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Transcipt of Congressman Charles Rangel's July 22nd E Town Hall Meeting


Good afternoon, and welcome to my e-town hall meeting on the War in Iraq.

For me, as a veteran of the Korean War, our continued occupation of Iraq is the most heartbreaking of issues. Placing our young men and women in harm's way is always difficult. But it is devastating to ask them to sacrifice their lives when every reason, every justification for war given by their leaders is proven false.

No issue is more important to me and to our nation. More than 1,750 American troops have been killed and 12,000 wounded, many maimed for life. Though seldom mentioned, tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi's have been bombed and strafed to their deaths. The land we swore to liberate is now the world's leading training ground for terrorists, and as proven recently in London, a provocation to attackers abroad. Iraq is the most devastating military catastrophe to our nation since the Vietnam War, and there is no end in sight.

More than one million servicemen and women, many from the Reserves and National Guard, have been deployed, some two, and even three, times, resulting in extreme disruptions in the lives of these citizen soldiers, particularly the loss of civilian jobs and, in many cases, their spouses.

Like the soldiers who signed up with me for Korea, today's volunteers, typically from depressed urban and rural areas, are attracted by the financial and educational benefits available in the military. They are targeted by recruiters and enticed with enlistment bonuses as high as $40,000. Seasoned combat veterans are being offered up to $150,000 to reenlist.

This "economic draft" has hardly any impact on people who are better off, especially when casualties on the ground are running high. Refusing to ask the country to share in the wartime sacrifice, the President has left the entire burden of the conflict to these brave fighting men and women.

Instead, the President and Republican Congress have cut taxes for the wealthy and misled the country about the reasons for the conflict. Official commissions have concluded that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction or nuclear capability. Saddam Hussein was not involved in the Nine-Eleven attack, as the President and his men repeatedly insinuated. The Downing Street memos and revelations by former administration officials bolster the argument that evidence of the Iraqi threat was "fixed" to justify an invasion that the administration was itching for.

Saddam Hussein was a terrible and hateful dictator. But the slaughter and bedlam in Iraq today, the loss of lives, the growing $200 billion price tag for the war, the weakening of our military capability, and the anger aroused at the U.S. around the world--raise the question: was his removal worth it?

For those who wanted war, Hussein, who had brutalized his own people, was a perfect ready-made villain. But in fact, regime change in Baghdad was part of a larger plan--the so-called Project for the New American Century--to secure U.S. domination of the Middle East. The scheme was laid out in a series of documents espousing world-wide projection of U.S. power after the Cold War. Drafted in the late 1990's by some of the same officials occupying high positions in the Bush administration, including Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, the plan provided the blueprint for Bush's foreign policy, from Iraq to the axis-of-evil.

That is the sad, horrible situation in which we find ourselves. The public has now turned against war, but the President who dragged us there has no plan to end it. The people will have to insist on a solution, and soon. When our grandchildren ask us what we were doing during the war in Iraq, all Americans should be proud to say that they spoke out for what was right, instead of leaving it to someone else.

Thank you for logging on.

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When do you anticipate the first major wave of troops returning state-side?
With no guidance from the Administration, it is hard to tell when our troops will be coming home. The President needs to do a better job in giving the American people at least some idea what he will need to see happen in Iraq that would allow our troops to return. The Defense Secretary once said the occupation could last as long as 12 years. Now he says a year may be plausible. In order to safely return large numbers of troops to their families and without destabilizing the country, we must act with dispatch in making a serious appeal to the international community to do their part in Iraq while phasing in the Iraqi army.

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What does the U.S. hope to achieve in Iraq?
After all its other stated reasons for invading Iraq were proven false, the Bush Administration settled on a claim of bringing democracy to that country. The President said we were in imminent threat from Hussein, but we were not. There were no weapons of mass destruction or nuclear weapons and Saddam Hussein was not involved in Nine-Eleven. The invasion has brought only death and mayhem to that country since the removal of Saddam Hussein. The greatest cost for America has been the death and maiming of thousands of its best and bravest young people. If that was the true goal of the invasion, it has come at too high a price.

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Why hasn't anyone been able to stop the Bush Team from fighting this senseless war?
The Bush Administration has used smart tactics to gain support for the War in Iraq. Bush linked the Nine-Eleven attacks to the Saddam Hussein regime to justify invading the region. The administration has successfully used intimidation of anyone who disagreed, calling those on opposition to the invasion and occupation "soft on terrorism."

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What role has the media played in the war?
The media has promoted the war by accepting Bush's justifications without question. Bush has been able to successfully use the media to bolster his agenda. By allowing reporters to be embedded with the military, the government has made allies with the media. Reporters became boosters of the war, committed to the effort. Against journalism ethics, they stopped working in the public interest and started working for the government.

