NDN Blog

Bi-partisan signs of progress on immigration reform

For those of eager to reform the nation's broken immigration system there have been some encouraging signs of progress in recent days:

- The GOP made a Cuban immigrant, and great champion of comprehensive immigration reform, the Chairman of their Party.  It is an important sign of the President's commitment to passing a bill this year, and for Republicans it helps provide some distance from their shameful demonization of immigrants in last year's election.   

- A new coalition of powerful grassroots groups has formed to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year.  It is aptly named Alliance for Immigration Reform 2007. 

- The Democrats pick Denver as their convention site in 2008.  To fully capitalize on their choice of Denver in the 2008 elections, Democrats will want to show the Hispanics of the southwest and the nation that they helped fix the broken immigration system, and brought an end to a debate that has become seen in this community as anti-Hispanic.

- Finally, in his State of the Union Preview yesterday, Colorado Senator Ken Salazar made it clear that passing comprehensive immigration reform was an important Democratic priority this year. 

Given how contentious this issue was in 2006, there is no doubt that it will take a lot of work to get it done in 2007.  But I remain optimistic, and we will be using all means available to NDN to get this important legislation passed this year. 

For more on NDN's work promoting immigration reform, visit the immigration section of our website at www.ndn.org/immigration.

The Attorney General testifies

The Attorney General testified yesterday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Glenn Greenwald was there, and he is, as always, worth reading. 

Conservatism in retreat

You often hear from Republicans these days something along the lines that they may been voted out of office, but their values, their principles, their views are still ascendant, that this is in effect still a “center-right” nation.  After watching the events of recent weeks I think we have to now classify that argument as “spin,” as it hard to describe their values as anything other than in a swift and profound retreat.   2007 is becoming the year of the repudiation of the Bush era, and the type of politics and ideology he espoused.   

The 100 Hours.  We just saw substantial numbers of Republicans voting for core Democratic priorities.  Minimum wage, Stem-cell funding, the 9/11 Commission Recommendations, ethics and lobbying reform, rescinding tax breaks for the oil industry and using the money to help speed the development of alternative energy, prescription drug negotiating authority for CMS.  All blocked these last few years by the Republican leadership, all passed now with substantial Republican support.  Even Republicans are now abandoning the agenda of the Bush age.

The President’s new plan for the Middle East.  Republican criticism of the President has been fierce.  Story after story tells of how shocked the Administration has been with the opposition of Republicans.  A vote on the President’s plan will be taken next week, the day after the State of the Union.  Expect substantial Republican defections.  Early predictions expect at least 10 GOP Senators going with the Democrats.  Polls show overwhelming opposition to the plan.  Remarkably, the resolution to be voted on next week is a bi-partisan one, with Senator Chuck Hagel joining Senators Biden and Levin as chief co-sponsor.  Republican Congressman are already working to block the President from attacking Iran.

FISA.  While some argue that the “changes” made by the Administration on the oversight of their wiretapping program to be more cosmetic than substantive, there is no question that the Administration is now in retreat on what was an ideological holy grail for them these last few years.

The State of the Union pre-leaks from the White House.  Traditionally the White House spends weeks leaking major elements of their State of the Union, road testing and building support for their program.  Where are the leaks this year? There aren’t any.  Why, because what exactly can the President say about this agenda, the legacy of his years in office, working with Democrats?  This is certainly shaping up to one of the most interesting State of the Unions in years.

The New House Senate Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.  Finally, Speaker Pelosi yesterday announced the creation of a new select committee, one that bring Members together from different Committees, take develop a long-term strategy for combating global warming and climate change.  What a strong and bold move, what a thoughtful and powerful way of signaling that a new day has arrived, and that the Bush era, and the era of what we call the era of conservative ascendancy, has come to an end.

The Bush years, and its failed government, have done grave damage to conservatism.  It is no longer ascendant in America, nor is it a coherent and effective governing approach.  It has been deeply discredited. And with early Presidential polls showing substantial leads for Democrats in the Presidential race, it is clear we are a center-right nation no more, and that conservatism, the political philosophy that has done so much to drive America politics over this past generation, is in a remarkable and profound retreat. 

