Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Time to Wander

The Grey Pilgrim, Mrs. Pilgrim, and the Young Pilgrims are going to wander a bit for a holiday vacation. During that time I'll be hoping to create a peaceful mind for the Christmas season- despite the often unpeaceful world that surrounds us.

So, for now...

The love and affection of the angels be to you,
The love and affection of the saints be to you,
The love and affection of heaven be to you,
To guard and to cherish you.
May God shield you on every step,
May He aid you on every path,
And may He hold you safe on every slope,
On every hill and on every plain;
On earth and on sea until we meet again.


For What?

Costs for Iraq war approach record: U.S. official

U.S. costs for the Iraq war are likely to exceed $110 billion this year, approaching the record reached in the fiscal year that just ended, White House budget director Rob Portman told reporters on Tuesday.

What exactly is the return that the American people are getting on this investment?


Sign of the Failure

The US can't even keep the power on in Baghdad.
Iraq Insurgents Starve Capital of Electricity

Over the past six months, Baghdad has been all but isolated electrically, Iraqi officials say, as insurgents have effectively won their battle to bring down critical high-voltage lines and cut off the capital from the major power plants to the north, south and west.
Last week even the official United States State Department figures, which many Iraqis contend lean toward the optimistic side, said there was an average of 6.6 hours of electricity per day in Baghdad and 8.9 hours nationwide.
Perhaps instead of 30,000 extra troops, the US should send 30,000 electricians.


"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."
Henry David Thoreau 

Iraq attacks are at a record high

Violent attacks in Iraq have soared to the highest level on record, the Pentagon said in a quarterly report, describing Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia as the single largest threat to stability.
The report, titled "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq," said there was an average of 959 attacks per week between August 12 and November 10, the highest recorded level of attacks since Congress ordered the Pentagon to issue the reports in 2005.

There was a 22 percent jump in attacks compared to the three preceding months, according to the report released Monday.

Are 30,000 additional troops at this late stage going to change the course of events in any significant way?  No. 
Sending additional US troops is only the latest in steps that reflects a state of denial when it comes to accepting the obvious.
Policy failure.



As of Monday, Dec. 18, 2006, at least 2,949 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,360 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.
The latest deaths reported by the military:
• A soldier died Friday in Anbar province.
• A Marine died Saturday in Anbar province.
• A soldier was killed Monday when his vehicle rolled over north of Baghdad.

Monday, December 18, 2006


If we are serious about peace, then we must work for it as ardently, seriously, continuously, carefully, and bravely as we have ever prepared for war.
Wendell Berry

The Danger of Global Warming

Climate change will increase the frequency and ferocity of bushfires causing further damage to Australia's environment, according to a report from a policy research institute.
We in the US have serious problems in certain regions with wildfires.  Could we, like Australia, experience more difficulties due to climate change?
Do we really want to find out?


Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.
Mark Twain

Sunday, December 17, 2006


"It's grave and deteriorating," Colin Powell said on CBS News' "Face the Nation" today. "And as Secretary-designate of Defense Bob Gates said at his confirmation hearing, we're not winning. So if it's grave and deteriorating and we're not winning, we are losing.

"We haven't lost," Powell added. "And this is the time, now, to start to put in place the kinds of strategies that will turn this situation around."

The Pilgrim continues to contend that there is no 'turning this situation around.'  Iraq is so deteriorated that we have in fact lost.  Violence is so rampant in Iraq that the US troops are impotent to stop it.  And US troops have suffered nearly 25,000 total killed and wounded.

Why won't Powell and others say this? They don't want to be accused of speaking disparagingly of US troops. 

It can be said without attacking the troops. 

This war was not lost on the battlefields of Iraq.  It was lost in the war room in Washington, DC.  The troops were placed in an impossible situation, and an avoidable one. 

Powell comes close, however, to getting it right.  The critical mass continues to build.


Saturday, December 16, 2006


As of Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006, at least 2,945 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,359 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The latest identifications reported by the military:
• Army Pfc. Paul Balint Jr., 22, Willow Park, Texas, died Friday in Ramadi of small arms fire; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Friedberg, Germany.
• Two soldiers died Dec. 4 in Ramadi of small arms fire:
• Army Pfc. Albert M. Nelson, 31, Philadelphia.
• Army Pfc. Roger A. Suarez-Gonzalez, 21, of Miami.
• Both were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.
• Army Spc. Nicholas P. Steinbacher, 22, La Crescenta, Calif., died Dec. 10 when an explosive detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.


As of Friday, Dec. 15, 2006, at least 2,942 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians.

The latest deaths reported by the military:
• A soldier was killed Tuesday in Ninewa province.
• Two Marines were killed Thursday in Anbar province.

On our way...

... to the wrong solution?

Pentagon to move 3,500 troops to Kuwait according to AP.

MSNBC is reporting this morning that "Senior administration officials say the option of a major surge in troop strength is gaining ground as part of the administration’s strategy review..."

Remember, we recently moved troops around within Iraq to concentrate forces in Baghdad- and that failed to stem the violence.

This movement of troops will fail as well. It will only delay the inevitable moment when the US government, and the US people, will be forced to admit that the invasion of Iraq was a strategic and moral failure from the beginning.

And it will cost more American lives.


