Thoughts on Memorial Day 2011

This is one of those holidays where I don’t know what I should write about. On the one hand I am very grateful for the brave men and women who have given us the ultimate sacrifice throughout the ages to keep this country safe and protect the freedoms we all enjoy. As sincere as that feeling is, it is dulled by the fact that everyone says that because you’re some kind of a major asshole if you don’t. Hell, if you’re a Republican it’s practically tattooed on your forehead even if you’re working hard to destroy many of the freedoms you supposedly claim to care about.

Anyway, I thought I’d look around to see what some other folks were writing about it. Decrepit Old Fool, as usual, had some very good things to say on how crazy war can be:

War is crazy; it is crazy-making. It drains reason out of what passes for civilization. The stories matter. They let us know about courage, who have never been there. And yes, many wars should not ever have happened. The stories punch holes in the fantasy that it’s all some kind of glorious video game. If we’re going to do this to human beings, let’s be damn, damn sure there’s a real reason.

Let’s keep an eye out for those reasons and head them off at the pass before they ever become a cause for war. We need to learn to think ahead, past the current tension and most importantly of all, see the humanity we have in common with our enemies. It is exactly that humanity – or at least the realization of it – that war must first destroy.

via Memorial Day 2011 « Decrepit Old Fool.

I’ve never been to war myself and I hope to hell I never have to go. I don’t think I’d be very good at it. Especially if my performance in the war video games DOF mentions is anything to go by. My biological father, long since dead, was in World War II and was wounded at some point. I only know this because we still have the purple heart someplace in the family. I was given his dog tags years ago and they’ve long since been packed away. I don’t know any of his stories because I was five when he died and he never got a chance to tell me any at an age where I could remember them. My dad, or step-father technically, had a lazy eye that kept him out of Vietnam. My father-in-law did go to Vietnam, but he doesn’t talk much about it. Given how he looks when he does talk about it, I can’t blame him for not wanting to say much. I have various friends and family who have been in the military since then and have even participated in the current wars, but, again, it’s not something we talk about often.

But when others do talk about their experiences, well, I try to pay damned close attention:

There were young men in that unit who knew you had to be a little crazy to survive.  So they’d be crazy.  You’d have to be crazy to be pinned down in trenches, under heavy fire, running out of ammo, and go fetch an enormous sack of the stuff, come back through the trenches with that sack on your back singing “Here comes Santy Claus, here comes Santy Claus – and what can Santa do for you?”

And my father, giddy with the relief of seeing rather more useful bullets come his way than the ones that had been coming his way a moment before, said, “Well, Santa, I’d like some ammunition.”

And the man – Jimmy Blue, I believe, though you can’t trust a kid’s memory and I hesitate to dredge my father’s memory at this time of year – the crazy man with the enormous sack of ammunition on his back handed over some ammunition with a cheerful “Here you go!” and went singing off to the next man pinned down under fire, the best Christmas present they could have asked for.

via Memorials « En Tequila Es Verdad.

I’ve heard enough to know that it’s a whole lot of not fun covered in a thick layer of fuck this shit. I know enough to know that war is something that should be a last resort when all other options have been exhausted. I know enough to realize that it has impacts far beyond the battlefield that affect people individually, and nations collectively, long after the guns have gone silent.

Sometimes it’s a necessary evil, but too often it’s not and we should beware anyone who talks of going to war in a cavalier manner as though it’ll be cheap and easy and painless. It’s never any of those things. I hold onto an optimism that humanity may someday be able to reach a point where they can work out their differences without having to kill each other in the process, be we’ve still got way too far to go before we’ll see that day.

Osama’s death is no victory worth celebrating.

So I promised on Twitter that I would comment on the big news from the weekend. Which, on the off-chance that you somehow missed it, is that after almost 10 years we finally managed to track down and murder Osama bin Laden. When President Obama made his announcement there was lots of images in the news of people around the country celebrating in the streets and chanting USA USA USA, including among the Arab population in Dearborn, Michigan.

I’m still not sure what it was we were supposed to be celebrating.

Sure a bad man who was, at least indirectly, responsible for the deaths of lots of Americans was finally assassinated. Many people said, including the President, that “justice had finally be served.” I disagree. Justice would’ve been to have captured him alive and put him on trial in New York City. Killing him is simple vengeance and vengeance is not something that should be celebrated. He wasn’t on the same scale as Hitler or Stalin, though you would be forgiven for thinking so given the reaction to his death.

