Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category

by Rebecca Schmitz 

The next time one of your conservative friends wants to debate your stance on “Islamofascism”, the Iraq War or, as our President would pronounce it, the “War on Terra” remind them of what one of our key allies is up to these days:

A court in Saudi Arabia increased the punishment for a gang-rape victim after her lawyer won an appeal of the sentence for the rapists, the lawyer told CNN. The 19-year-old victim was sentenced last year to 90 lashes for meeting with an unrelated male, a former friend from whom she was retrieving photographs…”After a year, the preliminary court changed the punishment and made it two to nine years for the defendants,” al-Lahim said of the new decision handed down Wednesday. “However, we were shocked that they also changed the victim’s sentence to be six months in prison and 200 lashes.”

Really, if we’re going to invade countries without a tie to September 11th, if we’re going to use focus-grouped catchphrases like “Islamofascism”, and if we’re going to pretend to care about the spread of democracy, justice and equality around the globe, perhaps we ought to make friends with the right people.

Oh, silly me, I forgot. It’s not about any of those things. It’s about our energy, stupid.

by jhwygirl

Seems like the Iraq War was the big loser in Montana.

Both Helena’s and Missoula’s anti-Iraq war referendums won decisively with majority numbers – Helena’s taking nearly 62% of support, and Missoula with almost 65%!

Reaffirming Helena’s anti-Iraq War referendum vote was the dismissal of the anti-anti Iraq War referendum – a call to give Bush a blank check, with no conditions, for funding of the Iraq war – by a slightly-less than the nearly 62% support the anti-Iraq war referendum received.

Only two cities, I know, but I’ll take the time to point out that both are over 60% threshold…..

7 U.S. forces were killed on Monday.

3857 U.S. forces have been killed in Iraq.

2007 has been the deadliest year.

853 U.S. forces have died this year.

118 U.S. forces have been killed since September 1st.

The worse previous year was 2004, with 849 U. S. forces killed.

24 Sons of Montana have died.How many more?

Email Rep. Dennis Rehberg and tell him “Not One More!”

Email Sen. Max Baucus and tell him “Not One More!”

Email Sen. Jon Tester and tell him “Not One More!”

Support our U.S. forces by bringing them home.

by Jay Stevens

The Notorious Mark T, as have I, has long been a critic of the corporate-friendly and conservative wing of the Democratic party, which seems to predominate in Washington DC. But our varying approaches to politics manifest itself over any discussion involving Ralph Nader. Mark T thinks there’s little or no substantive difference between the parties; I think the difference that does exist is important and worth fighting for. (Mark T is also frustrated by the two-party system; seeing as we’re stuck with it, I believe we need to exert some force on it to change it, or at least, to make it more representative.)

Mark argues that if Kerry had won in 2004, we’d still be in Iraq. He could be right: Democrats are too often cowed by rightwing hawks into bad foreign policy decisions. Truman watched McArthur cross the 38th parallel in Korea, Kennedy intervened in Vietnam, Johnson escalated, and just about every significant “establishment” Democrat gave Bush the go ahead to invade Iraq. Still it’s easy to imagine Kerry standing up to torture, the politicization of federal agencies – like the Department of Justice – domestic spying, contractors in Iraq, the war profiteering in Iraq by Bush buddies, etc. In short, while our current system would likely have continued unchanged, it’s likely that the mistakes and maliciousness of our federal government would have been reduced, mismanaged money better spent, some lives saved. To me that’s a significant difference.

Of course, sometimes it’s hard to argue with Mark, when sh*t like this happens: Schumer and Feinstein signaling their approval of Bush’s Attorney General nominee, Michael Mukasey, who apparently is willing to go along with the administration’s torture policy.

Nora Ephron:

And then there are the Democrats in the Congress. What a bunch of losers, hiding behind the fact that it takes 60 votes to shut down debate and 67 to override a presidential veto. So what? So pass a law and make Bush veto it. Make him veto something every single day. Drive the guy crazy. What have you got to lose? And meanwhile what have you done? You’ve voted for the surge, you’ve voted to authorize a war against Iran, and you’re about to vote in favor of an attorney general-designate who refuses to call waterboarding torture.

Of course Mark was there to remind us of the Democrats’ failing:

The standard response to this kind of behavior is to accuse Democrats of lacking a spine. In fact, these two senators will face intense criticism for their act. It takes courage to act against your friends, for your enemies. It’s not a matter of having or lacking a spine.

It’s more basic. The Democratic Party is a catch basin for dissent. In 1968 protesters outside the convention hall in Chicago were clubbed by police as liberals inside nominated Hubert Humphrey, Vietnam War supporter. The Democratic Party has an institutional function – it corrals dissent, and then hoses it and then clubs it to death. The party leadership is made up of enablers for Republicans. To support Democrats is to invite indignity on one’s self – we now must crawl back in our holes as Bush wins yet again.

IMHO, I think that’s giving the Democratic leadership too much credit. The acceptance of Mukaskey probably has more to do with Democrats’ nervousness with the polls showing Congress with an even lower approval rating than the President. And with a major election headed our way, Schumer doesn’t want to rock the boat, create any controversy in the one area where Republicans are competitive with Democrats in the voters’ minds: how they deal with terrorism.

Still, that’s a failing. Again, Nora E:

But here’s what they should do instead:
Reject Mukasey.
Make Bush send up another nominee.
Reject that nominee if he won’t take a position on waterboarding.
And just keep on doing it.
Because it’s the right thing to do. Because waterboarding is torture. Because we are torturing people and it has to stop, and it will never stop unless the Democrats make it stop.
And forget about the Justice Department. No one will fix the Justice Department until there’s a new president.

Too often Democrats have compromised on the “right thing.” Compromising basic principles ensures that they’re no longer principles. We’re not asking for much here. Stop torture. Deny Mukaskey his appointment.

by Pete Talbot

With less than a week remaining, 28 percent of Missoula voters have returned their mail-in ballots.

Perhaps the most intriguing statistic to me is from Ward Four. It has the highest percentage of voters returning their ballots: 32 percent. This ward has two Republicans running (Jerry Ballas and Lyn Hellegaard). Anyone have insights on why this ward is number one in turnout?

Ward One has two Democrats running (Justin Armintrout and Jason Wiener) but is near the bottom in voter turnout at 25.5 percent. However, Ward One also includes UM so it’s numbers are traditionally low, although student voting numbers are trending upward lately. Forward Montana is helping turnout there.

The other wards definitely have Republican v. Democrat races. Yeah, I know, it’s a nonpartisan election — but let’s not kid ourselves.

Ward Six (Lewie Schneller and Ed Childers) is coming in at slightly less than 26 percent.

Ward Three (Doug Harrison and Stacy Rye) is weighing in at slightly more than 26 percent.

Ward Two (Don Nicholson and Pam Walzer) and Ward Five (Renee Mitchell and Christine Prescott) are both hovering around 28 percent.

Debbie Merseal, Chief Deputy Clerk and Recorder down at the county elections office, said she’s hoping for a 40 percent turnout. That’s almost double the average turnout for this type of municipal election, which is a good thing.

Besides the council races, there’s the Iraq War Referendum and a high school bond issue. (Up in Seeley Lake there’s a water bond issue, but those folks don’t get to vote on council candidates or Iraq.)

If you haven’t sent in your ballot and aren’t quite sure how to vote, this site has some recommendations here, here and here, and that’s just a few of the posts as 4&20 contributors have written extensively on this election. Just start scrolling down. Interviews were also conducted by the Missoulian, New West and Forward Montana (Jeez, there’s that name again).

