Saturday, June 09, 2007


McClatchy has a good summary of the Surge So Far and it doesn't look promising. The article is filled with statistics on bombings, bodies found and attacks on US/Iraqi forces; first down now at pre-surge levels. Political and reconciliation progress is measured in benchmarks not achieved (all of them). Comparisons with previous strategies show higher force levels but similar results. The commanders say it's too early to tell.

One result is certain: more dead, 135 more to be exact. The Iraq Casualty Count average for the 412 days prior to the surge was 2.4 per day. That would total 307 for the 128 days since the surge began. The actual toll is 442. The difference, 135, is a 44 percent increase.

The numbers cascade through our consciousness, leaving a vague sense of unease until one of the numbers becomes personal. Then it detonates like a grenade, changing life forever for family, friends and community. 305. 422. 3781. 25820. Abstract numbers. Until your number is up. And nothing is the same.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

More Alternate Policy Universe

Today's Washington Post:
After days of escalating rhetoric about missile defense, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise offer to President Bush on Thursday, proposing that Russia join with the United States and some of its European allies to operate a shield intended against missile threats from Iran.

Regional cooperation to deal with a regional threat. Wow! The US, Russia and Europe working together! Better than fighting, to be sure.

While they are pondering solutions to the threat these cooperating allies might also consider that the best shield would be to demonstrate to rogue nations that they will find greater prosperity through trade, tolerance and shared interests. The rogue nations would be less likely to feel they need to aim missiles at their neighnbors. We wouldn't "need no STEENKING missile shield!"

Of course the US, Russia and Europe would have to demonstrate that they actually practice the trade, tolerance and openness they want other nations to emulate. I can support support that and international cooperation.

Did I mention that the missile "shield" does not work. Unless you are a missile shield contractor, in which case it works just fine.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Support This Troop!

Adam Kokesh has a blog, Sergeant Kokesh Goes to Washington, an account of the trials and activities of an anti-war veteran. Adam Kokesh is the inactive Marine reservist threatened with a downgraded discharge because wore his uniform in Operation First Casualty. I can't recommend it highly enough. His response to the offered plea agreement is an eloquent statement that shames the Marine bureaucracy in its attempts to silence a combat veteran. The photo of Sergeant Kokesh in full deployment regalia with flowers is a nice touch also. I already have a link to his organization, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and will add Sergeant Kokesh to my blogroll as well. In the meantime, tell every one you know.

Adam Kokesh will be my guest on this Sunday's About Face at 2:00 pm Eastern Time. Tune in at 1480 AM In the Large Amorphous Central Arizona Urban Area or on-line at 1480kphx.

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You Heard It Here

CheneyBush's dilemma regarding Scooter Libby's prison time has a precedent for a solution. Don't pardon him yet, simply order him to serve house arrest pending appeal. After all Richard Nixon did the same for another American who was "wrongly convicted." Since CheneyBush has never done this before, he wouldn't have to explain why he's deviating from previous practice.

Besides, it's not like Scooter killed anybody.


Iraq by the Numbers

Juan Cole adds it all up for you.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

06 June 1944

Today is D-Day. As a kid in the decade following World War II, D-Day loomed in my mind as a cataclysmic event. Men in my community had been part of this incredible invasion, celebrated in movies and television. D-Day was my idea of war, horrible and devastating even as it fascinated me. In those patriotic times, D-Day defined the meaning of sacrificing for one's country.

Many decades later, with my own war experiences, a litany of American interventions, overt and covert, throughout the world and now a military fiasco in Iraq, I envy the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen of World War II. I envy their certainty and achievement. I don't doubt that their successors have been any less brave or determined. I do question the wisdom of those who have asked so many to sacrifice all these years.

In 1944 America's leaders were worthy of their troops. That is not true today.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Under Fire

Even the VFW thinks the Marine Corps is over reacting to Adam Kokesh, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War who participated in IVAW's Operation First Casualty in Washington, DC. I sure as hell think so. The Corps is also upset that, when informed by a Marine major that wearing a Marine uniform in a political activity violated rules, Kokesh responded with an obscenity. Probably not smart but as a combat veteran responding to an outrageous order, not surprising either. Today, the Marine Corps will decide to downgrade Kokesh's discharge and deprive him of benefits he earned risking his life in service to his country.

