Another Frontline Episode that will Piss you off

Tonight I noticed that Frontline has a special on about the White House and their illegal wiretapping program. I wasn’t able to catch it all because my fiancee was watching “Dancing With the Stars”, but I did catch some small pieces and what I caught was pretty astonishing!

President Bush described his anti-terrorist measures as narrow and targeted, but a FRONTLINE investigation has found that the National Security Agency (NSA) has engaged in wiretapping and sifting Internet communications of millions of Americans; the FBI conducted a data sweep on 250,000 Las Vegas vacationers, and along with more than 50 other agencies, they are mining commercial-sector data banks to an unprecedented degree.

And it gets much worse than this little clipping from the Frontline website. I won’t give away too much, but the part about AT&T should really piss you off. Frontline talks to actual [ex-]employees (didn’t catch if they were current or ex) that explain how AT&T allowed the NSA to set up a room that was wiretapping voice and data traffic from AT&T’s network.

And then there is the gem I caught before I had to switch back to “Dancing With the Stars”, a Justice Dept Attorney, “During a time of war while soldiers are fighting Al Qaeda and we are trying to do what we can to keep Al Qaeda’s attacks from getting closer and closer to the US, wouldn’t you want to protect from those attacks. It just makes sense to me.” This quote is not exact but the basic point the jackass was getting across was, “Hey it’s a time of war, so fuck your basic rights and the constitution this country was founded on.”

I highly recommend watching this episode. It’s essential for citizens of the US to understand what our government is doing.

President Bush needs a lesson in economics.

In the same vein as my last entry comes this little ditty from the folks at Think Progress:

Think Progress – Bush: We Can’t Spend $22 Billion On America Because We Need $200 Billion For Iraq War

The Democratic leadership in Congress is set to pass a host of domestic funding bills that would exceed Bush’s request by $22 billion. The extra funding would help go towards veterans health care, infrastructure improvements, education, and other domestic priorities.

Speaking to business leaders at a White House event this morning, Bush railed against the relatively modest increase in spending, arguing that $22 billion is “a lot of money”:

    Some in Congress will tell you that $22 billion is not a lot of money. As business leaders, you know better. As a matter of fact, $22 billion is larger than the annual revenues of most Fortune 500 companies. The $22 billion is only for the first year. With every passing year the number gets bigger and bigger, and so over the next five years the increase in federal spending would add up to $205 billion.

Bush warned that spending increases, which could add up to over $200 billion over five years, would be “taking money out of the pocket” of Americans who need to “pay their mortgages or pay for their children going to college.” Unfortunately, Bush failed to appreciate the irony in his remarks.

While complaining of modest spending increases on much-needed domestic funding priorities, Bush is far less concerned about the impact of spending $200 billion in the next year alone on a disastrous war in Iraq:

    President Bush plans to ask lawmakers next week to approve another massive spending measure — totaling nearly $200 billion — to fund the war through next year, Pentagon officials said.

It shouldn’t take a “CEO President” to figure out that $200 billion is greater than $22 billion.

It’s amazing to me that the man can ask for billions upon billions for the Iraq war without batting an eyelash yet a few more billion to help his fellow Americans is too much to bear. We’re spending $500,000 per minute in Iraq at the moment and Bush and his cronies are mulling over starting another war with Iran as well as trying to figure out how he can force us to stay in Iraq for half a century at the cost of trillions of dollars:

On June 1, during a trip to U.S. Pacific Command in Honolulu, Defense Secretary Robert Gates mused about how to “posture ourselves” in Iraq “for the long term.” The Vietnam experience underscored the undesirability of a sudden, abrupt withdrawal. Far better for the U.S. to follow the experiences of post-conflict garrisoning in Korea and Japan, he said: “a mutually agreed arrangement whereby we have a long and enduring presence.” President Bush is reportedly intrigued by the so-called Korea model, wherein the U.S. has guaranteed security on the Korean peninsula with at least four U.S. Army combat brigades for half a century. Indeed, in his speech on Thursday, Bush declared himself ready to build an “enduring relationship” between the U.S. and Iraq.

