|April 23, 2007|
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It is said that a “gaffe” in Washington, D.C. occurs when someone tells the truth but isn’t supposed to. Such was the case last week, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) acknowledged what the American people have long known: the U.S. military, already stretched to its breaking point, cannot effectively police an anarchic civil war in a country of 26 million people. There is no military solution to the current conflict, only a political one, and our most vital tool to encourage political compromise is a timeline for the redeployment of U.S. forces. Conservatives’ reaction to these remarks again demonstrated their entrenched ideological commitment to the war: Reid was called “reckless” and accused of “surrender in the face of barbarism.” But as Reid will make clear in a major speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center today, our focus now should be on policy, not politics, and Americans now are faced with a clear choice. “One road leads to endless war, with consequences for America’s future security extending well past the borders of Iraq,” Reid says. “The other road leads to a responsible end, gives Iraq the best chance for success and allows us to refocus on the challenges we face throughout the world.” (For more, read the Center for American Progress’s new Iraq memo, “After the Veto: Four Scenarios.”)
AMERICANS AGREE: Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) accused Reid of “playing to the worst elements of the antiwar left,” and Weekly Standard editor William Kristol said yesterday on Fox News Sunday that Reid’s remarks were “much more disgraceful” than Sen. Trent Lott’s (R-MS) 2002 claim that the country would be much better off if it had maintained racist segregation policies. In fact, as NPR’s Juan Williams told Kristol, “Most Americans think we should have never gone in [to Iraq], so he’s speaking in a voice that represents the majority of the American people.” Some 66 percent of Americans do not believe the United States can succeed in its current mission in Iraq, a USA Today poll found last month. Asked “Will the U.S. win or lose the war?,” 35 percent said “win” and 51 percent said “lose” in a Washington Post/ABC News poll last week. Likewise, an Apr. 16 Gallup survey found that 33 percent of Americans “believe that history will ultimately judge the U.S. mission in Iraq a success,” while 50 percent “believe the mission will be deemed a failure.”
REID ECHOES KISSINGER, MILITARY OFFICIALS: Reid’s description of the war is shared by one of President Bush’s own regular war advisers, Henry Kissinger. Kissinger said last month that “the problems in Iraq are more complex than [Vietnam], and military victory is no longer possible.” Reid’s remarks also echo senior military officials. Retired Gen. William Odom, head of Army intelligence and director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan, published an essay in February titled “Victory Is Not An Option.” Retired Gen. Tony McPeak, who served on the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the first Gulf War, told Rolling Stone magazine last month, “Even if we had a million men to go in, it’s too late now. … Humpty Dumpty can’t be put back together again.”
THE REALITY ON THE GROUND: In advance of his intended veto of Congress’s Iraq timeline, President Bush is again making the case for his escalation policy. (On Friday, Bush used the word “progress” 10 times in his speech on Iraq.) But U.S. casualties are increasing again and recent weeks have brought the deadliest attack in Baghdad since the war began and the deadliest attack yet inside the Green Zone, a suicide bombing in the Iraqi Parliament. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) said on Friday he doesn’t see “any evidence of movement toward a political settlement,” which was the explicit purpose of escalation. “If anything, they’re probably further away from it, that the chaos which has enveloped and the attack on the assembly, instead of uniting Iraqis, which you would think it would…it has not done that.” Meanwhile, Bush has still failed to launch any new meaningful regional diplomatic efforts, and has yet to address “the corruption and mismanagement that continue to plague the reconstruction efforts, costing American taxpayers billions of dollars.” The reality on the ground bolsters Congress’s position that a change in Iraq is needed urgently.
RADICAL RIGHT — GINGRICH BLAMES VIRGINIA TECH TRAGEDY ON ‘LIBERALISM’: Appearing on ABC’s This Week yesterday, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) blamed the Virginia Tech tragedy on “liberalism” and the “culture” it has “created.” In the wake of the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, Gingrich made a speech in which he said, “I want to say to the elite of this country — the elite news media, the liberal academic elite, the liberal political elite: I accuse you in Littleton…of being afraid to talk about the mess you have made, and being afraid to take responsibility for the things you have done, and instead foisting upon the rest of us pathetic banalities because you don’t have to courage to look at the world you have created.” Asked by host George Stephanopoulos if he would apply those same words to the Virginia Tech tragedy, Gingrich said “yes,” before launching into a ramble attempting to connect Virginia Tech to Don Imus and McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform. Gingrich has repeatedly spun tragedy for ideological and partisan gain. In 1994, after Susan Smith confessed to drowning her two children, Gingrich quickly blamed liberals, saying the only way to avoid similar future incidents was “to vote Republican.” After former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) was forced to resign over his sexually inappropriate behavior towards House pages, Gingrich declared on Fox News that conservatives didn’t stop Foley because they “would have been accused of gay bashing” by liberals. At the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this year, Gingrich blamed the residents of New Orleans’s 9th ward for “a failure of citizenship” — by being so uneducated and so unprepared, they literally couldn’t get out of the way of a hurricane.”
