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Thursday, July 12, 2007

The War on Terror and Logic: Have Shovel, Will Dig

Part MCVXII in a continuing (never-ending?) series…

July 11, 2007 was another day on which events in the news and official commentary from the Bush Administration itself prove we are losing the war on both terror and logic. July 11, 2007 marked the six month milestone of the American troop surge. From the beginning, Americans have been told the surge would take several months to ramp up (it did) and the enemy would do everything in its power to ensure the effort looked like a failure (they have). Americans were also told General Patraeus ("the man with the plan") would report on progress in nine months and adjustments to the "plan" would be made in accordance with the facts on the ground at that time.

So what happened July 11, 2007?

On July 11, 2007, information began emerging about an interim report on the surge formally released by the White House on July 12. (#1) The literal facts as cited by the report itself are that six months into the nine-month bake of the surge plan, the Iraqi government has failed to reach or complete ANY of the 18 criteria set out when the surge was initiated. Of course, the spin doctors worked overtime to soften the impact of the report by reframing the results as "satisfactory progress" on eight goals, a "mixed rating" on two goals and an "unsatisfactory progress" rating on eight other goals. (#2)

Basically, the Bush Administration claim is that the surge is providing improvements and can succeed. It is a rare $90 billion dollar, nine month project that, six months into that nine month project, has yet to achieve ANY interim milestone which can be proclaimed to be "on target" for "success." Me thinks the White House copy of Microsoft Project being used to track "Operation Iraqi Fiasco" needs a service pack or two applied.

July 11, 2007 was also apparently a vacation day for the White House Executive Director of Talking Point Coordination. On the same day the six-month interim results were being released and spun, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff spoke publicly and stated he had a "gut feel" that America was being actively targeted during the Summer of 2007 for new terrorist attacks. After backpedaling from those comments by stating he had no "tactical" intelligence of any specific attack plan on American soil, news of another report was released stating that while less centralized, Al Qaeda has "regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001". (#3)

Wasn't the whole point of the War in Iraq to "fight the terrorists there rather than here?" Wasn't the whole point of the War in Iraq to destroy Al Qaeda's ability to conduct large scale terrorist operations ANYWHERE? Wasn't the point of the War in Iraq to prevent countries from aiding Al Qaeda or providing it sanctuary? Wasn't the point of the War in Iraq to "spread the light of democracy?"

I'm tired of the country's affairs and security being managed by amateurs using their "gut". It's time 535 people in Washington DC begin leading using their brains.

American troops won't be leaving Iraq en masse for several years. However, Republicans and Democrats alike must IMMEDIATELY seize the reigns from an Administration that has proven and publicly proclaimed its $442 billion dollar plan (#4) for combating terrorism has utterly and completely failed -- failed in the short term and failed in the long term. By every interpretation of its own shifting justifications for the plan.

George Bush is big on sending "messages." Congress, on behalf of the seventy four percent of citizens who now oppose the Bush strategy on terrorism, needs to send him two messages IMMEDIATELY.

ONE -- Congress needs to IMMEDIATELY repeal the War Powers Act in its entirety. By a two-thirds majority in both houses. When President Bush vetoes it, Congress must promptly override that veto and remove the ability of this President or any future President to launch any prolonged military boondoggle without a formal, before-the-fact declaration of WAR. Not a resolution of acceptable confidence in the President's hunch on a baseless double-or-nothing bet in a geopolitical poker game. A declaration of WAR and legislation to pay for it in current dollars or current bonds purchased by Americans (not foreigners).

TWO -- After negating the War Powers Act and its abdication of constitutional responsibility, Congress needs to IMMEDIATELY halt all funding for the Iraq War. By a two-thirds majority in both houses. American troops won't be leaving Iraq for years and halting funding won't cure any ills in Iraq that are lengthening our stay. That's not the point. The point of cutting funds is to make it crystal clear to George W Bush that the American people reject his failed strategy and demand a change immediately. Politicians worried about being tagged as "against the troops" need to push back and frame the issue differently. How bad a President do you have to be to reach a 26% approval rating in the middle of a war AND have the nation's pocketbook slammed shut on your hand at the same time?

