Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Blast From the Past Post
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U.S. soldiers instruct an Iraqi to tell Santa what he wants for Christmas.

I thought I'd seen this before, and yeah, it's from December 2003:

On almost every corner in Iraq's capital city, carolers are singing, trees are being trimmed, and shoppers are rushing home with their packages—all under the watchful eye of U.S. troops dedicated to bringing the magic of Christmas to Iraq by force...

To that end, 25,000 troops from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and 82nd Airborne Division have been deployed. Their missions include the distribution of cookies and eggnog at major Iraqi city centers, the conscription of bell-ringers from among the Iraqi citizenry, and the enforcement of a new policy in which every man, woman, and child in Baghdad pays at least one visit to 'Twas The Night... On Ice.

Immediately following the press conference, high-altitude bombers began to string Christmas lights throughout the greater-Baghdad area, and Wild Weasel electronic-warfare fighter jets initiated 24-hour air patrols to broadcast Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" over the nation. Armored columns struck out from all major allied firebases to erect a Christmas tree in the town square of every city, while foot soldiers placed fully lit, heavily guarded nativity scenes in front of every Iraqi mosque.

Because freedom isn't free...
Card Carrying Liar, English Version
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Again, for wingnuttia benefit: NO ONE questions whether or not Saddam Hussein was an ugly, vicious thug, and I'll sleep as good as our preznut following his execution...hell, I wouldn't even bat an eye if they let Jeb's guys down in Florida carry it out (aside: can the Bushes do ANYTHING right, or is this some sort of genetic thing?).

That said, it's now quite clear now--and WAS clear then--to anyone with more than a few functioning brain cells that Saddam Hussein was NOT a threat to the United States:

The Government's case for going to war in Iraq has been torn apart by the publication of previously suppressed evidence that Tony Blair lied over Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

A devastating attack on Mr Blair's justification for military action by Carne Ross, Britain's key negotiator at the UN, has been kept under wraps until now because he was threatened with being charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act.

In the testimony revealed today Mr Ross, 40, who helped negotiate several UN security resolutions on Iraq, makes it clear that Mr Blair must have known Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction. He said that during his posting to the UN, "at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests."

Mr Ross revealed it was a commonly held view among British officials dealing with Iraq that any threat by Saddam Hussein had been "effectively contained".

Contained. Not a threat. But Shrub insisted on his war, and Blair played indulgent parent--and liar--to the former's childish demands.

Now watch as they try to pin blame for the worst foreign policy disaster in history on anyone except those responsible...themselves.
Shrub's Little Helper
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Ever wonder how Little Lord Shrubleroy manages to "[sleep] better than people would assume?"

I suppose wingnuttia might try to spin such "good news" as evidence that he's finally put away his coke spoon for good...or maybe it's just drug substitution...
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Juan Cole explains the fallacy--and stupidity--of the latest non-fix for Operation Enduring Clusterfuck.

Sorry to keep repeating here, but I'm continually amazed at how willing this administration, and their declining support base, is to throw away lives and money on the mother of all dipshit decisions, while conversely telling the US Gulf Coast to fuck off. I mean, that's more than just plain wrong. It's a sign of some serious degree of psycho/socio-pathic behavior...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

An Army of Shrub
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Not ready for duty:

As President Bush weighs new strategies for Iraq, the Army's top general warned Thursday that his force "will break" without thousands more active duty troops and greater use of the reserves.

Noting the strain put on the force by operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the global war on terrorism, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker said he wants to grow his half-million-member Army beyond the 30,000 troops already added in recent years.

Though he didn't give an exact number, he said it would take significant time and commitment by the nation, noting some 6,000 to 7,000 soldiers could be added per year.

Officials also need greater authority to tap into the National Guard and Reserve, long ago set up as a strategic reserve but now needed as an integral part of the nation's deployed forces, Schoomaker told a commission studying possible changes in those two forces.

So...where are they going to get the extra troops? It's not like Jenna...or not-Jenna...has demonstrated any inclination to volunteer.

Then again, Team Bush economic policy might do the trick...

