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Big flaw in Hobby Lobby decision is in assuming 'corporate personhoods' can hold religious belief

If you assume, as the Court does, that Hobby Lobby is a corporation - not a sole proprietorship or even a partnership - there isn't any recognized role that religion plays in such a corporate structure as defined by the Court.

The Supreme Court, in 'Citizens United' recognized rights for corporations which are associated with the individuals who form those entities for the purposes of protections of their freedom of press; or to secure their property from unreasonable searches or seizures. The Court recognized the individuals who formed the entities interest in pooling their resources to conduct financial transactions and grow their businesses.

Corporations aren't formed for religious purposes, like churches, they're formed for profit, and only recognized as such under stringent state laws. The only way to get to the religious belief of the owners of Hobby lobby would be to recognize the views of the owners as individuals; not the definition of the corporation, itself, which the Court has already described as a business entity; not a religious institution which is guaranteed those protections of belief and practice.

The corporation can't, itself, hold religious belief - not under the Logic of corporate personhood. The Court is really saying that Hobby Lobby isn't a person, after all - defying all of the logic and reasoning they've used to allow corporations 'free speech' rights to spend as much unaccountable money as they want in campaigns - and has reduced them to what they arguably are; a business made up of people.

But the Court hasn't gone all the way and recognized corporations, themselves as religious entities. As far as anyone can discern from what the Court has said corporations like Hobby Lobby represent, there isn't any religious element that supports that recognition, just rights afforded the individual owners to conduct business. Nowhere in that recognition of corporate personhood by the Court is there any understanding that there is something integral, necessary, or even predominant about religious belief to the operation of these businesses or their ability to conduct business.

That's what the recognition of the Courts of corporations as persons was all about; not a refuge for religious belief. That refuge is already afforded to churches and synagogues. For instance, you can't apply most discrimination laws in the hiring of clergy. That refuge for religiosity isn't incorporated into any understanding the Court has determined as a necessity for conducting business.

Besides, the entire rationale for recognizing corporations was to separate the businesses from the owners. Hobby Lobby and the Courts can't have it both ways. Either they are just an accountable owner and investors, or they are a corporation of interests.

A corporation can't hold or express a religious belief; they're not afforded religious liberty, so there is none to be restrained by complying with the mandate. And, remember, all rights afforded to individuals can't be reasonably applied to corporations . . . Second Amendment, Fifth . . .

Correct me where I'm wrong here, because I'm obviously no expert.

Production for Use

Production for use . . .that's what a gun's for Earl, to shoot, of course! Maybe that's why you used it -- Yes, I think you're right. That's what a gun's for isn't it? Production for use! There's nothing crazy about that is it? - Star reporter Hildy Johnson interviews convict in ' His Girl Friday', 1940

I'm reminded of this surreal scene from Howard Hawk's movie production whenever our government makes reflexive moves toward war - the scene where the newspaper's lead reporter is rationalizing responsibility away from the hapless killer and putting the finger on the gun manufacturer for responsibility for his violence.

I'm looking at the report today that President Obama plans to ask Congress to provide $500 million in direct U.S. military training and equipment to Syrian rebels. Aside from reservations about involving the U.S. materially in any of the fighting there, there's the issue of what responsibility the U.S. would assume, or should at that point, for the blowback and consequence of our government's entreaty to them to violence.

I'll attest to the apparent and relatively new attitude of restraint from the White House following the period where more troops were sacrificed in Afghanistan defending the Karsai regime by Pres. Obama than Bush lost defending 9-11; acknowledge an apparently new attitude of restraint since the height of his use of the often indiscriminate and extra-judicial targeting of weaponized drones (which he still assumes authority to launch).

In Yemen, the Sudan, Libya, and even Syria, the president has demonstrated a new doctrine of sorts which emphasizes diplomatic and international efforts - buttressed by the big stick threat of a declaration, made several times by President Obama, that he holds the power to unilaterally commit military force or forces abroad without initial congressional approval.

Throughout the facedown and resolution of the question of chemical weapons in Syria, the president has maintained that, through his own interpretation of a threat to the U.S. or our interests, he has the authority - notwithstanding his recent reluctance - to unilaterally initiate attacks and deploy troops.

It's a similar argument that he uses in 'leaving his options open' on initiating attacks in Iraq - not withstanding any stated intention of his to refrain from such action - President Obama has insisted that he has all the authority he needs to initiate airstrikes; even introduce troops, if he sees fit.

The retention of that assumed authority is a loaded gun just waiting for an excuse or reason to use it. Production for use.

What happens if our military advisers trigger a deepening or intensifying of the Iraq sectarian conflict? The introduction of that element of violence is a pretext to use it, as well as a trigger to the need for even deeper involvement. It's also a pretext for future presidents to use this commander-in-chief's justifications for war as their own.

However efficient and practical it may seem to provide only a smidge of violence in helping direct attacks in Iraq against Iraqis - however efficient and logical it may seem to give rebels weapons to carry out the political missions Americans certainly aren't willing to sacrifice lives for - there are real and tragic consequences on the ground.

Shoveling more weapons into Syria only gives the U.S. political mercenaries the illusion of clean hands, but we are the merchants of those misdeeds of Congress and the White House. Who are we arming? Who will they be killing? Where does the violence end?

One of the tragedies of 9-11 has been the degree our government's defensiveness has increased with a myriad of justifications to war - maybe not the unbridled military imperialism of the Bush-era, but threatening measures designed to frighten our adversaries away from their own military conquests; their sectarian violence fueled and inflamed by the seemingly deliberate vacuum created out of our own disruptive, self-serving military meddling.

Indeed, Barack Obama, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, actually used that occasion to lay down justifications for war; 'just wars' he called them. The new president wrapped his militarism in a blanket of history in his acceptance speech in Oslo. He spoke with the detachment of a professor lecturing students about a "living testimony" to the "moral force" of the teachings of King and Gandhi who just happened to be commander-in-chief over dual, bloody occupations.

War and peace, in Mr. Obama's presentation, were inseparably intertwined throughout history with America rising above it all - virtuous and correct in the flexing of our military muscle abroad in this age, because of our righteousness in the defining wars we waged with our allies against the Third Reich and Japan. That American virtue, in Mr. Obama's estimation, made evident by our leadership in setting the terms of international patronage, diplomacy, and 'just' war.

Mr. Obama began his speech by attempting to rationalize the obvious contradiction of a wartime president accepting a 'peace' prize. He downplayed the occupation in Iraq he had prolonged, distanced himself from the one he intended to redefine and escalate in Afghanistan, and declared himself responsible for, and "filled with questions" surrounding his sending of 'young Americans' to fight and die abroad.

President Obama:

. . . perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 43 other countries — including Norway — in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

Still, we are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict — filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other

The president acknowledged the civil, ethnic, and sectarian conflicts around the world, which he observed are on the rise, without mention of our own nation's part in fueling, funding, and deliberately or clumsily exacerbating many of those into perpetuity.

In Iraq, the war that the president insisted at the time was 'winding down', our nation's invasion and overthrow of the sovereign government was the catalyst to the chaos and civil and sectarian unrest and violence. Our military forces' inability to stifle or eliminate the killings there, despite our "surged-up", lingering occupation was a less than ringing endorsement of some inherent wisdom behind the opportunistic exercise of our dominating, devastating military forces abroad.

The president admitted his own lack of a 'definitive solution' to it all. Absent that solution, the president said we must be prepared to act when we feel that war is 'justified'.

"A decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats. The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.

Moreover, wars between nations have increasingly given way to wars within nations. The resurgence of ethnic or sectarian conflicts, the growth of secessionist movements, insurgencies and failed states have increasingly trapped civilians in unending chaos. In today's wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflict are sown, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed and children scarred.

