Wednesday, December 20, 2006
On June 3, 2004, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) — campaigning for the presidency — proposed expanding the Army by 40,000 troops. Bush quickly slammed the proposal as unnecessary and counter-productive:
Bush’s campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, said Defense Secretary Donald RumsfeldIn a news release, Kerry explained the problem with the Bush approach:
already has authorized 30,000 more troops through extended tours and new
recruitment. He said the country would be “less safe” under Kerry’s
The Bush administration is relying on temporary solutions including “Stop Loss”As recently as six months ago, President Bush was sticking to his guns. From a June 14, 2006, “Statement of Administration Policy“:
orders, recalling the Individual Ready Reserve and extending tours to meet our
commitments. These temporary measures have increased the burden on our troops
and their families without addressing the underlying reality: we need more
The Administration opposes increases in minimum active Army and Marine Corps endThis “restructuring” was a central part of Rumsfeld’s efforts to make the military a “more modern force.” Bush cited those efforts as a key reason why he believed Rumsfeld was “one of the finest defense secretaries” in history.
strengths in Title IV, because they could require DoD to maintain a higher
personnel level than is needed. The restructuring of the Army and the Marine
Corps, plus other initiatives, is enabling our military to get more warfighting
capability from current end strength.
Dear Wingnuts and Republicans: Just for the Record.....
The Founding Fathers Were Not Christiansby Steven Morris, in Free Inquiry, Fall, 1995
"The Christian right is trying to rewrite the history of the United States as part of its campaign to force its religion on others. They try to depict the founding fathers as pious Christians who wanted the United States to be a Christian nation, with laws that favored Christians and Christianity.
This is patently untrue. The early presidents and patriots were generally Deists or Unitarians, believing in some form of impersonal Providence but rejecting the divinity of Jesus and the absurdities of the Old and New testaments.
Thomas Paine was a pamphleteer whose manifestos encouraged the faltering spirits of the country and aided materially in winning the war of Independence:
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of...Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all."
The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, pp. 8,9 (Republished 1984, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY)
George Washington, the first president of the United States, never declared himself a Christian according to contemporary reports or in any of his voluminous correspondence. Washington Championed the cause of freedom from religious intolerance and compulsion. When John Murray (a universalist who denied the existence of hell) was invited to become an army chaplain, the other chaplains petitioned Washington for his dismissal. Instead, Washington gave him the appointment. On his deathbed, Washinton uttered no words of a religious nature and did not call for a clergyman to be in attendance.
George Washington and Religion by Paul F. Boller Jr., pp. 16, 87, 88, 108, 113, 121, 127 (1963, Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, TX)
John Adams, the country's second president, was drawn to the study of law but faced pressure from his father to become a clergyman. He wrote that he found among the lawyers 'noble and gallant achievments" but among the clergy, the "pretended sanctity of some absolute dunces". Late in life he wrote: "Twenty times in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, "This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!"
It was during Adam's administration that the Senate ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which states in Article XI that "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion."
The Character of John Adams by Peter Shaw, pp. 17 (1976, North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC) Quoting a letter by JA to Charles Cushing Oct 19, 1756, and John Adams, A Biography in his Own Words, edited by James Peabody, p. 403 (1973, Newsweek, New York NY) Quoting letter by JA to Jefferson April 19, 1817, and in reference to the treaty, Thomas Jefferson, Passionate Pilgrim by Alf Mapp Jr., pp. 311 (1991, Madison Books, Lanham, MD) quoting letter by TJ to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, June, 1814.
Thomas Jefferson, third president and author of the Declaration of Independence, said:"I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian." He referred to the Revelation of St. John as "the ravings of a maniac" and wrote:
The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ levelled to every understanding and too plain to need explanation, saw, in the mysticisms of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system which might, from its indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power, and pre-eminence. The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them: and for this obvious reason that nonsense can never be explained."
Thomas Jefferson, an Intimate History by Fawn M. Brodie, p. 453 (1974, W.W) Norton and Co. Inc. New York, NY) Quoting a letter by TJ to Alexander Smyth Jan 17, 1825, and Thomas Jefferson, Passionate Pilgrim by Alf Mapp Jr., pp. 246 (1991, Madison Books, Lanham, MD) quoting letter by TJ to John Adams, July 5, 1814.
