Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Biden... Bye, Bye

Well Joe, looks like you never made it out of the presidential derby gate.

In an interview published in the New York Observer today, you made this comment on Sen. Barack Obama.... "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.... I mean, that's a storybook, man."

That statement is really stupid, man.

Say "goodnight" Joe.

Joe Stubs His Toe

Joe, Joe, Joe..... we expected more.

"Democrat Biden Enters Presidential Race"... with a whimper. "I'm running" Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DL) told the press, and is filing the required formal papers today. His claim to presidential fame rests on his ideas on how to resolve the war in Iraq.

But, every presidential-wanna-be and legislative grandstander has now jumped on that train, and regardless of his early outspoken criticism of The Decider's handling of the war, Biden now finds himself in the media-buzz caboose.

A visit to his campaign Web site (which wouldn't let me out, don't you just hate that) was a disappointment. Of all the issues he highlights, there is no mention of our unsecured borders or the illegal alien problem, or even his views on immigration per se.

Having heard him speak to these issues in the past, one can only draw the conclusion that these are hot potatoes he's now not willing to handle.

Too bad.

He missed a chance for a bold statement on a thorny problem.

Unless he can address these issues manifestly bearing on the sovereignty of our country, he'll just be another empty Iraq float in the campaign parade.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Fleischer Has Libby For Lunch

Yesterday, after throwing his stink bomb.... "Former Press Secretary Says Libby Told Him of Plame".... a smirking Ari Fleischer strutted off the political stage once again.

Fleischer testified "Libby's 'hush-hush' disclosures over a lunch table in a White House dining room" were three days earlier than Libby had sworn to investigators he first learned of the undercover CIA officer, Valerie Plame, wife of Joseph Wilson who explored, and publicly declared false, White House touted reports that Iraq had tried to buy nuclear material in Niger.

"Fleischer, testifying under an immunity agreement with the prosecution, also made it clear that Libby had told him Wilson's wife held a position in the CIA's counterproliferation division, where most employees work in a covert capacity." (WaPo)

You may ask, how was it that Fleischer remembered this luncheon.

Because, Fleischer's lunch with Libby was their first ever and took place a week before Fleischer was to leave his White House job as press secretary. That's how. A first-time-ever lunch with Vice President Cheney's go-to guy would be memorable.

Since leaving his press secretary post in June 2003, Fleischer has remained a loyal White House advocate.

His style as White House mouthpiece was described by Ana Marie Cox in the Washington Post as a "smirking wall - mean, arrogant, indifferent, "... a "swaggering, eat-you-for-breakfast podium style."

So, it's a satisfying justice, watching the White House enablers eat their own.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Bush's Boondoggle

A presidential library for The Decider is an oxymoron.

For genuine wisdom about his Southern Methodist University half-billion dollar boondoggle, look to Doonesbury.

Imperials Good, Bad and Ugly

When it comes to pronouncements by The Imperials, there's the good, the bad and the ugly.

Let's start with the bad.... on Friday The Decider rejected Congressional criticism of his Iraq war plan, giving what he probably considered the final word on the subject.... "I'm the decision maker." We'll see about that, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) will commence a Judiciary Committee hearing tomorrow on "Exercising Congress's Constitutional Power to End a War."

The ugly.... In a Newsweek interview with Snarly Dick conducted by Richard Wolffe on January 25, Wolffe asked about "criticism from Scowcroft about not knowing you anymore--people have got quite personal, people you worked with before. You wouldn't be human if it didn't have some reaction."

Cheney's response: "Well, I'm vice president and they're not. (Laughter)." Ugly arrogance.

But there is good news from the Imperials.... Rice the Unready in an interview in Brussels, Belgium on Friday was asked "Could you imagine any circumstances under which you would be on a Republican ticket?"

To which Rice replied, "Oh, I'm going back to Stanford." Good!

The question is when? The nation's first director of national intelligence John D. Negroponte has moved to State. A demotion for Negroponte, or to step in when Rice prematurely leaves for Stanford? Stay tuned....

Friday, January 26, 2007

Hagel's Wolfish Grin

"Hagel Ponders White House Run".... as a Chuck Hagel (R-NE) watcher for quite some time, I've never doubted it.

Hagel has been grabbing headlines with his White House-confrontation style of opposition to the war in Iraq. And, he speaks well and looks the part.

But, he's a wolf in sheep's clothing!

