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Iraq attack

Bin Laden killed in Pakistan

About damn time.

Osama Bin Laden is dead, U.S. government officials confirm to TPM. Bin Laden was the founder and leader of the Al Qaeda terrorist network that perpetrated the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

His death comes nearly 10 years after the terrorist attacks that made him the world’s most wanted fugitive, and eight years to the day after President George W. Bush declared Mission Accomplished in Iraq.

Other than a lame joke about making sure we hang onto the original long-form death certificate just in case, I got nothing. Well, there is a Mark Twain quote that seems appropriate: “I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.” This is one we all should have read a long time ago. My sincere gratitude to the combat forces that did the job.

Texas Monthly interview with Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who is being recruited to run for the Senate in Texas, did an interview with Texas Monthly in 2008 that’s worth your time to read. The interview was published after his book “Wiser In Battle”, which was highly critical of the prosecution of the war in Iraq, came out. Here’s what he had to say about Abu Ghraib:

Let me ask you about Abu Ghraib, which obviously you were in the middle of—

Probably responsible for that.

People have said, point-blank, that it was a failure of leadership on your part. It must be difficult to have your entire career summed up in that one horrifying incident.

Well, it has been. Let’s not mistake for a second that it was anything other than grotesque and unacceptable. But I think we need to look at the facts that tell us how our nation started down a slippery slope in 2002, when the lifting of the Geneva Conventions occurred. The military issued that guidance almost verbatim to our fighting forces in the field. More importantly, we failed to convey the instructions and safeguards and training that might have kept us from going down that slippery slope to abuse and torture. We failed to respond to pleas for guidance from soldiers and leaders in the field, when it was crystal clear to everybody, because of the investigations that were conducted in November and December of 2002, that we had significant problems in detention and interrogation. Then we compounded things by bringing into Iraq units that had been in Afghanistan, operating in a totally unconstrained interrogation world. In a conventional force, that creates significant confusion.

I imagine so.

When I identified that we had this unprecedented problem—we knew by May 2003 that it was way beyond anything we had ever faced—and we began to ask for help, there was no one within the Army or the Department of Defense who had any understanding of how to solve it. So we struggled and floundered and began to come up with solutions internally. Every time we got a notification of an abuse, we conducted an investigation. But there were well-known abuses that the whole world knew about—the one in which a warrant officer killed a general while he was interrogating him or the case of Iceman, as he was known, who died in the course of an investigation by the CIA and was dumped on my soldiers at Abu Ghraib. So there were two different agencies operating that were not under my command.

One was the CIA.

And the other one was the Special Operations Forces. To describe a little better what happened in Abu Ghraib, you had a coming together of my interrogators with the CIA—which came in and did what they do with no constraints on their rules—and the Special Operations Forces, who were operating under global-war-on-terror rules that were different from the rules that the Geneva Conventions applied to.

There wasn’t a common standard among the three.

No, absolutely not. The problem is that you had three different chains of command. Mine covered only the conventional forces. The Special Operations Forces reported back to Central Command. The CIA reported back to the CIA.

So you feel like you were unfairly held responsible for the actions of people not in your command?

What happened to me is that everything was seen as the responsibility of the commander on the ground. In fact, when one looks at the reality, it is very clear that incidents that occurred and abuses and allegations were outside of my command authority.

But to the extent that you’re responsible only for your folks, it was indeed folks in your command, like Lynndie England, who also committed pretty horrific abuses. That’s been documented.

Yeah, clearly. There were some abuses that occurred as we fought the war. But they were not condoned. We actually charged and court-martialed soldiers. We were very aggressive in investigating instances of abuse and taking actions against those people responsible.

And yet, in the end, you were relieved of your command.

I wasn’t relieved of my command. I rotated out of there after fourteen months. But there was an effort to make it appear that I was being relieved. That’s correct.

The implication was you were paying a price for the embarrassment that the U.S. suffered over Abu Ghraib.

Yes, no question.

You believe that it was an unfair assessment of your tenure in that position.

When you get to those levels of command, you have to look at what our leadership does in light of all the factors they’re considering. It becomes almost untenable for the administration to do anything else, to do anything other than tell me to retire, because it is in the best interest of the Department of Defense and the Army.

But this is your career! Surely this can’t be something you look back on and say, “Oh, well, that’s life.”

No, no. It’s a very disappointing time in my life.

Who do you blame?

I’m not sure. Do I blame a single individual? Do I blame the nation for the mistakes we made that led us to Abu Ghraib and the abuses that occurred as a result of the actions we took? Do I blame the military or the Department of Defense for trying to contain this extremely embarrassing period in our history? I think when you look at it, what happened to me is that I got caught in a perfect storm.

As I said before, I want to hear what he has to say for himself before I make any judgments. So far, I’m satisfied with what I’ve heard and am willing to hear more. Thanks to Evan Smith, then the editor of Texas Monthly and the conductor of that interview, for the link.

How to honor Andy Olmsted

Hilzoy says:

A member of Andy Olmsted’s family has just written me to say that if people want to do something in honor of him, they can send donations to a fund that has been set up for the four children of CPT Thomas Casey, who served under Andy and was killed while trying to help him. The address is here:

Capt. Thomas Casey Children’s fund
P.O. Box 1306
Chester, CA 96020

Thanks so much.