Two other sources I neglected to mention that might help voters: the Missoula Independent stuck its collective neck out and actually endorsed candidates. I appreciate that. Also, UM journalism students took a comprehensive look at the candidates, the referendum and bond issue. (A tip o’ the hat to UM Journalism Professor Dennis Swibold.)

For the war?

by Pete Talbot

I saw the small display ad only once this week on Page B2 of Tuesday’s Missoulian. It’s asking folks to vote against municipal ballot Referendum 2007-01 (otherwise known as the Out-of-Iraq Referendum).

To me, this is the quintessential Missoula ballot issue and says a lot about what this town is all about.

So the ad caught my eye. It was paid for by “Missoula Supports U.” The ad also names the councilmen and women who voted to put the referendum on the ballot. It reads:

Referendum 2007-01 supported by Childers, Jaffe, Kendall, Marler, Rye, and Strohmaier demands the immediate and orderly withdrawal of 138,000 U.S. troops from Iraq. The immediate withdrawal of a force this large will not be orderly. It will be chaotic. Passage of this referendum will endanger our soldiers’ lives. Vote against the referendum. Protect our troops through a gradual withdrawal.”

The ad raises a number of questions. The first being that the language in the ad is very similar to the language in the referendum:

“The citizens of Missoula, Montana, hereby urge the Congress of the United States of America to authorize and fund an immediate and orderly withdrawal of the United States military from Iraq in a manner that is fully protective of U.S. soldiers.”

The only difference between the two versions is semantics: immediate v. gradual. Both sides want the troops out in a safe and orderly manner. The ad just doesn’t say when.

Another question would be: why would you name the members of council who helped put the referendum on the ballot? Is this ad targeting the referendum, or some councilmen and women who are up for re-election, or both? What’s the real issue?

My final question is: who paid for the ad? The small type on the bottom of the ad lists “Missoula Supports U.” These folks don’t have a treasurer but named Dennis Gordon is the contact person.

So I gave Mr. Gordon a call. We had a very civil conversation and this is what I learned. It seems like his biggest concern is the referendum’s language; that having both an “immediate” and “orderly” withdrawal is an oxymoron, he said. He believes that there are “strong indications that large sections of the country are being pacified” and that the Iraq Army could begin taking over responsibilities.

We agreed to disagree on the success of the surge, and the reasons to leave now or later. Our common ground was the safety of U.S. troops.

He said that “several other folks — a like minded group” were behind the campaign. He admits that by naming council members who supported the referendum made it “a political ad,” but then “it’s a political issue.”

“Missoula Supports U” isn’t registered with Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practice. Now, I’m all for freedom of speech, but if more than a couple people are going negative on a referendum and certain council members, they need to register as a PAC [MCA 13-1-101 (18)]. Folks like me might want to know who’s paying for the advertising, but I’m not going to nitpick over campaign laws.

I respect Mr. Gordon’s position and I believe we want the same thing. I just want it sooner than later.  I can’t follow his thought process that leaving the troops there longer is in their best interests.

Opponents to the referendum have done a decent job of sprinkling goofy dust on the notion of a city weighing in on the war. The main argument being that it isn’t the city’s business to get involved in worldly affairs. Council should just take care of filling potholes in the summer and plowing the streets in the winter.

But this is a moral town, despite what the far right says. Citizens should take every opportunity to give their opinion on the Iraq War. I sincerely hope that Missoula voters add their voice to the growing number of cities and towns that want the troops out, pronto.

If you haven’t sent in your ballot yet, you can still…

Help end the war. Please vote ‘yes’ on Referendum 2007-01.

(Postscript: Helena is running a similar referendum and my sources there say it looks like it will pass. Even the Helena Independent-Record, not known for having a particularly progressive editorial stance, endorsed the referendum. Missoula’s Independent endorsed it here but not a peep from the Missoulian.)

by Rebecca Schmitz

Before George W. Bush moves on to his next war, his countrymen should have a chance to send a message about the direction of the the current one. Missoula has that opportunity this election with the Iraq War referendum. Opponents of the referendum dismiss it as a waste of the city’s time, and tell us that foreign policy issues are best handled by our Congressional delegation. I disagree. Change needs to start somewhere. Why shouldn’t it begin at the local level? If we don’t stand up and say “NO” to our President how can we honestly expect the same of anyone else at any level of government? Free speech is never a waste of time, especially when lives are on the line.

Mark Tokarski at Piece of Mind wrote an insightful post last week about our government’s plans for Iraq:

The U.S., Halliburton and KBR have been busy these past four years constructing fourteen bases, five of which are superbases that can house as many as 100,000 permanent troops…Congress, of course, passed a resolution forbidding permanent bases in Iraq, and in true Orwellian fashion, mere statement of noble intent covers up a whole lot of ignoble plundering. Of course the bases are temporary. They are only meant to last thirty or forty years – long enough to extract the oil wealth out of the country.

These bunker-cities are big business. War profiteering has become rampant in Iraq. Among the worst offenders is the former Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (now known officially as KBR). The November issue of Vanity Fair magazine has an expose of KBR’s activities:

KBR’s current military-support contract is known as the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, or logcap. This is the contract’s third incarnation, and, like its predecessors, logcap 3 is a “cost-plus” contract: whatever KBR spends, the government agrees to reimburse, with the addition of a fee of about 3 percent. The more the company spends, the more it makes, so it pays to be profligate. All the former employees I spoke to told of KBR’s over-ordering equipment such as computers, generators, and vehicles on an epic scale. Millions of dollars’ worth of equipment was left to rot in yards in the desert.

Frankly, it’s disheartening to read such things. It’s hard to believe one small city in a largely rural state unblessed by the fruits of the Electoral College can make a difference. Who cares what Montana thinks? That’s what the opponents of the Iraq War referendum would have you believe. Maybe I’m a hopeless idealist, but I think Missoula’s opinion does matter. Small towns and cities across the nation are taking a stand against George W. Bush’s bleak vision of America’s future: a series of metropolis-bunkers spanning the globe providing endless profit for the well-connected few. Unfortunately, few elected representatives can find the courage to stand up to the war profiteers and their supporters in the Bush Administration and Congress. Therefore, it’s time we did. Maybe only then will they finally listen to us.

Vote YES on Missoula’s Iraq War Referendum.

by jhwygirl

This is a repost, originally posted January 28, 2007 at MontanaNetroots. It refers to an event held in Helena, Montana on January 27th.

Representative Art Noonan of Butte stood in front of the State Capitol, in the brisk 15 degree Montana blue sky day before a crowd of peace supporters that included WWII and Vietnam veterans, Knitters for Peace, a Woman in Black and dozens of others, and posed that question.

A free-form rally was held on Saturday to coincide with’s march in Washington DC – which our own Cece is in attendance by the grace of a scholarship.

Noonan was joined by Senator Steve Gallus of Butte and Representative Julie French of Scoby, all of whom spoke passionately in support of our military and in protest of the war in Iraq – of the lies and falsehoods that got us there, and of the enormous cost in human lives as a result.

Noonan’s speech welled tears in my eyes – man, can that man speak! – and I dare say that there were several others also wiping away tears. In a moving speech, Noonan detailed how our nation got to this point, with lies of weapons of mass destruction, with lies of connecting 9/11 to Iraq and with the truth that we all know now. He spoke of the tremendous sacrifice that is being asked of our nation’s sons and daughters and posed this:

Ask yourself – What is the value of a life?……….And then ask yourself – What is the value of a life given for yours?