More on rising Sunni-Shiite tensions in the Middle East

The Times had a remarkable story the other day on rising Sunni-Shiite tensions throughout the Middle East.  Make sure you read all the way down to the part about a television show in Egypt, our "ally" in the Middle East, glorifying the heroic Sunni insurgency's killing of Americans in Iraq:

And while political analysts and government officials in the region say the spreading Sunni disillusionment with Shiites and their backers in Iran will benefit Sunni-led governments and the United States, they and others worry that the tensions could start to balkanize the region as they have in Iraq itself.

“The reality of the current situation is that we are approaching an open Sunni-Shiite conflict in the region,” said Emad Gad, a specialist in international relations at the government-financed Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “And Egypt will also be a part of it as a part of the Sunni axis. No one will be able to avoid or escape it.”

This changing dynamic in the region, described by many scholars, analysts and officials in recent days, is a result not only of the hangings, the Iraq war and the Lebanese political struggle. It has also been encouraged by Sunni-led governments like those in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and some Sunni religious leaders alarmed by the rising influence of Iran, the region’s biggest Shiite power..

and...

Sunnis make up a vast majority of the Islamic world. Shiites, who lead Iran and the Iraqi government, are the next largest sect. The two split over who would lead Islam after the death of the Prophet Muhammad.

While the two have theological differences — and similarities — the gathering conflict is being stoked by a determination by Sunni leaders to preserve, or reinvigorate, their waning influence in the region — while emboldened Shiites have pressed for more influence.

After the war between Hezbollah and Israel, Shiite leaders seemed to reach their zenith as an antidote to a Sunni Muslim leadership widely viewed as corrupt, impotent and stooges of the West, analysts said.

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Sheik Nasrallah of Hezbollah, each won wide followings across the region for their willingness to defy the United States. Hezbollah and its allies pressed for more power in Lebanon and when rebuffed, began demonstrations intended to topple the government.

Now, fueled by state controlled media in many Sunni Muslim states, a divide, or at least an estrangement, is growing across the Middle East between Sunni Muslims and Shiites. Egyptians, for example, are inundated nearly daily with headlines, commentaries and television reports alleging Shiite transgressions.

An Egyptian-government controlled satellite service, called Nilesat, has been broadcasting across the Arab world Al Zawraa, a television station that shows what is billed as heroic footage of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, American soldiers being killed and wounded, and unflattering images of Shiite leaders.

“Raising the ugly face of Shiites, expanding Iranian influence in the region,” read a headline in a recent edition of Rose el-Youssef, a pro-government Egyptian newspaper.

In December, a top religious leader close to the Saudi royal family, Abdul Rahman al-Barak, said that Shiites, whom he called rejectionists, were worse than Jews or Christians.

“By and large, rejectionists are the most evil sect of the nation and they have all the ingredients of the infidels,” he wrote.

And yes it was the United States who put these rejectionists, worse than Christians or Jews, in charge of an Arab country for the first time in the 1300 year history of the Muslim Middle East.  As I've written before, it is hard for me to believe that in any war-gaming of the post Iraq Middle East that what is happening there today was not seen as the most likely outcome of our installing a Shiite-led, Iranian-friendly team in charge of Iraq. 

Once we accept that even our "allies" in the Middle East are promoting the killing of American troops in Iraq, it is unwise for the US to simplify this complex emerging regional politics into a demonization of Iran. The vengence and anger of those who killed Saddam that night was not funded or fueled by Iran.  It was fueled by over a 1000 years of Sunni oppression of Shiites and was a long, long time coming. 

Our actions in the Middle East have unleashed a new, powerful and unpredictable dynamic into the region, one that we need to better understand before taking swift and decisive action like attacking Iran.  For just a few months ago it seemed as if another band of Sunni insurgents, Al Qaeda, were our primary enemy.   

Novak: Iraq is dooming the GOP

Prominent conservative columnist has a remarkable column today, one that once again shows how out of step with even his own Party President Bush now is:

The sense of impending political doom that clutches Republican hearts one week after President Bush presented his new strategy on Iraq to the nation is stoked by the alarming intelligence brought back from Baghdad by Republican Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota and passed around Capitol Hill.

