Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Having problems...

Sorry folks, but I've been having problems posting remotely of late. I'm not certain what the problem is.

The Pilgrim is not the most technologically savy person in Middle Earth. I'm guessing that the long gray beard in the keyboard doesn't help.

Perhas the problems will be resolved.

The two posts immediately below have just snuck out of the log-jam.

Interesting turn of events

Toyota Motor Corp. said on Tuesday it will build a new plant in the United States, the latest sign of its pressing need for capacity to keep up with booming demand, with media reports placing the factory in the southern state of Mississippi.

Japanese business daily Nikkei reported earlier that the plant, to cost around 100 billion yen ($830 million), would have capacity to build 150,000 units a year and would produce the
Highlander sport utility vehicle starting in 2009.

A separate report from Kyodo news agency put the investment figure at 200 billion yen and output capacity at 200,000 units a year. The plant will create about 2,000 new jobs, Kyodo also said, citing sources familiar with the matter.

American auto manufacturers have routinely opposed fuel efficiency initiatives. Why? It would hurt them competitively, they say. Well, a company that has higher efficiency standards overall is opening plants in the US, while US auto manufacturers are closing plants and laying off workers. So fuel efficiency is bad for business?

Surge running out of power

A narrow majority of Americans now favor setting a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq and a record number say they disapprove of the war, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Monday.

Fifty-six percent say U.S. forces should be withdrawn eventually even if civil order has not been restored in Iraq, reflecting a continued and gradual departure from the "you break it, you've bought it" sentiment, ABC said.

Fifty-three percent support setting a date for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq, up from 47 percent last summer and 39 percent in late 2005.

A large majority of those who support setting a deadline want the 139,000 U.S. troops in Iraq brought home within a year -- half of that group would like them home in six months.

Americans are no longer behind this war. How long can the government sustain it contrary to the will of the people? Contrary to reason?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

How's this for oversight?

The Congress may not be willing/able to do its job, but some generals may be ready to step up to the plate.
SOME of America's most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.
"There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran," a source with close ties to British intelligence said. "There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible."
The threat of a wave of resignations coincided with a warning by Vice-President Dick Cheney that all options, including military action, remained on the table. He was responding to a comment by Tony Blair that it would not "be right to take military action against Iran".

Well, he got it right...

Here's why I'm taking a hard look at Obama's candidacy. He's said to not have enough experience in foreign affairs, but stack up the positions he took in 2002 with the results that the 'experience' of Cheney and Rumsfeld have brought us.

Add this clip to the 2002 speech he made (link to the speech in this earlier post), and he demonstrates that he had it right before the war.

And you, Senator Clinton?

(Thanks to Andrew Sullivan.)

Rice: "Don't Micro-manage"

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday it would be a mistake for Congress to micromanage the Iraq war and she encouraged lawmakers to support President Bush's troop increase.

"I would hope that Congress would recognize that it's very important for them to have the oversight role," Rice said. "But when it comes to the execution of policy in the field, there has to be a clear relationship between the commander in chief and the commanders in the field."

Where to begin?

How about with the observation that SOMEONE has to manage this war. The Bush administration has mangled this war from the decision to mislead the nation into Iraq, its further policy of deception in terms of how US troops would be received (there was NEVER any reason to think that 'candy and flowers' were a likely outcome), and in terms of the number of troops that would be required (the now thouroughly discredited Rumsfeld Doctrine), the cost of the war in both dollars and lives (remember "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED"?).

Secondly, the 'commander in chief' only has a relationship with the 'commanders in the field' when those commanders agree with what he, as the 'decider' has already developed as a preconceived (and ill-conceived) notion. When he adopted the Rumsfeld Doctrine and professional soldiers argued that more troops were necessary, he ignored them. Now, when it serves his political purposes to have a 'surge' of troops, the generals have said it won't make a difference. But he goes ahead anyway. There doesn't seem to be a real working relationship between the President and the generals. Certainly not one that the Congress should avoid disrupting.

Americans should not accept the 'wink and nod' reference to congressional oversight by Rice. She speaks for an administration that has no toleration for oversight, unless the overseers simply rubber stamp the Decider-in-Chief's policies.