The list of blog links to Major Olmsted’s final words is amazingly long. What a stunning, poignant tribute.

Gary Farber has a report from Major Olmsted’s funeral service. As before, if you click over – and you should – bring a box of tissues with you. The description of the “missing man” ceremony in particular really hit me hard.

RIP, Andy Olmsted

Army Major Andrew Olmsted, who was also a respected longtime blogger, was killed while serving in Iraq on Wednesday. Prior to going overseas, he wrote a blog post to be published in the event of his death, which you can and should read here. Be sure to bring some tissues when you do. Rest in peace, Major Andrew Olmsted.

(Please note Major Olmsted’s wish that his death not be politicized. I will not approve any comments that do not respect this wish.)

Rick Noriega’s Tribute to Sgt. Omar Mora

A Tribute to the Courage of Sgt. Omar Mora
A Statement from Lt. Col. Rick Noriega

Yesterday, the greater Houston area lost another of its sons in uniform. US Army Sergeant Omar Mora died in a rollover accident while serving in his second tour of duty in Iraq.

Melissa and I extend our deepest condolences to the Mora family, especially his wife and his 5 year old daughter, as well as to the families of the six other soldiers who died in the accident with him. The rising number of casualties strike a chord in even the most hardened among us, and the loss felt as each soldier passes does not diminish. Omar and his brothers in uniform will be missed, and must be remembered.

Omar honored his parents, staying in contact with them regularly. A good son, he let them know he was safe and looking forward to returning home. Omar followed his mother’s advice, and honored his God, never losing his faith. And Omar honored his country, not only serving voluntarily and tackling each task he was assigned, but by having the courage to speak out and voice his opinion that our nation’s military presence in Iraq was no longer a war of liberation, but an occupation in the midst of a civil war between religious sects.

Omar voiced his concerns in an op-ed to the New York Times on August 19, written along with six other airborne soldiers … one who died along with him in the accident, another who was shot in the head and is in critical condition.

It is the right of every citizen to speak their mind, as Omar’s brother Roger told the Houston Chronicle — a right that belongs to civilian and soldier alike, regardless of rank. Voicing one’s opinion, especially from a soldier, is very difficult when ‘management’ is wrong. Omar, and his fellow soldiers had a better understanding of the cultural matrix in Iraq than what gets reported by the media, he had walked the walk. He spoke from experience when they said “we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear.”

There is another manifestation of bravery that for those in uniform is a matter of course, but takes on special meaning among civilians who do not have to follow a chain of command … the courage to listen. It’s time our political leaders listen to the insights of Sergeant Mora, his fellow soldiers, and the reality in Iraq reported by every objective analysis from the bi-partisan Iraq Study Group to the recent GAO reports.

Sergeant Mora and his soldiers concluded their editorial by making clear “as committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.” He lived up to his word. Now the challenge lies with the rest of us to listen and bring this mismanaged war to an end.

Because of extended deployments, Sergeant Mora was serving his 2nd tour in Iraq with the prestigious 82nd Airborne Division

(Note: You can read the NYT editorial here. A Houston Chronicle article about Mora, of Texas City, is here.)

Lampson, Al Green, Jackson-Lee And Others Comment on Bringing The Troops Home

The Houston Chronicle got the reaction of local lawmakers to the Petraeus and Crocker testimony on Capitol Hill this week – and how they view bringing the troops home:

Congressman Nick Lampson is up first (he’s going to hear from me early and often on this):

In an arena where the legislative battle lines have been drawn mostly along partisan boundaries — Democrats pressing for troop withdrawal deadlines and benchmarks, Republicans against them — only one of the Texans appeared to fit in neither camp.

Rep. Nick Lampson, a Stafford Democrat, is working with both parties to find common ground.

“There are those who advocate an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. And there are those who want to send in more troops and continue with an open-ended commitment,” Lampson said in a prepared statement. “Somewhere in the middle exists a practical and realistic solution that honors the commitment and sacrifice of our troops. That is type of solution I will support and work towards.”

Lampson, one of the GOP’s top targets for defeat in 2008, declined to discuss his efforts further. Thus far, he has not broken from the Democratic leadership on Iraq votes.

Next up is Congressman Kevin Brady:

With congressional Democratic leaders deeming inadequate Petraeus’ plan to withdraw 30,000 troops by next summer, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, predicted Democrats would force another funding battle to reduce U.S. involvement in Iraq.

Congressman Al Green:

But Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, credited Democratic resolve for the Bush administration’s move to begin bringing troops home. “I am absolutely convinced that we are doing the right thing. We must not relent. We must be more resolved to continue to press for bringing our troops home — not in an irresponsible way but as soon as is practicable and is safe for them to return home,” Green said.

And, here’s Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee:

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, dismissed Petraeus’ proposed drawdown as well short of the exit strategy she and others seek.