True, he is against the war in Iraq, but he's a dyed-in-the-wool corporate conservative. Hagel's voting record is a little different than the widely held view that he is a moderate Republican battling the White House.... he voted in support of The Decider 95% of the time as of December 2006.

Look at his voting record carefully....

Hagel's voting record on reproduction rights:
Voted NO on $100M to reduce teen pregnancy by education & contraceptives. (Mar 2005)
Voted YES on banning partial birth abortions except for maternal life. (Mar 2003)
Voted YES on banning Military Base Abortions. (June 2000)

Hagel's voting record on corporations:
Voted NO on repealing tax subsidy for companies which move US jobs offshore. (Mar 2005)
Voted YES on reforming bankruptcy to include means-testing & restrictions (Mar 2005)
Voted YES on restricting rules on personal bankruptcy. (Jul 2001)

Hagel's voting record on immigration:
Voted YES on establishing a Guest Worker program. (May 2006)
Voted YES on allowing illegal aliens to participate in Social Security (May 2006)

Hagel's voting record on civil and workers rights:
Voted YES on recommending Constitutional ban on flag desecration.(Jun 2006)
Voted NO on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes. (Jun 2000)
Voted YES on loosening restrictions on cell phone wiretapping. (Oct 2001)
Voted NO on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation. (Jun 2000)
Voted NO on raising the minimum wage to $7.25 rather than $6.25. (Mar 2005)

Hagel's voting record on gas and oil and the environment:
Voted NO on $3.1B for emergency oil assistance for hurricane-hit areas. (Oct 2005)
Voted NO on reducing oil usage by 40% by 2025 (instead of 5%). (Jun 2005)
Voted NO on banning drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Mar 2005)
Voted YES on Bush administration Energy Policy. (Jul 2003)
Voted NO on including oil & gas smokestacks in mercury regulations. (Sep 2005)

And, Hagel's history on the receiving end of votes....

In 1996 when Hagel first ran in Nebraska for the U.S. Senate, his company's computer-controlled voting machines showed he'd won stunning upsets in both the primaries and the general election.

According to Bev Harris of Black Box Voting, Hagel won virtually every demographic group, including many largely Black communities that had never before voted Republican. Hagel was the first Republican in 24 years to win a Senate seat in Nebraska.

Six years later Hagel ran again, and as his website said, Hagel "was re-elected to his second term in the United States Senate on November 5, 2002 with 83% of the vote. That represents the biggest political victory in the history of Nebraska."

What Hagel's website fails to disclose is that about 80 percent of those votes were counted by computer-controlled voting machines put in place by the company affiliated with Hagel.

Yes, Hagel is much more than a one-issue politician. He needs a much closer look before we loose him among the flock.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

FOX Bites Obama

The power shift away from the GOP and the hotly-contested presidential campaign season bring out the scurrying and scurrilous truth-twisters.

The lie this time is about Barack Obama (D-IL). You surely heard or read the story more than once.... that a young Obama was educated in a radical Muslim school known as a "madrassa".... that he is a closet Wahhabist Muslim.

The conservative Insight Magazine, which is owned by the same company as The Washington Times and controlled by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, citing "only unnamed sources," reported on its Web site last week that associates of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) had leaked the information that Obama had attended a radical fundamentalist Islamic school.

FOX news, owned by Rupert Murdoch, on Friday picked up the Insight charge on two of its programs, playing up the Clinton angle.... "Fox and Friends" co-host-Gretchen Carlson even said the madrassa Muslims were "the kind that want to blow us up."

This deadly untruth, reported as fact, hit the bulls eye of the terrorist-fear gut of the country, smeared Clinton, and tried to scuttle Obama's presidential aspirations... the dirty tricksters were dancing.

Fox didn't bother to fact check. CNN and the Washington Post did.

As Howard Kurtz who hosts CNN's weekly media program "Reliable Sources" writes in WaPo, "Thus, in the first media controversy of the 2008 campaign, two of the leading candidates find themselves forced to respond to allegations lacking a single named source.

But, CNN did check, they sent a reporter to Jakarta, Indonesia to uncover the truth and reported.... "Allegations that Sen. Barack Obama was educated in a radical Muslim school known as a "madrassa" are not accurate."

Obama spokesman, Robert Gibbs, sums it up.... "The allegations are completely false.... for FOX to repeat something so false, not once, but many times is appallingly irresponsible."

