Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Michelle's pride

Apparently there are some people who took offense with Michelle Obama's comments about her pride in America. The AP reports In Milwaukee on Monday, Michelle Obama said: "Let me tell you, for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change." Oh really! Just as anyone in their right mind knew that Hillary Clinton wasn't faking the tears in New Hampshire, we know what Michelle Obama meant. And now the right wing pundits are piling on like a bunch of junkyard dogs. When Obama wins the Democratic nomination this summer, we will hear the Republicans playing Obama's wife's words over and over and over again, coloring her as some kind of unpatriotic traitor and America hater. That's what they do.

Michelle Robinson was 17 years old when Ronald Reagan started his presidency in 1981. George Herbert Walker Bush, as the 41st US president followed in 1989, when Michelle was 25. What's to like about those two? What's to be proud of? William Jefferson Clinton was the 42nd president from 1993- 2001. The man from Hope, Arkansas brought hope back to America during the 42nd administration, but beyond those years and since 2002, the George W Bush adminstration, not so much.
Michelle Obama said, for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country. Perhaps she was overstating, or perhaps, as her husband said "Statements like this are made and people try to take it out of context and make a great big deal out of it, and that isn't at all what she meant," "What she meant was, this is the first time that she's been proud of the politics of America," "Because she's pretty cynical about the political process, and with good reason, and she's not alone. But she has seen large numbers of people get involved in the process, and she's encouraged."
It's all politics and people are tired of it; tired of the accusations, the misstatements and the mean spiritedness. Cindy McCain, standing by her man, was trotted out onstage to counter Michelle's comment "I'm proud of my country, I don't know about you, if you heard those words earlier." and "I have, and always will be, proud of my country," Nice, Cindy. Living in your world must be pretty.
I wish I could be proud of my country now, but I'm not. There are too many things in this country that were broken intentionally by people who had too much power and too much greed. We have lost so much of what makes America great. We have lost our moral standing and our good name in the world and the bar on the right and wrong scale has been lowered. So much of what once represented America is gone and forgotten, left to another day.
Where is the pride in knowing that nearly 4000 US flag covered caskets have come home to America from the sands of Iraq from an uneccesary war? Where is the pride in knowing that the same war has left countless numbers of dead, misplaced and wounded Iraqi's? How many children have been left behind in America? How much fearmongering can one country take and for how many years? And why, why, why?
Even though I don't find much to be proud about America these days, I do have hope that we can and we will find American pride once again. November 2008 anyone?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Army Buried Study Faulting Iraq Planning

MICHAEL R. GORDON of The New York Times reveals that the Army Buried Study Faulting Iraq Planning going back to 2005. With the revelations of all the lies in the run up to the war, news about this study should be of no surprise to any of us. I just wonder what else we don't know or haven't been told. Special thanks to George, Colin, Condi, Tommy and Donald for standing up for the military.....again.

The Army is accustomed to protecting classified information. But when it comes to the planning for the Iraq war, even an unclassified assessment can acquire the status of a state secret.

That is what happened to a detailed study of the planning for postwar Iraq prepared for the Army by the RAND Corporation, a federally financed center that conducts research for the military.

After 18 months of research, RAND submitted a report in the summer of 2005 called “Rebuilding Iraq.” RAND researchers provided an unclassified version of the report along with a secret one, hoping that its publication would contribute to the public debate on how to prepare for future conflicts.

But the study’s wide-ranging critique of the White House, the Defense Department and other government agencies was a concern for Army generals, and the Army has sought to keep the report under lock and key.

A review of the lengthy report — a draft of which was obtained by The New York Times — shows that it identified problems with nearly every organization that had a role in planning the war. That assessment parallels the verdicts of numerous former officials and independent analysts.

The study chided President Bush — and by implication Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who served as national security adviser when the war was planned — as having failed to resolve differences among rival agencies. “Throughout the planning process, tensions between the Defense Department and the State Department were never mediated by the president or his staff,” it said.

