Category Archives: Iraq

Well, it's 1-2-3, what are we fighting for?

Like most Americans, I remember September 11 exceedingly, and painfully, well. And when the United States invaded Afghanistan, as much as I dislike war, I did not protest. I understand the notion of self-defense; I even understand the notion of vengeance.
And I was no fan of the Taliban even before 9/11. I recalled that the Taliban wrecked this ancient (3rd century AD) Buddhist statue, the tallest Buddha figure in the world, and I recalled that it really ticked me off. So I figured that if these are the “bad guys”, then our government, heck the world should root them out. And the world, including France, not so incidentally, responded.

But the mission got sidetracked by more Mesopotamian interests. And while there’s a (legitimate?) government in place in Aghanistan, there seems to be no exit strategy after nearly eight years. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen said on NBC’s Meet the Press last month, “From a military perspective, I believe we’ve got to start to turn this thing around from a security standpoint in the next 12 to 18 months.” When asked what success looks like in Afghanistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said, “We’ll know it when we see it,” a truly pornographic response, as more than one critic has noted.

But even George Will, for cryin’ out loud, referred to our policy in Afganistan as Operation Sisyphus. There may be a legitimate reason for staying in Afghanistan, but like increasing number of Americans, I’m just not seeing it.

I’ve noticed that the National Day of Service and Remembrance is getting some flak. I don’t object to it per se, but it’s not really resonating with me.

My sentiment on this day in more in line with International Unity Day, proclaimed for today by the International Institute For Human Empowerment. Its unity pledge:
We welcome the advent of the new Millennium. We will meet its challenge by first acknowledging that our planet is rich with diversity, but one in humanity. Together we pledge that we will support only the programs and legislation that elevate all people toward equality. We desire to live in peace with our brothers and sisters internationally, and will work toward equity of opportunity in every area of our lives. We celebrate our commitment to improving international relations by living peacefully while sharing active concern for those less fortunate. Together we unite in our desire to end oppression, hunger, and poverty by seeking educational opportunities, including access to technology, for all.

Maybe it’s a little soft and fuzzy mission, but that’s how I feel on this day.


Really, I Just Wanted Him to Ride Off into the Sunset

It was my original intention to let the passing of the Presidency of George Walker Bush go unmentioned in this blog. There are plenty of other people who could, and have, dissected the last eight years of cronyism and incompetence, war, torture, loss of civil liberties, lack of regulations, etc. etc. I don’t have the energy, mostly because I’ve been under the weather the last few days.

If anything, I was going to just go back to the first year of the Presidency. I recall that dustup with China and was thinking, “What’s Clinton going to DO about this?” Then I remembered, “Wait, Clinton’s not President anymore? Who the heck IS President?” After that long, tortured completion of the 2000 election, ending with the Supreme Court making a President, and despite the fact that I watched W’s inauguration, I truly absolutely forgot he was the President, so little did his Presidency imprint up to that time.

There was his limited stem cell address in August. I opposed his position, but it was unsurprising.

Then there was 9/11. Some people criticized him for not returning immediately to Washington, DC; I totally disagreed. The Pentagon had been attacked, and it seemed like a reasonable precaution.

But pretty much everything from that point on, from the USA (so-called) PATRIOT Act to the cowboy rhetoric (catching bin Ladin dead or alive – how did that turn out?) to the lack of focus in Afghanistan. Then the build up to war in Iraq – and the faulty intel that got us there; but if Scott Ritter and Barack Obama and I knew it was a fool’s task, why didn’t he? From “Mission Accomplished” to Abu Gharb and Gitmo, this was a failed Presidency. Then he got a second term, where the (lack of) response to Katrina and the economic crises were the defining events.

But I was just going to let it pass, let him pass. I was going to ignore the recent revisionist history cooked up by W and his cronies. Until Monday. I took the day off to catch up on some reading, writing and TV watching. I turn on the television set and there’s GWB’s final press conference right out of Bizarroworld. My goodness.

