iraq

Who is supporting the troops?

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Wounded soldiers asked to return signing bonuses:

The U.S. Military is demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments.To get people to sign up, the military gives enlistment bonuses up to $30,000 in some cases.Now men and women who have lost arms, legs, eyesight, hearing and can no longer serve are being ordered to pay some of that money back.

Does anyone know who is running this war?

The 'good' news from Iraq

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Lots of cheerleading and "I told you so" on the right as the Bush administration rolls out their PR offensive about how things are great in Iraq. By their count (where it depends on where the bullet holes in the body are to get counted), the death count is down. But then, it's still a long way from victory:

Senior military commanders here now portray the intransigence of Iraq's Shiite-dominated government as the key threat facing the U.S. effort in Iraq, rather than al-Qaeda terrorists, Sunni insurgents or Iranian-backed militias.

In more than a dozen interviews, U.S. military officials expressed growing concern over the Iraqi government's failure to capitalize on sharp declines in attacks against U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians. A window of opportunity has opened for the government to reach out to its former foes, said Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the commander of day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq, but "it's unclear how long that window is going to be open."

The lack of political progress calls into question the core rationale behind the troop buildup President Bush announced in January, which was premised on the notion that improved security would create space for Iraqis to arrive at new power-sharing arrangements. And what if there is no such breakthrough by next summer? "If that doesn't happen," Odierno said, "we're going to have to review our strategy."

As was argued before the surge, you are trying to solve a political problem through military means. It's always been a political problem, and there's been little done to solve it. In fact, having the U.S. arming former insurgents to turn against al Qaeda could very well spell trouble when those same groups turn their guns against the Shiites.

And what about all that sun-is-shining reporting on the right?

Indeed, after years of seizing on every positive development and complaining that the good news wasn't being adequately conveyed, American military officials now warn against excessive optimism. "It's never as bad as it was, and it's not as good as it's being reported now," said Army Maj. Gen. Michael Barbero, chief of strategic operations for U.S. forces in Iraq.

Follow the money

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In a post about how political Gen. Patraeus has become, Glenn Greenwald touches on perhaps a more telling fact. Uniformed military personnel used to give political donations mostly to Republicans, by a wide margin. But now, that has dropped down to 51 percent, almost even with Democrats.

But even this stat misses the real story. The Republican presidential candidate that has the most military contributions is the anti-war candidate Ron Paul.

It's getting closer to that scenario envisioned by President Bush, that he wouldn't quit the war even if his only supporters were his wife and his dog.

Who is left supporting the Iraq war?

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Let's see. you have soldiers on the ground saying Iraq is a mess that can't be fixed. Then, some officers on the ground saying the same thing. Then of course, you have the generals who say it's a fool's errand. Now, there's the former commanding general in Iraq who thinks it's a disaster.

The American people have long given up on the war. So has most of the rest of the world. Even the British are going home.

Who is left?

An unwanted member of the coalition of the willing in Iraq

You know how Bush has been trying to shore up the coalition of the willing? Well, it looks like there is a new member. But Turkey's presence is not exactly helpful.

Why Bush never called for America to sacrifice for the war

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It has been a mystery why President Bush never called for Americans to join the military or otherwise sacrifice for the war. Glenn Greenwald has a theory:

The real reason that Bush -- while spewing lofty War of Civilization rhetoric for years -- never even suggested, let alone compelled, a duty of military service is because he knows better than anyone that we are a Nation of George W. Bushs -- a nation of Rich Lowrys, Rush Limbaughs, Michael O'Hanlons, Glenn Reynolds, Joe Liebermans, Victor Davis Hansons -- people who love to talk about and wallow in wars fought by others, who have an insatiable quest to feel powerful and purposeful and "Churchillian" from watching it all unfold and theorizing and talking and typing about it, but who will never risk or sacrifice anything for it.

Why did Bush outsource the Iraq war?

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While watching a story about the Blackwater mercenaries scandal, it brought up the question of why. Why would Bush spend so much money hiring this pack of mercenaries to do the jobs that U.S. soldiers used to do? After all, it costs a lot more to have mercenaries to do the job than U.S. troops.

There is the cynical view that it was all a plot to reward Republican friends with fat government contracts. I think this could have been a part of the decision, but I doubt it was the deciding factor.

Maybe they wanted to have a force on the ground that didn't have to play by the same rules, to do the dirty work without soiling the hands of those pulling the strings. Again, this might have been a part of the decision, but it doesn't appear to be a major factor. Those Blackwater mercs wouldn't be wasted on guarding convoys, but out doing that dirty work if that were the case.

It would seem the real reason why the Bush administration would spend so much money on this private army is because of pure politics. He doesn't have enough soldiers on the ground to do the job, and can't get enough soldiers without either ripping apart the military or resorting to a draft. It would also force him to admit he was wrong. So, he hired a private army instead, passing along the inflated costs to taxpayers.

And now his private army is going cowboy and causing even bigger problems, outsourcing gone sour.

Lessons on the surge from economics 101

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Here is a great column from the Rutland Herald on how the "surge" really works:

Economics professors have a standard game they use to demonstrate how apparently rational decisions can create a disastrous result. They call it a 'dollar auction.' The rules are simple. The professor offers a dollar for sale to the highest bidder, with only one wrinkle: the second-highest bidder has to pay up on their losing bid as well. Several students almost always get sucked in. The first bids a penny, looking to make 99 cents. The second bids 2 cents, the third 3 cents, and so on, each feeling they have a chance at something good on the cheap. The early stages are fun, and the bidders wonder what possessed the professor to be willing to lose some money.

The problem surfaces when the bidders get up close to a dollar. After 99 cents the last vestige of profitability disappears, but the bidding continues between the two highest players. They now realize that they stand to lose no matter what, but that they can still buffer their losses by winning the dollar. They just have to outlast the other player. Following this strategy, the two hapless students usually run the bid up several dollars, turning the apparent shot at easy money into a ghastly battle of spiraling disaster.

Theoretically, there is no stable outcome once the dynamic gets going. The only clear limit is the exhaustion of one of the player's total funds. In the classroom, the auction generally ends with the grudging decision of one player to 'irrationally' accept the larger loss and get out of the terrible spiral. Economists call the dollar auction pattern an irrational escalation of commitment. We might also call it the war in Iraq."

This may be the best explanation of where Bush & Co. are in terms of their Iraq war policy. Bush is desperately trying to keep the game going and hand it off to the next president.

Iraq War vs. Social Security

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The Congressional Budget Office estimates that in addition to the $567 billion already spent, the Iraq war will cost another $2 trillion over the next 50 years.

Yet, as Josh Marshall points out, the shortfall in Social Security for the next 75 years is only $4.7 billion.

Hope everyone enjoys this war in their old age.

Iraq: game over

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The generals that President Bush says we are supposed to listen to have always said that the war in Iraq cannot be won militarily, that a political solution was needed. The surge was meant to provide the stability for the Iraqi government to create that solution. The odds of the Iraqis reconciling their centuries-long differences was always pretty long.

One of the key issues that could have brought the sides together was a national oil law, to share revenues among all Iraqis. It was the last, best hope for a peaceful resolution.

I say was, because that hope was shot down in flames this week, by none other than a Texas oil man, a Bush friend and supporter, Ray Hunt. Paul Krugman has the details.

Without a deal for the oil money, there will be a permanent Sunni insurgency. There is no chance of a political solution without the oil money. The game is over. There is no chance for peace now.

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