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By Dave Lindorff
If the disaster of the so-called "stimulus" bill just passed by the Senate doesn't convince President Obama and his advisers that the strategy of "bipartisanship" that he has been espousing is a political suicide, nothing will.
The Republican Party, with the willing help of conservative Democrats like Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Democratic turncoats like Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), has forced Obama to agree to a joke of a stimulus package that is nearly half composed of tax breaks which will do nothing to bolster the economy (since most of the money will end up either paying down credit card debt or buying Chinese and Sri Lankan imports) and that is stripped of $40 billion to help struggling state and local governments.
Fresh from its rout in November, the GOP is, in fact, openly trying to sabotage Obama's economic stimulus plan, because the last thing Republicans want to see is an economy on the upturn in 2010 or 2012.
By Dave Lindorff
Just two weeks after his historic inauguration ceremony, Obama’s presidency is lurching towards failure, and not because three of his administration picks have been found to be tax cheats, but because nearly all of his administration picks are corporate whores and shills.
The problem with the new Obama administration is that it is turning out to be not about change at all, as he claimed during the campaign, but rather about more of the same—and these are not times that call for more of the same. Nor is more of the same the reason Obama won the election.
The economic team President Obama has put in place is composed of the same Wall Street hacks and conservative economic theologians who helped produce the current crisis, many of them as part of the Clinton administration, and some, like Timothy Geithner, actually as appointees of the thoroughly discredited Bush administration.
By Dave Lindorff
If an article by Gareth Porter in run by InterPress is correct that CentCom Commander Gen. David Petraeus and Iraq Commander Gen. Ray Odierno, backed by a group of lower-ranking generals, are planning to mount a public campaign to try and undermine President Obama’s plan for a withdrawal from Iraq in 16 months, Obama needs to act fast and nip this dangerous act of insubordination in the bud.
Young Turks: Dick Cheney Admits To Use Of Torture
Gen. David Petraeus has recommended against any significant reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq before the end of the year, ABC News has learned.
The only drawdown Petraeus has called for, according to a senior military official familiar with his recommendation, is a modest reduction of two Marine battalions, or about 1,500 Marines, a tiny fraction of the 146,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq.
Under Petraeus's plan, the number of combat brigades -- which now stands at 15 -- would remain unchanged until next January at the earliest.
The recommendation is now being considered by top officials at the White House and the Pentagon. A final decision on future force levels is expected to be announced by President Bush early next week.
Like a Mirage in the Desert: U.S. exit from Iraq may recede into the time horizon
by Charles Knight
Key advisors to Barack Obama have put forward an Iraq withdrawal policy which they have labeled "conditional engagement." In their words:
"Under this strategy, the...time horizon for redeployment would be negotiated with the Iraqi government and nested within a more assertive approach to regional diplomacy. The United States would make clear that Iraq and America share a common interest in achieving sustainable stability in Iraq, and that the United States is willing to help support the Iraqi government and build its security and governance capacity over the long-term, but only so long as Iraqis continue to make meaningful political progress." [from Colin Kahl, Michele A. Flournoy and Shawn Brimley, "Shaping the Iraq Inheritance", Center for a New American Security, June 2008.]
By Helen Thomas, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
WASHINGTON - Surprise, surprise. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, wants to put a halt to any more troop withdrawals for the foreseeable future.
The highly politicized Petraeus seemed to be dutifully following his White House marching orders when he testified before congressional committees earlier this week.
Under his scenario, there will be no drawdown of U.S. forces in that strife-ridden country until President Bush leaves office.
That’s fine with Bush, who obviously has no intention of ending this futile war on his watch. Apparently feeling no responsibility for starting the war, Bush is planning to pass the Iraqi debacle on to his successor.
You can forget accountability for the yet-to-be defined U.S. military mission which has taken more than 4,000 American lives, possibly a million Iraqi lives and destroyed a country.