In a pre-Christmas visit to Iraq, Coleman and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida met with Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the Iraqi government's national security adviser. Coleman described their astounding encounter in a Dec. 19 blog entry: Dr. Rubaie "maintains that the major challenge facing Iraq is not a sectarian conflict, but rather al-Qaeda and disgruntled Baathists seeking to regain power. Both Senator Nelson and I react with incredulity to that assessment. Rubaie cautions against more troops in Baghdad."

Rubaie denied the overriding reality of sectarian violence in Baghdad because his government is tied to the Shiite belligerents in that conflict. While Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pays lip service to Bush's demand that he crack down on Mahdi Army commander Moqtada al-Sadr, U.S. officials recognize that Maliki's political support depends on the Shiite militia leader. Thus, Maliki's government is in denial about sectarian conflict. Maliki did not show up for a news conference in which he was scheduled to comment on Bush's new strategy, and he personally remains silent about the plan at this writing.

This hastens the desire of Republicans, who once cheered the Bush Doctrine in the Middle East, to remove U.S. forces from a politically deteriorating condition as soon as possible. "Iraq is a black hole for the Republican Party," a prominent party strategist told me this week. What makes his comments so important is that he is not a maverick Republican in Congress but one of Bush's principal political advisers.

As they adjust to the 2006 election returns, Republicans recognize that this was no isolated bump in the road. The loss of about 320 state legislative seats across the country to the Democrats classifies last year's election as a midrange electoral disaster.

The internal Republican debate concerns how much Iraq contributed to this outcome. The White House and Republican members of Congress who voted for intervention in Iraq contend that many issues led to their defeat: incompetent management of the Hurricane Katrina crisis, widespread cases of corruption and abandonment of spending restraint. But Republicans at the grass roots tell me that Iraq was the central problem and must be erased as an issue.....

Shapiro speaks on globalization at EPI

One of the most important governing challenges facing our nation is to ensure that American corporations, capital and people all prosper together in this age of ever more intense globalization.

To that end, last year NDN established a new Globalization Initiative led by Dr. Robert J. Shapiro, a former Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs in the Clinton Administration. On our website you can find an overview of the project and its work, including video of our major events, speeches, studies, policy recommendations and essays.

Last week, Rob Shapiro was a featured speaker at the Economic Policy Institute's forum: Agenda for Shared Prosperity, where he spoke about "The Challenges of Globalization":

If we don’t step up to plate with serious answers to reduce the rapid increases in health care, pension and energy costs – three areas in which the current administration has been missing in action for six years – the U.S. job creating machine will stall out, and the incomes of a majority of Americans will slowly fall for the next generation. If we don’t step up to the plate with a serious training and education strategies that can ensure that Americans can do their jobs more efficiently than anyone in any developing country –another area where this administration has checked out – offshore outsourcing, especially in the new areas of services, will hollow out part of the American middle class.

You can find his complete remarks, reflecting his latest thinking on our website, and feel free to weigh in with comments here on our blog.

----------------------------

Related links:
Watch
EPI's Ross Eisenbray at a recent Globalization Initiative event

Why is the Administration surprised that Iran is gaining regional influence?

After our country was attacked in 2001 there were many ways our government could respond.  The path we choose - of the many we could have chosen – removing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein from power and establishing a Shiite-led government in Iraq was almost certainly going to strengthen the regional hand of Iran.

I wrote a long post about all this recently, so I won’t repeat it here. While I am not excited about the idea of Iran’s growing regional influence, that our government is responding to this very predictable regional development, of our own making, with belligerence and outrage is another moment of almost unbelievable American arrogance and folly.

Here’s the chief architect of our global policy of arrogance and folly waking up to the new regional political dynamic his strategy has created:

On Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney argued that America’s actions were intended to protect allies in the Persian Gulf — though it is far from clear that Iran’s Sunni Arab neighbors have signed on to the strategy. “If you go and talk with the gulf states or if you talk with the Saudis or if you talk about the Israelis or the Jordanians, the entire region is worried,” Mr. Cheney said on “Fox News Sunday.” He described how the Iranians “sit astride the Straits of Hormuz” and its oil-shipping channels, and how they support Hamas and Hezbollah. “So the threat that Iran represents is growing,” he said, in words reminiscent of how he once built a case against Mr. Hussein. “It’s multidimensional, and it is, in fact, of concern to everybody in the region.”