This is the question our nation needs to ask. This is the question our nation needs to answer. How many lives are worth what our president seeks in Iraq? And can what our president seeks in Iraq ever be found? Blindness to this very essence of what the war in Iraq has brought us – thousands of American lives lost at a cost that is undefinable and with lives which are priceless in value – is what must be considered, and what must never be forgotten.

Representative Julie French told the crowd of her son who had served in the service, and a younger son who has told her that if he is asked to go, he will do so without question. She spoke of her unwaivering support of men and women in service and HB 179, which she sponsored, that will create a Montana monetary relief fund for families and soldiers called up for federal service. She noted that while the monetary amount may seem insignificant in relation to what is actually being asked of the service men and women and their families, it is important for Montana’s sons and daughters to know that we, the people of this state, support them 100%.

Senator Steve Gallus began the event, speaking of his lack of approval for the war, and told the crowd of his pride in helping to carry forward, in the State Legislature, Representative Michele Reinhardt’s resolution to protest the Iraqi war.

As Shane noted below, the exhibit of excellence in leadership by Gallus, Noonan and French was heartening. The people of Butte and Scoby are fortunate to have such fine people representing them in Helena.

Vote YES to Missoula’s Iraq War Referendum.

How Much More?

by jhwygirl

3837 U.S. soldiers dead.

98 U.S. soldiers killed since September 1st, 2007.

24 Sons of Montana.

Spc. Donald M. Young, 19 – Helena
Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins, 31 – Bozeman
Cpl. Chris Dana, 23 – Helena
Staff Sgt. Shane Becker, 35 – Helena
Army Spc. Scott Dykman, 27 – Helena
Army Pfc. Shawn Murphy, 24 – Butte
Marine Lance Cpl. Nick Palmer, 19 – Great Falls
Sgt. Travis M. Arndt, 23 – Bozeman
Pfc. Andrew D. Bedard, 19 – Missoula
Staff Sgt. Aaron N. Holleyman, 26 – Glasgow
Capt. Michael J. MacKinnon, 30 – Helena
Cp. Dean P. Pratt, 22 – Stevensville
Lance Cpl. Jeremy S. Sandvick Monroe, 20 – Chinook
Cpl. Phillip E. Baucus, 28 – Wolf Creek
Lance Cpl. Nicholas William B. Bloem, 20 – Belgrade
Petty Officer 2nd Class Charles V. Komppa, 35 – Belgrade
Sgt. 1st Class Robbie D. McNary, 42 – Lewistown
1st Lt. Edward M. Saltz, 27 – Bigfork
Cpl. Raleigh C. Smith, 21 – Troy
Pfc. Owen D. Witt, 20 – Sand Springs
Private Matthew T. Zeimer, 19 – Glendive
Army Spc. Michael Frank, 36 – Great Falls
Staff Sgt. Yance T. Gray, 26 – Ismay
Pvt. 1st Class Kyle G. Bohrnsen, 22 – Philipsburg

4 U.S. Soldiers missing or captured

135 Journalists killed

655,000 Iraqis killed

Vote YES to Missoula’s Iraq War Referendum.

by Pete Talbot

If I seem to be obsessed with the recent Senate votes on the Iraq War, who can blame me? After all, the Pentagon just asked Congress for another $190 billion in war funding.

I wrote about earlier votes a couple days ago. Here are the latest:

The Biden (D-DE ) Amendment is one of those non-binding things. Its statement of purpose: “to express the sense of Congress on federalism in Iraq.” In other words, to give the thumbs up to dividing Iraq into three separate states: Shiite, Sunni and Kurd.

It passed 75-23 with Baucus and Tester voting with the majority. The amendment was another small step in trying to figure a way out of this catastrophe — this time by divvying up a sovereign nation. Jon and Max did the right thing, though, along with a lot of Republicans from across the aisle.  They, too, are saying this war is screwed up … and they’re trying to figure out what to do.

On the Kyl (R-AZ) Amendment, Baucus voted “yea” and Tester “nay.” The amendment was to “express the sense of the Senate regarding Iran.” In other words — saber rattling. It passed 76-22 with Tester voting in the minority. Jon’s vote reaffirms why progressives worked so hard to get him elected. Max … well, what can I say.

Afghanistan, Iraq and now, Iran. Some of our senators have short memories.

by Pete Talbot

You need a scorecard to keep track of all the votes on the Iraq War taking place in the U.S. Senate these days. Our Montana Senators have been on the losing end, most times. They also cast a couple of bad votes.

On the Webb (D-VA) Amendment to allow more time for our troops to stay home during rotations, both Sens. Baucus and Tester voted “yea.” The yeas had 56 and the nays had 44 but the amendment needed 60 votes to pass. Thank you anyway, Max and Jon.

The Feingold (D-WI)-Reid (D-NV) Amendment went down 70-28. It would have redeployed the troops out of Iraq by June 30, 2008 (nine months). Both Baucus and Tester voted “nay.” I was disappointed in Jon’s vote but expected as much from Max.

The Levin (D-MI) Amendment tied at 47-47, so it didn’t make it. The amendment would “provide for a reduction and transition of United States forces in Iraq.” Both our senators voted for it, thankfully.

Then there was the wacky Cornyn (R-TX) Amendment which basically blasted – the progressive, activist, grassroots organization. MoveOn had taken out some high profile newspaper ads criticizing Gen. Petraeus. The amendment read, in part, that (the Senate) “strongly condemn(s) personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus” and it passed 72-25. Baucus and Tester voted for it. Let’s keep our eye on the ball, guys. What a colossal waste of time.

The Democrats haven’t won on any of these votes, yet, but they’re being persistent and I appreciate that. They need to hang together even tighter on the votes that matter. More-and-more Republicans are coming around. It’s time to change course.

by jhwygirl

Via Left in the West, Papa 4&20 Jay Stevens highlights the fact that our Senator Max doesn’t quite seem to be assessing the situation in Iraq with eyes wide open:

“I and others repeatedly made it clear to the leadership that they’ve got to do a lot more than they are doing now,” said Baucus, who is on his first visit to Iraq. “They need a bigger nudge. They could stand a greater dose of reality to move them.”

A bigger nudge? A greater dose of reality to move them?

The death toll of American troops is 3788 (September 18th 7:57 p.m., MST.) Montana has lost 22 sons, with 2 in the past month.

49 American troops since September 1st.

Nearly THREE U.S. soldiers have died every day since September 1st.

$453,000,000,000 total.

$200,000,000 per day

How many more Max? How much more?


When in college I had the opportunity to meet Senator John Heinz III – one wonderful Republican. By the time I had met him, he had been elected 3 times. He was, needless to say, well-admired. There were many who felt (as I recall) that he was well on his way to the Whitehouse.

That meeting is still with me. The Senator seemed to genuinely want to meet me and hear what I had to say. Me? I was too star-struck, and besides that, there simply wasn’t anything I had to say other than the fact that I was “extremely honored” to meet him. Plus, he was pretty darn good-looking. I did ask him one question though – I wanted to know how much he was influenced by people who wrote him.

In a very sincere way he told me that calls and letters he got from citizens were very important to him and that he looked at each letter as representing the viewpoint of about 2,000 people. I don’t know how he came up with that number – but I took him at his word.

