Via Susan G at Daily Kos, Mark Seibel of the McClatchy News Service takes on the President's new Iraq narrative (the piece is worth reading in its entirety):
WASHINGTON - President Bush and his aides, explaining their reasons for sending more American troops to Iraq, are offering an incomplete, oversimplified and possibly untrue version of events there that raises new questions about the accuracy of the administration's statements about Iraq.
President Bush unveiled the new version on Wednesday during his nationally televised speech announcing his new Iraq policy.
"When I addressed you just over a year ago, nearly 12 million Iraqis had cast their ballots for a unified and democratic nation," he said. "We thought that these elections would bring Iraqis together - and that as we trained Iraqi security forces, we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops.
"But in 2006, the opposite happened. The violence in Iraq - particularly in Baghdad - overwhelmed the political gains Iraqis had made. Al-Qaida terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's election posed for their cause. And they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis.
"They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam - the Golden Mosque of Samarra - in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate," Bush said. "Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today."
That version of events helps to justify Bush's "new way forward" in Iraq, in which U.S. forces will largely target Sunni insurgents and leave it to Iraq's U.S.-backed Shiite government to - perhaps - disarm its allies in Shiite militias and death squads.
But the president's account understates by at least 15 months when Shiite death squads began targeting Sunni politicians and clerics. It also ignores the role that Iranian-backed Shiite groups had in death squad activities prior to the Samarra bombing.
Blaming the start of sectarian violence in Iraq on the Golden Dome bombing risks policy errors because it underestimates the depth of sectarian hatred in Iraq and overlooks the conflict's root causes. The Bush account also fails to acknowledge that Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite groups stoked the conflict.
President Bush met at the White House in November with the head of one of those groups: Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. SCIRI's Badr Organization militia is widely reported to have infiltrated Iraq's security forces and to be involved in death squad activities.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recited Bush's history of events on Thursday in fending off angry questioning from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., about why Rice had offered optimistic testimony about Iraq during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in October 2005.
"The president has talked repeatedly now about the changed circumstances that we faced after the Samarra bombing of February `06, because that bombing did in fact change the character of the conflict in Iraq," Rice said. "Before that, we were fighting al-Qaida; before that, we were fighting some insurgents, some Saddamists."
She cited the version again in an appearance later that day before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "This is a direct result of al-Qaida activity," she said, asking House members not to consider Iraq's sectarian violence as evidence that Iraqis cannot live together.
Bush's national security adviser Stephen Hadley used the same version of events in an appearance Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Much like the administration's pre-war claims about Saddam's alleged ties to al-Qaida and purported nuclear weapons program, the claims about the bombing of the Shiite mosque in Samarra ignore inconvenient facts and highlight questionable but politically useful assumptions....
“We are implementing a strategy to embolden a government that is actually part of the problem,” said an American military official in Baghdad closely involved in negotiations over the plan, expressing frustration. “We are being played like a pawn.”
The rest of the story doesn't get any better. All about how the negotiations with the Iraq government about the President's new plan aren't going so well.
I wrote last weekend that in my 20 years in the political and media business I had never seen such a bad pre-rollout of a major Presidential initiative as the rollout of the "new way forward" in Iraq. Well, a week later, I have to say I have never seen such a terrible rollout of a Presidential initiative. The general chatter and press this weekend is unrelentingly bad, almost amazingly so. The President's plan is dead in Congress, has weakened his standing in the nation and will now guarentee a contentious and perhaps dysfunctional American government these next two years - all at a time of great challenge here and abroad.
People associated with the President's Iraq strategy keep losing their jobs. The Republicans lost their majority, Lieberman his primary, Rumsfeld, Casey all gone. Now according to Secretary Gates, Maliki could be next:
Testifying on Capitol Hill about the plan for the second straight day, Mr. Gates said that Iraqi lawmakers might decide to replace Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, if he failed to take steps to carry out the new plan to regain control of Baghdad.