Congress failed the American people by adequately overseeing the Administration's ill-fated decision to take the US to war, and by passing a Gulf of Tonkin resolution giving the President a hand too free in Iraq.

Congress must not fail the nation again. They must step up and and oversee and, when necessary, limit this war, prevent it from broadening, and hasten it's end.

At present, they are indeed failing again. No meaningful action has come from this Congress in regards to the war. The House has passed a non-binding resolution. Key phrase: Non-binding. The Senate has failed to do even that much. No meaningful timetables, benchmarks, or binding measures of restraint (clarifying, for example, the lack of authority to take th nation to war with Iran) have been enacted. The stakes are too high for a 'do-nothing' Congress.

The people must demand more.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


As of Saturday, Feb. 24, 2007, at least 3,154 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.

Proxy war on the horizon?

Will the US get Israel to do the dirty of attacking Iran?

The Daily Telegraph quoted an unnamed senior Israeli defence official as saying that negotiations were taking place with the US-led coalition in Iraq to provide an "air corridor" over Iraq if the Jewish state decided on unilateral action.

"We are planning for every eventuality, and sorting out issues such as these are crucial," the official told the conservative British broadsheet in a dispatch from Tel Aviv.

"If we don't sort these issues out we could have a situation where American and Israeli war planes start shooting at each other."

The Israeli government denies the report.

Worth keeping an eye on. This author clearly will.

But perhaps the Bush Administration will plan to merely take the nation recklessly into war with Iran as it took the US in to war in Iraq.

Despite the Bush administration's insistence it has no plans to go to war with Iran, a Pentagon panel has been created to plan a bombing attack that could be implemented within 24 hours of getting the go-ahead from President George W. Bush, The New Yorker magazine reported in its latest issue.

The special planning group was established within the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in recent months, according to an unidentified former U.S. intelligence official cited in the article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in the March 4 issue.

Sure, Hersh is a major critic of the President. But, he's been solid in his reporting about issues regarding Iraq- especially Abu Grahib. And he's been on top of the Iran angle for some time. And VP Cheney seems to lend credence to the argument that the White House is beating the war drum with his 'all options are on the table' remark regarding Iran.

Quite frankly, the Pilgrim will not feel comfortable that this President will not lead us into war with Iran until this President has left office.

Time is of the essence

The U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said unless emission of greenhouse gases is drastically reduced by 2020, global warming could pose irreversible and disastrous impacts.

Read the whole report here.

Why the disparity?

Americans are pretty precise in their knowledge of how many US soldiers have died, but grossly underestimate the number of Iraqis who have been killed? Why is this? Since most Americans believe that the US presence in Iraq is to help the Iraqi people, one would think that they would take a keen interest in Iraqi deaths- which could, at best, be said to be 'unhelpful' to those individuals.

...Americans’ tendency to lowball the Iraqi death toll by tens of thousands.

Iraqi civilian deaths are estimated at more than 54,000 and could be much higher; some unofficial estimates range into the hundreds of thousands. The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq reports more than 34,000 deaths in 2006 alone.

Among those polled for the AP survey, however, the median estimate of Iraqi deaths was 9,890. The median is the point at which half the estimates were higher and half lower.

Is this lack of factual understanding- remember people do know the facts of how many US soldiers have died- a form of psychological self-protection? I don't know. What I do know is that to make the best possible decisions, we need to face up to all the facts. We failed, as a nation, to do that before the Bush Administration took this country into a war of choice. We must not fail again.

Giving it more thought than it really deserves...

Periodically the Pilgrim engages in a bit of escapism- in the form of brain-candy thriller novels. The Da Vinci Code was one. I've read a couple of books in a similar mode recently.

Reading these works has provoked a bit of thought in me (I thought reading these books was to get away from thinking...) regarding their points about Christianity.

Essentially these sorts of books (Da Vinci Code, The Last Templar, The Templar Legacy) have a couple of main arguments: Christianity is not historically accurate and have unjustified supernatural beliefs, Gnostic works are more historically accurate and almost hyper-rational, and if the world discovers this, then Christianity will fall like a house of cards.

I'm not sure why authors of these religious thriller novels and (allegedly) non-fiction works like Holy Blood, Holy Grail, keep themselves locked into such problematic arguments.

