Monday, November 27, 2006

Iraq Quagmire: Option 2

We are still awaiting the report from the Iraq Study Group which will presumably give President Bush detailed instructions on how to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. In the previous post we reviewed the McCain option of adding more troops to the Iraq war in an effort to stabilize the region. We also noted that the venerable Senator did not give us a clue from what source these extra troops would come.

Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Vietnam veteran, represents the opposing stance, that we should “redeploy” our armed forces, in other words pull out and allow the Iraqis to sink or swim. We have seen Bush dither as the situation has devolved in stepwise fashion on his watch.

Here's a blurb from Chuck Hagel's op-ed from this past weekend:

"The time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed. We do not have more troops to send and, even if we did, they would not bring a resolution to Iraq. Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs: America cannot impose a democracy on any nation -- regardless of our noble purpose.
We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. They will decide their fate and form of government...
The United States must begin planning for a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq. The cost of combat in Iraq in terms of American lives, dollars and world standing has been devastating. We've already spent more than $300 billion there to prosecute an almost four-year-old war and are still spending $8 billion per month.
It is not too late. The United States can still extricate itself honorably from an impending disaster in Iraq. The Baker-Hamilton commission [aka, ISG] gives the president a new opportunity to form a bipartisan consensus to get out of Iraq. If the president fails to build a bipartisan foundation for an exit strategy, America will pay a high price for this blunder -- one that we will have difficulty recovering from in the years ahead. “

This is basically the position that Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), a decorated combat veteran, had taken several months ago for which he was called a “coward” by Rep Jean Schmidt (R-OH); and this is the option which the president, vice-president, RNC Director Ken Mehlman, Sean Hannity, Karl Rove and other chickenhawks have labeled "cut and run." And the list of experts that have taken the public wrath of the administration is impressive:

  • Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark said in May 2006, "I think that the United States should soon begin its process of redeployment."
  • Former National Security Agency director and retired Lt. Gen. William E. Odom wrote in the May/June 2006 issue of Foreign Policy, "America must withdraw now."
  • Retired Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard Jr. and retired Brig. Gen. John H. Johns wrote in November 2005, "There may well be some negative consequences as a result of withdrawing of U.S. troops, but fewer, we believe, than if we continue on the present course. Ultimately, the United States will be stronger if we leave the quagmire that is Iraq to resolution by its own citizens."
  • In a November 2005 interview, retired Army general William Nash said, "This is not a situation of figuring out the perfect solution. So I am one who believes strongly that our presence is now a detriment to our achieving our goals. As a consequence, I would say we need to be looking for excuses to withdraw, not for reasons to stay.
  • On October 18, Richard L. Armitage, who served [in the Bush administration] as deputy secretary of state from 2001 until 2005, expressed his support for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops.
And the Dailykos gives more detractors:

"Add to that list former Senator McGovern and William Polk, who in their new book Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now propose starting withdrawal this year, with a complete withdrawal completed by mid-2007. Oh, and add Christopher Preble, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, who called for a withdrawal of troops after the election in 2005 (with complete withdrawal in 2007). Add Barry R. Posen, director of the security studies program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (who argued in January for a complete withdrawal within 18 months). Add former senior counterterrorism official Richard A. Clarke. And add Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. In his op-ed, Carpenter calls for a withdrawal beginning today."

The tsunami of public opinion is engulfing the administration and the only option will be to pursue a “phased redeployment.” The facts on the ground have dictated this eventuality for over a year, and probably two, but the president has dithered away every opportunity to do the right thing. Mr. Bush has broken our military, the nation of Iraq and our international credibility. He has been directly responsible for the deaths or mutilation of hundreds of thousands of people, and that number will surely triple after we leave Iraq.

Unlike Vietnam, the loss of Iraq has significant geopolitical ramifications because 40% of the world's oil comes from the region, but also because neighboring Iran will be strengthened politically and economically by a Shia Iraq, and not least, a failed state in Iraq would surely give terrorist jihadists the perfect training ground.

Next post, we'll discuss what else Bush can destroy in his remaining 24 months.

