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Transcript
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham Tells CNN, Defends Bush's Iraq Plan
01/31/2007 7:57 PM ET
Click here for the transcript.
Full Report PDF
Report Calls Itself "Middle Finger Of Defiance Aimed At Gloom, Doom"
By TRACEY CALDWELL 01/31/2007 3:19 PM ET
An 86-page report which says it is the reaction to the Iraq Study Group Report has been released. by a group called Free Republic. A press release on the report says that: "the so-called antiwar movement, including the organizers of this past weekend's protest in Washington, is led by terrorist supporting Marxists as part of a global alliance seeking America's defeat in the Global War on Terror and that a prominent White House correspondent has allied herself with one of these groups."

The report: CitizensReportonIraq.pdf

The press release also says that: "Readers will learn that progress is being made in Iraq; there are large areas of Iraq that are safe and prospering; that the enemy is being killed and wounded in astounding proportion to American casualties; that the reporting on Iraq by the dominant media is universally despised as inaccurate and misleading by those fighting for Free Iraq -- Americans and Iraqis alike; that the so-called antiwar movement, including the organizers of this past weekend's protest in Washington, is led by terrorist supporting Marxists as part of a global alliance seeking America's defeat in the Global War on Terror and that a prominent White House correspondent has allied herself with one of these groups." Note: The report identifies the correspondent as Helen Thomas.

A few excerpts from the report:

Page 2: "This report can best be described as a middle finger of defiance aimed at the gloom and doom armchair generals in Congress, the media, and Fort Living Room. It is offered as a beacon of hope to those Americans, Iraqis, and coalition partners striving for victory in Free Iraq against a global, political, military and media alliance committed to our defeat. The American and Iraqi people were ill-served by the Iraq Study Group report issued last year. It was a little more than a prescription for capitulation to our enemies and betrayal of our allies."

Page 50: "Miracles have been performed in Iraq. Not by gods, but by men doing God's work...Out of the ashes of that cruel existence (under Saddam), a new Iraq is being born. While the enemies of freedom within and without Iraq try with all their might to strangle the infant Iraqi democracy in its cradle, Iraqis and those who want Free Iraq to succeed are valiantly making progress throughout the country."

Page 52: Cites a State Department report from October 2006, saying that an astonishing ninety-six percent of Iraqis surveyed in regions covering two-thirds of Iraq's eighteen provinces said they feel safe in their neighborhoods.

Page 68: "There is no antiwar movement in America...What the media call anti-war protests are actually pro-terrorist propaganda exercises organized by Marxist front groups whose leaders cut their teeth cheerleading the North Veitnamese communists to victory in the Sixties and Seventies, who spent their time in the Eighties aiding Marxist guerrillas in Central America and working with the Soviet Union on its nuclear freeze propaganda campaign and in the Nineties organizing anti-capitalism riots while propping up Cold War remnant leftist dictators like Fidel Castro, Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein...With rare exception the media has failed to inform the American public about the beliefs and activities of the dominant so-called antiwar groups."

Page 81: "America cannot affford to lose in Iraq -- neither can the Iraqi people...The American people need to be patient. Experts say counterinsurgencies typically take from five to eleven years to defeat. In addition to an insurgency, we are fighting al Queda terrorists and have to deal with interference from Iran, Syria and duplicitous allies in the Middle East...The best way to help is to join the military or work as a civilian for government agencies or contractors. If that is not possible for whatever reason, there are a multitude of ways Americans are volunteering and contributing...For example: care packages are being sent; donations are being made to buy things like helmet pads and Silly String...Learn a language...Participate in pro-troops/pro-mission rallies and counter-demonstrations of antiwar protests.

Proposes Withdrawing all Combat Brigades by March 31, 2008
01/30/2007 7:33 PM ET
Barack Obama's news release:

Obama Offers Plan to Stop Escalation of Iraq War, Begin Phased Redeployment of Troops Tuesday, January 30, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Date: January 30, 2007

Obama Offers Plan to Stop Escalation of Iraq War, Begin Phased Redeployment of Troops Goal to Redeploy All Combat Brigades out of Iraq by March 31, 2008

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today introduced binding and comprehensive legislation that not only reverses the President's dangerous and ill-conceived escalation of the Iraq war, but also sets a new course for U.S. policy that can bring a responsible end to the war and bring our troops home.

