Friday, June 29, 2007

Quote- Unity and Iraq?

Unity that is dictated by the powerful is not unity. Unity at the cost of the poor and the oppressed, at the cost of the integrity of the gospel, is not unity.
- Alan Boesak

Consider the geopolitical applications of this.

This is what we saw upon the collapse of the old Soviet Union. Not only did the USSR fall apart, leaving us with "former Soviet republics", but we also saw the collapse of Soviet bloc nations. This led to the division of some of those nations, and a major humanitarian crisis in Bosnia.

This principle is also apparent in Iraq. The 'unity' of the nation under Saddam was not true unity. He could not really 'force' a unification of the ethnic and religious differences that existed in Iraq. He could only keep the divisions beneath the surface. When the US invasion of Iraq removed Saddam, the apparent unification disappeared.

Can the US now force unity on Iraq? The obvious answer is no. In fact, the US will not even be willing to use enough force to create a surface unity. That is the our credit, one may say.

However, what we have, if we seek to retain the territorially integrity of a united Iraq, is an untenable situation. It will also be a situation that will not see an end of US military presence in Iraq any time in the foreseeable future.

While I know it will not be easy, it is becoming apparent that we need to explore the possibility of the partitioning of Iraq. Perhaps, in the end, that will not be the answer. We do not know this yet, however. I have heard no serious discussion of such a move from any political leader. As we move forward in this political season, we need to demand serious consideration of all legitimate (especially meaning "moral") options by our political leadership. We should not accept the political garbage that Rudy Guliani has resorted to ("We must fight them there so we don't have to fight them here") or the facile answers of Obama and Clinton (vague explinations of "draw-down" and "redeployment").

American has already been led down the wrong path by a leader of simplicity. We need to recognize the complexity of the Iraq situation, and demand realistic and detailed answers before putting anyone else behind the desk in the Oval Office.

Partitioning Iraq may be a bad option, but the fact is that when the decision to invade was made, bad options was all that the US was left with. Perhaps the bad option of partitioning would be better than the terrible option of 'stay the course,' which, despite any window dressing that may be used, is essentially what all parties are discussing now.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


It is better to be of a lowly spirit among the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.
- Proverbs 16:19

"You break it, you buy it."

I know Colin Powell will be most remembered for his UN speach justifying the Iraq invasion, but I will always remember his quote of warning about the very same invasion.

The consequences of the invasions are clear, and do not seem to be improving, no matter what manifestaion of 'policy' Bush and his team come up with.
This morning's news out of Iraq:

BAGHDAD - Twenty beheaded bodies were discovered Thursday on the banks of the Tigris River southeast of Baghdad, while a parked car bomb killed another 20 people in one of the capital's busy outdoor bus stations, police said.

The beheaded remains were found in the Sunni Muslim village of Um al-Abeed, near the city of Salman Pak, which lies 14 miles southeast of Baghdad.

The bodies — all men aged 20 to 40 years old — had their hands and legs bound, and some of the heads were found next to the bodies, two officers said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

Meanwhile, a parked car bomb ripped through a crowded transport hub in southwest Baghdad's Baiyaa neighborhood at morning rush hour, killing at least 20 people and wounding more than 50, another officer said on the same condition.

Many of the victims had been lining up for buses, awaiting a ride to work. Some 40 minibuses were incinerated in the explosion, police said.

For all the devastation he has wrought, I don't think we should let George W. Bush leave office at the end of his term. Of course we cannot keep him on as President. He should become the new mayor of Baghdad. Let him see what he has done close up.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Creative Young Person's Video for Peace

Original video post is here, and responses posted along the right side of the page.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


It would be a mistake to discount the Romney candidacy at this point.  He's polling well in Iowa (where McCain and Guliani have dropped out of the 'straw poll'), and is moving up in New Hampshire (close to home, as the recent governor of Mass.).  If he were to win both of those when the actual voting takes place, or perhaps even wins in just Iowa and comes close in New Hampshire, he could move into this shortened primary process in very good shape.
But then the general election comes, and Romney would have real problems (against Obama, but much less so against Clinton) because of his shifting positions on issues key to the Republican base.  Will they stay home if he's the nominee?  Not if Clinton is the Democratic nominee- they'll turn out in big numbers to vote against her.  But what if Obama gets the nod?  Then we'll start hearing sound bites and seeing video tape of Romney's contradictory stances, and see more cartoons like this one.

