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Bush to Increase Troops to Afghanistan

The media headlines are all about Bush reducing troops in Iraq. Of course troop reduction in Iraq is a good thing.

But, he also announced that he's increasing troops to Afghanistan due to "renewed resistance from the Taliban."

....the president says that a Marine battalion will be on its way there in November -- instead of going to Iraq. And an Army combat brigade will follow in January.

....Bush's plan to instead shift forces to Afghanistan may give ammunition to the argument of his critics: that while focusing on Iraq, the president paid too little attention to the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

Moving troops from one country to another is neither an end to war nor a success. Bringing all our troops home is what's needed.

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The Nation: Obama's Position on Mercenaries in Iraq

Just out at The Nation:

A senior foreign policy adviser to leading Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has told The Nation that if elected Obama will not "rule out" using private security companies like Blackwater Worldwide in Iraq. The adviser also said that Obama does not plan to sign on to legislation that seeks to ban the use of these forces in US war zones by January 2009, when a new President will be sworn in.

Obama's campaign says that instead he will focus on bringing accountability to these forces while increasing funding for the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the agency that employs Blackwater and other private security contractors. (Hillary Clinton's staff did not respond to repeated requests for an interview or a statement on this issue.)

Bottom line, according to Obama's senior advisor:

. "I can't rule out, I won't rule out, private security contractors." He added, "I will rule out private security contractors that are not accountable to US law."

More...

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223 House Democrats Vote Against "Clean" Funding

As Kagro X often explains, there is a split between those who believe that motions to recommit are purely procedural and those who believe that they carry all of the meaning of a proper amendment. In this Congress, they have mostly been given the latter meaning.

In that context, the vote on the motion to recommit on tonight's Iraq supplemental funding appropriation seems especially important to me. 223 Democrats voted no on that motion, which would have given the President $50B, no questions asked. They were joined by 8 Republicans.

To me it seems obvious that the Presidednt could be in dangerous territory: the House could actually have the votes to defeat ANY clean funding bill. We might, against all odds and predictions, actually be able to end the war during this Congress.

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The Vote That Counted

Cross-posted at the Great Orange Satan

I'm talking to you, wingnuts, for caring more about a stupid newspaper ad (and yes it was stupid) than you do about the well-being of US soldiers.

I'm also talking to more than a few people in the progressive blogosphere.

Why?  

Because you're talking about the wrong vote today.

There was a vote today that was important and had direct relevance to ending the Iraq war.

But, if one paid attention to the blogosphere's self-interested whining, one would think that the big news was the Moveon vote.

The vote you SHOULD be talking about described below.

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Obama to reboot his Iraq policy and rhetoric.

Cross-posted in Orange

Last week I implored Barack Obama to step up on Iraq.

On Wednesday of this week, he will be doing just that.

Context and what to look for below the fold.

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Take the damn ball, Senator Obama.

Cross-posted in orange

An open letter to Senator Barack Obama from a supporter.  

Senator Obama, in your short time in the public eye you have shown great wisdom, judgment, and vision.  Your greatest strength is the ability to fuse pragmatism with idealism.  This often means eschewing traditional showboating and playing for the cameras in order to build consensus that builds towards progressive goals.

However, no single approach works for every problem, and building consensus is not working on the problem of Iraq.  There was a time for Congress to be the steering wheel of our Iraq policy.  Now, someone needs to slam on the brakes.

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"Odd Couple" or Ineffective Couple?

[editor's note, by andgarden] Crossposted from Daily Kos

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Today Reuters brings us a standard issue article about the working relationship between the Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. There are interesting tidbits here and there about their mutual frustration with one another. The issues, such as Pelosi's failed attempt to install John Murtha as House Majority Leader and Reid's "the war is lost" musing, have been well covered elsewhere.

At the end, however, there is an important acknowledgment of the single most important factor keeping the approval ratings of Congress low: Iraq.

A poll by the Pew Research Center has since heartened the Democrats, finding that half those questioned remain happy the party took over.

The survey found Americans less than thrilled with Pelosi or Reid, however. Only 35 percent approved of Pelosi's job performance, while 37 percent disapproved. Just 21 percent approved of Reid while 33 percent disapproved.