The fact that the GOP-leaning press brought out the big guns so early against Obama proves just one thing.... they want to torpedo his presidential bid.

But, the only thing that got blown out of the water was the FOX motto.... "Fair and Balanced."

Their motto should be.... "The Smear Starts Here!"

Monday, January 22, 2007

Say "No!" to Corporate Fascism

No one is surprised.... "Confidence in Bush Leadership Continues to Drop, Poll Finds."

The electorate is dismayed over the brave new corporate fascist state The Decider and his surly Chairman-of-the-Board Cheney have foisted upon them.

They have asked these questions.....

Who benefited from the war in Iraq? The military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about.

Who benefited from the new drug program? The insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Who benefited from porous borders and the invasion of illegal aliens? Corporations who want cheap labor.

Who has benefited from outsourcing of jobs and manufacturing? Corporations.

And they'll hear yet more corporatism.... The Decider's new plan for health insurance in his State of the Union speech Tuesday. " Bush Seeks Shift in Health Coverage,"....a "tax break" for those who purchase their own medical insurance and a tax on workers who receive high-priced health-care plans (worth more than $15,000 annually) from employers.

According to the White House, the plan "is consistent with the president's idea of increasing access to health insurance through the private market while encouraging people to be most cost-conscious as they purchase medical-care coverage."

No "gold-plated" plans for the peons like The Decider has, basic care is good enough for his subjects.

Who will benefit from the proposed health coverage shift?

Insurance companies as workers are pushed into buying private coverage with less benefits....and less risk exposure for the insurance provider. And of course corporations that will no longer have to pay for health insurance for their employees.

How can the electorate stop the slide into corporate fascism?

Congress must step up!

No more Bush corporate boondoggles ..... "Just say no!"

Friday, January 19, 2007

Imperial Presidency

In an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News last weekend, Vice President Cheney voiced this view of the role the electorate plays in the administration's decisions (WaPo):

Wallace: "By taking the [Iraq] policy you have, haven't you, Mr. Vice President, ignored the express will of the American people in the November election?"

Cheney: "Well, Chris, this president, and I don't think any president worth his salt, can afford to make decisions of this magnitude according to the polls. The polls change day by day."

Wallace: "This was an election, sir."

Cheney: "Polls change day by day, week by week."

A perfect example of Cheney twisting the facts and digging in.

Just like the twisted facts about Iraq's WMD to stampede us into the war in Iraq.

Just like continually trying to link 9/11 to Saddam.

"Cheney's Enigmatic Influence," over a strutting King George full of his imperial presidency is an evil influence. Cheney has grabbed power for the executive while operating in secrecy, has created an accountability black hole and shredded the Constitution.... while blatantly sneering at the will of the people.

Hopefully the new Congress can pry his sweaty hands from the scepter.

As Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) put it so well this week about Congress reasserting its' role in governing.... "This is not a monarchy."

Hear! Hear!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It's Tokenism Time....

The Decider's sloganeers are turning their Machiavellian attentions to their leader's red-ink federal budget.

"Burden Set to Shift On Balanced Budget," to the new Democratic-majority Congress.

This shifting of blame and counterfeit fiscal leadership stance should be laughable in its political transparency.

But, Bush is counting on a Rovian propaganda campaign to convince voters that HIS goals are to balance the federal budget, even though he has presided over record deficits while aggressively cutting taxes the past six years, even keeping the $2 billion weekly cost of the Iraq war off of the massively-unbalanced books.

The weeks-old Democratic-led Congress has already made sweeping changes toward a budget-balancing "PayGo" plan and reining in earmarks and spending legislation. Bush wants to hijack their progress and corral fiscal responsibility as his own initiative.

With the GOP-majority Congress, a tsunami of earmarks and corporate welfare bills whizzed pass The Decider's veto pen.... and maybe even worse, his big-business buddies and mill-billionaires received the bulk of his horn-tooting tax cuts and policy breaks.

In truth, the amount of monies irresponsibly raided from the Social Security trust fund piggy bank will shrink as the baby boomers start to retire. As the U.S. comptroller general David Walker points out, the government is living far beyond its means. Something must change.

The Decider's solution for this and all of his spending shortfalls, however packaged, will be for all of his tax cuts to be extended while cutting Social Security and Medicare.... leaving it to the Democrats and like-minded fiscal conservatives, to find a way out of his spend and tax-cuts black hole.