The Defense Department led by Donald H. Rumsfeld was given the lead in overseeing the postwar period in Iraq despite its “lack of capacity for civilian reconstruction planning and execution.”

The State Department led by Colin L. Powell produced a voluminous study on the future of Iraq that identified important issues but was of “uneven quality” and “did not constitute an actionable plan.”

Gen. Tommy R. Franks, whose Central Command oversaw the military operation in Iraq, had a “fundamental misunderstanding” of what the military needed to do to secure postwar Iraq, the study said.

The regulations that govern the Army’s relations with the Arroyo Center, the division of RAND that does research for the Army, stipulate that Army officials are to review reports in a timely fashion to ensure that classified information is not released. But the rules also note that the officials are not to “censor” analysis or prevent the dissemination of material critical of the Army.

The report on rebuilding Iraq was part of a seven-volume series by RAND on the lessons learned from the war. Asked why the report has not been published, Timothy Muchmore, a civilian Army official, said it had ventured too far from issues that directly involve the Army.
“After carefully reviewing the findings and recommendations of the thorough RAND assessment, the Army determined that the analysts had in some cases taken a broader perspective on the early planning and operational phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom than desired or chartered by the Army,” Mr. Muchmore said in a statement. “Some of the RAND findings and recommendations were determined to be outside the purview of the Army and therefore of limited value in informing Army policies, programs and priorities.”

Warren Robak, a RAND spokesman, declined to talk about the contents of the study but said the organization favored publication as a matter of general policy.

“RAND always endeavors to publish as much of our research as possible, in either unclassified form or in classified form for those with the proper security clearances,” Mr. Robak said in a statement. "The multivolume series on lessons learned from Operation Iraqi Freedom is no exception. We also, however, have a longstanding practice of not discussing work that has not yet been published."

When RAND researchers began their work, nobody expected it to become a bone of contention with the Army. The idea was to review the lessons learned from the war, as RAND had done with previous conflicts.

The research was formally sponsored by Lt. Gen. James Lovelace, who was then the chief operations officer for the Army and now oversees Army forces in the Middle East, and Lt. Gen. David Melcher, who had responsibility for the Army’s development and works now on budget issues.

A team of RAND researchers led by Nora Bensahel interviewed more than 50 civilian and military officials. As it became clear that decisions made by civilian officials had contributed to the Army’s difficulties in Iraq, researchers delved into those policies as well.

The report was submitted at a time when the Bush administration was trying to rebut building criticism of the war in Iraq by stressing the progress Mr. Bush said was being made. The approach culminated in his announcement in November 2005 of his “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.”

One serious problem the study described was the Bush administration’s assumption that the reconstruction requirements would be minimal. There was also little incentive to challenge that assumption, the report said.

“Building public support for any pre-emptive or preventative war is inherently challenging, since by definition, action is being taken before the threat has fully manifested itself,” it said. “Any serious discussion of the costs and challenges of reconstruction might undermine efforts to build that support.”

Another problem described was a general lack of coordination. “There was never an attempt to develop a single national plan that integrated humanitarian assistance, reconstruction, governance, infrastructure development and postwar security,” the study said.

One result was that “the U.S. government did not provide strategic policy guidance for postwar Iraq until shortly before major combat operations commenced.” The study said that problem was compounded by General Franks, saying he took a narrow view of the military’s responsibilities after Saddam Hussein was ousted and assumed that American civilian agencies would do much to rebuild the country.

General Franks’s command, the study asserted, also assumed that Iraq’s police and civil bureaucracy would stay on the job and had no fallback option in case that expectation proved wrong. When Baghdad fell, the study said, American forces there “were largely mechanized or armored forces, well suited to waging major battles but not to restoring civil order. That task would have been better carried out, ideally, by military police or, acceptably, by light infantry trained in urban combat.”