Now that was back in the 80’s – in a state that obviously has a much larger population than our own Montana – but that one statement has influenced me to write my representatives since that day.

Email Max tonight – here.

Call Max tomorrow – 202-224-2651.

And then write him a letter. A letter speaks a 1000 words. I know it’s true – John told me so.

The Honorable Max Baucus
511 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-2602

by Pete Talbot

What a strange dichotomy: say the Pledge and get out of Iraq.

The Iraq War resolution, for sure, will appear on the ballot this fall. Now it looks like a resolution for mandatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at city council meetings could be on the ballot, too.

How interesting that Aldermen Nicholson, Hendrickson, Ballas and Wilkins, the same guys who said the resolution to bring our troops home from Iraq is a waste of council time and money, are pushing to get a mandatory Pledge resolution on the ballot.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that city business should be filling potholes, funding police and firefighters, and plowing the streets – that the city shouldn’t be involved in other ethereal affairs – and then claim that the Pledge of Allegiance needs to be on the ballot.

I’ve got no problem with saying the Pledge at council meetings, if that’s what the person running the meeting wants to do. If that same person prefers starting the meeting with a reading or a poem or a song, that’s fine, too.

But the claim that it’s a waste of time and money to vote on a resolution to get the troops out of Iraq, then to try and put a mandatory Pledge of Allegiance resolution on the ballot, rings false. There has been a lot more time spent debating the Pledge at council meetings. It seems the issue gets raised every couple of years or so, usually around election time.

One word comes to mind: hypocrisy.

by jhwygirl

Specialist Donald M. Young was killed Wednesday in Baghdad, from wounds sustained when his vehicle was struck with an IED. Young was the 2nd graduate of Capital High School killed in Iraq.

Donald Young was the 5th Helena native killed in the Iraq war, and the 20th Montanan.

Tears and prayers for the family and friends of Donald Young.

Godspeed Donald Young, Godspeed.

May no soldier go unforgotten.

Killed in Iraq:

Spc. Donald M. Young, 19 – Helena
Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins, 31 – Bozeman
Cpl. Chris Dana, 23 – Helena
Staff Sgt. Shane Becker, 35 – Helena
Army Spc. Scott Dykman, 27 – Helena
Army Pfc. Shawn Murphy, 24 – Butte
Marine Lance Cpl. Nick Palmer, 19 – Great Falls
Sgt. Travis M. Arndt, 23 – Bozeman
Pfc. Andrew D. Bedard, 19 – Missoula
Staff Sgt. Aaron N. Holleyman, 26 – Glasgow
Capt. Michael J. MacKinnon, 30 – Helena
Cp. Dean P. Pratt, 22 – Stevensville
Lance Cpl. Jeremy S. Sandvick Monroe, 20 – Chinook
Cpl. Phillip E. Baucus, 28 – Wolf Creek
Lance Cpl. Nicholas William B. Bloem, 20 – Belgrade
Petty Officer 2nd Class Charles V. Komppa, 35 – Belgrade
Sgt. 1st Class Robbie D. McNary, 42 – Lewistown
1st Lt. Edward M. Saltz, 27 – Bigfork
Cpl. Raleigh C. Smith, 21 – Troy
Pfc. Owen D. Witt, 20 – Sand Springs

Killed in Afghanistan:

Pfc. Kristofor T. Stonesifer, 28 – Missoula
Joshua Michael Hyland, 31 – Missoula

3684 American forces have been killed in the Iraqi war.

Tonight, of those 3684 deaths, there are 5 families that have yet to hear that their son or daughter has been taken from them.

God Bless.

by jhwygirl

This is cross-posted at MontanaNetroots.

Governor Brian Schweitzer announced yesterday that he will be directing that the flag be lowered to half-mast when a Montana member of the Armed Forces is killed in the line of duty.

On June 29th, Congress signed into law the Army Specialist Joseph P. Micks Federal Flag Code Amendment Act of 2007, which authorizes the Governor of any state, territory or possession of the U.S. to order that the flag be flown at half-mast when a soldier from that state, territory or possession is killed.

Schweitzer has ordered that flags be flown at half-mast two days prior and until dusk on the day of service for any Montana Armed Forces member. “Our soldiers deserve no less than one of our nation’s highest honors, flying the flag at half-mast.”

I know many of us in the Montana blogosphere have pondered why the flag isn’t flown at half-mast when a soldier is killed. I know that it has been done in the hometown of the deceased soldier.

While I am glad the our Governor has acted so quickly to act on the Congressional act – it will be a sad day when it has to be implemented.

Discuss the war – end the war. Now.

Support the City of Missoula War Referendum.

by Pete Talbot

Missoula City Council voted 6-6 and Mayor John Engen cast the deciding vote to put an Iraq War troop withdrawal resolution on the November ballot.

But that’s the short story. It was a thoughtful, emotional and mostly civil evening. Twenty-six people spoke in favor of the resolution and 17 spoke against. It was some of the better discourse that the council has had recently and the discussion said a lot about Missoula.

“Our decision makers in D.C. have failed us,” said one of the resolution’s supporters. “Give the voters here a chance.”

“You embolden our enemy against us,” said an opponent. “It won’t end until we defeat them or they defeat us.”

“Democracy” was the key word of the evening. The definitions ranged from spreading democracy in the Middle East to allowing democracy at the polls here in Missoula. It came up often.

“More resolutions, more democracy,” said a supporter.

However, those advancing the resolution were said by opponents to be “unfaithful to democracy” and were guilty of “grandstanding and preening.” Resolution proponents were also accused of political motivation, manipulating the public and conspiracy.

Ward Two’s John Hendrickson called the resolution “wrong and disgusting” and certain members of council were “manipulating us for voter turnout.”

Much of the debate centered around the city’s role in non-municipal affairs.

“You’re good at filling pot holes,” said one man, “but don’t do this.”

“Mind your own business” and don’t waste time and resources on matters outside your jurisdiction, said another.

But the wife of a soldier in Iraq said of the resolution, “I really want this vote and I want it bad.”

Here’s the abbreviated version of the “non-binding statement of policy by the citizens of Missoula on the occupation of Iraq by the military of the United States of America. The intent of this referendum is to influence the United States Congress.” It will appear, in more detail, on the Nov. 7 ballot, but the basic gist is:

“The citizens of Missoula, Montana, hereby urge the Congress of the United States of America to authorize and fund an immediate and orderly withdrawal of the United States military from Iraq in a manner that is fully protective of U.S. soldiers.”

The vote followed ward boundaries. In Ward One, Dave Strohmaier and Heidi Kendall voted for the resolution; in Ward Two, John Hendrickson and Don Nicholson voted against it. Ward Three’s Stacy Rye and Bob Jaffe voted for it while Ward Four (Jon Wilkins and Jerry Ballas) voted against the resolution. Ward Five (Dick Haines and Jack Reidy) voted “no” while Ward Six’s Ed Childers and Marilyn Marler voted “yes.” All twelve council members defended their votes during council comments.

“This is the one way we can allow people to weigh in” on such a contentious issue, Councilwoman Rye said.

Public comment started around 9:30 p.m. and council voted on the resolution a little before midnight. The public stayed unusually courteous and attentive throughout. The mayor ran a clean and efficient meeting.

“You all did Missoula proud,” Mayor Engen said of the process.