“The first consequence that he has to face is the possibility that he’ll lose his job,” Mr. Gates said. “There are beginning to be some people around that may say, ‘I can do better than he’s doing,’ in terms of making progress.”
Administration officials have discussed among themselves whether they might need to withdraw support for Mr. Maliki if he doesn’t perform, notably by building a new coalition in the Iraqi Parliament. Mr. Gates’s statement was the first mention of the subject in public by a senior administration official.
Mr. Gates and other administration officials have had trouble explaining to lawmakers why they are confident that Mr. Maliki will carry out promises to send more Iraqi troops to Baghdad and to permit them and the additional American forces to operate in Shiite neighborhoods, where they have been blocked from conducting operations in the past.
Mr. Gates conceded that the Iraqi government’s record of fulfilling its commitments is “not an encouraging one,” but said Mr. Maliki now seemed to him “eager” to follow the plan worked out with American commanders.
He acknowledged that Mr. Maliki initially had wanted to carry out the intensified military effort in Baghdad without more American troops. In addition, American military commanders feared that, without American forces monitoring their operations, there could be even worse sectarian bloodshed.
“There’s no question in my mind that Prime Minister Maliki wanted to do this operation on his own,” Mr. Gates said, but he was “persuaded that additional American forces were needed in order to make his plan succeed.”
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, seemed to sum up the skepticism about Mr. Maliki among lawmakers in both parties when she noted that he “did not seem to welcome” the idea of sending more American forces when she met with him in Iraq just weeks ago.
“I’m really skeptical that the prime minister has really bought into this plan,” she said.
In the days leading up to Wednesday's announcement there was an extraordinary movement of people into new positions. We have a new Secetary of Defense, new Intelligence chief, a new UN Ambassador, a new Ambassador to Iraq, several new generals. Of course the leaders of the Iraqi plan - Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rove - all remain. It is remarkable how desperate the Administration has been to lay blame on others - Rumsfeld, General Casey, Maliki, the Iranians, the Syrians, the Democrats - and not take responsibility for the core of what has gone wrong in Iraq - a very badly thought through and badly executed plan from the very get go. And for that the President must accept total responsibility.
No disrespect intended, but when it comes to recent headlines there's iraq, the 100 hours agenda, and then there's David Beckham and his move to the States.
Yet out of all the coverage of Becks' whopping deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy, this article from The Times is most interesting as it explains his move in the context of the Hispanic community:
...Beckham’s move to LA is all about business. Galaxy no doubt expects Beckham’s arrival in the city to generate tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship and advertising deals, with every industry from car manufacturing to life insurance seeing the British midfielder as a direct way to increase their presence in the Hispanic market.
As many of you know, NDN recognized the strong relationship between the Hispanic community and the game of soccer early on. From that understanding came our national media campaign - "Mas Que un Partido" - which you can learn more about here or here.
Rep. Harman is leading the effort to hole the Bush Administration accountable for Iraq and make funding for our involvment in Iraq more transparent. Read her op-ed from today's San Francisco Chronicle in its entirety here:
Stop Conducting the War Off the Books
- Jane Harman Friday, January 12, 2007
As new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, there will be no more "blank checks" for the war in Iraq. Congress will hold President Bush accountable for the way he has fought this war, for what he plans to do next and for how he plans to pay for it.
Bush has funded the war in Iraq and the broader "war on terror" almost entirely through "emergency supplemental" appropriations bills -- in other words, off the books. Ninety-three percent of the approximately $507 billion appropriated for the war in Iraq has come through such bills, and the president is reportedly set to ask for another $100 billion in "emergency" funds in February to cover costs.
By designating budget requests as "emergencies," the president and the former Republican-led Congresses placed them on a legislative fast-track. Congress had little opportunity to ask tough questions about how these funds were being spent, and little opportunity to strip out offending items -- including a litany of earmarks and other domestic spending that had nothing to do with the war.