A “shortfall” in American troops was exacerbated when General Franks and Mr. Rumsfeld decided to stop the deployment of the Army’s First Cavalry Division when other American forces entered Baghdad, the study said, a move that reflected their assessment that the war had been won. Problems persisted during the occupation. In the months that followed, the report said, there were “significant tensions, most commonly between the civilian and military arms of the occupation.”

The poor planning had “the inadvertent effort of strengthening the insurgency,” as Iraqis experienced a lack of security and essential services and focused on “negative effects of the U.S. security presence.” The American military’s inability to seal Iraq’s borders, a task the 2005 report warned was still not a priority, enabled foreign support for the insurgents to flow into Iraq.

In its recommendations, the study advocated an “inverted planning process” in which military planners would begin by deciding what resources were needed to maintain security after an adversary was defeated on the battlefield instead of treating the postwar phase as virtually an afterthought. More broadly, it suggested that there was a need to change the military’s mind-set, which has long treated preparations to fight a major war as the top priority. The Army has recently moved to address this by drafting a new operations manual which casts the mission of stabilizing war-torn nations as equal in importance to winning a conventional war.

As the RAND study went through drafts, a chapter was written to emphasize the implications for the Army. An unclassified version was produced with numerous references to newspaper articles and books, an approach that was intended to facilitate publication.

Senior Army officials were not happy with the results, and questioned whether all of the information in the study was truly unclassified and its use of newspaper reports. RAND researchers sent a rebuttal. That failed to persuade the Army to allow publication of the unclassified report, and the classified version was not widely disseminated throughout the Pentagon.

Neither General Lovelace nor General Melcher agreed to be interviewed for this article, but General Lovelace provided a statement through a spokesman at his headquarters in Kuwait.
“The RAND study simply did not deliver a product that could have assisted the Army in paving a clear way ahead; it lacked the perspective needed for future planning by the U.S. Army,” he said.

A Pentagon official who is familiar with the episode offered a different interpretation: Army officials were concerned that the report would strain relations with a powerful defense secretary and become caught up in the political debate over the war. “The Army leaders who were involved did not want to take the chance of increasing the friction with Secretary Rumsfeld,” said the official, who asked not to be identified because he did not want to alienate senior military officials.

The Army has asked that the entire RAND series be resubmitted and has said it will decide on its status thereafter.

Note to the Army; you get back to us on the status of the report; we'll be waiting. Note to the dead US troops killed in Iraq including my only child, Lt Ken Ballard, I'm so sorry that the citizens of this country allowed this adminstration to operate with the arrogance and secrecy that it has. There are alot of us really trying to change all that and I'm really sorry!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Chicken Doves

MATT TAIBBI from Rolling Stone has some thoughts about ending the occupation in Iraq. While his language is a little blunt at the end, he makes some good points. Okay, now I'm really depresed!

Elected to end the war, Democrats have surrendered to Bush on Iraq and betrayed the peace movement for their own political ends

Quietly, while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been inspiring Democrats everywhere with their rolling bitchfest, congressional superduo Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have completed one of the most awesome political collapses since Neville Chamberlain. At long last, the Democratic leaders of Congress have publicly surrendered on the Iraq War, just one year after being swept into power with a firm mandate to end it.

Solidifying his reputation as one of the biggest pussies in U.S. political history, Reid explained his decision to refocus his party's energies on topics other than ending the war by saying he just couldn't fit Iraq into his busy schedule. "We have the presidential election," Reid said recently. "Our time is really squeezed."

There was much public shedding of tears among the Democratic leadership, as Reid, Pelosi and other congressional heavyweights expressed deep sadness that their valiant charge up the hill of change had been thwarted by circumstances beyond their control — that, as much as they would love to continue trying to end the catastrophic Iraq deal, they would now have to wait until, oh, 2009 to try again. "We'll have a new president," said Pelosi. "And I do think at that time we'll take a fresh look at it."

