Tuesday, January 30, 2007

One bullet

This story in the New York Times of Monday, January 29.

You can do nothing else than have enormous respect for the soldiers who exhibit such bravery in such dangerous and overwhelming circumstances. I hope and pray with all my heart that God (and anyone else who can) protects them from harm.

Staff Sgt. Hector Leija scanned the kitchen, searching for illegal weapons. One wall away, in an apartment next door, a scared Shiite family huddled around a space heater, cradling an infant.

It was after 9 a.m. on Wednesday, on Haifa Street in central Baghdad, and the crack-crack of machine-gun fire had been rattling since dawn. More than a thousand American and Iraqi troops had come to this warren of high rises and hovels to disrupt the growing nest of Sunni and Shiite fighters battling for control of the area.

The joint military effort has been billed as the first step toward an Iraqi takeover of security. But this morning, in the two dark, third-floor apartments on Haifa Street, that promise seemed distant. What was close, and painfully real, was the cost of an escalating street fight that had trapped American soldiers and Iraqi bystanders between warring sects.

Staff Sgt. Leija died.

I have already said on this weblog, but I will say it again: guerilla warfare can almost never be won. Our soldiers are being put into a no-win situation, and the addition of 21,000 troops does nothing to give hope that the situation will improve in the long term.

If I was in the States I would join a peace rally. For a half-decent comparison of Iraq with Viet Nam, click here.

Monday, January 29, 2007

God weeps

"God weeps," Archbishop Tutu told participants in the ecumenical gathering near the conclusion of the World Social Forum in Nairobi, "and says, 'Who will help me so we can have a different kind of world, one in which the rich know they have been given much so they can share and help others?'"
More than 50,000 community activists, social reformers, religious leaders, and movers and shakers met at the seventh World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, this January to compare strategies on transforming global economic systems to benefit the majority world, rather than maintaining economic systems that produce immoral disparities: one percent of the world's adults owns 40 percent of the world's wealth, while the bottom half combined owns less than one percent.

This from God's Politics, the weblog of Jim Wallis.

What can you do, as an unbelievably rich person, to contribute to righting the imbalances in the world?

Friday, January 26, 2007


The New York Times has an interesting interactive site that helps you see what words George Bush used in his State of the Union speeches, how many times he used them, in which speech, and the context of the words.
He has spoken over 34,000 words in these addresses, and you can search for words and find out exactly when and how he used them.
For example, "Iraq" was used 34 times in 2007, "Social Security" twice. In 2005, the year of his big (failed) Social Security push, he used the word 8 times.

Interesting that he clearly says, in 2007, that we are failing at protecting Social Security.
About Iraq he says: Let us find our resolve, and turn events to victory.

He also says that our commitment to Iraq is not open ended. (I thought we couldn't say that, that would be capitulating to the enemy.)
And we learn that Iraq's government has committed itself to a series of benchmarks. During the election campaign, benchmarks were of the devil.

Throughout history, Presidents have begun their State of the Union with the ringing words "The State of our Union is strong".

This year he couldn't bring himself to begin this way. So he slipped it in the last sentence: We've met challenges and faced dangers, and we know that more lie ahead. Yet we can go forward with confidence -- because the State of our Union is strong, our cause in the world is right, and tonight that cause goes on.

Check out the site, it is a lot of fun.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Well, she's done it.
She's going to run.

I hope they don't, but the Religious Right is going to have her for dinner, if they can.

Which I don't really understand.

When her husband strayed, she stayed with him.

Sounds like pretty good family values to me.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


This is what we need more of, and it is encouraging.

Public American diplomacy in the Middle East: high level (Condoleeza Rice) and public. The Isreali-Palestinian conflict lies at the heart of much of the problem in the Middle East. Anything that will help solve that problem will help reduce terrorism.



It appears that Rice also wants to try to sell Bushes' plan for Iraq. I hope she listens well.

