant the following conclusion.

In the end, the situation in Iraq remains grave. In particular, we still face huge hurdles on the political front. Iraqi politicians of all stripes continue to dawdle and maneuver for position against one another when major steps towards reconciliation — or at least accommodation — are needed. This cannot continue indefinitely. Otherwise, once we begin to downsize, important communities may not feel committed to the status quo, and Iraqi security forces may splinter along ethnic and religious lines.

How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.

Call me a cynic but the ongoing admonitions to "give it six more months"...the many assurances that "we're beginning to see progress"...and the optimistic assertions that "the Iraqi people are happily embracing democracy" are all akin to lathering lipstick on a pig...you know, those animals that don't have lips...those cuddly creatures that no one's inclined to kiss even if they did.

I have empathy for the Iraqi people and I wish them well...but I'm struggling to understand how many U.S. soldiers should give their lives so that the Bush administration can take another shot at convincing the American public that our government is bringing home the bacon...as opposed to feeding us another batch of baloney.

Image courtesy of www.hillquest.com

Tagged as: al Qaeda, Iraq, Kenneth Pollack, Micheal O'Hanlon, Sectarian, U.S. Troops

Daniel DiRito | July 30, 2007 | 3:22 PM | link | Comments (1)
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July 29, 2007

Bill Moyers Journal: Discussing Al Qaeda And Iraq genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Video-Philes

The following two video clips are from the PBS program, Bill Moyers Journal, and they are the second part of a two part posting at Thought Theater. The first half can be found here.

The first video clip is the completion of the discussion outlined below which appeared in the first posting. The second clip is Moyers own reflections on the war in Iraq. It is a poignant segment that highlights the service of a soldier who lost his life in Iraq against the statements recorded by Max Blumenthal at the College Republican National Convention.

It is startling to see the degree to which these young Republican's have adopted the rhetoric of the Bush administration. This final segment also leaves one to wonder how many of those who endorse this war would actually be willing to make the sacrifice to serve in the U.S. military. In using the Blumnethal clip, Moyers provides an illumination of these subtle but significant distinctions.

From the prior posting:

This latest edition of the Journal had an excellent segment titled Al Qaeda And Iraq...a discussion with Fawaz Gerges, author of two books, The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global and Journey Of The Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy and Brian Fishman, a Senior Associate at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

This is one of the most informative conversations on the situation in Iraq, the war on terror, and the many complex obstacles which the United States faces in dealing with the inhabitants of the Middle East.

Anyone who has listened to the Bush administration's simplistic characterization of the Iraq situation or the war on terror should watch this program. Frankly, I doubt anyone can come away from watching this discussion and feel better about the daunting task the United States undertook with the invasion of Iraq. Further, it would be very difficult to conclude that the latest strategy will succeed or that the President has faced up to the enormity of the situation.

Bill Moyers Journal - Part Three

Bill Moyers Journal - Part Four

Tagged as: al Qaeda, Bill Moyers, Brian Fishman, Fawaz Gerges, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, War On Terror

Daniel DiRito | July 29, 2007 | 5:47 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Bill Moyers Journal: Discussing Al Qaeda And Iraq genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Video-Philes

The following two video clips are from the PBS program, Bill Moyers Journal, and they are the first part of a two part posting at Thought Theater. The second half will be posted later this evening.

This latest edition of the Journal had an excellent segment titled Al Qaeda And Iraq...a discussion with Fawaz Gerges, author of two books, The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global and Journey Of The Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy and Brian Fishman, a Senior Associate at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

This is one of the most informative conversations on the situation in Iraq, the war on terror, and the many complex obstacles which the United States faces in dealing with the inhabitants of the Middle East.

Anyone who has listened to the Bush administration's simplistic characterization of the Iraq situation or the war on terror should watch this program. Frankly, I doubt anyone can come away from watching this discussion and feel better about the daunting task the United States undertook with the invasion of Iraq. Further, it would be very difficult to conclude that the latest strategy will succeed or that the President has faced up to the enormity of the situation.

Bill Moyers Journal - Part One

Bill Moyers Journal - Part Two

Tagged as: al Qaeda, Bill Moyers, Brian Fishman, Fawaz Gerges, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, War On Terror

Daniel DiRito | July 29, 2007 | 5:09 PM | link | Comments (0)
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July 27, 2007

Iraq's Maliki Government On Life Support? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Nouri al-Maliki

While many observers are debating the effectiveness of the latest troop surge in Iraq, an even more disturbing issue may be developing…one that could lead to the complete unraveling of what is already a relatively dysfunctional government. Conflict is nothing new to the fledgling government, but current events could be the final impetus in toppling the already weakened Maliki led coalition.

BAGHDAD - Iraq is in the throes of its worst political crisis since the fall of Saddam Hussein with the new democratic system, based on national consensus among its ethnic and sectarian groups, appearing dangerously close to collapsing, say several politicians and analysts.

This has brought paralysis to governmental institutions and has left parliament unable to make headway on 18 benchmarks Washington is using to measure progress in Iraq, including legislation on oil revenue sharing and reforming security forces.

On Wednesday, the Iraqi Accordance Front said it pulled out of Mr. Maliki's coalition government, but would return its six cabinet members if the prime minister met a list of demands. The Sunni bloc says it wants, among other things, pardons for detainees not facing specific criminal charges and for all militias to be disbanded.

If they pull out, it would bring to 12 the number of vacancies in Maliki's 39-member cabinet.

Simple math tells us that if nearly a full third of the government is on the verge of withdrawal, the Maliki government is perilously close to failure. Numerous critics of the war, including many within the Democratic Party and a few Republican defectors, have been arguing that the situation in Iraq cannot be solved militarily and that it must be addressed primarily through political diplomacy and reconciliation.

However, the truth of the matter is that the Bush administration continues to sell the continuing U.S. occupation, as well as the recent troop surge, on the grounds that Iraq has become the central front in the war on terror. Unfortunately, that argument continues to ignore the fundamental issue that will ultimately need to be resolved in order to establish an Iraqi national identity...sectarian differences.

The apparent shortsightedness of the President is either a grave flaw or he has elected to string the American public along with a military rationale knowing full well that the task at hand is much larger and will require many more years of U.S. involvement and oversight…a position he likely realizes would not be palatable to an already reluctant citizenry. Either way, the goal of a democratic Iraq is more likely a function of fiction than a calculation of fact.

And since Saturday, US Ambassador Ryan Crocker has been shuttling between Iraq's top leaders, but an embassy spokesperson said this was not necessarily indicative of a crisis.

"The surge has done well in making a difference in security conditions. But it isn't a light switch for reconciliation; there are no quick fixes to years of bitterness and violence," he said.