“Not finding weapons of mass destruction (in Iraq) was a significant disappointment.” Disappointment. Oops.
“Even in the darkest moments of Iraq,” the president said, he and his staff found that there were times ‘when we could be light-hearted and support each other.'” Yeah. Tee hee.
“I disagree with this assessment that, you know, that people view America in a dim light,” he said. “It may be damaged amongst some of the elite. But people still understand America stands for freedom.” I’m reminded of one of his exit interviews with Martha Radditz of ABC News.Bush talked about fighting al-Qeada in Iraq; the reporter noted that, before we invaded, there WAS no al-Queda in Iraq. W responded, “So?”

The other tipping point is a relatively minor matter, in the grander scheme of things, but seemingly points to a pettiness I did not expect: the inability of the Obamas to move into Blair House.

So how will history judge the 43rd Presidency? GWB is leaving office with the lowest final approval rating compared to all previous Presidents over last 40 years. Worse than Nixon, and he was practically impeached. I think he’ll be remembered as a President who had a remarkable opportunity after 9/11 to unite the world (the headline in the leading French paper on 9/12/01 was “We are all Americans”), but instead engaged a morally and strategically dubious war, could not even respond to the needs of his own people in a disaster, and helped set in motion the worst economic collapse in a couple generations.

Goodbye, Mr. Bush.


I went to a talk by Rex Smith of the Times union newspaper who was talking about “Communication for Citizenship: How Journalism Can Help Sustain Society’s Progress.” One of the points he made was that if he were hiring a new reporter, he’d rather get someone who understand nuance rather than someone who was just a good writer. As the chair of the Education for Journalism Committee of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, he is seeking to develop the same thing in young potential readers.
But, the last questioner (I) asked, “How do you teach ‘nuance’? It seems that so many institutions in the past 20 years are polarized, from Congress to elements of the press.” On the hiring side at least, Rex talked about looking for intelligence, people who can look at the whole picture.

Some people still seem to think that it is inconsistent to “support the troops” unless one supports the war they are fighting in. I so disagree. I think that one can oppose the war in Iraq, which I have from the very beginning, actually before it started, while appreciating the sacrifices of people in the military and their families.

I think “supporting our troops” would have meant getting them the vehicles and body armor necessary to withstand roadside bombs much earlier. I think “supporting our troops” involves supporting a G.I. Bill for our returning troops. I think “supporting our troops” means getting them home ASAP.


Iraq Plus Five

I’m not quite sure what more there is to say. Just this month, there was a study discounting the Saddam Hussein/Al-Qaeda link. This follows this 2007 report, which merely confirms what the 9/11 Commission said back in 2004. I won’t even talk about the expense, which is now calculated in the TRILLIONS of dollars.

Here’s a website tracking the casualties. Let us pray that we’re NOT there for another hundred years.
I need to write more on this, but let me say that I really liked Obama’s speech on race.



I believe I’ve been quite clear in my long-standing opposition to the war in Iraq. Yet, I also believed that if we were to go to war, we ought not have gone understaffed, based on everything I had read at the time. This documentary written and directed by Charles Ferguson, and narrated by Campbell Scott, lays out the case that the failure of the United States military policy after the fall of Baghdad in the spring of 2003, far from being unforeseen, was utterly predictable. And there were high-ranking officials, many with military experience, telling the Bush administration that they were doing the occupation all wrong. These people included former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Ambassador to Iraq Barbara Bodine, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, and, most notably, General Jay Garner, who was in charge of occupation of Iraq through May 2003.

No End In Sight, which I watched on DVD last week, lays out in painful detail the three main problems that took place. One was the failure by the US to provide security because they were understaffed when the looting of museums and other national treasures took place. The de-Ba’athification of Iraq showed serious loss of of the professional class, most of whom joined the Ba’ath party pretty much for the same reason managers joined the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, because that’s how to get and keep a job, not out of any ideological affinity. But perhaps the greatest blunder was to dismiss the Iraqi army; when the invading US Armed Forces told the army to go home, it did, but the entity, which predates the creation of the country of Iraq, was waiting for requests from the Americans to help rebuild Iraq, a call that failed to come. Thus, one created a situation with bunch of unemployed, angry people with guns that helped fuel the insurgency.

You may seethe to hear Donald Rumsfeld’s various pronouncements, one of which, early on, was that there WAS no insurgency. Many of these inept decisions were carried out by Paul Bremer, but it is not clear whether they were his initiatives, or that he was merely carrying out the wishes of chickenhawks such as Rummy, Dick Cheney, Paul Wofowitz and Doug Feith.