"Our troops have preformed brilliantly in Iraq, but no amount of American soldiers can solve the political differences at the heart of somebody else's civil war," Obama said. "That's why I have introduced a plan to not only stop the escalation of this war, but begin a phased redeployment that can pressure the Iraqis to finally reach a political settlement and reduce the violence."

The Obama plan offers a responsible yet effective alternative to the President's failed policy of escalation. Realizing there can be no military solution in Iraq, it focuses instead on reaching a political solution in Iraq, protecting our interests in the region, and bringing this war to a responsible end. The legislation commences redeployment of U.S. forces no later than May 1, 2007 with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008, a date that is consistent with the expectation of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.

The plan allows for a limited number of U.S. troops to remain as basic force protection, to engage in counter-terrorism, and to continue the training of Iraqi security forces. If the Iraqis are successful in meeting the thirteen benchmarks for progress laid out by the Bush Administration, this plan also allows for the temporary suspension of the redeployment, provided Congress agrees that the benchmarks have been met and that the suspension is in the national security interest of the United States.

"The American people have been asked to be patient too many times, too many lives have been lost and too many billions have been spent," Obama said. "It's time for a policy that can bring a responsible end to this war and bring our troops home."

Fact Sheet: The Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007

Today, Senator Obama introduced the Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007. The Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007 is binding and comprehensive legislation that not only reverses the President's dangerous and ill-conceived escalation, but also sets a new course for U.S. policy in Iraq that can bring a responsible end to the war and bring our troops home. It implements - with the force of law - a phased redeployment of U.S. forces that remains our best leverage to pressure the Iraqi government to achieve the political solution necessary to promote stability. It also places conditions on future economic aid to the government of Iraq and calls for the United States to lead a broad and sustained diplomatic initiative within the region. This plan is based on Senator Obama's November 20th, 2006 speech before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and it implements key recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.

The Obama plan offers a responsible yet effective alternative to the President's failed policy of escalation. Realizing there can be no military solution in Iraq, it focuses instead on reaching a political solution in Iraq, protecting our interests in the region, and bringing this war to a responsible end. The legislation commences redeployment of U.S. forces no later than May 1, 2007 with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008, a date that is consistent with the expectation of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. The plan allows for a limited number of U.S. troops to remain as basic force protection, to engage in counter-terrorism, and to continue the training of Iraqi security forces. If the Iraqis are successful in meeting the thirteen benchmarks for progress laid out by the Bush Administration, this plan also allows for the temporary suspension of the redeployment, provided Congress agrees that the benchmarks have been met and that the suspension is in the national security interest of the United States.

In short, the Obama plan halts the escalation and requires a responsible, phased redeployment of American forces from Iraq in a manner that protects U.S. troops and exerts leverage to achieve the political settlement among the Iraqis.

Key Elements of Obama Plan

Stops the Escalation: Caps the number of U.S. troops in Iraq at the number in Iraq on January 10, 2007. This does not affect the funding for our troops in Iraq. This cap has the force of law and could not be lifted without explicit Congressional authorization.

De-escalates the War with Phased Redeployment: Commences a phased redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq not later than May 1, 2007, with the goal that all combat brigades redeploy from Iraq by March 31, 2008, a date consistent with the expectation of the Iraq Study Group. This redeployment will be both substantial and gradual, and will be planned and implemented by military commanders. Makes clear that Congress believes troops should be redeployed to the United States; to Afghanistan; and to other points in the region. A residual U.S. presence may remain in Iraq for force protection, training of Iraqi security forces, and pursuit of international terrorists.

Enforces Tough Benchmarks for Progress: These 13 benchmarks are based on President Bush's own statements and Administration documents and include:

Security: Significant progress toward fulfilling security commitments, including eliminating restrictions on U.S. forces, reducing sectarian violence, reducing the size and influence of the militias, and strengthening the Iraqi Army and Police.

Political Accommodation: Significant progress toward reaching a political solution, including equitable sharing of oil revenues, revision of de-Baathification, provincial elections, even-handed provision of government services, and a fair process for a constitutional amendment to achieve national reconciliation.

Economic Progress: Requires Iraq to fulfill its commitment to spend not less than $10 billion for reconstruction, job creation, and economic development without regard for the ethnic or sectarian make-up of Iraqi regions.

Should these benchmarks be met, the plan allows for the temporary suspension of this redeployment, subject to the agreement of Congress.