It would’ve helped if this could have occurred 10 years ago. Say within months of the launch of the military campaign on Afghanistan. That was, after all, our reason for invading that country and starting that war to begin with. Or at least that’s what we were told at the time. Instead of quick and meaningful justice, Osama would be allowed to live free for another 10 years while he did everything he could to contribute to America’s downfall. He knew he couldn’t defeat us militarily and that was never his plan. Instead his goal was to do to us what he had done to the Soviets: Bleed us dry. And the Bush Administration was only too happy to help him with that plan.

President Bush, who had promised to hunt down and bring in Osama dead or alive, quickly lost interest in the whole pursuit of justice thing when he saw an opportunity to start another war with a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and posed no immediate threat to the United States. Osama must’ve been very pleased with that decision. Not only did it take the heat off of him, but it helped him to realize his goals. He couldn’t have planned for a better way to drag America down. On top of providing Osama with an easy means of instigating trouble and forcing Americans to spend billions in Iraq, it also guaranteed that the effort in Afghanistan would be neglected prolonging the amount of time and money that would have to be spent there as well. We made it cheap and easy for Osama to weaken us and left him free to make new attempts at blowing shit up that would seem to be failures, but in reality forced us to add new layers of pointless security theater that cost billions to maintain while providing no real protection.

Remember the Republican’s oft repeated talking point that they “hate us for our freedoms”? If that’s true then why did we so readily give so many of those freedoms up as a result? Between the Bush warrantless wiretapping laws that can’t be challenged because of the “risk” to national security to the stupid bans on liquids and fingernail clippers on airplanes to the degrading naked body scanners or public molestation policies that are still in place under Obama. All of this despite the fact that the average American is still 11,000 times more likely to die in an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane. We are far less free today than we were on September 11th, 2001. And to what end? There hasn’t been a single terrorist plot that was foiled by these new security systems. All of the plots that were intercepted since 2001 used traditional intelligence gathering systems.

Worse than the loss of our freedoms is the loss of our national values. America had been a leader in the condemnation and prohibition of the use of torture only to decide that torture was exactly what we needed to prosecute the wars we had “preemptively” started. Not one scrap of useful information has ever been gleaned under the Bush torture programs, but that hasn’t stopped some folks for arguing for their continuance even today. In fact there is a false claim by those on the Right that torture provided the information needed for the death of Osama. A claim that is patently false. Those on the Right like to claim that waterboarding is no worse than the hazing that goes on in college fraternities even while those, on the Right or Left, who have undergone the technique to prove it’s “no big deal” come out of with their minds changed. It’s torture plain and simple.

Ten years on from 9/11 and we’re more polarized and divided than ever after having squandered a great deal of global good will that was given to us in the immediate aftermath of that terrible day. Our international reputation is heavily damaged and our credibility has never been more in question. We’ve been suffering from the worst recession since the Great Depression and yet our spending on the Military is beyond consideration in the moves to reign in the mounting national debt. Sure, we’re not completely bankrupt just yet (at least not financially), but tell me how many of Osama’s goals weren’t realized, often by our own hands?

But hey, at least we killed him, right?

Video of Pakistani kids pretending to be suicide bombers is nothing to freak-out over.

The above video clip is popping up all over the Internet causing all sorts of horrified commentary like this:

This amateur video of Pashtun children enacting a suicide bombing has circulated on the internet in Pakistan in recent days, highlighting the disturbing psychological impact of Taliban violence on a generation.

The unsettling 84-second clip has divided opinions, with some amused by the smiling child actors and fake explosions; others appalled by evidence that suicide bombers have become playground heroes of sorts.

“It’s horrifying and alarming. These children have become fascinated by bombers rather than condemning them,” said Salma Jafar of Save the Children UK in Pakistan.

“If they glamorise violence now, they can become part of it later in life.”

via War games: conflict becomes child’s play for young Pashtuns | World news | The Guardian.

I’m not convinced this should be all that surprising or upsetting. I can remember pretending to be all sorts of things as a child, some of which would could be considered disturbing. Cops and Robbers requires someone to be the robbers and it’s just not a chase unless you’re shooting guns at each other or attempting to run each other over. Cowboys and Indians isn’t as much fun unless you collect a few scalps along the way. Can’t fight WWII without someone playing the part of the Nazis. Oh, and whoever got to be the Evil Aliens got to make people’s heads explode (that was my favorite).