Iraq Quagmire: Option I

The Iraq Study Group is busily putting the finishing touches on their final report that is supposedly going to save Boy Bush's hide and his presidency. Usually when such a council is set up it is purely for political cover, in other words the president has already decided on “the plan”, and the expert panel is merely configured to add credibility to “the plan.” In this case, however, I don't think Bush is pursuing the panel's advice for the expediency of political cover. I believe Bush really doesn't know what to do. We'll help him consider his options.

George W. Bush deserves our compassion. Seeing him recently meeting with Vietnamese leaders I was struck by how vulnerable and pathetic he looked. His hair grayer, his brow more furrowed, Bush did not seem to have the same irrepressible joviality. He apparently saw no irony in bluntly stating that Iraq is no Vietnam while being entertained in a beautifully manicured palace in the heart of Hanoi. He's right, Iraq is leagues worse.

What to do in Iraq? There are really only two courses to consider: Go heavy, or go home. The American people are weary of this debacle and the president has been derelict in his duty of planning and fighting this war. The time for making this decision is years late. Be that as it may, when the ISG comes out with their recommendations, the president should not expect a silver bullet. There is none, and none will be forthcoming.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has recently taken the Barry Goldwater stance that the USA has a responsibility to the people of Iraq and we should fulfill this obligation by sending more troops in an overwhelming effort to achieve stability. Of course, he conveniently never puts a number on that additional force, but I'm sure it would need to be in the hundreds of thousands. From McCain's recent op-ed:

“We must be honest about the war in Iraq. Without additional combat forces we will not win. We must clear and hold insurgent strongholds, provide security for rebuilding local institutions and economies, arrest sectarian violence in Baghdad and disarm Sunni and Shia militias, train the Iraqi army, and embed American personnel in weak and often corrupt Iraqi police units. We need to do all these things if we are to succeed. And we will need more troops to do them.

They will not be easy to find. We should have begun to increase significantly the size of the Army and Marine Corps the day after 9/11. But we did not. So we must turn again to those Americans and their families who have already sacrificed so much in this cause. That is a very hard thing to do. But if we intend to win, then we must.

It is not fair or easy to look a soldier in the eye and tell him he must shoulder a rifle again and risk his life in a third tour in Iraq. As troubling as it is, I can ask a young Marine to go back to Iraq. And he will go, not happily perhaps, but he will go because he and his comrades are the first patriots among us. But I can only ask him if I share his commitment to victory.”

On one level, I share McCain's sentiment that the Iraqi people deserve our forthright attempt at achieving a livable resolution to the conflict that we started. The question McCain never answers is what it would take to send the necessary troops. The troop levels in Iraq (I'm not even considering the Afghan disaster) have ranged from 125K earlier this year to approximately 145K now after the president canceled the tour leaves of several thousand Marines, National Guard and Army troops. We know this isn't enough to fulfill McCain's plan. The current military has approximately 1 million men and women, of which 1/5 can be deployed at any given time. To get the requisite 400K combat ready soldiers to make up an overwhelming contingent, we would need 2 million active duty. In effect, we would need to double the size of the military immediately, and that would also mean immense outlays for equipment.

Where can McCain get troops? We have already lowered recruitment standards, paid unprecedented sign-on bonuses, and canceled honorable discharges in order to keep men and women in uniform. McCain has no words of advice, except to “ask a young Marine to go back to Iraq.” McCain doesn't answer how many will say, “No, thank you” and how many times will he need to ask that “young Marine” again and again?

In the reality-based world, the only way to acquire enough soldiers to put 400K into Iraq is to dust off the military draft. Indeed, the draft. Literally millions of young men have already signed up for conscription, we already have their names, and the president only has to get the computer to spit out a few hundred thousand random birth dates, and voila! We have a huge frickin' Army. Instantly.

If McCain's stance is actually agreed upon, as long as we are indulging our fantasies, I would add one more recommendation: the only fair thing to do would be to first ask anyone under 30 years-old who voted for Bush in 2004 to do the responsible thing, the patriotic thing, the moral thing. They should be asked to enlist voluntarily and take infantry assignments. If they believe in this war, then we should give them the opportunity to walk the walk.

