The Wheels On The Bus

No one can reasonably doubt now, can they, the wheels are truly off the adventure in Iraq.

The US House of Representatives erupted yesterday in Boos, Huzzahs, and words of recrimination in the wake of Democratic Hawk Rep. John Murtha’s assertion that the US military has done all it can in Iraq, and his subsequent demand that the Bush Administration produce a plan for having all but a few of the country’s 153,000 currently-stationed troops out of there within six months.

Representaive Murtha, a Vietnem War veteran and respected member of the House Armed Services Committee, and heretofore an avowed champion of the administration’s effort in the WOT, uncorked the essential, passionate divide defining American polity today, and signaled the deep erosion of mainstream support for what many have called all along a badly misguided, shamefully executed response to the challenge of terrorist activity.

All the howling and shouted insults redounding in the House chamber stood in ironic contrast to the percussive blasts and indiscriminate death that tore through a Shiite mosque in the northern Kurdish town of Khanaqin, where 70 died and more than 100 Friday worshippers were injured.

Even in Bagdhad, where American forces have maintained increasingly tenuous security in the Green Zone, suicide bombers attack almost daily some symbolic target expressing intolerance for the infidel presence among them. Yesterday at least 6 Iraqis died and scores were injured when two truck bombs ripped through the Hamra Hotel, home to dozens of foreign news services, and the most heavily populated residence for foreigners outside the Green Zone.

But hey, it’s war, and, as Secetary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been famously quoted, “stuff happens.”

If George W. Bush can be blamed for anything in his conduct of the WOT — and well more than half of Americans are now willing to blame him for any number of embarrasing acts since Osama bin Laden put him on the hot seat — it’s that no matter what he does now, he and the Republicans are toast in next year’s mid-term elections.

My guess is he will stay the course like a good soldier, American losses will continue to mount, civil chaos and violent death will mark daily life in Iraq, and the prospects for the establishment of a governing system that provides inspiration for or devotion to the idea of representative democracy in the Middle East will grow more dim by the day.

Democrats may not suddenly regain majorities in both the House and Senate — or in either chamber — because, as an opposition party they haven’t exactly been paragons of good sense these past five years. But surely the divide between those who insist on imperial ambition and those who understand our greatest vulnerabilitites are domestic will become more stark and entrenched; the reactionary, belligerent Republican majorities in Congress will narrow.

And George W. Bush will come to know what it means to be a lame duck Preisdent, after having been all these years a lame-ass executive.


  1. Lovechilde - November 19, 2005 @ 11:27 am

    Well put. I think the gerrymandered districts favoring incumbency in addition to the Democrats’ lack of spine will pose a major obstacle for them in the mid-term elections. But the Republican hysteria in the house yesterday is clearly a sign that they think they are in big trouble over the war. We need more Murthas and fewer Hillaries to keep the heat on.

  2. Tam O’Tellico - November 20, 2005 @ 6:38 am

    If anyone really wants to know how we got into this mess, read this.

  3. lonbud - November 20, 2005 @ 10:58 am

    Absolutely, and after you’re done looking backward at what got us to here, take a look at what’s to come in Frank Rich’s excellent article, “One War Lost, Another To Go,” in today’s New York Times. If you don’t get the Times in hardcopy or haven’t chosen to subscribe to its on-line “Times Select” service, you can read the entire text of Rich’s article here.

  4. Paul Burke - November 21, 2005 @ 9:46 am

    Santorum’s actions just go to show how vision is gone from governing and the expediency of getting elected and keeping that job is more important. These guys spend millions of dollars to get elected to a thousand dollar job. The insider perks must be amazing. These guys are willing to say and do anything to get at that. That right there is the root of the problem.

    We won’t be able to pull out of Iraq until the political risk of supporting the war and loosing your place at the political table becomes too great. That tide may indeed be turning. Iran then steps into the void and sends troops into Iraq to quell the Sunni’s and we are right back where we started when Saddam was fighting the Iranians. The supporters of democracy will be run off (again) and the women will loose whatever rights they are nurturing right now. Iraq has arbitrary borders drawn by the British after world war two. To me split that country back up into its natural population centers. Too bad the Sunni’s don’t have oil and the Shiites enslave their women. Why should we die to enlighten them or should we? Aren’t we here to help one another? Isn’t that the grand design? Or should we just lead by example? Isn’t that all we can do anyway? And aren’t we setting a poor example right now?