Despite all of that glorification of violence, I somehow managed to grow up and not be a head scalpin’ evil Nazi alien bank robber who caused people’s heads to explode while trying to shoot them in a car chase. But, I hear you say, this is different! This is something that really happens! Yeah, so did scalpings, and Nazis, and bank robbers. Though that’s true enough about the aliens… as far as we know.

My point is that a lot of child play contains sinister undertones and has throughout history. Hell, there are a number of classic games kids play to this day that have histories most folks would find unsettling if they knew about them. Most folks will instantly think of Ring Around the Rosies as an example as it’s common knowledge that it’s about the Black Plague. Reality is that it’s not about the Plague, but a lot of people think it is. But what I’m saying is that most of us manage to grow up relatively unmarred from pretending to be the bad guys.

There’s also the fact that this video is obviously being filmed by an adult. That calls into question whether or not the children are pretending to be suicide bombers out of admiration or just because an adult was instructing them to do so. Given how much attention is being aimed at the camera man I’m less inclined to think this was a spontaneous moment caught on film than I am that the whole thing was staged by adults probably to freak people out. Though if the kids are being indoctrinated then that would be something to be worried about. If it’s just something they decided to do on their own then it’s probably harmless.

[SEB Guest Post] Yeah I’m a Dreamer. But I’m not the only one.

With the modern equivalent of the Library Of Alexandria at the fingertips of around 310,650,000 Americans, why are we all still so ignorant, naive, and proud of, what politicians like to call and rely on, uneducated votes?

A little research will reveal (to those who deal with Cognitive Dissonance logically and honestly) just how big of a sucker we all are for perpetuating an argument for 200 years, all the while allowing only the most depraved kind of persons to be the soul profiteers from it. So proud you voted for Demagogues that care as much for this country as dope dealers care about addicts .

If you consider yourself a “Democrat” or a “Republican” (or TEA Party Douche) it looks as if you are the reason this “Democracy” will be as short lived and end as VIOLENT as EVERY Democracy has before this one.

Read up on Communication of falsehoods, propaganda techniques, and the many logical fallacies politicians use (I fucking Hate being lied to. Don’t you?) before you defend whatever perceived ‘lesser of two evils’ you settled for with the same glittery generalities they sold to you. Because as morally corrupt as it is to employ those methods all while claiming to be god-fearing and virtuous is nowhere near as bad as the decadence they indulge whilst serving you as long and hard as they can. Case in point (mild in comparison to the fleecing that goes on in  Washington everyday) the coveted Ms. Palin received a “per diem” expense allowance for 312 nights she spent at her home in Wasilla. Over 17,000 dollars, by definition, embezzled from the state of Alaska and already cash strapped United States. Common thievery from another greedy low life. Now if those same villainous officials were caught doing the same  in a private or company setting there would be dire consequences, very likely prison.

This fact disturbs me deeply me because, for instance, those very same verboten acts of an individual against his neighbor or his employer victimize only the neighbor or the vitality of the company, whereas the licentious and criminal undertaking of an elected official undermine the prosperity and vitality of our entire country!

I think it is not unreasonable to define “corruption in public office”, or even the lackadaisical way in which some of these trusted servants carry out their responsibilities, as TREASON. For there is no doubt our enemies are aided by their criminal exploits as well as the often over looked imprudence of these elected ignoble officials. And what enemy would not take comfort in seeing our country become weaker.

In 1790, the Congress of the United States enacted that:

“If any person or persons, owing allegiance to the United States of America, shall levy war against them, OR shall adhere to their enemies, giving them AID AND COMFORT within the United States, or elsewhere, and shall be thereof convicted on confession in open Court, or on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act of the treason whereof he or they shall stand indicted, such person or persons shall be adjudged guilty of treason against the United States, and SHALL SUFFER DEATH.”

If we want to make this country great and prosperous again, a good place to start would be to take the next smug miscreant asshole who is caught fleecing America from his desk at any level of government and try him then hang him. (the death penalty has been imposed on countless Americans for far lesser crimes.)