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified."

It's obvious what the president was alluding to. There aren't many who would question America's pursuit of justice in the wake of the 9-11 plane crashes. Chasing bin-Laden and his cohorts into Afghanistan, and the rout of his Taliban accomplices to Pakistan was a reasonable response to most looking on.

Yet, there's a question of how much of the president's militarism today in Afghanistan, or now, Iraq, can be justified as part and parcel of that original pursuit; or even integral to some defense of our national security as defined in the original authorizations to use military force.

The emerging practice from politicians in Washington is to construct mechanisms of preemptive aggression in the vain hope of keeping war at bay. Is there anything more delusional than fomenting war to prevent war? Production for use.

That 'ambivalence' to military action the president represented as universal to any conflict, is fiction; at least in America. Our nation's citizens didn't start out ambivalent to chasing bin-Laden into Afghanistan. They became ambivalent when that effort was distorted into opportunistic nation-building - all the while with the fugitive terror suspects that were at the heart and soul of the military mission left free to instigate and motivate violent resistance against our nation's strident military presence and activity across sovereign borders, mostly by the virtue of their seemingly deliberate freedom from justice.

The nation became ambivalent when those occupations, in turn, were escalated to advantage the politics behind propped-up regimes. The suspicion of America's military force abroad was born in the 'extraordinary renditions' by our military and intelligence agencies; and in the indefinite imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans without charges or counsel - many held and tortured as in Gitmo - many tortured and disappeared in 'black sites' in compliant nations. Many are just as suspicious of this president's escalation of force in Afghanistan against the Taliban.

We've been told by the administration and the military that there are relatively few individuals thought to be in Afghanistan or Iraq who are al-Qaeda. Yet the U.S. military aggression in defense of regimes we helped ascend to power in corrupt elections is directed against an entirely different 'enemy' who is operating against the U.S. 'interest' in our maintaining ethically-challenged regimes in dominance over the very people we pretend to be defending.

At the end of his address, the president quoted Martin Luther King Jr.'s remarks in his own Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. . .

As Dr. King said at this occasion so many years ago: "I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the 'isness' of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal 'oughtness' that forever confronts him . . . We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace . . .

It's understandable that President Obama would want to justify his own duplicity between his stated ideals against 'dumb wars' with a declaration of a pursuit of peace behind his own exercise of military force. Yet, King's answer to the dilemma the president faces was non-violence. His own acceptance speech was a promotion of peace and love, not a litany of excuses for militarism.

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy," King said in 1967. "Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars."

And, so it goes.

It's fine to have sympathy for President Obama in Iraq

. . . but it's not a sentiment that I'd extend to judgment of his actions right now.

The reason that he's finding himself in the position of responding with military assistance has everything to do with the way he neglected to repudiate several of the Bushian justifications for remaining militarily engaged in Iraq.

One is his insistence that there's some sort of terror war to defend the U.S. against that threatens to spring out of Iraq and attack the U.S. or our “national security” interests. I'm straining to remember where, in the decade we've been meddling militarily in Iraq, did any Iraqis come to the U.S. and attempt to attack us?

It's a ludicrous excuse for insisting that he has a military prerogative in Iraq, and its ignorant of the fact that our military presence and activity in Iraq actually fuels and fosters terrorists. It's right there in Bush's 2006 National Intelligence Report.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April 2006, was the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by U.S. intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and it represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States," it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, "Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement," cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

If you just take Pres. Obama's recent decision to send 300 U.S. military advisers to assist Iraqis in directing attacks against Iraqi targets, you can see the folly rising, yet again, where our military interference is just going to be a recruiting tool for whatever forces are resisting that Potemkin of democracy in Baghdad. The predictable effect will be the U.S. ownership, in Iraqis eyes, of any objectionable assault we had a hand in which kills innocent Iraqis.

The other thing the President has done is put the introduction of the military forces assisting the Iraqi army into operation well before there's even a promise from the Iraqi government we're defending to effect the political reconciliation that Bush first demanded and then completely let go.

The President himself said that no military action would be forthcoming without that political rapprochement, but here we are, advantaging just one side of the political divide with our military advisers and weaponry he deployed pointed right at regions which not only harbor the armed insurgency but is home to Maliki's political opposition - all at the same time he's calling for political reconciliation in the vain hope that Sunnis won't align their own sympathies with the armed rebellion.

The 2002 AUMF hasn't been repealed, so President Obama, by declaring some right under that AUMF to stage air attacks into Iraq if he deems it appropriate is just a U.S. gun pointed at any resisting Iraqi's head; all the while pressing for political concessions standing beside the government that has refused to accommodate that opposition politically.

It's the same type of military imperialism which had Iraqis voting for their leadership with the U.S. guns pointed directly at the Shiite-dominated regime's political opposition.

Anyone who believes that the Iraqi army can precisely target just the bad guys and leave the Iraqi population safe, hasn't been watching the Maliki regime as it prosecutes it military force against rival population centers. This isn't something that our military has any business enabling, and I don't believe the president is being realistic about the dangerous blowback to Iraqis and others that is inevitable from our military interference.

What do we do if political rapprochement fails? If there is some agreement will U.S. forces be sent back to Iraq to 'watch over' the political process again?

Accepting Bush's 'terror' rationale for remaining militarily engaged in Iraq and adopting it is the president's responsibility and he should be held accountable for that, not sympathized with.

Accepting the notion that our military can aid ANY political goal inside Iraq without proving counterproductive and provocative is Pres. Obama's responsibility and he should be held accountable for that, not sympathized with.

Progress and Successes of the Bush and Maliki Regime

. . . this the second and last article I want to post that I wrote in 2007 which covers some of the ground between President Obama's remarks on Iraq today and Bush's own use of our military to bolster and defend Maliki's regime in Iraq.

OpEdNews Op Eds 9/5/2007
Progress and Successes of the Bush and Maliki Regime
By Ron Fullwood

IRAQI Prime Minister Maliki is in deep denial over the state of his reign. Looking out at Iraq from his protected post inside of the ring of security that has cost the U.S. military over 800 soldiers' lives since Bush began his increased deployment of troops to Baghdad, Maliki has concluded that it is his fractured, unpopular government which deserves the bulk of the credit for the decrease in violence he perceives from his sheltered office, not his American defenders. In a familiar refrain which echoes the despicable attempts by the Bush White House to paint dissent of their Iraq policy as an appeasement of terrorists, Maliki told reporters that any suggestion that his regime was not ready to assume their own defenses sent a "signal" to would-be attackers that his beleaguered government was vulnerable to attack.

'Such criticism, Maliki said, sends "signals to terrorists luring them into thinking that the security situation in the country is not good. "U.S. critics," he said, don't appreciate "the big role of the Iraqi government and its achievements, such as stopping the civil and sectarian war."

Maliki must be the only person in Iraq who believes the civil and sectarian armed struggle for power, influence, and territory has stopped. Despite the reported halt of operations of Shiite leader, al-Sadr's militarized forces, the reason for the temporary cessation of violence by the anti-government forces was described by the opposition leader as a re-grouping, rather than an armistice. And, despite the assurances from the U.S. military in Iraq and their commander-in-chief that violence has been quelled in Baghdad, the bombings and assassinations continue unabated almost everywhere else in Iraq that our troops are not deployed in their increased occupation.

Thousands of Iraqis have been killed since Bush increased the protection he had been providing the Maliki regime since he initiated the increased defense of the center of government in Baghdad last year, and even more Iraqis have been killed since the start of his latest escalation this year as a result of the factional violence; and partly as a result of joint offensive operations by our troops and the Iraqi army which have killed hundreds of residents and imprisoned thousands of others who were actively resisting their colonialist advance on their territory.