“The administration is trying to follow the wishes of the American people and the U.S. Congress, but in a nickel-and-dime manner,” said Jackson Lee, the only Houston-area member in the House Out of Iraq Caucus that has lobbied for troop withdrawal. “As I stand here today, I want a defined time for our troops to return. I want a planned exit strategy.”

Jackson Lee dismissed the idea that the departure of 30,000 troops could take some of the wind out of congressional Democrats’ efforts to force a final withdrawal deadline.

Congressman Mike McCaul:

But Rep. Michael McCaul, a Republican who represents western Harris County, said the drawdown — and the success of the surge — could buy the administration more time for its strategy in Iraq. “I think the results coming in have given the American people a sense of optimism that we can achieve our goals over there,” McCaul said.

Congressman Gene Green:

Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, disagreed. Though he praised Petraeus, the military and Crocker for their efforts, Green said: “The overall picture in Iraq remains one of instability and of a government not willing to make the necessary political to move its country forward.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson:

“We cannot walk away from our goal of a stable Iraq because of political expediency,” Hutchison said Monday.

Who couldn’t be reached for comment?

The offices of Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, and Rep. Ron Paul, Lake Jackson, the only GOP presidential candidate who opposes U.S. involvement in Iraq, did not return calls. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, was unavailable for comment.

For my take on Texas’ junior Senator John Cornyn’s performance at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, you can read my post on musings. I think it’s pretty clear where he stands.

For me, I like what Sheila Jackson Lee and Gene Green are saying.

It’s only a compromise if both sides give up something

I’m as big a fan of Rep. Nick Lampson as you’ll find. Which just makes it that much harder for me to read stories like this in the paper.

Concerned by the troop withdrawal timelines in a huge war funding bill, U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson is among a cluster of House Democrats urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi to back away from a showdown with President Bush.

Look, it’s very simple. George Bush is not going to do anything different in Iraq. His plan is to keep the troops there until he’s out of office. The one thing he will never do on his own is begin a withdrawal of any kind. The only way to make that happen is to pass a law mandating troops withdrawals. There is no compromise here because he isn’t going to budge. The only option to a “showdown” is to acquiesce to what he wants. I can’t think of any good reason to do that, and as every national poll indicates, neither can a solid majority of Americans.

It would be nice if there were some middle-ground position, one that gave everyone something that they wanted, which could be reached after negotiation and compromise. But there isn’t – not today, not tomorrow, and not any time before January 21, 2009. George Bush has very clearly set the terms of this debate. This is one of the very few times that I would counsel taking him at his word. Once you do that, the proper course of action is obvious. I sympathize with Rep. Lampson and the position he feels he’s in. But this is how it is.

This is not your father’s Fort Bend County

Juanita notes something that bears repeating.

Here we are in what is assumed to be the conservative stronghold of America. It’s Tom DeLay’s old district, for Pete’s sake.

Yet all three of the Congressmen from Fort Bend County – Al Green, Nick Lampson, and Ron Paul – voted against the President and his war.

Take that to your Lincoln Day Dinner and chew on it, Bubba.

Yeah, I know, Lampson will have a hell of a re-election fight to contend with, and Paul is a nut who may give up his seat because he thinks he can be President. Things may look very different in Fort Bend in two years’ time. But for now, I think Juanita and her long-suffering brethren and sistren (tm, Molly Ivins) deserve the chance to revel in that. Slainte, y’all.

The other Walter Reed

If this article doesn’t make you very angry, there’s something seriously wrong with you.

Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan’s room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

This is the world of Building 18, not the kind of place where Duncan expected to recover when he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq last February with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, nearly dead from blood loss. But the old lodge, just outside the gates of the hospital and five miles up the road from the White House, has housed hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The common perception of Walter Reed is of a surgical hospital that shines as the crown jewel of military medicine. But 5 1/2 years of sustained combat have transformed the venerable 113-acre institution into something else entirely — a holding ground for physically and psychologically damaged outpatients. Almost 700 of them — the majority soldiers, with some Marines — have been released from hospital beds but still need treatment or are awaiting bureaucratic decisions before being discharged or returned to active duty.

They suffer from brain injuries, severed arms and legs, organ and back damage, and various degrees of post-traumatic stress. Their legions have grown so exponentially — they outnumber hospital patients at Walter Reed 17 to 1 — that they take up every available bed on post and spill into dozens of nearby hotels and apartments leased by the Army. The average stay is 10 months, but some have been stuck there for as long as two years.

Not all of the quarters are as bleak as Duncan’s, but the despair of Building 18 symbolizes a larger problem in Walter Reed’s treatment of the wounded, according to dozens of soldiers, family members, veterans aid groups, and current and former Walter Reed staff members interviewed by two Washington Post reporters, who spent more than four months visiting the outpatient world without the knowledge or permission of Walter Reed officials. Many agreed to be quoted by name; others said they feared Army retribution if they complained publicly.

I don’t have the words to express how outraged I am at this. But I am going to use some of the words that were expressed by opponents of the recent anti-surge resolution to do a little contrasting and comparing. Click on for more.