  1. The basic tenants of Christian faith- virgin birth, Jesus' miracles, the resurrection, even Jesus existence- cannot be proven historically because the gospels weren't written by 'eye witnesses'. On one level, absolutely true. The gospels were written later. They were not by direct eye witnesses and cannot be demonstrated as historically accurate (even by cross-referencing among the gospels since they disagree on key events). But, the argument is not nearly so simple as these authors make it seem. First, Jesus existence is referred to earlier than in the gospels- by Jewish historian Josephus and Paul (whose letters are believed to pre-date the gospels), so at least that argument is very far from solid. Second, and important for the arguments of the authors, issues such as Jesus' miracles or resurrection cannot be dis-proven historically. There is no discovery that has, will, or can ever be made that will disprove these basic beliefs. Why? The negative cannot be proven. What would they find- a photograph of Jesus not performing a miracle? Even if the photograph existed (which it clearly cannot) some sort of statement/evidence that Jesus did not perform a miracle at a given moment does not preclude that he did at another. This line of reasoning by the Pilgrim doesn't provide any logical or evidentiary support for Christianity, but it demonstrates that the authors (Brown, et. al.) in question argue a case they cannot make.
  2. Gnostic works are more historically accurate and non-supernatural. Demonstrably false. The authors in this case cherry-pick the gnostic works- in my estimation simply to find what they can to support a pre-existing attitude and tell a compelling story, rather than because they found actual evidence in support of a new idea. The gnostic works- from Nag Hammadi and elsewhere- were written over a wide expanse of time. Some of them may have been written before at least some of the gospels (this is an area of significant scholarly disagreement. In particular, some argue that the Gospel of Thomas predates the canonical gospels.). Others, some of which are often used by the authors in question, may have been written significantly later than any of the canonical gospels. Furthermore, gnostic works are not hyper-rational, utterly lacking in mysticism and supernatural beliefs. Quite the opposite. In terms of supernaturality (if that's not a word, let's just pretend it is), the gnostics often held beliefs that today people who believe in something as seemingly wild as the resurrection, for example, would find very odd. Many gnostics believed that the transcendent god (the 'good god', if you will) was not the creator of the world/universe, but rather that a 'bad god' (perhaps even evil) created the world. They also believed in spiritual beings- often called aeons- that seem to be greater than angels. Polytheistic? Maybe. I'm not sure. The gnostics were not a people with a clear and coherent catechism, so it's hard to characterize their beliefs. But, it is easy to report that they were not the scientific rationalists the 'conspiracy theory' religious thriller authors claim.
  3. Finally, discovery and dissemination of the truths of the gnostics/Templars/Leonardo Da Vinci, will so shock the world- particularly the Christian world- that Christianity will crumble. Well, gnostic works have been referenced in books by those hoping to expose their 'heresy' for a very long time. The originals of many of the documents were discovered in 1940s. These authors keep repeating their versions of these documents, and their speculations about others who made 'discoveries' of the 'fiction' of Christianity. I have yet to see the chaos these authors say will ensue. Sunday will be upon us in a handful of hours, and Christians will gather all around the world (of course many don't wait until Sunday to meet, but you see what I'm saying). Apparently the 'truth' these authors purport to tell us is not so shocking. Or, perhaps, it is not so true.

Don't get me wrong. I read gnostic works. I've found a lot of wisdom in some. I've had my beliefs challenged by others. I go back to these texts regularly. I am always thrilled to hear of new discoveries (like the recent Gospel of Judas). There is much to be gained from these works. But, they are not what Dan Brown and his compatriots would have us believe.

I suppose that accuracy in reporting compels me to say I'll likely continue to read the thrillers from time to time as well.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Normally, the Pilgrim is a news hound- scouring the news for the latest.

Lately, I can't bear to watch on the television or even scan the internet news sources.

How can American be so captivated by two non-stories:
The death of Anna Nicole Smith and the head shaving, rehab skipping Britney Spears?

Is the war in Iraq over?
Are nuclear crises w/ Iran and North Korea solved?
The Palestinian/Israeli conflict resolved?
No poverty, environmental concerns, injustice?
New Orleans rebuilt?