We can all be assured that the level of quality and productivity from our over-paid and over-privileged servants might finally match the salaries and benefits they currently are rewarded.

And no longer will our enemies take aide and comfort knowing the injuries WE sustain from unchecked corruption in government. And trust that not a penny would be found wanton in our social security if those greedy pricks had to rely on it for retirement.

All you registered Democrats and Republicans should probably read up on some of the federalists papers, most notably federalists paper No. 10 and anti-federalist paper Brutus No. 1, if you would care to get to know a little bit about that which you claim to love.

Voting is no where near as powerful in preserving liberty and freedom as is a well informed public. This age of information and communication has made the fundamental arguments, that started these factions INVALID and only serves to retard prosperity and, if history teaches anything, herald tyranny.

One more thing. Do you want to us to WIN the war on drugs? Really?

OK. Take the Billions of dollars given to law enforcement each year and fund education. Make teachers the prestigious and highly paid civil servants they once were.  Provide them the tools to produce generations of adults that are not only scholastically superior to the rest of the world but perhaps more importantly, with the addition of required psychology courses from grade 1 thru 12 may enjoy a higher quality of life being expertly aware of all the complex feelings and emotions one feels in life and well equipped with highly effective coping mechanisms and conflict resolution techniques.

Would that not be attacking the demand at its source? Yes. It would put a huge god-damned dent in the demand AND would deliver, for the very first time I might add, a devastating blow to supply.  Pretty fucking simple economics.

What kind of backward misanthropic asshole would declare a war on the drugs that was perceived to threaten and attack indiscriminately the health and well-being of  people and then, to the absolute dismay of the VICTIMS of these drugs, find themselves the sole VICTIM of said war. If someone where looking into our little screwy  terrarium they would draw the conclusion that for reasons unknown a small but apparently very powerful group of ruling bipeds had decided to ally themselves with a substance they call drugs in an ongoing effort to destroy lives of all the other worker bipeds with a much more proactive approach by bashing in homes and breaking up  families as well as many diabolically creative attempts at ensuring a lifetime of hardships by adding insult to the injuries of their disease with the social stigma of being a criminal.

And fuck all those in advance who disagree on this point and sympathize in any way whatsoever with the atrocities of the war on mankind carried out every day with  acts of terrorism exploding, fully loaded, into homes of women and children, taking their source of income or even just the bit of stability and love those innocents had.

Alright I’m gettin’ really pissed. I better stop before I start cursing all those enemies of freedom and liberty that carry out this war so vehemently. I don’t pray, but just for fun lets all end this collection of ideas with a prayer to all the gods those screwballs pray to.

Dear god we ask you on this fine day to make aware the evils and sufferings they themselves bestow upon the relative innocents daily and in mass.  We ask you with your mighty hand grant these whore mongers a compassion and desire to help and promote health and the value of family, instead of just saying those things and then doing the opposite. Let your love of justice cause their new god-given goodwill to eat thru the sins of their crimes against humanity until there is left only a hole. The kind of hole that can only be filled by the drugs they employed as a cover for oppressing political upheavals they perceived as a threat to the free ride they all enjoy. And then cause them all to die and go to…I don’t give a shit where.  In your many names we pray.  Oh yeah, in case you haven’t noticed, your divine word, IF it was ever clear and concise, is anything but now. So if you could drop by and clear some things up it would end pretty much every problem that plagues this world today.

AMEN

If America doesn’t torture then why did we hide it from the Red Cross?

Here’s a news item that’ll boil your blood. Newly released documents reveal that our government, which claims it doesn’t torture, went to some length to hide detainees from the International Red Cross to avoid being called out for torture:

“We may need to curb the harsher operations while ICRC is around. It is better not to expose them to any controversial techniques,” Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, a military lawyer who’s since retired, said during an October 2002 meeting at the Guantanamo Bay prison to discuss employing interrogation techniques that some have equated with torture. Her comments were recorded in minutes of the meeting that were made public Tuesday. At that same meeting, Beaver also appeared to confirm that U.S. officials at another detention facility — Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan — were using sleep deprivation to “break” detainees well before then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved that technique. “True, but officially it is not happening,” she is quoted as having said.

A third person at the meeting, Jonathan Fredman, the chief counsel for the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, disclosed that detainees were moved routinely to avoid the scrutiny of the ICRC, which keeps tabs on prisoners in conflicts around the world.