And tapping into the Guard and Reserves means more repeat performances of the post-Katrina, post-flood debacle, as critical disaster response teams get called respond to Shrub's disaster in Iraq. Geez.
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A big story moving around the internets today concerns South Dakota senator Tim Johnson, his physical health, and the implications given the razor thin Democratic majority...

In an interesting coincidence, I came across this Slate explainer piece about general Congressional attendence, which includes this paragraph:

In 1969, two years into his fourth term, South Dakota Sen. Karl E. Mundt, a Republican, suffered a stroke and was unable to continue voting. He offered to resign, but only on the condition that South Dakota's governor appoint Mundt's wife to fill the vacancy. The governor refused, and Mundt retained the Senate seat, even while missing three full years of votes. He even remained on three committees until 1972, when the Senate Republican Conference stripped him of these assignments.
Bitter Irony

Renaissance Village

Sunrise and Sunset
Baton Rouge, La.

They look for all the world like internment camps. The long rows of identical white trailers sit on flat, grim, barren expanses of land that are enclosed by metal fences. Armed guards are stationed at the entrances around the clock.

More than a year after the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of the poorest victims from New Orleans are still living in these trailer parks run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They have ironic names, like Mount Olive Gardens and Renaissance Village. A more accurate name would be Camp Depression, after the state of mind of most of the residents.

The “parks” are nothing more than vast, dusty, gravel-strewn lots filled with trailers that were designed to be hitched to cars for brief vacations or weekend getaways. The trailers, about 200 square feet each, were never meant to serve as homes for entire families. But in these FEMA parks, it’s common for families of five or six, or even more, to be jammed into one trailer.

I stood outside a trailer at the Mount Olive encampment on Monday afternoon, talking with Geraldine Craig and her 21-year-old daughter, Danielle Craig. The women, who have been unable to find jobs, seemed baffled and depleted by their long ordeal. As we talked, Danielle’s 2-year-old son, Javonta, scampered around in the dust and gravel.

Danielle’s daughter, Miracle, was 5 months old when Katrina struck. The baby was ill and receiving oxygen when it became clear that the family had to evacuate. “The doctors were taking care of her and she couldn’t hardly breathe,” Danielle said. “After we left we ended up in a shelter, and I said that my baby needed oxygen but they told us we had to wait.

“They finally sent us to a medical building and they put her on oxygen for about two hours, but the doctor said there was nothing wrong with her.”

Like so many thousands of others left destitute and all but despondent by Katrina, the family moved on — to Texas, back to Louisiana, eventually to Baton Rouge. It was too much for Miracle, who never got the proper medical treatment. She died last March. Her heart disease wasn’t accurately diagnosed until an autopsy was performed.

“I felt like it was my fault,” said Danielle. “I’m still depressed.”

When I asked if she’d been treated for depression, she shook her head.

“That baby was one of the many victims of the storm who were never officially counted as such,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, president of the Children’s Health Fund, which has been providing medical and mental health services to children in the FEMA parks.

Dr. Redlener, a professor at Columbia University and the author of “Americans at Risk: Why We Are Not Prepared for Megadisasters and What We Can Do,” said he was outraged that so many thousands of the poorest victims of Hurricane Katrina are still stuck in limbo — unable to find jobs or permanent housing, denied adequate medical and educational services and with no idea when, or if, they will be able to return to New Orleans.

“The recovery of this catastrophe in the gulf has been as badly mangled by the government as the initial response,” he said. “Fifteen months have gone by and you still have these thousands of people who in essence are either American refugees living in other states who have no idea what’s going to happen to them, or they are living in these trailer camps, or in isolated trailers on their old property, which has been destroyed. They’re just waiting for something to happen. And the wait is interminable.”

Geraldine Craig said: “We just recently went down to New Orleans and they got nothing going yet, not in our neighborhood. So we’re going to be here for a while.”

The residents of Mount Olive Gardens and the even larger trailer camp at Renaissance Village in nearby Baker, La., face challenges that seem almost insurmountable. Even minimum-wage jobs are very difficult to find and difficult to get to because there is little public transportation. Many of the residents are elderly, or disabled, or illiterate. Some are mentally handicapped.

These are encampments of profound stress and sadness.