Rich/Poor Gap

Here's another issue (like the Walmart issue below) that Jesus would care about:

LA Times Poll: Nearly Three-Quarters of Americans Believe Gap Between Rich and Poor is a Serious National Concern

Nearly three-quarters of Americans believe inequality is a major issue, versus 24 percent who don't think so, according to a new Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll. Most of the concern is among Democrats and independent voters, though a majority of Republicans -- 55 percent -- also called the situation serious. . . .

[A]nxiety about the growing rich-poor divide unites Americans, crossing income and political divisions. Among those earning less than $40,000 a year, 84 percent called the gap a serious problem, with more than half saying it's "very serious." Among those earning more than $100,000, more than three in five said it's a serious concern. Those in the middle-income group making between $40,000 and $60,000 were almost as concerned as the least wealthy.

3/4 of Americans are right- this is a national concern.

It is a spiritual concern as well.

Jesus spoke often on issues that today we would lable economic justice. Why is so much of American Christianity silent on the matter. Is it rather like the Supreme Court after the turn of the century (1900)- the so called Lochner era? Have we now defined our faithmore by economic values (laissez faire free market capitalism) than religious values- as the Court did then the Constitution?

I don't think that saying that Jesus would care about these matters indicates a particular solution- I'm not sure exactly what Jesus would say to do on such matters. But Jesus' words make clear that he does care. And we who are Christians should care. Dropping some coins at Christmas time into the Salvation Army bucket is not enough. We need to look at broader issues of equality of opportunity.



A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury.
John Stuart Mill

Where Would Jesus Shop

Interesting article about Christian values and Walmart business practices. Most interesting, FOX News challenging a pastor for bringing Jesus into the argument about how Walmart treats employees and does business. This is the same FOX News that has hyped the alleged cultural war against Christmas.

The pastor (Joe Phelps) challenging Walmart is right at least on this point: "I think Jesus cares very much about the business practices in this country. Jesus didn't come to this earth just to save some Platonic soul. Jesus came to this earth to deal with people at the points of their need."

Take a look at his pastoral letter here.


Thursday, December 14, 2006


It is in everybody's interest to seek those [actions] that lead to happiness and avoid those which lead to suffering. And because our interests are inextricably linked, we are compelled to accept ethics as the indispensable interface between my desire to be happy and yours.
-His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dealing the Hate Church a Blow

A federal judge in Baltimore is ordering Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church to pay more than $3,000 in costs related to the funeral of a Marine the group picketed.
Albert Snyder of York, Pennsylvania, is suing because church members demonstrated at the funeral of his son, Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder.
Court documents say the church has 30 days to make the payment to Snyder.
This 'church' must be forced to pay a cost for its hate.  Perhaps when the cost gets high enough, it will restrain its venom.


As of Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006, at least 2,939 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,357 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.
Since the start of U.S. military operations in Iraq, 22,229 U.S. service members have been wounded, according to a Defense Department tally.

The latest deaths reported by the military:

• Three Marines died Monday in Anbar province.

• A Marine died Monday from non-combat causes in Anbar province.

The latest identifications reported by the military:

• Marine 1st Lt. Nathan M. Krissoff, 25, Reno, Nev., died Saturday in Anbar province; assigned to the Headquarters and Service Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan.

• Army Staff Sgt. Thomas W. Clemons, 37, Leitchfield, Ky., died Sunday in Diwaniyah from a non-combat health-related incident; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 123rd Armor, Leitchfield, Ky.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stay the course?

President Bush heard a blunt and dismal assessment of his handling of Iraq from a group of military experts yesterday, but the advisers shared the White House's skeptical view of the recommendations made last week by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, sources said.

The three retired generals and two academics disagreed in particular with the study group's plans to reduce the number of U.S. combat troops in Iraq...
The military experts met with Bush, Vice President Cheney and about a dozen aides for more than an hour. The visitors told the officials that the situation in Iraq is as dire as the study group had indicated but that alternative approaches must be considered, said one participant in the meeting. In addition, the experts agreed that the president should review his national security team, which several characterized as part of the problem.
Is this more of the same?  That's the way it seems to me.
If not withdraw, then what?  The 'experts' did not agree on sending more troops, although some believe this is the proper action.  But if not more, then what is the possible gain to be achieved from the status quo? 
This group of experts still said, according to the White House, that the war was winnable.  Here is where I believe they are wrong.  The war in Iraq is lost.  It is lost now.  Democracy, in any reasonable sense of the word, has not been established.  Civil war has erupted.  Broader regional conflict is very much a realistic concern.
I can understand the difficulty.  Americans do not like to admit failure and defeat.  Additionally, it is hard to imagine how things will improve if the US were to begin withdrawl.  The responsibility for the failure of the Iraq war lies not in its managment, but in the decision to start it.  The failure began with the invasion.
Now we are left only with the prospects of managing the failure.  The best the US can hope for is to provide the Iraqis the opportunity/responsibility to manage their life after Saddam- who was, without question, an evil dictator.  It will be ugly, but it is ugly now.  Continued US presence will not make it better.
The fault for the current situation lies with the US government.  The only hope for its solution lies with the Iraqi people.  This is the harsh reality that we in the US must face and deal with.  We'd be better off had the government not made the terrible decision to invade (and had not a majority of Americans gone along with it and confirmed it in the '04 election), but we can do nothing about that now, except move forward.