One of the things that Kokesh earned is the right to wear his uniform. He wore that uniform in Iraq. He fought in it. His friends died wearing that uniform. As far as I am concerned, if ANY veteran wants to wear his or her uniform in exercising First Amendment rights, they have that right. Today's hearing and subsequent legal actions will determine whether the nation agrees with me.

Of course, I have personal stake in the matter. I wear my jungle fatigue jacket--what's left of it--at demonstrations. By the major's interpretation, I guess I'm violating regulations. The nation has an even greater stake in the matter because the military's actions will prevent men and women who know first hand the experience of war from telling their fellow citizens about war. Operation First Casualty is dramatic, startling and brutally effective in demonstrating the nature of occupation to civilians who never see the daily reality of war.

IVAW launched a second Operation First Casualty in Manhattan on Memorial Day. The video is street theater at its finest, combined with articulate, informed veterans to expand on the issues of war and occupation. Operation First Casualty offers a strong clear message, a message that would not be possible out of uniform. Nor do I consider IVAW's actions political. They do not support a policy or candidate. Rather they address an important issue. Operation First Casualty is veterans speaking out as only they can.

No wonder the Pentagon doesn't like it.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Alternate Policy Universe

Security! Safety! Protection! These are the all-purpose goals that trump everything in America's national debate. Without security we are at risk. Because these words speak to our most primal fears and needs, they often short-circuit our thinking. Rational thought is difficult when you are scared. That explains much of America’s actions in the world today. We are “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.” We demand border security and cringe at the sight of human migration in search of opportunity, all the while looking for terrorists and cutthroats under our bed. Billions of dollars flow into never-ending military and para-military operations that purport to strengthen security.

Hindsight is always easy but it can also teach lessons, so I can look back at the past decade of war, occupation and illegal immigration and think about possibilities. Iraq has cost the US immensely in dollars (over $400 billion so far), casualties and our international reputation. At the same time, the US is trying to wall itself off from the economic basket case that is Mexico. The consequent outflow of excess labor from limited opportunity to more opportunity has created a hue and cry over a “brown invasion” of aliens from the south. If you travel in southern Arizona these days, it feels like a war zone.

Illegal immigration poses as much of a threat to America as terrorism. Probably more so. Terrorist cells are limited in number and capability. Millions of people living illegally in the US creates a much larger scale problem. Less dramatic, to be sure–they don’t usually blow things up–but a migration that can have a long term effect on life in the US. When I speak of immigration’s impact, I am thinking more about the creation of an underclass, easily exploited and with few legal protections, living apart from the larger community. I am speaking of economic consequences, such as downward pressure on wages, and the potential for violence as American's nativist passions are aroused.

What if instead of invading Iraq, the United States invested...oh, say $100 billion in Mexico in the form of a Marshall Plan to create a viable economy, one that actually provided an equitable distribution of wealth? It would require an astounding degree of cooperation between nations and would certainly meet resistance from the oligarchy that rules Mexico now but the practical aspects are not the issue here. I want to focus on the idea. A viable Mexican economy would eliminate the incentive for Mexicans to leave their homeland in order to find opportunity. A viable economy in Mexico would contribute to the US economy. A stable Mexico with a semblance of economic justice would be a welcome neighbor.

Had this been American policy for the past decade, we would have no casualties in a war of occupation, appropriately targeted military operations against terrorist groups, a more stable border with Mexico and a workable immigration system.

Instead of crusading the world on behalf of an American-imposed "democracy", American leaders should seek greater economic justice throughout the world. Democracy is an uncertain criterion when viewed through the many cultural prisms in this world. Economic justice is far easier to define. Everyone knows if they have enough to live. I would like to see America not only encourage economic justice throughout the world but also to lead by example, as we have done in the past.

You may say I'm a dreamer...

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