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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Norm Coleman: Pre-Flight Iraq Assessment

Category: Norm Coleman
Posted: 08/29/07 17:56

by Dave Mindeman

Norm Coleman is headed to Iraq. Just thought I would save everyone some time and send his assessment out now:


From Norm Coleman:

I have just returned from another visit to Iraq and I am pleased to report that troop morale is high and the facts on the ground are improving. I was pleased to see that the President's surge is working well militarily; and that my earlier assessment about Al-Anbar was correct. Our troops are performing magnificently.

I am a little less optimistic about the political progress of the Al-Maliki government. They are working hard on the benchmarks that the President has outlined but progress is slow. I encouraged them to continue the struggle and embrace national reconciliation.

(I had to leave notes because the legislature was on vacation).

As I return to Minnesota, I would encourage my fellow citizens to be patient. The birth of a new Democracy can be painful, but in the end, we can all rejoice and embrace a new member in the community of freedom.

I want to thank all those brave Minnesotans serving in harms way and wish them a safe journey home.

I look forward to General Petraeus' report and encourage all of my colleagues to see firsthand what I have seen. It has been an enlightening experience and gives me hope for the future.

God bless you all.

Norm Coleman
Dateline: Baghdad, Iraq

Might as well save the taxpayers the flight money, Norm. You are an open book.

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A Surge in Bush Rhetoric

Category: Iraq War
Posted: 08/29/07 15:18, Edited: 08/29/07 15:29

by Dave Mindeman

Going into September, we are being assaulted by a media blitz of unprecendented proportions. Using all the powers at his disposal, Bush is turning this war report into one big media event. Conservative outlets are joining this assault and the American public has to try and filter their information thru a loudspeaker of distortion and one-sided interpretation.

General Petraeus' report is a foregone conclusion. Bush is holding one event after another, repeating the administration's version of "events on the ground" in Iraq. We know what the report will say; the White House has written and revised it to their expectations. So we are expected to trust that this time, for the first time, the administration is going to tell us the truth.

Let's try to examine what we know. First of all, General Petraeus really is the best commander we have had in the field. He understands that winning hearts and minds is more important than killing the enemy. American troops have been with the people, learning about their needs.... helping with whatever they can.

But is the surge working?

Iraq violence remains high.

Even though violent attacks in Baghdad are reduced from their January highs, the number of attacks is still equal to last year's levels. Meanwhile, attacks in the rest of the country has doubled. Nearly 1,000 more Iraqis have been killed in the first 8 months of this year, than in all of 2006.

Al-Anbar Progress.

The progress in Al-Anbar which Bush mentions at every opportunity was being negotiated and put in motion before the surge was implemented. In fact, a US troop surge in Al-Anbar was probably unnecessary. This is more of a roll the dice gamble by the US command than any benefit from a troop surge. The Sunni tribes in Al-Anbar have traded their "alliance" with the US for the guns and ammo they have been denied in the past. This allegiance is bartered for their own security and has nothing to do with support for the Al-Maliki government. In fact, the Shia faction of the Al-Maliki cabinet objected strenuously to this US proposal. They know, and the US command acknowledges the possibility, that once Al Qaeda elements have been cleared out of the province, those Sunni guns could be trained on Shia militia or Iraqi police just as easily.


The US could soon be faced with another problem area that will require stretching their forces. The British have moved all of their troops out of Basra and moved them to protected locations outside the city. They transferred "control" of the Basra police station to the local Iraqi police, who in turn fled the station when the Al-Sadr militia came to take that control away. The current state of Basra may portend what Iraq will look like when US troops begin to leave. It is a city under siege, trapped between 2 warring Shia militia factions, with the British troops on the perimeter trying to prevent a broader conflict.

PKK -- (Kurdistan Workers Party)

In the relatively peaceful area of Kurdish (northern) Iraq, another problem is looming. The Kurdish militia known as the PKK has infringed on Turkish terriotry numerous times and continues to irritate the government of Turkey on the margins. The new President of Turkey is a devout Muslim and it is uncertain how his government will respond to what many Turks view as a threat to their border by Kurdish rebels in Iraq and within Turkey. This could expose US troops to peace keeping duties between two essential allies in the area.

Al-Maliki Ties to Iran.
Al-Maliki seems to be hedging his bets as US support begins to wane. He is seeking to enhance his ties to the Iranian government..a natural Shiite ally. This can complicate his relationship with the US which still controls the security of his country. Recent rhetoric from President Bush has been putting Iran on notice that their interference in Iraq is unacceptable. Such sabre rattling could also be message to Al-Maliki to quit "making nice" with the Iranian President. It is hard to believe that Iraq can move to true representative government with Al-Maliki, and his heavily biased Shiite leanings, in charge.

So, we, again will have the same dilemma. The surge is subject to the same interpretation of success that we have been doing with everything else in Iraq. Statistics in the country are still grim. Our soldiers are doing a great job dealing with the populace, but we are forging risky alliances and have fractional divisions in every part of the country. There will be no victory here. The real enemy here is a power vacuum. Iraq needs some element that can exert control over the country as a whole. Right now, Iraq is really a federation of factions... all seizing opportunities when they present themselves but with nobody strong enough to unify them. The US military cannot force political alliances. The US military cannot force reconciliation. The US military cannot make the people respect its government.

If we stay in Iraq, we may need to look at Basra as our future there. We will be the British, watching the fight from a distance...helpless to stop it and unable to discern who should be the winner.
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Mitt Romney: Expecting Presidential Purity

Category: Presidential Politics
Posted: 08/28/07 19:14

by Dave Mindeman

Throw him under the bus! That's the Mitt Romney solution to the news that Senator Larry Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly (lewd) conduct in June.

You see Mitt doesn't need him anymore. Craig was one of only two Senators that gave their early support to Romney.... back when he was an unknown Massachusetts governor with delusions of grandeur. But now -- sorry, Larry, Mitt just can't be associated with a (gasp!) "deviant".

It is hard to feel sorry for Senator Craig. He put himself in this position with his outspoken anti-gay rhetoric and policy votes. But there is something seriously hypocritical about Mitt Romney in this, too. This moral values ploy is getting old. I sure hope Mitt has a spotless past because casting judgments on people in this manner is not only un-Christian but will raise expectations of his own behavior to a lofty bar.

Romney's aspersions cast a wide net. He even put Mark Foley and Bill Clinton in the same sentence.

"I think it reminds us of Mark Foley and Bill Clinton. I think it reminds us of the fact that people who are elected to public office continue to disappoint, and they somehow think that if they vote the right way on issues of significance or they can speak a good game, that we'll just forgive and forget."

Beware Mitt... making "moral values" the centerpiece of your campaign will ensure furthur scrutiny of your Mormon religious background and guarantee a scrutiny of your past of unprecendented proportions.

Evangelicals are used to holding their candidates to a high moral bar..... but a word of warning Mitt -- the person that matches those expectations hasn't walked on this earth in over 2,000 years.
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