<\body> Stories in America: May 2007

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Questions for Senator Liberman in Baghdad

Support the troops, Lieberman style. This is a great story by Leila Fadel, reporter with McClatchy:
Spc. David Williams, 22, of Boston, Mass., had two note cards in his pocket Wednesday afternoon as he waited for Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Williams serves in the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., the first of the five "surge" brigades to arrive in Iraq, and he was chosen to join the Independent from Connecticut for lunch at a U.S. field base in Baghdad.

The night before, 30 other soldiers crowded around him with questions for the senator.

He wrote them all down. At the top of his note card was the question he got from nearly every one of his fellow soldiers:

"When are we going to get out of here?"

The rest was a laundry list. When would they have upgraded Humvees that could withstand the armor-penetrating weapons that U.S. officials claim are from Iran? When could they have body armor that was better in hot weather?

Williams missed six months of his girlfriend's pregnancy when he was given six days' notice to return to Iraq for his second tour. He also missed his baby boy's birth. Three weeks ago, he went home and saw his first child.

"He looks just like me," he said. "I didn't want to come back. . . . We're waiting to get blown up."

Williams wasn't sure if he'd say how he really felt. But if he could, he'd ask about body armor.

"I don't want him to snap his fingers to get things fixed," Williams said, referring to Lieberman. "But he has influence."

Next to him, Spc. Will Hedin, 21, of Chester, Conn., thought about what he was going to say.

"We're not making any progress," Hedin said, as he recalled a comrade who was shot by a sniper last week. "It just seems like we drive around and wait to get shot at."

But as he waited two chairs down from where Lieberman would sit, Hedin said he'd never voice his true feelings to the senator.

"I think I'd be a private if I did," he joked. "It's just more troops, more targets."

In the past two months, the unit has lost two men. In May alone, at least 120 U.S. troops died in Iraq, the bloodiest month in 2007 and the highest number since the battles of Fallujah in 2004.

Spc. Kevin Krasco, 20, of Medford, Mass., and Spc. Kevin Adams, 20, of Moosup, Conn., chimed in with their dismay before turning the conversation to baseball.

"It's like everything else in this war," Adams said, referring to Baghdad. "It hasn't changed."

Then Lieberman walked in, wearing a pair of sunglasses newly purchased from an Iraqi market that the military had taken him to in southeast Baghdad. He'd been equipped with a helmet and flak vest when he toured the market, which he described as bustling.

Earlier, Lieberman had met briefly with Iraqi soldiers and Iraqi police at a Joint Security Station; there are 31 throughout the city now. The senator, who's steadfastly supported the Iraq war along with the current surge of more than 28,000 additional American troops, said things were better.

"I think it's important we don't lose our will," he said. "To pull out would be a disaster."

The soldiers smiled and greeted him, stood with him for pictures and sat down to a lunch of roast beef and turkey sandwiches. It was unclear if they ever asked their questions.

As Lieberman walked out, he said that congressionally mandated withdrawal would be a "victory for al-Qaida and a victory for Iran."

"They're not Pollyannaish about this," he said referring to the young soldiers he ate lunch with. "They know it's not going to be solved in a day or a month."

It isn't clear whether Williams mentioned the last line on his note card, the one that had a star next to it.

"We don't feel like we're making any progress," it said.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Health Effects & True Cost of Iraq Invasion

On today's Your Call, we're revisiting a show we recently did about the true financial costs and health effects of the Iraq war. On May 9, UCSF held a symposium to discuss these very issues.

From 1956 to 1965, the Vietnam War cost the U.S. the equivalent of $662 billion in today's dollars, according to the U.S. government's Congressional Research Service.

Four years after the U.S. invaded Iraq, the cost of the war as of 9:05 am PST was $429 billion. At this point, there seems to be no end in sight.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that in their mid-range scenario, the war will cost over $266 billion more in the next decade, putting the direct costs of the war in the range of $500 billion.

One of our guests says that number underestimates the war’s true costs. Professor Linda Bilmes teaches public finance at the Kenendy School of Government at Harvard University. From 1999-2001, she was assistant secretary of Commerce in the Clinton adminstration. According to her recent paper, "Soldiers Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan: The Long-Term Costs of Providing Veterans Medical Care and Disability Benefits,” the true cost of the war will be more that two trillion dollars.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in more than 53,000 wounded soldiers. Tens of thousands soldiers suffer traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and debilitating chronic pain.