Some members of council and the public said the resolution would reinforce Missoula’s image as a liberal college town, and give the city a ”black eye.” But considering that the Butte-Silver Bow Commissioners passed their own resolution 8-4 and Helena’s City Commission voted unanimously to put a similar referendum on the ballot, it was an awfully close vote.

by Pete Talbot

Here’s a brief update on Jay’s June 7 post about various Montana cities drafting resolutions to get us out of Iraq. His big question was: where the hell is Missoula on this?

Helena’s City Commission voted unanimously to put a referendum on the ballot this November. Butte is actually the first city in Montana to call for withdrawal from Iraq. The Butte Council of Commissioners voted 8-4 urging a “rapid and comprehensive withdrawal.”

It turns out that a few members of Missoula’s City Council are working on a resolution that could appear on November’s municipal election ballot. This effort is being advanced by Ward 3 Alderfolk Stacy Rye and Bob Jaffe. Council members now await Committee of the Whole Chairman Ed Childers, Ward 6, to schedule a hearing — perhaps as early as next week.

Once the language is agreed upon, the entire council will have to vote to put this on the ballot. This needs to be done 75 days before the November 6 election. Council members that I talked to seem to think a simple majority is all that’s needed to get it on the ballot but I’m waiting for a call back from the city clerk to confirm this.

Most of the language to date comes from Helena’s ‘Out of Iraq’ referendum. So far, here’s how Missoula’s resolution reads:

“On _________, 2007, the members of the City Council of Missoula voted to place the following referendum on the November 6, 2007 ballot for the approval or disapproval by the voters of the City of Missoula. This referendum is a non-binding statement of policy by the citizens of Missoula on the occupation of Iraq by the military of the United States of America. The intent of this referendum is to influence the United States Congress.

“The citizens of Missoula, Montana, hereby urge the Congress of the United States of America to authorize and fund an immediate and orderly withdrawal of the United States military from Iraq in a manner that is fully protective of U.S. soldiers.”

A referendum is what it’s called as it winds its way through city council and then gets placed on the ballot. If and when it is passed by the voters, it becomes a resolution. At least that’s my understanding on the difference between the two words.

I can hardly wait to see how the assorted members of council vote on this. Plus, as Jay suggests, Missoula should be taking a leadership role on this issue.

by Jay Stevens

From a press release in my email inbox, via Jackie Corr:

Today the Butte-Silver Bow Council of Commissioners voted 8 – 4 to pass a resolution calling for a “rapid and comprehensive withdrawal” from Iraq. Butte is the first Montana city to call for the withdrawal of troops, and joins hundreds of cities and towns nationwide who have called for an end to the occupation of Iraq.

The resolution also calls on congress to fully fund mental, physical health, education, disability and rehabilitation benefits for veterans, and to pursue security and stability through diplomacy. The resolution was introduced to the council last April by a group of veterans and concerned citizens called the Butte Montanans Support our Troops and Withdrawal from Iraq Coalition.

This follows the Helena City Council’s move to put a referendum on the Iraq War on the ballot on November.

To many, this may seem like a futile gesture. It’s not. If enough cities, counties, and states vote on resolutions like this, it will slowly seep into the political consciousness of those living within the Beltway that we, the people, want out of Iraq.

My only question: where’s Missoula? Shouldn’t we be leading this effort?

by Jay Stevens

Bush has threatened to veto the Democrats’ newest Iraqi funding bill because it includes “unacceptable language restricting funding.” Like, for example, requiring Bush to report progress in Iraq to Congress.

Booman Tribune:

If the President is going to veto over that then we really are entering into some kind of wonderland. I don’t think he can hold his caucus together on this veto. I’m not saying the GOP would override his veto, but there will be a lot more defections.

This veto dance is getting silly. I realize the Prez can’t sink much lower among the American people, so there’s no concern in the administration for that, but at some point folks are going to realize this man is out of control.

by Jay Stevens

What’s going on? Didn’t we already learn to be wary of the “conventional wisdom” on Iraq passed down from on high? The latest meme is that we should stay in Iraq, because if we leave chaos will ensue, that we owe Iraq the obligation to stay until the mess we’ve made is put right.

It’s a dangerous view, if only because it gives Iraq war proponents the necessary little budge to delay serious talk of withdrawal until after the 2008 elections. And by that time, because of the domestic political situation, we’ll be locked in Iraq for the indefinite future. Four more years? Ten? Twenty?

The most able defense of this point of view was supplied by Noah Feldman in the April 8 issue of The New York Times Magazine. In it, Feldman makes plain that the current Iraqi funding bill with withdrawal timetables was written, voted on, and passed with the full knowledge that it would fail. Why?

Do the Democrats really intend for U.S. troops to stand by and allow Iraqis to slaughter one another while claiming that the defeat of Al Qaeda is our only objective? To do so would be to repudiate the only clear foreign policy legacy of the Clinton years, namely the principle of no more Rwandas — that the U.S. can and must intervene to stop genocide. Would the American public really be prepared to accept preventable massacres taking place before the eyes of U.S. soldiers?

Quite simple. The Democrats do not want to be responsible if all h*ll breaks out in Iraq after our withdrawal.

So, even if a Democrat wins the White House in 2008 – which is looking increasingly likely – and the Democratic party maintains their majority in Congress – which looks certain – if we don’t withdraw by January 2009, we’ll be there for good.

Naturally it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Feldman actually supports the war:

…Deposing Saddam Hussein was not a genuine part of the war on terror except in the most oblique and indirect sense, but like it or not, the present conflict in Iraq is now at the heart of the struggle with Al Qaeda and violent jihadism. Just because President Bush says it’s so, and just because he helped make it so, doesn’t mean it isn’t so. It is heartening that so many leading figures in the Democratic Party seem to understand this — though of course the fact sits very uneasily with the simultaneous desire to get troops out of Iraq.

Montana’s Jack the Blogger offers up the same rationale in more blunt language:

McCain said very correctly that, “America has a vital interest in preventing the emergence of Iraq as a Wild West for terrorists, similar to Afghanistan before 9/11. By leaving Iraq before there is a stable Iraqi governing authority we risk precisely this, and the potential consequence of allowing terrorists sanctuary in Iraq is another 9/11 or worse.”

Feldman and Jack the B are, of course, completely wrong on this presumption. Al Qaeda was a fringe terrorist group even among Sunni nations before and after 9/11, right up until the United States invaded Iraq unilaterally. And even now al Qaeda is not terribly popular among the Iraqi factions jostling for power. Also, al Qaeda’s international, pan-Arabic form of jihadism is not the norm for Islamic terror in the region, which is generally nationalistic and regional in form. Like Hamas or Fatah. That is, it’s quite possible – even likely – that US withdrawal would cause al Qaeda to be again pushed to the edge of Middle East power politics.

Jack the B’s urging to wait and see if the “surge” will work is also just another delay tactic. Even if Petreus is on the right track in implementing counter-insurgency tactics, there’s far too few troops. The surge is as much a political game as the Democrats’ timetables.

Feldman and Jack the B also ignore the national security reports that say the United States’ presence in Iraq is creating terror. That’s natural: as an overwhelming number of Iraqis oppose US military occupation of their country, more are inclined to take arms against us. If we leave, terrorism is likely to decrease. Other military studies have shown that what terrorism that does exist in Iraq is extremely unlikely to follow us home. So: if we withdraw, terror decreases and remains in the region. Withdrawal, then, is clearly not a national security risk.

