Sunday, January 28, 2007

Silence Is No Longer An Option

Crowds on Both Coasts Protest the War

At the rally, 12-year-old Moriah Arnold stood on her toes to reach the microphone and tell the crowd: "Now we know our leaders either lied to us or hid the truth. Because of our actions, the rest of the world sees us as a bully and a liar."

The sixth-grader from Harvard, Mass., organized a petition drive at her school against the war that has killed more than 3,000 U.S. service-members, including seven whose deaths were reported Saturday.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Duck and Cover

Since they tested the Civil Defense siren every Wednesday at noon, what if the Russians dropped the bomb at lunch time?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Goodbye, Artie

We lost another great humorist with the death of Art Buchwald at the age of 81. In a world where cursing and belittling pass for humor, Art Buchwald writing stood the test of time. He had a rough beginning. His mother was taken to a psychiatric hospital after he was born. His father, unable to care for Art and his sisters, put them in foster care. When asked what his purpose was in life, he said, "To make people laugh." And he did just that, for over 50 years, with the type of humor that everybody could relate to. He made it look easy, and that's the sign of a true artist.

Read the story in the San Fransisco Chronicle

Monday, January 15, 2007

Many reasons to say 'no more' in Iraq

Via the Cincinnati Enquirer

"Does it honor those who have died to send more after them? Does it respect those who have lost limbs to litter the battlefield with fresh young legs? Is it good leadership to admit mistakes and then propose making more and bigger mistakes?

Our soldiers have given us their best. We must do better for them."

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Congressional Dems Suffering From Battered Spouse Syndrome

That's the opinion of Slate Editor Jacob Weisberg. Here's what he think the Democrats can do to stop the escalation of the Iraq war.

Congress is helpless only out of choice
Several decades back, the psychologist Martin Seligman developed his theory of "learned helplessness". Subjected to repeated punishment, animals and humans come to believe they have no control over what happens to them, whether they actually do or not. In Seligman's original experiment, dogs given repeated electrical shocks would prostrate themselves and whine, even when escaping the abuse lay within their power.

As with canines, so with congressional Democrats. In theory, they now control a co-equal branch of government. In practice, they are so traumatised by years of mistreatment at the hands of a contemptuous executive that they continue to cower and simper whenever master waves a stick in their direction. This phenomenon is at its most pitiable when it comes to Congress's powers over national security, terrorism and the war in Iraq.

Last Sunday, Senator Joseph Biden, the Democrats' dean of foreign policy, was asked on Meet the Press what he intended to do when President George W. Bush announced his plan to send additional American troops to Iraq. "There's not much I can do about it," Mr Biden shot back. "Not much anybody can do about it. He's commander-in-chief."

This has been the attitude of most of Mr Biden's colleagues. Nearly all of them think that the war in Iraq is a losing proposition, which Mr Bush's pending escalation will make worse. Most favour gradually reducing the number of Americans deployed in Iraq. Yet they are behaving for the most like dazed onlookers at the scene of a disaster. At best, they are willing to consider expressing their disapproval of Mr Bush through a non-binding resolution, also known as "talking to the hand".

In fact, congressional Democrats have the power to stop the war any day they want. Rejecting additional funding, which 12 senators voted to do in 2003, is merely the most dramatic and least politically attractive of their options. Congress can pass a law that says the president cannot send more troops. It can limit the length of military tours of duty. It can legislate a deadline for withdrawal. A few anti-war types are, in fact, proposing such drastic measures. But such voices remain a small, if vocal, minority.

Congress learnt to be helpless by standing aside as successive presidents asserted that the war power belongs to them alone. That is not what the constitution says. Article one, which gives the legislative branch the sole power to declare war, also puts it in charge of creating, funding and regulating the armed forces. But every president since Harry Truman has taken the position that it is unreasonable for permission to be required from Congress in advance of military action.

Congress's frustration with being brushed aside boiled over during Vietnam, resulting in the passage of the 1973 war powers resolution. All presidents since Richard Nixon have maintained that this law - which creates a 60-day period after the onset of hostilities for presidents either to get congressional approval or withdraw troops - is an unconstitutional infringement of their article two power as commander-in-chief. Both Presidents Bush asserted that they needed no congressional authorisation for their Gulf wars - and Congress, in both cases, chose to avoid a showdown by handing them authorisation anyhow. This has left unsettled the question of whether a president can in fact go to war over Congress's objection.

But Congress's power to terminate a war is even clearer than its power to forbid one in the first place. A provision of the war powers resolution states specifically that the president must remove forces when Congress so orders. Faced with military deployments they disliked in Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo, Republican lawmakers did not hesitate to invoke this authority during the Clinton years.

Perhaps the most striking example was the military intervention in Somalia. In 1993, the House of Representatives passed an amendment saying US forces could remain there only one more year. Two subsequent defence appropriations bills cut off funding for the deployment. Congress also drew limits around how US personnel and bases could be used.

