June 13, 2005

Two Armies, Two Reporters, Too Much Trouble in Iraq

A remarkable Washington Post article finds Iraqi fighters singing hymns to Saddam Hussein, and these are the ones on our side. It gets worse from there.


By Greg Mitchell

(June 11, 2005) -- Just back, absurdly well-fed, from E&P's interactive media conference in New Orleans, I was about to write an entertaining little column on bloggers, journalists and their different notions of "accuracy," when I came across a Friday piece in the Washington Post by two brave and widely honored foreign correspondents, Anthony Shadid and Steve Fainaru. The bloggers-vs.-journos column will have to wait.

The immensely significant Shadid/Fainaru piece is based on their recent (and separate) three-day journeys with American and Iraqi forces. The Iraqi unit was selected by the U.S. military, presumably viewed as one of the best. "The journey revealed fundamental, perhaps irreconcilable differences over everything from the reluctance of Muslim soldiers to search mosques and homes to basic questions of lifestyle," and much, more more, the two men write.

Consider its opening, set in Baiji, Iraq. Keep in mind, these are the Iraqis who on our side: "An hour before dawn, the sky still clouded by a dust storm, the soldiers of the Iraqi army's Charlie Company began their mission with a ballad to ousted president Saddam Hussein. 'We have lived in humiliation since you left,' one sang in Arabic, out of earshot of his U.S. counterparts. 'We had hoped to spend our life with you.'

"But the Iraqi soldiers had no clue where they were going. They shrugged their shoulders when asked what they would do. The U.S. military had billed the mission as pivotal in the Iraqis' progress as a fighting force but had kept the destination and objectives secret out of fear the Iraqis would leak the information to insurgents."

This comes just after a Washington Post/ABC News Poll, for the first time, shows that most Americans do not believe the toppling of Saddam Hussein made the United States more secure. The survey also found that nearly three-quarters say the U.S. casualty rate in Iraq is unacceptable; two-thirds believe the U.S. military is bogged down; 60 percent say the war was not worth fighting.

A Gallup poll released Monday found that 59% now favor withdrawing troops from Iraq.

Normally, I refrain from quoting articles at length, but in this case, I will just let the excerpts from the Shadid-Fainaru report roll, with an occasional connecting paragraphs. One can only wonder what the parents of soldiers now serving in Iraq might think of this report if they encountered it:

"The reconstruction of Iraq's security forces is the prerequisite for an American withdrawal from Iraq. But as the Bush administration extols the continuing progress of the new Iraqi army, the project in Baiji, a desolate oil town at a strategic crossroads in northern Iraq, demonstrates the immense challenges of building an army from scratch in the middle of a bloody insurgency.

"Charlie Company disintegrated once after its commander was killed by a car bomb in December. And members of the unit were threatening to quit en masse this week over complaints that ranged from dismal living conditions to insurgent threats. Across a vast cultural divide, language is just one impediment. Young Iraqi soldiers, ill-equipped and drawn from a disenchanted Sunni Arab minority, say they are not even sure what they are fighting for. They complain bitterly that their American mentors don't respect them.

"In fact, the Americans don't: Frustrated U.S. soldiers question the Iraqis' courage, discipline and dedication and wonder whether they will ever be able to fight on their own, much less reach the U.S. military's goal of operating independently by the fall. 'I know the party line. You know, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, five-star generals, four-star generals, President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld: The Iraqis will be ready in whatever time period,' said 1st Lt. Kenrick Cato, 34, of Long Island, N.Y., the executive officer of McGovern's company. 'But from the ground, I can say with certainty they won't be ready before I leave. And I know I'll be back in Iraq, probably in three or four years. And I don't think they'll be ready then.'"

The Post reporter who joined the inexperienced and under-armored Iraqis received good luck wishes from American soldiers who told him he would need a lot of luck to return unscathed.

"The Iraqi soldiers were a grim lot," according to the Post article, "patrolling streets where they lived and mosques where they worshiped. As they entered their neighborhoods, some of them donned black balaclavas and green scarves to mask their identities. They passed graffiti on walls that, like the town, were colored in shades of brown. 'Yes to the leader Saddam,' one slogan read. 'Long live the mujaheddin,' said another. Nearly all the men had received leaflets warning them to quit; the houses of several had been attacked by insurgents.