    But the Kurds can govern themselves and so what if Turkey doesn’t like it and Iran has more influence in the south. Something tells me the Shiites aren’t going to get pushed around. Democracy and freedom can come to the Kurds and the rest can pound sand. So let the pull out begin and the natural order of things take shape. The only problem is that those trying to capitalize on the economic opportunities have their politicians in place, and they want all of Iraq, which leads me to the biggest Dick (Cheney).

    Are you sick of Dick Cheney’s “reprehensible” attitude? He speaks up with that I’m your father do as I say ‘tude and it’s just crap. That overblown arrogance isn’t fooling anyone anymore. Someone tell him to shut up. His self righteousness smacks of such self patronage as he keeps padding his personal income by awarding contracts to Halliburton.

    The glimmer of hope is to look at Vietnam – after that stupid slaughter it has somehow become peaceful with a growing market economy. Maybe violence and war is like a mood that somehow has to run its course. After people tire of the blood letting it’s over. The rest of us won’t resort to it and find it hard to understand in the first place, but unfortunately there are many who strive for power and feel that violence is the way. If we shrink from the hard contest then the bolder and louder will pass us by. In hindsight we should have removed Saddam like we removed Noriega and left. Panama seems fine now. It’s certainly not as noisy as Iraq. Ulterior motives and honesty is out of fashion. Power and greed lead the way. It’s ugly and dangerous isn’t it?

  5. Tam O’Tellico - November 28, 2005 @ 12:28 pm

    I have commented here several times that the Iraq War is only one of many major problems facing this administration. Much was made of the failures of FEMA and the Meirs fiasco, and you can now add debacles at the FDA and Amtrak. The interim appointment of Mad-Dog John Bolton is beginning to blow up in the President’s face — which should come as a surprise to no one but John and George. And if I’m not mistaken, Bolton’s term expires in January. I bet the President can’t wait to have John go through Senate hearing again!

    While any or all these failures could be overcome, two collosal scandals will keep this President mired in the polls and render him a limping duck for the remainder of his presidency.

    The Plame Affair continues to grab headlines and threatens to ruin the reputations of everyone from Karl Rove to Bob Woodward. It now appears likely that Rove will be indicted before this is all over, if not for the crime, then for the cover-up or for lying about both. A certain amount of “good-soldiering” can be expected from Libby and Rove, and out of political loyalty, they may decide to “take one for the team” and end this torture for Bush. Did I say torture? Funny how things go ’round.

    But no such sacrifice should be expected of those involved in the Abramoff Affair. That sordid entanglement is strictly a matter of unmitigated avarice and politics at its worst, and the participants are already lining up with their attorneys to play “let’s make a deal”. The revelations that will eventually come out about Abramoff, Scanlon, DeLay, Ney, Griles and others as yet unnamed or undiscovered. Before it’s all over,t the Abramoff Affair may go much higher. The Fitzgerald probe has already looked into one interesting fact.

    “Earlier this month, Fitzgerald received additional testimony from Rove’s former personal assistant, Susan B. Ralston, who was also a special assistant to President Bush. Ralston said that Rove instructed her not to log a phone call Rove had with Cooper about Plame Wilson in July 2003.

    Ralston previously worked as a personal secretary to Jack Abramoff, the Republican power lobbyist being investigated for allegations of defrauding Indian tribes and who was recently indicted on conspiracy and wire fraud charges. While working with Abramoff, Ralston arranged fundraisers and events at Washington MCI Center skyboxes for members of Congress. Ralston communicated with Rove on Abramoff’s behalf on tribal affairs, though she is not accused of wrongdoing.”

    While the Ralston connection has for the moment not exposed criminality, it does expose the Bush administration to at least the appearance of impropriety. My goodness, that words seems entirely too quaint and insufficient to be used in conjunction with this bunch.

    All this is happening without Democrats controlling anything in Washington. As I said before, should that change with the midterm elections in 2006, we will be guaranteed hearings on this woeful adminstration, hearings that may well last for the rest of my life.

    But whatever the case, the Abramoff Affair will have severe and long-term consequences for the Republican party.