As I was telling Geraldine and Danielle Craig goodbye, and wishing them the best for the coming holidays, Danielle shyly handed me a photograph of her daughter. At the top was written, “Miracle Breyonne Craig.” At the bottom: “Sunrise: 3-19-05. Sunset: 3-10-06.”

Also on the subject of bitter irony, Oyster has some thoughts about Dollar Bill's reelection.
Spare $100 Billion for War?
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Once again, the "new way forward" for Shrub harkens back to his same, tired old formula--breaking out his begging bowl, just like he did in his businessman days, looking for suckers sufficiently impressed by his name...and willing to underwrite his incompetence:

President George W. Bush will soon seek about $100 billion in additional emergency funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a report on Wednesday by Democratic staffers for two key panels in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Such a large request would mark a rapid escalation in the cost of the Iraq war at a time when public support is plummeting and Bush is looking for new answers to stem violence that threatens to spin out of control.

In a broad report criticizing Republicans' fiscal decisions, Democratic staffers on the House Appropriations Committee and House Budget Committee also noted that Congress already had appropriated about $379 billion for the war in Iraq...

The emergency funds, which likely would be submitted by Bush to Congress in early February, would be in addition to $70 billion already approved for the two wars in the current fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1...

The $100 billion, if submitted and approved by Congress next year, would be in addition to the record $447 billion the Pentagon is receiving this fiscal year for all military operations.

The House Democrats' report, titled "The Republican Legacy: Bad Budgeting Creates Burdens For Years To Come," said that despite significant increases in the Pentagon's budget, "The war in Iraq has left the U.S. Army's readiness at its lowest level in decades."

"Republicans have spent years handing out billions upon billions of dollars in tax cuts to millionaires while shortchanging our national priorities," said Democratic Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

"It is going to take us years to get back on track."

The report, co-authored by aides to Democratic Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, the incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee, criticized the administration for resorting to emergency spending requests to finance the war instead of budgeting for it on a longer-term basis.

"The administration often does not submit supplemental requests until well after the Army needs the funding to pay for ongoing operations," the report stated. "As a result, the Army is forced to delay certain activities, such as maintenance of equipment, until supplemental appropriations are approved."

The White House has defended its use of emergency funding requests, saying it is too difficult to project future war costs in time for annual budget submissions to Congress. It also says it does not want to build such big costs into the Pentagon budget for fear that military brass will come to expect the added funding even after the war ends.

Oh, THAT'S the reason, eh?

Team Bush can't ever take responsibility, but insists on blaming someone else. It's literally government by pre-teens...
A Few Years of Difference

Back then it was "Mission Accomplished," "the United States and our allies have prevailed," and "Bring 'em on."

Times sure have changed:

President Bush, just now at the Pentagon (emphasis added):

"I thank these men who wear our uniform for a very candid and fruitful discussion about how to secure this country and how to win a war that we now find ourselves in."

h/t Attaturk.

And, courtesy of Dependable Renegade:

we're going to give [the military] the tools necessary to succeed and a strategy to help [them] succeed.


Worst. Preznut. Ever.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Two Sides, But Only One Coin

Zero might be giving it a little too much value.

I keep seeing the internet headline that Bush "won't be rushed" on Iraq...but has anyone noticed he won't so much as be bothered with the Gulf Coast?

It takes a special level of shallow and callow to double-down on disaster like this...

How pathetic? This pathetic:

Saudi Arabia has told the Bush administration that it might provide financial backing to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq’s Shiites if the United States pulls its troops out of Iraq, according to American and Arab diplomats.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia conveyed that message to Vice President Dick Cheney two weeks ago during Mr. Cheney’s whirlwind visit to Riyadh, the officials said. During the visit, King Abdullah also expressed strong opposition to diplomatic talks between the United States and Iran, and pushed for Washington to encourage the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, senior Bush administration officials said.

CNN goes even further, saying that King Abdullah "read the riot act" to the dick, um, I mean Dick.

