Saturday, December 30, 2006

Iraqi Bloggers React To Saddam's Execution

Who better to comment on the execution of Saddam Hussein than bloggers from Iraq.

"I cried for all those he tortured, those he killed"

As expected, one of the most personal and passionate reactions came from the blog of Neurotic Iraqi Wife who has been a previous subject of this blog.

NIW writes:
I hurried to my room during lunch break hoping to catch up on news. And there it was, right before me, the video footage of his hanging. I slumped on my bed, and I began to cry. Yes, I cried. A surge of emotions overwhelmed me. I cried, I cried cuz he never got to see the Iraq I envisaged in my mind, I cried. I cried for all the years he forced my family and millions of others to desert their country and live in an endless yearning, I cried. Yes I cried. I cried for all the 35 years he ruled, I cried. I cried, I cried for all those he tortured, those he killed. I cried for all the blood he shed, for all the hatred he bred. Yes I cried. I cried and cried.
She adds:
Saddam should have been interrogated infront of the whole world. Saddam should have answered the WHYs? that all the families of the martyrs wanted to ask. The WHYs that all the Iraqis wanted to know. WHY DID YOU SLAUGHTER US? WHY DID YOU HATE US? WHY DID YOU DESTROY US? WHY, WHY and WHAT FOR? Instead of the theatrical fiasco that took place which they claim was their way of justice, they should have asked him WHY?
3 more trials for Saddam

From blogger Hammorabi:
Now and after he was executed for only a drop of his crimes which is the Dijeel issue in which he killed and tortured many Iraqis from Dijeel in 1980s, after this Saddam will face three trials.

The first one which may start immediately after his death is the trial of God which will bring every deed even if it is part of an atom.....

The second trial is the Iraqi trials about the crimes of Saddam via his supporters. One of them is going on now about the Infal crimes and still some to come.

The third is the trial of the history by the coming generations and this will be hard trial and may continue for hundred of years to come.
The execution video

The blogger, Healing Iraq, includes the execution video that was shown on state-run Al-Iraqiya TV. It goes right up to, but does not include the actual hanging.

In a more journalistic approach, Healing Iraq writes:
The Shi'ite executioners and witnesses were reported to have danced around Saddam's corpse after he was hanged while chanting Shi'ite religious slogans. The same situation was reported from the Green Zone by Al-Arabiya TV reporters who said members of the current Iraqi government were also celebrating. Iraqis took to the streets in Sadr City, Najaf and Basrah. Some carried portraits of Muqtada Al-Sadr and Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, the new strongmen of Iraq.

Protests took place in Tikrit, Baiji, Fallujah, Ramadi and Garma, but so far there have been no violent reactions. Instead of visiting relatives or going out to parks, people had to stay home out of fear. According to an Iraqi law expert interviewed on Al-Arabiya TV, It is against Iraqi law to schedule an execution on an official or religious holiday, but he conceded that this was obviously a political decision.

I hope the execution of the tyrant brings relief to the families of his victims.

There are still many dark days ahead in Iraq.

Here are the links to Neurotic Iraqi Wife, Hammorabi, and Healing Iraq

Friday, December 29, 2006

Who Is Joe Lieberman Kidding?

Is Joe Lieberman out of his mind?

The Independent Senator from Connecticut has an Op-Ed in the Washington Post titled, "Why we need more troops in Iraq."

"The war is winnable"

His rationale, in a nutshell, is that "the war is winnable."

Lieberman writes that "we want victory," because "Iraq is the central front in the global and regional war against Islamic extremism."

Senator Lieberman, who do you suppose created this hotbed for terrorists? Saddam Hussein? Oh, I see. Dopey me, I thought Al Qaeda was not welcome in Iraq until we got Hussein out of the way.

Lieberman seems to think that a great new strategy would be to send many more troops in to train Iraqi death squads...oops, make that police...and get those extremists under control.

Where has Lieberman been?

Where was Lieberman for the past 4 years, when it came to speaking out on the doomed strategy of the Bush administration...a 'stay the course' nightmare that has so far cost the lives of nearly 3,000 American troops and thousands of Iraqis?