On the Iraqi side, the human cost has been disastrous. Two wars and a decade of sanctions has resulted in the worst mortality rates in Iraq’s history. A new report by Save the Children shows that in the years since 1990, Iraq has seen its child mortality rate soar by 125 per cent, the highest increase of any country in the world. Its rate of deaths of children under five now matches that of Mauritania.

Studies reveal that generations of Iraqis are growing up with posttraumatic syndrome, lack of health care and malnutrition.

A few facts from an excellent Al-Ahram article called, "Pity the sick of Iraq" (a must read)

*A recent UNDP-backed study reveals that one-third of Iraqis live in poverty, with more than five per cent living in abject poverty.

*More than 500,000 Baghdad residents get water for only a few hours a day. And the majority of Iraqis get three hours of electricity a day, in contrast to pre-war levels of about 20 hours.

*At the outset of the 2003 war, the US administration pledged to cut Iraq's child mortality rate in half by 2005. But the rate has continued to worsen, to 130 in 2006, according to Iraqi Health Ministry figures.

*According to the United Nations Children's Agency (UNICEF), about one in 10 Iraqi children under five are underweight (acutely malnourished) and one in five are short for their age (chronically malnourished).

*The Iraq Medical Association reports that 90 per cent of the almost 180 hospitals in Iraq lack essential equipment. At Yarmouk Hospital, one of the busiest hospitals in Baghdad, five people die on average every day because medics and nurses don't have the equipment to treat common ills and accidents, according to Yarmouk doctor Hussam Abboud. That translates to more than 1,800 preventable deaths in a year in that hospital alone.

Dr. Dahlia Wasfi is an Iraqi American physician and activist. She attended the UCSF event to discuss how the war has impacted the Iraqi people. Dahlia spent her early childhood in Iraq. She last visited Iraq last January for 3 months.

The symposium also focused on the ramifications of trauma and torture. The event is being organized by the Iraq Action Group of UCSF. That’s a recently formed group that includes a coalition of students, faculty, and staff members.

Professor Linda Bilmes and Dr. Dahlia Wasfi were guests on the show, which airs today at 10:00 am PST on 91.7 FM in the Bay Area or online. You can also sign up for our podcast.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Privatizing Iraq's Oil

It's amazing. I have yet to hear anyone in the national media talk about this portion of the bill. Are they afraid they might sound like the "No Blood for Oil" crowd? Permanent bases have been built along Iraq's oil pipelines. Iraq's museums weren't protected during the bombings, but the oil fields were. It doesn't take much thinking to figure this out. Ignoring the news in Maui was a great experience...aloha.

Only 11 Democratic Senators voted against this bill, including Boxer, Feingold, Kerry, Clinton, and Obama.

“Now they have Congress blackmailing the Iraqi Parliament and the Iraqi people: no privatization of Iraqi oil, no reconstruction funds.”
-Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army and US Army Reserves and retired as a colonel. She served 16 years in the US diplomatic corps in Nicaragua,Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Micronesiaand Mongolia. She resigned from the US Department of State in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.
On Thursday, May 24, the US Congress voted to continue the war in Iraq. The members called it "supporting the troops." I call it stealing Iraq's oil - the second largest reserves in the world. The "benchmark," or goal, the Bush administration has been working on furiously since the US invaded Iraq is privatization of Iraq's oil. Now they have Congress blackmailing the Iraqi Parliament and the Iraqi people: no privatization of Iraqi oil, no reconstruction funds.

This threat could not be clearer. If the Iraqi Parliament refuses to pass the privatization legislation, Congress will withhold US reconstruction funds that were promised to the Iraqis to rebuild what the United States has destroyed there. The privatization law, written by American oil company consultants hired by the Bush administration, would leave control with the Iraq National Oil Company for only 17 of the 80 known oil fields. The remainder (two-thirds) of known oil fields, and all yet undiscovered ones, would be up for grabs by the private oil companies of the world (but guess how many would go to United States firms - given to them by the compliant Iraqi government.)

No other nation in the Middle East has privatized its oil. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Iran give only limited usage contracts to international oil companies for one or two years. The $12 billion dollar "Support the Troops" legislation passed by Congress requires Iraq, in order to get reconstruction funds from the United States, to privatize its oil resources and put them up for long term (20- to 30-year) contracts.