"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." -- Thomas Jefferson (letter to J. Adams April 11,1823)
James Madison, fourth president and father of the Constitution, was not religious in any conventional sense. "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."
"During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."
The Madisons by Virginia Moore, P. 43 (1979, McGraw-Hill Co. New York, NY) quoting a letter by JM to William Bradford April 1, 1774, and James Madison, A Biography in his Own Words, edited by Joseph Gardner, p. 93, (1974, Newsweek, New York, NY) Quoting Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments by JM, June 1785.
Ethan Allen, whose capture of Fort Ticonderoga while commanding the Green Mountain Boys helped inspire Congress and the country to pursue the War of Independence, said, "That Jesus Christ was not God is evidence from his own words." In the same book, Allen noted that he was generally "denominated a Deist, the reality of which I never disputed, being conscious that I am no Christian." When Allen married Fanny Buchanan, he stopped his own wedding ceremony when the judge asked him if he promised "to live with Fanny Buchanan agreeable to the laws of God." Allen refused to answer until the judge agreed that the God referred to was the God of Nature, and the laws those "written in the great book of nature."
Religion of the American Enlightenment by G. Adolph Koch, p. 40 (1968, Thomas Crowell Co., New York, NY.) quoting preface and p. 352 of Reason, the Only Oracle of Man and A Sense of History compiled by American Heritage Press Inc., p. 103 (1985, American Heritage Press, Inc., New York, NY.)
Benjamin Franklin, delegate to the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, said:
As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion...has received various corrupting Changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity; tho' it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the Truth with less trouble." He died a month later, and historians consider him, like so many great Americans of his time, to be a Deist, not a Christian.
Benjamin Franklin, A Biography in his Own Words, edited by Thomas Fleming, p. 404, (1972, Newsweek, New York, NY) quoting letter by BF to Exra Stiles March 9, 1790.
Speaking of the independence of the first 13 States, H.G. Wells in his Outline of History, says:
"It was a Western European civilization that had broken free from the last traces of Empire and Christendom; and it had not a vestige of monarchy left, and no State Religion... The absence of any binding religious tie is especially noteworthy. It had a number of forms of Christianity, its spirit was indubitably Christian; but, as a State document of 1796 expicity declared: 'The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.'"
The words "In God We Trust" were not consistently on all U.S. currency until 1956, during the McCarthy Hysteria.
The Treaty of Tripoli, passed by the U.S. Senate in 1797, read in part: "The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion." The treaty was written during the Washington administration, and sent to the Senate during the Adams administration. It was read aloud to the Senate, and each Senator received a printed copy. This was the 339th time that a recorded vote was required by the Senate, but only the third time a vote was unanimous (the next time was to honor George Washington). There is no record of any debate or dissension on the treaty. It was reprinted in full in three newspapers - two in Philadelphia, one in New York City. There is no record of public outcry or complaint in subsequent editions of the papers.
Another Republican Congressman Who Doesn't Understand the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In Letter, GOP Rep Fears Influx of Muslims
By Paul Kiel - December 19, 2006, 4:29 PM
In a letter sent out to select supporters earlier this month reacting to the controversy (among certain extreme conservatives, at least) over Muslim representative-elect Keith Ellison's (D-MN) decision to be sworn in on the Koran, Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) warned that the U.S. must close its borders to guard against the influx of still more Muslims. In it, he also proudly recounts his retort to a Muslim student who asked him why he did not include the Koran with The Ten Commandments on his wall. "As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office," he says he told the student.
The letter, which by some horrible error in Goode's office was sent to the chair of the local Sierra Club chapter, was obtained by Charlottesville's C-Ville Weekly. Goode's spokesman, after correcting my pronunciation of his boss' name (it rhymes with "food") refused to expand beyond Goode's comment to the Weekly of “I wrote the letter. I think it speaks for itself,” although I was invited to fax in a question to the congressman.
"[I]f American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran," the letter reads. "I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped."
The text is reproduced below. (Thanks to Waldo Jaquith)
The text of the letter:
Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.
The Ten Commandments and “In God We Trust” are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, “As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office.” Thank you again for your email and thoughts.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Clusterfuck: Bush's Folly Continues Unabated. President Still has no Exit Strategy.
