As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, August 26, 2005

From Bad To Worse

This is where Iraq spins completely out of control:

BAGHDAD - Iraq’s Shiite and Kurdish leaders decided Friday to send an amended constitution to parliament this weekend, even though Sunni Arab negotiators said they rejected the latest document. Bypassing the Sunnis would be a blow to U.S. efforts to lure Sunnis away from the insurgency.

Unless reversed, the decision, announced by several Shiite officials after daylong negotiations, would set the stage for a bitter fight across the country. Shiites and Kurds will encourage their people to vote for the charter in the Oct. 15 referendum with Sunnis lobbying just as strongly against it.

In Washington, U.S. officials insisted negotiations were on track and that talks at some level were still ongoing before dawn Saturday. However, Iraqi government spokesman Laith Kubba said the two-month negotiations were hopelessly deadlocked.

“This is the end of the road,” Kubba told Al-Arabiya television. “In the end, we will put this constitution to the people to decide.”

Failure to win Sunni endorsement of the draft would be a major embarrassment for President Bush, who telephoned a top Shiite leader, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, and urged him to make compromises with the Sunnis to keep them on board.

It's hard to believe that a single phone call from the President didn't smooth over thousand year-old religious tensions. Don't the Sunnis know how popular he is?

Look, Iraq was never a country, but an artificial construct of British-determined boundaries from the beginning of the last century. Strongmen have a knack for keeping countries like this together (see Tito in Yugoslavia), but eventually they erupt into chaos. Dick Cheney said as much in 1992:

"And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth?" Cheney said then in response to a question.

"And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq."


"Once we had rounded him up and gotten rid of his government, then the question is what do you put in its place? You know, you then have accepted the responsibility for governing Iraq."

"Now what kind of government are you going to establish? Is it going to be a Kurdish government, or a Shi'ia government, or a Sunni government, or maybe a government based on the old Baathist Party, or some mixture thereof? You will have, I think by that time, lost the support of the Arab coalition that was so crucial to our operations over there," he said.

"I would guess if we had gone in there, I would still have forces in Baghdad today, we'd be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home," Cheney said, 18 months after the war ended.

Shoulda listened to... yourself, there, Dick.

Not only do you have Sunnis at the throats of the Shi'ites and Kurds, you have Shi'ites at each other's throats:

A Shiite political battle - ostensibly over constitutional differences - erupted between two powerful militias and spread throughout Iraq Wednesday night and Thursday.

Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army locked horns with the Badr Brigade, the militia of the ruling Shiite religious party the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), signaling that the fight for control of a new Iraq goes beyond the conflict between Shiite, Sunni, and Kurd.

The fighting in southern and central Iraq, where at least nine Iraqis were killed, springs from an emerging power struggle between Mr. Sadr's movement and SCIRI.

Abbas Rubaie, the political director of the Sadr movement, said Thursday that Badr Brigade members, with the help of local police and approval of the SCIRI-loyal local governor, attacked a Sadr office in Najaf, killing guards and several men inside.

Fighting cooled Thursday afternoon after Sadr issued a statement calling for calm. He thanked the government for their calls for peace, but not "the interior minister," Mr. Rubaie said, reading a statement from the cleric. The interior ministry, controlled by SCIRI, runs the police forces and is believed by many Iraqis to be dominated by the Badr Brigade.

When asked if Badr was trying to rein in the power of the Mahdi Army, Rubaie was incredulous. "They can't!" he said, insisting that Mahdi Army members far outnumbered Badr forces.

This is a complex Colombian-style Web of factions and counter-factions that our 138,000 troops are simply ill-equipped to negotiate. Before long everybody will be attacking everybody, and we'll be caught in the crossfire.

Once again, this proves that you can't go into a country with guns blazing, say the words "freedom" and "democracy" and "constitution," and expect everyone to just line up and fall in line. That was literally our entire postwar strategy in one sentence. The fact that it's unraveling is no surprise. The fact that it can, and will, get ever bloodier is no comfort. We're in big trouble now. The President doesn't interrupt his brush-clearing activities and make long-distance calls from the ranch if he didn't know that.