However, staying is clearly is. We’re overextending our military forces, sending troops back into combat ill-equipped, under-trained, and unready mentally or physically for battle. The lowering of recruitment standards has allowed the US to maintain recruitment goals, but as the war extends – which it will, given our lackluster effort – those numbers will continue to decline, and our military will be damaged. That is, of course, assuming no other global or domestic crisis occurs requiring our troops. Like, say, war with Iran.

Meanwhile, the longer we stay, the worse our credibility internationally becomes. Our biggest asset after WWII wasn’t the number of ICBMs we possessed, but the principles we stood for. We were a good ally. The longer we remain in Iraq, the more we’re seen as an international rogue state. The world’s population has already turned against us, ranking us alongside Iran as global troublemakers. Governments must necessarily follow, and our diplomatic efforts, military endeavors, and trade will all suffer as a result.

What are we left with? Sad and confused well-wishing, the kind we got from an otherwise very rational David Crisp, who sums up his whole position as such: “Going to war in Iraq was wrong. Let’s stay there.” Basically, he’s saying, since we broke the country, we need to fix it. Feldman feels the same way: “We have no business starting wars we cannot bring ourselves to complete, but maybe we can bring ourselves to win a war we didn’t start.”

Right. That reminds me of Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

This war is not winnable. Reasonable policy-makers knows this. Sy Hersch:

Right now, a lot of people on the inside know it’s over in Iraq, but there are no plans for how to get out. You’re not even allowed to think that way. So what we have now is a government that’s in a terrible mess, with no idea of how to get out. Except, as one of my friends said, the “fail forward” idea of going into Iran.

Staying in Iraq at current troop levels (give or take a few dozen thousands) and unilaterally is a failed strategy. Period. Unless the nation ratchets up the war – and I’m talking conscription, war-time economy, the whole kielbasa – or agrees to submit to an international peace-keeping effort, in which we would play only a supporting role – neither of which is politically feasible – things will remain the same.

We’re not going to “fix” Iraq by staying. So now it’s up to us. There’s still time to convince Jon Tester and Max Baucus that it’s imperative we leave by the end of 2008.

It’s a simple choice, really. Do we leave in two years, or twenty?

by Jay Stevens

This story on how one of Katie Couric’s “personal comments” was cribbed from a WSJ op-ed really hits home the points made in Gary Kamiya’s Salon piece, “Iraq: Why the media failed.”

Kamiya’s piece is a must-read withering attack on the media passivity that plagues big-corporate traditional media outlets. Basically Kamiya argues that, due to psychological, ideological, and institutional reasons, big media have become an “info nanny,” guardians of the mythical “national center,” who filter out information that might counter a perceived national consensus. (I’ll let you ponder how DC journalists know what people outside the Beltway are actually thinking.) Basically, big media is easily cowed, bullied, and subservient to their cocktail party buddies, the government’s big power brokers.

The key section of Kamiya’s piece that brings me to Couric is this:

The decline of newspapers, the rise of infotainment, and media company owners’ insistence on delivering high returns to their shareholders have diminished resources and led to a bottom-line fixation unconducive to aggressive reporting. There are big bucks to be made in being aggressively adversarial, but most of those bucks are on the right, not the left. The meteoric success of right-wing media outlets like Fox News and ranting demagogues like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter has not encouraged media owners, too shortsighted to see that there are viable alternatives to the kind of bland national nanny-ism manifest on the networks, to pursue real journalism….

Another is the opiating effect of corporate culture: Major media has become increasingly bland and toothless, just like the huge bureaucracies that own it and that are increasingly indistinguishable from each other and from the federal government. It is harder to “monitor the centers of power” when you work for a gigantic corporation that is itself at the bull’s-eye of power.

There are two maybe-not-so-shocking revelations from the Couric plagiarism debacle. First is that Couric’s writers are not talented enough to come up with original content. And no one recognized the text! Apparently these people don’t read the Wall Street Journal — other than to steal from it – a pardonable sin for the majority of Americans, who have jobs and kids to tend, but unforgivable for a national television news team.

The second is that Couric doesn’t write her own personal commentary. That’s right, she either doesn’t have the skill, or can’t be bothered with penning one minute of personal material a day. How far network journalism has fallen since the days of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite!

Let’s be frank. Katie Couric is not a journalist. She’s an entertainer, a gussied-up teleprompt reader. Period. She’s the anchor for one of the nation’s most influential and powerful news outlets, likely representative of the future of network news.

And you wonder why we’re mired in Iraq?

by Jay Stevens

Okay, first I was rabid in one direction, then measured in the other. What does seem clear is that there are two possible methods to end the war: through funding, or through a revised war resolution.

(By the way, it seems that the War Powers Act of 1973 – which I assume Iraq falls under – gives Congress a clearer role in ending the war. Check it out.)

In any case…I finally got a peek at the Reid/Feingold bill:

a) Transition of Mission – The President shall promptly transition the mission of United States forces in Iraq to the limited purposes set forth in subsection (d).

(b) Commencement of Safe, Phased Redeployment from Iraq – The President shall commence the safe, phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq that are not essential to the purposes set forth in subsection (d). Such redeployment shall begin not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(c) Prohibition on Use of Funds – No funds appropriated or otherwise made available under any provision of law may be obligated or expended to continue the deployment in Iraq of members of the United States Armed Forces after March 31, 2008.

(d) Exception for Limited Purposes – The prohibition under subsection (c) shall not apply to the obligation or expenditure of funds for the limited purposes as follows:

(1) To conduct targeted operations, limited in duration and scope, against members of al Qaeda and other international terrorist organizations.

(2) To provide security for United States infrastructure and personnel.

(3) To train and equip Iraqi security services.

I found this at Bob Geiger’s blog, who has this to say about Jon Tester:

“Senator Tester will not vote for any measure that he feels may compromise the safety and security of the troops on the ground,” said Matt McKenna, Communications Director for freshman Senator Jon Tester of Montana.

But putting the onus on Democrats to keep funding this war, versus placing the weight on Bush to pull the troops out of that quagmire before the money is gone, means that Tester is almost reciting Republican talking points for a response. Jon Tester’s a good man and I have faith that he will rethink this before the vote actually comes to the Senate floor.


by Jay Stevens

The predictable outcome over the funding remarks made by Barack Obama has come to pass – the media has eagerly snapped it up and used it against the Democratic party. Check out this headline: “Anti-War Crowd Turns on Obama.”

What the article fails to mention is that the “anti-war crowd” is around 70 percent of the electorate. Instead it reduces us to a “rabble,” with animal-like qualities (“turns on” refers to a trained animal, of course). I’m sure the resident conservative commentors will enjoy the allegory, but the rest of us are smoldering a little.

In any case, I’m beginning to back down on my attack on Obama for his comments for a couple of reasons.

First, readbetween had some excellent points to make about the subject, namely that it’s possible Obama is being sincere about the issue.

Second, after talking with Tester’s office, they said Jon would not vote for a bill that would leave U.S. military troops underequipped.

Let’s be frank. Congress knows the funding bill is going to be vetoed, and that Bush will do everything to stay in Iraq until his term ends, even if that means vetoing funding bill after funding bill and letting the soldiers rot in Baghdad. After all, if he really cared about the condition, morale, and equipment of the troops in Iraq, he would have made strategic and logistical changes, oh, about four years ago.

Remember, this is the President that sends troops into battle without proper armor, that cuts benefits for veterans, that overextends units, that sends men still unfit for combat back to Iraq, that has lowered enlistment standards drastically, and prefers letting the Iraqi wounded recover in squalor rather than admit privatized medical care doesn’t work. I could also compare the treatment of the troops with the administration’s largesse when it comes to defense contractor cronies. In short, this President doesn’t give a rat’s *ss about the men and women who serve. Why should Congress think this President will swallow withdrawal in order to fund his troops? He’d rather let them starve than admit he was wrong.