What does this "Support the Troops" legislation mean for the United States military? Supporting our troops has nothing to do with this bill, other than keeping them there for another 30 years to protect US oil interests. It means that every military service member will need Arabic language training. It means that every soldier and Marine would spend most of his or her career in Iraq. It means that the fourteen permanent bases will get new Taco Bells and Burger Kings! Why? Because the US military will be protecting the US corporate oilfields leased to US companies by the compliant Iraqi government. Our troops will be the guardians of US corporate interests in Iraq for the life of the contracts - for the next thirty years.

With the Bush administration's "Support the Troops" bill and its benchmarks, primarily Benchmark No. 1, we finally have the reason for the US invasion of Iraq: to get easily accessible, cheap, high-grade Iraq oil for US corporations.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Once American Troops Leave Iraq, There's No Reason to Continue the Bloodshed

Yanar Mohammed, co-founder of the Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq, says the Americans should leave Iraq now. She knows a bit more than American politicians who've never been to Iraq and love saying, "They've been killing each other for thousands of years:
Well, I’m not saying it’s going to be paradise right away, but the idea is that we are having all these Jihadis coming to Iraq, because there is this magnet, which is the US troops in there. For them, that is the biggest evil that they are coming to fight. And if these troops leave the country and all of them leave the country, there isn't much reason to come to Iraq anymore. If you tell me there are already Islamists in power and in the government and in the resistance and there will be fights among them, I tell you, yes, there will be fights among them.

But then again, those who are in power are not really. They don't have the popular base that they used to have in the first two years. You go to their own areas like Sadr City and the other Shiite parts of Baghdad, you find out that the young people are looking for the seculars, for the progressive groups to join. And then again, you look at the so-called resistance. The Islamic party of Iraq, they do not have very strong -- now they have strong grounds, because they are fighting against the Americans. But if the US troops leave -- and we all know that the resistance is a sum-up of the old Baaths and some Arab nationalists and al-Qaeda -- so if the US troops leave, even that part of the -- I mean, the resistance will lose its popular base, and there will be all sorts of multiplications in there.

And you know what, Amy, the difference, the only difference between Iraq and Afghanistan, although we spoke much of the similarities, is that in Iraq you had a society, you had all the infrastructure working, you had -- it was all functioning. And the people had not lived decades in a war-torn situation. So there is a bit number of democrats, of progressives, a civil society that could be put together, and it could be mended.

But we really need to push on the issue of the US troops leaving right away. There will be some chaos for some time, but because the extremists do not have the strong support from the people that they should have -- most of the support came from either surrounding countries or the big powers in the world. The US administration prefers to see moderate, so-called moderate, Islamists in power, and what’s moderate about somebody who looks at women as less than men, about somebody who thinks that people belonging to other sects of Islam are less of human beings, and about somebody who has no accountability? I think it’s not news today when we speak that all the kidnappings in Iraq, most of them at least, are happening by police cars. Many of the public executions against women are happening by -- are being administered by the militias who are affiliates of power. So there is no accountability. There is no respect for human rights. And yet, they are governing us.

The US troops should leave, and they should not impose any political agenda on Iraq, and the support should not be given to the extremists. The people of Iraq are still an integrated society. The youth do not want to see the extremists in power. We will have the dynamics that will make it work, be it by election, be it by the grassroots, who will be bring about the democratic sense into the country.

269 Chickens Killed Per Second

I've been vegan for 10 years, so I'm fairly well informed about the slaughter of animals, but these numbers from Viva! USA are shocking:
Every day, 23 million chickens are killed in the U.S. for food--that’s 269 deaths per second!

We have to stand up for these mistreated birds and take action!

Because this industry is so huge, we took almost a year to collect information and video footage. We traveled to countless chicken sheds in both the winter and summer. We saw literally thousands upon thousands of birds. But despite these vast numbers, it's important to remember one thing: each of these birds is a feeling individual who has endured unspeakable suffering on these farms.

What does a typical chicken farm look like? Your first view is row after row of industrial sheds---there were 27 sheds at one facility we visited. Most people would never imagine ...that these innocuous, sometimes windowless buildings hold living beings, but the sad truth is that each one contains thousands of birds in crowded, filthy conditions. When we opened these sheds on a cold winter day, we were startled by the oppressive heat and smell inside. Only a few small lights broke the darkness, and a combination of dust and feathers filled the air. In some places, conditions were so bad it was hard to take photographs—or even see.