Red State Blue State

This is a map of the hometowns of troops who have died in Iraq, as of August 1 of this year. You can click on it to enlarge.

Look like any other map we know? Maybe an electoral map?

The past few weeks have seen a return of the GOP questioning the patriotism of anyone who dissents from the shockingly bungled strategy in Iraq. The truth is that there is a group out there who shares the same goals of defending America, making its citizens safe, without fucking up the whole thing through bad war planning and questionable strategies for defeating radical Islam. Those people are called the Democratic Party, and if you continue to swallow whole the 40-years-in-the-making "libruls are soft on terrorism" pabulum from the Right, you'll continue to see brave Americans dying in unnecessary wars that endanger our national security. And Democratic cities will still give up their sons and daughters to go fight in them.


Jon Stewart said this best last night, effortlessly taking down the inanities of Christopher "Where's My Bourbon" Hitchens. It's worth watching for this exchange:

Stewart: There are reasonable disagreements in this country about the way this war has been conducted, that has nothing to do with people believing we should cut and run from the terrorists, or we should show weakness in the face of terrorism, or that we believe that we have in some way brought this upon ourselves. . .

Hitch: [Sputter]

Stewart: They believe that this war is being conducted without transparency, without credibility, and without competence...

Hitch: I'm sorry, sunshine... I just watched you ridicule the president for saying he wouldn't give timetables. . .

Stewart: No, you misunderstood why. . . . That's not why I ridiculed the president. I rediculed him because he refuses to answer questions from adults as though we were adults and falls back upon platitudes and phrases and talking points that does a disservice to the goals that he himself shares with the very people needs to convince.

Damn straight.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Operation Enduring Bases

For those out there that think we don't have to continue to marshal support for withdrawal from Iraq because the President is fixing to do that anyway, take a look at this:

From the ashes of abandoned Iraqi army bases, U.S. military engineers are overseeing the building of an enhanced system of American bases designed to last for years.

Last year, as troops poured over the Kuwait border to invade Iraq, the U.S. military set up at least 120 forward operating bases. Then came hundreds of expeditionary and temporary bases that were to last between six months and a year for tactical operations while providing soldiers with such comforts as e-mail and Internet access.

Now U.S. engineers are focusing on constructing 14 "enduring bases," long-term encampments for the thousands of American troops expected to serve in Iraq for at least two years. The bases also would be key outposts for Bush administration policy advisers.

That doesn't sound like a policy of letting the Iraqis deal with their own security. The fact is we want to transfer our Middle Eastern beachhead from Saudi Arabia to Iraq. This keeps Halliburton and KBR building far into the future, and has the benefit, at least in theory, of having our troops in a country with hand-picked leaders loyal to US policy. I don't know whether that's the case anymore, considering the footsie game being played between Iraq and Iran. But since the original interim constitution mandates open markets and foreign investment, Baghdad is certainly a friendlier corporate environment than Riyadh for Big Oil.

The point of all this is, President Cheney and his cronies aren't looking to get out of Iraq. Ever. From their standpoint, it doesn't matter if they lose the war as long as they win the oil services contracts. It's high time a prominent Democrat (or Republican, a la Chuck Hagel) asked about these enduring bases, about what our long-term designs on the country are from the standpoint of the DoD.

(via Digby, whose related post on this topic is a must-read.)


I'm Tired

I'm tired,
sick and tired of love,
I've had my fill of love,
from below and above,
tired of being admired,
tired of love uninspired,
let's face it,
I'm tired!

-Lilly Von Shtup, Blazing Saddles

I think everyone is tired. I was tired of the war before the invasion of Iraq and my involvement has been rather more peripheral than GWB's. But it's a good point.

-Glenn Reynolds,

If the Perfesser is so tired of the war, maybe he should be laid to rest. Oh wait, that's what's happened to the 1,800+ soldiers.