Robert Springborg, director of the Middle East Institute at the University of London, says the heart of the problem was that no one is truly committed to a strong and unified government.

"The actors involved have their own agendas, the central government and its resources are a tool for their own aspirations ... none are committed to a government for all Iraqis," he says.

Pointing to the growing disconnect between Washington and Baghdad, Askari, Maliki's adviser, says, "Washington believes that passing the oil law will impact on reconciliation and the security situation. We beg to differ. This matters little to the armed groups that kill Iraqis every day. Their sole agenda is to reverse what we have achieved so far."

Despite my intense criticism of the Bush administration, I do realize that the United States faces a difficult predicament now that we have toppled the Hussein regime. Nonetheless, the initial miscalculations, coupled with a seemingly persistent and unyielding stubbornness, have simply served to compound the ongoing dilemmas we have faced and will therefore continue to face.

When that basic reality is added to the intransigent and arrogant nature of the neocon mindset…a mindset that has been allowed to influence each decision…it is difficult to predict the point at which an honest evaluation can be completed…let alone when such an evaluation can be used as the backdrop for real discussions and meaningful solutions.

Whether the Bush administration will ever acquiesce to such an approach remains the critical factor. All signs suggest that moment remains a very distant and doubtful dream. In the meantime, the American public will no doubt have to endure more of the Bush administration’s ongoing nightmare…an American administration in denial and a dysfunctional and divided Iraq.

Tagged as: George Bush, Iraq, Neocon, Nouri al-Maliki, Sectarian, Shiite, Sunni

Daniel DiRito | July 27, 2007 | 3:32 PM | link | Comments (0)
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July 26, 2007

We Chased Them To Pakistan...Yea, That Worked genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

Linking al Qaeda and Iraq

While the decider in chief runs about the country spouting the dangers of al Qaeda “IN" Iraq, virtually all other experts on the subject are pointing to Pakistan and just how difficult and daunting it will be for anyone to flush them out of their remote hideouts. The latest expert to voice such concerns is James Clapper, an intelligence expert with the Pentagon.

"I think our objective will be to neutralize, not eliminate, but certainly make this safe haven -- as we have the others -- less safe and less appealing for AQ," Clapper told a joint session of the House armed services and intelligence committees.

But Clapper, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, presented the task of eliminating al Qaeda's influence in the region as a long-term project that would hinge on U.S. economic aid to the local populace and contributions of military assistance including sophisticated surveillance equipment to the Pakistani military.

"This is going to be a long-haul process," he said. "I don't think we'll have any demonstrable change within (a) three-year time frame."

Added Clapper, "It's not just ... putting bombs on targets."

"Al Qaeda is now in a part of Pakistan that is largely inaccessible to Pakistani forces, the Pakistani government. Always has been. And it is a very difficult operating environment for them," said Edward Gistaro, the top U.S. intelligence analyst on transnational threats.
"It is just a very difficult environment for outside forces to operate in," he added.

For me, the most notable information offered regarding the situation in Pakistan is the statement that we shouldn’t expect any demonstrable change in the next three years. If one endeavors to put two and two together, then the reports suggesting that al Qaeda may be poised to attempt another strike against the United States become more troubling. If the planning for such a strike is being administered from Pakistan, then should we assume that for the next three years we lack the means to significantly disrupt that activity?

Perhaps the focus of the Bush administration on Iraq is a distraction intended to lull al Qaeda in Pakistan into complacency in order to allow the United States to execute a clandestine strike. What’s more probable is that I’m grasping at straws in my search for any shards of logic which I can then attach to the President’s incongruous rhetoric and his indiscernible rationale.

If the situation turns out to be the former, I’ll happily offer the President kudos. If on the other hand, the latter were to prove accurate…well…that would simply be more of the same. I hope I’m pleasantly surprised.

Tagged as: al Qaeda, George Bush, Musharraf, Pakistan, Pentagon, War On Terror

Daniel DiRito | July 26, 2007 | 1:56 PM | link | Comments (1)
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George W. Bush: Two Tall Fables & A Twilight Zone genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Twilight Zone

On Tuesday, the President sought to portray al Qaeda in Iraq as the central threat in the war on terror. His actions were apparently meant to shore up waning support for his war in Iraq and to respond to a grim National Intelligence Estimate, portions of which were released least week.

By and large, the President has relied on one paragraph of the estimate to make his assertions. However, the remaining portions of the report which were made available to the public suggest that it is actually the al Qaeda enclaves in the remote regions of Pakistan which pose the greater threat to the U.S. homeland.

While it should come as no surprise that the President would attempt to spin the NIE report to meet his own objectives (think about the selective justifications for invading Iraq), one has to wonder about the moral of the individuals who participate in compiling and delivering reports like the National Intelligence Estimate and the Iraq Study Group Report.

Frankly, I have to presume that these public servants feel marginalized and maligned. Time and again, this President has either mischaracterized information or simply chosen to ignore it…despite the obvious credibility of those who have endeavored to provide objective data intended to assist in guiding the policy decisions of the Bush administration.

Today, the Boston Globe gives readers a glimpse into the thoughts of one such individual who was a key participant in preparing the NIE report.

In rare testimony before two House committees, Edward Gistaro, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats, said that Al Qaeda terrorists operating in South Asia are better equipped to attack the United States than the network's followers in Iraq are.

Asked which arm of Al Qaeda concerned him the most, Gistaro told a joint session of the House armed services and intelligence panels that it was South Asia.

"The primary concern is in Al Qaeda in South Asia organizing its own plots against the United States," he said. Al Qaeda planned the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks from its bases in Afghanistan.

The top leaders of the terrorist network, Gistaro added, are "able to exploit the comfort zone in the tribal areas" of Pakistan and Afghanistan and are "bringing people in to train for Western operations."

Meanwhile, a top US general in Afghanistan told Pentagon reporters in a video teleconference that the number of Al Qaeda foot soldiers traveling to South Asia has increased up to 60 percent over the past year.
"It's increased probably 50 to 60 percent over what it was last year . . . and they come from multiple areas in the Middle East," said Army Major General David Rodriguez, commander of the 82d Airborne Division.

I don’t begrudge the President believing that we can’t walk away from the war in Iraq without some confidence that the troubled and divided nation won’t further unravel. Nonetheless, I find the methodology he incorporates into communicating his position to be mind boggling and counter productive.

Unfortunately, a quick review of his political mindset…as evidenced by the manner in which he and his operatives have chosen to approach elections and partisan political issues…suggests that candor and compromise have always been forced to yield to conflation and confrontation. Even worse, when the latter fail to succeed, this President seems chillingly comfortable employing denial, deceit, and dictatorial disregard.