PinkDome care package

I’m a bit late on this, but not too late: PinkDome is putting together a care package:

Remember I told you we were blocked by the military so our readers in Iraq are PinDome-less? Well, not quite. Yes, the site is still blocked but a few of them have found some proxy site ways to still get to the site. I had an email conversation with our favorite marine, mostly about the heat.

Now is the time for us to show our support for the troops. Let’s put together a care package to send to him and his buddies. No porn, no alcohol. DVD’s and magazines and things we love are good things to put in the box.

If you email me, I’ll send you my mailing address. I’ll collect the stuff and send it off to our favorite marine in Iraq. Spread this post around. You can email me for my address here.

Drop PD a note and help a blogger do some good. Thanks.

Welcome home, Rep. Rick Noriega

Welcome home, State Rep. Rick Noriega.

Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, who is serving in the Texas Army National Guard in Afghanistan, came to the House chamber Thursday while home on leave.

Noriega’s wife, Melissa, is serving as acting state representative in his place while he is away.

House members gathered closely around the podium to hear the guardsman speak. He told of how beautiful he now finds the drives to be on Texas’ country back roads and how proud the state should be of its men and women serving in the armed forces overseas.

“Being where we’ve been certainly helps you to put your priorities in order on what’s important in life,” Noriega said.

I salute you, Rep. Noriega. Enjoy your leave, and thank you for your service.

Johnson: Just joking (kind of)

Rep. Sam “Nuke Syria!” Johnson says it was all kind of a joke.

U.S.-Syrian relations are often tense. U.S. officials are demanding that Syria withdraw its troops from Lebanon, and suspicion lingers that Damascus helped Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein hide illicit weapons.

Still, some of Rep. Sam Johnson’s constituents apparently were surprised when the Plano Republican said he’d like to take care of the problem – by personally dropping a couple of nuclear bombs.

“Syria is the problem,” the former fighter pilot said at a pancake breakfast at Suncreek United Methodist Church in Allen. “Syria is where those weapons of mass destruction are, in my view. You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on ’em, and I’ll make one pass. We won’t have to worry about Syria anymore.”

Someone was offended enough to play a recording of the Feb. 19 remarks for Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper that first reported them this week.

Mr. Johnson said he’s “absolutely” surprised that anyone took it seriously, adding that he’s never advocated a nuclear attack on Syria.

“I was kind of joking. You know. We were talking between veterans,” said Mr. Johnson, an Air Force fighter pilot in Korea and Vietnam, where he spent 7 ½ years as a prisoner of war. “We were swapping sea stories – things that we’d done in the military.”

He told the folks in Allen that he had shared his plan with President Bush and Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, during a recent White House visit.

“President Bush knew I was joking,” he said Thursday.

So, does “kind of joking” also mean “kind of serious”? I’m just asking.

Fine, whatever, it was a joke. A sick and repulsive joke, in my opinion, but apparently not in Rep. Johnson’s. I don’t know what else to say.

UPDATE: There’s an interesting comment by heartmind at the initial post:

My understanding from the Dallas Morning News is that Johnson says he meant this statement as a joke. We can debate if this was an appropriate joke. I think it was inappropriate. Yet, as a thirty something male, I find that I encounter a lot of men from Johnson’s generation who occasionally make jokes that I think cross the line.

My understanding is that many of the persons at this event were persons from Johnson’s generation. These were not members of Suncreek UMC. One does not find a large number of senior citizens in the west area of Allen. I think these persons attended at the invitation of some younger men at the church. The intentions of these younger men were good. I would caution against blaming the church for Johnson’s statement or the applause by some of those in attendance following this joke. Read this link to discover what the pastor said at this event and reach your own conclusion about the values of this church.

Fair point. Thanks for the information.

Sam Johnson is stark raving nuts

Apparently, the gentleman from the third Congressional District thinks we should nuke Syria, and that he himself is the man for the job.

Now we know where Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) thinks the weapons of mass destruction are buried: in Syria, which he said he’d like to nuke to smithereens.

Speaking at a veterans’ celebration at Suncreek United Methodist Church in Allen, Texas, on Feb. 19, Johnson told the crowd that he explained his theory to President Bush and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) on the porch of the White House one night.

Johnson said he told the president that night, “Syria is the problem. Syria is where those weapons of mass destruction are, in my view. You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on ‘em and I’ll make one pass. We won’t have to worry about Syria anymore.”

The quote is from the subscription-only Roll Call. Big Media Matt asks a few pertinent questions about Rep. Johnson’s words here and here. I’ve got a question of my own: As I write this, the only result I get doing a Google News search on +”sam johnson” +syria is a blog post on Will anyone in the Texas mainstream media pick this story up, or will this wish for mass murder by a senior Congressman expressed to the President be deemed non-newsworthy? Tune in tomorrow and I’ll see if there are any new Google News results.

UPDATE: The Carpetbagger Report has one more line from that Roll Call article: “The crowd roared with applause.” I guess the featured sermon that day did not discuss the thou-shalt-not-kill commandment.

No on Gonzales

I know it won’t make a whit of difference to my Senators, but count me in with the many others who say No to Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General. I do not condone torture, and I do not agree with those who do. Alberto Gonzalez may have the brains, education, and experience to be the Attorney General, but he has no conscience and no morals, and as such he has no business being the nation’s top law enforcer. I say No, and I hope you will join me.

