Wednesday, July 18, 2007


by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2007 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

The U.S. invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003. According to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the war was supposed to last a few weeks at most. It would uncover the still-unrevealed weapons of mass destruction that were the stated reason for the invasion, it would topple the regime of Saddam Hussein and it would establish a peaceful democracy in Iraq.
On May 2, 2003, Bush stood on the deck of the carrier USS Lincoln and declared “major combat ended” under a banner asserting “mission accomplished.”
More than four years since that speech, we are still at war and Pentagon sources acknowledge that it would “be unlikely that the U.S. could leave in the next five or even ten years.”
What’s more, the stated objectives remain unmet. There were no WMD. Although Saddam Hussein was not only deposed but executed for war crimes, democracy has not been established and an anarchic civil war based on sectarian strife between Sunni and Shia Muslims is raging out of control, fueled in part by outside agitation–the U.S., the U.K., Syria and Iran.
America has already been in Iraq longer than our nation was involved in World War II. It’s long past time for us to leave. Had the U.S. pulled out when Bush gave his “mission accomplished” speech, the chaos that has overtaken Iraq today might not have occurred.
On July 12th the President reluctantly gave a report on the status of the war. It is not, as most Americans had already deduced, going well. The question is, how much longer will it take to actually force a so-called victory in Iraq? Five years? Ten? Fifty? Forever?
The reality is, we cannot achieve victory in Iraq. Even if it had ever been possible, which is open to debate, it is certainly not possible today nor tomorrow, next year nor next decade. If the U.S. ever had a chance at turning the tide of violence in Iraq and establishing its own counterfeit democracy there, that chance was always elusive. The end game has long been upon us. We have only one option now, and that is to withdraw.
During the presidential campaign in 2000, George Bush was adamant about nation building. He was, he proclaimed, against it.
Yet Bush’s entire tenure as president has been defined by his attempts to restructure and reconfigure the Middle East to his specifications. That has been a woeful and tragic failure in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.
In February, the Democrat-led Congress proffered a bill setting a timetable for troop withdrawal. The Republicans balked at it and the President vetoed it. The Democrat-led Congress then proffered another bill, demanding an update on the war in six months. That report came July 12th.
Mere hours later, the Democrats had already passed a bill calling for total withdrawal of America troops from Iraq. The bill passed by a slim, and regrettably partisan vote–223-201–with a few Republicans defecting to the Democrats’ side.
The bill would summarily end all combat by Americans as of April 30, 2008.
The Senate is expected to pass a similar bill in the next few days, this time with bi-partisan support, as two Republican Senators, Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) have signed on as co-sponsors. Both Snowe and Smith previously rejected Democrats’ calls for troop withdrawal.
Nevertheless, President Bush, has stated unequivocally that he will veto any bill that sets a time-table for withdrawal of troops.
And so we have stalemate to go with the end-game in Iraq.
How, then, do we exit Iraq?
Among the current crop of presidential contenders, every Democrat has called for troop withdrawal as has one Republican. But the tone of the other Republican candidates, particularly front-runners Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), has been declaratively pro-war. Giuliani and McCain assert that failure in Iraq means failure in fighting the war on terror. Yet all intelligence sources worldwide have reached the same conclusion: the war on Iraq has exponentially increased terrorism worldwide.
The war on Iraq was, for example, the rationale given by the architects of the terrorist bombings in London on July 7, 2005 which killed 52 people and severely injured–mostly through amputations, third-degree burns and blindness–hundreds more.
Last week, the CIA stated that al-Qeada has renewed itself to pre-9/11 strengths. Yet for the entirety of the war on Iraq, Americans have been told by the Bush Administration that al-Qeada was being defeated.
If the American presence in Iraq has only served to inflame terrorism worldwide, and if we are unable to secure even the Green Zone in Baghdad, what is our function in Iraq?