Montana Headlines and I have debated the constitutionality of denying funding to Iraq in order to end the war. In the end, I think it’s moot, and I agree with his conclusion: Congress needs to amend or draft a new Iraq Resolution bill.

In fact, there were reports in late February that such a resolution was being drafted by Senate Democrats, Carl Levin (MI) and Joe Biden (DE).

Tester’s office said Jon would consider such a resolution, and I think that’s the way to go.

by Jay Stevens

I admit I’ve enjoyed the back-and-forth with rightie blogger Montana Headlines. It’s good to have a quality foil in the Montana blogosphere, it keeps me on my toes.

The latest MH post was in response to my savaging of Barack Obama over his statements on Iraq War funding. (In which I do now admit I was a little over-heated. I like Obama.) In MH’s post, he questions whether Congress can Constitutionally deny funds to the Iraq War, and opines that Obama’s stance may, in fact, be the most politically astute:

Unless Congress is also prepared to pass a resolution that specifically de-authorizes the war, it is asking for a Constitutional crisis to have Congress merely defund the war. Any attached instructions for military commanders also are asking for a Constitutional crisis.

Consider: Congress has the constitutional authority and responsibility to declare war (and, as we have stated before, presumably to undeclare war), and it is tasked with raising funds to support the military. It was probably never contemplated by the Founders that the two might not go clearly hand-in-hand with each other.

Congress needs formally to “undeclare war” if it wants to make a defunding iron-clad….


[The President] can furthermore justifiably claim that the Constitution gives no authority to Congress to dictate how a military action is to be conducted. The Supreme Court is unlikely to come up with an emanation from a penumbra saying that Congress has somehow developed constitutional military command authority.

Man, I love me a good ole fashioned Constitutional debate!

So let us traipse over to Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States…


To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces…

It seems clear that the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the scope of military action. With the original Iraqi War Resolution, Congress gave the President the authority to use force, if necessary, against the present danger of Iraq. (While I happen to think this Resolution void because of the manufacturing of danger by the administration, Congress does not.) A clear way to end the Iraq War, then, would be to pass a new resolution.

But this section also gives Congress the power to fund the military as it sees fit. Nowhere does the document state that Congress must fund the military to the President’s desires, nor does it deny Congress the authority to allocate the money where it sees fit. In fact, it seems clear that Congress’ control over funding is intended to serve as a check on the executive’s power to wage war.

Don’t believe me? You shouldn’t: I’m just some schmuck with a computer. But here’s what Alexander Hamilton had to say about Congress’ power to raise funds for the military in Federalist paper 24:

….in that clause which forbids the appropriation of money for the support of an army for any longer period than two years a precaution which, upon a nearer view of it, will appear to be a great and real security against the keeping up of troops without evident necessity.

Clearly Hamilton here sees Congressional control over funding a necessary check on the executive’s desire to build up an army or keep one in the field longer than necessary, as defined by Congress.

Then there’s Federalist paper 26:

The legislature of the United States will be OBLIGED, by this provision, once at least in every two years, to deliberate upon the propriety of keeping a military force on foot; to come to a new resolution on the point; and to declare their sense of the matter, by a formal vote in the face of their constituents. They are not AT LIBERTY to vest in the executive department permanent funds for the support of an army, if they were even incautious enough to be willing to repose in it so improper a confidence.

Got that? Congress isn’t allowed to abrogate this authority to the executive. It’s not only acceptable to consider limiting funds for the military, such consideration is Constitutionally mandated.

Given that Congress can both dictate the scope and form of war and controls the funding of war, it seems clear that the recent Iraq War funding bill is constitutional. Congress can dictate to the President exactly how long he has to wage war in Iraq. Or, more specifically, the operations are up to the President; the goals and scope of the war is up to Congress.

by Jay Stevens

It’s time for the Senate to stand up and represent the American people.

President Bush, of course, has threatened to veto the recently passed Iraq War supplemental funding legislation that puts a timetable for American troop withdrawal from Iraq. This is the bill that most Americans want.

Harry Reid responded by co-sponsoring Russ Feingold’s bill to cut funding altogether for the war, and put it up for vote in the Senate.

If that vote comes to the Senate, it’s going to be gut-check time for the lawmakers. They’ll have to be bold, and either approve or disapprove of the war, once and for all, right next to their names for us all to remember and hold accountable. That is, knowing the popularity of the war with the electorate, it’s going to be very difficult for Senators up for election in 2008 or 2010 (if funding continues) to continue their support for Iraq.


The Iraq Supplemental + benchmarks + withdrawal plan is extremely popular with voters. If Bush gives them the finger, it’ll give congressional Democrats more political leeway in approaches toward ending the war, up to and including defunding.

Meanwhile, Obama has just lost the Democratic primary. Kos says this little stunt doesn’t make Obama a “non-starter” for his primary vote, but it’s a monumental act of betrayal to the party, to the country, to the servicemen and -women serving in Iraq.

(Watch this video and tell me that the war’s worth it, right after you tell me what the h*ll it’s about.)

Wulfgar! — naturally – finds the proper emotional tone when considering Obama’s stupendous gaffe:

People are dying here. America is bleeding money here. The Deciderator wants that to continue such that he might secure his legacy by leaving this clusterfr@ck to his successor. More lives, more money, and so goes the circle of life, death and civil war in a country we have no reason to be in. And, on the one issue that matters most to the American people and America’s future, Barrack Ray Vaughn Obama has signed off on whatever Bush wants. I cannot, I will not, support this man for President.

Or take Colby’s perspective:

Yeah, that is the way to force the President to change his Iraq policy; issue completely empty threats that he doesn’t have to take seriously. Any decent parent could tell you that threats without follow-through are a useless way to change someone’s behavior. No wonder this President thinks he doesn’t answer to anyone, apparently he doesn’t have to!

Don Pogreba:

Insane. If we’ve learned anything that past few years, it’s that “The Decider” doesn’t much care about pressure, or politics, or policy. Obama’s statement is a clear admission that he will, as the Democrats have done over and over, simply cave before the threat of the White House’s crude and illogical rhetoric.

This is a historically weak President, supporting and unpopular and profoundly wrong policy. If this isn’t the moment to stand up, when is?


I flatter myself thinking Obama’s people are out there checking in on the blogosphere’s reaction to his unprincipled stand. But if you are, you all just got flamed by Montana Democrats. That’s bad news for you folks, because not only do we like backbone in our politicians, we’re a d*mn good barometer of how the country will fall. And this post is coming from a guy who was this close to backing you, early.

Obama, we’ve been hammering away at our representatives for years now to represent us for a change, and you’ve thrown it in our faces. Thanks. Good luck with that.

by Jay Stevens

Montana Headlines responded to my rant about national security and progressive values the other day, and he wrote a fair post that deserves a measured response.

First, MH took some offense at my dumping the Iraq War and its failures in the laps of conservatives:

Around here, given a choice between tax cuts and a war in Iraq, we would have chosen the former, every time, from day one. We would choose border control, domestic fiscal responsibility, stabilization of Social Security, efforts to preserve small farmers, ranchers, and businessmen, or any number of conservative domestic priorities over foreign military interventions. And we are hardly alone, since as we have noted before, there has long been what we call a “war gap” in the Republican party.