It has literally become this bad. Impeachment will never happen. Instead of dreaming about that Hail Mary pass play, Congress needs to protect the ball and grind out two simple running plays and freeze this Administration in its tracks for the next eighteen months. Doing nothing and hoping George Bush won't dig the hole deeper is not an acceptable game plan. Have shovel, will dig.


#1) http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/07/20070712.html

#2) http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,289050,00.html

#3) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article2067081.ece

#4) http://nationalpriorities.org/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=182

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Baghdad on the Hudson

Militarily, the first five months of the American troop surge in Iraq have produced nothing but more American and Iraqi casualties. Instead of allowing more American forces to engage and eliminate terrorist forces, the surge has simply chased those terrorist forces out of known enclaves to new territories within Iraq or (worse) outside the country. The troop surge and its failure to achieve any degree of measurable progress in stability within Iraq has also been accompanied by a surge in commentary from people outside Iraq obliquely or not-so-obliquely "tut-tutting" officials of the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people themselves on their failure to "come together", forget their differences and get on with enjoying the "democracy" the United States has so selflessly and charitably bestowed upon them.

The condescending attitude is nothing new. A search on Google of "Iraq compromise faction" produces numerous news reports from 2004 to the present with similar commentary. What is new is the degree of hypocrisy in the condescension, particularly from the United States. Hypocrisy captured perfectly by two events just in the past week.

Doing Nothing on Immigration -- Both President Bush and members of the House and Senate made efforts to resuscitate a bill to address illegal immigration and its consequent effects on social spending, jobs and potentially national security. Everyone with an opinion on the issue could identify at least one aspect of the problem they felt was CRUCIAL to the fate of the republic or their favorite bloc of voters. However, no one could identify a SINGLE proposal that a majority of House members or a super-majority of Senators could approve reaching a vote, much less actually enacting into law.

Doing Nothing on the Power Grid -- Nearly 385,000 citizens of New York City found themselves without power for 49 minutes on June 28. On June 29, Con Edison officials stated the outage was caused by a lightning strike on gear at a substation in Astoria which triggered monitoring systems to shut down the substation. New Yorkers had fears of a similar failure like the outage on July 18, 2006 affecting 50,000 Queens residents for seven days or the catastrophic fault in 2003 which killed the power for 40 million Americans in the Northeast and Midwest. Many of the power outages in North America are due to three very simple, very predictable problems:

1) aging transformers and transmission lines well past their expected lifespan
2) generation facilities and transmission lines operated at the peak of their designed capacity
3) insufficient tree trimming around transmission lines

No complicated, highly nuanced political pitfalls to navigate. No "moral issues" to decide. Certainly no religious overtones to consider in the solution. The solution involves very straightforward economic calculations that show the costs for replacements, upgrades and maintenance can be safely, predictably covered at a fair profit by an ever-increasing demand. Despite that, America has done virtually NOTHING to change the behavior of power companies who seem bent on extracting every last penny of short term profit by running their networks to the brink of failure and beyond.

Two examples of an obvious problem with well-understood causes, well-understood impacts to our economy and society and well-understood strategies for addressing the problem. Two examples where the most advanced society and democracy in the world has been completely PARALYZED by fringe political and business interests from doing even ONE SINGLE THING to address either problem.

Sound familiar? You can probably think of at least a handful of other similar issues met with similar paralysis. At the rate things are going domestically, we could be experiencing Baghdad on the Hudson far sooner than the Iraqis might experience New York on the Euphrates. At this point in our political history, America has very little justification for lecturing any other country about seeking compromise, working for the greater good, and moving forward as a people. We have a great deal of work to do in that category here at home.