Either way, this underscores the literal chicken-running-around-with-its-head-cut-off Team Bush Middle Eastern policy: You've got the neo-con slavish devotion to Israel...then you've got Saudi Arabia treating us like incompetent hired help, i.e., they summon Big Time to tell him in no uncertain terms that while it might not be possible to unshit the bed, he'd better keep at it with his bucket and sponge (well, he'd better have HIS servants keep at it) until THEY say so.

As for the interests of, oh, I don't know, the UNITED STATES?!!? Neither Dick nor Shrub seems to really be all that concerned...hell, Shrub's been on an "I'm the 21st Century Harry Truman" kick/tantrum, when he hasn't been lamenting his permanantly tarnished legacy...which he insists, ruefully, will only be polished to a fine spit-shine "once he's dead." Aw, poor baby.

Don't worry about leaving behind any shine-kit, Shrub. Tarnish that bad don't even come out with a mix of hydrochloric acid, Lava soap, and Goop hand gel...
New Way Forward In Circles

Ah, a delay in the "new way forward." I guess "hard work"'s gotta take a back seat to, you know, ballgames and holiday parties, etc.

Of course, it's really hard work for a lot of people who DON'T get to wait things out until 2007. In fact, some of them won't even SEE 2007.

But, then again, what do you expect from someone who'd joke about a lie that's caused a six-figure death count...

"Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Chairman Shrub

Does this mean Condi's in the Gang of Four?

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed in Washington belief on Tuesday that President George W. Bush will present to the American people "a new way forward" in terms of the Iraq war.

Hmmm...I guess we can expect additional, say, "To get stuck in a quagmire is glorious."

I see an old nickname for Shrub was "The Texecutioner,". I guess he can take a little pride in passing along his hangman's habits in the name of "freedom:"

The death penalty in Iraq, which applies to a range of crimes including terrorism and certain categories of murder, was suspended in 2003 by the American occupation authorities but reinstated in August 2004. Since then, 51 people — men and several women — have been hanged and about 170 are currently on death row awaiting execution or the outcome of their appeal, according to Hashim al-Shibli, Iraq’s justice minister.

Those are the official numbers. The high-ranking government official involved in the executions process said the actual number of hangings was far higher, though fewer than 100, because of three sets of hangings that took place between December 2005 and March 2006 and were never publicized.

Human rights groups have questioned the transparency of the criminal justice system in Iraq and the ability of defendants to get a fair trial.

NYT Link.

Oh, and the gallows itself is a gift from Shrub...and we taxpayers:

Hangings are conducted in secret, at a heavily fortified location in Baghdad built by an American contractor.

How much do you think they were able to overcharge for it?

Who would Jeeesus Shoot?

According to Left Behind, he'd shoot the non-converts:

Liberal and progressive Christian groups say a new computer game in which players must either convert or kill non-Christians is the wrong gift to give this holiday season and that Wal-Mart, a major video game retailer, should yank it off its shelves.

The Campaign to Defend the Constitution and the Christian Alliance for Progress, two online political groups, plan to demand today that Wal-Mart dump Left Behind: Eternal Forces, a PC game inspired by a series of Christian novels that are hugely popular, especially with teens.

The series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins is based on their interpretation of the Bible's Book of Revelation and takes place after the Rapture, when Jesus has taken his people to heaven and left nonbelievers behind to face the Antichrist.

But wait! Shooting them in cold blood carries a heavy price lie: "spirit points."

Left Behind Games' president, Jeffrey Frichner, says the game actually is pacifist because players lose "spirit points" every time they gun down nonbelievers rather than convert them.

But Jeeeesus--who's foreknowledge should be able to tell him such things--can earn his "spirit points" back with a little bit of prayin' Jeeesus, I guess:

They can earn spirit points again by having their character pray.

"You are fighting a defensive battle in the game," Frichner, whose previous company produced Bible software, said of combatting the Antichrist. "You are a sort of a freedom fighter."

Oh...well, if it's defensive, I guess that's ok. I mean, you never know who might be out there, deviously lurking in ambush, just waiting to exploit your...doubt.

"Psst. Hey, kid. Wanna snack on a few un-blessed communion wafers?"


In Left Behind, set in perfectly apocalyptic New York City, the Antichrist is personified by fictional Romanian Nicolae Carpathia, secretary-general of the United Nations and a People magazine "Sexiest Man Alive."