Pelosi seemed especially broken up about having to surrender on Iraq, sounding like an NFL coach in a postgame presser, trying with a straight face to explain why he punted on first-and-goal. "We just didn't have any plays we liked down there," said the coach of the 0-15 Dems. "Sometimes you just have to play the field-position game...."

In reality, though, Pelosi and the Democrats were actually engaged in some serious point-shaving. Working behind the scenes, the Democrats have systematically taken over the anti-war movement, packing the nation's leading group with party consultants more interested in attacking the GOP than ending the war. "Our focus is on the Republicans," one Democratic apparatchik in charge of the anti-war coalition declared. "How can we juice up attacks on them?"
The story of how the Democrats finally betrayed the voters who handed them both houses of Congress a year ago is a depressing preview of what's to come if they win the White House. And if we don't pay attention to this sorry tale now, while there's still time to change our minds about whom to nominate, we might be stuck with this same bunch of spineless creeps for four more years. With no one but ourselves to blame.

The controversy over the Democratic "strategy" to end the war basically comes down to whom you believe. According to the Reid-Pelosi version of history, the Democrats tried hard to force President Bush's hand by repeatedly attempting to tie funding for the war to a scheduled withdrawal. Last spring they tried to get him to eat a timeline and failed to get the votes to override a presidential veto. Then they retreated and gave Bush his money, with the aim of trying again after the summer to convince a sufficient number of Republicans to cross the aisle in support of a timeline.

But in September, Gen. David Petraeus reported that Bush's "surge" in Iraq was working, giving Republicans who might otherwise have flipped sufficient cover to continue supporting the war. The Democrats had no choice, the legend goes, but to wait until 2009, in the hopes that things would be different under a Democratic president.

Democrats insist that the reason they can't cut off the money for the war, despite their majority in both houses, is purely political. "George Bush would be on TV every five minutes saying that the Democrats betrayed the troops," says Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Then he glumly adds another reason. "Also, it just wasn't going to happen."

Why it "just wasn't going to happen" is the controversy. In and around the halls of Congress, the notion that the Democrats made a sincere effort to end the war meets with, at best, derisive laughter. Though few congressional aides would think of saying so on the record, in private many dismiss their party's lame anti-war effort as an absurd dog-and-pony show, a calculated attempt to score political points without ever being serious about bringing the troops home.
"Yeah, the amount of expletives that flew in our office alone was unbelievable," says an aide to one staunchly anti-war House member. "It was all about the public show. Reid and Pelosi would say they were taking this tough stand against Bush, but if you actually looked at what they were sending to a vote, it was like Swiss cheese. Full of holes."

In the House, some seventy Democrats joined the Out of Iraq caucus and repeatedly butted heads with Reid and Pelosi, arguing passionately for tougher measures to end the war. The fight left some caucus members bitter about the party's failure. Rep. Barbara Lee of California was one of the first to submit an amendment to cut off funding unless it was tied to an immediate withdrawal. "I couldn't even get it through the Rules Committee in the spring," Lee says.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a fellow caucus member, says Democrats should have refused from the beginning to approve any funding that wasn't tied to a withdrawal. "If we'd been bold the minute we got control of the House — and that's why we got the majority, because the people of this country wanted us out of Iraq — if we'd been bold, even if we lost the votes, we would have gained our voice."

An honest attempt to end the war, say Democrats like Woolsey and Lee, would have involved forcing Bush to execute his veto and allowing the Republicans to filibuster all they wanted. Force a showdown, in other words, and use any means necessary to get the bloodshed ended.
"Can you imagine Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert taking no for an answer the way Reid and Pelosi did on Iraq?" asks the House aide in the expletive-filled office. "They'd find a way to get the votes. They'd get it done somehow."

But any suggestion that the Democrats had an obligation to fight this good fight infuriates the bund of hedging careerists in charge of the party. In fact, nothing sums up the current Democratic leadership better than its vitriolic criticisms of those recalcitrant party members who insist on interpreting their 2006 mandate as a command to actually end the war. Rep. David Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee and a key Pelosi-Reid ally, lambasted anti-war Democrats who "didn't want to get specks on those white robes of theirs." Obey even berated a soldier's mother who begged him to cut off funds for the war, accusing her and her friends of "smoking something illegal."