Attacks in Iraq at Record High, Pentagon Says
WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 — A Pentagon assessment of security conditions in Iraq concluded Monday that attacks against American and Iraqi targets had surged this summer and autumn to their highest level, and called violence by Shiite militants the most significant threat in Baghdad.
The report, which covers the period from early August to early November, found an average of almost 960 attacks against Americans and Iraqis every week, the highest level recorded since the Pentagon began issuing the quarterly reports in 2005, with the biggest surge in attacks against American-led forces. That was an increase of 22 percent from the level for early May to early August, the report said. [Full Text: The Report (pdf)]
While most attacks were directed at American forces, most deaths and injuries were suffered by the Iraqi military and civilians.
The report is the most comprehensive public assessment of the American-led operation to secure Baghdad, which began in early August. About 17,000 American combat troops are currently involved in the beefed-up security operation.
According to the Pentagon assessment, the operation initially had some success in reducing killings as militants concentrated on eluding capture and hiding their weapons. But sectarian death squads soon adapted, resuming their killings in regions of the capital that were not initially targets of the overstretched American and Iraqi troops.
Shiite militias, the Pentagon report said, also received help from allies among the Iraqi police. “Shia death squads leveraged support from some elements of the Iraqi Police Service and the National Police who facilitated freedom of movement and provided advance warning of upcoming operations,” the report said.
“This is a major reason for the increased levels of murders and executions.”
At an afternoon ceremony at the Pentagon attended by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, Mr. Gates said he planned to travel to Iraq shortly to consult with military commanders as part of a broad administration review of Iraq strategy.
“All of us want to find a way to bring America’s sons and daughters home again,” Mr. Gates said. “But as the president has made clear, we simply cannot afford to fail in the Middle East. Failure in Iraq would be a calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility and endanger Americans for decades to come.”
Over all, the report portrayed a precarious security situation and criticized Shiite militias for the worsening violence more explicitly than previous versions had.
It said the Mahdi Army, a powerful Shiite militia that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal Al-Maliki has not confronted despite American pressure to do so, had had the greatest negative impact on security. It is likely that Shiite militants are now responsible for more civilian deaths and injuries than terrorist groups are, the report said.
But the report also held out hope that decisive leadership by the Iraqi government might halt the slide toward civil war.
While noting that efforts by Mr. Maliki to encourage political reconciliation among ethnic groups had shown little progress, it said that Iraqi institutions were holding and that members of the current government “have not openly abandoned the political process.”
The Pentagon assessment, titled “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” is mandated by Congress and issued quarterly.
The new report, completed last month, noted two parallel trends.
On the one hand, the Iraqi security forces are larger than ever, with 322,600 Iraqi soldiers, police officers and other troops, an increase of 45,000 since August. Iraqi forces also have increasingly taken the lead responsibility in many areas.
The growth in Iraqi capabilities, however, has been matched by increasing violence. That raises the question of whether the American strategy to rely on the Iraqi forces to tamp down violence is failing, at least in the short term.
The Bush administration has decided to step up substantially the effort to train and equip the Iraqi forces. A major question being pondered by Mr. Bush is whether that is sufficient, or whether more American troops are needed in Baghdad to control the violence and stabilize the city.
According to the Pentagon, the weekly average of 959 attacks was a jump of 175 from the previous three months. As a consequence, civilian deaths and injuries reached a record 93 a day.
Deaths and injuries suffered by Iraq’s security forces also climbed to a new high, 33 a day, while American and other allied deaths and injuries hovered at 25 a day, just short of the record in 2004, when the United States was involved in battles in Falluja and elsewhere.
The increase in violence coincided with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when there had previously been a temporary spike in attacks, but also reflected the deeper sectarian passions that have flared since an attack in February 2006 on a Shiite shrine in Samarra.
According to Pentagon data used in formulating the report, there were 1,028 sectarian “executions” in October. That was a slight dip from July, when there were 1,169 executions, but a major increase since January, when there were 180. During this period, “ethno-sectarian incidents” have steadily risen, the report noted.
Security difficulties varied in different parts of the country. While sectarian strife was the biggest problem in Baghdad, in Anbar Province it was attacks by Sunni militants. North of Baghdad, in Diyala and Bilad, terrorists linked to Al Qaeda have been battling the Mahdi Army, it says.