The study, conducted by the Congressional Budget Office, decided to follow the Korea model to calculate its expense. Since it’s unclear for how long or under what conditions combat operations will ensue, the CBO projects both a combat and a non-combat presence. Both, however, are projected to require 55,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The combat scenario entails one-time costs of $4 to $8 billion, with annual expenses of $25 billion, projected outward. Under the non-combat scenario, a $8 billion one-time cost—mainly for the construction of additional “enduring” bases—would be followed by annual costs of $10 billion or less.

A prior CBO study, released in August, estimated (large pdf) that U.S. costs in Iraq from 2009 to 2017 will total approximately $1 trillion on the assumption of a troop presence of 75,000. On top of that, under the reduced-force combat scenario envisioned in this CBO estimate, the U.S. will spend another $1 trillion by 2057—the lifespan of the U.S.‘s Korean presence to date.

All estimates are in 2008 dollars. Both estimates are arguably conservative. In the combat scenario, for instance, Army units serve 12-month tours, whereas they now serve 15-month tours. In the non-combat scenario, the CBO ratcheted down the Defense Department’s cost-of-war estimates to reflect “lower costs for such items as equipment maintenance, fuel and consumable materials.”

If Bush has his way we’ll be paying the cost of his Presidency for decades to come. The sad part is there’s very few Democrats who are willing to say they’ll end his mess as soon as they get into office.

Why does President Bush hate America’s children?

President Bush has threatened to veto the bill renewing and expanding the SCHIP program which provides health insurance to millions of American children who wouldn’t have it otherwise. The bill which was just recently passed expands coverage to 10 million kids, a mere 4 million more than previously, but Bush claims it contains “excessive spending” so he plans to veto it. This from the man who just asked for an additional $190 billion for his little war in Iraq on top of the $450 billion we’ve already spent.

Let’s put these two costs into perspective here:


Image credit: AFL-CIO Weblog

Just over a month’s worth of the money we’re spending in Iraq would fund all 10 million kids under the new SCHIP program. In comparison that’s one hell of a bargain, but that would mean helping out Americans who can’t help themselves and it does nothing to put that money into the pockets of Big Insurance Companies or the Military-Industrial Conglomerates which are such big contributers to the Republican campaign coffers.

Michael Brush writes, “CEOs at top defense contractors have reaped annual pay gains of 200% to 688% in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.” Additionally, “The CEOs made an average of $12.4 million a year, easily more than the average corporate chief. Since the start of the war, CEOs at defense contractors such General Dynamics, Halliburton and Oshkosh Truck have made, on average, more in four days than what a top general makes in a whole year, or $187,390.”

President Bush’s stance seems quite clear: Fuck the kids. If they want to be healthy they should be born to rich Republican parents.

Two of the soldiers that wrote “The War As We Saw It” op-ed are now dead.

Remember that excellent NYT op-ed written by seven U.S. soldiers? Well, two of them just died in Iraq:

Two of Seven Soldiers Who Wrote ‘NYT’ Op-Ed Die in Iraq

NEW YORK The Op-Ed by seven active duty U.S. soldiers in Iraq questioning the war drew international attention just three weeks ago. Now two of the seven are dead.

Sgt. Omar Mora and Sgt. Yance Gray died Monday in a vehicle accident in western Baghdad, two of seven U.S. troops killed in the incident which was reported just as Gen. David Petraeus was about to report to Congress on progress in the “surge.” The names have just been released.

Gen. Petraeus was questioned about the message of the op-ed in testimony before a Senate committee yesterday.

The controversial Times column on Aug. 19 was called “The War As We Saw It,” and expressed skepticism about American gains in Iraq. “To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched,” the group wrote.

It closed: “We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.”

At least the mission is now over for two of them. Let’s hope the other five won’t have to end the mission the same way.

Bush lied to us about WMDs in Iraq. He must be impeached.

After reading this Salon.com article I’m convinced that President Bush is flat out guilty of crimes and misdemeanors and should be impeached immediately.