Moreover, it's not clear exactly who Maliki is referring to when he touts the efforts and effects of his government. There is no functioning government in Iraq, despite Maliki's desperate attempts this month to forge a working coalition which would allow him to advance stalled legislation which the Bush WH claims would enable the warring factions to reconcile their differences and accept the manufactured authority of the new regime.

There are no Sunni members of Maliki's new coalition government which is even more autocratic than the previous, propped-up regime which has operated for most of their tenure under a 'state of emergency' and a suspended constitution. The corruption and presumptive rule of Maliki's regime was underscored by an NPR report which cited a "sensitive but unclassified" document drawn up by State. Dept. investigators at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which concludes that Maliki's government has "withheld resources" from the Iraqi govt's anti-corruption agency. NPR reports that U.S. investigators found that, Maliki's office had "quashed corruption investigations of politicians allied with the government."

NPR Foreign Correspondent Corey Flintoff reported that, "If you believe the report, and you listen to people who work at these ministries, you get the impression that corruption is completely sapping the country's resources. ...Someone who works at the Ministry of Interior -- that's the department that supervises all of Iraq's police forces...told me that it's corrupt from top to bottom -- that officials at the top of the pile are making money from contracts to buy equipment."

Flintoff's report said that, "Some ministries, such as the Interior Ministry, are seen as untouchable because of their political connections to the government. The Ministry of Oil, which is supposed to safeguard the country's major source of wealth, has allegedly manipulated investigations against it. The report says the departments of the government routinely ignore requests for information, and that investigation teams can't go into their offices because they don't have any firepower to protect them."

If Maliki is functioning in his leadership position in Iraq as a protege of Bush, he can be partially excused for assuming that the 'democracy' Bush promised the former 21-year exile he would lord over represented anything close to the democratic process of government we all expect here in America. The example Bush has set for his Iraqi pupil is one of an imperialist warmonger bent on oppression. Iraqis, as well as the American people, are left to pick up the pieces of our own democracy that Bush so willingly hurls around the world out of his dictatorial carpetbag.

The lesson Maliki has apparently taken from his enabled ascendancy to power in Iraq is that any true exercise of democracy is secondary to his own consolidation of power. In fact, the U.S. Government Accountability Office report on Iraq released yesterday concluded that Iraq failed to meet all but two of the nine 'security' benchmarks Congress had set for them as a condition of U.S. military assistance, and had accomplished only one of eight political goals -- safeguarding minority rights in the Iraqi parliament.

Underscoring the fact that 15 of 37 cabinet ministers walked out on Maliki, nearly half of his 37-member Cabinet, including influential Sunni ministers, GAO chief Comptroller General David Walker told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, "Overall, key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend the $10 billion in reconstruction funds it has allocated."

Despite all of the criticism, Maliki remains convinced he's correct in every expression of his increasingly autocratic reign because he has the apparent seal of approval from our lame-duck loser in the White House. The "message" Bush sent to the Maliki regime with his surprise visit to al-Anbar yesterday, is that "there is no alternative to this government," Maliki's spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Tuesday.

"The visit of President Bush carried a message of support to the Iraqi government after the progress it made in national reconciliation," Maliki said.

The Iraqi prime minister can be excused for his ignorance if all he has to rely on as an example of democracy in action is the reality of his U.S. benefactor's own defiance of the will of the vast majority of Americans and the majority of legislators in Congress that he end his occupation as he presses forward in defense of his junta over the almost 3800 Americans whose lives and livelihoods have already been sacrificed for Bush's imperialist ambitions for the supposedly sovereign nation.

Despite the criticism of the escalated defense of his enabled reign, Maliki is convinced that Gen. Petraeus' Sept. report on the effects of their 'surge' will reflect "positive developments" in Iraq, "for sure," and that his regime was making 'progress' toward national reconciliation and that both Crocker and Petraeus "are witnessing the progress."

Only blundering idiots (or complicit criminals) would allow Bush to turn their country into his personal fight club. We're the ones who are going to end up defending ourselves (as are Iraqis) as we defend against his blundering interference in so many other nation's affairs. Bush and Maliki's manufactured mandate to conquer Iraq is supported less by the will of their electorate than by their corrupt exercise of the awesome strength of our military and the sacrifices of those who do most of the fighting and the dying.

There is no democracy in Iraq for our troops to defend. There is only the raw struggle for power and influence in which Maliki is being allowed to satiate himself behind the sacrifices of our nation's defenders. Having achieved that position of power, Bush and Maliki are satisfied that the lives they squandered were worth every contrived effort they made to consolidate their positions of power over the rest of Iraq. Yet, in their very actions, they contradict the myth Bush is perpetuating of a White House which has been nothing but a peaceful partner in Iraq's leaderships' quest for democracy.

Maliki and Bush are both in denial over the catastrophe they have overseen in Iraq with their partisan disregard of the very principles of democracy they say they're defending behind their strident militarism. They apparently believe Americans and Iraqis should be grateful for the way they've confronted the resistant elements in Iraq they've fostered and fueled by directing our troops to fight and die on one side of the country's multi-fronted civil war.

However, most Americans are left to wonder, as Bush and Maliki are crowing about their 'successes' and 'progress' in Iraq, whether these lame-duck partners are referring to advantages they've achieved for their citizenry, or if they're just bragging on their own ability to sustain themselves in power and authority over the rest of us at our own deadly expense.

Striking Out at Bush's Phantoms in Iraq

here's an article I wrote in 2007. It covers some of the 'ground' in Iraq between President Obama's remarks at his news conference today and the situation 'on the ground' when Bush was directing the force of our military to advantage the Maliki regime:

OpEdNews Op Eds 8/13/2007
Striking Out at Bush's Phantoms in Iraq
By Ron Fullwood

Maliki's regime on verge of collapse because of Sunnis resisting Shiite rule - so our forces attack Sunnis . . .

Bush has launched a 'major assault' in Iraq today against 'extremists' in, mainly, Sunni communities which, he claims, harbor al-Qaeda. Those assaults, dubbed 'Operation Phantom Strike,' are being conducted by U.S. forces aligned with Sunnis who've been spending part of their time (until very recently) engaged in attacks against the Maliki regime and its U.S. defenders.

The other pretext for the new assaults on Iraqis is the administration's escalated campaign against Iran. Despite their admission that as many as 200,000 U.S. weapons have been 'lost' somewhere in Iraq, the Bush administration has gratuitously accused Iran of supplying and training insurgents who've been staging attacks against our forces and against the new regime. To highlight that alleged Iranian support, Bush has launched assaults on Shiite communities believed to shelter the militias aligned with al-Sadr and who've been denounced by the administration because of their links to Iran.

If it weren't for the actual tragedy of the lives lost and disrupted as a result of these staged assaults on Iraqis, we could laugh off the farce of Bush chasing his tail as he pretends to actually have some useful purpose behind the new offensive beyond the feathering of the 'progress' of his escalation which he and his generals measure by the degree Iraqis have been repressed and cowed by the iron fist of the U.S. military into accepting the assumed rule of the Maliki regime.

At some point Bush has to be held to account for at least one of his shifting justifications for continuing his Iraq occupation. Despite the thorough discrediting of the initial lies about WMD's and al-Qaeda training camps in Iraq that Bush sold to Americans with a straight face and crooked hands as he pressed forward with his illegal invasion, Bush is still being allowed to offer even more rationales for remaining as he shrugs off the demonstrated will of the electorate and unilaterally escalates his occupation.