Congressional oversight: Requires the President to submit reports to Congress every 90 days describing and assessing the Iraqi government's progress in meeting benchmarks and the redeployment goals.

Intensified Training: Intensifies training of Iraqi security forces to enable the country to take over security responsibility of the country.

Conditions on Economic Assistance: Conditions future economic assistance to the Government of Iraq on significant progress toward achievement of benchmarks. Allows exceptions for humanitarian, security, and job-creation assistance.

Regional Diplomacy: Launches a comprehensive regional and international diplomatic initiative - that includes key nations in the region - to help achieve a political settlement among the Iraqi people, end the civil war in Iraq, and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and regional conflict. Recommends the President should appoint a Special Envoy for Iraq to carry out this diplomacy within 60 days. Mandates that the President submit a plan to prevent the war in Iraq from becoming a wider regional conflict.

Video
VoteVets Action Fund Ad: "Join the Troops. Stop the Escalation."
01/29/2007 7:17 PM ET

Photo Gallery
Anti-War Demo Makes Colorful Celebration of Free Speech
01/29/2007 5:55 PM ET

Click "MORE" for photo gallery

The January 27, 2007 antiwar march in Washington, DC saw tens of thousands of veterans, soccer moms, college students and "normal" people descend on the National Mall to call for an end to the U.S. presence in Iraq. But what made the day most interesting was the "freak parade" of those who choose to express their right to free speech through the use of costume, song, and modern dance.








Contest
Tens of Thousands Demonstrate; Congressmen, Celebrities, Kids Speak
01/27/2007 8:40 PM ET
Soldier's boots and a symbolic flag-draped coffin at anti-war rally in Washington
Photo by Jay Westcott/Getty Images
Soldier's boots and a symbolic flag-draped coffin at anti-war rally in Washington

Round-up of reports:
-- Washington Post
-- New York Times
-- AP
-- Reuters

Speakers to Include Jesse Jackson, Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon
01/26/2007 3:28 PM ET
United for Peace and Justice is sponsoring an anti-war rally on the National Mall tomorrow, with other demonstrations slated to be held in other cities.

The rally is scheduled to begin at 11, and the list of speakers includes an array of antiwar activists, politicians, veterans, and Hollywood stars.

Slogger will be covering the event, as well as the anti-antiwar demonstrators that are certain to have a presence somewhere on the Mall.

Check back Monday for a round-up of the day's festivities, and a photo essay on the freak circus that always come out for these things.

Follow-Up
Republican Leaders Toil To Avoid More GOP Support Of Resolution
01/25/2007 12:47 PM ET
Senate Democrats won their first major vote against the Iraq war yesterday with the resolution against troop surge. Today's developments on that story:

AP reports that: "A resolution swiping at President Bush's Iraq war plans is headed to the full Senate as early as next week as administration officials and Republican leaders labor to keep the effort from gaining more GOP support."

Republicans have been meeting behind closed doors to shore up support for the Iraq war plan. The Senate is tied 49-49 between the two parties, with two independents caucusing with the Democrats. That means either party needs help from the other in order to achieve the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and advance legislation

Excerpts
Range From "US Is MIA" To "I Agree With Him"
01/24/2007 00:27 AM ET
There were many thoughts on tonight's speech. Reuters has an excellent summary of some of the reactions to the State of the Union Address. Below, a few of the many reactions:

JOHN STREMLAU, HEAD OF THE PEACE PROGRAMS AT THE CARTER CENTER

"It was all gain and no pain, the rhetoric and reality part company. If I was in a foreign country I would say America is missing in action. He's lost in Iraq and he's bogged down in a domestic salvage operation, trying to do things he should have years ago."

CHARLEY RICHARDSON, CO-FOUNDER OF MILITARY FAMILIES SPEAK OUT

"He says if we leave Iraq it will fall into chaos. I think Iraq is the classic definition of chaos. The idea of putting more U.S. troops into a situation where the presence of U.S. troops is the problem makes absolutely no sense."

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MINORITY LEADER AND KENTUCKY REPUBLICAN

"Americans want to see success in Iraq. We are not a country that shies from challenges. I think the president should be given a chance to carry out his plan for a secure Iraq."

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, SOUTH CAROLINA REPUBLICAN, MEMBER OF SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE

"I completely agree with President Bush that the outcome in Iraq is part of the overall war on terror. Success in Iraq with a functioning democratic government will empower moderates throughout the Mideast. Failure in Iraq will lead to regional chaos.