A good thought when considering how we may care for the environment:
"There is more to life than increasing its speed."
M. Gandhi

Another way to think about environmental issues

Looking at caring for our environment from the perspective of caring for other people and human rights.  Very worthy of a read of the full article. 
Policymakers must handle climate change issues within the framework of international human rights, argues Mary Robinson, former U.N. high commissioner for human rights.

Climate change is essentially an issue concerning global injustice and as such needs a radically different approach, she told an audience at Chatham House, a think- tank in London Monday, in a speech delivered to mark the 25th death anniversary of the late environmentalist and founder of the International Institute for Environment and Development, Barbara Ward.

Climate change is no longer an issue where the rich gives charity to the poor to help them cope, she said, and pointed out that the issue has started affecting the fulfillment of human rights. "Our shared human rights framework entitles and empowers developing countries and impoverished communities to claim protection of these rights," she added.
She insisted that the same kind of multilateral efforts made in the eradication of diseases like small pox and in controlling environmental hazards like CFC gases will be required to tackle climate issues.
She said many countries had denied the evidence in order to hide their inaction. She specifically mentioned United States and Australia, which she said have failed to live up to the "clear moral obligation" of signing the Kyoto Protocol, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Until action is taken to address climate change globally, the poorest communities, which have contributed least to the problem, face a future filled with uncertainty and increased threats to their wellbeing, she added.

She said, "Not only is it morally unjustifiable to maintain such an imbalance in people's prospects for development, but practical solutions must rest on a fairer balance being struck."


More Global Warming Data

...because of the global warming. This will have serious environmental as well as strategic consequences, they say.
The scientists ... predict that massive melting process, nearly five times faster than previously, can take place within 20 years. If there are no efforts made to prevent the emission of greenhouse gases, the entire Arctic basin -- from Siberia and Greenland to Canada and Alaska -- could just be open water in summer unlike the sheets of ice they are now, they say...
An ice-free Arctic will mean destruction of several indigenous people and their life and the extinction of species like the polar bear, who survive on the round-the-year ice in the region. The loss of ice cover will lead to severe climate changes as the North Atlantic current that brings winters to countries like Britain will cease. It may lead to faster deterioration of the ice sheet in Greenland.
We must act in defense of God's creation, of which we are merely temporary inhabitants.
What will I do for the planet TODAY?  How about you?



My heart goes out...

...to the students of Springfield High .
A student at a high school in suburban Philadelphia shot himself at school with a rifle on Tuesday, school authorities said.
This happened at the school where I work several years ago.  I know how devastating this can be for a school community.
Please send prayers and love in the direction of the students and faculty of Springfield High.

The Instability the US Has Caused

Saudi clerics seek help for Iraqi Sunnis

RIYADH: A group of prominent Saudi clerics have called on Sunni Muslims around the world to mobilise against Shiites in Iraq, although a statement they issued fell short of calling for a jihad, or holy war.

The statement appearing on Saudi Islamist Web sites on Monday said Sunni Muslims were being murdered and marginalised by Shiites, backed by Iran, and the US-led forces.

Saudi Arabia, a bastion of Sunni Islam, backs the Shiite-dominated government of Nuri al-Maliki largely because it fears that sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites could lead to the break-up of its northern neighbour and spill over its borders.

"We direct this message to all concerned about Shiites in the world: the murder, torture and displacement of Sunnis ... is an outrage. We don't think you would accept to be treated like this," said the statement, dated Dec 7.

"Muslims must stand directly with our Sunni brothers in Iraq and support them by all appropriate, well-studied means ... Muslims generally should be made aware of the danger of the Shiites," it said.

"Clerics and intellectuals should not stand hands folded over what's happening to their Sunni brothers in Iraq; all occasions should be used to expose the Shiites' practices ... What has been taken by force can only be got back by force."

This is budding regional conflict is the responsibility of the Bush administration for taking on the War of Choice in Iraq.

And this outcome was entirely predictable. Given the history of Eastern Europe after the withdrawal of Soviet domination (see Czechoslovakia), we should have known that serious ethnic tensions were possible in Iraq, and, given this history of the Middle East, that those tensions could have spilled over from Iraq into the larger region.

I fear the worst is yet to come.


Just another day in Iraq

From Reuters  (to this add more than 50 killed and 150 wounded on 12/12 in two separate bombings):
Dec 11 (Reuters) - Following are security and other developments in Iraq as of 1630 GMT on Monday: 

*Al ASAD - Eighteen people were injured when a Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter carrying four crew and 17 passengers made a hard landing in al Anbar province, the U.S. military said in a statement. It said the incident did not appear to be the result of enemy action.

*BAGHDAD - Five people were killed and at least seven wounded when mortar rounds landed on a restaurant in Dora in southern Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official said.

*BALAD - Eight farmers were kidnapped on the road between Dujail and Tikrit north of Baghdad, the U.S.-Iraqi Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Salahaddin province said.

*BALAD - Gunmen in a car shot dead a man standing at a railway station, the JCC said.

MOSUL - Gunmen killed a policeman in the northern city of Mosul, police said.

MOSUL - Gunmen killed four brothers driving in their car in Mosul, police said.

BAGHDAD - Gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms ambushed a security vehicle and stole $1 million in cash, police and Interior Ministry sources said. Four private security guards were kidnapped in the daylight robbery.