Now, instead of the administration's fiscal approach as articulated by VP Cheney in 2002 that "Deficits don't matter," we'll be fed a new mantra, something like "Forward Into Fiscal Responsibility" or some such slogan nonsense.

It'll be left to the Democratic-led Congress to do the fiscal-responsibility heavy lifting.

Expect lots of budget posturing and pronouncements from The Decider's State of the Union speech next week, but count on very little actual Bush administration policy change... the rich will get richer as the poor get poorer.

Equitably working their way out of the budget mess will take more than just sloganeering, and the Bush administration just isn't up to the job.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Chicken Hawks Sqawk

Like winter-starved sparrows pouncing on June bugs, the righty talking heads flew into full dudgeon at Sen. Barbara Boxer's pointing out to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that neither of them would "pay a particular price" in Iraq because they didn't have children of military age.

Neither of them have "The Lives on the Line," of their family members.... a barbed reminder by Boxer that those making the decisions to go, stay and escalate, escalate, escalate the war in Iraq are armchair hawks.

The spin over Boxer's statement spewing from the wingnuts and the White House propagandist-in-chief Tony Snow was framed as.... "a great leap backward for feminism,".... and, as Rice whined.... "I thought it was okay to be single."

Do they really think the "Way Forward"-jaded electorate can't see their obvious obfuscation? .

As Fred Hiatt points out in his editorial in the WaPo.... "It matters that we not allow the troops to serve only as props and political fodder - that we keep in our minds the real people in Iraq and Afghanistan....."

Boxer is picking at the scab of the Bush administration's Iraq war policy because it's a fact that those who have experienced war.... like Rice's predecessor Colin Powell, or WWII Allied Commander President Eisenhower.... know the ugliness of war and are loathe to rush troops into combat as a foreign policy centerpiece.

On the other hand, neither The Decider nor snarly puppeteer Cheney (or their children) have experienced the hell of war, .... nor has Rice tasted the horror she so marmishly sloganeers about.

The only thing taking a "great leap backward" with the newest troop "surge" is an Iraq policy in touch with the real lives and the real cost of The Decider's war of choice.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Fatal Flaws

His name may be a tongue twister, but his clear analysis cuts like a laser.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Carter, found "Five Flaws in the President's Plan" to increase our troop footprint in Iraq by 21,500 as presented in Bush's Wednesday-night-massacre speech. The flaws:

ONE - While acknowledging failures, The Decider "dodged accountability" and engaged in "demagogic oversimplification" of the immense challenge the U.S. faces in Iraq.

TWO - The name for the "surge" of 21,500 troops is "political gimmick," of "limited tactical significance and of no strategic benefit." U.S. forces will be thrust into bloody street fighting.

THREE - While escalating the U.S. involvement in Iraq, and imposing benchmarks on the Iraqi regime, The Decider's new direction in Iraq leaves only two options when the benchmarks aren't met.... "blame and run".... or, the moth-eaten "falling dominoes" scenario of the horrific consequences of U.S. withdrawal, The Decider's favorite bedtime story for his shell-shocked electorate.

FOUR - No mention of "even the possibility of developing a framework for an eventual politicial solution." This stonewall approach "fits well into the administration's diplomatic style of relying on sloganeering as a substitute for strategizing."

FIVE - Scariest of all, the "speech reflects a profound misunderstanding of our era." King George doesn't realize the "age of colonialism is over.... a fatal flaw."

The Decider's apologists and supporters say he listened to many people before deciding on his "surge" sugarcoated horse pill.

Yes, but he listened only to people who would meekly further his "vision," not to experienced and clear-eyed statesmen like Brzezinski.

The Decider's Iraq flaws are now our national destiny and his indelible legacy.

Olbermann: "Mr. Bush, this is madness."

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann addressed The Decider again last night, reminding him, and us all, of the crooked and treacherous path down which our "President who cried wolf" has led the nation.

He unveils the truth behind The Decider's "surge" speech..... "Only this President.... could answer a country demanding an exit strategy from Iraq, by offering an entrance strategy for Iran."

Olbermann's reminder of The Decider's deceit is chilling....

"Before Mr. Bush was elected, he said nation-building was wrong for America. Now he says it is vital.....

"He told us about WMD. Mobile labs. Secret sources. Aluminum tubes. Yellow-cake.