It should be clear to anyone who has watched this president's aversion to truthfulness throughout his term, that he has no intention of owning up to any development or reality which contradicts the strategic excuses and calculated dodges that his administration presents to the public as national policy. That lowered expectation has been accepted by legislators who've attempted to confront Bush to the degree and effect that our national debate (and their own) now mirrors the tortured, defensive unreality that the lame-duck loser has managed to bind the nation with as he's plundered, squandered, and destroyed everything he's charged with protecting and upholding.

It would more than fair to just conclude that because of the constant and escalating attempts by the administration to spin their Iraq fiasco as a work in progress, that there isn't a wit of sense in trying to extract practical, actionable initiatives from anything they've presented as a policy and use them to try and make a measure of any success or failure of their 'surge.' Why should anyone bother to measure the effect of their fictions? Knocking down the obvious lies should be enough.

Those lies and contradictions are so glaring, however, as to obscure whatever shine the administration is working to apply to the tarnished Iraqi regime they helped install. The most obvious is the extent that the Maliki regime has drawn closer to Iran, even as Bush works to undermine their neighborly relationship which has produced economic agreements as well as pledges to ensure each other's security. The August 8th image of Maliki and the Iranian president emerging from their meeting holding hands is an undeniable refutation of whatever threat Bush claims Iran poses to Iraqis.

There's even less solace for Bush in the normalization of economic ties between the two former enemies this week as Iran and Iraq inked a deal on an oil pipeline which would carry oil from Iraqi oil fields to refineries in Iran. There's likely even more nervousness from the administration carpetbaggers as Iraq's Oil Minister, after declaring that no country would get dibs on Iraq's oil, nonetheless, acknowledged that Russia would be first in line for a piece of the oil pie because of their existing contracts on what's turning out to be one of Iraq's most potentially lucrative oil fields.

Despite the gridlock which has infected the Iraqi government, there may yet be hope that the Maliki regime will play along with the Bush administration's new script and cobble together a compliant legislature, as Maliki ,today, threatened to replace the Sunni bloc who has completely vacated the government, with those Sunni leaders who are aligning right now with our forces in these contrived assaults against the administration's al-Qaeda specter. Convenient, huh?

That realignment will not, by any means, satisfy the Sunni bloc who've walked away from the government. They're still convinced the Shiite-dominated Maliki regime is bent on their destruction. And, that Sunni bloc isn't the only faction in the parliament who walked. Seventeen ministerial posts in his government are empty. That 'crisis' of confidence in his regime prompted Maliki today to call for a conference between key Sunnis and Kurds to take place in the 'next few days.' The invitees include President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a moderate Sunni, Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite, and Massoud Barzani, the leader of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

Whatever the intentions of the Maliki regime, it can't serve his efforts at reconciliation to have Bush flailing our forces all around Iraq in defense against whatever nemesis he conjures. Bush needs a defining fight and a vanquished enemy in Iraq to accompany the upcoming report due Congress in September on the effects of his 'surge,' and he's angling our forces to attract deadly brawls whose casualties will facilitate his planned determination to continue his cynical occupation.

A successful repression of resisting Iraqis will serve to represent the 'progress' Bush needs to highlight; a escalation of American deaths will serve his generals' vengeful insistence that Lt. Gen. James Dubik, in charge of training and equipping Iraqi forces revealed in his answer to reporters about the sacrifice of lives over defense of Iraqi ground: "It was fought over and died for," he said, "and there's no reason to give it back right now."

Yet, for Iraqis, that ground the Americans have fought and died to defend hasn't been for their benefit at all. That reality for Iraqis isn't obscured by our military forces' latest specter hunt. 'Operation Phantom Strike' is just another defense of bad Bush policy; wrapped around more treasonous lies about threats to the U.S. from Iran, or from some conjured Iraqi commandos following our troops home (as if they didn't already know the way by now). It's another chip placed on our soldiers' shoulders; it's another manifestation of Bush's obsession with "fighting them 'there.'"

To even an inexperienced observer, Bush's new assault on Iraqis looks like a deliberate provocation designed to counter Maliki's reconciliation efforts. To Iraqis, it almost certainly must look like just another attack on them - it can't really make any difference that our bullets, bombs, and oppression were actually intended for Bush's phantoms.

U.S. talking to Chalabi, originator of WMD lies, while pushing to replace Iraqi leader Maliki


BAGHDAD — Alarmed over the Sunni insurgent mayhem convulsing Iraq, the country’s political leaders are actively jockeying to replace Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, American and Iraqi officials said Thursday.

The political leaders have been encouraged by what they see as newfound American support for replacing Mr. Maliki with someone more acceptable to Iraq’s Sunnis and Kurds, as well as to the Shiite majority.

Over the past two days the American ambassador, Robert S. Beecroft, along with Brett McGurk, the senior State Department official on Iraq and Iran, have met with Usama Nujaifi, the leader of the largest Sunni contingent, United For Reform, and with Ahmad Chalabi, one of the several potential Shiite candidates for prime minister, according to people close to each of those factions, as well as other political figures.

read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/world/middleeast/maliki-iraq.html


The fact that our government is comfortably talking to a criminal like Chalabi is the direct result of Congress allowing the Bush administration to walk away scot-free without any real accountability for their crimes in Iraq. Here we have a criminal like Chalabi, who was run out of the office Bush and Cheney gifted him for the bogus information he provided which was used as the initial impetus and justification for the original moves to invade Iraq and overthrow the government, being allowed to pose as some kind of statesman; still getting audiences with U.S. government officials.

It wasn't just that Chalabi had lied to the U.S. about WMDs . . . when they weren't found, Chalabi just brazenly declared that the ends had justified the means.

Chalabi was a wealthy, U.S.-educated banker whose family fled Iraq when the monarchy was overthrown in 1958. Chalabi's CIA contacts led to the formation of the Iraqi National Congress in 1992.

Chalabi's influence in Washington comes from conservatives in and out of the administration who had been advocating for the deposition of Hussein and who were closely associated with the right-wing American Enterprise Institute and the Project for a New American Century; conservatives still pushing for intervention in Iraq; like John McCain.

Chalabi had been tried in exile by a Jordanian court and sentenced to 22 years in prison on 31 charges of embezzlement, theft of more than $70 million, misuse of depositor funds and currency speculation.

Here is a family (Chalabi) that has ingratiated themselves with monied influences, in and out of our government. Their administration benefactors spread our tax dollars around the world with abandon, yet treat the most urgent of our basic needs here at home with miserly neglect. Consistent with Ahmed's U.S. military escort back to his homeland, the Chalabis assumed whatever mandate for power, money, or influence that their Pentagon cabal provided.

In 2002, John McCain claimed that a 'success' behind Bush deceitful coup in Iraq was going to be 'easy,' despite his acceptance of the inevitable casualties. “Because I know that as successful as I believe we will be, and I believe that the success will be fairly easy, we will still lose some American young men or women,” McCain told CNN in 2002. Days later, he backtracked to make a self-serving assurance that American lives would not be squandered for his manipulations in Iraq.

“We’re not going to get into house-to-house fighting in Baghdad," McCain told CNN. "We may have to take out buildings, but we’re not going to have a bloodletting of trading American bodies for Iraqi bodies.”

By the next year, McCain was cocky enough to predict a 'win' behind the invasion and occupation, telling MSNBC that "we will win this conflict. We will win it easily." That was in 2003. That was in the period where the Bush administration and their cohorts in Congress were frantically organizing separate teams of military investigators to comb Iraq for the weapons of mass destruction they had promised they were defending Americans against. As that cynical effort failed to produce any evidence of any weapons or weapons systems which remotely threatened the U.S. they set themselves to the diverting task of organizing and consolidating the real motive behind their opportunistic invasion; the overthrow of Saddam's hapless regime and the installation of their 'interim' junta.