After all, what would be fair in drafting those who may have voted against this radical administration in the first place? Send them to war? No way. George W. Bush has saved us all from the dreaded weapons of mass destruction, he has bravely rescued Iraq from Saddam, and now our "crusade" has hit a few bumps in the road. Sen McCain is generously offering a solution-- and the very least these young Republicans can do is offer to serve.

Next post, we'll discuss the traitors who want to “cut and run.”

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Subpoenas: the time has come

To re-iterate the cliche, this election was a referendum on George W. Bush's policies. With the Democrats wresting control of the House by two dozen seats, I think it's safe to say the people have spoken. Mr. President, this is what “a mandate” really looks like.

The Senate at this moment is undecided. James Webb and Macaca Allen are in a dead heat, which begs the question, how deranged do you have to be to vote for George Allen over Jim Webb? The fact that Allen got 12 million votes boggles my mind. Who are these people?

Starting in January, the Democrat House has a lot of work to do. The Iraq policy must be changed in the most immediate way. Fiscal responsibility needs to be re-instituted. Immigration, education, health care and the Medicare drug boondoggle, habeas corpus and the torture bill, energy policy and foreign oil use, stem cells, taxes and the deficit: the neglect on these important issues has crippled us for decades. Nancy Pelosi, while not necessarily my favorite legislator, is so much better than what the Republican had to offer that we have cause for hope.

For me, this election is about something bigger. Something more fundamental. This election is about subpoena power. This administration is the most corrupt and secretive in memory. The cynicism of Nixon's White House has been institutionalized and perfected under Bush and Cheney. Nobody puts it better than Billmon:

-- the collectivized bribery of the K Street Project, the Abramoff casino extortion ring, the Defense and CIA appropriation scams, the Iraq War contracting scams, the Pacific Island sex trade protection racket, the church pulpits doubling as ward halls, the illegal wiretapping, the lies, perjury and obstruction of justice in the Plame case (I really could go on like this all day) -- and it's clear that what we need most isn't a new Congress but a new RICO prosecution, with lots of defendents and unindicted co-conspirators.

There's probably not much that can be done on that score, even if the Dems take both houses of Congress today. Oversight hearings and subpoenas to appear are all well and good, but what we really need to see is a heap of good old-fashioned law enforcement. I want to see the Rovians testifying in courtrooms, not hearing rooms.

Only by gaining access to documents and testimony under oath can the the American people learn how the government's power has been used. No-bid contracts, Pentagon spending corruption, misuse of military personnel are all now open for inspection. Let the sun shine in.

The Democrats will have 24 months, a virtual sprint, to get the process rolling. Nothing would warm the cockles of my heart more than seeing Turd Blossom Rove, Darth Cheney and Incurious George sweating it out in House hearings trying to explain what the hell they have been doing the past 6 years. I'd really like to know.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Lot of Kids Left Behind

Kids are at risk.

I know this topic is not nearly as appetizing as Shrub missing Senator Kerry's poorly delivered joke, or the Republican leadership ignoring a congressman's harassment of an underage intern, or a meth-crazed Evangelical pastor playing hide the salami with a male prostitute. And of course in our popular press every topic is framed around the obligatory question “How will this affect Republican voters on Tuesday?”**

The larger issue is how much damage GW will do before he gets his ass continuously subpoenaed over the next two years (as we can only hope.)

Kids are at risk. Make no mistake.

I know this topic will get lost among all the juicy news of yet another Republican hypocrite getting male tail on the sly, but it's just too emblematic of the cognitive dissonance within the White House, even with all this red meat out there to be devoured.

Reuters is reporting that the administration has revised the Medicaid policy to withhold coverage for children born to illegal aliens unless their parents make formal application.

New federal rules deem babies born in the United States to poor illegal immigrant parents no longer automatically qualify for Medicaid health coverage, a policy some doctors worry might deprive these newborns of vital preventive care.