SEN. HARRY REID, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER AND NEVADA DEMOCRAT, NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE SPEAKER AND CALIFORNIA DEMOCRAT, IN JOINT STATEMENT

"Unfortunately, tonight the president demonstrated he has not listened to Americans' single greatest concern: the war in Iraq. The overwhelming majority of Americans, military leaders, and a bipartisan coalition in Congress oppose the president's plan to escalate the war."

"While the president continues to ignore the will of the country, Congress will not ignore this president's failed policy. His plan will receive an up-or-down vote in both the House and the Senate, and we will continue to hold him accountable for changing course in Iraq."

SEN. JOHN KERRY, MASSACHUSETTS DEMOCRAT AND 2004 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

"The President missed a golden opportunity tonight to admit that he made a mistake in Iraq and to share with the American people a plan for gradually removing our troops and allowing the Iraqis to solve the political crisis in Iraq."

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY, MASSACHUSETTS DEMOCRAT, CHAIRMAN OF SENATE HEALTH, EDUCATION, LABOR AND PENSIONS COMMITTEE:

"The President has laid out a vision of comprehensive immigration reform that includes genuine enforcement of immigration laws; creation of an employment program that would meet the needs of our economy; establishment of a path to citizenship for the millions of immigrants who have roots in our country; and integration of immigrants into American life through civic education and English language training."

"We can agree with the principles the President has put forth and we look forward to working with the administration and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to enact a comprehensive bill."

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, ILLINOIS DEMOCRAT AND POSSIBLE 2008 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

"The President offered some serious proposals tonight on two issues -- energy and health care -- that we all agree must be addressed. But the last election proved that politics-by-slogan and poll-tested sound bites aren't going to cut it with the American people anymore, and that's why the real test of leadership is not what the president said to Congress tonight, but how he works with Congress to find real solutions to the problems we face.

JON ALTERMAN, DIRECTOR OF MIDDLE EAST PROGRAM, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES

"Where I saw something new was on the domestic side, rather than on the foreign policy side. On the foreign policy side he fell into the familiar pattern of 'al Qaeda wants it, it must be bad, and if we want it, then al Qaeda must not want it.' I don't think that's how the world works. Part of the problem is that the president doesn't seem to recognize that some of what alienates people is what we do, and it doesn't just alienate extremists but it alienates people in the middle.

Poll Results
Most Americans Have Also Lost Faith in President Bush
01/22/2007 7:24 PM ET
In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, nearly two-thirds of Americans have given up on success in Iraq and on Bush's presidency. Bush will confront this reality in his State of the Union Address tomorrow. An excerpt: In addition, the poll finds that nearly another two-thirds believe he shouldn't move ahead with his troop increase to Iraq, if Congress passes a non-binding resolution opposing it. And it shows that just two in 10 want Bush taking the lead role in setting policy for the country.

“Essentially, the president is really in the cellar of public opinion,” says Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this poll with Republican Bill McInturff. “As he faces the audience for his State of the Union, he’s going to find a mood dramatically different to the mood that greeted him at his second inaugural.”

McInturff adds that he sees little chance for Bush, in his speech, to win over skeptical Americans on major policies like Iraq. “There is only a limited to modest capacity to change people’s opinions.”

Iraq Rates Brief Mention in Presidential Cmte. Declaration
01/20/2007 11:38 AM ET
In her 1'45'' video announcement today officially declaring her intention to explore running for president in 2008, Hillary Clinton says this about Iraq: "Let's talk about how to bring the right end to the war in Iraq and to restore respect for America around the world."

Here's the transcript of her full video remarks.

HILLARY CLINTON: I announced today that I am forming a presidential exploratory committee.

I'm not just starting a campaign, though, I'm beginning a conversation -- with you, with America. Because we all need to be part of the discussion if we're all going to be part of the solution. And all of us have to be part of the solution.

Let's talk about how to bring the right end to the war in Iraq and to restore respect for America around the world.

How to make us energy independent and free of foreign oil.

How to end the deficits that threaten Social Security and Medicare.

And let's definitely talk about how every American can have quality affordable health care.

You know, after six years of George Bush, it is time to renew the promise of America. Our basic bargain that no matter who you are or where you live, if you work hard and play by the rules, you can build a good life for yourself and your family.