What we could see was horrific. Dead birds littered the floors of the sheds, some looking as if they had been trampled or crushed.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Anti-War Origins of Mother's Day

Each year the president issues a Mother's Day Proclamation. The
original Mother's Day Proclamation was made in 1870. Written by Julia
Ward Howe, perhaps best known today for having written the words to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" in 1862 when she was an anti-slavery
activist, the original Proclamation was an impassioned call for peace
and disarmament. In the years following the Civil War her political
activism increased, as did her condemnation of war. Here are the words to the original Mother's Day Proclamation:

"Arise then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts,
whether your baptism be of water or of tears!

"Say firmly: 'We will not have questions decided by irrelevant
agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage for
caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and
patience. We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom
of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own, it says "Disarm!
Disarm!" The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does
not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.'

"As men have forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war,
let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest
day of counsel. Let them meet first as women, to bewail and commemorate
the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his
time the sacred impress not of Caesar, but of God.

"In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a
general congress of women without limit of nationality be appointed and
held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period
consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different
nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the
great and general interests of peace."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Oil on the Brain

The price of gas is expected to reach $4/gallon soon. You've probably received emails asking you to ban Chevron next Friday. That really won't do anything, but if you want to make your own silent statement besides driving less, buy gas from the independents.

How much do you know about the gas you pump into your car? What about the countries that produce it? How would you explain your relationship with oil and the world that is shaped around this black liquid? What exactly is oil?

To get answer to these questions, journalist Lisa Margonelli decided to trace the oil chain from a San Francisco gas station near her home to a refinery south of Los Angeles, and then to a drilling rig in East Texas. She also traveled to Venezuela, Chad, Iran, Nigeria, and China.

Throughout her journey, she met a diverse group of people connected to oil, including gas station owners, refinery workers, and tanker truck drivers.

By the time she finished interviewing these fascinating characters, she had traveled 100,000 miles over three years, burning 3,000 gallons of fuel in the process.

She compiled her findings in a new book called: “Oil on the Brain: Adventures from the Pump to the Pipeline.” I interviewed Margonellia on Your Call last month.

The small gas station owners are hurting big time. They actually make most of their profits from ice, sunglasses, and candy.

Personally, I'd rather not buy gas from Nigeria, but It's almost impossible to know where gas comes from.

Here's a sad story about what's to come for gas station owners (they're easy to blame, but making ends meet is becoming close to impossible):

Check out this article from today's San Francisco Chronicle:
Dealer prices gas over $4 in protest
He says tactics used by Shell are unfair to operators

A few facts from "Oil on the Brain:"

Over the next hour, America's 194 million drivers will consume 36,000 gallons of gas.

Margonelli writes: “We use 1,143 gallons of gasoline per household per year. We make 16 billion stops at gas stations yearly, taking final delivery on 140 billion gallons of gasoline that has traveled around the world in tanker ships, pipelines and shiny silver trucks. And then we peel out, get on with our lives and get back on the highway.”

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Another Casualty of Sanctions and Occupation: Iraqi Children

The chance that an Iraqi child will live beyond age 5 has plummeted faster than anywhere else in the world since 1990, according to a report released Tuesday, which placed the country last in its child survival rankings.

One in eight Iraqi children died of disease or violence before reaching their fifth birthday in 2005, according to the report by Save the Children, which said Iraq ranked last because it had made the least progress toward improving child survival rates.

Iraq’s mortality rate has soared by 150 percent since 1990. Even before the latest war, Iraq was plagued by electricity shortages, a lack of clean water and too few hospitals.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"They have taken Iraq. They have taken everything."

Five years later, still winning hearts and minds:
Nearly every day, the sheik stops by the villa that was once his home, but is now an American garrison. Sometimes he comes with tips about the insurgency, or with news of political developments in this rural village near the Euphrates River.

But mostly he comes to ask for his house back.

“To take my home in this way is not right,” the sheik, Hamed Moussa Khalaf al-Duleimi, said one afternoon in April, putting a wrinkled, bronzed hand on the knee of the 31-year-old American commander, Capt. Chris Calihan.