It is depressing that the networks are so completely lacking in perspective that these two stories- particularly the Smith death- are dominating coverage.

And there is no alternative- the major news outlets are all captives of their lack of imagination.

We can't even get away from it on the web- the new pages all seem to have banners, pictures, and lead stories dominated by the trivial. ("Click here for live streaming of the Anna Nicole Smith hearing." No thanks). Their pack mentality pushes them all in the same direction, to cover the same stories, in pretty much the same manner.

So, I've been sitting out the news for the better part of two weeks.

I hope the news networks recover their sanity before I lose mine.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
- Isaiah 58:6-7

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"We don't torture."

Is this the democracy we took to Iraq?
Former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan alleges:

I was immediately [after arrest] asked to kneel down and I was asked again immediately `Where is he, Saddam Hussein? Where can we find him?'' as soon as I said I don't know, I was kicked to the floor. When I said I was tired, they began kicking me on my body, my shoulders, I was hit by the aluminum rod and forced to crawl and this went on. And when I asked for water to drink, they put the bottle in my mouth but I found it was hot. When I pleaded with them for cold water, they poured ice water on my body and my head, they said `This is how you will drink the water as you requested,' and that went on for two hours.

Then my elbows and knees started bleeding on the floor from crawling. Then they asked me to stand up, they tied my hands, they put the black bag on my head after they blindfolded me and they led me to a nearby place. I felt it was a wooden room. They asked me not to sit down and to keep walking back and forth inside the room non-stop, saying we will return in a few hours. We want you to think hard of our question and they left. They told the guards not to let me stop. After, I asked the guards to go to the restroom and an hour after my request they led me to the iron box (portable toilet). They led me in, took the bag off my head so I can see and they closed the door, without untying my hands. I said `How can I use the bathroom without untying my hands,' but they didn't answer.

Five minutes later I was led back to the room without having relieved myself. I resumed my walking back and forth and as a result of exhaustion and after 12 hours from my arrest, and some dizziness and numbness, some urine spilled on my body and on the floor. When the guards noticed they came and kicked me on the floor and took me by the neck and dragged me where the urine was and I was almost unconscious for five minutes.

Another Detainee:
The interpreter told me to take off my clothes … So I took off all my clothes. Then he put the bag back over my head. I was taken to another room that had black walls and an air conditioner. Water was poured on the bag, my neck and shoulders, the air conditioner was turned very cold and I was made to stand in front of it. The only light in the room was a flashlight. There was a stereo in the room. They made me listen to a bad movie in English language, then some American music, then sounds of children crying. A box was put over my head and something wet on my neck. I was told to walk from wall to wall. I could not see and walked into the walls, which would press the box into my chest. This caused me pain which lasted a couple of weeks.

The interrogator asked if I would now tell the truth. I told him I had said everything I know. He asked me if I was tough enough to continue. I told him no. He put me in front of the air conditioner and poured more cold water on me, keeping me wet. Then he put an MRE [Meals Ready to Eat, the military's pre-packaged food] in each of my hands and made me push them towards the ceiling. I held them up for a while then my arms began to drop. Someone punch me in my spine, below my shoulder blades with a fist. I passed out …

Saturday, February 17, 2007


It is nothing less than shameful and embarrassing that the US Senate cannot get itself together to even have a vote on a resolution regarding the Bush surge.

Senate gridlocks on Iraq war resolution

They can't even get a debate and vote to happen on a non-binding resolution. How will they ever get work done on a bill that is really meaningful in regard to the war?

It wasn't that long ago that Republicans threatened to get rid of the filibuster when it comes to judicial appointments. Appointments deserve an up or down vote, they said. They were right.

One step further- get rid of the filibuster for any legislation. Period. It's an undemocratic rule that serves no useful purpose except gridlock. 51 votes in the Senate should rule the day. Then the House and President can take their constitutionally mandated actions. The notion that 41 senators can keep a vote (or in this case a debate for a vote) from happening is ridiculous.

There are those that say that the debate on the surge is damaging the morale of troops. Well, the troops must feel much better in the knowledge that they fight for a nation where half of that nation's legislature can't even bring a measure up for vote on the most pressing issue the nation faces- the war in which those troops are engaged.