ETHICS — NUMBER OF WHITE HOUSE OFFICIALS ALLOWED TO INTERVENE IN DoJ CASES JUMPS BY 10,325 PERCENT: In his testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said that it was “very important” that the Justice Department “be independent from” the White House. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) noted that until 2002, to ensure such independence, there were just four people in the White House — the President, the Vice President, the White House Counsel, and the Deputy White House Counsel — who could participate in discussions with the Justice Department “regarding pending criminal investigations and criminal cases.” Just three Justice Department officials were authorized to talk with the White House. This policy, outlined in a 1994 memo written by then-Attorney General Janet Reno, had been Justice Department tradition as “far back as anyone remembers.” But in 2002, former Attorney General John Ashcroft rewrote the rules. There are now over 400 White House officials and 30 Justice Department officials who are eligible to have discussions about criminal cases. Further, according to former associate deputy attorney general Nicholas Gess, the way the policy currently reads, “an intern in the office of the deputy attorney general could be communicating about case-related information to an intern at the White House Counsel’s Office.” Whitehouse asked if “it was wise to allow so many people to discuss criminal matters between the Justice Department and the White House.” Gonzales could offer “no insight into why changing the policy was a good idea,” saying only that Whitehouse had a “good point.”
ETHICS — FORMER ALLIES URGE WOLFOWITZ’S RESIGNATION: Embattled World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz is quickly losing support from former allies as the scandal surrounding his promotion of his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, escalates. Last week, a group of 42 former senior World Bank executives wrote a letter to the Financial Times asserting that Wolfowitz “has lost the trust and respect of bank staff at all levels, provoked a rift among senior managers, developed tense relations with the board, damaged his own credibility on good governance, and alienated some key shareholders. … We believe that he can no longer be an effective leader,” the executives wrote. In a “searing indictment” of Wolfowitz, the Independent Evaluation Group, an independent agency assessing the bank’s effectiveness, also urged Wolfowitz’s resignation, as “the current situation could lead to ‘irreparable harm to worldwide efforts in poverty reduction and sustainable development.'” The controversy surrounding Wolfowitz has not only provoked criticism from senior executives, but also evoked long-standing discontent from within the World Bank work force. The World Bank staff association, which represents the 10,000 employees at the bank, “has pushed hard against past presidents, but acrimony has never been so high,” as a staff survey indicated “overwhelming concerns about his conservative politics and role as an architect of the Iraq war.” These bank employees are urging Wolfowitz’s resignation, saying he “had lost trust and respect” of the employees. Although President Bush recently expressed “full confidence” in Wolfowitz, other administration officials are breaking away. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson recently “urged the White House to withdraw its backing from the controversial neoconservative.”
“The Great Wall of Adhamiya” is only one of at least ten Baghdad neighborhoods that are slated to become — or already are — “gated communities.” “They’ve been doing it in Florida, and the old people seem to like it,” joked the platoon’s leader, Sgt. 1st Class Charles Schmitt.
Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said that the American military would “respect the wishes” of the Iraqi government regarding a barrier being built around Adhamiya, but he stopped short of saying construction would stop. Sunni Arab and Shiite groups sharply criticized the idea, saying the wall would increase sectarian hatred and fuel efforts to partition the country.
The London Times reported that the White House is drawing up a list of candidates to succeed Paul Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank. “Most prominent on the list is Ashraf Ghani, the man credited with overhauling the economy of Afghanistan after September 11.”
Classes at Virginia Tech are set to resume today. “Students and faculty were expected to gather at 7:15 a.m. Monday near the dormitory where the first victims. … At 9:45 — the time of the second shooting — the university planned a moment of silence, with a single bell tolling from the tower of the main administration building. A minute later, the bell will toll 32 times — once for each victim — as 32 white balloons are released from the field below.”
“A dramatic pay gap emerges between women and men in America the year after they graduate from college and widens over the ensuing decade,” according to a new study. “One year out of college, women working full time earn 80 percent of what men earn.” Ten years later, that number drops to 69 percent.
David Iglesias, the fired New Mexico U.S. attorney, said investigating the White House’s role is the logical next step. “If I were Congress, I would say, ‘If the attorney general doesn’t have answers, then who would?‘ There’s enough evidence to indicate that Karl Rove was involved up to his eyeballs.”
In contrast to her previous resistance to talks, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is urging Iran to join her at a high-level conference on the future of Iraq next week, “signaling that Washington is now ready for a serious exchange of views with Tehran after several months of resisting Iran’s advances in the region.”
“FEMA exposed taxpayers to significant waste — and possibly violated federal law — by awarding $3.6 billion worth of Hurricane Katrina contracts to companies with poor credit histories and bad paperwork,” according to a new report by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General.
And finally: DOUTH U R GOOD AT TXTING? Over the weekend, 250 people competed to be U.S. Texting Champion, with txt tests ranging from “what we do in life echoes in eternity” to “OMG, nd 2 talk asap.” Eventually, 13-year-old Morgan Pozgar won the competition, after she typed “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” in 15 seconds. “It’s all about the thumbwork,” she said. “It’s about balance.”