Sheik Duleimi, 74, has not lived here since January, when marines on a counterinsurgency mission burst in late one night, announced that they were turning his house into a military base and evicted him. He sent his family to a rented apartment in Falluja while he moved into a son’s home just across the road.

Most Iraqis, particularly here in the Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, regard the Americans as occupiers who came uninvited to Iraq and who, in their rush to remove Saddam Hussein, may have damaged the country beyond repair.

But the prevailing view is also a deeply conflicted one, because most people here now want the Americans to stay, at least until some semblance of stability is restored.

“It’s not just my house,” Sheik Duleimi continued. “They have taken Iraq. They have taken everything.”

Monday, May 07, 2007

White House Speaks Truthfully on Iraq

Expect more soldiers to die.
Eight U.S. soldiers were killed on Sunday in roadside bomb attacks and were among 12 whose deaths were announced, following an April in which more than 100 died.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the deaths were attributable to efforts to bring security to Baghdad as part of a 3-month-old troop buildup.

"We are getting to the point now with the Baghdad security plan where there is going to be real engagement in tougher neighborhoods and you're likely to see escalating levels of casualties," Snow said.

"We've known that, been saying it all along. We're getting into some of the grittiest security operations," Snow said.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Why Are So Few U.S. Women in Politics?

“The rules of the game are set up to the advantage of the dominant majority bloc, which is not just Democrat or Republican but is wealthy white males,” said Andrew Reynolds, a professor at the University of North Carolina.

The Republican debate sure proves this point. Not only were all the candidates white men, so were the three questioners. OK, forget black or brown. They couldn't find one woman to ask questions?
The United States is on the latter track but lags many of its European counterparts. Only 16 percent of lawmakers in the U.S. Congress are women. Compared to countries of similar wealth, one would expect 30 to 50 percent, Reynolds said.

The U.S. political structure is partly responsible. Many parliamentary systems encourage alternative voices by allowing small parties, but the United States fosters a two-party system in which the parties have to appeal to a broader audience.

Women have more difficulty being elected in presidential systems. Historically, some 69 percent of women leaders have been prime ministers with only 31 percent from presidential systems, said Ann Gordon, a political scientist who co-edited the book “Anticipating Madame President.”

It’s a piece of the puzzle, she said, but she sees greater challenges.

“The single biggest obstacle in this country is that voters are uncomfortable with the idea of a woman who is commander in chief,” Gordon said. “That’s due to gender stereotypes.”

Susan Carroll, a senior scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics, said women seeking the presidency still had to address the perception that they were less able than men to deal with military issues and international crises.

Clinton, a New York Democrat, has tried to address the issue by sitting on the Senate Armed Services Committee and taking a strong stance on terrorism during debates, Carroll said.

It also may be a factor in Clinton’s refusal to apologize for her Iraq war vote, an issue that has caused her difficulty among many Democratic constituents, Carroll said.

“I don’t think Hillary Clinton has the options that other candidates have,” she said. “She cannot for a moment appear to be weak on defense or admit to any kind of failing like that.”

Friday, May 04, 2007

All White Male GOP Candidates Support Overturning Roe v. Wade

This "pro-life" bunch (except for Giuliani, sort of) also supports torture and the ongoing slaughter of innocent Iraqis.

Oh, and Tommy Thompson says employers should be able to fire employees if they are gay.

What a compassionate bunch. What the video at Crooks and Liars.

Sen. Sam Brownback, Rep. Tom Tancredo, and Gov. Mike Huckabee said they do not believe in evolution.

Voices of the Innocent Detainees Americans Have Tortured

This American Life updated its episode "Habeuas Schmabeas," which won a 2006 Peabody Award. Hear the voices of the innocent men we (the American government) tortured at Guantanamo:
The right of habeas corpus has been a part of our country's legal tradition longer than we've actually been a country. It means that our government has to explain why it's holding a person in custody. But now, the War on Terror has nixed many of the rules we used to think of as fundamental. At Guantanamo Bay, our government initially claimed that prisoners should not be covered by habeas—or even by the Geneva Conventions—because they're the most fearsome enemies we have. But is that true? Is it a camp full of terrorists, or a camp full of our mistakes?

Joseph Margulies, a lawyer for one of the detainees at Guantanamo, explains how the detention facility there was created to be an ideal interrogation facility. Any possible comfort, such as water or natural light, is controlled entirely by the interrogators. (3 minutes)

Act One.There's No U.S. in Habeas.