Where has Lieberman been on seeking to insure that the billions earmarked for Iraqi reconstruction actually was properly spent on rebuilding the infrastructure we destroyed, rather than lining the pockets of Halliburton and friends?

Why does Lieberman continue to insist that 'winning' in Iraq is akin to winning the illusory war on terror?

If you believe the garbage he spews, you believe that the violence in Iraq is primarily the result of Iran and Al Qaeda stirring the pot, rather than any deep-seated hatred between the Shiites and Sunnis.

Shamelessly invoking 9/11

Right from the get-go, Lieberman plays the Bush shell game of confusing the war in Iraq with a war against Islamic terrorists.

In case we miss the connection, he writes: "How we end the struggle there will affect not only the region but the worldwide war against the extremists who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001. "

Raising the spectre of 9/11 to justify shedding more blood and tying up all of our resources in Iraq. How noble of Senator Lieberman.

Pressure tactics

What's even scarier is that this piece would not have been written if this self-deluded megalomaniac didn't intend to use his independent status as a bargaining chip to make sure he gets his way in the newly configured Senate.

I hope that those Connecticut voters who put this dangerous man back in office now begin to at least partially understand the consequences of their actions.

And I hope that Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid and crew do not let him get away with it.

The Lieberman column can be found here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Iraq: We've Failed. Now What?

There was an interesting quote today by new Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. According to AP, Gates said,
"But as the president has made clear, we simply cannot afford to fail in the Middle East. Failure in Iraq at this juncture would be a calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility, and endanger Americans for decades to come."

We've already failed

What both Gates and the Bush administration don't seem to understand is that we have already failed.

Sectarian violence has spiraled beyond any control. More Iraqi and American blood is spilled daily. The billions spent in reconstruction have resulted in very little improvement in the Iraqi infrastructure, with massive fraud by contractors going unexamined to this point.

Additionally, Afghanistan, by all accounts, is falling apart, thanks to America's lack-of-interest and diversion of resources into Iraq. The Taliban has regained a solid foothold and opium production is funding the terrorists.

Is this not failure?

Violence in Iraq at an 'all-time high'

I realize that the media has a very short attention span, but how can no news about Iraq, outside of the Gates quote, make the front page of CNN today?

How can the mass rounding-up of victims not be an ongoing story, for at least the short-term?

Couple the continued bad news with a Pentagon report that says in the most recent 3 month period being measured, through November 10,
"attack levels - both overall and in all specific measurable categories - were the highest on record."

Changing the mindset

Obviously we are in the midst of stunning failure, so why do the Bushies, and their enablers in the media, keep bringing up scenarios of what might happen 'if we fail?'

We need to change our mindset.

We need to admit the fact that our policy to democracize Iraq, and raid Iraqi resources for corporate profit, has been a debacle.

Acknowledging that failure of policy, we need to then determine how to best alter our course with the least amount of further bloodshedding and regional instability.

In other words, it's not taking endless tests to determine if the patient might indeed, fall ill. It's recognizing that a sick patient has been made even sicker by the incorrect, invasive treatment and, being cognizant of that fact, doing all we can to try and halt the progress of the disease.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bah Humbug...Computer Crash

Just a quick note to let everyone know that my home computer has crashed. I am working to fix the problem, which seems to be more serious than first appeared.

Between trying to do that, and the busy holiday season, it may be a few more days until the next entry.

But I'm not going anywhere!

Hope everybody is doing well and looking forward to some interesting times ahead, now that the Democrats will no longer be relegated to the basement.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Wit & Wisdom Of Jack Kingston

As many of you already know, one of the first changes in the way the House will be conducting business come January is longer work hours. The upcoming House majority leader, Rep. Steny Hoyer, delivered the news last week.

The Congressional workday, which had become a Tuesday through Thursday affair, along with huge blocks of additional time off, has resulted in a workload of just 103 days this year. As the Washington Post correctly pointed out, "that's seven days fewer than the infamous 'Do-Nothing Congress' of 1948."

Rep. Hoyer has put Congress on alert that the House workday will now run from 6:30PM Monday through 2PM Friday. Rep. Hoyer also said that some of the extended holidays will be a thing of the past.

Considering that the current Congress was so lax that 9 major spending bills were left unresolved, a move some said was deliberately done to lock-up the upcoming Democratic majority for a time, the lengthened work week was absolutely the right thing to seek.