But in recent days the White House has highlighted one particular line in the declassified version of the report that portrays the group known as Al Qaeda in Iraq as the "most visible and capable affiliate [of Al Qaeda] and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the [US] homeland."

"We've already seen how Al Qaeda used a failed state thousands of miles from our shores to bring death and destruction to the streets of our cities, and we must not allow them to do so again," Bush said.

Abraham Wagner, a senior researcher at the Center for Advanced Studies on Terrorism at Columbia University, called Bush's speech about the Al Qaeda threat in Iraq a "spin job."

"In the Cold War it was called 'threat lumping,' " Wagner said. "It is creating a threat to justify what you are doing. Al Qaeda in Iraq never existed prior to the US activity in Iraq and I think it is still a small operation."

"It is unfortunate," he added, that "the administration, in their last gasp to justify what they are doing, are inventing threats and misrepresenting what they are getting from the intelligence community."

Astonishingly, when the President alludes to al Qaeda using a failed state in an attempt to justify his Iraq strategy, he simultaneously ignores the events unfolding in Pakistan…events that are far too obvious to be ignored or swept under the rhetorical rug. Certainly the President is entitled to construct his argument as he chooses, but he insults the American voter each time he bangs the same tired old drum.

While voters may have listened and lined up to follow patriotically prior to the Iraq invasion…I’m of the mind that they view the incessant clamor coming from the Bush administration to be synonymous with the protestations they’ve come to expect from the likes of a precocious child who valiantly argues he or she didn’t eat the cookies while coyly wiping chocolate chips from his or her cheeks.

Each time George Bush seeks to inject his alter-reality into the voter psyche…whether it be attempted with a crow bar or perched on the bar crowing…he pushes himself further away from the “sheep" he seeks to influence.

Mr. President, you can wrap yourself in whatever wondrous wares you choose but the American public has seen you for what you are…and you are little more than the inauthentic boy wolf wrapped in sheep’s clothing whose cries for credibility are no longer reputable...and they no longer resonate.

Tagged as: al Qaeda, Edward Gistaro, George W. Bush, Iraq, Iraq Study Group, NIE, Pakistan

Daniel DiRito | July 26, 2007 | 11:15 AM | link | Comments (0)
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July 24, 2007

George Bush Rolls The Dice On "Al Qaeda In Iraq" genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

High Stakes

If one listens to the President, we are fighting the war in Iraq so we don’t have to fight al Qaeda here in the homeland. Unfortunately, it appears that a number of high level officials in the United States failed to receive that particular talking points memo. Those speaking out may find themselves among the many military officials who have suddenly made their way to early retirement. Air Force General Victor “Gene" Renuart may be moving towards joining them.

WASHINGTON -- A top U.S. military commander said Tuesday he believes there are al-Qaeda cells in the United States - or people working to create them - and the military needs to triple its response teams to counter a growing threat of attack.

"I believe there are cells in the United States, or at least people who aspire to create cells in the United States," Renuart said in an interview with The Associated Press. "To assume that there are not those cells is naive and so we have to take that threat seriously."
As for attacks, he added: "Am I concerned that this will happen this summer? I have to be concerned that it could happen any day."

Renuart, who took over at U.S. Northern Command just four months ago, said the military has one brigade-size unit available to respond to nuclear, chemical and biological incidents at home. That number, he said, needs to grow to three. A brigade is about 3,500 troops.

Renuart said he has been working to improve the interaction between his office and the other intelligence agencies to ensure that information on terror threats is shared. That way, he said, the military will better be able to anticipate how terrorists might try to take advantage of any gaps or weaknesses in the system.

At the same time, he said it will be at least two years before he is able to pull together the military units he needs to better respond to a chemical, biological or nuclear disaster in the U.S.

My own observation is that Renuart’s comments are not what the President would want to hear on a day when he has gone on the offensive to convince Americans that our efforts in Iraq are the best means to confront al Qaeda.

The fact that the President said “al Qaeda" over ninety times in his speech in South Carolina this morning tells me that his goal is to once again connect the 9/11 terrorists with the war in Iraq…the one strategy that has, in the past, best served to win the support of the voting public and therefore advance the goals of the Bush administration.

The last thing President Bush needs is General Renuart pointing to the deficiencies in our Homeland Security as well as the fact that we are likely two years away from being prepared for a major strike by al Qaeda…especially in light of the recent attention being paid to the $592 billion dollar U.S. Embassy being constructed in Baghdad.

I doubt most Americans would view the more than half a billion dollars already spent on a behemoth fortress in Iraq as a prudent expenditure in light of the needs that remain unaddressed here on American soil. Additionally, most Americans know very little about the other U.S. military bases that are being built throughout Iraq.

At some point voters will begin to make the connection between the deficiencies pointed out by men like General Renuart and the $10 billion dollars being spent in Iraq on a monthly basis.

The Bush strategy is a calculated risk that could backfire if al Qaeda were able to execute a successful attack on American soil due to our lack of preparedness on the home front. Unfortunately, it is a risk that the President is willing to take. Worse yet, his reasons for such a gamble may be nothing more than foolish pride.

Let’s hope another 9/11 type strike doesn’t occur. While the President may possess the ability to justify the loss of American lives in Iraq and here at home, I doubt most voters will find the means to understand or forgive the cavalier decisions that may ultimately be determined to have facilitated or precipitated them.

Tagged as: 9/11, al Qaeda, Bush Administration, General Renuart, Homeland Security, Iraq, US Embassy

Daniel DiRito | July 24, 2007 | 6:45 PM | link | Comments (0)
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George Bush: Divorce From Reality Finalized genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Over The Edge

You've got to be kidding! George Bush just completed his latest dissertation on the situation in Iraq and his message is that al Qaeda has an organization in Iraq and the United States must defeat al Qaeda in Iraq. If I didn't know better, I would think it was 2003 all over again...but then that may well be exactly what the President wants us to think.

From The Guardian:

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - President Bush sought Tuesday to strengthen the connection between the terrorist network al-Qaida and the unceasing Iraq war, prodding people to remember the threat of attack at home.

By stressing al-Qaida's burgeoning operation in Iraq, Bush again aimed to frame the war in the public's mind as a matter of protecting the United States. Yet the war itself has turned into a valuable recruiting tool for al-Qaida, senior intelligence officials concede.

In an afternoon speech to military personnel, Bush will warn that al-Qaida anywhere remains a catastrophic threat to the U.S., nowhere more so than from its base in Iraq.

Bush declassified information about al-Qaida's operation for his speech. His goal is to show that al-Qaida in Iraq is a core part of the overall terror network - a direct jab at those who say U.S. troops in Iraq are bogged down against the wrong enemy.

