Bush, Democrats Dig In Over IraqMarch 30, 2007 09:01 The Democrat-controlled U.S. Congress and President George W. Bush are now dug into intractable positions over the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, guaranteeing a confrontation that carries huge risks for both.
The U.S. Senate formally approved a spending bill yesterday that would begin troop withdrawals within 120 days of its passage and sets a goal of one year from tomorrow for the end of combat operations in Iraq.
It joins the House of Representatives, which passed a bill last week that sets a longer-range deadline of troop withdrawal by Aug. 31, 2008, a demand that is binding, not merely a goal.
The political drama in Washington played out during one of the bloodiest days in Iraq in months, with at least 122 people killed in two separate bombings, apparent reprisals for similar attacks earlier in the week.
The twin bills strip more of the wartime power from Bush and are an unprecedented rebuke to a commander-in-chief who is trying to fight a war.
But neither chamber has enough votes to override Bush's promised veto, and this political battle will now be fought against the clock, because the administration says it needs the money promised in the bills to properly arm and equip American troops in the military battle.
Saudi King: U.S. Military Presence In Iraq 'Illegitimate Occupation'March 29, 2007 09:03 King Abdullah denounced the American military presence in Iraq as an "illegitimate foreign occupation" and called on the West to end its financial embargo against the Palestinians.
The Saudi monarch's speech Wednesday was a strongly worded lecture to Arab leaders that their divisions had helped fuel turmoil across the Middle East, and he urged them to show unity. But in opening the Arab summit, Abdullah also nodded to hardliners by criticizing the U.S. presence in Iraq.
"In beloved Iraq, blood is flowing between brothers, in the shadow of an illegitimate foreign occupation, and abhorrent sectarianism threatens a civil war," said the king, whose country is a U.S. ally that quietly aided the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
U.S. allies at the summit are trying to win support from other Arab governments to promote an Arab peace initiative that Washington hopes could revive the peace process with Israel. Arab hard-liners fear Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan will bow to U.S. pressure to water down the land-for-peace offer in an attempt to win Israeli acceptance.
Iraq Withdrawal Date Stays In Senate BillMarch 28, 2007 09:45 The Senate insisted that the date for the proposed withdrawal from Iraq remain in a Bill despite indications from the White House that President Bush might veto any such bill.
The Iraq spending bill worth $122 billion contains a withdrawal date of March 31, 2008. The Democrat-controlled Senate voted 50 to 48 to keep the date in the bill despite attempts to erase it. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who is the Republican on the Appropriations Committee, had offered an amendment to erase the withdrawal date from the bill.
Last week the House had narrowly passed the Bill, which demanded withdrawal by September 1, 2008. The version of the bill passed by the Senate is non-binding, so experts feel it will make little difference if President Bush does veto it.
Today's discussion in the Senate was passionate with several Republican Senators arguing that a withdrawal date may backfire. “This bill should be named the Date Certain for Surrender Act. A second-year cadet at West Point could tell you that if you announce when the end will be, it's a recipe for defeat,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona.
However Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said the bill made sense because Iraq belonged to the Iraqis and not the United States. “There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq,” Mr. Hagel said. “There will not be a military solution to Iraq.”
U.S. Military Deaths In Iraq At 3,241March 27, 2007 11:40 As of Monday, March 26, 2007, at least 3,241 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,613 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.
The AP count is six higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Monday at 10 a.m. EDT.
The British military has reported 134 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 19; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, six; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia, three; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Romania, one death each.
Family Cites 'Conspiracy' In Tillman Death InquiryMarch 27, 2007 09:42 The family of Cpl. Pat Tillman said Monday the Army investigation into the former NFL player's death by friendly fire in Afghanistan suggests a "conspiracy" and vowed to pursue a congressional investigation into how the death was handled.
Military officials had said earlier that nine officers, including four generals, will face "corrective action" for making critical mistakes in the aftermath of Tillman's death.
The NFL player was killed in Afghanistan in 2004 after giving up a professional football career to fight as an Army Ranger.