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Why do you take the position that we should bring back the Draft when so many in the community that you represent oppose that view?
There are some who believe my proposal to reinstate the draft is really meant to show my opposition to a unilateral preemptive attack against Iraq by the U.S. Others believe that I want to make it clear that, if there is a war, there should be a more equitable representation of all classes of Americans making the sacrifice for this great country. The fact is, both of these objectives are mine. I truly believe that decision-makers who support war would more readily feel the pain of conflict and appreciate the sacrifice of those on the front lines if their children were there, too. I don't make too much of the fact that only four members of the 107th Congress, which voted overwhelmingly in favor of war with Iraq, had children in the military. That is only a symptom of a larger problem, in which it is assumed that the defense of our country is the sole responsibility of paid volunteers. The disproportionately high representation of the poor and minorities in the enlisted ranks is well documented. Minorities comprise 35 percent of the military and Blacks 20 percent, well above their proportion of the general population. They, along with poor and rural Whites do more than their fair share of service in our ground forces while the children of the privileged are exempted from any sacrifice of national service.

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Has George Bush given the requested exit plan that Congress asked for? If not, why not and what reason has he given that he has not prepared an exit plan?
The Bush Administration has repeatedly ignored the calls by me and fellow Democrats for an exit strategy in Iraq. They believe that setting deadlines in Iraq would embolden the insurgency and make the situation worse. They do not realize that the insurgency is already emboldened, the situation is not getting better, and the American public wants our troops home.

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Why is it taking so long for basic services to be restored to the Iraqi people? What is the Administration explanation for this failure?
Iraqi and international officials have publicly criticized the US for our failure to make progress in the rebuilding of Iraqi's infrastructure. The Bush Administration has blamed technological difficulties, manpower concerns and security, and the insurgency for the failure to provide water, sanitation, electricity and even oil to the people of Iraq. The real reason for this failure is that we contracted the $18 billion out largely to private businesses, like Halliburton, who have been ill-prepared and wasteful in their reconstruction efforts. Recent audits have been unable to account for billions of dollars in spending and three US officials and dozens of Iraqis are facing corruption charges.

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What medium of communication does the U.S. soldier use to get the news?
Soldiers who are not out on patrol have free e-mail and internet access. They also receive limited periodic shipments of newspapers as well as mail from relatives and friends.

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What do we do now? Can we withdraw troops and turn Iraq over to terrorists who can destroy that country and simultaneously train more people to attack cities around the globe?
The U.S. invasion has destabilized Iraq. As Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said, we don't know whether we're creating more terrorists than we are killing. The war actually united the terrorists who then focused their attention against us. But pulling out precipitously without preparation wouldn't make sense. Since we are responsible for destabilizing the country, before leaving we should convince our allies that terrorism is not just an American problem and they should join with us in preparing the Iraqis to defend their own country. The main thing is to act seriously with a real commitment from our allies and not simply say, like the President, we won't stay a day longer than necessary.

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Will you call for an end to further spending on the war until we have an independent investigation into the torture and abuse of people under the control of U.S. troops?
I would support a moratorium on spending on detention facilities in Cuba and Iraq pending an independent investigation of the torture of prisoners by U.S. soldiers. I am appalled that investigations conducted by the military so far have resulted solely in the punishment of low-ranking soldiers. Not a single General has been court marshaled. The White House counsel set the tone for the use of harsh interrogation methods by proposing a Presidential decision that captured members of the Taliban were not protected under the Geneva Convention on treatment of prisoners of war. Not one administration official--including the White House counsel who is now Attorney General has been called to account.

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Why are impeachment proceedings not being brought against this arrogant, ignorant "leaders?"
I have called for the impeachment of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. While calls for impeachment of the President are growing louder, particularly among opponents of the war in Iraq, Republican control of all branches of the federal government--particularly the Congress which controls the impeachment process--will make it extremely difficult to bring a case against the President, even if Republicans can be convinced he has committed high crimes and misdemeanors.

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The Republicans will now hide the leak that Karl Rove criminally disclosed Mrs. Wilson's identity. How can you avoid this being done?
The grand jury investigating the Rove affair will disband in October. By then we will learn whether charges will be brought against the president's political adviser or others. The leak is a fact that cannot be denied. The only questions remaining are: whether crimes were committed and who will be held responsible. The Congress and the public must not let up on their demands for the truth.