A good car salesman listens to his customer.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The latest funnies

"The good news is last night President Bush finally admitted he's made mistakes in Iraq. The bad news is he's planning to make the same mistakes again." --Jay Leno

"After hearing the president's speech, Democrats in the Senate are seeking bipartisan support for a non-binding resolution opposing President Bush's deployment of his military escalation. In response, President Bush said, 'Huh?'" --Conan O'Brien

"President Bush is now calling for sending 21,000 more troops to Iraq. How does he come up with that number? I don't even think 21,000 people in the country think it's a good idea." --Jay Leno

"President Bush announced he's creating 20,000 new jobs. They're all in Iraq." --Jay Leno

"Yesterday Al Sharpton was asked about running for president, and he said, 'I'm not hearing a lot of meat. When the meats hit the fire, we'll find out if there's some real meat there.' Personally, I think it's a shame President Bush can't run again, because that would be one hell of a debate." --Conan O'Brien


News report today:
A British newspaper reported Sunday that Prince Harry (who is third in line to the British throne) was scheduled to begin final training for deployment to Iraq with his Army regiment -- but the defense ministry said no decision had been made on whether his regiment would be deployed.

John McCain's son may also go to Iraq, now that the President needs more troops.

There were, of course, many stories going around about G.W.'s stint in the military. Who knows what the truth really is, but the very fact that these stories are out there (and no stories of this nature would even be taken seriously if they were about John McCain, his son, or Prince Harry) says something about our Commander in Chief.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Failure according to Bush

You have certainly seen or heard this, but if not, here it is.
And it isn't even a late-night joke!
Apparently Bushspeak and Rumsspeak is contagious.

An interview by CNN with Frances Townsend, Homeland Security Advisor:
HENRY: You know, going back to September 2001, the president said, dead or alive, we're going to get him. Still don't have him. I know you are saying there's successes on the war on terror, and there have been. That's a failure.

TOWNSEND: Well, I'm not sure -- it's a success that hasn't occurred yet. I don't know that I view that as a failure.

They don't have to come

A first reaction to the speech of President Bush.

He said this: The consequences of failure are clear: (..) Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people. On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities.

116 Americans died in December 2006 in Iraq. The total number of deaths to this point is 3019.
If the violence continues at this same pace (and most - including Bush himself - expect it to get worse) another 1000 Americans will lose their lives in 2007.
On September 11 2001 we lost 2996 Americans.

The terrorists don't have to come to the streets of our cities anymore.
They can kill us right in the streets of Baghdad.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Another facet

An article by Ryan Beiler on another aspect of Saddam and Iraq. Click here for the weblog.

One salient point that I've found missing from most commentary on the execution is that the specific crime of which Hussein was convicted - the 1982 massacre of 148 Iraqis in the town of Dujail - occurred while Hussein was being aided by the United States.

The infamous photo of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Hussein was taken in 1983. What's more, the U.S. actively supported Hussein throughout the '80s in spite of reports of such atrocities, including the use of chemical weapons. This isn't conspiracy theory - the report linked above is drawn almost entirely from mainstream media sources like The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post. Of course, this isn't news to anyone who's followed Iraq-U.S. politics for any length of time. The joke about how "the U.S. knows Iraq has WMDs because we have the receipts," isn't far off.

It just seems especially ironic that so many Americans are celebrating the death of a tyrant who was executed for a crime committed while he was
"our S.O.B." Iraqis had long suffered because of U.S. support for Saddam, and now American servicemen and women have joined them in paying dearly for the war to remove him.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Biting my fingernails

Apparently George Bush is going to unveil his plan for Iraq next week.

I’m pretty nervous about it.

I have just minimal knowledge of how other cultures work, and the culture of the Middle East is not my area of experience. But it seems that some common sense things are being ignored in the Iraq situation that even I can figure out. It is interesting to see people like Zbigniew Brezinski and William Cohen say things on Wolf Blitzer’s Late Edition that echo what I think. A couple of things:

1. Don’t ever make a martyr out of someone. Every culture has its martyrs, who are heroes. The worst thing you can do if you are trying to stamp out a resistance movement is create martyrs for it. That means, I would think, that one would wait with Saddam’s execution until the situation has stabilized in Iraq. Insisting on doing it now only inflames the resistance. And don't tell me that the U.S. did not influence the timing of the execution.

2. A war should always be for just causes and bring justice (at least from our Western perspective). By not making Saddam stand trial for all the crimes of which he was charged you create a deep sense of injustice in many victims. I believe you could heal things in Iraq more quickly by insuring that everyone feels he or she has had the chance to seek and find justice or reconciliation. South Africa provides a fine example of that, it seems to me.

