Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Cost of War in Iraq

From the Institute for Policy Studies:

  • According to current estimates, the cost of the Iraq War could exceed $700 billion.
  • Operations costs in Iraq are estimated at $5.6 billion per month in 2005.
  • Congress has already approved four spending bills for Iraq with funds totaling $204.4 billion.

This is not merely an economic issue. When we spend money, we make moral choices. Consider this:

The $204.4 billion appropriated thus far for the war in Iraq could have purchased any of the following desperately needed services in our country:
  • 46,458,805 uninsured people receiving health care or
  • 3,545,016 elementary school teachers or
  • 27,093,473 Head Start places for children or
  • 1,841,833 affordable housing units or
  • 24,072 new elementary schools or
  • 39,665,748 scholarships for university students

How would Jesus have budgeted? To spend $204B on a war of choice which has not enhanced, and perhaps has undermined, the security of a nation? Or to spend $204B to uplift people in need?


Just War Theory and Iraq, Part II

A key principle of just war theory is that war must be undertaken as a last resort. It is feasible that in dealing with a crisis, all non-military options may be exhausted, or a party to the conflict may launch a military strike first, and the only viable option at that point may be war.

While that is clearly a possible case, it is not the case in regards to the US and Iraq.

Iraq presented no immediate threat to the United States.
  • Iraq had made no effort to attack a US interest since the 1993 planned assassination attempt on former President Bush.
  • The alleged connection between Iraq and September 11 was never supported by any credible evidence, and, of course, was later proven without foundation.
  • The alleged connection between Iraq and al Qaeda was equally spurious, with bin Laden having declared Hussein's government an 'apostate regime' that he wished to see overthrown with a Taliban style regime.
  • Even if the arguments about WMD had been accurate, which, of course, they were not, Iraq had shown no capability or intention to make use of such weapons against the US, and the US presence in the region, and with the 'no fly zones' had even been keeping Hussein in check in regards to his treatment of the Kurds in the north of Iraq and the Shia in the south.

That last point is key. With the stepped up efforts in the no fly zones, and the periodic strikes against targets in Iraq when Hussein did step out of line within Iraq's borders, Hussein was being contained.

The proper model for considering how to deal with Iraq was provided by the 'cold war' between the US and the Soviet Union. Dealing with the Soviets meant containing their threats, not destroying them. A comprehensive policy of military preparedness, international cooperation, and economic sanctions was largely effective in keeping the Soviet Union from posing an immediate threat to the United States. I know the analogy is not perfect, but it is close enough to be relevant. The US could have continued to contain Iraq through the sanctions regime and no fly zones.

Those who supported the war would sometimes say something to the effect, "This has been going on for 10 plus years." My reply, "So what?" Do we have a timetable on peace? If a policy had protected the US for 10 years, is it time to scrap that policy?

War Iraq a cause for concern? Yes. Was it an imminent threat that called for immediate action? No.

The US could have continued policies that had been working in dealing with Iraq, and, if necessary, could have explored other policies that did not call for a military invasion. The President and his advisers had another agenda, sought to tie Iraq to 9/11 even when the tie was not there, overplayed their hand on the issue of WMD, and drove this nation into a war that was not only unnecessary, but actually has made us less secure- according to the President's own intelligence advisers.

The war in Iraq was a war of choice, not a policy of last resort. As a result, the war in Iraq has failed a second criteria for a just war.


[See Part I of this series of posts here]

Monday, October 30, 2006

Interesing You Tube

Recently there was a 'fear ad' put out by the GOP trying to provoke fears of an impending terrorist attack- an attack that would be particularly likely if the Democrats took control of Congress, I presume.

Remember, the danger is always greatest in election season.

The first clip is a version of the 'fear ad' I saw.

The second clip is an inversion of that ad, using administration's own intelligence estimate.


Just War Theory and Iraq, Part I

One of the key components of a just war, according to just war theory (see my brief Introduction), is that a war must be undertaken by a legitimate and proper authority. While it may not seem apparent, the war in Iraq fails to meet even this relatively straightforward criteria.

The US has not declared war since World War II. Since the close of that war, however, our troops have been involved in many conflicts, perhaps most notably Korea, Vietnam. Each of these wars was a long conflict, and had high casualties, and yet there was never an official declaration of war- which caused problems in each case, but most especially in the case of Vietnam.

The Founding Fathers, when they wrote the US Constitution, had the wisdom to realize that (1) to prevent overly agressive use of the US military, and (2) to create the circumstances best suited to military success once a war had been undertaken, a unified government must be behind the war effort. The President was made commander-in-chief, but it is the responsibility of the Congress to declare war. The US Congress has abdicated that responsibility over the last 60 years.

The failure to follow constitutional guidelines has been very troublesome for the US in that through its abdication, the Congress has violated both of the Founders objectives. The US has engaged in military actions it should not have engaged in. Perhaps more importantly, the Congress has been able to adopt a "have your cake and eat it too" position.

In both the case of Vietnam and the current war in Iraq, the Congress provided a general "authorization" to the President to use military force. In each case, members of Congress, when the war began to go poorly, have been able to claim that the intended the authorization only as a threat, or that they didn't intend for the President to do what he did, or to go as far as he did.

The Framers of the US Constitution established a system of government based upon separation of powers. For our government to function as intended, each branch of government must fulfill its constitutional obligations. In the case of war, for a war to be legitimate under the Constitution, it must be declared by Congress. A declaration differs qualitatively from a mere authorization, expressing a will of the Congress, and of the people, that is, presumably, motivated by some very significant cause.