As with most Bush policies, I have no idea the purpose of this mandate. Like the Medicare drug plan, Social Security privatization, reducing dividend taxes, and many many other ideas, this one is just plain inexplicable.

The babies are American citizens by virtue of being born in the United States, even if their parents are in the country illegally.

Medicaid is a joint state-federal government health insurance program for low-income people. Previously, a child born in the United States was deemed automatically eligible for Medicaid for a year after the mother got emergency care under Medicaid for the birth.

"Since the mothers are illegal immigrants, they are not very likely to go to the Medicaid office to enroll their children because they're worried that they're going to get caught and deported," said Dr. John Lewy, a senior official with the American Academy of Pediatrics and retired pediatrician.

"The children are getting trapped by this," Lewy added.

So, Bush is instituting a draconian policy that puts the most vulnerable citizens at risk. Instead of defending our borders to keep illegals out; instead of enforcing laws to catch employers who hire illegals, Bush puts obstacles to care for babies who are eligible for necessary and cost-effective preventive care.

Dr. Rick Kellerman, a family doctor in Wichita, Kansas and president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said as a result of the policy, parents of these babies might not get them preventive care and early intervention for illness.

Because such care reduces the likelihood of major medical problems that are costly to treat, the policy might become hugely expensive for federal and state governments, Kellerman said.

The leaders of the two physician groups who care for children understand the challenges associated with care of poor and defenseless kids. Preventive care has been shown to reduce chronic illness and suffering on a human level, and reduce cost of care on an economic level. Bush's policy is not only inhumane but financially foolish. Surprised? Don't be. Just look at almost any other mandate or project that has come out of the White House-- from the Iraq war to the fight against embryonic stem cell funding: inhumane and costly.

Kids are at risk.

The administration lackeys at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have tried to defend this lame policy by stating that they know of no child who has been refused care because of this mandate. Of course, they are missing the chilling nuance which is provided by Dr. Lewy:

"I don't think there will be evidence that they're denied care. What I think is that they're not seeking care."

Duh! As a taxpayer as well as a physician, I have some appreciation that our nation faces the daunting enterprise of providing increasingly expensive health care to an ever more populous underclass. That's a tough nut, no doubt, but this is not the answer. Public Health 101 clearly states the the most cost-effective measures any community can institute are 1) clean water, 2) sewage management and 3) vaccinations. Even the poorest Third World countries make every attempt to provide these basic aspects of health care to their citizens, but our government is going to withhold one of the most treasured parts of our child care: vaccinations, among other preventive care and anticipatory guidance.

Kids are at risk. And I'm not even getting into the more nuanced topics of “herd immunity” which protects all of us, nutrition, proper use of car seats, prevention of accidents, emergency notification procedures and all the other benefits that these small citizens would have by being plugged into the medical care system from the start.

Why would GWB sign on to such a dangerously negligent policy? Does he think he will coerce the illegals to take their kids-- US citizens-- back to Mexico or Honduras? Does he believe that the few dollars saved by delaying these vaccinations and other services is cost-effective? Does he think that the illegal parents will somehow find the cash to enroll in private insurance to avoid this bureaucratic snafu? Or is Bush just stupid?

For the life of me I cannot see the purpose of this policy. A more sane policy would be to do the opposite: provide the very best medical care for these young citizens. Lavish them with Cadillac care in order to ensure that they grow up healthy and able. Provide parents with needed transportation to bring these tiny American citizens to the doctor. Make every attempt to increase the interaction these poor and often uneducated parents have with health professionals.

Am I a bleeding heart liberal? Hardly. I'm just being plain selfish. These kids are US citizens, so they aren't going anywhere. It's in our best interest they make it to adulthood in one piece, and don't infect our families with rubella or pertussis on the way...

After all, these diapered little citizens are the ones who will be caring for us when we are diapered senior citizens.

[**How the hell should I know?!! I have no idea how anyone could possibly even consider voting Republican on Tuesday, or any other day for that matter. If the Democrats don't win at least the House, then I know in my heart that Diebold delivered this election to save Chicken George and Darth Cheney from impeachment.]