‘Bring Them On’ Revisited
Four years ago today, President Bush issued this brazen and ill-advised challenge to the Iraqi insurgents: “There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring them on. We’ve got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.” (Watch the video.) That comment was one of many made by the President that reflected his lack of understanding about the difficulties posed by the invasion. On July 2, 2003, just over 200 U.S. soldiers had died in Iraq. Today, the number stands at 3,580. In July 2003, Gallup reported that the number of Americans who believed things were going badly in Iraq had risen to 42 percent, up from 29 percent in June. Today, a whopping 77 percent of the American public believe the war is going badly. Bush has since acknowledged that his “bring them on” rhetoric “sent the wrong signal to people.” But while conceding his rhetorical screw-ups, he has failed to understand the strategic changes that are needed. The reality is that the U.S. presence on the ground in Iraq has fomented a deadly civil war, and it is well past time to begin the redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq.
ESCALATION — THE MODERN-DAY ‘BRING ‘EM ON’: In July 2003, Bush claimed, “We’ve got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.” He maintained this position for three and a half more years until Jan. 2007, when he defied the guidance from his military generals and announced he would escalate — rather than reduce — the number of forces in Iraq. The escalation was the modern-day equivalent of Bush’s original “bring them on” dare to the insurgents in Iraq, a challenge to meet might with might on the battlefield. Countless experts have informed Bush that there is “no military solution” Iraq. Yet in announcing the “surge,” Bush predicted, “This time, we’ll have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared.” Instead, as U.S. forces surged, so too did the activities of the Iraqi insurgents. The Pentagon recently released its first quarterly report assessing the impact of the escalation. It found that overall levels of violence in the country “increased throughout much of Iraq in recent months,” as attacks “shifted away from Baghdad and Anbar”� and into “cities and provinces that had been relatively peaceful before the Bush administration’s troop buildup.” Political reconciliation has almost entirely stalled, suicide bombings “more than doubled” from January to April, sectarian deaths have increased beyond pre-escalation levels, and U.S. troop deaths are spiking.
SPIN MEETS REALITY: Proponents for staying the course in Iraq have been waging a propaganda campaign to distort the reality on the ground, urging Americans to look beyond the spiraling violence and the increasing numbers of U.S. casualties. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow recently claimed that the chaos in Iraq is a sign of success. “[W]hen you see things moving towards success, or when you see signs of success, there are acts of violence,” he said. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) said yesterday, “We’ve got the enemy on the run. … The surge is working.” Fortunately, the spin is not having its intended effect. A solid majority of Americans reject the claim that things are going well, and increasing numbers are calling for a withdrawal to begin soon. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), a leading conservative voice on foreign policy issues, stated this weekend, “The withdrawal of the majority of American troops in a calm, orderly way over the next few months should be discussed so that we refurbish our ability to meet problems elsewhere in the world.” Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) issued a similar statement recently. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said this weekend that the growing political pressure on Bush will hopefully compel him to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq later this year.
STRATEGIC RESET: “More Americans than ever are calling for U.S. forces to withdraw. Sixty-six percent say the number of U.S. troops in Iraq should be decreased,” according to the latest CBS News poll. Last week, the Center for American Progress released a new report — Strategic Reset — explaining how an orderly transition out of Iraq can be accomplished. U.S. troops would begin withdrawing from Iraq by the summer of 2007, at the latest. “U.S. troop levels in Iraq could decline to about 70,000 by January 2008, with a full redeployment completed by September 2008.” Troops would rotate to Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan, back to the United States, or to other “critical missions outside of Iraq.” Additionally, the report recommends phasing out the training of Iraq’s national security forces. Insurgents and militias have infiltrated the security forces, and have helped bring about the deterioration of areas where Iraqi forces have been given control. “Instead of passively waiting for Iraq’s national leaders to make a series of political decisions that they have shown themselves fundamentally incapable of making, the United States needs to implement a strategic reset aimed at using U.S. power to protect our core national interests.”
ETHICS — LEAHY THREATENS COURT ACTION AGAINST WHITE HOUSE OVER U.S. ATTORNEY DOCUMENT STONEWALLING: In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) said he would not hesitate to “cite the White House for criminal contempt of Congress” if it continues to withhold documents related to the firings of nine U.S. attorneys. “If they don’t cooperate, yes, I’d go that far,” he said. The White House has refused congressional requests for internal documents that would potentially clarify the role that senior White House officials had in the removal of U.S. attorneys, citing executive privilege. In a sign of mounting pressure on the White House, Leahy has given President Bush until next Monday to “provide a signed letter from the president asserting executive privilege, as well as a description of each withheld document, a list of who has seen the documents and the legal basis for arguing that the documents may be shielded from public view.” The White House’s stonewalling of the congressional investigation has spawned further suspicions that it had a central role in the U.S. attorney scandal, as a recent legal memo from Solicitor General Paul Clement strongly suggests that the White House played a pivotal effort in the firings. If the claims of executive privilege are deemed invalid by House and Senate committees, Congress could vote that the president be held in criminal contempt and refer the case to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, creating a legal fight that could last into the next presidency.