In broad strokes, Bush's approach links the Iraq war to an event that Americans remember deeply - the Sept. 11 attacks - as not the sectarian strife among Iraqis. That violent infighting among Iraqis has caused much of the United States to see little point in the U.S. mission.

As I ponder this speech, all I can conclude is that the Bush administration is attempting to capitalize on the latest polling which indicates that the voting public views the war in Iraq more favorably than it has in recent surveys. With this new up tick in public sentiment, George Bush must believe that recent efforts to connect Iraq to al Qaeda (and of course Osama bin Laden and 9/11 by inference) are once again his best strategy.

Since the outset of the Iraq invasion, the only traction the Bush administration has been able to muster has centered upon instilling fear in the American public. First it was fear that we couldn't allow Saddam Hussein to remain in power because he might be inclined to provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorists hoping to strike the United States. Now that voters have grown weary of the war in Iraq, the Bush administration is attempting to resurrect that fear by asserting that the war in Iraq is, in fact, the focal point of the war on terror.

So I guess we are to believe that the latest National Intelligence Estimate is erroneous and that we should ignore the warnings that Pakistan has become a haven for the reconstitution of al Qaeda and the Taliban. In fact, with today's speech, may I suggest that this President is willing to ignore reality in order to avoid an admission of failure? Apparently he would rather make false statements to the American people than alter his strategy in Iraq and with regards to the broader war on terror.

I cannot recall a time when a recent American president was so stridently convinced that all that is real in the world emanates solely and singularly from his assessment of it. George Bush has made a practice of ignoring anything that is inconsistent with his narrow ideological and theological sense of reality and the speech he made today may indicate that he has never been more disconnected nor determined to live in denial.

Frankly, from my perspective, it has become pathological and this President's thought processes ought to terrify the American public. This man is unhinged and unfit to sit in the highest office in the land.

Tagged as: al Qaeda, George Bush, Iraq, National Intelligence Estimate, War On Terror

Daniel DiRito | July 24, 2007 | 10:19 AM | link | Comments (1)
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July 23, 2007

Poll: Dems Must Drive The Car Or Lose Their License genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Hesitant Democrats

The notion of a squandered opportunity is a well known concept and if one looks at the latest Washington Post – ABC News poll, one may well see one about to materialize. In 2006, voters voiced a clear message on their dissatisfaction with the direction of the country…providing a particular emphasis on ending the war in Iraq. The poll numbers suggest that voters believe their wishes have been ignored.

Most Americans see President Bush as intransigent on Iraq and prefer that the Democratic-controlled Congress make decisions over a possible withdrawal of U.S. forces, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

As the president and Congress move toward a possible constitutional confrontation over the war, both receive negative marks from the public for their handling of the situation in Iraq. But by a large margin, Americans trust the Democrats rather than the president to find a solution to a conflict that remains enormously unpopular. And more than six in 10 in the new poll said Congress should have the final say on when to bring the troops home.

Asked whether Bush is willing enough to change policies in Iraq, nearly eight in 10 Americans said no.

Bush's overall approval rating equals its all-time low in Post-ABC News polls at 33 percent, with 65 percent disapproving. Only 31 percent give him positive marks on handling the situation in Iraq, which is near his career low on the issue.

At the same time, Congress fares little better with the public on the war. Just 35 percent said they approve of the way congressional Democrats are handling the situation in Iraq, with 63 percent disapproving. Two-thirds of independents give the Democrats negative marks on the war.

The danger that the Democrats face is the growing disappointment with their ability to impact the situation in Iraq and the seeming stalemate that exists in finding an alternative plan to the President’s virtually unflinching stance. The fact that Independents are disenchanted with the performance of the Democrat controlled Congress suggests that voter sentiment remains quite fluid in advance of the 2008 election.

Should Democrats fail to affect the status of the war in the final phase of the Bush presidency, they run the risk of seeing their 2006 gains with Independents evaporating. Were that to happen, 2008 could prove to be a quick halt to a promising Democratic resurgence. No doubt the trust voters place in Democrats to handle the war will wane the longer they fail to force a meaningful shift in the Bush strategy.

While many would like Congress to assert itself on the war, about half of poll respondents said congressional Democrats have done "too little" to get Bush to change his war policy. Democrats are especially anxious for more action from their party's representatives in Congress: 61 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of liberal Democrats said not enough has been done to push Bush on the issue.

And as for the new U.S. efforts to restore security in Iraq, most in the poll said the "surge" has not made much difference, and nearly two-thirds believed the additional troops will fail to improve the security situation over the next few months.

This broad pessimism provides an early read that the public may not be as willing as some in Congress to suspend judgment about the new strategy until General Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, delivers his much-anticipated assessment in mid-September.

My own impression is that the Democrats in Congress have acted in a manner one might expect from a person who lacks confidence due to having been the victim of a sustained assault from a well crafted line of rhetoric…a line that has been tirelessly delivered by their adversaries in the GOP. The Democrats seem to be on the defensive despite the fact that they control both houses.

The GOP appears to have been relatively successful in asserting that the Democrats are engaging in political theatrics rather than meaningful policy. Astonishingly, the polling seems to support this Republican contention despite ample evidence that the GOP has implemented a plan to obstruct or hinder the passage of most legislation sponsored by the Democrats.

From The Seattle Times:

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans this year are threatening filibusters to block more legislation than ever, a pattern that's rooted in — and could increase — the pettiness and dysfunction in Congress.

Seven months into the current two-year term, the Senate has held 42 "cloture" votes aimed at shutting off extended debate — filibusters, or sometimes only the threat of one — and moving to up-or-down votes on contested legislation. Under Senate rules that protect a minority's right to debate, these votes require a 60-vote supermajority in the 100-member Senate.

Democrats have trouble mustering 60 votes; they have fallen short 22 times this year. That's largely why they haven't been able to deliver on campaign promises.

If this pace of blocking legislation continues, this 110th Congress will be on track to roughly triple the previous record number of cloture votes — 58 each in the two Congresses from 1999-2002, according to the Senate Historical Office.

When one evaluates the ability of the two parties to influence public opinion or to paint their opponent in an unfavorable light, I believe that the GOP is still far more effective. For example, the recent all night effort by Harry Reid to highlight the Republican efforts to obstruct a vote on the Iraq war did little to allay voter concerns that the Democrats aren’t achieving the goals they were elected to enact.

In fact, if one watched the media coverage of the effort, by and large, it was portrayed as a stunt with little chance of success. While the Democrats sought to use the event to alert voters to the GOP tactics being used to prevent votes on legislation, I’m of the opinion that many voters concluded the move was a waste of valuable time and a demonstration of the partisan preoccupation that has prevented the passage of any substantial changes in the Iraq strategy.