While Shiite militias are active, the group known as Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is still a major threat, despite the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, its leader. “The emergence of Abu Ayub al-Masri as leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq demonstrated its flexibility and depth, as well as its reliance on non-Iraqis,” the report noted.
Indications of progress were few. The report credited the Iraqi government with taking “incremental” steps at assuming more responsibility and said its security forces “have assumed more leadership in counterinsurgency and law enforcement operations.” But it remained “urgent” for the Iraqi government “to demonstrate a resolve to contain and terminate sectarian attacks.”
In a briefing for reporters, Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, a senior aide to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Baghdad operation had been constrained because the Iraqi government had not allowed American and Iraqi troops to “go in and neutralize Sadr City,” the base for the Mahdi Army.
Crude oil output was 2.3 million barrels a day, 7.5 percent higher than in August but still below the government’s goal of 2.5 million barrels.
Proponents of sending more troops to Iraq cited the report to argue that only Americans could ensure security in the short term and that more were needed. Critics said it showed that the initial effort by the American military to reinforce Baghdad had failed to stop the killing.
Gen. James T. Conway, who took over this fall as commandant of the Marine Corps, told reporters in Missouri on Saturday that among other options, President Bush was considering sending five or more combat brigades to Iraq, or about 20,000 troops.
General Conway said he believed that the Joint Chiefs would support such an increase as long as “there is a solid military reason for doing so.” He said sending more troops just to be “thickening the mix” in Baghdad would be a mistake.
Representative Ike Skelton, Democrat of Missouri, the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he was opposed to more troops. “Everything I’ve heard and everything I know to be true lead me to believe that this increase at best won’t change a thing,” he said, “and at worst could exacerbate the situation even further.”
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that the American Enterprise Institute had issued a study that called for increasing troops levels in Iraq. And appearing on Journal Editorial Report this morning was noted neo-con, signatory of the Project for the New American Century and AEI member, Fred Kagan, to explain what was needed to achieve victory in Iraq.
And bear in mind, these are the voices George Bush is listening to as he decides on what the "new way forward" will be in Iraq.
Kagan began by saying that securing Baghdad was an "absolute prerequisite," and that it could only be achieved with more troops. Paul Gigot, the host and an editor at the Wall Street Journal, asked how many troops they were proposing:
We're proposing a surge of 4 brigades, which is about 20,000 American combat troops into Baghdad and a number more, totaling about 35,000 American combat troops into other places in Iraq.
Leaving aside for a moment the question of where these 55,000 troops will come from, if securing Baghdad is so critical, why would 35,000 troops be sent elsewhere? The situation in Anbar province must be worse than we thought. But back to the interview. Gigot then asked how long this surge of troops would last. Six months, 18 months, or even 24 months?
I think that there's going to have to be a sustained surge through the end of the Bush presidency. I think it's a real mistake to imagine that we can do this with some sort of temporary bump and then pull back quickly.
Through the end? Kagan didn't say how far through, but if the recomendations in this report are adopted by the White House, that means close to 200,000 U.S. troops in Iraq at least until 2009.
And where will these troops come from? Generals are saying our military "will break" under the current troop rotations and that sending in even an additional 20,000 troops won't solve the problem. Kagan says, no problem:
We looked very carefully at that problem and we looked at the troops that the Army is proposing to bring into Iraq over the course of the next year. We looked at various ways of extending the tours of some of the troops that are going to be in Iraq, umm, accelerating the deployment of a couple of units by a matter of a few weeks. This is perfectly feasible.
Never mind the men and women who are already on their second or third deployments, after all, they volunteered. Never mind that deploying troops before they and their equipment is ready could mean their lives. And never mind breaking the Army, because victory is still feasible...on paper.
What about casualties?
You will have more American casualties in the short term. I believe that you'll have fewer American casualties taken overall. And I think that there will be American casualties in a winning effort, which I think matters a great deal. Uhhh...tragic as any loss of life, of course, in this war is.
A few things about the language used in that statement; notice that when he speak of casualties, it becomes, "You will have"? Not we, you. And he states definitively that there will be casualties, but if we follow his plan, he believes there won't be as many. An easy chance to take when it isn't your life on the line.
And what else has Mr. Kagan and the braintrust at the AEI concluded?
...we do think this nation is going to have to make a real committment to this war.
Apparently they didn't get the memo on how the American people feel about this war. Of course, neither has George Bush.