Players can choose to join the Antichrist's team, but of course they can never win on Carpathia's side. The enemy team includes fictional rock stars and folks with Muslim-sounding names, while the righteous include gospel singers, missionaries, healers and medics. Every character comes with a life story.

When asked about the Arab and Muslim-sounding names, Frichner said the game does not endorse prejudice. But "Muslims are not believers in Jesus Christ" -- and thus can't be on Christ's side in the game.

"That is so obvious," he said...

Jeff Gerstmann, senior editor at, an online publication, said the game isn't popular. The game itself, which Gamespot rated 3.4 out of a possible 10, has lots of glitches.

"And it's kind of crazy," Gerstmann said. "One of the evil characters is a rock musician. ... If you get too close to him your spirit is lowered."

But Plugged In, a publication of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, gave the game a "thumbs-up." The reviewer called it "the kind of game that Mom and Dad can actually play with Junior -- and use to raise some interesting questions along the way."

Frichner said that is precisely his company's ultimate goal in offering the game: to bring parents and kids together to talk about the Bible. He said most teens are playing video games, so it was natural to turn the books into one.

Because nothing says "Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All" like...blowing away the stinking, unbelieving infidel.
Really, It's Not 'Cut and Run'

No, it's "Delay for the Holiday: (and hope it goes away)"

WASHINGTON - President Bush, about to wrap up an intense effort to arrive at a new course for Iraq, now is likely to lay out his plan to the nation early next year instead of before Christmas, a senior White House official said Tuesday.

--aside: speaking of "Delay," here's a good laff.

The possible new timing is not a reflection of a last-minute shift by the White House, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision was not final. Instead, the official said the president knows the direction he is likely to take his Iraq strategy and has directed his team to address the many the practical ramifications, such as for military tactics and regional diplomacy.

That work is complicated and not finished, the official said. He dismissed any suggestions that this reflects trouble arriving at decisions, or making them work.

What. A. Pile. Of. Crap. The work is "complicated" only because there simply ISN'T a way for Team Bush to salvage any measure of success from this abject and total failure...not even in perception, as the Sunshine Boys discovered last week. And no wonder: a rotting stench is never going to remind anyone of roses.

Meanwhile, here's more of that smell, that gasoline smell. The whole hill. Smelled like...victory

Two car bombs targeting day laborers looking for work exploded within seconds of each other Tuesday on a main square in central Baghdad, killing at least 63 people and wounding scores, the government said.

"Dang..." [hits the reset button]

Monday, December 11, 2006

Demerit Badge

The Decider became "the listener" today, at least for public consumption, while no doubt aides to Karl Rove--and, who knows, maybe even Bush's Brain/Turdblossom himself--work furiously on coming up with something, anything, that might cover up the noxious stench that is Team Bush Middle East policy.

This paragraph

President Bush traveled to the State Department today as part of a round of consultations over how to reshape Iraq policy, saying that it was important that “when I do speak to the American people, they will know that I have listened to all aspects of government.”

made it even more evident that we've truly got a child in charge, at a time when we desperately need an adult to take over...and, worse still, it looks like it will be at least a couple of years before we've even got a chance to put a grown-up in office.

And, while Shrub--deservedly--earns the lion's share of my contempt, given that he's CONSISTENTLY chosen the easy, low, politically expedient road (NOT invading Iraq in 2003 would have been the "hard work" he brags about so goddamned much)...but, just to show a little bipartisan contempt, here's yer incoming Democratic Intelligence Committee chair

Al Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shia?

“Al Qaeda, they have both,” Reyes said. “You’re talking about predominately?”

“Sure,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

“Predominantly — probably Shiite,” he ventured.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, they’d slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball.

Ouch. As Stein points out, Reyes earns a tidy $162,000 a year--for that kind of money, you'd expect him to, oh, I don't know, do a little research (or have his staff do the research and brief him...geez). Digby has more, including a link to a suggested pop quiz that, at least for me, defines the minimum level of political understanding I'd expect from someone...earning a six-figure salary as a public official who's job requires a good bit of understanding of gobal political issues...