“In the past when the ICRC has made a big deal about certain detainees, the DOD (Defense Department) has ‘moved’ them away from the attention of the ICRC,” Fredman said, according to the minutes.

[…] It’s unclear from the documents whether the Pentagon moved the detainees from one place to another or merely told the ICRC they were no longer present at a facility.

Fredman of the CIA also appeared to be advocating the use of techniques harsher than those authorized by military field guides “If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong,” the minutes report Fredman saying at one point.

Am I reading that right? Are they suggesting that if someone doesn’t die from it then it’s not torture?

Not everyone involved was blind to the possible repercussions of what they were doing:

The administration overrode or ignored objections from all four military services and from criminal investigators, who warned that the practices would imperil their ability to prosecute the suspects. In one prophetic e-mail on Oct. 28, 2002, Mark Fallon, then the deputy commander of the Pentagon’s Criminal Investigation Task Force, wrote a colleague: “This looks like the kind of stuff Congressional hearings are made of. … Someone needs to be considering how history will look back at this.” The objections from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines prompted Navy Capt. Jane Dalton, legal adviser to the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, to begin a review of the proposed techniques.

But Dalton, who’s now retired, told the hearing Tuesday that the review was aborted quickly. Myers, she said, took her aside and told her that then-Defense Department general counsel William Haynes “does not want this … to proceed.” Haynes testified that he didn’t recall the objections of the four uniformed services.

Of course he doesn’t recall the objections. No one in this administration ever remembers being told what they were doing was probably illegal. Not that it matters, he should have known they were illegal and not needed objections from anyone.

Here’s the interesting part: We train our soldiers on how to resist being tortured. Guess what they did in order to develop their own “harsh interrogation techniques” for use in Guantanamo. That’s right, they checked in with the folks who train our boys to resist torture:

Officials in Rumsfeld’s office and at Guantanamo developed the techniques they sought by reverse-engineering a long-standing military program designed to train U.S. soldiers and aviators to resist interrogation if they’re captured.

The program, known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, was never meant to guide U.S. interrogation of foreign detainees.

An official in Haynes’ office sought information about SERE as early as July 2002, the documents show. Two months later, a delegation from Guantanamo attended SERE training at Fort Bragg, N.C. Levin said, “The truth is that senior officials in the United States government sought information on aggressive techniques, twisted the law to create the appearance of their legality and authorized their use against detainees.” The documents confirm that a delegation of senior administration lawyers visited Guantanamo in September 2002 for briefings on intelligence-gathering there. The delegation included David Addington, a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney; Haynes; acting CIA counsel John Rizzo; and Michael Chertoff, then the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and now the homeland security secretary. Few of the Republicans at Tuesday’s hearing defended the Bush administration’s detainee programs. Guidance provided by administration lawyers “will go down in history as some of the most irresponsible and shortsighted legal analysis ever provided to our nation’s military intelligence communities,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C..

Of course this all makes America look like a nation of hypocrites when the Bush Administration has the gall to chastise countries like China on their civil rights abuses. How can we claim the moral high ground when we’re acting no better than the countries we’re berating?

How the hell any of these people in the Bush administration will walk away without being tried and convicted for war crimes is beyond me.

SITE misidentifies video game screenshot as secret al-Qa’eda plot.

See the picture below?

Seems some folks in the intelligence gathering industry thought it was created by terrorists to show what they hoped to accomplish some day. There’s just one small problem with that theory:

The SITE Intelligence Group said that the image, showing a ruined Capitol Building in Washington, was created by extremists as part of discussions about the feasibility of nuclear strikes against the US and Britain.

The images appeared in a video, called Nuclear Jihad: The Ultimate Terror, posted on two password-protected websites, al-Ekhlass and al-Hesbah, believed to be affiliated with al-Qa’eda.

SITE also released translated several chatroom threads from al-Ekhlass and al-Hesbah, discussing the possibility of nuclear attacks on the West.

However, it has transpired that far from being a detailed simulation created by terrorist masterminds, the apocalyptic vision is in fact lifted from the computer game Fallout 3, by US game designers Bethesda Softworks.

That’s some fine investigatin’ there, Lou. I feel so much safer with these people on the job.

Defense Department can’t account for $15 billion in tax payer money.

