|February 16, 2007|
||The Anti-Escalation Strategy|
||Go Beyond The Headlines|
||Coffee and Donuts Not Included|
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For the past three days, the House of Representatives has overwhelmingly spoken out against President Bush’s plan to send 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq. Today, it will vote on a resolution that condemns Bush’s escalation plan, while voicing support for U.S. troops in Iraq. “We want a very straightforward, clear answer to the question: ‘Do you support the president’s escalation?'” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD). The resolution not only has strong bipartisan backing in Congress, but 63 percent of the public also disapprove of sending more troops to Iraq. The Senate will take up similar legislation today. Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) has announced plans to introduce a bill next month that would place restrictions on how Bush can spend the $93.4 billion in new combat funds he requested, paving the way toward redeployment and increasing the readiness of the overstretched military. Contact your senators and representatives and voice your opposition to sending more troops to Iraq.
FIRST MESSAGE OF CONGRESSIONAL DISAPPROVAL FOR IRAQ WAR: For the past three days, each of the 435 members in the House have had five minutes to speak on the Iraq war. The debate focused around a resolution that expresses support for the “United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq,” but disapproval “of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.” Lawmakers, analysts, and the media expect the measure to pass with strong bipartisan support. Almost all Democrats will likely vote for the measure, along with anywhere from 12–60 Republicans. Rep. Ric Keller (R-FL), one of the members who has said he will vote for the resolution, said, “I approached this decision with a great deal of angst and humility. I’m not trying to micromanage this war. … But I have listened to what our country’s most well-respected four-star generals have to say about this matter, and generals [John] Abizaid, [Barry] McCaffrey and Colin Powell have all said that sending more troops into Baghdad now is not the answer.” Bush has repeatedly tried to dismiss the House resolution. On the first day of the House debate, Bush headed to a YMCA and visited “children bending paperclips into different shapes.” But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) noted that this resolution will be the first congressional message of disapproval over the President’s war: “I don’t know that the president can completely ignore us. We are the voices of the American people. They were clear in the election that they wanted a new direction, no place more clear than in Iraq.”
‘ARE YOU ON THE SIDE OF FREEDOM?’: A small group of conservatives have tried to claim that the Iraq resolution is anti-American and emboldens the terrorists. “I think the question we have to ask is: Whose side are you on? Whose side are you on?” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) “fumed.” “Are you on the side of winning? Are you on the side of freedom? Are you on the side of allowing the terrorists to get an upper hand?” NBC News reported that Boehner “got emotional” on Tuesday morning “as he spoke about the ‘solemn’ debate” the House was set to begin. He even “began to shed tears.” Boehner’s fleeting moment of solemnity was quickly replaced with divisive attacks on Iraq war critics. Speaking on the House floor, Boehner began debate on the anti-escalation resolution by calling it a criticism of “the latest effort by American forces to win in Iraq.” Boehner said that escalation opponents are taking the “bait” of “al Qaeda and terrorist sympathizers” by using Iraq to “divide us here at home.” Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) charged that supporters of the anti-escalation resolution would “aid and assist the Islamic jihadists who want the crescent and star to wave over the Capitol of the United States and over the White House of this country.” These charges are baseless. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace told the House Armed Services,” There is no doubt in my mind that the dialogue here in Washington strengthens our democracy, period.” He added that the troops understand the “debate’s being carried on by patriotic people who care about them and who care about their mission.”
SENATE FINDING ‘A NEW DIRECTION’: On Feb. 5, Senate conservatives successfully blocked debate on a bipartisan anti-escalation resolution. At least eight senators who claimed to oppose sending more U.S. troops to Iraq voted the wrong way, supporting the conservative filibuster. After the vote, the “anti-escalation” senators who voted for escalation flip-flopped again. Seven of those senators sent a sharply worded letter to their leaders, saying, “The current stalemate is unacceptable to us and to the people of this country.” In a letter on Thursday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) said they planned to block the Senate from adjourning for next week’s recess until a vote on escalation was held. Yesterday, Reid called their bluff. He announced that the Senate will now take up the House resolution opposing escalation. At a press conference, Reid announced that he will delay the Senate’s recess and hold a cloture vote on the Iraq resolution on Saturday. “Time is of the essence,” Reid said, and we are “determined to end the silence and find a new direction.”
THE NEXT STEPS: Critics have repeatedly charged that the resolution is a “slow-bleed” plan that will undercuts the troops. But a new plan that Murtha plans to introduce next month will both cut off funding for escalation and provide increased support to the military, ensuring that the President doesn’t have a blank check for the war. His proposal would put four conditions on Bush’s war funds through Sept. 30: “The Pentagon would have to certify that troops being sent to Iraq are ‘fully combat ready’ with training and equipment; troops must have at least one year at home between combat deployments; combat assignments could not be extended beyond one year; a ‘stop-loss’ program forcing soldiers to extend their enlistment periods would be prohibited.” “We’re trying to force redeployment [of troops outside Iraq], not by taking money away but by redirecting it,” said Murtha. Pelosi added her support to the bill, stating, “If we are going to support our troops, we should respect what is considered reasonable for them: their training, their equipment and their time at home. … What we’re trying to say to the president is, you can’t send people in who are not trained for urban warfare…who are not prepared to contend with an insurgency.” A new Fox News poll finds that 54 percent of the American public would vote to cut off funding for escalation if they were in Congress. Recent reports by government agencies and military officials charge that the military does not have the capability to support Bush’s escalation. An audit by the Pentagon’s Inspector General showed that U.S. soldiers have had to go without the necessary weapons, armor, vehicles, and equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army and Marine Corps “are short thousands of vehicles, armor kits and other equipment needed to supply” the extra 21,500 troops President Bush plans to send to Iraq. “It’s inevitable that that has to happen, unless five brigades of up-armored Humvees fall out of the sky,” one senior Army official said.