Rather than use the vast power they had to end the war, Democrats devoted their energy to making sure that "anti-war activism" became synonymous with "electing Democrats." Capitalizing on America's desire to end the war, they hijacked the anti-war movement itself, filling the ranks of peace groups with loyal party hacks. Anti-war organizations essentially became a political tool for the Democrats — one operated from inside the Beltway and devoted primarily to targeting Republicans.

This supposedly grass-roots "anti-war coalition" met regularly on K Street, the very capital of top-down Beltway politics. At the forefront of the groups are Thomas Matzzie and Brad Woodhouse of Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq, the leader of the anti-war lobby. Along with other K Street crusaders, the two have received iconic treatment from The Washington Post and The New York Times, both of which depicted the anti-war warriors as young idealist-progressives in shirtsleeves, riding a mirthful spirit into political combat — changing the world is fun!

But what exactly are these young idealists campaigning for? At its most recent meeting, the group eerily echoed the Reid-Pelosi "squeezed for time" mantra: Retreat from any attempt to end the war and focus on electing Democrats. "There was a lot of agreement that we can draw distinctions between anti-war Democrats and pro-war Republicans," a spokeswoman for Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq announced.

What the Post and the Times failed to note is that much of the anti-war group's leadership hails from a consulting firm called Hildebrand Tewes — whose partners, Steve Hildebrand and Paul Tewes, served as staffers for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). In addition, these anti-war leaders continue to consult for many of the same U.S. senators whom they need to pressure in order to end the war. This is the kind of conflict of interest that would normally be an embarrassment in the activist community.

Worst of all is the case of Woodhouse, who came to Hildebrand Tewes after years of working as the chief mouthpiece for the DSCC, where he campaigned actively to re-elect Democratic senators who supported the Iraq War in the first place. Anyone bothering to look — and clearly the Post and the Times did not before penning their ardent bios of Woodhouse — would have found the youthful idealist bragging to newspapers before the Iraq invasion about the pro-war credentials of North Carolina candidate Erskine Bowles. "No one has been stronger in this race in supporting President Bush in the War on Terror and his efforts to effect a regime change in Iraq," boasted the future "anti-war" activist Woodhouse.

With guys like this in charge of the anti-war movement, much of what has passed for peace activism in the past year was little more than a thinly veiled scheme to use popular discontent over the war to unseat vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in 2008. David Sirota, a former congressional staffer whose new book, The Uprising, excoriates the Democrats for their failure to end the war, expresses disgust at the strategy of targeting only Republicans. "The whole idea is based on this insane fiction that there is no such thing as a pro-war Democrat," he says. "Their strategy allows Democrats to take credit for being against the war without doing anything to stop it. It's crazy."

Justin Raimondo, the uncompromising editorial director of Antiwar.com, regrets contributing twenty dollars to Americans Against the Escalation in Iraq. "Not only did they use it to target Republicans," he says, "they went after the ones who were on the fence about Iraq." The most notorious case involved Lincoln Chafee, a moderate from Rhode Island who lost his Senate seat in 2006. Since then, Chafee has taken shots at Democrats like Reid, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, all of whom campaigned against him despite having voted for the war themselves.
"Look, I understand partisan politics," says Chafee, who now concedes that voters were correct to punish him for his war vote. "I just find it amusing that those who helped get us into this mess now say we need to change the Senate — because we're in a mess."

The really tragic thing about the Democratic surrender on Iraq is that it's now all but guaranteed that the war will be off the table during the presidential campaign. Once again — it happened in 2002, 2004 and 2006 — the Democrats have essentially decided to rely on the voters to give them credit for being anti-war, despite the fact that, for all the noise they've made to the contrary, in the end they've done nothing but vote for war and cough up every dime they've been asked to give, every step of the way.