Can any American outside the Pentagon explain exactly what American troops are doing in Iraq? I don’t mean metaphorically, I mean *literally.*
What *are* our troops doing in Iraq? Are they out on a front line somewhere killing the so-called insurgents, whoever they are? Are they capturing and securing cities and towns? Or are they just maintaining some semblance of order here and there, training Iraqi soldiers and getting killed and injured by IEDs and RPGs?
Throughout the Vietnam War, the unpopular and unwinnable civil war of my childhood, the evening news was filled with images of battle: soldiers in the jungles, helicopters flying over villages. In fact, the Vietnam War was dubbed “The Living Room War” because those images were widely viewed on the evening news.
There are no such images of this war. Americans–including, apparently, Congress–have been kept in the dark about how this war is being fought.
What we do know, we know from returning soldiers and they give very different reports based on where they have been stationed and what action they have seen.
What we do know is that 38,000 soldiers have been injured in combat and another 19,000 have sustained other injuries in Iraq. More than half of the combat injuries are permanently disabling–amputations, blindness, third-and fourth-degree burns. (It should be noted that the Pentagon does not consider amputation of fingers or toes to be amputations, even if all fingers and toes are amputated.)
In addition, the miliary has dismissed nearly 23,000 soldiers for alleged “personality disorders.” This is, sadly, a scam on the part of the military. Soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are being discharged for allegedly having pre-existing personality disorders. Yet these men and women have already served in combat and many have received commendations, including Purple Hearts and Silver and Bronze Stars. If they are discharged with a pre-existing personality disorder as opposed to PTSD, they are required to return their re-enlistment bonuses and the military is no longer obligated to pay for their treatment.
Iraq Veterans Against the War and other veterans groups are petitioning Congress to demand an end to this practice.
So: Nearly 60,000 injured, 23,000 discharged with PTSD and another 3,637 dead at press time. That’s an extraordinary number of American casualties for what was supposed to be a “surgical” war.
The military now finds it difficult to recruit while the majority of Americans are against the war. The Army has missed its recruitment goals by nearly ten percent for three months in a row. This means those already fighting the war will have to continue to fight, because there is no one to replace them. Many soldiers, Marines and reservists are now in their third, fourth and fifth rotations, exponentially increasing the probability of their being killed or maimed.
Yet as long as Bush refuses to end the war, it will continue. No one has an actual plan for withdrawal even if they are calling for it: not the Democrats, not the Pentagon and certainly not the Republicans, who took us to war in the first place.
How *do* we leave Iraq? Will Baghdad fall as Saigon did?
We cannot turn back the clock on Iraq, unfortunately.
There has been talk in left-leaning circles of impeaching Bush and Cheney for their lies to Congress and the rest of America about the reasons for the war. But with the margin so slim in Congress and the vast majority of the Republicans still standing firmly behind the President on the war, that is an unlikely scenario.
More than 50,000 Iraqis flee their homes each month in Iraq, due to the war. Nearly three million Iraqis have fled Iraq since the war began. Hundreds of thousands have been killed and injured. Thousands of others have joined in the sectarian violence.
Meanwhile, the majority of Iraqis are forced to live in a state of constant terror as the sectarian violence threatens them everywhere–mosques, marketplaces, schools, in line waiting for bread or jobs. Women and children aren’t safe. No one is safe.
This is the Bush Administration’s legacy in Iraq. It seems obvious to all but the President and his closest advisors that the U.S. is doing more harm than good in Iraq and that no goals are being met by the Iraqi government, despite the troop surge.
Baghdad will likely fall as Saigon did, but keeping American troops in Iraq will not prevent that day from coming, it just forestalls it. President Bush and his Republican cohort refuse to acknowledge the reality of defeat. All that is left, then, is for us to count the dead–ours and Iraq’s–and hope for a Democratic president who will withdraw our troops from Iraq. Otherwise, we will indeed be there forever, and the blood will continue to flow.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Another One Bites the Dust