He’s right, of course. There are many conservatives who were, and are, against the war. Of course, in my post I consistently wrote that “conservative lawmakers” supported the war, under-equipped the troops, left them hanging dry upon their return, and continue to screech for lower taxes and against the draft, when increased taxes and a general conscription might have carried the day. (We’ll never know, of course.)

I stand by that statement. While MH would have chosen lower taxes over the war, a war happened and conservative lawmakers chose lower taxes, almost exclusively benefiting the wealthiest among us, while remaining mum on the piling evidence that the administration was grossly mishandling the operation. That’s well documented, and that’s how you lose wars.

As for the other criticism – for example, that Tester is not against the war enough, well, I’m happy he supported the recent vote for specific timetables. I don’t ever recall that Jon called for an immediate and complete withdrawal from Iraq during his candidacy. In fact, Jon was always vague on Iraq, calling for a “new strategy” that would bring our troops home. That’s exactly what he voted for. We’ll see where he stands on the Feingold/Reid bill, eh? So far it seems Jon’s been a team player in the Democratic strategy on Iraq. Considering he’s the lowest ranked Senator and that the Senate is pretty much evenly split on Iraq, I don’t see any other stance he could take.

As for the war being “illegal,” I think if you examine the Iraqi War Resolution, you won’t find much text supporting the current operation. Also, I believe that Iraq wasn’t a “continuing threat” to the United States at the time, that the administration was duplicitous in its case demonstrating that threat, and that, therefore, the basis of the resolution did not exist at the time of the invasion. Plus, I think Congress needs to declare war in a case where a threat wasn’t imminent (as it clearly was not in this case), as required by the Constitution. I don’t see anywhere in the Constitution that allows the Congress to abrogate its power, even voluntarily.

As for Malstrom…I don’t necessarily believe ICBMs are outdated, especially with the growing threat of a new militirized and p*ssed off Russia and a growing China. Maybe the 50 being yanked were outdated – which would be a good thing to get rid of, if they were – but who’s to say? As for getting a new mission to Malstrom, that’s really up to our senior Senator, Max Baucus, who has strings to pull.

As for above-ground testing and tactical nukes – I’d argue that their proliferation isn’t necessarily commensurate with a strong national defense, but in fact quite the opposite, especially in today’s unstable world. That is to say, that issue is moot, IMHO. In any case, it seemed a hasty add-on on MH’s part to stick the issue into the debate in order to uphold his prejudice against Tester. (Not a bad thing – I do it all the time – just a little awkward.) And tactical nukes could probably earn its own post.

Jon’s certainly had the bull’s eye pasted on his back, and a lot of folks are out to get him. I’m not sure why; he seems perfectly suited to representing the state’s best interests, even if we all can quibble over the details. Wouldn’t you rather have an honest fiscally conservative ranching Democrat serving Montana than a corrupt, spendthrift Republican?

by Jay Stevens

You’ve probably read about it – oh, everywhere – but it’s the four-year anniversary of the Iraq war. (Congratulations, Bush administration! Here’s wishing you no more!)

The first thing to do is think of the servicemen and –women in Iraq. We should all remind ourselves daily of what they’re going through, and what they’re doing. A good place to start is Slate’s The Sandbox, which features first-hand accounts of life in the desert.

Next, head over to the Stars & Stripes for its “Four Years in Iraq” special, and its featurettes profiling four men who are currently fighting the war.

If you don’t want to read a political rant about the war, now’s a good time to leave this post.

Steve Benen has an excellent post up today about this dubious anniversary. Read over the account of the Iraqi who helped pull down Saddam’s statue in 2004, and who now says the occupation is worse than living under Hussein. (And yes, that’s one account.)

Read Tony Snow’s response to a reporter who pressed Tony Snow for an explanation on Bush’s “recipe for success”: “zip it!”

Settle on Senator Gary Heart’s “Lessons of Iraq.” In it, he clearly outlines the way to successful future foreign policy:

Do not manufacture justification for invasions. Plan for all eventualities, including the most unpleasant. Do not pay exiles to tell you what you want to hear. Deal honestly with Congress and the American people. Be candid about possible costs in lives and money.


First, treat jihadist terrorism more like organized crime than traditional warfare. By declaring “war on terrorism” we made the fatal mistake that it could be crushed using conventional warfare and massed armies….

Second, liberate the U.S. from dependence on Persian Gulf oil. We can then sharply reduce the U.S. military presence in the region and remove the single most important iincentive for jihadism….

Third, restore principle to American foreign policy….We must regain our moral authority in the world by living up to our own high ideals and Constitutional principles. [Mark T does his bit by explaining why the Iraq mess was immoral from beginning to end. – JS]

Fourth, engage the nations of the world in achieving security for the global commons….

One of the many things that angers me about the Iraq War and the Bush administration in general is the squandered opportunity for creating a sensible and lasting new world order in the months following September 11. (Mark T might not have liked this order, but we’d be debating\ fair trade and campaign finance reform in this alternative future, instead of dead bodies and Constitutional crises, like we do now.) If Heart’s proposals had been applied then, we might have had something to be proud of.

Well…instead we’ve got a big clusterf*ck in Iraq that’s enriching the worst among us, is creating more international terrorists, is killing American boys and girls and untold numbers of Iraqis, and that has just about every person on the planet thinking we’re a bigger threat to peace and stability than Iran or North Korea.

A number of you might flinch at such accusations. Most of us are decent people wanting to do what’s right. Which is all the more reason why the Bush administration’s actions are so shameful. They never gave us a chance to think things out – they foisted this on us, falsifying evidence to invade. We never got a chance to decide what to do.

by Jay Stevens

I know the Notorious Mark T has made the same point as Samantha Power did in today’s Los Angeles Times, that US withdrawal might actually prevent ethnic cleansing in Iraq, and the topic rightfully belongs in his more eloquent blog, but I thought I’d write about it anyway.

It’s a provocative thought, isn’t it? It’s a simple premise: what we’re doing now is already creating wide-scale ethic displacement in Iraq. According to Power, 3.8 million Iraqis have already fled their homes, and continue to do so at a pace of 50,000 each month. And the people who would in theory be at most risk of ethnic cleansing – Shiites and Sunnis – unequivocally and almost unanimously want us to go. That is, it’s pretty obvious they don’t feel our troops are the only thing standing between Iraq and genocide.

Power thinks we can actually use withdrawal as a bargaining chip to broker a deal between the competing power groups in Iraq:

First, although it has a familiar and thus unsatisfying ring to it, the most viable long-term route to preventing mass atrocities is to use remaining U.S. leverage to bring about a political compromise that makes Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds feel economically stable, physically secure and adequately represented in political structures. This is consistent with the position of leading U.S. generals and the members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, who have stressed that there is no military solution to Iraq’s meltdown and urged the administration, the Iraqis and regional players to reopen broad-ranging political negotiations.

Power also suggests we promise to help voluntary displacement, and help secure asylum for Iraqi refugees. She also thinks the administration must swallow its pride and offer “belated U.S. support to the International Criminal Court, the only credible, independent, body with the jurisdiction to prosecute crimes against humanity and genocide.” (Oh, my! There is a use for these things!)

I’m not sure I agree that all of Power’s suggestions would work. But what’s clear is that our current policy does not work and never has. We either need to step up and send a few million troops over and implement a clampdown – which is politically infeasible domestically – or we need to withdraw. Those are the choices before us.

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