Military Prescription- The Wrong Medication

Interesting editorial from the LA Times that argues, in part:

THE CHALLENGE confronting those aspiring to the presidency, therefore, is to devise an alternative to Bush's failed strategy. To pass muster, any such strategy will have to recognize the limits of American power, military and otherwise. It must acknowledge that because the United States cannot change Islam, we have no alternative but to coexist with it.

Yet coexistence should not imply appeasement or passivity. Any plausible strategy will prescribe concrete and sustainable policies designed to contain the virulent strain of radicalism currently flourishing in parts of the Islamic world. The alternative to transformation is not surrender but quarantine.

Over time, of course, Islam will become something other than what it is today. But as with our own post-Christian West, that evolution will be determined primarily by forces within. Our interest lies in nudging that evolution along a path that alleviates rather than perpetuates conflict between Islam and the West. In that regard, the requirement is not for a bigger Army but for fresh ideas, informed by modesty and a sense of realism.

The candidate who can articulate such ideas might well merit respect and popular support. Those who in the absence of serious strategic analysis reflexively posture about the need for more troops deserve only contempt.

We need to move beyond our "war on..." analogies. We declare "war" on everything, it seems, here in the US: drugs, poverty, etc. We cannot simply kill or destroy everything we don't like about our world.

Part of our failure in this area, and it seems to me that this is a direct outgrowth of our "war on..." approach, is our inability to recognize the role we play in creating the root causes in some of our problems. While the US is not responsible for the twisting of Islam into a fundamentalist, violent religion by some of its practitioners, we are responsible for policies that directed much of their anger at us. But we cannot say that here in the US (the Pilgrim can get away with such heresy due to his political irrelevance). Witness what happened to Ron Paul when he dared to think this way- and say so- during the Republican debate. It was so easy to spin his argument into a "straw man" ("Ron Paul blames the US for 9/11"), and his opponents didn't resist doing so.

In war, both sides always thing themselves on the side of the right. That is why so many Americans are willing to tolerate torture- of both detainees and the Constitution- right now.

Outside of the "war on..." approach is found greater possibility for self-criticism, and, thus, greater chances for growth and actual achievement of goals. There is no "modesty," as the author quoted above calls for, in a militaristic approach.

Flawed thinking puts us on the wrong path. If we are on the wrong path, how can one argue that we will get to the desired destination?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Told you so...

For a long time the Pilgrim has been asserting that the Iraq invasion has been contrary to US security interests- that we have in fact been made less safe by the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld attack on Iraq. Iraq, I have said, will become the new Afghanistan.

Well, the facts are coming in to justify that previously speculative claim.

Iraq becomes prime training ground for export of Jihadists

The new generation of Islamist militants in Iraq are more battle-hardened than their veteran anti-Soviet counterparts from Afghanistan, and the export of their Muslim "holy war" to calmer Arab countries has become a phenomenon.

"The Iraqi resistance doesn't need people inside, they have more than they need, freeing up foreign fighters to fight elsewhere," said Marwan Shehadeh, an expert in radical movements with the Vision Research Institute in Amman.

"They are in contact with each other because Salafi (strict Muslim) ideology is spread all over Arab and Islamic countries," he said.

In a report released in April by the US government, Dennis Pluchinsky, a former intelligence expert in the State Department, said Iraq veterans were the most dangerous because they were better trained than their Afghanistan counterparts.

"There are some operation parallels between the urban terrorist activity in Iraq and the urban environments in Europe and the United States," Pluchinsky wrote.

"More relevant terrorist skills are transferrable from Iraq to Europe than from Afghanistan to Europe."

In the Al-Qaeda camps of Afghanistan, volunteers almost never see real fighting, according to those who have passed through.

In Iraq, if he survives, a Jihadist will have acquired unbeatable experience having been pitted against the world's best army.

"If Afghanistan was a Pandora's box which when opened created problems in many countries, Iraq is a much bigger box, and what's inside much more dangerous," said Masri.

More on Torture

Rumsfeld lied (shocking!) about what he knew and when he knew it regarding Abu Grhaib. Another great article by Sy Hersh.

The Torture Diaries

If you still entertain the illusion that the US government does not condone and practice torture, read these documents. (Via Andrew Sullivan)

Haven't been posting much...

The school year just ended for the Pilgrim. It's been a long hard year. I just haven't had the energy to think much beyond professional and family responsibilities. I'll get back to work here on the website in the next couple of days.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Checking the Imperial President

Bush loses another court battle for unfettered authority in the (so-called) "war on terror." Hopefully the victories for the Constitution will continue to pile up.