"He has told us the war is necessary because Saddam was a material threat. Because of 9/11. Because of Osama Bin Laden. Al-Qaeda. Terrorism in General. To liberate Iraq. To spread freedom. To spread Democracy. To prevent terrorism by gas price increases. Because this was a guy who tried to kill his Dad.

"Because 439 words into the speech last night, he trotted out 9/11 again.

"In advocating and prosecuting this war he passed on a chance to get Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. To get Muqtada Al-Sadr.

"To get Bin Laden.

"He sent in fewer troops than the Generals told him to.... He ordered the Iraqi army disbanded and the Iraqi government 'De-Baathified'.... He short-changed Iraqi training. He neglected to plan for widespread looting. He did not anticipate sectarian violence.

"He sent in troops without life-saving equipment. Gave jobs to foreign contractors, and not Iraqis. He staffed U.S. positions there, based on partisanship, not professionalism.

"He and his government told us 'American had prevailed', 'Mission Accomplished', the resistance was in its 'last throes'.

"He has insisted more troops were not necessary. He has now insisted more troops are necessary.

"He has insisted it's up to the Generals, and then removed some of the Generals who said more troops would not be necessary.......

"The war would pay for itself. It would cost 1.7 billion dollars. 100 billion. 400 billion. Half a trillion. Last night's speech alone cost another six billion....."

There's much more that Olbermann has to say, and says so well.... you can hear, see or read it for yourself at Special Comments.

It will make you weep for the waste of it all.

The tragedy of Iraq is what results when messianic ideology and unbridled ambition meet in an incurious, limited and stubborn personality.... The Decider.

The only words left for the nation and the world are...... "Good night and good luck."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Nothing New More or Less

It's no surprise really..... "Poll: Most Americans Opposed to Bush's Iraq Plan," otherwise known as the tattered "stay the course or else" plan.

The Iraq Study Group got a big nose thumbing, U.S. commanders disagreeing with the Decider's military escalation of the war were shown the door and replaced by saluting yes-men.

But, as the poll shows, the public may not be so easy to dismiss, and members of Congress are nipping at Bush's heels, threatening some muscle-flexing to oppose his "surge."

Last night, a wooden President unemotionally delivered his death-sentence for many more brave troops, even warning that the year ahead would be "bloody."

The only time he perked up was when pitching his neo-conservative impossible dream of using more military power to turn the killing-fields of Iraq into a regional model of western-style democracy.

By killing lots more Iraqis, The Decider argues, the centuries-hardened tribal and religious jihadists will throw down their arms and rush to McDonalds. Did he watch the hanging of Saddam?

We're in the same place we were in before The Decider's speech, only now 21,500 more U.S. lives will be directly in harms way.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bush Hokey-Pokeys

First The Decider says he will in a WaPo interview last month.... "It's important to trust the judgment of the military when they're making military plans".... I'm a strict adherer to the command structure."

And then he won't.... "With Iraq Speech, Bush to Pull Away From his Generals" ... even though members of the Joint Chief of Staff have long opposed Bush's proposed "surge" in troops, and outgoing head of Central Command said less than two months ago, "adding U. S. troops was not the answer for Iraq."

While doing this Hokey-Pokey, The Decider also is engaging in musical chairs.... anyone not singing his tune won't find a seat at his council.

One has to wonder if The Decider ever speaks the truth, or are his utterances and decisions just a part of his gamemanship as he tries to defend and extract himself from his place in the wallow of history.

Even one of his biggest supporters for the token 20,000-troops "surge," Lindsey Graham (R-SC), inadvertently reinforced The Decider's sick rationale... "He understands that the safety of the nation and HIS LEGACY is all on the line here."

"Pentagon officials cautioned that a modest troop increase could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to flock to Iraq to attack U.S. troops."

Tune in this evening as The Decider reportedly opines, "that we have to go up before we go down...." a double entendre if ever there was one.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Bush Fiddles, Iraq Burns, U.S. Pays

Wednesday The Decider will try to convince us we can win in Iraq.... win what?

When, and why and how did the Iraq troubles start.....

Some say in 1918 when the official Iraq boundaries were sketched on tracing paper by a low level British diplomat named Gertrude Bell and Faisal was set up as king of the new nation of Iraq.

Iraq resulted from the union of three Ottoman provinces: Mosul in the north with ties to Syria and Turkey, Baghdad in the middle identifying with Persia and adjacent Shia shrines, and Basra in the south also heavily Shia.

Bell was warned of the folly of trying to corral three such disparate regions inside the borders of a single nation because they had no conception of nationhood.