"The men spoke of the insurgents with a hint of awe, saying the fighters were willing to die and outgunned them with rocket-propelled grenades and, more fearsome, car bombs. Zwayid, a father of three, looked in disgust at his own AK-47 assault rifle, with a green shoelace for a strap ...

Rick McGovern, a tough-talking 37-year-old platoon sergeant from Hershey, Pa., who heads the military training for Charlie Company, told one of the Post reporters: "Honestly, I don't think people in America understand how touchy the situation really is right now. We have the military power, the military might, but we're handling everything with kid gloves because we're hoping the Iraqis are going to step up and start taking things on themselves. But they don't have a clue how to do it."

Asked when he thought the Iraqi soldiers might be ready to operate independently, McGovern said: "Honestly, there's part of me that says never. There's some cultural issues that I don't think they'll ever get through."

The article continued: "Almost to a man, the [Iraqi] soldiers said they joined for the money -- a relatively munificent $300 to $400 a month. The military and police forces offered some of the few job opportunities in town. Even then, the soldiers were irate: They wanted more time off, air-conditioned quarters like their American counterparts and, most important, respect. Most frustrating, they said, was the two- or three-hour wait to be searched at the base's gate when they returned from leave.

"The soldiers said 17 colleagues had quit in the past few days. 'In 15 days, we're all going to leave,' Nawaf declared. The two-dozen soldiers gathered nodded their heads....

"Shortly after [an] ambush, a sniper shot a U.S. soldier standing on the roof of a police station, inflicting a severe head wound. The Americans suspected that the fire had come from the nearby Rahma mosque. American and Iraqi troops surrounded the building. Fearful of inflaming resentment, U.S. soldiers ordered their Iraqi counterparts to search the mosque. They initially refused, entering only after McGovern berated them.

"U.S. forces then ordered the Iraqis to arrest everyone inside the mosque, including the respected elderly prayer leader. The Iraqi platoon leader refused, U.S. soldiers recalled. The platoon leader and his men then sat down next to the mosque in protest.

"At 4:30 a.m. Monday, the men of Charlie Company and the entire U.S. battalion -- some 800 soldiers -- set out in a convoy for west Baiji. The Americans used night-vision goggles to see in the dark. The Iraqis had glow sticks. Before the troops had left the base, an Iraqi driver plowed into a concrete barrier, momentarily delaying the convoy.

"U.S. commanders said the involvement of the Iraqis on the mission -- a series of raids to crack a bomb-making cell -- was critical to its success. But the Americans clearly have lowered their expectations for the Iraqis' progress.

"Along dirt roads bisected by sewage canals, the men of Charlie Company crouched, their weapons ready. Before them was their home town, dilapidated and neglected. Cpl. Amir Omar, 19, gazed ahead. 'Look at the homes of the Iraqis,' he said, a handkerchief concealing his face. 'The people have been destroyed.'

"By whom? he was asked.

"'Them,' Omar said, pointing at the U.S. Humvees leading the patrol."

[Update: In the Monday, June 13, New York Times, a field report on Iraqi performance by John F. Burns and Sabrina Tavernise concludes: "Despite the Bush administration's insistent optimism, Americans working with the Iraqis in the field believe that it could be several years, at least, before the new Iraqi forces will be ready to stand alone against the insurgents. ... Earlier this year, the Pentagon suggested that an initial drawdown of the 140,000 American troops in Iraq might begin by the end of this year. Now, American generals are saying it could be two years, perhaps longer."]

June 12, 2005

Wisconsin Democrats Vote For Impeachment



Saturday afternoon during their annual State Convention at the Park Plaza in downtown Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin adopted the following resolution:

CALLING ON THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS TO INITIATE IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS AGAINST PRESIDENT BUSH, VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY AND DEFENSE SECRETARY RUMSFELD FOR HIGH CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS

Full text of resolution...

WHEREAS, the Downing Street Memo shows that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld began planning and executing the war on Iraq before seeking Congressional and UN approval;
WHEREAS, UN weapons inspectors showed prior to the invasion that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; and

WHEREAS, there is further mounting evidence that the Administration lied or misled about "mushroom clouds," "connections to 9/11," and "war as a last resort" as they sought UN, Congressional, and public approvals;

THEREFORE, RESOLVED, the DPW asks Congress to immediately begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.

And, most importantly, they referenced the Downing Street memo (not "minutes", doh!) in the first bullet. So any media coverage would almost have to mention it. This was a smart move.