However, not to Republican Rep. Jack Kingston.

Most Inane Quote Of The Year

In a widely reported comment, that will surely come back to haunt him, Kingston said,
"Keeping us up here eats away at families. Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families -- that's what this says."
He really said that.

I was so taken aback by the utter crassness of his his total lack of political acumen for having the audacity to utter those words...that I sought to find out a little more about this great orator.

Here is some of what I uncovered.

The 'U' Word

Rep. Kingston, who serves on the Appropriation Committee’s Agriculture Subcommittee, has an issue with what he refers to as a new "urban-based" Congress, which he is telling farmers, is going to be out to undercut our nation's agricultural interests.

According to the Southwest Farm Press, here's what Kingston told the Southern Crop Production Association in their annual meeting last week:
“Now, we have a new Congress that has more of an urban base, and the urban newspapers have decided that one of the problems with the national budget is spending for agriculture programs. So I believe we’ll have a lot more skirmishes over subsidies and the movement toward fuel independence.”
I must have missed something.

Were districts redrawn before this election to allow for more 'urban' representation? Or is 'urban' a code word for something else? Ethnicity and race, perhaps?

Unless he was referring to non-existent, city-friendly redistricting, he's got some explaining to do.

Minimum Wage

Rep. Kingston is also one of the fiercest opponents of raising the federal minimum wage.

That same Southwest Farm Press article, which reveals that Kingston was "rated by the National Journal as the 'most conservative House member' in 2005," had this Kingston quote on changing mimimum wage laws:

“The Democrats have promised to raise the minimum wage. I oppose it. In 1980, 15 percent of U.S. workers were on minimum wage; today, it’s just 2.5 percent — of which 15 percent are teenagers, 40 percent have never held a job in their lives, and 30 percent are part-time."
Interesting how using stats can dehumanize, isn't it?

What is Kingston's point, teenagers, or first-time job-holders are not deserving of a liveable wage?

As for the 30% part-timers that Kingston refers to, has he considered that this is quite often a worker's 2nd job because they cannot make ends meet?

The minimum wage has been at $5.15 for the past 9 years. How can anybody think that this is a wage that people can live on? Plus, each year, the spending value of that wage declines. The Democrat proposal to raise it to $7.25 is the least we should be doing.

Kingston, though, is allegedly more concerned about business owners, adding "A government-controlled, government-mandated wage generally means small businesses are going to lose jobs. When the minimum wage is increased, there’s a wage push in all directions,and that’s what causes a wage/price spiral."

What Kingston didn't refer to, but CNN did, back in June, is that, Congressional salaries over the the past 9 years have increased by $31,600, which would translate to a gain of $15 an hour, for a 40-hour work week.

Imagine what that translates to with the current work schedule?

This is from a man who supposedly cares about families?

It's a good thing that the Democrats are making increasing the minimum wage a priority and have refused to increase their own salaries until that wage increase is passed.

Kingston On A 'Booming' Iraq

Finally, here is the wit and wisdom of Rep. Kingston on Iraq. He thinks reporting on Iraq is not as upbeat as it should be.

Once again, from the Southwest Farm Press:
“'Since 2003, 33,000 businesses have filed for licenses in Iraq; there are 44 television stations, where there once was just one; over 100 newspapers, where there was just one; and a port, never used under Saddam Hussein, that now handles 40 ships a month. All this we never hear about.'

"Noting that the United States is at war with Sunnis and Shiites 'who’ve been fighting for thousands of years,' he said, 'if we don’t have the staying power to remain in there for 10 or 15 years, we ought to be realistic and say, This is not a war for us.’"
The 'Family' That Kingston Cares About

Since it seems apparent that Kingston would have no problem asking families let their loved ones remain in harm's way for 10 or 15 more years, I would love to ask him one question...

Just what kind of work week does Kingston think our soldiers are enjoying during their tours of Iraq?

It's certainly a helluva lot longer than 103 days out of the year.

The only family that Rep. Jack Kingston truly cares about is his own.

(If you would like to read more about the wit and wisdom of Jack Kingston, and respond to him directly, please note that he has his own blog which you can access here.)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Heather & Mary: 2 Mommies, Dearest

'Tis the season of Mary and her child. However, in the case of Mary Cheney, this will hardly be an immaculate conception.