STATES ‘PUSHING FORWARD’: State legislatures around the country are “pushing forward with their own resolutions.” On Monday, California’s Senate “became the first state legislative body in the nation to oppose President Bush’s plan to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq, passing a resolution Monday urging Congress and Bush not to escalate U.S. involvement in the war.” Also this week, legislatures in Vermont and Iowa passed similar resolutions. “The Maryland General Assembly sent a letter to its Congressional delegation, signed by a majority of the State Senate and close to a majority of the House, urging opposition to the increase in troops in Iraq. Letters or resolutions are being drafted in at least 19 other states.” Find out what is happening in your state at the Progressive States Network.
ADMINISTRATION — CONSERVATIVES URGE BUSH TO BYPASS CONGRESS WITH EXECUTIVE ORDERS: President Bush is “struggling for relevancy in the same way many other second-term presidents have. But Bush’s burden seems much harder than other presidents in recent memory.” Seventy-one percent of Americans see Bush as a “lame duck” president, and 58 percent “wish the Bush presidency were simply over.” With Bush “unable to get much traction so far in moving his agenda through Congress,” conservatives are looking for new ways to “jump-start his final two years, including issuing executive orders to get things done without having to ask for support” from Congress. “He should get a list of the executive orders for the last 200 years, as a guide, and choose what he wants to do,” one White House adviser told U.S. News. The right wing is reportedly telling Bush that even if he were to work with the Congress, the legislation “wouldn’t be very good,” “so he should go the executive-order route and bypass Congress altogether.” Bush has already begun to implement the strategy. Last month, Bush signed Executive Order 12866 to put political appointees in charge of regulatory agencies and “give the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.”
IRAN — WHITE HOUSE BACKS OFF INTEL CLAIMS: Last Sunday, the Bush administration finally presented its long-delayed intelligence briefing on Iranian arms shipments into Iraq. Prior to the presentation, a U.S. official told the New York Times that it had been delayed because they were “trying to scrub” the intelligence, adding “the last thing we want to be accused of is cherry-picking.” While much of the information had previously been known, the highlight of the presentation — as reported by ABC World News — was that it was “the first time military officials…made the link to the highest level of Iran’s government.” But the briefing “offered no evidence” to substantiate that claim. After coming under intense scrutiny for an intelligence presentation that was approved by the highest levels of the administration, the White House has slowly backed off its claims of Iranian government involvement. Yesterday, CNN reported that the White House is blaming the anonymous intelligence briefer who presented the Iran intelligence. According to CNN’s Ed Henry, the White House says the anonymous intelligence briefer went “a little too far” in stating the evidence. In a press conference yesterday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace “confirmed that bomb-making materials were coming from Iran, but he pointedly left open the question of whether the flow was the product of freelance thuggery, or dictated by senior officials in Tehran.”
ENVIRONMENT — JANUARY 2007 WAS WARMEST EVER: While February has been characterized by swaths of snow across parts of the nation, last month had the dubious distinction of being the hottest January ever recorded. According to the U.S. National Climactic Data Center, the world’s land areas were on average 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer last month than a normal January, a major increase since “such records are often broken by hundredths of a degree at a time.” With the help of El Nino, which the scientists assert was only partial, traditionally frigid areas of the world witnessed huge temperature spikes, such as Siberia, where January temperatures were recorded as much as 9 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. While global warming skeptics have cited the colder February air as evidence against global warming, climate scientist David Easterling said the patterns witnessed last month are indicative of man-made climate change. Larger increases in temperature farther north, compared to mid-latitudes, is “sort of the global warming signal,” Easterling countered. The scientists warn that such records could become commonplace as the Earth continues to warm.
“Outgoing Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker said yesterday that the increase of 17,500 Army combat troops in Iraq represents only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and will potentially require thousands of additional support troops and trainers, as well as equipment — further eroding the Army’s readiness to respond to other world contingencies.”
Tim Griffin, the former Karl Rove aide whose appointment as U.S. Attorney in Arkansas helped spark an outcry over the politicization of federal prosecutors, has announced he will not accept the position.
“It may be cold comfort during a frigid February, but last month was by far the hottest January ever. The broken record was fueled by a waning El Nino and a gradually warming world.”
54: The percentage of Americans would vote to cut off funding for escalation if they were in Congress, according to a new Fox News poll.
In the first speech President Bush “has devoted to Afghanistan during his second term,” he warned yesterday that he expected “fierce fighting” to flare in Afghanistan this spring, and called on NATO allies to send more troops.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) yesterday “strongly endorsed binding legislation requiring Bush to seek congressional authorization before any military strike on Iran.”
A House committee this week unanimously passed strong new whistle blower protections, ensuring court reviews of whistle blower complaints and extending protection “for the first time to the F.B.I. and to intelligence agencies where wastefulness is draped in secrecy.”
Hundreds of New Orleans’ “best and brightest” are making “wrenching decision to leave.” “Their reasons include high crime, high rents, soaring insurance premiums and what many call a lack of leadership, competence, money and progress. In other words: yes, it is still bad down here.”
The Office of Personnel Management’s inspector general has been investigating allegations that Special Counsel Scott Bloch retaliated against underlings who “disagreed with his policies — by, among other means, transferring them out of state — and tossed out legitimate whistle-blower cases.”
And finally: A voice of conscience…from the urinal? “In a novel move to curb drunk driving, New Mexico is using talking urinals to remind drinkers to not get behind the wheel when drunk.” “Hey big guy, having a few drinks? Then listen up!” a voice from the urinal says. “Think you had one too many? Then it’s time to call a cab or call a sober friend for a ride home.”