John McCain's friend and primary instigator, enabler, and author of the lies used to justify the U.S. campaign for 'regime change' in Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi, began his deceptions in exile during the Clinton administration and was gifted with the leadership of the 'authority' which was constructed after the invasion to impose and lord their military dominance over the Iraqis.

Chalabi, who McCain called a "patriot," was finally driven out of the interim Iraqi leadership by predictable charges of the same manipulative corruption which had been his trademark. Even as he was elevated by the Bush administration to lord over Iraqis behind the sacrifices of our troops, Chalabi was under indictment for embezzlement and fraud. Chalabi was paid $335,000 a month as he promoted his lies about WMDs to the administration and their enablers in Congress. It was reported in 2004 that Chalabi's group-in-exile, the 'Iraqi National Congress,' received $39 million in tax dollars over 5 years as they promoted their lies.

When confronted about the complete lack of any proof that what he'd sold his U.S. supporters in the administration and Congress, Chalabi shrugged. "As far as we're concerned we've been entirely successful," Chalabi said. "That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important."

"We are heroes in error," Chalabi was quoted as saying.

In the fall of 2002 the 'Committee for the Liberation of Iraq' was established in the Washington offices of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute. The CLI engaged in educational and advocacy efforts to mobilize U.S. and international support for policies aimed at ending the regime of Saddam Hussein. This advocacy came at the same time that Condoleezza Rice and her then-deputy Stephen Hadley were engaged in a series of briefings with foreign policy groups, Iraq specialists and other opinion makers that was termed as a "new phase," by a White House spokesman, who described the goal as building fresh public support for Bush administration policy vs. Iraq.

Members of the CLI met in November of 2002 with President Bush's national security adviser, Rice, in an effort they described as "education and advocacy efforts to mobilize U.S. and international support freeing the Iraqi people from tyranny." Members of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq included, John McCain, Newt Gingrich, William Kristol, General Barry McCaffrey, and former CIA director James Woolsey. George Shultz, Amb. Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, and Elliot Abrams were also involved with the group. Abrams and Bolton were founding members of the CLI.

The CLI lobbied for the installation of the so-called Iraqi National Congress to replace the Hussein dictatorship. This group was the creation of the U.S. Congress which, following testimony from Chalabi, and defense policy executive, Zalmay Khalilzad (later appointed ambassador to Iraq), and the co-sponsoring of Sen. John McCain, passed the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998, and sanctioned the new U.S. policy of regime change.

Among the other participants in the CLI were, Gary Schmitt (director of the conservative foundation, Project for the New American Century) and Richard Perle, (chairman of Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board, also closely associated with PNAC. Also involved was co-founder, president and executive director of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, Randy Scheunemann who served as a consultant on Iraq to Donald Rumsfeld and now serves as John McCain's top foreign policy aide.

In a scheme to hijack the next-generation of defense dollars, which our soldiers desperately need, and our country can scarcely afford McCain's cohort, Randy Scheunemann, headed a Washington lobbying firm called Orion Strategies, which just happened to share Chalabi's address and the location of his old CLI enterprise. His was just one of the investment groups that sprang to life in the wake of the invasion who sought to benefit from the blood and sacrifice of our soldiers.

In fact, Schennemann was partners in his Iraq lobbying with another facilitator for the former Soviet states, Bruce Jackson, the founder and president of the 'Project on Transitional Democracies', an organization which guided ‘newly independent', former Soviet provinces through the congressional appropriations process to connect the foreign leaders with U.S. tax dollars. Their influence led to the acceptance of many of these countries into NATO compliance and membership. The introduction of these former provinces into the NATO resulted in a boon for weapon's manufacturers as the new republics were required to modernize their military forces to comply with NATO defense requirements.

"There is no doubt Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction," Scheunemann had reportedly claimed before the Iraq invasion, promoting the fiction of his fellow nation-builder, Chalabi. It was that self-serving fiction (and others) which he and his nation-building partners used to influence the form, basis, and direction of John McCain's foreign policy.

The McCain/Chalabi collaboration was described in the book by award-winning journalist Aram Roston, "The Man Who Pushed America to War: The Extraordinary Life, Adventures and Obsessions of Ahmad Chalabi." Roston writes that McCain was "Chalabi's favored candidate in the 2000 election since Chalabi knew that he would be able to free up the $97 million in military aid plus millions pushed through in Congress and earmarked for Chalabi's exile group."

According to one report, McCain had initially pressured the administration to give Chalabi more money, signing a letter with four other Republican senators complaining that Chalabi's INC wasn't being funded.

In 2004, it was reported that Chalabi had leaked intelligence to Iran, informing the Iranians that the U.S. had broken their secret communications code. U.S. officials complained that the disclosures meant that Iran's security agencies would have to redo their codes and that, for, perhaps years, American intelligence wouldn't be able to read the transmissions. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice promised Congress a 'full investigation', at the time, but none materialized from the administration.

Also, in 2004 it was reported that Chalabi was counterfeiting old Iraqi dinars - which had been removed from circulation following the fall of Saddam’s regime . . . Police found the counterfeit money along with old dinars in Chalabi’s house during a raid.

The most important position Chalabi was provided by the Bush administration's hawks on Iraq, was the position he was gifted in the new Iraqi regime as the administration's shill within the Iraqi government for their escalation of force. Chalabi's job was to serve as an intermediary between Baghdad residents and the Iraqi and U.S. security forces as they destroyed homes, lives, and livelihoods in Iraq which found themselves in the way of Bush's swaggering advance.

The WSJ reported that Chalabi job was to "help Iraqis arrange reimbursement for damage to their cars and homes caused by the security sweeps in the hope of maintaining public support for the strategy." It's almost certain that Chalabi had his hands all over the unaccountable multi-million dollar money pile the Pentagon reportedly used to pacify the resisting Iraqi communities to facilitate their 'surge'.

In an amazing defiance of the rationale for the pimping he provided for Bush and Petraeus' escalation of force, Chalabi was reported to have 'sabotaged' reconciliation efforts with the Batthists (Chalabi as head of Iraq’s 'de-Baathification commission'); the enabling of which was the main argument Bush gave for his escalation of force to Iraq. The NYT reported that, "Chalabi and members of his organization had sabotaged the American-backed plan by rallying opposition among Shiite government officials in southern Iraq, then taking their complaints to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most powerful Shiite cleric."

Chalabi's disruptive and self-serving efforts mirrored McCain's foreign policy advisor Scheunemann's initial, ill-conceived opposition to leaving any members of Saddam's Baath party in government positions in his 2003 declaration that: "It is very difficult for me to conceive of democratic institutions being established in Iraq with the Baathist power structure mostly intact."

AN article published by Blackanthem Military News reported that the Commanding General in Iraq, Gen. Petraeus, took on himself to rehabilitate the duplicitous opportunist who sold the U.S. the lies about threats from Saddam's regime which led Clinton to legislate regime change for Iraq, and provided cover for the Bush administration's invasion and occupation years afterward.

Chalabi was reportedly treated like a visiting dignitary as Petraeus introduced him to members of the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga. stationed in Iraq.

In 2005, Chalabi, an 'elected' member of the Iraqi parliament, temporarily held the post of Iraqi Oil Minister. Chalabi's new 'job' in Iraq had been to get the country's electricity back in order, five years after the 'shock and awe' of the invasion needlessly destroyed the majority of Iraq's infrastructure. Yet, consistent with every other endeavor Chalabi had been allowed to involve himself in by this administration, it was been reported that, despite Chalabi's involvement, Baghdad's power supply remained "intermittent and well below pre-war levels." That September, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq told Congress that, Iraq's power supply is "woefully inadequate."