Even beyond the war, the Democrats have repeatedly gone limp-dick every time the Bush administration so much as raises its voice. Most recently, twelve Democrats crossed the aisle to grant immunity to phone companies who participated in Bush's notorious wiretapping program. Before that, Democrats caved in and confirmed Mike Mukasey as attorney general after he kept his middle finger extended and refused to condemn waterboarding as torture. Democrats fattened by Wall Street also got cold feet about upsetting the country's gazillionaires, refusing to close a tax loophole that rewarded hedge-fund managers with a tax rate less than half that paid by ordinary citizens.

But the war is where they showed their real mettle. Before the 2006 elections, Democrats told us we could expect more specifics on their war plans after Election Day. Nearly two years have passed since then, and now they are once again telling us to wait until after an election to see real action to stop the war. In the meantime, of course, we're to remember that they're the good guys, the Republicans are the real enemy, and, well, go Hillary! Semper fi! Yay, team!
How much of this bullshit are we going to take? How long are we supposed to give the Reids and Pelosis and Hillarys of the world credit for wanting, deep down in their moldy hearts, to do the right thing?

Look, fuck your hearts, OK? Just get it done. Because if you don't, sooner or later this con is going to run dry. It may not be in '08, but it'll be soon. Even Americans can't be fooled forever.

Less Jobs. More War.

Less Jobs. More Wars.
Now is not the time for progressives to be silent. With Clinton and Obama battling each other we MUST start telling the story of McCain and his support for war.

Less Jobs. More War
Thanks to Brave New Films for their continued efforts to keep focus on the costs in Iraq and the effects on our country.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

It's Not Just the Economy, Stupid

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Today I am The Decider

Today is Super Tuesday. 15 primaries and 5 caucuses will take place in 24 states to determine how more than 2700 delegates will be designated in the presidential campaign.

Today I've earned the privilege to make my vote count, to decide who I want to be my president.

Today I am not voting for gender or race.

Today I am not voting because some celebrity told me how to vote.

Today I am the decider.

Today I am voting with hopes that my candidate will end the occupation in Iraq.

Today I am voting to honor those who can no longer vote.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Thank you Montel Williams

As the presidential campaign heats up and the economy falters, the story of the Iraq war moves further down in the coverage of news that's fit to print. Coverage of celebrity deaths get minute by minute coveragte, but who knows the name of any soldier killed in Iraq?

My heart goes out to Heath Ledger's family on his death. No one should bury a child, no child lose their father as young Mathilda Rose has.

Montel is right about hearing about the deaths of our soldiers. For those of you who care, let's make it personal, Here are the names of the US casualties from Iraq in January 2008

Hostile - hostile fire - RPG attack
1st Lieutenant David E. Schultz
Hostile - hostile fire - indirect fire
Captain Michael A. Norman
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
Sergeant James E. Craig
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
Staff Sergeant Gary W. Jeffries
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
Specialist Evan A. Marshall
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
Private 1st Class Brandon A. Meyer
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
Private Joshua A. R. Young
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
Sergeant Mikeal W. Miller
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
Major Alan G. Rogers
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
Staff Sergeant Robert J. Wilson
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
Private 1st Class Duncan Charles Crookston
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
Sergeant Tracy Renee Birkman
Non-hostile - injury
Sergeant Michael R. Sturdivant
Non-hostile - vehicle accident
Staff Sergeant Justin R. Whiting
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
Lance Corporal James M. Gluff
Hostile - hostile fire
Specialist Richard B. Burress
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
Specialist Jon M. Schoolcraft III
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
Private 1st Class Danny L. Kimme
Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire, grenade
Private 1st Class David H. Sharrett II
Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire, grenade
Specialist John P. Sigsbee
Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire, grenade
Private 1st Class Keith E. Lloyd
Hostile - hostile fire - IED
Lance Corporal Curtis A. Christensen Jr.
Specialist Todd E. Davis
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack (house borne)
Staff Sergeant Sean M. Gaul
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack (house borne)
Sergeant Christopher A. Sanders
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack (house borne)
Sergeant 1st Class Matthew I. Pionk
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack (house borne)
Staff Sergeant Jonathan Kilian Dozier
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack (house borne)
Sergeant Zachary W. McBride
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack (house borne)
Sergeant David J. Hart
Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
Private 1st Class Ivan E. Merlo
Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
Private 1st Class Phillip J. Pannier
Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
Private 1st Class Timothy R. Hanson
Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
Specialist James D. Gudridge
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
Private 1st Class Jason F. Lemke
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack
Petty Officer 2nd Class Menelek M. Brown
Non-hostile - drowning
Major Andrew J. Olmsted
Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
Captain Thomas J. Casey
Hostile - hostile fire - small arms fire
Staff Sergeant Ryan D. Maseth
Private 1st Class Joshua R. Anderson
Hostile - hostile fire - IED attack