War support dropping in Texas

Some data from the latest Texas Poll:

Fifty-six percent of poll respondents answered “yes” to the question of whether “the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over.” Thirty-eight percent said “no,” and 6 percent said they didn’t know or didn’t answer.

An identical poll taken in spring 2003 showed 72 percent of Texans agreed with the decision to go to war.

These numbers track pretty closely to the Bush/Kerry numbers in the same poll and other polls from around this time. I’d bet there’s a very high correlation between the two.

Despite their support for the war, Texans say that it is not going well for the United States, with 67 percent rating progress there so far as “poor” or “fair,” while 31 percent answered “excellent” or “good.”

The poll also shows that a slight majority of Texans say the war on terrorism is not going well, with 44 percent of respondents rating its progress as “excellent” or “good” and 54 percent answering “fair or poor.”

Four of five Texans say terrorist attacks on the United States are likely in the next year, with most believing they will come before the Nov. 2 national elections.

Respondents were almost evenly divided on whether the war in Iraq has made the United States safer from terrorism, with 45 percent saying it has and 50 percent saying it has not.

I’d like to think there’s an opportunity here in these numbers, but I doubt it. I think support for the war would really have to drop among Texans to alter the Presidential numbers by more than a trifle. What we’re seeing here is probably the bottom or very close to it.

Asking the unaskable

Kerry asks the question that our wimpy national “press” corps is too chicken to ask. As an extra special bonus, he also has another Malkin screencap.

Poker time

Note to self: Never agree to play poker at The Poor Man‘s house. But do read about it, as long as you abide by the standard beverage warning.

Noriega to Afghanistan

State Rep. Rick Noriega of Houston is being deployed to Afghanistan.

Noriega, a major in the Army National Guard, now is making plans to head off to a war zone. From a camp near Kabul, Afghanistan, he will train Afghans in basic Army skills.

The Democrat from Houston, who is in his third term, is scheduled to report to Camp Mabry in Austin on June 16. After weeks of training, he expects to be deployed to Afghanistan in August.

Sitting in the living room of his home in the Eastwood area Monday, Noriega, 46, talked about his assignment and joked about capturing terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

The fourth-generation Houstonian chose to keep some subjects private, however, including the tears he and his family have shed. He shrugged off his situation, saying he is just another soldier serving his country.

“I’m fortunate I have a lot of support. Some of these kids don’t have what we have,” said Noriega, who works as a manager in CenterPoint Energy’s economic development department.

“I don’t want to trivialize where I’m going,” he added. “Being in the military is serious business. That is what you accept as part of the contract. I signed up to serve the people of Texas and this country.”

In the short time he has before leaving, Noriega and his wife, Melissa, have some decisions to make: arranging insurance coverage, making sure the mortgage is covered, finding time to put up a security fence, and selling his 2000 Chevrolet Suburban to avoid carrying a note and insurance on it.

“It’s impacting everyone,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of men and women being called up. It’s my obligation. I’ve been training for 22 years and it’s my turn.”

Noriega, who represents District 145 on Houston’s east and southeast sides, isn’t the only member of the Texas House in active military service.

Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, is a lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve who has not been called to active duty. Rep. Frank Corte Jr., R- San Antonio, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, also is awaiting possible activation.

Corte spent 40 days on active duty in Egypt after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He recently finished six months of active service in South Korea.

During World War II, 13 state legislators from Texas were called to active military service; eight were called during the Korean War.

“There’s been people before us,” said Corte. “I think Rick, Carl and myself are ready to do what needs to be done.”

A state constitutional amendment approved last November allows Noriega to appoint someone to his seat, pending approval from the House, if he is absent.

Noriega suggested that his wife of 13 years would make a good replacement.

“My plan is to cross that bridge when we get to it,” he said. “And if we get to that point, I’ll say I think my wife would do a great job.”

Melissa Noriega, a project coordinator for the Houston Independent School District, said she would do whatever she could for the district.

“Women have been picking up plows and hammers to cover the home front,” she said. “I don’t see this as much different. I would do whatever I need to do to bridge the gap.”

Noriega’s one of the good guys in the Lege. I wish him and his family well while he’s overseas serving his country. Byron also noted this story.

You have the right to an attorney

In re: the President hiring an attorney in the Plame case, I think Josh Marshall is asking the right question: When will the Vice President get a lawyer, too?

Tangential but not entirely unrelated observation: Whoever was responsible for enabling Ahmed Chalabi to spill secrets to Iran had better get himself a damn good lawyer.

(You do remember Mr. Chalabi, don’t you, Mr. President? Just checking.)

The wounded

Here’s a moving account of four soldiers wounded in Iraq, now recovering in San Antonio at Brooke Army Medical Center. No politics, just a story of four men trying to put their lives back together. For whatever reason, the article’s pictures (mostly just headshots) are not reproduced here, but they did print the cover photo.