As the Congress has not declared war against Iraq, our invasion of that nation is not consistent with the US Constitution. As the invasion is not consistent with the Constitution, it is not a war conducted under legitimate authority.

Therefore, the war in Iraq fails the first criteria of just war theory.


Next Just War Principle: The war must be undertaken as a last resort.

Another sad day

U.S. troop death toll in Iraq for October hits 100
Blasts killed at least 35 people and wounded scores in Baghdad in one of bloodiest days in the capital in weeks.

The U.S. military said a Marine was killed in combat in western Anbar province on Sunday, bringing the monthly death toll to 100 -- the fourth deadliest for U.S. troops since the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

October was already the deadliest month since January 2005 when 107 U.S. troops were killed. The highest monthly toll was in November 2004 when 137 deaths were recorded.

Opinion polls show growing numbers of U.S. voters want to see the 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq starting to come home. Since the invasion which toppled Saddam Hussein, a total of 2,813 U.S. troops have been killed.

Time for this to end.

Of course, it never should have begun.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Just War and Iraq, An Introduction

Just War Theory is a long-standing concept in the Christian tradition designed to try and understand, morally, when it is appropriate to use mechanisms of war. There are some Christians who argue that there is no such thing as a "just" war, and reject this tradition. It appears as if most Christians in the modern world would accept the propriety of war under some circumstances. The question is, under what circumstances.

My plan, over the next several days, is to go point by point through Just War theory and apply that theory to the US invasion in Iraq.

My reason? I believe that I and others have too often gotten lost in tactical or strategic thinking, and moved too far away from moral thinking about the war. It is morality that matters above all else. If the morality of the decision was wrong, then there are no strategies that can make it right.

I believe our failure to focus on the morality of the decision to go to war in Iraq has been a great failing for our nation, and a consequence of this great failure has been other moral failures- such as the American acquiesence in the torture of detainees.

Only by focusing our minds and hearts squarely on the supreme moral issues can we hope to begin to swing ourselves around and move in the right direction.

Tomorrow I'll take on the first aspect of Just War Theory as it applies to the war in Iraq: A just war must be declared by a legitmate authority.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Michael J. Fox Responds

In an interview w/ CBS Evening News Michael J. Fox responds- with thoughtfulness and grade, to the meanspirited mischaracterizations of Limbaugh.

Judge for yourself- who represents a more Christian approach? Watch the interview of Fox below and Limbaugh's piece further below.


Verse for today

Verse of the Day: Love That Surpasses Knowledge
I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God

-Ephesians 3:18-19

Failure to spread democracy in Iraq

The President claims that we are winning in Iraq. We are not.

A key piece of evidence for this is the Taliban-like repression that is spreading in Iraq, perhaps worse for women than anyone else.

The selections below are from an article by AFP:

Gunmen broke into the house of an Iraqi women's rights campaigner and shot her dead in front of her three children, police have said.

Human rights activists say the lives of women in Iraqi society have worsened dramatically since the US-led invasion of March 2003, amid a general break down in law and order and the rise of conservative Islamist militias.

Captain Imad Khudhir of the Kirkuk police said Saturday 38-year-old Halima Ahmed Hussein al-Juburi was killed late on Friday by 10 unidentified attackers who broke into her home in the northern town of Hawijah.

"We do not know the motive behind the crime," he said.

Juburi was the head of the Human Rights organisation of Maternity and Childhood in Hawijah, a lawless town in an area plagued by violent Sunni insurgent groups. Her husband was not at home at the time of the attack.

Professional women and rights campaigners are often targeted by conservative Islamist groups who adhere to a strictly traditional view of women's role in society and use violence to drive women out of public life.

If the US cannot protect women as they seek to fulfill the oppotunities provided by their basic human rights, then the US is not spreading democracy and freedom into the region.

Clearly the invasion into Iraq in 2003 opened Pandora's box, releasing forces that our military and governmental leaders could not control.

Should they have known this. Absolutely. Even a cursory glance at the history of places like the Balkans after the collapse of Soviet domination shows the sort of unrest that was to be anticipated when a strong-arm despot like Hussein was removed from power.

Why not heed those lessons of history? Arrogance. "We know better how to manage this invasion. We are more 'right' than our predecessors. We will manage our goverment and this military action better than previous adminstrations could."

Pride goeth before a fall.

In this case, the Iraqis pay the price for the pride, and for the fall.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Rush Limbaugh

Limbaugh's attack on Michael J. Fox in the last week was as incredibly insensitive as it was ignorant.

In honor of this vile political attack, Limbaugh will surpass Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, and Nancy Grace on the personal boycott list, and move straight to the...

Grey Pilgrim Boycott Hall of Fame

Interesting Primer on Iraq Militias

Article here from the Council on Foreign Relations that provides some basic information about the Iraqi insurgency. Well worth a look.


Too Late

Republican Sen. John McCain, a possible 2008 presidential candidate, said Friday the United States should send another 20,000 troops to Iraq. [Source]

It's plausible that more boots on the ground at the initial occupation phase may have helped to prevent the large scale sectarian conflict that we see in Iraq now. Possible. Now, however, the time has passed. Hostility is too great. More troops in Iraq for a longer time will simply lead to a continuation of the violence.

A phased withdrawal is the only viable option facing us today.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Surprising Poll Result

A poll by La Moyne College and Zogby found 72% of US troops in Iraq believe that the US should be out of Iraq before 2006 ends.

Among Reserves 90% favor withdrawal compared to 83% of the National Guard, 70% of the Army, and 58% of the Marines. Moreover, about three-quarters of National Guard and Reserve units favor withdrawal within 6 months. 42% report feeling that their mission is 'hazy.'