Woolsey: Gentlemen, polls show that up to 80 percent of the American public supports redeployment of our troops out of Iraq. When that statistic was presented with those staggering numbers, the vice president’s response was “so.” Well, I want to tell you that “so” came from the same administration that got us into Iraq with misleading information in the first place. And I don’t feel that that is where you are coming from. I want to believe that you have more respect for the American people than our vice president.
The top US military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, has recommended a suspension of troop withdrawals from Iraq after July. His recommendation would leave just under 140,000 American troops in Iraq well into the fall, more troops deployed in Iraq than before the so-called "surge." Petraeus testified before two Senate committees on Tuesday alongside Ambassador Ryan Crocker. We play highlights of the hearing and host a debate with Arun Gupta of The Indypendent, Eli Lake of the New York Sun and Gareth Porter of Inter Press Service.
This is from the statement of Ryan Crocker, US Ambassador to Iraq, in front of the Foreign Relations Committee yesterday:
One conclusion I draw from these signs of progress is that the strategy that began with the Surge is working. This does not mean, however, that U.S. support should be open-ended or that the level and nature of our engagement should not diminish over time. It is in this context that we have begun negotiating a bilateral relationship between Iraq and the United States...The heart of this relationship will be a legal framework for the presence of American troops similar to that which exists in nearly 80 countries around the world...
By Larry Lipman, Palm Beach Post
When Rep. Robert Wexler gets his chance to question Gen. David Petraeus at the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s hearing Wednesday, he’ll be drawing on the advice of about 1,000 constituents.
Wexler sent an e-mail last week to about 90,000 people on his contact list asking folks what one question they would want to put to Petraeus if they had the chance.
Two related questions stood out in various forms, said Ashley Mushnick, Wexler’s press assistant: “When will this war be over?” and “What is the definition of winning?”
Here are some other versions:
“What is the goal and how do we accomplish the goal?”
“Are we winning and is it worth it?”
“How soon can we get our troops out?”
“Is there an exit plan?”
April 9, 2008—Ivy, VA—In light of the testimonies by Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker before Senate and House leaders, VA-05 congressional candidate Tom Perriello asserted that Americans are being offered a false choice in Iraq, and that the only solution there is a political one.
"Our generals have been winning battles but we are not winning the war because our political leaders have provided no plan for victory and ask the wrong questions. Gen. Petraeus is right that immediate withdrawal would be disastrous. But sticking with the Administration's current policy is just as dangerous. We owe it to our troops to provide a new path to victory, such as the N.E.W. Plan for Iraq I helped launch in 2006. We need to shift the debate from troop levels and timelines to a new political power-sharing arrangement that can anchor a manageable peace without a U.S. troop presence," said Perriello.
Democrats Seek Again to Influence War Policy
By Josh Rogin, CQ
After a day of sobering testimony by the top U.S. military and civilian officials in Iraq, Democrats in Congress are back to where they have been many times before: trying to figure out how to legislate changes to President Bush’s Iraq War policy.
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker announced Tuesday that they would recommend an open-ended freeze of U.S. troop drawdowns from Iraq after July to assess the security situation there.
Democratic leaders were troubled by the announcement and said they would find ways to attach policy strings to the upcoming Iraq War supplemental spending bill and the defense authorization bill.
By Ryan Anderson, Win Without War
Yesterday's testimony by General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker before the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees left one vital question unanswered: whether the surge of U.S. forces is making things worse, not better in Iraq both militarily and politically.
With testimony last week by General William Odom (ret.) outlining the very serious danger of renting the loyalty of Sunni strongmen, and the lack of political reconciliation, there is significant evidence that the much touted progress in Iraq is only an illusion.
In a call to greater probity by our elected officials, Tom Andrews has posed these and other questions in an open letter to his former colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee.
Read Tom's letter on Huffington Post to see what questions desperately need to be asked.
By Melina Hussein Ripcoco, Brilliant at Breakfast, AlterNet
UFPJ Talking Points #57
By Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies
Even before the House version gets underway on Wednesday, it's clear that Day One of the Petraeus-Crocker show is all about political theater - starring a 4-star general with a chest full of medals and political ambition, and a soft-spoken self-deprecating ambassador, both straight out of central casting.