A Reformer With Results

This is about a week old, but it's finally hitting the blogosphere in force. John Bolton, who was sent (under cover of recess) to the UN to strike a blow for reform, has been systematically undermining UN reform efforts. A memo shows what Bolton's attempting to do to a previously negotiated, US-supported plan for reform:

In short, the document does the following:

~ knocks out entirely the Millennium Development Goals

~ continues to undermine collective efforts against climate change

~ knocks out targets and timetables for all goals and objectives

~ guts any efforts toward further disarmament objectives and focuses exclusively on non-proliferation, while both had always been important objectives in the past

~ strikes the section that states that countries will use force only as last resort

~ and oddly, strikes out the need to establish a legal definition of terrorism, which the Bush administration has previously stated is a requirement before proceeding towards a U.N. Convention on Terorrism.

So Bolton's continuing to enhance our sterling reputation around the globe by backing out on previously negotiated conventions, demanding the he gets his way. Thanks for leading the way on reform, there, John.


Iceberg Warning

Republicans are starting to jump ship:

Congressman Jim Leach (R, Iowa) has informed Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D, California) that he will co-sponsor her Resolution of Inquiry into Bush Administration communications with the U.K. about Iraq at the time of the Downing Street Memos.  Leach is the first Republican member of Congress to publicly support a demand for an inquiry into the Bush Administration's pre-war claims.  The 131 congress members who have signed Congressman John Conyers' letter to the President about the Downing Street Memo are all Democrats.  The 11 Senators who have asked the Senate Intelligence Committee to do the investigation it committed to in February 2004 but never did are all Democrats.

According to the article, two more Republican votes and this gets through the International Relations Committee. There are 27 Republicans on it. It's very realistic this will get to the full House, where Republicans will be on the spot to back their White House and risk re-election, or save their political hides and throw the Adminstration overboard. I'll let you in on a secret: politicians usually try to save their own hides before they worry about someone else's.
This is not going away.


Frailty, Thy Name is Greta

Greta Van Susteren is upset that people are criticizing her turning her show into the "Natalee Holloway Find-A-Thon". I don't know the people are criticizing her in particular (although the Daily Show comment, claiming that she must be Holloway's mother, because only a relative would show that kind of perpetual and sustained grief, was pretty good). She seems to be upset that other journalists have scruples:

Much of the criticism got started when Bob Costas declined to guest host for Larry King last week. He declined when the producers planned to do a show on missing persons — I assume Natalee Holloway to be the main topic. I had considered responding to Costas' decision, which was widely reported, with a tongue in cheek remark (e.g. "He only looks for missing golf balls at the 8th hole") but then realized that maybe Bob Costas is not behind this latest skirmish over missing persons shows or segments. Plus, upon reflection, my tongue in cheek thought about Costas is not funny and it is probably wrong to criticize him. I also reminded myself that the bottom line is that the epidemic of missing people is serious and I should not be making jokes about it. It is not funny. It is not funny to the families.

Here is the plain truth: We have a missing persons problem — a giant one. The problem includes adults and children. It is here in the United States and overseas. We can either help or spend our time acting holier than thou.

The missing persons "epidemic" shows that cases declined 4% in 2001 (the most recent year studied), across the board, in every category. You wouldn't know it from the emotional pornography on display nightly "On The Record."

Van Susteren also says that the families of missing persons don't want her to back off. Of course they don't. They're in pain, and they don't mind being exploited for profit if it allows them to get their loved one back. That doesn't change how Greta stokes people's fear with her insistent narrow-minded focus, to the extent that I'm sure half the heartland thinks they're sure to be abducted the next time they walk out to the tractor. All she's doing is the same "if it bleeds, it leads" sensationalism that tabloid journalists have practiced since the Lindbergh baby. Missing persons were as much an epidemic then as they are now. That's ridiculous. It's a ratings grab, pure and simple, especially because absolutely nothing has changed in the case for months. There are less outstanding missing persons cases than there are troops in Iraq. I'd rather see a nightly show with those families.