Tom Clancy on Iraq

So, you know that Tom Clancy is the coauthor with Gen. Anthony Zinni of the new book “Battle Ready”, in which Gen. Zinni is highly critical of the Bush administration for its invasion and occupation of Iraq. Here’s what Clancy has to say about one of the main architects of this miserable failure:

In discussing the Iraq war, both Clancy and Zinni singled out the Department of Defense for criticism. Clancy recalled a prewar encounter in Washington during which he “almost came to blows” with Richard Perle, a Pentagon adviser at the time and a longtime advocate of the invasion.

“He was saying how (Secretary of State) Colin Powell was being a wuss because he was overly concerned with the lives of the troops,” Clancy said. “And I said, ‘Look, he’s supposed to think that way!’ And Perle didn’t agree with me on that. People like that worry me.”

“Overly concerned with the lives of the troops”. Put that on one of those “We support President Bush and the troops” yard signs and smoke it.

More for the Anecdotal Evidence of Republican Disenchantment With Bush Department:

Both Clancy and Zinni praised President Bush but would not commit to voting for him. Clancy said that voting for Sen. John Kerry, the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, would be “a stretch for me,” but wouldn’t say that he was supporting Bush.

Zinni, a registered Republican who voted for Bush in 2000, said he could not support the president’s re-election “if the current strategists in the Defense Department are going to be carried over.”

As Big Media Matt notes, while the reluctance of Bush’s wavering base to actually take the last step and embrace Kerry is a problem, just getting them to sit it out would still be a win.

The shining moral example of Tom DeLay

One can only wonder how the mind of Tom DeLay works.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) continued his ferocious counter-offensive against Democrats yesterday, accusing them of trying to gain political advantage from the abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison.


He lambasted Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and the Democrats’ fundraising committees for posting a petition on Kerry’s website calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s ouster and using it to raise money. Kerry’s website claims 320,000 people have signed the petition, but there is no direct link to contribute money.


When asked why President Bush’s advertisements invoking Sept. 11 were not performing the same function as Kerry’s petition, DeLay said, “Bush’s ads were done tastefully … [Democrats] are raising money [from] a horrible and embarrassing event.”

Got that? It’s OK to raise money from a horrible and embarrassing event as long as it’s done “tastefully”. Perhaps we ought to amend McCain-Feingold to cover offenses against tastefulness in the future.

Now since DeLay already thinks you’re a nasty partisan for not agreeing with him about all of these things, you may as well act like one and give a little love to Richard Morrison. Or just tell Kos that you’d like to see him choose the Morrison campaign as one to support in his upcoming fundraising drive. Go ahead, you’ll be glad you did.

(BTW, for those in the Houston area, you can see Morrison on TV next Thursday.)

One last thing:

DeLay also said he had not read the report issued by Major Gen. Antonio Taguba, who conducted the investigation into the Iraqi prisoner abuses.

Nice to know he’s on top of these things, right? Thanks to the Joe Hill Dispatch for the catch.

The Rumsfeld Wire

Note the addition on the sidebar of the Rumsfeld Wire, courtesy of the DCCC, which will give you updated blog commentary on our “superb” “best ever” SecDef and his status. You can still sign the petition calling for Rumsfeld’s removal and you can get the feed yourself, it’s pretty easy. My only regret is that they didn’t manage to incorporate any of Rummy’s fighting styles in the picture. Maybe next time.


I don’t write about Iraq issues very often because I often find that I just don’t have the words to adequately express how I feel about the whole situation, and because there are some many other voices out there that address it better than I could. I do want to take a moment today to offer my deepest condolences to the family of Nick Berg. May you all someday find peace and healing, and may no other family ever have to deal with the horrors that have been visited on you.

I’d also like to take a moment to address Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, who according to news accounts and transcripts seems to think that the real problem in Iraq is “so many humanitarian do-gooders” who are hampering our efforts to properly question prisoners by “looking for human rights violations” all over the place. Senator, I can appreciate that a civilized country has to occasionally engage in the rape and torture of mostly innocent noncombatants in order to further the aims of peace and democracy, and I recognize you as a worthy spokesman for those efforts. If you don’t mind, I’d appreciate it if you’d clarify something for me, which is what the appropriate amount of rape and torture is. Obviously, you believe that having seven prison guards engage in rape and torture is within the bounds of acceptable behavior, but I need to understand how much is too much. It would also help to know if the quality of the confessions that we extract from these mostly innocent detainees has any effect on your answer. Thanks very much.

(I refer you to Josh Marshall, among many others, for more on Sen. Inhofe.)

What they knew and when they knew it

Rafe Colburn is keeping track of who knew what about Abu Ghraib and when they knew it. The Stakeholder has a similar list. None of the items on those lists support the conclusion that the pictures we’ve seen are from an “isolated incident” involving a few “bad apples”.

Max makes a good point about “politicizing” something like this, which seems to be the line of attack now.

Somebody has to walk the plank on this, no matter what your politics are. Somebody important — not some waif from Cumberland, Md. (Why does her name keep coming up? There were guys in the pictures too.) Rummy evidently knew but didn’t want to know and found other things with which to concern himself. This was a miserable failure.

