Saddam Sentenced to Death Just Prior to Midterm Elections

Saddam Hussein has been sentenced to death by hanging. While the trial was imperfect, there is still no doubt he deserves this.

Some “coincidence” that the sentence came virtually on the eve of the midterm elections, just in time to dominate talk on the Sunday morning shows. Initially the White House might have seen the scheduling of the announcement of the verdict as a plus, comparable to the manner in which they released the bin Laden tape on the eve of the 2004 election. Just as their distortion of Kerry’s statement last week backfired by placing more concentration on the fact that George Bush does have us stuck in Iraq, the Saddam verdict may also backfire against Republicans as people consider the incompetent manner in which the war which led to removing Saddam has been conducted.

Kerry Shows Support for American Legion’s Educational Goals

The American Legion accepted John Kerry’s apology to those offended by his botched joke last week. I could not find a link to the initial acceptance, but there is considerable information on this in the press release when the Michigan American Legion State Commander Roger Webster echoed the acceptance:

Webster shares the sentiments of National American Legion Commander Paul A. Morin who states, “On behalf of The American Legion, we accept the senator’s apology for his intemperate remark.” Webster notes the timing of the senator’s apology is most appropriate as it comes on the eve of Veterans Day, a national holiday that he calls on all Michigan residents to celebrate. “It’s the least we can do for veterans,” he concludes.

Commander Morin further stated that, “We hope the senator will use this opportunity to join with his colleagues in both houses to pass a GI Bill that gives members of the National Guard and Reserves educational benefits equal to those received by their regular Army counterparts.” Noting that Michigan has a significant deployment of Guard and Reserve troops in Iraq and elsewhere today, Webster repeats the call to improve today’s GI Bill.

Morin explained, “Both are standing in Harm’s Way and both deserve educational benefits sufficient to pay for a first class education in a decent college. To date the Congress has been unwilling to give guardsmen and reservists the same benefits given to other servicemembers and, compounding the error, the Congress has not seen fit to award any servicemember a level of benefits sufficient to pursue an education full time. It’s time to correct this error.”

If improving the educational benefits of veterans and reservists is the measure of support for the troops, John Kerry has proven his support. Kerry is the sponsor of S.2163, the Armed Forces Education Improvement Act. More information on this act, currently in committee, is available at GovTrack. From their summary:

A bill to amend titles 10 and 38 of the United States Code, to increase and index educational benefits for veterans under the Montgomery GI bill to ensure adequate and equitable benefits for active duty members and members of the selected Reserve, and to include certain servicemembers previously excluded from such benefits.

(Thanks to Sandy of Light Up The Darkness and TayTay for assistance in the researching of this post. See Sandy’s comment for additional bills sponsored by John Kerry.)

Republicans and Abortion

Earlier reports which were frequently reported claiming that abortions increased under George Bush were found to be eroneous, but Nicholas Kristof shows that there is no reason for Republicans to be proud:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do show a tiny increase in abortions in 2002 (the most recent year available). But more comprehensive figures from the Guttmacher Institute, which does research on reproductive health, indicate that abortions fell — albeit by tiny amounts — in the first three years of Mr. Bush’s presidency.

In 2003, the institute estimates, there were 1.29 million abortions in the U.S., 26,000 fewer than in President Bill Clinton’s last year in office.

Yet abortions fell much faster under Mr. Clinton, and the evidence shows that condoms do more to bring down abortion rates than pious moralizing. That’s why staunch “pro-life” presidents like Mr. Bush or Ronald Reagan have accomplished far less in reducing abortions than a “pro-choice” president like Mr. Clinton.

Kristof looks at the advantages of contraception and sex education in contrast to the Bush administration’s policies and concludes:

The evidence is solid about how to reduce abortions: promote contraception and comprehensive sex education (rather than “abstinence only” programs). California has led the country in these areas, and as a result it cut teenage pregnancy rates by 39 percent over eight years.

Western Europe and Canada both emphasize sex education and family planning programs. The result is that American women are almost three times as likely to get abortions as women in Belgium or Germany. Or take Canada. Among women and girls aged 15 to 19, Americans are 38 percent more likely to get abortions than Canadians. And American teenagers, both boys and girls, are nearly 10 times as likely to catch gonorrhea.

Bush family members were pioneers in supporting the family planning services that can reduce abortion rates. President Bush’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, lost an election for U.S. senator in Connecticut in 1950 partly because he was denounced for his ties to Planned Parenthood.

Later, George H. W. Bush was, as a young congressman, a prime sponsor of the 1970 public health program that provides family planning services in the U.S. He was so enthusiastic that his nickname then was Rubbers.

If Mr. Bush revived that legacy, he could lead a bipartisan campaign to promote sex education and increase access to contraceptives. Some experts estimate that this could cut the number of abortions in the U.S. by half a million annually. So Mr. Bush, step down from the pulpit, roll up your sleeves — and go back to your family roots!

David Brooks Gives Up His Stereotype of Democrats

Is there hope for David Brooks? Brooks begins his column with his usual attack on his view of the Democrats as “liberal elites who reviled the military.” While we’ve heard the same nonsense from him many times in the past, this time he acknowledges that there are Democrats running who do not fit his stereotype:

Yet here is Jim Webb running for the Senate as a Democrat. The events of the past few years — especially the Iraq war — shook people like Webb loose from the Republican Party and weakened their aversion to the Democratic Party. In state after state, white married parents making between $35,000 and $50,000 a year are shifting in the Democratic direction.

So the Democratic Congressional delegation that convenes next year will be different from the ones we’ve seen. It will feature ideologically and culturally diverse people who cannot be silenced or reduced to lockstep party loyalists, whether Webb wins or not. (I suspect he will.)