I do agree that the last person in a position to criticize is CNN executive Jonathan Klein, who is busily running the once-venerable network into the ground by aping Fox at every turn. Which network did three weeks on the Atlanta judge shooting (mainly because it was in Atlanta)? Which network did a month on the runaway bride (mainly because she was from near Atlanta)? Which network thinks the key to hard political reporting is making their anchor STAND UP and putting giant monitors behind him (You're in The Situation Room, sucka)?

Bottom line, Greta Van Aruba is touchy because she knows what she's doing is self-serving, cynical and harmful to the dumbing-down of America. Actually, she probably doesn't know any of that. She's not really a journalist, but a lawyer who came to fame during the OJ Trial. Why would she understand such a thing?


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Bread and Circus

The absolutely brilliant Billmon unearths this gem of a quote, showing just how far we've sold our soul in Iraq:

"Human rights should not be linked to Islamic Sharia law at all. It should be listed separately in the constitution," said Safia Souhail, Iraq's ambassador to Egypt.

The prominent women's rights campaigner denounced wording that grants each religious sect the right to run its own family courts -- apparently doing away with previous civil codes -- as an open door to further Islamicise the legal system.

Although in practice, many Iraqis end up having recourse to religious authorities or informal tribal law, the idea of a united civil code is central to the modern state, Souhail said.

"This will lead to creating religious courts. But we should be giving priority to the law," she said.

"When we came back from exile, we thought we were going to improve rights and the position of women. But look what has happened -- we have lost all the gains we made over the last 30 years. It's a big disappointment."

Who is Safia Souhail? She's the woman at this year's State of the Union address who hugged the mother of a slain US soldier. She was the prop in the speech, given right after the elections, to prove to the American people that we were on the right course in Iraq. And now she's screaming that women have never had less rights in the country than they do now.

It's disgusting that we let this Administration get away with this crap. Next thing we know, we'll learn that there were no purple ink stains on anyone's fingers. It's all bread and circus for this group of phonies, but on the ground in the real world, they're fucking things up for centuries to come.

I wonder what Laura Bush, who spoke so forcefully about women's rights in Afghanistan before we invaded, thinks about this setback to women in Iraq. Here's what she said in November 2001:

Afghan women know, through hard experience, what the rest of the world is discovering: The brutal oppression of women is a central goal of the terrorists. Long before the current war began, the Taliban and its terrorist allies were making the lives of children and women in Afghanistan miserable. Seventy percent of the Afghan people are malnourished. One in every four children won't live past the age of five because health care is not available. Women have been denied access to doctors when they're sick. Life under the Taliban is so hard and repressive, even small displays of joy are outlawed -- children aren't allowed to fly kites; their mothers face beatings for laughing out loud. Women cannot work outside the home, or even leave their homes by themselves.

The severe repression and brutality against women in Afghanistan is not a matter of legitimate religious practice. Muslims around the world have condemned the brutal degradation of women and children by the Taliban regime. The poverty, poor health, and illiteracy that the terrorists and the Taliban have imposed on women in Afghanistan do not conform with the treatment of women in most of the Islamic world, where women make important contributions in their societies. Only the terrorists and the Taliban forbid education to women. Only the terrorists and the Taliban threaten to pull out women's fingernails for wearing nail polish. The plight of women and children in Afghanistan is a matter of deliberate human cruelty, carried out by those who seek to intimidate and control.

Change "Taliban" to "Da'wa Party," and sadly, it matches up. Do you think there's any pillow talk in Crawford about that? Or was she just another prop in the PR offensive?


The Guy Knows His PR

After a radical cleric threatens to kill him, Hugo Chavez comes right back and becomes the world's first politician to offer a solution to high gas prices:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, popular with the poor at home, offered on Tuesday to help needy Americans with cheap supplies of gasoline.

"We want to sell gasoline and heating fuel directly to poor communities in the United States," the populist leader told reporters at the end of a visit to Communist-run Cuba.