But heedlessly, Britian has fiddled with Iraq ever since.

The Iraqis rebelled under the colonial regime, and there was a country-wide uprising in 1920. British forces battled for over a decade to pacify Iraq using airplanes, armored cars, firebombs and mustard gas. Air attacks were used to "shock and awe.".... sound familiar?

For four years during WWII the British again occupied Iraq after which they restored the monarchy under Crown Prince Abdallah, descendant of King Faisal.

In Iraq between 1921 and 1958 when the British-appointed monarchy was overthrown, more than fifty governments came into power, frequently, beginning in 1936, on the wings of military coups. This led to a tradition of "strongman" rulers such as Saddam Hussein.

In 1963 "Western" reforms were proclaimed by the neighboring Shah of Iran. The reforms were opposed by the powerful Iranian Shia religious scholars who instigated riots which were brutally put down and the Ayatollah Khomeini was exiled to Iraq.

Also in 1963, the secular Baath regime took over Iraq in a coup and in 1969 Saddam's kinsman appointed him Deputy Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council and Vice President. Saddam thus controlled the internal security and intelligence organs of the government.

From 1975 to 1979 the president of Iraq was in effect a figurehead while Saddam controled in his shadow.

In 1975 Saddam signed the Algiers Accord with the Shah of Iran. The Accord defined the border with Iran and ended Iranian support for the Iraqi Kurds.

In 1978 the Ayatollah Khomeini who was living in Najaf was expelled from Iraq.

In July of 1979 Saddam forced the president to retire and Saddam was sworn in as President of Iraq. Purges followed.

In 1979 there was an Islamic Revolution in Iran and the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to assume power. Iranian Shias, who constituted almost 90 percent of the Iran population, galvanized opposition to Iran's secular Baath Party. This made Saddam, now president of Iraq, fearful of a similar revolution against his minority Baath Party in Iraq.

On November 4, 1979 following the Shah's overthrow, Iran's new leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, urged his followers to demonstrate against the U.S. and Israeli interests.... the U.S. embassy was overrun and 66 hostages taken, most of whom were held for 444 days, until January 20, 1981.

In 1980 leading Shia cleric Sayid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr was executed in Iraq. Saddam publicly tore up the 1975 Algiers Accord with Iran and invaded Iran.

Recent al-Sadr and Muslim events...... In 2004 Muqtada al-Sadr's forces took control of the holy city of Najaf which includes one of Shia Muslim's holiest shrines, Imam Ali mosque. The Shia Muslims recognize four grand ayatollahs that compose the main Shia "seminary" in the holy city of Najaf... Ali al-Sistani, Muhammad Sayid al-Hakim, Muhammad Ishaq Fayadh and Bashir Hussein al-Najafi.

Fayadh and Najafi focus on spiritual matters and Fayadh, an Afghan, is the senior-most leader of Afghan Shias. South Asian Shias look to Najafi, who is of Pakistani origin.

Hakim, an Iraqi, is the uncle of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir-al-Hakim, the former head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq killed by a car bomb in 2003. Hakim and Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr founded a political Islamic movement in the late 1950s.

Baqir al-Sadr was executed by Saddam in 1980, and his cousin, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr was assassinated in 1999 and two of his sons were killed with him.

His remaining son is..... Muqtada al-Sadr whose Mehdi Army militia is blamed for much of the current violence in Iraq, and whose supporters played a key role in the compromise appointment of Iraq Prime Minister Maliki.

Al-Sadr takes his political direction from an ultra-conservative, Iran-based, Iraqi-exiled cleric, Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri, who was a student of Bakir al-Sadr.

The fourth spiritual leader, Al-Sistani, who is the Shia spiritual leader in Iraq, was a student of Grand Ayatollah Abu Gharib al-Qassim al-Khoei, whose son was killed by a mob of Muqtada al-Sadr's supporters in 2003.

....In 1988 a ceasefire was declared between Iraq and Iran, ending the 8-year war that was estimated to have caused one million casualties including 250,000 Iraqi dead. In 1990 Iraqi troops crossed into Kuwait and occupied the country. In January of 1991 allied planes begin bombing Iraq.

So, the problems in Iraq started when the country was ill-formed in 1918?.... only partly.

Iraq has been a battleground for the sectarian split between Sunni and Shia Muslims for more than 1,000 years. These fueds actually started when the Muslim community leader, the Prophet Muhammad, died in 632. Yes, the year 632.