More importantly, I find that the Democrats have a virtual vacuum of leadership when it comes to vocalizing their intended message. Not only are the attempts of high ranking operatives tepid and lacking the telemetry necessary to be effective, the party fails to demonstrate the bench depth to propel and propagate the strategic story line.

What I find so troubling about this predicament is that in spite of the fact that the Democratic position mirrors a vast majority of the voting public, they have been unable to translate that into performance that is viewed favorably…or at least point out that the lack of success is a direct result of a series of deliberate GOP roadblocks.

Coming back to the psyche of the Democratic leadership, it is my belief that they must quickly accept and adopt the confidence that they were afforded by the electorate in 2006. If they continue to appear hesitant and defensive, they will once again allow the GOP to define them as lacking the ideas, the insight, and the initiative to lead this country in the new direction which voters have clearly and consistently demanded.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Democrats, Filibuster, GOP, Harry Reid, Iraq, Washington Post-ABC News Poll

Daniel DiRito | July 23, 2007 | 9:07 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Bouquets & Bullets - The Iraq Miscalculation genre: Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation

Bouquets And Bullets

Every now and then, an obscure little fact provides a huge amount of perspective into an otherwise complex situation with seemingly few answers. Such an event occurred in Iraq over the weekend. Let me offer a little background information. On Saturday, the Iraqi national soccer team defeated Vietnam to advance to the Asian Cup semifinals.

The Iraqi soccer team has been a bright spot in national unity for a country that seems unable to reach common ground in the political arena. Over the weekend, Sunnis and Shiites huddled together to watch the game and to celebrate the victory...many of them suggesting that the stalled government ought to take note and find the means to bridge their numerous sectarian differences.

Before you conclude that the apparent bond formed around the Iraqi soccer team is the obscure little fact that I'm seeking to illuminate, let me move on to the point of this musing. In the aftermath of the victory, the Iraqi's took to the streets to celebrate...and I came to my new realization after reading the following paragraph in the Washington Post.

On a negative note, five people, including two children, were killed and 25 were wounded in celebratory gunfire, according to health officials in Baghdad, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.

Try as I might, I could find nothing to indicate how such situations are dealt with by the Iraqi security forces or our own American military forces. I wondered if an investigation took place to attempt to identify the shooters whose bullets killed these five innocent people...and wounded twenty five others. My suspicion is that nothing happens...other than the burial of five dead Iraqi citizens.

Perhaps I'm far too pessimistic, but when the inadvertent death of five innocent bystanders is viewed as a demonstration of national unity, I'm left wondering how many deaths would be an acceptable number to actually achieve a functional government? Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting our troops should attempt to extinguish long-standing Iraqi traditions…but I am arguing that our U.S. leadership must be in denial as to the degree to which the loss of human life is ingrained in the daily lives of the Iraqi people.

The mindset that must exist in the Iraqi population is rife with an acceptance of death and destruction and changing that perception is a daunting task that the Bush administration seems to minimize or ignore. If five American lives were lost in the aftermath of an Olympic playoff game as a result of celebratory gunfire, the story wouldn't be about the unity found in the victory; it would focus upon the lawless disregard for human life and the efforts being employed to bring those who perpetrated the tragedy to justice.

The Iraqi people have spent years becoming conditioned to unmitigated tragedy, injustice, and death. It is part and parcel of the Iraqi identity and altering that identity will take much more time and effort than the latest troop surge or any of the many other optimistic assessments and notions held by the Bush administration.

While I'm happy that the Iraqi citizenry can find joy and unity in some minor demonstration of national identity, the distance to be traveled in order to achieve a sustainable national government is immense. Even if one believes that the Iraqi's can establish a valid government entity, the inherent disregard for human life will require a sustained period of security and civility…one that remains quite elusive.

Further, if Iraq is to become a democracy that mirrors American society it will need to monitor and maintain a period of generational shift that will have to be able to overcome countless built-in societal norms that have their roots in religious doctrine and tribal traditions...doctrines that have absolute ideology at their core.

A soccer victory may provide a glimpse of the Bush administration's idyllic goal; but the effort and the costs to reach that goal may be well out of reach. In a demonstration of the miscalculation, I recall Dick Cheney stating that he expected the Iraqi people to toss flowers at the feet of their American liberators.

I could be wrong, but the last time I checked a hail of bullets from above is far different from a carpet of carnations at one’s feet. In the end, it looks to me like the Bush administration skipped over the essential cultural briefings. That and a quail hunt could get some people killed.

Tagged as: Asian Cup, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Iraq, Soccer

Daniel DiRito | July 23, 2007 | 10:29 AM | link | Comments (1)
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July 20, 2007

Keith Olbermann: Iraq Is George Bush's War genre: Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation & Video-Philes

Keith Olbermann offers another Special Comment...this time on the war in Iraq and the outrageous Pentagon statement that Senator Hillary Clinton and all those who dissent to the war in Iraq are aiding the enemy.

The remarks were offered in response to Senator Clinton's inquiry about the planning for troop withdrawals when and if they begin. The Pentagon statement went on to suggest that such statements and inquiries about troop reductions were propaganda for the enemy because it may tell the enemy that the United States is prepared to abandon its mission in Iraq.

Olbermann closes with a suggestion that George Bush suit up and go to Iraq and fight this war of his...by himself.

Daniel DiRito | July 20, 2007 | 8:39 AM | link | Comments (0)
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July 19, 2007

Tony Snow: GWB's Shaman, Sorcerer, & Salesman genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Feeling Better Yet?

Anyone that doubts that the White House Press Secretary is a partisan hack need only read Tony Snow’s tortured screed in Thursday’s USA Today, titled Victory In Iraq Is Vital. I understand his role but I still find the dissemination of half-truths and hyperbole to be a distasteful demonstration of all that is wrong with the Bush administration.

I was struck by the length of the piece…not because it was in fact lengthy…but because it was so very brief. Frankly, it made me realize that the art of spinning a story is a matter of careful manipulation and those who make their living doing so have given new meaning to George Orwell’s notion of doublespeak. Tony Snow and those who no doubt consulted on the article have mastered the art…but then that realization simply sullies all that is art.

Snow starts off with a doozey when he suggests that our invasion of Iraq was simply in response to his refusal to conform to seventeen UN resolutions. Snow fails to state that many of those resolutions had been ignored before 9/11 and never elicited an invasion…so while the resolutions provide necessary cover for his carefully concocted incantation, they ignore a reality long accepted by all who witnessed the run up to the Iraq invasion.

Snow goes on to state that Hussein had supported “terror movements" around the world. Yes, the world had long known that Saddam was paying money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers…a detestable act but by no means the reason we invaded Iraq…and certainly not a reason to assume he was supporting al Qaeda.