It's not as if there hadn't been more than enough discrediting evidence for the U.S. to completely shun the formerly exiled con man after he mislead (admittedly obliging) U.S. officials who were looking to make a case against Saddam.

Once again Chalabi is being fetted by the U.S. government as a front man for their faltering Iraqi regime. Even Chalabi's reported ties to the rebel Shiite group, led by al-Sadr, who has rivaled and worked to disrupt the influence and authority of the Maliki regime, hasn't been enough for the Obama administration to cut ties with the opportunistic confidence man.

In exchange for the short-sighted support Chalabi provided Bush's duplicitous administration for their rape and plunder of Iraq, he's been allowed to maintain an influential (and lucrative) niche in Iraq which has allowed the U.S. occupation's initial enabler to continue his confidence game with impunity.

Chalabi has stalled reconciliation several times in the past, and, it looks like he's now being promoted in that effort by the Obama administration to manage the increasing unrest in Iraq. In allowing Chalabi continued VIP treatment in Iraq, it's almost as if the administration isn't concerned that his lies are what led us to the Iraq debacle. Once again, Chalabi is under consideration by the U.S. as leader of their junta in Iraq.



U.S. Turns to Old Frenemies

Striking Out at Bush's Phantoms in Iraq

Progress and Successes of the Bush and Maliki Regime

Troops to Iraq to protect the diplomats and other American embassy personnel is a reasonable move

. . . with all of the pressure to attack something in Iraq and all of the squawk about the response to the threat to the U.S. embassy in Libya, it's understandable and reasonable that the President augmented the State Dept.'s private security forces with a contingent of U.S. troops.

I don't think this is a backdoor to some kind of troop buildup for any on-the-ground combat operation. I do think that trying to secure those embassy folks in the middle of the ongoing conflict there could put those forces at risk. I'm not sure they can just hunker down and maintain their presence there. Using those forces to transport all of them out would seem like the responsible thing to do at this point, military action, or not. Maybe that's the plan.

It's not as if U.S. forces are prepared or likely to play a long-term role in any effort to defend Iraqi territory. Defending that embassy indefinitely seems a waste of resources and an unacceptable risk until the security situation is more certain. Without an operative political and security strategy from Iraqis, risking troops to hold down that building is a losing proposition, whether military force is employed or not.

Close it and bring the Americans home.

Washington Post ‏@washingtonpost 49m
U.S. airstrikes in Iraq would be risky, retired military officers say http://wapo.st/1pCMWzn

Enough of the Iraq Protection Racket

At my most cynical, it's hard not to feel like we're subject and victim to a perpetual protection racket where our nation's past military misadventures in the Mideast and Asia are primed and positioned to spark and erupt into sectarian violence in concert with each other, just to keep the U.S. military in the protection business; stirring up trouble and promising to protect hapless folks in the way of our reckless, opportunistic aggression from the effects and consequences of our own blundering militarism.

We saw an example of that lingering, reflexive paternalism this week as President Obama was considering whether the refusal of a sizable number of the Iraqi army to defend the government against an advancing armed resistance merited a U.S. military response.

To his credit, Pres. Obama immediately discounted the need for the return of ground troops to Iraq and declared that no military action or assistance to the Iraqi government forces would be forthcoming without a 'serious and sincere' effort by the government to resolve political differences that have fueled the sectarian violence.

". . . any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force. We can’t do it for them. And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action, including any assistance we might provide, won’t succeed

Problem is, the political cards have been deliberately laid out in Iraq in a way that both compels our government to respond as both an ally and an adversary of Iraqis. What other possible reason could there have been for continuing to escalate the numbers of troops in Iraq at the outset of the invasion while they purged the Iraqi police and military forces of thousands of Baathists?

What possible reason could there have been for continuing to introduce new, materially unprepared and untrained American troops into the killing field surrounding the green zone of defense that surrounded the center of Bush's junta? The government in Iraq had fallen. All that remained was the appearance of democracy, much like Saddam's own rule; complete with a paper Parliament left to squabble over whatever scraps of their country that haven't been sullied, stepped on, and stolen by their arrogant invading overlords.

There was no government left to defend there; only the remnants of the new tyrants' reign, complete with enough chaos and mayhem to support the Bush regime's protection racket; a cynical racket that directed our forces to stir up enough resentment and unrest for the U.S. to continue to sit on their high horse and claim to be defending Iraqis (and the U.S.) against a new generation of 'terrorists' Bush's own National Security Estimate said his invasion and occupation had spawned and increased there.

Analogies to the Vietnam war were inevitable and predictable, especially in the face of the continuing deaths of our soldiers, and the escalation of the numbers of troops to Iraq in the face of their obvious failure to earn the trust and consent of those Bush claimed to be liberating in the name of whatever version of democracy they were willing to settle for.

As Saigon became Ho Chi Min City after the U.S. bugged out, Iraq's Baghdad was always destined to reflect the designs of those Bush had identified as our 'enemies' - more so than the captured, occupied, and overthrown capital city will ever resemble any of the grand designs that Bush hawked to the American people to get their initial approval to invade - more of a conundrum than anything akin to the democracy American troops are pledged to support and defend.

As the Iraqi prisons became more efficient torture chambers to crush the new junta's political opposition who they locked up indefinitely without charges or counsel; as the police forces re-assumed their duty as deadly enforcers with the summary judgment of their U.S. supported violence; as the military devolved into bands of death squad militias, complete with U.S. weapons and para-military training - as the government there drew closer to the main spoke of Bush's 'axis of evil', Iran - Iraq was set to rival any of our other purchased regimes in its brutality and oppression.

There is no country in the world who threatens democratic progress in Iraq more than the U.S.. Maliki's regime has been under siege from resistance forces in Iraq whose cause has been fostered, inflamed and aggravated by American military activity in the country.

Moreover, the invasion and occupation of Iraq which emboldened Bush to promote the agenda of his PNAC cronies (who had petitioned for years for the invasion and occupation of the spokes of their 'evil axis') to posture against Iran as a mortal enemy. Yet, it was also the consequence of that invasion and occupation that Iran was advantaged to expand their influence and presence in their former nemesis', U.S. sponsored, Shia-dominated regime in Iraq.

"If we were to leave before the job is done, if we were to fail in Iraq, Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons," Bush explained in 2007.

That was the argument from republicans responding to President Obama's announcement of the stepped-up withdrawal from Iraq of all U.S. troops. Most of the criticisms from republicans in and out of Congress centered, not on the success or failure of the Maliki regime, but on the curious notion that Iran is 'emboldened' by the U.S. move out of Iraq and would somehow force themselves on the U.S. advantaged Iraqi government.

Bush's most dangerous mischief (outside of the invasion and occupation) was, by far, his strident attempt to shift blame for the violent resistance to his consolidation of power in Iraq to the sovereign nation of Iran. Amazingly, Bush cited Iranian support for Shia "death squads" as a rationale for his accusations without any mention at all of his own role in the arming and training of these rogue elements - many of which began as militias under control of the new regime.

Bush made the accusation and rationalization that an al-Qaeda attack on the mosque in Samarra in early 2006 was the reason the Shia militias became independent execution squads, dispensing their barbaric brand of justice wherever and whenever they engage their Sunni rivals. "Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's elections posed for their cause," Bush claimed, "and they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis. They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam - the Golden Mosque of Samarra - in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked." he said in a primetime address.

"Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads," Bush said.