These 40 deaths, and one in February, whose name has also not been released should news. My condolences to the families who joine me as members of this Gold Star club that none of us wants to join.

For those of you who think the surge was successful and that the war is over, know that these 40 deaths are an increase in deaths from the previous months. There has been noise from Washington recently that the reduction in troop strength may slow or even stop depending on the actiity in Iraq. Unless and until there is some political solution to provide stability in Iraq, this war will never end and our troops will never come home.

And to the Fox News news-readers in this interview with Montel Williams, shame on you. Shame on you for saying that the audience wants to hear more about celebrity deaths than those of our troops. Your industry, the media has told Americans what they want to think and feel for a long time. Celebrity news is the crack that the media, as the dealer, has fed to viewers who think if they hear it on the news that it is important. You have a responsibility as the press, and if you don't tell people the news they need to hear, that that should hear, then you don't deserve to be called journalists. Shame, shame on you!

Dear Hillary

Dear Hillary-

As you watch the poll numbers narrow between you and Barack, I know you and your staff are wondering what you can do to prevail in the primaries and start measuring for drapes in the White House.

I am a white woman, single, 54 years old and I don't have children any longer, thanks to George Bush's war & occupation in Iraq. I think some might consider me to be a strong Hillary demographic. I grew up back in the 70's where the idea of a woman president in these United States was a far away dream, but we held tight to our hopes that just maybe it might happen in our lifetime. Here we are in 2008 and we have a viable female candidate. By all accounts, Hillary, you are well qualified, you have experience & knowledge and you know how Washington works.

You are kind of likable and over the years, I have found myself defending you to people who just hate you and Bill. I don't understand this rabid hate that people express about you two. I say this because we've never met, but I did have an opportunity to meet your husband back in 2006. You couldn't meet a nicer guy. His charisma was undeniable and for those 5 minutes, at that political rally in California, my friend Nadia and I were the only 2 people in his world and that meant everything to us as we spoke about our sons who were killed in Iraq. I thought Bill was a very good president; not perfect- who is? but shoot, the economy was doing well and there was hope in this country and our world was pretty darned peaceful! There was so much optimism for our future, we had good relations with other countries and I miss those times.

Many people have said that this country must end the Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton dynasty. They say some voters have never had the opportunity to vote for anyone except a Bush or a Clinton. I don't have a problem with this so-called dynasty if those candidates are the right people for the job and who have the right platform. You might be the right "people" for the job, but you do not have the right platform for me.

I was watching one of those interminable campaign ads that have invaded California recently and you were speaking about ending the war in Iraq. I was struck with your supposed passion now for ending the war. You didn't always say that, but now you do say you wouldn't have voted for the war knowing what you know now. I hope it was because you really believe that the war should be ended, and not that poll numbers showed that 70% of the people in this country believe it's time to end the war- that Democratic number is 91% in California, by the way. I'm not convinced what is behind your change.