I grew up in a middle-class family in the middle of America, and we believed in that promise.

I still do. I've spent my entire life trying to make good on it.

Whether it was fighting for women's basic rights or childrens' basic health care. Protecting our Social Security, or protecting our soldiers. It's a kind of basic bargain, and we've got to keep up our end.

So let's talk. Let's chat. Let's start a dialogue about your ideas and mine.

Because the conversation in Washington has been just just a little one-sided lately, don't you think? And we can all see how well that works.

And while I can't visit everyone's living room, I can try. And with a little help from modern technology, I'll be holding live online video chats this week, starting Monday.

So let the conversation begin. I have a feeling it's going to be very interesting.

(endall)

Contractor Countersues Attorney of Four Killed Employees
01/19/2007 11:11 PM ET
Blackwater USA is demanding $10m from the lawyer working on behalf of the estates of four Blackwater contractors killed and mutilated in Falluja. Here's the AP report.

Insight
Eleanor Clift: "Clash Of Branches Not Seen Since Vietnam"
01/13/2007 1:00 PM ET
Democrats are living on borrowed time to block funds for iraq, writes Eleanor Clift in Newsweek.

From the piece: "Early rumblings of an anti-war movement sounded in Washington this week as several progressive groups joined forces to press the Democratic Congress to use its power of the purse to stop the latest escalation of the conflict in Iraq. Unlike their predecessors in the Vietnam era, who were often scruffy and unshaven, these activists are well within the mainstream in their appearance as well as their politics....

However, she adds: "The Democrats know they’re on borrowed time. They wouldn’t be in the majority if it weren’t for their opposition to the war. Senator Kennedy introduced legislation to prevent Bush from escalating the conflict without congressional approval, but few of his colleagues are with him. Even Illinois Sen. Barak Obama, who sharply criticized Bush’s “surge,” is not ready to jump on the Kennedy bandwagon. Sen. Hillary Clinton, another likely ’08 contender, conspicuously did not endorse Kennedy’s bill. Democrats are moving toward a non-binding resolution opposing the build-up that could attract the support of a dozen Republicans, in addition to every Democrat with the exception of Senator Lieberman, who was re-elected last fall as an independent but caucuses with his old party. Lieberman backs the surge."

Both Vietnam Veterans, Hagel And McCain Are Polar Opposites
01/13/2007 10:49 AM ET
Two U.S. senators sit on very different sides of the table on Iraq, even though they both served in Vietnam. A fascinating chronicle of Senator Hagel and McCain's very different views on Iraq is in the latest issue of Newsweek.

Jonathan Darman, Richard Wolffe and Evan Thomas, who wrote the piece, report that: " War itself is a foreign concept to many solons of Capitol Hill; a small number—perhaps as few as 25 out of 535—have come under fire in combat. John McCain and Chuck Hagel are obvious and visible exceptions. McCain, a Republican from Arizona, was a Navy bomber pilot, shot down and imprisoned by the North Vietnamese for five and a half years. He has, he sometimes says, "more scars than Frankenstein." Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska, was an Army grunt in Vietnam who won two Purple Hearts and still has shrapnel in his chest. Both men have seen the face of war up close. But on the question of the Iraq war, they are almost mirror opposites."

Blogosphere
"Troop Surge Is Too Little Too Late"
01/11/2007 2:28 PM ET
The Hill's Congress Blog gives its take on President Bush's plan for a troop surge.

From the post from Wis. Dem. Rep. Gwen Moore: I can’t understand what the President is thinking when he ignores his own military advisors and says he wants to send an additional 20,000 American soldiers—on top of the 140,000 already there—to be caught in the middle of an Iraqi civil war.

What happened to the discernment that a military solution was not forthcoming? It seems like the President has not been paying attention. With this proposal, the President has completely dismissed the opinions of his military leaders, the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, and the will of the American people.

Pretending for a moment that a troop surge would work, it’s hard to imagine that we have enough troops available to make a difference. With our U.S. troop and equipment base already stretched thin due to the burden of Iraq, military readiness levels are at historic lows. The President’s plan would further weaken our capability to respond to new security threats that could arise. We don’t even have enough resources to provide security for Americans here at home—just look at what our nation went through with Hurricane Katrina.