One of the areas that Senator Biden and Representative Lantos should explore in their ongoing Congressional hearings is what exactly did we our government believe was going to happen when we eliminated two of Iran’s most significant adversaries, established in Iraq the first Shiite-led Arab government in the region’s history and helped place at the helm of the Iraqi government political parties and leaders close to Iran?

This same Times’ piece has some interesting, and let’s say less than satisfactory insights into all this:

For more than two years after Saddam Hussein’s fall, the war in Iraq was about chasing down insurgents and Al Qaeda in Iraq. Last year it expanded to tamping down sectarian warfare.

Over the past three weeks, in two sets of raids and newly disclosed orders issued by President Bush, a third front has opened — against Iran.

Administration officials say the goal is limited to preventing Iranians from aiding in attacks on American and Iraqi forces inside Iraq. But in recent interviews and public statements, senior members of the Bush administration have made it clear that their agenda goes significantly further, toward foiling Iran’s dream of emerging as the greatest power in the Middle East.

In an interview on Friday, before she left on her latest Middle East trip, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described what she called an “evolving” strategy to confront “destabilizing behavior” by Iran across the region. Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, said Sunday on the NBC News program “Meet the Press” that the United States was resisting an Iranian effort “to basically establish hegemony” throughout the region.

Even some of Mr. Bush’s fiercest critics do not question that the administration’s conviction that Iran’s ambitions are large is correct. A few midlevel administration officials wondered even in 2003 whether Iran was a far more potent threat than Mr. Hussein.

Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, administration officials argued that deposing Mr. Hussein would send a powerful signal to Iran and North Korea, the two countries that Mr. Bush identified along with Iraq in his 2002 State of the Union address as part of an “axis of evil.” “You heard this argument in meetings all the time,” a senior official on the National Security Council, who has since left the administration, recalled recently. “Iraq would make the harder problems of Iran and North Korea easier."

But the opposite happened. North Korea tested a nuclear device in October. And Iran has sped ahead with a uranium enrichment program. Now, despite the urging of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group to engage with Iran, Washington is moving in a more confrontational direction. It is stationing more naval, air and antimissile batteries off Iran’s coast; has persuaded many international businesses to cut off dealings with Iran; and it has interfered with Iranians inside Iraqi territory.

“The administration does have Iran on the brain, and I think they are exaggerating the amount of Iranian activities in Iraq,” Kenneth M. Pollack, the director of research at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, said Sunday. “There’s a good chance that this is going to be counterproductive — that this is a way to get into a spiral with Iran that leads you into conflict. The likely response from the Iranians is that they are going to want to demonstrate to us that they are not going to be pushed around.”

Administration officials say ignoring Iran’s activities will only lead to escalation with the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “There’s no question that everything that has gone wrong in Iraq has made life easier for the Iranians,” one senior White House official said recently. “The question is what you do about that.”

The answer, shaped in the National Security Council, is for the American military to make targets of Iranians whom they believe are fueling attacks, a decision that Mr. Bush made months ago that was disclosed only last week.

Yes, the question indeed, is what do we do about that – but the that is not Iran but a group of discredited and desperate leaders running our country no longer capable of managing our interests around the world.     

Letter from Birmingham Jail

There are many ways to celebrate and honor the legacy of Dr. King.  I have made it an annual ritual to reread one of the most inspirational speeches I've ever read, his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail.  The Letter is particularly important for members of our community to review.  Its views have had a profound influence in setting my own political course these last few years. 

There are many places on the web where one can pull it down.  Our version today comes from the Nobel Peace Prize site, and what follows is a particularly compelling passage:

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fan in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with an its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.

I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "An Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely rational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this 'hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to 6e solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At fist I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do-nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.

If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble-rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black-nationalist ideologies a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides-and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that an men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we viii be. We we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime---the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jeans Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some-such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle---have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation....

Bush's Iraq narrative is "incomplete, oversimplified and possibly untrue"

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....

Why is Rice still the Secretary of State?

In Iraq, Americans are "being played like a pawn"

From Monday's Times:

“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. 

Syndicate content