|January 3, 2007|
||Down the Rabbit Hole|
||Go Beyond The Headlines|
||Coffee and Donuts Not Included|
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CNN reports that President Bush is “expected to announce his new Iraq strategy in an address to the nation early next week.” According to the BBC, “The speech will reveal a plan to send more US troops to Iraq.” The Pentagon is already drafting plans “extending U.S. military units already in Iraq and moving troops from other locations” in anticipation of the announcement. One thing that hasn’t been decided: what the extra troops would do in the middle of a civil war. The BBC reports “The exact mission of the extra troops in Iraq is still under discussion.” Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) says Bush’s plan for escalation in Iraq is “Alice in Wonderland,” adding, “I’m absolutely opposed to sending any more troops to Iraq. It is folly.”
OPERATION BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: The Washington Times reports, “One official who was sent the briefing slides for various surge options said he was struck with the lack of new ideas after an intense three-month review process inside the Bush administration.” Indeed, during “the last six months the United States has increased, or ‘surged,’ the number of American troops in Baghdad by 12,000, yet the violence and deaths of Americans and Iraqis has climbed alarmingly, averaging 960 a week since the latest troop increase.” From Feb. 2004 to March 2005 we increased the number of U.S. troops from 115,000 to 150,000. There was no impact on the amount of violence in Iraq. Since June, we’ve increased the number of U.S. troops in Iraq by about 14,000, from 126,000 to 140,000. Violence has only increased.
GENERAL DISMISSAL: Just weeks ago, CentCom commander Gen. John Abizaid told Congress, “I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the core commander, General Dempsey, we all talked together. And I said, in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American Troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no.” Abizaid explained, “[T]he reason is because we want the Iraqis to do more. It is easy for the Iraqis to rely upon to us do this work. I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.” Now both Gen. Abizaid and Gen. Casey are on their way out.
OPPOSITION ESCALATING: Bush’s plan for escalation in Iraq is incredibly unpopular with the American people. A recent CNN poll found that just 11 percent of Americans support sending more troops to Iraq. It’s not much more popular in Congress. Conservative columnist Robert Novak reports “in pressing for a surge of 30,000 more troops, will have trouble finding support from more than 12 out of 49 Republican senators.”
WHAT CONGRESS CAN DO: Congress doesn’t have to give Bush a blank check for troop increases in Iraq. A new report by the Center for American Progress recommends that Congress “place an amendment on the supplemental funding bill that states that if the administration wants to increase the number of troops in Iraq above 150,000, it must provide a plan for their purpose and require an up or down vote on exceeding that number.” The report states that sending more troops now “will only increase the Iraqi dependence on us, deplete our own strategic reserve, force the United States to extend the tours of those already deployed, send back soldiers and Marines who have not yet spent at least a year at home, and deploy units that are not adequately trained or equipped for the deployments.”
MEDIA — MEDIA GIVE SCANT COVERAGE TO POLL SHOWING U.S. TROOPS DO NOT SUPPORT ESCALATION: Last week, the Military Times released a new poll of 6,000 active duty U.S. military personnel. Thirty-eight percent of the troops polled said the United States should send more troops to Iraq. Thirty-nine percent believe we should maintain current levels or reduce the number of troops, including 13 percent who support complete withdrawal. Only 35 percent said they approve of the way President Bush is handling the war, while 42 percent said they disapproved. The media has all but ignored the poll, even though newspapers and television news channels “all lavished extensive coverage on another, completely unscientific measure of the troops’ opinions of a ‘surge.'” “A couple of weeks back, Defense Secretary Robert Gates convened a photo-op sitdown with around a dozen troops to listen to their opinions. Mysteriously, all of those assembled agreed that they wanted more troops. The thoughts of this handful of soldiers were granted extensive coverage by The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, CNN and Reuters.” Now, the “the San Jose Mercury News and the Seattle Times were the only U.S. papers to run stories of their own” on the poll, Steve Benen writes for the Washington Monthly, while Reuters and UPI mentioned the poll in wire stories what “were not widely picked up. … Broadcast outlets were a bit better, with CNN and ABC mentioning the poll on the air.”