Chavez did not say how Venezuela would go about providing gasoline to poor communities. Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA owns Citgo, which has 14,000 gas stations in the United States.

I think Chavez just wants to be left alone by the US. The CIA already tried to toss him out once. But after this flap, he can now claim the mantle of martyrdom as a man under attack from the imperialist gringos. And his raised profile allows him to reach America's working class with statements like this. Two days ago they wouldn't have known who Chavez was. Now he's the only guy out there offering to fill up their tank for less.

Thanks, Pat. Real helpful.

UPDATE: Digby gets at something I've been trying to formulate here. Chavez is not gassing his own people, he's not threatening the region militarily, he's not even (by virtue of his winning elections) a dictator. He's just a populist leftist, who's admittedly done some regrettable actions regarding state secrecy and restraining political freedom.

But America's problem with him is an economic one; he won't buckle to the free-market capitalist hordes, he won't give them the oil revenues they want. And by offering cheap gas in America, he's cutting them out of the deal.


Safe To Go Back in the Water

4 years after 9/11 was apparently the end of the statute of limitations. It's apparently OK to hate New York City again.

The savages have declared war, and it's far preferable to fight them in the streets of Baghdad than in the streets of New York (where the residents would immediately surrender).

Isn't Ann Coulter one of those NYC residents? What a cheese-eating surrender monkey. I guess I'll never understand why she alwys blames Americans first.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Separation of Church and State... Where Have You Gone...

LA TImes:

Nearly every Monday for six months, as many as a dozen congressional aides — many of them aspiring politicians — have gathered over takeout dinners to mine the Bible for ancient wisdom on modern policy debates about tax rates, foreign aid, education, cloning and the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Through seminars taught by conservative college professors and devout members of Congress, the students learn that serving country means first and always serving Christ.

They learn to view every vote as a religious duty, and to consider compromise a sin.

When you find the CAFTA quote in the Bible, let me know. I'll be sitting over in the corner completely creeped out. I'm not a big believer in theocracy for a variety of reasons. I think politicians would do better to answer to voters than their personal conception of God (especially if, like Pat Robertson, their God condones extrajudicial murder). Constituencies matter. If you want to base your decisions on the Bible, and your constituents send you to the Capitol to do so, so be it, by all means you can do so. When those beliefs start to trump what you were sent to Washington to do, when they cut against the rights of the minority, the exercise of religious and individual freedom, and the spirit of compromise upon which government works and this nation was based, you're travelling down a slippery slope.

I think the best voice on why this is incredibly dangerous would be the Pope:

In his remarks to the Muslim leaders, almost all of whom were Turkish, Benedict acknowledged that Christians, too, had killed in the name of religion.

"How many pages of history record battles, and even wars, that have been waged with both sides invoking the name of God, as if fighting and killing the enemy could be pleasing to him?" he said.

"The recollection of these sad events should fill us with shame, for we know only too well what atrocities have been committed in the name of religion."


Also let me say that the young people taking these classes are being duped. I mean that wholeheartedly. The "teachers" of these classes are movement conservatives from the old school (like Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly) who have no problem twisting Biblical passages to fit a pro-business, conservative agenda. It's as plain as day. I could go on for pages and pages about throwing the money-changers out of the Temple and blessed are the meek and all of it. This is a wolf in sheep's clothing if I've ever seen it. The Robertson gaffe was an example of the wolf escaping the costume.


Media Picking Up the "Patwa"

I'm loking at CNN right now, and they've been hammering this Pat Robertson story all day. They carried the Venezuelan ambassador's remarks live. They allowed that Robertson is a former GOP Presidential candidate, and (as the ambassador noted) credited Robertson with helping Bush to victory in South Carolina in 2000. They accepted, tacitly, how these facts blast apart the whole "he's a private citizen" line of BS that the Defense Department and others on the right have been bloviating. This is someone extremely close to the Administration calling for political assassination. That's the frame.

This is also the top story on Google News.