Jack Hitt explains how President Bush's War on Terror changed the rules for prisoners of war and how it is that under those rules, it'd be possible that someone whose classified file declares that they pose no threat to the United States could still be locked up indefinitely—potentially forever!—at Guantanamo. (24 minutes).

Act Two. September 11th, 1660.

Habeas corpus began in England. And recently, 175 members of the British parliament filed a "friend of the court" brief in one of the U.S. Supreme Court cases on habeas and Guantanamo—apparently, the first time in Supreme Court history that's happened. In their brief, the members of Parliament warn about the danger of suspending habeas: "During the British Civil War, the British created their own version of Guantanamo Bay and dispatched undesirable prisoners to garrisons off the mainland, beyond the reach of habeas corpus relief." In London, reporter Jon Ronson, author of Them: Adventures with Extremists, goes in search of what happened. (6 minutes)

Act Three. We Interrogate the Detainees.

Although more than 200 prisoners from the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay have been released, few of them have ever been interviewed on radio or on television in America. Jack Hitt conducts rare and surprising interviews with two former Guantanamo detainees about life in Guantanamo. (20 minutes)

Song: "The Clash," Know Your Rights

What does $465 billion buy?

From the Boston Globe:
While there is some disagreement on the idea of troop deadlines for US soldiers in Iraq, all sides seem to be on board with the amount included in the bill to fund the war.

Including the $124.2 billion bill, the total cost of the Iraq war may reach $456 billion in September, according to the National Priorities Project, an organization that tracks public spending.

The amount got us wondering: What would $456 billion buy?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Why Hearings and Investigations Matter

Pretty soon, Bush and Dick will be the only ones left:
Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel speaks on new revelations of corruption in the White House:

Madam Speaker, the list of Republicans under investigation or resigning in this administration in disgrace keeps growing. This morning The Washington Post reported, Julie MacDonald, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Department, resigned just as she was being investigated for changing scientific reports to protect the interests of oil and gas companies and real estate developers, all the people she was supposed to be actually holding accountable. I wish this was an isolated case in the Bush Administration.

This morning the New York Times reported the Department of Commerce Inspector General faces three separate investigations into the conduct of his office. Scott Bloch, the Special Counsel at the Justice Department, is being investigated for the management of his office. Lurita Doan at the GSA being investigated for the politicization of the offices. Monica Goodling at the Justice Department resigned. Sue Ellen Wooldridge at Justice stepped down. Matteo Fontana, at the Department of Education, has to step aside. David Safavian, OMB, has been prosecuted. Steve Griles at the Interior Department had to step down. All have had their conduct scrutinized while in a professional office. It is time, for in fact it justifies why, this Congress is doing its job of oversight and accountability and bringing people’s professional conduct in order.

Corruption in Iraq Continues

Who's benefiting from the $100,000 an hour we're spending in Iraq?
The Bush administration, usually under pressure from federal inspectors or press accounts, has reluctantly acknowledged that some of its reconstruction projects have been abandoned, delayed or poorly constructed. But the most recent inspections by the Inspector General reveal for first time the failure of projects that had been officially declared successes.

Examples include:

The Baghdad International Airport, where $11.8 million was spent on new electrical generators, but $8.6 million worth of the project is no longer functioning.

A maternity hospital in the northern city of Erbil, where a newly built water purification system is not functioning; an expensive incinerator for medical waste is padlocked, and medical waste - including syringes, used bandages, and empty drug vials - is clogging the sewage system and probably contaminating the water system.

At the same hospital, a system for distributing oxygen has been ignored by the medical staff, which told inspectors they distrusted the sophisticated new equipment and had gone back to using tried-and-true oxygen tanks - which are stored unsafely throughout the building.

Expensive generators are missing from the Camp Ur military base, having been hauled off to another post. Also at Camp Ur, three modular buildings constructed at a cost of $1.8 million were dismantled and removed with no explanation given.

Barracks renovated for enlisted soldiers are already in disrepair, just a year after being handed over to the Iraqi Army. Electrical wiring is pieced together to accommodate retrofitted lights and appliances that were not in the original design. Newly installed fixtures, hardware and appliances have been pilfered or abused. A number of electrical generation systems were not adequately maintained, and were inoperable at the time of the SIGIR's inspections. Leaks from the upstairs floor had damaged floor tiles and ceilings on the ground floors. An inadequate design, combined with low-quality fixtures and poor workmanship, made the facilities too fragile for the volume of use they experienced. The problem was compounded by poor maintenance and abuse by tenants.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Former Iraq Commander Says Bush Is Not Listening

Major General Paul Eaton recently retired from the U.S. Army after more than 33 years of service.