NEAR BAQUBA - Gunmen opened fire at a family, killing three of its members and wounding three others while driving near Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - Three U.S. soldiers were killed and two wounded by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on Sunday, the U.S. military said on Monday.

BAGHDAD - A car bomb exploded in a parking lot of Mahmoun University in Baghdad, killing one person and wounding four others, including two policemen.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb went off in Palestine Street in western Baghdad, killing one person and wounding six, police said.

TUZ KHURMATO - Gunmen stormed a house, killing six members of the same family and wounding the father in a village near Tuz Khurmato, 70 km (40 miles) south of Kirkuk, police said.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb targeting a U.S. military patrol killed a soldier and wounded another on Sunday west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - A suicide car bomber blew himself up near a house used as a base by police commandos, killing a policeman and wounding five others in Doura district in southern Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb wounded a man in the Shorja area in central Baghdad, police said.

RAMADI - U.S. forces killed two insurgents and wounded two others on Saturday night in the city of Ramadi, 110 km (68 miles) west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested on Sunday six men suspected of committing sectarian killings and of planting roadside bombs in Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested four suspected insurgents on Sunday, the U.S. military said.
No need to get out until 2008, right?

Interesting Article

Remember the Orwellian world of 1984? Well, here's an article that compares Orwell's understanding of oppressive governance with some of the language that we've heard during the War in Iraq.

How do the Republicans not see the irony of a so-called conservative party turning Orwellian? When will true conservatives take back their party?

Some selections:

"Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind," wrote George Orwell in his prescient essay "Politics and the English Language."

Beset as we Americans are by a misguided war, errant governance, unaddressed environmental threats and growing social injustice, it is perhaps easy to downplay the importance of language in solving our problems in a rationale manner.

"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity," Orwell continued. "When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were to long words or exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink."

Consider the following terms born out of the Iraq War:

Camp Victory: The name of the huge U.S. military base at Baghdad International Airport might now be more accurately described as Camp Defeat.

Extraordinary renditions: A banality that hides the repugnant reality that allows suspects to be kidnapped, spirited abroad, interrogated and even tortured in a foreign country without any due process.

Information extraction: A euphemism that has come to be synonymous with the torturing of suspects into giving confessions.

Waterboarding: A term that while it seems to be describing some harmless recreation sport -- perhaps a cross between skateboarding and surfing -- is actually a cruel and unusual form of punishment.


One more thought...

Regarding the politics of the war in Iraq...
Have you noticed that the Irag Study Group calls for the US to be out of Iraq in terms of any combat role by 2008.
Why '08?  Well, it just happens to be the next presidential election.
The situation in Iraq is simply too great a moral issue to make decisions such as the removal of troops for political reasons.
Politics is not enough of a motivator, frankly.  If it is wrong to be in Iraq, then we should get out as rapidly as possible.  If it is not wrong, then we should stay.  Telling Americans now that we will be out in '08 is a cheap ploy designed to allow those who will seek the White House to avoid responsibility.
No doubt about this- combat troops will still be in Iraq in '08.  
If US combat troops are out of Iraq by '08, the Pilgrim will eat his tall, pointy hat.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Politics and War

How is it that people are not irate at the Bush Administration for playing politics with the war in Iraq? There is no explanation for the behavior of President Bush except politics. He did not want to admit failure before the midterm elections- fearful that it would cost his party votes. So he 'stayed the course.'

After the election, he fired Rumsfeld. Had Rumsfeld's job performance suddenly deteriorated? No. Simply politics.

Now he's consulting people at various levels of government looking for a policy adjustment regarding Iraq? Has there been a dramatic change in Iraq since the November elections? No. Again simply politics.

The situation in Iraq has been deteriorating for many months, and deteriorating very rapidly for several months. This President did nothing during that time- hoping to protect his political prospects in the midterm elections- allowing US troops to find themselves in a situation of greater danger as time passed, and allowing US security to be increasingly threatened by a destabilized region.

Now the President is going through the motions of doing something, simply because 'stay the course' has become politically unsustainable.

The supporters of the war have often accused its opponents of playing politics and of undermining the safety of the troops by criticizing the war and war policies of the Administration.

The reality is that 'politics' is driving the war policy at present, and US soldiers are simply pawns in a political game.

The nation's Robert McNamara of the 21st Century has left office with the departure of Rumsfeld. For two more years the nation must endure the 21st Century's LBJ. LBJ said he would not be the first US President to lose a war. He was. George W. Bush has become the second. It took 20 years to recover from Vietnam? How long will it take to recover from Iraq?



Commerce is of trivial import; love, faith, truth of character, the aspiration of man, these are sacred.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Pilgrim would add values to Emerson's list of what is sacred (admitting that Emerson may have meant as much by 'truth of character').

Sunday, December 10, 2006


"Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest."
Mark Twain


From AP:
As of Sunday, Dec. 10, 2006, at least 2,931 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
The latest deaths reported by the military:

• A soldier was killed Sunday by a roadside bomb west of Baghdad.


The latest identifications reported by the military:

• Two soldiers died Thursday when an explosive detonated near their unit in Baghdad:

• Army Staff Sgt. Henry W. Linck, 23, Manhattan, Kan.

• Army Spc. Micah S. Gifford, 27, Redding, Calif.

• Both soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, Alaska.