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Why do future (Social Security) benefits have to be lowered when I retire? Why don't we focus on lowering our military expenditures?
The Bush plan and other Republican ideas for privatizing Social Security would put your retirement benefits at risk. Democrats are fighting those plans in Congress. Using our military expenditures in a way that would truly protect our country instead of increasing the threat of terrorism might help reduce the deficit. Rolling back the Bush trillion dollar tax cuts for the wealthy would do the most to protect your retirement security.

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Now that the whole world knows that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al, falsified intelligence information and illegally attacked a sovereign country, why haven't they been charged by international courts for their illegal attack and crimes against humanity?
More than a year after the fact, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said the U.S. invasion of Iraq without U.N. sanction was in violation of the United Nations charter. Even if the U.N. had wished to act against U.S. officials it lacked the power to do so. The Bush administration had already renounced the International Criminal Court, rejecting its authority to prosecute U.S. officials or troops. I am no expert in international law. But I strongly believe that even if the invasion of Iraq is never judged a crime in a court of law, it was a moral and political offense of the highest order. There is nothing worse that a government can do than to lie to its citizens while putting its young people in harm's way without justification. Was it a crime? History will be the judge.

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Will you as our representative fight to do away with the clause on the "No Child Left Behind Act" that forces school districts to turn over student contact information to the military?
I am a supporter of the "Student Privacy Protection Act of 2005" which would ensure that military recruiters are not granted access to personal student information from secondary schools receiving federal aid. I do not believe that our classrooms should be used as recruiting stations for the war. No Child Left Behind is controversial enough without mixing in efforts to recruit in our schools. The Department of Defense already has in its possession more than enough information than privacy should allow to aid in its recruiting efforts. The department has purchased lists containing more than 36 million names of individuals 18-25 which contain their private information including Social Security numbers. There really is no need for the military to go into our schools seeking more information. After all, it's supposed to be a volunteer military.

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Why has there not been more public outrage over the war?
On the contrary, the anti-war movement is alive and getting stronger because the American people feel at this point that they are losing their sons and daughters in a cause that was unjustified. More and more people want to know when this war is going to end, and when are their loved ones going to return home. Millions of Americans who stood by the President in the early stages of the war now have serious doubts, and are beginning to make their feelings known. However, we have not heard as much from the leaders in our religious communities as I would have hoped. While several denominations and individuals have spoken out on the war, there has still been a 'great silence' overall among our religious leaders. There seems to be a lack of moral outrage among the leaders whose job is to serve as our moral compasses. I hope that we will begin to hear more from them.

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What is the war's impact on domestic programs?
The Bush Administration would like you to think that the money spent for the Iraq War does not take away from anything important. The President, while totally ignoring the concept of shared sacrifice, has pushed through hundreds of billions in tax breaks for the wealthiest in our society and cut domestic programs while spending hundreds of billions for an unjustified war.
The truth of the matter is that every dollar spent in Iraq is one less dollar spent somewhere else. Considering that fact, the Iraq War is a bad deal for our national security and for our national community.
According to the National Priorities Project, the current cost of the Iraq War based on Congressional appropriations is already more than $182 billion. With those funds, we could have built more than 1,640,000 new homes (creating a lot more jobs as well); and fully funded the world-wide AIDS program for 18 years. (Find other estimates at http://costofwar.com)

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Do you think the Bush administration will invade or bomb Iran like they did in Iraq?
Iran is one of the countries mentioned as a possible target for regime change in the seminal document entitled, Project for the New American Century, which was drafted by some of President Bush's most powerful advisers before they took office. They include Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz.

There have been reports in the press, but no official confirmations, that the Pentagon has already sent teams into Iran to identify possible future military targets. Whatever this administration's military plans may be, they should be restrained by the diminished capabilities of our military forces which are already overextended in the war in Iraq. In addition, the increasing reluctance of volunteers to sign up has prevented the Army from meeting its monthly recruiting goals for most of this year, a situation that recruiting experts believe will only get worse as the war continues.

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In financial terms, who has benefited most from U.S. involvement in Iraq?
As the Bush Administration has been silent regarding the amount and number of contracts awarded to which companies, it is difficult to say exactly who has benefited most. The 20 top contractors are estimated to have received nearly $20 billion in contracts. Halliburton, which was headed by Dick Cheney before he took office as vice president, alone is estimated to have received nearly $8 billion in contracts.

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Do you think revenge for Saddam Hussein's alleged attempt to kill former President George H. W. Bush was the real reason behind the invasion of Iraq?
I have no evidence that revenge was a motive in President Bush's planning for invading Iraq, but I would not be surprised if it was a factor. What is certain is that Nine-Eleven provided Bush with a reason to implement a plan for domination of the Middle East, including regime change in Iraq, which was drafted by his most trusted advisors in the 1990's A link to the report on the Project for the New American Century is available on this site.