Court overrules Bush ‘enemy combatant’ policy
Judges: President may not detain legal U.S. resident without charging him

The ruling was a harsh rebuke of one of the central tools the administration believes it has to combat terror.

“To sanction such presidential authority to order the military to seize and indefinitely detain civilians, even if the president calls them ‘enemy combatants,’ would have disastrous consequences for the Constitution — and the country,” the court panel said.

Powell on Gitmo

"[E]very morning I pick up a paper and some authoritarian figure, some person somewhere, is using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds. [W]e have shaken the belief that the world had in America's justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open ...  We don't need it, and it's causing us far more damage than any good we get for it,"  -Colin Powell  [from Andrew Sullivan]
It's unfortunate for Powell and for America the he decided to be such a 'team player' in the build-up to the Iraq invasion.  It is his nature to be the voice of reason for an Administration with too little reason.  If he had stood on principle, many Americans may have been more suspicious of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld claims and more likely to ask serious questions about the propriety of the war.  Failing to do so helped lead us into war, and destroyed the credibility of someone who I would generally be inclined to trust.  Powell's story, to me, is a sad one, but not overwhelmingly so, because his wounds are self-inflicted.

Friday, June 08, 2007


The Senate last night failed to move an immigration bill forward . This shows again why the filibuster rule in the Senate should go. Can't blame the filibuster too much, though, as the bill got only 45 votes for closure, not only short of 60 necessary to stop debate and force a vote, but also short of the 51 necessary to pass the bill into law.

The Pilgrim is no xenophobe, but it is undeniable that illegal immigration is a problem in this nation. It is a problem for both the immigrants (paid terribly, lacking adequate medical care, unfit housing, etc.) and for the rest of America (it is placing an incredible strain on the infrastructure of cities and states). Immigration is a problem that must be addressed.

The bill killed by the Senate seemed a reasonable one. The fact that both the far right and left hated it may be considered evidence of that reasonableness. The bill seemed to be one that would at least begin to get a handle on the problem. Its failure is further evidence of our government's inability to truly address the issues of greatest importance to the nation. Rhetoric is provided when action is needed.

The 100 members of the Senate should be deeply embarrassed by their failure.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

NY Times on Gitmo

Congress needs to restore the right of the inmates of Guantánamo Bay to challenge their detentions. By the administration's own count, only a small minority of the inmates actually deserve a trial. The rest should be sent home or set free.

Second, Congress should repeal the Military Commissions Act and start anew on a just system for determining whether prisoners are unlawful combatants. Among other things, evidence obtained through coercion and torture should be banned.

And Congress should shut down Guantánamo Bay, as called for in bills sponsored by two California Democrats, Representative Jane Harman in the House and Senator Dianne Feinstein in the Senate. Both lawmakers are intimately familiar with the camp and have concluded it is beyond salvaging.

The Guantánamo camp was created on a myth — that the American judicial system could not handle prisoners of "the war against terror." It was built on a lie — that the hundreds of detainees at Gitmo are all dangerous terrorists. And it was organized around a fiction — that Mr. Bush had the power to create this rogue system in the first place.

With Friends Like These...

Does Bush have any supporters left?  Outside of his family, I mean. 
Not much, if this is any indicator.  This is a stab from Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, and a strident supporter of this President on Iraq and in general.  Until now, since Bush hasn't already pardoned Scooter Libby.
So much for loyalty, or decency, or courage. For President Bush, loyalty is apparently a one-way street; decency is something he's for as long as he doesn't have to take any
risks in its behalf; and courage--well, that's nowhere to be seen. Many of us used to respect President Bush. Can one respect him still?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Bush's Global Warming Plan


More Surge Failure

U.S.-led forces have control of fewer than one-third of Baghdad's neighborhoods despite thousands of extra troops nearly four months into a security crackdown, a newspaper reported Monday — an assessment that came as the U.S. casualty toll soared. But military officials said they have warned all along that the fight would not be easy.
The New York Times said an American assessment of the security plan through late May found that American and Iraqi forces were able to "protect the population" and "maintain physical influence over" only 146 of the 457 Baghdad neighborhoods.
Troops have either not begun operations aimed at rooting out insurgents or still face "resistance" in the remaining 311 neighborhoods, according to the report, which cited a one-page assessment along with summaries from brigade and battalion commanders in Baghdad.

Friday, June 01, 2007


Christ is the true philosopher because he embodies in his ministry the welcoming and caring reception of others so that they might more fully be the beings they are meant to be. Indeed, in the Christlike effort to understand, serve, heal, feed, and reconcile the earth and its communities we show forth the highest wisdom.

- Norman Wirzba