I'm kind of shocked. Usually this kind of thing is just swept under the rug, taken up as a cause celebre by the left blogosphere but unable to penetrate the mass media. Why is this getting attention over, say, the time Robertson and Falwell blamed 9/11 on the ACLU and feminists?

I think Americans, thanks to the blinding light of history, are a little sharper about what has been done in our name. From Iran to Chile to Guatemala to countless other spots around the globe, Americans know that we've "taken out" the leaders of sovereign nations time and time again. The government has just never been so direct as to say it out loud. And when someone does, it hits a nerve.

It forces people to confront the disconnect between our rhetoric and our actions. Really Robertson's statement shouldn't be shocking; it's been official US policy to undermine our enemies as long as any of us can remember. Anyone recall Operation Mongoose? But the out-of-sight, out-of-mind principle too easily explains away our moral shortcomings by keeping them hidden.

Of course, this hasn't stopped Wolf Blitzer from saying breathlessly "isn't there a little wiggle room in the federal assassination law?" Bob Dole, no fan of Robertson (a foe in the '88 primaries), smacked that down sharply, basically saying Robertson's an idiot, and it'd take a hell of a person to make Chavez look sympathetic, but that's exactly what he did.

It's great that the media is paying attention to the words of the American Taliban. However, I think Democrats are dropping the ball here. They simply refuse to go for the jugular and use these words to drive a wedge right through the heart of the evangelical community. It would be so easily to return to a time when these guys are not respected but consigned to the lunatic fringe. They make it so very easy through their words and deeds every day. But we have to shine the light on it for the transformation to take place.

I want to see a prominent Democrat risk the yelling and screaming from the Christian right that would result by saying just what Bob Dole said today. I wish a Democrat would say how this ally of the President just damaged our national security with these remarks. I'm less hopeful than I should be about that, but certainly they're going to have the opportunity, given that the media is picking up this story and running with it. We'll have to see who's got the cajones.


Out of Gaza

This could have gone a lot worse, and given the two-thousand-year-old tensions in the region, I'd have to call this a success. How this gets us closer to a Palestinian state that recognizes its borders and respects its enemy is another thing. Israel wants to keep control of the border with Egypt, which turns the 1.3 million refugees in Gaza more into prisoners than free citizens. It doesn't have to be that way. Gaza badly needs economic development that will take the leverage out of the hands of groups like Hamas, allowing Gaza's residents to take care of themselves. A combination of real infrastructure improvements, freedom of movement, and a hardline stance from Mahmoud Abbas against armed militia will be needed. I don't know how you can have followed the Middle East over the last 50 years and not be pessimistic that all of those things can be done.

But it's a start. And Sharon should be lauded, although I'm still wary that the giveup of Gaza territory is something of a ploy to cement control over settlements in the West Bank.


Monday, August 22, 2005

Round and Round

And here we go again. WaPo:

Traces of bomb-grade uranium found two years ago in Iran came from contaminated Pakistani equipment and are not evidence of a clandestine nuclear weapons program, a group of U.S. government experts and other international scientists has determined.

"The biggest smoking gun that everyone was waving is now eliminated with these conclusions," said a senior official who discussed the still-confidential findings on the condition of anonymity.

Sound familiar?

I've said before that Iran was a greater threat than Iraq, and even with this revelation, their support for Hizbollah and their radical mullah leadership still makes them so. But this is a grave blow to an already-battered US intelligence system. And an even bigger blow to the credibility of this Administration, which pounced on the news last year, and started to beat the war drums again. They won't back down an inch, I'm sure, but this time that dog won't hunt. Ever hear of the tale of The Boy Who Cried Wolf? That's where were at, folks.

Iran is at least ten years from being close to a nuclear program, and they've insisted that it's not their intention to do so. This despite an admission of guilt from A.Q. Khan (who we haven't bothered to arrest, he's living in a Pakistani villa) on a collusive relationship two years ago. Now our bungling gives them credibility over us. Can you imagine? It's like we're trying to fuck up.


Here's a military action I can get behind.

Thousands continue to die in Darfur. Wes Clark wants us to go in.