Ferguson filmed over 200 hours, and many of the extended interviews show up in the DVD extras, probably longer than the actual film.

However you feel about the Iraq war, its justification, or how it needs to be handled now, there’s little doubt that when you see this film, you’ll wonder how such early blunders were made, leading to many unnecessary Iraqi civilian and US military deaths.


War to End All Wars

Since I understood its meaning, I always liked Veterans Day. When I was a child, I loved the parades.

Now, I appreciate the perhaps the foolhardy optimism of a war to end all wars, which is what they called The Great War; it ended on November 11, 1918, which became Armistice Day. Of course, the Great War became World War I when we fought World War II. Armistice Day became Veterans Day, and we’ve had a couple wars since then.

Even as we honor those who fight the wars the politicians send them to, the foolhardy dream remains:
I ain’t gonna study war no more,
I ain’t gonna study war no more,

Ain’t Gonna Study War No More.
United Methodist bishops call for US withdrawal from Iraq.


Memorial Day 2007

Somehow Blogger did in the posts I wrote for the past three days. One was the post I did about Lydia, for which I just posted pictures instead. Yesterday’s post on the parenting question I decided to recreate, as it was relatively short. the third, of course, was this one. The problem, which others have experienced as well, is “being worked on.

The gist of the third lost post had to do with the tension of being largely a pacifist and opposing this particular war, for reasons best expressed here, with an appreciation of the sacrifices people in the military and their families endure. I’ve said it before, but it bears saying again: I don’t fault the soldiers for fighting in Iraq. I fault the leadership that put them there, ignoring prewar intelligence.

Someone on one of the Sunday morning shows, a family member of a military man killed in Iraq or Afghanistan referred to Arlington National Cemetery as a “beautiful awful place”, beautiful in the neatly arranged gravestones, awful in terms of what those gravestones represent.

Anyway, try to remember that today is not just “the unofficial beginning of summer” or the end of a three-day weekend.
Kimberly Dozier, a CBS News reporter who almost died in Iraq a year ago this week (and two of her colleagues did perish) has a special tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 10 pm EDT called Flashpoint that I will watch.
Charles Nelson Reilly died recently. Johnny B. packaged a video tribute so I didn’t have to.

Here Now the News

One Fred G (for Generous) Hembeck passed this on to me: Rupert Murdock’s New York Post front page from yesterday. I don’t remember which of these many characters in Anna Nicole Land this Larry is, but the picture is worth posting anyway.
He (Fred, not Larry) may be featured in another post in the near future.
Meanwhile, I was watching ESPN last night when the crawl made mention of two stories:
Men exonerated in rape charge – oh, yeah, the Duke lacrosse team members.
Don Imus suspended by his network – oh, yeah, for dissing the Rutgers women’s basketball team.
Interesting how, in some way or another, race, gender, class and power all played into both “sports” stories.
I read that Google Earth is mapping the atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan. Thought I’d look for it myself, but absentmindedly used Google Maps instead. I discovered something quite curious. There’s a Darfur, Minnesota 56022, about 130 miles southwest of St. Paul.
However you feel about the war in Iraq – and I’ve made myself quite clear on this in the past – there’s something really unsettling about the Defense Dept. extending the tours of duty of US soldiers by 25%. It has me worried about what happens if/when another war breaks out; also, the “bait and switch” seems patently unfair to the soldiers and their families.


Four Years

Four years ago, the President gave this brief address to the nation. Since then, Saddam Hussein is dead, 3000+ Americans are dead, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead, two million Iraqis have fled their country, including many who had supported the US military mission but who are now not getting the support they need.

Many of the American wounded might not have survived 25 or even 10 years ago. Some, especially early on, were provided inadequate protection, and now find that, once they leave the hospital, are given inadequate care. “Support the troops”, indeed.

John McCain was right about those non-binding resolutions the Democrats tried to pass earlier this year: it’s immoral to continue to, on one hand, fund the war and on the other hand, suggest the war is wrong. The “surge” will work until it’s over, and whether or not we set a “timetable for withdrawal” or not, the forces of instability will wait it out, change tactics or change venues. Hey, don’t believe me; read what wide-eyed liberals such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, National security adviser to President Carter; Richard Clarke, Counterterrorism czar from 1992 to 2003; Gen. Tony McPeak (retired), Member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War; and Bob Graham, Former chair, Senate Intelligence Committee have to say.