But this is political theater - with very clear messages.
** Iran is the Problem in Iraq
** The "Surge" Stopped the Violence
** Keep the Troops in Iraq
** Support the $110 billion Supplemental Funding Bill for Iraq War
Iran is the Problem in Iraq
[Does someone fear nonviolent protests more than shooting?]
Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has threatened to lift a ceasefire of his Mehdi Army militia while indefinitely postponing a mass anti-US demonstration.
Despite the ceasefire which Sadr called last August, his followers have clashed with Iraqi government troops and US forces in the south of the country and Baghdad in recent weeks, leading to Iraq's worst violence since the first half of 2007.
"If it is required to lift the freeze (ceasefire) in order to carry out our goals, objectives, doctrines and religious principles and patriotism, we will do that later and in a separate statement," he said in a statement on his website.
He postponed indefinitely a "million-strong march" called for Wednesday to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, which had raised the prospect of unrest coinciding with testimony in Congress by the top US officials in Iraq.
By Patrick Cockburn, Tom Dispatch
Muqtada al-Sadr is the most important and surprising figure to emerge in Iraq since the U.S. invasion. He is the Messianic leader of the religious and political movement of the impoverished Shia underclass whose lives were ruined by a quarter of a century of war, repression, and sanctions.
From the moment he unexpectedly appeared in the dying days of Saddam Hussein's regime, U.S. emissaries and Iraqi politicians underestimated him. So far from being the "firebrand cleric" as the Western media often described him, he often proved astute and cautious in leading his followers.
By Matt Stoller, Huffington Post
3500 people and more than 50 Democratic congressional candidates have endorsed a Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq, a plan validated by retired Generals, national security experts, and profiled in both the Washington Post and Dailykos (and mentioned on This Week with George Stephanopoulos). This is a new power center rooted in Congress, within national security elites, and among activists that offers a responsible approach to national security in which the question is not whether the tactics of the surge are working but whether our presence in Iraq is making us more secure. I've been asking several of the Congressional candidates who endorse the plan what they would ask Petraeus were they in Congress. Here are some of their questions.
Darcy Burner, Democratic candidate for WA-08:
By Amb. Marc Ginsberg, Huffington Post
When Gen. Petreaus and Amb. Crocker appear before both houses of Congress tomorrow and Thursday, Democrats should ideally position themselves through these hearings to achieve the following overarching goals:
-- Debunk the fiction that the military surge has achieved sustainable military or political objectives.
-- Undermine Sen. McCain's argument that staying the course is a patriotic duty.
-- Demonstrate to the American people that the recent Iraqi government defeat at the hands of the Mahdi Army was indeed the "defining moment" that Bush claimed it was.
-- Offer a credible Democratic approach to stay the course that logically will achieve more in the long run for American security in the Middle East than what more of the same can possibly achieve.
Opening Statement of Senator Carl Levin, Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on the Situation in Iraq with Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus
April 8, 2008
Welcome General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. Thank you for joining us today, and thank you for your service to our nation. Please express our deep gratitude to the brave men and women serving in Iraq both in our armed forces and in the civilian agencies of our government.
By David Swanson, http://betrayusreport.com
Petreaus and Crocker are back for four hearings over two days. This is the first one.
9:35 This ain't gonna be good: Chairman Carl Levin just opened the hearing by claiming the surge was a success!
9:35 Well, at least he did note that there had been no political success, which was how success was supposed to be measured.
9:37 He's listing the forgotten "bench marks" that have not been met, including the oil-theft law (which he doesn't call that, of course).
9:38 In 1/07 Bush said Iraqi government would handle all security by 11/07, Levin reminds us. Levin objects to stopping reductions of US troops in July on the grounds that that would take pressure off Maliki.
9:41 Levin paints a picture of the US rebuilding Iraq (huh?) and blames the Iraqis for not footing the bill for the reconstruction of their own $^%&%&(*! country. (Um, who blew the place up?)