After a series of UN Security Council resolutions on Darfur and a donors conference to boost the African Union Mission there, you could be forgiven for thinking the international community has responded adequately to the crisis. Sadly, this is far from the case. The international community urgently needs to take bold new action.

The truth is, civilians are still targeted in Darfur. The pro-government Janjaweed militias still remain unchecked. Humanitarian access is still restricted along key transit routes and in areas where millions of displaced Sudanese have gathered. Women and girls are still being raped as they leave their camps to collect firewood and forage for food. It's a tragedy...

The UN Security Council, in consultation with the AU, should request and authorize NATO to deploy a multinational "bridging force" to bring the combined force level in Darfur immediately up to 12,000 to 15,000 troops while the African Union prepares and deploys its own forces.

This is not an easy recommendation to make for Darfur, where all multinational organizations have been at pains to keep non-African troops out of Sudan. But the notion that the atrocities in Darfur are solely African problems requiring exclusively African solutions has to be reconsidered. These ongoing offenses are crimes against all humanity. They demand an international response that gives human life priority over diplomatic sensitivities.

Working together, NATO and the AU can save the lives of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. They can demonstrate to outlaw regimes like the government of Sudan that the international community will not tolerate crimes against humanity.

And we must do this now.

We have a moral responsibility to help stop the killing in Darfur. We can't hide behind the falsehood of "we don't know what's happening on the ground" because we've known for some time. We've even called it a genocide, almost a year ago. Clinton dropped the ball in Rwanda, and I don't want to see some story of hundreds of thousands being slaughtered in Africa popping up in my Yahoo Inbox like clockwork every five or ten years. It's not enough that this country does not find Africa strategically significant; I find humanity significant. I find the country that held bin Laden throughout the 1990s significant. I find stopping Islamic despotism and the murder of African Christians significant. Our hands are only tied if we want them to be.

Wes Clark is absolutely right. I think recent events can stop this nonsense of classifying Democrats and Republicans as antiwar and pro-war. Democrats that I respect (not necessarily those of the DLC establishment "Bush is wrong but let's stay the course" variety) believe in justified war to protect our interests and save human lives. Iraq is doing neither; Darfur would do both.


The Holy Hand Grenade

Here's Pat Robertson on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, from the 700 Club:

There was a popular coup that overthrew him [Chavez]. And what did the United States State Department do about it? Virtually nothing. And as a result, within about 48 hours that coup was broken; Chavez was back in power, but we had a chance to move in. He has destroyed the Venezuelan economy, and he's going to make that a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent.

You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don't think any oil shipments will stop. But this man is a terrific danger and the United ... This is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine, we have other doctrines that we have announced. And without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.

A preacher advocating assassination. Maybe they could use the Holy Hand Grenade:

Then did he raise on high the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, saying, "Bless this, O Lord, that with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy." And the people did rejoice and did feast upon the lambs and toads and tree-sloths and fruit-bats and orangutans and breakfast cereals... Now did the Lord say, "First thou pullest the Holy Pin. Then thou must count to three. Three shall be the number of the counting and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither shalt thou count two, excepting that thou then proceedeth to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the number of the counting, be reached, then lobbest thou the Holy Hand Grenade in the direction of thine foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it."

p.s. Chavez was NOT overthrown with a popular coup. He was temporarily taken out in an oligrachy-led, CIA-aided coup that had virtually no popular support, which is why it failed. Subsequently Chavez' rule was upheld in a referendum. We may not like it, but that's what happened. Go see The Revolution Will Not Be Televised for more on this. It was a popular coup the way Pinochet deposed Allende in a "popular coup" in Chile. Please.


"Deal" reached on Iraqi constitution

In this instance, a "deal" means that the Shiites and Kurds reached a deal, and the Sunnis had better go along with it. Amazingly, the above article touts a deal, and includes a paragraph like this:

Sunni Arab negotiators had complained of being sidelined in the final week of talks and that Shiites and Kurds were cutting deals excluding them.