As Bush proposed an escalation of America's involvement in the middle of Iraq's civil war - including sending 4,000 of the 21,000 additional troops to the al-Anbar province to battle what he called "extremists" in the Sunni communities there - it should be remembered that it was our own forces who inflicted the first damage on a holy site in a siege in Najaf in 2004 when they were trying to dislodge al-Sadr and his Mahdi army who had taken refuge around the Imam Ali shrine. It should also be remembered that it was Sadr and his followers who joined with Shiite leader Sistani and enabled the new Iraqi regime, headed by Shiite and Sadr ally, Maliki, to assume power.

In Iraq, under the pretext of fighting al-Qaeda, Bush intended for our troops to re-enter strongholds like Najaf and Samarra, and they inevitably confronted the anti-American Shia forces who reside there. Bush challenged Maliki to act against his Shiite allies and provide him with Iraqi troops to help with his escalation, or take the blame for whatever chaos and unrest the bolstered U.S. force stirred up with their attacks on population centers.

After sacrificing the strained resources and humanity of our nation's defenses for almost four years to install and establish, to fight and defend a Shiite-dominated regime who had openly curried the favor of the very Iranian government Bush was now demonizing, Bush wanted that same Iran-friendly regime to provide forces to attack and suppress the heart and soul of their very existence in Iraq and in the region. It was the Maliki regime who, earlier in 2007, made a very public trip to Iran to meet and bond with Bush's Iranian nemesis.

It was more than remarkable for conservatives and republicans to complain about Iranian influence among the Shias in Iraq after their party's president (with their full and vocal support) removed the only existing wedge in the region against Iranian influence when Saddam's puppet dictatorship was taken down.

It was all the more amazing to hear Bush accuse Iran of sponsoring Shiite death squads when it was our own military who initially armed and trained them as recruits for Iraq's army and police forces, and who tolerated them for months and months -before, during, and after the staged elections - as they terrorized their Sunni rivals and those factions opposed to the new Shiite-dominated regime.

Iran wasn't occupying Iraq; the U.S. was. Iran hadn't armed and trained the individuals who made up the bulk of the Shia death squads; the U.S. had. Iran wasn't threatening anyone outside of their own borders; it was Bush who, in fact, threatened Iran with our military forces amassed next door.

There was nothing more empowering of 'extremists' in Iraq than the reflexive response of the residents of the Middle East to U.S. military activity and action across sovereign borders. Nothing has encouraged support in the region for extremists bent on harming Americas and our interests more than Bush's strident, imperious coup in Iraq. Whatever political atmosphere now exists in Iraq was first sparked by all of Bush's saber-rattling and threats against his 'axis of evil'. If Bush and his conservative acolytes wanted a stable Iraq, they clearly didn't take the influence of their own pernicious militarism into account.

Now, President Obama is considering calls from republicans defend their tarnished regime in Baghdad prize with yet another destabilizing display of military force, much like Bush's cordoned last stand in defense of Baghdad after the rest of the country divided into warring sects.

In June 2006, the military launched what they thought would be a strengthening of the new center of Iraq's fledgling government by combining Iraqi forces with U.S. troops. In early May, 2006, the Pentagon had sent their first signal since the after the elections that they wanted to reduce the U.S. forces. The Baghdad mission was a firming-up of the Maliki regime before a gradual exit. Over 3,500 U.S. active duty soldiers who were set to deploy to Iraq were delayed indefinitely. Holding the troops back set off speculation that a drawdown was imminent.

That drawdown never materialized. Instead, later that month, the U.S. force in Iraq was increased by 2,000 troops from Kuwait to bolster the force of about 40,000 combined Iraq/U.S. troops deployed to Baghdad. So, the DoD accounting of 133,000 troops stationed in Iraq at that time was escalated just to retake Baghdad.

Well into August, Operation Forward had no more secured Baghdad than the previous mission dubbed 'Operation Lightning' did in 2005 where Iraqi militias and U.S. troops waged a campaign of repression against the resisting Sunni populations. The mission was more of the same with U.S. forces knocking down doors, kidnapping whoever they choose, and holding them indefinitely in one their prisons without charges, basically terrorizing the residents into submission as they painted a target on the military occupied towns.

Bush's equation for troops in Iraq went like this: More violence = need for more troops. With that prescription, we would leave Iraq by . . . never. Iraq's forces will always be challenged by some militarized resistance, even more so as they remain aligned with our aggravating military presence.

President Obama will never be able to encircle Baghdad with enough air power to effect the type of crushing oppression needed to cow the resistance to the Maliki rule. The best he could hope for as he lobbed missiles or lead against what he identifies as the insurgency is an artificial prop of an unpopular junta. So why bother?

Possibly, the answer lies in the political pressure from his opponents to 'do something'. The chickenhawk-infested republican majority have meshed the sacrifices of our soldiers into their 'smear and fear' campaigns to make themselves look like they're the ones defending our security, and Democrats like the ones preventing them from 'winning' in Iraq. It's a cynical mission, a shameful one.

What republican critics fail to understand and acknowledge is that U.S. military activity in Iraq greatly heightened the violence instead of reducing it. It's ludicrous to expect that more bombings, and the introduction of more weapons into Iraq will bring about any different result, no matter which Iraqis we identify and attack as enemies of our compromised and threatened junta.

No U.S. Bombs in Defense of Phony Democracy in Iraq

What we will not do is let the pursuit of the perfect stand in the way of achievable goals. We cannot rid Iraq of all who oppose America or sympathize with our adversaries. We cannot police Iraq’s streets until they are completely safe, nor stay until Iraq’s union is perfected. - President Obama on withdrawing from Iraq at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 27, 2009

In his determination to withdraw troops from Iraq and end that occupation, President Obama emphasized Iraqis' responsibility for the security of their country and government and declared that the solution to their long-term security was a political, rather than a military one. In his 2009 speech outlining his intention to withdraw, he made clear that he viewed the U.S. disengagement from that defense of the new regime as integral to the success of any reconciliation effort Iraqi President Maliki hoped to broker with resisting Iraqis.

"On my first full day in office, I directed my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of our strategy in Iraq to determine the best way to strengthen that foundation, while strengthening American national security." President Obama said. "I have listened to my Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and commanders on the ground. We have acted with careful consideration of events on the ground; with respect for the security agreements between the United States and Iraq; and with a critical recognition that the long-term solution in Iraq must be political – not military. Because the most important decisions that have to be made about Iraq’s future must now be made by Iraqis."

Months before, Maliki was bristling over the prospect of a lingering American military force; rejecting President Obama's characterization of the negotiations over whether residual troops would be allowed to remain as a 'security pact'; instead, insisting that it was, in fact, 'an agreement to withdraw'. He'd been arguing for over a year that it was his own army which had been responsible for rolling back the insurgent threat to his government and complaining that the U.S. wasn't appreciating just how much he'd done to quell the sectarian strife.

“We don’t call it a security pact but an agreement to withdraw the troops and organize their activities during the period of their presence in Iraq,” al-Maliki was quoted as saying. To Maliki, the U.S. was ignoring ''the big role of the Iraqi government and its achievements, such as stopping the civil and sectarian war.''

Iraqis eventually rejected that latent U.S. paternalism and insisted that all U.S. forces leave. Now that the sectarian strife and violence is threatening Baghdad, it appears Maliki is pleading with the U.S. to erect another 'wall' of protection around the perpetually beleaguered capital to defend his regime against those elements in his nation which his government has waged open war against and disenfranchised from the country's constitution from the early days of his ascendance to power.

The argument for the re-introduction of military force into Iraq is narrowed by the President's announcement this weekend that U.S. troops would not be returning to the battlefield. He did, however, leave the room open for the possibility of airstrikes against targets, which the military outlined, could include sites in Iraq and in Syria, as well; asserting his belief that "Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces."