• Army Staff Sgt. Kristofer R. Ciraso, 26, Bangor, Maine, died Thursday in Baghdad when an explosive detonated near his vehicle; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

They Told You So

Great post at Welcome to Pottersville from which I will quote at length. Check it out. I'm going to see if I can get my hands on the original Weekly Standard article.

[Late post: Found the original article here.]


Shortly after U.S. forces marched into Baghdad in 2003, The Weekly Standard published a jeering article titled, “The Cassandra Chronicles: The stupidity of the antiwar doomsayers.” ... The article’s title was more revealing than its authors knew.

Here’s a partial honor roll:

Former President George H. W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft, explaining in 1998 why they didn’t go on to Baghdad in 1991: “Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.”

Representative Ike Skelton, September 2002: “I have no doubt that our military would decisively defeat Iraq’s forces and remove Saddam. But like the proverbial dog chasing the car down the road, we must consider what we would do after we caught it.”

Al Gore, September 2002: “I am deeply concerned that the course of action that we are presently embarking upon with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century.”

Barack Obama, now a United States senator, September 2002: “I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.”

Representative John Spratt, October 2002: “The outcome after the conflict is actually going to be the hardest part, and it is far less certain.”

Representative Nancy Pelosi, now the House speaker-elect, October 2002: “When we go in, the occupation, which is now being called the liberation, could be interminable and the amount of money it costs could be unlimited.”

Senator Russ Feingold, October 2002: “I am increasingly troubled by the seemingly shifting justifications for an invasion at this time. … When the administration moves back and forth from one argument to another, I think it undercuts the credibility of the case and the belief in its urgency. I believe that this practice of shifting justifications has much to do with the troubling phenomenon of many Americans questioning the administration’s motives.”

Howard Dean, then a candidate for president and now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, February 2003: “I firmly believe that the president is focusing our diplomats, our military, our intelligence agencies, and even our people on the wrong war, at the wrong time. … Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms.”

We should honor these people for their wisdom and courage.

Friday, December 08, 2006


From AP:

As of Friday, Dec. 8, 2006, at least 2,928 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,356 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The latest deaths reported by the military:
• Two soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb Thursday south of Baghdad.
• One soldier was killed in Baghdad on Thursday when an explosive detonated near his patrol.
• One Marine died Wednesday of non-combat-related injuries in Anbar province.

The latest identifications reported by the military:
• Marine Cpl. Dustin J. Libby, 22, Presque Isle, Maine, died Wednesday in Anbar province; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
• Spc. Nicholas R. Gibbs, 25, Stokesdale, N.C., died Wednesday in Ramadi of injuries from small arms fire while conducting observation and security operations; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Giessen, Germany.
• Marine Lance Cpl. Brent E. Beeler, 22, Jackson, Mich., died Thursday in Anbar province; assigned to Marine Forces Reserves 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Lansing, Mich.
• Army Cpl. Billy B. Farris, 20, Bapchule, Ariz., died Sunday in Taji when an explosive detonated near his vehicle while conducting escort operations; assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.
• Sgt. Jay R. Gauthreaux, 26, Thibodaux, La., died Monday in Balad of injuries suffered in Baqubah when an explosive detonated near his vehicle; assigned to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

Beginning to restore the Constitution?

This could be a very important start to restoring proper constitutional government in the US, and reclaiming moral leadership in the world.
President Bush's victory in getting the rules he wanted to try suspected terrorists could be diminished.

The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee [Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa] signaled this week that he'll join prominent Democrats in seeking to restore legal rights to hundreds of suspected terrorists confined at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.

"The Constitution of the United States is explicit that habeas corpus may be suspended only in time of rebellion or invasion," Specter said on the floor. "We are suffering neither of those alternatives at the present time. We have not been invaded, and there has not been a rebellion. That much is conceded."

"Since then, the American people have spoken against the administration's stay- the-course approach to national security and against a rubber-stamp Congress that accommodated this administration's efforts to grab more and more power," [Sen. Patrick] Leahy [D- Vt.] said. "Abolishing habeas corpus for anyone who the government thinks might have assisted enemies of the United States is unnecessary and morally wrong. It is a betrayal of the most basic values of freedom for which America stands."

These early rumblings on Capitol Hill are a far cry from actual legislation.  Hopefully this will continue to develop and be the first serious and substantial consequence of the Democrats taking over Congress after the '06 elections.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

An example of why the US must do more (less, really)

Many nations around the world are developing, and have much larger populations than the US. In order to deal with the problems of energy scarcity and global warming (and avoid terrible dangers associated with poverty), the US will need to bring it's energy uses more in line with it's proportion of the world's population.

The US has about 5% or the world's population, but uses approximately 23% of the worlds energy resources. That is not sustainable as nations like India and China develop.

In the case of India...

Indian power consumption to rise

India says its power consumption will go up to 1,000 units from the current 600 units by year 2012.

India has to be allowed to develop. According to the article, there are villages in the country without electricity- and they will not have it until 2009.

The people of the US cannot continue to be 'resource hogs.' Legitimate needs of others must be met, and we need to find a way to make due with less.


NASA Study on Global Warming

A NASA study has indicated that global warming leads to a reduction in the ocean's primary food supply, which in turn impacts the fisheries and ecosystems. 
...[W]henever there is an increase in temperatures, marine plant life in the form of microscopic phytoplankton declined and whenever the temperatures came down, the plant life became vigorous or productive.
The earth is, I think, more fragile than we give it credit for. 
There is a price to be paid for living greedily.