Snow then masterfully applies a well-known Karl Rove tactic when he suggests that opponents of the President created the impression that the administration believed that Hussein was connected to 9/11. That tactic involves taking one’s vulnerabilities and going on the offensive with a manufactured assault…repeating the falsity as often as possible.

Contrary to Snow’s assertion, Democrats have tried for years to divorce the voting public from the belief that Hussein was “connected" to 9/11…a task that became necessary following Dick Cheney’s numerous efforts to tie Iraq to 9/11. What Snow has done is manufacture an affirmative assault to defend a negative insinuation…or as anyone with a parent might understand it…telling an additional lie to defend another. Good job Tony!

Snow’s next point is nothing short of disgusting. Immediately following his assertions that politics has “muddled" the facts, he makes a veiled reference to conspiracy theories that the U.S. government actually committed the terrorist attacks. This nuanced effort to tie Democrats to idiotic beliefs which can then be spun as anti-American, unpatriotic, and indicative of complicity with the terrorists is shameless.

Snow then proceeds to play a game of “grab a rabbit from a hat geography"…suggesting that since we vanquished al Qaeda in Afghanistan, they are a cause without a country and they are therefore fully engaged in a fight for Iraq in hopes of making it their new base of operation. Tony, my friend, have you ever heard of Pakistan? You know…that country that signed an accord with its lawless remote region…the same area where everyone that’s anyone in intelligence believes al Qaeda has been allowed to reconstitute with virtually no interference. Would you have us believe that Osama prefers battling 160,000 U.S. troops than sitting pretty in Pakistan?

Mr. Snow must suffer from the belief that everyone outside of the Bush administration is mentally insufficient. Unfortunately, if that were the case, then why is Osama still a fugitive and why do a wide majority of Americans realize our efforts in Iraq have failed? Looks like someone needs to tell the “emperor" he’s naked…as soon as he puts his own clothes back on.

But Tony doesn’t stop there…he has more for us to digest once he finishes his effort to stuff our collective gullible gullets with fanciful fabrications. Snow tells us that the recent reports that al Qaeda has met with resistance from the Iraqi natives is a “vindication" of the President’s “faith in liberty as a common inheritance of mankind". Now I’m not suggesting that none of the Iraqi’s have decided al Qaeda is an enemy…but to extrapolate that their opposition to al Qaeda means that the Iraqi’s are committed to liberty is laughable.

More plausible is the fact that al Qaeda serves as an interloper to the sectarian conflicts that have yet to fully play out and the Iraqi’s would prefer that al Qaeda not deter that process from unfolding. A review of the issues stalled in the ineffective Iraqi government supports the argument that the three distinct groups are each looking for the lion’s share of whatever liberty is to ultimately be afforded in the country. Iraqi’s shooting a few al Qaeda operatives may make the Bush administration feel good but believing it signals a groundswell for universal freedom and liberty is the equivalent of believing one can buy ocean front property in Colorado.

Snow concludes that victory in Iraq will “mark the beginning of the end of the war on terror". All I can say is I hope it happens soon since the rest of the world is gearing up for some rather nasty assaults from the more elusive agents of al Qaeda…people like Osama bin Laden…that man George Bush thinks is hiding in a cave or under a rock. I can’t wait for us to win in Iraq because I’m just dying to see Osama step out and wave the white flag of defeat…from his club-med hideout in Pakistan.

Thanks Tony Snow…I’m feeling better already.

Tagged as: Afghanistan, al Qaeda, George Bush, Iraq, Osama bin Laden, Tony Snow, War On Terror

Daniel DiRito | July 19, 2007 | 11:53 AM | link | Comments (1)
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July 18, 2007

Brooks, Douthat, & Ponnuru On Bush's Big Ideas genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Big Ideas

The other day David Brooks wrote about the President’s belief that freedom is a god given right and that our efforts to democratize Iraq and advance the spread of freedom around the world is a principled position. Brooks suggests that this belief serves to motivate an otherwise declining presidency.

Since Brooks’ piece appeared in the New York Times, the debate in the blogosphere has focused upon two prevailing premises. One is the existence of god and this presumed promise of freedom and the other is the degree to which the United States was founded upon that very precept.

From The New York Times:

Bush is convinced that history is moving in the direction of democracy, or as he said Friday: “It’s more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn’t exist."

Conservatives are supposed to distrust government, but Bush clearly loves the presidency. Or to be more precise, he loves leadership. He’s convinced leaders have the power to change societies. Even in a place as chaotic as Iraq, good leadership makes all the difference.

Tolstoy had a very different theory of history. Tolstoy believed great leaders are puffed-up popinjays. They think their public decisions shape history, but really it is the everyday experiences of millions of people which organically and chaotically shape the destiny of nations — from the bottom up.

If Bush’s theory of history is correct, the right security plan can lead to safety, the right political compromises to stability. But if Tolstoy is right, then the future of Iraq is beyond the reach of global summits, political benchmarks and the understanding of any chief executive.

Frankly, I find Brooks’ article troubling evidence of the growing need to marry religion and politics into a virtually irrefutable equation for governance. Let me be clear…I have no objection to politicians holding religious beliefs. Notwithstanding, I have huge reservations when those religious beliefs are allowed to form the basis for justifying policies and actions that have been demonstrated to fail on their own merit.

In other words, I reject those who suggest that history is more a function of divine destiny driven by “deciders" who simply need time and determination to convince, persuade, or impose god’s vision. While that model can be found to have been employed at various junctures in human history, it has also been fraught with violence and intransigent imposition. That approach stands in direct opposition to a measured dialogue amongst disparate doctrinaires who each profess to have societal success as their primary goal…which is then ultimately decided by those who elect the preferred social contract and choose to enact and live under a structure that acts accordingly.

In simple terms the latter is, in many ways, an affirmation of the Tolstoy philosophy and evidence that the views of the many will almost always exceed the visions of the few…a view that is logically based upon an acknowledgment that those humans espousing a divine inspiration are instead more than likely delusional and desirous of the power reserved for a deity…hence they co-opt that authority and set out to achieve that objective.

Worse still, the means which they’re willing to employ will frequently discount the worth of those who disagree such that humans are artificially partitioned into subsets that are defined as good and bad, right and wrong…all of which defies the very freedom and equality supposedly intended by the supreme being.

In that regard, the invocation of a higher being to determine the interactions of human beings simply becomes another means of manipulating the masses. The promise of freedom therefore emanates from an acknowledgment by all humans that all humans are entitled to it…not from one human dictating it to all others. Democracy by dictation is not freedom just as dictation by democracy is not freedom…regardless of an assertion that it comes from a higher source.