  6. Tam O’Tellico - November 28, 2005 @ 1:02 pm

    …and just in case anyone in this administration escapes the scandals I’ve already mentioned, there’s this from the NY Times:

    “Pentagon investigators have referred allegations of abuse in how the Halliburton Company was awarded a contract for work in Iraq to the Justice Department for possible criminal investigation, a Democratic senator who has been holding unofficial hearings on contract abuses in Iraq said yesterday in Washington.

    The allegations mainly involve the Army’s secret, noncompetitive awarding in 2003 of a multibillion dollar contract for oil field repairs in Iraq to Halliburton, a Texas-based company. The objections were raised publicly last year by Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, then the chief contracts monitor at the Army Corps of Engineers, the government agency that handled the contract and several others in Iraq.

    In a letter received and released yesterday by Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, the assistant Pentagon inspector general, John R. Crane, said that the criminal investigation service of the Defense Department had examined Ms. Greenhouse’s allegations “and has shared its findings with the Department of Justice.” Senator Dorgan is the chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, a Congressional group that has repeatedly used unofficial hearings to question the administration’s record of awarding contracts in Iraq.

    The Justice Department, the letter said, “is in the process of considering whether to pursue the matter.”

    Turn out the lights, the party’s over, Dickie!

  7. Tam O’Tellico - November 28, 2005 @ 3:31 pm

    … and this just in from the AP:

    Eight-term Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham confessed in U.S. District Court to bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud, and tax evasion charges. He admitted to receiving more than $2.4 million in bribes and could receive a maximum of 10 years in prison.

    The case began with an investigation into the suspect sale of Cunningham’s home for $1,675,000 to defense contractor Mitchell Wade, who later sold the home at a huge loss. Wade pled guilty to giving Cunningham the sweetheart deal in return for influencing defense contracts. His associate, Brent Wilkes, also confessed to giving Cunningham campaign cash and favors for influence.

    A third man, Thomas Kontogiannis, also pled guilty to fraud charges. He extracted favors by paying an exorbitant price for a boat owned by Cunningham. Kontogiannis stated that after their crimes came to light, Cunningham gave him advice on attorneys who could help arrange a presidential pardon.

    Stay tuned.

  8. lonbud - November 28, 2005 @ 10:18 pm

    Yes, Tam O — look for the Presidential Pardon dance card to be quite full before this is all over.

    This is starting to look like something people gawk at on the side of the freeway, though one wishes it would slow down the neocon juggernaut the way a major pile-up does traffic.

    It seems clear that Dubya is now entering paranoia mode after having been in denial for far too long. One wonders exactly when his moment will come, the one that will mirror Tricky Dick’s whisky-soaked confessional sessions with Henry the K in the final throes of the last Republican administration to crumble from within.

    I can’t decide whether it would be pure pleasure or abject pain to watch it play out over the whole of the next three years.

    In any case, Congress ought to be relegated to its standard levels of misanthropy for the duration of the next year. If a few people with good sense and a decent appreciation for fairness can win in the 2006 election cycle, we might be able to start the arduous process of undoing some of the damage wrought by BushCo.

  9. Tam O’Tellico - November 29, 2005 @ 5:52 pm

    Here’s further proof that George W. Bush is no Conservative, and is spitting on the legacy of real Conservatives like Teddy Roosevelt. Bush through his doublespeak appointment of Gale Norton to head the Department of Interior is trying to sell of public lands and privatize functions on those lands that are too to sacred to be sold — so we hope.

    A leaked memo draft written by Paul Hoffman, the Assistant Interior Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, proposed revisions of park management policies that would allow cell phone towers, low-flying tour flights and all-terrain vehicles in parks, expand snowmobile access and would limit park managers’ authority to prevent development.

    Scott Silver, an activist and preservationist has this to say. “As of yet, no one is ready to completely sell off the National Parks, though some have made such threats. Selling parks would be the ultimate privatization step. And that is not how privatization is occurring. It is happening, instead, through a series of incremental steps.”

    Silver said that the privatization process has been accelerating over the past decade, and unfortunately, “very little significant resistance is being put up. These days there seems to be a sudden uproar about efforts to sell the Parks, but selling parks is not the threat we’re facing today and we would be misled if we believed otherwise.”

    In Senate testimony, Richard Smith of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees said, “We are saddened to watch the ongoing efforts by the political leadership of the [Interior] Department and the Park Service to privatize our national park system, a system that author Wallace Stegner called ‘the best idea America ever had.'”

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