It is believed that Wisconsin is the first state Democratic Party to have passed a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. They hope that others will do the same.

Dean Tells Dems: 'People Want Us to Fight'

WASHINGTON (AP) - Howard Dean said Saturday that positive responses from supporters have reinforced his determination to keep talking tough despite suggestions from some congressional Democrats that the party chairman should tone down his rhetoric.

``People want us to fight,'' Dean told the national party's executive committee. ``We are here to fight.''

Over the past week, Dean described Republicans as ``pretty much a white, Christian party'' and said many in the GOP ``never made an honest living.''

Several Democratic lawmakers distanced themselves from their chairman. Republican officials called on him to apologize. After weathering the criticism, Dean forged ahead with the GOP scolding at the meeting of Democratic National Committee leaders.

Yet some Democrats say the former Vermont governor should not remain the center of attention.

``Privately, people have said they don't want Howard Dean to become the story because we have more important issues to talk about,'' said Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2004.

``But publicly we will continue to give Howard Dean our strong support,'' she said.

One of Dean's predecessors at the DNC, Don Fowler said, ``The controversy over this statement or that statement is a blip and only a blip.'' But Fowler complained about leading Democrats who aired their gripes last week. ``Even if they don't like it, they should have enough sense not to make those comments,'' Fowler said.

At the session in a downtown hotel, Dean accused Republicans of trying to suppress the vote, selling access to the White House for lobbyists and basically being dishonest with the public.

``The reason the Republicans are in trouble is because there are so many cases where they say one thing and do something else,'' Dean said.

He said President Bush's education initiative, the ``No Child Left Behind'' program, cuts school spending and a clean environment plan, the ``Clear Skies Initiative,'' permits more pollution.

A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee said Dean would rather sling mud than discuss serious matters.

``Dean's inflammatory rhetoric makes it clear that Democrats have no vision and would rather pander to the maniacal fringe than talk about the important issues facing our country,'' Tracey Schmitt said.

Dean said that Republicans, in the public's mind, have the upper hand on moral values because Democrats have done a poor job of explaining where they stand.

He said the party will do more to win over military veterans. It also will call on thousands of lawyers who helped in the 2004 presidential election to aid Democrats' push for changes in election laws.

On political fundraising, the DNC trails the Republican Party by more than 2-to-1 despite Dean's reputation as a potent fundraiser. The Democrats have raised almost $19 million so far this year.

Dean said he is bringing in $1 million weekly. Records show the DNC took in $13.8 million over the first three months of 2005, compared with $8.4 million during the same period in 2003, the last year without a federal election. Terry McAuliffe was party chairman then.

Dean has given more than $1 million from the DNC to state parties. He said the DNC plans to share some of the money Dean raises for the national party when he is in a state. Both of these moves are winning him support from state party leaders.

In his remarks, Dean made few references to the recent brouhaha.

But when a DNC member joked that the best way to get the chairman's attention was to ``jump up and down,'' a grinning Dean fired back: ``That's my job.''

The crowd of Democratic activists burst into applause.

Dean Was Right

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Saturday 11 June 2005

"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth."
-- Revelation 3:15-16


If the leadership qualities of those in charge of the national Democratic Party could be squeezed into a shampoo bottle, the directions on the back of the bottle might read something like this: “Make tentative statement. Offer equivocation to avoid appearing adamant. Scramble for cover when colleague offers stinging critique of opposition. Stab colleague in back in public. Palpitate and fret, hem and haw. Lather, rinse, repeat.”

Quite a recipe for success, yes? Not lately.

For the last several years, the Democratic Party has been, for the most part, leaving skid marks on the street as they have retreated from confrontation after confrontation with the radicals who now control the Republican party. This retreat has gone from the ridiculous to the sublime to the utterly outrageous.

Here and there resistance has been put forth - on the Social Security issue, on the stem cell legislation, on the nomination of Bolton as UN ambassador - but all too often the most effective resistance to these and other disastrous policy initiatives has come from other Republicans, and not from the Democrats. It was the eloquence of Republican Senator Voinovich that threw sand in the gears of the Bolton nomination, and it was Republican Senator Specter’s promised override of any Bush veto of the stem cell legislation that has made that issue a problem for the White House.