In their statement, the Tillman family said they were not satisfied with the Army report.
"In our opinion, this attempt to impose closure by slapping the wrists of a few officers and enlisted men is just another bureaucratic entrenchment," the family statement said. "Once again, we are being used as props in a Pentagon public relations exercise."
The family statement also charged that the decision to award Tillman the Silver Star "appears more than anything to be part of a cynical design to conceal the real events from the family and the public, while exploiting the death of our beloved Pat as a recruitment poster."
An Antiwar Tide On The RiseMarch 26, 2007 23:40 Within three weeks, the United States could face a constitutional crisis over President Bush's war policy in Iraq. The president and his allies seem to want this fight. Yet insisting upon a confrontation will be another mistake in a long line of bad judgments about a conflict that grows more unpopular by the day.
Last week's narrow House vote imposing an August 2008 deadline for the withdrawal of American troops was hugely significant, even if the bill stands no chance of passing in the Senate this week in its current form. The vote was a test of the resolve of the new House Democratic leadership and its ability to pull together an ideologically diverse membership behind a plan pointing the United States out of Iraq.
To understand the importance of the vote, one need only consider what would have been said had it gone the other way: A defeat would have signaled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's powerlessness to create a governing majority from a fragmented Democratic membership. In a do-or-die vote, Pelosi lived to fight another day by creating a consensus in favor of withdrawal that included some of her party's most liberal and most conservative members.
US Republican Sees Iraq Troop Withdrawal PassingMarch 26, 2007 16:17 President George W. Bush is likely to lose a first-round fight with Democrats over a critical funding bill that sets a date for American troops to withdraw from Iraq, the U.S. Senate's Republican leader said on Monday.
Mitch McConnell of Kentucky predicted legislation similar to that already passed by the House of Representatives would eventually get through the Senate, which is more narrowly controlled by Democrats.
"The final bill is likely to have the offending language in it," the Senate minority leader said as the Senate prepared to begin debating the war-funding bill that sets March 31, 2008 as a goal for removing combat soldiers from Iraq.
At that point, he said Bush would have to veto the legislation and lawmakers would have to get to work again. Democrats do not appear to have enough votes to overturn a veto, which requires a two-thirds majority.
Since taking control of Congress in January, Democrats have headed toward a confrontation with Bush over the U.S. presence in Iraq.
Bush, who is sending nearly 30,000 more troops to Iraq in an attempt to regain control of security, has vowed to veto the funding bill if it includes a timetable for withdrawal.
If Congress Won'T Stop The Iraq War, Who Will?March 24, 2007 15:47 The new congress, swept into power by a surge of angry anti-war sentiment, has finally drafted the long awaited item of contention and is nearing a vote. The measure would remove troops from Iraq by September 2008 provided the threatened presidential veto yields to the American majority.
Polls show more than 2 in 3 Americans want troops out of Iraq, but we have to ask ourselves a simple, honest question: does it really matter what the American people want?
77% of Americans favor universal healthcare for every citizen, but the topic is a political hot potato. Majorities of Americans want strong unions, a higher minimum wage, repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and a host of other "politically unpopular" measures. But all that doesn't matter. Our "representatives" have a lot of priorities, but representing the population isn't always one of them.
Such glaring discrepancy between public opinion and government policy would suggest that the public, as researched and well understood as it is, does not drive the wheels of legislation. The pollsters study the American people like lab rats, but the results have little effect on a host of critical issues.
Let's look at the current bill under consideration. A large majority of Americans want the US out of Iraq, so congress drafts a bill that appears to do that. But on closer inspection, the bill is rigged to let the war continue indefinitely. There are several requirements for an actual troop pullout that are farcical. Start with the ones that require the civil war to end. Since the presence of US troops is the very bone of contention for many of the warring factions, our presence virtually guarantees more violence. The logic is flawless: if we're there, there will be violence, and we're not going to stop participating in the violence until the violence stops. Flawless logic, that is, if your goal is to keep us in Iraq indefinitely.