Calling these funding requests "emergencies" also automatically exempts them from spending caps. The president can thus claim that more than $500 billion in recent spending is not part of the deficit. Nonsense.
By doing so, the true costs of the war are not understood in relation to the other programs that are shortchanged to pay for it -- including providing veteran's benefits to the 22,714 American servicemen and women wounded in the war, funding the chronically underfunded No Child Left Behind education law, paying for affordable housing for Hurricane Katrina victims and investing in clean energy.
Last year's budget resolution, which this Congress has adopted, defines "emergency" as addressing a situation that is "sudden," "urgent," "unforeseen" and "temporary." After almost four years, the war in Iraq cannot reasonably be called "sudden." The Pentagon is capable of "foreseeing" the costs of the war with a reasonable degree of accuracy. And it stretches credulity to call either the war in Iraq or the "war on terror" "temporary." (I will grant the situation is, without question, "urgent").
There is ample precedent for considering the costs of war through the regular appropriations process. President Lyndon B. Johnson sought emergency supplemental funding for the first two years of the Vietnam War, but the war was almost entirely funded through the regular appropriations process in subsequent years. Similarly, most of the cost of the first year of the Korean war was paid for through supplementals, but the following two years were almost entirely paid for through the normal process. The war in Iraq should be no different.
No one in Congress wants to deprive our brave military men and women of the protective gear or equipment they need, or to fail to fund their safe exit from Iraq. That is why the 2007 supplemental appropriation is likely to pass -- and finding spending to cut in the 2007 budget to offset theses costs will be hopeless. But the marker can be set down for future funding. No more "emergency" supplementals, Mr. President.
Future funding for the war in Iraq must be on-budget, so Congress and the public can see the trade-offs and finally have a chance to "share" what is sacrificed.
U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Venice, is in her seventh term in Congress and served for the past four years as the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
NDN is a national leader in the effort to raise the minimum wage, and improve the standard of living for millions of working Americans. Our Spanish language media campaign to build support in the Hispanic community was a major factor in passing state ballot initiatives in Arizona and Colorado, and in keeping the pressure on Congress. And the outcome was bipartisan support in the House for this important measure:
The House yesterday overwhelmingly approved the first increase in the federal minimum wage in nearly a decade, boosting the wages of the lowest-paid American workers from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over the next two years.
The 315 to 116 vote could begin the process of ending Congress's longest stretch without a minimum-wage increase since the mandatory minimum was created in 1938. In the past decade, inflation has depleted the value of the minimum wage to the lowest level in more than 50 years.
...Republicans who held in lock step during their 12 years as the majority party went over in droves to the Democratic side.
Joe Biden delivered his opening statement at yesterday's hearing on Iraq. View the video here.
John Edwards asks us to tell Congress not to fund escalation. Over the weekend, Edwards is scheduled to be in New York for an address to the Riverside Church in Harlem. (Update: view the video of his address, "Silence is Betrayal," here)
Tom Vilsack weighs in on Iraq on his website and "used his annual Condition of the State speech delivered earlier in the day to urge the Iowa Legislature to approve a resolution opposing Bush's effort to expand the number of troops in Iraq." (From the Sioux City Journal)
Mitt Romney held the most intense call-a-thon I've ever heard of this past Monday. Press were allowed, velvet rope was employed, emphasizing the aesthetics of what Romney called the most "extraordinary advanced technology ever employed in a fundraising effort."
John McCain, who helped determined whether Florida or Ohio got the ball first in Monday's BCS championship game, now faces the reality of the John Edwards-coined "McCain Doctrine."
Rudy Giuliani, in addition to having a nice, sleek website, weighed in on the President's increase in troops.
Jim Gilmore, the former Governor of Virginia, filed papers to form his exploratory committee.
Senator Chuck Hagel released a strong statement reacting to President Bush's plan for Iraq.
Mike Huckabee was on the Daily Show to promote his book this past Wednesday. On it, he takes a very interesting look at being "pro-life" and touches on one of the reasons why he thinks America is in trouble: a familiar concept he calls "horizontal politics."