Politics is the way we are supposed to make decisions in this democracy of ours. Public opinion, acting through the instrumentality of elections, among other devices, chooses leadership based on performance. Aspiring leaders compete in the political arena by attacking each other. Politicization is precisely what is required for problems to be addressed.

Politicization can be founded on false, stupid, or trivial premises. For instance, the nation’s business was significantly absorbed in the practice of oral sex, not too long ago. Making something out of nothing would merit scorn. The prison practices are not nothing. I seem to recall that Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson was attacked for stuff going on several layers below him at nuclear labs in the desert.

We cannot begin to undo the damage that we have wrought here until we make people accountable for causing it. Donald Rumsfeld is one of those people (he is by far not the only one, make no mistake about that), and as long as he’s still in a position of power, we’re saying to the world that we’d rather scapegoat than stand up. President Bush, acting more and more like a bad CEO, does not understand that. Maybe if enough of us tell him this, by signing the petition or other means, he’ll come to understand it.

UPDATE: Greg Morrow provides more evidence that Rumsfeld should be held accountable.

Not my fault!

Bush takes Rumsfeld off the hook

President Bush said today that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “will stay in my Cabinet” despite Democratic calls for his departure over abusive treatment of Iraqi prisoners by American military guards.

“Secretary Rumsfeld has served our nation well,” Bush told reporters in an appearance in the White House Rose Garden. Speaking slowly for emphasis, he added, “Secretary Rumsfeld has been the secretary during two wars, and he is an important part of my Cabinet.”

Bush coupled his remarks with his first outright apology for the mistreatment suffered by Iraqis at the hands of Americans. He said he was “sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families.”

Bush spoke as his administration sought to counter a worldwide wave of revulsion over photographs showing Iraqi prisoners, some of them hooded, naked and in sexually humiliating poses, in an American-run prison in the Baghdad area.

Some of the images show American captors mugging and gloating amid the misery of the Iraqis. One, published today on the front page of The Washington Post, showed a naked man on the ground, his neck on a leash, the other end of which was in the hand of a female American GI.

For the second straight day, Bush vowed that those responsible would be brought to justice.

Well, that’s lovely, Mister President, but first I want to know: Who, exactly, is responsible? Oh, I know, a few bad apple GIs and all that, but who’s responsible for them? Who’s responsible for running Abu Ghraib? Who’s in charge here?

While I’m asking questions, who’s responsible for the fact that you’re only finding out about this now? The Taguba Report came out in what, February? What have those responsible been doing about it since then?

If you are unwilling to hold anyone responsible for this, Mister President, then I believe we the people ought to hold you responsible for it. That said, I agree with Nancy Pelosi that we really should start with Donald Rumsfeld. He does serve at your pleasure, after all. Why is it that you’re still pleased with his service?

For the rest of us, here’s a petition calling for Rumsfeld’s dismissal. Do feel free to express your own opinion on the subject.

UPDATE: Damn straight.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Thursday if he were president he would not be “the last to know what is going on in my command,” a criticism of the Bush administration’s handling of reports of abuse of prisoners held by U.S. forces in Iraq.

“These despicable actions have endangered the lives of our soldiers and, frankly, have made their mission harder to accomplish,” Kerry said during a campaign appearance at a California high school. “We cannot succeed in Iraq by abandoning the values that define America.”


“As president, I will not be the last to know what is going on in my command,” Kerry said. “I will demand accountability for those who serve and I will take responsibility for their actions. And I will do everything that I can in my power to repair the damage that this has caused to America to our standing in the world and to the ideals for which we stand.”

I say again: Damn straight!

More on Sinclair

The Center for American Progress fills in some more details about Sinclair, the owner of several ABC affiliates which won’t be showing tonight’s Nightline. To put it mildly, these guys have been strongly supportive of President Bush. Check it out, and scroll down to the bottom of the page for a link to get CAP’s stuff via email.

“Contrary to the public interest”

It is extremely difficult for me to understand this, which comes via Atrios. is reporting [no free link] that Sinclair Broadcast Group has ordered its ABC-affiliated stations not to carry tomorrow’s “Nightline,” which will air the names and photos of soldiers who have been killed in combat in Iraq.

Sinclair General Counsel Barry Faber tells the site: “We find it to be contrary to the public interest.”

The boycott will affect eight ABC-affiliated Sinclair stations.



The ABC Television network announced on Tuesday that the Friday, April 30th edition of “Nightline” will consist entirely of Ted Koppel reading aloud the names of U.S. servicemen and women killed in action in Iraq. Despite the denials by a spokeswoman for the show the action appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq.

While the Sinclair Broadcast Group honors the memory of the brave members of the military who have sacrificed their lives in the service of our country, we do not believe such political statements should be disguised as news content. As a result, we have decided to preempt the broadcast of “Nightline” this Friday on each of our stations which air ABC programming.

We understand that our decision in this matter may be questioned by some. Before you judge our decision, however, we would ask that you first question Mr. Koppel as to why he chose to read the names of the 523 troops killed in combat in Iraq, rather than the names of the thousands of private citizens killed in terrorists attacks since and including the events of September 11, 2001. In his answer, you will find the real motivation behind his action scheduled for this Friday.