When they say they are incapable of stopping Mr Bush's plan, what congressional Democrats really mean is that they are afraid to oppose it. With only 17 per cent of respondents supporting the "surge", according to a recent ABC-Washington Post poll, it is hard to see how voting against more troops would be an act of political suicide. But after years of being called weak, unsupportive of the troops and unpatriotic, flinching at conservative threats has become a Pavlovian Democratic response. Earlier this week, Tony Snow, White House spokesman, said the war in Iraq remained necessary because Americans "don't want another September 11". It is hard to imagine anyone being taken in by this non-sequitur, yet many still are. By feigning helplessness, Democrats also leave the onus for whatever happens next in Iraq on Mr Bush.

There are plausible arguments for supporting a surge and some good ones for rejecting a precipitous pullout. But Democrats who argue for withdrawal and fail to act on their convictions have no leg to stand on. By abdicating their constitutional role, they feed the executive monster Mr Bush has created. If they are serious about ending the war, Democrats must quit yelping and bite back.

Published: January 11 2007 02:00 | Last updated: January 11 2007 02:00
By Jacob Weisberg. The writer is editor of

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Read My Lips: No New Troops

This is the open letter Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California sent to President Bush on Friday:

Dear Mr. President:

The start of the new Congress brings us opportunities to work together on the critical issues confronting our country. No issue is more important than finding an end to the war in Iraq. December was the deadliest month of the war in over two years, pushing U.S. fatality figures over the 3,000 mark.

The American people demonstrated in the November elections that they do not believe your current Iraq policy will lead to success and that we need a change in direction for the sake of our troops and the Iraqi people. We understand that you are completing your post-election consultations on Iraq and are preparing to make a major address on your Iraq strategy to the American people next week.

Clearly this address presents you with another opportunity to make a long overdue course correction. Despite the fact that our troops have been pushed to the breaking point and, in many cases, have already served multiple tours in Iraq, news reports suggest that you believe the solution to the civil war in Iraq is to require additional sacrifices from our troops and are therefore prepared to proceed with a substantial U.S. troop increase.

Surging forces is a strategy that you have already tried and that has already failed. Like many current and former military leaders, we believe that trying again would be a serious mistake. They, like us, believe there is no purely military solution in Iraq. There is only a political solution.

Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain. And it would undermine our efforts to get the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future. We are well past the point of more troops for Iraq.

In a recent appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General John Abizaid, our top commander for Iraq and the region, said the following when asked about whether he thought more troops would contribute to our chances for success in Iraq:

"I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the Corps commander, General Dempsey. We all talked together. And I said, in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no. And the reason is, because we want the Iraqis to do more. It's easy for the Iraqis to rely upon to us do this work. I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future."

Rather than deploy additional forces to Iraq, we believe the way forward is to begin the phased redeployment of our forces in the next four to six months, while shifting the principal mission of our forces there from combat to training, logistics, force protection and counter-terror. A renewed diplomatic strategy, both within the region and beyond, is also required to help the Iraqis agree to a sustainable political settlement. In short, it is time to begin to move our forces out of Iraq and make the Iraqi political leadership aware that our commitment is not open ended, that we cannot resolve their sectarian problems, and that only they can find the political resolution required to stabilize Iraq.

Our troops and the American people have already sacrificed a great deal for the future of Iraq. After nearly four years of combat, tens of thousands of U.S. casualties, and over $300 billion dollars, it is time to bring the war to a close. We, therefore, strongly encourage you to reject any plans that call for our getting our troops any deeper into Iraq. We want to do everything we can to help Iraq succeed in the future but, like many of our senior military leaders, we do not believe that adding more U.S. combat troops contributes to success.

We appreciate you taking these views into consideration.


Harry Reid, Majority Leader

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Gerald Ford's Failure of Nerve

Via the Huffington Post

Compared with Nixon and the Republicans who followed him, Gerald Ford looks like the embodiment of Main Street decency and prudence. Ford's judgment seems even better when we learn that he told Bob Woodward that the Iraq war was "a big mistake," concluding, "I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security." Ford's words should give strength to all of us who've questioned the war and were attacked as unpatriotic in the process.
They reflect well on his common-sense willingness to acknowledge discomforting truths. But because he'd told Woodward to keep the interview private until after his death, they don't represent courage, but in fact a failure of nerve.

Think of the impact had Ford spoken out, on the record, to question the war in July 2004, when he conducted the interview with Woodward. Or acknowledged that he was "dumbfounded" when Bush initiated his domestic surveillance program. Had Ford publicly questioned the war, it would have opened up room for others to dissent, across political lines, at a time when the administration and its media allies were calling dissenters "allies of terrorism" for speaking up. It would have made possible a real discussion about the cost of our actions and the options available, when media gatekeepers were largely still insisting that the war was justified and saying it was being won. Had Ford voiced his reservations aloud, it might even have shifted the 2004 elections, at least in some of the Senate races that Democrats lost by the smallest of margins after being baited for not falling in line. Ford might well have taken some political heat for raising his reservations, but as a Republican ex-president he'd have been hard to attack, and any challenges would have let him elaborate further on his principles and conclusions.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Many lawmakers avoiding January junkets

Via Yahoo News

The January junket to warmer climates — a post holiday tradition of sorts for some members of Congress — could be headed to the wayside.

An accelerated work schedule set up by the new Democratic leadership has put a halt on many January excursions funded by lobbyists. Given that Democrats are taking over the House and Senate in part because of GOP ethics scandals, some lawmakers are fearful of the voters' wrath anyway if they go on the trips.

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