We’re spending trillions on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so you’d think the least the government could do is tell us how that many is being spent. Alas it appears they largely haven’t a clue:

The lack of accountability of the funds, intended for purchases of weapons, vehicles, construction equipment and security services, amounted to a 95 percent failure rate in basic accounting standards, according to the report.

“We estimated that the army made 1.4 billion dollars in commercial payments that lacked the minimum documentation for a valid payment, such as properly prepared receiving reports, invoices, and certified vouchers,” Deputy Inspector General Mary Ugone told a Congressional committee Thursday.

“We also estimated that the army made an additional 6.3 billion dollars of commercial payments that met the 27 criteria for payments but did not comply with other statutory and regulatory requirements.”

The Pentagon also was found to have given away another 1.8 billion in Iraqi assets “with absolutely no accountability,” said Congressman Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

“Investigators examined 53 payment vouchers and couldn’t find even one that adequately explained where the money went.”

Another five billion dollars spent on supporting the Iraqi security forces could not be properly traced, according to a November 2007 inspector general report.

“Taken together, the inspector general found that the Defense Department did not properly account for almost 15 billion dollars,” Waxman said.

Someone is making a lot of money off those wars and it ain’t you and me. Our children’s children will probably be paying this fiasco off.

Justice Deparment’s infamous torture memo finally released.

Call it Bush Administration Fatigue, but I find it hard to get outraged about the following story:

Memo: Laws Didn’t Apply to Interrogators – washingtonpost.com

The Justice Department sent a legal memorandum to the Pentagon in 2003 asserting that federal laws prohibiting assault, maiming and other crimes did not apply to military interrogators who questioned al-Qaeda captives because the president’s ultimate authority as commander in chief overrode such statutes.

The 81-page memo, which was declassified and released publicly yesterday, argues that poking, slapping or shoving detainees would not give rise to criminal liability. The document also appears to defend the use of mind-altering drugs that do not produce “an extreme effect” calculated to “cause a profound disruption of the senses or personality.”

[… ] Sent to the Pentagon’s general counsel on March 14, 2003, by John C. Yoo, then a deputy in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, the memo provides an expansive argument for nearly unfettered presidential power in a time of war. It contends that numerous laws and treaties forbidding torture or cruel treatment should not apply to U.S. interrogations in foreign lands because of the president’s inherent wartime powers.

“If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network,” Yoo wrote. “In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch’s constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions.”

Interrogators who harmed a prisoner would be protected by a “national and international version of the right to self-defense,” Yoo wrote. He also articulated a definition of illegal conduct in interrogations—that it must “shock the conscience”—that the Bush administration advocated for years.

We’ve long known about this memo and I’ve even written outraged entries about it in the past, but seeing the full version of it now just makes me shake my head. The fact that John C. Yoo to this day still tries to defend the memo as being just and correct just shows me how corrupt the people in the Bush Administration are, but that’s not a surprise either. Additionally the fact that the President believes we’ll look back on his presidency in 30 or so years and say he was right all along shows how far into his own little fantasy world the man has retreated.

I can’t get angry about it anymore. All I can do it look forward to that cold day next January when he’s finally gone for good and hope to hell that the next person we get in the White House does what he or she can to undue the damage done by the current occupant.

Bush on the romance of danger

President Bush, speaking by video conference to military and civilian workers in Afghanistan:

“I must say, I’m a little envious,” Bush said. “If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed.”

“It must be exciting for you … in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You’re really making history, and thanks,” Bush said.

Cross-posted from my blog but I just wanted to share it with my friends over here at SEB
– Tip ‘o the hat to Terry

Five years of war and Iraq is no closer to being self-sufficient than it was on day one.

Today is the fifth anniversary of Bush’s war in Iraq. An undertaking that was sold to the public with lies about the supposed threat Saddam posed to the rest of the world—because of a supposed stockpile of biological and chemical weapons—and with promises that the war would be quick, easy, and cheap. How many of you remember that at the start of the war the Bush administration predicted that the whole shebang would likely cost $50 billion to $60 billion total?

Yeah, that wasn’t even in the ballpark:

WASHINGTON — At the outset of the Iraq war, the Bush administration predicted that it would cost $50 billion to $60 billion to oust Saddam Hussein, restore order and install a new government.