HEALTH CARE — UPON HUGE OPENING WEEKEND, MICHAEL MOORE’S SiCKO PASSES FACT-CHECK TEST: On June 29, Michael Moore’s latest film, SiCKO — an exploration of the failings of the current American healthcare system — opened in theaters nationwide. On the heels of strong reviews, the response to the film has been overwhelming, according to Moore, who sent a message to fans this weekend declaring that the film is “on track to have the second largest opening weekend for a documentary in the history of the movies.” In his letter, Moore also noted that the industry polling for the film found that 93 percent of viewers would “strongly recommend ‘SiCKO'” to their friends and family, which is more than double the industry average of 45 percent. Not everyone is reacting so positively to SiCKO, however, as the health care industry and its surrogates on the right are doing all that they can to pushback against the film. Before the premiere, think tanks funded by the healthcare and pharmaceutical lobby launched a smear campaign against Moore, using personal attacks against the director while propagating the message of those invested in maintaining the status quo. Moore’s opponents have thus been forced to resort to personal attacks as SiCKO has stood up to scrutiny: on Saturday, a CNN fact-check found “surprisingly few inaccuracies in the film” while noting that “most pundits or health-care experts…spent more time on errors of omission rather than disputing the actual claims in the film.” Click here to find a showing near you.
GOVERNMENT — ON EVE OF 40TH ANNIVERSARY, FOIA PLAGUED BY GOVERNMENT DELAYS: “This Independence Day marks 40 years since implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, the law aimed at ensuring public access to government records.” Under the law, most federal agencies are required “to provide an initial response to a [request for government documents] within 20 days” and must then “provide the documents in a timely manner.” In reality, according to a new survey from the National Security Archive at George Washington University, “agencies often take months or years to respond to requests for information.” The study found that the “State Department accounted for most of the oldest unanswered requests, with 10 requests filed in 1991 or earlier still awaiting responses” and that “10 federal agencies had misrepresented their backlog of FOIA requests in annual reports to Congress.” Thomas Blanton, director of the Archive, explained the magnitude of the problem: “The law is 40 years old, and we’re seeing 20 years of delay.” “The Internet grew into adulthood in less time than it has taken our federal government to deal with these outstanding Freedom of Information requests,” said Eric Newton, vice president of journalism programs at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Such delays were highlighted last week when the CIA finally responded to a 15 year-old request for documents by the National Security Archive. The documents — the CIA’s “so-called family jewels, papers that described illegal wiretaps, assassination plots and other agency misdeeds” — were accompanied by a cover letter from the CIA’s information and privacy coordinator Scott Koch stating, “Please be assured that we do not consider acceptable a delay of this duration. … [T]his case was, in fact, the oldest in our backlog.” The National Security Archive noted, however, that the CIA has at least one even older pending request. It was filed by the Archive in 1989. You can find the report at the National Security Archive website.
“At the nadir of his presidency, George W. Bush is looking for answers.” Unbeknownst “even to many on his staff,” Bush has summoned “leading authors, historians, philosophers and theologians to the White House” to discuss questions like, “Why does the rest of the world seem to hate America? Or is it just me they hate?”
“Battle stress may cause combat-hardened Marines with clean records to get into trouble after they return home,” new Marine Corps research shows. “The Marines have a plan to help these troops but not the resources to implement it, said a leading mental health expert with the Corps.”
“Air strikes by foreign forces in Afghanistan have recently killed more civilians than the Taliban and the U.S.-led operation should cut them back,” said Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission. “In the latest incident involving civilian fatalities, Afghan officials said on the weekend that 45 civilians were killed in an air strike in the south of the country.”
“Four U.S. soldiers and a Marine were killed in attacks in Baghdad and Iraq’s western Anbar province, the military said Monday,” bringing the total number of U.S. fatalities to 3,582.
The Bush administration is “considering moving its program for a new-generation nuclear warhead into the development stage within a year, with an eye to putting the program on track before the end of its term in January 2009.”
In 1999, Congress told the federal agencies that they should “award 3 percent of their contracts to businesses owned by service disabled veterans.” But currently, only FEMA has met the target. “Government-wide, less than 1 percent of all federal contracts have gone to businesses owned by service-disabled veterans.”
“The Pentagon has approved an Army recommendation for a 600% increase in production of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to protect soldiers from makeshift bombs in Iraq.” Although lawmakers applauded the Pentagon’s increase — which would cost $8.1 billion — Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) noted that he couldn’t “support more than $6 billion in MRAP spending for next year because contractors can’t build the vehicles fast enough.”
And finally: Al Gore is a “die-hard” Sopranos fan, but was going to have to miss last month’s season finale because he was scheduled to be on a plane to Istanbul. So Gore called Brad Grey, the chairman of Paramount, and asked for an advance copy. After originally refusing, Grey eventually “had a Halliburton-made steel case, containing a copy of the episode, delivered to the tarmac where Mr. Gore’s plane sat in Chicago. The case was locked with a code. … Mr. Gore could not open it until the plane was in the air, when he was instructed to call Mr. Grey’s office for the numeric code.”
On Friday, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch (D) signed legislation that made the state the first “to repeal a law requiring that a parent be notified before a minor receives an abortion.”
PENNSYLVANIA: “Minimum wage for Pennsylvania workers went up to $7.15 on Sunday. It was the second minimum wage increase this year.”
MASSACHUSETTS: State is seeking new ways to provide cheaper health insurance to young adults.
ENVIRONMENT: “[A]t least 15 states have set goals to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. … Twenty-six states have established targets for getting power from renewable energy sources.”
THINK PROGRESS: Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) uses foiled British terror plot to push for greater U.S. domestic spying.
NEWS CORPSE: Citing info from pharmaceutical lobby-funded groups, MTV’s Kurt Loder gives “SiCKO” a hatchet job review.
TECH CRUNCH: Google trashes SiCKO in order to sell ads to the health industry.
“President Bush had a nearly hour-long secure video teleconference with Iraqi leaders on Monday and came away impressed and reassured by the progress they’re making on political, security and economic reforms.”
— AP, 6/18/07
“More Americans than ever before, 77 percent, say the war is going badly, up from 66 percent just two months ago. Nearly half, 47 percent, say it’s going very badly.”
— CBS News, 6/29/07