The story of some US troops home on leave speaking out against the war has been in the news lately, but I'm a bit surprised by the poll's finding. They apparently used random sampling techniques and had a pretty standard size sample (nearly 1,000), so I have no specific reason to doubt the results.

If a war becomes this unpopular among the troops, it seems hard to see how it will be prosecuted successfully.



“Who would Jesus torture?”

The Rev. Neal Jones thinks he knows the answer to the question posted on the bumpers of some passing cars: No one.

He and his parishioners at Columbia’s Unitarian Universalist Fellowship say they are alarmed about the detention, treatment and trial of terrorist suspects and worry that the continuing debate will lower America’s stature in the world.

“To me, it’s our Christian duty to criticize our government when it is going astray,” Jones said. “That is our prophetic duty.”

US World Leader- In Torture?

Several governments around the world have tried to rebut criticism of how they handle detainees by claiming they are only following the U.S. example in the war on terror, the U.N. anti-torture chief said Monday.

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator on torture, said that when he criticizes governments for their questionable treatment of detainees, they respond by telling him that if the United States does something, it must be all right. He would not name any countries except for Jordan.

“The United States has been the pioneer, if you wish, of human rights and is a country that has a high reputation in the world,” Nowak told a news conference. “Today, many other governments are kind of saying, ‘But why are you criticizing us, we are not doing something different than what the United States is doing?’”

This was an entirely predictable outcome of the President's questioning of the language of the Geneva Conventions and his efforts to seize authority to define torture as he sees fit. He was asked at a press conference if he was comfortable with having other nations define torture in their own was as he was seeking to do. He avoided the question. He can avoid it no longer. He'll be asked the question very directly when a US soldier is seized somewhere in the world. And he'll be asked by the family of that soldier.

Below are the President's words in response to the question of his becoming the 'decider' on what is torture.


More from the State of Denial

From AFP:

US President George W. Bush insisted "we're winning and we will win" in Iraq, as he defended his handling of the war two weeks before key mid-term elections in the United States.

"We're winning and we will win, unless we leave before the job is done," Bush said in a White House press conference.

We are not winning (the death toll for US troops topped 2,800 today, with 91 this month). That is the problem. That is why members of the Administration are beginning to talk about a 'timetable'- which, only a few months ago, was something only those who wanted the terrorists could do, according to the same Administration.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Important story

But will people pay attention?

This is incredibly important regarding the morality- or lack thereof- of the US treatment of detainees, and, in fact, the morality of our nation.

Will we, as a people, stand by while our values are undermined and our reputation around the world is damaged- by our own government?

Selections from the MSNBC article (which you should read for yourself):

[F]ormer leaders of the Defense Department’s Criminal Investigation Task Force said they repeatedly warned senior Pentagon officials beginning in early 2002 that the harsh interrogation techniques used by a separate intelligence team would not produce reliable information, could constitute war crimes, and would embarrass the nation when they became public knowledge.

The investigators say their warnings began almost from the moment their agents got involved at the Guantanamo prison camp, in January 2002. When they could not prevent the harsh interrogations and humiliation of detainees at Guantanamo, they say, they tried in 2003 to stop the spread of those tactics to Iraq, where abuses at Abu Ghraib prison triggered worldwide outrage with the publishing of graphic photos in April 2004.

The law enforcement agents, who were building criminal cases against the detainees, also say that military prosecutors told them that abusive interrogations at Guantanamo compromised the chance to bring some suspected terrorists to trial. Among them, the agents say, is Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi whom the Pentagon has described as the intended 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Key points raised by the article:
  • The abuse began almost immediately at Gitmo.
  • The statements by law enforcement agents links the treatment that has taken place at Gitmo with what we have all seen was done at Abu Ghraib.
  • The abuse of prisoners- in the opinion of the law enforcement experts- undermines potential prosecution of people involved in terrorism. In other words, American security is undermined, not enhanced, by the abuse.

I'm interested in seeing how this story develops.

As I said earlier... People hide things when they have something to hide.

For a related story about Guantanamo abuse, watch the interview below.


A bad sign for Iraq

From Reuters:

More than three million Iraqis who have been forced to flee their homes to other areas of Iraq and to neighbouring countries are facing what the United Nations' refugee agency (UNHCR) describes as a "very bleak future" after the agency's budget for offices across the region was halved for the coming year.

"Iraq has seen the largest and most recent displacement of any UNHCR project in the world, yet even as more Iraqis are displaced and as their needs increase, the funds to help them are decreasing," said [Andrew] Harper [coordinator for the Iraq unit at UNHCR]. "This growing humanitarian crisis has simply gone under the radar screen of most donors."

UNHCR estimates that more than 1.5 million Iraqis are internally displaced in Iraq, including some 800,000 who fled their homes prior to 2003 and 750,000 who have fled since. A further 1.6 million Iraqis are refugees in neighbouring countries, the majority in Syria and Jordan.

This extreme dislocation of Iraqis is a sign not only of a failure of the Rumsfeld Doctrine (of minimum troop involvement) and a general failure of the US policy in Iraq, but it is an ominous sign of things to come. Right now, Iraq is in a violence driven chaos. Government is rendered ineffective (except at massive fraud, apparently). Ethnically, the people of Iraq are angry and frightened.

Eventually, these displaced individuals will return. That will, at best, produce a humanitarian crisis that the new Iraqi government will not be able to handle. At worst, it will produce a new wave of sectarian violence.

This crisis is yet another failure for which the US government is responsible.


Wisked away...