One group of Muslims elected Abu Bakr as the next leader, but another group believed the prophet's son-in-law, Ali, was the rightful successor. Although Ali eventually became the fourth leader, his legitimacy was disputed and he was murdered in 661.

The Shiat Ali (Party of Ali) refused to recognize his chief opponent and successor, Muawiya. Ali's sons Hassan and Hussein continued to oppose Muawiya and his successor, Yazid, and fighting between the two sides resulted.

Ali, Hassan and Hussein became the first of the 12 imams who Shia Muslims believe are the divinely-appointed leaders of the Muslim community.

Their leadership by imams continued until 878, when the 12th Imam, Mohammed al-Mahdi, is said to have disappeared from a cave below a mosque in Samarra.

Not accepting that he died, Shias still await his return more than 1,100 years later. Shias believe his return will reverse their fortunes and herald the reign of divine justice.... a happening much anticipated by the current president of Iran.

Sunnis reject the principle of leadership of imams,and instead believe in the primacy of the Sunna - what the Prophet Muhammad said, did, agreed to or condemned.

Sunnis are the majority sect in the Muslim world.... including Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Shias today dominate Iran, and form over 60% of Iraq's population, whereas Sunni Arabs are in the minority in Iraq, split between ethnic Arabs and Kurds. Sunni Arabs have traditionally formed Iraq's elite.

After Saddam was overthrown in 2003, the Sunni Arab supremacy was suddenly wiped out. The U.S.-led (with Britian) Coalition's de-Baathification ejected from power large parts of the Sunni elite which had been nurtured by Saddam.

They were replaced by Shia leaders, the majority of Iraq's population. Sunnis felt increasingly marginalized and boycotted the political process and began to support militants opposing the occupation.

Sunni extremist groups, such as Abu Musab al-Zarquawi's al-Qaeda in Iraq, began to advocate targeting the now dominant Shia community.

The Sunni extremist groups attacked Shia Islam's most important shrines at Karbala, Najaf and Samarra and killed many Shia politicians, clerics, soldiers, police and civilians.

It is into this political cauldren of ancient hatreds and warring sectarian Muslims that President Bush has thrust our troops, whose numbers he now plans to tokenly increase. "Bush Works to Rally Support for Iraq 'Surge' ".... reportedly 20,000 additional troops to help quell the violence in Baghdad.

Our over-extended U.S. troops are to confront, supposedly with Iraqi help, the largest and best-armed militia, al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, as well as other armed factions, both Shia and Sunni.

I leave it to your judgment.... does sending 20,000 more U.S. troops into the midst of this deadly morass make any kind of sense.... have any hope of success.... do anything but prolong the inevitable?

The Iraq war.... we were lied into the why, failed with the how.... we are left with only the when will it end?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Biden's the Man

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is doing what the tarnished Senator McCain (R-AZ) used to do, straight talk.... "White House Postponing Loss of Iraq, Biden Says."

The forcefully-speaking Biden sees the current situation in Iraq this way.... The Decider is waiting until after the elections of 2008, and a new president, to take the historical blame for "landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof," in a chaotic withdrawal reminiscent of Vietnam.

Such a postponement would insure the death of yet more brave troops, continue the Bush administration's plunge into an abyss of debt, and fuel yet more terrorism throughout the Iraq region and the world.

To what purpose?

To avoid such a scene of failure on Bush's watch.

So, The Decider irresponsibly continues his "stay the course" Iraq policy.... however he cloaks it in his upcoming speech.... unable and unwilling to face, as Biden thinks, what VP Cheney and former defense secretary Rumsfeld have already faced, the fact that Iraq was a "very, very, very, very bad bet, and it blew up in their faces."

Starting next week, Biden will hold committee hearings on every aspect of U.S. policy in Iraq. He intends to expose the Iraq policy underbelly and bring pressure to bear to influence GOP lawmakers.

In the meantime, new Democratic legislative leaders "Pelosi, Reid Urge Bush To Begin Iraq Pullout." They sent a letter to The Decider warning him that sending more U.S. troops to Iraq.... the "surge" option.... was "unacceptable" to the Democratic majorities in Congress. Instead, they want him to begin a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces in the next four to six months.

As at least the Bush advisers must know, a "surge" would not be a new strategy, but a new tactic. Shuffling generals and diplomats, increasing troop strength.... hollow maneuvers all.