On Sept. 18, 2002, CIA director George Tenet briefed President Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, according to two former senior CIA officers. Bush dismissed as worthless this information from the Iraqi foreign minister, a member of Saddam’s inner circle, although it turned out to be accurate in every detail. Tenet never brought it up again.

Nor was the intelligence included in the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002, which stated categorically that Iraq possessed WMD. No one in Congress was aware of the secret intelligence that Saddam had no WMD as the House of Representatives and the Senate voted, a week after the submission of the NIE, on the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. The information, moreover, was not circulated within the CIA among those agents involved in operations to prove whether Saddam had WMD.

On April 23, 2006, CBS’s “60 Minutes” interviewed Tyler Drumheller, the former CIA chief of clandestine operations for Europe, who disclosed that the agency had received documentary intelligence from Naji Sabri, Saddam’s foreign minister, that Saddam did not have WMD. “We continued to validate him the whole way through,” said Drumheller. “The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming, and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy.”

Now two former senior CIA officers have confirmed Drumheller’s account to me and provided the background to the story of how the information that might have stopped the invasion of Iraq was twisted in order to justify it. They described what Tenet said to Bush about the lack of WMD, and how Bush responded, and noted that Tenet never shared Sabri’s intelligence with then Secretary of State Colin Powell. According to the former officers, the intelligence was also never shared with the senior military planning the invasion, which required U.S. soldiers to receive medical shots against the ill effects of WMD and to wear protective uniforms in the desert.

Instead, said the former officials, the information was distorted in a report written to fit the preconception that Saddam did have WMD programs. That false and restructured report was passed to Richard Dearlove, chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), who briefed Prime Minister Tony Blair on it as validation of the cause for war.

Secretary of State Powell, in preparation for his presentation of evidence of Saddam’s WMD to the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003, spent days at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., and had Tenet sit directly behind him as a sign of credibility. But Tenet, according to the sources, never told Powell about existing intelligence that there were no WMD, and Powell’s speech was later revealed to be a series of falsehoods.

Much like his insistence that there’s no possible way anyone could have predicted the New Orleans levies would break even though the White House had been told by specialists that exact possibility before the storm ever hit, Bush ignored the evidence that contradicted what he wanted to believe and then lied his ass off to justify an illegal war. If ever there was a sound justification for impeachment proceedings, this is it. It’s time we removed him from office and put him on trial for war crimes.

Go read the rest of the article, but be prepared to have your blood pressure shoot through the ceiling.

Four years later and the Iraqi security forces still suck eggs.

President Bush went around claiming that we’d step down as Iraqi forces became ready to step up. The obvious question that line of thinking poses is: What if they’re never ready to step up?

WASHINGTON – Iraq’s security forces have made “uneven progress” and will be unable to take over security on their own in the next 12 to 18 months, according to an independent assessment.

The study, conducted by a 20-member panel led by retired Gen. James Jones, found the Iraqi Army shows promise of becoming a viable, independent security force with time. But the group offers a scathing assessment of Baghdad’s Ministry of Interior and recommends scrapping Iraq’s national police force, which it describes as dysfunctional and infiltrated by militias.

The group was specifically tasked with determining whether Iraq’s security forces could provide greater security to the country’s 18 provinces within the next 12 to 18 months.

According to the report, the panel agreed with U.S. and Iraqi officials that the Iraqi Army is capable of taking over an increasing amount of day-to-day combat responsibilities, but that the military and police force would still be unable to take control and operate independently in such a short time frame.

“They are gaining size and strength, and will increasingly be capable of assuming greater responsibility for Iraq’s security,” the report states, adding that special forces in particular are “highly capable and extremely effective.”

It seems to me we’ve heard that story before on many occasions. Someone’s always saying the next 6 to 12 months is critical and will provide the turn-around and then in 6 to 12 months they just say it again. We’ve supposedly crossed that critical point at least a dozen times now.