Both Us And Iraq Citizens Give War A Thumbs-DownMarch 19, 2007 22:12 On the eve of the fourth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, polls in both countries reflect a dissatisfied electorate.
In Iraq, citizens feel that their lives have been "torn apart" -- due to street violence and a sputtering economy. Half believe that the country is either in a state of civil war or close to it.
In the US, half of Americans in the "50 and over" age group now oppose the war, contrasted with only 15 percent four years ago. Four years ago, almost three-quarters of Americans supported the invasion; today only a third do.
President Bush continues to insist that the war "can be won" and that any troop withdrawal would be "devastating" to US security. Most Iraqis, however, believe their domestic violence will "get better" after withdrawal. (pdf, Table 2).
A British market research firm, Opinion Research Business, conducted a face-to-face poll of 5,000+ Iraqis in February. In addition to finding overwhelming support (53 percent to 26 percent) for foreign troop withdrawal, the firm found that 27 percent of Iraqis believe that the country is "in a state of civil war" and 22 percent believe that it is "close" to civil war; 14 percent did not answer. Nevertheless, half say that they prefer the current regime to that of Saddam Hussein.
Senate Rejects Democrats’ Call To Pull TroopsMarch 15, 2007 21:43 The Senate on Thursday rejected a Democratic resolution to withdraw most American combat troops from Iraq in 2008, but a similar measure advanced in the House, and Democratic leaders vowed to keep challenging President Bush to change course in Iraq.
The vote in the Senate was 50 against and 48 in favor, 12 short of what was needed to pass, with just a few defections in each party. It came just hours after the House Appropriations Committee, in another vote largely on party lines, approved an emergency spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan that includes a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq. The House will vote on that legislation next Thursday, setting the stage for another confrontation.
The action in both houses threw into sharp relief the Democratic strategy of ratcheting up the pressure, vote by vote, to try to force the White House to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq. But it also highlighted Republican unity in opposition; in the Senate, only one Republican, Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, voted with the Democrats.
Anti-War Dems Ponder Bold Action On IraqMarch 12, 2007 22:47 The closest thing Congress has to a peace movement - 71 liberals who want to yank Iraq funding and bring troops home swiftly - faces a dilemma: The lawmakers can back a Democratic plan they think is too weak, or they can block it and risk an embarrassing defeat for their cause.
It falls to one of their strongest allies, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. - whose San Francisco district is passionately against the war - to persuade them to accept a less aggressive stance.
Pelosi is working feverishly to scrounge together enough Democratic votes to pass a war-spending measure that would force the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq by 2008. Leaders circulated a draft Monday, and the House is set to weigh in on it as early as next week.
Ted Koppel Tells Shocking Truth About Iraq And War On TerrorMarch 11, 2007 18:53 Not sure how "shocking" some of this stuff is, but it's interesting...
Former “Nightline” anchor Ted Koppel was one of Tim Russert’s guests on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” As amazing as it might seem, he made some truly shocking and compelling statements about the Iraq war and the war on terror that virtually no Democrat or media member is willing to accept or report:
First, Koppel made it clear that America’s premature departure from Iraq would turn the entire Persian Gulf region into a battlefield between Sunnis and Shia, “something the United States cannot allow to happen”
Second, he said the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are part of the war on terror that “has been going on for the past 24 years” starting when “the precursors of Hezbollah blew up the U.S. marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon” in 1983
Finally, he stated that America’s departure from Iraq and Afghanistan, regardless of when it occurs, will not represent the end of this battle, but, instead, that it is just “going to be a different war” after that point.
Reports Of Progress In Iraq ChallengedMarch 10, 2007 10:53 President Bush on Tuesday cited "encouraging signs" of military and political progress in Iraq as his new strategy gets underway. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice noted that "things are going reasonably well." And on Thursday, Rice's special coordinator for Iraq, David M. Satterfield, described a "dramatic decrease" in sectarian attacks in Baghdad since Bush's plan was announced in January.