Bush has been spending a lot of time in the Iraq woodshed. Is our thumb-sucking Decider incapable of a new strategy? Are we asking a spoiled boy to do a man's job?

Stayed tuned.... although the sorry answer is probably yes.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Can Negroponte Bail?

"Negroponte to Leave Job to Be State Dept. Deputy." It's difficult to read the tea leaves about this sudden announcement of the downward-slide of National Intelligence Director John Negroponte to sub-cabinet deputy to Secretary of State Condi Rice. (WaPo)

Does it signal a nod toward more emphasis on a diplomatic and political solution for Iraq since Negroponte has strong State Department credentials.... Foreign Service officer from 1960 to 1997, and with the current administration U.S. representative to the United Nations and ambassador to Iraq before moving to the national intelligence position.

Or just to prop up Condi the Unready.

A mere three weeks ago, on December 14, Negroponte asserted to the editors of the Washington Post his commitment to remain at his post in intelligence.

So, what has changed?

Maybe it's simply since the electorate rescued the legislative branch from the GOP's corrupt do-nothing grip.... turning it over to the Democrats who vow to restore the House and Senate to independent functioning bodies.... The Decider is feeling the squeeze.

He must at least make a show of getting serious about addressing his deadly war in Iraq.

We'll soon know. The Decider plans to unveil his new Iraq strategy soon, and Negroponte may play a pivotal role in that strategy.

Let's hope the Negroponte move signals more than just shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic, for Bush's Iraq war could sink us all.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Another Iraqi Terrorist Video

We see the grainy scene of ski-hooded men, taunting the about-to-be-killed focus of their venom.... another Iraqi terrorist video?

No, the execution of Saddam Hussein.

It must be said, Saddam rose to the occasion. Brutal and gangsterish in life, Saddam was strong and dignified facing death. The new U.S.-backed Iraq government was shown to be brutal and gangsterish, dispensing "justice" with a furtive hand.

"Official Held in Saddam Hanging Video Probe,".... a security guard, a conveniently lower-level scapegoat.

The deputy prosecutor in Saddam's trial who witnessed the hanging said he watched two official observers using their cellphones to record the execution, but observed no guards doing so. We may never really know.

But who made the video it is really beside the point. We now see how the execution went forward.

We are now forced to face the reality that our brave troops are laying down their lives for a regime that is no better, or closer, to ruling in a civilized manner than the one we threw out.

We hung the man with his finger in the factional-dike... and in effect handed most of Iraq to a much more dangerous Iran.

And, with the chaotically medieval hanging of a stiff-upper-lipped Saddam, the Iraqi government created a legend and a heroic focus for the warring tribal and religious factions in the region.

Bring our troops home.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Fine Mess

The new Democratic-controlled House plans to pass a number of popular measures in their first 100 hours. "Democrats To Start Without GOP Input,".... no honeymoon here, or even a quick hug at the altar. Hopefully this is the first sign that the new lawlords mean business.

Business that includes the war in Iraq, our broken borders, rampant illegal immigration, the crushing trade deficit and national debt, the loss of jobs and manufacturing infrastructure.... a steaming heap of do-do left by the outgoing Bush-enabling GOP Congress.

We used to laugh when Ollie said to Stan, "'s another fine mess you've gotten me into."

But the mess made by the Decider isn't comedy. An unamused electorate is looking to the new Congress to make every hour in the next two years count.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Iowa: Mama 0 - Obama 1

Hillary has some tall explaining to do in the tall corn state.

"In corn-growing Iowa, the first stop in the presidential nominating process, Clinton will have to explain the ethanol vote she cast on June 15, 2005." (WaPo)

"Clinton-Obama Differences Clear in Senate Votes" and the ethanol difference is a silo-sized stumbling block for Hillary since Iowa has more ethanol plants than any other state.

Hillary supported an effort to block a proposed amendment to the 2005 energy bill that would have established an ethanol mandate for refineries, Obama voted for the ethanol mandate.

On the Iowa caucus scoreboard, chalk one up for Obama.... who is already wildly popular in the state that put John Kerry (D-Mass) on the road to his successful nomination as the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004.

As Iowa's Democratic governor-elect Chet Culver opines, "Many of us dream of a day where Iowa is the national leader in renewable energy...." (Des Moines Register, 1/1/07)

Hillary tramples Iowa's fields of dreams at her peril.