Ross Douthat was outraged at the Bush notion that suggests our actions in Iraq are an attempt to transform god’s promise of freedom into a promise of universal democracy. Douthat points out that while the belief that freedom is a gift from god is consistent with Christian principles, it is, by no means, a political construct.

In response to Douthat, Ramesh Ponnuru takes umbrage to Douthat’s assertion that the Bush doctrine is neither conservative nor Christian…stating that while a liberty promoting foreign policy may not be a conservative concept and while Christians are not compelled to believe as much, “it is a commonplace observation in the context of American political history."

I understand Ponnuru’s scholarly position, but I think he may misunderstand Douthat’s issue with the Bush doctrine. No doubt one can trace our historical belief in a god-given freedom…but conversely, one would be hard pressed to cite those historical instances whereby our actions as a nation began with a belief that we needed to preemptively export our beliefs and then set out to do so as a matter of foreign policy. In fact, our actions supporting the notion of a god-given freedom have primarily been exercised when other human beings sought to limit those freedoms either at home or abroad. We acted out of obligation to uphold a belief; not to implement or impose that vision upon those who currently don’t embrace as much.

Granted, the United States has enacted clandestine efforts to usurp regimes that routinely limited the freedoms of its citizenry. However, those actions were primarily motivated by the perceived threat that those in positions of authority in such countries posed to our way of life (they sought to remove our freedoms). On the other hand, in most instances, if a freedom denying regime posed no threat to the United States, we had no design on becoming the purveyors of freedom for those living under such conditions…nor did we see it as our obligation…especially an obligation that was divinely derived or for that matter from any other legitimately ascertained reason.

I think the relevant issue is to understand the role our benevolent beliefs played in our interactions with the world…regardless of their origin. I say as much because one would be hard pressed to argue that our benevolent actions were solely the result of those individuals in this country who held Christian beliefs.

Perhaps it comes down to nothing more than the unresolved chicken/egg conundrum…meaning it would be difficult to determine if our national origin and our identity emanated from our belief in freedom or from our Christian beliefs that endorsed freedom. Keep in mind that our formation didn’t result from oppression by a godless nation…it resulted from our displeasure with a freedom limiting…though Christian nation.

Hence, I would suggest that freedom and democracy are not fundamentally Christian concepts. Yes, they can be Christian concepts but history also suggests that a belief in god did not always equate with the granting of freedom. At the same time, democracy has almost exclusively had freedom as its fundamental construct…and that a’priori belief in freedom exists regardless of any god-given notion of freedom or human rights. In fact, democracy and/or freedom are, despite Ponnuru’s assertion to the contrary, human constructs that were derived from human experience. Perhaps the application of god to those beliefs serves to reinforce their worthiness but it by no means served to create them. We have human rights because we choose them.

In fact, our founding structure suggests as much. Our fundamental documents placed freedom before faith while acknowledging the value of faith to the individual though recognizing the threat it posed to the unbiased application of freedom by the state. The origin of our republic culminated from an understanding that the application of absolute religious doctrine would likely serve to undermine the equitable distribution of freedom.

George W. Bush has a propensity to disregard this essential distinction and in so doing his actions erode our most fundamental freedoms…the right to self-determination and the right to choose.

In the end, when George Bush places faith front and center, he once again injects someone’s arbitrary interpretation of god’s will between one human being and another and he begins a process of dividing…a process that values imposition over independence; doctrine over dialogue; and rhetoric over reality. We simply cannot allow this to continue.

Daniel DiRito | July 18, 2007 | 4:08 PM | link | Comments (0)
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George W. Bush: Is His Legacy On Life Support? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Pulling The Plug

George W. Bush must believe the average American is ignorant. While he and members of his administration go out of their way to characterize the war in Iraq as a focal point in the battle against al Qaeda, every other piece of information tells us that Pakistan is the new Afghanistan...and lest anyone forgets, 9/11 was organized from Afghanistan and a follow up attack on the homeland is likely to be organized from Pakistan.

Look at it this way, while we shifted westward into Iraq following the assault on Afghanistan in order to avenge Saddam Hussein's assassination attempt on George H. W. Bush and to show that George W. knew better than his father, the Taliban and al Qaeda sauntered across the eastern border of Afghanistan and into the remote regions of Pakistan to reconstitute themselves with virtually no resistance.

Further, if the new National Intelligence Estimate is accurate, the Bush administration has chosen to focus its attention on one paragraph of the report because the remainder of the report substantially rebukes the Bush strategy and suggests that it may have simply provided al Qaeda and the Taliban with the tools to recruit new extremist terrorists.

From The New York Times:

In identifying the main reasons for Al Qaeda’s resurgence, intelligence officials and White House aides pointed the finger squarely at a hands-off approach toward the tribal areas by Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who last year brokered a cease-fire with tribal leaders in an effort to drain support for Islamic extremism in the region.

“It hasn’t worked for Pakistan," said Frances Fragos Townsend, who heads the Homeland Security Council at the White House. “It hasn’t worked for the United States."

At the White House, Ms. Townsend found herself in the uncomfortable position of explaining why American military action was focused in Iraq when the report concluded that main threat of terror attacks that could be carried out in the United States emanated from the tribal areas of Pakistan.

She argued that it was Mr. bin Laden, as well as the White House, who regarded “Iraq as the central front in the war on terror."

Excuse me, but if we can't find bin Laden and Ayman al-Zarwahiri, how on earth would we know that al Qaeda sees Iraq as the "central front in the war on terror"? I don't buy that assessment for one minute. Iraq is simply the recruiting tool for al Qaeda and a means to keep America from focusing on bin Laden and his organization in Pakistan.

Think of it this way. Let's assume that bin Laden is the equivalent of a championship boxer with a title belt and let's assume George Bush holds a similar title. Let's also assume that George Bush is gunning for a title bout with bin Laden and that bin Laden has no intention of signing on for a direct confrontation. Instead, isn't it possible that bin Laden keeps training surrogate fighters to keep George W. busy and to engage the Bush administration in minor skirmishes in other regions of the world while he prepares a backdoor surprise intended to be far more effective than a face to face confrontation?

In the meantime, George W. runs around touting his capabilities to vanquish bin Laden's stable of diversionary drones and argues that Iraq is "where its at"...because he has no answers for the inability to capture Osama and no means to take it to bin Laden because he doesn't know "where he's at".

So while George W. dances around the ring like a prima donna prize fighter, bin Laden laughs at the little man's need to feel powerful...all the while planning a more horrific attack on the United States intended to humiliate the Bush administration and demonstrate to the American public that al Qaeda is a shrewd opponent who played its president for a fool.