From The Times of London:

Londoner was victim of secret CIA rendition
A FORMER inmate of the Guantanamo Bay camp has been identified as the first British citizen known to have been subjected to the CIA’s practice of rendition — the capture and transfer of terrorism suspects across the world without legal process.

Newly revealed flight logs of a CIA Gulfstream executive jet — detailed in a book to be published this week — indicate that it was used in April 2002 to transport Martin Mubanga, a Londoner now aged 33, to Guantanamo after he was captured in Zambia.

I fail to understand the reasoning for the secrecy of someone like this. If they are terror suspects and the government has a reason to believe they would do us harm, wouldn't they want to trumpet their 'catch' both for political reasons and as a message to the terrorists?

My experience: People hide things when they have something to hide.


Rising death toll in Iraq

From AP:

The U.S. military announced the deaths of a Marine and four soldiers, raising to 83 the number of American servicemembers killed in October — the highest monthly toll this year. The pace of U.S. deaths could make October the deadliest month in two years.

Good thing we've made so many friends in Iraq, right, Mr. Cheney? Just think how many people would have died if they didn't like us.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Close to the Grey Pilgrim's Heart

The Grey Pilgrim always loves a Lord of the Rings analogy. Well, so he thought.

Recently Sen. Santorum of Penn. drew what he thought was an apt parallel between Tolkein's tale and the war in Iraq. He was mistaken in this thought.

For an appropriate treatment of this analogy, we turn to Stephen Colbert.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

An Unusual Democrat

One who will actually talk about religious values. Worth a listen.


More on Controversial Study

I recently indicated that I was suspicious of a study indicating that 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the invasion of Iraq. The President's number of 30,000 is laughable (but par for the course in terms of an honest representation), but I just can't see 655,000 based upon the news resources I look at.

The authors of the study have offered a defense of their research. While I don't find that it changes my view, it may influence yours, so I provide the link here.


State of Reality

The State of Denial is not holding among the American people- if not in terms of morality, at least in terms of strategy.

[The war in Iraq is] the top voter issue just over two weeks ahead of elections, nearly two in three Americans (65 percent) say the United States is losing the battle to establish security and democracy there, a poll showed.

Fifty-four percent of those surveyed in the latest Newsweek poll believed that
President George W. Bush had made the wrong decision in invading Iraq in 2003, while 39 percent thought he had made the right decision.

[Source: AFP]

Unfortunately too many of that 54% are probably reaching their conclusion for the wrong reasons. The war was not wrong because it has turned out badly. That, I believe, is what has driven the 'decision was wrong' number into a majority.

The war was wrong because it was morally/ethically/politically unjustified, based upon poor information and misinformation.

I'm afraid that this survey result has done nothing to mitigate my earlier argument that there is a general failure in the US to see a moral issue as a moral issue, and to be sufficiently introspective to recognize that a serious mistake in moral judgment has been made.



Why aren't Pro-Life groups- at the very least- asking serious questions about the war in Iraq?

Why isn't the war in Iraq- which is the greatest moral issue of our day- generating profound religious/moral discussion in our society, led by groups that claim to have moral issues as their reason for being?

How can anyone be wasting his/her time on what has to be a lower order moral issue like gay marriage when 100+ people a day are being killed in Iraq?

The absence of voices of dissent from groups that claim to represent moral concerns in America makes me feel as if those groups don't express moral concerns at all, but merely political ones ('get out the base'). True moral leadership would not be 'single-issue' oriented. A moral vision is a broad vision. Moral vision seems to be lacking right now in the US. That's why an immoral invasion and an immoral policy of torturing detainees are mere political issues for our nation, and not the questions of conscience that they should be.


Too Late

From Reuters:

President George W. Bush met on Saturday with top U.S. military commanders to discuss the Iraq war and said he would "make every necessary change" in tactics to try to control spiraling violence there.

It is too late for a change in tactics now. I'm growing in my belief that the only viable tactic at this point is an organized, but speedy, withdrawal.

Yes, the situation in Iraq will probably worsen upon the US withdrawal. However, it will not improve while the US remains on the ground in Iraq. So long as the US is there, there will be no need for Iraqis to come to terms with each other.

And yes, once the US is out of Iraq it will in fact be more dangerous to US interests than it was during the days of Saddam Hussein. But that is already the case, and there is no reversing that now.

The two previous points are not good news. That is the fault of the President.

First, the invasion of Iraq should never have been undertaken:
  • It fails to meet the traditional standards for the US invasion of a nation, and fails to meet moral standards such as Christian 'just war theory.'
  • Even if the arguments about WMD were true regarding Iraq, the invasion was not justified because the alleged links to terror (Saddam and al-Qaeda links or Saddam and 9/11 links) were always spurious. There was never any serious evidence of a 9/11 link and al-Qaeda/Bin Laden had always been critical of Saddam and the only al-Qaeda presence in Iraq was in the North (the Kurdish area) in opposition to Saddam.
  • If the invasion had been truly necessary, then scare tactics like 'the smoking gun may be a mushroom cloud' (then National Sec. Advisor Rice) would not have been necessary. The TRUTH would have made the case, not falsehoods.

Second, once this invasion was going to be undertaken despite traditional American principles and morality, then it should have been undertaken with troops sufficient to complete the task (if it was ever really going to be possible).

  • Advice of generals should have been followed, rather than permitting the arrogant theories of Rumsfeld to rule the day.
  • Precedents of peace-keeping efforts in Eastern Europe should have provided guidance to troop numbers, rather, again, that the arrogant theories of Rumsfeld.

Now, the Iraq invasion can only be deemed a failure. Continued presence will not achieve US goals. The only viable option is withdrawal.