Among other things, this election has shown how important it is to be independent. You do not want your opponent running ads calling you a rubber stamp, because in this climate that hurts. That’s especially true for Republicans — all around the country, there are G.O.P. loyalists pretending to be moderate mavericks, like Jeff Flake and Mark Kirk. But it’s also true for Democrats.

And we may be about to learn if the party of Nancy Pelosi can make room for the Jim Webbs of the world. We’ve already learned that the party of George Bush and Tom DeLay did a terrible job making room for its own mavericks and moderates.

Reality, with its well known liberal bias (noted below the fold on the last post) is catching up with Brooks’ stereotypes. It is the Republicans who have chased out everyone other than extremists, while the Democrats are a big tent party which does not match the description we normally read from David Brooks.

Frank Rich on Truthiness in the 2006 Elections

Frank Rich sees this election as confusing truth and fantasy:

The 2002 midterms were ridiculed as the “Seinfeld” election — about nothing — and 2006 often does seem like the “Colbert” election, so suffused is it with unreality, or what Mr. Colbert calls “truthiness.” Or perhaps the “Borat” election, after the character created by Mr. Colbert’s equally popular British counterpart, Sacha Baron Cohen, whose mockumentary about the American travels of a crude fictional TV reporter from Kazakhstan opened to great acclaim this weekend. Like both these comedians, our politicians and their media surrogates have been going to extremes this year to blur the difference between truth and truthiness, all the better to confuse the audience.

Rich looks at “the president’s down-to-the-wire effort to brand his party as the defender of “traditional” marriage even as the same-sex scandals of conservative leaders on and off Capitol Hill make “La Cage aux Folles” look like “The Sound of Music.” Any discussion of reality versus fantasy would inevitably lead back to Iraq:

And always, always there’s the false reality imposed on Iraq: “Absolutely, we’re winning!” in the president’s recent formulation. After all this time, you’d think the Iraq fictions wouldn’t work anymore. The overwhelming majority of Americans now know that we were conned into this mess in the first place by two fake story lines manufactured by the White House, a connection between 9/11 and Saddam and an imminent threat of nuclear Armageddon. Both were trotted out in our last midterm campaign to rush a feckless Congress into voting for a war authorization before Election Day. As the administration pulls the same ploy four years later, this time to keep the fiasco going, you have to wonder if it can get away with lying once more.

Given the polls, I would have said no, but last week’s John Kerry farce gives me pause. Whatever lame joke or snide remark the senator was trying to impart, it was no more relevant to the reality unfolding in Iraq than the sex scenes in Jim Webb’s novels. But as the White House ingeniously inflated a molehill by a noncandidate into a mountain of fake news, real news from Iraq was often downplayed or ignored entirely. It was a chilling example of how even now a skit ginned up by the administration screenwriters can dwarf and obliterate reality in our media culture.

On the same day Mr. Kerry blundered, the United States suffered a palpable and major defeat in Iraq. The Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, once again doing the bidding of the anti-American leader Moktada al-Sadr, somehow coerced American forces into dismantling their cordon of Sadr City, where they were searching for a kidnapped soldier. As the melodramatic debates over how much Mr. Kerry should apologize dragged on longer, still more real news got short shrift: the October death toll for Americans in Iraq was the highest in nearly two years. Some 90 percent of the dead were enlisted men and nearly a third were on extended tours of duty or their second or third tours. Their average age was 24.

When the premises for war were being sold four years ago, you could turn to the fake news of Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” to find the skepticism that might poke holes in the propaganda. Four years later, the press is much chastened by its failure to do its job back then, but not all of the press. While both Mr. Stewart and Mr. Colbert made sport of the media’s overkill on the Kerry story, their counterparts in “real” television news, especially but not exclusively on cable, flogged it incessantly. Only after The New York Times uncovered a classified Pentagon chart documenting Iraq’s rapid descent into chaos did reality begin to intrude on the contrived contretemps posed by another tone-deaf flub from a former presidential candidate not even on the ballot.

In retrospect, the defining moment of the 2006 campaign may well have been back in April, when Mr. Colbert appeared at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Call it a cultural primary. His performance was judged a bomb by the Washington press corps, which yukked it up instead for a Bush impersonator who joined the president in a benign sketch commissioned by the White House. But millions of Americans watching C-Span and the Web did get Mr. Colbert’s routine. They recognized that the Beltway establishment sitting stone-faced in his audience was the butt of his jokes, especially the very news media that had parroted Bush administration fictions leading America into the quagmire of Iraq.

Frank Rich includes a link to the video of Colbert’s appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in his column. I have also  placed the  transcript below the fold. (more…)

War Games Predicted Iraq Quagmire

It was pretty obvious that American soldiers would not be greated with flowers, and that occupation of Iraq would create significant problems. Information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveals that war games in 1999 accurately predicted the problems:

A series of secret U.S. war games in 1999 showed that an invasion and post-war administration of Iraq would require 400,000 troops, nearly three times the number there now.

And even then, the games showed, the country still had a chance of dissolving into chaos.

In the simulation, called Desert Crossing, 70 military, diplomatic and intelligence participants concluded the high troop levels would be needed to keep order, seal borders and take care of other security needs.

The documents came to light Saturday through a Freedom of Information Act request by George Washington University’s National Security Archive, an independent research institute and library.

“The conventional wisdom is the U.S. mistake in Iraq was not enough troops,” said Thomas Blanton, the archive’s director. “But the Desert Crossing war game in 1999 suggests we would have ended up with a failed state even with 400,000 troops on the ground.”

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