3. Avoid looking like an occupying army. The U.S. fumbled this ball from the beginning, and while it looks like a small thing, transporting Saddam to the execution chamber and his body afterwards cannot have helped things in that regard.

4. The hardest war to fight and win is a guerrilla war. We should have learned that in Viet Nam. World history is clear on the difficulty of winning guerilla warfare. If Bush does increase the troops in Iraq, and only by 30 or 40 thousand, it will show that he and his advisors do not understand this basic principle. We either need to get out of the guerrilla war as soon as possible or send in 400,000 troops and an atomic weapon to finish off the job. Now.

5. You cannot impose, from outside, a political system or a religion on a people. Democracy, for example. You have to win hearts and change the culture from inside. The barrel of a gun will never do it.

The signals we are getting are not at all encouraging to me.

But I still hope.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Attitude toward enemies

A quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Don't forget that he voluntarily returned to Germany from a safe position in New York because he felt he could not minister to his people after the Nazi regime was gone if he didn't suffer with his people under the regime.
And we was finally hanged by the Nazis in prison in 1945, just three weeks before the liberation. He has the right to speak about the Christian attitude towards enemies:

[N]ever be conceited. With respect to our attitude toward our enemies, this means first, remember that you were God's enemy and that, without having earned it or being worthy of it, you were met with mercy. It means second, remember that God hung on the cross for your enemy too, and love God and God loves you.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Monday, January 01, 2007

The secrets died with him

Robert Fisk is a controversial figure. Some say he is in bed with the Arab countries of the Middle East and so his reporting and criticism of the West can't be trusted. I don't really know. It is obvious that he has spent much time in the Middle East and gets to places (partly because he is a very brave man) that other reporters don't. It certainly is worth listening to his voice.

This article (one of a couple) on the death of Saddam from which I reproduce a few excerpts:

We've shut him up. The moment Saddam's hooded executioner pulled the lever of the trapdoor in Baghdad yesterday morning, Washington's secrets were safe. The shameless, outrageous, covert military support which the United States - and Britain - gave to Saddam for more than a decade remains the one terrible story which our presidents and prime ministers do not want the world to remember. And now Saddam, who knew the full extent of that Western support - given to him while he was perpetrating some of the worst atrocities since the Second World War - is dead….

Iran's official history of the eight-year war with Iraq states that Saddam first used chemical weapons against it on 13 January 1981. AP's correspondent in Baghdad, Mohamed Salaam, was taken to see the scene of an Iraqi military victory east of Basra. "We started counting - we walked miles and miles in this fucking desert, just counting," he said. "We got to 700 and got muddled and had to start counting again ... The Iraqis had used, for the first time, a combination - the nerve gas would paralyse their bodies ... the mustard gas would drown them in their own lungs. That's why they spat blood."

At the time, the Iranians claimed that this terrible cocktail had been given to Saddam by the US. Washington denied this. But the Iranians were right. The lengthy negotiations which led to America's complicity in this atrocity remain secret - Donald Rumsfeld was one of President Ronald Reagan's point-men at this period - although Saddam undoubtedly knew every detail. But a largely unreported document, "United States Chemical and Biological Warfare-related Dual-use exports to Iraq and their possible impact on the Health Consequences of the Persian Gulf War", stated that prior to 1985 and afterwards, US companies had sent government-approved shipments of biological agents to Iraq. These included Bacillus anthracis, which produces anthrax, andEscherichia coli (E. coli). That Senate report concluded that: "The United States provided the Government of Iraq with 'dual use' licensed materials which assisted in the development of Iraqi chemical, biological and missile-systems programs, including ... chemical warfare agent production facility plant and technical drawings, chemical warfare filling equipment."……

We still don't know - and with Saddam's execution we will probably never know - the extent of US credits to Iraq, which began in 1982…..

The whole truth died with Saddam Hussein in the Baghdad execution chamber yesterday. Many in Washington and London must have sighed with relief that the old man had been silenced for ever.

Happy New Year

In 2007 a new look for this blog, which is not read by too many people. The last count showed an average of 6 persons per day.

That's alright - it gives me a chance to express myself, particularly on politics, Iraq, etc. If you want to read a really good blog that will make you think and laugh, try Jon Swift.

Anyway - a Happy New Year to all 6 of you!

I hope you have a healthy, happy, fruitful and blessed 2007!