America deserves an up or down vote on the surge.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Torture Accountability

From CNN:

An Italian court has ordered 26 Americans and six Italians to stand trial in connection with the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program.

The 35 are scheduled to go to trial June 8 for allegedly kidnapping and transferring a terror suspect to third countries. Three other Italians face charges of complicity in the kidnappings.

However, none of the Americans -- almost all CIA agents -- is in custody in Italy and the Italian government has not asked for their extradition to Italy.

The case revolves around the alleged kidnapping of Osama Nasr Mostafa Hassan, an Egyptian-born Muslim cleric, also known as Abu Omar, in February 2003.

Even if tried in absentia, this is a good thing, ultimately- even for the US. There must be accountability and formal judgment of the wrong that has been done. Then, perhaps, it will not be done again.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Obama Apology


Sen. Barack Obama said in his first presidential campaign news conference that the lives of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq were “wasted.” He quickly retracted the statement, and later apologized to anybody he offended.

Obama should retract his apology. Not his original statement. He should retract his apology.

From a definition of 'wasted': to consume, spend, or employ uselessly or without adequate return; use to no avail or profit; squander.

America is not more secure because of Iraq. The mission in Afghanistan has gone unfulfilled. US torture policy has become a rallying cry of our enemies, and has alienated our would-be friends. In short, the war in Iraq has done the US no good at all, and has done the US significan harm.

Obama's original statement was correct. Soldiers lives have been wasted.

This is an indictment not of the soldiers- those who have died or those who served with them- but of the commander-in-chief who sent them to Iraq and mismanaged their efforts there.

America has not benefitted, and will not benefit, from this war that was a product of NeoCon fantasy and misinformation.

Lives have been wasted, and this President would waste more with his 'surge.' To state that fact, and to indicate that one would like to be a different sort of President, does not require an apology.

Not so fast

The Bush Administration says that Iran is behind the attacks on the US.
Iranian weapons found in improvised explosive devices in Iraq and the capture of some Iranians did not by themself implicate Tehran, the head of the U.S. military's joint chiefs of staff said on Tuesday.

Officials of U.S.-led forces in Baghdad showed journalists on Sunday fragments of what they said were Iranian-manufactured weapons and said that those at the "highest levels" of Tehran's government were involved in arming Iraqi militants.

Marine Corp Gen. Peter Pace told a news conference in Jakarta that some of the material that has been used in improvised explosive devices in Iraq was from Iran and that some Iranians had been captured during operations against these networks.

"That could not translate to that the Iranian government per se procured these or is directly involved in doing this."

We're not going to do this again, are we?  Go to war (or widen a war) on half-baked politicized evidence?

Build up to war??

Another article on the Rumors of War
We must be on guard against more aggressive action by our government.
A great way to do this, remind ourselves of the costs and lack of benefits of the current war.  More than 3,000 dead.  American prestige in the world devastated.  American security at home compromised.  Civil liberties under threat.
Let's not do it again.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Just another day...

Good thing we're there. Otherwise, the place might descend into chaos.

Bombs strike Baghdad markets, kill at least 71
Bombings come as Shiites mark anniversary of mosque attack in Samarra

Thunderous explosions and dense smoke swirled through central Baghdad on Monday when three car bombs ripped apart a crowded marketplace in a Shiite neighborhood, setting off secondary explosions and killing at least 71 people, police said. A suicide bombing nearby killed at least nine.

The blasts shattered the city center on the first anniversary, according to the Muslim lunar calendar, of the bombing last year of the important Shiite Golden Dome shrine in Samarra, north of the capital. That attack by al-Qaida in Iraq set off the sectarian bloodletting that has turned Baghdad and much of central Iraq into a battleground.

Shops and stalls were obliterated and smoke blackened the area, obscuring what had been a sunny day as it rose hundreds of feet into the air above the market near the east bank of the Tigris River.

Ambulances and pickup trucks rushed many of the nearly 165 wounded to nearby al-Kindi hospital in the largely Shiite neighborhood, which has been hit by a series of deadly bombings this year. The sectarian killings have continued despite a new U.S. and Iraqi operation aimed at stopping the violence set off by the Feb. 22 bombing of the Samarra mosque.