ENVIRONMENT — RADICAL RIGHT CLAIMING DENVER BLIZZARD CASTS DOUBT ON GLOBAL WARMING: This past month, Denver, CO, was blanketed by two snowstorms, dumping approximately two feet of snow on the city during the holiday season. The right wing is now using these blizzards as evidence against climate change. Yesterday, climate skeptics Pat Michaels and Dan Gainor appeared on Fox News’ Your World with Neil Cavuto to argue that the recent snowstorms in Denver prove there is a “Northeast bias” on global warming. Both agreed with Cavuto’s claim that if “more of those who support global warming did not live in the East Coast, or more specifically in New York, and were stationed in Denver,” they might be more skeptical of global warming. Michaels added that “if you believe that warming causes cooling, you’re like my neighbors down in Virginia who think that if you put hot water in the ice cube tray, it freezes faster. It doesn’t work that way.” The severe blizzards in Colorado weren’t necessarily caused by global warming. But they also don’t prove that climate change isn’t happening. As the concentration of carbon dioxide increases, the frequency of extreme weather events — including snowstorms — also increases. Additionally, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2001 report notes that “global average water vapour concentration and precipitation are projected to increase during the 21st century.”
IRAQ — BUSH AND CHENEY WERE FOR GENERAL CASEY BEFORE THEY WERE AGAINST HIM: Yesterday, the New York Times published a long analysis of Bush administration policy in Iraq during 2006. The article, based largely on interviews with administration officials, states that “over the past 12 months,” President Bush “increasingly found himself uneasy” with Gen. George Casey’s strategy of focusing on shrinking the U.S. presence as Iraqis built up their military forces. Casey is the top U.S. commander in Baghdad. The Times reports that Bush “grew concerned that General Casey, among others, had become more fixated on withdrawal than victory.” But just this past fall, Bush and Vice President Cheney gave high praise to Casey and CentCom commander Gen. John Abizaid. On September 15, Bush said, “I’ve got great confidence in General John Abizaid and General George Casey. These are extraordinary men who understand the difficulties of the task.” Cheney told NPR on October 20 that Casey was a “first class officer,” “outstanding,” and a “very good adviser to the President.”
Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki dislikes being the country’s leader and wishes he could leave his job. “I wish I could be done with it even before the end of this term. I didn’t want to take this position,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
Iraq’s Shiite-led government said it has ordered an investigation into the “battery of taunts” and video taping of Saddam Hussein’s execution. One witness reported the individual who took a cell phone video of the event was Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser.
The Justice Department said in a letter that it “was not in a position” to provide documents on the CIA’s detention and interrogation of terror suspects that were requested by Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
The Pentagon is increasingly relying on “emergency” supplemental funding requests, using them “to acquire future weapons that normally would be funded through the regular Pentagon budget.” An army official involved in budget planning says “It’s a feeding frenzy.”
House Democrats have finalized ethics reforms that “ban all travel paid for by lobbyists or organizations that employ lobbyists, require the ethics committee to pre-approve travel paid for by outside groups, enact a total gift ban, … require lawmakers to pay the market cost of flying on a corporate jet,” and “prevent the new majority from holding votes open to change the outcome.”
“Only six of 75 U.S. metropolitan areas won the highest grades for their emergency agencies’ ability to communicate during a disaster, five years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks,” according to a new Department of Homeland Security report.
Six months ago, U.S. forces in Diyala province “hoped security would improve” with the death of Abu Musab Zarqawi. “Instead, security has collapsed” in the area and “attacks have more than doubled in the last year.” “Violence has devastated the provincial police force and brought reconstruction to a virtual standstill.”
Incoming House workforce chairman George Miller (D-CA) is set to “undo a controversial vestige of the Jack Abramoff era” by raising wages on the Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory where sex slavery and sweatshop factory conditions have been documented. Abramoff worked with conservatives to block better working conditions for years.
“The New Jersey Legislature will move to abolish the death penalty after a report released yesterday found that capital punishment is costly to taxpayers and serves no ‘legitimate…intent.’” “A 13-member commission, established last year to study the issue, recommended in its report that the death penalty be replaced with life in prison without parole.”
And finally: Pat Robertson makes his annual predictions. Evangelist Pat Robertson said yesterday that “God has told him that a terrorist attack on the United States would result in ‘mass killing’ late in 2007.” “I’m not necessarily saying it’s going to be nuclear,” Robertson said. “The Lord didn’t say nuclear.” In 2005, Robertson predicted Congress would approve Bush’s Social Security privatization plan. “I have a relatively good track record,” he said. “Sometimes I miss.“