Of course, if you read the entire Stein article (it's not all that long, and highly recommended), you'll notice that this sort of abject ignorance of the Middle East is most definitely a bipartisan matter, beginning with Shrub himself, and filtering throughout the GOP.

No wonder we're losing the war in Iraq.
"The Sunshine Boys Can't Save Iraq"

Frank Rich:

IN America we like quick fixes, closure and an uplifting show. Such were the high hopes for the Iraq Study Group, and on one of the three it delivered.

The report of the 10 Washington elders was rolled out like a heartwarming Hollywood holiday release. There was a feel-good title, “The Way Forward,” unfortunately chosen as well by Ford Motor to promote its last-ditch plan to stave off bankruptcy. There was a months-long buildup, with titillating sneak previews to whip up anticipation. There was the gala publicity tour on opening day, starting with a President Bush cameo timed for morning television and building to a “Sunshine Boys” curtain call by James Baker and Lee Hamilton on “Larry King Live.”

The wizard behind it all was the public relations giant Edelman, which has lately been recruited by Wal-Mart to put down the populist insurgency threatening its bottom line. Edelman’s vice chairman is Michael Deaver, the imagineer extraordinaire of the Reagan presidency, and “The Way Forward” had a nostalgic dash of that old Morning-in-America vibe. In The Washington Post, David Broder gushingly quoted one member of the group, Alan Simpson, musing that “immigration, Social Security and all those other things that have been hung up for so long” might benefit from similar ex-officio bipartisanship. Only in Washington could an unelected panel of retirees pass for public-policy Viagra.

Mr. Simpson notwithstanding, the former senator who most comes to mind is Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York. In the early 1990’s he famously coined the phrase “defining deviancy down” to describe the erosion of civic standards for what constitutes criminal behavior. In 2006, our governmental ailment is defining reality down. “The Way Forward” is its apotheosis.

This syndrome begins at the top, with the president, who has cut and run from reality in Iraq for nearly four years. His case is extreme but hardly unique. Take Robert Gates, the next defense secretary, who was hailed as a paragon of realism by Washington last week simply for agreeing with his Senate questioners that we’re “not winning” in Iraq. While that may be a step closer to candor than Mr. Bush’s “absolutely, we’re winning” of late October, it’s hardly the whole truth and nothing but. The actual reality is that we have lost in Iraq.

That’s what Donald Rumsfeld at long last acknowledged, between the lines, as he fled the Pentagon to make way for Mr. Gates. The most revealing passage in his parting memo listing possible options for the war was his suggestion that public expectations for success be downsized so we would “therefore not ‘lose.’ ” By putting the word lose in quotes, Mr. Rumsfeld revealed his hand: the administration must not utter that L word even though lose is exactly what we’ve done. The illusion of not losing must be preserved no matter what the price in blood.

The Iraq Study Group takes a similarly disingenuous tack. Its account of how the country Mr. Bush called a “grave and gathering danger” in September 2002 has devolved into a “grave and deteriorating” catastrophe today is unsparing and accurate. But everyone except the president knew this already, and that patina of realism evaporates once the report moves from diagnosis to prescription.

Its recommendations are bogus because the few that have any teeth are completely unattainable. Of course, it would be fantastic if additional Iraqi troops would stand up en masse after an infusion of new American military advisers. And if reconciliation among the country’s warring ethnicities could be mandated on a tight schedule. And if the Bush White House could be persuaded to persuade Iran and Syria to “influence events” for America’s benefit. It would also be nice if we could all break the bank in Vegas.

The group’s coulda-woulda recommendations are either nonstarters, equivocations (it endorses withdrawal of combat troops by 2008 but is averse to timelines) or contradictions of its own findings of fact. To take just one example: Even if we could wave a magic wand and quickly create thousands more military advisers (and Arabic-speaking ones at that), there’s no reason to believe they could build a crack Iraqi army and police force where all those who came before have failed. As the report points out, the loyalties and capabilities of the existing units are suspect as it is.