I’ve printed the ABC News response to Sinclair beneath the More link.

About a mile from my house, just in front of the Height post office, is a World War II memorial. It sits on the esplanade of Heights Boulevard, the historic main drag through my neighborhood, and commemorates the young men from the Heights who served and died in that war. (I really need to take some pictures of it – it’s a very well-done memorial. Maybe tomorrow.) The Vietnam memorial in Washington is of course a huge wall with the names of all of the dead etched into it. Is there anyone who would suggest there was anything remotely improper about the public display of those names?

If hearing those names and seeing those faces makes you angry, well, it should. If it makes you question why we’re there and how we got there in the first place, again, it should. That doesn’t mean that your anger has to be directed in any one specific place, nor does it mean that you have to answer those questions in any one specific way. But there’s nothing noble about ducking the questions, or hiding from the names and faces. This is the price we’ve paid. I believe we’re all grown up enough to decide on our own whether or not it has been worth it, but apparently Sinclair doesn’t, and its viewers are the lesser for it. (Atrios has a list of those stations, and their contact info, by the way.)

As for the comment about reading the names being a political statement in and of itself, well, as Taegen Goddard points out, Sinclair has a definite political interest here as well.


Pelosi to press Bush on Iraq

Look for more criticism of Team Bush for its colossal bungling of the Iraq invasion, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi, who voted against the war in October 2002 and against the $87 billion spending package, has been relatively measured in her criticism of the war up until now.

But after a month of high casualties in Iraq, conversations with constituents over the Easter recess, and her own Baghdad visit in March, Pelosi has decided to escalate the House Democrats’ criticism of the war.

She will expand on her criticism that the administration’s promise that American troops would be greeted with “rockets and not roses” and harp on the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction.


Pelosi advised her colleagues that regardless of how they voted on war, they can always fault the administration for its failure to plan, the aide added.

Pelosi will draw heavily from the public statements made by Bush and members of his Cabinet, laying out the administration’s own words and comparing them to recent events and faulting the administration for having what she will call a “sketch of a plan.”

“The Bush administration has gone about the transfer of sovereignty precisely backward. Instead of fostering a legitimate government and choosing a date to transfer sovereignty, the administration picked a date off the calendar without any idea who the new government would be,” according to an advance copy of the speech.


Pelosi’s concerns seemed to be widespread in the caucus, and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) also stepped up his criticism in response to the April casualties.

“There were 87 deaths in the first 15 days of the month, which as of April 20 is 101,” Hoyer told reporters.

He added, “As someone who supported the mission, and still believes the mission is a positive one, I have been very disappointed with the management by this administration of this effort from the fall, when General Shinseki indicated he needed to maintain at least 200,000 troops. There is no doubt that he was correct.”

That all sounds about right to me. Keep the focus on the administration’s words and deeds, and how the reality has completely differed from the promises.

However, some Democratic lawmakers cautioned party leaders against being overly critical of the reconstruction effort. Rep. Charles Stenholm (D-Texas), who faces a difficult re-election urged that the party adopt a message that can play in all parts of the country.

I would be very interested to know what kind of message Rep. Stenholm has in mind. In fact, I’m so interested in this that I plan to ask him. I’ll let you know what kind of answer I get. Regardless of that, I do hope that the Dems listen to him and take his concerns into account.

UPDATE: Here’s her speech. Pretty darned good if you ask me.

Yellow ribbons

Remember when we tied yellow ribbons around oak trees in support of the hostages in Iran?


An email from Iraq

Kerry points to this email from a contractor in Iraq, who has a few thoughts about the recent killings in Fallujah and the big picture overall. Well worth the read, so go check it out.

Factchecking Condi

Here’s a handy guide to Condoleeza Rice’s opening statement and the ensuing Q & A from her testimony today, courtesy of the Center for American Progress. If you’re still hungry for more, they have that, too.

He’s on the job

How has President Bush responded to the recent awful news coming out of Iraq?

At his ranch near Crawford, Texas, President Bush held a 20-minute telephone conference call to discuss the fast-breaking events in Iraq with top Cabinet officials including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, national security adviser Condoleeza Rice and Richard Meyers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Bush “received an update about the offensive military action” in Fallujah and other parts of Iraq and was told that U.S. and coalition troops were “performing well,” said White House press secretary Scott McClellan.

He said Bush, who is scheduled to stay at his ranch until Monday, would receive updates “as warranted.”

All that brush won’t clear itself, you know. Someone has to stay on top of it.

Via The Agonist, who notes that Bush has been on vacation all this week.

Mobsters against Iraq?

So I was re-watching part of last week’s “Sopranos” today, and one of the wiseguys uttered a line that got me thinking. He was talking about going to war against a rival captain, and his parting line to an ally was “And I predict the guys in the street, in Brooklyn and Queens, will greet us as effing heroes. It’ll be easy.” Now is it just me, or is anyone else reminded of a certain pre-Iraq prognostication by this? Anyone want to take bets on how accurate this assessment is? (NB: I haven’t seen today’s “Sopranos” yet, so no spoilers, please.)