Building on his reputation as a statesman, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico just returned from a successful trip to Sudan where he negotiated a 60-day cease-fire between the Sudanese government and rebels in the Darfur region of Sudan.
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan and leaders of several rebel factions in Darfur, the western Sudanese region, agreed Wednesday to a 60-day cease-fire in separate meetings with Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a former American ambassador to the United Nations, according to a statement by Mr. Richardson and Mr. Bashir.
Mr. Richardson went to Sudan on behalf of the Save Darfur Coalition of groups trying to stem the violence in Darfur, to try to break the deadlock over who will police the region.
Hopefully, this cease-fire will be a first step towards ending the violence, massive population displacement and even genocide that has plauged Darfur. At the very least, Gov. Richardson's actions show that there can be more to US foreign policy than military interventions.
As a progressive, the last few months have been exhilirating. Modern day conservatives had failed our nation, and were punished, deeply, at the polls. New and fresh people came to Washington, with new ideas. The mood here has been excited, optimistic. The 100 hours plan started tackling long overdue problems, and has made great progress. But it was yesterday, in the two major committee hearings on Iraq, that we see how different things are in Washington now. Debate has come back to Congress, and Democrats increasingly look like the party of responsible government.
The tv talk shows, the news, no matter how you've checked in these last 24 hours have been bad for the White House, extraordinarily bad, bad in ways they have not experienced before. It isn't just that at this point the President has lost credibility, and seems to have ignored the will of the American people. It is that Members of Congress, led by the Democrats, are re-asserting their Constitutional role and questioning the Administratration in public, under-oath, something that hasn't been done since Bush took office. I actually heard reporters talking about being in a Committee Room for a Congressional hearing. Not sure I've heard that exact language in years.
So the stories this am are about how the Administration was dismayed, shocked, taken aback by the way they were received on Capitol Hill. What this means in English is they have never had Congress, a co-equal partner in the American government, and a body that can do a great deal to influence the national debate, do much more than repeat the Administration's talking points back to them. The best example of this I found is a from a Times piece reporting on an exchange between Hagel and Rice that has not gotten as much attention as other moments in her testimony:
But it was left to Ms. Rice, an important fixture — and survivor — in an administration now in its seventh year, to defend against the tough condemnations in the Senate, where a vote on a resolution about the war could take place as early as next week.
Seated alone at a large table in front of the committee in a chilly Senate hearing room, where the front rows were filled with protesters, Ms. Rice appeared frustrated at times, as committee members variously interrupted her, challenged her or all but accused her of representing a dishonest administration.
Lawmakers argued with Ms. Rice over what to call the latest plan — she corrected critics who referred to it as an “escalation,” describing it as an “augmentation” — and over whether a civil war is underway.
When Ms. Rice asserted that insurgents, not warring Shiite and Sunni factions, were mainly responsible for American casualties, Mr. Hagel shot back, “Madame Secretary, your intelligence and mine is a lot different.”
He added, “To sit there and say that, Madame Secretary, that’s just not true.”
“Well, Senator, if you’ll — ,” Ms. Rice began.
“That is not true,” Mr. Hagel repeated.
“Senator, if you’ll allow me to finish,” Ms. Rice said, visibly exasperated, finally conceding that Iraqi attacks on other Iraqis are taking place in the form of death squads.
For years the Administration has lied to the American people with inpunity. Yesterday the Secretary of State tried once again to lie, mislead, confuse - whatever the term - on a truly important matter and was called out on it in a big way by a leading Republican Senator. Members of Congress of both parties will continue to re-assert their historic role, and take greater responsibility for governing. This oversight, accountability, will no doubt begin to change the way the Administration operates. And for that let us be thankful to the wisdom of the American people for bringing in a new team that wants to more than anything else restore the critical role of the Congress in our system of government.
Let the hearings - by the way a great word in itself - continue!