After a week’s vacation (and then getting sick…), I’m back with another weekly compilation of news you may or may not have seen or read regarding America’s most disastrous war.

Last week, in a speech to a VFW convention in Kansas City, President Bush decided to make the case for his war in Iraq by comparing it to Vietnam. )pause for laughter to subside( No, seriously. Meanwhile, his own people weren’t buying it. John Warner, ranking Republican military expert in Senate, became the latest to call for troop withdrawals by the end of the year. Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) announced that installing democracy in Iraq shouldn’t be our objective. (This is called “moving the goalposts.” It’s also called “can’t we just install a dictatorship again?”) The L.A. Times
reported that outgoing Iraq commander Gen. Peter Pace will, upon his exit, call for Bush to slash troop levels in Iraq. Senior British military commanders have told new PM Gordon Brown to withdraw Britain’s remaining 5,000 troops “without delay.” A British parliamentary committee reported out that the US surge is “likely to fail.” And a new National Intelligence Estimate proclaimed that the results of the escalation surge were mixed, sectarian violence will remain high, and the position of Prime Minister al-Maliki will become even more precarious.

This will be the narrative when the report on the escalation surge, by Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, required by Sep. 15, is delivered to Congress. (Although the L.A. Times, again, has reported that political operatives in the White House, not Petraeus or Crocker, will write the report — an all-too-plausible scenario the White House denies.) The narrative: the surge needs more time, but, as Crocker said last week, political progress has been “extremely disappointing.” In other words, it’s the Iraqis’ fault they won’t give us all their oil. Blame the victims. Not to be outdone, Bush himself proclaimed, in a non-endorsement of Maliki, that it’s up to Iraqi people whether to “continue” their support of Maliki — conveniently forgetting that, first, they don’t support him now, and second, that we forced out his predecessor and put him in office in the first place.

Oh, and it was announced last week that Petraeus will also testify before Congress on his report: on Sept. 11. 9-11. Get it? Subtle, huh? Also in the arena of “the timing is probably pure coincidence,” the Army announced that it will be beefing up its forces to as many as 171,000 soldiers in Iraq this fall, a new high for the year, due to overlapping troop rotations. The numbers will peak just as Congress is considering the report on the relative success of the escalation surge.

Outside the sanitized bubbles of the Green Zone and the Beltway, the occupation and civil war grind on without any regard whatsoever for what the suits are saying. Both the Red Crescent and the UN, in separate reports last week, announced that the number of internally displaced Iraqis (i.e. ethnic cleansing, wherein Sunnis are driven from Shiite areas and vice versa) has more than doubled since February, when the escalation surge began. The New York Times
reported the next day on another dramatic number: the number of Iraqi prisoners “detainees” (amazing how successfully they’re scrubbing the language, isn’t it?) is up 50% since the escalation surge began.

And Iraq’s electricity minister, in an unguarded moment of honesty, explained why for nearly the last month the five million people of Baghdad have largely been without running water. It requires a certain number of hours a day of electricity (like, two or three) to maintain the pumps and desalination in the water system, and there hasn’t been enough electricity to do so. Why? Because the substations that feed Baghdad are largely to the south, in the area abandoned by British forces and controlled by various radical Shiite factions, and so insurgents now control most of Iraq’s electricity grid. There’s a full scale civil war in the south between the various Shiite factions; two provincial governors have been assassinated in the last two weeks. And in the north, the deadliest series of bombings in the war killed over 500 people in one day in two Kurdish villages. This is how the administration defines success: more violence means rebels are being pushed out of Baghdad and are getting desperate, and the “surge” is successful. Less violence also means the “surge” is successful. Exactly the same amount of violence means the rebels have lost momentum and so the “surge” is successful. Neat, huh?

The New York Times reports that the number of African-Americans in the military has dropped from 20 percent to 13 percent from 2001-2006. Seems inner city kids see enough war without being shipped halfway around the world. Or, maybe they just don’t want to become suicidal: the Army reported in August that its suicide rate in 2006 was the highest in 26 years. A Guardian article reports also that exhaustion and fatigue have become serious problems among US troops.

As part of its ongoing effort to blame everything in Iraq, no matter how preposterous, on the Iranians — and thus pave the way for military strikes on Iran as part of the “same” war — the US military claimed for the first time last week that Iranian soldiers are actually in Iraq, helping train insurgents. And for a while, they were half right: Iranian soldiers apparently did cross into northern Iraq
briefly last week to attack Kurdish rebels operating across the border. Kurdish separatists (one might even call them “terrorists”) have been using northern Iraq as a safe haven for attacks against both Iran and Turkey in their efforts to carve out an independent Kurdistan.

Finally, in the “who do we expect war criminals to hang out with?” department: Italian police broke up a $40 million arms deal involving Iraqi government officials, dealing in black market Russian and Chinese guns. And a new book alleges that Viktor Bout, an international arms dealer who ranks as one of the most wanted fugitives on the planet, got $60 million from KBR (a subsidiary of Dick Cheney’s Halliburton) to fly arms into Iraq in 2003. That stench you smell in the morning is the stench of progress in Iraq!

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