Interesting religious development

The highest legal body in Conservative Judaism, the centrist movement in worldwide Jewry, voted yesterday to allow the ordination of gay rabbis and the celebration of same-sex commitment ceremonies.

This action rather undermines much of the fundamentalist Christian argument in regards to homosexuality.  If Jews don't accept the very literalistic and limited interpretation of the Jewish "Bible" that fundamentalists are trying to put forward, then the fundamentalist argument isn't all that solid.


High Number of Deaths Continues

>From Reuters:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. forces in Iraq suffered one of their worst days on Wednesday, with 11 soldiers reported killed as a high-level panel in Washington said training of Iraqi forces should speed up so that U.S. troops can withdraw.

Confirming the 11 deaths, U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Garver said on Thursday five soldiers had been killed in a single roadside bomb blast in Kirkuk province. Details of the other six deaths were not immediately available.

The deaths, an unusually high daily toll, brought to 30 the number of U.S. soldiers killed since the start of the month and underlined the human cost of the U.S. deployment in Iraq, where rampant violence kills scores of Iraqis every day.

The Sunni insurgency against the U.S. forces continues unabated. Some 2,920 U.S. soldiers have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. October was the deadliest month for U.S. troops in nearly two years, when 106 service members died.

Verse for thought

The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to kill those who walk uprightly; their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.

- Psalms 37:14-15

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Bush Resisting?

Immediate signs that President Bush and members of his administration may still see "stay the course" as the proper option:

Bush Calls Iraq Report One Among Many Ideas

Congress seemed eager yesterday to embrace the new Baker-Hamilton report as a possible way out of the morass in Iraq, while the White House is increasingly insistent that the document is but one of several suggestions President Bush will review as he ponders changes to a policy widely seen as not working in Iraq.

The administration seems to have distanced itself from the commission in recent weeks. White House officials were never wildly enthusiastic about a group co-chaired by a key figure, Baker, from the administration of the president's father. But there was hope that it might be a useful vehicle to provide political cover to do what the White House was interested in doing anyway.

In his public comments, Bush has gone from embracing the upcoming report to casting it as merely one data point among many. His decision to authorize parallel internal administration reviews became a strategy to keep the Iraq Study Group from becoming the primary author of a course change that the president would be pressured to accept -- much as what happened with the Sept. 11 commission.

"It's very hard for me to, you know, prejudice one report over another," Bush said in an interview Monday with Fox News Channel. "They're all important."

It appears that the Pilgrim's earlier negativity regarding the ISG Report was not unduly negative. If the administration doesn't take the ideas of the ISG Report and make them into a reality that improves our situation in Iraq, then the report is simply a waste of paper.

So many people have seemingly invested so much hope in this report. They seem to have forgotten that George W. Bush is still President. The current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is simply unwilling to admit the horrible mistake he has made.


What have we received for the investment?

The Democratic [former Rep. Lee Hamilton] co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group said on Wednesday that America's ability to resolve the crisis in Iraq is narrowing and the costs could rise to more than $1 trillion.
Not an outrageous estimate.  Consider the following cost estimates I've pulled together from a variety of sources:

        Spent to date:  $350B

        Future spending on military operations: $235B

        VA Costs: $48B

        Costs for Brain Injuries: $25B

        Veterans disability payments: $80B

        Demobilization costs:  $7B

        Increased defense spending:  $122B

         Increased recruitment costs; hardship pay; etc.

        Interest on debt: $291B

Total Cost:  $1.16 Trillion

That does not even include indirect costs such as lost production potential due to lives lost, etc.  Some estimate those costs (such as the $25-50B we've already lost to higher gas/oil prices) could amount to another trillion dollars.


And, we're not more secure from terrorists, we've not established democracy in the Middle East, we have increased problems with Iran and North Korea in terms of WMD, we've damaged our credibility in the world due to our torture policies, etc. 


From a pure economic perspective- looking at costs and benefits- and setting aside morality for a time, this has been a terrible investment for our nation.



ISG Report

Copy of the ISG Report is here.

ISG Report quotes

From AP
  • The United States faces a "grave and deteriorating" situation after nearly four years of war in Iraq, a high-level commission warned bluntly on Wednesday, prodding President Bush to launch a diplomatic offensive to stabilize the country and allow withdrawal of most combat troops by early 2008.
  • "There is no path that can guarantee success, but the prospects can be improved..."
  • The commission recommended the United States reduce "political, military or economic support" for Iraq if the government in Baghdad cannot make substantial progress toward providing for its own security.
  • The commission warned that if the situation continues to deteriorate, there is a risk of a "slide toward chaos (that) could trigger the collapse of Iraq's government and a humanitarian catastrophe.  Neighboring countries could intervene. ... The global standing of the United States could be diminished. Americans could become more polarized," commissioners said.
  • With diplomacy under way, the report said, the U.S. should increase the number of combat and other troops that are embedded with and supporting Iraqi Army units.  "As these actions proceed, U.S. combat forces could begin to move out of Iraq. ... By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq."

  • "The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating," they warned. "Violence is increasing in scope and lethality. It is fed by a Sunni Arab insurgency, Shiite militias, death squads, al-Qaida and widespread criminality. Sectarian conflict is the principal challenge to stability."