A great quote for today, given that it is the anniversary of President Lincoln's birth in 1809.
"Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose. If to-day he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, — 'I see no probability of the British invading us;' but he will say to you, 'Be silent: I see it, if you don't.'

"The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions, and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood,"

- Abraham Lincoln, in a letter to William H. Herndon, Feb. 15, 1848.

Logic that should have ruled the day before the invasion of Iraq, and must rule the day before any action is taken against Iran.

Source:  Andrew Sullivan.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


As of Sunday, Feb. 11, 2007, at least 3,122 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.

In N.H., Clinton faces tough questions over Iraq

And she should.

From Reuters:

Democratic presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday attacked President George W. Bush for "arrogance and incompetence" in Iraq but faced tough questions over her own vote to authorize the war.

On her first visit in a decade to the state that helps kick off the 2008 White House race, Clinton told voters in New Hampshire that Iraq was a challenge because of "the arrogance and incompetence of our administration in Washington."

[S]he was asked if she wanted to "have it both ways" by calling for the war's end after voting for the measure five years ago.

But the questions highlight how the war remains a potential vulnerability for her among party activists whose support is critical in the party's nomination process.

"I don't think this issue going to subside anytime soon," said Dean Spiliotes, director of research at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. "There is a lot of pressure on her now to explain her vote and almost do a little penance for it."

The war in Iraq is not wrong because it has gone badly. It is wrong because it was unjustified and immoral. I think Sen. Clinton is trying to have it both ways. So did Sen. Kerry. So are a lot of Democrats who lacked the wisdom and/or moral courage to do the right thing before the invasion of Iraq.

She will have to convince the Pilgrim that she truly understands the error of her ways- not of President Bush's ways- before she will be able to receive his vote.

Build up, AGAIN??

The sabre rattling against the Iranians appears to be growing.  To what end?  Is the US about to enter another conflict?  Everything that is happening has a familiar feel to the build up to war in Iraq.
From Reuters :
A senior defense official from the U.S.-led Multinational Force in Baghdad told a briefing that 170 coalition troops had been killed by Iranian-made roadside bombs known as explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) that he said were smuggled into Iraq.

Officials showed reporters fragments of what they said were Iranian-manufactured weapons, including one part of an EFP -- which is strong enough to penetrate the armor of an Abrams tank -- and parts of 81 mm and 60 mm mortar bombs.

On the one hand, I don't doubt the Iranians, at some level, are involved.  On the other, I can' help but be suspicious of an administration that got it so wrong last time.

Fact is, right now we have two wars.  In Afghanistan, things are not going well.  In Iraq, the strategy is a disaster.

Let's not pick any more fights.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


As of Friday, Feb. 9, 2007, at least 3,117 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.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Graphic representation

People killed in Iraq. In January. Just one month.

Refugee Crisis

I first began to hear of this quite some time ago (see post here, here, and here), but here's a more recent article on the refugee crisis in Iraq.

One out of every seven Iraqis has fled his or her home or sought refuge abroad, the largest movement of people in the Middle East since the war that followed Israel's creation in 1948, according to United Nations officials and relief workers. Every day, violence displaces an estimated 1,300 more Iraqis in the country; every month, at least 40,000.

On Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the creation of a high-level State Department task force on the refugee issue.

The Bush administration "has been slow to react to a worsening situation, amid ample warnings," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement. Rice's task force, he said, "is a hopeful sign, and it can move us forward as long as it doesn't waste time pondering the obvious."


When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.
- Isaiah 41:17-18

A warning sign?

Is this conflict in Jerusalem around the mosque a sign of more trouble to come?  It's been relatively quiet in Israel itself.  Worrisome.

Get ready

Read this report for a preview of the soon to be released attacks on Obama.
Beginning with his announcement for president on Saturday, the long knives will be out for Obama from three directions: Reporters, perpetuating the boom and bust cycle of a ravenous media culture, will try to make up for fawning coverage of the past. Democratic rivals want to get him out of the way. And some top Republicans think the party would have a better chance with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., as the nominee, since she is a known quantity while Obama can try to define himself as anything he wants.