Friday, October 20, 2006

A Frustrated Blogger

I've not posted a lot recently (though there are some new posts immediately below). In large part that's because while there's news, none of it is new. More death in Iraq. More deception about the situation in Iraq from the government. And then more death. And more deception. You get the point.

It's truly discouraging. I keep reading the reports daily and feel like the life is being sucked out of me. A glimmer of sunshine will peak through the dark clouds (like the Conscience Republicans who seemed prepared to stand up to the President on the torture bill) only to disappear as quickly as it can be noticed.

Michigan winters are a bit like this. Not enough sunshine. People grow dark with the sky. The depth of winter is still months away in Michigan.

Just as darker days are ahead for Michigan as winter approaches, the clouds still seem to be darkening for the US because of the Administration's policies in Iraq.

The first ray of light that may actually last would be the TRUTH.

Feeling discouraged,

Undisclosed Location Unveiled...

VP Cheney lives in the State of Denial.

From AP

US Vice President Dick Cheneytold US soldiers newly returned from Iraq that they had built "bonds of friendship" with Iraqis that may help win the war.

"Having been on the ground, all of you know that we've made progress -- not easily, but steadily. And we can be confident going forward,"

I don't question that individual soldiers have established good relations with Iraqis. But the notion that a friendly relationship has been established in Iraq is absolutely preposterous. Is that why October is on its way to being the bloodiest for US troops since the initial invasion?

What is he seeing to report that 'we've made progress... steadily"? I haven't heard ANYONE step to a microphone recently and make such a ridiculous statement. A British general says that our presence there is the problem, and Cheney says this?? Unbelievable.

The truly sad thing is that he knows what he said is preposterous, ridiculous, and unbelievable. He has to know it. And yet he says it anyways.

That's what passes for moral leadership in Washington, DC these days.

And this is where the parallel between Iraq and Vietnam becomes incredibly obvious (see below).


A Strong Statement

From ElectronicIraq:

It's frightening that, at this time and in this nation, torture must be discussed as if it were a legitimate issue. What's next -- the pros and cons of child molestation?

Iraq and Vietnam

Reuters reports that the President sees a parallel between Iraq and Vietnam. He's not the only one.

President Bush says he sees a possible parallel in the increase in violence in Iraq and the 1968 Tet offensive that prompted Americans to lose support for the Vietnam War.

Asked in an ABC News interview on Wednesday whether he agreed with an opinion by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that the current violence in Iraq was "the jihadist equivalent of the Tet offensive," Bush said: "He could be right."

"There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we're heading into an election," Bush said.

The explosive violence of the Tet Offensive and October in Iraq is not the only parallel.

Perhaps more important is the presistent misrepresentation of the situation in Vietnam/Iraq. This misrepresentation has led many to be more surprised by the violence than they should be.

When will they learn in Washington? It's always the cover-up. Always.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Torture law is signed.

President George W. Bush signed a law on Tuesday authorizing tough interrogation and prosecution of terrorism...

Where does 'tough interrogation' stop and torture begin? The President blurs the line.

So we are reduced to fighting over a word, “torture”. President George W Bush’s preferred terminology is “alternative interrogation techniques” or “coercive interrogation” or “harsh interrogation methods”...

Here is Bush defining torture in a speech he gave in June 2003: “The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, ratified by the United States and more than 130 other countries since 1984, forbids governments from deliberately inflicting severe physical or mental pain or suffering on those within their custody or control.”

So what is “severe physical or mental pain or suffering”? The president does not apparently believe that strapping someone to a board, tipping them upside down and pouring water repeatedly over Cellophane wrapped over their face is severe suffering.

The CIA confirms that most suspects cannot last much more than 30 seconds of the drowning sensation. But no marks are left. So that is not “torture”.

The signing of this legislation is a major step backwards for this nation.

It is also a significant blow to American Christianity, as this President has so closely identified himself with Christian groups.

If, as Christians, we sit idly by, then it is a major step backward for the faith as well.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Evidence to support Pollack's argument

From AP today:

Four days of sectarian slaughter killed at least 91 people by Monday in Balad, a town near a major U.S. air base an hour's drive north of the capital. Elsewhere, 60 Iraqis died in attacks and 16 tortured bodies were found.

The U.S. command said seven American troops died in fighting a day earlier. That raised the U.S. toll to 58 killed in the first two weeks of October, a pace that if continued would make the month the worst for coalition forces since 107 U.S. and 10 British soldiers died in January 2005.

Iraqi deaths also are running at a high rate. According to an Associated Press count, 708 Iraqis have been reported killed in war-related violence this month, or just over 44 a day, compared to a daily average of more than 27 since the AP began tracking deaths in April 2005.

How can we find a 'stay the course' strategy acceptable?

In addition to Pollack (see the post below) the word is that former Sec. of State James Baker (served under the current President's father) will be coming forward with a report soon calling for a change of course. We'll see what the details of that are when it is released. This advance 'word' of what the report may contain could well be to mute it's impact upon release.

Perhaps the 'wisdom' in Washington is beginning to shift- shift enough to end the current misadventure sooner rather than later.


A Dramatic Shift

Supporters of the invasion in Iraq are now beginning to see things differently. Sen. Warner of Virginia dipped his toe cautiously in the water. Now a much more significant re-assessment.

Kenneth M. Pollack, director of research and senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and a leading expert on the Persian Gulf area, says Iraq is now in a low-level civil war, and it is looking increasingly doubtful that the United States “can break out of this downward trajectory.”