But a number of analysts and critics said this week that some of those signs indicate less progress than the administration has suggested. Sectarian attacks in Baghdad are down at the moment, but the deaths of Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops have increased outside the capital. Though Iraqi leaders have agreed on a new framework law for oil resources, the details of how the oil revenue will be divided among competing Iraqi groups remain unresolved.
"If I were the president, I'd probably seize on every encouraging sign," said Anthony H. Cordesman, an Iraq expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "As an analyst, that isn't what we do."
Democratic Bill Would Have Troops Out Of Iraq By Fall 2008March 08, 2007 10:44 House Democrats proposed legislation Thursday that would have U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by August 2008 -- or sooner if certain benchmarks of progress aren't met.
The troop withdrawal timetables are embedded in appropriations legislation that provides money for care of wounded troops, money for better equipment and training and money for expanded operations in Afghanistan.
The plan will "refocus our military efforts on Afghanistan and fighting the war on terrorism where it began," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a Capitol Hill news conference.
Just before Pelosi's news conference, the Democrats Progressive Caucus -- also known as the "Out of Iraq Caucus" -- held a briefing to explain their legislation, which would require Congress to fully fund withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of this year.
No Military Solution To IraqMarch 08, 2007 09:09 The new commander of U.S. troops in Iraq has warned that military force alone will not be enough to quell the country's violent insurgency.
Speaking publicly Thursday for the first time since taking charge in Baghdad last month, General David Petraeus said military action was necessary to improve security in Iraq but "not sufficient" to end violence altogether.
"There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq, to the insurgency of Iraq," Petraeus told a press conference, adding that political negotiations were crucial to forging any lasting peace.
Petraeus said talks should include "some of those who have felt the new Iraq did not have a place for them," and said a key challenge facing Iraq's government was to identify "reconcilable" militant groups and bring them inside the political process.
Petraeus took charge of the U.S.'s 140,000-strong force in Iraq last month. Since a successful invasion in 2003, which quickly overthrew Saddam Hussein's regime, U.S. forces have become bogged down by a combination of attacks by terrorist groups such as al Qaeda in Iraq and increasingly bloody sectarian fighting between Sunni and Shiite Iraqis.
Rights Group Lashes U.S. On Status Of Iraq WomenMarch 07, 2007 12:27 When two Iraqi women made highly public allegations of rape against Iraqi security forces last month, they drew international attention to a subject that usually is taboo in their war-torn country: sexual assault.
Sexual assault and other forms of violence against women, topics surrounded by cultural silence, are on the rise in Iraq, according to a report released today by Madre, an international women's human rights organization in New York.
And the United States, according to the report, bears much of the blame.
After banning Iraq's secular Baath regime in June, 2003, the U.S. government set a tight deadline to establish a new Iraqi democracy to justify its military action in the country.
To meet that self-imposed deadline, the U.S. government compromised its stated commitment to gender equality and negotiated with Islamic religious fundamentalists, who see women's subordination as a precondition to a traditional social order, according to the report. Since gaining power, those Islamist officials have cracked down on women's rights, leading to a wave of kidnappings, abductions, public beatings, death threats, sexual assaults, domestic abuse and so-called honor killings, again according to the report.
U.S. Military Deaths In Iraq At 3,184March 07, 2007 12:27 As of Tuesday, March 6, 2007, at least 3,184 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,562 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.
The AP count is eight higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Tuesday at 10 a.m. EST.
The British military has reported 133 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 19; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, six; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia, three; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Romania, one death each.
Since the start of the U.S. military operations in Iraq, 23,924 U.S. service members have been wounded in hostile action, according to the Defense Department's weekly tally.
McCain: Wasted American Lives in IraqMarch 01, 2007 10:30 Republican presidential contender John McCain, a staunch backer of the Iraq war but critic of how President Bush has waged it, said U.S. lives had been "wasted" in the four-year-old conflict.
Democrats demand the Arizona senator apologize for the comment as Sen. Barack Obama did when the Democratic White House hopeful recently made the same observation.
"Americans are very frustrated, and they have every right to be," McCain said Wednesday on CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman." "We've wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives."
Bush's Greatest Folly - Monday, June 15, 2009