From The Huffington Post, June 7, 2006:

The Republicans' constitutional amendment banning gay marriage got just 49 votes this morning, far short of the two-thirds majority it needed -- and was never going to get -- for passage. Along the way to the vote, Republican Sen. David Vitter defended the GOP's efforts on the election-year measure by saying: "I don't believe there's any issue that's more important than this one." June 7, 2006

From The New York Times, July 10, 2007:

: NEW ORLEANS — From the beginning of his political career 16 years ago, David Vitter was known for planting himself on the moral high ground, challenging the ethics of other Louisiana politicians, decrying gay marriage and depicting himself as a clean-as-a-whistle champion of family values.
"I'm a conservative who opposes radically redefining marriage, the most important social institution in human history," Vitter, a Republican U.S. senator, wrote in a letter to the New Orleans Times-Picayune last year.

I wrote a letter to the Times-Picayune last year, responding to Senator Vitter's stance on same-sex marriage:

Dear Editor,
I am frankly appalled but not surprised by Senator Vitter's recent letter to the editor. But I have some questions for the Senator.
Since 'because traditional marriage is such a core social institution that predates both government and organized religion', I would like to know if Senator Vitter had ever read history or his Bible? Because 'traditional marriage' once included polygamy; and as recently as a hundred years ago included the arranged marriage of thirteen year olds--and in some parts of the world, it still does.
Does Senator Vitter really mean to imply that gays and lesbians are responsible for the divorce rate in this country? Since they are not allowed to marry, I don't see how that is possible. Heterosexuals have done a pretty good job of undermining marriage without any help from the gay and lesbian community. Perhaps Senator Vitter and his conservative co-horts might be better off trying to create a federal amendment banning divorce and making adultery a capital crime...but then again, it's much easier to scapegoat an innocent group of people rather than cleaning up their own house.
As for his tired charges of 'the liberal media'--he does not dispute the fact they quoted him accurately, and I for one am glad to know that someone who is representing ME in Congress thinks not allowing gays and lesbians to marry is more important than the billions of taxpayer dollars and thousands of lives being thrown down the drain in Iraq; more important that providing all Americans with adequate health care; and more important than providing adequate levee protection for the city of New Orleans. Perhaps he should spend more time actually talking to his constituents than watching Fox News.
And perhaps he should also take some time to reread the New Testament and put the 'Christ' back into his own Christianity.
Greg Herren

And now, here we are, a little over a year later, and Senator Vitter has issued a public apology for consorting with prostitutes. He claims his wife and God have forgiven him. (I wonder if God appeared to him in a dream....or from a burning bush.)

I find it incredibly interesting that I pointed out the fact that the 'real' threat to the sanctity of heterosexual marriage comes from adultery and divorce. And while the good Senator's marriage seems to have survived, there's still that issue of adultery.

Adultery, after all, is one of the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not commit adultery. Once again, I got down my Bible and checked--and there's still no commandment about homosexuality.

And while adultery is not a crime; prostitution is.

So, when Senator Vitter paid for sex, he was breaking not only God's law, but the law of the land.

The question of his sin is between him and his God; saving his marriage is between him and his wife. However, the notion that he broke the law should be a matter between him and the district attorney. Of course, the good Senator won't be charged with a crime; and already on-line conservative bloggers are defending him.

A conservative posted yesterday on AOL in response to their news article on the Senator's adultery and criminality:

Hey, at least he is getting laid. His wife is probably a cold bitch like Hilary.

President Clinton may have cheated on his wife, but at least it was between two consenting adults, and no money changed hands. The only crime he committed was lying about it. Yet, that was still enough to get him impeached. But the conservatives are already circling the wagons to defend Senator Vitter. One would think that the 'law and order' and 'family values' party would be all over the good Senator, asking him to resign. Nope, that doesn't seem to be the case. Instead, they have climbed on their proverbial 'high horse' --perhaps taking their cue from the Senator's 'apology'--and already have started slurring the liberal left.

Newsflash: Hypocrisy is hypocrisy.

And I have one question for the Senator: how exactly are gays and lesbians responsible for your cheating on your wife? Did the mere suggestion that gays and lesbians want to marry their partners cause you to suddenly feel that your marriage vows meant nothing, and that you could do as you pleased?

I doubt anyone will ask him THAT.