And then along comes Howard Dean, chairman of the DNC, outspoken and uncompromising, swinging Willie Stark’s meat ax with a will and a purpose. He dared to say that he hates Republicans, that the leadership of that party hasn’t worked a day in their lives, that the GOP has become a radical hothouse of right-wing Christians, almost all of whom are white, and that House majority leader Tom DeLay should go back to Texas and get his looming prison sentence over with. Insert palpitations. Suddenly, Democrats like Joe Biden and Bill Richardson start knocking over furniture and old ladies in their rush to get to a microphone so they can distance themselves from the wild man.

Yes, yes, lather and rinse and repeat. The problem with all the equivocation is that it obscures a simple fact that requires exposure and discussion in this country: Dean was right. Ninety nine percent of Republicans in the state legislatures in all 50 states, and in Congress in Washington DC, are white. Even in states and districts with large minority populations, the Republican representatives for those places are almost uniformly white Christians.

Of 3,643 Republicans serving in state legislatures across the country, only 44 of them are minorities, amounting to 1.2%. Texas, with a minority population of 47%, has 106 Republicans in the state legislature. There are exactly zero African Americans and exactly zero Hispanics serving in that body as Republicans. In Washington, 274 of the 535 elected Senators and Representatives are Republican. Exactly five are minorities.

Of course, there are ethnic and religious minorities within the rank and file of the GOP, but every demographic analysis of the party’s makeup clearly shows the vast majority of Republicans fit exactly into the description offered by Mr. Dean. His point, by the way, was not that white Christians are bad people. His point was that, in this pluralist society made up of so much diversity, the Republican Party does not represent the true face of this country. He was also pointing out that the GOP has been taken over by that small, radical minority of white Christians who believe separation of church and state is evil, and who believe Biblical law is a better tool of governance than that pesky Constitution.

As for hating Republicans, the employment record of the GOP leadership, and DeLay’s date with a Houston cellblock, there is method to the supposed madness here. Those who question the wisdom of Dean firing broadsides like this look to the old lawyer’s maxim: When you have the law on your side, pound on the law, and when you have the facts on your side, pound on the facts, and when you have neither the law nor the facts on your side, pound on the table. On so many issues facing us today, Dean and the Democrats have both the facts and the law on their side. The question becomes, then, about why Dean is pounding on the table.

The answer is straightforward, and appropriately bold after several years of ineffective limp-noodle Democratic leadership. Every time Dean fires off one of his salvos, reporters flip open their notebooks. Headlines get made, discussion begins, and a whole lot of people start debating the facts and merits of his statements. Is the Republican leadership run by right-wing yahoos? Is DeLay going to jail?

Controversy begets press. Dean can see, as well as anyone else, how effective the moderate, soft-touch, treading-lightly approach has been working lately for the Democrats.

But how are we going to win those white Christian middle-America voters to our side by having Dean basically call them out? asks the ruffled Democratic leadership. The answer to this lies at the heart of what the Democratic party has been failing at for a while now. The voters who are supposedly going to be alienated by this kind of talk are the very same voters who look for guts, strength and straight talk from the leadership of this country. All too often, Democratic leaders come off sounding like they are saying seven things at once, leaving the impression that their spines are somewhat slippery. Boldness, on the other hand, begets confidence, even in disagreement.

These Dean statements also, coincidentally, whip the Democratic base into a roaring frenzy as they hear an actual Democratic leader speak their beliefs out loud and in public. One of the things Dean is working on every day is to redirect DNC fundraising away from the big-dollar donors who give equally to both parties in order to hedge their bets. Dependence on this breed of donor causes the party to crab towards the middle and avoid anything resembling true opposition.

Dean wants DNC fundraising efforts to be focused on the common citizen, the Democratic activist who has been screaming at the party to say what must be said, and Dean’s inflammatory statements spark the kind of donation avalanche that turned his Presidential campaign into a financial juggernaut. He may have lost in the end, but the manner in which he raised campaign money changed the face of electoral politics. He is porting those lessons into national DNC fundraising efforts, and statements like these go a long way towards making those efforts wildly successful.

Memo to Dean: Keep doing what you are doing. Lather, rinse, repeat.

We Love Howard Dean

John Cory is a Vietnam veteran. He received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with V device, 1969 - 1970.

