Tuesday, January 17, 2006

E.J. Dionne on Murtha Slander

E.J. Dionne on Murtha Slander

E.J. Dionne tells the bitter truth about the lengths the right wing will go to in order to politically protest (and destroy the reputation of) a veteran who dares to speak out.
"...there is no honor given to those who serve if they choose later to take on the powers that be."

Mr. Dionne says:
What's maddening here is the unblushing hypocrisy of the right wing and the way it circulates -- usually through Web sites or talk radio -- personal vilification to abort honest political debate. Murtha's views on withdrawing troops from Iraq are certainly the object of legitimate contention. Many in Murtha's party disagree with him. But Murtha's right-wing critics can't content themselves with going after his ideas. They have to try to discredit his service.
What's maddening, to me, is seeing the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz and Shailagh Murray irresponsibly spreading the crap around without any objective investigation. They - and their editors - make it a piece of cake for the right-wing mouth machine to get hold of a megaphone.

War and politics may be a nasty business, but responsible mainstream journalism is supposed to be an objective business.

Lt. Gen. Vines Replaced After One-Year "Stint"

Lt. Gen. Vines Replaced After One-Year "Stint"


Last week, I sensed a definite clash between Generals in the opinions about the state of civil war in Iraq. I'd quoted this NY Times piece:
Sectarian rivalries and inefficient Iraqi ministries could turn the Iraqi security forces into "militias or armed gangs," Lt. General John Vines, the senior US operational commander in Iraq, said in an interview....In the weeks leading up to the December election, however, General Vines differed with his boss, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. over how and where to assign troops to ensure a peaceful and successful balloting.

At the time, I had asked this question, not realizing that Lt Gen Vines was already being replaced:
"Which opinion will be gagged and muffled? If this public split in philosophy does not die down, who will back down? Is it a civil war in Iraq or not?"

Lt. General Vines will be replaced by Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli - and I'll bet he'll be a lot more careful about keeping his message in line with General Casey's.
Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli replaces Army Lt. Gen. John Vines on Thursday as the No. 2 general in the U.S. command, said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman in Baghdad. Vines, who last week forecast continuing violence in Iraq, is ending a year-long stint as the U.S. operational commander amid a bloody and continuing fight with insurgents. His departure is part of the regular rotation of senior U.S. commanders in the war, which began in March 2003.

Casey will stay - doing "terrific job"
The Pentagon said Casey, top U.S. commander in Iraq since July 2004, will remain in his post. Casey previously had been expected to wrap up his duty in Iraq this summer. "There are no plans or intentions to relieve him in the foreseeable future," said chief Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita, who said Casey is "doing a terrific job."
The article states that Lt Gen. Vines' departure is "part of the regular rotation of senior U.S. commanders in the war, which began in March 2003."

Meanwhile, shots of truth continue to tear through the curtain of the "happy talk."

Guardian Unlimited (Julian Borger):
An official assessment drawn up by the US foreign aid agency depicts the security situation in Iraq as dire, amounting to a "social breakdown" in which criminals have "almost free rein".
The "conflict assessment" is an attachment to an invitation to contractors to bid on a project rehabilitating Iraqi cities published earlier this month by the US Agency for International Development (USAid).

The picture it paints is not only darker than the optimistic accounts from the White House and the Pentagon, it also gives a more complex profile of the insurgency than the straightforward "rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists" described by George Bush.

Lt Gen. Vines entertained questions from the press last Friday. Here are a couple of questions with answers that lead us to believe that the majority of the violence against the US/Iraqi force is coming from disgruntled Iraqi groups, many with whom we are negotiating for political settlement. As Jill Carroll reported just before she was kidnapped, we are negotiating with the same groups who are committing major acts of violence against us.

Jim Miklaszewski of NBC news went as far as to ask about the deals we're cutting with political figures in Iraq who've had direct ties to the insurgency:
There have been also reports that U.S. military is, in fact, talking to some of these insurgents. Is that underway?
Here are some other questions:
Q. [Al Pessin with Voice of America] - Even if all or most of the Sunni Iraqi part of the insurgency were to decide to support a broad-based government, how big an impact would that have on the overall picture of violence? In other words, how much of the violence is by the Iraqi groups and how much by the foreigners?

GEN. VINES: I believe that the majority is by Iraqi groups -- some who feel like they run the risk of being disadvantaged, and perhaps they're using violence as a bargaining tool to influence the political process; other insurgent groups and other terrorist groups have done that in other parts of the world, and you know them as well or better than I do. There is a portion of the Iraqi population that opposes the presence of the coalition, and they feel like that their resistance is nationalistic in basis, and they attempt to conduct operations in an effort to force the coalition presence out. So I believe it would have a very significant impact if they laid down arms and participated in a democratic process as opposed to violence.

Q: General, I'm Carl Osgood; I write for Executive Intelligence Review. You may know that one of the things that Congressman Murtha has been saying about the U.S. presence in Iraq is that the U.S. troops themselves are a target of the violence and a catalyst of the violence. I wonder if you could comment on that to the degree to which you think that may or may not be true.

GEN. VINES: Without question, some Sunni -- well, in fact, some Iraqis -- do view the coalition presence as a reason to conduct violence against them. That is without question. The extent of that I could not characterize.

Jill Carroll Seen On Video

Jill Carroll Seen On Video

Tape shown of US hostage in Iraq [BBC News]
Al-Jazeera has broadcast a video of the kidnapped US journalist Jill Carroll - the first sighting of her since she was abducted 10 in Baghdad days ago
The video can be seen at the BBC site.