Let's get personal for a minute, Hillary; we're both moms and we both raised only children. Your daughter, Chelsea will be turning 28 in a few weeks. I imagine you will take a little break from all this campaigning and have a celebration. There will be presents and family & friends might gather together for this happy occasion. See, that's part of what bothers me about your stand on ending the war in Iraq because there are alot of families like mine, who will never celebrate a happy occasion with their loved ones again. My only child, Lt Ken Ballard was killed May 2004 in Iraq; he was due to come home when his tour of duty was extended in April 2004. Ken had survived 384 days in Iraq, but he didn't survive the 385th. Last year would have been my son's 30th birthday. That was a real hard day for me because, you know, turning 30 is a pretty big milestone in our lives. Ken's friends and families gathered again to celebrate his life cut short by the war in Iraq. We let 30 gold balloons go into the sky in hopes our messages of love would reach heaven where his soul surely lives now. I'm pretty sure those balloons got to heaven.

Imagine your life without Chelsea. Imagine that she volunteered to serve this country and that she was sent off to an illegal war by an administration that outright lied to gain support for their endless war. Imagine the betrayal that the families felt that the Bush administration took advantage of the patriotism of our children in sending them to fight an unwarranted war. So, Chelsea goes off to war, and I can't describe to you how your own life would change while she was in harms way, but then imagine that one day she comes home in a box covered with a flag; your precious child is dead. A few days later you would be handed that flag, now folded just so, with the words "on behalf of a grateful nation, and on behalf of the President of the United States....." If you try to imagine how your life would change without Chelsea, you can't; it is unimaginable. You would never even be close to imagining how many tears that one body can cry, the sleepless nights and the days when you just wish you could have your old life back. Nearly 4000 families live with this nightmare every day and we would not wish this journey of bereavement on anyone, even a politician who voted to authorize war.

I don't want to get all emotional about the war, even though it's no secret that that is where my heart is. I know that voters and especially the media have a hard time with emotions and tears or even pre-tears from a candidate. But tears don't bother me and I didn't have a problem with that interview in New Hampshire. Any working woman knows that look you gave and why you responded that way.

I know when Congress votes to consider these things, that body count isn't at the top of the list of why we should or should not invade a country. But, the human cost, the loss of nearly 4000 of our country's best and brightest, the devastating injuries of many more thousands and the effect on their families and their communities, the heartbreaking casualties of Iraqis and the damage to their country just really makes that hard to disregard, especially when our country wasn't threatened by Iraq. Since most people in our country are far removed from this war thanks to George Bush's policies where we see no photographs of caskets being returned, pay no increased taxes to pay for this war; at least not for our generation, we've got to do a better job of connecting the dots with the war and the economy, our foreign policy and pretty much everything that is wrong in this country right now. Costing more than $270 million a day, I think our money can be spent in better ways than continuing the war in Iraq.

When John Edwards dropped out of the race last week, that bummed me out. He was my man; he had the right message, the right platform for me. His consistancy in ending the war was unrivaled among the top 3 Democratic candidates. Maybe someday we'll know the real reason why he dropped out, but it's a moot point now.

Hillary, my choice did not come out of gender or race, or any endorsements; it all comes down to your stand on the war and any intentions this country might have towards Iran; dumb wars, is how I'll call them. A few months back there seemed to be more of a divide in yours and Barack's positions on ending the war Iraq, but now your platforms seem to be more similar. I just hope both of you mean what you say when you talk about ending the war. I'm not sure you do, because when we voted in 2006, I was pretty sure that you people in Washington got the message about ending the war. If you did, you didn't listen. So when it all comes down to it, on Tuesday, I will be voting for Barack Obama and as a woman, I am sorry that you aren't the candidate for me.

Hillary, I know you are a busy woman and I thank you for taking the time to read my letter. I just wanted you to know why this female is not voting for you in the California primary. I know I kind of rambled on and I could have summed it all up in 4 words, "It's the War, Stupid", but I just wanted to get this off my chest.

Friday, February 01, 2008