By prescribing such placebos, the Iraq Study Group isn’t plotting a way forward but delaying the recognition of our defeat. Its real aim is to enact a charade of progress to pacify the public while Washington waits, no doubt in vain, for Mr. Bush to return to the real world. The tip-off to the cynical game can be found in a single sentence: “We agree with the goal of U.S. policy in Iraq, as stated by the president: ‘an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself.’ ” This studious group knows that even that modest goal, a radical devaluation of the administration’s ambition to spread democracy throughout the Middle East, has long been proven a mirage. The Iraqi government’s ability to defend anything is so inoperative that the group’s members visited the country but once, with just one (Chuck Robb) daring to leave the Green Zone. The Bush-Maliki rendezvous 10 days ago was at the Four Seasons hotel in Amman.

The only recommendations that might alter that reality, however evanescently, come not from “The Way Forward” but from its critics on the right who want significantly more troops and no withdrawal timetables whatsoever. But a Pentagon review leaked to The Washington Post three weeks ago estimates that a true counterinsurgency campaign would “require several hundred thousand additional U.S. and Iraqi soldiers as well as heavily armed Iraqi police,” not the 20,000 or so envisioned as a short-term booster shot by John McCain.

Since these troops don’t exist and there is no public support in either America or Iraq for mobilizing them, the president can’t satisfy the hawks even if he chooses to do so. Since he’s also dead set against a prompt withdrawal, we already know what his policy will be, no matter how many “reviews” he conducts. He will stay the course, with various fake-outs along the way to keep us from thinking we’ve “lost,” until the whole mess is deposited in the lap of the next president.

But as Chuck Hagel said last week, “The impending disaster in Iraq is unwinding at a rate that we can’t quite calibrate.” It is yet another, even more reckless flight from reality to suppose that the world will stand still while we dally. The Iraq Study Group’s insistence on dragging out its deliberations until after Election Day for the sake of domestic politics mocked and undermined the urgency of its own mission. Meanwhile the violence metastasized. Eleven more of our soldiers were killed on the day the group finally put on its show. The antagonists in Iraq are not about to take a recess while we celebrate Christmas. The mass exodus of Iraqis, some 100,000 per month, was labeled “the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world” by Refugees International last week and might soon rival Darfur’s.

THE Iraq-Vietnam parallels at this juncture are striking. In January 1968, L.B.J. replaced his arrogant failed defense secretary, Robert McNamara, with a practiced Washington hand, Clark Clifford. The war’s violence boiled over soon after (Tet), prompting a downturn in American public opinion. Allies in our coalition of the willing — Thailand, the Philippines, Australia — had balked at tossing in new troops. Clifford commissioned a re-evaluation of American policy that churned up such ideas as a troop pullback, increased training of South Vietnamese forces and a warning to the South Vietnamese government that American assistance would depend on its performance. In March, a bipartisan group of wise men (from Dean Acheson to Omar Bradley) was summoned to the White House, where it seconded the notion of disengagement.

But there the stories of Vietnam and Iraq diverge. Those wise men, unlike the Iraq Study Group, were clear in their verdict. And that Texan president, unlike ours, paid more than lip service to changing course. He abruptly announced he would abjure re-election, restrict American bombing and entertain the idea of peace talks. But as Stanley Karnow recounts in “Vietnam: A History,” it was already too late, after some 20,000 casualties and three years of all-out war, for an easy escape: “The frustrating talks were to drag on for another five years. More Americans would be killed in Vietnam than had died there previously. And the United States itself would be torn apart by the worst internal upheavals in a century.”

The lesson in that is clear and sobering: As bad as things may seem now, they can yet become worse, and not just in Iraq. The longer we pretend that we have not lost there, the more we risk losing other wars we still may salvage, starting with Afghanistan.

The members of the Iraq Study Group are all good Americans of proven service to their country. But to the extent that their report forestalls reality and promotes pipe dreams of one last chance for success in this fiasco, it will be remembered as just one more delusional milestone in the tragedy of our age.
Well, at Least Satan Had a Good Week

Welcome to eternity, Augusto and Jeane. Your boy Milton's expecting you, although he might be unavailable for the next few eons.

In the meantime, perhaps you can keep things warm for Herr Kissinger, whom I assume will be arriving before too long.