If nothing else, look at the math that would remain in the aftermath of another strike on the United States. The U.S. remains bogged down in two countries...neither of which house bin Laden and his terrorist machine...the U.S. has lost thousands of soldiers and spent billions of dollars trying to democratize Iraq...Afghanistan has produced a record crop of opium under the watchful eye of the world's leading policeman...and the man George W. and Dick Cheney said was hiding in a cave or under a rock has just executed another unfettered assault on the big boy's home front. If that wouldn't be judged an unmitigated and colossal failure, then reality would no longer exist.

From The New York Times:

Richard A. Boucher, the assistant secretary of state, acknowledged that Al Qaeda had prospered during the cease-fire between the tribal leaders and General Musharraf last September, a period in which “they were able to operate, meet, plan, recruit, and obtain financing in more comfort in the tribal areas than previously."

Some members of Congress argue that concern for the stability of General Musharraf’s government had for too long dominated the White House strategy for dealing with Pakistan, thwarting American counterterrorism efforts.

“We have to change policy," said Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee who has long advocated a more aggressive American intelligence campaign in Pakistan.

So the bottom line is that we have been content to prop up Musharraf and honor his nation's sovereignty while knowing full well that al Qaeda is rebuilding its capacities in his country. Pardon my sarcasm, but isn't George Bush the same man who invaded two sovereign nations and issued numerous warnings to the world that either nations stood with us or they stood with the terrorists? Isn't he the same man who stated that we would pursue terrorists wherever they chose to hide and that we reserved the right to strike them in any nation as long as they continued to represent a threat to U.S. national security?

When Musharraf signed an accord with those in the remote regions of Pakistan that are thought to be the training grounds for al Qaeda, was he siding with the terrorists? Are we to believe that the neocons...those men who view the safety mechanism on a weapon as a meaningless accessory...were all of a sudden hesitant to strong arm Musharraf?

Isn't it possible that our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, our preoccupation with bloodying Iran's nose, and our fully taxed military capacity led us to acquiesce to the Musharraf accord knowing full well it wasn't advisable but also knowing we lacked the ability to force the issue at that moment?

I would suggest that its safe to conclude that the Bush administration calculated that the Musharraf government could fall as a result of U.S. meddling and/or our insistence that he take an aggressive approach with these terrorist infested regions...and if his regime did look to be vulnerable, we would lack the ability to properly respond or the ability to prevent Musharraf's demise if needed.

In the end, the Bush administration's alternative is to defend those portions of the NIE report that offer any endorsement of the President's rationale. Unfortunately, the following excerpt from the Washington Post points out just how little of the report can be used to achieve that objective.

From The Washington Post:

In talking with reporters in the Oval Office yesterday, Bush concentrated on a single paragraph in the assessment that placed the enemy in Iraq in a larger context of international terrorism. The estimate said bin Laden's organization will "probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qa'ida in Iraq, its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland."

Although only a portion of the instability in Iraq is attributed to al-Qaeda and the group had no substantial power base there before the U.S. invasion, Bush again cast the war as a battle against its members, whom his aides have described as key provocateurs there.

With less than two years remaining in the Bush presidency, he is down to one paragraph in an NIE report that otherwise skewers a suspect strategy. I may be wrong, but rather than focus on his legacy, George Bush needs to find a way to salvage what little time remains of his failed presidency. As it currently stands, history will have plenty to say about this President...and I seriously doubt he'll be able to point towards many, if any, good paragraphs. Sounds like its time for "The Decider" to make some better decisions.

Daniel DiRito | July 18, 2007 | 7:55 AM | link | Comments (1)
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July 16, 2007

George Bush: The Accidental President? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

For a man who enjoys calling himself "The Decider", George W. Bush, seems more like a hapless dog chasing his tail. Even worse, his most recent spate of initiatives to address growing hot spots in the world appears to...

Daniel DiRito | July 16, 2007 | 5:18 PM | link | Comments (0)
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July 14, 2007

Who Took The Training Wheels Off The Iraqi Forces? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Bush administration is shuffling the cards again. This time we're being told that the focus on training Iraqi security forces has been de-emphasized due to the latest surge effort. This is about the third time that we have...

Daniel DiRito | July 14, 2007 | 9:41 AM | link | Comments (0)
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July 12, 2007

Olbermann Special Comment On Michael Chertoff genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Video-Philes

Keith Olbermann offers another Special Comment...this time on the announcement by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that his gut tells him that an al Qaeda attack is coming soon...perhaps this summer. I think the key thing to think about...

Tagged as: al Qaeda, George Bush, Homeland Security, Keith Olbermann, Michael Chertoff, Terrorism

Daniel DiRito | July 12, 2007 | 8:15 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Sari Nusseibeh: Thoughts On Arab-Israeli Conflict genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Sari Nusseibeh has been an advocate for a two state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict which has dominated the Middle East for many years. Nusseibeh, a long time advocate for a peaceful solution to the conflict between the Israeli's...

Tagged as: Christianity, Islam, Israel, Palestine, Religion, Sari Nusseibeh

Daniel DiRito | July 12, 2007 | 1:00 PM | link | Comments (0)
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The Iraq Dilemma: Tossing Rocks In The River? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Over the course of more than four years, the American public has been treated to countless explanations of the situation in Iraq. At each juncture, the event of focus is reported to be the fundamental item that will allow...

Daniel DiRito | July 12, 2007 | 9:41 AM | link | Comments (0)
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July 11, 2007

Al Qaeda Rebuilt While GWB Fiddled With Iraq genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

What a difference over four years of war in Iraq have made in the war on terror. In the slow blink of a blind eye, we are now being told that al Qaeda has fully reconstituted itself to a...

Daniel DiRito | July 11, 2007 | 5:35 PM | link | Comments (1)
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A Window Of Opportunity: Democrats Must Jump Now genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Two items in today’s news offer important instruction to the Democrats as they approach the 2008 presidential election. Both require a shift in the rhetoric and the strategy of the party, the candidates, and those who support them…including those...

Daniel DiRito | July 11, 2007 | 9:27 AM | link | Comments (0)
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July 9, 2007

Call For Iraqi Civilians To Take Up Arms: A New Surge? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

While the White House scrambles to maintain GOP support for the surge of U.S. troops in Iraq, Iraqi politicians have apparently begun to draw their own doubtful conclusions about the latest Bush administration effort. Following the bloody weekend in...

Daniel DiRito | July 9, 2007 | 12:13 PM | link | Comments (0)
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July 2, 2007

Deciphering Homeland Security: How Thin Is The Line? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

In the aftermath of 9/11, the President made the remark that the effort to prevent terrorism was a daunting task. I believe his characterization concluded that we had to be successful every time while the terrorists simply have to...

Daniel DiRito | July 2, 2007 | 1:15 PM | link | Comments (0)
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