May 1, 2007

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

Today, in your veto message regarding the bipartisan legislation just passed on Operation Iraqi Freedom, you asserted that you so decided because you listen to your commanders on the ground.

Respectfully, as your former commander on the ground, your administration did not listen to our best advice. In fact, a number of my fellow Generals were forced out of their jobs, because they did not tell you what you wanted to hear -- most notably General Eric Shinseki, whose foresight regarding troop levels was advice you rejected, at our troops' peril.

The legislation you vetoed today represented a course of action that is long overdue. This war can no longer be won by the military alone. We must bring to bear the entire array of national power - military, diplomatic and economic. The situation demands a surge in diplomacy, and pressure on the Iraqi government to fix its internal affairs. Further, the Army and Marine Corps are on the verge of breaking - or have been broken already - by the length and intensity of this war. This tempo is not sustainable - and you have failed to grow the ground forces to meet national security needs. We must begin the process of bringing troops home, and repairing and growing our military, if we are ever to have a combat-ready force for the long war on terror ahead of us.

The bill you rejected today sets benchmarks for success that the Iraqis would have to meet, and puts us on a course to redeploy our troops. It stresses the need for sending troops into battle only when they are rested, trained and equipped. In my view, and in the view of many others in the military that I know, that is the best course of action for our security.

As someone who served this nation for decades, I have the utmost respect for the office you hold. However, as a man of conscience, I could not sit idly by as you told the American people today that your veto was based on the recommendations of military men. Your administration ignored the advice of our military's finest minds before, and I see no evidence that you are listening to them now.

I urge you to reconsider your position, and work with Congress to pass a bill that achieves the goals laid out above.


Major General Paul D. Eaton, USA, Retired

White House: Combat Operations Have Ended in Iraq...

On May 1, 2003, Bush proudly donned a flight suit showing his manly self to the world declaring:
The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on. That terrible morning, 19 evil men -- the shock troops of a hateful ideology -- gave America and the civilized world a glimpse of their ambitions. They imagined, in the words of one terrorist, that September the 11th would be the "beginning of the end of America." By seeking to turn our cities into killing fields, terrorists and their allies believed that they could destroy this nation's resolve, and force our retreat from the world. They have failed. (Applause.)
Oops, on August 21, 2006, the following exchange took place:
President Bush was in the midst of explaining how the attacks of 9/11 inspired his “freedom agenda” and the attacks on Iraq until a reporter, Ken Herman of Cox News, interrupted to ask what Iraq had to do with 9/11. “Nothing,” Bush defiantly answered.

Happy Anniversary, Mission Accomplished!

From Military Families Speak Out:
Four years ago today, President Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and announced “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended,” with the backdrop of a banner declaring “Mission Accomplished,” in a carefully-choreographed photo op. It was May 1, 2003 – the 43rd day of the war in Iraq, and at that point 140 U.S. servicemen and women had died. Today is the 1,502nd day of the war in Iraq; over 3,200 more U.S. troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, women and men have died since May 1, 2003 when major combat operations were supposed to have ended. Over 100 troops died during the month of April, 2007 – one of the deadliest months since the war began.

On May 1, 2007 President Bush vetoed a supplemental appropriations bill that would have allowed him to continue the U.S. military occupation of Iraq into 2008, because he is not willing to accept even non-enforceable limitations on how, and for how long, he conducts this war based on lies.

It is indeed ironic that on fourth anniversary of the day he declared the end of major combat, President Bush is making the strongest statement he can, a Presidential veto of funding that he has asked for, to ensure that major combat can continue indefinitely in Iraq.

As military and Gold Star families who live every day with the heartache, fear and damage this war has brought, our message today is for Congress:

Fund our troops, and de-fund this war. Fully fund the safe and orderly withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, and the care they need when they get home. Do not bargain or compromise with the lives of our loved ones or the loved ones of others. Do not abandon our troops to an unjust and unjustifiable war. Strengthen your resolve, use your ‘power of the purse’ and end this war.