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What other countries are members of the so-called Coalition Forces in Iraq?
Other than the U.S. and Britain, there are currently fewer than 30 other countries in the coalition in Iraq, with a combined total of approximately 16,000 of troops on the ground. They range from Norway with 10 soldiers to Italy with 3,000. About a dozen other countries have already withdrawn their troops since the invasion, and another dozen are considering withdrawals or troop reductions. The U.S. has 139,000 troops in Iraq and Britain 8,500.

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Why are there not more anti-war rallies held?
Prior to the invasion of Iraq anti-war sentiment and rallies were in full force. During this time the country witnessed some of the largest anti-war rallies since the height of the anti-Vietnam War movement - 100,000 to 200,000 in Washington, 20,000 in New York's Central Park, 40,000 to 60,000 in San Francisco, plus scores of local vigils and sizeable rallies in major cities like Austin and Denver, and smaller cities and towns like Kingston, New York and Montpelier, Vermont.

The rallies drew people from all walks of life ranging from religious groups, to college students. After the invasion, the public became discouraged by the lack of attention to their protests, the administration's early claims of victory, as well as the vilification of anyone who opposed the war. Despite this, opposition to the war has steadily grown to include former supporters of the war. The likelihood is that large scale rallies and protests will resume before long.

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How do you walk the fine line between opposing the war yet supporting our men and women serving in the armed forces?
I oppose the War in Iraq because of its false justifications. I strongly support the troops because it is not their job to question the legitimacy of the war, it is their job to follow the orders they are given.

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Do you believe that the occupation of Iraq by U.S. troops is more about controlling the world's 2nd largest oil and gas reserves and trumps any other stared noble aims? Do you perceive that this administration is prepared to do and sacrifice whatever it takes to ensure as Vice President Cheney said, that "the American way of life is never compromised?"
The plan to invade Iraq, which was developed before President Bush took office, is about domination of the Middle East and control of its resources. It has nothing to do with ensuring the American way of life.

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Why do so many Americans still believe the Republican propaganda about the justification to go to war with Iraq? No WMD were found although it was the main reason to go to war.
The majority of Americans no longer believe the justifications given for the war. Polls show they don't believe we should be at war. Even Americans who supported the invasion no longer believe it was worth it.

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Why is the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) not given a higher profile in the media when it comes to discussing the origins of the war on Iraq and potential future American military escapades in the Middle East?
I have been speaking about the influence of the Project for a New American Century upon the decision to invade Iraq. It is clear that the authors, including Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Fuerth who came into the Bush Administration were disposed towards an invasion of Iraq as part of their strategic vision and thus were eager to invade Iraq in response to 9/11. They should be held accountable for the lying to the American people about the justification for the invasion.

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Is adequate consideration being given -- by either the Administration or Congress -- to the deleterious effect of the war on the military and its ability to respond militarily to potential international crises, in determining when to withdraw? Or are decision-makers who voted for the war resolution politically committed to a long-term deployment, despite more important competing interests?
There certainly is not enough consideration being given to the consequences of the commitment of our military resources to Iraq. It is highly doubtful that we have the capacity to respond to other crises, and the Pentagon is refusing to admit this and take any steps to increase the level of military forces. The Defense Department is instead extending the tours of those who are currently serving and requiring even more sacrifice of them while most of us are not being asked to sacrifice at all. I believe that we will have to consider reinstatement of the draft to meet our military manpower requirements if the Bush administration does not change its policies in Iraq and elsewhere.

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What was your vote on the war? Why?
I voted against authorizing the President to go to war in Iraq, and I was not alone. 133 Representatives voted against the war, including 126 House Democrats 6 House Republicans, and one independent. Twenty-four Senators also opposed the war, including one Republican. There were many reasons for my opposition. First, I did not believe that the President had made the case for war. Second, I thought the UN weapons inspectors should have been allowed to continue their search for the alleged weapons. Thirdly, I believed that a war in Iraq would increase the risk of terrorism to the U.S. and the world. Fourth, I thought preemptive war was a dangerous policy that, if adopted by other countries, were pose a huge security risk to the entire world. With the invasion, the U.S. lost the support of most of the world, angered the Muslim world, and further incited terrorist movements

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Now that we know that ALL of the President's justifications for the invasion of Iraq were completely untrue, and tens of thousands of innocent victims have been slaughtered and maimed for life, including Americans in the name of corporate profits, this evil man has to be held accountable just as the Nazi's were at Nuremburg. If this does not happen, it proves to the entire world that American style democracy is a farce that is no different then that of a third world banana republic. What's next?
There is clearly mounting evidence that President Bush lied to the American people to justify his invasion of Iraq. Given the terrible cost in lives and resources of that decision, he must be held accountable for it. Although impeachment proceedings may be warranted, a greater priority is educating the public about how we became enmeshed in the quagmire of this occupation and turning public opinion towards a demand for disengagement.