That dubious and undefined aim isn't a new strategy for this president. Obama 'surged' troops before, into Afghanistan, premised on a Bush-era notion of 'rolling back the terrorist fringe' to give room for their enabled government to organize some sort of constitutional rule. It's not so much a defense of democracy as it is 'democracy-lite' where any end in that defense is supposed to justify the means and any progress is labeled victory.

The premise behind President Obama's initial surge of U.S. troops into Bush's Afghanistan quagmire was to 'push back' resisting Afghans enough to allow some sort of political reconciliation and to enable the government to continue. That effort was predictably bogged down by the difficulty in getting the disparate tribes and factions to accept the central authority NATO has set up in Kabul. There was even more difficulty in getting their installed government to accommodate the interests and demands of the resisting rest of the war-split nation.

The U.S. military offensive against the Taliban was an abject failure in achieving the goals behind the offensive. What happened to the promised ability of the U.S.-led NATO forces to protect the residents of Afghanistan against Taliban blowback from their invasion? The ability to protect innocent civilians from NATO attacks, or insulate them from the negative consequences and effects of the NATO military advance? The ability of NATO to provide and deliver the services and amenities of the central government to the displaced residents? Nonexistent.

What responsibility will the U.S. assume, if any, for the blowback to the Iraqi government for the U.S.-partnered attacks on the Iraqi population? More, importantly, how will airstrikes against the Sunni opposition targets help or further political progress in Iraq? How do we help the parties reconcile if we're merely going to line up on one side of their civil war?

In his remarks on the current Iraq situation, President Obama reemphasized his view that the solution to Iraq's security concerns "is not solely or even primarily a military challenge."

"Unfortunately, Iraq’s leaders have been unable to overcome too often the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there, and that’s created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government as well as their security force." he said.

"So, any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force. We can’t do it for them. And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action, including any assistance we might provide, won’t succeed."

It's not clear, however, that Maliki is willing or able to provide the political reconciliation that the president has outlined as requisite to him ordering any U.S. military action or assistance to the besieged government. If anything, Maliki's pleas for military assistance to quell the latest rebellion by pro-Sunni insurgent forces are just an invitation for the U.S. to resune its role as the government's protector and benefactor as he wages whatever retaliatory war he chooses against anyone who dares oppose his autocratic regime.

Syria, which was named by officials as a possible target for airstrikes, is no adversary of the Maliki regime. In fact, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki spent the majority of his 30 years of exile from Iraq in Syria as they opposed Saddam and allied with the U.S. in the first U.S. led campaign against the renegade puppet.

The entire rationale and practice of our soldiers were fighting and dying to provide 'room' for Iraqi political changes was covered by Obama's predecessor, Bush. The "breathing space" he said he was giving Iraqis was to ease tensions between the Shiites and the Sunnis. The main point of contention with the Sunnis was the lack of adequate representation in the government and their contention that the Shiite-dominated regime was bent on their community's destruction.

Since Maliki has reshuffled his regime and replaced the Sunnis who walked with Shiites and Kurds, there really can't be any effective reconciliation forthcoming. That makes the deaths of the thousands of Americans who fought and died to give the Maliki regime 'breathing space' a tragic waste.

The move also makes any suggestion of continuing on with a defense of this stacked alliance of Shiites and Kurds a complete ruse. There should be zero expectation of any reconciliation with Sunnis which would lead to any reduction in resistant violence, since Maliki's Shiite-dominated regime decided to completely turn their backs on the Sunnis and their demands and exclude them from the constitution.

The prospect of a working government in Iraq -- which would produce the concessions needed to carry out the reconciliation pipe-dream and reduce the resistant violence -- has always been dependent on the Shiite-dominated regime carving out more political room for the Sunni minority who regards the present regime as an enemy and intent on their community's destruction. Even if the entire Sunni bloc came back to Baghdad, there would still be divisions which are aggravated by the continued assaults on their community by Shiite militias splintered off from the government forces.

Whatever good government facade Maliki manages to cobble together, that effort shouldn't find any support from Congress or the American people for airstrikes or any other military action in Iraq while they wait for the Maliki regime to provide a more efficient mimic of democracy than they have, so far, behind the sacrifices of our nation's defenders and the devastating power of our weaponry.

Paint and spackle on the props in his collapsing Potemkin Village of democracy in Iraq shouldn't be allowed to provide cover for a reckless indifference to the Iraqi lives in the way of any U.S. military action designed to give Maliki's ruse of government 'breathing room'.

Oh, Mockingbirds!

This morning
two mockingbirds
in the green field
were spinning and tossing
the white ribbons
of their songs
into the air.
I had nothing
better to do
than listen.
I mean this
-Mary Oliver

MY catbird talks to me all day, every day, all season long.

He's been coming back to my yard for years and years. It's been so many years that I suspect it's been more than one bird learning our shared songs from the other. Everyone here calls him my bird . . . like I asked him to wake us at the break of dawn and plead almost endlessly with us for his attention every evening.

Like I can help it if he likes my choice of the evening music I play from my computer - He probably thinks its me strumming my guitar and singing with every husky-voiced melody that seeps out of the backdoor - soft and low like a seductive invitation to dance; or sweet and high to tenderly touch the yearning heights of his own sweet repertoire.

He didn't come the year after my father died, not one catbird paid me any mind - but the following year my catbird returned. He perched on a low branch above me, we both shared our year's experience together (in crazy song) for about a half-hour until I was exhausted. He never tires of singing out - and he's louder than the rest of the neighborhood birds.

He's taken to spotting me at the window at my computer, and, last year I startled him away from our outside gazebo because he was just so loud and annoying I couldn't hear myself think. He's a bit wary of me now. That's a good thing.

He's taken to following my wife to work, she believes . . . said she saw him perched atop a light post when she took her lunch break in her car. Must have been pretty hot up there because the poor thing singed its little feet and ended up kicking around in the construction dust in the road trying to cool them off.

Mockingbirds and catbirds do obsess on us when we interact with them. Best not to attract too much of their attention, I think. Better to let them get on with the business of interacting appropriately with their natural partners. Best to not encourage too much of our own compromised humanness in their expressions.

Better to just listen to them - but we can't really help talking back; I can't help it - I give him a playful scold once in a while and a sympathetic sound when he comes by the door squalling about something or the other. 'Whaaa! Whaaa!'

Yeah, man, I know.

Outside my front window is a little wren who comes back every year (same wren?) to stake out his territory in the little green birdhouse my dad and I painted a decade or more ago. He arrives each year with a gentle, sweet melody to entice a mate to share his home and later advantages his quest by amplifying the echo of his call through our open window.

Our independent little wren knows the songs that I play on my computer almost as as well as I know his own. He sings along in knowing agreement from the cypress as Annie Humphrey and John Trudell trade verses on 'Spirit Horses'; twittering with absolute glee as if he's harmonizing with old friends.

Mothers, fathers and children
Creatures young and grown
Called by mighty drumming
Of sacred hooves on stone
The sound of spirit horses
Dancing on a storm
Mercy for the people
Old ways, new dreams reborn

The sun is disappearing and my catbird is making its last entreaties for a nest to share. Atop the hill, a girl catbird alone, calls to the sun as it began to dip its head below the trees - but my catbird is lost in singing along with my deliberately quieter music; matching every tone and adding his own practiced and amazing scale of unearthly notes.

It's dark now, and not even my catbird dares respond to the enticing music that plays on - irregardless of the hour and oblivious to any peril of nature- and seeps out undisturbed into the quiet woods as all of the songbirds try and settle down to sleep. What must they think of me as I carelessly ramble on throughout most of the night?
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