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Losing Iraq, One Truckload at a Time

There was an intersting op-ed piece of the same title in the NY TImes on Sunday written by Army captain Luis Carlos Montalvan describing corruption in Iraq:

The most prominent forms of corruption I saw were Iraqi commanders pocketing the paychecks of nonexistent troops in the Iraqi Army and officers in the police forces, and customs officials abetting the smuggling of oil and precious rebuilding supplies across Iraq's porous borders. These are vast problems, but some relatively simple solutions could tamp them down considerably.

Yearning to Be Whole Again

From a WaPo article of the same title by Donna St. George from late November:

When war started in Iraq, a generation of U.S. women became involved as never before-- in a wider-than-ever array of jobs, for long deployments, in a conflict with daily bloodshed. More than 155,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among their ranks are more than 16,000 single mothers, according to the Pentagon, a number that military experts say is unprecedented. How these women have coped and how their children are managing have gone little-noticed as the war stretches across a fourth year.

In the military, parental status is not a barrier to serving in a war. All deploy when the call comes -- single mothers, single fathers, married couples -- relying on a "family-care plan" that designates a caregiver for children when parents are gone.

A Hundred Browns

Via Andrew Sullivan from a couple months back, an article titled "A Country Ruled by Faith" by Garry Wills in The New York Review of Books, among other things, described the process by which ideology was placed above competence as people were selected by the Bush administration to manage and rebuild Iraq as part as the Coalition Provisional Authority (we now know how well that went):

The equivalent director of personnel for the Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority (headed by Catholic convert Paul Bremer) was the White House liaison to the Pentagon, James O'Beirne, a conservative Catholic married to National Review editor Kate O'Beirne. Those recruited to serve in the CPA were asked if they had voted for Bush, and what their views were on Roe v. Wade and capital punishment. O'Beirne trolled the conservative foundations, Republican congressional staffs, and evangelical schools for his loyalist appointees. Relatives of prominent Republicans were appointed, and staffers from offices like that of Senator Rick Santorum. Right moral attitude was more important than competence. That was proved when the first director of Iraqi health services, Dr. Frederick Burkle, was dismissed. Burkle, a distinguished physician, was a specialist in disaster relief, with experience in Kosovo, Somalia, and Kurdish Iraq. His replacement, James Haverman, had run a Christian adoption agency meant to discourage women from having abortions. Haverman placed an early emphasis on preventing Iraqis from smoking, while ruined hospitals went untended. This may suggest the policy on appointments that put Michael Brown in charge of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but the parallel is insufficiently harsh. Chris Matthews brought it up on his television show while interviewing the Washington Post reporter who had covered the CPA in Iraq, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who said, "There were a hundred Browns in Iraq." But there were Bible study groups in the Green Zone.

Iraq's Christians Flee as Extremist Threat Worsens

From an article of the same title by Michael Luo in the NY Times:

BAGHDAD, Oct. 16 - The blackened shells of five cars still sit in front of the Church of the Virgin Mary here, stark reminders of a bomb blast that killed two people after a recent Sunday Mass. In the northern city of Mosul, a priest from the Syriac Orthodox Church was kidnapped last week. His church complied with his captors' demands and put up posters denouncing recent comments made by the pope about Islam, but he was killed anyway. The police found his beheaded body on Wednesday... Christianity took root here near the dawn of the faith 2,000 years ago, making Iraq home to one of the world's oldest Christian communities. The country is rich in biblical significance: scholars believe the Garden of Eden described in Genesis was in Iraq; Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees, a city in Iraq; the city of Nineveh that the prophet Jonah visited after being spit out by a giant fish was in Iraq. Both Chaldean Catholics and Assyrian Christians, the country's largest Christian sects, still pray in Aramaic, the language of Jesus. They have long been a tiny minority amid a sea of Islamic faith. But under Saddam Hussein, Iraq's million or so Christians for the most part coexisted peacefully with Muslims, both the dominant Sunnis and the majority Shiites. But since Mr. Hussein's ouster, their status here has become increasingly uncertain, first because many Muslim Iraqis framed the American-led invasion as a modern crusade against Islam, and second because Christians traditionally run the country's liquor stories, anathema to many religious Muslims. Over the past three and a half years, Christians have been subjected to a steady stream of church bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and threatening letters slipped under their doors. Estimates of the resulting Christian exodus vary from the tens of thousands to more than 100,000, with most heading for Syria, Jordan and Turkey.

Rushing Off a Cliff

Via Today's Papers on, from an editorial in the NY Times:

Here's what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans' fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws - while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser... These are some of the bill's biggest flaws: Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of "illegal enemy combatant" in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted. The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret - there's no requirement that this list be published. Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence. Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial. Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable - already a contradiction in terms - and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses. Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence. Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

Also via Today's Papers on, from an article titled "Legal Battle Over Detainee Bill Is Likely" in the LA Times:

The measure's most disputed provision would block foreign prisoners held by the military from turning to the federal courts to end their imprisonment. By preventing detainees from challenging their confinement in court, it sets up a potential constitutional conflict before the Supreme Court... "This legislation will give the president the tools he needs to protect American lives without compromising our core democratic values," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said. But some lawmakers, Republicans as well as Democrats, called the move to suspend habeas corpus - the demand for legal justification of one's imprisonment - a historic mistake, and one that could cause the entire bill to be struck down. "This is wrong; it is unconstitutional; it is un-American," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The judiciary panel's chairman, Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), said, "Surely as we are standing here, if this bill is passed and habeas corpus is stricken, we'll be back on this floor again" grappling with a future ruling against it by the Supreme Court. Still, Specter was one of 53 Republicans who joined 12 Democrats in voting for the final bill. Leahy was among 32 Democrats who opposed it, along with one independent and one Republican - Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who is locked in a tough fight for reelection in his Democratic-leaning state.

Without compromising our democratic values, Sen. Coburn? What a joke. Last night I watched the first half of "On Native Soil," the "documentary of the 9/11 commission report" which aired recently on courtTV. I learned some things I didn't know...e.g., that the port authority, responsible for the WTC, had no plan for rescuing people trapped on floors above a fire and that people in the second tower who tried to leave after the first tower was hit were told to go back to their offices. It was so sad seeing the elderly couple talk about the phone call from their son just before UA Flight 175 hit the second tower. It's tragic that such a horrible event has led to so much more tragedy (hundreds of thousand of dead civilians in Iraq and Americans justifying torture).


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