Five years in, the Pentagon tags the cost of the Iraq war at roughly $600 billion and counting. Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and critic of the war, pegs the long-term cost at more than $4 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office and other analysts say that $1 trillion to $2 trillion is more realistic, depending on troop levels and on how long the American occupation continues.

That $4 trillion estimate by Stiglitz? That’s what he considers a conservative estimate so the actual cost will likely be much higher. If ever there was a good argument not to vote for John McCain come November the above, combined with the fact that McCain has indicated he would continue on the same course as President Bush with regards to Iraq, is one of the best.

Imagine what we could have done with that kind of money back here at home. Hillary Clinton as thought about it:

On the campaign trail, the Democratic candidates, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, often say that money for the war would be better spent at home, as Mrs. Clinton did Tuesday when she pegged the war costs at “well over $1 trillion.”

“That is enough,” she continued, “to provide health care for all 47 million uninsured Americans and quality pre-kindergarten for every American child, solve the housing crisis once and for all, make college affordable for every American student and provide tax relief to tens of millions of middle-class families.”

Whenever universal health care is brought up the Republicans whine about how much it’ll cost and how we can’t afford it yet there seems to be no limits on available cash when they need to pull money out for the Iraq war. This just shows they don’t give a shit about the average American. They’re more than happy to run up a record national debt so long as the money isn’t used to help anyone other than their defense contractor friends. Fuck you assholes that are dieing of easily curable diseases simply because you can’t afford health care, they’re not going to run up a huge debt just so you can see a doctor. That’s just silly!

Want a good laugh? Remember Lawrence B. Lindsey? No? He was President Bush’s first economic adviser until he had the audacity to publicly state back at the start of the war that he though the initial cost estimates were too low. He predicted the war would cost between $100 billion to $200 billion and that got his ass fired because the administration thought he was just crazy stupid to think it would ever cost that much money. He’s got a new I-told-you-so book coming out:

“Five years after the fact, I believe that one of the reasons the administration’s efforts are so unpopular is that they chose not to engage in an open public discussion of what the consequences of the war might be, including its economic cost,” Mr. Lindsey wrote in an excerpt in Fortune magazine.

Mr. Lindsey insists that his projections were partly right. “My hypothetical estimate got the annual cost about right,” he wrote. “But I misjudged an important factor: how long we would be involved.”

Above and beyond the issue of money though is the fact that it’s cost the lives of 4,000 U.S. military personnel along with arguably countless Iraqi lives for no good reason. As bad as things were under Saddam at least they had running water, working electricity, and relatively safe neighborhoods. Iraqi women were allowed to drive and hold jobs and wear jeans, something that is increasingly rare in Iraq today as the Islamic fundamentalists exert control through their militias.

Meanwhile President Bush is still reporting in from La La Land where his fevered delusions continue to hide reality from him. In a speech today marking the fifth anniversary he defended his war:

“The battle in Iraq has been longer and harder and more costly than we anticipated,” Bush said.

But, he added, before an audience of Pentagon brass, soldiers and diplomats: “The battle in Iraq is noble, it is necessary, and it is just. And with your courage, the battle in Iraq will end in victory.”

The war isn’t noble, wasn’t necessary, and is far from just and no matter how many times you claim it is, Mr. President, that won’t change the reality of the situation.

Bush isn’t alone in his delusions. Vice President Cheney continues to insist not only that the war was necessary and a success, but that he doesn’t give a fuck if you don’t like it:

CHENEY: On the security front, I think there’s a general consensus that we’ve made major progress, that the surge has worked. That’s been a major success.

RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it’s not worth fighting.

CHENEY: So?

RADDATZ So? You don’t care what the American people think?

CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.

The surge hasn’t worked. The stated goal of the surge was to give the Iraqi government some breathing room so they could work on reconciliation and laying the ground work for power sharing among the factions. They have yet to do so and troops are being drawn down to pre-surge levels. Based on the stated goal of the surge it is a failure. Signs are that the reduction in violence, and it’s arguable whether or not the surge had anything to do with that reduction, are starting to fade as of late.

So here we are five years later on the verge or possibly already within a recession at home, a subprime mortgage mess not helping the situation any, an ongoing war that has yet to bring any of the promised liberty, stability, and democracy to Iraq, and a President who still refuses to own up to what a colossal fuck up he is. Happy Anniversary America!