Pollack, who wrote The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq in 2002, says he wrestles every day with whether he should have written that book. He says what would “justify this war would be getting the reconstruction right, would be creating an Iraq that is stable, that is safer, that is more prosperous than it was under Saddam.” But Pollack says the country appears headed in the opposite direction. “I’m afraid the result that we’re headed toward in Iraqis that it’s going to be even worse off than it was under Saddam Hussein,” he says.

It's a powerful interview.

"Stay the course," the President says.

The recognition is growing that we must change course before we drive off the cliff.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sorry, I've been busy, but...

I still have some interesting articles to highlight about Iraq and other issues regarding the "war" on terrorism.

Pentagon inspector general orders Guantanamo probe
The Pentagon's Inspector General ordered an investigation into alleged abuse at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay that holds suspected Taliban and al Qaeda members, a spokesman said on Friday.

The order followed a statement last week from a U.S. Marine saying Guantanamo guards described physically and mentally abusing detainees, including slamming one inmate's head into a cell door and denying others privileges just to anger them.

The Marine's sworn statement was released by lawyers for detainees last week.

Perhaps the President won't be able to avoid oversight- even though the Congress refused to step up to the plate with their recent vote.

UK army chief says troops should leave Iraq

Britain's army chief said the presence of British troops in Iraq was exacerbating security problems on the ground and they should be withdrawn soon.

53% of Americans agree with him. The other 47% will get on board soon if things continue as they have in recent weeks.

Iran says U.S. incites Sunni-Shi'ite strife in Iraq

Before dismissing this statement ('consider the source'), remember that Pres. Bush's intelligence officials essentially agreed (see here and here).

Bush 0-for-3 With 'Axis of Evil'

Remember when the President told us about the Axis of Evil? 0 for 3 is a pretty poor batting average. And he's 0 for 3 because his policy has been disasterous in Iraq. Had he made a different choice about Iraq, he may have stood a chance on the other two. But because of Iraq, he's virtually without options in Iran and North Korea, and the option he does have- multilateralism through the UN- is the option he completely undermined with his rhetoric to justify his Iraq invasion.

Hope you can take a look at the articles for yourself. Right now the bad news regarding Iraq and terrorism in general seems to be coming down like and avalanche. Not at all good to see.


From my Inbox

Start learning to love God by loving those whom you cannot love. The more you remember others with kindness and generosity, the more you forget yourself, and when you completely forget yourself, you find God.

~ Meher Baba

Thursday, October 12, 2006

President's State of Denail Exposed

Watch this news segment from CNN. The President's selective choice of "reality" is exposed. A CNN 'on the ground' source indicates that the President's 'on the ground' sources, aren't really so grounded.

And another piece from the same CNN reporter that deals with the same basic question.


Controversial Findings

A recent study published by Johns Hopkins University has found that somewhere near 655,000 Iraqis have died since the US invasion in March, 2003.

You can read the entire report here. An appendix with methodology can be found here.

I'm not prepared to assert an opinion about the study. I think we need to know more. For now, I'm dubious.

First, this finding is about 10 times the number that even most war critics report. The highest estimate I had seen previously was approximately 100,000- 1/6 the result of the present study.

Second, according to the Washington Post, "This is about 500 unexpected violent deaths per day throughout the country." That is an average. I have never heard of a single day where 500 deaths were reported- except perhaps during the initial invasion itself. In terms of the insurgency and terrorist acts and US military activities- I don't recall a day with a death toll so high, and certainly not sufficient numbers of days to make 500 the average.

Third, as a student of the American civil war, in which approximately 600,000 Americans died, I have read about battles in which thousands of lives were lost- sometimes in mere minutes. I have heard of nothing of that scale happening in Iraq. In other words, I just don't see events likely to yeild the sort of result the study finds.

That said, I suspect the number of dead is higher than the 40,000 to 60,000 commonly reported- and certainly higher than the 30,000 number the President sticks to. Why? Because those numbers are generally based upon body counts, and people who are injured and die later may not be included in those counts. Also because of the cultural tradition of having quick burials in the region getting accurate counts may be difficult. And, finally and perhaps most importantly, because no governmental or military agencies- US or Iraqi- have an interest in allowing high counts to become common knowledge. Supression of statistics is where the incentive is to be found.

I think that we in America do not know how many Iraqi civilians have been killed by military activities or by sectarian violence. Much of that is because, I fear, most Americans would not really want to know. The Iraqi death toll is high enough to reflect poorly on our policy in Iraq, and in our decision to invade that country.

For example, a more reliable statistic would be as follows:

2,660 Iraqi civilians killed in September...an increase of 400 over the month before, according to figures from the Iraqi Health Ministry....By comparison, 2,222 people died violently in August in Baghdad, according to a U.N. report published in September, which is also based on official statistics from the Health Ministry.The deadliest month was July, when 3,590 people were killed across the country — 2,884 of them in Baghdad, according to the U.N. The number killed countrywide fell in August to 3,009, the U.N. said.

If every month were like that worst month, then approximately 158,000 Iraqis would have died in violence since the US invasion (again showing why I find the 655,000 number to be improbable). Of course every month has not been like that worst month, which is why I believe the 100,000 figure, plus or minus, is a more reliable one. And a devastating one in terms of evaluating US policy. In terms of life and death, can the average Iraqi feel more safe now than they did under Saddam?

The death in Iraq demonstrates a broken promise from the Bush Administration to the Iraqi people. He promised them the safety and security that comes with freedom. He has given them none of the above. How thrilled the Iraqis must be to hear that the US Army is developing plans to stay in Iraq until 2010.

That way the US can continue to bring them 'none of the above' for another 4 years.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

And not only Iraqis are dying...

3 U.S. Marines, 2 soldiers die in Iraq

The deaths of the three soldiers brought to at least 37 the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq since the start of October.