This plan is too little, too late. From the very beginning of the war, the President ignored the advice of military leaders who, once the decision to invade was made, said that he should send more troops to Iraq at the outset. Is the answer to that initial tragic misjudgment that he should now try to double back and half do what his military advisors said should have been done in the first place? It is clear to the people of this country that the way this Administration went to war in Iraq was a mistake, and it is my belief that you don’t correct mistakes by making more of them.

The only way Congress can get the President’s attention is with the power of the purse. Never would Congress deny the troops currently deployed the equipment and armor they need—my Democratic colleagues and I are very concerned about providing the troops already serving in Iraq with adequate resources. However, our challenge as the newly elected majority is to, for the first time since the war began, provide oversight and scrutinize the Administration’s use of funds.

We will do whatever is legislatively possible to rein in President Bush’s ineffective handling of the war in Iraq and bring home American soldiers as safely and as soon as possible.

Blogosphere
Blackfive: Kennedy "Demands Political Solution, Offers None"
01/10/2007 2:25 PM ET
Blackfive milblog's most recent posting criticizes Ted Kennedy for his stance on Iraq to block funding for more troops, saying that if he is going to criticize, he should offer a better plan.

From the post: "Hot Air has video of Teddy Kennedy talking, again, about "George Bush's Vietnam." Hot Air also inserts commentary from Christopher Hitchens from 2004 that is entirely appropriate today:

"...There’s something creepy about the Democratic decision to hail the heroes of Vietnam, from Kerry to Clark, and to denigrate the extraordinary effort being made to salvage Iraq and to pursue and kill people who really are, unlike the Viet Cong, the common enemies of humanity..."

The post continues: The big problem with those on the left claiming that a troop surge will not work is that they are correct. Which is why there has been resistance to the "we need more troops, Mr. President" claim for the last few years. If all we do is surge troops, then, no, sorry, that won't work.

I believe that Teddy knows that's not the plan (and, come on, folks, he's got lots of sources, resources, and access to know what the plan will be). The addition of 20K troops is part of an over-arching strategy that will employ different tactics throughout Iraq (changes in ROEs, methods, embedding in Iraqi units, etc.).

But Teddy won't say that because it's much more politically convenient to claim that adding more troops now won't help...as if the addition of troops will just be staying the course, rather than adapting to the challenges we face in Iraq in Baghdad and Anbar.

Instead, the left wing, who've called for a change for two years, should have a plan to win. Teddy demands a political solution, but offers none.

The left uses sound bites but.has.no.plan. (except to lose). It's better for them for us all to lose, than to win. As much as they wish for a Vietnam (where they exercised their power), they won't get one today.

While I personally am disappointed in how excruciatingly long it's taken to get to this point, the good news is that I suspect that the President is about to hit the cover off of the freakin' ball...LTG Petraeus will be speaking softly and carrying an extremely large stick in the next few weeks. If anyone has a chance at making this work, it's him."

Analysis
Test for Democrats Is To Attract Republican Support
01/10/2007 09:00 AM ET
With Republicans calling it a political stunt, next week's House debate on a non-binding Iraq resolution is an important test for Democrats, says Voice of America's Dan Robinson.

Excerpt: In announcing their plan, which could involve as much as 12 hours of debate each of the three days scheduled, Democrats expressed confidence they will be able to attract Republican support. "This is an up or down vote on the policy enunciated by the president. We owe it to our constituents to have that. The president asked for, as he spoke to us a thorough debate and we are going to have that in the House of Representatives next week," said Rahm Emanuel, who heads the House Democratic Party Caucus.

Blogosphere
Sad Cliche That Americans Deserve Better Leadership
01/07/2007 2:12 PM ET
Steve Clemons writes in his blog The Washington Note. Excerpts below, from the post:

The President and some Members of Congress are calling for an increase in troop levels in Iraq to attempt to keep implementing the same domestic security and training plan for Iraqi police and militia units that America has had in place all along.

The plan has not changed -- just the call, finally, for more forces. But it’s too late for 20,000 -- 30,000 -- or even 40,000 -- troops to matter.

I'm not sure that several hundred thousand troops would make a difference, but all bias aside, Iraq and the sectarian civil war that is erupting calls for a much bolder, bigger action than a simple "surge" in U.S. troops.

Solving Iraq, if it can be solved, now means getting real about and engaging in a broad range of Middle East dealmaking between internal groups inside Iraq as well as among its neighbors.