The video contained a claim that Jill Carroll's abductors would kill her unless all female prisoners in Iraq were released within 72 hours.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack was unable to confirm that it was Ms Carroll in the video. "We will make every effort to work with the Iraqis to bring her back safe and sound as soon as possible." Mr McCormack declined to make further comment, including about whether the US would consider meeting the demands as aired in the broadcast. [Australian]

A statement from Jill's family [ABC News]

The Christian Monitor's website allegedly has quoted the Jordan Times, where Ms. Carroll had worked before becoming a freelance correspondent in Iraq, as saying her kidnappers "could not have chosen a more wrong target".

Salon.com has a related article, Alan's Melody, by Iraqi blogger 'Riverbend.' She remembers her friend Alan, killed during the abduction of Jill Carroll.

As always, I pray for Jill Carroll and her family. May she be released safely.



Hostage video ignites wide call to free Carroll
Wednesday, the umbrella group for a number of leading Sunni clerics condemned the Jan. 7 kidnapping of Jill Carroll. Those calling upon her abductors in Iraq to show mercy included senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, and some of Iraq's most influential Sunni Arab leaders, including Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of the Iraqi Accordance Front.

BBC News - Iraq detainees to be freed early
Hostage takers demanded on Tuesday that women be freed -
Iraq's ministry of justice has told the BBC that six of the eight women being held by coalition forces in Iraq are to be released early. The six will be freed because there is insufficient evidence to charge them, a justice ministry spokesman said.
I'm glad to see State doing what they can to secure Jill's release - although some others don't agree. Jawa Report - see today's entry.

Not Your Typical Bushworld Decision: Oregon Assisted Suicide Law Stands

"Congress did not have this far-reaching intent to alter the federal-state balance," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for himself, retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer.

- NY Times

Not Your Typical Bushworld Decision: Oregon Assisted Suicide Law Stands

The NY Times has the SCOTUS story about the Oregon assisted suicide case as a headliner on their website.
The administration improperly tried to use a drug law to prosecute Oregon doctors who prescribe overdoses, the court majority said.
For me, this is definitely important news. I realize the legal argument wasn't over the merits of the debate over assisted suicide. Regardless, I cannot tell you what a relief it is to see the SCOTUS defending this particular State freedom.

I have seen more than one of my loved ones die an extremely painful death as a result of terminal illness. I sat by their side - I ministered to them. I lovingly served them with every ounce of my energy and caring. I am a deeply spiritual person. Certain life and death decisions should never be placed in human hands, and I believe in the sanctity of life; "the seamless garment of life". I am concerned about human existence before birth. I am against the death penalty. I cannot be a hypocrite, though. I put special spiritual emphasis on mercy for those who suffer. Mercy is a form of grace and can be shown in unexpected ways. I firmly believe that there comes a time when a meaningful Christian life is over. Most people of sound mind realize when that point has been reached. When a loved one's conscious suffering becomes nothing but a form of torture to them, it leaves deep emotional scars upon those left behind to watch them suffer, both physically and spiritually. It causes all to feel a sense of helplessness that goes far beyond pointlessness.

Christ Himself was said to have died within hours of His crucifixion. That, along with the foreknowledge that he would be put to death, was emotionally excruciating. He wept bitterly in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was said to have prayed for death on the Cross, invoking words He'd memorized from the 22nd Psalm.

Terminally ill patients have the same human foreknowledge about their impending death, the same emotional pain, the same fears, and the same hope for their safe delivery into God's hands.

Why would a merciful God condemn them for seeking mercy unto their death?

My mother died a month ago from a particularly painful form of cancer. She was a person of deep and abiding faith in God. Like her, I am a faithful person. She told me, as she suffered greatly, that she knew that there would come a day when people would look back to this time in history and call it a "dark age"; a time when we cared for the suffering of our animals more than we did for human beings.

I know that many of my fellow Christians will vehemently disagree with me on this issue, but I must be honest. I have not turned my face or my heart away - not for a moment - from the suffering of my loved ones. I would challenge any person of faith who has sat with a loved one in great and incurable pain and cared for them up to the time of their passing to tell me they are not happy to see that the freedom to decide was upheld today by our highest court.

The Times reports that "Oregon's law covers only extremely sick people -- those with incurable diseases, whom at least two doctors agree have six months or less to live and are of sound mind."

It's my opinion that any physician who would help a patient to go gently and painlessly into the inevitable "next room" is surely one of the most merciful and thoughtful people that God could ever send our way.

I'm disappointed, though not at all surprised, that new Chief Justice John Roberts backed the Bush administration on this, dissenting for the first time. The freedom to make a solemn and dignified choice about one's own life and the rights of individual states to decide to what degree a physician can practice merciful care was clearly not as important to Chief Justice Roberts as was the witch-hunt.

Could this decision be an indication that we are making baby-steps out of Bushworld?


UPDATE - JANUARY 19, 2006 - The January 19th New York Times editorial conveys a similar opinion of Chief Justice Roberts' decision in this case:
The only disquieting note was that the new chief justice, John Roberts Jr., who had assured senators that he believed people had "the right to be let alone," nevertheless joined the dissenters in arguing that the federal government had the power to block Oregon's pioneering effort to let terminally ill patients end their own lives humanely.

The legal opinion is here