"The biggest thing is the public's frustration with Iraq," said pollster Andrew Kohut. "People expected them to achieve things, they expected them to achieve a way out of Iraq."

more

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The House, not the Senate, Will end the War

Crossposted from Daily Kos

In his latest front page entry, Markos quotes Dick Durbin saying that he will likely be unwilling to vote against the new supplemental funding the George Bush has requested.

Even opponents of the war, as Durbin calls himself, find themselves likely to vote for the extra money, he said. "When it comes to the budget, I face a dilemma that some of my colleagues do," he said.

He voted against the war "but felt that I should always provide the resources for the troops in the field," Durbin said. "But it's now reached a point where we have got to change the way we appropriate this money."

Though he said he is likely to approve the increased request -- it would accompany a pending request for an additional $147 billion in war funding -- Durbin said he would work to attach conditions to it that would require troops to begin coming home in the spring.

In other words, Dubin plans to do nothing.

Recent history tells us that we should not be surprised. Nor, indeed, should we look for the Senate to end the war.

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Who Are Dems Listening To?

mcjoan highlights Paul Krugman's kudos to the Democratic base for pulling the Democratic Party to majority positions on Iraq and other issues:

Normally, politicians face a difficult tradeoff between taking positions that satisfy their party’s base and appealing to the broader public.... But a funny thing has happened on the Democratic side: the party’s base seems to be more in touch with the mood of the country than many of the party’s leaders. And the result is peculiar: on key issues, reluctant Democratic politicians are being dragged by their base into taking highly popular positions. Iraq is the most dramatic example.... It took an angry base to push the Democrats into taking a tough line in the midterm election. And it took further prodding from that base — which was infuriated when Barack Obama seemed to say that he would support a funding bill without a timeline — to push them into confronting Mr. Bush over war funding. (Mr. Obama says that he didn’t mean to suggest that the president be given "carte blanche.")

Certainly on 2006 that was true. But, is the Party listening to the "base" now on Iraq? What is the base saying? Are the Netroots clamoring for Reid-Feingold? Is the Party flocking to it?

I think Krugman is more accurate in this:

The only risk the party now faces is excessive caution on the part of its politicians. Or, to coin a phrase, the only thing Democrats have to fear is fear itself.

I think the base should think about that and consider whether it is pushing our politicians hard enough on Iraq and Reid-Feingold. I don't think we are

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Press Blackout? Suicides Up in Iraq

Why isn't the mainstream media all over this? Editor and Publisher has the details on the increase of troop suicides in Iraq.

Twenty-two U.S. soldiers in Iraq took their lives in 2005, a rate of 19.9 per 100,000 soldiers, just over the rate in 2003 (the year of the U.S. invasion). In 2004, the rate had slid to 10.5 per 100,000, which the military said was due to efforts at prevention.

....A survey of the morale and mental health of U.S. soldiers in Iraq in late 2005 found 13.6 percent of the soldiers reporting symptoms of acute stress and another 16.5 percent describing a combination of depression, anxiety and acute stress. These numbers, about 30% total, were also up from 2004.

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Nominee Gates: Against a Speedy Iraq Pullout

Bush's nominee to replace Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary, Robert Gates, has submitted written testimony to Congress. Shorter version: no speedy pullout.

Robert M. Gates, President Bush's nominee to become the next secretary of defense, said he opposes a swift pullout from Iraq, arguing in written testimony submitted yesterday to Congress that "leaving Iraq in chaos would have dangerous consequences both in the region and globally for many years to come."

Gates was a member of the Iraq Study Group.

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NBC Labels Iraq a Civil War

NBC News has officially labeled Iraq a civil war. Dan Froomkin writes in the Washington Post:

Here's what Matt Lauer announced on NBC's Today Show this morning: "As you know, for months now the White House has rejected claims that the situation in Iraq has deteriorated into civil war. And for the most part, news organizations, like NBC, have hesitated to characterize it as such. But, after careful consideration, NBC News has decided the change in terminology is warranted -- that the situation in Iraq, with armed militarized factions fighting for their own political agendas, can now be characterized as civil war."

Think Progess has some video of MSNBC's Contessa Brewer announcing the decision was made to call it a civil war this weekend.

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Leaving Iraq

Will the president criticize his war allies for exploring the cut-and-run option?

Britain said Monday it expects to withdraw thousands of its 7,000 military personnel from Iraq by the end of next year, while Poland and Italy announced the impending withdrawal of their remaining troops.

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