It means working to establish the State of Palestine in a manner that maintains the viability and security of both Israel and Palestine. It means offering Syria a Libya-like arrangement out of the international doghouse. It means massaging Iran's ego in the region without handing the entire Middle East over on a golden platter -- which America seems to be doing with its counterproductive strategy. It means figuring out what China and Russia want most in their foreign policy objectives and doing what we can to trade their needs for our own.

This all means that we must have an end to diplomacy on the cheap -- and national security on the cheap. And a surge in troop levels without a plan, without the other component parts of a credible and believable grand strategy -- is sending more soldiers off to die unnecessarily -- or to kill Iraqis, many who are absolutely innocent in all this mess and who will no doubt hate the United States for a long time ahead.

Reality Based Community Strikes Back in Iraq
01/06/2007 2:15 PM ET
Juan Cole's posting of yesterday in his blog Informed Comment, gives us his take on the new shake-up in U.S. leadership for Iraq.

He writes: The professionals take charge. Bush is bringing in Ryan Crocker, a distinguished career foreign service officer, as the new US ambassador to Iraq. And Gen. David Petraeus will replace Gen. Casey as top ground commander in Iraq. Zalmay Khalilzad, the outgoing ambassador to Iraq, will go as ambassador to the United Nations, replacing the lying blowhard John Bolton.

I'm stricken with a case of the "what ifs" and "if onlys"! What if Gates had been at the Pentagon in 2003 and Petraeus had been in charge of the US military in Iraq and Crocker had been there instead of Paul Bremer? These are competent professionals who know what they are doing. Gates is clear-sighted enough to tell Congress that the US is not winning in Iraq, unlike his smooth-talking, arrogant and flighty predecessor. Petraeus is among the real experts on counter-insurgency, and did a fine job of making friends and mending fences when he was in charge of Mosul. Crocker has been ambassador to Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon and Pakistan, and knows the region intimately (as does Khalilzad). Bremer had been ambassador to . . . Holland. Despite all the talk of the resurgence of the Neoconservatives with their "surge" (actually ramped up occupation) plan, this team is the farthest from Neoconservative desires that you could possibly get.

I wish these seasoned professionals well. They know what they are getting into, and it is an index of their courage and dedication that they are willing to risk their lives in an effort that the American public has largely written off as a costly failure. If the US in Iraq can possibly have a soft landing, these are the individuals who can pull it off. It is a big if.

What they are up against comes through clearly in the reporting on the situation in Iraq on Thursday. Police found 47 bodies in the streets of Baghdad on Thursday. Guerrillas set off two car bombs in the al-Mansur district, killing 13 persons and injuring 22. The NYT gives a graphic eyewitness account of the gruesome aftermath.

Guerrillas killed a US soldier in Baghdad with small arms fire.

Sunni Arab guerrillas also launched a mortar attack on the Shiite Shu'la district of Baghdad, injuring 9 civilians. The NYT piece mentions several other such attacks, as does Reuters. Police found four bodies in Hilla, in the mixed Sunni and Shiite province of Babel (Hilla is largely Shiite).

The Associated Press has been vindicated in having reported on an incident of sectarian violence based on an interview with Jamil Hussein. The Iraqi government initially denied he existed, and the US military put pressure on AP to retract. Now it turns out he does exist but will be punished for speaking to the press!

Gee, it turns out AP is more reliable on Iraq than Michelle Malkin after all. Since she's so eager to intern people, maybe she can do penance by putting herself under house arrest for the rest of the war as a punishment for spreading war propaganda.

The diary of the last two months in the life of the director of the Iraqi National Library and Archives. It is harrowing.

An Imaginary January Speech: "We Will Withdraw Troops"
01/05/2007 1:28 PM ET
Fredrick Bernanke
Fredrick Bernanke
President Bush will soon be outlining America's future direction in Iraq; in this piece which is an imaginary speech -- one that he could give, he calls for a troop withdrawal immediately.

The January Speech:
Good evening my fellow Americans.

We face as a nation, and I as its leader, one of the most complicated decisions in the history of our country.

What should be our next step in Iraq?

I have listened to the voices of our elected representatives from both sides of the aisle; I have evaluated the sincere recommendations produced by the bipartisan members of the Iraq Study Group. My ears have been open to diverse opinions from my own advisers, and Coalition partners. I have heard the frank and sometimes blunt advice, which every president expects -- from our brave, uniformed military commanders. I have personally communicated with the elected leadership of Iraq.