It was hard not to enjoy a chuckle when hearing the news that the poster child for same-sex cowardice and hypocrisy, Mary Cheney, was going to be having a child with her lesbian partner of 15 years, Heather Poe.

This target is way too easy

In an earlier blog post I celebrated the fact that nobody was buying this first-class fraud's autobiography, "Now It's My Turn."

Anything you ever wanted to know about the self-absorption of Mary Cheney could be found during the Bush re-election campaign. Confronted by a new wave of homophobia, where state upon state added anti-gay marriage initiatives to the ballot as a lure to trample the Dems by stomping on the backs of gays and lesbians, Mary became enraged. Unfortunately, not by the bigots that have sought to brand gay relationships as evil and undeserving of spousal and parental protection.

No, Mary Cheney was enraged that John Edwards would dare to mention the fact that she was a lesbian. It was not an outing, she had already served as an openly gay liason to the gay community for a beleagured Coors Brewing Company. Yet, Cheney and the rest of her loathsome family, turned on the phony dramatics to portray themselves as alleged victims of dirty politics.

This disgusting human being did her damnedest to help re-elect a man, who has made it abundantly clear that he feels gays and lesbians are second-class American citizens, and whose family units have absolutely no value. The party her father is proud to represent would truly have no qualms in officially codifying discrimination against her by amending the Constitution.

With friends like these...

So how are all her dad's buddies greeting this newfound revelation of lesbian motherhood? How is the welcome wagon treating old Mary?

Concerned Women for America are most certainly 'concerned' about her. According to AP
"Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America described the pregnancy as 'unconscionable'. 'It’s very disappointing that a celebrity couple like this would deliberately bring into the world a child that will never have a father,' said Crouse. 'They are encouraging people who don’t have the advantages they have.'”
How about that Ms. Cheney? I guess that rules out the CWA sending you a bassinet.

Then there's Carrie Gordon Earll from Focus On The Family. Earll feels the pregnancy is not such a terrific thought:
"'Just because you can conceive a child outside a one-woman, one-man marriage doesn't mean it's a good idea,' said. 'Love can't replace a mother and a father.'"
Something tells me that Earll may have to skip the baby shower.

It will be interesting to observe comments from these pious purveyors of morality in the coming days. I hope Ms. Cheney gets a long, hard look at the people she has chosen to cast her lot with.

Tea with Ann Coulter is probably out of the question.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The GOP's Pander Triplets

With all the silly banter about Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama being the only 2 'serious' potential presidential candidates for the Democratic ticket in '08, I was relieved to see somebody focus on the GOP side of the aisle for a change, if only to stop the banality.

An interesting piece found at MSNBC discussed the 3 front-runners and suggests that they are pandering to social conservatives, since their records have allegedly not been conservative enough, to date.

In a piece by NBC political reporter Mark Murray, former N.Y. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Sen. John McCain and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are accorded the position as front-runners. Murray ends his piece by quoting Steven Forbes' former campaign manager, who predicts that one of these 3 will win.

In the meantime, Murray writes how each of the 3 pols has been at odds with social conservatives in the GOP and what they have done to pander more to that party's base.

I am providing that info below in summary form, for quick reference when the true debates begin. Unlike Murray, I do not use the term 'pro-life,' preferring the more accurate term, 'pro-ban.' Otherwise, this is a distillation of his points.

Mitt Romney

Prior Positions
*Pro-stem cell research funding
*Gay-friendly (not in this piece, but his metamorphosis is detailed here)

*Opposes stem cell research funding
*Seeks a state Constitutional Amendment to overturn gay marriage in Massachusetts, trying to force the issue onto the ballot.