Of course, the above is just the military. The police issue is even worse:

The report is much more pessimistic about Baghdad’s police units. It describes these units as fragile, ill-equipped and infiltrated by militia forces. And they are led by the Ministry of Interior, which is “a ministry in name only” that is “widely regarded as being dysfunctional and sectarian, and suffers from ineffective leadership.”

Accordingly, the study recommends disbanding the national police and starting over.

“Its ability to be effective is crippled by significant challenges, including public distrust, sectarianism (both real and perceived), and a lack of clarity about its identity — specifically whether it is a military or a police force,” the report states.

Four years, countless dead, and trillions spent and we’re no closer to the model of Democracy we heard so much about from Bush than we were when we first started this stupid war. Worse is the fact that bin Laden is still free, the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and Iran has grown in power thanks to the idiocy that is the Bush administration. The cherry on top? Democrats continue to be too spineless to bring this travesty an end.

“The War as We Saw It” is an excellent NYT Op Ed.

Go take a moment to read The War as We Saw It at the New York Times. Written by a group of infantrymen and noncommissioned officers it refutes many of the claims of progress made by the Bush Administration. A sample:

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

I’m still torn over the whole Iraq situation as I’m a believer in the idea that we-broke-it-so-we-should-fix-it, but there just doesn’t seem to be any real way to fix Iraq so every day I lean more towards the idea that we should cut our losses and get the hell out so they can fight it out amongst themselves. Which is what they really seem to want to do anyway. Of course if Bush has his way we’ll be in there at least until he leaves office and he’s looking for a way to insure it’ll be years after he’s gone before any real pull out can occur, if at all.

Suicides among Army enlistees at 26 year high.

The following news article more or less speaks for itself:

Army suicides at highest level in 26 years – USATODAY.com

WASHINGTON (AP) — Army soldiers committed suicide last year at the highest rate in 26 years, and more than a quarter did so while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new military report.

The report, obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its scheduled release Thursday, found there were 99 confirmed suicides among active duty soldiers during 2006, up from 88 the previous year and the highest since the 102 suicides in 1991 at the time of the Persian Gulf War.

The suicide rate for the Army has fluctuated over the past 26 years, from last year’s high of 17.3 per 100,000 to a low of 9.1 per 100,000 in 2001.

Last year, “Iraq was the most common deployment location for both (suicides) and attempts,” the report said.

This doesn’t seem to me like it should be a big surprise. These folks are, after all, serving in a war that is pretty depressing even for those of us who aren’t participating in it. I can only imagine how depressing it must be to actually have to fight it. I would also tend to think that suicides would go up anytime there’s an actual war taking place. It just demonstrates how important it is that our troops receive as much health care, including mental health care, as we can manage.

It’s just a shame that more often than not admitting you have a mental health problem is a sure way to have the Army punish you:

As NPR reported last year, numerous soldiers from Fort Carson who have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan with serious mental health problems have been kicked out of the Army with few or no benefits. Those reports prompted a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, as well as officials at the Pentagon, to investigate Fort Carson. In turn, the public attention pressured commanders to pledge that returning soldiers would get better treatment.

It is unconscionable that we require our soldiers not only to fight an illegitimate war, but to go through multiple mandatory deployments and then when they show signs of health issues, particularly mental health, we kick them to the curb like so much trash.

Support our troops! At least until they’re broken and no longer useful to us it would seem.

A simple question of math.

This pretty much speaks for itself…

Found over at The People’s Republic of Seabrook.

Mitt Romney on why his sons aren’t serving in Iraq.

I know life on the campaign trail is supposed to be hard, but I didn’t think it equated to serving in Iraq. However it appears Mitt Romney does:

At an “Ask Mitt Anything” forum this morning in Iowa, former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) was asked about why his sons have not served in the military. His response:

“My sons are adults. They’ve chosen not to serve in the military in active duty and I respect their decision in that regard. … And one of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I’d be a great president.”

He should’ve stopped after explaining they’re adults and it’s their decision and I would’ve been fine with that, but that extra bit just makes him sound like a pompous ass.