  • The commission recommended that a "diplomatic offensive" be aimed at building an international consensus for stability in Iraq, and that it include every country in the region.  "Given the ability of Iran and Syria to influence events within Iraq and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq, the United States should try to engage them constructively."

On Iraq

Some quick thoughts from the Pilgrim regarding Iraq as it dominates the news today:
  1. The Iraq Study Group will release it's report today.  Don't expect too much.  Remember, it is the Administration that needs to act.  And the Administration has a couple of "studies" of its own going, which may reach different conclusions.
  2. Iraq has created a terrible situation in the Middle East.  Military people are increasingly concerned about a widened Middle East sectarian conflict.  We need to keep an eye on Iran and Syria in this area of course, but a key player in Iraq may end up being Saudi Arabi.
  3. Lebanon is another complicator.  That country has moved from a "beacon of democracy" to a potential civil war in a matter of months.  And Syria in particular, to a lesser degree Iran, are players there as well.
As people have recently been saying in regards to the ISG report- there are no good options.  There are only 'less bad' options.  The ISG Report cannot solve problems for us.  Only some very effective foreign policy and diplomacy can begin moving us towards solutions.
I fear our time is growing limited to begin to turn things in a more positive direction- to stem the tide towards a regional conflict.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


From AP:

As of Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2006, at least 2,906 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,330 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The latest deaths reported by the military:
• A soldier was killed Monday in northeastern Baghdad when his patrol was attacked.
• A soldier was killed Monday in an accident when his vehicle rolled over in southern Iraq.

The latest identifications reported by the military:

• Army Spc. Dustin M. Adkins, 22, Finger, Tenn.; died Monday of injuries suffered after his helicopter made an emergency landing near Haditha on Sunday; assigned to the Group Support Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Fort Campbell, Ky.

• Air Force Capt. Kermit O. Evans, 31, Hollandale, Miss.; died Sunday when his helicopter made an emergency water landing in western Anbar province; assigned to the 27th Civil Engineer Squadron, Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.

• Army Pvt. Troy D. Cooper, 21, Amarillo, Texas; died Sunday when an explosive detonated near his vehicle in Balad; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.


In reference to the post below regarding some positive environmental news, I received the following email:

You can find more information about the new protected areas in Para state, Brazil from the people who made it possible, as well as find resources like a map of the area and a photo gallery at http://www.conservation.org/xp/frontlines/2006/12040602.xml from the Conservation International website. Cheers!

Good stuff at that site. Check it out.

Thanks 'ecoconservant'!


Rick Warren deserves some credit

There has been some division among religious right evangelicals recently over Rick Warren's invitation to speak regarding AIDS.

From the Washington Post:

When Rick Warren, one of the nation's most popular evangelical pastors, faced down right-wing pressure and invited Sen. Barack Obama to speak at a gathering at his Saddleback Valley Community Church about the AIDS crisis, he sent a signal: A significant group of theologically conservative Christians no longer wants to be treated as a cog in the Republican political machine.

Warren speaks for a new generation of evangelicals who think that harnessing religious faith too closely to electoral politics is bad for religion, and who are broadening the evangelical public agenda to include a concern for global poverty and the scourge of AIDS.

Warren is a conservative, but he is a conservative who is, apparently, willing to think for himself and not limit himself to a particular right-wing agenda.

The Pilgrim has been critical of the religious right, and stands by that criticism. Warren is an example, however, of someone with whom the Pilgrim may disagree on the issues, but appreciates for having a willingness to approach issues openly.

[Note: You can read Obama's speech to Warren's church here.]


Voice of Reason

At Hearing, Gates Says U.S. Not Winning War in Iraq

Finally, someone in the Administration who may be willing and able to face up to the obvious. (Compare Gates' statement w/ Hadley's here.)

This is the first sign of progress seen since 2003. Perhaps a small step, but a step.


Bush Administration inhumanity

Yet to be proven in court, but Jose Padilla's attorney claims in court documents that his client's treatment- torture- includes...
"isolation; sleep and sensory depravation; hoodings; stress positions; exposure to noxious fumes; exposure to temperature extremes; threats of imminent execution; assaults; the forced administration of mind-altering substances; denial of religious practices; manipulation of diet; and other forms of mistreatment."
These forms of 'aggressive interrogation techniques' would fall under Geneva defitions of torture.
Padilla is not a member of the Taliban or an insurgent group.  He was not captured in Afghanistan or Iraq.  He is a US citizen, from Chicago.
Should the government be allowed to treat anyone this way?
Some suggest that Americans around the world are put at risk by the Administration's reckless torture policy. 
True enough.
What Padilla demonstrates, however, is that Americans here, in the United States, are endangered by an arrogant Administration's abuse of power.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Positive news on environmental front

Montana co-op announces two new wind farms  :  projects in McCone and Yellowstone Counties that will produce approximately 20 megawatts of clean power.
Amid pressure, the Bush administration is pushing alternative energy and is trying to curb greenhouse gas emissions, The Wall Street Journal reports Monday.

The administration may push U.S. carmakers to make more vehicles that run on ethanol and other alternative fuels, and is also considering a move to cut tariffs on imported ethanol to boost supplies at home.
Brazil to enact law to protect Amazonian rain forest  in the northern Para state of Brazil Monday to create vast tracts of rainforests as protected area. The land covers some 63,320 sq. miles and has as its inhabitants some of the rare and fabulous animal and plant species.