Officials at the top of both parties calculate that Obama has risen too fast to sustain his popularity in the cauldron of a presidential campaign. Democrats talk of "vapid platitudes" that could produce a "soufflĂ© effect" – an implosion as journalists and activists begin probing for substance behind Obama's appealing promise of "a different kind of politics" and "a new kind of politics."

Torture in Iraq

From the Washington Post:

The lead interrogator at the DIF had given me specific instructions: I was to deprive the detainee of sleep during my 12-hour shift by opening his cell every hour, forcing him to stand in a corner and stripping him of his clothes. Three years later the tables have turned. It is rare that I sleep through the night without a visit from this man. His memory harasses me as I once harassed him.

Despite my best efforts, I cannot ignore the mistakes I made at the interrogation facility in Fallujah. I failed to disobey a meritless order, I failed to protect a prisoner in my custody, and I failed to uphold the standards of human decency. Instead, I intimidated, degraded and humiliated a man who could not defend himself. I compromised my values. I will never forgive myself.

American authorities continue to insist that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident in an otherwise well-run detention system. That insistence, however, stands in sharp contrast to my own experiences as an interrogator in Iraq. I watched as detainees were forced to stand naked all night, shivering in their cold cells and pleading with their captors for help. Others were subjected to long periods of isolation in pitch-black rooms. Food and sleep deprivation were common, along with a variety of physical abuse, including punching and kicking. Aggressive, and in many ways abusive, techniques were used daily in Iraq, all in the name of acquiring the intelligence necessary to bring an end to the insurgency. The violence raging there today is evidence that those tactics never worked. My memories are evidence that those tactics were terribly wrong.

While I was appalled by the conduct of my friends and colleagues, I lacked the courage to challenge the status quo. That was a failure of character and in many ways made me complicit in what went on. I'm ashamed of that failure, but as time passes, and as the memories of what I saw in Iraq continue to infect my every thought, I'm becoming more ashamed of my silence.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Too cold to blog

The Pilgrim is stuck in the deep freeze here in Michigan. So cold that schools were cancelled- just for the cold, not due to snow.

While it's not really too cold to blog, it's a good excuse to take a couple of days away from the screen.

Back at it tomorrow.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

Very worrisome

This worries me greatly.

Baghdad offensive set to begin

A U.S.-Iraqi campaign to stabilize Baghdad will begin soon and the offensive against militants will be on a scale never seen during four years of war, American officers said on Sunday.

A scale never before seen in Iraq? Greater than 'shock and awe'? I hope this is just hyperbole. -GP

Environmental Stewardsip

Nice piece here on the concept of a connection between religion and care for the environment. The article coincides with a position long held by the Pilgrim. worth a look. Quote below. -GP

Theologians have argued for taking better care of nature out of respect for God's work, but if you look at the results, too many people have ignored the advice.

Friday, February 02, 2007

It's a sad day

It's a very sad day when the US receives a lecture- appropriately- from China on an issue of the morality and effectiveness of foreign policy.  We might properly remind China of its invasion and repression of Tibet, but that would not dilute the truth of China's criticism of the policies of the Bush Administration.  - GP
BEIJING, Feb. 1 — A senior Chinese government official issued a rare public rebuke of President Bush on Thursday, accusing him of waging a "unilateral" battle against terrorists that had worsened global tensions.

The official, Ye Xiaowen, director of China's State Bureau of Religious Affairs, said in a front-page article in the overseas edition of People's Daily that Mr. Bush's past references to a "crusade" and to "Islamic fascism" were verbal gaffes that revealed his effort to turn the fight against terrorism into a religious war.

Partly as a result, he said, the United States had lost support for the war in Iraq and had frittered away the good will Americans gained after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

"The more they oppose terrorism, the more terror they produce," Mr. Ye said in the article. "How many more troops will they send to die in the meat grinder" of Iraq.

Mr. Ye wrote that Mr. Bush had effectively "hijacked" one religion, Christianity, to engage in a battle against another one, Islam. That has strengthened Islamic fundamentalists and made the war unwinnable, he contended.

"Unilateralism and terrorism breed each other, but neither can overcome the other," he wrote.