That's not a deal, that's strong-arming. And what it ultimately means (besides civil war) is the end of women's rights in Iraq. After $200 billion dollars and 1,860 American lives, we invaded a secular state so it could become a theocracy:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. diplomats have conceded ground to Islamists on the role of religion in Iraq, negotiators said on Saturday as they raced to meet a 48-hour deadline to draft a constitution under intense U.S. pressure.

Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish negotiators all said there was accord on a bigger role for Islamic law than Iraq had before.

But a secular Kurdish politician said Kurds opposed making Islam "the," not "a," main source of law -- changing current wording -- and subjecting all legislation to a religious test.

"We understand the Americans have sided with the Shi'ites," he said. "It's shocking. It doesn't fit American values. They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state ... I can't believe that's what the Americans really want or what the American people want."

Read this to understand the consequence of Sharia law for women. Short version: women have no political rights, religious rights, inheritance rights, divorce rights (all the man has to do is say "I divorce you" three times, and it's done), or rights of personal expression. Hello, burqa! In pre-9/11 Afghanistan, women couldn't be doctors, and couldn't be treated by a male doctor. Think about the centuries of racism in this country, and realize Americans have never come close to being this cleverly cruel, and you'll see how despairing this is.

At least Washington is finally being consistent: theocracy at home, theocracy abroad. And yet I fail to see how this jibes with fighting a war on terror, particularly if you define terror as "radical Islam." Conservative pundits, who aren't as likely to unquestioningly swallow Administration pabulum (unless they're peddling it), understand how very wrong this is:

For what it’s worth, this is where I get off the bus. The principal mission of the so-called “war on terror” – which is actually a war on militant Islam – is to destroy the capacity of the international network of jihadists to project power in a way that threatens American national security. That is the mission that the American people continue to support.

As those who follow these pages may know, I have been despairing for a long time over the fact that the principal mission has been subordinated by what I’ve called the “democracy diversion” – the administration’s theory that the (highly dubious) prospect of democratizing Iraq and the Islamic world will quell the Islamists. (Aside: go ask Israelis if they think the fledgling “democracy” in Gaza and the West Bank – which is very likely to bring Hamas to power – promotes their national security.)

Now, if several reports this weekend are accurate, we see the shocking ultimate destination of the democracy diversion. In the desperation to complete an Iraqi constitution – which can be spun as a major step of progress on the march toward democratic nirvana – the United States of America is pressuring competing factions to accept the supremacy of Islam and the fundamental principle no law may contradict Islamic principles.

Heh. Indeedy.

There are still holdouts in the "learned" class, like this joker Reuel Marc Gerecht who obviously thinks democracy means "eliminating the voices of half the people":

MR. GERECHT:  Actually, I'm not terribly worried about this.  I mean, one hopes that the Iraqis protect women's social rights as much as possible.  It certainly seems clear that in protecting the political rights, there's no discussion of women not having the right to vote.  I think it's important to remember that in the year 1900, for example, in the United States, it was a democracy then.  In 1900, women did not have the right to vote.  If Iraqis could develop a democracy that resembled America in the 1900s, I think we'd all be thrilled.  I mean, women's social rights are not critical to the evolution of democracy.  We hope they're there.  I think they will be there. But I think we need to put this into perspective.

I don't think we'd all be thrilled. I mean, 51% of the American electorate might be a little pissed.

In our zeal to desperately present good news out of Iraq (look everyone, a constitution! How bad can it be if we have a constitution!), we're creating exactly the Islamic caliphate bin Laden seeks. With the news out of Afghanistan getting worse every day, we're one coup away from an Shiite Islamic superstate stretching from the edge of Turkey to the edge of China. Exciting, no?

We obviously cannot tell Iraq how to run their own country, at least not overtly. But the fact that nobody at the Pentagon or in the Administration saw this coming is ludicrous. Iraq has no natural border or ethnic identity. The minority has been oppressing the majority for decades. Payback, revenge, and splitting off into armed camps is a logical consequence. And that's where we're at.