I have also listened to many other Iraqis, but not merely their words. I have listened to their actions.

The citizens of Iraq are engaged in an internecine struggle of such cruelty and barbarity, a remorseless slaughter of their brothers and sisters, that the world stands by stunned in disbelief. The existence of Iraq-as-a-nation is mortally threatened not by an outside enemy, certainly not by the United States, but rather by the actions of Iraq’s indigenous population.

I have (reluctantly) reached this conclusion: As I have told you for many months, the goals of United States policy regarding Iraq were to liberate its people from tyranny, after which we hoped those people would use their new freedom to establish and build an autonomous nation based on freedom of the individual, rule of the majority with protections for the minority, and a nation not aligned with the forces of terror. Nevertheless, it would be a nation free to choose, even if sometimes it meant choosing policies with which the United States may not agree. Hegemony over Iraq was never, and is not now, our goal.

The United States military has accomplished the goal for which it is best suited, namely, the liberation by force of Iraq’s people from a tyrannical government; the opening of a space for Iraq to become a respected member of the community of free and progressive nations. That mission was achieved swiftly and with minimum casualties to innocents.

But ambitious ventures beyond that single goal require a partnership, a partnership between the Iraqi people and the people of the United States. Partnerships, be they in business, social relationships or politics require high maintenance and common goals.

However, there may be no common goals between various groups in Iraq.

Therefore, risking American and Coalition Members lives for an endeavor that is not fully supported by one side in the presumed partnership can no longer be justified. Henceforth, no American or Coalition soldier will be asked to risk his life in this cause, though the cause itself remains admirable.

The United States and its allies, however, will not abandon this noble project. Our resources will be made available to those in Iraq who treasure freedom, but the resources we will offer them will no longer be legions of human beings.

Material support, intelligence support, training support will continue; in fact, such support will be increased. But blood support will cease.

We will withdraw troops immediately.

The level of assistance available to freedom-seeking Iraqis will be prodigious, but it will be up to them to see that the resources transferred to them are used wisely. Corruption will not be tolerated.

No country likes to have occupying forces on their soil. We as a nation certainly would not like it; the Iraqis don’t like it, even if the motivation of the foreign force is benign. Al Qaeda has taken advantage of the conflict in Iraq to become a foreign force hiding in the crevices of a tumultuous country. That fact deeply worries us, and should worry the Iraqis even more. Al Qaeda wreaked havoc on the world, and the ruling government wreaked havoc on its own people. Iraqis must act to prevent the country from becoming a pseudo-nation ruled by wild eyed, shadowy theocratic fanatics whose agenda is the creation of a safe haven for Terrorists, not a place for Iraqis to enjoy freedom.

I am sure they can. The people of Iraq have demonstrated that Al Qaeda would be no match for them, militarily or ideologically. Nor would treacherous neighbors seeking to extend their tentacles into this sovereign, liberated State.

Not every venture that springs from a desire to do good succeeds completely. The liberation of Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein was a success. But the success of what follows that liberation must now be left largely to the people of Iraq. To those people, we pledge our continued support. But we no longer can pledge the flesh and blood of our valiant uniformed youth.

As a nation we can be proud of our motives; we can be proud of our success in liberating a country from decades of dictatorial rule. Those we have lost in this battle were lost in a field of honor; they sacrificed themselves so that others, far, far away from America could live in freedom. And their nobility of purpose will live forever in history.

I have instructed each individual of my cabinet to prepare a plan to continue our assistance to the free people of Iraq. (The White House will synthesize those plans.) Our nation’s resources extend far beyond soldiers; our soldiers have done their job in Iraq brilliantly. America’s contributions will now be economic, technical and advisory. Our enemies will learn that the arsenal commanded by those opposing terror in the service of religious fanaticism is as multifaceted as it is prodigious.

The newly freed citizens of an autonomous Iraq will, I hope and pray, use this assistance to abolish “the forms to which they are accustomed.” And they will ensure their rights to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” To that end, they can always look to the United States as a friend and ally.

My fellow Americans, I thank you and humbly ask for your support. For in the end, the war on terror will be won not by your government, but by you.

This piece was contributed by Fredrick Bernanke, who is a freelance writer and real estate investor in San Diego. He can be reached at fbernanke@cox.net

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