I had predicted four years ago that a partitioned Iraq would exist one year from now. Kurdistan exists now in almost every way (flag, currency, head of state) right now, and has since the US and UK enforced the no-fly zones 15 or 16 years ago. It seems that perhaps trying to force together an Iraq initially created by the British after World War I, insensitive to tribal concerns (see also: the colonial powers in Africa), that a different way ought to be considered. Yes, I know about the concerns of Turkey and other countries in the region. The Kurds may be the largest group of people without a country to call its own, and trying to keep an imposed country together without force may not be practical (see also: Yugoslavia), maybe it’s time to deal with the reality.

Incidentally, I don’t think that the wisdom of initial opposition to this war should be shelved with a “yeah, but what would they do NOW?” retort. Criticism of this war before the war started, expressed by Barack Obama and Dennis Kucinich, and no other Democrat or Republican running for President – if there’s anyone else, please let me know – shows at least a certain foresight that their colleagues lacked, which may bode well for the future.


My Periodic Need for a Non-Thematic Post, January 2007 Edition


I’ve seen saxophonist Michael Brecker playing somewhere. Maybe it was backing Joni Mitchell in Philadelphia in 1981, or maybe on one of his solo jazz excursions. He appears in that “Hot Tub” segment of Saturday Night Live I linked to when James Brown died last month. In any case, you’ve almost certainly have HEARD Michael Brecker, who played with Paul Simon (Still Crazy, among others), Bruce Springsteen (Born to Run), Frank Zappa, and zillions more, including the aforementioned James Brown, and who died of leukemia this week at the age of 57.
Art Buchwald, whose wonderfully acerbic column I used to read, was probably best known for not dying when everyone, including himself, thought he would. That and the lawsuit over the Eddie Murphy movie Coming to America.
I would have said something about the passing of film producer Carlo Ponti, except that I might have accidentally revealed my grand crush in high school (and later) of his wife, and it seemed unseemly, so I won’t.


HIV/AIDS attacks



When it comes time to prepare and file your 2006 tax return, make sure you don’t overlook the “federal excise tax refund credit.” You claim the credit on line 71 of your form 1040. A similar line will be available if you file the short form 1040A.

This is about the federal excise tax that’s been charged for long-distance calls on phone bill for years, based on the distance and length of the calls. When phone companies began to offer flat fee phone service, challenges to the excise tax ended up in federal courts. The IRS has now conceded this argument. Phone companies were given notice to stop assessing the federal excise tax as of August 30, 2006.
But the challengers of the old law also demanded restitution. So the IRS has announced that a one-time credit will be available when you file 2006 tax returns. However, the IRS also established limits on how BIG a credit you can get.
If you file your return as a single person with just you as a dependent, you get to claim a $30 credit on line 71 of your 1040.
If you file with a child or a parent as your dependent, you claim $40.
If you file your return as a married couple with no children, you claim $40.
If you file as married with children, you claim $50 if one child, $60 if two or more children.
In all cases, the most you get to claim is $60 – UNLESS you have all your phone bills starting AFTER Feb 28, 2003 through July 31, 2006 – which I certainly don’t – then you can add up the ACTUAL TAX AS IT APPEARS ON YOUR BILLS AND CLAIM THAT FOR A CREDIT. If you do that, you’ll have to file a special form number 8913 and attach it to your tax return. Individuals using the form 1040EZ will have to attach this form 8913 also.

One final point – this credit is a refundable credit. That means you get this money, no matter how your tax return works out. If you would end up owing the IRS a balance, the refund will reduce that balance you owe. If you end up getting a refund, the credit will be added and you get a bigger refund by that $30 to $60, depending on how many dependents are on your return.


January 27-29 gathering in Washington, DC, “to remind the new Congress that we elected them to end the war in Iraq and to bring the troops home now.”


Conan the Librarian
A REAL library’s take on Madonna’s Ray of Light
A Biblical Understanding of Marriage
Finally, watch Tom the Dog on 1 Vs. 100 (square 81) AGAIN tonight on NBC, at 8 EST.
Carlo Ponti,