Pilgrim Left Incredulous

From AP (emphasis added):

While President Bush acknowledges the need for major changes in Iraq, he will not use this week's Iraq Study Group report as political cover for bringing troops home, his national security adviser said Sunday.

"We have not failed in Iraq," Stephen Hadley said as he made the talk show rounds. "We will fail in Iraq if we pull out our troops before we're in a position to help the Iraqis succeed."

Haven't failed?

There are no words to describe the level of dishonesty and self-delusion. And that level of dishonesty and self-delusion indicates that this Administration is hopeless in terms of reforming itself and protecting our national interests and troops.

Can we afford to wait two more years?


UN Secretary General to BBC

MSNBC reports that Annan has said what would have seemed unthinkable:  That Iraqis have it worse now than they did under Saddam.
Speaking to the British Broadcasting Corp., Annan agreed that the average Iraqi's life is worse now than it was under Saddam Hussein and called the situation in the country "extremely dangerous."

"Given the level of violence, the level of killing and bitterness and the way that forces are arranged against each other, a few years ago, when we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war; this is much worse," Annan said.

Regarding whether life is worse than under Saddam, Annan said,

"If I were an average Iraqi obviously I would make the same comparison, that they had a dictator who was brutal but they had their streets, they could go out, their kids could go to school and come back home without a mother or father worrying, 'Am I going to see my child again?'" he said.

"And the Iraqi government has not been able to bring the violence under control. The society needs security and a secure environment for it to get on — without security not much can be done — not recovery or reconstruction," Annan added.

I would never have believed it before the war.  I knew the war was wrong on many levels, but would never have believed that the US occupation would make for a situation worse than Saddam.

I believe it now.



Sunday, December 03, 2006


From CNNWire:
2 U.S. soldiers killed in roadside bomb attack

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A roadside bomb attack in Iraq's volatile Anbar province killed two U.S. soldiers Saturday, according to a U.S. military news release.

The soldiers, assigned to the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), were on a security patrol when the attack happened.

With these deaths and the reclassification of a U.S. airman as "killed in action," 2,894 U.S. military personnel have died in the Iraq war.

The Politician Can Debate...

but Americans have decided.

Iraq in Civil War for 68% of Americans

Also from that poll Americans seem pretty certain the situation is not going to improve with continued or increased American presence:

Withdraw all troops now-18%
Set a timetable for withdrawal-51%
Send more troops to Iraq to stabilize the situation-19%
You can't fool all of the people all of the time.


Predicting the behavior of the Bush Administration 200 years ago...

Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.
James Madison

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Episcopal Church on the War in Iraq

The Episcopal Church has received a lot of criticism- from its own members and clergy and from the broader Christian community- over the issue of gay priests and bishops. Many- again, both in and outside the Episcopal church- seem ill at ease with the issue of women priests and bishops.

Lost in this debate has been the issue of the Episcopal Church's stand on the war in Iraq. The General Convention made a very clear statement, from which I will quote below (hat tip: Father Jake).

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church affirm the conclusion of the October 1, 2002 letter of the House of Bishops to members of Congress, stating that the conditions of the “Just War” tradition have not been met in the national government’s decision to attack the nation of Iraq;

Resolved, That the General Convention of The Episcopal Church call upon the Congress and the President to immediately develop for implementation a plan for the stabilization of Iraq, to be followed by the prompt withdrawal of U.S. Armed Forces...

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention, as a community of faith committed to reconciliation and nonviolence taught in the gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, direct the Presiding Bishop and the Executive Council to encourage wide use of Christian formation materials that stress nonviolent methods to conflict resolution and change;

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention call upon all Episcopalians as an act of penitence, to oppose and resist through advocacy, protest, and electoral action the continuation of the war in Iraq, and encourage the President and Congress to take proactive steps to end our participation as soon as possible.

Its is good to belong to a church which recognizes the fundamental message of Jesus that all Christians should cling to above all else: LOVE.


Hate Church still at it

From CNN:

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, planned to demonstrate at National Guard Cpl. Nathan Goodiron's funeral on Saturday at the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

Church members say the deaths of soldiers are punishment from God for the country's tolerance of homosexuals.

Tribal leaders passed a resolution Friday that prohibits the group from protesting on the reservation, said Marcus Wells Jr., chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes.

"We will not tolerate any harassment that is intended to provoke ill feelings and violence," he said.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of the Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., pastor of Westboro Baptist, said her group planned to protest outside the reservation "on public rights of way."

I certainly wish there was a way- consistent with US freedoms- to stop this group. It does not appear to be so.

This 'church' twists Christianity in much the same way that Islamist groups will twist Islam.

It is sad to see a religion of love turn into a vehicle of hate.


Freedom River

Found this a Andrew Sullivan today. A little parable about the damage the sin of pride can do to a nation.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Consequence of torture

Not exactly a stunner, is it? 
This is how the Administration's acceptance of torture actually damages our security- people who may have committed or planned terrorist acts against the US cannot be tried because the government does not want to expose it's 'methods.'  Methods being, of course, torture.
Torture is never a law enforcement method.  It is an act of cruelty and vengeance.
Torture is an injustice to the individuals mistreated.  It is also an injustice to the American people who have their security threatened and their character tarnished.