The death toll for US soldiers now exceeds 2,750.


Continuing Violence in Iraq

Dozens of bodies found in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi police found 50 bodies dumped across Baghdad on Tuesday, apparent victims of sectarian death squads, and a bombing at a bakery in the capital killed 10 people in the biggest single attack of the day.

The discovery of the bodies, many tortured and all shot, brought to at least 110 the number found in Baghdad in the past two days, an Interior Ministry official said.

Sec. of State Rice today told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the situation in Iraq is not hurting US efforts to deal with the North Korean nuclear situation.

BLITZER: You know a lot of analysts believe the U.S. has been weakened in dealing with North Korea and Iran by its involvement in Iraq.

RICE: I just don't understand this argument. The United States is quite capable of taking care of several problems simultaneously. Iraq was a desire to finally deal with a threat that had been there for too long. Too many Security Council resolutions violated.

How could she not understand the argument? Point one, the world- and of course the North Koreans and Iranians- can see that the US is bogged down in Iraq and limited in what it can do elsewhere as the US military is stretched too thin. Point two, it is obvious that the US has not been able to handle the military situation in Iraq, virtually eliminating any military threat to any other nation that now expands its WMD programs- the military clearly cannot handle another country since it unable to handle the two (Afghanistan and Iraq) already on its agenda, and the US population has already soured on the current wars and is not likely to be open to additional conflicts.

Again, Woodward's book title is right on the money- State of Denial.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Death Toll

2,748 soldiers in Iraq have been killed since the invasion in '03.

Are we will still paying attention? Or are we too lost in the details of an e-mail sex scandal in America to pay attention to such life and death matters?

(Sorry, I said I wouldn't mention that again.)


While Distracted in Iraq

A nation that really has WMD has tested a nuclear weapon- North Korea.

The world just got a little more dangerous.


Voice of Reason?

Senator Warner demonstrates that perhaps I retired the 'Conscience Republican' label too hastily after the failure to stop the torture bill in Congress. In this video I first saw at Andrew Sullivan's blog, he shows a crack in the Republican armor on the war.

He's wrong on one key point, however: the time to ask the serious question is not in a couple of months. The time is now.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

More on Amish Forgiveness

In an earlier post, I reflected on the leadership the Amish community is demonstrating for us all in the wake of the murder of their children in Pennsylvania.

Today, this from CNN.

GEORGETOWN, Pennsylvania (AP) -- Dozens of Amish neighbors gathered Saturday to mourn the quiet milkman who killed five of their young girls and wounded five more in a brief, unfathomable rampage.

About half of perhaps 75 mourners on hand were Amish.

"It's the love, the forgiveness, the heartfelt forgiveness they have toward the family. I broke down and cried seeing it displayed," said Bruce Porter, a fire department chaplain from Morrison, Colorado, who had come to Pennsylvania to offer what help he could and attend the burial. He said Marie Roberts was also touched. "She was absolutely deeply moved, by just the love shown," Porter said.

The Amish continue to show us all the meaning of Christian love and forgiveness- the truest kind which is given at the most difficult times.


One and Only Post on Foley Scandal

I'm only going to deal with this topic once, because, despite the mainstream media obsession I don't really believe this is a national story. In fact, the story is the obsession.

The medial love these lurid stories a bit too much. You can almost see the joy on anchors' faces as they get to talk a sex scandal, hint at what is going on, and then piously declare that the details aren't 'appropriate for broadcast.'

This is really, or at least it should be, a law enforcement issue, and an issue for the districts of the members of Congress involved. Foley has resigned and a jury may decide his fate (and the media obsession only hurts the functioning of the judicial process). The role of any of the House leadership is for a jury and the members of their districts to pass judgment on. The young page is a victim and does not deserve to be outed or have his motives questioned by the talking heads of the evening cable news shows.

Most importantly, this is a tragic event, and perhaps a criminal one. It is not proper to treat this event as a political horse race issue. No journalists who spend their time asking/answering the question, "How does this affect the chances of the Republicans to maintain control of the Congress?" deserve to be considered serious journalists.

For the rest of us, this is merely a distraction. The list of important national issue we face is long. The fact that this current scandal could knock the war in Iraq/Afghanistan or nuclear crises brewing in Iran and North Korea out of the headlines is a national embarrasment.


Christianity in American Politics

If Christianity is supposed to be a ministry of reconciliation and has become, instead, a divisive force in American political life, something is terribly wrong, and we should correct it. I thinkk there are two aspects to what is wrong: first, our certainty that our political agenda must be God's agenda, and, second, our ineffectiveness in proclaiming the message of reconciliation.
Senator John Danforth
from Faith and Politics

Garrison Keillor

You should read Keillor's piece on the torture bill passed by the Senate recently. A couple of selections:

The U.S. Senate, in all its splendor and majesty, decided that an "enemy combatant" is any non-citizen whom the president says is an enemy combatant, including your Korean greengrocer or your Swedish grandmother or your Czech au pair, and can be arrested and held for as long as authorities wish without any right of appeal to a court of law to examine the matter.

None of the men and women who voted for this bill has any right to speak in public about the rule of law anymore, or to take a high moral view of the Third Reich, or to wax poetic about the American Ideal. Mark their names. Any institution of higher learning that grants honorary degrees to these people forfeits its honor.

Read the whole thing.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Leading by example

Here is a model that the rest of us in America may want to look at. Victims of terrorism engaging in forgiveness.

Lesson of forgiveness in slayings of Amish

An unusual word has come to dominate TV coverage of the terrible murders of five girls in a one-room schoolhouse in Pennsylvania’s Amish country.