John McCain

Prior Positions
*Pro-ban, but on record as saying he would not repeal Roe v. Wade
*Relatively quiet on his personal pro-ban stance
*In favor of guest-worker progam for illegal immigrants
*In favor of expanded funding for stem cell research
*Referred to Rev. Jerry Falwell as 'evil'

*Spoke out in favor of South Dakota's aborion ban (with some 'caveats,' as the article states)
*Received a major pro-ban endorsement, allegedly over his willingness to enact legislation to ban abortions
*Gave commencement address at Falwell's Liberty University

Rudy Giuliani

Prior Positions
*Stem-cell Research: In favor of Federal funding
*Pro-civil unions. (Additionally, during marital difficulties, moved out of the Mayoral mansion and shared space with a gay couple he was friends with)

*Campaigning for Ralph Reed last May. It may not be enough, as one right-winger is quoted, suggesting that Giuliani run in the Democratic primaries.

Did Somebody Say 'Flip-Flop?'

All I can say is, the party that exploited the term flip-flop is going to have a whale of a time defending the integrity of their positions come '08 if one of these 3 gets the nomination.

To read the original Mark Murray article, point your browser here.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Corruption: The 'Second Insurgency' In Iraq

In an interview with the Guardian, Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General of the Iraq reconstruction, told the British paper that corruption by contractors in Iraq is costing a staggering $4 billion dollars a year.

The story begins by asserting that, according to Mr. Bowen (pictured at left),
"The Iraqi government is in danger of being brought down by the wholesale smuggling of the nation's oil and other forms of corruption that together represent a 'second insurgency'"
adding that
"corruption had reached such levels that it threatened the survival of the state"

Oil Smuggling Funds The Insurgency

The Guardian reports that Mr. Bowen views oil smuggling as the region's top problem,
"The pipelines that are meant to take the oil north have been blown up, so the only way to export it is by road. 'That leaves it vulnerable to smuggling,' he said, as truckers sell their cargoes on the black market."
That stolen money apparently also helps to finance the insurgency. As Julian Borger and David Pallister wrote:
"A US government report has concluded that oil smuggling abetted by corrupt Iraqi officials is netting insurgents $100m a year, helping to make them financially self-sustaining."

U.S. Incompetence May Have Armed Insurgents And Death Squads

The scathing Guardian article refers to monumental incompetence in the handling of weapons:
"A recent audit by (Bowen's) inspectors found that more than 14,000 guns paid for out of US reconstruction funds for Iraqi government use could not be accounted for. Many could be in the hands of insurgents or sectarian death squads, but it will be almost impossible to prove because when the US military handed out the guns it noted the serial numbers of only about 10,000 out of a total of 370,000 US-funded weapons, contrary to defence department regulations."

9 Billion In Oil Revenue Missing

There are other bombshell accusations, such as the fact that:
"Mr Bowen's office found that nearly $9bn in Iraqi oil revenues could not be accounted for. The cash was flown into the country in shrink-wrapped bundles on military transport planes and handed over by the ton to Iraqi ministries by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) run by Paul Bremer, a veteran diplomat. The money was meant to demonstrate the invaders' good intentions and boost the Iraqi economy, which Mr Bremer later insisted had been 'dead in the water'. But it also fuelled a cycle of corruption left over from Saddam Hussein's rule.

"'We know it got to the Iraqis, but we don't know how it was used,' Mr Bowen later told Congress."

Contractors Making A Killing

Much of the problem is traced to the U.S. corporations that are making a financial killing from the invasion. Regarding the awarding of contracts, the Guardian stated,
"In most cases the contracts were distributed without competition and on a cost-plus basis. In other words the contractors were guaranteed a profit margin calculated as a percentage of their costs, so the higher the costs, the higher the profits. In the rush to get work started the contracts were signed early in 2004. In many cases work did not get under way until the year was nearly over. In the months between, the contractors racked up huge bills on wages, hotel bills and restaurants.

"According to a Sigir review published in October, Kellogg, Brown and Root (a subsidiary of Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's former company) was awarded an oil industry repair contract in February 2004 but 'direct project activity' did not begin until November 19. In that time KBR's overhead costs were nearly $53m. In fact more than half the company's $300m project costs from 2004-06 went on overheads, the audit found.

"Iraq also represented a grey zone beyond the reach of the US civil courts. KBR was found to have overcharged the US military about $60m for fuel deliveries, but that did not stop it winning more government contracts."
Based upon such revelations, the ability of Congress to now investigate such abuses should lead to these sort of headlines finding their way into American newspapers.

It's amazing what the power of the subpoena will allow the Democrats to do.

To access the Guardian story, click here.