The Bush GOP is a Wal-Mart of five-and-dime ethics, self-enriching corporate sponsored war, imitation morality made in China, and a fresh baker's dozen of half-truths for every occasion. America on sale: to the right folks in the right place at the right time for the right price. Going once, going twice ...

Bible-thumping-bunko artists shove the hand of God into your pants pocket for thirty pieces of silver to buy membership lists from the likes of David Dukes and the KKK, because we all know, Heaven is white with just a touch of beige. And if you question that, James Dobson will take his Bible belt and show you the lashing love of Jesus.

We've long since passed murder at 1600 and now head to 1700 dead soldiers in Bush's war on Iraq. And while Condi visits the troops, with a smile that could slit your throat from ear to ear, nobody asks what the plan is for this sandbox game of death.

The Downing Street Memo is all the talk to avoid. There are some people who want the American media to cover the contents of the memo that show Bush and Blair conspired to wage war despite their promises otherwise. But the media won't cover the memo any more than they covered Bush's words in the second presidential debate of 2000 when he said: ".... The coalition against Saddam has fallen apart or it's unraveling, let's put it that way. The sanctions are being violated. We don't know whether he's developing weapons of mass destruction. He better not be or there's going to be a consequence should I be the president."

So what is the topic that grabs the news and the Democratic leadership's attention? Howard Dean said something mean. Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Bush lied and people died. Nope - not news. Ohio Republicans involved in financial and voting scandal. Nope - not news. Republicans jam Democratic phone lines during 2004 election to stop the vote. Republicans hack into Democratic computers. No news there. Tom Delay has repeated ethical lapses and takes money from lobbyists like Jack Abramoff. Nope - not news. The White House edits critical environmental reports to refute scientific fact. Nope - no news there. Wait a minute - this just in:

Howard Dean said something mean.

Oh my God! Stop the presses! Did you hear? Dean has gone mean, pass it on. Get Candy Crowley at CNN and Chris Matthews at MSNBC. Don't forget Scarborough. This is a week's worth of programming! Get Holy Joe Lieberman to speak for the good Democrats. Get Jive-Joe Biden, he'll be good for a sensible quote to contrast with the madness of Howard "Beal" Dean.

Quick, do you know why Republicans are against federal money for stem cell research? They're afraid the Democrats will use it to grow a spine. (ba-da-boom)

The Dainty Dems of Petticoat Junction got their knickers in a twist because Howard Dean spoke harshly about Republicans. Not that any of the Democratic leadership heard what Dean said or even asked him what he said. No, they got it from talk radio or from someone with good hair and white teeth on TV, or from some other reliable source.

If you Democratic leaders want to get upset about something, here's part of my list:

  1. Lack of health care in this country.
  2. Trampling of civil rights and privacy in the name of phony patriotism.
  3. Religious hate discrimination against gays sanctioned as legislation.
  4. Corporations ruining the environment and defiling worker's rights.
  5. In a culture of life - why does more money go to improving bombs than improving schools?
  6. How can a president lie to Congress about war and get away with it?
  7. Church and State do not belong together. Ever.

Why do I need to remind you of any of this?

I don't give a crap whether or not you like Howard Dean. It's about damned time the Democratic Party quit sucking up to corporations and Republicans and began sticking up for the people! You remember, we the people? Of the people, by the people, and for the people? It is there somewhere in a government document, as I recall. Make a Freedom of Information request and maybe one of your new conservative judges will let you look at it under the glass where they keep it.

You want to hold Howard Dean accountable for what he says, fine. How about holding Bush accountable for what he does?

  1. Sending our troops into harm's way without sufficient and proper armor.
  2. Cutting veterans' services and budgets when it is needed most.
  3. Not allowing our returning dead to be photographed and honored openly.
  4. Failing the sick and afflicted while enriching the drug industry.
  5. Selling the sweat of America to the highest corporate bidder.

The list is long and ignored. I understand you are much too busy trying to teach Howard Dean how polite society functions.

Like I said in the beginning, this administration has stocked its shelves with half-truths. The price of one half-truth is a whole life. And a whole lot of life is dying for the dollar lies of Bush Inc.

I want someone who will stand up not stand down. I want someone outspoken and outrageous and out there, for me. I want someone on my side, not on my back for more money. I want someone who fights, not folds at the first sign of fake indignation.

To paraphrase my good friend Titus: You whiny Democratic Leadership wussies - get down off the cross and use the wood to build a bridge to get over it! We love Howard Dean!