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How can we be sure that the issue of Valerie Plames is not relegated to the back burner, as is happening now that there is a nominee for the Supreme Court?
Due to the importance of this case in judging the evidence used by the president to invade Iraq it is unlikely that it will disappear from view. The closer we get to October when the Grand Jury investigating the case is due to report the more the press's interest should be aroused. As in everything else involving the war we must continue speaking out and demanding the truth from the administration. This is only way to ensure that government officials, such as Karl Rove, who blatantly violate the law are held accountable.

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Since Democrats are in the minority and thus unable to set the legislative agenda, how can we effectively end this war and bring the troops home?
The most effective way is to make your voices heard. The American people should contact their Representatives and Senators in the U.S. Congress; speak with their local elected officials, and reach out to their religious leaders. People can also participate in rallies, marches, and protests to get their message across and their feelings heard.

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Conclusion
Thank you for participating in this e-town hall meeting on the War in Iraq. Due to the large volume of questions, I have scheduled another session for Friday, July 29th from 12pm to 1pm when I will continue responding to questions from today's E-town Hall.

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This is beyond appalling; and would be overwhelming but for the fact that it is too important for the ordinary citizen not to act upon.
Is there a way to copy this so I can include it in the letters I intend to write to our local churches and elected officials?
Thank you for putting this in a format that addreses each part of the truly despicable puzzle.

Carole

Carole, That sounds like a good idea. Now if only we can get permission. I copy and paste much better than I write.

i'm sure the congressman won't mind, if you give him credit

or is there something you need beyond that?

Just making sure. Wonderful, and I will do that. Thank you very much!

Carole

Thanks. Actually what I need. Is something short and direct to send to everyone I know. I can verbalize like an intellect but write like a retard. No offense intended, just know my limitations.

But as one of the questions raised about Nurenburg....Most if, Not,ALL.. got off with just a slap on the hand, then went back to what they were doing. Just look at Prescott Bush's involvement and John J. McCloy's hand in WWII. 52 Million DEAD. And AFTER, Crap.. look at the whole Bush family's Business's, find out what and where America's money is going.....
The BIG Corporations are not going to allow desent, they have Gutted the Military, Closed over 350 Bases, the VA, the Health System, the Schools, They OWN the top Judges in the World. Billions and Billions Stolen. Futures GONE, Cops at the Airports tapping there Bush/Cheney Stickers covering the ticket book laughing, More Tax Hikes for us and Breaks for them. No intrest in any ideas unless the Military can use it, WHERE IS ALL THE MONEY GOING..
The TRUTH should have put them in JAIL ALREADY, and Do We Finally Admit the Business's Have the GREATEST INVOLVEMENT in this NEVERENDING WAR AGAINST THE POOR..

My father-in-law (now 11 years deceased due to unspeakable WW2 injuries)told my now ex-husband and brother-in-law during the VietNam "conflict" that he would pay for us to move to Canada, after their concientious objections failed. He knew firsthand what war meant. The "esteemed" W has no clue. He's just fishing for a legacy...and people say what a great man he is. This makes my stomach churn. 2008 cannot come some enough!!!!
A member of my own family who is my age, 51, joined the National Guard when we graduated high school to avoid being sent to VietNam. He was called up to be sent to Iraq last fall!!! And for WHAT?
For anyone who get the Sundance channel (in Nashville, it's channels 164/165). The Al Franken show, which consists video of 1 hour of his 3 hour radio show, can be seen at 10:30 p.m., with rerurns during the night through 6 a.m. the following morning. All his guests are awesome, and ALL have the facts to back up what they say, as does AL. Believe me, you'll learn from this. It's on Monday-Friday. Please give it a try.

A lot can be accomplished in 2006.

There's always HOPE! Patrick Fitzgerald is solid as a rock. Hold on just a little bit longer....you're gonna see some "frog marching" orders for these people. Especially now that the "EXPLOSIVE" information being revealed about the rape and beatings of the children.....my, my, my. You just wait. PLUS the info below from Jeff Rense site:
rense.com (scroll down to the box: 911 Autopsy)
You will gain much hope.
Would love to hear your reactions.
Thrilling episodes of information.
Fitzgerald has ALL of this.
Hold tight!

Children at the Abu prison there in Iraq. The ICC is after these white house folks......

It'll break your hearts.

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