Chris Cuomo used it Wednesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” reporting that the “Amish believe others will see a glimpse of Christ’s love in their forgiveness, an instinct that is galvanizing this community.”

“The Sermon on the Mount is really their code, their Christian code,” [a guest on Larry King] explained. “And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus admonished us in that sermon, he said that we needed to forgive others as God forgives us. That we have to be careful to forgive others their sins against us, or God will not forgive us.”

A lesson for us all.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Evidence Supporting the Leaked NIE

A weak or so ago a leaked national intelligence estimate that said the war in Iraq was hurting, not helping, in dealing with global terrorism. Why did the intelligence community believe this was true?

How Al Qaeda views a long Iraq war
A letter from Al Qaeda leaders found in Iraq shows that the group sees the war as a boon for its cause.

[A] letter that has been translated and released by the US military indicates that Al Qaeda itself sees the continued American presence in Iraq as a boon for the terror network, which has recently shown signs of expanding into the Palestinian territories and North Africa.

"The most important thing is that the jihad continues with steadfastness ... indeed, prolonging the war is in our interest," says the [letter].

Time to develop a policy that doesn't play into the hands of those who would do us harm.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

This isn't torture??

Forget the euphemisms. Our President endorses torture by allowing the practice of waterboarding. Our Congress is a co-conspirator.

Watch the video below to see what our government says is simply an aggressive interrogation technique. (Thanks to Andrew Sullivan)


New Low for the Westboro Hate Church

I've mentioned this hate-church before (see here and here), but now they've really reached rock bottom. In the past they've tried to desecrate the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq. This time they considered targeting the funerals of the children killed in the Amish school shooting in Pennsylvania.

The controversial anti-homosexual Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., has canceled its plans to stage a protest at the funerals of the five Amish girls executed in their Pennsylvania school, a church official said Wednesday.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, the daughter of church's pastor, told FOXNews.com the group canceled the protests in exchange for an hour of radio time Thursday on
syndicated talk-show host Mike Gallagher's radio program.

"We're not going to any of the Amish funerals- that's the agreement we're making- that we won't go to any of them," Phelps-Roper told FOXNews.com.

Apparently hate isn't enough. They've now turned to extortion. They even lack the principles of a true hate group- they'll trade their protest away for a little air time. There's no hothievesng theives.

Of course, the agreement doesn't stop them from rubbing salt in the open wound of the Amish community:

"Those Amish people, everyone is sitting around talking about those poor little girls -blah, blah, blah - they brought the wrath upon themselves," Phelps-Roper said, adding that the Amish "don't serve God, they serve themselves."
Incredibly mean-spirited. As a college professor points out later in the article, this act of murder is in no way connected to their anti-gay agenda. They are merely exploiting the issue in the most crass way possible.


Woodward got this right.

Tucked away in fine print in the military spending bill for this past year was a lump sum of $20 million to pay for a celebration in the nation’s capital “for commemoration of success” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Whoever's responsible for that $20M, they're definitely in a 'state of denial.'


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Grey Pilgrim in Syndication

If you use a RSS feeder, like NewsGator, for example, and wish to have the contents of this blog delivered to you, you may do so by copying the following address and adding it to the content you wish to receive:


The Grey Pilgrim is not the most technologically savy person in this world (or Middle Earth), so you're on your own from here. But, if it works for you, great.

(For the record, I did load the above address into my NewsGator site and it worked as advertised.)

So, the Grey Pilgrim is in syndication, but not re-runs.


Compare the tragedy

Today we collectively mourn the loss of life at an Amish school in Pennsylvania. 5 girls killed. At least 5 others wounded. Tragic by any definition.

In Iraq today, at least 113 bodies were found in Baghdad, Kut, and elsewhere. 113 people kidnaped, tortured, and executed. 80 people were killed yesterday in the sectarian violence- approximately 60 execution style and the others in bombings and other violence.

I report these side by side not to diminish the events in Pennsylvania in any way. In the last week we have had three incidents in schools in the US in which people have died. We are properly focused on the tragedy of those events and how to prevent them.

Think of how people in Iraq must feel. They hurt when people die just as we do. They feel the pain, and the fear, created by violence.

We must figure out what to do about that violence as well.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Wisdom of Franklin

"Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”
- Benjamin Franklin

How about those who sacrifice human rights to gain security?

"[W]aterboarding," which is a particularly amusing name, redolent of skateboarding, snowboarding, all sorts of lesser entertainments. It involves killing a man - drowning him - many times, without his actually expiring. The process was not invented by the Khmer Rouge: it has a long and honorable pedigree, dating back to the Spanish Inquisition. But my friends in the Killing Fields were the first true moderns to incorporate this practice: to make it an integral part of the body politic....

Terror is a simple business. All you have to do is drip water into a cloth held over a man's face, and he will feel - he will know - that he is drowning. It is false knowledge, yes, but it has the force of truth. And to know that you are dying, being executed, is an astonishingly terrible thing....

I think the quote could be accurately changed to read, "Those who desire to give up human rights in order to gain freedom will not have, nor do they deserve, either one."

All Americans must continue to speak out against the human rights abuses perpetrated by our government at Guantanamo Bay and secret CIA prisons so that our security is not further compromised. The President is not 'protecting our families' by permitting torture. Nor is the Congress by giving him the latitude to do so. By allowing for the abuse of human rights and dignity, they are increasing the danger we face.


Sunday, October 01, 2006


This is the torture that the US Congress lacked the courage and morality to stop. Of course the 'Decider-in-Chief' has declared it's not torture.

Source David Corn.