A quote from Defense Sec. Gates:

"The President has made clear, the Secretary of State has made clear, I've made clear ... we are not planning for a war with Iran," he told reporters.

Remember when President Bush said there were no plans 'on my desk' for a war with Iraq.

There's a lot of noise in Washington about Iran right now.

The more they say 'we are not planning...' the more I fear they are.



The understanding of anthropogenic warming and cooling influences on climate has improved sincethe Third Assessment Report (TAR), leading to very high confidence [90% probability] that the globally averaged net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming...

IPCC Report


Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level.
IPCC Report

Time for debate- Over

The time to act is upon us.
The IPCC report is released today.  An article and 'Summary for Policymakers'.
[The report] has been compiled by 130 leading climate change scientists based on the work of thousands of scientists and is expected to show that the debate over whether human activities are causing climate change is all but over.

"We can be very confident that the net effect of human activity since 1750 has been one of warming," co-lead author Dr Susan Soloman told delegates at the conference in Paris designed to finalise and release the report.

The report states that it is over 90 percent certain that human activities are causing warming in the climate and that further emissions of greenhouse gases will accelerate global warming. It also claims that positive feedback effects caused by the oceans and forests becoming less adept at absorbing carbon as temperatures rises could drive temperatures still higher.

The report concludes that temperatures will probably increase by between 1.8 and 4C by 2100, though they could climb by as little as 1.1C and as much as 6.4C, which would result in catastrophic effects such as major droughts and sea level rises.

The scientists behind the report hope it will underpin the debate at both the G8 Summit and the next round of UN climate talks in Indonesia later in the year...

The debate at that summit can only now be about what to do, not whether to act.


Thursday, February 01, 2007


Long-time opponent of the war in Iraq, Senator Robert Byrd, recently remarked about Bush's troop surge plan:

"At the outset of this war, the Bush administration believed, apparently, that democracy could be exported through the barrel of a gun. That belief was wrong them; it is wrong today. Twenty thousand more troops won't make it right."

The Truth- Unvarnished

Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski shoots straight regarding the Iraq war.
It is time for the White House to come to terms with two central realities:

1. The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America's global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America's moral credentials. Driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability.

2. Only a political strategy that is historically relevant rather than reminiscent of colonial tutelage can provide the needed framework for a tolerable resolution of both the war in Iraq and the intensifying regional tensions.

If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a "defensive" U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Members of Congress aren't used to that much truth-telling.

A united opposition

This is a very significant development in DC.
Two senators [John Warner, a Virginia Republican, and Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat] leading separate efforts to put Congress on record against President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq joined forces Wednesday, agreeing on a nonbinding resolution that would oppose the plan and potentially embarrass the White House. 

It lacks Levin's language saying the troop increase is against the national interest, and it drops an earlier provision by Warner suggesting Senate support for some additional troops.

The resolution is likely to pose a threat to the White House because of its potential appeal to Republicans who have grown tired of the nearly four-year war and want a chance to express their concerns.

Many will try to downplay the significance of this because (1) the language is softened from the desired Democrats language and (2) Pres. Bush is the decider, and the resolution has no force of law.
Actually, because of point #2, point #1 is irrelevant.  Since the resolution is not law and will not- in a practical sense- stop the surge, the fact that the language is softened does not matter.  What will matter is that, apparently, a large number of senators will likely sign on to this resolution- from both parties.  The Democratic resolution would likely have failed to get a majority (with there being only 50 Dem. Senators due to the illness of Sen. Johnson, and the fact that some Democrats would not be on board), but this resolution may be able to get more than 60 votes.
Through this resolution, the Senate- perhaps later the House- can begin to do what it should have done 4 years ago- weigh in on specific policy options regarding Iraq, and define some parameters for US involvement there.  Ideally four years ago the Congress would have told the President 'no' when he sought provoke unnecessary conflict, but, at a bare minimum, the Congress should have examine the issue more closely, helped to define goals and objectives, and made limitations for US action clear.
Congress has forsaken its constitutional responsibilities.  It is time that the members of Congress stand up and take those responsibilities seriously.  It is also time that they be called to account that they, not just Pres. Bush, are very much responsible for the immoral and ineffectual war in Iraq, and the damage to US prestige and interests it has caused.